The door was opened, and Ro-ton stood scowling on the threshold.
“I thought I told you we were to be left alone,” said the goddess with some asperity.
“I come from Duma,” said Ro-ton. “He wishes to offer a sacrifice to Loto-El-Ho-Ganja,” and he looked straight at me with a very nasty expression on his green face.
“If he insists, I shall accept his sacrifice,” said Loto; “but I shall reserve the right to select the victim,” and she looked so meaningly at Ro-ton that he turned a dark green, which faded almost immediately to a sickly greenish white. “It will probably be one of those who disobey me.”
Ro-ton faded from the scene, closing the door after him; while Loto tapped her sandalled toe upon the floor. “He aggravates me so,” she said. “Whenever I demonstrate any liking for a person, he runs immediately to Duma and gets him to select that person as an offering. One of these days I am going to lose patience and select Ro-ton myself. That would be a great honor for Ro-ton, but I don’t think he’d enjoy it.”
“Is it true,” I asked, “that you drink the blood of the sacrifical offerings?”
Her eyes flashed angrily. “You are presumptious!” she exclaimed. “You have taken advantage of my kindness to you to ask me to divulge one of the most sacred secrets of the temple. “
I stood up. “I am sorry,” I said. “Now I suppose I must go. “
“Sit down!” she snapped. “I am the one to decide when you are to go. Have you no manners?”
“I have never before had the honor of being entertained by a goddess,” I said; “so I do not know just how to act.”
“You are not being entertained by a goddess,” she said. “You are entertaining one. Goddesses do not entertain any one, especially slaves.”
“I hope that I am entertaining you, Most High,” I said.
“You are. Now tell me more about The United States of America. Has it many cities?”
“Any as large as Brokol?”
“Most of them are larger. One has nearly seven million people. “
“What is that city called?” she asked.
“New York,” she repeated. “New York. It seems just as though I had heard that name before.”
Again we were interrupted by scratching on the door. It was a priest to announce that Duma, the jong, was coming to the temple to pay his respects to Loto-El-Ho-Ganja. Loto flushed angrily, but she said, “We will receive him. Summon the priests to the holy chamber.” When the priest was gone, she turned again to me. “I cannot leave you here alone,” she said; “so you will have to come with me.”
We went out into the throne room. It was what she called the holy chamber. Loto told me to stand over at one side; then she took her place on the throne. Priests were arriving. Ro-ton came. They made a barbarous spectacle in that skull decorated room, with their green skins and their plumes of office.
Soon I heard the sound of drums, first at a distance; then drawing nearer; and presently Duma entered, preceded by drummers and followed by fully a hundred officers. They stopped before the dais and bowed seven times; then Duma mounted the dais and sat on a low bench next to Loto-El-Ho-Ganja. Every one else in the room remained standing. You could have heard a pin drop, it was so quiet.
They went through a sort of stupid ritual for a while, Duma standing up every few seconds and bowing seven times. When that was over they commenced their conversation. I could hear every word.
“Ro-ton tells me that you have refused my sacrifice,” said Duma. “That is something that has never before happened.”
“I did not refuse it,” replied Loto. “I simply said that I would select the victim.”
“That is the same as refusing it,” said Duma. “I wish to select my own offering.”
“You may,” said Loto, “but I have the right to refuse any offering that is not acceptable. You seem to forget that I am Loto-El-Ho-Ganja Kum O Raj.”
“And you seem to forget that I am the jong of Brokol,” snapped Duma.
“To a goddess, a jong is only another mortal,” said Loto, icily. “Now, if you have no further matters to discuss, I permit you to withdraw.”
I could see that Duma was furious. He turned dark green, and he fairly glared at Loto. “A jong has warriors,” he said, angrily. “He can enforce his wishes.”
“You threaten me?” demanded Loto.
“I demand that I be permitted to select my own offering.” Duma was fairly shouting now.
“I told you that you might name your selection,” said Loto.
“Very well,” said Duma. “It is the slave, Carson, with whom you have been closeted alone for hours, defying the traditions of the temple.”
“I decline your offering,” said Loto.
Duma leaped to his feet. “Take that slave back to his cage,” he shouted. “I’ll attend to this woman later. Now I declare that she is no goddess, but that I, Duma, am a god. Let those who accept me as their god bow seven times.”
That was the last I heard, as several warriors had seized me and hustled me out of the holy chamber.
They took me back to my cage and locked me in. Jonda was still in the adjoining cage; and when I told him what had happened, he said that I didn’t have long to live now. “That’s what comes of getting mixed up with goddesses and jongs,” he added.
“They were going to kill me anyway,” I reminded him. “At least this way nobody’s going to drink my blood.”
“Maybe Duma will,” he suggested. “You say he’s god now. If that is so, he can select you for his first sacrifice.”
“I wonder if the people will stand for his ousting Loto-El-Ho-Ganja,” I said.
“If a jong has plenty of warriors, his people will stand for anything,” said Jonda.
“Loto-El-Ho-Ganja seemed all-powerful to me,” I said. “The high priest and the jong did her homage and stepped around for her until Duma lost his temper.”
“Look!” exclaimed Jonda, pointing. “Who is that they’re bringing? I’ve never seen a human woman here before.”
I looked and was shocked. “It is Loto-El-Ho-Ganja,” I said.
“So Duma is a god now!” said Jonda.
Two warriors were escorting Loto-El-Ho-Ganja. They were not rough with her. Perhaps they felt that she might still be a goddess regardless of what Duma had proclaimed, and one doesn’t willingly offend a goddess.
They were coming toward our cages; and presently they stopped in front of mine, unlocked the door, and pushed Loto in with me.