AJUAN AND THE QUEEN
Ajuan was a young man of Calabar. He was the only child of his parents, and they were extremely fond of him, as he was of fine stature and very good to look upon. They were poor people, and when Ajuan grew up and became a man, he had very little money indeed, in fact he had so little food, that every day it was his custom to go to the market carrying an empty bag, into which he would put anything eatable he could find after the market was over.
At this time Jacob was king. He was an old man, but he had many wives. One of these women, named Beauty, was quite young and very good-looking. She was traded off to her old husband, the king, by her poor family. She was married but unhappy and many time wished for a young and handsome husband. She therefore told her servant to go round the town and the market to find a man she could be befriending at night. She told her to bring him through the obscure side door to her house, and she would let him in quickly so that her husband would not discover him.
That day, the servant went all round the town but failed to find any young man good-looking enough. She was just returning to report her ill-success when, on passing through the marketplace, she saw Ajuan picking up the remains of corn and other things which had been left on the ground. She was immediately struck by his fine appearance and strength and saw that he was just the man to make a proper lover for her mistress, so she went up to him, and said that the queen had sent for him.
At first Ajuan was frightened and refused to go, as he knew that if the King discovered him, he would be killed. However, after much persuasion he consented, and agreed to go to the queen's side door when it was dark.
When night came, he went with great fear and trembling, and knocked very softly at the queen's door. The door was opened at once by the queen herself, who was dressed in her best attire. She had many necklaces, beads, and anklets on and she smelt so good. Immediately she sighted Ajuan she fell in love with him at once and praised his good looks and his shapely limbs. She then told her servant to bring water and clothes, and after he had had a good wash and put on clean clothes, he rejoined the queen. She hid him in her house all the night.
In the morning when he wished to go, she would not let him, but, although it was very dangerous, she hid him in the house, and secretly conveyed food and clothes to him. Ajuan stayed there for two weeks, and then he said that it was time for him to go and see his mother, but the queen persuaded him to stay another week, much against his will.
When the time came for him to depart, the queen got together fifty carriers with presents for Ajuan's mother who, she knew, was a poor woman. Ten slaves carried three hundred rods: the other forty carried yams, pepper, salt, tobacco, and cloth. When all the presents arrived, Ajuan's mother was very pleased and embraced her son, and noticed with pleasure that he was looking well, and was dressed in much finer clothes than usual. But when she heard that he had attracted the queen's attention, she was frightened, as she knew the penalty imposed on anyone who attracted the attention of one of the king's wives.
Ajuan stayed for a month in his parents' house and worked on the farm; but the queen could not be without her lover any longer, so she sent for him to go to her at once. Ajuan went again, and, as before, arrived at night. The queen was delighted to see him again.
In the middle of the night however, some of the king's servants, who had been told the story by the slaves who had carried the presents to Ajuan's mother, came into the queen's room unannounced and found her there with Ajuan. They hastened to the king and told him what they had seen.
Ajuan was immediately arrested and imprisoned. The infuriated king sent out to all the people of the land that one of his queens had committed adultery, the partner-in-crime had been found and he would love them all to attend the courthouse to hear the case tried. He also ordered eight Egbos to attend the court, armed with machetes.
The courthouse was full to the brim on the day of the trial. After the case was tried, Ajuan was found guilty, and the king told the eight Egbo men to take him into the bush and deal with him according to native custom. The Egbos afterwards took Ajuan into the bush and tied him up to a tree. Then, with a sharp knife, they cut off his lower jaw and carried it to the king.
When the queen heard the fate of her lover, she was very sad, and cried for three days. This made the king angry, so he sent for the Egbos to deal with his wife and her servant according to their law. They took the queen and the servant into the bush, where Ajuan was still tied up to the tree dying and in great pain.
As the queen had nothing to say in her defence, they tied her and the girl up to different trees and cut the queen's lower jaw off in the same way as they had her lover's. The Egbos then put out the eyes of the servant and left all three to die of starvation.
The king sundried the jaws and plucked out eyes and put them in a glass bowl and placed it on the pavement of the palace for anyone who visited to see. He then made an Egbo law that, for the future, no one belonging to Ajuan's family was to go into the market on any market day. And that no one was to pick up the rubbish in the market. The king made an exception to the law in favor of the vulture and the dog, who were not considered very fine people and would not be likely to run off with one of the king's wives. And that is why you won't find any fine, ablebodied man or woman picking left-over foods in the market except the vultures and dogs.