Moon of Israel
H. Rider Haggard
Part 2 out of 5
beard streamed upon the air.
"Greeting, most learned scribe, most honourable Ana," he panted. "Glad
indeed am I to see you, since very hour his Highness asks if you have
returned, and blames me because you have not come. Verily I believe
that if you had stayed upon the road another day I should have been
sent to look for you, who have had sharp words said to me because I
did not arrange that you should be accompanied by a guard, as though
the Vizier Nehesi would have paid the costs of a guard without the
direct order of Pharaoh. O most excellent Ana, give me of the charm
which you have doubtless used to win the love of our royal master, and
I will pay you well for it who find it easier to earn his wrath."
"I will, Pambasa. Here it is--write better stories than I do instead
of telling them, and he will love you more than he does me. But say--
how went the marriage? I have heard upon the way that it was very
"Splendid! Oh! it was ten times more than splendid. It was as though
the god Osiris were once more wed to the goddess Isis in the very
halls of heaven. Indeed his Highness, the bridegroom, was dressed as a
god, yes, he wore the robes and the holy ornaments of Amon. And the
procession! And the feast that Pharaoh gave! I tell you that the
Prince was so overcome with joy and all this weight of glory that,
before it was over, looking at him I saw that his eyes were closed,
being dazzled by the gleam of gold and jewels and the loveliness of
his royal bride. He told me that it was so himself, fearing perhaps
lest I should have thought that he was asleep. Then there were the
presents, something to everyone of us according to his degree. I got--
well it matters not. And, learned Ana, I did not forget you. Knowing
well that everything would be gone before you returned I spoke your
name in the ear of his Highness, offering to keep your gift."
"Indeed, Pambasa, and what did he say?"
"He said that he was keeping it himself. When I stared wondering what
it might be, for I saw nothing on him, he added, 'It is here,' and
touched the private signet guard that he has always worn, an ancient
ring of gold, but of no great value I should say, with 'Beloved of
Thoth and of the King' cut upon it. It seems that he must take it off
to make room for another and much finer ring which her Highness has
Now, by this time, the ass having been unloaded by the slaves and led
away, we had passed through the hall where many were idling as ever,
and were come to the private apartments of the palace.
"This way," said Pambasa. "The orders are that I am to take you to the
Prince wherever he may be, and just now he is seated in the great
apartment with her Highness, where they have been receiving homage and
deputations from distant cities. The last left about half an hour
"First I will prepare myself, worthy Pambasa," I began.
"No, no, the orders are instant, I dare not disobey them. Enter," and
with a courtly flourish he drew a rich curtain.
"By Amon," exclaimed a weary voice which I knew as that of the Prince,
"here come more councillors or priests. Prepare, my sister, prepare!"
"I pray you, Seti," answered another voice, that of Userti, "to learn
to call me by my right name, which is no longer sister. Nor, indeed,
am I your full sister."
"I crave your pardon," said Seti. "Prepare, Royal Wife, prepare!"
By now the curtain was fully drawn and I stood, travel-stained,
forlorn and, to tell the truth, trembling a little, for I feared her
Highness, in the doorway, hesitating to pass the threshold. Beyond was
a splendid chamber full of light, in the centre of which upon a carven
and golden chair, one of two that were set there, sat her Highness
magnificently apparelled, faultlessly beautiful and calm. She was
engaged in studying a painted roll, left no doubt by the last
deputation, for others similar to it were laid neatly side by side
upon a table.
The second chair was empty, for the Prince was walking restlessly up
and down the chamber, his ceremonial robe somewhat disarrayed and the
urŠus circlet of gold which he wore, tilted back upon his head,
because of his habit of running his fingers through his brown hair. As
I still stood in the dark shadow, for Pambasa had left me, and thus
remained unseen, the talk went on.
"I am prepared, Husband. Pardon me, it is you who look otherwise. Why
would you dismiss the scribes and the household before the ceremony
"Because they wearied me," said Seti, "with their continual bowing and
praising and formalities."
"In which I saw nothing unusual. Now they must be recalled."
"Let whoever it is enter," he exclaimed.
Then I stepped forward into the light, prostrating myself.
"Why," he cried, "it is Ana returned from Memphis! Draw near, Ana, and
a thousand welcomes to you. Do you know I thought that you were
another high-priest, or governor of some Nome of which I had never
"Ana! Who is Ana?" asked the Princess. "Oh! I remember that scribe
----. Well, it is plain that he has returned from Memphis," and she
eyed my dusty robe.
"Royal One," I murmured abashed, "do not blame me that I enter your
presence thus. Pambasa led me here against my will by the direct order
of the Prince."
"Is it so? Say, Seti, does this man bring tidings of import from
Memphis that you needed his presence in such haste?"
"Yes, Userti, at least I think so. You have the writings safe, have
you not, Ana?"
"Quite safe, your Highness," I answered, though I knew not of what
writings he spoke, unless they were the manuscripts of my stories.
"Then, my Lord, I will leave you to talk of the tidings from Memphis
and these writings," said the Princess.
"Yes, yes. We must talk of them, Userti. Also of the journey to the
land of Goshen on which Ana starts with me to-morrow."
"To-morrow! Why this morning you told me it was fixed for three days
"Did I, Sister--I mean Wife? If so, it was because I was not sure
whether Ana, who is to be my chariot companion, would be back."
"A scribe your chariot companion! Surely it would be more fitting that
your cousin Amenmeses----"
"To Set with Amenmeses!" he exclaimed. "You know well, Userti, that
the man is hateful to me with his cunning yet empty talk."
"Indeed! I grieve to hear it, for when you hate you show it, and
Amenmeses may be a bad enemy. Then if not our cousin Amenmeses who is
not hateful to me, there is Saptah."
"I thank you; I will not travel in a cage with a jackal."
"Jackal! I do not love Saptah, but one of the royal blood of Egypt a
jackal! Then there is Nehesi the Vizier, or the General of the escort
whose name I forget."
"Do you think, Userti, that I wish to talk about state economies with
that old money-sack, or to listen to boastings of deeds he never did
in war from a half-bred Nubian butcher?"
"I do not know, Husband. Yet of what will you talk with this Ana? Of
poems, I suppose, and silliness. Or will it be perchance of Merapi,
Moon of Israel, whom I gather both of you think so beautiful. Well,
have your way. You tell me that I am not to accompany you upon this
journey, I your new-made wife, and now I find that it is because you
wish my place to be filled by a writer of tales whom you picked up the
other day--your 'twin in Ra' forsooth! Fare you well, my Lord," and
she rose from her seat, gathering up her robes with both hands.
Then Seti grew angry.
"Userti," he said, stamping upon the floor, "you should not use such
words. You know well that I do not take you with me because there may
be danger yonder among the Hebrews. Moreover, it is not Pharaoh's
She turned and answered with cold courtesy:
"Then I crave your pardon and thank you for your kind thought for the
safety of my person. I knew not this mission was so dangerous. Be
careful, Seti, that the scribe Ana comes to no harm."
So saying she bowed and vanished through the curtains.
"Ana," said Seti, "tell me, for I never was quick at figures, how many
minutes is it from now till the fourth hour to-morrow morning when I
shall order my chariot to be ready? Also, do you know whether it is
possible to travel from Goshen across the marshes and to return by
Syria? Or, failing that, to travel across the desert to Thebes and
sail down the Nile in the spring?"
"Oh! my Prince, my Prince," I said, "I pray you to dismiss me. Let me
go anywhere out of the reach of her Highness's tongue."
"It is strange how alike we think upon every matter, Ana, even of
Merapi and the tongues of royal ladies. Hearken to my command. You are
not to go. If it is a question of going, there are others who will go
first. Moreover, you cannot go, but must stay and bear your burdens as
I bear mine. Remember the broken cup, Ana."
"I remember, my Prince, but sooner would I be scourged with rods than
by such words as those to which I must listen."
Yet that very night, when I had left the Prince, I was destined to
hear more pleasant words from this same changeful, or perchance
politic, royal lady. She sent for me and I went, much afraid. I found
her in a small chamber alone, save for one old lady of honour who sat
the end of the room and appeared to be deaf, which perhaps was why she
was chosen. Userti bade me be seated before her very courteously, and
spoke to me thus, whether because of some talk she had held with the
Prince or not, I do not know.
"Scribe Ana, I ask your pardon if, being vexed and wearied, I said to
you and of you to-day what I now wish I had left unsaid. I know well
that you, being of the gentle blood of Egypt, will make no report of
what you heard outside these walls."
"May my tongue be cut out first," I answered.
"It seems, Scribe Ana, that my lord the Prince has taken a great love
of you. How or why this came about so suddenly, you being a man, I do
not understand, but I am sure that as it is so, it must be because
there is much in you to love, since never did I know the Prince to
show deep regard for one who was not most honourable and worthy. Now
things being so, it is plain that you will become the favourite of his
Highness, a man who does not change his mind in such matters, and that
he will tell you all his secret thoughts, perhaps some that he hides
from the Councillors of State, or even from me. In short you will grow
into a power in the land and perhaps one day be the greatest in it--
after Pharaoh--although you may still seem to be but a private scribe.
"I do not pretend to you that I should have wished this to be so, who
would rather that my husband had but one real councillor--myself. Yet
seeing that it is so, I bow my head, hoping that it may be decreed for
the best. If ever any jealousy should overcome me in this matter and I
should speak sharply to you, as I did to-day, I ask your pardon in
advance for that which has not happened, as I have asked it for that
which has happened. I pray of you, Scribe Ana, that you will do your
best to influence the mind of the Prince for good, since he is easily
led by any whom he loves. I pray you also being quick and thoughtful,
as I see you are, that you will make a study of statecraft, and of the
policies of our royal House, coming to me, if it be needful, for
instruction therein, so that you may be able to guide the feet of the
Prince aright, should he turn to you for counsel."
"All of this I will do, your Highness, if by any chance it lies in my
power, though who am I that I should hope to make a path for the feet
of kings? Moreover, I would add this, although he is so gentle-
natured, I think that in the end the Prince is one who will always
choose his own path."
"It may be so Ana. At the least I thank you. I pray you to be sure
also that in me you will always have a friend and not an enemy,
although at times the quickness of my nature, which has never been
controlled, may lead you to think otherwise. Now I will say one more
thing that shall be secret between us. I know that the Prince loves me
as a friend and relative rather than as a wife, and that he would not
have sought this marriage of himself, as is perhaps natural. I know,
too, that other women will come into his life, though these may be
fewer than in the case of most kings, because he is more hard to
please. Of such I cannot complain, as this is according to the customs
of our country. I fear only one thing--namely that some woman, ceasing
to be his toy, may take Seti's heart and make him altogether hers. In
this matter, Scribe Ana, as in others I ask your help, since I would
be queen of Egypt in all ways, not in name only."
"Your Highness, how can I say to the Prince--'So much shall you love
this or that woman and no more?' Moreover, why do you fear that which
has not and may never come about?"
"I do not know how you can say such a thing, Scribe, still I ask you
to say it if you can. As to why I fear, it is because I seem to feel
the near shadow of some woman lying cold upon me and building a wall
of blackness between his Highness and myself."
"It is but a dream, Princess."
"Mayhap. I hope so. Yet I think otherwise. Oh! Ana, cannot you, who
study the hearts of men and women, understand my case? I have married
where I can never hope to be loved as other women are, I who am a
wife, yet not a wife. I read your thought; it is--why then did you
marry? Since I have told you so much I will tell you that also. First,
it is because the Prince is different to other men and in his own
fashion above them, yes, far above any with whom I could have wed as
royal heiress of Egypt. Secondly, because being cut off from love,
what remains to me but ambition? At least I would be a great queen, as
was Hatshepu in her day, and lift my country out of the many troubles
in which it is sunk and write my name large upon the books of history,
which I could only do by taking Pharaoh's heir to husband, as is my
She brooded a while, then added, "Now I have shown you all my thought.
Whether I have been wise to do so the gods know alone and time will
"Princess," I said, "I thank you for trusting me and I will help you
if I may. Yet I am troubled. I, a humble man if of good blood, who a
little while ago was but a scribe and a student, a dreamer who had
known trouble also, have suddenly by chance, or some divine decree,
been lifted high in the favour of the heir of Egypt, and it would seem
have even won your trust. Now I wonder how I shall bear myself in this
new place which in truth I never sought."
"I do not know, who find the present and its troubles enough to carry.
But, doubtless, the decree of which you speak that set you there has
also written down what will be the end of all. Meanwhile, I have a
gift for you. Say, Scribe, have you ever handled any weapon besides a
"Yes, your Highness, as a lad I was skilled in sword play. Moreover,
though I do not love war and bloodshed, some years ago I fought in the
great battle between the Ninebow Barbarians, when Pharaoh called upon
the young men of Memphis to do their part. With my own hands I slew
two in fair fight, though one nearly brought me to my end," and I
pointed to a scar which showed red through my grey hair where a spear
had bitten deep.
"It is well, or so I think, who love soldiers better than stainers of
Then, going to a painted chest of reeds, she took from it a wonderful
shirt of mail fashioned of bronze rings, and a short sword also of
bronze, having a golden hilt of which the end was shaped to the
likeness of the head of a lion, and with her own hands gave them to
"These are spoils that my grandsire, the great Rameses, took in his
youth from a prince of the Khitah, whom he smote with his own hands in
Syria in that battle whereof your grandfather made the poem. Wear the
shirt, which no spear will pierce, beneath your robe and gird the
sword about you when you go down yonder among the Israelites, whom I
do not trust. I have given a like coat to the Prince. Let it be your
duty to see that it is upon his sacred person day and night. Let it be
your duty also, if need arises, with this sword to defend him to the
"May all the gods reject me from the Fields of the Blessed if I fail
in this trust," I answered, and departed wondering, to seek sleep
which, as it chanced, I was not to find for a while.
For as I went down the corridor, led by one of the ladies of the
household, whom should I find waiting at the end of it but old Pambasa
to inform me with many bows that the Prince needed my presence. I
asked how that could be seeing he had dismissed me for the night. He
replied that he did not know, but he was commanded to conduct me to
the private chamber, the same room in which I had first seen his
Highness. Thither I went and found him warming himself at the fire,
for the night was cold. Looking up he bade Pambasa admit those who
were waiting, then noting the shirt of mail and the sword I carried in
my hand, said:
"You have been with the Princess, have you not, and she must have had
much to say to you for your talk was long? Well, I think I can guess
its purport who from a child have known her mind. She told you to
watch me well, body and heart and all that comes from the heart--oh!
and much else. Also she gave you that Syrian gear to wear among the
Hebrews as she has given the like to me, being of a careful mind which
foresees everything. Now, hearken, Ana; I grieve to keep you from your
rest, who must be weary both with talk and travel. But old
Bakenkhonsu, whom you know, waits without, and with him Ki the great
magician, whom I think you have not seen. He is a man of wonderful
lore and in some ways not altogether human. At least he does strange
feats of magic, and at times both the past and the future seem to be
open to his sight, though as we know neither the one nor the other,
who can tell whether he reads them truly. Doubtless he has, or thinks
he has, some message to me from the heavens, which I thought you might
wish to hear."
"I wish it much, Prince, if I am worthy, and you will protect me from
the anger of this magician whom I fear."
"Anger sometimes turns to trust, Ana. Did you not find it so just now
in the case of her Highness, as I told you might very well happen?
Hush! They come. Be seated and prepare your tablets to make record of
what they say."
The curtains were drawn and through them came the aged Bakenkhonsu
leaning upon his staff, and with him another man, Ki himself, clad in
a white robe and having his head shaven, for he was an hereditary
priest of Amon of Thebes and an initiate of Isis, Mother of Mysteries.
Also his office was that of Kherheb, or chief magician of Egypt. At
first sight there was nothing strange about this man. Indeed, he might
well have been a middle-aged merchant by his looks; in body he was
short and stout; in face fat and smiling. But in this jovial
countenance were set two very strange eyes, grey-hued rather than
black. While the rest of the face seemed to smile these eyes looked
straight into nothingness as do those of a statue. Indeed they were
like to the eyes or rather the eye-places of a stone statue, so deeply
were they set into the head. For my part I can only say I thought them
awful, and by their look judged that whatever Ki might be he was no
This strange pair bowed to the Prince and seated themselves at a sign
from him, Bakenkhonsu upon a stool because he found it difficult to
rise, and Ki, who was younger, scribe fashion on the ground.
"What did I tell you, Bakenkhonsu?" said Ki in a full, rich voice,
ending the words with a curious chuckle.
"You told me, Magician, that we should find the Prince in this chamber
of which you described every detail to me as I see it now, although
neither of us have entered it before. You said also that seated
therein on the ground would be the scribe Ana, whom I know but you do
not, having in his hands waxen tablets and a stylus and by him a coat
of curious mail and a lion-hilted sword."
"That is strange," interrupted the Prince, "but forgive me,
Bakenkhonsu sees these things. If you, O Ki, would tell us what is
written upon Ana's tablets which neither of you can see, it would be
stranger still, that is if anything is written."
Ki smiled and stared upwards at the ceiling. Presently he said:
"The scribe Ana uses a shorthand of his own that is not easy to
decipher. Yet I see written on the tablets the price he obtained for
some house in a city that is not named--it is so much. Also I see the
sums he disbursed for himself, a servant, and the food of an ass at
two inns where he stopped upon a journey. They are so much and so
much. Also there is a list of papyrus rolls and the words, 'blue
cloak,' and then an erasure."
"Is that right, Ana?" asked the Prince.
"Quite right," I answered with awe, "only the words 'blue cloak,'
which it is true I wrote upon the tablet, have also been erased."
Ki chuckled and turned his eyes from the ceiling to my face.
"Would your Highness wish me to tell you anything of what is written
upon the tablets of this scribe's memory as well as upon those of wax
which he holds in his hand? They are easier to decipher than the
others and I see on them many things of interest. For instance, secret
words that seem to have been said to him by some Great One within an
hour, matters of high policy, I think. For instance, a certain saying,
I think of your Highness's, as to shivering upon the edge of water on
a cold day, which when entered produced heat, and the answer thereto.
For instance, words that were spoken in this palace when an alabaster
cup was broke. By the way, Scribe, that was a very good place you
chose in which to hide one half of the cup in the false bottom of a
chest in your chamber, a chest that is fastened with a cord and sealed
with a scarab of the time of the second Rameses. I think that the
other half of the cup is somewhat nearer at hand," and turning, he
stared at the wall where I could see nothing save slabs of alabaster.
Now I sat open-mouthed, for how could this man know these things, and
the Prince laughed outright, saying:
"Ana, I begin to think you keep your counsel ill. At least I should
think so, were it not that you have had no time to tell what the
Princess yonder may have said to you, and can scarcely know the trick
of the sliding panel in that wall which I have never shown to you."
Ki chuckled again and a smile grew on old Bakenkhonsu's broad and
"O Prince," I began, "I swear to you that never has one word passed my
lips of aught----"
"I know it, friend," broke in the Prince, "but it seems there are some
who do not wait for words but can read the Book of Thought. Therefore
it is not well to meet them too often, since all have thoughts that
should be known only to them and God. Magician, what is your business
with me? Speak on as though we were alone."
"This, Prince. You go upon a journey among the Hebrews, as all have
heard. Now, Bakenkhonsu and I, also two seers of my College, seeing
that we all love you and that your welfare is much to Egypt, have
separately sought out the future as regards the issue of this journey.
Although what we have learned differs in some matters, on others it is
the same. Therefore we thought it our duty to tell you what we have
"Say on, Kherheb."
"First, then, that your Highness's life will be in danger."
"Life is always in danger, Ki. Shall I lose it? If so, do not fear to
"We do not know, but we think not, because of the rest that is
revealed to us. We learn that it is not your body only that will be in
danger. Upon this journey you will see a woman whom you will come to
love. This woman will, we think, bring you much sorrow and also much
"Then perhaps the journey is worth making, Ki, since many travel far
before they find aught they can love. Tell me, have I met this woman?"
"There we are troubled, Prince, for it would seem--unless we are
deceived--that you have met her often and often; that you have known
her for thousands of years, as you have known that man at your side
for thousands of years."
Seti's face grew very interested.
"What do you mean, Magician?" he asked, eyeing him keenly. "How can I
who am still young have known a woman and a man for thousands of
Ki considered him with his strange eyes, and answered:
"You have many titles, Prince. Is not one of them 'Lord of Rebirths,'
and if so, how did you get it and what does it mean?"
"It is. What it means I do not know, but it was given to me because of
some dream that my mother had the night before I was born. Do /you/
tell /me/ what it means, since you seem to know so much."
"I cannot, Prince. The secret is not one that has been shown to me.
Yet there was an aged man, a magician like myself from whom I learned
much in my youth--Bakenkhonsu knew him well--who made a study of this
matter. He told me he was sure, because it had been revealed to him,
that men do not live once only and then depart hence for ever. He said
that they live many times and in many shapes, though not always on
this world, and that between each life there is a wall of darkness."
"If so, of what use are lives which we do not remember after death has
shut the door of each of them?"
"The doors may open again at last, Prince, and show us all the
chambers through which our feet have wandered from the beginning."
"Our religion teaches us, Ki, that after death we live eternally
elsewhere in our own bodies, which we find again on the day of
resurrection. Now eternity, having no end, can have no beginning; it
is a circle. Therefore if the one be true, namely that we live on, it
would seem that the other must be true, namely that we have always
"That is well reasoned, Prince. In the early days, before the priests
froze the thought of man into blocks of stone and built of them
shrines to a thousand gods, many held that this reasoning was true, as
then they held that there was but one god."
"As do these Israelites whom I go to visit. What say you of their god,
"That /he/ is the same as our gods, Prince. To men's eyes God has many
faces, and each swears that the one he sees is the only true god. Yet
they are wrong, for all are true."
"Or perchance false, Ki, unless even falsehood is a part of truth.
Well, you have told me of two dangers, one to my body and one to my
heart. Has any other been revealed to your wisdom?"
"Yes, Prince. The third is that this journey may in the end cost you
"If I die certainly it will cost me my throne."
"No, Prince, if you live."
"Even so, Ki, I think that I could endure life seated more humbly than
on a throne, though whether her Highness could endure it is another
matter. Then you say that if I go upon this journey another will be
Pharaoh in my place."
"We do not say that, Prince. It is true that our arts have shown us
another filling your place in a time of wizardry and wonders and of
the death of thousands. Yet when we look again we see not that other
but you once more filling your own place."
Here I, Ana, bethought me of my vision in Pharaoh's hall.
"The matter is even worse than I thought, Ki, since having once left
the crown behind me, I think that I should have no wish to wear it any
more," said Seti. "Who shows you all these things, and how?"
"Our /Kas/, which are our secret selves, show them to us, Prince, and
in many ways. Sometimes it is by dreams or visions, sometimes by
pictures on water, sometimes by writings in the desert sand. In all
these fashions, and by others, our /Kas/, drawing from the infinite
well of wisdom that is hidden in the being of every man, give us
glimpses of the truth, as they give us who are instructed power to
"Of the truth. Then these things you tell me are true?"
"We believe so, Prince."
"Then being true must happen. So what is the use of your warning me
against what must happen? There cannot be two truths. What would you
have me do? Not go upon this journey? Why have you told me that I must
not go, since if I did not go the truth would become a lie, which it
cannot? You say it is fated that I should go and because I go such and
such things will come about. And yet you tell me not to go, for that
is what you mean. Oh! Kherheb Ki and Bakenkhonsu, doubtless you are
great magicians and strong in wisdom, but there are greater than you
who rule the world, and there is a wisdom to which yours is but as a
drop of water to the Nile. I thank you for your warnings, but
to-morrow I go down to the land of Goshen to fulfil the commands of
Pharaoh. If I come back again we will talk more of these matters here
upon the earth. If I do not come back, perchance we will talk of them
THE LAND OF GOSHEN
The Prince Seti and all his train, a very great company, came in
safety to the land of Goshen, I, Ana, travelling with him in his
chariot. It was then as now a rich land, quite flat after the last
line of desert hills through which we travelled by a narrow, tortuous
path. Everywhere it was watered by canals, between which lay the grain
fields wherein the seed had just been sown. Also there were other
fields of green fodder whereon were tethered beasts by the hundred,
and beyond these, upon the drier soil, grazed flocks of sheep. The
town Goshen, if so it could be called, was but a poor place, numbers
of mud huts, no more, in the centre of which stood a building, also of
mud, with two brick pillars in front of it, that we were told was the
temple of this people, into the inner parts of which none might enter
save their High-priest. I laughed at the sight of it, but the Prince
reproved me, saying that I should not judge the spirit by the body, or
of the god by his house.
We camped outside this town and soon learned that the people who dwelt
in it or elsewhere in other towns must be numbered by the ten
thousand, for more of them than I could count wandered round the camp
to look at us. The men were fierce-eyed and hook-nosed; the young
women well-shaped and pleasant to behold; the older women for the most
part stout and somewhat unwieldy, and the children very beautiful. All
were roughly clad in robes of loosely-woven, dark-coloured cloth,
beneath which the women wore garments of white linen. Notwithstanding
the wealth we saw about us in corn and cattle, their ornaments seemed
to be few, or perhaps these were hidden from our sight.
It was easy to see that they hated us Egyptians, and even dared to
despise us. Hate shone in their glittering eyes, and I heard them
calling us the 'idol-worshippers' one to the other, and asking where
was our god, the Bull, for being ignorant they thought that we
worshipped Apis (as mayhap some of the common people do) instead of
looking upon the sacred beast as a symbol of the powers of Nature.
Indeed they did more, for on the first night after our coming they
slaughtered a bull marked much as Apis is, and in the morning we found
it lying near the gate of the camp, and pinned to its hide with sharp
thorns great numbers of the scarabŠus beetle still living. For again
they did not know that among us Egyptians this beetle is no god but an
emblem of the Creator, because it rolls a ball of mud between its feet
and sets therein its eggs to hatch, as the Creator rolls the world
that seems to be round, and causes it to produce life.
Now all were angry at these insults except the Prince, who laughed and
said that he thought the jest coarse but clever. But worse was to
happen. It seems that a soldier with wine in him had done insult to a
Hebrew maiden who came alone to draw water at a canal. The news spread
among the people and some thousands of them rushed to the camp,
shouting and demanding vengeance in so threatening a manner that it
was necessary to form up the regiments of guards.
The Prince being summoned commanded that the girl and her kin should
be admitted and state their case. She came, weeping and wailing and
tearing her garments, throwing dust on her head also, though it
appeared that she had taken no great harm from the soldier from whom
she ran away. The Prince bade her point out the man if she could see
him, and she showed us one of the bodyguard of the Count Amenmeses,
whose face was scratched as though by a woman's nails. On being
questioned he said he could remember little of the matter, but
confessed that he had seen the maiden by the canal at moonrise and
jested with her.
The kin of this girl clamoured that he should be killed, because he
had offered insult to a high-born lady of Israel. This Seti refused,
saying that the offence was not one of death, but that he would order
him to be publicly beaten. Thereupon Amenmeses, who was fond of the
soldier, a good man enough when not in his cups, sprang up in a rage,
saying that no servant of his should be touched because he had offered
to caress some light Israelitish woman who had no business to be
wandering about alone at night. He added that if the man were flogged
he and all those under his command would leave the camp and march back
to make report to Pharaoh.
Now the Prince, having consulted with the councillors, told the woman
and her kin that as Pharaoh had been appealed to, he must judge of the
matter, and commanded them to appear at his court within a month and
state their case against the soldier. They went away very ill-
satisfied, saying that Amenmeses had insulted their daughter even more
than his servant had done. The end of this matter was that on the
following night this soldier was discovered dead, pierced through and
through with knife thrusts. The girl, her parents and brethren could
not be found, having fled away into the desert, nor was there any
evidence to show by whom the soldier had been murdered. Therefore
nothing could be done in the business except bury the victim.
On the following morning the Inquiry began with due ceremony, the
Prince Seti and the Count Amenmeses taking their seats at the head of
a large pavilion with the councillors behind them and the scribes,
among whom I was, seated at their feet. Then we learned that the two
prophets whom I had seen at Pharaoh's court were not in the land of
Goshen, having left before we arrived "to sacrifice to God in the
wilderness," nor did any know when they would return. Other elders and
priests, however, appeared and began to set out their case, which they
did at great length and in a fierce and turbulent fashion, speaking
often all of them at once, thus making it difficult for the
interpreters to render their words, since they pretended that they did
not know the Egyptian tongue.
Moreover they told their story from the very beginning, when they had
entered Egypt hundreds of years before and were succoured by the
vizier of the Pharaoh of that day, one Yusuf, a powerful and clever
man of their race who stored corn in a time of famine and low Niles.
This Pharaoh was of the Hyksos people, one of the Shepherd kings whom
we Egyptians hated and after many wars drove out of Khem. Under these
Shepherd kings, being joined by many of their own blood, the
Israelites grew rich and powerful, so that the Pharaohs who came after
and who loved them not, began to fear them.
This was as far as the story was taken on the first day.
On the second day began the tale of their oppression, under which,
however, they still multiplied like gnats upon the Nile, and grew so
strong and numerous that at length the great Rameses did a wicked
thing, ordering that their male children should be put to death. This
order was never carried out, because his daughter, she who found Moses
among the reeds of the river, pleaded for them.
At this point the Prince, wearied with the noise and heat in that
crowded place, broke off the sitting until the morrow. Commanding me
to accompany him, he ordered a chariot, not his own, to be made ready,
and, although I prayed him not to do so, set out unguarded save for
myself and the charioteer, saying that he would see how these people
laboured with his own eyes.
Taking a Hebrew lad to run before the horses as our guide, we drove to
the banks of a canal where the Israelites made bricks of mud which,
after drying in the sun, were laden into boats that waited for them on
the canal and taken away to other parts of Egypt to be used on
Pharaoh's works. Thousands of men were engaged upon this labour,
toiling in gangs under the command of Egyptian overseers who kept
count of the bricks, cutting their number upon tally sticks, or
sometimes writing them upon sherds. These overseers were brutal
fellows, for the most part of the low class, who used vile language to
the slaves. Nor were they content with words. Noting a crowd gathered
at one place and hearing cries, we went to see what passed. Here we
found a lad stretched upon the ground being cruelly beaten with hide
whips, so that the blood ran down him. At a sign from the Prince I
asked what he had done and was told roughly, for the overseers and
their guards did not know who we were, that during the past six days
he had only made half of his allotted tale of bricks.
"Loose him," said the Prince quietly.
"Who are you that give me orders?" asked the head overseer, who was
helping to hold the lad while the guards flogged him. "Begone, lest I
serve you as I serve this idle fellow."
Seti looked at him, and as he looked his lips turned white.
"Tell him," he said to me.
"You dog!" I gasped. "Do you know who it is to whom you dare to speak
"No, nor care. Lay on, guard."
The Prince, whose robes were hidden by a wide-sleeved cloak of common
stuff and make, threw the cloak open revealing beneath it the pectoral
he had worn in the Court, a beautiful thing of gold whereon were
inscribed his royal names and titles in black and red enamel. Also he
held up his right hand on which was a signet of Pharaoh's that he wore
as his commissioner. The men stared, then one of them who was more
learned than the rest cried:
"By the gods! this is his Highness the Prince of Egypt!" at which
words all of them fell upon their faces.
"Rise," said Seti to the lad who looked at him, forgetting his pain in
his wonderment, "and tell me why you have not delivered your tale of
"Sir," sobbed the boy in bad Egyptian, 'for two reasons. First,
because I am a cripple, see," and he held up his left arm which was
withered and thin as a mummy's, "and therefore cannot work quickly.
Secondly, because my mother, whose only child I am, is a widow and
lies sick in bed, so that there are no women or children in our home
who can go out to gather straw for me, as Pharaoh has commanded that
we should do. Therefore I must spend many hours in searching for
straw, since I have no means wherewith to pay others to do this for
"Ana," said the Prince, "write down this youth's name with the place
of his abode, and if his tale prove true, see that his wants and those
of his mother are relieved before we depart from Goshen. Write down
also the names of this overseer and his fellows and command them to
report themselves at my camp to-morrow at sunrise, when their case
shall be considered. Say to the lad also that, being one afflicted by
the gods, Pharaoh frees him from the making of bricks and all other
labour of the State."
Now while I did these things the overseer and his companions beat
their heads upon the ground and prayed for mercy, being cowards as the
cruel always are. His Highness answered them never a word, but only
looked at them with cold eyes, and I noted that his face which was so
kind had grown terrible. So those men thought also, for that night
they ran away to Syria, leaving their families and all their goods
behind them, nor were they ever seen again in Egypt.
When I had finished writing the Prince turned and, walking to where
the chariot waited, bade the driver cross the canal by a bridge there
was here. We drove on a while in silence, following a track which ran
between the cultivated land and the desert. At length I pointed to the
sinking sun and asked if it were not time to return.
"Why?" replied the Prince. "The sun dies, but there rises the full
moon to give us light, and what have we to fear with swords at our
sides and her Highness Userti's mail beneath our robes? Oh! Ana, I am
weary of men with their cruelties and shouts and strugglings, and I
find this wilderness a place of rest, for in it I seem to draw nearer
to my own soul and the Heaven whence it came, or so I hope."
"Your Highness is fortunate to have a soul to which he cares to draw
near; it is not so with all of us"; I answered laughing, for I sought
to change the current of his thoughts by provoking argument of a sort
that he loved.
Just then, however, the horses, which were not of the best, came to a
halt on a slope of heavy sand. Nor would Seti allow the driver to flog
them, but commanded him to let them rest a space. While they did so we
descended from the chariot and walked up the desert rise, he leaning
on my arm. As we reached its crest we heard sobs and a soft voice
speaking on the further side. Who it was that spoke and sobbed we
could not see, because of a line of tamarisk shrubs which once had
been a fence.
"More cruelty, or at least more sorrow," whispered Seti. "Let us
So we crept to the tamarisks, and peeping through their feathery tops,
saw a very sweet sight in the pure rays of that desert moon. There,
not five paces away, stood a woman clad in white, young and shapely in
form. Her face we could not see because it was turned from us, also
the long dark hair which streamed about her shoulders hid it. She was
praying aloud, speaking now in Hebrew, of which both of us knew
something, and now in Egyptian, as does one who is accustomed to think
in either tongue, and stopping from time to time to sob.
"O God of my people," she said, "send me succour and bring me safe
home, that Thy child may not be left alone in the wilderness to become
the prey of wild beasts, or of men who are worse than beasts."
Then she sobbed, knelt down on a great bundle which I saw was stubble
straw, and again began to pray. This time it was in Egyptian, as
though she feared lest the Hebrew should be overheard and understood.
"O God," she said, "O God of my fathers, help my poor heart, help my
We were about to withdraw, or rather to ask her what she ailed, when
suddenly she turned her head, so that the light fell full upon her
face. So lovely was it that I caught my breath and the Prince at my
side started. Indeed it was more than lovely, for as a lamp shines
through an alabaster vase or a shell of pearl so did the spirit within
this woman shine through her tear-stained face, making it mysterious
as the night. Then I understood, perhaps for the first time, that it
is the spirit which gives true beauty both to maid and man and not the
flesh. The white vase of alabaster, however shapely, is still a vase
alone; it is the hidden lamp within that graces it with the glory of a
star. And those eyes, those large, dreaming eyes aswim with tears and
hued like richest lapis-lazuli, oh! what man could look on them and
not be stirred?
"Merapi!" I whispered.
"Moon of Israel!" murmured Seti, "filled with the moon, lovely as the
moon, mystic as the moon and worshipping the moon, her mother."
"She is in trouble; let us help her," I said.
"Nay, wait a while, Ana, for never again shall you and I see such a
sight as this."
Low as we spoke beneath our breath, I think the lady heard us. At
least her face changed and grew frightened. Hastily she rose, lifted
the great bundle of straw upon which she had been kneeling and placed
it on her head. She ran a few steps, then stumbled and sank down with
a little moan of pain. In an instant we were at her side. She stared
at us affrighted, for who we were she could not see because of the
wide hoods of our common cloaks that made us look like midnight
thieves, or slave-dealing Bedouin.
"Oh! Sirs," she babbled, "harm me not. I have nothing of value on me
save this amulet."
"Who are you and what do you here?" asked the Prince disguising his
"Sirs, I am Merapi, the daughter of Nathan the Levite, he whom the
accursed Egyptian captain, Khuaka, murdered at Tanis."
"How do you dare to call the Egyptians accursed?" asked Seti in tones
made gruff to hide his laughter.
"Oh! Sirs, because they are--I mean because I thought you were Arabs
who hate them, as we do. At least this Egyptian was accursed, for the
high Prince Seti, Pharaoh's heir, caused him to be beheaded for that
"And do you hate the high Prince Seti, Pharaoh's heir, and call him
She hesitated, then in a doubtful voice said:
"No, I do not hate him."
"Why not, seeing that you hate the Egyptians of whom he is one of the
first and therefore twice worthy of hatred, being the son of your
"Because, although I have tried my best, I cannot. Also," she added
with the joy of one who has found a good reason, "he avenged my
"This is no cause, girl, seeing that he only did what the law forced
him to do. They say that this dog of a Pharaoh's son is here in Goshen
upon some mission. Is it true, and have you seen him? Answer, for we
of the desert folk desire to know."
"I believe it is true, Sir, but I have not seen him."
"Why not, if he is here?"
"Because I do not wish to, Sir. Why should a daughter of Israel desire
to look upon the face of a prince of Egypt?"
"In truth I do not know," replied Seti forgetting his feigned voice.
Then, seeing that she glanced at him sharply, he added in gruff tones:
"Brother, either this woman lies or she is none other than the maid
they call Moon of Israel who dwells with old Jabez the Levite, her
uncle. What think you?"
"I think, Brother, that she lies, and for three reasons," I answered,
falling into the jest. "First, she is too fair to be of the black
"Oh! Sir," moaned Merapi, "my mother was a Syrian lady of the
mountains, with a skin as white as milk, and eyes blue as the
"Secondly," I went on without heeding her, "if the great Prince Seti
is really in Goshen and she dwells there, it is unnatural that she
should not have gone to look upon him. Being a woman only two things
would have kept her away, one--that she feared and hated him, which
she denies, and the other--that she liked him too well, and, being
prudent, thought it wisest not to look upon him more."
When she heard the first of these words, Merapi glanced up with her
lips parted as though to answer. Instead, she dropped her eyes and
suddenly seemed to choke, while even in the moonlight I saw the red
blood pour to her brow and along her white arms.
"Sir," she gasped, "why should you affront me? I swear that never till
this moment did I think such a thing. Surely it would be treason."
"Without doubt," interrupted Seti, "yet one of a sort that kings might
"Thirdly," I went on as though I had heard neither of them, "if this
girl were what she declares, she would not be wandering alone in the
desert at night, seeing that I have heard among the Arabs that Merapi,
daughter of Nathan the Levite, is a lady of no mean blood among the
Hebrews and that her family has wealth. Still, however much she lies,
we can see for ourselves that she is beautiful."
"Yes, Brother, in that we are fortunate, since without doubt she will
sell for a high price among the slave traders beyond the desert."
"Oh! Sir," cried Merapi seizing the hem of his robe, "surely you who I
feel, I know not why, are no evil thief, you who have a mother and,
perchance, sisters, would not doom a maiden to such a fate. Misjudge
me not because I am alone. Pharaoh has commanded that we must find
straw for the making of bricks. This morning I came far to search for
it on behalf of a neighbour whose wife is ill in childbed. But towards
sundown I slipped and cut myself upon the edge of a sharp stone. See,"
and holding up her foot she showed a wound beneath the instep from
which the blood still dropped, a sight that moved both of us not a
little, "and now I cannot walk and carry this heavy straw which I have
been at such pains to gather."
"Perchance she speaks truth, Brother," said the Prince, "and if we
took her home we might earn no small reward from Jabez the Levite. But
first tell me, Maiden, what was that prayer which you made to the
moon, that Hathor should help your heart?"
"Sir," she answered, "only the idolatrous Egyptians pray to Hathor,
the Lady of Love."
"I thought that all the world prayed to the Lady of Love, Maiden. But
what of the prayer? Is there some man whom you desire?"
"None," she answered angrily.
"Then why does your heart need so much help that you ask it of the
air? Is there perchance someone whom you do /not/ desire?"
She hung her head and made no answer.
"Come, Brother," said the Prince, "this lady is weary of us, and I
think that if she were a true woman she would answer our questions
more readily. Let us go and leave her. As she cannot walk we can take
her later if we wish."
"Sirs," she said, "I am glad that you are going, since the hyenas will
be safer company than two men who can threaten to sell a helpless
woman into slavery. Yet as we part to meet no more I will answer your
question. In the prayer to which you were not ashamed to listen I did
not pray for any lover, I prayed to be rid of one."
"Now, Ana," said the Prince bursting into laughter and throwing back
his dark cloak, "do you discover the name of that unhappy man of whom
the lady Merapi wishes to be rid, for I dare not."
She gazed into his face and uttered a little cry.
"Ah!" she said, "I thought I knew the voice again when once you forget
your part. Prince Seti, does your Highness think that this was a kind
jest to practise upon one alone and in fear?"
"Lady Merapi," he answered smiling, "be not wroth, for at least it was
a good one and you have told us nothing that we did not know. You may
remember that at Tanis you said that you were affianced and there was
that in your voice----. Suffer me now to tend this wound of yours."
Then he knelt down, tore a strip from his ceremonial robe of fine
linen, and began to bind up her foot, not unskilfully, being a man
full of strange and unexpected knowledge. As he worked at the task,
watching them, I saw their eyes meet, saw too that rich flood of
colour creep once more to Merapi's brow. Then I began to think it
unseemly that the Prince of Egypt should play the leech to a woman's
hurts, and to wonder why he had not left that humble task to me.
Presently the bandaging was done and made fast with a royal scarabŠus
mounted on a pin of gold, which the Prince wore in his garments. On it
was cut the urŠus crown and beneath it were the signs which read "Lord
of the Lower and the Upper Land," being Pharaoh's style and title.
"See now, Lady," he said, "you have Egypt beneath your foot," and when
she asked him what he meant, he read her the writing upon the jewel,
whereat for the third time she coloured to the eyes. Then he lifted
her up, instructing her to rest her weight upon his shoulder, saying
he feared lest the scarab, which he valued, should be broken.
Thus we started, I bearing the bundle of straw behind as he bade me,
since, he said, having been gathered with such toil, it must not be
lost. On reaching the chariot, where we found the guide gone and the
driver asleep, he sat her in it upon his cloak, and wrapped her in
mine which he borrowed, saying I should not need it who must carry the
straw. Then he mounted also and they drove away at a foot's pace. As I
walked after the chariot with the straw that fell about my ears, I
heard nothing of their further talk, if indeed they talked at all
which, the driver being present, perhaps they did not. Nor in truth
did I listen who was engaged in thought as to the hard lot of these
poor Hebrews, who must collect this dirty stuff and bear it so far,
made heavy as it was by the clay that clung about the roots.
Even now, as it chanced, we did not reach Goshen without further
trouble. Just as we had crossed the bridge over the canal I, toiling
behind, saw in the clear moonlight a young man running towards us. He
was a Hebrew, tall, well-made and very handsome in his fashion. His
eyes were dark and fierce, his nose was hooked, his teeth where
regular and white, and his long, black hair hung down in a mass upon
his shoulders. He held a wooden staff in his hand and a naked knife
was girded about his middle. Seeing the chariot he halted and peered
at it, then asked in Hebrew if those who travelled had seen aught of a
young Israelitish lady who was lost.
"If you seek me, Laban, I am here," replied Merapi, speaking from the
shadow of the cloak.
"What do you there alone with an Egyptian, Merapi?" he said fiercely.
What followed I do not know for they spoke so quickly in their
unfamiliar tongue that I could not understand them. At length Merapi
turned to the Prince, saying:
"Lord, this is Laban my affianced, who commands me to descend from the
chariot and accompany him as best I can."
"And I, Lady, command you to stay in it. Laban your affianced can
Now at this Laban grew angry, as I could see he was prone to do, and
stretched out his hand as though to push Seti aside and seize Merapi.
"Have a care, man,' said the Prince, while I, throwing down the straw,
drew my sword and sprang between them, crying:
"Slave, would you lay hands upon the Prince of Egypt?"
"Prince of Egypt!" he said, drawing back astonished, then added
sullenly, "Well what does the Prince of Egypt with my affianced?"
"He helps her who is hurt to her home, having found her helpless in
the desert with this accursed straw," I answered.
"Forward, driver," said the Prince, and Merapi added, "Peace, Laban,
and bear the straw which his Highness's companion has carried such a
He hesitated a moment, then snatched up the bundle and set it on his
As we walked side by side, his evil temper seemed to get the better of
him. Without ceasing, he grumbled because Merapi was alone in the
chariot with an Egyptian. At length I could bear it no longer.
"Be silent, fellow," I said. "Least of all men should you complain of
what his Highness does, seeing that already he has avenged the killing
of this lady's father, and now has saved her from lying out all night
among the wild beasts and men of the wilderness."
"Of the first I have heard more than enough," he answered, "and of the
second doubtless I shall hear more than enough also. Ever since my
affianced met this prince, she has looked on me with different eyes
and spoken to me with another voice. Yes, and when I press for
marriage, she says it cannot be for a long while yet, because she is
mourning for her father; her father forsooth, whom she never forgave
because he betrothed her to me according to the custom of our people."
"Perhaps she loves some other man?" I queried, wishing to learn all I
could about this lady.
"She loves no man, or did not a while ago. She loves herself alone."
"One with so much beauty may look high in marriage."
"High!" he replied furiously. "How can she look higher than myself who
am a lord of the line of Judah, and therefore greater far than an
upstart prince or any other Egyptian, were he Pharaoh himself?"
"Surely you must be trumpeter to your tribe," I mocked, for my temper
"Why?" he asked. "Are not the Hebrews greater than the Egyptians, as
those oppressors soon shall learn, and is not a lord of Israel more
than any idol-worshipper among your people?"
I looked at the man clad in mean garments and foul from his labour in
the brickfield, marvelling at his insolence. There was no doubt but
that he believed what he said; I could see it in his proud eye and
bearing. He thought that his tribe was of more import in the world
than our great and ancient nation, and that he, an unknown youth,
equalled or surpassed Pharaoh himself. Then, being enraged by these
insults, I answered:
"You say so, but let us put it to the proof. I am but a scribe, yet I
have seen war. Linger a little that we may learn whether a lord of
Israel is better than a scribe of Egypt."
"Gladly would I chastise you, Writer," he answered, "did I not see
your plot. You wish to delay me here, and perhaps to murder me by some
foul means, while your master basks in the smiles of the Moon of
Israel. Therefore I will not stay, but another time it shall be as you
wish, and perhaps ere long."
Now I think that I should have struck him in the face, though I am not
one of those who love brawling. But at this moment there appeared a
company of Egyptian horse led by none other than the Count Amenmeses.
Seeing the Prince in the Chariot, they halted and gave the salute.
Amenmeses leapt to the ground.
"We are come out to search for your Highness," he said, "fearing lest
some hurt had befallen you."
"I thank you, Cousin," answered the Prince, "but the hurt has befallen
another, not me."
"That is well, your Highness," said the Count, studying Merapi with a
smile. "Where is the lady wounded? Not in the breast, I trust."
"No, Cousin, in the foot, which is why she travels with me in this
"Your Highness was ever kind to the unfortunate. I pray you let me
take your place, or suffer me to set this girl upon a horse."
"Drive on," said Seti.
So, escorted by the soldiers, whom I heard making jests to each other
about the Prince and the lady, as I think did the Hebrew Laban also,
for he glared about him and ground his teeth, we came at last to the
town. Here, guided by Merapi, the chariot was halted at the house of
Jabez her uncle, a white-bearded old Hebrew with a cunning eye, who
rushed from the door of his mud-roofed dwelling crying he had done no
harm that soldiers should come to take him.
"It is not you whom the Egyptians wish to capture, it is your niece
and my betrothed," shouted Laban, whereat the soldiers laughed, as did
some women who had gathered round. Meanwhile the Prince was helping
Merapi to descend out of the chariot, from which indeed he lifted her.
The sight seemed to madden Laban, who rushed forward to tear her from
his arms, and in the attempt jostled his Highness. The captain of the
soldiers--he was an officer of Pharaoh's bodyguard--lifted his sword
in a fury and struck Laban such a blow upon the head with the flat of
the blade that he fell upon his face and lay there groaning.
"Away with that Hebrew dog and scourge him!" cried the captain. "Is
the royal blood of Egypt to be handled by such as he?"
Soldiers sprang forward to do his bidding, but Seti said quietly:
"Let the fellow be, friends; he lacks manners, that is all. Is he
As he spoke Laban leapt to his feet and, fearing worse things, fled
away with a curse and a glare of hate at the Prince.
"Farewell, Lady," said Seti. "I wish you a quick recovery."
"I thank your Highness," she answered, looking about her confusedly.
"Be pleased to wait a little while that I may return to you your
"Nay, keep it, Lady, and if ever you are in need or trouble of any
sort, send it to me who know it well and you shall not lack succour."
She glanced at him and burst into tears.
"Why do you weep?" he asked.
"Oh! your Highness, because I fear that trouble is near at hand. My
affianced, Laban, has a revengeful heart. Help me to the house, my
"Listen, Hebrew," said Seti, raising his voice; "if aught that is evil
befalls this niece of yours, or if she is forced to walk whither she
would not go, sorrow shall be your portion and that of all with whom
you have to do. Do you hear?"
"O my Lord, I hear, I hear. Fear nothing. She shall be guarded
carefully as--as she will doubtless guard that trinket on her foot."
"Ana," said the Prince to me that night, when I was talking with him
before he went to rest, "I know not why, but I fear that man Laban; he
has an evil eye."
"I too think it would have been better if your Highness had left him
to be dealt with by the soldiers, after which there would have been
nothing to fear from him in this world."
"Well, I did not, so there's an end. Ana, she is a fair woman and a
"The fairest and the sweetest that ever I saw, my Prince."
"Be careful, Ana. I pray you be careful, lest you should fall in love
with one who is already affianced."
I only looked at him in answer, and as I looked I bethought me of the
words of Ki the Magician. So, I think, did the Prince; at least he
laughed not unhappily and turned away.
For my part I rested ill that night, and when at last I slept, it was
to dream of Merapi making her prayer in the rays of the moon.
Eight full days went by before we left the land of Goshen. The story
that the Israelites had to tell was long, sad also. Moreover, they
gave evidence as to many cruel things that they had suffered, and when
this was finished the testimony of the guards and others must be
called, all of which it was necessary to write down. Lastly, the
Prince seemed to be in no hurry to be gone, as he said because he
hoped that the two prophets would return from the wilderness, which
they never did. During all this time Seti saw no more of Merapi, nor
indeed did he speak of her, even when the Count Amenmeses jested him
as to his chariot companion and asked him if he had driven again in
the desert by moonlight.
I, however, saw her once. When I was wandering in the town one day
towards sunset, I met her walking with her uncle Jabez upon one side
and her lover, Laban, on the other, like a prisoner between two
guards. I thought she looked unhappy, but her foot seemed to be well
again; at least she moved without limping.
I stopped to salute her, but Laban scowled and hurried her away. Jabez
stayed behind and fell into talk with me. He told me that she was
recovered of her hurt, but that there had been trouble between her and
Laban because of all that happened on that evening when she came by
it, ending in his encounter with the captain.
"This young man seems to be of a jealous nature," I said, "one who
will make a harsh husband for any woman."
"Yes, learned scribe, jealousy has been his curse from youth as it is
with so many of our people, and I thank God that I am not the woman
whom he is to marry."
"Why, then, do you suffer her to marry him, Jabez?"
"Because her father affianced her to this lion's whelp when she was
scarce more than a child, and among us that is a bond hard to break.
For my own part," he added, dropping his voice, and glancing round
with shifting eyes, "I should like to see my niece in some different
place to that of the wife of Laban. With her great beauty and wit, she
might become anything--anything if she had opportunity. But under our
laws, even if Laban died, as might happen to so violent a man, she
could wed no one who is not a Hebrew."
"I thought she told us that her mother was a Syrian."
"That is so, Scribe Ana. She was a beautiful captive of war whom
Nathan came to love and made his wife, and the daughter takes after
her. Still she is Hebrew and of the Hebrew faith and congregation. Had
it not been so, she might have shone like a star, nay, like the very
moon after which she is named, perhaps in the court of Pharaoh
"As the great queen Taia did, she who changed the religion of Egypt to
the worship of one god in a bygone generation," I suggested.
"I have heard of her, Scribe Ana. She was a wondrous woman, beautiful
too by her statues. Would that you Egyptians could find such another
to turn your hearts to a purer faith and to soften them towards us
poor aliens. When does his Highness leave the land of Goshen?"
"At sunrise on the third day from this."
"Provision will be needed for the journey, much provision for so large
a train. I deal in sheep and other foodstuffs, Scribe Ana."
"I will mention the matter to his Highness and to the Vizier, Jabez."
"I thank you, Scribe, and will in waiting at the camp to-morrow
morning. See, Laban returns with Merapi. One word, let his Highness
beware of Laban. He is very revengeful and has not forgotten that
sword-blow on the head."
"Let Laban be careful," I answered. "Had it not been for his Highness
the soldiers would have killed him the other night because he dared to
offer affront to the royal blood. A second time he will not escape.
Moreover, Pharaoh would avenge aught he did upon the people of
"I understand. It would be sad if Laban were killed, very sad. But the
people of Israel have One who can protect them even against Pharaoh
and all his hosts. Farewell, learned Scribe. If ever I come to Tanis,
with your leave we will talk more together."
That night I told the Prince all that had passed. He listened, and
"I grieve for the lady Merapi, for hers is like to be a hard fate.
Yet," he added laughing, "perhaps it is as well for you, friend, that
you should see no more of her who is sure to bring trouble wherever
she goes. That woman has a face which haunts the mind, as the Ka
haunts the tomb, and for my part I do not wish to look upon it again."
"I am glad to hear it, Prince, and for my part, I have done with
women, however sweet. I will tell this Jabez that the provisions for
the journey will be bought elsewhere."
"Nay, buy them from him, and if Nehesi grumbles at the price, pay it
on my account. The way to a Hebrew's heart is through his treasure
bags. If Jabez is well treated, it may make him kinder to his niece,
of whom I shall always have a pleasant memory, for which I am grateful
among this sour folk who hate us, and with reason."
So the sheep and all the foodstuffs for the journey were bought from
Jabez at his own price, for which he thanked me much, and on the third
day we started. At the last moment the Prince, whose mood seemed to be
perverse that evening, refused to travel with the host upon the morrow
because of the noise and dust. In vain did the Count Amenmeses reason
with him, and Nehesi and the great officers implore him almost on
their knees, saying that they must answer for his safety to Pharaoh
and the Princess Userti. He bade them begone, replying that he would
join them at their camp on the following night. I also prayed him to
listen, but he told me sharply that what he said he had said, and that
he and I would journey in his chariot alone, with two armed runners
and no more, adding that if I thought there was danger I could go
forward with the troops. Then I bit my lip and was silent, whereon,
seeing that he had hurt me, he turned and craved my pardon humbly
enough as his kind heart taught him to do.
"I can bear no more of Amenmeses and those officers," he said, "and I
love to be in the desert alone. Last time we journeyed there we met
with adventures that were pleasant, Ana, and at Tanis doubtless I
shall find others that are not pleasant. Admit that Hebrew priest who
is waiting to instruct me in the mysteries of his faith which I desire
So I bowed and left him to make report that I had failed to shake his
will. Taking the risk of his wrath, however, I did this--for had I not
sworn to the Princess that I would protect him? In place of the
runners I chose two of the best and bravest soldiers to play their
part. Moreover, I instructed that captain who smote down Laban to hide
away with a score of picked men and enough chariots to carry them, and
to follow after the Prince, keeping just out of sight.
So on the morrow the troops, nobles, and officers went on at daybreak,
together with the baggage carriers; nor did we follow them till many
hours had gone by. Some of this time the Prince spent in driving about
the town, taking note of the condition of the people. These, as I saw,
looked on us sullenly enough, more so than before, I thought, perhaps
because we were unguarded. Indeed, turning round I caught sight of a
man shaking his fist and of an old hag spitting after us, and wished
that we were out of the land of Goshen. But when I reported it to the
Prince he only laughed and took no heed.
"All can see that they hate us Egyptians," he said. "Well, let it be
our task to try to turn their hate to love."
"That you will never do, Prince, it is too deep-rooted in their
hearts; for generations they have drunk it in with their mother's
milk. Moreover, this is a war of the gods of Egypt and of Israel, and
men must go where their gods drive them."
"Do you think so, Ana? Then are men nothing but dust blown by the
winds of heaven, blown from the darkness that is before the dawn to be
gathered at last and for ever into the darkness of the grave of
He brooded a while, then went on.
"Yet if I were Pharaoh I would let these people go, for without doubt
their god has much power and I tell you that I fear them."
"Why will he not let them go?" I asked. "They are a weakness, not a
strength to Egypt, as was shown at the time of the invasion of the
Barbarians with whom they sided. Moreover, the value of this rich land
of theirs, which they cannot take with them, is greater than that of
all their labour."
"I do not know, friend. The matter is one upon which my father keeps
his own counsel, even from the Princess Userti. Perhaps it is because
he will not change the policy of his father, Rameses; perhaps because
he is stiff-necked to those who cross his will. Or it may be that he
is held in this path by a madness sent of some god to bring loss and
shame on Egypt."
"Then, Prince, all the priests and nobles are mad also, from Count
"Where Pharaoh leads priests and nobles follow. The question is, who
leads Pharaoh? Here is the temple of these Hebrews; let us enter."
So we descended from the chariot, where, for my part, I would have
remained, and walked through the gateway in the surrounding mud wall
into the outer court of the temple, which on this the holy seventh day
of the Hebrews was full of praying women, who feigned not to see us
yet watched us out of the corners of their eyes. Passing through them
we came to a doorway, by which we entered another court that was
roofed over. Here were many men who murmured as we appeared. They were
engaged in listening to a preacher in a white robe, who wore a strange
shaped cap and some ornaments on his breast. I knew the man; he was
the priest Kohath who had instructed the Prince in so much of the
mysteries of the Hebrew faith as he chose to reveal. On seeing us he
ceased suddenly in his discourse, uttered some hasty blessing and
advanced to greet us.
I waited behind the Prince, thinking it well to watch his back among
all those fierce men, and did not hear what the priest said to him, as
he whispered in that holy place. Kohath led him forward, to free him
from the throng, I thought, till they came to the head of the little
temple that was marked by some steps, above which hung a thick and
heavy curtain. The Prince, walking on, did not see the lowest of these
steps in the gloom, which was deep. His foot caught on it; he fell
forward, and to save himself grasped at the curtain where the two
halves of it met, and dragged it open, revealing a chamber plain and
small beyond, in which was an altar. That was all I had time to see,
for next instant a roar of rage rent the air and knives flashed in the
"The Egyptian defiles the tabernacle!" shouted one. "Drag him out and
kill him!" screamed another.
"Friends," said Seti, turning as they surged towards him, "if I have
done aught wrong it was by chance----"
He could add no more, seeing that they were on him, or rather on me
who had leapt in front of him. Already they had grasped my robes and
my hand was on my sword-hilt, when the priest Kohath cried out:
"Men of Israel, are you mad? Would you bring Pharaoh's vengeance on
They halted a little and their spokesman shouted:
"We defy Pharaoh! Our God will protect us from Pharaoh. Drag him forth
and kill him beyond the wall!"
Again they began to move, when a man, in whom I recognized Jabez, the
uncle of Merapi, called aloud:
"Cease! If this Prince of Egypt has done insult to Jahveh by will and
not by chance, it is certain that he will avenge himself upon him.
Shall men take the judgment of God into their own hands? Stand back
and wait awhile. If Jahveh is affronted, the Egyptian will fall dead.
If he does not fall dead, let him pass hence unharmed, for such is
Jahveh's will. Stand back, I say, while I count threescore."
They withdrew a space and slowly Jabez began to count.
Although at that time I knew nothing of the power of the god of
Israel, I will say that I was filled with fear as one by one he
counted, pausing at each ten. The scene was very strange. There by the
steps stood the Prince against the background of the curtain, his arms
folded and a little smile of wonder mixed with contempt upon his face,
but not a sign of fear. On one side of him was I, who knew well that I
should share his fate whatever it might be, and indeed desired no
other; and on the other the priest Kohath, whose hands shook and whose
eyes started from his head. In front of us old Jabez counted, watching
the fierce-faced congregation that in a dead silence waited for the
issue. The count went on. Thirty. Forty. Fifty--oh! it seemed an age.
At length sixty fell from his lips. He waited a while and all watched
the Prince, not doubting but that he would fall dead. But instead he
turned to Kohath and asked quietly if this ordeal was now finished, as
he desired to make an offering to the temple, which he had been
invited to visit, and begone.
"Our God has given his answer," said Jabez. "Accept it, men of Israel.
What this Prince did he did by chance, not of design."
They turned and went without a word, and after I had laid the
offering, no mean one, in the appointed place, we followed them.
"It would seem that yours is no gentle god," said the Prince to
Kohath, when at length we were outside the temple.
"At least he is just, your Highness. Had it been otherwise, you who
had violated his sanctuary, although by chance, would ere now be
"Then you hold, Priest, that Jahveh has power to slay us when he is
"Without a doubt, your Highness--as, if our Prophets speak truth, I
think that Egypt will learn ere all be done," he added grimly.
Seti looked at him and answered:
"It may be so, but all gods, or their priests, claim the power to
torment and slay those who worship other gods. It is not only women
who are jealous, Kohath, or so it seems. Yet I think that you do your
god injustice, seeing that even if this strength is his, he proved
more merciful than his worshippers who knew well that I only grasped
the veil to save myself from falling. If ever I visit your temple
again it shall be in the company of those who can match might against
might, whether of the spirit or the sword. Farewell."
So we reached the chariot, near to which stood Jabez, he who had saved
"Prince," he whispered, glancing at the crowd who lingered not far
away, silent and glowering, "I pray you leave this land swiftly for
here your life is not safe. I know it was by chance, but you have
defiled the sanctuary and seen that upon which eyes may not look save
those of the highest priests, an offence no Israelite can forgive."
"And you, or your people, Jabez, would have defiled this sanctuary of
my life, spilling my heart's blood and /not/ by chance. Surely you are
a strange folk who seek to make an enemy of one who has tried to be
"I do not seek it," exclaimed Jabez. "I would that we might have
Pharaoh's mouth and ear who soon will himself be Pharaoh upon our
side. O Prince of Egypt, be not wroth with all the children of Israel
because their wrongs have made some few of them stubborn and hard-
hearted. Begone now, and of your goodness remember my words."
"I will remember," said Seti, signing to the charioteer to drive on.
Yet still the Prince lingered in the town, saying that he feared
nothing and would learn all he could of this people and their ways
that he might report the better of them to Pharaoh. For my part I
believed that there was one face which he wished to see again before
he left, but of this I thought it wise to say nothing.
At length about midday we did depart, and drove eastwards on the track
of Amenmeses and our company. All the afternoon we drove thus,
preceded by the two soldiers disguised as runners and followed, as a
distant cloud of dust told me, by the captain and his chariots, whom I
had secretly commanded to keep us in sight.
Towards evening we came to the pass in the story hills which bounded
the land of Goshen. Here Seti descended from the chariot, and we
climbed, accompanied by the two soldiers whom I signed to follow us,
to the crest of one of these hills that was strewn with huge boulders
and lined with ridges of sandstone, between which gullies had been cut
by the winds of thousands of years.
Leaning against one of these ridges we looked back upon a wondrous
sight. Far away across the fertile plain appeared the town that we had
left, and behind it the sun sank. It would seem as though some storm
had broken there, although the firmament above us was clear and blue.
At least in front of the town two huge pillars of cloud stretched from
earth to heaven like the columns of some mighty gateway. One of these
pillars was as though it were made of black marble, and the other like
to molten gold. Between them ran a road of light ending in a glory,
and in the midst of the glory the round ball of Ra, the Sun, burned
like the eye of God. The spectacle was as awesome as it was splendid.
"Have you ever seen such a sky in Egypt, Prince?" I asked.
"Never," he answered, and although he spoke low, in that great
stillness his voice sounded loud to me.
For a while longer we watched, till suddenly the sun sank, and only
the glory about it and above remained, which took shapes like to the
palaces and temples of a city in the heavens, a far city that no
mortal could reach except in dreams.
"I know not why, Ana," said Seti, "but for the first time since I was
a man I feel afraid. It seems to me that there are omens in the sky
and I cannot read them. Would that Ki were here to tell us what is
signified by the pillar of blackness to the right and the pillar of
fire to the left, and what god has his home in the city of glory
behind, and how man's feet may walk along the shining road which leads
to its pylon gates. I tell you that I am afraid; it is as though Death
were very near to me and all his wonders open to my mortal sight."
"I too am afraid," I whispered. "Look! The pillars move. That of fire
goes before; that of black cloud follows after, and between them I
seem to see a countless multitude marching in unending companies. See
how the light glitters on their spears! Surely the god of the Hebrews
"He, or some other god, or no god at all, who knows? Come, Ana, let us
be going if we would reach that camp ere dark."
So we descended from the ridge, and re-entering the chariot, drove on
towards the neck of the pass. Now this neck was very narrow, not more
than four paces wide for a certain distance, and, on either side of
the roadway were tumbled sandstone boulders, between which grew desert
plants, and gullies that had been cut by storm-water, while beyond
these rose the sides of the mountain. Here the horses went at a walk
towards a turn in the path, at which point the land began to fall
When we were about half a spear's throw from this turn of a sudden I
heard a sound and, glancing to the right, perceived a woman leaping
down the hillside towards us. The charioteer saw also and halted the
horses, and the two runner guards turned and drew their swords. In
less than half a minute the woman had reached us, coming out of the
shadow so that the light fell upon her face.
"Merapi!" exclaimed the Prince and I, speaking as though with one
Merapi it was indeed, but in evil case. Her long hair had broken loose
and fell about her, the cloak she wore was torn, and there were blood
and foam upon her lips. She stood gasping, since speak she could not
for breathlessness, supporting herself with one hand upon the side of
the chariot and with the other pointing to the bend in the road. At
last a word came, one only. It was:
"She means that she is going to be murdered," said the Prince to me.
"No," she panted, "you--you! The Hebrews. Go back!"
"Turn the horses!" I cried to the charioteer.
He began to obey helped by the two guards, but because of the
narrowness of the road and the steepness of the banks this was not
easy. Indeed they were but half round in such fashion that they
blocked the pathway from side to side, when a wild yell of 'Jahveh'
broke upon our ears, and from round the bend, a few paces away, rushed
a horde of fierce, hook-nosed men, brandishing knives and swords.
Scarcely was there time for us to leap behind the shelter of the
chariot and make ready, when they were on us.
"Hearken," I said to the charioteer as they came, "run as you never
ran before, and bring up the guard behind!"
He sprang away like an arrow.
"Get back, Lady," cried Seti. "This is no woman's work, and see here
comes Laban to seek you," and he pointed with his sword at the leader
of the murderers.
She obeyed, staggering a few paces to a stone at the roadside, behind
which she crouched. Afterwards she told me that she had no strength to
go further, and indeed no will, since if we were killed, it were
better that she who had warned us should be killed also.
Now they had reached us, the whole flood of them, thirty or forty men.
The first who came stabbed the frightened horses, and down they went
against the bank, struggling. On the chariot leapt the Hebrews,
seeking to come at us, and we met them as best we might, tearing off
our cloaks and throwing them over our left arms to serve as shields.
Oh! what a fight was that. In the open, or had we not been prepared,
we must have been slain at once, but, as it was, the place and the
barrier of the chariot gave us some advantage. So narrow was the
roadway, the walls of which were here too steep to climb, that not
more than four of the Hebrews could strike at us at once, which four
must first surmount the chariot or the still living horses.
But we also were four, and thanks to Userti, two of us were clad in
mail beneath our robes--four strong men fighting for their lives.
Against us came four of the Hebrews. One leapt from the chariot
straight at Seti, who received him upon the point of his iron sword,
whereof I heard the hilt ring against his breast-bone, that same
famous iron sword which to-day lies buried with him in his grave.
Down he came dead, throwing the Prince to the ground by the weight of
his body. The Hebrew who attacked me caught his foot on the chariot
pole and fell forward, so I killed him easily with a blow upon the
head, which gave me time to drag the Prince to his feet again before
another followed. The two guards also, sturdy fighters both of them,
killed or mortally wounded their men. But others were pressing behind
so thick and fast that I could keep no count of all that happened
Presently I saw one of the guards fall, slain by Laban. A stab on the
breast sent me reeling backwards; had it not been for that mail I was
sped. The other guard killed him who would have killed me, and then
himself was killed by two who came on him at once.
Now only the Prince and I were left, fighting back to back. He closed
with one man, a very great fellow, and wounded him on the hand, so
that he dropped his sword. This man gripped him round the middle and
they rolled together on the ground. Laban appeared and stabbed the
Prince in the back, but the curved knife he was using snapped on the
Syrian mail. I struck at Laban and wounded him on the head, dazing him
so that he staggered back and seemed to fall over the chariot. Then
others rushed at me, and but for Userti's armour three times at least
I must have died. Fighting madly, I staggered against the rock, and
whilst waiting for a new onset, saw that Seti, hurt by Laban's thrust,
was now beneath the great Hebrew who had him by the throat, and was
choking the life out of him.
I saw something else also--a woman holding a sword with both hands and
stabbing downward, after which the grip of the Hebrew loosened from
"Traitress!" cried one, and struck at her, so that she reeled back
hurt. Then when all seemed finished, and beneath the rain of blows my
senses were failing, I heard the thunder of horses' hoofs and the
shout of "/Egypt! Egypt!/" from the throats of soldiers. The flash of
bronze caught my dazed eyes, and with the roar of battle in my ears I
seemed to fall asleep just as the light of day departed.
SETI COUNSELS PHARAOH
Dream upon dream. Dreams of voices, dreams of faces, dreams of
sunlight and of moonlight and of myself being borne forward, always
forward; dreams of shouting crowds, and, above all, dreams of Merapi's
eyes looking down on me like two watching stars from heaven. Then at
last the awakening, and with it throbs of pain and qualms of sickness.
At first I thought that I was dead and lying in a tomb. Then by
degrees I saw that I was in no tomb but in a darkened room that was
familiar to me, my own room in Seti's palace at Tanis. It must be so,
for there, near to the bed on which I lay, was my own chest filled
with the manuscripts that I had brought from Memphis. I tried to lift
my left hand, but could not, and looking down saw that the arm was
bandaged like to that of a mummy, which made me think again that I
must be dead, if the dead could suffer so much pain. I closed my eyes
and thought or slept a while.
As I lay thus I heard voices. One of them seemed to be that of a
physician, who said, "Yes, he will live and ere long recover. The blow
upon the head which has made him senseless for so many days was the
worst of his wounds, but the bone was but bruised, not shattered or
driven in upon the brain. The flesh cuts on his arms are healing well,
and the mail he wore protected his vitals from being pierced."
"I am glad, physician," answered a voice that I knew to be that of
Userti, "since without a doubt, had it not been for Ana, his Highness
would have perished. It is strange that one whom I thought to be
nothing but a dreaming scribe should have shown himself so brave a
warrior. The Prince says that this Ana killed three of those dogs with
his own hands, and wounded others."
"It was well done, your Highness," answered the physician, "but still
better was his forethought in providing a rear-guard and in
despatching the charioteer to call it up. It seems to have been the
Hebrew lady who really saved the life of his Highness, when,
forgetting her sex, she stabbed the murderer who had him by the
"That is the Prince's tale, or so I understand," she answered coldly.
"Yet it seems strange that a weak and worn-out girl could have pierced
a giant through from back to breast."
"At least she warned him of the ambush, your Highness."
"So they say. Perhaps Ana here will soon tell us the truth about these
matters. Tend him well, physician, and you shall not lack for your
Then they went away, still talking, and I lay quiet, filled with
thankfulness and wonder, for now everything came back to me.
A while later, as I lay with my eyes still shut, for even that low
light seemed to hurt them, I became aware of a woman's soft step
stealing round my bed and of a fragrance such as comes from a woman's
robes and hair. I looked and saw Merapi's star-like eyes gazing down
on me just as I had seen them in my dreams.
"Greeting, Moon of Israel," I said. "Of a truth we meet again in
"Oh!" she whispered, "are you awake at last? I thank God, Scribe Ana,
who for three days thought that you must die."
"As, had it not been for you, Lady, surely I should have done--I and
another. Now it seems that all three of us will live."
"Would that but two lived, the Prince and you, Ana. Would that /I/ had
died," she answered, sighing heavily.
"Cannot you guess? Because I am outcast who has betrayed my people.
Because their blood flows between me and them. For I killed that man,
and he was my own kinsman, for the sake of an Egyptian--I mean,
Egyptians. Therefore the curse of Jahveh is on me, and as my kinsman
died doubtless I shall die in a day to come, and afterwards--what?"
"Afterwards peace and great reward, if there be justice in earth or
heaven, O most noble among women."
"Would that I could think so! Hush, I hear steps. Drink this; I am the
chief of your nurses, Scribe Ana, an honourable post, since to-day all
Egypt loves and praises you."
"Surely it is you, lady Merapi, whom all Egypt should love and
praise," I answered.
Then the Prince Seti entered. I strove to salute him by lifting my
less injured arm, but he caught my hand and pressed it tenderly.
"Hail to you, beloved of Menthu, god of war," he said, with his
pleasant laugh. "I thought I had hired a scribe, and lo! in this
scribe I find a soldier who might be an army's boast."
At this moment he caught sight of Merapi, who had moved back into the
"Hail to you also, Moon of Israel," he said bowing. "If I name Ana
here a warrior of the best, what name can both of us find for you to
whom we owe our lives? Nay, look not down, but answer."
"Prince of Egypt," she replied confusedly, "I did but little. The plot
came to my ears through Jabez my uncle, and I fled away and, knowing
the short paths from childhood, was just in time. Had I stayed to
think perchance I should not have dared."
"And what of the rest, Lady? What of the Hebrew who was choking me and
of a certain sword thrust that loosed his hands for ever?"
"Of that, your Highness, I can recall nothing, or very little," then,
doubtless remembering what she had just said to me, she made obeisance
and passed from the chamber.
"She can tell falsehoods as sweetly as she does all else," said Seti,
when he had watched her go. "Oh! what a woman have we here, Ana.
Perfect in beauty, perfect in courage, perfect in mind. Where are her
faults, I wonder? Let it be your part to search them out, since I find
"Ask them of Ki, O Prince. He is a very great magician, so great that
perhaps his art may even avail to discover what a woman seeks to hide.
Also you may remember that he gave you certain warnings before we
journeyed to Goshen."
"Yes--he told me that my life would be in danger, as certainly it was.
There he was right. He told me also that I should see a woman whom I
should come to love. There he was wrong. I have seen no such woman.
Oh! I know well what is passing in your mind. Because I hold the lady
Merapi to be beautiful and brave, you think that I love her. But it is
not so. I love no woman, except, of course, her Highness. Ana, you
judge me by yourself."
"Ki said 'come to love,' Prince. There is yet time."
"Not so, Ana. If one loves, one loves at once. Soon I shall be old and
she will be fat and ugly, and how can one love then? Get well quickly,
Ana, for I wish you to help me with my report to Pharaoh. I shall tell
him that I think these Israelites are much oppressed and that he
should make them amends and let them go."
"What will Pharaoh say to that after they have just tried to kill his
"I think Pharaoh will be angry, and so will the people of Egypt, who
do not reason well. He will not see that, believing what they do,
Laban and his band were right to try to kill me who, however
unwittingly, desecrated the sanctuary of their god. Had they done
otherwise they would have been no good Hebrews, and for my part I
cannot bear them malice. Yet all Egypt is afire about this business
and cries out that the Israelites should be destroyed."
"It seems to me, Prince, that whatever may be the case with Ki's
second prophecy, his third is in the way of fulfilment--namely that
this journey to Goshen may cause you to risk your throne."
He shrugged his shoulders and answered:
"Not even for that, Ana, will I say to Pharaoh what is not in my mind.
But let that matter be till you are stronger."
"What chanced at the end of the fight, Prince, and how came I here?"
"The guard killed most of the Hebrews who remained alive. Some few
fled and escaped in the darkness, among them Laban their leader,
although you had wounded him, and six were taken alive. They await
their trial. I was but little hurt and you, whom we thought dead, were
but senseless, and senseless or wandering you have remained till this
hour. We carried you in a litter, and here you have been these three
"And the lady Merapi?"
"We set her in a chariot and brought her to the city, since had we
left her she would certainly have been murdered by her people. When
Pharaoh heard what she had done, as I did not think it well that she
should dwell here, he gave her the small house in this garden that she
might be guarded, and with it slave women to attend upon her. So there
she dwells, having the freedom of the palace, and all the while has
filled the office of your nurse."
At this moment I grew faint and shut my eyes. When I opened them
again, the Prince had gone. Six more days went by before I was allowed
to leave my bed, and during this time I saw much of Merapi. She was
very sad and lived in fear of being killed by the Hebrews. Also she
was troubled in her heart because she thought she had betrayed her
faith and people.
"At least you are rid of Laban," I said.
"Never shall I be rid of him while we both live," she answered. "I
belong to him and he will not loose my bond, because his heart is set
"And is your heart set on him?" I asked.
Her beautiful eyes filled with tears.
"A woman may not have a heart. Oh! Ana, I am unhappy," she answered,
and went away.
Also I saw others. The Princess came to visit me. She thanked me much
because I had fulfilled my promise to her and guarded the Prince.
Moreover she brought me a gift of gold from Pharaoh, and other gifts
of fine raiment from herself. She questioned me closely about Merapi,
of whom I could see she was already jealous, and was glad when she
learned that she was affianced to a Hebrew. Old Bakenkhonsu came too,
and asked me many things about the Prince, the Hebrews and Merapi,
especially Merapi, of whose deeds, he said, all Egypt was talking,
questions that I answered as best I could.
"Here we have that woman of whom Ki told us," he said, "she who shall
bring so much joy and so much sorrow to the Prince of Egypt."
"Why so?" I asked. "He has not taken her into his house, nor do I
think that he means to do so."
"Yet he will, Ana, whether he means it or not. For his sake she
betrayed her people, which among the Israelites is a deadly crime.
Twice she saved his life, once by warning him of the ambush, and again
by stabbing with her own hands one of her kinsmen who was murdering
him. Is it not so? Tell me; you were there."
"It is so, but what then?"
"This: that whatever she may say, she loves him; unless indeed, it is
you whom she loves," and he looked at me shrewdly.
"When a woman has a prince, and such a prince to her hand, would she
trouble herself to set snares to catch a scribe?" I asked, with some
"Oho!" he said, with one of his great laughs, "so things stand thus,
do they? Well, I thought it, but, friend Ana, be warned in time. Do
not try to conjure down the Moon to be your household lamp lest she
should set, and the Sun, her lord, should grow wroth and burn you up.
Well, she loves him, and therefore soon or late she will make him love
her, being what she is."
"With most men, Ana, it would be simple. A sigh, some half-hidden
tears at the right moment, and the thing is done, as I have known it
done a thousand times. But this prince being what he is, it may be
otherwise. She may show him that her name is gone from him; that
because of him she is hated by her people, and rejected by her god,
and thus stir his pity, which is Love's own sister. Or mayhap, being
also, as I am told, wise, she will give him counsel as to all these
matters of the Israelites, and thus creep into his heart under the
guise of friendship, and then her sweetness and her beauty will do the
rest in Nature's way. At least by this road or by that, upstream or
downstream, thither she will come."
"If so, what of it? It is the custom of the kings of Egypt to have
more wives than one."
"This, Ana; Seti, I think, is a man who in truth will have but one,
and that one will be this Hebrew. Yes, a Hebrew woman will rule Egypt,
and turn him to the worship of her god, for never will she worship
ours. Indeed, when they see that she is lost to them, her people will
use her thus. Or perchance her god himself will use her to fulfil his
purpose, as already he may have used her."
Back to Full Books