One of them got up on a stool and addressed the others. He said that the kona's aim was to live in peace and brotherhood with the kemons. Peace, friendliness and the mutual security of the family hearth must be ensured and each should support the other in the work of building.
Hearing this, I began to tremble. Although I did not know what it meant, it sounded ominously sane and peaceful.
In a few minutes a formidable procession approached. A crowd of Behins came in rows of five and they walked in step which, considering the usual Behin disorder, was in itself surprising enough.
However, it was still more conspicuous that each was clutching a knife in his hand, with which at every second step he jabbed towards the earth and shouted: "Zuk!... Zuk!... Zuk!... Zuk!.."
Beside them walked a figure still more tattered than the betiks, clashing an enormous pair of scissors and shouting a few words at them from time to time that made them burst into frenzied applause, and shake their knives and howl: "Huuh!... Huuh!... Huuh!... "
Another figure was rushing around the procession with a tin-box and breathlessly distributed yellow pebbles from it.
As they came nearer I was able to get a better look at the speaker. He had an expressionless, empty face; almost without a forehead. The tousled hair which tumbled down made him appear still more beastly. The advanced Graves' disease and his bulging eyes caused fear enough even from a distance. His jaws were deformed. That is, his lower set of teeth protruded so much that his mouth could not contain them and on account of this his words could hardly be understood, although I was aware that my life might depend on how much I could understand of the events.
When they eventually passed close by me I succeeded in making out what he was saying.
"Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday!... Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Wednesday!..."
I looked after him agape. Was this what they were applauding? Was this what made them wild?
Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned. Two Behins stood in front of me with knives. One of them began to speak.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm begging," I replied. "But tell me, who is that therewith the scissors?"
"He is the knife-betik. Don't you see that he has a double knife?"
"What is a knife-betik?"
"He is the cleverest betik."
"The cleverest? How?"
"Because he bestows on us the salvation of the knife."
"If he is the cleverest, why doesn't he say Wednesday-Thursday?"
"Anybody could say that. He knows how we must win the salvation of the knife, and he is always right. Moreover there is a buku now and this requires emergency measures. But let's come to the point: do you have a body licence?"
"In a word, you haven't. Then you are permitted to participate in the peace-work."
"Take this," and he poked a knife into my hand, "and come with us to the hillside where you will ensure peace and civilization."
"By stabbing the kemons and they you."
It was only then that the utter horror of the situation unfolded before me. These unfortunate ones now were indeed on their way to kill. The fit of rage called buku, of which I had heard so many times but had always hoped to be untrue, lo and behold, had come upon them.
I hurriedly stated that for the time being I did not wish to make use of the permission, but he yelled at me, "I've told you that you are permitted to participate in the buku! "
With this he kicked me and pushed me into the ranks.
I tried to protest, but in no time knives threatened me from every side and the words stuck in my throat.
So what I would never have believed of myself had come to pass. I had to join in and march, unprotestingly, together with these raging wretches, towards an unknown bloodbath. Moreover, for the nightmare to be complete, I had to jab with my knife towards the earth at every second step and shout, "Zuk!... Zuk!... Zuk!... "
And whenever the bird-headed terror beside the troop screeched 'Thursday-Wednesday' in our direction I had to howl in chorus with the rest, "Huuh!... Huuh!... Huuh!..."
I write this down in the deepest shame. I would never have believed that I, an officer of the British Navy, could be compelled to sink so low by lunatics. But humiliation did not end with this.
It happened that the terror stepped up to me once and flashing his protruding eyes at me, ordered that I should command the howling. When he had shouted 'Wednesday', I had to beckon with my knife, whereupon the mass broke into the 'Huuh'.
So it was not enough that II had to go mad; with them, I was also compelled to coerce others, too, for otherwise they would have stabbed me to death.
I blushed with shame and decided that if I was ever able to return to my country I would immediately resign my commission. I felt that a coward who, having been scared by the threats of a bird-headed abortion, could become a party to the most evil-minded madness and meanest crime in the world could no longer pollute the Navy with his presence. The only reason which prevented me was, as the Reader will presently see, that I recovered before long.
After a few minutes of marching, the hill came into view, and the blood froze in my veins at the. horror which unfolded before my eyes.
On the hilltop konas and kemons brandished their knives and rushed at each other foaming at the mouth and within an instant my ears were split by the bestial howl of the demented inhabitants of the whole bedlam.
The inmates had broken loose; they kicked, tore, stabbed and cut each other up, and there was nobody to restrain them!
That was the last straw. As if I hadn't had enough trouble. The Reader can imagine how I felt. I was going to be compelled to. die miserably for some completely and absolutely senseless monomanias. The monstrosities suddenly brought me back to myself.
I tried to explain what a horrible thing they were doing, but they turned to me in surprise.
"Would you really want to remain alive when you could die in buku by knife? Would you miss the chance of the salvation of the knife, the greatest possible prize for which it was worth being born? It seems you have no feeling for the boeto!"
They had rushed me into many things, but into this horror no kind of power could have forced me. I stated that I had no intention of perishing aimlessly and senselessly.
"Bivak!" they bellowed. "Do you think that the boeto is aimless? Curb your tongue, for you will regret it bitterly if you abuse the kona!"
The knives again flashed towards me and in terror I asked them rather to let me beg, I had no wish to debase the kona's salvation, I wished the best of everything, only they should absolve me from the boeto. Why, I was not bad, I wished nobody any trouble, I wanted only to live in peace, happiness and tranquillity, and I wished the same for every kona.
The reply I received was a frightful storm of abuse, and ample blows. They termed me an incendiary, a madman, a Hin, a red-handed executioner of mankind, boeto, the bikru and civilization, who had no feeling for the glorious anebas.
Most of all, however, they were abominably affronted that I had wished peace, happiness and tranquillity to every kona.
"To the stake with the lamik!" they shouted. "That's all we need — that he should poison the healthy society with his base machinations and overthrow order!"
Another said that I should go to the kemons with my subversive work to overthrow order and peace there, not here where everybody wanted peace and justice.
I volunteered with pleasure to go and tell the same to the kemons, but they guffawed and said that then I would be beaten to death by them, but it was impossible to do so anyway as there was buku, and now both my spirit and body were at the disposal of their possessor, the kona.
When I replied that the possessor of the body was the individual himself, they upbraided me fiercely for professing such false doctrines, for it was known that I possessed only the clothes on my body. If somebody else dared to take off my clothes he would be punished, but my body was not mine any more, because body and spirit were not for the individual himself but were lent by the bikru and the kona that I should have something to clothe in the garment constituting myself.
By that time everybody was shouting lamik around me and they demanded that, as the enemy of public peace and civilization, I should be taken to the betik.
I understood that every word here was a waste of breath. It would be best if they exterminated each other and. only I should get away alive. I stated that I did not want to, disturb them in their civilization and in the buku, I even sincerely wished success to both parties (and it was not a lie, indeed) only that they leave me, wretched bivak, in my shame.
But they. had already taken hold of me, and they dragged me to the betik.
Ample blows showered on my back, insults were heaped upon me, but while this was happening, becoming strong in. my soul, I completely changed.
Self-confidence coursed through me as — having managed; at last to recover from cowardly submissiveness and, in the manner of a hero, facing even a martyr's death — I was able to stand up against crack-brained sin and baseness. I was imbued with the proud knowledge that I conducted myself at the end., as befitted to an officer of the glorious British Navy.
They took me to the very same betik with whom I had served and who had thrown me out recently. He of course soon established that I was a lamik and sentenced me to be burned alive.
In the reasons offered the epithets "extremist", "disturber of the peace" as well as the "moderate" and "charitable" occurred frequently. The Reader, of course, believes that those were called moderate and charitable who wanted tranquillity and peace, and extremists and disturbers of the peace those on, the hill who were putting out each other's eyes and danced on the steaming bowels of their fellow-men.
They meant it the other way round!
Now they assigned a beratnu to me who, although he did not hurt me, commenced an endless jabber about all kinds of obscure things which I naturally did not understand. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I noted only that he frequently mentioned the bikru which, naturally, now accounted for everything. Not the guard, but the bikru's hand had dragged me along to the betik, the bikru had punished me, the bikru was preparing the fire for the stake in the yard, and so on. As it was all the same to me anyway, I dared to defy being laughed at and asked him point-blank what the bikru was.
"The bikru is the most betik betik," he replied.
"So he is a man?"
"He is no longer alive, but he lived once."
"And why do you call him the most betik betik?"
"Because of his infinitely wise tenets."
I trembled at the very word. What sort of madness was it that they called wisdom? All the same I asked out of curiosity, "What did he teach?"
"That to be stabbed with a knife is not pleasure but pain; that we are born for life and not for death, therefore we must not stab. He declared that there is no betik but we all are men alike; that it is not the yellow pebble that nourishes but the spirituality, which the bikru called food, and that anyone who takes it away from others wears the bilevs in vain, for he is in reality a hypocrite and pickpocket. He said that we should live in peace, happiness and mutual understanding."
The Reader, of course, is, by now, rubbing his eyes and does not want to believe it. Just imagine how I received these words! I could not believe my ears.
"What did you say?" I asked dumbfounded.
But the beratnu said exactly the same the second time.
"Then he was a lamik!" I exclaimed in surprise.
"How can you make such an ignominious statement concerning the most betik betik?!" he cried out in consternation.
"So, indeed, such a man lived, and you did not burn him at the stake?"
Well... as a matter of fact, we did, because people of those days did not understand him. But since his glorious martyrdom we still accept his tenets, and from that time on we all live in his spirit."
"That's why you squeeze the yellow pebble under your arm?! That's why you take away the food from the starving, that's why you stab the kemons?" I asked indignantly.
"All this we do to his glory and in his defence."
"Why? Is the kemon perhaps the enemy of the bikru? Don't you think that all this would even then be an ignominious mockery of the thesis that you must not stab?"
"The kemons are not enemies of the bikru. They worship him just like us."
Breath failed me. I thought I was dreaming. I had to, pinch myself to make sure.
"But tell me, then, unfortunate one," I exclaimed trembling, "why do you do all these horrors?"
"In defence of the bikru. To enforce his doctrines." "And the kemons?"
"They want the same."
(I remark in brackets that I impart this to the Reader only with reserve because I admit this part is doubted not only. by him but even by myself. Although my travel notes bear out the above and I, too, clearly remember the words, this supersedes any mental defect to such an extent that I cannot imagines even lunatics to be capable of all this with unruffled conscience, and would rather take it to be the creation of my overstressed brain deranged by my sufferings of that time and, the surrounding insanity. That I still publish it is purely for the sake of completeness, and, even if the part about the bikru, was hallucination, it may serve as material for any neuropathologists when they are studying states of agitation similar to mine at that time.)