H. Rider Haggard
Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by John Bickers, email@example.com
and Emma Dudding, firstname.lastname@example.org
by H. Rider Haggard
My dear Budge,--
Only a friendship extending over many years emboldened me, an
amateur, to propose to dedicate a Romance of Old Egypt to you, one
of the world's masters of the language and lore of the great
people who in these latter days arise from their holy tombs to
instruct us in the secrets of history and faith.
With doubt I submitted to you this story, asking whether you
wished to accept pages that could not, I feared, be free from
error, and with surprise in due course I read, among other kind
things, your advice to me to "leave it exactly as it is." So I
take you at your word, although I can scarcely think that in paths
so remote and difficult I have not sometimes gone astray.
Whatever may be the shortcomings, therefore, that your kindness
has concealed from me, since this tale was so fortunate as to
please and interest you, its first critic, I offer it to you as an
earnest of my respect for your learning and your labours.
Very sincerely yours,
H. Rider Haggard.
To Doctor Wallis Budge,
Keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, British Museum.
It may be thought that even in a story of Old Egypt to represent a
"Ka" or "Double" as remaining in active occupation of a throne, while
the owner of the said "Double" goes upon a long journey and achieves
sundry adventures, is, in fact, to take a liberty with Doubles. Yet I
believe that this is scarcely the case. The /Ka/ or Double which
Wiedermann aptly calls the "Personality within the Person" appears,
according to Egyptian theory, to have had an existence of its own. It
did not die when the body died, for it was immortal and awaited the
resurrection of that body, with which, henceforth, it would be
reunited and dwell eternally. To quote Wiedermann again, "The /Ka/
could live without the body, but the body could not live without the
/Ka/ . . . . . it was material in just the same was as the body
itself." Also, it would seem that in certain ways it was superior to
and more powerful than the body, since the Egyptian monarchs are often
represented as making offerings to their own /Kas/ as though these
were gods. Again, in the story of "Setna and the Magic Book,"
translated by Maspero and by Mr. Flinders Petrie in his "Egyptian
Tales," the /Ka/ plays a very distinct part of its own. Thus the
husband is buried at Memphis and the wife in Koptos, yet the /Ka/ of
the wife goes to live in her husband's tomb hundreds of miles away,
and converses with the prince who comes to steal the magic book.
Although I know no actual precedent for it, in the case of a
particularly powerful Double, such as was given in this romance to
Queen Neter-Tua by her spiritual father, Amen, the greatest of the
Egyptian gods, it seems, therefore, legitimate to suppose that, in
order to save her from the abomination of a forced marriage with her
uncle and her father's murderer, the /Ka/ would be allowed to
anticipate matters a little, and to play the part recorded in these
It must not be understood, however, that the fact of marriage with an
uncle would have shocked the Egyptian mind, since these people, and
especially their royal Houses, made a habit of wedding their own
brothers and sisters, as in this tale Mermes wed his half sister Asti.
I may add that there is authority for the magic waxen image which the
sorcerer Kaku and his accomplice used to bewitch Pharaoh. In the days
of Rameses III., over three thousand years ago, a plot was made to
murder the king in pursuance of which such images were used. "Gods of
wax . . . . . . for enfeebling the limbs of people," which were "great
crimes of death, the great abomination of the land." Also a certain
"magic roll" was brought into play which enabled its user to "employ
the magic powers of the gods."
Still, the end of these wizards was not encouraging to others, for
they were found guilty and obliged to take their own lives.
But even if I am held to have stretched the prerogative of the /Ka/,
or of the waxen image which, by the way, has survived almost to our
own time, and in West Africa, as a fetish, is still pierced with pins
or nails, I can urge in excuse that I have tried, so far as a modern
may, to reproduce something of the atmosphere and colour of Old Egypt,
as it has appeared to a traveller in that country and a student of its
records. If Neter-Tua never sat upon its throne, at least another
daughter of Amen, a mighty queen, Hatshepu, wore the crown of the
Upper and the Lower Lands, and sent her embassies to search out the
mysteries of Punt. Of romance also, in high places, there must have
been abundance, though the short-cut records of the religious texts of
the priests do not trouble themselves with such matters.
At any rate, so believing, in the hope that it may interest readers of
to-day, I have ventured to discover and present one such romance,
whereof the motive, we may be sure, is more ancient, by far, than the
old Egyptians, namely, the triumph of true love over great
difficulties and dangers. It is pleasant to dream that the gods are on
the side of such lovers, and deign for their sakes to work the
miracles in which for thousands of years mankind has believed,
although the scientist tells us that they do not happen.
How large a part marvel and magic of the most terrible and exalted
kind played in the life of Old Egypt and of the nations with which she
fought and traded, we need go no further than the Book of Exodus to
learn. Also all her history is full of it, since among the Egyptians
it was an article of faith that the Divinity, which they worshipped
under so many names and symbols, made use of such mysterious means to
influence or direct the affairs of men and bring about the
accomplishment of Its decrees.
H. R. H.
by H. Rider Haggard
THE PLOT OF ABI
It was evening in Egypt, thousands of years ago, when the Prince Abi,
governor of Memphis and of great territories in the Delta, made fast
his ship of state to a quay beneath the outermost walls of the mighty
city of Uast or Thebes, which we moderns know as Luxor and Karnac on
the Nile. Abi, a large man, very dark of skin, for his mother was one
of the hated Hyksos barbarians who once had usurped the throne of
Egypt, sat upon the deck of his ship and stared at the setting sun
which for a few moments seemed to rest, a round ball of fire, upon the
bare and rugged mountains, that ring round the Tombs of the Kings.
He was angry, as the slave-women, who stood on either side fanning
him, could see well enough by the scowl on his coarse face and the
fire in his large black eyes. Presently they felt it also, for one of
them, staring at the temples and palaces of the wonderful city made
glorious by the light of the setting sun, that city of which she had
heard so often, touched his head with the feathers of her fan.
Thereon, as though glad of an excuse to express his ill-humour, Abi
sprang up and boxed her ears so heavily that the poor girl fell to the
"Awkward cat," he cried, "do that again and you shall be flogged until
your robe sticks to your back!"
"Pardon, mighty Lord," she said, beginning to weep, "it was an
accident; the wind caught my fan."
"So the rod shall catch your skin, if you are not more careful,
Merytra. Stop that snivelling and go send Kaku the Astrologer here.
Go, both, I weary of the sight of your ugly faces."
The girl rose, and with her fellow slave ran swiftly to the ladder
that led to the waist of the ship.
"He called me a cat," Merytra hissed through her white teeth to her
companion. "Well, if so, Sekhet the cat-headed is my godmother, and
she is the Lady of Vengeance."
"Yes," answered the other, "and he said that we were both ugly--we,
whom every lord who comes near the Court admires so much! Oh! I wish a
holy crocodile would eat him, black pig!"
"Then why don't they buy us? Abi would sell his daughters, much more
his fan-bearers--at a price."
"Because they hope to get us for nothing, my dear, and what is more,
if I can manage it one of them shall, for I am tired of this life.
Have your fling while you can, I say. Who knows at which corner
Osiris, Lord of Death, is waiting."
"Hush!" whispered Merytra, "there is that knave of an astrologer, and
he looks cross, too."
Then, hand in hand, they went to this lean and learned man and humbly
bowed themselves before him.
"Master of the Stars," said Merytra, "we have a message for you. No,
do not look at my cheek, please, the marks are not magical, only those
of the divine fingers of the glorious hand of the most exalted Prince
Abi, son of the Pharaoh happily ruling in Osiris, etc., etc., etc., of
the right, royal blood of Egypt--that is on one side, and on the other
of a divine lady whom Khem the Spirit, or Ptah the Creator, thought
fit to dip in a vat of black dye."
"Hem!" said Kaku glancing nervously over his shoulder. Then, seeing
that there was no one near, he added, "you had better be careful what
you say, my dear. The royal Abi does not like to hear the colour of
his late mother defined so closely. But why did he slap your face?"
She told him.
"Well," he answered, "if I had been in his place I would rather have
kissed it, for it is pretty, decidedly pretty," and this learned man
forgot himself so far as to wink at Merytra.
"There, Sister," said the girl, "I always told you that rough shells
have sweet nuts inside of them. Thank you for your compliment, Master
of learning. Will you tell us our fortune for nothing?"
"Yes, yes," he answered; "at least the fee I want will cost you
nothing. Now stop this nonsense," he added, anxiously, "I gather that
/he/ is cross."
"I never saw him crosser, Kaku. I am glad it is you who reads the
stars, not I. Listen!"
As he spoke an angry roar reached them from the high deck above.
"Where is that accursed astrologer?" said the roar.
"There, what did I tell you? Oh! never mind the rest of the papers, go
at once. Your robe is full of rolls as it is."
"Yes," answered Kaku as he ran to the ladder, "but the question is,
how will he like what is in the rolls?"
"The gods be with you!" cried one of the girls after him, "you will
need them all."
"And if you get back alive, don't forget your promise about the
fortunes," said the other.
A minute later this searcher of the heavens, a tall, hook-nosed man,
was prostrating himself before Abi in his pavilion on the upper deck,
so low that his Syrian-shaped cap fell from his bald head.
"Why were you so long in coming?" asked Abi.
"Because your slaves could not find me, royal Son of the Sun. I was at
work in my cabin."
"Indeed, I thought I heard them giggling with you down there. What did
you call me? Royal Son of the Sun? That is Pharaoh's name! Have the
stars shown you----?" and he looked at him eagerly.
"No, Prince, not exactly that. I did not think it needful to search
them on a matter which seems established, more or less."
"More or less," answered Abi gloomily. "What do you mean by your 'more
or less'? Here am I at the turning-point of my fortunes, not knowing
whether I am to be Pharaoh of the Upper and Lower Lands, or only the
petty lord of a city and a few provinces in the Delta, and you satisfy
my hunger for the truth with an empty dish of 'more or less.' Man,
what do you mean?"
"If your Majesty will be pleased to tell his servant exactly what you
desire to know, perhaps I may be able to answer the question," replied
"Majesty! Well, I desire to know by what warrant you call me
'Majesty,' who am only Prince of Memphis. Did the stars give it to
you? Have you obeyed me and asked them of the future?"
"Certainly, certainly. How could I disobey? I observed them all last
night, and have been working out the results till this moment; indeed,
they are not yet finished. Question and I will answer."
"You will answer, yes, but what will you answer? Not the truth, I
fancy, because you are a coward, though if anyone can read the truth,
it is you. Man," he added fiercely, "if you dare to lie to me I will
cut your head off and take it to Pharaoh as a traitor's; and your body
shall lie, not in that fine tomb which you have made, but in the belly
of a crocodile whence there is no resurrection. Do you understand?
Then let us come to the point. Look, the sun sets there behind the
Tombs of Kings, where the departed Pharaohs of Egypt take their rest
till the Day of Awakening. It is a bad omen for me, I know, who wished
to reach this city in the morning when Ra was in the House of Life,
the East, and not in the House of Death, the West; but that accursed
wind sent by Typhon, held me back and I could not. Well, let us begin
at the end which must come after all. Tell me, you reader of the
heavens, shall I sleep at last in that valley?"
"I think so, Prince; at least, so says your planet. Look, yonder, it
springs to life above you," and he pointed to an orb that appeared at
the topmost edge of the red glow of the sunset.
"You are keeping something back from me," said Abi, searching Kaku's
face with his fierce eyes. "Shall I sleep in the tomb of Pharaoh, in
my own everlasting house that I shall have made ready to receive me?"
"Son of Ra, I cannot say," answered the astrologer. "Divine One, I
will be frank with you. Though you be wrath, yet will I tell you the
truth as you command me. An evil influence is at work in your House of
Life. Another star crosses and re-crosses your path, and though for a
long time you seem to swallow it up, yet at the last it eclipses you--
it and one that goes with it."
"What star?" asked Abi hoarsely, "Pharaoh's?"
"Nay, Prince, the star of Amen."
"Amen! What Amen?"
"Amen the god, Prince, the mighty father of the gods."
"Amen the god," repeated Abi in an awed voice. "How can a man fight
against a god?"
"Say rather against two gods, for with the star of Amen goes the star
of Hathor, Queen of Love. Not for many periods of thousands of years
have they been together, but now they draw near to each other, and so
will remain for all your life. Look," and Kaku pointed to the Eastern
horizon where a faint rosy glow still lingered reflected from the
As they watched this glow melted, and there in the pure heavens, lying
just where it met the distant land, seeming to rest upon the land,
indeed, appeared a bright and beautiful star, and so close to it that,
to the eye, they almost touched, a twin star. For a few minutes only
were they seen; then they vanished beneath the line of the horizon.
"The morning star of Amen, and with it the star of Hathor," said the
"Well, Fool, what of it?" exclaimed Abi. "They are far enough from my
star; moreover, it is they that sink, not I, who ride higher every
"Aye, Prince, but in a year to come they will certainly eclipse that
star of yours. Prince, Amen and Hathor are against you. Look, I will
show you their journeyings on this scroll and you shall see where they
eat you up yonder, yes, yonder over the Valley of dead Kings, though
twenty years and more must go by ere then, and take this for your
comfort, during those years you shine alone," and he began to unfold a
Abi snatched it from him, crumpled it up and threw it in his face.
"You cheat!" he said. "Do you think to frighten me with this nonsense
about stars? Here is my star," and he drew the short sword at his side
and shook it over the head of the trembling Kaku. "This sharp bronze
is the star I follow, and be careful lest it should eclipse /you/, you
father of lies."
"I have told the truth as I see it," answered the poor astrologer with
some dignity, "but if you wish, O Prince, that in the future I should
indeed prophesy pleasant things to you, why, it can be done easily
enough. Moreover, it seems to me that this horoscope of yours is not
so evil, seeing that it gives to you over twenty years of life and
power, more by far than most men can expect--at your age. If after
that come troubles and the end, what of it?"
"That is so," replied Abi mollified. "It was my ill-temper, everything
has gone cross to-day. Well, a gold cup, my own, shall pay the price
of it. Bear me no ill-will, I pray you, learned scribe, and above all
tell me no falsehood as the message of the stars you serve. It is the
truth I seek, the truth. If only she may be seen, and clasped, I care
not how ill-favoured is her face."
Rejoicing at the turn which things had taken, and especially at the
promise of the priceless cup which he had long coveted, Kaku bowed
obsequiously. He picked up his crumpled roll and was about to retire
when through the gloom of the falling night, some men mounted upon
asses were seen riding over the mud flats that border the Nile at this
spot, towards that bank where the ship was moored.
"The captain of my guard," said Abi, who saw the starlight gleam upon
a bronze helmet, "who brings me Pharaoh's answer. Nay, go not, bide
and hear it, Kaku, and give us your counsel on it, your true counsel."
So the astrologer stood aside and waited, till presently the captain
"What says Pharaoh, my brother?" asked the Prince.
"Lord, he says that he will receive you, though as he did not send for
you, he thinks that you can scarcely come upon any necessary errand,
as he has heard long ago of your victory over the desert-dwelling
barbarians, and does not want the offering of the salted heads of
their officers which you bring to him."
"Good," said Abi contemptuously. "The divine Pharaoh was ever a woman
in such matters, as in others. Let him be thankful that he has
generals who know how to make war and to cut off the heads of his
enemies in defence of the kingdom. We will wait upon him to-morrow."
"Lord," added the captain, "that is not all Pharaoh's message. He says
that it has been reported to him that you are accompanied by a guard
of three hundred soldiers. These soldiers he refuses to allow within
the gates. He directs that you shall appear before his Majesty
attended by five persons only."
"Indeed," answered Abi with a scornful laugh. "Does Pharaoh fear,
then, lest I should capture him and his armies and the great city with
three hundred soldiers?"
"No, Prince," answered the captain bluntly; "but I think he fears lest
you should kill him and declare yourself Pharaoh as next in blood."
"Ah!" said Abi, "as next of blood. Then I suppose that there are still
no children at the Court?"
"None, O Prince. I saw Ahura, the royal wife, the Lady of the Two
Lands, that fairest of women, and other lesser wives and beautiful
slave girls without number, but never a one of them had an infant on
her breast or at her knee. Pharaoh remains childless."
"Ah!" said Abi again. Then he walked forward out of the pavilion
whereof the curtains were drawn back, and stood a while upon the prow
of the vessel.
By now night had fallen, and the great moon, rising from the earth as
it were, poured her flood of silver light over the desert, the
mountains, the limitless city of Thebes, and the wide rippling bosom
of the Nile. The pylons and obelisks, glittering with copper and with
gold, towered to the tender sky. In the window places of palaces and
of ten thousand homes lamps shone like stars. From gardens, streets
and the courts of temples floated the faint sound of singing and of
music, while on the great embattled walls the watchmen called the hour
from post to post.
It was a wondrous scene, and the heart of Abi swelled as he gazed upon
it. What wealth lay yonder, and what power. There was the glorious
house of his brother, Pharaoh, the god in human form who for all his
godship had never a child to follow after him when he ascended to
Osiris, as he who was sickly probably must do before so very long.
Yes, but before then a miracle might happen; in this way or in that a
successor to the throne might be found and acknowledged, for were not
Pharaoh and his House beloved by all the priests of Amen, and by the
people, and was not he, Abi, feared and disliked because he was
fierce, and the hated savage blood flowed in his veins? Oh! what evil
god had put it in his father's heart to give him a princess of the
Hyksos for a mother, the Hyksos, whom the Egyptians loathed, when he
had the fairest women of the world from whom to choose? Well, it was
done and could not be undone, though because of it he might lose his
heritage of the greatest throne in all the earth. Also was it not to
this fierce Hyksos blood that he owed his strength and vigour?
Why should he wait? Why should he not set his fortune on a cast? He
had three hundred soldiers with him, picked men and brave, children of
the sea and the desert, sworn to his House and interests. It was a
time of festival, those gates were ill-guarded. Why should he not
force them at the dead of night, make his way to the palace, cause
Pharaoh to be gathered to his fathers, and at the dawn discover
himself seated upon Pharaoh's throne? At the thought of it Abi's heart
leapt in his breast, his wide nostrils spread themselves, and he
erected his strong head as though already he felt upon it the weight
of the double crown. Then he turned and walked back to the pavilion.
"I am minded to strike a blow," he said. "Say now, my officer, would
you and the soldiers follow me into the heart of yonder city to-night
to win a throne--or a grave? If it were the first, you should be the
general of all my army, and you, astrologer, should become vizier,
yes, after Pharaoh you two should be the greatest men in all the
They looked at him and gasped.
"A venturesome deed, Prince," said the captain at length; "yet with
such a prize to win I think that I would dare it, though for the
soldiers I cannot speak. First they must be told what is on foot, and
out of so many, how know we that the heart of one or more would not
fail? A word from a traitor and before this time to-morrow the
embalmers, or the jackals, would be busy."
Abi heard and looked from him to his companion.
"Prince," said Kaku, "put such thoughts from you. Bury them deep. Let
them rise no more. In the heavens I read something of this business,
but then I did not understand, but now I see the black depths of hell
opening beneath our feet. Yes, hell would be our home if we dared to
lift hand against the divine person of the Pharaoh. I say that the
gods themselves would fight against us. Let it be, Prince, let it be,
and you shall have many years of rule, who, if you strike now, will
win nothing but a crown of shame, a nameless grave, and the
everlasting torment of the damned."
As he spoke Abi considered the man's face and saw that all craft had
left it. This was no charlatan that spoke to him, but one in earnest
who believed what he said.
"So be it," he answered. "I accept your judgment, and will wait upon
my fortune. Moreover, you are both right, the thing is too dangerous,
and evil often falls on the heads of those who shoot arrows at a god,
especially if they have not enough arrows. Let Pharaoh live on while I
make ready. Perhaps to-morrow I may work upon him to name me his
The astrologer sighed in relief, nor did the captain seem
"My head feels firmer on my shoulders than it did just now," he said:
"and doubtless there are times when wisdom is better than valour.
Sleep well, Prince; Pharaoh will receive you to-morrow two hours after
sunrise. Have we your leave to retire?"
"If I were wise," said Abi, fingering the hilt of his sword as he
spoke, "you would both of you retire for ever who know all the secret
of my heart, and with a whisper could bring doom upon me."
Now the pair looked at each other with frightened eyes, and, like his
master, the captain began to play with his sword.
"Life is sweet to all men, Prince," he said significantly, "and we
have never given you cause to doubt us."
"No," answered Abi, "had it been otherwise I should have struck first
and spoken afterwards. Only you must swear by the oath which may not
be broken that in life or death no word of this shall pass your lips."
So they swore, both of them, by the holy name of Osiris, the judge and
"Captain," said Abi, "you have served me well. Your pay is doubled,
and I confirm the promise that I made to you--should I ever rule
yonder you shall be my general."
While the soldier bowed his thanks, the prince said to Kaku,
"Master of the stars, my gold cup is yours. Is there aught else of
mine that you desire?"
"That slave," answered the learned man, "Merytra, whose ears you boxed
"How do you know that I boxed her ears?" asked Abi quickly. "Did the
stars tell you that also? Well, I am tired of the sly hussy--take her.
Soon I think she will box yours."
But when Kaku sought Merytra to tell her the glad tidings that she was
his, he could not find her.
Merytra had disappeared.
THE PROMISE OF THE GOD
It was morning at Thebes, and the great city glowed in the rays of the
new-risen sun. In a royal barge sat Abi the prince, splendidly
apparelled, and with him Kaku, his astrologer, his captain of the
guard and three other of his officers, while in a second barge
followed slaves who escorted two chiefs and some fair women captured
in war, also the chests of salted heads and hands, offerings to
The white-robed rowers bent to their oars, and the swift boat shot
forward up the Nile through a double line of ships of war, all of them
crowded with soldiers. Abi looked at these ships which Pharaoh had
gathered there to meet him, and thought to himself that Kaku had given
wise counsel when he prayed him to attempt no rash deed, for against
such surprises clearly Pharaoh was well prepared. He thought it again
when on reaching the quay of cut stones he saw foot and horse-men
marshalled there in companies and squadrons, and on the walls above
hundreds of other men, all armed, for now he saw what would have
happened to him, if with his little desperate band he had tried to
pierce that iron ring of watching soldiers.
At the steps generals met him in their mail and priests in their full
robes, bowing and doing him honour. Thus royally escorted, Abi passed
through the open gates and the pylons of the splendid temple dedicated
to the Trinity of Thebes, "the House of Amen in the Southern Apt,"
where gay banners fluttered from the pointed masts, up the long street
bordered with tall houses set in their gardens, till he came to the
palace wall. Here more guards rolled back the brazen gates which in
his folly of a few hours gone he had thought that he could force, and
through the avenues of blooming trees he was led to the great pillared
hall of audience.
After the brightness without, that hall seemed almost dark, only a ray
of sunshine flowing from an unshuttered space in the clerestory above,
fell full on the end of it, and revealed the crowned Pharaoh and his
queen seated in state upon their thrones of ivory and gold. Gathered
round and about him also were scribes and councillors and captains,
and beyond these other queens in their carved chairs and attended,
each of them, by beautiful women of the household in their gala dress.
Moreover, behind the thrones, and at intervals between the columns,
stood the famous Nubian guard of two hundred men, the servants of the
body of Pharaoh as they were called, each of them chosen for
faithfulness and courage.
The centre of all this magnificence was Pharaoh, on him the sunlight
beat, to him every eye was turned, and where his glance fell there
heads bowed and knees were bent. A small thin man of about forty years
of age with a puckered, kindly and anxious face, and a brow that
seemed to sink beneath the weight of the double crown that, save for
its royal snake-crest of hollow gold, was after all but of linen, a
man with thin, nervous hands which played amongst the embroideries of
his golden robe--such was Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch in the world,
the ruler whom millions that had never seen him worshipped as a god.
Abi, the burly framed, thick-lipped, dark-skinned, round-eyed Abi,
born of the same father, stared at him with wonderment, for years had
passed since last they met, and in the palace when they were children
a gulf had been set between the offspring of a royal mother and the
child of a Hyksos concubine taken into the Household for reasons of
state. In his vigour, and the might of his manhood, he stared at this
weakling, the son of a brother and a sister, and the grandson of a
brother and a sister. Yet there was something in that gentle eye, an
essence of inherited royalty, before which his rude nature bowed. The
body might be contemptible, but within it dwelt the proud spirit of
the descendant of a hundred kings.
Abi advanced to the steps of the throne and knelt there, till after a
little pause Pharaoh stretched out the sceptre in his hand for him to
kiss. Then he spoke in his light, quick voice.
"Welcome, Prince and my brother," he said. "We quarrelled long ago,
did we not, and many years have passed since we met, but Time heals
all wounds and--welcome, son of my father. I need not ask if you are
well," and he glanced enviously at the great-framed man who knelt
"Hail to your divine Majesty!" answered Abi in his deep voice. "Health
and strength be with you, Holder of the Scourge of Osiris, Wearer of
the Feathers of Amen, Mortal crowned with the glory of Ra."
"I thank you, Prince," answered Pharaoh gently, "and that health and
strength I need, who fear that I shall only find them when I have
yielded up the Scourge of Osiris whereof you speak to him who lent it
me. But enough of myself. Let us to business, afterwards we will talk
of such matters together. Why have you left your government at Memphis
without leave asked, to visit me here in my City of the Gates?"
"Be not wrath with me," answered Abi humbly. "A while ago, in
obedience to your divine command, I attacked the barbarians who
threatened your dominions in the desert. Like Menthu, god of war, I
fell upon them. I took them by surprise, I smote them, thousands of
them bit the dust before me. Two of their kings I captured with their
women--they wait without, to be slain by your Majesty. I bring with me
the heads of a hundred of their captains and the hands of five hundred
of their soldiers, in earnest of the truth of my word. Let them be
spread out before you. I report to your divine Majesty that those
barbarians are no more, that for a generation, at least, I have made
the land safe to your uttermost dominions in the north. Suffer that
the heads and the hands be brought in and counted out before your
Majesty, that the smell of them may rise like incense to your divine
"No, no," said Pharaoh, "my officers shall count them without, for I
love not such sights of death, and I take your word for the number.
What payment do you ask for this service, my brother, for with great
gifts would I reward you, who have done so well for me and Egypt?"
Before he answered Abi looked at the beautiful queen, Ahura, who sat
at Pharaoh's side, and at the other royal consorts and women.
"Your Majesty," he said, "I see here many wives and ladies, but royal
children I do not see. Grant--for doubtless they are in their own
chambers--grant, O Pharaoh, that they may be led hither that my eyes
may feed upon their loveliness, and that I may tell of them, each of
them, to their cousins who await me at Memphis."
At these words a flush as of shame spread itself over the lovely face
of Ahura, the royal wife, the Lady of the Two Lands; while the women
turned their heads away whispering to each other bitterly, for the
insult hurt them. Only Pharaoh set his pale face and answered with
"Prince Abi, to affront those whom the gods have smitten, be they
kings or peasants, is an unworthy deed which the gods will not forget.
You know well that I have no children. Why then do you ask me to show
you their loveliness?"
"I had heard rumours, O Pharaoh," answered the Prince, "no more.
Indeed, I did not believe them, for where there are so many wives I
was certain that there would be some mothers. Therefore I asked to be
sure before I proffered a petition which now I will make to you not
for my own sake but for Egypt's and yours, O Pharaoh. Have I your
leave to speak here in public?"
"Speak on," said Pharaoh sternly. "Let aught that is for the welfare
of Egypt be heard by Egypt."
"Your Majesty has told me," replied Abi bowing, "that the gods, being
wrath, have denied you children. Not so much as one girl of your blood
have they given to you to fill your throne after you when in due
season it pleases you to depart to Osiris. Were it otherwise, were
there even but a single woman-child of your divine race, I would say
nothing, I would be silent as the grave. But so it is, and though your
queens be fair and many, so it would seem that it must remain, since
the ears of the gods having been deaf to your pleadings for so long,
although you have built them glorious temples and made them offerings
without count, will scarcely now be opened. Even Amen your father,
Amen, whose name you bear, will perform no miracle for you, O Pharaoh,
who are so great that he has decreed that you shall shine alone like
the full moon at night, not sharing your glory with a single star."
Now Ahura the Queen, who all this while had been listening intently,
spoke for the first time in a quick angry voice, saying,
"How know you that, Prince of Memphis? Sometimes the gods relent and
that which they have withheld for a space, they give. My lord lives,
and I live, and a child of his may yet fill the throne of Egypt."
"It may be so, O Queen," said Abi bowing, "and for my part I pray that
it will be so, for who am I that I should know the purpose of the
kings of heaven? If but one girl be born of you and Pharaoh, then I
take back my words and give to you that title which for many years has
been written falsely upon your thrones and monuments, the title of
Now Ahura would have answered again, for this sneering taunt stung her
to the quick. But Pharaoh laid his hand upon her knee and said,
"Continue, Prince and brother. We have heard from you that which we
already know too well--that I am childless. Tell us what we do not
know, the desire of your heart which lies hid beneath all these
"Pharaoh, it is this--I am of your holy blood, sprung of the same
"But of a mother who was not divine," broke in Ahura; "of a mother
taken from a race that has brought many a curse upon Khem, as any
mirror will show you, Prince of Memphis."
"Pharaoh," went on Abi without heeding her, "you grow weak; heaven
desires you, the earth melts beneath you. In the north and in the
south many dangers threaten Egypt. Should you die suddenly without an
heir, barbarians will flow in from the north and from the south, and
the great ones of the land will struggle for your place. Pharaoh, I am
a warrior; I am built strong; my children are many; my house is built
upon a rock; the army trusts me; the millions of the people love me.
Take me then to rule with you and in the hearing of all the earth name
me and my sons as your successors, so that our royal race may continue
for generation after generation. So shall you end your days in peace
and hope. I have spoken."
Now, as the meaning of this bold request sank into their hearts, all
the court there gathered gasped and whispered, while the Queen Ahura
in her anger crushed the lotus flower which she held in her hand and
cast it to the floor. Only Pharaoh sat still and silent, his head bent
and his eyes shut as though in prayer. For a minute or more he sat
thus, and when he lifted his pale, pure face, there was a smile upon
"Abi, my brother," he said in his gentle voice, "listen to me. There
are those who filled this throne before me, who on hearing such words
would have pointed to you with their sceptres, whereon, Abi, those
lips of yours would have grown still for ever, and you and your name
and the names of all your House would have been blotted out by death.
But, Abi, you were ever bold, and I forgive you for laying open the
thoughts of your heart to me. Still, Abi, you have not told us all of
them. You have not told us, for instance," he went on slowly, and in
the midst of an intense silence, "that but last night you debated
whether it would not be possible with that guard of yours to break
into my palace and put me to the sword and name yourself Pharaoh--by
right of blood, Abi; yes, by right of blood--my blood shed by you, my
As these words left the royal lips a tumult arose in the hall, the
women and the great officers sprang up, the captains stepped forward
drawing their swords to avenge so horrible a sacrilege. But Pharaoh
waved his sceptre, and they were still, only Abi cried in a great
"Who has dared to whisper a lie so monstrous?" And he glared first at
Kaku and then at the captain of his guard who stood behind him, and
choked in wrath, or fear, or both.
"Suspect not your officers, Prince," went on the Pharaoh, still
smiling, "for on my royal word they are innocent. Yet, Abi, a pavilion
set upon the deck of a ship is no good place to plot the death of
kings. Pharaoh has many spies, also, at times, the gods, to whom as
you say he is so near, whisper tidings to him in his sleep. Suspect
not your officers, Abi, although I think that to yonder Master of the
Stars who stands behind you, I should be grateful, since, had you
attempted to execute this madness, but for him I might have been
forced to kill you, Abi, as one kills a snake that creeps beneath his
mat. Astrologer, you shall have a gift from me, for you are a wise
man. It may take the place, perhaps, of one that you have lost; was it
not a certain woman slave whom your master gave to you last night--
after he had punished her for no fault?"
Kaku prostrated himself before the glory of Pharaoh, understanding at
last that it was the lost girl Merytra who had overheard and betrayed
them. But heeding him no more, his Majesty went on.
"Abi, Prince and brother, I forgive you a deed that you purposed but
did not attempt. May the gods and the spirits of our fathers forgive
you also, if they will. Now as to your demand. You are my only living
brother, and therefore I will weigh it. Perchance, if I should die
without issue, although you are not all royal, although there flows in
your veins a blood that Egypt hates; although you could plot the
murder of your lord and king, it may be well that when I am gone you
should fill my place, for you are brave and of the ancient race on one
side, if base-born on the other. But I am not yet dead, and children
may still come to me. Abi, will you be a prisoner until Osiris calls
me, or will you swear an oath?"
"I will swear an oath," answered the Prince hoarsely, for he knew his
shame and danger.
"Then kneel here, and by the dreadful Name swear that you will lift no
hand and plot no plot against me. Swear that if a child, male or
female, should be given to me, you will serve such a child truly as
your lord and lawful Pharaoh. In the presence of all this company,
swear, knowing that if you break the oath in letter or in spirit, then
all the gods of Egypt shall pour their curse upon your head in life,
and in death shall give you over to the everlasting torments of the
So, having little choice, Abi swore by the Name and kissed the sceptre
in token of his oath.
It was night. Dark and solemn was the innermost shrine of the vast
temple, the "House of Amen in the Northern Apt," which we call Karnak,
the very holy of holies where, fashioned of stone, and with the
feathered crown upon his head, stood the statue of Amen-ra, father of
the gods. Here, where none but the high-priest and the royalties of
Egypt might enter, Pharaoh and his wife Ahura, wrapped in brown cloaks
like common folk, knelt at the feet of the god and prayed. With tears
and supplications did they pray that a child might be given to them.
There in the sacred place, lit only by a single lamp which burned from
age to age, they told the story of their grief, whilst high above them
the cold, calm countenance of the god seemed to stare through the
gloom, as for a thousand years, in joy or sorrow, it had stared at
those that went before them. They told of the mocking words of Abi who
had demanded to see their children, the children that were not; they
told of their terror of the people who demanded that an heir should be
declared; they told of the doom that threatened their ancient house,
which from Pharaoh to Pharaoh, all of one blood, for generations had
worshipped in this place. They promised gifts and offerings, stately
temples and wide lands, if only their desire might be fulfilled.
"Let me no more be made a mock among men," cried the beautiful queen,
beating her forehead upon the stone feet of the god. "Let me bear a
child to fill the seat of my lord the King, and then if thou wilt,
take my life in payment."
But the god made no answer, and wearied out at length they rose and
departed. At the door of the sanctuary they found the high-priest
awaiting them, a wizened, aged man.
"The god gave no sign, O High-priest," said Pharaoh sadly; "no voice
spoke to us."
The old priest looked at the weeping queen, and a light of pity crept
into his eyes.
"To me, watching without," he said, "a voice seemed to speak, though
what it said I may not reveal. Go to your palace now, O Pharaoh, and O
Queen Ahura, and take your rest side by side. I think that in your
sleep a sign will come to you, for Amen is pitiful, and loves his
children who love him. According to that sign so speak to the Prince
Abi, speak without fear or doubt, since for good or ill it shall be
Then like shadows, hand in hand, this royal pair glided down the vast,
pillared halls till at the pylon gates, which were opened for them,
they found their litters, and were borne along the great avenue of
ram-headed sphinxes back to a secret door in the palace wall.
It was past midnight. Deep darkness and heavy silence lay upon Thebes,
broken only by dogs howling at the stars and the occasional challenge
of soldiers on the walls. Side by side in their golden bed the wearied
Pharaoh and his queen slept heavily. Presently Ahura woke. She started
up in the bed; she stared at the darkness about her with frightened
eyes; she stretched out her hand and clasping Pharaoh by the arm,
whispered in a thrilling voice,
"Awake, awake! I have that which I must tell you."
Pharaoh roused himself, for there was something in Ahura's voice which
swept away the veils of sleep.
"What has chanced, Ahura?" he asked.
"O Pharaoh, I have dreamed a dream, if indeed it were but a dream. It
seemed to me that the darkness opened, and that standing in the
darkness I saw a Glory which had neither shape nor form. Yet a voice
spoke from the Glory, a low, sweet voice: 'Queen Ahura, my daughter,'
it said, 'I am that Spirit to whom thou and thy husband did pray this
night in the sanctuary of my temple. It seemed to both of you that
your prayers remained unheard, yet it was not so, as my priest knew
well. Queen Ahura, thou and Pharaoh thy husband have put your trust in
me these many years, and not in vain. A daughter shall be given to
thee and Pharaoh, and my Spirit shall be in that child. She shall be
beautiful and glorious as no woman was before her, for I clothe her
with health and power and wisdom. She shall rule over the Northern and
the Southern Lands; yea, for many years the double crown shall rest
upon her brow, and no king that went before her, and no king that
follows after her, shall be more great in Egypt. Troubles and dangers
shall threaten her, but the Spirit that I give to her shall protect
her in them all, and she shall tread her enemy beneath her feet. A
royal lover shall come to her also, and she shall rejoice in his love
and from it shall spring many kings and princes. Neter-Tua, Morning
Star, shall be her name, and high-priestess of Amen--no less--shall be
her office, for she is my child whom I have taken from heaven and sent
down to earth; the child that I have given to Pharaoh and to thee, and
I love her and appoint the good goddesses to be her companions, and
command Osiris to receive her at the last.
"'Behold, in token of these things I lay my symbol on thy breast, and
on her breast also shall that symbol be. When I lift it from thee and
thou dost open thy eyes, then awaken Pharaoh at thy side and let these
my words be written in a roll, so that none of them are forgotten.'
"Then, O Pharaoh," went on Ahura, "from the Glory there came forth a
hand, and in the hand was the Symbol of Life shining as though with
fire, and the hand laid it upon my breast and it burned me as though
with fire, and I awoke and lo! darkness was all about me, nothing but
darkness, and at my side I heard you sleeping."
Now when Pharaoh had listened to this dream, he kissed the queen and
blessed her because of its good omen, and clapped his hands to summon
the women of honour who slept without. They ran in bearing lights, and
by the lights he saw that beneath the throat of the Queen upon her
fair skin, appeared a red mark, and the shape of it was the shape of
the Sign of Life; yes, there was the loop, and beneath the loop the
Then Pharaoh commanded that the chief of his scribes should come to
him with papyrus and writing tools, and that the high-priest of Amen
should be brought swiftly from the temple. So the scribe came to the
bed-chamber of the King, and in the presence of the high-priest all
the words of Amen were written down, not one of them was omitted, and
Pharaoh and the Queen signed the roll, and the high-priest witnessed
it and, copies having been made, bore it away to hide it in the secret
treasury of Amen. But the mark of the Cross of Life remained upon the
breast of the Queen Ahura till the day that she died.
Now in the morning Pharaoh summoned his Court and commanded that the
Prince Abi should be brought before him. So the Prince came and
Pharaoh addressed him kindly.
"Son of my father," he said, "I have considered your request that I
should take you to rule with me on the throne of Egypt, and name you
and your sons to be Pharaohs after me, and it is refused. Know that it
has been revealed to me and to the royal wife, Ahura, by the greatest
of the gods, that a daughter shall be born to us in due season, who
shall be called Morning Star of Amen, and that she and her seed shall
be Pharaohs after me. Therefore rejoice with us and return to your
government, Prince Abi, and be happy in our love, and in the goods and
greatness that the gods have given you."
Now Abi shook with anger, for he thought that all this tale was a
trick and a snare. But knowing that his peril was great there in the
hand of Pharaoh, he answered only that when this Morning Star arose,
his star should do it reverence, though as the words passed his lips
he remembered the prophecy of his astrologer Kaku, that the Morning
Star of Amen should blot out that star of his.
"You think that I speak falsely, Prince Abi, yes, that I stain my lips
with lies," said Pharaoh with indignation. "Well, I forgive you this
also. Go hence and await the issue and know by this sign that truth is
in my heart. When the Princess Neter-Tua is born, upon her breast
shall be seen the symbol of the Sign of Life. Depart now, lest I grow
angry. The gifts I have promised shall follow you to Memphis."
So Abi returned to the white-walled city of Memphis and sat there
sullenly, putting it about that a plot was on foot to deprive him of
his heritage. But Kaku shook his head, saying in secret that the Star,
Neter-Tua, would arise, for so it was decreed by Amen, father of the
RAMES, THE PRINCESS, AND THE CROCODILE
At the appointed time to Ahura, the royal wife, was born a child, a
girl with a fresh and lovely face and waving hair and eyes that from
the first were blue like the summer sky at even. Also on her breast
was a mole of the length of a finger nail, which mole was shaped like
the holy Sign of Life.
Now Pharaoh and his house and the priests in every temple, and indeed
all Egypt went mad with joy, though there were many who in secret
mourned over the sex of the infant, whispering that a man and not a
woman should wear the Double Crown. But in public they said nothing,
since the story of this child had gone abroad and folk declared that
it was sent by the gods, and divine, and that the goddesses, Isis,
Nepthys, and Hathor, with Khemu, the Maker of Mankind, were seen in
the birth chamber, glowing like gold.
Also Pharaoh issued a decree that wherever the name of the Queen Ahura
was graven in all the land, to it should be added the title "By the
will of Amen, Mother of his Morning Star," and that a new hall should
be built in the temple of Amen in the Northern Apt, and all about it
carved the story of the coming of Prince Abi and of the vision of the
But Ahura never lived to see this glorious place, since from the hour
of her daughter's birth she began to sink. On the fourteenth day, the
day of purification, she bade the nurse bring the beautiful babe, and
gazed at it long and blessed it, and spoke with the Ka or Double of
the child, which she said she saw lying on her arm beside it, bidding
that Ka protect it well through the dangers of life and death until
the hour of resurrection. Then she said that she heard Amen calling to
her to pay the price which she had promised for the gift of the divine
child, the price of her own life, and smiled upon Pharaoh her husband,
and died happily with a radiant face.
Now joy was turned to mourning, and during all the days of embalming
Egypt wept for Ahura until, at length, the time came when her body was
rowed across the Nile to the splendid tomb which she had made ready in
the Valley of the Queens, causing masons and artists to labour at it
without cease. For Ahura knew from the day of her vision that she was
doomed to die, and remembered that the tombs of the dead remain as the
live hands leave them, since few waste gold and toil upon the eternal
house of one who is dead.
So Ahura was buried with great pomp and all her jewels, and Pharaoh,
who mourned her truly, made splendid offerings in the chapel of her
tomb, and having laid in the mouth of it the funeral boat in which she
was borne across the Nile, he built it up for ever, and poured sand
over the rock, so that none should find its place until the Day of
Meanwhile, the infant grew and flourished, and when it was six months
old, was taken to the college of the priestesses of Amen, there to be
reared and taught.
Now on the day of the birth of the Princess Neter-Tua, there happened
another birth with which our story has to do. The captain of the guard
of the temple of Amen was one Mermes, who had married his own half-
sister, Asti, the enchantress. As was well known, this Mermes was by
right and true descent the last of that house of Pharaohs which had
filled the throne of Egypt until their line was cast down generations
before by the dynasty that now ruled the land, whereof the reigning
Pharaoh and his daughter Neter-Tua alone remained. A long while past,
in the early days of his reign, his council has whispered in Pharaoh's
ear that he should kill Mermes and his sister, lest a day should come
when they rebelled against him, proclaiming that they did so by right
of blood. But Pharaoh, who was gentle and hated murder, instead of
slaying Mermes sent for him and told him all.
Then Mermes, a noble-looking man as became the stock from which he
sprang, prostrated himself and said,
"O Pharaoh, why should you kill me? It has pleased the gods to debase
my House and to set up yours. Have I ever lifted up my heel against
you because my forefathers were kings, or plotted with the discontent
to overthrow you! See, I am satisfied with my station, which is that
of a noble and a soldier in your army. Therefore let me and my half-
sister, the wise lady Asti whom I purpose to marry, dwell on in peace
as your true and humble servants. Dip not your hands in our innocent
blood, O Pharaoh, lest the gods send a curse upon you and your House
and our ghosts come back from the grave to haunt you."
When Pharaoh heard these words, his heart was moved in him, and he
stretched out his sceptre for Mermes to kiss, thereby granting to him
life and protection.
"Mermes," he said, "you are an honourable man, and my equal in blood
if not in place. For their own purposes the gods raise up one and cast
down another that at last their ends may be fulfilled. I believe that
you will work no harm against me and mine, and, therefore, I will work
no harm against you and your sister Asti, Mistress of Magic. Rather
shall you be my friend and counsellor."
Then Pharaoh offered high rank and office to him, but Mermes would not
take them, answering that if he did, envy would be stirred up against
him, and in this way or that bring him to his death, since tall trees
are the first to fall. So in the end Pharaoh made Mermes Captain of
the Guard of Amen, and gave him land and houses enough to enable him
to live as a noble of good estate, but no more. Also he became a
friend of Pharaoh and one of his inner Council, to whose voice he
always listened, for Mermes was a true-hearted man.
Afterwards Mermes married Asti, but like Pharaoh for a long while he
remained childless, since he took no other wives. On the day of the
birth of the Princess Tua, the Morning Star of Amen, however, Asti
bore a son, a royal-looking child of great strength and beauty and
very fair in colour, as tradition said that the kings of his race had
been before him, but with black and shining eyes.
"See," said the midwife, "here is a head shaped to wear a crown."
Whereon Asti, his mother, forgetting her caution in her joy, or
perhaps inspired by the gods, for from her childhood she was a
"Yes, and I think that this head and a crown will come close
together," and she kissed him and named him Rames after her royal
forefather, the founder of their line.
As it chanced a spy overheard this saying and reported it to the
Council, and the Council urged Pharaoh to cause the boy to be put
away, as they had urged in the case of his father, Mermes, because of
the words of omen that Asti had spoken, and because she had given her
son a royal name, naming him after the majesty of Ra, as though he
were indeed the child of a king. But Pharaoh would not, asking with
his soft smile whether they wished him to baptise his daughter in the
blood of another infant who drew his first breath upon the same day,
"Ra sheds his glory upon all, and this high-born boy may live to be a
friend in need to her whom Amen has given to Egypt. Let things befall
as the gods decree. Who am I that I should make myself a god and
destroy a life that they have fashioned?"
So the boy Rames lived and throve, and Mermes and Asti, when they came
to hear of these things, thanked Pharaoh and blessed him.
Now the house of Mermes, as Captain of the Guard, was within the wall
of the great temple of Amen, near to the palace of the priestesses of
Amen where the Princess Neter-Tua was nurtured. Thus it came about
that when the Queen Ahura died, the lady Asti was named as nurse to
the Princess, since Pharaoh said that she should drink no milk save
that of one in whose veins ran royal blood. So Asti was Tua's foster
mother, and night by night she slept in her arms together with her own
son, Rames. Afterwards, too, when they were weaned the babes were
taught to walk and speak together, and later, as children, they became
Thus from the first these two loved each other, as brother and sister
love when they are twins. But although the boy was bold and brave,
this little princess always had the mastery of him, not because she
was a princess and heir to the throne of Egypt--for all the high
titles they gave her fell idly on her ears, nor did she think anything
of the bowings of courtiers and of priests--but from some strength
within herself. She it was that set the games they played, and when
she talked he was obliged to listen, for although she was so sound and
healthy, this Tua differed from other children.
Thus she had what she called her "silent hours" when she would suffer
no one to come near her, not her ladies or her foster-mother, Asti
herself, nor even Rames. Then, followed by the women at a distance,
she would wander among the great columns of the temple and study the
sculptures on the walls; and, since all places were open to her,
Pharaoh's child, enter the sanctuaries, and stare at the gods that sat
in them fashioned in granite and in alabaster. This she would do even
in the solemn moonlight when mortals were afraid to approach these
sacred shrines, and come thence unconcerned and smiling.
"What do you see there, O Morning Star?" asked little Rames of her
once. "They are dull things, those stone gods that have never moved
since the beginning of the world; also they frighten me, especially
when Ra is set."
"They are not dull, and they do not frighten me," answered Tua; "they
talk to me, and although I cannot understand all they say, I am happy
"Talk!" he said contemptuously, "how can stones talk?"
"I do not know. I think it is their spirits that talk, telling me
stories which happened before I was born and that shall happen after I
am dead, yes, and after /they/ seem to be dead. Now be silent--I say
that they talk to me--it is enough."
"For me it would be more than enough," said the boy, "but then I am
not called Child of Amen, who only worship Menthu, God of War."
When Rames was seven years of age, every morning he was taken to
school in the temple, where the priests taught him to write with pens
of reed upon tablets of wood, and told him more about the gods of
Egypt than he ever wanted to hear again. During these hours, except
when she was being instructed by the great ladies of the Court, or by
high-priestesses, Tua was left solitary, since by the command of
Pharaoh no other children were allowed to play with her, perhaps
because there were none in the temple of her age whose birth was
Once when he came back from his school in the evening Rames asked her
if she had not been lonely without him. She answered, No, as she had
"Who is it?" he asked jealously. "Show me and I will fight him."
"No one that you can see, Rames," she replied. "Only my own Ka."
"Your Ka! I have heard of Kas, but I never saw one. What is it like?"
"Just like me, except that it throws no shadow, and only comes when I
am quite by myself, and then, although I hear it often, I see it
rarely, for it is mixed up with the light."
"I don't believe in Kas," exclaimed Rames scornfully, "you make them
up out of your head."
A little while after this talk something happened that caused Rames to
change his mind about Kas, or at any rate the Ka of Tua. In a hidden
court of the temple was a deep pool of water with cemented sides,
where, it was said, lived a sacred crocodile, an enormous beast that
had dwelt there for hundreds of years. Rames and Tua having heard of
this crocodile, often talked of it and longed to see it, but could not
for there was a high wall round the tank, and in it a door of copper
that was kept locked, except when once in every eight days the priests
took in food to the crocodile--living goats and sheep, and sometimes a
calf, none of which ever came back again.
Now one day Rames watching them return, saw the priest, who was called
Guardian of the Door, put his hand behind him to thrust the key with
which he had just locked the door, into his wallet, and missing the
mouth of the wallet, let it fall upon the sand, then go upon his way
knowing nothing of what he had done.
When he had gone in a great hurry, for he was a fat old priest and the
dinner hour was at hand, Rames pounced upon the key and hid it in his
robe. Then he sought out the princess and said,
"Morning Star, this evening, when I come back from school and am
allowed to play with you, we can look at the wonderful beast in the
tank, for look, I have the key which that fat priest will not search
for till seven days are gone by, before which I can take it to him,
saying that I found it in the sand, or perhaps put it back into his
When she heard this Tua's eyes shone, since above all things she
desired to see this holy monster. But in the evening when the boy came
running to her eagerly--for he had thought of nothing but the
crocodile all day, and had bought a pigeon from a school-fellow with
which to feed the brute--he found Tua in a different mood.
"I don't think that we will go to see the holy crocodile, Rames," she
said, looking at him thoughtfully.
"Why not?" he asked amazed. "There is no one about, and I have put fat
upon the key so that it will make no noise."
"Because my Ka has been with me, Rames, and told me that it is a bad
act and if we do trouble will come to us."
"Oh! may the fiend Set take your Ka," replied the lad in a rage. "Show
it to me and I will talk with it."
"I cannot, Rames, for it is /me/. Moreover, if Set took it, he would
take me also, and you are wicked to wish such a thing."
Now the boy began to cry with vexation, sobbing out that she was not
to be trusted, and that he had paid away his bronze knife, which
Pharaoh had given him when last he visited the temple, for a pigeon to
tempt the beast to the top of the water, so that they might see it,
although the knife was worth many pigeons, and Pharaoh would be angry
if he heard that he had parted with it.
"Why should we take the life of a poor pigeon to please ourselves?"
asked Tua, softening a little at the sight of his grief.
"It's taken already," he answered. "It fluttered so that I had to sit
on it to hide it from the priest, and when he had gone it was dead.
Look," and he opened the linen bag he held, and showed her the dove
cold and stiff.
"As you did not mean to kill it, that makes a difference," said Tua
judicially. "Well, perhaps my Ka did not mean that we should not have
one peep, and it is a pity to waste the poor pigeon, which then will
have died for nothing."
Rames agreed that it would be the greatest of pities, so the two
children slipped away through the trees of the garden into the shadow
of the wall, along which they crept till they came to the bronze door.
Then guiltily enough Rames put the great key into the lock, and with
the help of a piece of wood which he had also made ready, that he set
in the ring of the key to act as a lever, the two of them turning
together shot back the heavy bolts.
Taking out the key lest it should betray them, they opened the door a
little and squeezed themselves through into the forbidden place. No
sooner had they done so than almost they wished themselves back again,
for there was something about the spot that frightened them, to say
nothing of the horrible smell which made Tua feel ill. It was a great
tank, with a little artificial island in its centre, full of slimy
water that looked almost black because of the shadow of the high
walls, and round it ran a narrow stone path. At one spot in this path,
however, where grew some dank-looking trees and bushes, was a slope,
also of stone, and on the slope with its prow resting in the water a
little boat, and in the boat, oars. But of the crocodile there was
nothing to be seen.
"It is asleep somewhere," whispered Tua, "let us go away, I do not
like this stench."
"Stench," answered Rames. "I smell nothing except the lilies on the
water. Let us wake it up, it would be silly to go now. Surely you are
not afraid, O Star."
"Oh, no! I am not afraid," answered Tua proudly. "Only wake it up
What Rames did not add was that it would be impossible to retreat as
the door had closed behind them, and there was no keyhole on its inner
So they walked round the tank, but wherever it might lurk, the
sleeping crocodile refused to wake.
"Let us get into the boat and look for it," suggested Rames. "Perhaps
it is hiding on the island."
So he led her to the stone slope, where to her horror Tua saw the
remains of the crocodile's last meal, a sight that caused her to
forget her doubts and jump into the boat very quickly. Then Rames gave
it a push and sprang in after her, so that they found themselves
floating on the water. Now, standing in the bow, the boy took an oar
and paddled round the island, but still there were no signs of the
"I don't believe it is here at all," he said, recovering his courage.
"You might try the pigeon," suggested Tua, who, now that there was
less smell, felt her curiosity returning.
This was a good thought upon which Rames acted at once. Taking the
dead bird from the bag he spread out its wings to make it look as
though it were alive, and threw it into the water, exclaiming, "Arise,
O Holy Crocodile!"
Then with fearful suddenness, whence they knew not, that crocodile
arose. An awful scaly head appeared with dull eyes and countless
flashing fangs, and behind the head cubit upon cubit of monstrous
form. The fangs closed upon the pigeon and everything vanished.
"That was the Holy Crocodile," said Rames abstractedly as he stared at
the boiling waters, "which has lived here during the reigns of eight
Pharaohs, and perhaps longer. Now we have seen it."
"Yes," answered Tua, "and I never want to see it again. Get me away
quick, or I will tell your father."
Thus adjured the boy, nothing loth, seized his oar, when suddenly the
ancient crocodile, having swallowed the dove, thrust up its snout
immediately beneath them and began to follow the boat. Now Tua
screamed aloud and said something about her Ka.
"Tell it to keep off the crocodile," shouted Rames as he worked the
oar furiously. "Nothing can hurt a Ka."
But the crocodile would not be kept off. On the contrary, it thrust
its grey snout and one of its claws over the stern of the boat in such
a fashion that Rames could no longer work the oar, dragging it almost
under water, and snapped with its horrible jaws.
"Oh! it is coming in; we are going to be eaten," cried Tua.
At that moment the boat touched the landing-place and swung round, so
that its bow, where Tua was, struck the head of the crocodile, which
seemed to infuriate the beast. At least, it hurled itself upon the
boat, causing the fore part to heel over, fill with water, and begin
to sink. Then the little lad, Rames, showed the courage that was in
him. Shouting to Tua:
"Get on shore, get on shore!" he plunged past her and smote the huge
reptile upon the head with the blade of his oar. It opened its hideous
mouth, and he thrust the oar into it and held on.
"Leave go," cried Tua, as she scrambled to land.
But Rames would not leave go, for in his brave little heart he thought
that if he did the crocodile would follow Tua and eat her. So he clung
to the handle till it was wrenched from him. Indeed he did more, for
seeing that the crocodile had bitten the wooden blade in two and,
having dropped it, was still advancing towards the slope where it was
accustomed to be fed, he leapt into the water and struck it in the eye
with his little fist. Feeling the pain of the blow the monster snapped
at him, and catching him by the hand began to sink back into deep
water, dragging the lad after it.
Rames said nothing, but Tua, who already was at the head of the stage,
looked round and saw the agony on his face.
"Help me, Amen!" she cried, and flying back, grasped Rames by his left
arm just as he was falling over, then set her heels in a crack of the
rock and held on. For one moment she was dragged forward till she
thought that she must fall upon her face and be drowned or eaten with
Rames, but the next something yielded, and she and the boy tumbled in
a heap upon the stones. They rose and staggered together to the
terrace. As they went Tua saw that Rames was looking at his right hand
curiously; also that it was covered with blood, and that the little
finger was torn off it. Then she remembered nothing further, except a
sound of shouts and of heavy hammering at the copper door.
When she recovered it was to find herself in the house of Mermes with
the lady Asti bending over her and weeping.
"Why do you weep, Nurse?" she asked, "seeing that I am safe?"
"I weep for my son, Princess," she answered between her sobs.
"Is he dead of his wounds, then, Asti?"
"No, O Morning Star, he lies sick in his chamber. But soon Pharaoh
will kill him because he led her who will be Queen of Egypt into great
danger of her life."
"Not so," said Tua, springing up, "for he saved my life."
As she spoke the door opened and in came Pharaoh himself, who had been
summoned hastily from the palace. His face was white and he shook with
fear, for it had been reported to him that his only child was drowned.
When he saw that she lived and was not even hurt, he could not contain
his joy, but casting his arms about her, sank to his knees giving
thanks to the gods and the guardian spirits. She kissed him, and
studying his face with her wise eyes, asked why he was so much afraid.
"Because I thought you had been killed, my daughter."
"Why did you think that, O my father, seeing that the great god, Amen,
before I was born promised to protect me always, though it is true
that had it not been for Rames----"
Now at the mention of this name Pharaoh was filled with rage.
"Speak not of that wicked lad," he exclaimed, "now or ever more, for
he shall be scourged till he dies!"
"My father," answered Tua, springing up, "forget those words, for if
Rames dies I will die also. It is I who am to blame, not he, for my Ka
warned me not to look upon the beast, but to Rames no Ka spoke.
Moreover, when that evil god would have eaten me it was Rames who
fought with it and offered himself to its jaws in my place. Listen, my
father, while I tell you all the story."
So Pharaoh listened, and when it was done he sent for Rames. Presently
the boy was carried in, for he had lost so much blood that he could
not walk, and was placed upon a stool before him.
"Slay me now, O Pharaoh," he said in a weak voice, "for I have sinned.
Moreover, I shall die happy since my spirit gave me strength to beat
off the evil beast from the Princess whom I led into trouble."
"Truly you have done wickedly," said Pharaoh, shaking his head at him,
"and, therefore, perhaps, you will lose your hand and even your life.
Yet, child, you have a royal heart, who first saved your playmate and
then, even in my presence, take all the blame upon yourself. Therefore
I forgive you, son of Mermes; moreover, I see that I was wise not to
listen to those who counselled that you should be put away at birth,"
and bending over the boy, Pharaoh kissed him on the brow.
Also he gave orders that the greatest physicians in the land should
attend upon him and purge the poison of the crocodile's teeth from his
body, and when he recovered--which save for the loss of the little
finger of his right hand, he did completely--he sent him a sword with
a handle of gold fashioned to the shape of a crocodile, in place of
the knife which he had paid away for the pigeon, bidding him use it
bravely all his life in defence of her who would be his queen.
Further, although he was still so young, he gave to him the high title
of Count in earnest of his love and favour, and with it a name that
meant Defender of the Royal Lady.
After he had gone Asti the prophetess looked at the sword which
Pharaoh had given to her son.
"I see royal blood on it," she said, and handed it back to Rames.
But Rames and Tua were no more allowed to play together alone, for
always after this the Princess was accompanied by women of honour and
an armed guard. Also, within a year or two the boy was placed in
charge of a general to be brought up as a soldier, a trade that he
liked well enough, so that from this time forward he and Neter-Tua met
but seldom. Still there was a bond between them which could not be
broken by absence, for already they loved each other, and every night
and morning when Tua made her petitions to Amen, after praying for
Pharaoh her father, and for the spirit of her royal mother, Ahura, she
prayed for Rames, and that they might meet soon. For the months when
her eyes did not fall upon his face were wearisome to Tua.
THE SUMMONING OF AMEN
The years went by and the Princess Neter-Tua, who was called Morning
Star of Amen, came at length to womanhood, and went through the
ceremonies of Purification. In all Egypt there was no maiden so wise
and spirited or so lovely. Tall and slender was her shape, blue as the
sea were her eyes, rosy like the dawn were her cheeks, and when she
did not wear it in a net of gold, her black and curling hair fell
almost to her waist. Also she was very learned, for priests and
priestesses taught her all things that she ought to know, together
with the arts of playing on the harp and of singing and dancing, while
her own excellent Spirit, that Ka which Amen had given her, instructed
her in a deeper wisdom which she gathered unconsciously in sleep and
waking dreams, as the slumbering earth gathers dew at night.
Moreover, her father, the wise old Pharaoh, opened to her the craft of
statesmanship, by help of which she might govern men and overthrow her
enemies. Indeed, he did more, for when her education was finished, he
joined her with him in the government of Egypt, saying:
"I who always lacked bodily strength, grow aged and feeble. This
mighty crown is too heavy for me to bear alone. Daughter, you must
share its weight."
So the young Neter-Tua became a queen, and great was the ceremony of
her coronation. The high priests and priestesses, clothed in the robes
and symbols of their gods and goddesses, addressed speeches to her and
blessed her in their names, giving her every good gift and promising
to her eternal life. Princes and nobles made her offerings; foreign
chiefs and kings bowed before her by their ambassadors. The Counts and
headmen of the Two Lands swore allegiance to her, and, finally, in the
presence of all the Court, Pharaoh himself set the double crown upon
her brow and gave her her throne-names of "Glorious in Ra and Hathor
Strong in Beauty."
So for a while Tua sat splendid on her golden seat while the people
adored her, but in that triumphant hour her eyes searched for one face
only, that of the tall and gallant captain, Rames, her foster-brother,
and for a moment rested there content. Yes, their eyes met, those of
the new-crowned Empress on her throne and of the youthful noble in the
throng below. Short was the greeting, for next instant she looked
away, yet more full of meaning than whole days of speech.
"The Queen does not forget what the child remembered, the goddess is
still a woman," it seemed to say. And so sweet was that message that
Rames staggered from the Court like one stricken by the sun.
Night came at last, and having dismissed her secretaries, scribes and
tire-women the weary girl, now clad in simple white, sat in her
chamber alone. She thought of all the splendours through which she had
passed; she thought of the glories of her imperial state, of the power
that she wielded, and of the proud future which stretched before her
feet. But most of all she thought of the face of the young Count
Rames, the playmate of her childhood, the man she loved, and wondered,
ah! how she wondered, if with all her power she could ever draw him to
her side. If not, of what use was this rule over millions, this
dominion of her world? They called her a goddess, and in truth, at
times, she believed that she was half-divine, but if so, why did her
heart ache like that of any common maid?
Moreover, was she really set above the misfortunes of her race? Could
a throne, however bright with gold, lift her above the sorrows of
human kind? She desired to learn the truth, the very truth. Her mind
was urgent, it drove her on to search out things to come, to stand
face to face with them, even if they were evil. Well, she believed she
had the strength, although, as yet, she had never called it to her
Also this thing could not be done alone. Tua thought a while, then
going to the door of her chamber she bade a woman who waited without
summon to her the Lady Asti, priestess of Amen, Interpreter of Heaven.
Presently Asti came, for now, as always, she was in attendance upon
the new-crowned queen, a tall and noble-looking woman with fine-cut
features and black hair, that although she was fifty years of age,
still showed no trace of grey.
"I was in the Sanctuary when your Majesty summoned me," she said,
pointing to the sacred robe she wore. "Let your Majesty pardon me,
therefore, if I have been long in coming," and she bowed low before
But the Queen lifted her up and kissed her, saying,
"I am weary of those high titles whereof I have heard more than enough
to-day. Call me Tua, O my mother, for so you have ever been to me,
from whose breast I drew the milk of life."
"What ails you, my child?" asked Asti. "Was the crown too heavy for
this young head of yours?" she added, stretching out her delicate hand
and stroking the black and curling hair.
"Aye, Mother, the weight of it seemed to crush me with its gems and
gold. I am weary and yet I cannot sleep. Tell me, why did Pharaoh
summon that Council after the feast? Mermes was one of them, so you
must know. And why was not I, who henceforth rule with Pharaoh,
present with him?"
"Would you learn?" said Asti with a little smile. "Well, as Queen you
have the right. It was because they discussed the matter of your
For a moment a light shone upon Tua's face. Then she asked anxiously:
"My marriage, and with whom?"
"Oh! many names were mentioned, Child, since she who rules Egypt does
not lack for suitors."
"Tell me them quick, Asti."
So she told them, there were seven in all, the Prince of Kesh, the
sons of foreign kings, great nobles, and a general of the army who
claimed descent from a former Pharaoh.
As each name fell from Asti's lips Tua waved her hand, saying scornful
words, such as "I know him not," "Too old," "Fat and hideous," "A
foreign dog who spits upon our gods," and so forth, adding at last:
"That is all, Lady, no other name was mentioned, and the Council
adjourned to consider these."
"No other name?"
"Do you then miss one, perchance, Tua?"
She made no answer, only her lips seemed to shape themselves to a
certain sound that they did not utter. The two women looked each other
in the eyes, then Asti shook her head.
"It may not be," she whispered, "for many reasons, and amongst them
that by the solemn decree of long ago whereof I have told you, our
blood is barred for ever from the throne. None would dare to break it,
not even the Pharaoh himself. You would bring my son to his death,
Tua, which such another look as you gave him in yonder hall would
"No," she answered slowly, "I would not bring him to his death, but to
life and honour and--love, and one day /I/ shall be Pharaoh. Only,
Asti, if you betray me to him I swear that I will bring you to your
death, although you are so dear."
"I shall not betray you," answered the priestess, smiling again. "In
truth, most Beautiful, I do not think there is any need, even if I
would. Say now, why did a certain captain turn faint and leave the
hall to-day when your eyes chanced to fall on him?"
"The heat," suggested Tua, colouring.
"Yes, it was hot, but he is stronger than most men and had borne it
long--like others. Still there are fires----"
"Because he was afraid of my majesty," broke in Tua hurriedly. "You
know I looked very royal there, Mother."
"Yes, doubtless fear moved him--or some other passion. Yet, Beloved,
put that thought from your heart as I do. When you are Pharaoh you
will learn that a monarch is a slave to the people and to the law.
Breathe but his name in love, and never will you see him more till you
meet before Osiris."
Tua hid her eyes in her hands for a moment, then she glanced up and
there was another look upon her face, a strange, new look.
"When I am Pharaoh," she answered, "there are certain matters in which
I will be my own law, and if the people do not like it, they may find
Asti started at her words, and a light of joy shone in her deep eyes.
"Truly your heart is high," she said; "but, oh! if you love me--and
another--bury that thought, bury it deep, or he will never live to see
you placed alone upon the golden seat. Know, Lady, that already from
hour to hour I fear for him--lest he should drink a poisoned cup, lest
at night he should chance to stumble against a spear, lest an arrow--
shot in sport--should fall against his throat and none know whence it
Tua clenched her hands.
"If so, there should be such vengeance as Egypt has not heard of since
"Of what use is vengeance, Child, when the heart is empty and the tomb
Again Tua thought. Then she said:
"There are other gods besides Osiris. Now what do men call me, Mother?
Nay, not my royal names."
"They call you Morning Star of Amen; they call you Daughter of Amen."
"Is that story true, Asti the Magician?"
"Aye, at least your mother dreamed the dream, for she told it to me
and I have read its record, who am a priestess of Amen."
"Then this high god should love me, should he not? He should hear my
prayers and give me power--he should protect those who are dear to me.
Mother, they say that you, the Mistress of secret things, can open the
ears of the gods and cause their mouths to speak. Mother, I command
you as your Queen, call up my father Amen before me, so that I may
talk with him, for I have words to which he must listen."
"Are you not afraid?" asked Asti, looking at her curiously. "He is the
greatest of all the gods, and to summon him lightly is a sacrilege."
"Should a daughter fear her father?" answered Tua.
"When the divine Queen your mother and Pharaoh knelt before him in his
shrine, praying that a child might be given to them, Amen did not
deign to appear to them, save afterwards in a dream. Will you dare
more than they? Lie down and dream, O Star of the Morning."
"Nay, I trust no dreams which change like summer clouds and pass as
soon," answered the girl boldly. "If the god is my father, in the
spirit or the flesh, I know not which, let him appear before me face
to face. I ask his wisdom for myself and his favour for another. Call
him, if you have the power, Asti. Call him even if he slay me. Better
that I should die than----"
"Hush!" said Asti, laying her hand upon her lips, "speak not that
name. Well, I have some skill, and for your sake--and another's--I
will try, but not here. Perchance he may listen, perchance not, or,
perchance, if he comes you and I must pay the price. Put on your
robes, now, O Queen, and over them this veil, and follow me--if you
Along narrow passages they crept and down many a secret-stair, till at
length they came to a door at the foot of a long slope of rock. This
door Asti unlocked and thrust open, then when they had entered,
re-locked it behind them.
"What is this place?" whispered Tua.
"The burial crypt of the high priestesses of Amen, where it is said
that the god watches. None have entered it for hard on thirty years.
See here in the dust run the footsteps of those who bore the last
priestess to her rest."
She held up her lamp, and by the light of it Tua saw that they were in
a great cave painted with figures of the gods which had on either side
of it recesses. In each of these was set a coffin with a gilded face,
and behind it an alabaster statue of her who lay therein, and in front
of it a table of offerings. At the head of the crypt stood a small
altar of black stone, for the rest the place was empty.
Asti led Tua to a step in front of the altar and bidding her kneel,
departed with the lamp which she hid away in some side chapel, so that
now the darkness was intense. Presently, through the utter silence,
Tua heard her creep back towards her, for although she walked so
softly the dust seemed to cry beneath her feet, and her every footstep
echoed round the vaulted walls. Moreover, a glow came from her, the
glow of her life in that place of death. She passed Tua and knelt by
the altar and the echo of her movements died away. Only it seemed to
Tua that from each of the tombs to the right and to the left rose the
Ka of her who was buried there, and drew near to watch and listen. She
could not see them, she could not hear them, yet she knew that they
were there and was able to count their number--thirty and two in all--
while within herself rose a picture of them, each differing from the
other, but all white, expectant, solemn.
Now Tua heard Asti murmuring secret invocations that she did not
understand. In that place and silence they sounded weird and dreadful,
and as she hearkened to them, for the first time fear crept over her.
Kneeling there upon her knees she bent her head almost to the dust and
put up prayers to Amen that he might be pleased to hear her and to
satisfy the longings of her heart. She prayed and prayed till she grew
faint and weary, while always Asti uttered her invocations. But no
answer came, no deity appeared, no voice spoke. At length Asti rose,
and coming to her, whispered in her ear:
"Let us depart ere the watching spirits, whose rest we have broken,
grow wrath with us. The god has shut his ears."
So Tua rose, clinging to Asti, for now, she knew not why, her fear
grew and deepened. For a moment she stood upon her feet, then sank to
her knees again, for there at the far end of the great tomb, near to
the door by which they had entered, appeared a glow upon the darkness.
Slowly it took form, the form of a woman clad in the royal robes of
Egypt, and bearing in its hand a sceptre. The figure of light advanced
towards them, so that presently they saw its face. Tua did not know
the face, though it seemed to her to be like her own, but Asti knew
it, and at the sight sank to the ground.
Now the figure stood in front of them, a thing of light framed in the
thick darkness, and now in a sweet, low voice it spoke.
"Hail! Queen of Egypt," it said. "Hail! Neter-Tua, Daughter of Amen.
Art thou afraid to look on the spirit of her who bore thee, thou that
didst dare to summon the Father of the gods to do thy bidding?"
"I am afraid," answered Tua, shaking in all her limbs.
"And thou, Asti the Magician, art thou afraid also, who but now wast
bold enough to cry to Amen-Ra--'Come from thy high heaven and make
"It is even so, O Queen Ahura," murmured Asti.
"Woman," went on the voice, "thy sin is great, and great is the sin of
this royal one at thy side. Had Amen hearkened, how would the two of
you have stood before his glory, who at the sight of this shape of
mine that once was mortal like yourselves, crouch choking to the
earth? I tell you both that had the god arisen, as in your wickedness
ye willed, there where ye knelt, there ye would have died. But he who
knows all is merciful, and in his place has sent me his messenger that
ye may live to look upon to-morrow's sun."
"Let Amen pardon us!" gasped Tua, "it was my sin, O Mother, for I
commanded Asti and she obeyed me. On me be the blame, not on her, for
I am torn with doubts and fears, for myself and for another. I would
know the future."
"Why, O Queen Neter-Tua, why wouldst thou know the future? If hell
yawns beneath thy feet, why wouldst thou peep through its golden doors
before the time? The future is hid from mortals because, could they
pierce its veil, it would crush them with its terrors. If all the woes
of life and death lay open the gaze, who would dare to live and who--
oh! who could dare to die?"
"Then woes await me, O thou who wast my mother?"
"How can it be otherwise? Light and darkness make the day, joy and
sorrow make the life. Thou art human, be content."
"Divine also, O Ahura, if all tales be true."
"Then pay for thy divinity in tears and be satisfied. Content is the
guerdon of the beast, but gods are wafted upwards on the wings of
pain. How can that gold be pure which has not known the fire?"
"Thou tellest me nothing," wailed Tua, "and it is not for myself I
ask. I am fair, I am Amen's daughter, and splendid is my heritage.
Yet, O Dweller in Osiris, thou who once didst fill the place I hold
to-day, I tell thee that I would pay away this pomp, could I but be
sure that I shall not live loveless, that I shall not be given as a
chattel to one whom I hate, that one--whom I do not hate--will live to
call me--wife. Great dangers threaten him--and me, Amen is mighty; he
is the potter that moulds the clay of men; if I be his child, if his
spirit is breathed into me, oh! let him help me now."
"Let thine own faith help thee. Are not the words of Amen, which he
spake concerning thee, written down? Study them and ask no more. Love
is an arrow that does not miss its mark; it is the immortal fire from
on high which winds and waters cannot quench. Therefore love on. Thou
shalt not love in vain. Queen and Daughter, fare thee well awhile."
"Nay, nay, one word, Immortal. I thank thee, thou Messenger of the
gods, but when these troubles come upon me--and another, when the sea
of dangers closes o'er our heads, when shame is near and I am lonely,
as well may chance, then to whom shall I turn for succour?"
"Then thou hast one within thee who is strong to aid. It was given to
thee at thy birth, O Star of Amen, and Asti can call it forth. Come
hither, thou Asti, and swiftly, for I must be gone, and first I would
speak with thee."
Asti crept forward, and the glowing shape in the royal robe bent over
her so that the light of it shone upon her face. It bent over her and
seemed to whisper in her ear. Then it held out its hands towards Tua
as though in blessing, and instantly was not.
Once more the two women stood in Tua's chamber. Pale and shaken they
looked into each other's eyes.
"You have had your will, Queen," said Asti; "for if Amen did not come,
he sent a messenger, and a royal one."
"Interpret me this vision," answered Tua, "for to me, at any rate,
that Spirit said little."
"Nay, it said much. It said that love fails not of its reward, and
what more went you out to seek?"
"Then I am glad," exclaimed Tua joyfully.
"Be not too glad, Queen, for to-night we have sinned, both of us, who
dared to summon Amen from his throne, and sin also fails not of its
reward. Blood is the price of that oracle."
"Whose blood, Asti? Ours?"
"Nay, worse, that of those who are dear to us. Troubles arise in
"You will not leave me when they break, Asti?"
"I may not if I would. The Fates have bound us together till the end,
and that I think is far away. I am yours as once you were mine when
you lay upon my breast, but bid me no more to summon Amen from his
HOW RAMES FOUGHT THE PRINCE OF KESH
Now for a whole moon there were great festivals in Thebes, and in all
of these Neter-Tua, "Glorious in Ra, Hathor Strong in Beauty, Morning
Star of Amen," must take her part as new-crowned Queen of Egypt. Feast
followed feast, and at each of them one of the suitors of her hand was
the guest of honour.
Then after it was done, Pharaoh her father and his councillors would
wait upon her and ask if this man was pleasing to her. Being wise, Tua
would give no direct answer, only of most of them she was rid in this
She demanded that the writing of the dream of her mother, Ahura,
should be brought and read before her, and when it had been read she
pointed out that Amen promised to her a royal lover, and that these
chiefs and generals were not royal, therefore it was not of them that
Amen spoke, nor did she dare to turn her eyes on one whom the god had
forbidden to her.
Of others who declared that they were kings, but who, being unable to
leave their countries, were represented by ambassadors, she said that
not having seen them she could say nothing. When they appeared at the
Court of Egypt, she would consider them.
So at length only one suitor was left, the man whom she knew well
Pharaoh and his councillors desired that she should take as husband.
This was Amathel, the Prince of Kesh, whose father, an aged king,
ruled at Napata, a great city far to the south, situated in a land
that was called an island because the river Nile embraced it in its
two arms. It was said that after Egypt this country was the richest in
the whole world, for there gold was so plentiful that men thought it
of less value than copper and iron; also there were mines in which
beautiful stones were found, and the soil grew corn in abundance.
Moreover, once in the far past, a race of Pharaohs sprung from this
city of Napata, had sat on the throne of Egypt, until at length the
people of Egypt, headed by the priests, had risen and overthrown them
because they were foreigners and had introduced Nubian customs into
the land. Therefore it was decreed by an unalterable law that none of
their race should ever again wear the Double Crown. Of the descendants
of these Pharaohs, Rames, Tua's playmate, was the last lawful child.
But although the Egyptians had cast them down, at heart they always
grieved over the rich territory of Napata, which was lost to them, for
when those Pharaohs fell Kesh declared itself independent and set up
another dynasty to rule over it, of which dynasty Amathel Prince of
Kesh was the heir.
Therefore they hoped that it might come back to them by marriage
between Amathel and the young Queen Neter-Tua. Ever since she was born
the great lords and councillors of Egypt, yes, and Pharaoh himself,
seeing that he had no son to whom he might marry her after the fashion
of the country, had been working to this end. It was by secret treaty
that the Prince Amathel was present at the crowning of the Queen, of
whose hand he had been assured on the sole condition that he came to
dwell with her at Thebes. It is true that there were other suitors,
but these, as all of them knew well, were but pawns in a game played
to amuse the people.
The king destined to take the great queen captive was Amathel and no
other. Tua knew it, for had not Asti told her, and was it not because
of her fear of this man and her love for Rames that she had dared to
commit the sacrilege of attempting to summon Amen from the skies?
Still, as yet, the Pharaoh had not spoken to her of Amathel, nor had
she met him. It was said that he had been present at her crowning in
disguise, for this proud prince gave out that were she ten times Queen
of Egypt, he would not pledge himself to wed as his royal wife, one
who was displeasing to him, and that therefore he must see her before
he pressed his suit.
Now that he had seen her in her loveliness and glory, he announced
that he was well satisfied, which was but half the truth, for, in
fact, she had set all his southern blood on fire, and there was
nothing that he desired more than to call her wife.
On the night which had been appointed for Amathel to meet his destined
bride, a feast had been prepared richer by far than any that went
before. Tua, feigning ignorance, on entering the great unroofed hall
lit with hundreds of torches down all its length, and seeing the
multitudes at the tables, asked of the Pharaoh, her father, who was
the guest that he would welcome with such magnificence which seemed
worthy of a god rather than of a man.
"My daughter," answered the old monarch nervously, "it is none other
than the Prince of Kesh, who in his own country they worship as
divine, as we are worshipped here in Egypt, and who, in truth, is, or
will be, one of the greatest of kings."
"Kesh!" she answered, "I thought that we claimed sovereignty over that
"Once it was ours, Daughter," said her father with a sigh, "or rather
the kings of Kesh were also kings of Egypt, but their dynasty fell
before my great-great-grandfather was called to the throne, and now
but three of their blood are left, Mermes, Captain of the Guard of
Amen; Asti, the Seer and Priestess, his wife, your foster-mother and
waiting lady, and the young Count Rames, a soldier in our army, who
was your playmate, and as you may remember saved you from the sacred
"Yes, I remember," said Tua. "But then why is not Mermes King of
"Because the people of the city of Napata raised up another house to
rule over them, of whom Amathel is the heir."
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