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The World's Desire by Andrew Lang

Part 2 out of 5

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and once more ye are Twain and One."

"'Then, as we trembled, clinging each to each, again the great Voice

"'"Ye twain who are One--let That to which ye have hearkened divide
you and enfold you! Be ye Three!"

"'And as the Voice spoke I was torn with agony, and strength went out
of me, and there, by him I loved, stood the woman of my dream crowned
with every glory and adorned with the Star. And we were three. And
between him and me, yet enfolding him and me, writhed that Thing thou
wottest of. And he whom I loved turned to look upon the fair woman,
wondering, and she smiled and stretched out her arm towards him as one
who would take that which is her own, and Rei, in that hour, though it
was but in a dream, I knew the mortal pain of jealousy, and awoke
trembling. And now read thou this vision, Rei, thou who art learned in
the interpretation of dreams and in the ways of sleep.'

"'Oh, Lady,' I made answer, 'this thing is too high for me, I cannot
interpret it; but where thou art, there may I be to help thee.'

"'I know thy love,' she said, 'but in thy words is little light. So--
so--let it pass! It was but a dream, and if indeed it came from the
Under World, why, it was from no helpful God, but rather from Set, the
Tormentor; or from Pasht, the Terrible, who throws the creeping shadow
of her doom upon the mirror of my sleep. For that which is decreed
will surely come to pass! I am blown like the dust by the breath of
Fate; now to rest upon the Temple's loftiest tops, now to be trodden
underfoot of slaves, and now to be swallowed by the bitter deep, and
in season thence rolled forth again. I love not this lord of mine, who
shall be Pharaoh, and never may /he/ come whom I shall love. 'Tis well
that I love him not, for to love is to be a slave. When the heart is
cold then the hand is strong, and I am fain to be the Queen leading
Pharaoh by the beard, the first of all the ancient land of Khem; for I
was not born to serve. Nay, while I may, I rule, awaiting the end of
rule. Look forth, Rei, and see how the rays from Mother Isis' throne
flood all the courts and all the city's streets and break in light
upon the water's breast. So shall the Moon-child's flame flood all
this land of Khem. What matters it, if ere the morn Isis must pass to
her dominion of the Dead, and the voice of Meriamun be hushed within a

"So she spoke and went thence, and on her face was no bride's smile,
but rather such a gaze as that with which the great sphinx, Horemku,
looks out across the desert sands."

"A strange Queen, Rei," said the Wanderer, as he paused, "but what
have I to make in this tale of a bride and her mad dreams?"

"More than thou shalt desire," said Rei; "but let us come to the end,
and thou shalt hear thy part in the Fate."



"The Divine Pharaoh Rameses died and was gathered to Osiris. With
these hands I closed his coffin and set him in his splendid tomb,
where he shall rest unharmed for ever till the day of the awakening.
And Meriamun and Meneptah reigned in Khem. But to Pharaoh she was very
cold, though he did her will in everything, and they had but one
child, so that in a while he wearied of her loveliness.

"But hers was the master-mind, and she ruled Pharaoh as she ruled all

"For me, my lot was bettered; she talked much with me, and advanced me
to great dignity, so that I was the first Master Builder in Khem, and
Commander of the legion of Amen.

"Now it chanced that Meriamun made a feast, where she entertained
Pharaoh and Hataska sat beside him. She was the first lady about the
Queen's person, a beautiful but insolent woman, who had gained
Pharaoh's favour for the hour. Now wine worked so with the King that
he toyed openly with the lady Hataska's hand, but Meriamun the Queen
took no note, though Hataska, who had also drunk of the warm wine of
the Lower Land, grew insolent, as was her wont. She quaffed deep from
her cup of gold, and bade a slave bear it to the Queen, crying,
'Pledge me, my sister.'

"The meaning of her message was plain to all who heard; this waiting
lady openly declared herself wife to Pharaoh and an equal of the
Queen. Now Meriamun cared nothing for Pharaoh's love, but for power
she did care, and she frowned, while a light shone in her dark eyes;
yet she took the cup and touched it with her lips.

"Presently she lifted her own cup in turn and toyed with it, then made
pretence to drink, and said softly to the King's paramour, who had
pledged her:

"'Pledge me in answer, Hataska, my servant, for soon, methinks, thou
shalt be greater than the Queen.'

"Now this foolish woman read her saying wrong, and took the golden cup
from the eunuch who bore it.

"With a little nod to the Queen, and a wave of her slim hand, Hataska
drank, and instantly, with a great cry, she fell dead across the
board. Then, while all the company sat in terror, neither daring to be
silent nor to speak, and while Meriamun smiled scornfully on the dark
head lying low among the roses on the board, Pharaoh leaped up, mad
with wrath, and called to the guards to seize the Queen. But she waved
them back, and, speaking in a slow, cold voice, she said:

"'Dare not to touch Khem's anointed Queen lest your fate be as /her/
fate. For thee, Meneptah, forget not thy marriage oath. What, am I
Queen, and shall thy wantons throw their insolence in my teeth and
name me their sister? Not so, for if my eyes be blind yet my ears are
open. Peace, she is rightly served--choose thou a lowlier mistress!'

"And Pharaoh made no answer, for he feared her with an ever-growing
fear. But she, sinking back in her seat of state, played with the gold
kepher on her breast, and watched them bear the body forth to the
House of Osiris. One by one all the company made obeisance and passed
thence, glad to be gone, till at the last there were left only Pharaoh
and Meriamun the Queen, and myself--Rei the Priest--for all were much
afraid. Then Pharaoh spoke, looking neither at her nor at me, and half
in fear, half in anger.

"'Thou hateful woman, accursed be the day when first I looked upon thy
beauty. Thou hast conquered me, but beware, for I am still Pharaoh and
thy Lord. Cross my purpose once again, and, by Him who sleeps at
Phil, I will discrown thee and give thy body to the tormentors, and
set thy soul loose to follow her whom thou hast slain.'

"Then Meriamun answered proudly:

"'Pharaoh, be warned: lift but one finger against my majesty and thou
art doomed. Thou canst not slay me, but I can over-match thee, and I
swear by the same oath! By Him who sleeps at Phil, lift a hand
against me, ay, harbour one thought of treachery, and thou diest. Not
lightly can I be deceived, for I have messengers that thou canst not
hear. Something, Royal Meneptah, do I know of the magic of that Queen
Taia who was before me. Now listen--do this one thing and all shall be
well. Go on thy path and leave me to follow mine. Queen I am, Queen I
will remain, and in all matters of the State mine must be an equal
voice though it is thine that speaks. And, for the rest, we are apart
henceforth, for thou fearest me, and Meneptah, I love not thee, nor
any man.'

"'As thou hast spoken, so be it,' quoth Pharaoh, for his heart sank,
and his fear came back upon him. 'Evil was the day when first we met,
and this is the price of my desire. Henceforth we are apart in bed and
board, but in the council we are still one, for our ends are one. I
know thy power, Meriamun, thou gifted of the evil Gods; thou needest
not fear that I shall seek to slay thee, for a spear cast against the
heavens returns on him who threw it. Rei, my servant, thou art witness
to our oaths; hear now their undoing. Meriamun, the Queen of ancient
Khem, thou art no more wife of mine. Farewell.'

"And he went heavily and stricken with fear.

"'Nay,' she said, gazing after him, 'no more am I Meneptah's wife, but
still am I Khem's dreaded Queen. Oh, thou old priest, I am aweary. See
what a lot is mine, who have all things but love, and yet am sick of
all! I longed for power, and power is mine, and what is power? It is a
rod wherewith we beat the air that straightway closes on the stroke.
Yes, I tire of my loveless days and of this dull round of common
things. Oh, for one hour of love and in that hour to die! Oh that the
future would lift its veil and disclose the face of time to be! Say,
Rei! Wilt thou be bold and dare a deed?' And she clasped me by the
sleeve and whispered in my ear, in the dead tongue known to her and me
--'Her I slew--thou sawest----'

"'Ay, Queen, I saw--what of her? 'Twas ill done.'

"'Nay, 'twas rightly done and well done. But thou knowest she is not
yet cold, nor for a while will be, and I have the art to drag her
spirit back ere she be cold, from where she is, and to force knowledge
from her lips--for being an Osiris all the future is open to her in
this hour.'

"'Nay, nay,' I cried. 'It is unholy--not lightly may we disturb the
dead, lest the Guardian Gods be moved to anger.'

"'Yet will I do it, Rei. If thou dost fear, come not. But I go. I am
fain for knowledge, and thus only may I win it. If I die in the dread
endeavour, write this of Meriamun the Queen: That in seeking the to-be
--she found it!'

"'Nay, Royal Lady,' I answered, 'thou shalt not go alone. I too have
some skill in magic, and perchance can ward evil from thee. So, if
indeed thou wilt dare this dreadful thing, behold now, as ever, I am
thy servant.'

"'It is well. See, now, the body will this night be laid in the
sanctuary of the Temple of Osiris that is near the great gates, as is
the custom, to await the coming of the embalmers. Come ere she be
colder than my heart, come with me, Rei, to the house of the Lord of
the Dead!'

"She passed to her chamber, wrapped herself about in a dark robe, and
hurried with me to the Temple doors, where we were challenged by the

"'Who passes? In the name of the Holy Osiris speak.'

"'Rei, the Master Builder and the anointed Priest, and with him
another,' I made answer. 'Open.'

"'Nay, I open not. There is one within who may not be wakened.'

"'Who, then, is within?'

"'She whom the Queen slew.'

"'The Queen sends one who would look on her she slew.'

"Then the priest gazed on the hooded form beside me and started back,
crying, 'A token, noble Rei.'

"I held up the Royal signet, and, bowing, he opened. Being come within
the Temple I lit the tapers that had been prepared. Then by their
feeble light we passed through the outer hall till we came to the
curtains that veil the sanctuary of the Holy Place, and here I
quenched the tapers; for no fire must enter there, save that which
burns upon the altar of the dead. But through the curtains came rays
of light.

"'Open!' said Meriamun, and I opened, and hand in hand we passed in.
On the altar that is in the place the flame burnt brightly. The
chamber is not wide and great, for this is the smallest of the temples
of Tanis, but yet so large that the light could not reach its walls
nor pierce the overhanging gloom, and by much gazing scarcely could we
discover the outline of the graven shapes of the Holy Gods that are
upon the walls. But the light fell clear upon the great statue of the
Osiris that was seated behind the altar fashioned in the black stone
of Syene, wound about with the corpse-cloths, wearing on his head the
crown of the Upper Land, and holding in his hands the crook of
divinity and the awful scourge of punishment. The light shone all
about the white and dreadful shape that was placed upon his holy
knees, the naked shape of lost Hataska who this night had died at the
hand of Meriamun. There she bowed her head against the sacred breast,
her long hair streaming down on either side, her arms tied across her
heart, and her eyes, whence the hues of life had scarcely faded,
widely staring at the darkness of the shrine. For at Tanis to this day
it is the custom for a night to place those of high birth or office
who die suddenly upon the knees of the statue of Osiris.

"'See,' I said to the Queen, speaking low, for the weight of the
haunted place sank into my heart, 'see how she who scarce an hour ago
was but a lovely wanton hath by thine act been clad in majesty greater
than all the glory of the earth. Bethink thee, wilt thou dare indeed
to summon back the spirit to the body whence thou hast set it free?
Not easily, O Queen, may it be done for all thy magic, and if
perchance she answereth thee, it may well be that the terror of her
words shall utterly o'erwhelm us.'

"'Nay,' she made answer, 'I am instructed. I fear not. I know by what
name to call the Khou that hovers on the threshold of the Double Hall
of Truth, and how to send it back to its own place. I fear not, but if
perchance thou fearest, Rei, depart hence and leave me to the task

"'Nay,' I said. 'I also am instructed, and I go not. But I say to thee
that this is unholy.'

"Then Meriamun spoke no more--but lifting up her hands she held them
heavenwards, and so for a while she stood, her face fixed, as was the
face of dead Hataska. Then, as must be done, I drew the circle round
us and round the altar and the statue of Osiris, and that which sat
upon his knee. With my staff I drew it, and standing therein I said
the holy words which should ward away the evil things that come near
in such an hour.

"Now Meriamun threw a certain powder into the flame upon the altar.
Thrice she threw the powder, and as she threw it a ball of flame rose
from the altar and floated away, each time that she threw did the ball
of fire rise; and this it was needful to do, for by fire only may the
dead be manifest, and therefore was a globe of fire given to each of
the three shapes that together make the threefold spirit of the dead.
And when the three globes of fire had melted into air, passing over
the head of the statue of Osiris, thrice did Meriamun cry aloud:

"'/Hataska! Hataska! Hataska!/

"'By the dreadful Name I summon thee.

"'I summon thee from the threshold of the Double Hall.

"'I summon thee from the Gates of Judgment.

"'I summon thee from the door of Doom.

"'By the link of life and death that is between thee and me, I bid
thee come from where thou art and make answer to that which I shall
ask of thee.'

"She ceased, but no answer came. Still the cold Osiris smiled, and
still the body on his knee sat with open eyes gazing into nothingness.

"'Not thus easily,' I whispered, 'may this dreadful thing be done.
Thou art instructed in the Word of Fear. If thou darest, let it pass
thy lips, or let us be gone.'

"'Nay, it shall be spoken,' she said--and thus she wrought. Passing to
the statue she hid her head within her cloak and with both hands
grasped the feet of the slain Hataska.

"Seeing this I also crouched upon the floor and hid my face, for it is
death to hear that Word with an uncovered face.

"Then in so soft a whisper that scarce had its breath stirred a
feather on her lips, Meriamun spoke the Word of Fear which may not be
written, whose sound has power to pass all space and open the ears of
the dead who dwell in Amenti. Softly she said it, for in a shout of
thunder it was caught up and echoed from her lips, and down the
eternal halls it seemed to rush on the feet of storm and the wings of
wind, so that the roof rocked and the deep foundations of the Temple
quivered like a wind-stirred tree.

"'Unveil, ye mortals!' cried a dreadful voice, 'and look upon the
sight of fear that ye have dared to summon.'

"And I rose and cast my cloak from about my face and gazed, then sank
down in terror. For round about the circle that I had drawn pressed
all the multitude of the dead; countless as the desert sands they
pressed, gazing with awful eyes upon us twain. And the fire that was
on the altar died away, but yet was there light, for it shone from
those dead eyes, and in the eyes of lost Hataska there was light.

"And ever the faces changed, never for one beat of time did they cease
to change. For as we gazed upon a face it would melt, even to the
eyes, and round these same eyes again would gather but no more the
same. And like the sloping sides of pyramids were the faces set about
us from the ground to the Temple roof--and on us were fixed their
glowing eyes.

"And I, Rei, being instructed, knew that to suffer myself to be
overcome with terror was death, as it was death to pass without the
circle. So in my heart I called upon Osiris, Lord of the Dead, to
protect us, and even as I named the ineffable name, lo! all the
thousand thousand faces bent themselves in adoration and then,
turning, looked each upon the other even as though each spake to each,
and changed, and swiftly changed.

"'Meriamun,' I said, gathering up my strength, 'fear not, but beware!'

"'Nay, wherefore should I fear,' she answered, 'because the veil of
sense is torn, and for an hour we see those who are ever about our
path and whose eyes watch our most secret thought continually? I fear
not.' And she stepped boldly, even to the edge of the circle, and

"'All hail, ye Sahus, spirits of the awful dead, among whom I also
shall be numbered.'

"And as she came the changing faces shrunk away, leaving a space
before her. And in the space there grew two arms, mighty and black,
that stretched themselves towards her, until there was not the length
of three grains of wheat betwixt the clutching fingers and her breast.

"But Meriamun only laughed and drew back a space.

"'Not so, thou Enemy,' she said, 'this circle thou may'st not break;
it is too strong for thee. But to the work. Hataska, once again by the
link of life and death I summon thee--and this time thou must come,
thou who wast a wanton and now art "greater than the Queen."'

"And as she spoke, from the dead form of the woman on Osiris' knee
there issued forth another form and stood before us, as a snake issues
from its slough. And as was the dead Hataska so was this form, feature
for feature, look for look, and limb for limb. But still the corpse
rested upon Osiris' knee, for this was but the /Ka/ that stood before

"And thus spoke the voice of Hataska in the lips of the Ka:

"'What wouldest thou with me who am no more of thy company, O thou by
whose hand my body did perish? Why troublest thou me?'

"And Meriamun made answer: 'I would this of thee, that thou shouldest
declare unto me the future, even in the presence of this great
company. Speak, I command thee.'

"And the Ka said: 'Nay, Meriamun, that I cannot do, for I am but the
Ka--the Dweller in the Tomb, the guardian of what was Hataska whom
thou didst slay, whom I must watch through all the days of death till
resurrection is. Of the future I know naught; seek thou that which

"'Stand thou on one side,' quoth the Queen, and the Dweller in the
Tomb obeyed.

"Then once more she called upon Hataska and there came a sound of
rushing wings. And behold, on the head of the statue of Osiris sat a
great bird, feathered as it were with gold. But the bird had the head
of a woman, and the face was fashioned as the face of Hataska. And
thus it spoke, that was the /Bai/:

"'What wouldest thou with me, Meriamun, who am no more of thy company?
Why dost thou draw me from the Under World, thou by whose hand my body
did perish?'

"And Meriamun said: 'This I would of thee, that thou shouldest declare
unto me the future. Speak, I command thee.'

"And the Bai said: 'Nay, Meriamun, that I cannot do. I am but the Bai
of her who was Hataska, and I fly from Death to Life and Life to
Death, till the hour of awakening is. Of the future I know naught;
seek thou that which knows.'

"'Rest thou where thou art,' quoth the Queen, and there it rested,
awful to see.

"Then once more Meriamun called upon Hataska, bidding her hear the
summons where she was.

"And behold the eyes of the Dead One that was upon the knee of Osiris
glowed, and glowed the eyes of the Dweller in the Tomb, and of the
winged Messenger who sat above. And then there was a sound as the
sound of wind, and from above, cleaving the darkness, descended a
Tongue of Flame and rested on the brow of the dead Hataska. And the
eyes of all the thousand thousand spirits turned and gazed upon the
Tongue of Flame. And then dead Hataska spoke--though her lips moved
not, yet she spoke. And this she said:

"'What wouldest thou with me, Meriamun, who am no more of thy company?
Why dost thou dare to trouble me, thou by whose hand my body did
perish, drawing me from the threshold of the Double Hall of Truth,
back to the Over World?'

"And Meriamun the Queen said, 'Oh, thou /Khou/, for this purpose have
I called thee. I am aweary of my days and I fain would learn the
future. The future fain would I learn, but the forked tongue of That
which sleeps tells me no word, and the lips of That which is a-cold
are dumb! Tell me, then, thou, I charge thee by the word that has
power to open the lips of the dead, thou who in all things art
instructed, what shall be the burden of my days?'

"And the dread Khou made answer: 'Love shall be the burden of thy
days, and Death shall be the burden of thy love. Behold one draws near
from out the North whom thou hast loved, whom thou shalt love from
life to life, till all things are accomplished. Bethink thee of a
dream that thou dreamedst as thou didst lie on Pharaoh's bed, and read
its riddle. Meriamun, thou art great and thy name is known upon the
earth, and in Amenti is thy name known. High is thy fate, and through
blood and sorrow shalt thou find it. I have spoken, let me hence.'

"'It is well,' the Queen made answer: 'But not yet mayest thou go
hence. First I command thee, by the word of dread and by the link of
life and death, declare unto me if here upon the earth and in this
life I shall possess him whom I shall love?'

"'In sin and craft and sorrow, Meriamun, thou shalt possess him; in
shame and jealous agony he shall be taken from thee by one who is
stronger than thou, though thou art strong; by one more beautiful than
thou, though thou art beautiful; and ruin thou shalt give him for his
guerdon, and ruin of the heart shalt thou harvest for thy portion. But
for this time she shall escape thee, whose footsteps march with thine,
and with his who shall be thine and hers. Nevertheless, in a day to
come thou shalt pay her back measure for measure, and evil for evil. I
have spoken. Let me hence.'

"'Not yet, O Khou--not yet. I have still to learn. Show me the face of
her who is mine enemy, and the face of him who is my love.'

"'Thrice mayest thou speak to me, O thou greatly daring,' answered the
dread Khou, 'and thrice I may make reply, and then farewell till I
meet thee on the threshold of the hall whence thou hast drawn me. Look
now on the face of that Hataska whom thou slewest.'

"And we looked, and behold the face of dead Hataska changed, and
changed the face of the Double, the /Ka/ that stood on one side, and
the face of the great bird, the /Bai/, that spread his wings about the
head of Osiris. And they grew beautiful, yes, most exceeding beautiful
so that it cannot be told, and the beauty was that of a woman asleep.
Then lo, there hung above Hataska, as it were, the shadow of one who
was watching her sleeping. And his face we saw not, O thou Wanderer,
it was hidden by the visor of a golden two-horned helm, and in that
helm stood fast /the bronze point of a broken spear/! But he was clad
in the armour of the people of the Northern Sea, the Aquaiusha, and
his hair fell dark about his shoulders like the petals of the hyacinth

"'Behold thine enemy and behold thy love! Farewell,' said the dread
Khou, speaking through dead Hataska's lips, and as the words died the
beauty faded and the Tongue of Flame shot upwards and was lost, and
once more the eyes of the thousand thousand dead turned and looked
upon each other, even as though their lips whispered each to each.

"But for a while Meriamun stood silent, as one amazed. Then, awaking,
she waved her hand and cried, 'Begone, thou /Bai/! Begone, thou /Ka/!'

"And the great bird whereof the face was as the face of Hataska spread
his golden wings and passed away to his own place, and the Ka that was
in the semblance of Hataska drew near to the dead one's knees, and
passed back into her from whom she came. And all the thousand thousand
faces melted though the fiery eyes still gazed upon us.

"Then Meriamun covered her head and once more spoke the awful Word,
and I also covered up my head. But, as must be done, this second time
she called the Word aloud, and yet though she called it loud, it came
but as a tiny whisper from her lips. Nevertheless, at the sound of it,
once more was the Temple shaken as by a storm.

"Then Meriamun unveiled, and behold, again the fire burned upon the
altar, and on the knees of the Osiris sat Hataska, cold and still in
death, and round them was emptiness and silence.

"'Now that all is done, I greatly fear for that which has been, and
that which shall be. Lead me hence, O Rei, son of Pames, for I can no

"And so with a heavy heart I led her forth, who of all sorceresses is
the very greatest. Behold, thou Wanderer, wherefore the Queen was
troubled at the coming of the man in the armour of the North, in whose
two-horned golden helm stands fast the point of a broken spear."




"These things are not without the Gods," said the Wanderer, who was
called Eperitus, when he had heard all the tale of Rei the Priest, son
of Pames, the Head Architect, the Commander of the Legion of Amen.
Then he sat silent for a while, and at last raised his eyes and looked
upon the old man.

"Thou hast told a strange tale, Rei. Over many a sea have I wandered,
and in many a land I have sojourned. I have seen the ways of many
peoples, and have heard the voices of the immortal Gods. Dreams have
come to me and marvels have compassed me about. It has been laid upon
me to go down into Hades, that land which thou namest Amenti, and to
look on the tribes of the Dead; but never till now have I known so
strange a thing. For mark thou, when first I beheld this fair Queen of
thine I thought she looked upon me strangely, as one who knew my face.
And now, Rei, if thou speakest truth, /she/ deems that she has met me
in the ways of night and magic. Say, then, who was the man of the
vision of the Queen, the man with dark and curling locks, clad in
golden armour after the fashion of the Achans whom ye name the
Aquaiusha, wearing on his head a golden helm, wherein was fixed a
broken spear?"

"Before me sits such a man," said Rei, "or perchance it is a God that
my eyes behold."

"No God am I," quoth the Wanderer, smiling, "though the Sidonians
deemed me nothing less when the black bow twanged and the swift shafts
flew. Read me the riddle, thou that art instructed."

Now the aged Priest looked upon the ground, then turned his eyes
upward, and with muttering lips prayed to Thoth, the God of Wisdom.
And when he had made an end of prayer he spoke.

"/Thou/ art the man," he said. "Out of the sea thou hast come to bring
the doom of love on the Lady Meriamun and on thyself the doom of
death. This I knew, but of the rest I know nothing. Now, I pray thee,
oh thou who comest in the armour of the North, thou whose face is
clothed in beauty, and who art of all men the mightiest and hast of
all men the sweetest and most guileful tongue, go back, go back into
the sea whence thou camest, and the lands whence thou hast wandered."

"Not thus easily may men escape their doom," quoth the Wanderer. "My
death may come, as come it must; but know this, Rei, I do not seek the
love of Meriamun."

"Then it well may chance that thou shalt find it, for ever those who
seek love lose, and those who seek not find."

"I am come to seek another love," said the Wanderer, "and I seek her
till I die."

"Then I pray the Gods that thou mayest find her, and that Khem may
thus be saved from sorrow. But here in Egypt there is no woman so fair
as Meriamun, and thou must seek farther as quickly as may be. And now,
Eperitus, behold I must away to do service in the Temple of the Holy
Amen, for I am his High Priest. But I am commanded by Pharaoh first to
bring thee to the feast at the Palace."

Then he led the Wanderer from his chamber and brought him by a side
entrance to the great Palace of the Pharaoh at Tanis, near the Temple
of Ptah. And first he took him to a chamber that had been made ready
for him in the Palace, a beautiful chamber, richly painted with beast-
headed Gods and furnished with ivory chairs, and couches of ebony and
silver, and with a gilded bed.

Then the Wanderer went into the shining baths, and dark-eyed girls
bathed him and anointed him with fragrant oil, and crowned him with
lotus flowers. When they had bathed him they bade him lay aside his
golden armour and his bow and the quiver full of arrows, but this the
Wanderer would not do, for as he laid the black bow down it thrilled
with a thin sound of war. So Rei led him, armed as he was, to a
certain antechamber, and there he left him, saying that he would
return again when the feast was done. Trumpets blared as the Wanderer
waited, drums rolled, and through the wide thrown curtains swept the
lovely Meriamun and the divine Pharaoh Meneptah, with many lords and
ladies of the Court, all crowned with roses and with lotus blooms.

The Queen was decked in Royal attire, her shining limbs were veiled in
broidered silk; about her shoulders was a purple robe, and round her
neck and arms were rings of well-wrought gold. She was stately and
splendid to see, with pale brows and beautiful disdainful eyes where
dreams seemed to sleep beneath the shadow of her eyelashes. On she
swept in all her state and pride of beauty, and behind her came the
Pharaoh. He was a tall man, but ill-made and heavy-browed, and to the
Wanderer it seemed that he was heavy-hearted too, and that care and
terror of evil to come were always in his mind.

Meriamun looked up swiftly.

"Greeting, Stranger," she said. "Thou comest in warlike guise to grace
our feast."

"Methought, Royal Lady," he made answer, "that anon when I would have
laid it by, this bow of mine sang to me of present war. Therefore I am
come armed--even to thy feast."

"Has thy bow such foresight, Eperitus?" said the Queen. "I have heard
but once of such a weapon, and that in a minstrel's tale. He came to
our Court with his lyre from the Northern Sea, and he sang of the Bow
of Odysseus."

"Minstrel or not, thou does well to come armed, Wanderer," said the
Pharaoh; "for if thy bow sings, my own heart mutters much to me of war
to be."

"Follow me, Wanderer, however it fall out," said the Queen.

So he followed her and the Pharaoh till they came to a splendid hall,
carven round with images of fighting and feasting. Here, on the
painted walls, Rameses Miamun drove the thousands of the Khita before
his single valour; here men hunted wild-fowl through the marshes with
a great cat for their hound. Never had the Wanderer beheld such a hall
since he supped with the Sea King of the fairy isle. On the das,
raised above the rest, sat the Pharaoh, and by him sat Meriamun the
Queen, and by the Queen sat the Wanderer in the golden armour of
Paris, and he leaned the black bow against his ivory chair.

Now the feast went on and men ate and drank. The Queen spoke little,
but she watched the Wanderer beneath the lids of her deep-fringed

Suddenly, as they feasted and grew merry, the doors at the end of the
chamber were thrown wide, the Guards fell back in fear, and behold, at
the end of the hall, stood two men. Their faces were tawny, dry,
wasted with desert wandering; their noses were hooked like eagles'
beaks, and their eyes were yellow as the eyes of lions. They were clad
in rough skins of beasts, girdled about their waists with leathern
thongs, and fiercely they lifted their naked arms, and waved their
wands of cedar. Both men were old, one was white-bearded, the other
was shaven smooth like the priests of Egypt. As they lifted the rods
on high the Guards shrank like beaten hounds, and all the guests hid
their faces, save Meriamun and the Wanderer alone. Even Pharaoh dared
not look on them, but he murmured angrily in his beard:

"By the name of Osiris," he said, "here be those Soothsayers of the
Apura once again. Now Death waits on those who let them pass the

Then one of the two men, he who was shaven like a priest, cried with a
great voice:

"/Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!/ Hearken to the word of Jahveh. Wilt thou
let the people go?"

"I will not let them go," he answered.

"/Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!/ Hearken to the word of Jahveh. If thou
wilt not let the people go, then shall all the firstborn of Khem, of
the Prince and the slave, of the ox and the ass, be smitten of Jahveh.
Wilt thou let the people go?"

Now Pharaoh hearkened, and those who were at the feast rose and cried
with a loud voice:

"O Pharaoh, let the people go! Great woes are fallen upon Khem because
of the Apura. O Pharaoh, let the people go!"

Now Pharaoh's heart was softened and he was minded to let them go, but
Meriamun turned to him and said:

"Thou shalt not let the people go. It is not these slaves, nor the God
of these slaves, who bring the plagues on Khem, but it is that strange
Goddess, the False Hathor, who dwells here in the city of Tanis. Be
not so fearful--ever hadst thou a coward heart. Drive the False Hathor
thence if thou wilt, but hold these slaves to their bondage. I still
have cities that must be built, and yon slaves shall build them."

Then the Pharaoh cried: "Hence! I bid you. Hence, and to-morrow shall
your people be laden with a double burden and their backs shall be red
with stripes. I will not let the people go!"

Then the two men cried aloud, and pointing upward with their staffs
they vanished from the hall, and none dared to lay hands on them, but
those who sat at the feast murmured much.

Now the Wanderer marvelled why Pharaoh did not command the Guards to
cut down these unbidden guests, who spoiled his festival. The Queen
Meriamun saw the wonder in his eyes and turned to him.

"Know thou, Eperitus," she said, "that great plagues have come of late
on this land of ours--plagues of lice and frogs and flies and
darkness, and the changing of pure waters to blood. And these things
our Lord the Pharaoh deems have been brought upon us by the curse of
yonder magicians, conjurers and priests among certain slaves who work
in the land at the building of our cities. But I know well that the
curses come on us from Hathor, the Lady of Love, because of that woman
who hath set herself up here in Tanis, and is worshipped as the

"Why then, O Queen," said the Wanderer, "is this false Goddess
suffered to abide in your fair city? for, as I know well, the immortal
Gods are ever angered with those who turn from their worship to bow
before strange altars."

"Why is she suffered? Nay, ask of Pharaoh my Lord. Methinks it is
because her beauty is more than the beauty of women, so the men say
who have looked on it, but I have not seen it, for only those men see
it who go to worship at her shrine, and then from afar. It is not meet
that the Queen of all the Lands should worship at the shrine of a
strange woman, come--like thyself, Eperitus--from none knows where: if
indeed she be a woman and not a fiend from the Under World. But if
thou wouldest learn more, ask my Lord the Pharaoh, for he knows the
Shrine of the False Hathor, and he knows who guard it, and what is it
that bars the way."

Now the Wanderer turned to Pharaoh saying: "O Pharaoh, may I know the
truth of this mystery?"

Then Meneptah looked up, and there was doubt and trouble on his heavy

"I will tell thee readily, thou Wanderer, for perchance such a man as
thou, who hast travelled in many lands and seen the faces of many
Gods, may understand the tale, and may help me. In the days of my
father, the holy Rameses Miamun, the keepers of the Temple of the
Divine Hathor awoke, and lo! in the Sanctuary of the temple was a
woman in the garb of the Aquaiusha, who was Beauty's self. But when
they looked upon her, none could tell the semblance of her beauty, for
to one she seemed dark and to the other fair, and to each man of them
she showed a diverse loveliness. She smiled upon them, and sang most
sweetly, and love entered their hearts, so that it seemed to each man
that she only was his Heart's Desire. But when any man would have come
nearer and embraced her, there was that about her which drove him
back, and if he strove again, behold, he fell down dead. So at last
they subdued their hearts, and desired her no more, but worshipped her
as the Hathor come to earth, and made offerings of food and drink to
her, and prayers. So three years passed, and at the end of the third
year the keepers of the temple looked and the Hathor was gone. Nothing
remained of her but a memory. Yet there were some who said that this
memory was dearer than all else that the world has to give.

"Twenty more seasons went by, and I sat upon the throne of my father,
and was Lord of the Double Crown. And, on a day, a messenger came
running and cried:

"'Now is Hathor come back to Khem, now is Hathor come back to Khem,
and, as of old, none may draw near her beauty!' Then I went to see,
and lo! before the Temple of Hathor a great multitude was gathered,
and there on the pylon brow stood the Hathor's self shining with
changeful beauty like the Dawn. And as of old she sang sweet songs,
and, to each man who heard, her voice was the voice of his own
beloved, living and lost to him, or dead and lost. Now every man has
such a grave in his heart as that whence Hathor seems to rise in
changeful beauty. Month by month she sings thus, one day in every
month, and many a man has sought to win her and her favour, but in the
doorways are they who meet him and press him back; and if he still
struggles on, there comes a clang of swords and he falls dead, but no
wound is found on him. And, Wanderer, this is truth, for I myself have
striven and have been pressed back by that which guards her. But I
alone of men who have looked on her and heard her, strove not a second
time, and so saved myself alive."

"Thou alone of men lovest life more than the World's Desire!" said the
Queen. "Thou hast ever sickened for the love of this strange Witch,
but thy life thou lovest even better than her beauty, and thou dost
not dare attempt again the adventure of her embrace. Know, Eperitus,
that this sorrow is come upon the land, that all men love yonder witch
and rave of her, and to each she wears a different face and sings in
another voice. When she stands upon the pylon tower, then thou wilt
see the madness with which she has smitten them. For they will weep
and pray and tear their hair. Then they will rush through the temple
courts and up to the temple doors, and be thrust back again by that
which guards her. But some will yet strive madly on, and thou wilt
hear the clash of arms and they will fall dead before thee. Accursed
is the land, I tell thee, Wanderer; because of that Phantom it is
accursed. For it is she who brings these woes on Khem; from her, not
from our slaves and their mad conjurers, come plagues, I say, and all
evil things. And till a man be found who may pass her guard, and come
face to face with the witch and slay her, plagues and woes and evil
things shall be the daily bread of Khem. Perchance, Wanderer, thou art
such a man," and she looked on him strangely. "Yet if so, this is my
counsel, that thou go not up against her, lest thou also be bewitched,
and a great man be lost to us."

Now the Wanderer turned the matter over in his heart and made answer:

"Perchance, Lady, my strength and the favour of the Gods might serve
me in such a quest. But methinks that this woman is meeter for words
of love and the kisses of men than to be slain with the sharp sword,
if, indeed, she be not of the number of the immortals."

Now Meriamun flushed and frowned.

"It is not fitting so to talk before me," she said. "Of this be sure,
that if the Witch may be come at, she shall be slain and given to
Osiris for a bride."

Now the Wanderer saw that the Lady Meriamun was jealous of the beauty
and renown and love of her who dwelt in the temple, and was called the
Strange Hathor, and he held his peace, for he knew when to be silent.



The feast dragged slowly on, for Fear was of the company. The men and
women were silent, and when they drank, it was as if one had poured a
little oil on a dying fire. Life flamed up in them for a moment, their
laughter came like the crackling of thorns, and then they were silent
again. Meanwhile the Wanderer drank little, waiting to see what should
come. But the Queen was watching him whom already her heart desired,
and she only of all the company had pleasure in this banquet. Suddenly
a side-door opened behind the das, there was a stir in the hall, each
guest turning his head fearfully, for all expected some evil tidings.
But it was only the entrance of those who bear about in the feasts of
Egypt an effigy of the Dead, the likeness of a mummy carved in wood,
and who cry: "Drink, O King, and be glad, thou shalt soon be even as
he! Drink, and be glad." The stiff, swathed figure, with its folded
hands and gilded face, was brought before the Pharaoh, and Meneptah,
who had sat long in sullen brooding silence, started when he looked on
it. Then he broke into an angry laugh.

"We have little need of thee to-night," he cried, as he saluted the
symbol of Osiris. "Death is near enough, we want not thy silent
preaching. Death, Death is near!"

He fell back in his gilded chair, and let the cup drop from his hand,
gnawing at his beard.

"Art thou a man?" spoke Meriamun, in a low clear voice; "are you men,
and yet afraid of what comes to all? Is it only to-night that we first
hear the name of Death? Remember the great Men-kau-ra, remember the
old Pharaoh who built the Pyramid of Hir. He was just and kind, and he
feared the Gods, and for his reward they showed him Death, coming on
him in six short years. Did he scowl and tremble, like all of you
to-night, who are scared by the threats of slaves? Nay, he outwitted
the Gods, he made night into day, he lived out twice his years, with
revel and love and wine in the lamp-lit groves of persea trees. Come,
my guests, let us be merry, if it be but for an hour. Drink, and be

"For once thou speakest well," said the King. "Drink and forget; the
Gods who give Death give wine," and his angry eyes ranged through the
hall, to seek some occasion of mirth and scorn.

"Thou Wanderer!" he said, suddenly. "Thou drinkest not: I have watched
thee as the cups go round; what, man, thou comest from the North, the
sun of thy pale land has not heat enough to foster the vine. Thou
seemest cold, and a drinker of water; why wilt thou be cold before
thine hour? Come, pledge me in the red wine of Khem. Bring forth the
cup of Pasht!" he cried to them who waited, "bring forth the cup of
Pasht, the King drinks!"

Then the chief butler of Pharaoh went to the treasure-house, and came
again, bearing a huge golden cup, fashioned in the form of a lion's
head, and holding twelve measures of wine. It was an ancient cup,
sacred to Pasht, and a gift of the Rutennu to Thothmes, the greatest
of that name.

"Fill it full of unmixed wine!" cried the King. "Dost thou grow pale
at the sight of the cup, thou Wanderer from the North? I pledge thee,
pledge thou me!"

"Nay, King," said the Wanderer, "I have tasted wine of Ismarus before
to-day, and I have drunk with a wild host, the one-eyed Man Eater!"
For his heart was angered by the King, and he forgot his wisdom, but
the Queen marked the saying.

"Then pledge me in the cup of Pasht!" quoth the King.

"I pray thee, pardon me," said the Wanderer, "for wine makes wise men
foolish and strong men weak, and to-night methinks we shall need our
wits and our strength."

"Craven!" cried the King, "give me the bowl. I drink to thy better
courage, Wanderer," and lifting the great golden cup, he stood up and
drank it, and then dropped staggering into his chair, his head fallen
on his breast.

"I may not refuse a King's challenge, though it is ill to contend with
our hosts," said the Wanderer, turning somewhat pale, for he was in
anger. "Give me the bowl!"

He took the cup, and held it high; then pouring a little forth to his
Gods, he said, in a clear voice, for he was stirred to anger beyond
his wont:

"/I drink to the Strange Hathor!/"

He spoke, and drained the mighty cup, and set it down on the board,
and even as he laid down the cup, and as the Queen looked at him with
eyes of wrath, there came from the bow beside his seat a faint shrill
sound, a ringing and a singing of the bow, a noise of running strings
and a sound as of rushing arrows.

The warrior heard it, and his eyes burned with the light of battle,
for he knew well that the swift shafts should soon fly to the hearts
of the doomed. Pharaoh awoke and heard it, and heard it the Lady
Meriamun the Queen, and she looked on the Wanderer astonished, and
looked on the bow that sang.

"The minstrel's tale was true! This is none other but the Bow of
Odysseus, the sacker of cities," said Meriamun. "Hearken thou,
Eperitus, thy great bow sings aloud. How comes it that thy bow sings?"

"For this cause, Queen," said the Wanderer; "because birds gather on
the Bridge of War. Soon shall shafts be flying and ghosts go down to
doom. Summon thy Guards, I bid thee, for foes are near."

Terror conquered the drunkenness of Pharaoh; he bade the Guards who
stood behind his chair summon all their company. They went forth, and
a great hush fell again upon the Hall of Banquets and upon those who
sat at meat therein. The silence grew deadly still, like air before
the thunder, and men's hearts sank within them, and turned to water in
their breasts. Only Odysseus wondered and thought on the battle to be,
though whence the foe might come he knew not, and Meriamun sat erect
in her ivory chair and looked down the glorious hall.

Deeper grew the silence and deeper yet, and more and more the cloud of
fear gathered in the hearts of men. Then suddenly through all the hall
there was a rush like the rush of mighty wings. The deep foundations
of the Palace rocked, and to the sight of men the roof above seemed to
burst asunder, and lo! above them, against the distance of the sky,
there swept a shape of Fear, and the stars shone through its raiment.

Then the roof closed in again, and for a moment's space once more
there was silence, whilst men looked with white faces, each on each,
and even the stout heart of the Wanderer stood still.

Then suddenly all down the hall, from this place and from that, men
rose up and with one great cry fell down dead, this one across the
board, and that one across the floor. The Wanderer grasped his bow and
counted. From among those who sat at meat twenty and one had fallen
dead. Yet those who lived sat gazing emptily, for so stricken with
fear were they that scarce did each one know if it was he himself who
lay dead or his brother who had sat by his side.

But Meriamun looked down the hall with cold eyes, for she feared
neither Death nor Life, nor God nor man.

And while she looked and while the Wanderer counted, there rose a
faint murmuring sound from the city without, a sound that grew and
grew, the thunder of myriad feet that run before the death of kings.
Then the doors burst asunder and a woman sped through them in her
night robes, and in her arms she bore the naked body of a boy.

"Pharaoh!" she cried, "Pharaoh, and thou, O Queen, look upon thy son--
thy firstborn son--dead is thy son, O Pharaoh! Dead is thy son, O
Queen! In my arms he died suddenly as I lulled him to his rest," and
she laid the body of the child down on the board among the vessels of
gold, among the garlands of lotus flowers and the beakers of rose-red

Then Pharaoh rose and rent his purple robes and wept aloud. Meriamun
rose too, and lifting the body of her son clasped it to her breast,
and her eyes were terrible with wrath and grief, but she wept not.

"See now the curse that this evil woman, this False Hathor, hath
brought upon us," she said.

But the very guests sprang up crying, "It is not the Hathor whom we
worship, it is not the Holy Hathor, it is the Gods of those dark Apura
whom thou, O Queen, wilt not let go. On thy head and the head of
Pharaoh be it," and even as they cried the murmur without grew to a
shriek of woe, a shriek so wild and terrible that the Palace walls
rang. Again that shriek rose, and yet a third time, never was such a
cry heard in Egypt. And now for the first time in all his days the
face of the Wanderer grew white with fear, and in fear of heart he
prayed for succour to his Goddess--to Aphrodite, the daughter of

Again the doors behind them burst open and the Guards flocked in--
mighty men of many foreign lands; but now their faces were wan, their
eyes stared wide, and their jaws hung down. But at the sound of the
clanging of their harness the strength of the Wanderer came back to
him again, for the Gods and their vengeance he feared, but not the
sword of man. And now once more the bow sang aloud. He grasped it, he
bent it with his mighty knee, and strung it, crying:

"Awake, Pharaoh, awake! Foes draw on. Say, be these all the men?"

Then the Captain answered, "These be all of the Guard who are left
living in the Palace. The rest are stark, smitten by the angry Gods."

Now as the Captain spake, one came running up the hall, heeding
neither the dead nor the living. It was the old priest Rei, the
Commander of the Legion of Amen, who had been the Wanderer's guide,
and his looks were wild with fear.

"Hearken, Pharaoh!" he cried, "thy people lie dead by thousands in the
streets--the houses are full of dead. In the Temples of Ptah and Amen
many of the priests have fallen dead also."

"Hast thou more to tell, old man?" cried the Queen.

"The tale has not all been told, O Queen. The soldiers are mad with
fear and with the sight of death, and slay their captains; barely have
I escaped from those in my command of the Legion of Amen. For they
swear that this death has been brought upon the land because the
Pharaoh will not let the Apura go. Hither, then, they come to slay the
Pharaoh, and thee also, O Queen, and with them come many thousands of
people, catching up such arms as lie to their hands."

Now Pharaoh sank down groaning, but the Queen spake to the Wanderer:

"Anon thy weapon sang of war, Eperitus; now war is at the gates."

"Little I fear the rush of battle and the blows men deal in anger,
Lady," he made answer, "though a man may fear the Gods without shame.
Ho, Guards! close up, close up round me! Look not so pale-faced now
death from the Gods is done with, and we have but to fear the sword of

So great was his mien and so glorious his face as he cried thus, and
one by one drew his long arrows forth and laid them on the board, that
the trembling Guards took heart, and to the number of fifty and one
ranged themselves on the edge of the das in a double line. Then they
also made ready their bows and loosened the arrows in their quivers.

Now from without there came a roar of men, and anon, while those of
the house of Pharaoh, and of the guests and nobles, who sat at the
feast and yet lived, fled behind the soldiers, the brazen doors were
burst in with mighty blows, and through them a great armed multitude
surged along the hall. There came soldiers broken from their ranks.
There came the embalmers of the Dead; their hands were overfull of
work to-night, but they left their work undone; Death had smitten some
even of these, and their fellows did not shrink back from them now.
There came the smith, black from the forge, and the scribe bowed with
endless writing; and the dyer with his purple hands, and the fisher
from the stream; and the stunted weaver from the loom, and the leper
from the Temple gates. They were mad with lust of life, a starveling
life that the King had taxed, when he let not the Apura go. They were
mad with fear of death; their women followed them with dead children
in their arms. They smote down the golden furnishings, they tore the
silken hangings, they cast the empty cups of the feast at the faces of
trembling ladies, and cried aloud for the blood of the King.

"Where is Pharaoh?" they yelled, "show us Pharaoh and the Queen
Meriamun, that we may slay them. Dead are our first born, they lie in
heaps as the fish lay when Sihor ran red with blood. Dead are they
because of the curse that has been brought upon us by the prophets of
the Apura, whom Pharaoh, and Pharaoh's Queen, yet hold in Khem."

Now as they cried they saw Pharaoh Meneptah cowering behind the double
line of Guards, and they saw the Queen Meriamun who cowered not, but
stood silent above the din. Then she thrust her way through the
Guards, and yet holding the body of the child to her breast, she stood
before them with eyes that flashed more brightly than the uraeus crown
upon her brow.

"Back!" she cried, "back! It is not Pharaoh, it is not I, who have
brought this death upon you. For we too have death here!" and she held
up the body of her dead son. "It is that False Hathor whom ye worship,
that Witch of many a voice and many a face who turns your hearts faint
with love. For her sake ye endure these woes, on her head is all this
death. Go, tear her temple stone from stone, and rend her beauty limb
from limb and be avenged and free the land from curses."

A moment the people stood and hearkened, muttering as stands the lion
that is about to spring, while those who pressed without cried:
"Forward! Forward! Slay them! Slay them!" Then as with one voice they

"The Hathor we love, but you we hate, for ye have brought these woes
upon us, and ye shall die."

They cried, they brawled, they cast footstools and stones at the
Guards, and then a certain tall man among them drew a bow. Straight at
the Queen's fair breast he aimed his arrow, and swift and true it sped
towards her. She saw the light gleam upon its shining barb, and then
she did what no woman but Meriamun would have done, no, not to save
herself from death--she held out the naked body of her son as a
warrior holds a shield. The arrow struck through and through it,
piercing the tender flesh, aye, and pricked her breast beyond, so that
she let the dead boy fall.

The Wanderer saw it and wondered at the horror of the deed, for he had
seen no such deed in all his days. Then shouting aloud the terrible
war-cry of the Achans he leapt upon the board before him, and as he
leapt his golden armour clanged.

Glancing around, he fixed an arrow to the string and drew to his ear
that great bow which none but he might so much as bend. Then as he
loosed, the string sang like a swallow, and the shaft screamed through
the air. Down the glorious hall it sped, and full on the breast of him
who had lifted bow against the Queen the bitter arrow struck, nor
might his harness avail to stay it. Through the body of him it passed
and with blood-red feathers flew on, and smote another who stood
behind him so that his knees also were loosened, and together they
fell dead upon the floor.

Now while the people stared and wondered, again the bowstring sang
like a swallow, again the arrow screamed in its flight, and he who
stood before it got his death, for the shield he bore was pinned to
his breast.

Then wonder turned to rage; the multitude rolled forward, and from
either side the air grew dark with arrows. For the Guards at the sight
of the shooting of the Wanderer found heart and fought well and
manfully. Boldly also the slayers came on, and behind them pressed
many a hundred men. The Wanderer's golden helm flashed steadily, a
beacon in the storm. Black smoke burst out in the hall, the hangings
flamed and tossed in a wind from the open door. The lights were struck
from the hands of the golden images, arrows stood thick in the tables
and the rafters, a spear pierced through the golden cup of Pasht. But
out of the darkness and smoke and dust, and the cry of battle, and
through the rushing of the rain of spears, sang the swallow string of
the black bow of Eurytus, and the long shafts shrieked as they sped on
them who were ripe to die. In vain did the arrows of the slayers smite
upon that golden harness. They were but as hail upon the temple roofs,
but as driving snow upon the wild stag's horns. They struck, they
rattled, and down they dropped like snow, or bounded back and lay upon
the board.

The swallow string sang, the black bow twanged, and the bitter arrows
shrieked as they flew.

Now the Wanderer's shafts were spent, and he judged that their case
was desperate. For out of the doors of the hall that were behind them,
and from the chambers of the women, armed men burst in also, taking
them on the flank and rear. But the Wanderer was old in war, and
without a match in all its ways. The Captain of the Guard was slain
with a spear stroke, and the Wanderer took his place, calling to the
men, such of them as were left alive, to form a circle on the das,
and within the circle he set those of the house of Pharaoh and the
women who were at the feast. And to Pharaoh he cast a slain man's
sword, bidding him strike for life and throne if he never struck
before; but the heart was out of Pharaoh because of the death of his
son, and the wine about his wits, and the terrors he had seen. Then
Meriamun the Queen snatched the sword from his trembling hand and
stood holding it to guard her life. For she disdained to crouch upon
the ground as did the other women, but stood upright behind the
Wanderer, and heeded not the spears and arrows that dealt death on
every hand. But Pharaoh stood, his face buried in his hands.

Now the slayers came on, shouting and clambering upon the das. Then
the Wanderer rushed on them with sword drawn, and shield on high, and
so swift he smote that men might not guard, for they saw, as it were,
three blades aloft at once, and the silver-hafted sword bit deep, the
gift of Phacian Euryalus long ago. The Guards also smote and thrust;
it was for their lives they fought, and back rolled the tide of foes,
leaving a swathe of dead. So a second time they came on, and a second
time were rolled back.

Now of the defenders few were left unhurt, and their strength was
well-nigh spent. But the Wanderer cheered them with great words,
though his heart grew fearful for the end; and Meriamun the Queen also
bade them to be of good courage, and if need were, to die like men.
Then once again the wave of War rolled in upon them, and the strife
grew fierce and desperate. The iron hedge of spears was well-nigh
broken, and now the Wanderer, doing such deeds as had not been known
in Khem, stood alone between Meriamun the Queen and the swords that
thirsted for her life and the life of Pharaoh. Then of a sudden, from
far down the great hall of banquets, there came a loud cry that
shrilled above the clash of swords, the groans of men, and all the din
of battle.

"/Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!/" rose a voice. "Now wilt thou let the
people go?"

Then he who smote stayed his hand and he who guarded dropped his
shield. The battle ceased and all turned to look. There at the end of
the hall, among the dead and dying, there stood the two ancient men of
the Apura, and in their hands were cedar rods.

"It is the Wizards--the Wizards of the Apura," men cried, and shrunk
this way and that, thinking no more on war.

The ancient men drew nigh. They took no heed of the dying or the dead:
on they walked, through blood and wine and fallen tables and scattered
arms, till they stood before the Pharaoh.

"/Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!/" they cried again. "Dead are the first-
born of Khem at the hand of Jahveh. Wilt thou let the people go?"

Then Pharaoh lifted his face and cried:

"Get you gone--you and all that is yours. Get you gone swiftly, and
let Khem see your face no more."

The people heard, and the living left the hall, and silence fell on
the city, and on the dead who died of the sword, and the dead who died
of the pestilence. Silence fell, and sleep, and the Gods' best gift--



Even out of this night of dread the morning rose, and with it came
Rei, bearing a message from the King. But he did not find the Wanderer
in his chamber. The Palace eunuchs said that he had risen and had
asked for Kurri, the Captain of the Sidonians, who was now the Queen's
Jeweller. Thither Rei went, for Kurri was lodged with the servants in
a court of the Royal House, and as the old man came he heard the sound
of hammers beating on metal. There, in the shadow which the Palace
wall cast into a little court, there was the Wanderer; no longer in
his golden mail, but with bare arms, and dressed in such a light smock
as the workmen of Khem were wont to wear.

The Wanderer was bending over a small brazier, whence a flame and a
light blue smoke arose and melted into the morning light. In his hand
he held a small hammer, and he had a little anvil by him, on which lay
one of the golden shoulder-plates of his armour. The other pieces were
heaped beside the brazier. Kurri, the Sidonian, stood beside him, with
graving tools in his hands.

"Hail to thee, Eperitus," cried Rei, calling him by the name he had
chosen to give himself. "What makest thou here with fire and anvil?"

"I am but furbishing up my armour," said the Wanderer, smiling. "It
has more than one dint from the fight in the hall;" and he pointed to
his shield, which was deeply scarred across the blazon of the White
Bull, the cognizance of dead Paris, Priam's son. "Sidonian, blow up
the fire."

Kurri crouched on his hams and blew the blaze to a white heat with a
pair of leathern bellows, while the Wanderer fitted the plates and
hammered at them on the anvil, making the jointures smooth and strong,
talking meanwhile with Rei.

"Strange work for a prince, as thou must be in Alybas, whence thou
comest," quoth Rei, leaning on his long rod of cedar, headed with an
apple of bluestone. "In our country chiefs do not labour with their

"Different lands, different ways," answered Eperitus. "In my country
men wed not their sisters as your kings do, though, indeed, it comes
into my mind that once I met such brides in my wanderings in the isle
of the King of the Winds."

For the thought of the olian isle, where King olus gave him all the
winds in a bag, came into his memory.

"My hands can serve me in every need," he went on. "Mowing the deep
green grass in spring, or driving oxen, or cutting a clean furrow with
the plough in heavy soil, or building houses and ships, or doing
smith's work with gold and bronze and grey iron--they are all one to

"Or the work of war," said Rei. "For there I have seen thee labour.
Now, listen, thou Wanderer, the King Meneptah and the Queen Meriamun
send me to thee with this scroll of their will," and he drew forth a
roll of papyrus, bound with golden threads, and held it on his
forehead, bowing, as if he prayed.

"What is that roll of thine?" said the Wanderer, who was hammering at
the bronze spear-point, that stood fast in his helm.

Rei undid the golden threads and opened the scroll, which he gave into
the Wanderer's hand.

"Gods! What have we here?" said the Wanderer. "Here are pictures, tiny
and cunningly drawn, serpents in red, and little figures of men
sitting or standing, axes and snakes and birds and beetles! My father,
what tokens are these?" and he gave the scroll back to Rei.

"The King has made his Chief Scribe write to thee, naming thee Captain
of the Legion of Pasht, the Guard of the Royal House, for last night
the Captain was slain. He gives thee a high title, and he promises
thee houses, lands, and a city of the South to furnish thee with wine,
and a city of the North to furnish thee with corn, if thou wilt be his

"Never have I served any man," said the Wanderer, flushing red,
"though I went near to being sold and to knowing the day of slavery.
The King does me too much honour."

"Thou wouldest fain begone from Khem?" asked the old man, eagerly.

"I would fain find her I came to seek, wherever she may be," said the
Wanderer. "Here or otherwhere."

"Then, what answer shall I carry to the King?"

"Time brings thought," said the Wanderer; "I would see the city if
thou wilt guide me. Many cities have I seen, but none so great as
this. As we walk I will consider my answer to your King."

He had been working at his helm as he spoke, for the rest of his
armour was now mended. He had drawn out the sharp spear-head of
bronze, and was balancing it in his hand and trying its edge.

"A good blade," he said; "better was never hammered. It went near to
doing its work, Sidonian," and he turned to Kurri as he spoke. "Two
things of thine I had: thy life and thy spear-point. Thy life I gave
thee, thy spear-point thou didst lend me. Here, take it again," and he
tossed the spear-head to the Queen's Jeweller.

"I thank thee, lord," answered the Sidonian, thrusting it in his
girdle; but he muttered between his teeth, "The gifts of enemies are
gifts of evil."

The Wanderer did on his mail, set the helmet on his head, and spoke to
Rei. "Come forth, friend, and show me thy city."

But Rei was watching the smile on the face of the Sidonian, and he
deemed it cruel and crafty and warlike, like the laugh of the Sardana
of the sea. He said nought, but called a guard of soldiers, and with
the Wanderer he passed the Palace gates and went out into the city.

The sight was strange, and it was not thus that the old man, who loved
his land, would have had the Wanderer see it.

From all the wealthy houses, and from many of the poorer sort, rang
the wail of the women mourners as they sang their dirges for the dead.

But in the meaner quarters many a hovel was marked with three smears
of blood, dashed on each pillar of the door and on the lintel; and the
sound that came from these dwellings was the cry of mirth and
festival. There were two peoples; one laughed, one lamented. And in
and out of the houses marked with the splashes of blood women were
ever going with empty hands, or coming with hands full of jewels, of
gold, of silver rings, of cups, and purple stuffs. Empty they went
out, laden they came in, dark men and women with keen black eyes and
the features of birds of prey. They went, they came, they clamoured
with delight among the mourning of the men and women of Khem, and none
laid a hand on them, none refused them.

One tall fellow snatched at the staff of Rei.

"Lend me thy staff, old man," he said, sneering; "lend me thy jewelled
staff for my journey. I do but borrow it; when Yakb comes from the
desert thou shalt have it again."

But the Wanderer turned on the fellow with such a glance that he fell

"I have seen /thee/ before," he said, and he laughed over his shoulder
as he went; "I saw thee last night at the feast, and heard thy great
bow sing. Thou art not of the folk of Khem. They are a gentle folk,
and Yakb wins favour in their sight."

"What passes now in this haunted land of thine, old man?" said the
Wanderer, "for of all the sights that I have seen, this is the
strangest. None lifts a hand to save his goods from the thief."

Rei the Priest groaned aloud.

"Evil days have come upon Khem," he said. "The Apura spoil the people
of Khem ere they fly into the Wilderness."

Even as he spoke there came a great lady weeping, for her husband was
dead, and her son and her brother, all were gone in the breath of the
pestilence. She was of the Royal House, and richly decked with gold
and jewels, and the slaves who fanned her, as she went to the Temple
of Ptah to worship, wore gold chains upon their necks. Two women of
the Apura saw her and ran to her, crying:

"Lend to us those golden ornaments thou wearest."

Then, without a word, she took her gold bracelets and chains and
rings, and let them all fall in a heap at her feet. The women of the
Apura took them all and mocked her, crying:

"Where now is thy husband and thy son and thy brother, thou who art of
Pharaoh's house? Now thou payest us for the labour of our hands and
for the bricks that we made without straw, gathering leaves and rushes
in the sun. Now thou payest for the stick in the hand of the
overseers. Where now is thy husband and thy son and thy brother?" and
they went still mocking, and left the lady weeping.

But of all sights the Wanderer held this strangest, and many such
there were to see. At first he would have taken back the spoil and
given it to those who wore it, but Rei the Priest prayed him to
forbear, lest the curse should strike them also. So they pressed on
through the tumult, ever seeing new sights of greed and death and
sorrow. Here a mother wept over her babe, here a bride over her
husband--that night the groom of her and of death. Here the fierce-
faced Apura, clamouring like gulls, tore the silver trinkets from the
children of those of the baser sort, or the sacred amulets from the
mummies of those who were laid out for burial, and here a water-
carrier wailed over the carcass of the ass that won him his

At length, passing through the crowd, they came to a temple that stood
near to the Temple of the God Ptah. The pylons of this temple faced
towards the houses of the city, but the inner courts were built
against the walls of Tanis and looked out across the face of the
water. Though not one of the largest temples, it was very strong and
beautiful in its shape. It was built of the black stone of Syene, and
all the polished face of the stone was graven with images of the Holy
Hathor. Here she wore a cow's head, and here the face of a woman, but
she always bore in her hands the lotus-headed staff and the holy token
of life, and her neck was encircled with the collar of the gods.

"Here dwells that Strange Hathor to whom thou didst drink last night,
Eperitus," said Rei the Priest. "It was a wild pledge to drink before
the Queen, who swears that she brings these woes on Khem. Though,
indeed, she is guiltless of this, with all the blood on her beautiful
head. The Apura and their apostate sorcerer, whom we ourselves
instructed, bring the plagues on us."

"Does the Hathor manifest herself this day?" asked the Wanderer.

"That we will ask of the priests, Eperitus. Follow thou me."

Now they passed down the avenue of sphinxes within the wall of brick,
into the garden plot of the Goddess, and so on through the gates of
the outer tower. A priest who watched there threw them wide at the
sign that was given of Rei, the Master-Builder, the beloved of
Pharaoh, and they came to the outer court. Before the second tower
they halted, and Rei showed to the Wanderer that place upon the pylon
roof where the Hathor was wont to stand and sing till the hearers'
hearts were melted like wax. Here they knocked once more, and were
admitted to the Hall of Assembly where the priests were gathered,
throwing dust upon their heads and mourning those among them who had
died with the Firstborn. When they saw Rei, the instructed, the
Prophet of Amen, and the Wanderer clad in golden armour who was with
him, they ceased from their mourning, and an ancient priest of their
number came forward, and, greeting Rei, asked him of his errand. Then
Rei took the Wanderer by the hand and made him known to the priest,
and told him of those deeds that he had done, and how he had saved the
life of Pharaoh and of those of the Royal House who sat at the feast
with Pharaoh.

"But when will the Lady Hathor sing upon her tower top?" said Rei,
"for the Stranger desires to see her and hear her."

The temple priest bowed before the Wanderer, and answered gravely:

"On the third morn from now the Holy Hathor shows herself upon the
temple's top," he said; "but thou, mighty lord, who art risen from the
sea, hearken to my warning, and if, indeed, thou art no god, dare not
to look upon her beauty. If thou dost look, then thy fate shall be as
the fate of those who have looked before, and have loved and have died
for the sake of the Hathor."

"No god am I," said the Wanderer, laughing, "yet, perchance, I shall
dare to look, and dare to face whatever it be that guards her, if my
heart bids me see her nearer."

"Then there shall be an end of thee and thy wanderings," said the
priest. "Now follow me, and I will show thee those men who last sought
to win the Hathor."

He took him by the hand and led him through passages hewn in the walls
till they came to a deep and gloomy cell, where the golden armour of
the Wanderer shone like a lamp at eve. The cell was built against the
city wall, and scarcely a thread of light came into the chink between
roof and wall. All about the chamber were baths fashioned of bronze,
and in the baths lay dusky shapes of dark-skinned men of Egypt. There
they lay, and in the faint light their limbs were being anointed by
some sad-faced attendants, as folk were anointed by merry girls in the
shining baths of the Wanderer's home. When Rei and Eperitus came near,
the sad-faced bath-men shrank away in shame, as dogs shrink from their
evil meat at night when a traveller goes past.

Marvelling at the strange sight, the bathers and the bathed, the
Wanderer looked more closely, and his stout heart sank within him. For
all these were dead who lay in the baths of bronze, and it was not
water that flowed about their limbs, but evil-smelling natron.

"Here lie those," said the priest, "who last strove to come near the
Holy Hathor, and to pass into the shrine of the temple where night and
day she sits and sings and weaves with her golden shuttle. Here they
lie, the half of a score. One by one they rushed to embrace her, and
one by one they were smitten down. Here they are being attired for the
tomb, for we give them all rich burial."

"Truly," quoth the Wanderer, "I left the world of Light behind me when
I looked on the blood-red sea and sailed into the black gloom off
Pharos. More evil sights have I seen in this haunted land than in all
the cities where I have wandered, and on all the seas that I have

"Then be warned," said the priest, "for if thou dost follow where they
went, and desire what they desired, thou too shalt lie in yonder bath,
and be washed of yonder waters. For whatever be false, this is true,
that he who seeks love ofttimes finds doom. But here he finds it most

The Wanderer looked again at the dead and at their ministers, and he
shuddered till his harness rattled. He feared not the face of Death in
war, or on the sea, but this was a new thing. Little he loved the
sight of the brazen baths and those who lay there. The light of the
sun and the breath of air seemed good to him, and he stepped quickly
from the chamber, while the priest smiled to himself. But when he
reached the outer air, his heart came back to him, and he began to ask
again about the Hathor--where she dwelt, and what it was that slew her

"I will show thee," answered the priest, and brought him through the
Hall of Assembly to a certain narrow way that led to a court. In the
centre of the court stood the holy shrine of the Hathor. It was a
great chamber, built of alabaster, lighted from the roof alone, and
shut in with brazen doors, before which hung curtains of Tyrian web.
From the roof of the shrine a stairway ran overhead to the roof of the
temple and so to the inner pylon tower.

"Yonder, Stranger, the holy Goddess dwells within the Alabaster
Shrine," said the priest. "By that stair she passes to the temple
roof, and thence to the pylon top. There by the curtains, once in
every day, we place food, and it is drawn into the sanctuary, how we
know not, for none of us have set foot there, nor seen the Hathor face
to face. Now, when the Goddess has stood upon the pylon and sung to
the multitude below, she passes back to the shrine. Then the brazen
outer doors of the temple court are thrown wide and the doomed rush on
madly, one by one, towards the drawn curtains. But before they pass
the curtains they are thrust back, yet they strive to pass. Then we
hear a sound of the clashing of weapons and the men fall dead without
a word, while the song of the Hathor swells from within."

"And who are her swordsmen?" said the Wanderer.

"That we know not, Stranger; no man has lived to tell. Come, draw near
to the door of the shrine and hearken, maybe thou wilt hear the Hathor
singing. Have no fear; thou needst not approach the guarded space."

Then the Wanderer drew near with a doubting heart, but Rei the Priest
stood afar off, though the temple priests came close enough. At the
curtains they stopped and listened. Then from within the shrine there
came a sound of singing wild and sweet and shrill, and the voice of it
stirred the Wanderer strangely, bringing to his mind memories of that
Ithaca of which he was Lord and which he should see no more; of the
happy days of youth, and of the God-built walls of windy Ilios. But he
could not have told why he thought on these things, nor why his heart
was thus strangely stirred within him.

"Hearken! the Hathor sings as she weaves the doom of men," said the
priest, and as he spoke the singing ended.

Then the Wanderer took counsel with himself whether he should then and
there burst the doors and take his fortune, or whether he should
forbear for that while. But in the end he determined to forbear and
see with his own eyes what befell those who strove to win the way.

So he drew back, wondering much; and, bidding farewell to the aged
priest, he went with Rei, the Master Builder, through the town of
Tanis, where the Apura were still spoiling the people of Khem, and he
came to the Palace where he was lodged. Here he turned over in his
mind how he might see the strange woman of the temple, and yet escape
the baths of bronze. There he sat and thought till at length the night
drew on, and one came to summon him to sup with Pharaoh in the Hall.
Then he rose up and went, and meeting Pharaoh and Meriamun the Queen
in the outer chamber, passed in after them to the Hall, and on to the
das which he had held against the rabble, for the place was clear of
dead, and, save for certain stains upon the marble floor that might
not be washed away, and for some few arrows that yet were fixed high
up in the walls or in the lofty roof, there was nothing to tell of the
great fray that had been fought but one day gone.

Heavy was the face of Pharaoh, and the few who sat with him were sad
enough because of the death of so many whom they loved, and the shame
and sorrow that had fallen upon Khem. But there were no tears for her
one child in the eyes of Meriamun the Queen. Anger, not grief, tore
her heart because Pharaoh had let the Apura go. For ever as they sat
at the sad feast there came a sound of the tramping feet of armies,
and of lowing cattle, and songs of triumph, sung by ten thousand
voices, and thus they sang the song of the Apura:--

A lamp for our feet the Lord hath litten,
Signs hath He shown in the Land of Khem.
The Kings of the Nations our Lord hath smitten,
His shoe hath He cast o'er the Gods of them.
He hath made Him a mock of the heifer of Isis,
He hath broken the chariot reins of Ra,
On Yakb He cries, and His folk arises,
And the knees of the Nation are loosed in awe.

He gives us their goods for a spoil to gather,
Jewels of silver, and vessels of gold;
For Yahveh of old is our Friend and Father,
And cherisheth Yakb He chose of old.
The Gods of the Peoples our Lord hath chidden,
Their courts hath He filled with His creeping things;
The light of the face of the Sun he hath hidden,
And broken the scourge in the hands of kings.

He hath chastened His people with stripes and scourges,
Our backs hath He burdened with grievous weights,
But His children shall rise as a sea that surges,
And flood the fields of the men He hates.
The Kings of the Nations our Lord hath smitten,
His shoe hath He cast o'er the Gods of them,
But a lamp for our feet the Lord hath litten,
Wonders hath he wrought in the Land of Khem.

Thus they sang, and the singing was so wild that the Wanderer craved
leave to go and stand at the Palace gate, lest the Apura should rush
in and spoil the treasure-chamber.

The King nodded, but Meriamun rose, and went with the Wanderer as he
took his bow and passed to the great gates.

There they stood in the shadow of the gates, and this is what they
beheld. A great light of many torches was flaring along the roadway in
front. Then came a body of men, rudely armed with pikes, and the
torchlight shone on the glitter of bronze and on the gold helms of
which they had spoiled the soldiers of Khem. Next came a troop of wild
women, dancing, and beating timbrels, and singing the triumphant hymn
of scorn.

Next, with a space between, tramped eight strong black-bearded men,
bearing on their shoulders a great gilded coffin, covered with carven
and painted signs.

"It is the body of their Prophet, who brought them hither out of their
land of hunger," whispered Meriamun. "Slaves, ye shall hunger yet in
the wilderness, and clamour for the flesh-pots of Khem!"

Then she cried in a loud voice, for her passion overcame her, and she
prophesied to those who bare the coffin, "Not one soul of you that
lives shall see the land where your conjurer is leading you! Ye shall
thirst, ye shall hunger, ye shall call on the Gods of Khem, and they
shall not hear you; ye shall die, and your bones shall whiten the
wilderness. Farewell! Set go with you. Farewell!"

So she cried and pointed down the way, and so fierce was her gaze, and
so awful were her words, that the people of the Apura trembled and the
women ceased to sing.

The Wanderer watched the Queen and marvelled. "Never had woman such a
hardy heart," he mused; "and it were ill to cross her in love or war!"

"They will sing no more at my gates," murmured Meriamun, with a smile.
"Come, Wanderer; they await us," and she gave him her hand that he
might lead her.

So they went back to the banquet hall.

They hearkened as they sat till far in the night, and still the Apura
passed, countless as the sands of the sea. At length all were gone,
and the sound of their feet died away in the distance. Then Meriamun
the Queen turned to Pharaoh and spake bitterly:

"Thou art a coward, Meneptah, ay, a coward and a slave at heart. In
thy fear of the curse that the False Hathor hath laid on us, she whom
thou dost worship, to thy shame, thou hast let these slaves go.
Otherwise had our father dealt with them, great Rameses Miamun, the
hammer of the Khita. Now they are gone hissing curses on the land that
bare them, and robbing those who nursed them up while they were yet a
little people, as a mother nurses her child."

"What then might I do?" said Pharaoh.

"There is nought to do: all is done," answered Meriamun.

"What is thy counsel, Wanderer?"

"It is ill for a stranger to offer counsel," said the Wanderer.

"Nay, speak," cried the Queen.

"I know not the Gods of this land," he answered. "If these people be
favoured of the Gods, I say sit still. But if not," then said the
Wanderer, wise in war, "let Pharaoh gather his host, follow after the
people, take them unawares, and smite them utterly. It is no hard
task, they are so mixed a multitude and cumbered with much baggage!"

This was to speak as the Queen loved to hear. Now she clapped her
hands and cried:

"Listen, listen to good counsel, Pharaoh."

And now that the Apura were gone, his fear of them went also, and as
he drank wine Pharaoh grew bold, till at last he sprang to his feet
and swore by Amen, by Osiris, by Ptah, and by his father--great
Rameses--that he would follow after the Apura and smite them. And
instantly he sent forth messengers to summon the captains of his host
in the Hall of Assembly.

Thither the captains came, and their plans were made and messengers
hurried forth to the governors of other great cities, bidding them
send troops to join the host of Pharaoh on its march.

Now Pharaoh turned to the Wanderer and said:

"Thou hast not yet answered my message that Rei carried to thee this
morning. Wilt thou take service with me and be a captain in this war?"

The Wanderer little liked the name of service, but his warlike heart
was stirred within him, for he loved the delight of battle. But before
he could answer yea or nay, Meriamun the Queen, who was not minded
that he should leave her, spoke hastily:

"This is my counsel, Meneptah, that the Lord Eperitus should abide
here in Tanis and be the Captain of my Guard while thou art gone to
smite the Apura. For I may not be here unguarded in these troublous
times, and if I know he watches over me, he who is so mighty a man,
then I shall walk safely and sleep in peace."

Now the Wanderer bethought him of his desire to look upon the Hathor,
for to see new things and try new adventures was always his delight.
So he answered that if it were pleasing to Pharaoh and the Queen he
would willingly stay and command the Guard. And Pharaoh said that it
should be so.



At midday on the morrow Pharaoh and the host of Pharaoh marched in
pomp from Tanis, taking the road that runs across the desert country
towards the Red Sea of Weeds, the way that the Apura had gone. The
Wanderer went with the army for an hour's journey and more, in a
chariot driven by Rei the Priest, for Rei did not march with the host.
The number of the soldiers of Pharaoh amazed the Achan, accustomed to
the levies of barren isles and scattered tribes. But he said nothing
of his wonder to Rei or any man, lest it should be thought that he
came from among a little people. He even made as if he held the army
lightly, and asked the priest if this was all the strength of Pharaoh!
Then Rei told him that it was but a fourth part, for none of the
mercenaries and none of the soldiers from the Upper Land marched with
the King in pursuit of the Apura.

Then the Wanderer knew that he was come among a greater people than he
had ever encountered yet, on land or sea. So he went with them till
the roads divided, and there he drove his chariot to the chariot of
Pharaoh and bade him farewell. Pharaoh called to him to mount his own
chariot, and spake thus to him:

"Swear to me, thou Wanderer, who namest thyself Eperitus, though of
what country thou art and what was thy father's house none know, swear
to me that thou wilt guard Meriamun the Queen faithfully, and wilt
work no woe upon me nor open my house while I am afar. Great thou art
and beautiful to look on, ay, and strong enough beyond the strength of
men, yet my heart misdoubts me of thee. For methinks thou art a crafty
man, and that evil will come upon me through thee."

"If this be thy mind, Pharaoh," said the Wanderer, "leave me not in
guard of the Queen. And yet methinks I did not befriend thee so ill
two nights gone, when the rabble would have put thee and all thy house
to the sword because of the death of the firstborn."

Now Pharaoh looked on him long and doubtfully, then stretched out his
hand. The Wanderer took it, and swore by his own Gods, by Zeus, by
Aphrodite, and Athene, and Apollo, that he would be true to the trust.

"I believe thee, Wanderer," said Pharaoh. "Know this, if thou keepest
thine oath thou shalt have great rewards, and thou shalt be second to
none in the land of Khem, but if thou failest, then thou shalt die

"I ask no fee," answered the Wanderer, "and I fear no death, for in
one way only shall I die, and that is known to me. Yet I will keep my
oath." And he bowed before Pharaoh, and leaping from his chariot
entered again into the chariot of Rei.

Now, as he drove back through the host the soldiers called to him,

"Leave us not, Wanderer." For he looked so glorious in his golden
armour that it seemed to them as though a god departed from their

His heart was with them, for he loved war, and he did not love the
Apura. But he drove on, as so it must be, and came to the Palace at

That night he sat at the feast by the side of Meriamun the Queen. And
when the feast was done she bade him follow her into her chamber where
she sat when she would be alone. It was a fragrant chamber, dimly
lighted with sweet-scented lamps, furnished with couches of ivory and
gold, while all the walls told painted stories of strange gods and
kings, and of their loves and wars. The Queen sank back upon the
embroidered cushions of a couch and bade the wise Odysseus to sit
guard over against her, so near that her robes swept his golden
greaves. This he did somewhat against his will, though he was no hater
of fair women. But his heart misdoubted the dark-eyed Queen, and he
looked upon her guardedly, for she was strangely fair to see, the
fairest of all mortal women whom he had known, save the Golden Helen.

"Wanderer, we owe thee great thanks, and I would gladly know to whom
we are in debt for the prices of our lives," she said. "Tell me of thy
birth, of thy father's house, and of the lands that thou hast seen and
the wars wherein thou hast fought. Tell me also of the sack of Ilios,
and how thou camest by thy golden mail. The unhappy Paris wore such
arms as these, if the minstrel of the North sang truth."

Now, the Wanderer would gladly have cursed this minstrel of the North
and his songs.

"Minstrels will be lying, Lady," he said, "and they gather old tales
wherever they go. Paris may have worn my arms, or another man. I
bought them from a chapman in Crete, and asked nothing of their first
master. As for Ilios, I fought there in my youth, and served the
Cretan Idomeneus, but I got little booty. To the King the wealth and
women, to us the sword-strokes. Such is the appearance of war."

Meriamun listened to his tale, which he set forth roughly, as if he
were some blunt, grumbling swordsman, and darkly she looked on him
while she hearkened, and darkly she smiled as she looked.

"A strange story, Eperitus, a strange story truly. Now tell me thus.
How camest thou by yonder great bow, the bow of the swallow string? If
my minstrel spoke truly, it was once the Bow of Eurytus of chalia."

Now the Wanderer glanced round him like a man taken in ambush, who
sees on every hand the sword of foes shine up into the sunlight.

"The bow, Lady?" he answered readily enough. "I got it strangely. I
was cruising with a cargo of iron on the western coast and landed on
an isle, methinks the pilot called it Ithaca. There we found nothing
but death; a pestilence had been in the land, but in a ruined hall
this bow was lying, and I made prize of it. A good bow!"

"A strange story, truly--a very strange story," quoth Meriamun the
Queen. "By chance thou didst buy the armour of Paris, by chance thou
didst find the bow of Eurytus, that bow, methinks, with which the god-
like Odysseus slew the wooers in his halls. Knowest thou, Eperitus,
that when thou stoodest yonder on the board in the Place of Banquets,
when the great bow twanged and the long shafts hailed down on the hall
and loosened the knees of many, not a little was I put in mind of the
song of the slaying of the wooers at the hands of Odysseus. The fame
of Odysseus has wandered far--ay, even to Khem." And she looked
straight at him.

The Wanderer darkened his face and put the matter by. He had heard
something of that tale, he said, but deemed it a minstrel's feigning.
One man could not fight a hundred, as the story went.

The Queen half rose from the couch where she lay curled up like a
glittering snake. Like a snake she rose and watched him with her
melancholy eyes.

"Strange, indeed--most strange that Odysseus, Laertes' son, Odysseus
of Ithaca, should not know the tale of the slaying of the wooers by
Odysseus' self. Strange, indeed, thou Eperitus, who art Odysseus."

Now the neck of the Wanderer was in the noose, and well he knew it:
yet he kept his counsel, and looked upon her vacantly.

"Men say that this Odysseus wandered years ago into the North, and
that this time he will not come again. I saw him in the wars, and he
was a taller man than I," said the Wanderer.

"I have always heard," said the Queen, "that Odysseus was double-
tongued and crafty as a fox. Look me in the eyes, thou Wanderer, look
me in the eyes, and I will show thee whether or not thou art
Odysseus," and she leaned forward so that her hair well-nigh swept his
brow, and gazed deep into his eyes.

Now the Wanderer was ashamed to drop his eyes before a woman's, and he
could not rise and go; so he must needs gaze, and as he gazed his head
grew strangely light and the blood quivered in his veins, and then
seemed to stop.

"Now turn, thou Wanderer," said the voice of the Queen, and to him it
sounded far away, as if there was a wall between them, "and tell me
what thou seest."

So he turned and looked towards the dark end of the chamber. But
presently through the darkness stole a faint light, like the first
grey light of the dawn, and now he saw a shape, like the shape of a
great horse of wood, and behind the horse were black square towers of
huge stones, and gates, and walls, and houses. Now he saw a door open
in the side of the horse, and the helmeted head of a man look out
wearily. As he looked a great white star slid down the sky so that the
light of it rested on the face of the man, and that face was his own!
Then he remembered how he had looked forth from the belly of the
wooden horse as it stood within the walls of Ilios, and thus the star
had seemed to fall upon the doomed city, an omen of the end of Troy.

"Look again," said the voice of Meriamun from far away.

So once more he looked into the darkness, and there he saw the mouth
of a cave, and beneath two palms in front of it sat a man and a woman.
The yellow moon rose and its light fell upon a sleeping sea, upon tall
trees, upon the cave, and the two who sat there. The woman was lovely,
with braided hair, and clad in a shining robe, and her eyes were dim
with tears that she might never shed: for she was a Goddess, Calypso,
the daughter of Atlas. Then in the vision the man looked up, and his
face was weary, and worn and sick for home, but it was his own face.

Then he remembered how he had sat thus at the side of Calypso of the
braided tresses, on that last night of all his nights in her wave-girt
isle, the centre of the seas.

"Look once more," said the voice of Meriamun the Queen.

Again he looked into the darkness. There before him grew the ruins of
his own hall in Ithaca, and in the courtyard before the hall was a
heap of ashes, and the charred bones of men. Before the heap lay the
figure of one lost in sorrow, for his limbs writhed upon the ground.
Anon the man lifted his face, and behold! the Wanderer knew that it
was his own face.

Then of a sudden the gloom passed away from the chamber, and once more
his blood surged through his veins, and there before him sat Meriamun
the Queen, smiling darkly.

"Strange sights hast thou seen, is it not so, Wanderer?" she said.

"Yea, Queen, the most strange of sights. Tell me of thy courtesy how
thou didst conjure them before my eyes."

"By the magic that I have, Eperitus, I above all wizards who dwell in
Khem, the magic whereby I can read all the past of those--I love," and
again she looked upon him; "ay, and call it forth from the storehouse
of dead time and make it live again. Say, whose face was it that thou
didst look upon--was it not the face of Odysseus of Ithaca, Laertes'
son, and was not that face thine?"

Now the Wanderer saw that there was no escape. Therefore he spoke the
truth, not because he loved it, but because he must.

"The face of Odysseus of Ithaca it was that I saw before me, Lady, and
that face is mine. I avow myself to be Odysseus, Laertes' son, and no
other man."

The Queen laughed aloud. "Great must be my strength of magic," she
said, "for it can strip the guile from the subtlest of men.
Henceforth, Odysseus, thou wilt know that the eyes of Meriamun the
Queen see far. Now tell me truly: what camest thou hither to seek?"

The Wanderer took swift counsel with himself. Remembering that dream
of Meriamun of which Rei the Priest had told him, and which she knew
not that he had learned, the dream that showed her the vision of one
whom she must love, and remembering the word of the dead Hataska, he
grew afraid. For he saw well by the token of the spear point that he
was the man of her dream, and that she knew it. But he could not
accept her love, both because of his oath to Pharaoh and because of
her whom Aphrodite had shown to him in Ithaca, her whom alone he must
seek, the Heart's Desire, the Golden Helen.

The strait was desperate, between a broken oath and a woman scorned.
But he feared his oath, and the anger of Zeus, the God of hosts and
guests. So he sought safety beneath the wings of truth.

"Lady," he said, "I will tell thee all! I came to Ithaca from the
white north, where a curse had driven me; I came and found my halls
desolate, and my people dead, and the very ashes of my wife. But in a
dream of the night I saw the Goddess whom I have worshipped little,
Aphrodite of Idalia, whom in this land ye name Hathor, and she bade me
go forth and do her will. And for reward she promised me that I should
find one who waited me to be my deathless love."

Meriamun heard him so far, but no further, for of this she made sure,
that /she/ was the woman whom Aphrodite had promised to the Wanderer.
Ere he might speak another word she glided to him like a snake, and
like a snake curled herself about him. Then she spoke so low that he
rather knew her thought than heard her words:

"Was it indeed so, Odysseus? Did the Goddess indeed send thee to seek
me out? Know, then, that not to thee alone did she speak. I also
looked for thee. I also waited the coming of one whom I should love.
Oh, heavy have been the days, and empty was my heart, and sorely
through the years have I longed for him who should be brought to me.
And now at length it is done, now at length I see him whom in my dream
I saw," and she lifted her lips to the lips of the Wanderer, and her
heart, and her eyes, and her lips said "Love."

But it was not for nothing that he bore a stout and patient heart, and
a brain unclouded by danger or by love. He had never been in a strait
like this; caught with bonds that no sword could cut, and in toils
that no skill could undo. On one side were love and pleasure--on the
other a broken oath, and the loss for ever of the Heart's Desire. For
to love another woman, as he had been warned, was to lose Helen. But
again, if he scorned the Queen--nay, for all his hardihood he dared
not tell her that she was not the woman of his vision, the woman he
came to seek. Yet even now his cold courage and his cunning did not
fail him.

"Lady," he said, "we both have dreamed. But if thou didst dream thou
wert my love, thou didst wake to find thyself the wife of Pharaoh. And
Pharaoh is my host and hath my oath."

"I woke to find myself the wife of Pharaoh," she echoed, wearily, and
her arms uncurled from his neck and she sank back on the couch. "I am
Pharaoh's wife in word, but not in deed. Pharaoh is nothing to me,
thou Wanderer--nought save a name."

"Yet is my oath much to me, Queen Meriamun--my oath and the hospitable
hearth," the Wanderer made answer. "I swore to Meneptah to hold thee
from all ill, and there's an end."

"And if Pharaoh comes back no more, what then Odysseus?"

"Then will we talk again. And now, Lady, thy safety calls me to visit
thy Guard." And without more words he rose and went.

The Queen looked after him.

"A strange man," she said in her heart, "who builds a barrier with his
oath betwixt himself and her he loves and has wandered so far to win!
Yet methinks I honour him the more. Pharaoh Meneptah, my husband, eat,
drink, and be merry, for this I promise thee--short shall be thy

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