Mowunmi was overwhelmed by the requests for her beads. Adunni had been right about the womenfolk loving adornments, it had taken just one outing for her to have a steady stream of customers who wanted the most exquisite pieces to adorn their necks, hands and waist. Mowunmi was happy, she had a source of livelihood and could begin to repay her hosts for their kindness.
Although things were going on well with her trade and finances, she missed her home and parents and often wondered about them. She knew that her parents would be heavily indebted to Adegoke and that if she went back home she would have to go back to Adegbola. So, she continued to work hard, saving up the proceeds from her trade to pay off her parents’ debts and secure her freedom.
As painful as the situation at home was, Mowunmi did not allow it to burden her to the point of distraction. She kept her eyes on her goal and maintained a cordial relationship with her hosts.
The village of Ajobo held a quarterly meeting of married men where they discussed their challenges, progress and sometimes settled quarrels. Men were regarded by the influence they could wield at these meetings and quarrels only reached the ears of the king when the matter could not be settled here.
Agbeniyi was seated at the back of the crowd, immersed in his thoughts about his missing daughter, the amount of work on his farm and the debt he owed Adegoke. It was his first outing since his illness and even though he had been congratulated on his victory over a near death experience he saw the mockery behind the eyes of some who had heard that his daughter had eloped with her lover.
He sighed several times, overwhelmed by a huge sense of failure when he suddenly heard his name.
It was the head of the group, Ajani, who had been calling.
“Are you in this meeting? I’ve been calling you several times!”
“What do you say to the allegation?”
He was confused. “What allegation?”
“Adegoke says you owe him and that despite his patience with you, you are yet to pay him a dime. Is this so?”
“Y… yes…” he replied shamefacedly.
“Well you know that you have to pay…”
“I do, I have every intention to.”
“Well he can no longer wait for your intention. He has asked that you exchange a part of your land for your debt…”
“What?!” Agbeniyi shot up, suddenly alert and furious.
“I said he has asked for a part of your land…”
“I heard what you said, it is just not possible…”
“Why? You are a poor man and it is obvious that you don’t have any plans to pay…”
“I’m working hard. When the harvest comes, I’ll repay him.”
“But we all know that you have been sick what harvest are you reliant upon?”
“I am working… I am… and I will pay him back…”
Ajani shook his head. “Agbeniyi, why don’t you use what you have to offset your debt? Why are you being foolish?”
“This is my family land we’re talking about. What will I leave to my sons? That land will not belong to another family under my watch! I will not give my land to a greedy man who will stop at nothing to take what doesn’t belong to him!”
Adegoke simply smiled and sat with his back erect. Agbeniyi had no idea how much support the group was going to give him.
“You can shout as much as you want to. You can’t cheat a man because he is your in-law…” Someone said.
“Are they even still in-laws? Didn’t we hear that Mowunmi eloped with her lover who was confident enough to bed her in her husband’s farmland?” Another said.
“Imagine that!” Yet another said.
“It is a lie! My daughter is innocent.” Agbeniyi retorted and although he knew that his own truth wouldn’t hold up against his wealthy counterpart’s lie, he was too incensed not to respond to the wrong accusations against his daughter.
“Ask him if his son is whole! Ask him if his son isn’t impotent!”
The gathering went silent. The men looked back and forth between the two men.
“Adegbola is impotent and they…”
Adegoke couldn’t believe that Agbeniyi would reveal the secret, he had counted on the man’s self-doubt. He hadn’t known that he would not stand to have his daughter humiliated in public.
“He is bringing up a story in order to distract us all from the money he owes me. What would a poor desperate man not do? If my son is impotent, why was there a blood stain on the white cloth? Besides, don’t we all know how popular my son was with the women before he got married?” Many nodded at this. “What proof does he have? Like I said, he is only looking for a way to distract us from the issue at hand and I will not have it. I want my money Agbeniyi, your lies will not change that!”
“Let us all calm down!” Ajani said above the uproar. “Let us all calm down. Like Adegoke has rightly said, these allegations are just a distraction. We are not here to debate the faithfulness of Agbeniyi’s daughter or to determine Adegbola’s virility, we are here to discuss the solution to the debt owed.”
“Yes!” some cheered.
“So this is my judgment. Agbeniyi will forfeit some of his land to repay Adegoke…”
“Never! I will never do that! Are you the king? What gives you the right to order me to hand over my land to him?”
“Agbeniyi watch your tongue!” someone cautioned.
But Agbeniyi didn’t heed to the warning, like a goat which has been pushed against a wall, he was fighting back, and nothing could pacify him.
“Have you been bribed? I’m sure you have been bribed, otherwise why would you hear my side of the story but insist that I part with my land? The land of my fathers? It will never happen!”
With that he strode off, mumbling his protests as he went.
“He did what?”
Adebisi asked her husband in astonishment, unable to believe that the timid farmer had revealed their secret.
“What are we going to do?”
“We must commence the wedding plans with Folasade as soon as possible and silence Agbeniyi.”
“And how do we do that?”
“I have some ideas but I’m going to speak with my friend Fadare now, we will have a solution by nightfall.”
“Go quickly, my son must not be disgraced!”
“It’s just like you said it would happen, people did not believe you.”
Ibironke said to her husband after he had told her all that had transpired at the meeting.
“So what do we do?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to give up my fathers’ land. Not for any debt.”
“Can we borrow the money from someone else?”
“Who would loan us the money?”
“What happens if he gets the king involved? He might ask you to hand over the land.”
“If he does that, I will kill myself on the land and curse whoever takes over it with death and grief.”
“Don’t talk like that!” Ibironke cautioned. “You will not kill yourself or die.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” Agbeniyi thought.
“You are going to marry Folasade, the palmwine tapper’s daughter.”
Adegoke said to his son who shook his head vehemently. The father had called a meeting in his bedchamber with his sons Adegbola and Adeyimika who were both seated in front of him.
“No, father, I don’t want to remarry…”
“Did you hear what I said about the meeting? You must do what needs to be done because I will not allow you to destroy the reputation of this family.”
“And how am I going to make love to her?”
“That’s where you come in.” Adegoke pointed at his younger son. “You will continue the plan with Folasade but this time around we will not let her know the situation. She will be drugged throughout.”
Both sons looked at their father.
“Yes, that’s what Fadare suggested and I see that it’s the only way.”
“I can’t do this Father. I don’t even like the girl.”
“You have no choce in the matter. We let you choose and look at where we are now. Agbeniyi has disgraced us…”
“Because you wanted to take his land!”
“Are you talking back at me?” Adegoke asked, rising up in fury.
“I’m sorry father.” Adegbola replied, prostrating. “Don’t be offended, I was caught unawares by your announcement.”
“Tomorrow, we will got to Folasade’s house and ask for her hand in marriage.”
“Yes father.” Adegbola replied sadly.
“is it true?”
Oni said to Adegbola later that evening when the latter came into his house.
“Is what true?” he countered.
“You know what I’m talking about!”
“If you’re talking about the lie that my father-in-law told at the meeting, then you are wrong.”
“I am wrong? Adegbola, I’m your friend! Why didn’t you tell me what was going on? We would have found a solution to it.”
“Oni are you deaf? I said it’s not true! Are you going to believe the word of a desperate man over your friend’s? You don’t even know that this whole matter is because of land.”
“Forget about it. We’re going to ask for Folasade’s hand in marriage tomorrow. I want you to come with me.”
Oni mouth was agape.
“So you actullay belived the lie. Tell me, why would an impotent man go to ask for the hand of another woman in marriage? How would he deceive another woman, if it is true that he deceived the first?”
Oni had no answer to that. Agbeniyi must have been lying after all.
“Tell the king that his cousin is here to see him.”
“Yes, father.” The guard replied.
Adegoke readjusted himself as he prepared to meet with the king. Agbeniyi’s land would be his and the rumor about Adegbola would be quelled once and for all. But most of all, the village of Ajobo and especially Folasade’s parents, would be reminded of Adegoke’s power and influence.