The great question was put! Rolla waited in tremulous anxiety for the answer.
“Aye, stranger!” replied Somat vigorously. “More; ye shall have some of the little sticks!”
Whereupon Rolla leaped to her feet and danced in sheer delight. Somat looked on and marveled. Then, abruptly, he got up and marched away. He had not seen a woman in thirty years; and he was a man of principle.
That night, when the twelve were again seated at the table, Somat related this conversation with Rolla. Since he used his own language, of course she did not understand what was said. “And I told her,” he concluded, “how we came to be here; also the reason for the condition of things. But I doubt if she understood half what I said. We have quite a problem before us,” he added. “What shall we do about it?”
“You mean this woman?” Deltos asked. Rolla was busy with her food. “It seems to me, brothers, that Providence has miraculously come to our aid. If we can handle her people rightly the future of the race is assured.”
Somat thought it was simple enough. “All we need to do is send this woman back with a supply of matches, and implicit instructions as to how best to proceed against the bees. Once released, their friends can make their way over the edge and settle among us. Let the bees keep their country.”
The two who had seconded him before again showed agreement. Sorplee and Deltos, however, together with the other seven, were distinctly opposed to the method.
“Somat,” protested Deltos, as though surprised, “you forget that there’s an enormous population over there. Let them come in of their own free will? Why, they would overrun our country! What would become of us?”
“We’d have to take our chances, replied Somat energetically, “like good sports! If we can’t demonstrate our worth to them, enough to hold their respect, we’d deserve to be snowed under!”
“Not while I’m alive!” snarled Sorplee. “If they come here, they’ve got to give up their wilderness ways, right off! We can’t stand savagery! The safest thing for us, and the best for them, is to make an industrial army of ’em and set ’em to work!” His enthusiasm was boundless.
“I must say,” admitted Deltos, with his usual dignity, “that you have the right idea, Sorplee. If I had stated it, however, I should have been more frank about it. The arrangements you propose simply means that we are to take possession of them!”
“What!” shouted Somat, horrified.
“Why, of course! Make slaves of them! What else?”
THE SLAVE RAID
Despite all that Somat and his two backers could say, the other nine men swiftly agreed upon the thing Deltos had proposed. Somat went so far as to declare that he would warn Rolla; but he was instantly given to understand that any such move would be disastrous to himself. In the end he was made to agree not to tell her.