“Who is your father?” demanded Raj.
“Oose, King of Kali,” she replied; “and my mate is Hodon the Fleet One, of Sari. My nine brothers are very terrible men.”
“Never mind your nine brothers,” said Raj; “that you are a Kalian, or that your mate is Hodon of Sari is enough. You will be well treated on this ship.”
“And that will be a good thing for you,” said O-aa, “for if you hadn’t treated me well, I should have killed you. I have killed many men. My nine brothers and I used to raid the village of Suvi all alone, and I always killed more men than any of my brothers. My mother’s brother was also a great killer of men, as are my three sisters. Yes, it will be very well for you if you treat me nicely. I always-”
“Shut up,” said Raj, “you talk too much and you lie too much. I shall not harm you, but we Mezops beat women who talk too much; we do not like them.”
O-aa stuck her chin in the air, but she said nothing; she knew a man of his word when she met one.
“If you are not from Canda,” said the sailor who had once seen a man from Canda, “where did you get that feather loin cloth?”
“I took it from La-ak, the Candian, after I had killed him,” replied O-aa, “and that is no lie.”
The Sari was blown along before the gale, and at the same time it was in the grip of an ocean current running in the same direction; so it was really making excellent headway, though to O-aa it seemed to be going up and down only.
When they came opposite the Anoroc Islands, the Mezops became restless. They could not see the islands; but they knew exactly the direction in which they lay, and they didn’t like the idea of being carried past their home. The four boats of the Sari had been so securely lashed to the deck against the rail that the storm had not been able to tear them away; so Raj, suggested to the Sarians that he and his fellow Mezops take two of the boats and paddle to Anaroc, and that the Sarians take the other two and make for shore, since the ship was also opposite Sari.
The high seas made it extremely difficult and dangerous to launch the boats; but the Mezops are excellent sailors, and they finally succeeded in getting both their boats off; and with a final farewell they paddled away over the high seas.
O-aa looked on at all of this with increasing perturbation. She saw the frail boats lifted high on mighty waves only to disappear into the succeeding trough. Sometimes she thought that they would never come up again. She had watched the lowering of the boats and the embarkation of the Mezops with even greater concern; so, when the Sarians were ready to launch their boats, she was in more or less of a blue funk.
They told her to get into the first boat, but she said that she would go in the second—she wanted to delay the dread moment as long as possible. What added to her natural fear of the sea, was the fact that she was quite aware that the Sarians were not good sailors. Always they have lived inland, and had never ventured upon the sea until David and Perry had decreed that they become a naval power, and even then they had always gone as cargo and not as sailors.
O-aa watched the lowering of the first boat in fear and trepidation. They first lowered the boat into the sea with two men in it; these men tried to hold it from pounding against the side of the ship, using paddles for the purpose. They were not entirely successful. O-aa expected any minute to see it smashed to pieces. The other Sarians who were to go in the first boat slid down ropes; and when they were all in the boat, the Sari suddenly heeled over and capsized it. Some of the men succeeded in seizing the ropes down which they had slid, and these were hauled to the deck of the Sari; for the others there was no hope. O-aa watched them drown.
The remaining Sarians were dubious about lowering the second boat; no one likes to be drowned in a high sea full of ravenous reptiles. They talked the matter over.
“If half the men had taken paddles and held the boat away from the Sari, instead of trying to paddle before the ship rolled away from them, the thing would not have happened,” said one. Others agreed with him.
“I think we can do it safely,” said another. O-aa didn’t think so.
“If we drift around on the Sari, we shall die of thirst and starvation,” said a third; “we won’t have a chance. Once in the boat, we will have a chance. I am for trying it.” Finally the others agreed.
The boat was lowered successfully, and a number of men slid down into it to hold it away from the ship’s side.
“Down you go,” said a man to O-aa, pushing her toward the rail.
“Not I,” said O-aa. “I am not going.”
“What! You are going to remain on board the Sari alone?” he demanded.
“I am,” said O-aa; “and if you ever get to Sari, which you won’t and Hodon is there, tell him that O-aa is out on the Lural Az in the Sari. He will come and get me.”
The man shook his head, and slid over the side. The others followed him. O-aa watched them as they fended the boat from the side of the ship until it rolled away from them; then they drove their paddles into the water and stroked mightily until they were out of danger. She watched the boat being tossed about until it was only a speck in the distance. Alone on a drifting derelict on a storm-tossed ocean, O-aa felt much safer than she would have in the little boat which she was sure would never reach land.
O-aa had what she considered an inexhaustible supply of food and water, and some day the Sari would drift ashore; then she would make her way home. The greatest hardship with which she had to put up was the lack of some one with whom to talk; and, for O-aa, that was a real hardship.
The wind blew the ship toward the southwest, and the ocean current hastened it along in the same direction. O-aa slept many times, and it was still noon. The storm had long since abated. Great, smooth swells lifted the Sari gently and gently lowered it. Where before the ocean had belabored the ship, now it caressed her.
When O-aa was awake she was constantly searching for land, and at last she saw it. It was very dim and far away; but she was sure that it was land, and the Sari was approaching it—but, oh, so slowly. She watched until she could no longer hold her eyes open, and then she slept. How long she slept no man may know; but when she awoke the land was very close, but the Sari was moving parallel with it and quite rapidly. O-aa knew that she could never reach the land if the ship kept on its present course, but there was nothing that she could do about it.
A strong current runs through the nameless strait from the Sojar Az, into which the Sari had drifted, to the Korsar Az, a great ocean that bounds the western shore of the land mass on which Sari is located. None of this O-aa knew, nor did she know that the land off the port side of the Sari was that dread terra incognita of her people.
The wind, that had been blowing gently from the east, changed into the north and increased, carrying the Sari closer inshore. Now she was so close that O-aa could plainly discern things on land. She saw something that aroused her curiosity, for she had never seen anything like it before; it was a walled city. She had not the slightest idea what it was. Presently she saw people emerging from it; they were running down to the shore toward which the Sari was drifting. As they came closer, O-aa saw that there were many warriors.
O-aa had never seen a city before, and these people had never seen a ship. The Sari was drifting in slowly, and O-aa was standing on the stump of the bowsprit, a brave figure in her red and yellow feather loincloth and the three feathers in her hair.
The Sari was quite close to shore now and the people could see O-aa plainly. Suddenly they fell upon their knees and covered their eyes with their hands, crying, “Welcome, our Noada! The true Noada has come to Tanga-tanga!”
Just then the Sari ran aground and O-aa was pitched head-foremost into the water. O-aa had learned to swim in a lake above Kali, where there were no reptiles; but she knew that these waters were full of them; she had seen them often; so when she came to the surface she began swimming for shore as though all the saurians in the world were at heels. Esther Williams would not have been ashamed of the time in which the little cave girl of Kali made the 100 meters to shore.
As she scrambled ashore, the awe-struck warriors of Tanga-tanga knelt again and covered their eyes with their hands. O-aa glanced down to see if she had lost her loin-cloth, and was relieved to find that she had not.