Within it were many people. Some of them fell upon their knees and covered their eyes as he entered. These were the ones who were not taking any chances; but the majority stood and waited. Upon a dais at the far end of the room sat a girl in a long leather robe, gorgeously painted in many colors with strange designs. Upon her head was a massive feather headdress. Upon her arms were many bronze bracelets and armlets, and around her neck were strands of ivory beads.
As David Innes came toward the throne O-aa recognized him. They had brought her word that one who might be Pu had come to visit Furp the Go-sha; and now, nimble-witted as ever, she realized that she must perpetuate this erroneous belief as the most certain way in which to insure David’s safety.
She rose and looked angrily upon those who had remained standing.
“Kneel!” she commanded imperiously. “Who dares stand in the presence of Pu?”
David Innes was close enough now to recognize her; and as she saw recognition in his eyes, she forestalled anything he might be about to say: “The Noada welcomes you, Pu, to your temple in the city of Tanga-tanga”; and she held out her hands to him and indicated that he was to step to the dais beside her. When he had done so, she whispered, “Tell them to rise.”
“Arise!” said David Innes in a commanding voice. It was a sudden transition from mortality to godhood, but David rose to the occasion, following the lead of little O-aa, daughter of Oose, king of Kali.
“What are your wishes, Pu?” asked O-aa. “Would you like to speak with your Noada alone?”
“I wish to speak with my Noada alone,” said David Innes with great and godly dignity; “and then I will speak with Furp the Go-sha,” he added.
O-aa turned to Ope the high priest. “Clear the Temple,” she said, “but tell the people to be prepared to return later with offerings for Pu. Then they shall know why Pu has come and whether he is pleased with the people of Tanga-tanga, or angry at them. And, Ope, have the lesser priests fetch a lesser bench for me, as Pu will sit upon my throne while he is here.”
After the temple was cleared and the bench was brought and they were alone O-aa looked into David’s eyes and grinned.
“Tell me what you are doing here, and how you got here,” she said.
“First tell me if you have heard anything of Dian the Beautiful,” insisted David.
“No,” replied O-aa, “what has happened to her? I supposed, of course, that she was in Sari.”
“No,” replied David, “she is not in Sari. Abner Perry built a balloon and it got away, carrying Dian the Beautiful with it.”
“What is a balloon?” asked O-aa; and then she said, “Oh, is it a great, round ball with a basket fastened to it in which a person may ride through the air?”
“Yes,” said David, “that is it.”
“Then it was Dian who came before I did. They have told me about this thing that happened. The what-you-call-it, balloon, came down low over Tanga-tanga; and they thought that the woman in it was their Noada come from Karana; and they went out and fought with the men of Lolo-lolo for her. But the men of Lolo-lolo got her and she was Noada there until maybe thirty sleeps ago, maybe more. Then the people turned against her; and she disappeared with Gamba, the go-sha of Lolo-lolo, whom the people also wished to kill. What became of them no man knows; but the woman must have been Dian the Beautiful, for she came in that thing that floated through the air. But how did you get here, David Innes?”
“I also came in a balloon,” replied David. “I had Abner Perry build one, thinking that it might float in the same direction as had that which bore Dian away; for at this time of year the direction of the wind seldom varies, and a balloon is borne along by the wind.”
“They told me that this visitor, who some of them thought might be Pu, had come down from Karana. Now I understand what they meant.”
“What is Karana?” asked David.
“It is where Pu lives,” explained O-aa. “It is where I live when I am not on earth. It is where those who worship Pu go when they die. It is a mighty good thing for me that Pu came from Karana when he did,” she added.
“Why?” asked David. “What do you mean?”
“Ope, the high priest, and Furp, the go-sha, don’t like me,” replied O-aa. “They liked me at first, but now they don’t like me any more. They don’t like me at all. The people bring offerings to me, and many of these offerings are little pieces of metal, like the metal in my bracelets.”
“It is bronze,” said David Innes.
“Whatever it is, Ope the high priest and Furp the go-sha are very anxious to get hold of as much of it as they can; but I throw much of it back to the people because it is a lot of fun watching them fight for it; and that is why Ope and Furp do not like me. But it has made me very popular with the people of Tanga-tanga; and so, not only do Ope and Furp dislike me, but they fear me, also. I cannot understand why Ope and Furp and the People are so anxious to have these silly little pieces of metal.”
David Innes smiled. He was thinking of how typical it was of woman that even this little cave girl had no sense of the value of money, before she even knew what money was, or what it was for. “You had better let Ope and Furp have their silly little pieces of metal,” he said. “I think you will live longer if you do; for these little pieces of metal men will commit murder.”
“It is all very strange,” said O-aa. “I do not understand it, but I do not dare ask questions because a Noada is supposed to know everything.”
“And I suppose that Pu is supposed to know more than a Noada,” remarked David, with a wry smile.
“Of course,” said O-aa. “As I know everything that there is to be known, you must know everything that there is to be known, and a great deal that there isn’t to be known.”
“There is one thing that I don’t know, but that I would like to know very much,” he said; “and that is where Dian is, and whether she is still alive. After that I would like to know how we are going to get out of here and get back to Sari. You would like to get back, wouldn’t you, O-aa?”
“It makes no difference to me now,” she said, sadly. “Since Hodon the Fleet One was killed by Blug I do not care where I am.”
“But Hodon was not killed by Blug,” said David. “It was Blug who was killed.”
“And I ran away thinking that Hodon was dead and that I would have to mate with Blug,” exclaimed O-aa. “Oh, why didn’t I wait and see! Tell me, where is Hodon?”
“Before I left Sari he asked for a ship and some men that he might go out upon the Lural Az and search for you; for he received the message that you sent to him in the event that he was not dead.”
“And he will never find me,” said O-aa, “and he will be lost on that terrible ocean.”
After a while the people came back and brought offerings for Pu. David Innes saw the little pieces of metal and he smiled—crude little coins, crudely minted. For these the high priest and the king would drag the goddess from her pedestal; and doubtless kill her into the bargain. Unquestionably, these men of the bronze age were advancing toward a higher civilization.
O-aa took a handful of the coins and threw them to the people, who scrambled, screaming, upon the floor of the temple, fighting for them. Ope the high priest and Furp the go-sha looked on with sullen scowls, but O-aa felt safer now because she had Pu right there at her side.
After the people had left the temple Ope and Furp remained; and Ope, suddenly emboldened by his anger at the loss of so many pieces of metal, said to David, “How is it that you are so much older than the Noada?” O-aa was momentarily horrified, for she recalled that, she had once told Ope and Furp that she was the mother of Pu. She had also told them that Pu did everything she told him to do. To be a successful liar one must be quick to cover up; so, before David could answer, O-aa answered for him.
“You should know, Ope, being my high priest, that a Noada may look any age she wishes. It pleases me not to look older than my son.”
David Innes was astounded by the effrontery of the girl. Metaphorically, he took his hat off to her. These people, he thought, would look far before they could find a better goddess than O-aa.
Ope, the high priest, tried another tack. “Will Pu, who knows all, be kind enough to tell our Noada that she should not throw away the pieces of bronze that the people bring here as offerings?”
David thought that since he was supposed to know all, it would be best to pretend that he did.
“The Noada was quite right,” said David. “She has done this to teach you not to exact so much from the people. I have known for a long time that your priests were demanding more from them than they could afford to give; and that is one reason why I came from Karana to talk with you; and with Furp, who also exacts more in taxes than he should.”
Ope and Furp looked most unhappy; but Furp spoke up and said, “I must pay my warriors and keep the city in repair; and Ope must pay the priests and keep up the temple.”
“You are telling Pu the things that he already knows,” said David. “Hereafter you will exact less taxes and fewer offerings; demanding only what you require for the proper maintenance of the city and the temple.”
Ope was a simple fellow, who believed against his will that this was indeed Pu the god; and he was afraid; but Furp was a skeptic, as well as something of an atheist; at least, he bordered on atheism. But, with Ope, he bowed to the will of Pu; at least temporarily, and with mental reservation.
“There are many things that trouble my mind,” said Ope to David, “Perhaps you will explain them to me. We have always been taught that there was Pu; and that he had one daughter, who was our Noada. But now I am not only told that Pu is the son of our Noada, but that she had three fathers, eleven brothers, and four sisters, all of the latter being Noadas.”
Even O-aa flushed at the recital of this bare-faced lie which she had told Ope in order to impress him with her knowledge of conditions in Karana. For a moment she was lost, and could think of nothing to say. She only wondered what reply David Innes would make.
“It is all very simple,” he said, “when you understand it. As my high priest, Ope, you must know that Pu is all-powerful.”
Ope nodded. “Yes, of course, I know that,” he said importantly.
“Then you will understand why it is that Pu can be either the son or the father of your Noada. We can change about as we wish; and the Noada can, have as many brothers, or as many sisters, or as many fathers, as I wish her to have. Is that clear to you?”
“Perfectly clear,” said Ope. But it was not clear to Furp; and when he left the temple he started to implant in the minds of many a suspicion that the man who had come down out of the skies was not Pu at all, nor was the woman a true Noada. Furp planted the seed and was willing to wait and let it germinate, as he knew it would.