"Welcome, white men from the stars," he said; "this is a different sight from what your eyes gazed on by the light of last night's moon, but it is not so good a sight. Girls are pleasant, and were it not for such as these" (and he pointed round him) "we should none of us be here to-day; but men are better. Kisses and the tender words of women are sweet, but the sound of the clashing of men's spears, and the smell of men's blood, are sweeter far! Would ye have wives from among our people, white men? If so, choose the fairest here, and ye shall have them, as many as ye will;" and he paused for an answer.
As the prospect did not seem to be without attractions to Good, who was, like most sailors, of a susceptible nature, I, being elderly and wise, and foreseeing the endless complications that anything of the sort would involve (for women bring trouble as surely as the night follows the day), put in a hasty answer:
"Thanks, O king, but we white men wed only with white women like ourselves. Your maidens are fair, but they are not for us!"
The king laughed. "It is well. In our land there is a proverb which says, `Woman's eyes are always bright, whatever the color,' and another which says, `Love her who is present, for be sure she who is absent is false to thee;' but perhaps these things are not so in the stars. In a land where men are white all things are possible. So be it, white men; the girls will not go begging! Welcome again; and welcome, too, thou black one; if Gagool here had had her way thou wouldst have been stiff and cold now. It is lucky that thou, too, camest from the stars; ha! ha!"
"I can kill thee before thou killest me, O king," was Ignosi's calm answer, "and thou shalt be stiff before my limbs cease to bend."
Twala started. "Thou speakest boldly, boy," he replied, angrily; "presume not too far."
"He may well be bold in whose lips are truth. The truth is a sharp spear which flies home and fails not. It is a message from `the stars,' O king!"
Twala scowled, and his one eye gleamed fiercely, but he said nothing more.