Moon of Israel
H. Rider Haggard
Part 5 out of 5
But, alas! all that the little Seti was doomed to fill was a coffin.
It was a still, hot evening, so hot that Merapi had bid the nurse
bring the child's bed and set it between two pillars of the great
portico. There on the bed he slept, lovely as Horus the divine. She
sat by his side in a chair that had feet shaped like to those of an
antelope. Seti walked up and down the terrace beyond the portico
leaning on my shoulder, and talking by snatches of this or that.
Occasionally as he passed he would stay for a while to make sure by
the bright moonlight that all was well with Merapi and the child, as
of late it had become a habit with him to do. Then without speaking,
for fear lest he should awake the boy, he would smile at Merapi, who
sat there brooding, her head resting on her hand, and pass on.
The night was very still. The palm leaves did not rustle, no jackals
were stirring, and even the shrill-voiced insects had ceased their
cries. Moreover, the great city below was quiet as a home of the dead.
It was as though the presage of some advancing doom scared the world
to silence. For without doubt doom was in the air. All felt it down to
the nurse woman, who cowered close as she dared to the chair of her
mistress, and even in that heat shivered from time to time.
Presently little Seti awoke, and began to prattle about something he
"What did you dream, my son?" asked his father.
"I dreamed," he answered in his baby talk, "that a woman, dressed as
Mother was in the temple, took me by the hand and led me into the air.
I looked down, and saw you and Mother with white faces and crying. I
began to cry too, but the woman with the feather cap told me not as
she was taking me to a beautiful big star where Mother would soon come
to find me."
The Prince and I looked at each other and Merapi feigned to busy
herself with hushing the child to sleep again. It drew towards
midnight and still no one seemed minded to go to rest. Old Bakenkhonsu
appeared and began to say something about the night being very strange
and unrestful, when, suddenly, a little bat that was flitting to and
fro above us fell upon his head and thence to the ground. We looked at
it, and saw that it was dead.
"Strange that the creature should have died thus," said Bakenkhonsu,
when, behold! another fell to the ground near by. The black kitten
which belonged to Little Seti saw it fall and darted from beside his
bed where it was sleeping. Before ever it reached the bat, the
creature wheeled round, stood upon its hind legs, scratching at the
air about it, then uttered one pitiful cry and fell over dead.
We stared at it, when suddenly far away a dog howled in a very
piercing fashion. Then a cow began to bale as these beasts do when
they have lost their calves. Next, quite close at hand but without the
gates, there arose the ear-curdling cry of a woman in agony, which on
the instant seemed to be echoed from every quarter, till the air was
full of wailing.
"Oh, Seti! Seti!" exclaimed Merapi, in a voice that was rather a hiss
than a whisper, "look at your son!"
We sprang to where the babe lay, and looked. He had awakened and was
staring upward with wide-opened eyes and frozen face. The fear, if
such it were, passed from his features, though still he stared. He
rose to his little feet, always looking upwards. Then a smile came
upon his face, a most beautiful smile; he stretched out his arms, as
though to clasp one who bent down towards him, and fell backwards--
Seti stood still as a statue; we all stood still, even Merapi. Then
she bend down, and lifted the body of the boy.
"Now, my lord," she said, "there has fallen on you that sorrow which
Jabez my uncle warned you would come, if ever you had aught to do with
me. Now the curse of Israel has pierced my heart, and now our child,
as Ki the evil prophesied, has grown too great for greetings, or even
Thus she spoke in a cold and quiet voice, as one might speak of
something long expected or foreseen, then made her reverence to the
Prince, and departed, bearing the body of the child. Never, I think,
did Merapi seem more beautiful to me than in this, her hour of
bereavement, since now through her woman's loveliness shone out some
shadow of the soul within. Indeed, such were her eyes and such her
movements that well might have been a spirit and not a woman who
departed from us with that which had been her son.
Seti leaned on my shoulder looking at the empty bed, and at the scared
nurse who still sat behind, and I felt a tear drop upon my hand. Old
Bakenkhonsu lifted his massive face, and looked at him.
"Grieve not over much, Prince," he said, "since, ere as many years as
I have lived out have come and gone, this child will be forgotten and
his mother will be forgotten, and even you, O Prince, will live but as
a name that once was great in Egypt. And then, O Prince, elsewhere the
game will begin afresh, and what you have lost shall be found anew,
and the sweeter for it sheltering from the vile breath of men. Ki's
magic is not all a lie, or if his is, mine holds some shadow of the
truth, and when he said to you yonder in Tanis that not for nothing
were you named 'Lord of Rebirths,' he spoke words that you should find
"I thank you, Councillor," said Seti, and turning, followed Merapi.
"Now I suppose we shall have more deaths," I exclaimed, hardly knowing
what I said in my sorrow.
"I think not, Ana," answered Bakenkhonsu, "since the shield of Jabez,
or of his god, is over us. Always he foretold that trouble would come
to Merapi, and to Seti through Merapi, but that is all."
I glanced at the kitten.
"It strayed here from the town three days ago, Ana. And the bats also
may have flown from the town. Hark to the wailing. Was ever such a
sound heard before in Egypt?"
JABEZ SELLS HORSES
Bakenkhonsu was right. Save the son of Seti alone, none died who dwelt
in or about his house, though elsewhere all the first-born of Egypt
lay dead, and the first-born of the beasts also. When this came to be
known throughout the land a rage seized the Egyptians against Merapi
who, they remembered, had called down woe on Egypt after she had been
forced to pray in the temple and, as they believed, to lift the
darkness from Memphis.
Bakenkhonsu and I and others who loved her pointed out that her own
child had died with the rest. To this it was answered, and here I
thought I saw the fingers of Userti and of Ki, that it was nothing,
since witches did not love children. Moreover, they said she could
have as many as she liked and when she liked, making them to look like
children out of clay figures and to grow up into evil spirits to
torment the land. Lastly, people swore that she had been heard to say
that, although to do it she must kill her own lord's son, she would
not on that account forego her vengeance on the Egyptians, who once
had treated her as a slave and murdered her father. Further, the
Israelites themselves, or some of them, mayhap Laban among them, were
reported to have told the Egyptians that it was the sorceress who had
bewitched Prince Seti who brought such great troubles on them.
So it happened that the Egyptians came to hate Merapi, who of all
women was the sweetest and the most to be loved, and to her other
supposed crimes, added this also, that by her witcheries she had
stolen the heart of Seti away from his lawful wife and made him to
turn that lady, the Royal Princess of Egypt, even from his gates, so
that she was forced to dwell alone at Tanis. For in all these matters
none blamed Seti, whom everyone in Egypt loved, because it was known
that he would have dealt with the Israelites in a very different
fashion, and thus averted all the woes that had desolated the ancient
land of Khem. As for this matter of the Hebrew girl with the big eyes
who chanced to have thrown a spell upon him, that was his ill-fortune,
nothing more. Amongst the many women with whom they believed he filled
his house, as was the way of princes, it was not strange that one
favourite should be a witch. Indeed, I am certain that only because he
was known to love her, was Merapi saved from death by poison or in
some other secret fashion, at any rate for a while.
Now came the glad tidings that the pride of Pharaoh was broken at last
(for his first-born child had died with the others), or that the cloud
of madness had lifted from his brain, whichever it might be, and that
he had decreed that the Children of Israel might depart from Egypt
when and whither they would. Then the people breathed again, seeing
hope that their miseries might end.
It was at this time that Jabez appeared once more at Memphis, driving
a number of chariot horses, which he said he wished to sell to the
Prince, as he did not desire them to pass into any other hands. He was
admitted and stated the price of his horses, according to which they
must have been beasts of great value.
"Why do you wish to sell your horses?" asked Seti.
"Because I go with my people into lands where there is little water
and there they might die, O Prince."
"I will buy the horses. See to it, Ana," said Seti, although I knew
well that already he had more than he needed.
The Prince rose to show that the interview was ended, whereon Jabez,
who was bowing his thanks, said hurriedly:
"I rejoice to learn, O Royal One, that things have befallen as I
foretold, or rather was bidden to foretell, and that the troubles
which have afflicted Egypt have passed by your dwelling."
"Then you rejoice to learn a falsehood, Hebrew, since the worst of
those troubles has made its home here. My son is dead," and he turned
Jabez lifted his shifty eyes from the floor and glanced at him.
"Prince," he said, "I know and grieve because this loss has cut you to
the heart. Yet it was no fault of mine or of my people. If you think,
you will remember that both when I built a wall of protection about
this place because of your good deeds to Israel, O Prince, and before,
I warned, and caused you to be warned, that if you and my niece, Moon
of Israel, came together a great trouble might fall on you through her
who, having become the woman of an Egyptian in defiance of command,
must bear the fate of Egyptian women."
"It may be so," said the Prince. "The matter is not one of which I
care to talk. If this death were wrought by the magic of your wizards
I have only this to say--that it is an ill payment to me in return for
all that I have striven to do on behalf of the Hebrews. Yet, what else
could I expect from such a people in such a world? Farewell."
"One prayer, O Prince. I would ask your leave to speak with my niece,
"She is veiled. Since the murder of her child by wizardry, she sees no
"Still I think she will see her uncle, O Prince."
"What then do you wish to say to her?"
"O Prince, through the clemency of Pharaoh we poor slaves are about to
leave the land of Egypt never to return. Therefore, if my niece
remains behind, it is natural that I should wish to bid her farewell,
and to confide to her certain matters connected with our race and
family, which she might desire to pass on to her children."
Now when he heard this word "children" Seti softened.
"I do not trust you," he said. "You may be charged with more of your
Hebrew curses against Merapi, or you may say words to her that will
make her even unhappier than she is. Yet if you would wish to see her
in my presence----"
"My lord Prince, I will not trouble you so far. Farewell. Be pleased
"Or if that does not suit you," interrupted Seti, "in the presence of
Ana here you can do so, unless she refuses to receive you."
Jabez reflected for a moment, and answered:
"Then in the presence of Ana let it be, since he is a man who knows
when to be silent."
Jabez made obeisance and departed, and at a sign from the Prince I
followed him. Presently we were ushered into the chamber of the lady
Merapi, where she sat looking most sad and lonely, with a veil of
black upon her head.
"Greeting, my uncle," she said, after glancing at me, whose presence I
think she understood. "Are you the bearer of more prophecies? I pray
not, since your last were overtrue," and she touched the black veil
with her finger.
"I am the bearer of tidings, and of a prayer, Niece. The tidings are
that the people of Israel are about to leave Egypt. The prayer, which
is also a command, is--that you make ready to accompany them----"
"To Laban?" she asked, looking up.
"No, my niece. Laban would not wish as a wife one who has been the
mistress of an Egyptian, but to play your part, however humble, in the
fortunes of our people."
"I am glad that Laban does not wish what he never could obtain, my
uncle. Tell me, I pray you, why should I hearken to this prayer, or
"For a good reason, Niece--that your life hangs on it. Heretofore you
have been suffered to take your heart's desire. But if you bide in
Egypt where you have no longer a mission to fulfil, having done all
that was sought of you in keeping with the mind of your lover, the
Prince Seti, true to the cause of Israel, you will surely die."
"You mean that our people will kill me?"
"No, not our people. Still you will die."
She took a step towards him, and looked him in the eyes.
"You are certain that I shall die, my uncle?"
"I am, or at least others are certain."
Now she laughed; it was the first time I had seen her laugh for
"Then I will stay here," she said.
Jabez stared at her.
"I thought that you loved this Egyptian, who indeed is worthy of any
woman's love," he muttered into his beard.
"Perhaps it is because I love him that I wish to die. I have given him
all I have to give; there is nothing left of my poor treasure except
what will bring trouble and misfortune on his head. Therefore the
greater the love--and it is more great than all those pyramids massed
to one--the greater the need that it should be buried for a while. Do
He shook his head.
"I understand only that you are a very strange woman, different from
any other that I have known."
"My child, who was slain with the rest, was all the world to me, and I
would be where he is. Do you understand now?"
"You would leave your life, in which, being young, you may have more
children, to lie in a tomb with your dead son?" he asked slowly, like
"I only care for life while it can serve him whom I love, and if a day
comes when he sits upon the throne how will a daughter of the hated
Israelites serve him then? Also I do not wish for more children.
Living or dead, he that is gone owns all my heart; there is no room in
it for others. That love at least is pure and perfect, and having been
embalmed by death, can never change. Moreover, it is not in a tomb
that I shall lie with him, or so I believe. The faith of these
Egyptians which we despise tells of a life eternal in the heavens, and
thither I would go to seek that which is lost, and to wait that which
is left behind awhile."
"Ah!" said Jabez. "For my part I do not trouble myself with these
problems, who find in a life temporal on the earth enough to fill my
thoughts and hands. Yet, Merapi, you are a rebel, and whether in
heaven or on earth, how are rebels received by the king against whom
they have rebelled?"
"You say I am rebel," she said, turning on him with flashing eyes.
"Why? Because I would not dishonour myself by marrying a man I hate,
one also who is a murderer, and because while I live I will not desert
a man whom I love to return to those who have done me naught but evil.
Did God then make women to be sold like cattle of the field for the
pleasure and the profit of him who can pay the highest?"
"It seems so," said Jabez, spreading out his hands.
"It seems that you think so, who fashion God as you would wish him to
be, but for my part I do not believe it, and if I did, I should seek
another king. My uncle, I appeal from the priest and the elder to That
which made both them and me, and by Its judgment I will stand or
"Always a very dangerous thing to do," reflected Jabez aloud, "since
the priest is apt to take the law into his own hands before the cause
can be pleaded elsewhere. Still, who am I that I should set up my
reasonings against one who can grind Amon to powder in his own
sanctuary, and who therefore may have warrant for all she thinks and
Merapi stamped her foot.
"You know well it was you who brought me the command to dare the god
Amon in his temple. It was not I----" she began.
"I do know," replied Jabez waving his hand. "I know also that is what
every wizard says, whatever his nation or his gods, and what no one
ever believes. Thus because, having faith, you obeyed the command and
through you Amon was smitten, among both the Israelites and the
Egyptians you are held to be the greatest sorceress that has looked
upon the Nile, and that is a dangerous repute, my niece."
"One to which I lay no claim, and never sought."
"Just so, but which all the same has come to you. Well, knowing as
without doubt you do all that will soon befall in Egypt, and having
been warned, if you needed warning, of the danger with which you
yourself are threatened, you still refuse to obey this second command
which it is my duty to deliver to you?"
"Then on your own head be it, and farewell. Oh! I would add that there
is a certain property in cattle, and the fruit of lands which descends
to you from your father. In the event of your death----"
"Take it all, uncle, and may it prosper you. Farewell."
"A great woman, friend Ana, and a beautiful," said the old Hebrew,
after he had watched her go. "I grieve that I shall never see her
again, and, indeed, that no one will see her for very long; for,
remember, she is my niece of whom I am fond. Now I too must be going,
having completed my errand. All good fortune to you, Ana. You are no
longer a soldier, are you? No? Believe me, it is as well, as you will
learn. My homage to the Prince. Think of me at times, when you grow
old, and not unkindly, seeing that I have served you as best I could,
and your master also, who I hope will soon find again that which he
lost awhile ago."
"Her Highness, Princess Userti," I suggested.
"The Princess Userti among other things, Ana. Tell the Prince, if he
should deem them costly, that those horses which I sold him are really
of the finest Syrian blood, and of a strain that my family has owned
for generations. If you should chance to have any friend whose welfare
you desire, let him not go into the desert soldiering during the next
few moons, especially if Pharaoh be in command. Nay, I know nothing,
but it is a season of great storm. Farewell, friend Ana, and again
"Now what did he mean by that?" thought I to myself, as I departed to
make my report to Seti. But no answer to the question rose in my mind.
Very soon I began to understand. It appeared that at length the
Israelites were leaving Egypt, a vast horde of them, and with them
tens of thousands of Arabs of various tribes who worshipped their god
and were, some of them, descended from the people of the Hyksos, the
shepherds who once ruled in Egypt. That this was true was proved to us
by the tidings which reached us that all the Hebrew women who dwelt in
Memphis, even those of them who were married to Egyptians, had
departed from the city, leaving behind them their men and sometimes
their children. Indeed, before these went, certain of them who had
been friends visited Merapi, and asked her if she were not coming
also. She shook her head as she replied:
"Why do you go? Are you so fond of journeyings in the desert that for
the sake of them you are ready never again to look upon the men you
love and the children of your bodies?"
"No, Lady," they answered, weeping. "We are happy here in white-walled
Memphis and here, listening to the murmur of the Nile, we would grow
old and die, rather than strive to keep house in some desert tent with
a stranger or alone. Yet fear drives us hence."
"Fear of what?"
"Of the Egyptians who, when they come to understand all that they have
suffered at our hands in return for the wealth and shelter which they
have given us for many generations, whereby we have grown from a
handful into a great people, will certainly kill any Israelite whom
they find left among them. Also we fear the curses of our priests who
bid us to depart."
"Then /I/ should fear these things also," said Merapi.
"Not so, Lady, seeing that being the only beloved of the Prince of
Egypt who, rumour tells us, will soon be Pharaoh of Egypt, by him you
will be protected from the anger of the Egyptians. And being, as we
all know well, the greatest sorceress in the world, the overthrower of
Amon-Ra the mighty, and one who by sacrificing her child was able to
ward away every plague from the household where she dwelt, you have
naught to fear from priests and their magic."
Then Merapi sprang up, bidding them to leave her to her fate and to be
gone to their own, which they did hastily enough, fearing lest she
should cast some spell upon them. So it came about that presently the
fair Moon of Israel and certain children of mixed blood were all of
the Hebrew race that were left in Egypt. Then, notwithstanding the
miseries and misfortunes that during the past few years by terror,
death, and famine had reduced them to perhaps one half of their
number, the people of Egypt rejoiced with a great joy.
In every temple of every god processions were held and offerings made
by those who had anything left to offer, while the statues of the gods
were dressed in fine new garments and hung about with garlandings of
flowers. Moreover, on the Nile and on the sacred lakes boats floated
to and fro, adorned with lanterns as at the feast of the Rising of
Osiris. As titular high-priest of Amon, an office of which he could
not be deprived while he lived, Prince Seti attended these
demonstrations, which indeed he must do, in the great temple of
Memphis, whither I accompanied him. When the ceremonies were over he
led the procession through the masses of the worshippers, clad in his
splendid sacerdotal robes, whereon every throat of the thousands
present there greeted him in a shout of thunder as "Pharaoh!" or at
least as Pharaoh's heir.
When at length the shouting died, he turned upon them and said:
"Friends, if you would send me to be of the company that sits at the
table of Osiris and not at Pharaoh's feasts, you will repeat this
foolish greeting, whereof our Lord Amenmeses will hear with little
In the silence that followed a voice called out:
"Have no fear, O Prince, while the Hebrew witch sleeps night by night
upon your bosom. She who could smite Egypt with so many plagues can
certainly shelter you from harm;" whereon the roars of acclamation
went up again.
It was on the following day that Bakenkhonsu the aged returned with
more tidings from Tanis, where he had been upon a visit. It seemed
that a great council had been held there in the largest hall of one of
the largest temples. At this council, which was open to all the
people, Amenmeses had given report on the matter of the Israelites
who, he stated, were departing in their thousands. Also offerings were
made to appease the angry gods of Egypt. When the ceremony was
finished, but before the company broke up in a heavy mood, her
Highness the Princess Userti rose in her place, and addressed Pharaoh:
"By the spirits of our fathers," she cried, "and more especially by
that of the good god Meneptah, my begetter, I ask of you, Pharaoh, and
I ask of you, O people, whether the affront that has been put upon us
by these Hebrew slaves and their magicians is one that the proud land
of Egypt should be called upon to bear? Our gods have been smitten and
defied; woes great and terrible, such as history tells not of, have
fallen upon us through magic; tens of thousands, from the first-born
child of Pharaoh down, have perished in a single night. And now these
Hebrews, who have murdered them by sorcery, for they are sorcerers
all, men and women together, especially one of them who sits at
Memphis, of whom I will not speak because she has wrought me private
harm, by the decree of Pharaoh are to be suffered to leave the land.
More, they are to take with them all their cattle, all their threshed
corn, all the treasure they have hoarded for generations, and all the
ornaments of price and wealth that they have wrung by terror from our
own people, borrowing that which they never purpose to return.
Therefore I, the Royal Princess of Egypt, would ask of Pharaoh, is
this the decree of Pharaoh?"
"Now," said Bakenkhonsu, "Pharaoh sat with hanging head upon his
throne and made no answer."
"Pharaoh does not speak," went on Userti. "Then I ask, is this the
decree of the Council of Pharaoh and of the people of Egypt? There is
still a great army in Egypt, hundreds of chariots and thousands of
footmen. Is this army to sit still while these slaves depart into the
desert there to rouse our enemies of Syria against us and return with
them to butcher us?"
"At these words," continued Bakenkhonsu, "from all that multitude
there went up a shout of 'No.'"
"The people say No. What saith Pharaoh?" cried Userti.
There followed a silence, till suddenly Amenmeses rose and spoke:
"Have it as you will, Princess, and on your head and the heads of all
these whom you have stirred up let the evil fall if evil comes, though
I think it is your husband, the Prince Seti, who should stand where
you stand and put up this prayer in your place."
"My husband, the Prince Seti, is tied to Memphis by a rope of witch's
hair, or so they tell me," she sneered, while the people murmured in
"I know not," went on Amenmeses, "but this I know that always the
Prince would have let these Hebrews go from among us, and at times, as
sorrow followed sorrow, I have thought that he was right. Truly more
than once I also would have let them go, but ever some Strength, I
know not what, descended on my heart, turning it to stone, and wrung
from me words that I did not desire to utter. Even now I would let
them go, but all of you are against me, and, perchance, if I withstand
you, I shall pay for it with my life and throne. Captains, command
that my armies be made ready, and let them assemble here at Tanis that
I myself may lead them after the people of Israel and share their
Then with a mighty shouting the company broke up, so that at the last
all were gone and only Pharaoh remained seated upon his throne,
staring at the ground with the air, said Bakenkhonsu, rather of one
who is dead than of a living king about to wage war upon his foes.
To all these words the Prince listened in silence, but when they were
finished he looked up and asked:
"What think you, Bakenkhonsu?"
"I think, O Prince," answered the wise old man, "that her Highness did
ill to stir up this matter, though doubtless she spoke with the voices
of the priests and of the army, against which Pharaoh was not strong
enough to stand."
"What you think, I think," said Seti.
At this moment the lady Merapi entered.
"I hear, my lord," she said, "that Pharaoh purposes to pursue the
people of Israel with his host. I come to pray my lord that he will
not join himself to the host of Pharaoh."
"It is but natural, Lady, that you should not wish me to make war upon
your kin, and to speak truth I have no mind that way," replied Seti,
and, turning, left the chamber with her.
"She is not thinking of her king but of her lover's life," said
Bakenkhonsu. "She is not a witch as they declare, but it is true that
she knows what we do not."
"Yes," I answered, "it is true."
THE DREAM OF MERAPI
A while went by; it may have been fourteen days, during which we heard
that the Israelites had started on their journey. They were a mighty
multitude who bore with them the coffin and the mummy of their
prophet, a man of their blood, Vizier, it is reported, to that Pharaoh
who welcomed them to Egypt hundreds of years before. Some said they
went this way and some that, but Bakenkhonsu, who knew everything,
declared that they were heading for the Lake of Crocodiles, which
others name Sea of Reeds, whereby they would cross into the desert
beyond, and thence to Syria. I asked him how, seeing that at its
narrowest part, this lake was six thousand paces in width, and that
the depth of its mud was unfathomable. He replied that he did not
know, but that I might do well to inquire of the lady Merapi.
"So you have changed your mind, and also think her a witch," I said,
to which he answered:
"One must breathe the wind that blows, and Egypt is so full of
witchcraft that it is difficult to say. Also it was she and no other
who destroyed the ancient statue of Amon. Oh! yes, witch or no witch,
it might be well to ask her how her people purpose to cross the Sea of
Reeds, especially if Pharaoh's chariots chance to be behind them."
So I did ask her, but she answered that she knew nothing of the
matter, and wished to know nothing, seeing that she had separated from
her people, and remained in Egypt.
Then Ki came, I know not whence, and having made his peace with Seti
as to the dressing of Merapi in the robes of Isis which, he vowed, was
done by the priests against his wish, told us that Pharaoh and a great
host had started to pursue the Israelites. The Prince asked him why he
had not gone with the host, to which he replied that he was no
soldier, also that Pharaoh hid his face from him. In return he asked
the Prince why /he/ had not gone.
Seti answered, because had been deprived of his command with his other
officers and had no wish to take share in this business as a private
"You are wise, as always, Prince," said Ki.
It was on the following night, very late, while the Prince, Ki,
Bakenkhonsu and I, Ana, sat talking, that suddenly the lady Merapi
broke in upon us as she had risen from her bed, wild-eyed, and with
her hair flowing down her robes.
"I have dreamed a dream!" she cried. "I dreamed that I saw all the
thousands of my people following after a flame that burned from earth
to heaven. They came to the edge of a great water and behind them
rushed Pharaoh and all the hosts of the Egyptians. Then my people ran
on to the face of the water, and it bore them as though it were sound
land. Now the soldiers of the Pharaoh were following, but the gods of
Egypt appeared, Amon, Osiris, Horus, Isis, Hathor, and the rest, and
would have turned them back. Still they refused to listen, and
dragging the gods with them, rushed out upon the water. Then darkness
fell, and in the darkness sounds of wailing and of a mighty laughter.
It passed, the moon rose, shining upon emptiness. I awoke, trembling
in my limbs. Interpret me this dream if you can, O Ki, Master of
"Where is the need, Lady," he answered, awaking as though from sleep,
"when the dreamer is also the seer? Shall the pupil venture to
instruct the teacher, or the novice to make plain the mysteries to the
high-priestess of the temple? Nay, Lady, I and all the magicians of
Egypt are beneath your feet."
"Why will you ever mock me?" she said, and as she spoke, she shivered.
Then Bakenkhonsu opened his lips, saying:
"The wisdom of Ki has been buried in a cloud of late, and gives no
light to us, his disciples. Yet the meaning of this dream is plain,
though whether it be also true I do not know. It is that all the host
of Egypt, and with it the gods of Egypt, are threatened with
destruction because of the Israelites, unless one to whom they will
hearken can be found to turn them from some purpose that I do not
understand. But to whom will the mad hearken, oh! to whom will they
hearken?" and lifting his great head, he looked straight at the
"Not to me, I fear, who now am no one in Egypt," said Seti.
"Why not to you, O Prince, who to-morrow may be everyone in Egypt?"
asked Bakenkhonsu. "Always you have pleaded the cause of the Hebrews,
and said that naught but evil would befall Egypt because of them, as
has happened. To whom, then, will the people and the army listen more
"Moreover, O Prince," broke in Ki, "a lady of your household has
dreamed a very evil dream, of which, if naught be said, it might be
held that it was no dream, but a spell of power aimed against the
majesty of Egypt; such a spell as that which cast great Amon from his
throne, such a spell as that which has set a magic fence around this
house and field."
"Again I tell you that I weave no spells, O Ki, who with my own child
have paid the price of them."
"Yet spells were woven, Lady, and has been known from of old, strength
is perfected in sacrifice alone," Ki answered darkly.
"Have done with your talk of spells, Magician," exclaimed the Prince,
"or if you must speak of them, speak of your own, which are many. It
was Jabez who protected us here against the plagues, and the statue of
Amon was shattered by some god."
"I ask your pardon, Prince," said Ki bowing, "it was /not/ this lady
but her uncle who fenced your house against the plagues which ravaged
Egypt, and it was /not/ this lady but some god working in her which
overthrew Amon of Tanis. The Prince has said it. Yet this lady has
dreamed a certain dream which Bakenkhonsu has interpreted although I
cannot, and I think that Pharaoh and his captains should be told of
the dream, that on it they may form their own judgment."
"Then why do you not tell them, Ki?"
"It has pleased Pharaoh, O Prince, to dismiss me from his service as
one who failed and to give my office of Kherheb to another. If I
appear before the face of Pharaoh I shall be killed."
Now I, Ana, listening, wished that Ki would appear before the face of
Pharaoh, although I did not believe that he could be killed by him or
by anybody else, since against death he had charms. For I was afraid
of Ki, and felt in myself that again he was plotting evil to Merapi
whom I knew to be innocent.
The Prince walked up and down the chamber as was his fashion when lost
in thought. Presently he stopped opposite to me and said:
"Friend Ana, be pleased to command that my chariots be made ready with
a general's escort of a hundred men and spare horses to each chariot.
We ride at dawn, you and I, to seek out the army of Pharaoh and pray
audience of Pharaoh."
"My lord," said Merapi in a kind of cry, "I pray you go not, leaving
"Why should I leave you, Lady? Come with me if you will." She shook
her head, saying:
"I dare not. Prince, there has been some charm upon me of late that
draws me back to my own people. Twice in the night I have awakened and
found myself in the gardens with my face set towards the north, and
heard a voice in my ears, even that of my father who is dead, saying:
"'Moon of Israel, thy people wander in the wilderness and need thy
"It is certain therefore that if I came near to them I should be
dragged down as wood is dragged of an eddy, nor would Egypt see me any
"Then I pray you bide where you are, Merapi," said the Prince,
laughing a little, "since it is certain that where you go I must
follow, who have no desire to wander in the wilderness with your
Hebrew folk. Well, it seems that as you do not wish to leave Memphis
and will not come with me, I must stay with you."
Ki fixed his piercing eyes upon the pair of them.
"Let the Prince forgive me," he said, "but I swear it by the gods that
never did I think to live to hear the Prince Seti Meneptah set a
woman's whims before his honour."
"Your words are rough," said Seti, drawing himself up, "and had they
been spoken in other days, mayhap, Ki----"
"Oh! my lord," said Ki prostrating himself till his forehead touched
the ground, "bethink you then how great must be the need which makes
me dare to speak them. When first I came hither from the court of
Tanis, the spirit that is within me speaking through my lips gave
certain titles to your Highness, for which your Highness was pleased
to reprove me. Yet the spirit in me cannot lie and I know well, and
bid all here make record of my words, that to-night I stand in the
presence of him who ere two moons have passed will be crowned
"Truly you were ever a bearer of ill-tidings, Ki, but if so, what of
"This your Highness: Were it not that the spirits of Truth and Right
compel me for their own reasons, should I, who have blood that can be
shed or bones that can be broken, dare to hurl hard words at him who
will be Pharaoh? Should I dare to cross the will of the sweet dove who
nestles on his heart, the wise, white dove that murmurs the mysteries
of heaven, whence she came, and is stronger than the vulture of Isis
and swifter than the hawk of Ra; the dove that, were she angry, could
rend me into more fragments than did Set Osiris?"
Now I saw Bakenkhonsu begin to swell with inward laughter like a frog
about to croak, but Seti answered in a weary voice:
"By all the birds of Egypt with the sacred crocodiles thrown in, I do
not know, since that mind of yours, Ki, is not an open writing which
can be read by the passer-by. Still, if you would tell me what is the
reason with which the goddesses of Truth and Justice have inspired
"The reason is, O Prince, that the fate of all Egypt's army may be
hidden in your hand. The time is short and I will be plain. Deny it as
she will this lady here, who seems to be but a thing of love and
beauty, is the greatest sorceress in Egypt, as I whom she has mastered
know well. She matched herself against the high god of Egypt and smote
him to the dust, and has paid back upon him, his prophets, and his
worshippers the ills that he would have worked to her, as in the like
case any of our fellowship would do. Now she has dreamed a dream, or
her spirit has told her that the army of Egypt is in danger of
destruction, and I know that this dream is true. Hasten then, O
Prince, to save the hosts of Egypt, which you will surely need when
you come to sit upon its throne."
"I am no sorceress," cried Merapi, "and yet--alas! that I must say it
--this smiling-featured, cold-eyed wizard's words are true. /The sword
of death hangs over the hosts of Egypt!/"
"Command that the chariots be made ready," said Seti again.
Eight days had gone by. It was sunset and we drew rein over against
the Sea of Reeds. Day and night we had followed the army of Pharaoh
across the wilderness on a road beaten down by his chariot wheels and
soldiers, and by the tens of thousands of the Israelites who had
passed that way before them. Now from the ridge where we had halted we
saw it encamped beneath us, a very great army. Moreover, stragglers
told us that beyond, also encamped, was the countless horde of the
Israelites, and beyond these the vast Sea of Reeds which barred their
path. But we could not see them for a very strange reason. Between
these and the army of Pharaoh rose a black wall of cloud, built as it
were from earth to heaven. One of those stragglers of whom I have
spoken, told us that this cloud travelled before the Israelites by
day, but at night was turned into a pillar of fire. Only on this day,
when the army of Pharaoh approached, it had moved round and come
between the people of Israel and the army.
Now when the Prince, Bakenkhonsu, and I heard these things we looked
at each other and were silent. Only presently the Prince laughed a
little, and said:
"We should have brought Ki with us, even if we had to carry him bound,
that he might interpret this marvel, for it is sure that no one else
"It would be hard to keep Ki bound, Prince, if he wished to go free,"
answered Bakenkhonsu. "Moreover, before ever we entered the chariots
at Memphis he had departed south for Thebes. I saw him go."
"And I gave orders that he should not be allowed to return, for I hold
him an ill guest, or so thinks the lady Merapi," replied Seti with a
"Now that we are here what would the Prince do?" I asked.
"Descend to the camp of Pharaoh and say what we have to say, Ana."
"And if he will not listen, Prince?"
"Then cry our message aloud and return."
"And if he will not suffer us to return, Prince?"
"Then stand still and live or die as the gods may decree."
"Truly our lord has a great heart!" exclaimed Bakenkhonsu, "and though
I feel over young to die, I am minded to see the end of this matter
with him," and he laughed aloud.
But I who was afraid thought that /O-ho-ho/ of his, which the sky
seemed to echo back upon our heads, a strange and indeed a fearful
Then we put on robes of ceremony that we had brought with us, but
neither swords nor armour, and having eaten some food, drove on with
the half of our guard towards the place where we saw the banners of
Pharaoh flying about his pavilion. The rest of our guard we left
encamped, bidding them, if aught happened to us, to return and make
report at Memphis and in the other great cities. As we drew near to
the camp the outposts saw us and challenged. But when they perceived
by the light of the setting sun who it was that they challenged, a
murmur went through them, of:
"The Prince of Egypt! The Prince of Egypt!" for so they had never
ceased to name Seti, and they saluted with their spears and let us
So at length we came to the pavilion of Pharaoh, round about which a
whole regiment stood on guard. The sides of it were looped up high
because of the heat of the night which was great, and within sat
Pharaoh, his captains, his councillors, his priests, his magicians,
and many others at meat or serving food and drink. They sat at a table
that was bent like a bow, with their faces towards the entrance, and
Pharaoh was in the centre of the table with his fan-bearers and
butlers behind him.
We advanced into the pavilion, the Prince in the centre, Bakenkhonsu
leaning on his staff on the right hand, and I, wearing the gold chain
that Pharaoh Meneptah had given me, on the left, but those with us
remained among the guard at the entrance.
"Who are these?" asked Amenmeses, looking up, "who come here
"Three citizens of Egypt who have a message for Pharaoh," answered
Seti in his quiet voice, "which we have travelled fast and far to
speak in time."
"How are you named, citizens of Egypt, and who sends your message?"
"We are named, Seti Meneptah aforetime Prince of Egypt, and heir to
its crown; Bakenkhonsu the aged Councillor, and Ana the scribe and
King's Companion, and our message is from the gods."
"We have heard those names, who has not?" said Pharaoh, and as he
spoke all, or very nearly all, the company rose, or half rose, and
bowed towards the Prince. "Will you and your companions be seated and
eat, Prince Seti Meneptah?"
"We thank the divine Pharaoh, but we have already eaten. Have we
Pharaoh's leave to deliver our message?"
"Speak on, Prince."
"O Pharaoh, many moons have gone by, since last we looked upon each
other face to face, on that day when my father, the good god Meneptah,
disinherited me, and afterwards fled hence to Osiris. Pharaoh will
remember why I was thus cut off from the royal root of Egypt. It was
because of the matter of these Israelites, who in my judgment had been
evilly dealt by, and should be suffered to leave our land. The good
god Meneptah, being so advised by you and others, O Pharaoh, would
have smitten the Israelites with the sword, making an end of them, and
to this he demanded my assent as the Heir of Egypt. I refused that
assent and was cast out, and since then, you, O Pharaoh, have worn the
double crown, while I have dwelt as a citizen of Memphis, living upon
such lands and revenues as are my own. Between that hour and this, O
Pharaoh, many griefs have smitten Egypt, and the last of them cost you
your first-born, and me mine. Yet through them all, O Pharaoh, you
have refused to let these Hebrews go, as I counselled should be done
at the beginning. At length after the death of the first-born, your
decree was issued that they might go. Yet now you follow them with a
great army and purpose to do to them what my father, the good god
Meneptah, would have done, had I consented, namely--to destroy them
with the sword. Hear me, Pharaoh!"
"I hear; also the case is well if briefly set. What else would the
Prince Seti say?"
"This, O Pharaoh. That I pray you to return with all your host from
the following of these Hebrews, not to-morrow or the next day, but at
"Why, O Prince?"
"Because of a certain dream that a lady of my household who is Hebrew
has dreamed, which dream foretells destruction to you and the army of
Egypt, unless you hearken to these words of mine."
"I think that we know of this snake whom you have taken to dwell in
your bosom, whence it may spit poison upon Egypt. It is named Merapi,
Moon of Israel, is it not?"
"That is the name of the lady who dreamed the dream," replied Seti in
a cold voice, though I felt him tremble with anger at my side, "the
dream that if Pharaoh wills my companions here shall set out word for
word to his magicians."
"Pharaoh does not will it," shouted Amenmeses smiting the board with
his fist, "because Pharaoh knows that it is but another trick to save
these wizards and thieves from the doom that they have earned."
"Am I then a worker of tricks, O Pharaoh? If I had been such, why have
I journeyed hither to give warning, when by sitting yonder at Memphis
to-morrow, I might once more have become heir to the double crown? For
if you will not hearken to me, I tell you that very soon you shall be
dead, and with you these"--and he pointed to all those who sat at
table--"and with them the great army that lies without. Ere you speak,
tell me, what is that black cloud which stands before the camp of the
Hebrews? Is there no answer? Then I will give you the answer. It is
the pall that shall wrap the bones of every one of you."
Now the company shivered with fear, yes, even the priests and the
magicians shivered. But Pharaoh went mad with rage. Springing from his
seat, he snatched at the double crown upon his head, and hurled it to
the ground, and I noted that the golden urŠus band about it, rolled
away, and rested upon Seti's sandalled foot. He tore his robes and
"At least our fate shall be your fate, Renegade, who have sold Egypt
to the Hebrew witch in payment of her kisses. Seize this man and his
companions, and when we go down to battle against these Israelites
to-morrow after the darkness lifts, let them be set with the captains
of the van. So shall the truth be known at last."
Thus Pharaoh commanded, and Seti, answering nothing, folded his arms
upon his breast and waited.
Men rose from their seats as though to obey Pharaoh and sank back to
them again. Guards started forward and yet remained standing where
they were. Then Bakenkhonsu burst into one of his great laughs.
"O-ho-ho," he laughed, "Pharaohs have I seen come and go, one and two
and three, and four and five, but never yet have I seen a Pharaoh whom
none of his councillors or guards could obey however much they willed
it. When you are Pharaoh, Prince Seti, may your luck be better. Your
arm, Ana, my friend, and lead on, Royal Heir of Egypt. The truth is
shown to blind eyes that will not see. The word is spoken to deaf ears
that will not hearken, and the duty done. Night falls. Sleep ye well,
ye bidden of Osiris, sleep ye well!"
Then we turned and walked from that pavilion. At its entrance I looked
back, and in the low light that precedes the darkness, it seemed to me
as though all seated there were already dead. Blue were their faces
and hollow shone their eyes, and from their lips there came no word.
Only they stared at us as we went, and stared and stared again.
Without the door of the pavilion, by command of the Prince, I called
aloud the substance of the lady Merapi's dream, and warned all within
earshot to cease from pursuing the people of Israel, if they would
continue to live to look upon the sun. Yet even now, although to speak
thus was treason against Pharaoh, none lifted a hand against the
Prince, or against me his servant. Often since then I have wondered
why this was so, and found no answer to my questionings. Mayhap it was
because of the majesty of my master, whom all knew to be the true
Pharaoh, and loved at heart. Mayhap it was because they were sure that
he would not have travelled so far and placed himself in the power of
Amenmeses save to work the armies of Egypt good, and not ill, and to
bring them a message that had been spoken by the gods themselves.
Or mayhap it was because he was still hedged about by that protection
which the Hebrews had vowed to him through their prophets with the
voice of Jabez. At least so it happened. Pharaoh might command, but
his servants would not obey. Moreover, the story spread, and that
night many deserted from the host of Pharaoh and encamped about us, or
fled back towards the cities whence they came. Also with them were not
a few councillors and priests who had talked secretly with
Bakenkhonsu. So it chanced that even if Pharaoh desired to make an end
of us, as perhaps he purposed to do in the midnight watches, he
thought it wisest to let the matter lie until he had finished with the
people of Israel.
It was a very strange night, silent, with a heavy, stirless air. There
were no stars, but the curtain of black cloud which seemed to hang
beyond the camp of the Egyptians was alive with lightnings which
appeared to shape themselves to letters that I could not read.
"Behold the Book of Fate written in fire by the hand of God!" said
Bakenkhonsu, as he watched.
About midnight a mighty east wind began to blow, so strongly that we
must lie upon our faces under the lea of the chariots. Then the wind
died away and we heard tumult and shoutings, both from the camp of
Egypt, and from the camp of Israel beyond the cloud. Next there came a
shock as of earthquake, which threw those of us who were standing to
the ground, and by a blood-red moon that now appeared we perceived
that all the army of Pharaoh was beginning to move towards the sea.
"Whither go they?" I asked of the Prince who clung to my arm.
"To doom, I think," he answered, "but to what doom I do not know."
After this we said no more, because we were too much afraid.
Dawn came at last, showing the most awful sight that was ever beheld
by the eye of man.
The wall of cloud had disappeared, and in the clear light of the
morning, we perceived that the deep waters of the Sea of Reeds had
divided themselves, leaving a raised roadway that seemed to have been
cleared by the wind, or perchance to have been thrown up by the
earthquake. Who can say? Not I who never set foot upon that path of
death. Along this wide road streamed the tens of thousands of the
Israelites, passing between the water on the right hand, and the water
on the left, and after them followed all the army of Pharaoh, save
those who had deserted, and stood or lay around us, watching. We could
even see the golden chariots that marked the presence of Pharaoh
himself, and of his bodyguard, deep in the heart of the broken host
that struggled forward without discipline or order.
"What now? Oh! what now?" murmured Seti, and as he spoke there was a
second shock of earthquake. Then to the west on the sea there arose a
mighty wave, whereof the crest seemed to be high as a pyramid. It
rolled forward with a curved and foaming head, and in the hollow of it
for a moment, no more, we saw the army of Egypt. Yet in that moment I
seemed to see mighty shapes fleeing landwards along the crest of the
wave, which shapes I took to be the gods of Egypt, pursued by a form
of light and glory that drove them as with a scourge. They came, they
went, accompanied by a sound of wailing, and the wave fell.
But beyond it, the hordes of Israel still marched--upon the further
Dense gloom followed, and through the gloom I saw, or thought I saw,
Merapi, Moon of Israel, standing before us with a troubled face and
heard or thought I heard her cry:
"/Oh! help me, my lord Seti! Help me, my lord Seti!/"
Then she too was gone.
"Harness the chariots!" cried Seti, in a hollow voice.
THE CROWNING OF MERAPI
Fast as sped our horses, rumour, or rather the truth, carried by those
who had gone before us, flew faster. Oh! that journey was as a dream
begotten by the evil gods. On we galloped through the day and through
the night and lo! at every town and village women rushed upon us
"Is it true, O travellers, is it true that Pharaoh and his host are
perished in the sea?"
Then old Bakenkhonsu would call in answer:
"It is true that he who /was/ Pharaoh and his host are perished in the
sea. But lo! here is he who /is/ Pharaoh," and he pointed to the
Prince, who took no heed and said nothing, save:
Then forward we would plunge again till once more the sound of wailing
died into silence.
It was sunset, and at length we drew near to the gates of Memphis. The
Prince turned to me and spoke.
"Heretofore I have not dared to ask," he said, "but tell me, Ana. In
the gloom after the great cliff of water fell and the shapes of terror
swept by, did you seem to see a woman stand before us and did you seem
to hear her speak?"
"I did, O Prince."
"Who was that woman and what did she say?"
"She was one who bore a child to you, O Prince, which child is not,
and she said, 'Oh! help me, my lord Seti. Help me, my lord Seti!'"
His face grew ashen even beneath its veil of dust, and he groaned.
"Two who loved her have seen and two who loved her have heard," he
said. "There is no room for doubt. Ana, she is dead!"
"I pray the gods----"
"Pray not, for the gods of Egypt are also dead, slain by the god of
Israel. Ana, who has murdered her?"
With my finger I who am a draughtsman drew in the thick dust that lay
on the board of the chariot the brows of a man and beneath them two
deep eyes. The gilt on the board where the sun caught it looked like
light in the eyes.
The Prince nodded and said:
"Now we shall learn whether great magicians such as Ki can die like
other men. Yes, if need be, to learn that I will put on Pharaoh's
We halted at the gates of Memphis. They were shut and barred, but from
within the vast city rose a sound of tumult.
"Open!" cried the Prince to the guard.
"Who bids me open?" answered the captain of the gate peering at us,
for the low sun lay behind.
"Pharaoh bids you open."
"Pharaoh!" said the man. "We have sure tidings that Pharaoh and his
armies are slain by wizardry in the sea."
"Fool!" thundered the Prince, "Pharaoh never dies. Pharaoh Amenmeses
is with Osiris but the good god Seti Meneptah who /is/ Pharaoh bids
Then the bronze gates rolled back, and those who guarded them
prostrated themselves in the dust.
"Man," I called to the captain, "what means yonder shouting?"
"Sir," he answered, "I do not know, but I am told that the witch who
has brought woe on Egypt and by magic caused the death of Pharaoh
Amenmeses and his armies, dies by fire in the place before the
"By whose command?" I cried again as the charioteer flogged the
horses, but no answer reached our ears.
We rushed on up the wide street to the great place that was packed
with tens of thousands of the people. We drove the horses at them.
"Way for Pharaoh! Way for the Mighty One, the good god, Seti Meneptah,
King of the Upper and the Lower Land!" shouted the escort.
The people turned and saw the tall shape of the Prince still clad in
the robes of state which he had worn when he stood before Amenmeses in
the pavilion by the sea.
"Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Hail to Pharaoh!" they cried, prostrating
themselves, and the cry passed on through Memphis like a wind.
Now we were come to the centre of the place, and there in front of the
great gates of the temple burned a vast pyre of wood. Before the pyre
moved figures, in one of whom I knew Ki dressed in his magician's
robe. Outside of these there was a double circle of soldiers who kept
the people back, which these needed, for they raved like madmen and
shook their fists. A group of priests near the fire separated, and I
saw that among them stood a man and a woman, the latter with
dishevelled hair and torn robes as though she had been roughly
handled. At this moment her strength seemed to fail her and she sank
to the ground, lifting her face as she did so. It was the face of
Merapi, Moon of Israel.
So she was not dead. The man at her side stooped as though to lift her
up, but a stone thrown out of the shadow struck him in the back and
caused him to straighten himself, which he did with a curse at the
thrower. I knew the voice at once, although the speaker was disguised.
It was that of Laban the Israelite, he who had been betrothed to
Merapi, and had striven to murder us in the land of Goshen. What did
he here? I wondered dimly.
Ki was speaking. "Hark how the Hebrew cat spits," he said. "Well, the
cause has been tried and the verdict given, and I think that the
familiar should feed the flames before the witch. Watch him now, and
perhaps he will change into something else."
All this he said, smiling in his usual pleasant fashion, even when he
made a sign to certain black temple slaves who stood near. They leapt
forward, and I saw the firelight shone upon their copper armlets as
they gripped Laban. He fought furiously, shouting:
"Where are your armies, Egyptians, and where is your dog of a Pharaoh?
Go dig them from the Sea of Reeds. Farewell, Moon of Israel. Look how
your royal lover crowns you at the last, O faithless----"
He said no more, for at this moment the slaves hurled him headlong
into the heart of the great fire, which blackened for a little and
burned bright again.
Then it was that Merapi struggled to her feet and cried in a ringing
voice those very words which the Prince and I had seemed to hear her
speak far away by the Sea of Reeds--"/Oh! help me my lord Seti! Help
me, my lord Seti!/" Yes, the same words which had echoed in our ears
days before they passed her lips, or so we believed.
Now all this while our chariots had been forcing their way foot by
foot through the wall of the watching crowd, perhaps while a man might
count a hundred, no more. As the echoes of her cry died away at length
we were through and leaping to the ground.
"The witch calls on one who sups to-night at the board of Osiris with
Pharaoh and his host," sneered Ki. "Well, let her go to seek him there
if the guardian gods will suffer it," and again he made a sign to the
But Merapi had seen or felt Seti advancing from the shadows and seeing
flung herself upon his breast. He kissed her on the brow before them
all, then bade me hold her up and turned to face the people.
"Bow down. Bow down. Bow down!" cried the deep voice of Bakenkhonsu.
"Life! Blood! Strength! Pharaoh! Pharaoh! Pharaoh!" and what he said
the escort echoed.
Then of a sudden the multitude understood. To their knees they fell
and from every side rose the ancient salutation. Seti held up his hand
and blessed them. Watching, I saw Ki slip towards the darkness, and
whispered a word to the guards, who sprang upon him and brought him
Then the Prince spoke:
"Ye name me Pharaoh, people of Memphis, and Pharaoh I fear I am by
descent of blood to-day, though whether I will consent to bear the
burdens of government, should Egypt wish it of me, as yet I know not.
Still he who wore the double crown is, I believe, dead in the midst of
the sea; at the least I saw the waters overwhelm him and his army.
Therefore, if only for an hour, I will be Pharaoh, that as Pharaoh I
may judge of certain matters. Lady Merapi, tell me, I pray you, how
came you to this pass?"
"My lord," she answered, in a low voice, "after you had gone to warn
the army of Pharaoh because of that dream I dreamed, Ki, who departed
on the same day, returned again. Through one of the women of the
household, over whom he had power, or so I think, he obtained access
to me when I was alone in my chamber. There he made me this offer:
"'Give me,' he said, 'the secret of your magic that I may be avenged
upon the wizards of the Hebrews who have brought about my downfall,
and upon the Hebrews themselves, and also upon all my other enemies,
and thus once more become the greatest man in Egypt. In turn I will
fulfil all your desires, and make you, and no other, Queen of Egypt,
and be your faithful servant, and that of your lord Seti who shall be
Pharaoh, until the end of your lives. Refuse, and I will stir up the
people against you, and before ever the Prince returns, if he returns
at all, they who believe you to be an evil sorceress shall mete out to
you the fate of a sorceress.'
"My lord, I answered to Ki what I have often told him before, that I
had no magic to reveal to him, I who knew nothing of the black arts of
sorcery, seeing that it was not I who destroyed the statue of Amon in
the temple at Tanis, but that same Power which since then has brought
all the plagues on Egypt. I said, too, that I cared nothing for the
gifts he offered to me, as I had no wish to be Queen of Egypt. My
lord, he laughed in my face, saying I should find that he was one ill
to mock, as others had found before me. Then he pointed at me with his
wand and muttered some spell over me, which seemed to numb my limbs
and voice, holding me helpless till he had been gone a long while, and
could not be found by your servants, whom I commanded in your name to
seize, and keep him till your return.
"From that hour the people began to threaten me. They crowded about
the palace gates in thousands, crying day and night that they were
going to kill me, the witch. I prayed for help, but from me, a sinner,
heaven has grown so far away that my prayers seem to fall back unheard
upon my head. Even the servants in the palace turned against me, and
would not look upon my face. I grew mad with fear and loneliness,
since all fled before me. At last one night towards the dawn I went on
to the terrace, and since no god would hear me, I turned towards the
north whither I knew that you had gone, and cried to you to help me in
those same words which I cried again just now before you appeared."
(Here the Prince looked at me and I Ana looked at him.) "Then it was
that from among the bushes of the garden appeared a man, hidden in a
long, sheepskin cloak, so that I could not see his face, who said to
"'Moon of Israel, I have been sent by his Highness, the Prince Seti,
to tell you that you are in danger of your life, as he is in danger of
his, wherefore he cannot come to you. His command is that you come to
him, that together you may flee away out of Egypt to a land where you
will both be safe until all these troubles are finished.'
"'How know I that you of the veiled face are a true messenger?' I
asked. 'Give me a sign.'
"Then he held out to me that scarabŠus of lapis-lazuli which your
Highness gave to me far away in the land of Goshen, the same that you
asked back from me as a love token when we plighted troth, and you
gave me your royal ring, which scarabŠus I had seen in your robe when
you drove away with Ana."
"I lost it on our journey to the Sea of Reeds, but said nothing of it
to you, Ana, because I thought the omen evil, having dreamed in the
night that Ki appeared and stole it from me," whispered the Prince to
"'It is not enough,' I answered. 'This jewel may have been thieved
away, or snatched from the dead body of the Prince, or taken from him
"The cloaked man thought a while and said, 'This night, not an hour
ago, Pharaoh and his chariots were overwhelmed in the Sea of Reeds.
Let that serve as a sign.'
"'How can this be?' I answered, 'since the Sea of Reeds is far away,
and such tidings cannot travel thence in an hour. Get you gone, false
"'Yet it is so,' he answered.
"'When you prove it to me, I will believe, and come.'
"'Good,' he said, and was gone.
"Next day a rumour began to run that this awful thing had happened. It
grew stronger and stronger, until all swore that it had happened. Now
the fury of the people rose against me, and they ravened round the
palace like lions of the desert, roaring for my blood. Yet it was as
though they could not enter here, since whenever they rushed at the
gates or walls, they fell back again, for some spirit seemed to
protect the place. The days went by; the night came again and at the
dawn, this dawn that is past, once more I stood upon the terrace, and
once more the cloaked man appeared from among the trees.
"'Now you have heard, Moon of Israel,' he said, 'and now you must
believe and come, although you think yourself safe because at the
beginning of the plagues this, the home of Seti, was enchanted against
evil, so that none within it can be harmed.'
"'I have heard, and I think that I believe, though how the tidings
reached Memphis in an hour I do not understand. Yet, stranger, I say
to you that it is not enough.'
"Then the man drew a papyrus roll from his bosom and threw it at my
feet. I opened it and read. The writing was the writing of Ana as I
knew well, and the signature was the signature of you, my lord, and it
was sealed with your seal, and with the seal of Bakenkhonsu as a
witness. Here it is," and from the breast of her garment, she drew out
a roll and gave it to me upon whom she rested all this while.
I opened it, and by the light of torches the Prince, Bakenkhonsu, and
I read. It was as she had told us in what seemed to be my writing, and
signed and sealed as she had said. The words ran:
"To Merapi, Moon of Israel, in my house at Memphis.
"Come, Lady, Flower of Love, to me your lord, to whom the bearer of
this will guide you safely. Come at once, for I am in great
danger, as you are, and together only can we be safe."
"Ana, what means this?" asked the Prince in a terrible voice. "If you
have betrayed me and her----"
"By the gods," I began angrily, "am I a man that I should live to hear
even your Highness speak thus to me, or am I but a dog of the desert?"
I ceased, for at that moment Bakenkhonsu began to laugh.
"Look at the letter!" he laughed. "Look at the letter."
We looked, and as we looked, behold the writing on it turned first to
the colour of blood and then faded away, till presently there was
nothing in my hand but a blank sheet of papyrus.
"Oho-ho!" laughed Bakenkhonsu. "Truly, friend Ki, you are the first of
magicians, save those prophets of the Israelites who have brought you
--Whither have they brought you, friend Ki?"
Then for the first time the painted smile left the face of Ki, and it
became like a block of stone in which were set two angry jewels that
were his eyes.
"Continue, Lady," said the Prince.
"I obeyed the letter. I fled away with the man who said he had a
chariot waiting. We passed out by the little gate.
"'Where is the chariot?' I asked.
"'We go by boat,' he answered, and led the way towards the river. As
we threaded the big palm grove men appeared from between the trees.
"'You have betrayed me,' I cried.
"'Nay,' he answered, 'I am myself betrayed.'
"Then for the first time I knew his voice for that of Laban.
"The men seized us; at the head of them was Ki.
"'This is the witch,' he said, 'who, her wickedness finished, flies
with her Hebrew lover, who is also the familiar of her sorceries.'
"They tore the cloak and the false beard from him and there before me
stood Laban. I cursed him to his face. But all he answered was:
"'Merapi, what I have done I did for love of you. It was my purpose to
take you away to our people, for here I knew that they would kill you.
This magician promised you to me if I could tempt you from the safety
of the palace, in return for certain tidings that I have given him.'
"These were the only words that passed between us till the end. They
dragged us to the secret prison of the great temple where we were
separated. Here all day long Ki and the priests tormented me with
questions, to which I gave no answer. Towards the evening they brought
me out and led me here with Laban at my side. When the people saw me a
great cry went up of 'Sorceress! Hebrew witch!' They broke through the
guard; they seized me, threw me to the ground and beat me. Laban
strove to protect me but was torn away. At length the people were
driven off, and oh! my lord, you know the rest. I have spoken truth, I
can no more."
So saying her knees loosened beneath her and she swooned. We bore her
to the chariot.
"You have heard, Ki," said the Prince. "Now, what answer?"
"None, O Pharaoh," he replied coldly, "for Pharaoh you are, as I
promised that you should be. My spirit has deserted me, those Hebrews
have stolen it away. That writing should have faded from the scroll as
soon as it was read by yonder lady, and then I would have told you
another story; a story of secret love, of betrayal and attempted
flight with her lover. But some evil god kept it there until you also
had read, you who knew that you had not written what appeared before
your eyes. Pharaoh, I am conquered. Do your will with me, and
farewell. Beloved you shall always be as you have always been, but
happy never in this world."
"O People," cried Seti, "I will not be judge in my own cause. You have
heard, do you judge. For this wizard, what reward?"
Then there went up a great cry of "Death! Death by fire. The death he
had made ready for the innocent!"
That was the end, but they told me afterwards that, when the great
pyre had burned out, in it was found the head of Ki looking like a
red-hot stone. When the sunlight fell on it, however, it crumbled and
faded away, as the writing had faded from the roll. If this be true I
do not know, who was not present at the time.
We bore Merapi to the palace. She lived but three days, she whose body
and spirit were broken. The last time I saw her was when she sent for
me not an hour before death came. She was lying in Seti's arms
babbling to him of their child and looking very sweet and happy. She
thanked me for my friendship, smiling the while in a way which showed
me that she knew it was more than friendship, and bade me tend my
master well until we all met again elsewhere. Then she gave me her
hand to kiss and I went away weeping.
After she was dead a strange fancy took Seti. In the great hall of the
palace he caused a golden throne to be put up, and on this throne he
set her in regal garments, with pectoral and necklaces of gems,
crowned like a queen of Egypt, and thus he showed her to the lords of
Memphis. Then he caused her to be embalmed and buried in a secret
sepulchre, the place of which I have sworn never to reveal, but
without any rites because she was not of the faith of Egypt.
There then she sleeps in her eternal house until the Day of
Resurrection, and with her sleeps her little son.
It was within a moon of this funeral that the great ones of Egypt came
to Memphis to name the Prince as Pharaoh, and with them came her
Highness, the Queen Userti. I was present at the ceremony, which to me
was very strange. There was the Vizier Nehesi; there was the high-
priest Roi and with him many other priests; and there was even the old
chamberlain Pambasa, pompous yet grovelling as before, although he had
deserted the household of the Prince after his disinheritance for that
of the Pharaoh Amenmeses. His appearance with his wand of office and
long white beard, of which he was so proud because it was his own,
drew from Seti the only laugh I had heard him utter for many weeks.
"So you are back again, Chamberlain Pambasa," he said.
"O most Holy, O most Royal," answered the old knave, "has Pambasa, the
grain of dust beneath your feet, ever deserted the House of Pharaoh,
or that of him who will be Pharaoh?"
"No," replied Seti, "it is only when you think that he will not be
Pharaoh that you desert. Well, get you to your duties, rogue, who
perhaps at bottom are as honest as the rest."
Then followed the great and ancient ceremony of the Offering of the
Crown, in which spoke priests disguised as gods and other priests
disguised as mighty Pharaohs of the past; also the nobles of the Nomes
and the chief men of cities. When all had finished Seti answered:
"I take this, my heritage," and he touched the double crown, "not
because I desire it but because it is my duty, as I swore that I would
to one who has departed. Blow upon blow have smitten Egypt which, I
think, had my voice been listened to, would never have fallen. Egypt
lies bleeding and well-nigh dead. Let it be your work and mine to try
to nurse her back to life. For no long while am I with you, who also
have been smitten, how it matters not, yet while I am here, I who seem
to reign will be your servant and that of Egypt. It is my decree that
no feasts or ceremonials shall mark this my accession, and that the
wealth which would have been scattered upon them shall be distributed
among the widows and children of those who perished in the Sea of
They went, humble yet happy, since here was a Pharaoh who knew the
needs of Egypt, one too who loved her and who alone had shown himself
wise of heart while others were filled with madness. Then her Highness
entered, splendidly apparelled, crowned and followed by her household,
and made obeisance.
"Greeting to Pharaoh," she cried.
"Greeting to the Royal Princess of Egypt," he answered.
"Nay, Pharaoh, the Queen of Egypt."
By Seti's side there was another throne, that in which he had set dead
Merapi with a crown upon her head. He turned and looked at it a while.
Then, he said:
"I see that this seat is empty. Let the Queen of Egypt take her place
there if so she wills."
She stared at him as if she thought that he was mad, though doubtless
she had heard something of that story, then swept up the steps and sat
herself down in the royal chair.
"Your Majesty has been long absent," said Seti.
"Yes," she answered, "but as my Majesty promised she would do, she has
returned to her lawful place at the side of Pharaoh--never to leave it
"Pharaoh thanks her Majesty," said Seti, bowing low.
Some six years had gone by, when one night I was seated with the
Pharaoh Seti Meneptah in his palace at Memphis, for there he always
chose to dwell when matters of State allowed.
It was on the anniversary of the Death of the Firstborn, and of this
matter it pleased him to talk to me. Up and down the chamber he walked
and, watching him by the lamplight, I noted that of a sudden he seemed
to have grown much older, and that his face had become sweeter even
than it was before. He was more thin also, and his eyes had in them a
look of one who stares at distances.
"You remember that night, Friend, do you not," he said; "perhaps the
most terrible night the world has ever seen, at least in the little
piece of it called Egypt." He ceased, lifted a curtain, and pointed to
a spot on the pillared portico without. "There she sat," he went on;
"there you stood; there lay the boy and there crouched his nurse--by
the way, I grieve to hear that she is ill. You are caring for her, are
you not, Ana? Say to her that Pharaoh will come to visit her--when he
may, when he may."
"I remember it all, Pharaoh."
"Yes, of course you would remember, because you loved her, did you
not, and the boy too, and even me, the father. And so you will love us
always when we reach a land where sex with its walls and fires are
forgotten, and love alone survives--as we shall love you."
"Yes," I answered, "since love is the key of life, and those alone are
accursed who have never learned to love."
"Why accursed, Ana, seeing that, if life continues, they still may
learn?" He paused a while, then went on: "I am glad that he died, Ana,
although had he lived, as the Queen will have no children, he might
have become Pharaoh after me. But what is it to be Pharaoh? For six
years now I have reigned, and I think that I am beloved; reigned over
a broken land which I have striven to bind together, reigned over a
sick land which I have striven to heal, reigned over a desolated land
which I have striven to make forget. Oh! the curse of those Hebrews
worked well. And I think that it was my fault, Ana, for had I been
more of a man, instead of casting aside my burden, I should have stood
up against my father Meneptah and his policy and, if need were, have
raised the people. Then the Israelites would have gone, and no plagues
would have smitten Egypt. Well, what I did, I did because I must,
perhaps, and what has happened, has happened. And now my time comes to
an end, and I go hence to balance my account as best I may, praying
that I may find judges who understand, and are gentle."
"Why does Pharaoh speak thus?" I asked.
"I do not know, Ana, yet that Hebrew wife of mine has been much in my
mind of late. She was wise in her way, as wise as loving, was she not,
and if we could see her once again, perhaps she would answer the
question. But although she seems so near to me, I never can see her,
quite. Can you, Ana?"
"No, Pharaoh, though one night old Bakenkhonsu vowed that he perceived
her passing before us, and looking at me earnestly as she passed."
"Ah! Bakenkhonsu. Well, he is wise too, and loved her in his fashion.
Also the flesh fades from him, though mayhap he will live to make
offerings at both our tombs. Well, Bakenkhonsu is at Tanis, or is it
at Thebes, with her Majesty, whom he ever loves to observe, as I do.
So he can tell us nothing of what he thought he saw. This chamber is
hot, Ana, let us stand without."
So we passed the curtain, and stood upon the portico, looking at the
garden misty with moonlight, and talking of this and that--about the
Israelites, I think, who, as we heard, were wandering in the deserts
of Sinai. Then of a sudden we grew silent, both of us.
A cloud floated over the face of the moon, leaving the world in
darkness. It passed, and I became aware that we were no longer alone.
There in front of us was a mat, and on the mat lay a dead child, the
royal child named Seti; there by the mat stood a woman with agony in
her eyes, looking at the dead child, the Hebrew woman named Moon of
Seti touched me, and pointed to her, and I pointed to the child. We
stood breathless. Then of a sudden, stooping down, Merapi lifted up
the child and held it towards its father. But, lo! now no longer was
it dead; nay, it laughed and laughed, and seeing him, seemed to throw
its arms about his neck, and to kiss him on the lips. Moreover, the
agony in the woman's eyes turned to joy unspeakable, and she became
more beautiful than a star. Then, laughing like the child, Merapi
turned to Seti, beckoned, and was gone.
"We have seen the dead," he said to me presently, "and, oh! Ana, /the
dead still live!/"
That night, ere dawn, a cry rang through the palace, waking me from my
sleep. This was the cry:
"The good god Pharaoh is no more! The hawk Seti has flown to heaven!"
At the burial of Pharaoh, I laid the halves of the broken cup upon his
breast, that he might drink therefrom in the Day of Resurrection.
Here ends the writing of the Scribe Ana, the Counsellor and Companion
of the King, by him beloved.
Back to Full Books