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The Yellow God

“what is the good of {{gold#silver|bronze|iron}}, except to make things of, or the bright stones {{except#exceptional|excepted}} to play with? What is the good of anything except food to eat and power and wisdom that can open the secret doors of knowledge, of things seen and things {{unseen#invisible|hidden|hiding}}, and love that brings the joy and forgetfulness of self and takes away the awful {{loneliness#lonely|lonesome|lone}} of the soul, if only for a little while? I stand for the ways which are lawful and {{true#truthful|truthfully|truth}} and all other ways I utterly abore.”

Not wishing to drift into {{discussion#dialogue|discourse|debate}} on the matter of love, Alan asked the priestess to define her “soul,” {{whence#from where|wherefrom|from which}} it came and whither she believed it to be going.

“My soul is I, Vernoon,” she answered, “and already very, very old. Thus it has ruled amongst this {{people#crowd|population|race}} for thousands of years.”

“How is that?” he asked, “seeing {{that#as|as though|because}} the Asika dies?”

“Oh! no, Vernoon, she {{does#will|should|can}} not die; she only changes. The old body dies, the spirit enters into another body {{which#whichever|that|whatever}} is waiting. Thus until I was fourteen I was but a common girl, the daughter of a {{headman#chieftain|captain|boss}} of that village yonder, at least so they tell me, for of this time I have no {{memory#thought|recollection|remembrance}}. Then the Asika died and as I had the secret marks and the {{beauty#allure|elegance|charm}} that is hers the priests burnt her body before Big Bonsa and suffocated me, the child, in the {{smoke#mist|vapour|fog}} of the burning. But I awoke again and when I awoke the past was gone and the soul of the Asika {{filled#brimming|full|replete}} me, bringing with it its awful memories, its gathered {{wisdom#knowledge|foresight|prudence}}, its passion of {{love#lust|passion|ardor}} and {{hate#animosity|hatred|scorn}}, and its power to {{look#glance|stare|survey}} backward and before.”

“Do you ever do these things?” asked Alan.

“Backward, yes, before very little; since you came, not at all, because my heart is a {{coward#craven|quitter|shirker}} and I fear what I might see. Oh! Vernoon, Vernoon, I know you and your thoughts. You think me a beautiful {{beast#monster|swine|fiend}} who loves like a beast, who loves you because you are white and different from our men. Well, what there is of the beast in me the gods of my {{people#folk|citizens|public}} gave, for they are {{devils#beelzabub|knaves|adversary}} and I am their servant. But there is more than that, there is good also which I have won for myself. I knew you {{would#should|could|will}} come even before I had seen your face, I knew you would come,” she went on {{passionately#fervidly|dearly|intensely}}, “and that is why I was yours already. But what would befall after you came, that I neither knew, nor know, because I will not seek, who could learn it all.”

He looked at her and she saw the {{doubt#doubtfullness|dilemna|confusion}} in his eyes.

“You do not believe me, Vernoon. Very well, this night you {{shall#intend|must|will}} see, you and that black dog of yours, that you may know I do not {{trick#bluff|disguise|snare}} you, and he shall tell me what you see, for he being but a low-born pig will {{speak#chat|convey|say}} the truth, not minding if it hurts me, whereas you are gentle and might spare, and myself I have {{sworn#affirmed|bound|confirmed}} not to search the future by an {{oath#vow|word|pledge}} that I may not break.”

“What of the {{past#former|prior|backtime}}?” asked Alan.

“We will not waste time on it, for I know it all. Vernoon, have you no memories of Asiki-land? Do you think you never visited it before?”

“Never,” said Alan; “it was my uncle who came and {{ran#run|running|runner}} away with Little Bonsa on his head.”