Arrow of God
What do you think the Captain would say, Tony, if he were to see his young Political Officer being nice and friendly to a common road maker?" His [Wright's] big red face looked almost boyish.
"I don't know and don't much care," said Clarke, and because the fume of gin was already working on his brain, he added: "I shall be happy if in all my years in Africa I succeed in building something as good as your road…." (10.8-9).
"One thing worries me, though," said Winterbottom without any indication that he had even heard Clarke's last piece. "You say in the report that after careful inquiry you were satisfied that there was no truth in all the stories of Wright whipping natives." Clarke's heart fell. This was the one falsehood in the entire report. In fact he completely forgot to make any inquires, even if he had known how to set about it. It was only on his return to Okperi that he found a brief, late entry Wright & natives scribbled in pencil on the second page of his touring notebook. At first he had worried about it; then he had come to the conclusion that if Wright had in fact been employing unorthodox methods he would have heard of it without making inquiries as such. But since he had heard nothing it was safe to say that the stories were untrue. In any case, how did one investigate such a thing? Did one go up to the first native one saw and ask if he had been birched by Wright? Or did one ask Wright? From what Clarke had seen of the man he would not have thought he was that sort.
"My steward is a native of Umuaro," continued Winterbottom, "and has just come back after spending two days at home; and he tells me that the whole village was in confusion because a rather important man had been whipped by Wright. But perhaps there's nothing in it."
Clarke hoped he did not betray his confusion. Anyhow he rallied quickly and said: "I heard nothing of it on the spot." The words on the spot stung Winterbottom like three wasps. The fellow's cheek! He had been there barely a week and already he was talking as though he owned the district and Winterbottom was the new boy, or some desk-ridden idiot at headquarters. On the spot indeed! (10.42-44).
"Leaders of Umuaro, do not say that I am treating your words with contempt; it is not my wish to do so. But you cannot say: do what is not done and we shall take the blame. I am the Chief Priest of Ulu and what I have told you is his will not mine. Do not forget that I too have yamfields and that my children, my kinsmen and my friends – yourselves among them – have also planted yams. It could not be my wish to ruin all these people. It could not be my wish to make the smallest man in Umuaro suffer. But this is not my doing. The gods sometimes use us as a whip." (18.67)