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Moon of Israel by H. Rider Haggard

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Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@ihug.co.nz
Dagny, dagnyj@hotmail.com
and Emma Dudding, emma_302@hotmail.com

MOON OF ISRAEL
A Tale of the Exodus

by H. Rider Haggard

AUTHOR'S NOTE

This book suggests that the real Pharaoh of the Exodus was not
Meneptah or Merenptah, son of Rameses the Great, but the mysterious
usurper, Amenmeses, who for a year or two occupied the throne between
the death of Meneptah and the accession of his son the heir-apparent,
the gentle-natured Seti II.

Of the fate of Amenmeses history says nothing; he may well have
perished in the Red Sea or rather the Sea of Reeds, for, unlike those
of Meneptah and the second Seti, his body has not been found.

Students of Egyptology will be familiar with the writings of the
scribe and novelist Anana, or Ana as he is here called.

It was the Author's hope to dedicate this story to Sir Gaston Maspero,
K.C.M.G., Director of the Cairo Museum, with whom on several occasions
he discussed its plot some years ago. Unhappily, however, weighed down
by one of the bereavements of the war, this great Egyptologist died in
the interval between its writing and its publication. Still, since
Lady Maspero informs him that such is the wish of his family, he adds
the dedication which he had proposed to offer to that eminent writer
and student of the past.

Dear Sir Gaston Maspero,

When you assured me as to a romance of mine concerning ancient
Egypt, that it was so full of the "inner spirit of the old
Egyptians" that, after kindred efforts of your own and a lifetime
of study, you could not conceive how it had been possible for it
to spring from the brain of a modern man, I thought your verdict,
coming from such a judge, one of the greatest compliments that
ever I received. It is this opinion of yours indeed which induces
me to offer you another tale of a like complexion. Especially am
I encouraged thereto by a certain conversation between us in
Cairo, while we gazed at the majestic countenance of the Pharaoh
Meneptah, for then it was, as you may recall, that you said you
thought the plan of this book probable and that it commended
itself to your knowledge of those dim days.

With gratitude for your help and kindness and the sincerest homage
to your accumulated lore concerning the most mysterious of all the
perished peoples of the earth,
Believe me to remain
Your true admirer,
H. Rider Haggard.

MOON OF ISRAEL

CHAPTER I

SCRIBE ANA COMES TO TANIS

This is the story of me, Ana the scribe, son of Meri, and of certain
of the days that I have spent upon the earth. These things I have
written down now that I am very old in the reign of Rameses, the third
of that name, when Egypt is once more strong and as she was in the
ancient time. I have written them before death takes me, that they may
be buried with me in death, for as my spirit shall arise in the hour
of resurrection, so also these my words may arise in their hour and
tell to those who shall come after me upon the earth of what I knew
upon the earth. Let it be as Those in heaven shall decree. At least I
write and what I write is true.

I tell of his divine Majesty whom I loved and love as my own soul,
Seti Meneptah the second, whose day of birth was my day of birth, the
Hawk who has flown to heaven before me; of Userti the Proud, his
queen, she who afterwards married his divine Majesty, Saptah, whom I
saw laid in her tomb at Thebes. I tell of Merapi, who was named Moon
of Israel, and of her people, the Hebrews, who dwelt for long in Egypt
and departed thence, having paid us back in loss and shame for all the
good and ill we gave them. I tell of the war between the gods of Egypt
and the god of Israel, and of much that befell therein.

Also I, the King's Companion, the great scribe, the beloved of the
Pharaohs who have lived beneath the sun with me, tell of other men and
matters. Behold! is it not written in this roll? Read, ye who shall
find in the days unborn, if your gods have given you skill. Read, O
children of the future, and learn the secrets of that past which to
you is so far away and yet in truth so near.

As it chanced, although the Prince Seti and I were born upon the same
day and therefore, like the other mothers of gentle rank whose
children saw the light upon that day, my mother received Pharaoh's
gift and I received the title of Royal Twin in Ra, never did I set
eyes upon the divine Prince Seti until the thirtieth birthday of both
of us. All of which happened thus.

In those days the great Pharaoh, Rameses the second, and after him his
son Meneptah who succeeded when he was already old, since the mighty
Rameses was taken to Osiris after he had counted one hundred risings
of the Nile, dwelt for the most part at the city of Tanis in the
desert, whereas I dwelt with my parents at the ancient, white-walled
city of Memphis on the Nile. At times Meneptah and his court visited
Memphis, as also they visited Thebes, where this king lies in his
royal tomb to-day. But save on one occasion, the young Prince Seti,
the heir-apparent, the Hope of Egypt, came not with them, because his
mother, Asnefert, did not favour Memphis, where some trouble had
befallen her in youth--they say it was a love matter that cost the
lover his life and her a sore heart--and Seti stayed with his mother
who would not suffer him out of sight of her eyes.

Once he came indeed when he was fifteen years of age, to be proclaimed
to the people as son of his father, as Son of the Sun, as the future
wearer of the Double Crown, and then we, his twins in Ra--there were
nineteen of us who were gently born--were called by name to meet him
and to kiss his royal feet. I made ready to go in a fine new robe
embroidered in purple with the name of Seti and my own. But on that
very morning by the gift of some evil god I was smitten with spots all
over my face and body, a common sickness that affects the young. So it
happened that I did not see the Prince, for before I was well again he
had left Memphis.

Now my father Meri was a scribe of the great temple of Ptah, and I was
brought up to his trade in the school of the temple, where I copied
many rolls and also wrote out Books of the Dead which I adorned with
paintings. Indeed, in this business I became so clever that, after my
father went blind some years before his death, I earned enough to keep
him, and my sisters also until they married. Mother I had none, for
she was gathered to Osiris while I was still very little. So life went
on from year to year, but in my heart I hated my lot. While I was
still a boy there rose up in me a desire--not to copy what others had
written, but to write what others should copy. I became a dreamer of
dreams. Walking at night beneath the palm-trees upon the banks of the
Nile I watched the moon shining upon the waters, and in its rays I
seemed to see many beautiful things. Pictures appeared there which
were different from any that I saw in the world of men, although in
them were men and women and even gods.

Of these pictures I made stories in my heart and at last, although
that was not for some years, I began to write these stories down in my
spare hours. My sisters found me doing so and told my father, who
scolded me for such foolishness which he said would never furnish me
with bread and beer. But still I wrote on in secret by the light of
the lamp in my chamber at night. Then my sisters married, and one day
my father died suddenly while he was reciting prayers in the temple. I
caused him to be embalmed in the best fashion and buried with honour
in the tomb he had made ready for himself, although to pay the costs I
was obliged to copy Books of the Dead for nearly two years, working so
hard that I found no time for the writing of stories.

When at length I was free from debt I met a maiden from Thebes with a
beautiful face that always seemed to smile, and she took my heart from
my breast into her own. In the end, after I returned from fighting in
the war against the Nine Bow Barbarians, to which I was summoned like
other men, I married her. As for her name, let it be, I will not think
of it even to myself. We had one child, a little girl which died
within two years of her birth, and then I learned what sorrow can mean
to man. At first my wife was sad, but her grief departed with time and
she smiled again as she used to do. Only she said that she would bear
no more children for the gods to take. Having little to do she began
to go about the city and make friends whom I did not know, for of
these, being a beautiful woman, she found many. The end of it was that
she departed back to Thebes with a soldier whom I had never seen, for
I was always working at home thinking of the babe who was dead and how
happiness is a bird that no man can snare, though sometimes, of its
own will, it flies in at his window-place.

It was after this that my hair went white before I had counted thirty
years.

Now, as I had none to work for and my wants were few and simple, I
found more time for the writing of stories which, for the most part,
were somewhat sad. One of these stories a fellow scribe borrowed from
me and read aloud to a company, whom it pleased so much that there
were many who asked leave to copy it and publish it abroad. So by
degrees I became known as a teller of tales, which tales I caused to
be copied and sold, though out of them I made but little. Still my
fame grew till on a day I received a message from the Prince Seti, my
twin in Ra, saying that he had read certain of my writings which
pleased him much and that it was his wish to look upon my face. I
thanked him humbly by the messenger and answered that I would travel
to Tanis and wait upon his Highness. First, however, I finished the
longest story which I had yet written. It was called the Tale of Two
Brothers, and told how the faithless wife of one of them brought
trouble on the other, so that he was killed. Of how, also, the just
gods brought him to life again, and many other matters. This story I
dedicated to his Highness, the Prince Seti, and with it in the bosom
of my robe I travelled to Tanis, having hidden about me a sum of gold
that I had saved.

So I came to Tanis at the beginning of winter and, walking to the
palace of the Prince, boldly demanded an audience. But now my troubles
began, for the guards and watchmen thrust me from the doors. In the
end I bribed them and was admitted to the antechambers, where were
merchants, jugglers, dancing-women, officers, and many others, all of
them, it seemed, waiting to see the Prince; folk who, having nothing
to do, pleased themselves by making mock of me, a stranger. When I had
mixed with them for several days, I gained their friendship by telling
to them one of my stories, after which I was always welcome among
them. Still I could come no nearer to the Prince, and as my store of
money was beginning to run low, I bethought me that I would return to
Memphis.

One day, however, a long-bearded old man, with a gold-tipped wand of
office, who had a bull's head embroidered on his robe, stopped in
front of me and, calling me a white-headed crow, asked me what I was
doing hopping day by day about the chambers of the palace. I told him
my name and business and he told me his, which it seemed was Pambasa,
one of the Prince's chamberlains. When I asked him to take me to the
Prince, he laughed in my face and said darkly that the road to his
Highness's presence was paved with gold. I understood what he meant
and gave him a gift which he took as readily as a cock picks corn,
saying that he would speak of me to his master and that I must come
back again.

I came thrice and each time that old cock picked more corn. At last I
grew enraged and, forgetting where I was, began to shout at him and
call him a thief, so that folks gathered round to listen. This seemed
to frighten him. At first he looked towards the door as though to
summon the guard to thrust me out; then changed his mind, and in a
grumbling voice bade me follow him. We went down long passages, past
soldiers who stood at watch in them still as mummies in their coffins,
till at length we came to some broidered curtains. Here Pambasa
whispered to me to wait, and passed through the curtains which he left
not quite closed, so that I could see the room beyond and hear all
that took place there.

It was a small room like to that of any scribe, for on the tables were
palettes, pens of reed, ink in alabaster vases, and sheets of papyrus
pinned upon boards. The walls were painted, not as I was wont to paint
the Books of the Dead, but after the fashion of an earlier time, such
as I have seen in certain ancient tombs, with pictures of wild fowl
rising from the swamps and of trees and plants as they grow. Against
the walls hung racks in which were papyrus rolls, and on the hearth
burned a fire of cedar-wood.

By this fire stood the Prince, whom I knew from his statues. His years
appeared fewer than mine although we were born upon the same day, and
he was tall and thin, very fair also for one of our people, perhaps
because of the Syrian blood that ran in his veins. His hair was
straight and brown like to that of northern folk who come to trade in
the markets of Egypt, and his eyes were grey rather than black, set
beneath somewhat prominent brows such as those of his father,
Meneptah. His face was sweet as a woman's, but made curious by certain
wrinkles which ran from the corners of the eyes towards the ears. I
think that these came from the bending of the brow in thought, but
others say that they were inherited from an ancestress on the female
side. Bakenkhonsu my friend, the old prophet who served under the
first Seti and died but the other day, having lived a hundred and
twenty years, told me that he knew her before she was married, and
that she and her descendant, Seti, might have been twins.

In his hand the Prince held an open roll, a very ancient writing as I,
who am skilled in such matters that have to do with my trade, knew
from its appearance. Lifting his eyes suddenly from the study of this
roll, he saw the chamberlain standing before him.

"You came at a good time, Pambasa," he said in a voice that was very
soft and pleasant, and yet most manlike. "You are old and doubtless
wise. Say, are you wise, Pambasa?"

"Yes, your Highness. I am wise like your Highness's uncle, Khaemuas
the mighty magician, whose sandals I used to clean when I was young."

"Is it so? Then why are you so careful to hide your wisdom which
should be open like a flower for us poor bees to suck at? Well, I am
glad to learn that you are wise, for in this book of magic that I have
been reading I find problems worthy of Khaemuas the departed, whom I
only remember as a brooding, black-browed man much like my cousin,
Amenmeses his son--save that no one can call Amenmeses wise."

"Why is your Highness glad?"

"Because you, being by your own account his equal, can now interpret
the matter as Khaemuas would have done. You know, Pambasa, that had he
lived he would have been Pharaoh in place of my father. He died too
soon, however, which proves to me that there was something in this
tale of his wisdom, since no really wise man would ever wish to be
Pharaoh of Egypt."

Pambasa stared with his mouth open.

"Not wish to be Pharaoh!" he began--

"Now, Pambasa the Wise," went on the Prince as though he had not heard
him. "Listen. This old book gives a charm 'to empty the heart of its
weariness,' that it says is the oldest and most common sickness in the
world from which only kittens, some children, and mad people are free.
It appears that the cure for this sickness, so says the book, is to
stand on the top of the pyramid of Khufu at midnight at that moment
when the moon is largest in the whole year, and drink from the cup of
dreams, reciting meanwhile a spell written here at length in language
which I cannot read."

"There is no virtue in spells, Prince, if anyone can read them."

"And no use, it would seem, if they can be read by none."

"Moreover, how can any one climb the pyramid of Khufu, which is
covered with polished marble, even in the day let alone at midnight,
your Highness, and there drink of the cup of dreams?"

"I do not know, Pambasa. All I know is that I weary of this
foolishness, and of the world. Tell me of something that will lighten
my heart, for it is heavy."

"There are jugglers without, Prince, one of whom says he can throw a
rope into the air and climb up it until he vanishes into heaven."

"When he has done it in your sight, Pambasa, bring him to me, but not
before. Death is the only rope by which we climb to heaven--or be
lowered into hell. For remember there is a god called Set, after whom,
like my great-grandfather, I am named by the way--the priests alone
know why--as well as one called Osiris."

"Then there are the dancers, Prince, and among them some very finely
made girls, for I saw them bathing in the palace lake, such as would
have delighted the heart of your grandfather, the great Rameses."

"They do not delight my heart who want no naked women prancing here.
Try again, Pambasa."

"I can think of nothing else, Prince. Yet, stay. There is a scribe
without named Ana, a thin, sharp-nosed man who says he is your
Highness's twin in Ra."

"Ana!" said the Prince. "He of Memphis who writes stories? Why did you
not say so before, you old fool? Let him enter at once, at once."

Now hearing this I, Ana, walked through the curtains and prostrated
myself, saying,

"I am that scribe, O Royal Son of the Sun."

"How dare you enter the Prince's presence without being bidden----"
began Pambasa, but Seti broke in with a stern voice, saying,

"And how dare you, Pambasa, keep this learned man waiting at my door
like a dog? Rise, Ana, and cease from giving me titles, for we are not
at Court. Tell me, how long have you been in Tanis?"

"Many days, O Prince," I answered, "seeking your presence and in
vain."

"And how did you win it at last?"

"By payment, O Prince," I answered innocently, "as it seems is usual.
The doorkeepers----"

"I understand," said Seti, "the doorkeepers! Pambasa, you will
ascertain what amount this learned scribe has disbursed to 'the
doorkeepers' and refund him double. Begone now and see to the matter."

So Pambasa went, casting a piteous look at me out of the corner of his
eye.

"Tell me," said Seti when he was gone, "you who must be wise in your
fashion, why does a Court always breed thieves?"

"I suppose for the same reason, O Prince, that a dog's back breeds
fleas. Fleas must live, and there is the dog."

"True," he answered, "and these palace fleas are not paid enough. If
ever I have power I will see to it. They shall be fewer but better
fed. Now, Ana, be seated. I know you though you do not know me, and
already I have learned to love you through your writings. Tell me of
yourself."

So I told him all my simple tale, to which he listened without a word,
and then asked me why I had come to see him. I replied that it was
because he had sent for me, which he had forgotten; also because I
brought him a story that I had dared to dedicate to him. Then I laid
the roll before him on the table.

"I am honoured," he said in a pleased voice, "I am greatly honoured.
If I like it well, your story shall go to the tomb with me for my Ka
to read and re-read until the day of resurrection, though first I will
study it in the flesh. Do you know this city of Tanis, Ana?"

I answered that I knew little of it, who had spent my time here
haunting the doors of his Highness.

"Then with your leave I will be your guide through it this night, and
afterwards we will sup and talk."

I bowed and he clapped his hands, whereon a servant appeared, not
Pambasa, but another.

"Bring two cloaks," said the Prince, "I go abroad with the scribe,
Ana. Let a guard of four Nubians, no more, follow us, but at a
distance and disguised. Let them wait at the private entrance."

The man bowed and departed swiftly.

Almost immediately a black slave appeared with two long hooded cloaks,
such as camel-drivers wear, which he helped us to put on. Then, taking
a lamp, he led us from the room through a doorway opposite to that by
which I had entered, down passages and a narrow stair that ended in a
courtyard. Crossing this we came to a wall, great and thick, in which
were double doors sheathed with copper that opened mysteriously at our
approach. Outside of these doors stood four tall men, also wrapped in
cloaks, who seemed to take no note of us. Still, looking back when we
had gone a little way, I observed that they were following us, as
though by chance.

How fine a thing, thought I to myself, it is to be a Prince who by
lifting a finger can thus command service at any moment of the day or
night.

Just at that moment Seti said to me:

"See, Ana, how sad a thing it is to be a Prince, who cannot even stir
abroad without notice to his household and commanding the service of a
secret guard to spy upon his every action, and doubtless to make
report thereof to the police of Pharaoh."

There are two faces to everything, thought I to myself again.

CHAPTER II

THE BREAKING OF THE CUP

We walked down a broad street bordered by trees, beyond which were
lime-washed, flat-roofed houses built of sun-dried brick, standing,
each of them, in its own garden, till at length we came to the great
market-place just as the full moon rose above the palm-trees, making
the world almost as light as day. Tanis, or Rameses as it is also
called, was a very fine city then, if only half the size of Memphis,
though now that the Court has left it I hear it is much deserted.
About this market-place stood great temples of the gods, with pylons
and avenues of sphinxes, also that wonder of the world, the colossal
statue of the second Rameses, while to the north upon a mound was the
glorious palace of Pharaoh. Other palaces there were also, inhabited
by the nobles and officers of the Court, and between them ran long
streets where dwelt the citizens, ending, some of them, on that branch
of the Nile by which the ancient city stood.

Seti halted to gaze at these wondrous buildings.

"They are very old," he said, "but most of them, like the walls and
those temples of Amon and Ptah, have been rebuilt in the time of my
grandfather or since his day by the labour of Israelitish slaves who
dwell yonder in the rich land of Goshen."

"They must have cost much gold," I answered.

"The Kings of Egypt do not pay their slaves," remarked the Prince
shortly.

Then we went on and mingled with the thousands of the people who were
wandering to and fro seeking rest after the business of the day. Here
on the frontier of Egypt were gathered folk of every race; Bedouins
from the desert, Syrians from beyond the Red Sea, merchants from the
rich Isle of Chittim, travellers from the coast, and traders from the
land of Punt and from the unknown countries of the north. All were
talking, laughing and making merry, save some who gathered in circles
to listen to a teller of tales or wandering musicians, or to watch
women who danced half naked for gifts.

Now and again the crowd would part to let pass the chariot of some
noble or lady before which went running footmen who shouted, "Make
way, Make way!" and laid about them with their long wands. Then came a
procession of white-robed priests of Isis travelling by moonlight as
was fitting for the servants of the Lady of the Moon, and bearing
aloft the holy image of the goddess before which all men bowed and for
a little while were silent. After this followed the corpse of some
great one newly dead, preceded by a troop of hired mourners who rent
the air with their lamentations as they conducted it to the quarter of
the embalmers. Lastly, from out of one of the side streets emerged a
gang of several hundred hook-nosed and bearded men, among whom were a
few women, loosely roped together and escorted by a company of armed
guards.

"Who are these?" I asked, for I had never seen their like.

"Slaves of the people of Israel who return from their labour at the
digging of the new canal which is to run to the Red Sea," answered the
Prince.

We stood still to watch them go by, and I noted how proudly their eyes
flashed and how fierce was their bearing although they were but men in
bonds, very weary too and stained by toil in mud and water. Presently
this happened. A white-bearded man lagged behind, dragging on the line
and checking the march. Thereupon an overseer ran up and flogged him
with a cruel whip cut from the hide of the sea-horse. The man turned
and, lifting a wooden spade that he carried, struck the overseer such
a blow that he cracked his skull so that he fell down dead. Other
overseers rushed at the Hebrew, as these Israelites were called, and
beat him till he also fell. Then a soldier appeared and, seeing what
had happened, drew his bronze sword. From among the throng sprang out
a girl, young and very lovely although she was but roughly clad.

Since then I have seen Merapi, Moon of Israel, as she was called, clad
in the proud raiment of a queen, and once even of a goddess, but
never, I think, did she look more beauteous than in this hour of her
slavery. Her large eyes, neither blue nor black, caught the light of
the moon and were aswim with tears. Her plenteous bronze-hued hair
flowed in great curls over the snow-white bosom that her rough robe
revealed. Her delicate hands were lifted as though to ward off the
blows which fell upon him whom she sought to protect. Her tall and
slender shape stood out against a flare of light which burned upon
some market stall. She was beauteous exceedingly, so beauteous that my
heart stood still at the sight of her, yes, mine that for some years
had held no thought of woman save such as were black and evil.

She cried aloud. Standing over the fallen man she appealed to the
soldier for mercy. Then, seeing that there was none to hope for from
him, she cast her great eyes around until they fell upon the Prince
Seti.

"Oh! Sir," she wailed, "you have a noble air. Will you stand by and
see my father murdered for no fault?"

"Drag her off, or I smite through her," shouted the captain, for now
she had thrown herself down upon the fallen Israelite. The overseers
obeyed, tearing her away.

"Hold, butcher!" cried the Prince.

"Who are you, dog, that dare to teach Pharaoh's officer his duty?"
answered the captain, smiting the Prince in the face with his left
hand.

Then swiftly he struck downwards and I saw the bronze sword pass
through the body of the Israelite who quivered and lay still. It was
all done in an instant, and on the silence that followed rang out the
sound of a woman's wail. For a moment Seti choked--with rage, I think.
Then he spoke a single word--"Guards!"

The four Nubians, who, as ordered, had kept at a distance, burst
through the gathered throng. Ere they reached us I, who till now had
stood amazed, sprang at the captain and gripped him by the throat. He
struck at me with his bloody sword, but the blow, falling on my long
cloak, only bruised me on the left thigh. Then I, who was strong in
those days, grappled with him and we rolled together on the ground.

After this there was great tumult. The Hebrew slaves burst their rope
and flung themselves upon the soldiers like dogs upon a jackal,
battering them with their bare fists. The soldiers defended themselves
with swords; the overseers plied their hide whips; women screamed, men
shouted. The captain whom I had seized began to get the better of me;
at least I saw his sword flash above me and thought that all was over.
Doubtless it would have been, had not Seti himself dragged the man
backwards and thus given the four Nubian guards time to seize him.
Next I heard the Prince cry out in a ringing voice:

"Hold! It is Seti, the son of Pharaoh, the Governor of Tanis, with
whom you have to do. See," and he threw back the hood of his cloak so
that the moon shone upon his face.

Instantly there was a great quiet. Now, first one and then another as
the truth sunk into them, men began to fall upon their knees, and I
heard one say in an awed voice:

"The royal Son, the Prince of Egypt struck in the face by a soldier!
Blood must pay for it."

"How is that officer named?" asked Seti, pointing to the man who had
killed the Israelite and well-nigh killed me.

Someone answered that he was named Khuaka.

"Bring him to the steps of the temple of Amon," said Seti to the
Nubians who held him fast. "Follow me, friend Ana, if you have the
strength. Nay, lean upon my shoulder."

So resting upon the shoulder of the Prince, for I was bruised and
breathless, I walked with him a hundred paces or more to the steps of
the great temple where we climbed to the platform at the head of the
stairs. After us came the prisoner, and after him all the multitude, a
very great number who stood upon the steps and on the flat ground
beyond. The Prince, who was very white and quiet, sat himself down
upon the low granite base of a tall obelisk which stood in front of
the temple pylon, and said:

"As Governor of Tanis, the City of Rameses, with power of life and
death at all hours and in all places, I declare my Court open."

"The Royal Court is open!" cried the multitude in the accustomed form.

"This is the case," said the Prince. "Yonder man who is named Khuaka,
by his dress a captain of Pharaoh's army, is charged with the murder
of a certain Hebrew, and with the attempted murder of Ana the scribe.
Let witnesses be called. Bring the body of the dead man and lay it
here before me. Bring the woman who strove to protect him, that she
may speak."

The body was brought and laid upon the platform, its wide eyes staring
up at the moon. Then soldiers who had gathered thrust forward the
weeping girl.

"Cease from tears," said Seti, "and swear by Kephera the creator, and
by Maat the goddess of truth and law, to speak nothing but the truth."

The girl looked up and said in a rich low voice that in some way
reminded me of honey being poured from a jar, perhaps because it was
thick with strangled sobs:

"O Royal Son of Egypt, I cannot swear by those gods who am a daughter
of Israel."

The Prince looked at her attentively and asked:

"By what god then can you swear, O Daughter of Israel?"

"By Jahveh, O Prince, whom we hold to be the one and only God, the
Maker of the world and all that is therein."

"Then perhaps his other name is Kephera," said the Prince with a
little smile. "But have it as you will. Swear, then, by your god
Jahveh."

Then she lifted both her hands above her head and said:

"I, Merapi, daughter of Nathan of the tribe of Levi of the people of
Israel, swear that I will speak the truth and all the truth in the
name of Jahveh, the God of Israel."

"Tell us what you know of the matter of the death of this man, O
Merapi."

"Nothing that you do not know yourself, O Prince. He who lies there,"
and she swept her hand towards the corpse, turning her eyes away, "was
my father, an elder of Israel. The captain Khuaka came when the corn
was young to the Land of Goshen to choose those who should work for
Pharaoh. He wished to take me into his house. My father refused
because from my childhood I had been affianced to a man of Israel;
also because it is not lawful under the law for our people to
intermarry with your people. Then the captain Khuaka seized my father,
although he was of high rank and beyond the age to work for Pharaoh,
and he was taken away, as I think, because he would not suffer me to
wed Khuaka. A while later I dreamed that my father was sick. Thrice I
dreamed it and ran away to Tanis to visit him. But this morning I
found him and, O Prince, you know the rest."

"Is there no more?" asked Seti.

The girl hesitated, then answered:

"Only this, O Prince. This man saw me with my father giving him food,
for he was weak and overcome with the toil of digging the mud in the
heat of the sun, he who being a noble of our people knew nothing of
such labour from his youth. In my presence Khuaka asked my father if
now he would give me to him. My father answered that sooner would he
see me kissed by snakes and devoured by crocodiles. 'I hear you,'
answered Khuaka. 'Learn, now, slave Nathan, before to-morrow's sun
arises, you shall be kissed by swords and devoured by crocodiles or
jackals.' 'So be it,' said my father, 'but learn, O Khuaka, that if
so, it is revealed to me who am a priest and a prophet of Jahveh, that
before to-morrow's sun you also shall be kissed by swords and of the
rest we will talk at the foot of Jahveh's throne.'

"Afterwards, as you know, Prince, the overseer flogged my father as I
heard Khuaka order him to do if he lagged through weariness, and then
Khuaka killed him because my father in his madness struck the overseer
with a mattock. I have no more to say, save that I pray that I may be
sent back to my own people there to mourn my father according to our
custom."

"To whom would you be sent? Your mother?"

"Nay, O Prince, my mother, a lady of Syria, is dead. I will go to my
uncle, Jabez the Levite."

"Stand aside," said Seti. "The matter shall be seen to later. Appear,
O Ana the Scribe. Swear the oath and tell us what you have seen of
this man's death, since two witnesses are needful."

So I swore and repeated all this story that I have written down.

"Now, Khuaka," said the Prince when I had finished, "have you aught to
say?"

"Only this, O Royal One," answered the captain throwing himself upon
his knees, "that I struck you by accident, not knowing that the person
of your Highness was hidden in that long cloak. For this deed it is
true that I am worthy of death, but I pray you to pardon me because I
knew not what I did. The rest is nothing, since I only slew a mutinous
slave of the Israelites, as such are slain every day."

"Tell me, O Khuaka, who are being tried for this man's death and not
for the striking of one of royal blood by chance, under which law it
is lawful for you to kill an Israelite without trial before the
appointed officers of Pharaoh."

"I am not learned. I do not know the law, O Prince. All that this
woman said is false."

"At least it is not false that yonder man lies dead and that you slew
him, as you yourself admit. Learn now, and let all Egypt learn, that
even an Israelite may not be murdered for no offence save that of
weariness and of paying back unearned blow with blow. Your blood shall
answer for his blood. Soldiers! Strike off his head."

The Nubians leapt upon him, and when I looked again Khuaka's headless
corpse lay by the corpse of the Hebrew Nathan and their blood was
mingled upon the steps of the temple.

"The business of the Court is finished," said the Prince. "Officers,
see that this woman is escorted to her own people, and with her the
body of her father for burial. See, too, upon your lives that no
insult or harm is done to her. Scribe Ana, accompany me hence to my
house where I would speak with you. Let guards precede and follow me."

He rose and all the people bowed. As he turned to go the lady Merapi
stepped forward, and falling upon her knees, said:

"O most just Prince, now and ever I am your servant."

Then we set out, and as we left the market-place on our way to the
palace of the Prince, I heard a tumult of voices behind us, some in
praise and some in blame of what had been done. We walked on in
silence broken only by the measured tramp of the guards. Presently the
moon passed behind a cloud and the world was dark. Then from the edge
of the cloud sprang out a ray of light that lay straight and narrow
above us on the heavens. Seti studied it a while and said:

"Tell me, O Ana, of what does that moonbeam put you in mind?"

"Of a sword, O Prince," I answered, "stretched out over Egypt and held
in the black hand of some mighty god or spirit. See, there is the
blade from which fall little clouds like drops of blood, there is the
hilt of gold, and look! there beneath is the face of the god. Fire
streams from his eyebrows and his brow is black and awful. I am
afraid, though what I fear I know not."

"You have a poet's mind, Ana. Still, what you see I see and of this I
am sure, that some sword of vengeance is indeed stretched out over
Egypt because of its evil doings, whereof this light may be the
symbol. Behold! it seems to fall upon the temples of the gods and the
palace of Pharaoh, and to cleave them. Now it is gone and the night is
as nights were from the beginning of the world. Come to my chamber and
let us eat. I am weary, I need food and wine, as you must after
struggling with that lustful murderer whom I have sent to his own
place."

The guards saluted and were dismissed. We mounted to the Prince's
private chambers, in one of which his servants clad me in fine linen
robes after a skilled physician of the household had doctored the
bruises upon my thigh over which he tied a bandage spread with balm.
Then I was led to a small dining-hall, where I found the Prince
waiting for me as though I were some honoured guest and not a poor
scribe who had wondered hence from Memphis with my wares. He caused me
to sit down at his right hand and even drew up the chair for me
himself, whereat I felt abashed. To this day I remember that leather-
seated chair. The arms of it ended in ivory sphinxes and on its back
of black wood in an oval was inlaid the name of the great Rameses, to
whom indeed it had once belonged. Dishes were handed to us--only two
of them and those quite simple, for Seti was no great eater--by a
young Nubian slave of a very merry face, and with them wine more
delicious than any I had ever tasted.

We ate and drank and the Prince talked to me of my business as a
scribe and of the making of tales, which seemed to interest him very
much. Indeed one might have thought that he was a pupil in the schools
and I the teacher, so humbly and with such care did he weigh
everything that I said about my art. Of matters of state or of the
dreadful scene of blood through which we had just passed he spoke no
word. At the end, however, after a little pause during which he held
up a cup of alabaster as thin as an eggshell, studying the light
playing through it on the rich red wine within, he said to me:

"Friend Ana, we have passed a stirring hour together, the first
perhaps of many, or mayhap the last. Also we were born upon the same
day and therefore, unless the astrologers lie, as do other men--and
women--beneath the same star. Lastly, if I may say it, I like you
well, though I know not how you like me, and when you are in the room
with me I feel at ease, which is strange, for I know of no other with
whom it is so.

"Now by a chance only this morning I found in some old records which I
was studying, that the heir to the throne of Egypt a thousand years
ago, had, and therefore, as nothing ever changes in Egypt, still has,
a right to a private librarian for which the State, that is, the
toilers of the land, must pay as in the end they pay for all. Some
dynasties have gone by, it seems, since there was such a librarian, I
think because most of the heirs to the throne could not, or did not,
read. Also by chance I mentioned the matter to the Vizier Nehesi who
grudges me every ounce of gold I spend, as though it were one taken
out of his own pouch, which perhaps it is. He answered with that
crooked smile of his:

"'Since I know well, Prince, that there is no scribe in Egypt whom you
would suffer about you for a single month, I will set the cost of a
librarian at the figure at which it stood in the Eleventh Dynasty upon
the roll of your Highness's household and defray it from the Royal
Treasury until he is discharged.'

"Therefore, Scribe Ana, I offer you this post for one month; that is
all for which I can promise you will be paid whatever it may be, for I
forget the sum."

"I thank you, O Prince," I exclaimed.

"Do not thank me. Indeed if you are wise you will refuse. You have met
Pambasa. Well, Nehesi is Pambasa multiplied by ten, a rogue, a thief,
a bully, and one who has Pharaoh's ear. He will make your life a
torment to you and clip every ring of gold that at length you wring
out of his grip. Moreover the place is wearisome, and I am fanciful
and often ill-humoured. Do not thank me, I say. Refuse; return to
Memphis and write stories. Shun courts and their plottings. Pharaoh
himself is but a face and a puppet through which other voices talk and
other eyes shine, and the sceptre which he wields is pulled by
strings. And if this is so with Pharaoh, what is the case with his
son? Then there are the women, Ana. They will make love to you, Ana,
they even do so to me, and I think you told me that you know something
of women. Do not accept, go back to Memphis. I will send you some old
manuscripts to copy and pay you whatever it is Nehesi allows for the
librarian."

"Yet I accept, O Prince. As for Nehesi I fear him not at all, since at
the worst I can write a story about him at which the world will laugh,
and rather than that he will pay me my salary."

"You have more wisdom than I thought, Ana. It never came into my mind
to put Nehesi in a story, though it is true I tell tales about him
which is much the same thing."

He bend forward, leaning his head upon his hand, and ceasing from his
bantering tone, looked me in the eyes and asked:

"Why do you accept? Let me think now. It is not because you care for
wealth if that is to be won here; nor for the pomp and show of courts;
nor for the company of the great who really are so small. For all
these things you, Ana, have no craving if I read your heart aright,
you who are an artist, nothing less and nothing more. Tell me, then,
why will you, a free man who can earn your living, linger round a
throne and set your neck beneath the heel of princes to be crushed
into the common mould of servitors and King's Companions and Bearers
of the Footstool?"

"I will tell you, Prince. First, because thrones make history, as
history makes thrones, and I think that great events are on foot in
Egypt in which I would have my share. Secondly, because the gods bring
gifts to men only once or twice in their lives and to refuse them is
to offend the gods who gave them those lives to use to ends of which
we know nothing. And thirdly"--here I hesitated.

"And thirdly--out with the thirdly for, doubtless, it is the real
reason."

"And thirdly, O Prince--well, the word sounds strangely upon a man's
lips--but thirdly because I love you. From the moment that my eyes
fell upon your face I loved you as I never loved any other man--not
even my father. I know not why. Certainly it is not because you are a
prince."

When he heard these words Seti sat brooding and so silent that,
fearing lest I, a humble scribe, had been too bold, I added hastily:

"Let your Highness pardon his servant for his presumptuous words. It
was his servant's heart that spoke and not his lips."

He lifted his hand and I stopped.

"Ana, my twin in Ra," he said, "do you know that I never had a
friend?"

"A prince who has no friend!"

"Never, none. Now I begin to think that I have found one. The thought
is strange and warms me. Do you know also that when my eyes fell upon
your face I loved you also, the gods know why. It was as though I had
found one who was dear to me thousands of years ago but whom I had
lost and forgotten. Perhaps this is but foolishness, or perhaps here
we have the shadow of something great and beautiful which dwells
elsewhere, in the place we call the Kingdom of Osiris, beyond the
grave, Ana."

"Such thoughts have come to me at times, Prince. I mean that all we
see is shadow; that we ourselves are shadows and that the realities
who cast them live in a different home which is lit by some spirit sun
that never sets."

The Prince nodded his head and again was silent for a while. Then he
took his beautiful alabaster cup, and pouring wine into it, he drank a
little and passed the cup to me.

"Drink also, Ana," he said, "and pledge me as I pledge you, in token
that by decree of the Creator who made the hearts of men, henceforward
our two hearts are as the same heart through good and ill, through
triumph and defeat, till death takes one of us. Henceforward, Ana,
unless you show yourself unworthy, I hide no thought from you."

Flushing with joy I took the cup, saying:

"I add to your words, O Prince. We are one, not for this life alone
but for all the lives to be. Death, O Prince, is, I think, but a
single step in the pylon stair which leads at last to that dizzy
height whence we see the face of God and hear his voice tell us what
and why we are."

Then I pledged him, and drank, bowing, and he bowed back to me.

"What shall we do with the cup, Ana, the sacred cup that has held this
rich heart-wine? Shall I keep it? No, it no longer belongs to me.
Shall I give it to you? No, it can never be yours alone. See, we will
break the priceless thing."

Seizing it by its stem with all his strength he struck the cup upon
the table. Then what seemed to be to me a marvel happened, for instead
of shattering as I thought it surely would, it split in two from rim
to foot. Whether this was by chance, or whether the artist who
fashioned it in some bygone generation had worked the two halves
separately and cunningly cemented them together, to this hour I do not
know. At least so it befell.

"This is fortunate, Ana," said the Prince, laughing a little in his
light way. "Now take you the half that lies nearest to you and I will
take mine. If you die first I will lay my half upon your breast, and
if I die first you shall do the same by me, or if the priests forbid
it because I am royal and may not be profaned, cast the thing into my
tomb. What should we have done had the alabaster shattered into
fragments, Ana, and what omen should we have read in them?"

"Why ask, O Prince, seeing that it has befallen otherwise?"

Then I took my half, laid it against my forehead and hid it in the
bosom of my robe, and as I did, so did Seti.

So in this strange fashion the royal Seti and I sealed the holy
compact of our brotherhood, as I think not for the first time or the
last.

CHAPTER III

USERTI

Seti rose, stretching out his arms.

"That is finished," he said, "as everything finishes, and for once I
am sorry. Now what next? Sleep, I suppose, in which all ends, or
perhaps you would say all begins."

As he spoke the curtains at the end of the room were drawn and between
them appeared the chamberlain, Pambasa, holding his gold-tipped wand
ceremoniously before him.

"What is it now, man?" asked Seti. "Can I not even sup in peace? Stay,
before you answer tell me, do things end or begin in sleep? The
learned Ana and I differ on the matter and would hear your wisdom.
Bear in mind, Pambasa, that before we are born we must have slept,
since of that time we remember nothing, and after we are dead we
certainly seem to sleep, as any who have looked on mummies know. Now
answer."

The chamberlain stared at the wine flask on the table as though he
suspected his master of having drunk too much. Then in a hard official
voice he said:

"She comes! She comes! She comes, offering greetings and adoration to
the Royal Son of Ra."

"Does she indeed?" asked Seti. "If so, why say it three times? And who
comes?"

"The high Princess, the heiress of Egypt, the daughter of Pharaoh,
your Highness's royal half-sister, the great lady Userti."

"Let her enter then. Ana, stand you behind me. If you grow weary and I
give leave you can depart; the slaves will show you your sleeping-
place."

Pambasa went, and presently through the curtain appeared a royal-
looking lady splendidly apparelled. She was accompanied by four
waiting women who fell back on the threshold and were no more seen.
The Prince stepped forward, took both her hands in his and kissed her
on the brow, then drew back again, after which they stood a moment
looking at each other. While they remained thus I studied her who was
known throughout the land as the "Beautiful Royal Daughter," but whom
till now I had never seen. In truth I did not think her beautiful,
although even had she been clad in a peasant's robe I should have been
sure that she was royal. Her face was too hard for beauty and her
black eyes, with a tinge of grey in them, were too small. Also her
nose was too sharp and her lips were too thin. Indeed, had it not been
for the delicately and finely-shaped woman's form beneath, I might
have thought that a prince and not a princess stood before me. For the
rest in most ways she resembled her half-brother Seti, though her
countenance lacked the kindliness of his; or rather both of them
resembled their father, Meneptah.

"Greeting, Sister," he said, eyeing her with a smile in which I caught
a gleam of mockery. "Purple-bordered robes, emerald necklace and
enamelled crown of gold, rings and pectoral, everything except a
sceptre--why are you so royally arrayed to visit one so humble as your
loving brother? You come like sunlight into the darkness of the
hermit's cell and dazzle the poor hermit, or rather hermits," and he
pointed to me.

"Cease your jests, Seti," she replied in a full, strong voice. "I wear
these ornaments because they please me. Also I have supped with our
father, and those who sit at Pharaoh's table must be suitably arrayed,
though I have noted that sometimes you think otherwise."

"Indeed. I trust that the good god, our divine parent, is well
to-night as you leave him so early."

"I leave him because he sent me with a message to you." She paused,
looking at me sharply, then asked, "Who is that man? I do not know
him."

"It is your misfortune, Userti, but one which can be mended. He is
named Ana the Scribe, who writes strange stories of great interest
which you would do well to read who dwell too much upon the outside of
life. He is from Memphis and his father's name was--I forget what.
Ana, what was your father's name?"

"One too humble for royal ears, Prince," I answered, "but my
grandfather was Pentaur the poet who wrote of the deeds of the mighty
Rameses."

"Is it so? Why did you not tell me that before? The descent should
earn you a pension from the Court if you can extract it from Nehesi.
Well, Userti, his grandfather's name was Pentaur whose immortal verses
you have doubtless read upon temple walls, where our grandfather was
careful to publish them."

"I have--to my sorrow--and thought them poor, boastful stuff," she
answered coldly.

"To be honest, if Ana will forgive me, so do I. I can assure you that
his stories are a great improvement on them. Friend Ana, this is my
sister, Userti, my father's daughter though our mothers were not the
same."

"I pray you, Seti, to be so good as to give me my rightful titles in
speaking of me to scribes and other of your servants."

"Your pardon, Userti. This, Ana, is the first Lady of Egypt, the Royal
Heiress, the Princess of the Two Lands, the High-priestess of Amon,
the Cherished of the Gods, the half-sister of the Heir-apparent, the
Daughter of Hathor, the Lotus Bloom of Love, the Queen to be of--
Userti, whose queen will you be? Have you made up your mind? For
myself I know no one worthy of so much beauty, excellence, learning
and--what shall I add--sweetness, yes, sweetness."

"Seti," she said stamping her foot, "if it pleases you to make a mock
of me before a stranger, I suppose that I must submit. Send him away,
I would speak with you."

"Make a mock of you! Oh! mine is a hard fate. When truth gushes from
the well of my heart, I am told I mock, and when I mock, all say--he
speaks truth. Be seated, Sister, and talk on freely. This Ana is my
sworn friend who saved my life but now, for which deed perhaps he
should be my enemy. His memory is excellent also and he will remember
what you say and write it down afterwards, whereas I might forget.
Therefore, with your leave, I will ask him to stay here."

"My Prince," I broke in, "I pray you suffer me to go."

"My Secretary," he answered with a note of command in his voice, "I
pray you to remain where you are."

So I sat myself on the ground after the fashion of a scribe, having no
choice, and the Princess sat herself on a couch at the end of the
table, but Seti remained standing. Then the Princess said:

"Since it is your will, Brother, that I should talk secrets into other
ears than yours, I obey you. Still"--here she looked at me wrathfully
--"let the tongue be careful that it does not repeat what the ears
have heard, lest there should be neither ears nor tongue. My Brother,
it has been reported to Pharaoh, while we ate together, that there is
tumult in this town. It has been reported to him that because of a
trouble about some base Israelite you caused one of his officers to be
beheaded, after which there came a riot which still rages."

"Strange that truth should have come to the ears of Pharaoh so
quickly. Now, my Sister, if he had heard it three moons hence I could
have believed you--almost."

"Then you did behead the officer?"

"Yes, I beheaded him about two hours ago."

"Pharaoh will demand an account of the matter."

"Pharaoh," answered Seti lifting his eyes, "has no power to question
the justice of the Governor of Tanis in the north."

"You are in error, Seti. Pharaoh has all power."

"Nay, Sister, Pharaoh is but one man among millions of other men, and
though he speaks it is their spirit which bends his tongue, while
above that spirit is a great greater spirit who decrees what they
shall think to ends of which we know nothing."

"I do not understand, Seti."

"I never thought you would, Userti, but when you have leisure, ask Ana
here to explain the matter to you. I am sure that /he/ understands."

"Oh! I have borne enough," exclaimed Userti rising. "Hearken to the
command of Pharaoh, Prince Seti. It is that you wait upon him
to-morrow in full council, at an hour before noon, there to talk with
him of this question of the Israelitish slaves and the officer whom it
has pleased you to kill. I came to speak other words to you also, but
as they were for your private ear, these can bide a more fitting
opportunity. Farewell, my Brother."

"What, are you going so soon, Sister? I wished to tell you the story
about those Israelites, and especially of the maid whose name is--what
was her name, Ana?"

"Merapi, Moon of Israel, Prince," I added with a groan.

"About the maid called Merapi, Moon of Israel, I think the sweetest
that ever I have looked upon, whose father the dead captain murdered
in my sight."

"So there is a woman in the business? Well, I guessed it."

"In what business is there not a woman, Userti, even in that of a
message from Pharaoh. Pambasa, Pambasa, escort the Princess and summon
her servants, women everyone of them, unless my senses mock me. Good-
night to you, O Sister and Lady of the Two Lands, and forgive me--that
coronet of yours is somewhat awry."

At last she was gone and I rose, wiping my brow with a corner of my
robe, and looking at the Prince who stood before the fire laughing
softly.

"Make a note of all this talk, Ana," he said; "there is more in it
than meets the ear."

"I need no note, Prince," I answered; "every word is burnt upon my
mind as a hot iron burns a tablet of wood. With reason too, since now
her Highness will hate me for all her life."

"Much better so, Ana, than that she should pretend to love you, which
she never would have done while you are my friend. Women oftimes
respect those whom they hate and even will advance them because of
policy, but let those whom they pretend to love beware. The time may
come when you will yet be Userti's most trusted councillor."

Now here I, Ana the Scribe, will state that in after days, when this
same queen was the wife of Pharaoh Saptah, I did, as it chanced,
become her most trusted councillor. Moreover, in those times, yes, and
even in the hour of her death, she swore from the moment her eyes
first fell on me she had known me to be true-hearted and held me in
esteem as no self-seeker. More, I think she believed what she said,
having forgotten that once she looked upon me as her enemy. This
indeed I never was, who always held her in high regard and honour as a
great lady who loved her country, though one who sometimes was not
wise. But as I could not foresee these things on that night of long
ago, I only stared at the Prince and said:

"Oh! why did you not allow me to depart as your Highness said I might
at the beginning? Soon or late my head will pay the price of this
night's work."

"Then she must take mine with it. Listen, Ana. I kept you here, not to
vex the Princess or you, but for a good reason. You know that it is
the custom of the royal dynasties of Egypt for kings, or those who
will be kings, to wed their near kin in order that the blood may
remain the purer."

"Yes, Prince, and not only among those who are royal. Still, I think
it an evil custom."

"As I do, since the race wherein it is practised grows ever weaker in
body and in mind; which is why, perhaps, my father is not what his
father was and I am not what my father is."

"Also, Prince, it is hard to mingle the love of the sister and of the
wife."

"Very hard, Ana; so hard that when it is attempted both are apt to
vanish. Well, our mothers having been true royal wives, though hers
died before mine was wedded by my father, Pharaoh desires that I
should marry my half-sister, Userti, and what is worse, she desires it
also. Moreover, the people, who fear trouble ahead in Egypt if we, who
alone are left of the true royal race born of queens, remain apart and
she takes another lord, or I take another wife, demand that it should
be brought about, since they believe that whoever calls Userti the
Strong his spouse will one day rule the land."

"Why does the Princess wish it--that she may be a queen?"

"Yes, Ana, though were she to wed my cousin, Amenmeses, the son of
Pharaoh's elder brother Khaemuas, she might still be a queen, if I
chose to stand aside as I would not be loth to do."

"Would Egypt suffer this, Prince?"

"I do not know, nor does it matter since she hates Amenmeses, who is
strong-willed and ambitious, and will have none of him. Also he is
already married."

"Is there no other royal one whom she might take, Prince?"

"None. Moreover she wishes me alone."

"Why, Prince?"

"Because of ancient custom which she worships. Also because she knows
me well and in her fashion is fond of me, whom she believes to be a
gentle-minded dreamer that she can rule. Lastly, because I am the
lawful heir to the Crown and without me to share it, she thinks that
she would never be safe upon the Throne, especially if I should marry
some other woman, of whom she would be jealous. It is the Throne she
desires and would wed, not the Prince Seti, her half-brother, whom she
takes with it to be in name her husband, as Pharaoh commands that she
should do. Love plays no part in Userti's breast, Ana, which makes her
the more dangerous, since what she seeks with a cold heart of policy,
that she will surely find."

"Then it would seem, Prince, that the cage is built about you. After
all it is a very splendid cage and made of gold."

"Yes, Ana, yet not one in which I would live. Still, except by death
how can I escape from the threefold chain of the will of Pharaoh, of
Egypt, and of Userti? Oh!" he went on in a new voice, one that had in
it both sorrow and passion, "this is a matter in which I would have
chosen for myself who in all others must be a servant. And I may not
choose!"

"Is there perchance some other lady, Prince?"

"None! By Hathor, none--at least I think not. Yet I would have been
free to search for such a one and take her when I found her, if she
were but a fishergirl."

"The Kings of Egypt can have large households, Prince."

"I know it. Are there not still scores whom I should call aunt and
uncle? I think that my grandsire, Rameses, blessed Egypt with quite
three hundred children, and in so doing in a way was wise, since thus
he might be sure that, while the world endures, in it will flow some
the blood that once was his."

"Yet in life or death how will that help him, Prince? Some must beget
the multitudes of the earth, what does it matter who these may have
been?"

"Nothing at all, Ana, since by good or evil fortune they are born.
Therefore, why talk of large households? Though, like any man who can
pay for it, Pharaoh may have a large household, I seek a queen who
shall reign in my heart as well as on my throne, not a "large
household," Ana. Oh! I am weary. Pambasa, come hither and conduct my
secretary, Ana, to the empty room that is next to my own, the painted
chamber which looks toward the north, and bid my slaves attend to all
his wants as they would to mine."

"Why did you tell me you were a scribe, my lord Ana?" asked Pambasa,
as he led me to my beautiful sleeping-place.

"Because that is my trade, Chamberlain."

He looked at me, shaking his great head till the long white beard
waved across his breast like a temple banner in the faint evening
breeze, and answered:

"You are no scribe, you are a magician who can win the love and favour
of his Highness in an hour which others cannot do between two risings
of the Nile. Had you said so at once, you would have been differently
treated yonder in the hall of waiting. Forgive me therefore what I did
in ignorance, and, my lord, I pray it may please you not to melt away
in the night, lest my feet should answer for it beneath the sticks."

It was the fourth hour from sunrise of the following day that, for the
first time in my life I found myself in the Court of Pharaoh standing
with other members of his household in the train of his Highness, the
Prince Seti. It was a very great place, for Pharaoh sat in the
judgment hall, whereof the roof is upheld by round and sculptured
columns, between which were set statues of Pharaohs who had been. Save
at the throne end of the hall, where the light flowed down through
clerestories, the vast chamber was dim almost to darkness; at least so
it seemed to me entering there out of the brilliant sunshine. Through
this gloom many folk moved like shadows; captains, nobles, and state
officers who had been summoned to the Court, and among them white-
robed and shaven priests. Also there were others of whom I took no
count, such as Arab headmen from the desert, traders with jewels and
other wares to sell, farmers and even peasants with petitions to
present, lawyers and their clients, and I know not who besides,
through which of all these none were suffered to advance beyond a
certain mark where the light began to fall. Speaking in whispers all
of these folk flitted to and fro like bats in a tomb.

We waited between two Hathor-headed pillars in one of the vestibules
of the hall, the Prince Seti, who was clad in purple-broidered
garments and wore upon his brow a fillet of gold from which rose the
urus or hooded snake, also of gold, that royal ones alone might wear,
leaning against the base of a statue, while the rest of us stood
silent behind him. For a time he was silent also, as a man might be
whose thoughts were otherwhere. At length he turned and said to me:

"This is weary work. Would I had asked you to bring that new tale of
yours, Scribe Ana, that we might have read it together."

"Shall I tell you the plot of it, Prince?"

"Yes. I mean, not now, lest I should forget my manners listening to
you. Look," and he pointed to a dark-browed, fierce-eyed man of middle
age who passed up the hall as though he did not see us, "there goes my
cousin, Amenmeses. You know him, do you not?"

I shook my head.

"Then tell me what you think of him, at once before the first judgment
fades."

"I think he is a royal-looking lord, obstinate in mind and strong in
body, handsome too in his way."

"All can see that, Ana. What else?"

"I think," I said in a low voice so that none might overhear, "that
his heart is as black as his brow; that he has grown wicked with
jealousy and hate and will do you evil."

"Can a man grow wicked, Ana? Is he not as he was born till the end? I
do not know, nor do you. Still you are right, he is jealous and will
do me evil if it brings him good. But tell me, which of us will
triumph at the last?"

While I hesitated what to answer I became aware that someone had
joined us. Looking round I perceived a very ancient man clad in a
white robe. He was broad-faced and bald-headed, and his eyes burned
beneath his shaggy eyebrows like two coals in ashes. He supported
himself on a staff of cedar-wood, gripping it with both hands that for
thinness were like to those of a mummy. For a while he considered us
both as though he were reading our souls, then said in a full and
jovial voice:

"Greeting, Prince."

Seti turned, looked at him, and answered:

"Greeting, Bakenkhonsu. How comes it that you are still alive? When we
parted at Thebes I made sure----"

"That on your return you would find me in my tomb. Not so, Prince, it
is I who shall live to look upon you in your tomb, yes, and on others
who are yet to sit in the seat of Pharaoh. Why not? Ho! ho! Why not,
seeing that I am but a hundred and seven, I who remember the first
Rameses and have played with his grandson, your grandsire, as a boy?
Why should I not live, Prince, to nurse your grandson--if the gods
should grant you one who as yet have neither wife nor child?"

"Because you will get tired of life, Bakenkhonsu, as I am already, and
the gods will not be able to spare you much longer."

"The gods can endure yet a while without me, Prince, when so many are
flocking to their table. Indeed it is their desire that one good
priest should be left in Egypt. Ki the Magician told me so only this
morning. He had it straight from Heaven in a dream last night."

"Why have you been to visit Ki?" asked Seti, looking at him sharply.
"I should have thought that being both of a trade you would have hated
each other."

"Not so, Prince. On the contrary we add up each other's account; I
mean, check and interpret each other's visions, with which we are both
of us much troubled just now. Is that young man a scribe from
Memphis?"

"Yes, and my friend. His grandsire was Pentaur the poet."

"Indeed. I knew Pentaur well. Often has he read me to sleep with his
long poems, rank stuff that grew like coarse grass upon a deep but
half-drained soil. Are you sure, young man, that Pentaur was your
grandfather? You are not like him. Quite a different kind of herbage,
and you know that it is a matter upon which we must take a woman's
word."

Seti burst out laughing and I looked at the old priest angrily, though
now that I came to think of it my father always said that his mother
was one of the biggest liars in Egypt.

"Well, let it be," went on Bakenkhonsu, "till we find out the truth
before Thoth. Ki was speaking of you, young man. I did not pay much
attention to him, but it was something about a sudden vow of
friendship between you and the Prince here. There was a cup in the
story too, an alabaster cup that seemed familiar to me. Ki said it was
broken."

Seti started and I began angrily:

"What do you know of that cup? Where were you hid, O Priest?"

"Oh, in your souls, I suppose," he answered dreamily, "or rather Ki
was. But I know nothing, and am not curious. If you had broken the cup
with a woman now, it would have been more interesting, even to an old
man. Be so good as to answer the Prince's question as to whether he or
his cousin Amenmeses will triumph at the last, for on that matter both
Ki and I are curious."

"Am I a seer," I began again still more angrily, "that I should read
the future?"

"I think so, a little, but that is what I want to find out."

He hobbled towards me, laid one of his claw-like hands upon my arm,
and said in a new voice of command:

"Look now upon that throne and tell me what you see there."

I obeyed him because I must, staring up the hall at the empty throne.
At first I saw nothing. Then figures seemed to flit around it. From
among these figures emerged the shape of the Count Amenmeses. He sat
upon the throne, looking about him proudly, and I noted that he was no
longer clad as a prince but as Pharaoh himself. Presently hook-nosed
men appeared who dragged him from his seat. He fell, as I thought,
into water, for it seemed to splash up above him. Next Seti the Prince
appeared to mount the throne, led thither by a woman, of whom I could
only see the back. I saw him distinctly wearing the double crown and
holding a sceptre in his hand. He also melted away and others came
whom I did not know, though I thought that one of them was like to the
Princess Userti.

Now all were gone and I was telling Bakenkhonsu everything I had
witnessed like a man who speaks in his sleep, not by his own will.
Suddenly I woke up and laughed at my own foolishness. But the other
two did not laugh; they regarded me very gravely.

"I thought that you were something of a seer," said the old priest,
"or rather Ki thought it. I could not quite believe Ki, because he
said that the young person whom I should find with the Prince here
this morning would be one who loved him with all the heart, and it is
only a woman who loves with all the heart, is it not? Or so the world
believes. Well, I will talk the matter over with Ki. Hush! Pharaoh
comes."

As he spoke from far away rose a cry of--

"Life! Blood! Strength! Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!"

CHAPTER IV

THE COURT OF BETROTHAL

"Life! Blood! Strength!" echoed everyone in the great hall, falling to
their knees and bending their foreheads to the ground. Even the Prince
and the aged Bakenkhonsu prostrated themselves thus as though before
the presence of a god. And, indeed, Pharaoh Meneptah, passing through
the patch of sunlight at the head of the hall, wearing the double
crown upon his head and arrayed in royal robes and ornaments, looked
like a god, no less, as the multitude of the people of Egypt held him
to be. He was an old man with the face of one worn by years and care,
but from his person majesty seemed to flow.

With him, walking a step or two behind, went Nehesi his Vizier, a
shrivelled, parchment-faced officer whose cunning eyes rolled about
the place, and Roy the High-priest, and Hora the Chamberlain of the
Table, and Meranu the Washer of the King's Hands, and Yuy the private
scribe, and many others whom Bakenkhonsu named to me as they appeared.
Then there were fan-bearers and a gorgeous band of lords who were
called King's Companions and Head Butlers and I know not who besides,
and after these guards with spears and helms that shone like god, and
black swordsmen from the southern land of Kesh.

But one woman accompanied his Majesty, walking alone immediately
behind him in front of the Vizier and the High-priest. She was the
Royal Daughter, the Princess Userti, who looked, I thought, prouder
and more splendid than any there, though somewhat pale and anxious.

Pharaoh came to the steps of the throne. The Vizier and the High-
priest advanced to help him up the steps, for he was feeble with age.
He waved them aside, and beckoning to his daughter, rested his hand
upon her shoulder and by her aid mounted the throne. I thought that
there was meaning in this; it was as though he would show to all the
assembly that this princess was the prop of Egypt.

For a little while he stood still and Userti sat herself down on the
topmost step, resting her chin upon her jewelled hand. There he stood
searching the place with his eyes. He lifted his sceptre and all rose,
hundreds and hundreds of them throughout the hall, their garments
rustling as they rose like leaves in a sudden wind. He seated himself
and once more from every throat went up the regal salutation that was
the king's alone, of--

"Life! Blood! Strength! Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!"

In the silence that followed I heard him say, to the Princess, I
think:

"Amenmeses I see, and others of our kin, but where is my son Seti, the
Prince of Egypt?"

"Watching us no doubt from some vestibule. My brother loves not
ceremonials," answered Userti.

Then, with a little sigh, Seti stepped forward, followed by
Bakenkhonsu and myself, and at a distance by other members of his
household. As he marched up the long hall all drew to this side or
that, saluting him with low bows. Arriving in front of the throne he
bent till his knee touched the ground, saying:

"I give greeting, O King and Father."

"I give greeting, O Prince and Son. Be seated," answered Meneptah.

Seti seated himself in a chair that had been made ready for him at the
foot of the throne, and on its right, and in another chair to the
left, but set farther from the steps, Amenmeses seated himself also.
At a motion from the Prince I took my stand behind his chair.

The formal business of the Court began. At the beckoning of an usher
people of all sorts appeared singly and handed in petitions written on
rolled-up papyri, which the Vizier Nehesi took and threw into a
leathern sack that was held open by a black slave. In some cases an
answer to his petition, whereof this was only the formal delivery, was
handed back to the suppliant, who touched his brow with the roll that
perhaps meant everything to him, and bowed himself away to learn his
fate. Then appeared sheiks of the desert tribes, and captains from
fortresses in Syria, and traders who had been harmed by enemies, and
even peasants who had suffered violence from officers, each to make
his prayer. Of all of these supplications the scribes took notes,
while to some the Vizier and councillors made answer. But as yet
Pharaoh said nothing. There he sat silent on his splendid throne of
ivory and gold, like a god of stone above the altar, staring down the
long hall and through the open doors as though he would read the
secrets of the skies beyond.

"I told you that courts were wearisome, friend Ana," whispered the
Prince to me without turning his head. "Do you not already begin to
wish that you were back writing tales at Memphis?"

Before I could answer some movement in the throng at the end of the
hall drew the eyes of the Prince and of all of us. I looked, and saw
advancing towards the throne a tall, bearded man already old, although
his black hair was but grizzled with grey. He was arrayed in a white
linen robe, over which hung a woollen cloak such as shepherds wear,
and he carried in his hand a long thornwood staff. His face was
splendid and very handsome, and his black eyes flashed like fire. He
walked forward slowly, looking neither to the left nor the right, and
the throng made way for him as though he were a prince. Indeed, I
thought that they showed more fear of him than of any prince, since
they shrank from him as he came. Nor was he alone, for after him
walked another man who was very like to him, but as I judged, still
older, for his beard, which hung down to his middle, was snow-white as
was the hair on his head. He also was dressed in a sheepskin cloak and
carried a staff in his hand. Now a whisper rose among the people and
the whisper said:

"The prophets of the men of Israel! The prophets of the men of
Israel!"

The two stood before the throne and looked at Pharaoh, making no
obeisance. Pharaoh looked at them and was silent. For a long space
they stood thus in the midst of a great quiet, but Pharaoh would not
speak, and none of his officers seemed to dare to open their mouths.
At length the first of the prophets spoke in a clear, cold voice as
some conqueror might do.

"You know me, Pharaoh, and my errand."

"I know you," answered Pharaoh slowly, "as well I may, seeing that we
played together when we were little. You are that Hebrew whom my
sister, she who sleeps in Osiris, took to be as a son to her, giving
to you a name that means 'drawn forth' because she drew you forth as
an infant from among the reeds of Nile. Aye, I know you and your
brother also, but your errand I know not."

"This is my errand, Pharaoh, or rather the errand of Jahveh, God of
Israel, for whom I speak. Have you not heard it before? It is that you
should let his people go to do sacrifice to him in the wilderness."

"Who is Jahveh? I know not Jahveh who serve Amon and the gods of
Egypt, and why should I let your people go?"

"Jahveh is the God of Israel, the great God of all gods whose power
you shall learn if you will not hearken, Pharaoh. As for why you
should let the people go, ask it of the Prince your son who sits
yonder. Ask him of what he saw in the streets of this city but last
night, and of a certain judgment that he passed upon one of the
officers of Pharaoh. Or if he will not tell you, learn it from the
lips of the maiden who is named Merapi, Moon of Israel, the daughter
of Nathan the Levite. Stand forward, Merapi, daughter of Nathan."

Then from the throng at the back of the hall came forward Merapi, clad
in a white robe and with a black veil thrown about her head in token
of mourning, but not so as to hide her face. Up the hall she glided
and made obeisance to Pharaoh, as she did so, casting one swift look
at Seti where he sat. Then she stood still, looking, as I thought,
wonderfully beautiful in that simple robe of white and the evil of
black.

"Speak, woman," said Pharaoh.

She obeyed, telling all the tale in her low and honeyed voice, nor did
any seem to think it long or wearisome. At length she ended, and
Pharaoh said:

"Say, Seti my son, is this truth?"

"It is truth, O my Father. By virtue of my powers as Governor of this
city I caused the captain Khuaka to be put to death for the crime of
murder done by him before my eyes in the streets of the city."

"Perchance you did right and perchance you did wrong, Son Seti. At
least you are the best judge, and because he struck your royal person,
this Khuaka deserved to die."

Again he was silent for a while staring through the open doors at the
sky beyond. Then he said:

"What would ye more, Prophets of Jahveh? Justice has been done upon my
officer who slew the man of your people. A life has been taken for a
life according to the strict letter of the law. The matter is
finished. Unless you have aught to say, get you gone."

"By the command of the Lord our God," answered the prophet, "we have
this to say to you, O Pharaoh. Lift the heavy yoke from off the neck
of the people of Israel. Bid that they cease from the labour of the
making of bricks to build your walls and cities."

"And if I refuse, what then?"

"Then the curse of Jahveh shall be on you, Pharaoh, and with plague
upon plague shall he smite this land of Egypt."

Now a sudden rage seized Meneptah.

"What!" he cried. "Do you dare to threaten me in my own palace, and
would ye cause all the multitude of the people of Israel who have
grown fat in the land to cease from their labours? Hearken, my
servants, and, scribes, write down my decree. Go ye to the country of
Goshen and say to the Israelites that the bricks they made they shall
make as aforetime and more work shall they do than aforetime in the
days of my father, Rameses. Only no more straw shall be given to them
for the making of the bricks. Because they are idle, let them go forth
and gather the straw themselves; let them gather it from the face of
the fields."

There was silence for a while. Then with one voice both the prophets
spoke, pointing with their wands to Pharaoh:

"In the Name of the Lord God we curse you, Pharaoh, who soon shall die
and make answer for this sin. The people of Egypt we curse also. Ruin
shall be their portion; death shall be their bread and blood shall
they drink in a great darkness. Moreover, at the last Pharaoh shall
let the people go."

Then, waiting no answer, they turned and strode away side by side, nor
did any man hinder them in their goings. Again there was silence in
the hall, the silence of fear, for these were awful words that the
prophets had spoken. Pharaoh knew it, for his chin sank upon his
breast and his face that had been red with rage turned white. Userti
hid her eyes with her hand as though to shut out some evil vision, and
even Seti seemed ill at ease as though that awful curse had found a
home within his heart.

At a motion of Pharaoh's hand the Vizier Nehesi struck the ground
thrice with his wand of office and pointed to the door, thus giving
the accustomed sign that the Court was finished, whereon all the
people turned and went away with bent heads speaking no words one to
another. Presently the great hall was emptied save for the officers
and guards and those who attended upon Pharaoh. When everyone had gone
Seti the Prince rose and bowed before the throne.

"O Pharaoh," he said, "be pleased to hearken. We have heard very evil
words spoken by these Hebrew men, words that threaten your divine
life, O Pharaoh, and call down a curse upon the Upper and the Lower
Land. Pharaoh, these people of Israel hold that they suffer wrong and
are oppressed. Now give me, your son, a writing under your hand and
seal, by virtue of which I shall have power to go down to the Land of
Goshen and inquire of this matter, and afterwards make report of the
truth to you. Then, if it seems to you that the People of Israel are
unjustly dealt by, you may lighten their burden and bring the curse of
their prophets to nothing. But if it seems to you that the tales they
tell are idle then your words shall stand."

Now, listening, I, Ana, thought that Pharaoh would once more be angry.
But it was not so, for when he spoke again it was in the voice of one
who is crushed by grief or weariness.

"Have your will, Son," he said. "Only take with you a great guard of
soldiers lest these hook-nosed dogs should do you mischief. I trust
them not, who, like the Hyksos whose blood runs in many of them, were
ever the foes of Egypt. Did they not conspire with the Ninebow
Barbarians whom I crushed in the great battle, and do they not now
threaten us in the name of their outland god? Still, let the writing
be prepared and I will seal it. And stay. I think, Seti, that you, who
were ever gentle-natured, have somewhat too soft a heart towards these
shepherd slaves. Therefore I will not send you alone. Amenmeses your
cousin shall go with you, but under your command. It is spoken."

"Life! Blood! Strength!" said both Seti and Amenmeses, thus
acknowledging the king's command.

Now I thought that all was finished. But it was not so, for presently
Pharaoh said:

"Let the guards withdraw to the end of the hall and with them the
servants. Let the King's councillors and the officers of the household
remain."

Instantly all saluted and withdrew out of hearing. I, too, made ready
to go, but the Prince said to me:

"Stay, that you may take note of what passes."

Pharaoh, watching, saw if he did not hear.

"Who is that man, Son?" he asked.

"He is Ana my private scribe and librarian, O Pharaoh, whom I trust.
It was he who saved me from harm but last night."

"You say it, Son. Let him remain in attendance on you, knowing that if
he betrays our council he dies."

Userti looked up frowning as though she were about to speak. If so,
she changed her mind and was silent, perhaps because Pharaoh's word
once spoken could not be altered. Bakenkhonsu remained also as a
Councillor of the King according to his right.

When all had gone Pharaoh, who had been brooding, lifted his head and
spoke slowly but in the voice of one who gives a judgment that may not
be questioned, saying:

"Prince Seti, you are my only son born of Queen Ast-Nefert, royal
Sister, royal Mother, who sleeps in the bosom of Osiris. It is true
that you are not my first-born son, since the Count Ramessu"--here he
pointed to a stout mild-faced man of pleasing, rather foolish
appearance--"is your elder by two years. But, as he knows well, his
mother, who is still with us, is a Syrian by birth and of no royal
blood, and therefore he can never sit upon the throne of Egypt. Is it
not so, my son Ramessu?"

"It is so, O Pharaoh," answered the Count in a pleasant voice, "not do
I seek ever to sit upon that throne, who am well content with the
offices and wealth that Pharaoh has been pleased to confer upon me,
his first-born."

"Let the words of the Count Ramessu be written down," said Pharaoh,
"and placed in the temple of Ptah of this city, and in the temples of
Ptah at Memphis and of Amon at Thebes, that hereafter they may never
be questioned."

The scribes in attendance wrote down the words and, at a sign from the
Prince Seti, I also wrote them down, setting the papyrus I had with me
on my knee. When this was finished Pharaoh went on.

"Therefore, O Prince Seti, you are the heir of Egypt and perhaps, as
those Hebrew prophets said, will ere long be called upon to sit in my
place on its throne."

"May the King live for ever!" exclaimed Seti, "for well he knows that
I do not seek his crown and dignities."

"I do know it well, my son; so well that I wish you thought more of
that crown and those dignities which, if the gods will, must come to
you. If they will it not, next in the order of succession stands your
cousin, the Count Amenmeses, who is also of royal blood both on his
father's and his mother's side, and after him I know not who, unless
it be my daughter and your half-sister, the royal Princess Userti,
Lady of Egypt."

Now Userti spoke, very earnestly, saying:

"O Pharaoh, surely my right in the succession, according to ancient
precedent, precedes that of my cousin, the Count Amenmeses."

Amenmeses was about to answer, but Pharaoh lifted his hand and he was
silent.

"It is matter for those learned in such lore to discuss," Meneptah
replied in a somewhat hesitating voice. "I pray the gods that it may
never be needful that this high question should be considered in the
Council. Nevertheless, let the words of the royal Princess be written
down. Now, Prince Seti," he went on when this had been done, "you are
still unmarried, and if you have children they are not royal."

"I have none, O Pharaoh," said Seti.

"Is it so?" answered Meneptah indifferently. "The Count Amenmeses has
children I know, for I have seen them, but by his wife Unuri, who also
is of the royal line, he has none."

Here I heard Amenmeses mutter, "Being my aunt that is not strange," a
saying at which Seti smiled.

"My daughter, the Princess, is also unmarried. So it seems that the
fountain of the royal blood is running dry----"

"Now it is coming," whispered Seti below his breath so that only I
could hear.

"Therefore," continued Pharaoh, "as you know, Prince Seti, for the
royal Princess of Egypt by my command went to speak to you of this
matter last night, I make a decree----"

"Pardon, O Pharaoh," interrupted the Prince, "my sister spoke to me of
no decree last night, save that I should attend at the court here
to-day."

"Because I could not, Seti, seeing that another was present with you
whom you refused to dismiss," and she let her eyes rest on me.

"It matters not," said Pharaoh, "since now I will utter it with my own
lips which perhaps is better. It is my will, Prince, that you
forthwith wed the royal Princess Userti, that children of the true
blood of the Ramessides may be born. Hear and obey."

Now Userti shifted her eyes from me to Seti, watching him very
closely. Seated at his side upon the ground with my writing roll
spread across my knee, I, too, watched him closely, and noted that his
lips turned white and his face grew fixed and strange.

"I hear the command of Pharaoh," he said in a low voice making
obeisance, and hesitated.

"Have you aught to add?" asked Meneptah sharply.

"Only, O Pharaoh, that though this would be a marriage decreed for
reasons of the State, still there is a lady who must be given in
marriage, and she my half-sister who heretofore has only loved me as a
relative. Therefore, I would know from her lips if it is her will to
take me as a husband."

Now all looked at Userti who replied in a cold voice:

"In this matter, Prince, as in all others I have no will but that of
Pharaoh."

"You have heard," interrupted Meneptah impatiently, "and as in our
House it has always been the custom for kin to marry kin, why should
it not be her will? Also, who else should she marry? Amenmeses is
already wed. There remains only Saptah his brother who is younger than
herself----"

"So am I," murmured Seti, "by two long years," but happily Userti did
not hear him.

"Nay, my father," she said with decision, "never will I take a
deformed man to husband."

Now from the shadow on the further side of the throne, where I could
not see him, there hobbled forward a young noble, short in stature,
light-haired like Seti, and with a sharp, clever face which put me in
mind of that of a jackal (indeed for this reason he was named Thoth by
the common people, after the jackal-headed god). He was very angry,
for his cheeks were flushed and his small eyes flashed.

"Must I listen, Pharaoh," he said in a little voice, "while my cousin
the Royal Princess reproaches me in public for my lame foot, which I
have because my nurse let me fall when I was still in arms?"

"Then his nurse let his grandfather fall also, for he too was club-
footed, as I who have seen him naked in his cradle can bear witness,"
whispered old Bakenkhonsu.

"It seems so, Count Saptah, unless you stop your ears," replied
Pharaoh.

"She says she will not marry me," went on Saptah, "me who from
childhood have been a slave to her and to no other woman."

"Not by my wish, Saptah. Indeed, I pray you to go and be a slave to
any woman whom you will," exclaimed Userti.

"But I say," continued Saptah, "that one day she shall marry me, for
the Prince Seti will not live for ever."

"How do you know that, Cousin?" asked Seti. "The High-priest here will
tell you a different story."

Now certain of those present turned their heads away to hide the smile
upon their faces. Yet on this day some god spoke with Saptah's voice
making him a prophet, since in a year to come she did marry him, in
order that she might stay upon the throne at a time of trouble when
Egypt would not suffer that a woman should have sole rule over the
land.

But Pharaoh did not smile like the courtiers; indeed he grew angry.

"Peace, Saptah!" he said. "Who are you that wrangle before me, talking
of the death of kings and saying that you will wed the Royal princess?
One more such word and you shall be driven into banishment. Hearken
now. Almost am I minded to declare my daughter, the Royal Princess,
sole heiress to the throne, seeing that in her there is more strength
and wisdom than in any other of our House."

"If such be Pharaoh's will, let Pharaoh's will be done," said Seti
most humbly. "Well I know my own unworthiness to fill so high a
station, and by all the gods I swear that my beloved sister will find
no more faithful subject than myself."

"You mean, Seti," interrupted Userti, "that rather than marry me you
would abandon your right to the double crown. Truly I am honoured.
Seti, whether you reign or I, I will not marry you."

"What words are these I hear?" cried Meneptah. "Is there indeed one in
this land of Egypt who dares to say that Pharaoh's decree shall be
disobeyed? Write it down, Scribes, and you, O Officers, let it be
proclaimed from Thebes to the sea, that on the third day from now at
the hour of noon in the temple of Hathor in this city, the Prince, the
Royal Heir, Seti Meneptah, Beloved of Ra, will wed the Royal Princess
of Egypt, Lily of Love, Beloved of Hathor, Userti, Daughter of me, the
god."

"Life! Blood! Strength!" called all the Court.

Then, guided by some high officer, the Prince Seti was led before the
throne and the Princess Userti was set beside him, or rather facing
him. According to the ancient custom a great gold cup was brought and
filled with red wine, to me it looked like blood. Userti took the cup
and, kneeling, gave it to the Prince, who drank and gave it back to
her that she might also drink in solemn token of their betrothal. Is
not the scene graven on the broad bracelets of gold which in after
days Seti wore when he sat upon the throne, those same bracelets that
at a future time I with my own hands clasped about the wrists of dead
Userti?

Then he stretched out his hand which she touched with her lips, and
bending down he kissed her on the brow. Lastly, Pharaoh, descending to
the lowest step of the throne, laid his sceptre, first upon the head
of the Prince, and next upon that of the Princess, blessing them both
in the name of himself, of his Ka or Double, and of the spirits and
Kas of all their forefathers, kings and queens of Egypt, thus
appointing them to come after him when he had been gathered to the
bosom of the gods.

These things done, he departed in state, surrounded by his court,
preceded and followed by his guards and leaning on the arm of the
Princess Userti, whom he loved better than anyone in the world.

A while later I stood alone with the Prince in his private chamber,
where I had first seen him.

"That is finished," he said in a cheerful voice, "and I tell you, Ana,
that I feel quite, quite happy. Have you ever shivered upon the bank
of a river of a winter morning, fearing to enter, and yet, when you
did enter, have you not been pleased to find that the icy water
refreshed you and made you not cold but hot?"

"Yes, Prince. It is when one comes out of the water, if the wind blows
and no sun shines, that one feels colder than before."

"True, Ana, and therefore one must not come out. One should stop there
till one--drowns or is eaten by a crocodile. But, say, did I do it
well?"

"Old Bakenkhonsu told me, Prince, that he had been present at many
royal betrothals, I think he said eleven, and had never seen one
conducted with more grace. He added that the way in which you kissed
the brow of her Highness was perfect, as was all your demeanour after
the first argument."

"And so it would remain, Ana, if I were never called upon to do more
than kiss her brow, to which I have been accustomed from boyhood. Oh!
Ana, Ana," he added in a kind of cry, "already you are becoming a
courtier like the rest of them, a courtier who cannot speak the truth.
Well, nor can I, so why should I blame you? Tell me again all about
your marriage, Ana, of how it began and how it ended."

CHAPTER V

THE PROPHECY

Whether or no the Prince Seti saw Userti again before the hour of his
marriage with her I cannot say, because he never told me. Indeed I was
not present at the marriage, for the reason that I had been granted
leave to return to Memphis, there to settle my affairs and sell my
house on entering upon my appointment as private scribe to his
Highness. Thus it came about that fourteen full days went by from that
of the holding of the Court of Betrothal before I found myself
standing once more at the gate of the Prince's palace, attended by a
servant who led an ass on which were laden all my manuscripts and
certain possessions that had descended to me from my ancestors with
the title-deeds of their tombs. Different indeed was my reception on
this my second coming. Even as I reached the steps the old chamberlain
Pambasa appeared, running down them so fast that his white robes and

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