Naim’s wife had left him. I don’t know what minor incident finally caused the crises, what last straw broke this female camel’s back. The important thing that one morning, when he got up, Niam perceived to his astonishment that his wife had vanished, taking all her own property with her. That, by the way, is how they always manage it: hece their nickname of fly-by-nights.
A few days later our family heard that Niam’s wife had gone back to her father. So far her behaviour had followed the usual pattern. The unexpected thing was that she swore (it was said) never to return to her husband’s house again.
Some months passed. At first Niam put a fine face on the business, declaring cheerfully that he’d seen this kind of thing before; his wife had run away on several previous occasions and had always come back in the end.
After six months, Niam grew impatient. First of all he paid a visit one evening to Bikokolo, a well respected old man and the village Solomon. He confessed ( not without an effort, since his pride was enormous) that he wanted to get his wife back; he desperately needed her to run the house for him. In fact, he had an even more pressing reason: since his wife’s departure he had lost a whole seaeson’s groundnut crop through lack of anyone to work in his fields.
Old Bikokolo, at the end of the interview, strongely advised him to swallow his vanity and pride, at least for a while. After all, he pointed out, the recovery of a rebellious wife was a serious matter. Niam reflected, as he went away, that it was easier to give such advice than to take it.
After this, guided both by the old man’s suggestions and his own code of behaviour( which forbade him to take any direct part in a bargaining deal, so as not to lose face in front of his wife), he got touch with his father-in-law through several intermediaries, somehow giving the impression that he had nothing to do with the move at all. The whole village soon found out that Niam had opened negotiations with his in-laws, and had even sent them presents. But this was nothing to the general astonishment felt when Niam’s father-in-law( having accepted his gifts) made the following pronouncement. ‘ My daughter,’ he declared,’ is quite old enough to know what she wants- and, more to the point, what she doesn’t want.’
This complete rejection of a lawful demand, by a mere father-in-law, too, was regarded as completely scandalous. Everyone in the village began to wonder just what these people really wanted.