Part 4 out of 5
Now I returned in safety to Memphis and told all these tidings to the
Prince, who listened to them eagerly. Once only was he greatly
stirred; it was when I repeated to him the words of Userti, that never
would she look upon his face again unless it pleased him to turn it
towards the throne. On hearing this tears came into his eyes, and
rising, he walked up and down the chamber.
"The fallen must not look for gentleness," he said, "and doubtless,
Ana, you think it folly that I should grieve because I am thus
"Nay, Prince, for I too have been abandoned by a wife and the pain is
"It is not of the wife I think, Ana, since in truth her Highness is no
wife to me. For whatever may be the ancient laws of Egypt, how could
it happen otherwise, at any rate in my case and hers? It is of the
sister. For though my mother was not hers, she and I were brought up
together and in our way loved each other, though always it was her
pleasure to lord it over me, as it was mine to submit and pay her back
in jests. That is why she is so angry because now of a sudden I have
thrown off her rule to follow my own will whereby she has lost the
"It has always been the duty of the royal heiress of Egypt to marry
the Pharaoh of Egypt, Prince, and having wed one who would be Pharaoh
according to that duty, the blow cuts deep."
"Then she had best thrust aside that foolish wife of his and wed him
who is Pharaoh. But that she will never do; Amenmeses she has always
hated, so much that she loathed to be in the same place with him. Nor
indeed would he wed her, who wishes to rule for himself, not through a
woman whose title to the crown is better than his own. Well, she has
put me away and there's an end. Henceforth I must go lonely, unless--
unless---- Continue your story, friend. It is kind of her in her
greatness to promise to protect one so humble. I should remember that,
although it is true that fallen heads sometimes rise again," he added
"So at least Jabez thinks, Prince," and I told him how the Israelites
were sure that he would be Pharaoh, whereat he laughed and said:
"Perhaps, for they are good prophets. For my part I neither know or
care. Or maybe Jabez sees advantage in talking thus, for as you know
he is a clever trader."
"I do not think so," I answered and stopped.
"Had Jabez more to say of any other matter, Ana? Of the lady Merapi,
Now feeling it to be my duty, I told him every word that had passed
between Jabez and myself, though somewhat shamefacedly.
"This Hebrew takes much for granted, Ana, even as to whom the Moon of
Israel would wish to shine upon. Why, friend, it might be you whom she
desires to touch with her light, or some youth in Goshen--not Laban--
or no one."
"Me, Prince, me!" I exclaimed.
"Well, Ana, I am sure you would have it so. Be advised by me and ask
her mind upon the matter. Look not so confused, man, for one who has
been married you are too modest. Come tell me of this Crowning."
So glad enough to escape from the matter of Merapi, I spoke at length
of all that had happened when Pharaoh Amenmeses took his seat upon the
throne. When I described how the rod of the Hebrew prophet had been
turned to a snake and how Ki and his company had done likewise, the
Prince laughed and said that these were mere jugglers' tricks. But
when I told of the darkness that had seemed to gather in the hall and
of the gloom that filled the hearts of all men and of the awesome
dream of Bakenkhonsu, also of the words of Ki after he had clouded my
mind and played his jest upon me, he listened with much earnestness
"My mind is as Ki's in this matter. I too think that a terrible power
is afoot in Egypt, one that has its home in the land of Goshen, and
that I did well to refuse the throne. But from what god these fortunes
come I do not know. Perhaps time will tell us. Meanwhile if there is
aught in the prophesies of these Hebrews, as interpreted by Jabez, at
least you and I may sleep in peace, which is more than will chance to
Pharaoh on the throne that Userti covets. If so, this play will be
worth the watching. You have done your mission well, Ana. Go rest you
while I think over all that you have said."
It was evening and as the palace was very hot I went into the garden
and making my way to that little pleasure-house where Seti and I were
wont to study, I sat myself down there and, being weary, fell asleep.
When I awoke from a dream about some woman who was weeping, night had
fallen and the full moon shone in the sky, so that its rays fell on
the garden before me.
Now in front of this little house, as I have said, grew trees that at
this season of the year were covered with white and cup-like blossoms,
and between these trees was a seat built up of sun-dried bricks. On
this seat sat a woman whom I knew from her shape to be Merapi. Also
she was sad, for although her head was bowed and her long hair hid her
face I could hear her gentle sighs.
The sight of her moved me very much and I remembered what the Prince
had said to me, telling me that I should do well to ask this lady
whether she had any mind my way. Therefore if I did so, surely I could
not be blamed. Yet I was certain that it was not to me that her heart
turned, though to speak the truth, much I wished it otherwise. Who
would look at the ibis in the swamp when the wide-winged eagle floated
in heaven above?
An evil thought came into my mind, sent by Set. Suppose that this
watcher's eyes were fixed upon the eagle, lord of the air. Suppose
that she worshipped this eagle; that she loved it because its home was
heaven, because to her it was the king of all the birds. And suppose
one told her that if she lured it down to earth from the glorious
safety of the skies, she would bring it to captivity or death at the
hand of the snarer. Then would not that loving watcher say: "Let it go
free and happy, however much I long to look upon it," and when it had
sailed from sight, perhaps turn her eyes to the humble ibis in the
Jabez had told me that if this woman and the Prince grew dear to each
other she would bring great sorrow on his head. If I repeated his
words to her, she who had faith in the prophecies of her people would
certainly believe them. Moreover, whatever her heart might prompt,
being so high-natured, never would she consent to do what might bring
trouble on Seti's head, even if to refuse him should sink her soul in
sorrow. Nor would she return to the Hebrews there to fall into the
hands of one she hated. Then perhaps I----. Should I tell her? If
Jabez had not meant that the matter must be brought to her ears, would
he have spoken of it at all? In short was it not my duty to her, and
perhaps also to the Prince who thereby might be saved from miseries to
come, that is if this talk of future troubles were anything more than
an idle story.
Such was the evil reasoning with which Set assailed my spirit. How I
beat it down I do not know. Not by my own goodness, I am sure, since
at the moment I was aflame with love for the sweet and beautiful lady
who sat before me and in my foolishness would, I think, have given my
life to kiss her hand. Not altogether for her sake either, since
passion is very selfish. No, I believe it was because the love that I
bore the Prince was more deep and real than that which I could feel
for any woman, and I knew well that were she not in my sight no such
treachery would have overcome my heart. For I was sure, although he
had never said so to me, that Seti loved Merapi and above all earthly
things desired her as his companion, while if once I spoke those
words, whatever my own gain or loss and whatever her secret wish, that
she would never be.
So I conquered, though the victory left me trembling like a child, and
wishing that I had not been born to know the pangs of love denied. My
reward was very swift, for just then Merapi unfastened a gem from the
breast of her white robe and held it towards the moon, as though to
study it. In an instant I knew it again. It was that royal scarab of
lapis-lazuli with which in Goshen the Prince had made fast the bandage
on her wounded food, which also had been snatched from her breast by
some power on that night when the statue of Amon was shattered in the
Long and earnestly she looked at it, then having glanced round to make
sure she was alone, she pressed it to her lips and kissed it thrice
with passion, muttering I know not what between the kisses. Now the
scales fell from my eyes and I knew that she loved Seti, and oh! how I
thanked my guardian god who had saved me from such useless shame.
I wiped the cold damp from my brow and was about to flee away,
discovering myself with as few words as might be, when, looking up, I
saw standing behind Merapi the figure of a man, who was watching her
replace the ornament in her robe. While I hesitated a moment the man
spoke and I knew the voice for that of Seti. Then again I thought of
flight, but being somewhat timid by nature, feared to show myself
until it was too late, thinking that afterward the Prince would make
me the target of his wit. So I sat close and still, hearing and seeing
all despite myself.
"What gem is that, Lady, which you admire and cherish so tenderly?"
asked Seti in his slow voice that so often hid a hint of laughter.
She uttered a little scream and springing up, saw him.
"Oh! my lord," she exclaimed, "pardon your servant. I was sitting here
in the cool, as you gave me leave to do, and the moon was so bright--
that--I wished to be see if by it I could read the writing on this
Never before, thought I to myself, did I know one who read with her
lips, though it is true that first she used her eyes.
"And could you, Lady? Will you suffer me to try?"
Very slowly and colouring, so that even the moonlight showed her
blushes, she withdrew the ornament again and held it towards him.
"Surely this is familiar to me? Have I not seen it before?" he asked.
"Perhaps. I wore it that night in the temple, your Highness."
"You must not name me Highness, Lady. I have no longer any rank in
"I know--because of--my people. Oh! it was noble."
"But about the scarabŠus----" he broke in, with a wave of his hand.
"Surely it is the same with which the bandage was made fast upon your
hurt--oh! years ago?"
"Yes, it is the same," she answered, looking down.
"I thought it. And when I gave it to you, I said some words that
seemed to me well spoken at the time. What were they? I cannot
remember. Have you also forgotten?"
"Yes--I mean--no. You said that now I had all Egypt beneath my foot,
speaking of the royal cartouche upon the scarab."
"Ah! I recall. How true, and yet how false the jest, or prophecy."
"How can anything be both true and false, Prince?"
"That I could prove to you very easily, but it would take an hour or
more, so it shall be for another time. This scarab is a poor thing,
give it back to me and you shall have a better. Or would you choose
this signet? As I am no longer Prince of Egypt it is useless to me."
"Keep the scarab, Prince. It is your own. But I will not take the ring
because it is----"
"----useless to me, and you would not have that which is without value
to the giver. Oh! I string words ill, but they were not what I meant."
"No, Prince, because your royal ring is too large for one so small."
"How can you tell until you have tried? Also that is a fault which
might perhaps be mended."
Then he laughed, and she laughed also, but as yet she did not take the
"Have you seen Ana?" he went on. "I believe he set out to search for
you, in such a hurry indeed that he could scarcely finish his report
"Did he say that?"
"No, he only looked it. So much so that I suggested he should seek you
at once. He answered that he was going to rest after his long journey,
or perhaps I said that he ought to do so. I forget, as often one does,
on so beauteous a night when other thoughts seem nearer."
"Why did Ana wish to see me, Prince?"
"How can I tell? Why does a man who is still young--want to see a
sweet and beautiful lady? Oh! I remember. He had met your uncle at
Tanis who inquired as to your health. Perhaps that is why he wanted to
"I do not wish to hear about my uncle at Tanis. He reminds me of too
many things that give pain, and there are nights when one wishes to
escape pain, which is sure to be found again on the morrow."
"Are you still of the same mind about returning to your people?" he
asked, more earnestly.
"Surely. Oh! do not say that you will send me hence to----"
"Laban amongst others. Remember, Prince, that I am one under a curse.
If I return to Goshen, in this way or in that, soon I shall die."
"Ana says that your uncle Jabez declares that the mad fellow who tried
to murder you had no authority to curse and much less to kill you. You
must ask him to tell you all."
"Yet the curse will cling and crush me at the last. How can I, one
lonely woman, stand against the might of the people of Israel and
"Are you then lonely?"
"How can it be otherwise with an outcast, Prince?"
"No, it cannot be otherwise. I know it who am also an outcast."
"At least there is her Highness your wife, who doubtless will come to
comfort you," she said, looking down.
"Her Highness will not come. If you had seen Ana, he would perhaps
have told you that she has sworn not to look upon my face again,
unless above it shines a crown."
"Oh! how can a woman be so cruel? Surely, Prince, such a stab must cut
you to the heart," she exclaimed, with a little cry of pity.
"Her Highness is not only a woman; she is a Princess of Egypt which is
different. For the rest it does cut me to the heart that my royal
sister should have deserted me, for that which she loves better--power
and pomp. But so it is, unless Ana dreams. It seems therefore that we
are in the same case, both outcasts, you and I, is it not so?"
She made no answer but continued to look upon the ground, and he went
on very slowly:
"A thought comes into my mind on which I would ask your judgment. If
two who are forlorn came together they would be less forlorn by half,
would they not?"
"It would seem so, Prince--that is if they remained forlorn at all.
But I do not understand the riddle."
"Yet you have answered it. If you are lonely and I am lonely apart, we
should, you say, be less lonely together."
"Prince," she murmured, shrinking away from him, "I spoke no such
"No, I spoke them for you. Hearken to me, Merapi. They think me a
strange man in Egypt because I have held no woman dear, never having
seen one whom I could hold dear." Here she looked at him searchingly,
and he went on, "A while ago, before I visited your land of Goshen--
Ana can tell you about the matter, for I think he wrote it down--Ki
and old Bakenkhonsu came to see me. Now, as you know, Ki is without
doubt a great magician, though it would seem not so great as some of
your prophets. He told me that he and others had been searching out my
future and that in Goshen I should find a woman whom it was fated I
must love. He added that this woman would bring me much joy." Here
Seti paused, doubtless remembering this was not all that Ki had said,
or Jabez either. "Ki told me also," he went on slowly, "that I had
already known this woman for thousands of years."
She started and a strange look came into her face.
"How can that be, Prince?"
"That is what I asked him and got no good answer. Still he said it,
not only of the woman but of my friend Ana as well, which indeed would
explain much, and it would appear that the other magicians said it
also. Then I went to the land of Goshen and there I saw a woman----"
"For the first time, Prince?"
"No, for the third time."
Here she sank upon the bench and covered her eyes with her hands.
"----and loved her, and felt as though I had loved her for 'thousands
"It is not true. You mock me, it is not true!" she whispered.
"It is true for if I did not know it then, I knew it afterwards,
though never perhaps completely until to-day, when I learned that
Userti had deserted me indeed. Moon of Israel, you are that woman. I
will not tell you," he went on passionately, "that you are fairer than
all other women, or sweeter, or more wise, though these things you
seem to me. I will only tell you that I love you, yes, love you,
whatever you may be. I cannot offer you the Throne of Egypt, even if
the law would suffer it, but I can offer you the throne of this heart
of mine. Now, Lady Merapi, what have you to say? Before you speak,
remember that although you seem to be my prisoner here at Memphis, you
have naught to fear from me. Whatever you may answer, such shelter and
such friendship as I can give will be yours while I live, and never
shall I attempt to force myself upon you, however much it may pain me
to pass you by. I know not the future. It may happen that I shall give
you great place and power, it may happen that I shall give you nothing
but poverty and exile, or even perhaps a share in my own death, but
with either will go the worship of my body and my spirit. Now, speak."
She dropped her hands from her face, looking up at him, and there were
tears shining in her beautiful eyes.
"It cannot be, Prince," she murmured.
"You mean you do not wish it to be?"
"I said that it cannot be. Such ties between an Egyptian and an
Israelite are not lawful."
"Some in this city and elsewhere seem to find them so."
"And I am married, I mean perhaps I am married--at least in name."
"And I too am married, I mean----"
"That is different. Also there is another reason, the greatest of all,
I am under a curse, and should bring you, not joy as Ki said, but
sorrow, or, at the least, sorrow with the joy."
He looked at her searchingly.
"Has Ana----" he began, then continued, "if so what lives have you
known that are not compounded of mingled joy and sorrow?"
"None. But the woe I should bring would outweigh the joy--to you. The
curse of my God rests upon me and I cannot learn to worship yours. The
curse of my people rests upon me, the law of my people divides me from
you as with a sword, and should I draw close to you these will be
increased upon my head, which matters not, but also upon yours," and
she began to sob.
"Tell me," he said, taking her by the hand, "but one thing, and if the
answer is No, I will trouble you no more. Is your heart mine?"
"It is," she sighed, "and has been ever since my eyes fell upon you
yonder in the streets of Tanis. Oh! then a change came into me and I
hated Laban, whom before I had only misliked. Moreover, I too felt
that of which Ki spoke, as though I had known you for thousands of
years. My heart is yours, my love is yours; all that makes me woman is
yours, and never, never can turn from you to any other man. But still
we must stay apart, for your sake, my Prince, for your sake."
"Then, were it not for me, you would be ready to run these hazards?"
"Surely! Am I not a woman who loves?"
"If that be so," he said with a little laugh, "being of full age and
of an understanding which some have thought good, by your leave I
think I will run them also. Oh! foolish woman, do you not understand
that there is but one good thing in the world, one thing in which self
and its miseries can be forgot, and that thing is love? Mayhap
troubles will come. Well, let them come, for what do they matter if
only the love or its memory remains, if once we have picked that
beauteous flower and for an hour worn it on our breasts. You talk of
the difference between the gods we worship and maybe it exists, but
all gods send their gifts of love upon the earth, without which it
would cease to be. Moreover, my faith teaches me more clearly perhaps
than yours, that life does not end with death and therefore that love,
being life's soul, must endure while it endures. Last of all, I think,
as you think, that in some dim way there is truth in what the
magicians said, and that long ago in the past we have been what once
more we are about to be, and that the strength of this invisible tie
has drawn us together out of the whole world and will bind us together
long after the world is dead. It is not a matter of what we wish to
do, Merapi, it is a matter of what Fate has decreed we shall do. Now,
But she made no answer, and when I looked up after a little moment she
was in his arms and her lips were upon his lips.
Thus did Prince Seti of England and Merapi, Moon of Israel, come
together at Memphis in Egypt.
THE RED NILE
On the morrow of this night I found the Prince alone for a little
while, and put him in mind of certain ancient manuscripts that he
wished to read, which could only be consulted at Thebes where I might
copy them; also of others that were said to be for sale there. He
answered that they could wait, but I replied that the latter might
find some other purchaser if I did not go at once.
"You are over fond of long journeys upon my business, Ana," he said.
Then he considered me curiously for a while, and since he could read
my mind, as indeed I could his, saw that I knew all, and added in a
"You should have done as I told you, and spoken first. If so, who
"You do, Prince," I answered, "you and another."
"Go, and the gods be with you, friend, but stay not too long copying
those rolls, which any scribe can do. I think there is trouble at hand
in Egypt, and I shall need you at my side. Another who holds you dear
will need you also."
"I thank my lord and that other," I said, bowing, and went.
Moreover, while I was making some humble provision for my journey, I
found that this was needless, since a slave came to tell me that the
Prince's barge was waiting to sail with the wind. So in that barge I
travelled to Thebes like a great noble, or a royal mummy being borne
to burial. Only instead of wailing priests, until I sent them back to
Memphis, musicians sat upon the prow, and when I willed, dancing girls
came to amuse my leisure and, veiled in golden nets, to serve at my
So I journeyed as though I were the Prince himself, and as one who was
known to have his ear was made much of by the governors of the Nomes,
the chief men of the towns, and the high priests of the temples at
every city where we moored. For, as I have said, although Amenmeses
sat upon the throne, Seti still ruled in the hearts of the folk of
Egypt. Moreover, as I sailed further up the Nile to districts where
little was known of the Israelites, and the troubles they were
bringing on the land, I found this to be so more and more. Why is it,
the Great Ones would whisper in my ear, that his Highness the Prince
Seti does not hold his father's place? Then I would tell them of the
Hebrews, and they would laugh and say:
"Let the Prince unfurl his royal banner here, and we will show him
what we think of the question of these Israelitish slaves. May not the
Heir of Egypt form his own judgment on such a matter as to whether
they should abide there in the north, or go away into that wilderness
which they desire?"
To all of which, and much like it, I would only answer that their
words should be reported. More I did not, and indeed did not dare to
say, since everywhere I found that I was being followed and watched by
the spies of Pharaoh.
At length I came to Thebes and took up my abode in a fine house that
was the property of the Prince, which I found that a messenger had
commanded should be made ready for me. It stood near by the entrance
to the Avenue of Sphinxes, which leads to the greatest of all the
Theban temples, where is that mighty columned hall built by the first
Seti and his son, Rameses II, the Prince's grandfather.
Here, having entrance to the place, I would often wander at night, and
in my spirit draw as near to heaven as ever it has been my lot to
travel. Also, crossing the Nile to the western bank, I visited that
desolate valley where the rulers of Egypt lie at rest. The tomb of
Pharaoh Meneptah was still unsealed, and accompanied by a single
priest with torches, I crept down its painted halls and looked upon
the sarcophagus of him whom so lately I had seen seated in glory upon
the throne, wondering, as I looked, how much or how little he knew of
all that passed in Egypt to-day.
Moreover, I copied the papyri that I had come to seek, in which there
was nothing worth preserving, and some of real value that I discovered
in the ancient libraries of the temples, and purchased others. One of
these indeed told a very strange tale that has given me much cause for
thought, especially of late years now when all my friends are dead.
Thus I spent two months, and should have stayed longer had not
messengers reached me from the Prince saying that he desired my
return. Of these, one followed within three days of the other, and his
"Think you, Scribe Ana, that because I am no more Prince of Egypt I am
no longer to be obeyed? If so, bear in mind that the gods may decree
that one day I shall grow taller than ever I was before, and then be
sure that I will remember your disobedience, and make you shorter by a
head. Come swiftly, my friend, for I grow lonely, and need a man to
To which I replied, that I returned as fast as the barge would carry
me, being so heavily laden with the manuscripts that I had copied and
So I started, being, to tell truth, glad to get away, for this reason.
Two nights before, when I was walking alone from the great temple of
the house, a woman dressed in many colours appeared and accosted me as
such lost ones do. I tried to shake her off, but she clung to me, and
I saw that she had drunk more than enough of wine. Presently she
asked, in a voice that I thought familiar, if I knew who was the
officer that had come to Thebes on the business of some Royal One and
abode in the dwelling that was known as House of the Prince. I
answered that his name was Ana.
"Once I knew an Ana very well," she said, "but I left him."
"Why?" I asked, turning cold in my limbs, for although I could not see
her face because of a hood she wore, now I began to be afraid.
"Because he was a poor fool," she answered, "no man at all, but one
who was always thinking about writings and making them, and another
came my way whom I liked better until he deserted me."
"And what happened to this Ana?" I asked.
"I do not know. I suppose he went on dreaming, or perhaps he took
another wife; if so, I am sorry for her. Only, if by chance it is the
same that has come to Thebes, he must be wealthy now, and I shall go
and claim him and make him keep me well."
"Had you any children?" I asked.
"Only one, thank the gods, and that died--thank the gods again, for
otherwise it might have lived to be such as I am," and she sobbed once
in a hard fashion and then fell to her vile endearments.
As she did so, the hood slipped from her head and I saw that the face
was that of my wife, still beauteous in a bold fashion, but grown
dreadful with drink and sin. I trembled from head to foot, then said
in the disguised voice that I had used to her.
"Woman, I know this Ana. He is dead and you were his ruin. Still,
because I was his friend, take this and go reform your ways," and I
drew from my robe and gave to her a bag containing no mean weight of
She snatched it as a hawk snatches, and seeing its contents by the
starlight, thanked me, saying:
"Surely Ana dead is worth more than Ana alive. Also it is well that he
is dead, for he is gone where the child went, which he loved more than
life, neglecting me for its sake and thereby making me what I am. Had
he lived, too, being as I have said a fool, he would have had more
ill-luck with women, whom he never understood. Farewell, friend of
Ana, who have given me that which will enable me to find another
husband," and laughing wildly she reeled off behind a sphinx and
vanished into the darkness.
For this reason, then, I was glad to escape from Thebes. Moreover,
that miserable one had hurt me sorely, making me sure of what I had
only guessed, namely, that with women I was but a fool, so great a
fool that then and there I swore by my guardian god that never would I
look with love on one of them again, an oath which I have kept well
whatever others I may have broken. Again she stabbed me through with
the talk of our dead child, for it is true that when that sweet one
took flight to Osiris my heart broke and in a fashion has never mended
itself again. Lastly, I feared lest it might also be true that I had
neglected the mother for the sake of this child which was the jewel of
my worship, yes, and is, and thereby helped her on to shame. So much
did this thought torment me that through an agent whom I trusted, who
believed that I was but providing for one whom I had wronged, I caused
enough to be paid to her to keep her in comfort.
She did marry again, a merchant about whom she had cast her toils, and
in due course spent his wealth and brought him to ruin, after which he
ran away from her. As for her, she died of her evil habits in the
third year of the reign of Seti II. But, the gods be thanked she never
knew that the private scribe of Pharaoh's chamber was that Ana who had
been her husband. Here I will end her story.
Now as I was passing down the Nile with a heart more heavy than the
great stone that served as anchor on the barge, we moored at dusk on
the third night by the side of a vessel that was sailing up Nile with
a strong northerly wind. On board this boat was an officer whom I had
known at the Court of Pharaoh Meneptah, travelling to Thebes on duty.
This man seemed so much afraid that I asked him if anything weighed
upon his mind. Then he took me aside into a palm grove upon the bank,
and seating himself on the pole whereby oxen turned a waterwheel, told
me that strange things were passing at Tanis.
It seemed that the Hebrew prophets had once more appeared before
Pharaoh, who since his accession had left the Israelites in peace, not
attacking them with the sword as Meneptah had wished to do, it was
thought through fear lest if he did so he should die as Meneptah died.
As before, they had put up their prayer that the people of the Hebrews
should be suffered to go to worship in the wilderness, and Pharaoh had
refused them. Then when he went down to sail upon the river early in
the morning of another day, they had met him and one of them struck
the water with his rod, and it had turned to blood. Whereon Ki and
Kherheb and his company also struck the water with their rods, and it
turned to blood. That was six days ago, and now this officer swore to
me that the blood was creeping up the Nile, a tale at which I laughed.
"Come then and see," he said, and led me back to his boat, where all
the crew seemed as fearful as he was himself.
He took me forward to a great water jar that stood upon the prow and,
behold! it seemed to be full of blood, and in it was a fish dead, and
"This water," said he, "I drew from the Nile with my own hands, not
five hours sail to the north. But now we have outsped the blood, which
follows after us," and taking a lamp he held it over the prow of the
boat and I saw that all its planks were splashed as though with blood.
"Be advised by me, learned scribe," he added, "and fill every jar and
skin that you can gather with sweet water, lest to-morrow you and your
company should go thirsty," and he laughed a very dreary laugh.
Then we parted without more words, for neither of us knew what to say,
and about midnight he sailed on with the wind, taking his chance of
grounding on the sandbanks in the darkness.
For my part I did as he bade me, though my rowers who had not spoken
with his men, thought that I was mad to load up the barge with so much
At the first break of day I gave the order to start. Looking over the
side of the barge it seemed to me as though the lights of dawn had
fallen from the sky into the Nile whereof the water had become pink-
hued. Moreover, this hue, which grew ever deeper, was travelling up
stream, not down, against the course of nature, and could not
therefore have been caused by red soil washed from the southern lands.
The bargemen stared and muttered together. Then one of them, leaning
over the side, scooped up water in the hollow of his hand and drew
some into his mouth, only to spit it out again with a cry of fear.
"'Tis blood," he cried. "Blood! Osiris has been slain afresh, and his
holy blood fills the banks of Nile."
So much were they afraid, indeed, that had I not forced them to hold
to their course they would have turned and rowed up stream, or beached
the boat and fled into the desert. But I cried to them to steer on
northwards, for thus perhaps we should sooner be done with this
horror, and they obeyed me. Ever as we went the hue of the water grew
more red, almost to blackness, till at last it seemed as though we
were travelling through a sea of gore in which dead fish floated by
the thousand, or struggled dying on the surface. Also the stench was
so dreadful that we must bind linen about our nostrils to strain the
We came abreast of a town, and from its streets one great wail of
terror rose to heaven. Men stood staring as though they were drunken,
looking at their red arms which they had dipped in the stream, and
women ran to and fro upon the bank, tearing their hair and robes, and
crying out such words as--
"Wizard's work! Bewitched! Accursed! The gods have slain each other,
and men too must die!" and so forth.
Also we saw peasants digging holes at a distance from the shore to see
perchance if they might come to water that was sweet and wholesome.
All day long we travelled thus through this horrible flood, while the
spray driven by the strong north wind spotted our flesh and garments,
till we were like butchers reeking from the shambles. Nor could we eat
any food because of the stench from this spray, which made it to taste
salt as does fresh blood, only we drank of the water which I had
provided, and the rowers who had held me to be mad now named me the
wisest of men; one who knew what would befall in the future.
At length towards evening we noted that the water was growing much
less red with every hour that passed, which was another marvel, seeing
that above us, upstream, it was the colour of jasper, whereon we
paused from our rowing and, all defiled as we were, sang a hymn and
gave thanks to Hapi, god of Nile, the Great, the Secret, the Hidden.
Before sunset, indeed, the river was clean again, save that on the
bank where we made fast for the night the stones and rushes were all
stained, and the dead fish lay in thousands polluting the air. To
escape the stench we climbed a cliff that here rose quite close to
Nile, in which we saw the mouths of ancient tombs that long ago had
been robbed and left empty, purposing to sleep in one of them.
A path worn by the feet of men ran to the largest of these tombs,
whence, as we drew near, we heard the sound of wailing. Looking in, I
saw a woman and some children crouched upon the floor of the tomb,
their heads covered with dust who, when they perceived us, cried more
loudly than before, though with harsh dry voices, thinking no doubt
that we were robbers or perhaps ghosts because of our bloodstained
garments. Also there was another child, a little one, that did not
cry, because it was dead. I asked the woman what passed, but even when
she understood that we were only men who meant her no harm, she could
not speak or do more than gasp "Water! Water!" We gave her and the
children to drink from the jars which we had brought with us, which
they did greedily, after which I drew her story from her.
She was the wife of a fisherman who made his home in this cave, and
said that seven days before the Nile had turned to blood, so that they
could not drink of it, and had no water save a little in a pot. Nor
could they dig to find it, since here the ground was all rock. Nor
could they escape, since when he saw the marvel, her husband in his
fear had leapt from his boat and waded to land and the boat had
I asked where was her husband, and she pointed behind her. I went to
look, and there found a man hanging by his neck from a rope that was
fixed to the capital of a pillar in the tomb, quite dead and cold.
Returning sick at heart, I inquired of her how this had come about.
She answered that when he saw that all the fish had perished, taking
away his living, and that thirst had killed his youngest child, he
went mad, and creeping to the back of the tomb, without her knowledge
hung himself with a net rope. It was a dreadful story.
Having given the widow of our food, we went to sleep in another tomb,
not liking the company of those dead ones. Next morning at the dawn we
took the woman and her children on board the barge, and rowed them
three hours' journey to a town where she had a sister, whom she found.
The dead man and the child we left there in the tomb, since my men
would not defile themselves by touching them.
So, seeing much terror and misery on our journey, at last we came safe
to Memphis. Leaving the boatmen to draw up the barge, I went to the
palace, speaking with none, and was led at once to the Prince. I found
him in a shaded chamber seated side by side with the lady Merapi, and
holding her hand in such a fashion that they remind me of the life-
sized Ka statues of a man and his wife, such as I have seen in the
ancient tombs, cut when the sculptors knew how to fashion the perfect
likenesses of men and women. This they no longer do to-day, I think
because the priests have taught them that it is not lawful. He was
talking to her in a low voice, while she listened, smiling sweetly as
she ever did, but with eyes, fixed straight before her that were, as
it seemed to me, filled with fear. I thought that she looked very
beautiful with her hair outspread over her white robe, and held back
from her temples by a little fillet of god. But as I looked, I
rejoiced to find that my heart no longer yearned for her as it had
upon that night when I had seen her seated beneath the trees without
the pleasure-house. Now she was its friend, no more, and so she
remained until all was finished, as both the Prince and she knew well
When he saw me Seti sprang from his seat and came to greet me, as a
man does the friend whom he loves. I kissed his hand, and going to
Merapi, kissed hers also noting that on it now shone that ring which
once she had rejected as too large.
"Tell me, Ana, all that has befallen you," he said in his pleasant,
"Many things, Prince; one of them very strange and terrible," I
"Strange and terrible things have happened here also," broke in
Merapi, "and, alas! this is but the beginning of woes."
So saying, she rose, as though she could trust herself to speak no
more, bowed first to her lord and then to me, and left the chamber.
I looked at the Prince and he answered the question in my eyes.
"Jabez has been here," he said, "and filled her heart with
forebodings. If Pharaoh will not let the Israelites go, by Amon I wish
he would let Jabez go to some place whence he never could return. But
tell me, have you also met blood travelling against the stream of
Nile? It would seem so," and he glanced at the rusty stains that no
washing would remove from my garments.
I nodded and we talked together long and earnestly, but in the end
were no wiser for all our talking. For neither of us knew how it came
about that men by striking water with a rod could turn it into what
seemed to be blood, as the Hebrew prophet and Ki both had done, or how
that blood could travel up the Nile against the stream and everywhere
endure for a space of seven days; yes, and spread too to all the
canals in Egypt, so that men must dig holes for water and dig them
fresh each day because the blood crept in and poisoned them. But both
of us thought that this was the work of the gods, and most of all of
that god whom the Hebrews worship.
"You remember, Ana," said the Prince, "the message which you brought
to me from Jabez, namely that no harm should come to me because of
these Israelites and their curses. Well, no harm as come as yet,
except the harm of Jabez, for he came. On the day before the news of
this blood plague reached us, Jabez appeared disguised as a merchant
of Syrian stuffs, all of which he sold to me at three times their
value. He obtained admission to the chambers of Merapi, where she is
accustomed to see whom she wills, and under pretence of showing her
his stuffs, spoke with her and, as I fear, told her what you and I
were so careful to hide, that she would bring trouble on me. At the
least she has never been quite the same since, and I have thought it
wise to make her swear by an oath, which I know she will never break,
that now we are one she will not attempt to separate herself from me
while we both have life."
"Did he wish her to go away with him, Prince?"
"I do not know. She never told me so. Still I am sure that had he come
with his evil talk before that day when you returned from Tanis, she
would have gone. Now I hope that there are reasons that will keep her
where she is."
"What then did he say, Prince?"
"Little beyond what he had already said to you, that great troubles
were about to fall on Egypt. He added that he was sent to save me and
mine from these troubles because I had been a friend to the Hebrews
in so far as that was possible. Then he walked through this house and
all round its gardens, as he went reciting something that was written
on a roll, of which I could not understand the meaning, and now and
again prostrating himself to pray to his god. Thus, where the canal
enters the garden and where it leaves the garden he stayed to pray, as
he did at the well whence drinking water is drawn. Moreover, led by
Merapi, he visited all my cornlands and those where my cattle are
herded, reciting and praying until the servants thought that he was
mad. After this he returned with her and, as it chanced, I overheard
their parting. She said to him:
"'The house you have blessed and it is safe; the fields you have
blessed and they are safe; will you not bless me also, O my Uncle, and
any that are born of me?'
"He answered, shaking his head, 'I have no command, my Niece, either
to bless or to curse you, as did that fool whom the Prince slew. You
have chosen your own path apart from your people. It may be well, or
it may be ill, or perhaps both, and henceforth you must walk it alone
to wherever it may lead. Farewell, for perhaps we shall meet no more.'
"Thus speaking they passed out of earshot, but I could see that still
she pleaded and still he shook his head. In the end, however, she gave
him an offering, of all that she had I think, though whether this went
to the temple of the Hebrews or into his own pouch I know not. At
least it seemed to soften him, for he kissed her on the brow tenderly
enough and departed with the air of a happy merchant who has sold his
wares. But of all that passed between them Merapi would tell me
nothing. Nor did I tell her of what I had overheard."
"And then, Ana, came the story of the Hebrew prophet who made the
water into blood, and of Ki and his disciples who did likewise. The
latter I did not believe, because I said it would be more reasonable
had Ki turned the blood back into water, instead of making more blood
of which there was enough already."
"I think that magicians have no reason."
"Or can do mischief only, Ana. At any rate after the story came the
blood itself and stayed with us seven whole days, leaving much
sickness behind it because of the stench of the rotting fish. Now for
the marvel--here about my house there was no blood, though above and
below the canal was full of it. The water remained as it has always
been and the fish swam in it as they have always done; also that of
the well kept sweet and pure. When this came to be known thousands
crowded to the place, clamouring for water; that is until they found
that outside the gates it grew red in their vessels, after which,
although some still came, they drank the water where they stood, which
they must do quickly."
"And what tale do they tell of this in Memphis, Prince?" I asked
"Certain of them say that not Ki but I am the greatest magician in
Egypt--never, Ana, was fame more lightly earned. And certain say that
Merapi, of whose doings in the temple at Tanis some tale has reached
them, is the real magician, she being an Israelite of the tribe of the
Hebrew prophets. Hush! She returns."
KI COMES TO MEMPHIS
Now of all the terrors of which this turning of the water into blood
was the beginning in Egypt, I, Ana, the scribe, will not write, for if
I did so, never in my life-days should I, who am old, find time to
finish the story of them. Over a period of many, many moons they came,
one by one, till the land grew mad with want and woe. Always the tale
was the same. The Hebrew prophets would visit Pharaoh at Tanis and
demand that he should led their people go, threatening him with
vengeance if he refused. Yet he did refuse, for some madness had hold
of him, or perhaps the god of the Israelites laid an enchantment on
him, why I know not.
Thus but a little while after the terror of blood came a plague of
frogs that filled Egypt from north to south, and when these were taken
away made the air to stink. This miracle Ki and his company worked
also, sending the frogs into Goshen, where they plagued the
Israelites. But however it came about, at Seti's palace at Memphis and
on the land that he owned around it there were no frogs, or at least
but few of them, although at night from the fields about the sound of
their croaking went up like the sound of beaten drums.
Next came a plague of lice, and these Ki and his companions would have
also called down upon the Hebrews, but they failed, and afterwards
struggled no more against the magic of the Israelites. Then followed a
plague of flies, so that the air was black with them and no food could
be kept sweet. Only in Seti's palace there were no flies, and in the
garden but a few. After this a terrible pest began among the cattle,
whereof thousands died. But of Seti's great herd not one was even
sick, nor, as we learned, was there a hoof the less in the land of
This plague struck Egypt but a little while after Merapi had given
birth to a son, a very beautiful child with his mother's eyes, that
was named Seti after his father. Now the marvel of the escape of the
Prince and his household and all that was his from these curses spread
abroad and made much talk, so that many sent to inquire of it.
Among the first came old Bakenkhonsu with a message from Pharaoh, and
a private one to myself from the Princess Userti, whose pride would
not suffer her to ask aught of Seti. We could tell him nothing except
what I have written, which at first he did not believe. Having
satisfied himself, however, that the thing was true, he said that he
had fallen sick and could not travel back to Tanis. Therefore he asked
leave of the Prince to rest a while in his house, he who had been the
friend of his father, his grandfather, and his great-grandfather. Seti
laughed, as indeed did the cunning old man himself, and there with us
Bakenkhonsu remained till the end, to our great joy, for he was the
most pleasant of all companions and the most learned. As for his
message, one of his servants took back the answer to Pharaoh and to
Userti, with the news of his master's grievous sickness.
Some eight days or so later, as I stood one morning basking in the sun
at that gate of the palace gardens which overlooks the temple of Ptah,
idly watching the procession of priests passing through its courts and
chanting as they went (for because of the many sicknesses at this time
I left the palace but rarely), I saw a tall figure approaching me
draped against the morning cold. The man drew near, and addressing me
over the head of the guard, asked if he could see the lady Merapi. I
answered No, as she was engaged in nursing her son.
"And in other things, I think," he said with meaning, in a voice that
seemed familiar to me. "Well, can I see the Prince Seti?"
I answered No, he was also engaged.
"In nursing his own soul, studying the eyes of the lady Merapi, the
smile of his infant, the wisdom of the scribe Ana, and the attributes
of the hundred and one gods that are known to him, including that of
Israel, I suppose," said the familiar voice, adding, "Then can I see
this scribe Ana, who I understand, being lucky, holds himself
Now, angered at the scoffing of this stranger (though all the time I
felt that he was none), I answered that the scribe Ana was striving to
mend his luck by the pursuit of the goddess of learning in his study.
"Let him pursue," mocked the stranger, "since she is the only woman
that he is ever likely to catch. Yet it is true that once one caught
him. If you are of his acquaintance ask him of his talk with her in
the avenue of the Sphinxes outside the great temple at Thebes and of
what it cost him in gold and tears."
Hearing this I put my hand to my forehead and rubbed my eyes, thinking
that I must have fallen into a dream there in the sunshine. When I
lifted it again all was the same as before. There stood the sentry,
indifferent to that which had no interest for him; the cock that had
moulted its tail still scratched in the dirt; the crested hoopoe still
sat spreading its wings on the head of one of the two great statues of
Rameses which watched the gate; a water-seller in the distance still
cried his wares, but the stranger was gone. Then I knew that I had
been dreaming and turned to go also, to find myself face to face with
"Man," I said, indignantly, "how in the name of Ptah and all his
priests did you pass a sentry and through that gate without my seeing
"Do not trouble yourself with a new problem when already you have so
many to perplex you, friend Ana. Say, have you yet solved that of how
a rod like this turned itself into a snake in your hand?" and he threw
back his hood, revealing the shaved head and the glowing eyes of the
"No, I have not," I answered, "and I thank you," for here he proffered
me the staff, "but I will not try the trick again. Next time the beast
might bite. Well, Ki, as you can pass in here without my leave, why do
you ask it? In short, what do you want with me, now that those Hebrew
prophets have put you on your back?"
"Hush, Ana. Never grow angry, it wastes strength, of which we have so
little to spare, for you know, being so wise, or perhaps you do not
know, that at birth the gods give us a certain store of it, and when
that is used we die and have to go elsewhere to fetch more. At this
rate your life will be short, Ana, for you squander it in emotions."
"What do you want?" I repeated, being too angry to dispute with him.
"I want to find an answer to the question you asked so roughly: Why
the Hebrew prophets have, as you say, put me on my back?"
"Not being a magician, as you pretend you are, I can give you none,
"Never for one moment did I suppose that you could," he replied
blandly, stretching out his hands, and leaving the staff which had
fallen from them standing in front of him. (It was not till afterwards
that I remembered that this accursed bit of wood stood there of itself
without visible support, for it rested on the paving-stone of the
gateway.) "But, as it chances, you have in this house the master, or
rather the mistress of all magicians, as every Egyptian knows to-day,
the lady Merapi, and I would see her."
"Why do you say she is a mistress of magicians?" I asked indignantly.
"Why does one bird know another of its own kind? Why does the water
here remain pure, when all other water turns to blood? Why do not the
frogs croak in Seti's halls, and why do the flies avoid his meat? Why,
also, did the statue of Amon melt before her glance, while all my
magic fell back from her breast like arrows from a shirt of mail?
Those are the questions that Egypt asks, and I would have an answer to
them from the beloved of Seti, or of the god Set, she who is named
Moon of Israel."
"Then why not go seek it for yourself, Ki? To you, doubtless, it would
be a small matter to take the form of a snake or a rat, or a bird, and
creep or run or fly into the presence of Merapi."
"Mayhap it would not be difficult, Ana. Or, better still, I might
visit her in her sleep, as I visited you on a certain night at Thebes,
when you told me of a talk you had held with a woman in the avenue of
the Sphinxes, and of what it cost you in gold and tears. But, as it
chances, I wish to appear as a man and a friend, and to stay a while.
Bakenkhonsu tells me that he finds life here at Memphis very pleasant,
free too from the sicknesses which just now seem to be so common in
Egypt; so why should not I do the same, Ana?"
I looked at his round, ripe face, on which was fixed a smile
unchanging as that worn by the masks on mummy coffins, from which I
think he must have copied it, and at the cold, deep eyes above, and
shivered a little. To tell truth I feared this man, whom I felt to be
in touch with presences and things that are not of our world, and
thought it wisest to withstand him no more.
"That is a question which you had best put to my master Seti who owns
this house. Come, I will lead you to him," I said.
So we went to the great portico of the palace, passing in and out
through the painted pillars, towards my own apartments, whence I
purposed to send a message to the Prince. As it chanced this was
needless, since presently we saw him seated in a little bay out of
reach of the sun. By his side was Merapi, and on a woven rug between
them lay their sleeping infant, at whom both of them gazed adoringly.
"Strange that this mother's heart should hide more might than can be
boasted by all the gods of Egypt. Strange that those mother's eyes can
rive the ancient glory of Amon into dust!" Ki said to me in so low a
voice that it almost seemed as though I heard his thought and not his
words, which perhaps indeed I did.
Now we stood in front of these three, and the sun being behind us, for
it was still early, the shadow of the cloaked Ki fell upon a babe and
lay there. A hateful fancy came to me. It looked like the evil form of
an embalmer bending over one new dead. The babe felt it, opened its
large eyes and wailed. Merapi saw it, and snatched up her child. Seti
too rose from his seat, exclaiming, "Who comes?"
Thereon, to my amazement, Ki prostrated himself and uttered the
salutation which may only be given to the King of Egypt: "Life! Blood!
Strength! Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!"
"Who dares utter those words to me?" said Seti. "Ana, what madman do
you bring here?"
"May it please the Prince, /he/ brought /me/ here," I replied faintly.
"Fellow, tell me who bade you say such words, than which none were
ever less welcome."
"Those whom I serve, Prince."
"And whom do you serve?"
"The gods of Egypt."
"Then, man, I think the gods must need your company. Pharaoh does not
sit at Memphis, and were he to hear of them----"
"Pharaoh will never hear them, Prince, until he hears all things."
They stared at each other. Then, as I had done by the gate Seti rubbed
his eyes, and said:
"Surely this is Ki. Why, then, did you look otherwise just now?"
"The gods can change the fashion of their messenger a thousand times
in a flash, if so they will, O Prince."
Now Seti's anger passed, and turned to laughter.
"Ki, Ki,' he said, "you should keep these tricks for Court. But, since
you are in the mood, what salutation have you for this lady by my
Ki considered her, till she who ever feared and hated him shrank
before his gaze.
"Crown of Hathor, I greet you. Beloved of Isis, shine on perfect in
the sky, shedding light and wisdom ere you set."
Now this saying puzzled me. Indeed, I did not fully understand it
until Bakenkhonsu reminded me that Merapi's name was Moon of Israel,
that Hathor, goddess of love, is crowned with the moon in all her
statues, that Isis is the queen of mysteries and wisdom, and that Ki
who thought Merapi perfect in love and beauty, also the greatest of
all sorceresses, was likening her to these.
"Yes," I answered, "but what did he mean when he talked about her
"Does not the moon always set, and is it not sometimes eclipsed?" he
"So does the sun," I answered.
"True; so does the sun! You are growing wise, very wise indeed, friend
To return: When Seti heard these words, he laughed again, and said:
"I must think that saying over, but it is clear that you have a pretty
turn for praise. Is it not so, Merapi, Crown of Hathor, and Holder of
the wisdom of Isis?"
But Merapi, who, I think, understood more than either of us, turned
pale, and shrank further away, but outwards into the sunshine.
"Well, Ki," went on Seti, "finish your greetings. What for the babe?"
Ki considered it also.
"Now that it is no longer in the shadow, I see that this shoot from
the royal root of Pharaoh grows so fast and tall that my eyes cannot
reach its crest. He is too high and great for greetings, Prince."
Then Merapi uttered a little cry, and bore the child away.
"She is afraid of magicians and their dark sayings," said Seti,
looking after her with a troubled smile.
"That she should not be, Prince, seeing that she is the mistress of
all our tribe."
"The lady Merapi a magician? Well, after a fashion, yes--where the
hearts of men are concerned, do you not think so, Ana? But be more
plain, Ki. It is still early, and I love riddles best at night."
"What other could have shattered the strong and holy house where the
majesty of Amon dwells on earth? Not even those prophets of the
Hebrews as I think. What other could fence this garden round against
the curses that have fallen upon Egypt?" asked Ki earnestly, for now
all his mocking manner had departed.
"I do not think she does these things, Ki. I think some Power does
them through her, and I know that she dared to face Amon in his temple
because she was bidden so to do by the priests of her people."
"Prince," he answered with a short laugh, "a while ago I sent you a
message by Ana, which perhaps other thoughts may have driven from his
memory. It was as to the nature of that Power of which you speak. In
that message I said that you were wise, but now I perceive that you
lack wisdom like the rest of us, for if you had it, you would know
that the tool which carves is not the guiding hand, and the lightning
which smites is not the sending strength. So with this fair love of
yours, and so with me and all that work marvels. We do not the things
we seem to do, who are but the tool and the lightning. What I would
know is who or what guides her hand and gives her the might to shield
or to destroy."
"The question is wide, Ki, or so it seems to me who, as you say, have
little wisdom, and whoever can answer it holds the key of knowledge.
Your magic is but a small thing which seems great because so few can
handle it. What miracle is it that makes the flower to grow, the child
to be born, the Nile to rise, and the sun and stars to shine in
heaven? What causes man to be half a beast and half a god and to grow
downward to the beast or upward to the god--or both? What is faith and
what is unbelief? Who made these things, through them to declare the
purposes of life, of death, and of eternity? You shake your head, you
do not know; how then can I know who, as you point out, am but
foolish? Go get your answer from the lady Merapi's self, only mayhap
you will find your questions countered."
"I'll take my chance. Thanks to Merapi's lord! A boon, O Prince, since
you will not suffer that other name which comes easiest to the lips of
one to whom the Present and the Future are sometimes much alike."
Seti looked at him keenly, and for the first time with a tinge of fear
in his eyes.
"Leave the Future to itself, Ki," he exclaimed. "Whatever may be the
mind of Egypt, just now I hold the Present enough for me," and he
glanced first at the chair in which Merapi had been seated and then at
the cloth upon which his son had lain.
"I take back my words. The Prince is wiser than I thought. Magicians
know the future because at times it rushes down upon them and they
must. It is that which makes them lonely, since what they know they
cannot say. But only fools will seek it."
"Yet now and again they lift a corner of the veil, Ki. Thus I remember
certain sayings of your own as to one who would find a great treasure
in the land of Goshen and thereafter suffer some temporal loss, and--I
forget the rest. Man, cease smiling at me with your face and piercing
me through with your sword-like eyes. You can command all things, what
boon then do you seek from me?"
"To lodge here a little while, Prince, in the company of Ana and
Bakenkhonsu. Hearken, I am no more Kherheb. I have quarrelled with
Pharaoh, perhaps because a little breath from that great wind of the
future blows through my soul; perhaps because he does not reward me
according to my merits--what does it matter which? At least I have
come to be of one mind with you, O Prince, and think that Pharaoh
would do well to let the Hebrews go, and therefore no longer will I
attempt to match my magic against theirs. But he refuses, so we have
"Why does he refuse, Ki?"
"Perhaps it is written that he must refuse. Or perhaps because,
thinking himself the greatest of all kings instead of but a plaything
of the gods, pride locks the doors of his heart that in a day to come
the tempest of the Future, whereof I have spoken, may wreck the house
which holds it. I do not know why he refuses, but her Highness Userti
is much with him."
"For one who does not know, you have many reasons and all of them
different, O instructed Ki," said Seti.
Then he paused, walking up and down the portico, and I who knew his
mind guessed that he was wondering whether he would do well to suffer
Ki, whom at times he feared because his objects were secret and never
changed, to abide in his house, or whether he should send him away. Ki
also shivered a little, as though he felt the shadow cold, and
descended from the portico into the bright sunshine. Here he held out
his hand and a great moth dropped from the roof and lit upon it,
whereon it lifted it to his lips, which moved as though he were
talking to the insect.
"What shall I do?" muttered Seti, as he passed me.
"I do not altogether like his company, nor, I think, does the lady
Merapi, but he is an ill man to offend, Prince," I answered. "Look, he
is talking with his familiar."
Seti returned to his place, and shaking off the moth which seemed loth
to leave him, for twice it settled on his head, Ki came back into the
"Where is the use of your putting questions to me, Ki, when, according
to your own showing, already you know the answer that I will give?
What answer shall I give?" asked the Prince.
"That painted creature which sat upon my hand just now, seemed to
whisper to me that you would say, O Prince, 'Stay, Ki, and be my
faithful servant, and use any little lore you have to shield my house
Then Seti laughed in his careless fashion, and replied:
"Have your way, since it is a rule that none of the royal blood of
Egypt may refuse hospitality to those who seek it, having been their
friends, and I will not quote against your moth what a bat whispered
in my ears last night. Nay, none of your salutations revealed to you
by insects or by the future," and he gave him his hand to kiss.
When Ki was gone, I said:
"I told you that night-haunting thing was his familiar."
"Then you told me folly, Ana. The knowledge that Ki has he does not
get from moths or beetles. Yet now that it is too late I wish that I
had asked the lady Merapi what her will was in this matter. You should
have thought of that, Ana, instead of suffering your mind to be led
astray by an insect sitting on his hand, which is just what he meant
that you should do. Well, in punishment, day by day it shall be your
lot to look upon a man with a countenance like--like what?"
"Like that which I saw upon the coffin of the good god, your divine
father, Meneptah, as it was prepared for him during his life in the
embalmer's shop at Tanis," I answered.
"Yes," said the Prince, "a face smiling eternally at the Nothingness
which is Life and Death, but in certain lights, with eyes of fire."
On the following day, by her invitation, I walked with the lady Merapi
in the garden, the head nurse following us, bearing the royal child in
"I wish to ask you about Ki, friend Ana," she said. "You know he is my
enemy, for you must have heard the words he spoke to me in the temple
of Amon at Tanis. It seems that my lord has made him the guest of this
house--oh look!" and she pointed before her.
I looked, and there a few paces away, where the shadow of the
overhanging palms was deepest, stood Ki. He was leaning on his staff,
the same that had turned to a snake in my hand, and gazing upwards
like one who is lost in thought, or listens to the singing of birds.
Merapi turned as though to fly, but at that moment Ki saw us, although
he still seemed to gaze upwards.
"Greeting, O Moon of Israel," he said bowing. "Greeting, O Conqueror
She bowed back, and stood still, as a little bird stands when it sees
a snake. There was a long silence, which he broke by asking:
"Why seek that from Ana which Ki himself is eager to give? Ana is
learned, but is his heart the heart of Ki? Above all, why tell him
that Ki, the humblest of your servants, is your enemy?"
Now Merapi straightened herself, looked into his eyes, and answered:
"Have I told Ana aught that he did not know? Did not Ana hear the last
words you said to me in the temple of Amon at Tanis?"
"Doubtless he heard them, Lady, and therefore I am glad that he is
here to hear their meaning. Lady Merapi, at that moment, I, the
Sacrificer to Amon, was filled--not with my own spirit, but with the
angry spirit of the god whom you had humbled as never before had
befallen him in Egypt. The god through me demanded of you the secret
of your magic, and promised you his hate, if you refused. Lady, you
have his hate, but mine you have not, since I also have his hate
because I, and he through me, have been worsted by your prophets.
Lady, we are fellow-travellers in the Valley of Trouble."
She gazed at him steadily, and I could see that of all that passed his
lips she believed no one word. Making no answer to him and his talk of
Amon, she asked only:
"Why do you come here to do me ill who have done you none?"
"You are mistaken, Lady," he replied. "I come here to refuge from
Amon, and from his servant Pharaoh, whom Amon drives on to ruin. I
know well that, if you will it, you can whisper in the ear of the
Prince and presently he will put me forth. Only then----" and he
looked over her head to where the nurse stood rocking the sleeping
"Then what, Magician?"
Giving no answer, he turned to me.
"Learned Ana, to you remember meeting me at Tanis one night?"
I shook my head, though I guessed well enough what night he meant.
"Your memory weakens, learned Ana, or rather is confused, for we met
often, did we not?"
Then he stared at the staff in his hand. I stared also, because I
could not help it, and saw, or thought I saw, the dead wood begin to
swell and curve. This was enough for me and I said hastily:
"If you mean the night of the Coronation, I do recall----"
"Ah! I thought you would. You, learned Ana, who like all scribes
observe so closely, will have noted how little things--such as the
scent of a flower, or the passing of a bird, or even the writhing of a
snake in the dust--often bring back to the mind events or words it has
forgotten long ago."
"Well--what of our meeting?" I broke in hastily.
"Nothing at all--or only this. Just before it you were talking with
the Hebrew Jabez, the lady Merapi's uncle, were you not?"
"Yes, I was talking with him in an open place, alone."
"Not so, learned Scribe, for you know we are never alone--quite. Could
you but see it, every grain of sand has an ear."
"Be pleased to explain, O Ki."
"Nay, Ana, it would be too long, and short jests are ever the best. As
I have told you, you were not alone, for though there were some words
that I did not catch, /I/ heard much of what passed between you and
"What did you hear?" I asked wrathfully, and next instant wished that
I had bitten through my tongue before it shaped the words.
"Much, much. Let me think. You spoke about the lady Merapi, and
whether she would do well to bide at Memphis in the shadow of the
Prince, or to return to Goshen into the shadow of a certain--I forget
the name. Jabez, a well-instructed man, said he thought that she might
be happier at Memphis, though perhaps her presence there would bring a
great sorrow upon herself and--another."
Here again he looked at the child, which seemed to feel his glance,
for it woke up and beat the air with its little hands.
The nurse felt it also, although her head was turned away, for she
started and then took shelter behind the bole of one of the palm-
trees. Now Merapi said in a low and shaken voice:
"I know what you mean, Magician, for since then I have seen my uncle
"As I have also, several times, Lady, which may explain to you what
Ana here thinks so wonderful, namely that I should have learned what
they said together when he thought they were alone, which, as I have
told him, no one can ever be, at least in Egypt, the land of listening
"And spying sorcerers," I exclaimed.
"----And spying sorcerers," he repeated after me, "and scribes who
take notes, and learn them by heart, and priests with ears as large as
asses, and leaves that whisper--and many other things."
"Cease your gibes, and say what you have to say," said Merapi, in the
same broken voice.
He made no answer, but only looked at the tree behind which the nurse
and child had vanished.
"Oh! I know, I know," she exclaimed in tones that were like a cry. "My
child is threatened! You threaten my child because you hate me."
"Your pardon, Lady. It is true that evil threatens this royal babe, or
so I understood from Jabez, who knows so much. But it is not I that
threaten it, any more than I hate you, in whom I acknowledge a fellow
of my craft, but one greater than myself that it is my duty to obey."
"Have done! Why do you torment me?"
"Can the priests of the Moon-goddess torment Isis, Mother of Magic,
with their prayers and offerings? And can I who would make a prayer
and an offering----"
"What prayer, and what offering?"
"The prayer that you will suffer me to shelter in this house from the
many dangers that threaten me at the hands of Pharaoh and the prophets
of your people, and an offering of such help as I can give by my arts
and knowledge against blacker dangers which threaten--another."
Here once more he gazed at the trunk of the tree beyond which I heard
the infant wail.
"If I consent, what then?" she asked, hoarsely.
"Then, Lady, I will strive to protect a certain little one against a
curse which Jabez tells me threatens him and many others in whom runs
the blood of Egypt. I will strive, if I am allowed to bide here--I do
not say that I shall succeed, for as your lord has reminded me, and as
you showed me in the temple of Amon, my strength is smaller than that
of the prophets and prophetesses of Israel."
"And if I refuse?"
"Then, Lady," he answered in a voice that rang like iron, "I am sure
that one whom you love--as mothers love--will shortly be rocked in the
arms of the god whom we name Osiris."
"/Stay/," she cried and, turning, fled away.
"Why, Ana, she is gone," he said, "and that before I could bargain for
my reward. Well, this I must find in your company. How strange are
women, Ana! Here you have one of the greatest of her sex, as you
learned in the temple of Amon. And yet she opens beneath the sun of
hope and shrivels beneath the shadow of fear, like the touched leaves
of that tender plant which grows upon the banks of the river; she who,
with her eyes set on the mystery that is beyond, whereof she hears the
whispering winds, should tread both earthly hope and fear beneath her
feet, or make of them stepping stones to glory. Were she a man she
would do so, but her sex wrecks her, she who thinks more of the kiss
of a babe than of all the splendours she might harbour in her breast.
Yes, a babe, a single wretched little babe. You had one once, did you
"Oh! to Set and his fires with you and your evil talk," I said, and
When I had gone a little way, I looked back and saw that he was
laughing, throwing up his staff as he laughed, and catching it again.
"Set and his fires," he called after me. "I wonder what they are like,
Ana. Perhaps one day we shall learn, you and I together, Scribe Ana."
So Ki took up his abode with us, in the same lodgings as Bakenkhonsu,
and almost every day I would meet them walking in the garden, since I,
who was of the Prince's table, except when he ate with the lady
Merapi, did not take my food with them. Then we would talk together
about many subjects. On those which had to do with learning, or even
religion, I had the better of Ki, who was no great scholar or master
of theology. But always before we parted he would plant some arrow in
my ribs, at which old Bakenkhonsu laughed, and laughed again, yet ever
threw over me the shield of his venerable wisdom, just because he
loved me I think.
It was after this that the plague struck the cattle of Egypt, so that
tens of thousands of them died, though not all as was reported. But,
as I have said, of the herds of Seti none died, nor, as we were told,
did any of those of the Israelites in the land of Goshen. Now there
was great distress in Egypt, but Ki smiled and said that he knew it
would be so, and that there was much worse to come, for which I could
have smitten him over the head with his own staff, had I not feared
that, if I did so, it might once more turn to a serpent in my hand.
Old Bakenkhonsu looked upon the matter with another face. He said that
since his last wife died, I think some fifty years before, he had
found life very dull because he missed the exercises of her temper,
and her habit of presenting things as these never had been nor could
possibly ever be. Now, however, it grew interesting again, since the
marvels which were happening in Egypt, being quite contrary to Nature,
reminded him of his last wife and her arguments. All of which was his
way of saying that in those years we lived in a new world, whereof for
the Egyptians Set the Evil One seemed to be the king.
But still Pharaoh would not let the Hebrews go, perhaps because he had
vowed as much to Meneptah who set him on the throne, or perhaps for
those other reasons, or one of them, which Ki had given to the Prince.
Then came the curse of sores afflicting man, woman, and child
throughout the land, save those who dwelt in the household of Seti.
Thus the watchman and his family whose lodge was without the gates
suffered, but the watchman and his family who lived within the gates,
not twenty paces away, did not suffer, which caused bitterness between
their women. In the same way Ki, who resided as a guest of the Prince
at Memphis, suffered from no sores, whereas those of his College who
remained at Tanis were more heavily smitten than any others, so that
some of them died. When he heard this, Ki laughed and said that he had
told them it would be so. Also Pharaoh himself and even her Highness
Userti were smitten, the latter upon the cheek, which made her
unsightly for a while. Indeed, Bakenkhonsu heard, I know not how, that
so great was her rage that she even bethought her of returning to her
lord Seti, in whose house she had learned people were safe, and the
beauty of her successor, Moon of Israel, remained unscarred and was
even greater than before, tidings that I think Bakenkhonsu himself
conveyed to her. But in the end this her pride, or her jealousy,
prevented her from doing.
Now the heart of Egypt began to turn towards Seti in good earnest. The
Prince, they said, had opposed the policy of the oppression of the
Hebrews, and because he could not prevail had abandoned his right to
the throne, which Pharaoh Amenmeses had purchased at the price of
accepting that policy whereof the fruits had been proved to be
destruction. Therefore, they reasoned, if Amenmeses were deposed, and
the Prince reigned, their miseries would cease. So they sent
deputations to him secretly, praying him to rise against Amenmeses and
promising him support. But he would listen to none of them, telling
them that he was happy as he was and sought no other state. Still
Pharaoh grew jealous, for all these things his spies reported to him,
and set about plots to destroy Seti.
Of the first of these Userti warned me by a messenger, but the second
and worse Ki discovered in some strange way, so that the murderer was
trapped at the gate and killed by the watchman, whereon Seti said that
after all he had been wise to give hospitality to Ki, that is, if to
continue to live were wisdom. The lady Merapi also said as much to me,
but I noted that always she shunned Ki, whom she held in mistrust and
THE NIGHT OF FEAR
Then came the hail, and some months after the hail the locusts, and
Egypt went mad with woe and terror. It was known to us, for with Ki
and Bakenkhonsu in the palace we knew everything, that the Hebrew
prophets had promised this hail because Pharaoh would not listen to
them. Therefore Seti caused it to be put about through all the land
that the Egyptians should shelter their cattle, or such as were left
to them, at the first sign of storm. But Pharaoh heard of it and
issued a proclamation that this was not to be done, inasmuch as it
would be an insult to the gods of Egypt. Still many did so and these
saved their cattle. It was strange to see that wall of jagged ice
stretching from earth to heaven and destroying all upon which it fell.
The tall date-palms were stripped even of their bark; the soil was
churned up; men and beasts if caught abroad were slain or shattered.
I stood at the gate and watched it. There, not a yard away, fell the
white hail, turning the world to wreck, while here within the gate
there was not a single stone. Merapi watched also, and presently came
Ki as well, and with him Bakenkhonsu, who for once had never seen
anything like this in all his long life. But Ki watched Merapi more
than he did the hail, for I saw him searching out her very soul with
those merciless eyes of his.
"Lady," he said at length, "tell your servant, I beseech you, how you
do this thing?" and he pointed first to the trees and flowers within
the gate and then to the wreck without.
At first I thought that she had not heard him because of the roar of
the hail, for she stepped forward and opened the side wicket to admit
a poor jackal that was scratching at the bars. Still this was not so,
for presently she turned and said:
"Does the Kherheb, the greatest magician in Egypt, ask an unlearned
woman to teach him of marvels? Well, Ki, I cannot, because I neither
do it nor know how it is done."
Bakenkhonsu laughed, and Ki's painted smile grew as it were brighter
"That is not what they say in the land of Goshen, Lady," he answered,
"and not what the Hebrew women say here in Memphis. Nor is it what the
priests of Amon say. These declare that you have more magic than all
the sorcerers of the Nile. Here is the proof of it," and he pointed to
the ruin without and the peace within, adding, "Lady, if you can
protect your own home, why cannot you protect the innocent people of
"Because I cannot," she answered angrily. "If ever I had such power it
is gone from me, who am now the mother of an Egyptian's child. But I
have none. There in the temple of Amon some Strength worked through
me, that is all, which never will visit me again because of my sin."
"What sin, Lady?"
"The sin of taking the Prince Seti to lord. Now, if any god spoke
through me it would be one of those of the Egyptians, since He of
Israel has cast me out."
Ki started as though some new thought had come to him, and at this
moment she turned and went away.
"Would that she were high-priestess of Isis that she might work for us
and not against us," he said.
Bakenkhonsu shook his head.
"Let that be," he answered. "Be sure that never will an Israelitish
woman offer sacrifice to what she would call the abomination of the
"If she will not sacrifice to save the people, let her be careful lest
the people sacrifice her to save themselves," said Ki in a cold voice.
Then he too went away.
"I think that if ever that hour comes, then Ki will have his share in
it," laughed Bakenkhonsu. "What is the good of a shepherd who shelters
here in comfort, while outside the sheep are dying, eh, Ana?"
It was after the plague of locusts, which ate all there was left to
eat in Egypt, so that the poor folk who had done no wrong and had
naught to say to the dealings of Pharaoh with the Israelites starved
by the thousand, and during that of the great darkness, that Laban
came. Now this darkness lay upon the land like a thick cloud for three
whole days and nights. Nevertheless, though the shadows were deep,
there was no true darkness over the house of Seti at Memphis, which
stood in a funnel of grey light stretching from earth to sky.
Now the terror was increased tenfold, and it seemed to me that all the
hundreds of thousands of Memphis were gathered outside our walls, so
that they might look upon the light, such as it was, if they could do
no more. Seti would have admitted as many as the place would hold, but
Ki bade him not, saying, that if he did so the darkness would flow in
with them. Only Merapi did admit some of the Israelitish women who
were married to Egyptians in the city, though for her pains they only
cursed her as a witch. For now most of the inhabitants of Memphis were
certain that it was Merapi who, keeping herself safe, had brought
these woes upon them because she was a worshipper of an alien god.
"If she who is the love of Egypt's heir would but sacrifice to Egypt's
gods, these horrors would pass from us," said they, having, as I
think, learned their lesson from the lips of Ki. Or perhaps the
emissaries of Userti had taught them.
Once more we stood by the gate watching the people flitting to and fro
in the gloom without, for this sight fascinated Merapi, as a snake
fascinates a bird. Then it was that Laban appeared. I knew his hooked
nose and hawk-like eyes at once, and she knew him also.
"Come away with me, Moon of Israel," he cried, "and all shall yet be
forgiven you. But if you will not come, then fearful things shall
She stood staring at him, answering never a word, and just then the
Prince Seti reached us and saw him.
"Take that man," he commanded, flushing with anger, and guards sprang
into the darkness to do his bidding. But Laban was gone.
On the second day of the darkness the tumult was great, on the third
it was terrible. A crowd thrust the guard aside, broke down the gates
and burst into the palace, humbly demanding that the lady Merapi would
come to pray for them, yet showing by their mien that if she would not
come they meant to take her.
"What is to be done?" asked Seti of Ki and Bakenkhonsu.
"That is for the Prince to judge," said Ki, "though I do not see how
it can harm the lady Merapi to pray for us in the open square of
"Let her go," said Bakenkhonsu, "lest presently we should all go
further than we would."
"I do not wish to go," cried Merapi, "not knowing for whom I am to
pray or how."
"Be it as you will, Lady," said Seti in his grave and gentle voice.
"Only, hearken to the roar of the mob. If you refuse, I think that
very soon every one of us will have reached a land where perhaps it is
not needful to pray at all," and he looked at the infant in her arms.
"I will go," she said.
She went forth carrying the child and I walked behind her. So did the
Prince, but in that darkness he was cut off by a rush of thousands of
folk and I saw him no more till all was over. Bakenkhonsu was with me
leaning on my arm, but Ki had gone on before us, for his own ends as I
think. A huge mob moved through the dense darkness, in which here and
there lights floated like lamps upon a quiet sea. I did not know where
we were going until the light of one of these lamps shone upon the
knees of the colossal statue of the great Rameses, revealing his
cartouche. Then I knew that we were near the gateway of the vast
temple of Memphis, the largest perhaps in the whole world.
We went on through court after pillared court, priests leading us by
the hand, till we came to a shrine commanding the biggest court of
all, which was packed with men and women. It was that of Isis, who
held at her breast the infant Horus.
"O friend Ana," cried Merapi, "give help. They are dressing me in
I tried to get near to her but was thrust back, a voice, which I
thought to be that of Ki, saying:
"On your life, fool!"
Presently a lamp was held up, and by the light of it I saw Merapi
seated in a chair dressed like a goddess, in the sacerdotal robes of
Isis and wearing the vulture cap headdress--beautiful exceedingly. In
her arms was the child dressed as the infant Horus.
"Pray for us, Mother Isis," cried thousands of voices, "that the curse
of blackness may be removed."
Then she prayed, saying:
"O my God, take away this curse of blackness from these innocent
people," and all of those present, repeated her prayer.
At that moment the sky began to lighten and in less than half an hour
the sun shone out. When Merapi saw how she and the child were arrayed
she screamed aloud and tore off her jewelled trappings, crying:
"Woe! Woe! Woe! Great woe upon the people of Egypt!"
But in their joy at the new found light few hearkened to her who they
were sure had brought back the sun. Again Laban appeared for a moment.
"Witch! Traitress!" he cried. "You have worn the robes of Isis and
worshipped in the temple of the gods of the Egyptians. The curse of
the God of Israel be on you and that which is born of you."
I sprang at him but he was gone. Then we bore Merapi home swooning.
So this trouble passed by, but from that time forward Merapi would not
suffer her son to be taken out of her sight.
"Why do you make so much of him, Lady?" I asked one day.
"Because I would love him well while he is here, Friend," she
answered, "but of this say nothing to his father."
A while went by and we heard that still Pharaoh would not let the
Israelites go. Then the Prince Seti sent Bakenkhonsu and myself to
Tanis to see Pharaoh and to say to him:
"I seek nothing for myself and I forget those evils which you would
have worked on me through jealousy. But I say unto you that if you
will not let these strangers go great and terrible things shall befall
you and all Egypt. Therefore, hear my prayer and let them go."
Now Bakenkhonsu and I came before Pharaoh and we saw that he was
greatly aged, for his hair had gone grey about his temples and the
flesh hung in bags beneath his eyes. Also not for one minute could he
"Is your lord, and are you also of the servants of this Hebrew prophet
whom the Egyptians worship as a god because he has done them so much
ill?" he asked. "It may well be so, since I hear that my cousin Seti
keeps an Israelitish witch in his house, who wards off from him all
the plagues that have smitten the rest of Egypt, and that to him has
fled also Ki the Kherheb, my magician. Moreover, I hear that in
payment for these wizardries he has been promised the throne of Egypt
by many fickle and fearful ones among my people. Let him be careful
lest I lift him up higher than he hopes, who already have enough
traitors in this land; and you two with him."
Now I said nothing, who saw that the man was mad, but Bakenkhonsu
laughed out loud and answered:
"O Pharaoh, I know little, but I know this although I be old, namely,
that after men have ceased to speak your name I shall still hold
converse with the wearer of the Double Crown in Egypt. Now will you
let these Hebrews go, or will you bring death upon Egypt?"
Pharaoh glared at him and answered, "I will not let them go."
"Why not, Pharaoh? Tell me, for I am curious."
"Because I cannot," he answered with a groan. "Because something
stronger than myself forces me to deny their prayer. Begone!"
So we went, and this was the last time that I looked upon Amenmeses at
As we left the chamber I saw the Hebrew prophet entering the presence.
Afterwards a rumour reached us that he had threatened to kill all the
people in Egypt, but that still Pharaoh would not let the Israelites
depart. Indeed, it was said that he had told the prophet that if he
appeared before him any more he should be put to death.
Now we journeyed back to Memphis with all these tidings and made
report to Seti. When Merapi heard them she went half mad, weeping and
wringing her hands. I asked her what she feared. She answered death,
which was near to all of us. I said:
"If so, there are worse things, Lady."
"For you mayhap you are faithful and good in your own fashion, but not
for me. Do you not understand, friend Ana, that I am one who has
broken the law of the God I was taught to worship?"
"And which of us is there who has not broken the law of the god we
were taught to worship, Lady? If in truth you have done anything of
the sort by flying from a murderous villain to one who loves you well,
which I do not believe, surely there is forgiveness for such sins as
"Aye, perhaps, but, alas! the thing is blacker far. Have you forgotten
what I did? Dressed in the robes of Isis I worshipped in the temple of
Isis with my boy playing the part of Horus on my bosom. It is a crime
that can never be forgiven to a Hebrew woman, Ana, for my God is a
jealous God. Yet it is true that Ki tricked me."
"If he had not, Lady, I think there would have been none of us left to
trick, seeing that the people were crazed with the dread of the
darkness and believed that it could be lifted by you alone, as indeed
happened," I added somewhat doubtfully.
"More of Ki's tricks! Oh! do you not understand that the lifting of
the darkness at that moment was Ki's work, because he wished the
people to believe that I am indeed a sorceress."
"Why?" I asked.
"I do not know. Perhaps that one day he may find a victim to bind to
the altar in his place. At least I know well that it is I who must pay
the price, I and my flesh and blood, whatever Ki may promise," and she
looked at the sleeping child.
"Do not be afraid, Lady," I said. "Ki has left the palace and you will
see him no more."
"Yes, because the Prince was angry with him about the trick in the
temple of Isis. Therefore suddenly he went, or pretended to go, for
how can one tell where such a man may really be? But he will come back
again. Bethink you, Ki was the greatest magician in Egypt; even old
Bakenkhonsu can remember none like to him. Then he matches himself
against the prophets of my people and fails."
"But did he fail, Lady? What they did he did, sending among the
Israelites the plagues that your prophets had sent among us."
"Yes, some of them, but he was outpaced, or feared to be outpaced at
last. Is Ki a man to forget that? And if Ki chances really to believe
that I am his adversary and his master at this black work, as because
of what happened in the temple of Amon thousands believe to-day, will
he not mete me my own measure soon or late? Oh! I fear Ki, Ana, and I
fear the people of Egypt, and were it not for my lord beloved, I would
flee away into the wilderness with my son, and get me out of this
haunted land! Hush! he wakes."
From this time forward until the sword fell there was great dread in
Egypt. None seemed to know exactly what they dreaded, but all thought
that it had to do with death. People went about mournfully looking
over their shoulders as though someone were following them, and at
night they gathered together in knots and talked in whispers. Only the
Hebrews seemed to be glad and happy. Moreover, they were making
preparations for something new and strange. Thus those Israelitish
women who dwelt in Memphis began to sell what property they had and to
borrow of the Egyptians. Especially did they ask for the loan of
jewels, saying that they were about to celebrate a feast and wished to
look fine in the eyes of their countrymen. None refused them what they
asked because all were afraid of them. They even came to the palace
and begged her ornaments from Merapi, although she was a countrywoman
of their own who had showed them much kindness. Yes, and seeing that
her son wore a little gold circlet on his hair, one of them begged
that also, nor did she say her nay. But, as it chanced, the Prince
entered, and seeing the woman with this royal badge in her hand, grew
very angry and forced her to restore it.
"What is the use of crowns without heads to wear them?" she sneered,
and fled away laughing, with all that she had gathered.
After she had heard that saying Merapi grew even sadder and more
distraught than she was before, and from her the trouble crept to
Seti. He too became sad and ill at ease, though when I asked him why
he vowed he did not know, but supposed it was because some new plague
"Yet," he added, "as I have made shift to live through nine of them, I
do not know why I should fear a tenth."
Still he did fear it, so much that he consulted Bakenkhonsu as to
whether there were any means by which the anger of the gods could be
Bakenkhonsu laughed and said he thought not, since always if the gods
were not angry about one thing they were angry about another. Having
made the world they did nothing but quarrel with it, or with other
gods who had a hand in its fashioning, and of these quarrels men were
"Bear your woes, Prince," he added, "if any come, for ere the Nile has
risen another fifty times at most, whether they have or have not been,
will be the same to you."
"Then you think that when we go west we die indeed, and that Osiris is
but another name for the sunset, Bakenkhonsu."
The old Councillor shook his great head, and answered:
"No. If ever you should lose one whom you greatly love, take comfort,
Prince, for I do not think that life ends with death. Death is the
nurse that puts it to sleep, no more, and in the morning it will wake
again to travel through another day with those who have companioned it
from the beginning."
"Where do all the days lead it to at last, Bakenkhonsu?"
"Ask that of Ki; I do not know."
"To Set with Ki, I am angered with him," said the Prince, and went
"Not without reason, I think," mused Bakenkhonsu, but when I asked him
what he meant, he would not or could not tell me.
So the gloom deepened and the palace, which had been merry in its way,
became sad. None knew what was coming, but all knew that something was
coming and stretched out their hands to strive to protect that which
they loved best from the stroke of the warring gods. In the case of
Seti and Merapi this was their son, now a beautiful little lad who
could run and prattle, one too of a strange health and vigour for a
child of the inbred race of the Ramessids. Never for a minute was this
boy allowed to be out of the sight of one or other of his parents;
indeed I saw little of Seti in those days and all our learned studies
came to nothing, because he was ever concerned with Merapi in playing
nurse to this son of his.
When Userti was told of it, she said in the hearing of a friend of
"Without a doubt that is because he trains his bastard to fill the
throne of Egypt."