Arrow of God
Although Ezeulu did not want anybody to think that he was troubled or to make him appear like an object of pity, he did not ignore the religious implications of Oduche's act. He thought about it seriously on the night of the incident. The custom of Umuaro was well known and he did not require the priest of Idemili to instruct him. Every Umuaro child knows that if a man kills the python inadvertently he must placate Idemili by arranging a funeral for the snake almost as elaborate as a man's funeral. But there was nothing in the custom of Umuaro for the man who puts the snake into a box. Ezeulu was not saying that it was not an offence, but it was not serious enough for the priest of Idemili to send him an insulting message. It was the kind of offence which a man put right between himself and his personal god. And what was more the Festival of the New Pumpkin Leaves would take place in a few days. It was he, Ezeulu, who would then cleanse the six villages of this and countless other sins, before the planting season. (6.13)
Ibe and his people made some vague, apologetic noises.
"What I want to know," said Ezeulu, "is how you will pay me for taking care of your wife for one year."
"In-law, I understand you very well," said Onwuzuligobo. "Leave everything to us. You know that a man's debt to his father-in-law can never be fully discharged. When we buy a goat or a cow we pay for it and it becomes our own. But when we marry a wife we must go on paying until we die. We do not dispute that we owe you. Our debt is ever grater than you say. What about all the years from her birth to the day we took her from you? Indeed we owe you a great debt, but we ask you to give us time."
Onwuzuligbo promised on behalf of his kinsman that Akueke would not be beaten in future. Then Ezeulu sent for her to find out whether she wanted to return to her husband. She hesitated and then said she would go if her father was satisfied. (6.42-44; 48)
A stranger to this year's festival might go away thinking that Umuaro had never been more united in all its history. In the atmosphere of the present gathering the great hostility between Umunneora and Umuachala seemed, momentarily, to lack significance. Yesterday if two men from the two villages had met they would have watched each other's movement with caution and suspicion; tomorrow they would do so again. But today they drank palm wine freely together because no man in his right mind would carry poison to a ceremony of purification; he might as well go out into the rain carrying potent, destructive medicines on his person. (7.2)