A Delineation of Battle Lines
If only Omemgboji had not been around on that day that a delegation of their in-laws had come with the initial report of their son’s penile transgression on a daughter from their quarter. Of course, the onus would have fallen on Omenka who was only not crafty with his craft unlike his name portends, but was also worse off with words. He must have of necessity not been as circumspect in announcing the verdict they had arrived when the visitors were called back to here the verdict of the assizes. All were left wondering how convoluted the outcome would have been.
“Our in-laws, we welcome you back from the small recess custom stipulates that you observe for us to look into the matter you brought to us. You know too well that we cannot do this with you looking down our mouths. We have heard the case out, what’s remainder is to knot it all up. I speak on behalf of my people not because only I have a mouth. Not at all, all of us here have mouths and can talk with them. I am only carrying the burden of age. So my in-laws we have reached a conclusion.
Our son is culpable as charged, the proof is fair enough. We would have said that the pregnancy is not ours on account of the just one visit our son paid to your daughter’s sacred grove, but not any longer. We are still smarting from the pains the last time we said it visited us. It is our wish therefore to ask you what you want done in the circumstance. What has been done has been done; we cannot reverse it for it is without our powers. It is only the gods who put the baby into your daughter’s womb from the waters issuing forth from our son’s member who can do that.”
He cleared his throat anew, surveyed all there seated and continued.
“My people say they will want you to suggest a way forward.”
“May I thank you on behalf of us,” Nwokedike said, adjusting his loincloth that had derailed into the gutter of his buttocks. “We heard you well. If you people had been couching words in such fine sheets, there would never have been a problem in the first place. Not to mention what a merriment we would have been presiding over had your private-part-happy son restrained his erring organ for use at the appropriate time. So far so good; after all, we are already in-laws. No mortal can change that. Omemgboji, tell your brothers, though they are already hearing me, that the way, the only possible other way out of this mess is for this son of yours to start and conclude the marriage obsequies of this girl.”
They didn’t quite let him finish, though they heard him out. Before the death of his voice a lively charivari had arisen from the belly of their hosts’ sitting area.
“Marry her for what?” an overheard voice queried.
“What kind of wife will that be?” yet another added before Omemgboji called all to order.
“Who are those babying?” he asked, turning his head to look at his people arrayed in disarray behind him. “If you can say what I’m saying better than me, please tell me so that I can step aside for you. Only you have to be also ready to be the first to file out when death comes knocking on the door of the clan for a next victim.”
The tumult this time carried no undertones of mirth.
“Nwokedike, we salute you and our other in-laws who made this auspicious trip with you,” Omemgboji said in a tone that conveyed the note of judgement. “It is not appointed for you to tell us when to increase our numbers. All the women we married here were not married because you people told us to marry them. Every marriage we have engaged in since our fore fathers set up this habitation for us has been done according our laws and custom. And knowing you as we have come to, we are also very certain that it is likewise that you have gotten wives for yourselves and your sons. We wonder why you want this particular daughter of yours, of all the precious daughters you people are blessed with to be the one married into our midst; a girl that is not shamefaced to admit that she went to see a man all alone in the hush of a market-day afternoon...
“Anyway, that’s by the way; our customs must have their way – come what may. My in-laws, this custom we are talking about belongs to us and you as well. You did not fall from the sky and it is the rule of the land that holds sway in your own domain too. You have to go back with your daughter for today because marriage obsequies are never canvassed on the head of a pregnant woman. She has to go back with you to be nursed till she is delivered of the load she is carrying. Only then can we talk of marriage. Meanwhile, we accept to take the charges that may accrue from her upkeep till then.”
The gathering came to an abrupt end if there has ever been one. Omemgboji had stood up after his speech and made for the door, followed by the rest of his people. Nwokedike immediately burst into a speech that bordered on fighting battles lost before they are well fought out. However, he ended his diatribe at their hosts by urging boys from their quarter to invade their hosts’ territory for young girls on whom to avenge their sister’s honour.
Only a few of the hosts stayed back to enjoy the meal the man in whose house they had gathered prepared for them. A feast worth its avoirdupois in the most expensive metal, it justified the support his kinsmen had given him to prevent his son from tying premature nuptial knots with a girl lacking the least of the fond credentials necessary for the credible marriage a parent of his standing in the community would be proud of.