H. Rider Haggard
Part 5 out of 5
"Whom those soldiers could not touch or find," broke in Asti, speaking
for the first time.
"Well," went on Janees, without heeding her, "whether your father be a
beggar or a god, or even if you are Hathor's self come down from
heaven to be the death of men, know that I take you for my own. For
the third time, answer, will you be my Queen of your own choice, or
must my women drown yonder witch in this water at your feet, and drag
Now Tua made no answer. She only let fall her veil, folded her arms
upon her breast, and waited. But Asti, mocking him, cried in a loud
voice, that he might hear above the howling of the hurricane without:
"Call your women, King, for the air is full of sand that chokes my
throat, and I long for the water which you promise me."
Then, in his fury, Janees turned, and shouted:
"Come hither, Slaves, and do what I have commanded you."
As he spoke the door burst open, and through it, no longer clad in
rags, but wearing a white robe and head-dress, walked Kepher the
Wanderer, while after him, their red swords in their hands, came
savage-looking chiefs, bearded, blank-faced, round-eyed, with gold
chains that clanked upon their mail, captains of the Desert, men who
knew neither fear nor mercy.
Janees looked and understood. He snatched out his sword, and for a
moment stayed irresolute, while the great men ringed him round and
waited, their eyes fixed on Kepher's face.
"Spare him, Father, if it may be so," said Tua, "since love has made
"Too late!" answered Kepher solemnly. "Those who will not accept the
warning of the gods must suffer the vengeance of the gods. Janees, you
who would do violence to a helpless woman, your palace burns, your
city is in my keeping, and the few who stood by you are slain. Janees,
to-morrow another shall rule in your place. Amen the Father has
decreed your doom."
"Aye," echoed Janees heavily, "too late! Mortals cannot fight against
the gods that make their sport of them. Some god commanded that I
should love. Some god commands that I shall die. So be it, I am glad
to die; would that I had not been born to know grief and death. Tell
me, O Prophet, what evil power is there which ordains that we must be
born and suffer?"
Kepher beckoned to Tua and to Asti, and they followed him, leaving
Janees ringed round by those stern-faced men.
"Farewell, Lady," he called to Tua as she passed. "Here and hereafter
remember this of Janees, King of Tat, that he who might have saved his
life chose to die for love of you."
Then they went and saw him no more.
They passed the door of the great marble chamber about which they
found guards and eunuchs lying dead; they passed down the stairways,
and through the tall gates where more soldiers lay dead, and looking
behind them, saw that the palace was in flames. They reached the
square without, and at the command of Kepher entered into a litter,
and were borne by black slaves whither they knew not.
All that night they were borne, awake or sleeping, till at length the
morning came, and they descended from the litter to find themselves in
an oasis of the wilderness surrounded by a vast army of the desert
men. Of the city of Tat they could see nothing; like a dream it had
passed out of their lives, nor did they ever hear of it and its king
again. Only in the pavilion that had been provided for them they found
their pearls and gold, and Tua's ivory harp.
They laid themselves down and slept, for they were very weary, only to
wake when once more the day had dawned. Then they rose and ate of the
food that had been placed by them, and went out of the tent. In the
shadow of some palm trees stood Kepher, awaiting them, and with him
certain of the stern-faced, desert chiefs, who bowed as they advanced.
"Hearken, Lady Neferte, and you, O Asti her companion," said Kepher to
them, "I must depart, who, this matter finished, have my bread to beg
far from here. Yet, fear not, for know that these Lords of the Desert
are your servants, and for this reason were they born, that they may
help you on your way. Repeat your orders," he continued, addressing
Then the captain of them all said:
"Wanderer, known to our fathers' grandfathers, Guardian of our race by
whom we live and triumph, these are your commands: That we lead this
divine Lady and her companion a journey of many moons across the
deserts and mountains, till at length we bring her to the gates of the
City of Gold, where our task ends. While one man of us remains alive
they shall be obeyed."
"You hear," said Kepher to Tua. "Put your trust in these men. Go in
peace in the day time, and sleep in peace at night, for be sure that
they shall not fail you. But if they, or any other should perchance
bring you into trouble, then strike upon the harp and call the name
you know, as you called it in the house of Janees the mad, and I think
that one will come to you. Lords of the Desert, whose great grandsires
were known to me, and who live by my wisdom, this divine Lady is in
your keeping. See that you guard her as you should, and when the
journey is done, return and make report to me. Farewell."
Then, lifting his staff, without speaking another word to Tua or to
Asti, Kepher strode away from amongst them, walking through the ranks
of the Desert men who forced their camels to kneel and saluted him as
he passed. Presently they saw him standing alone upon a ridge, and
looking towards them for a while. Then of a sudden he was gone.
"Who is that man, O Captain, at whose bidding the wilderness swarms
with tribesmen and kings are brought to doom?" asked Asti when she had
watched him disappear.
"Lady," he answered, "I cannot tell you, but from the beginning he has
been Master of the Desert, and those who dwell therein. At his word
the sandwind blows as it blew yesterday to cover our advance, at his
word the fountains spring and tribes grow great or sink to
nothingness. We think that he is a spirit who moves where he lists,
and executes the decrees of heaven. At the least, though they but see
him from time to time, all the dwellers in the wilderness obey him, as
we do, and ill does it go, as you have learned, with those dwellers in
cities who know not the power which breathes beneath that tattered
"I thank you," answered Asti. "I think with you that this Wanderer is
a spirit, and a great one, so great that I will not name his name.
Captains, my Lady is ready to march towards the City of Gold, whither
you will lead us."
For day after day, for week after week, for month after month, they
marched southward and westward across the Desert, and in the centre of
their host, mounted upon camels, rode Tua and Asti veiled. Once the
hillmen attacked them in a defile of some rugged mountains, but they
beat them back, and once there was a great battle with other tribes of
the wilderness, who, hearing that they had a goddess among them,
sought to capture her for themselves. These tribes also they defeated
with slaughter, for when the fight hung in the balance Tua herself
headed the charge of her horsemen, and at the sight of her in her
white robes the enemy fled amazed. Once also they camped for two whole
months in an oasis, waiting till rain should fall, for the country
beyond lacked water. At length it came, and they went on again, on and
on over the endless lands, till on a certain night they pitched their
tent upon a hill.
At the first brightening of the dawn Tua and Asti went out, and there,
beneath them, near to the banks of a great river, which they knew for
the Nile, they saw the pyramids and the temples of Napata the Golden,
the southern city of Amen, and thanked the gods who had brought them
here in safety.
While they still gazed upon its glories in the red light of the rising
sun the captain of the desert men appeared, and bowed before them.
"Divine Lady," he said, "woman or goddess, whichever you may be, we
have fulfilled the command given to us by Kepher, the ancient King of
the Wilderness. Beneath you lies Napata whither we have journeyed
through so many weary months, but we would draw no nearer to its
walls, who from generation to generation are sworn not to enter any
city save in war. Lady, our task is done, and our men murmur to be led
back to their own place, where their wives and children await them,
ere, thinking that we are enemies, the people of Napata sally forth to
"It is well," answered Tua. "I thank you and the gods shall give you
your reward. Leave us, and go back to your homes, but before you go,
take a gift from me."
Then she sent for the gold that they had gathered in their trading in
the city of Tat, and gave it to be divided among them, a great and
precious treasure. Only the pearls she kept, with a little of the
gold. So the captains saluted her, and in the mists of the morning
they and their swarthy host stole away, and soon were hidden in a
cloud of dust.
From the backs of their camels Tua and Asti watched them go like a
dream of the night. Then with no word spoken between them, for their
lips were sealed with hope and wonder, wrapping themselves in their
dark cloaks, they rode down to the highway by the banks of the Nile,
which led to the walls of Napata. Mingling with other travellers, they
passed through the Field of Pyramids, and coming to the beautiful
northern gate that was covered over with gold, waited there, for this
gate was not yet opened. A woman who led three asses laden with green
barley and vegetables, which she purposed to sell in the market-place,
fell into talk with them, asking them whence they came.
Asti answered, from the city of Meroe, adding that they were singers
and dealers in pearls.
"Then you have come to the right place," answered the woman, "for
pearls are rare at Napata, which is so far from the sea; also it is
said that the young King loves singing if it be good."
"The young King?" asked Asti. "What is his name, and where is the old
"You cannot have dwelt long in Meroe, Strangers," answered the woman
suspiciously, "or you would know that the old King dwells with Osiris
beneath yonder pyramid, where the general of the Pharaoh of Egypt, he
who rules here now, buried him after the great battle. Oh! it is a
strange story, and I do not know the rights of it who sell my stuff
and take little heed of such things. But at the last high Nile before
one this general came with three thousand soldiers of Egypt, and the
body of the Prince of Kesh, whom it seems he had slain somewhere, it
is said because both of them sought the favour of the Queen of Egypt.
As they tell, this was the command of that Queen--that he should
submit himself to the King of Napata to be judged for his crime. This
he did, and the King in his fury commanded that he should be hanged
from the mast of the sacred boat of Amen. The general answered that he
was ready to be hanged if the King could hang him. Then there was a
war between the people of Napata and the Egyptians, aided by many of
the soldiers of the city who hated their master and rebelled against
his rule, which was ever cruel. The end of it was that the Egyptians
and the rebels won, and the King having fallen in the fight, they
crowned the Egyptian general in his place.
"His name?--Oh, I forget it, he has so many, but he is a goodly man to
look at, and all love him although he is mad. See, the gates are open
at last. Farewell," and dragging her asses by the halter, the peasant
woman mingled with the crowd and was gone.
Tua and Asti also mingled with the crowd, and rode on up a wide street
till they came to a square planted round with trees, on one side of
which was built a splendid palace. Here they halted their camels, not
knowing whither they should go, and as they stood irresolute the gates
of the palace opened and through them came a body of horsemen clad in
"See the writing on their shields," whispered Asti.
Tua looked and read, and lo! there in the royal cartouche was her own
name, and after it new titles--Queen of the Upper and the Lower Land,
Opener of the Gates of the South, Divine Lady of Napata by grace of
Amen, Father of the Gods.
"It seems that I have subjects here," she murmured, "who elsewhere
have none," then ceased.
For now through the gate rode one mounted on a splendid horse, whose
shape seemed familiar to her even while he was far away.
"Who is that?" faltered Tua.
"My heart tells me it is Rames my son," answered Asti, grasping at her
TUA FINDS HER LOVER
Rames it was without a doubt; Rames grown older and stern and sad of
face, but still Rames, and no other man, and oh! their eyes swam and
their hearts beat at the sight of him.
"Say, shall we declare ourselves?" asked Asti.
"Nay," answered Tua, "not here and now. He would not believe, and we
cannot unveil before all these men. Also, first I desire to learn
more. Let him pass."
Rames rode on till he came opposite to where the two women sat on
their white camels beneath a tree, when something seemed to attract
his gaze to them. He looked once carelessly and turned his head away.
He looked a second time, and again turned his head, though more
slowly. He looked a third time, and his eyes remained fixed upon those
two veiled women seated on their camels beneath the trees. Then, as
though acting upon some impulse, he pulled upon his horse's bit, and
rode up to them.
"Who are you, Stranger Ladies," he asked, "who own such fine camels?"
Tua bowed her head that the folds of her veil might hide her shape,
but Asti answered in a feigned voice:
"Sir, both of us are merchants, and one is a harper and a singer. We
have travelled hither up the Nile to the Golden City because we
understand that in Napata pearls are rare, and such we have to sell.
Also we were told that the new King of this city loved good singing,
and my companion, who sings and harps, learned her art in Egypt, even
at Thebes the holy. But who are you, Sir, that question us?"
"Lady," answered Rames, "I am an Egyptian who holds this town on
behalf of the Queen of Egypt whom once I knew. Or perhaps I should say
that I hold it on behalf of the Pharaoh of Egypt, since my spies tell
me that the Star of Amen has taken Abi, Prince of Memphis, to husband,
although they add that he finds her a masterful wife," and he laughed
"Sir," replied Asti, "it is long since we left holy Thebes, some years
indeed, and we know nothing of these things, who ply our trade from
place to place. But if you are the governor of this town, show us, we
pray you, as countrywomen of yours, where we may lodge in safety, and
at your leisure this afternoon permit that we exhibit our pearls
before you, and when that is done, and you have bought or refused
them, as you may wish, that my companion should sing to you some of
the ancient songs of Egypt."
"Ladies," answered Rames, "I am a soldier who would rather buy swords
than pearls. Also, as it chances, I am a man who dwells alone, one in
whose household no women can be found. Yet because you are of my
country, or by Amen I know not why! I grant you your request. I go out
to exercise this company in the arts of war, but after sundown you
shall come to my palace, and I will see your wares and hear your
songs. Till then, farewell. Officer," he added to a captain who had
followed him, "take these Egyptians and their camels and give them a
lodging in the guest-house, where they will not be molested, and at
sundown bring them to me."
Then, still staring at them as though they held his eyes in their
hearts, Rames departed, and the captain led them to their lodging.
It was the hour of sundown, and Tua, adorned in beautiful white
raiment, broidered with royal purple, that she carried in her baggage
on the camel, with her long hair combed out and scented, a necklace of
great pearls upon her bosom, a veil flung over her head, and her harp
of gold and ivory in her hand, waited to be led before Rames. Asti,
his mother, waited also, but she was clad in a plain black robe, and
over her head was a black veil. Presently that captain who had shown
them their lodging, came to them and asked if they were ready to be
led before the Viceroy of Napata.
"Viceroy?" answered Asti, "I thought he was a King."
"So he is, my good Woman," replied the captain, "but it his fancy to
call himself the Viceroy of Neter-Tua, Star of Amen, wife of Abi the
Usurper who rules in Egypt. A mad fancy when he might be a Pharaoh on
his own account, but so it is."
"Well, Sir," said Asti, "we merchants have nothing to do with these
high matters; lead us to this Pharaoh, or General, or Viceroy, with
whom we hope to transact business."
So the captain conducted them to a side gate of the palace, and thence
through various passages and halls, in some of which Tua recognised
officers of her own whom she had commanded to accompany Rames, to an
apartment of no great size, where he bade them be seated. Presently a
door opened, and through it came Rames, plainly dressed in the uniform
of an Egyptian general, on which they saw he wore no serpent crest or
other of the outward signs of royalty. Only on his right hand that
lacked the little finger, gleamed a certain royal ring, which Tua
knew. With him also were several captains to whom he talked of
Seeing the two women, he bowed to them courteously, and asked them to
forgive him for having kept them waiting for him. Then he said:
"What was it that you wished to show me, Ladies? Oh! I remember,
precious stones. Well, I fear me that you have brought them to a bad
market, seeing that although Napata is called the City of Gold, she
needs all her wealth for her own purposes, and I draw from it only a
general's pay, and a sum for the sustenance of my household, which is
small. Still, let me look at your wares, for if I do not buy myself,
perhaps I may be able to find you a customer."
Now when they saw the young man's noble face and bearing, and heard
his simple words, the hearts of Asti and Tua, his mother and his love,
beat so hard within their breasts that for a while they could scarcely
speak. Glad were they, indeed, that the veils they wore hid their
troubled faces from his eyes, which, as in the morning, lingered on
At length, controlling herself with an effort, Asti answered:
"Perchance, Lord, the Great Lady your wife, or the ladies your
companions, will buy if you do not."
"Have I not already told you, Merchant," asked Rames angrily, "that I
have no wife, and no companions that are not men?"
"You said so, Sir," she replied humbly, always speaking in her feigned
voice, "yet forgive us if we believed you not, since in our
journeyings my daughter and I have seen many princes, and know that
such a thing is contrary to their nature. Still we will show you our
wares, for surely all the men in Napata are not unmarried."
Then, without more ado, she drew out a box of scented cedar and,
opening it, revealed a diadem of pearls worked into the shape of the
royal /urĉus/, which they had fashioned thus at Tat, and also a few of
their largest single gems.
"Beautiful, indeed," said Rames, looking at them, "though there is but
one who has the right to wear this crown, the divine Queen of the
Upper and the Lower Land," and he sighed.
"Nay, Lord," replied Asti, "for surely her husband might wear it
"It would sit but ill on the fat head of Abi, from all I hear, Lady,"
he broke in, laughing bitterly.
"Or," went on Asti, taking no heed of his words, "a general who had
conquered a great country could usurp it, and find none to reprove
him, especially if he himself happened to be of the royal blood."
Now Rames looked at her sharply.
"You speak strange words," he said, "but doubtless it is by chance.
Merchant, those pearls of yours are for richer men than I am, shut
them in the box again, and let the lady, your daughter, sing some old
song of Egypt, for such I long to hear."
"So be it, Lord," answered Asti. "Still, keep the diadem as a gift,
since it was made for you alone, and may yet be useful to you--who can
know? It is the price we pay for liberty to trade in your dominions.
Nay, unless you keep it my daughter shall not sing."
"Let it lie there, then, most princely Merchant, and we will talk of
the matter afterwards. Now for the song."
Then, her moment come at last, Tua stood up, and holding the ivory
harp beneath her veil, she swept its golden chords. Disguising her
voice, as Asti had done, she began to sing, somewhat low, a short and
gentle love-song, which soon came to an end.
"It is pretty," said Rames, when she had finished, "and reminds me of
I know not what. But have you no fuller music at your command? If so,
I would listen to it before I bid you good-night."
She bent her head and answered almost in a whisper:
"Lord, if you wish it, I will sing you the story of one who dared to
set his heart too high, and of what befell him at the hands of an
"Sing on," he answered. "Once I heard such a story--elsewhere."
Then Tua swept her harp and sang again, but this time with all her
strength and soul. As the first glorious notes floated from her lips
Rames rose from his seat, and stood staring at her entranced. On went
the song, and on, as she had sung it in the banqueting hall of Pharaoh
at Thebes, so she sang it in the chamber of Rames at Napata. The
scribe dared the sanctuary, the angry goddess smote him cold in death,
the high-priestess wailed and mourned, the Queen of Love relented, and
gave him back his life again. Then came that last glorious burst when,
lifted up to heaven, the two lovers, forgiven, purged, chanted their
triumph to the stars, and, by slow degrees, the music throbbed itself
Look! white-faced, trembling, Rames clung to a pillar in his chamber,
while Tua sank back upon her chair, and the harp she held slipped from
her hand down upon the floor.
"Whence came that harp?" he gasped. "Surely there are not two such in
the world? Woman, you have stolen it. Nay, how can you have stolen the
music, and the voice as well? Lady, forgive me, I have no thought of
evil, but oh! grant me a boon. Why, I will tell you afterwards. Grant
me a boon--let me look upon your face."
Tua lifted her hands, and undid the fastening of her veil, which
slipped from her to her feet, showing her in the rich array of a
prince of Egypt. His eyes met her beautiful eyes, and for a while they
gazed upon each other like folk who dream.
"What trick is this?" he said angrily at last. "Before me stands the
Star of Amen, Egypt's anointed Queen. The harp she bears was the royal
gift of the Prince of Kesh, he who fell that night beneath my sword.
The voice is Egypt's voice, the song is Egypt's song. Nay, how can it
be? I am mad, you are magicians come to mock me, for that Star, Amen's
daughter, reigns a thousand miles away with the lord she chose, Abi,
her own uncle, he who, they say, murdered Pharaoh. Get you gone,
Sorceress, lest I cause the priests of Amen, whereof you also make a
mock, to cast you to the flames for blasphemy."
Slowly, very slowly, Tua opened the wrappings about her throat,
revealing the Sign of Life that from her birth was stamped above her
"When they see this holy mark, think you that the priests of Amen will
cast me to the flames, O Royal Son of Mermes?" asked Tua softly.
"Why not?" he answered. "If you have power to lie in one thing, you
have power to lie in all. She who can steal the loveliness of Egypt's
self, can also steal the signet of the god."
"Say, did you, O Rames, also steal that other signet on your hand, a
Queen's gift, I think, that once a Pharaoh wore? Say also how did you
lose the little finger of that hand? Was it perchance in the maw of a
certain god that dwells in the secret pool of a temple at holy
So Tua spake, and waited a while, but Rames said nothing. He opened
his mouth to answer, indeed, but a dumbness sealed his lips.
"Nurse," she went on presently, "I cannot persuade this Lord that I am
Egypt and no other. Try you."
So Asti loosed her black veil, and let it fall about her feet. He
stared at her noble features and grey hair, then, uttering a great cry
of "Mother, my Mother, who they swore to me was dead in Memphis," he
flung himself upon her breast, and there burst into weeping.
"Aye, Rames," said Asti presently, "your Mother, she who bore you, and
no other woman, and with her one who because her royal heart loves you
now as from the first, from moon to moon for two whole years has
braved the dangers of the desert, and of wicked men, till at last Amen
her father brings her safely to your side. Now do you believe?"
"Aye," answered Rames, "I believe."
"Then, O faithful Captain," said Tua, "take this gift from Egypt's
Queen, which a while ago you thrust aside, and be its Lord and mine,"
and lifting the diadem of pearls crested with the royal /urĉi/ she set
it on his brow, as once before she had done in that hour of dawn when
she vowed herself to him in Thebes.
It was night, and all their wonderful story had been told.
"Such is our tale, Rames my Son," said Asti, "and long may you search
before you find another that will match it. Now tell us yours."
"It is short, Mother," he answered. "Obeying the commands of her
Majesty yonder," and he bowed towards Tua, who sat at the further side
of the table at which they ate, "I travelled up the Nile to this city.
As the old king, the father of the Prince of Kesh, would have slain me
I attacked him first by the help of my Egyptians and his own subjects,
and--well, he died. Moreover, none regretted him, for he was a bad
king, and I stepped into his place, and ever since have been engaged
in righting matters which they needed. Long ago I would have returned
to Egypt and reported myself, only my spies told me of all that had
happened there. They told me, for instance, of the murder of Pharaoh,
by the witchcraft of Abi and his companions; and they told me that
Pharaoh's daughter, the Star of Amen, forgetting all things and the
oath she swore to me, had married her old uncle Abi that she might
save her life and power."
"And you believed them, Rames?" asked Tua reproachfully.
"What else could I do but believe, Lady, seeing that those same spies
swore that they had seen your Majesty seated upon your throne at
Memphis, and elsewhere, and causing Abi to run to and fro like a
little dog, and do your bidding in all things? How could I know that
it was your Double, and not yourself that married Abi?"
"I think that Abi knows to-day," answered Tua, "since it seems that a
Ka makes but a bad wife to any man. But now what shall we do?"
"Will you not first marry me, Lady?" suggested Rames. "Afterwards, we
"Aye," she answered, "I will marry you as I have promised, but in one
place only, the temple of Amen in Egypt. First win me back my throne,
then ask for my hand."
"It shall be done," he answered, "though how I know not, seeing that
another sits upon that throne of yours, who, perhaps, will not be
willing to bid it farewell."
"We will send her a message, Son," said Asti. "Now leave us, for we
"Where is your messenger, Mother?" asked Rames as he went.
"Have you known me all these years, my Son, and not learned that I
have servants whom you cannot see?" answered Asti.
It was midnight, and in their chamber of the palace of Rames, Asti and
Tua knelt side by side in prayer to Amen, Father of the Gods. Then,
their petitions finished, Asti rose to her feet, and once again, as in
the pylon tower at Memphis, uttered the awful words that in bygone
days had been spoken to her by the spirit of Ahura the divine in
There was a sound as of whispering, a sound as of beating wings. Lo!
in the shadow beyond the lamplight a mist gathered that brightened by
degrees and took shape, the shape of a royal woman clad in the robes
and ornaments of Egypt's Queen, whose face was as the face of Neter-
Tua, only prouder and more unearthly. In silence it stood before them
scanning them with its glittering eyes.
"Whence come you, O Double?" asked Asti.
"From that place where your command found me, O Mistress of Secret
Things, from the house of Abi at Thebes, wherein he seems to rule as
Pharaoh," the Form answered in its cold voice.
"How fares it with Abi and with Egypt, O Double?"
"With Abi it fares but ill; he wastes in toil and fear and longings,
and knows no happy hour. But with Egypt it fares well. Never, O Lady
of Strength, was she more great than she is to-day, for in all things
I have fulfilled the commandments that were laid upon me, and now I
desire to rest in that bosom whence I came," and she pointed to Tua,
who stood and watched.
"Not yet, O Double, for there is still work for you to do, and then
you shall be at peace till the day of the last Awakening. Hearken:
Return to Thebes, and tell a false tale in the ears of Abi and his
councillors. Say that Rames the Egyptian, who has seized the rule of
Kesh, has declared himself Pharaoh of Egypt by right of race, and your
husband by the promise of him who ruled before you whom Abi did to
death. Cause this Abi to gather a great army, and to march southward
to make an end of Rames. But secretly whisper into the ears of the
generals of this army, that it is true the divine Pharaoh who is gone
promised you in marriage to Rames with your own consent, and by the
command of Amen, Father of the Gods, and of your Spirit. Whisper to
them that Amen is wrath with Abi because of his crime, as he will show
them in due season, and that those who rebel against him shall have
his love and favour. At the Gateway of the South, whence the Nile
rushes northward between great walls of rock, Rames shall meet the
army of Abi. With him will come her of whom you are, and I whom you
must obey; also perchance another who is greater than all of us. There
at the Gateway of the South your task shall be accomplished, and you
shall find the rest you seek. It is said."
"I hear the command, and it shall be done," answered the Ka in its
cold, passionless voice. "Only, Lady of the Secrets, Doer of the Will
Divine, delay not, lest, outworn, I should break back like a flame to
yonder breast that is my home, slaying as I come, and leaving wreck
Then as the figure had appeared, so also it disappeared, growing faint
by degrees, and vanishing away into the night out of which it came.
It was morning at Thebes, and Abi sat in the great hall of Pharaoh
transacting business of the State, while at his side stood Kaku the
Vizier. Changed were both of them, indeed, since they had plotted the
death of their guest and king at Memphis, for now Abi was so worn with
work and fear and wretchedness, that his royal robes hung about him in
loose folds, while Kaku had become an old, old man, who trembled as he
"Is the business finished, Officer?" asked Abi impatiently.
"Nay, Mighty Lord," answered Kaku, "there is still enough to keep you
sitting here till noon, and after that you must receive the Council
and the Embassies."
"I will not receive them. Let them wait till another day. Knave, would
you work me to death, who have never known an hour's rest or peace
since the happy time when I ruled as Prince of Memphis?"
"Lord," answered Kaku, bowing humbly, "weary or no you must receive
them, for so it has been decreed by her Majesty the Queen, whose
command may not be broken."
"The Queen!" exclaimed Abi in a low voice, rolling his hollow eyes
around him as though in fear. "Oh, Kaku, would that I had never beheld
the Queen. I tell you that she is not a woman, as indeed you know
well, but a fiend with a heart of ice, and the venomous cunning of a
snake. I am called Pharaoh, yet am but her puppet to carry out her
decrees. I am called her husband, yet she is still no wife to me, or
to any, although all men love her, and by that love are ofttimes
brought to doom. Last night again she vanished from my side as I sat
listening to her orders, and after a while, lo! there she was as
before, only, as it seemed to me, somewhat weary. I asked her where
she had been and she answered: "Further than I could travel in a year
to visit one she loved as much as she hated me. Now who can that be,
"Rames, I think, Lord, he who has made himself King of Kesh," replied
Kaku in an awed whisper. "Without a doubt she loved the man when she
was a woman, though whom she loves now the evil gods know alone. We
are in her power, and must work her will, for, Lord, if we do not we
shall die, and I think that neither of us desires to die, since beyond
that gate dead Pharaoh waits for us."
At these words Abi groaned aloud, wiping the sweat from his blanched
face with the corner of his robe, and saying:
"There you speak truly. Go, call the scribes, and let us get on with
the Queen's business."
Kaku turned to obey, when suddenly heralds entered the empty hall,
"Her Majesty the Queen waits without with a great company, and humbly
craves audience of her good lord, the divine Pharaoh of the Upper and
the Lower Land."
Abi and Kaku looked at each other, and despair was in their eyes.
"Let her Majesty enter," said the King in a low voice.
The heralds retired, and presently through the cedar doors appeared
the Queen in state. She was splendid to behold, splendid in her proud
beauty, splendid in her dress, and in her royal ornaments. On she
swept up the hall, attended by Merytra, who bore her fan and cushion,
for it was her pleasure that this woman should wait upon her day and
night without pause or rest, although she who had once been so
handsome now was worn almost to nothingness with toil and terror.
Behind Merytra came guards and high-priests, and after them the great
lords of the Council, who were called the King's Companions and the
generals of the army.
On she swept up the hall till reaching the foot of the throne whereon
Abi sat, she motioned to Merytra to place the cushion upon its step,
and knelt, saying:
"I am come as a loyal wife to make a humble prayer to Pharaoh my Lord
in the presence of his Court."
"Rise and speak on, Great Lady," answered Abi. "It is not fit that you
should kneel to me."
"Nay, it is most fit that Pharaoh's Queen should kneel to Pharaoh when
she seeks his divine favour." Yet she rose, and, seating herself in a
chair that had been brought, spoke thus:
"O Pharaoh, last night I dreamed a dream. I dreamed of the Count
Rames, son of Mermes, the last of that royal race which ruled before
our House in Egypt. I mean that man who slew the Prince of Kesh in
this very hall, and whom, my Father being sick, I sent to Napata, to
be judged by the King of Kesh, but who, it seems, overthrew that king
and took his kingdom in the name of Egypt.
"I dreamed that this bold and able man, not satisfied with the rich
kingdom of Kesh, has made a scheme to attack Egypt; to slay you, most
glorious Lord, to proclaim himself Pharaoh by right of ancient blood,
and more--to take me, your faithful wife, to be his wife, and thereby
secure his throne."
"Without doubt, Queen, this turbulent Rames might think of such
things," said Abi, "and so far your dream may be true; yet it should
be remembered that at present he is at Napata, which is a very long
way off, and has probably only a small army at his command, so why
should you trouble about what he thinks?"
"O Pharaoh, that was not all my dream, for in it I saw two pictures.
The first was of this bold Rames attacking Thebes, and conquering it,
yes, and dragging me away to be his wife over your very corpse, O
Pharaoh. The second was of you and your army meeting him at the Gate
of the South Land, and slaying him, and taking possession of the
kingdom of Kesh, and its golden city, and ruling them for Egypt, until
"Here be two dreams, O Queen," said Abi. "Tell us now, which would you
follow, for both of them cannot be right?"
"How can I know, Pharaoh, and how can you know? Yet by your side
stands one who will know, for he is the first of magicians, and a
chosen interpreter of the heart of the gods. Grant that he may make
this matter clear," and she pointed to Kaku, who stood by the throne.
"Divine Lady," stammered Kaku, "the thing is too high for me. I have
no message, I cannot tell you----"
"You were ever over-modest, Kaku," said the Queen. "Command him, O
Pharaoh, to shed the light of his wisdom on us, for without doubt he
knows the truth."
"Yes, yes," said Abi, "he knows it, he knows everything. Kaku, delay
not, interpret the dream of her Majesty."
"I cannot, I will not," spluttered the old astrologer. "Ask my wife,
the Lady Merytra there, she is wiser than I am."
"My good friend Merytra has already told me her mind," said the Queen,
"now we wait for yours. A prophet must speak when the gods call on
him, or," she added slowly, "he must cease to be a prophet who betrays
the gods by hiding their high counsel."
Now Kaku could find no way of escape, so, since he feared the very
name of Rames, within himself he determined that he would interpret
the dream in the sense that Pharaoh should await the attack of this
Rames at Thebes, and while every ear listened to him, thus began his
tale. Yet as he spoke he felt the glittering eyes of that spirit who
was called the Queen, fix themselves upon him and compel his tongue,
so that he said just what he did not mean to say.
"A light shines in me," he cried, "and I see that the second vision of
her Majesty is the true vision. You must go up with your army to the
Gate of the South, O Pharaoh, and there meet this usurper, Rames, that
these matters may be brought to their appointed end."
"Their appointed end? What appointed end?" shouted Abi.
"Doubtless that which her Majesty dreamed," answered Kaku. "At least,
it is laid upon me to tell you that you must go up to the Gate of the
"Then I wish that the Gate of the South were laid upon you also, O
Evil Prophet," exclaimed Abi. "For two years only have I ruled in
Egypt, and lo! three wars have been my portion, a war against the
people of Syria, a war against the desert men, and a war against the
Nine Bow barbarians that invaded the Low Lands. Must I now, in my age,
undertake another war against the terrible sons of Kesh also? Let this
dog, Rames, come, if come he will, and I will hang him here at the
gates of Thebes."
"Nay, nay, O Pharaoh," replied Kaku, "it is laid upon me to tell you
that you must hang him in the desert hundreds of miles away from
Thebes. That is the interpretation of the vision; that is the command
of the gods."
"The gods have spoken by the mouth of their prophet," cried the Queen
in a thrilling, triumphant voice. "Now Pharaoh, Priests, Councillors,
and Captains of Egypt, let us make ready to travel to the Gate of the
South, and there hang the dog Rames in the desert land, that thus
Egypt and Egypt's King and Egypt's Queen may be freed from danger, and
rest in peace, and the wealth of the City of Gold be divided amongst
"Aye, aye," answered the Priests, Councillors, and Captains, the
shrill voice of Kaku leading the chorus, still against his will, "let
us go up at once, and let her Majesty accompany us."
"Yes," said the Queen, "I will accompany you, for though I be but a
woman, shall I shrink from what Pharaoh, my dear Lord, dares? We will
sail at the new moon."
That night Abi and Kaku stood face to face.
"What is this that you have done?" asked Abi. "Do you not remember the
words which dead Pharaoh spoke in the awful vision that came to me
that night at Memphis, when he bade me take the Royal Loveliness which
I desired to be my wife? Do you not remember that he bade me also
reign in her right until I met 'one Rames, Son of Mermes' and with him
a Beggar-man who is charged with another message for me?"
"I remember," answered Kaku in a hollow voice.
"What, then, is this message, Man, that will come from Rames or the
Beggar? Is it not the message of my death and yours, of us whose tombs
were finished but yesterday?"
"It may be so, Lord."
"Then why did you interpret the dream of the Queen in the sense that I
must hurry southwards to meet this very Rames--and my doom?"
"Because I could not help it," groaned Kaku. "That spirit who is
called a Queen compelled me. Abi, there is no escape for us; we are in
the net of Fate--unless, unless you dare----" and he looked meaningly
at the sword that hung by Pharaoh's side.
"Nay, Kaku," he answered, "I dare not. Let us live while we may,
knowing what awaits us beyond the gate."
"Aye," moaned Kaku, "beyond the Gate of the South, where we shall find
Rames the Avenger, and that Beggar who is charged with a message for
THE JUDGMENT OF THE GODS
Three more months had gone by, and the great host of Pharaoh was
encamped beyond the Southern Gate, and the warships of Pharaoh were
anchored thick on either bank of the Nile. There they lay prepared for
battle, for spies had reported to them that the general, Rames, Lord
of Kesh, was advancing northward swiftly, though with so small an army
that it could easily be destroyed. Therefore Abi waited there to
destroy it without further toil, nor did his terrible Queen gainsay
him. She also seemed content to wait.
One evening as the sun sank it was told to them that the troops of
Rames had appeared, and occupied the mountains on the right bank of
the Nile, being encamped around that temple of Amen which had stood
there for thousands of years.
"Good," said the Queen. "To-morrow Pharaoh will go up against him and
make an end of this matter. Is it not so, Pharaoh?" and she looked at
him with her glittering eyes.
"Yes, yes," answered Abi, "the sooner the better, for I am worn out,
and would return to Thebes. Yet," he added in a weak, uncertain voice,
"I misdoubt me of this war, I know not why. What is it that you stare
at in the heavens so fixedly, O Kaku?"
Now the eyes of the Council were turned on Kaku the Vizier, and they
perceived that he was much disturbed.
"Look," he said, pointing with a trembling finger towards the skies.
They looked, and saw hanging just above the evening glow a very bright
and wonderful star, and near to it, another, paler star which
presently it seemed to cover.
"The Star of Amen," gasped Kaku in a voice that shook, "and your star,
O Pharaoh. The Star of Amen eats it up, your star goes out, and will
never be seen again by living man. Oh! Abi, that which I foresaw years
and years ago has come to pass. Your day is done, and your night is at
hand, O Abi."
"If so," shouted Abi in his rage and terror, "be sure of this, Dog--
that you shall share it."
As he spoke a sound of screams drew near, and presently into the midst
of them rushed Merytra, the wife of Kaku.
"The vengeance of the gods," she screamed, "the vengeance of the gods!
Listen, Abi. But now this very evening as I slept in my pavilion, who
can never sleep at night, there appeared to me the spirit of dead
Pharaoh, of Pharaoh whom we slew by magic, and he said: 'Tell the
murderer, Abi, and the wizard-rogue, Kaku, your husband, that I summon
both of them to meet me ere another sun is set, and Woman, come you
with them.' Death is at our door, Abi, death and the terrible
vengeance of the god!" and Merytra fell down foaming in a fit.
Now Abi went mad in the extremity of his fear.
"They are sorcerers," he shouted, "who would bewitch me. Take them and
keep them safe, and let Kaku be beaten with rods till he comes to his
right mind again. To-morrow, when I have slain Rames, I will hang this
magician at my mast-head."
But the Queen only laughed and repeated after him:
"Yes, yes, my good Lord, to-morrow, when you have killed Rames, this
magician shall hang at your mast-head. Fear not, whatever chances I
will see that it is done."
Merytra, recovered from her madness, lay upon a bed, when a woman
entered and stood over her. Looking up she saw it was the Queen.
"Hearken to me," said the Queen in an icy voice, "and tell the words I
speak to Abi. The time is accomplished, and I leave him. If he would
look again upon Neter-Tua, Morning Star of Amen, the Great Lady of
Egypt, let him seek her in the camp of Rames. There he shall find her
in the temple of Amen, which is set upon the mountain in the midst of
Then she was gone.
Merytra rose from the bed, and called to the guards to lead her to
Abi. So loudly did she call, saying that she had a message for him
which must not be delayed, that at length one went and told him of her
words, and he came to her.
"What is it now, Sorceress?" he asked. "Have you dreamed more ill-
"Nay, Pharaoh," she answered, "but the Queen has fled to Rames," and
word for word she repeated what had been told her.
"It is a lie," said Abi. "How can she have fled through a triple line
"Search, then, and see, O Pharaoh."
So Abi searched, but though none had seen her pass, and none had gone
with her, the Queen could not be found.
It was midnight, and while they still searched, by the light of the
moon a tall figure clad in tattered robes, who bore a thornwood staff
in his hand, and had a white beard that fell down below his middle,
was perceived walking to and fro about the camp.
"Who is that fellow?" asked Abi, and as he spoke the figure cried
aloud in a great voice:
"Listen, Councillors, Captains, and Soldiers of Egypt, to the command
of Amen, spoken by the lips of his messenger, Kepher the Wanderer.
Lift no sword against Rames, Lord of Kesh, for he is my servant, and
shall be Pharaoh over you, and husband of your Queen, and father of
kings to come. Seize Abi the usurper, the murderer of Pharaoh, his
brother, and Kaku the sorcerer, and Merytra the traitress, and lead
them at the dawn to my temple upon yonder hill, where I will declare
my commands to you in the sanctuary of the temple. So shall peace be
upon you and all Egypt, and the breath of life remain in your
Now hearing these fearful words, and remembering dead Pharaoh's
prophecy of a Beggar who should bring a message to him, Abi drew his
sword and rushed at the man. But ere ever he came there, the Wanderer
was gone, and lo! they heard him repeating his message far away.
Thither they ran also, but now the words of doom were being called
upon the ships, and on their prows they saw his tall shape stand--
first on this and then on that.
"It is the gods who speak," cried the priests, "let us obey the gods!"
and suddenly they flung themselves upon Abi and bound him, and Kaku
and Merytra they bound also, waiting for the dawn. But of the tall,
white-bearded man in beggar's robes they saw and heard no more.
At that same time Tua slept in a chamber of the temple upon the hill,
while Asti watched her. Presently a wind blew in the chamber, and
Asti, looking up, became aware of a Shape that she knew well, the very
shape of Tua who slept upon the bed.
"What is your will, O Double?" asked Asti.
"My will is that you give me rest," answered the Ka. "My task is
accomplished, I am weary. Speak the secret words of power that you
have, and let me return to her from whom I came, and in her bosom
sleep till the great Day of Awakening."
So Asti, knowing that she was commanded so to do, uttered those secret
words, and as she spoke them the glorious Shape seemed to grow faint
and fade away. Only Tua rose upon her bed, stretched out her arms and
sighed, fell back again and slept heavily until the morning. Then she
awoke, asking what had befallen her, for she was changed.
"This has befallen, Queen. That which went forth from you by the
command of Amen has returned to you again, its duty done. Rise up now
and adorn yourself, for this is your day of victory and marriage."
As the sun rose Tua went forth more beautiful than the morning, and at
the gates of the temple found Rames awaiting her, clad in his armour,
while from the mists below came a sound as of an army approaching.
"What passes?" asked Tua, looking at him, and there was more love in
her blue eyes than there is water in the Nile at flood.
"I think that Abi attacks us, Lady," he said, bowing the knee to her,
"and I am fearful for you, for our men are few, and his are many."
"Be not afraid of Abi, or of anything, O Rames, though it is true that
this day you must lose your liberty," she answered with a sweet and
gentle smile, and he wondered at her words.
Then, before he could speak again, two of the captains of his outposts
ran in and reported that without were priests and heralds, who came in
peace from the army of Abi.
"Summon the officers, and let them be admitted," said Rames, "but be
careful, all of you, lest this embassy should hide some trick of war.
Come, Queen, it is to you that they should speak, and not to me, who
am but a general of your province, Kesh," and he followed her to the
inner court, where, in front of the sanctuary, was a chair, on which,
at his prayer, she seated herself, as a mighty Queen should do.
Now, conducted by his own officers, the embassy entered, bearing with
them three closed litters, and Tua and Rames noted that among that
embassy were the greatest generals, and the most holy priests of
Egypt. At a given sign they prostrated themselves before the glory of
the Queen, all save the soldiers who bore the litters. Next, from
among their ranks out stepped the venerable High-Priest of Amen at
Thebes, and stood before Tua with bowed head till, with a motion of
her hand, she commanded him to speak.
"O Morning-Star of Amen," he began, "after you left our camp last
night a messenger came to us from the Father of the Gods----"
"Stay, O High-Priest," broke in Tua. "I did not leave your camp who
never tarried there, and who for two long years have set no foot upon
the holy soil of Egypt. No, not since I fled from Memphis to save
myself from death, or what is worse--the defilement of a forced
marriage with Abi, my Uncle, and Pharaoh's murderer."
Now the High-Priest turned and stared at those behind him, and all who
were present stared at the Queen.
"Pardon me," he said, "but how can this thing be, seeing that for
those two years we have seen your Majesty day by day living among us
as the wife of Abi?"
Now Tua looked at Asti, who stood at her side, and the tall and noble
Asti looked at the High-Priest, saying:
"You know me, do you not?"
"Aye, Lady," he answered, "we know you. You were the wife of Mermes,
the last shoot of a royal tree, and you are the mother of the Lord
Rames yonder, against whom we came out to make war. We know you well,
O greatest of all the seers in Egypt, Mistress of Secret Things. But
we believed that you had perished in the temple of Sekhet at Memphis,
that temple where Pharaoh died. Now we understand that, being a
magician, you only vanished thence."
"What bear you there?" asked Asti, glancing at the litters.
"Bring forth the prisoners," said the High-Priest.
Then the curtains were drawn, and the soldiers lifted from the litters
Abi, Kaku, and Merytra, who were bound with cords, and stood them on
their feet before the Queen.
"These are the very murderers of Pharaoh, my Father, who would have
also brought me to shame. Why are my eyes affronted with the sight of
them?" asked Tua indignantly.
"Because the Messenger of the Gods, clothed as a Beggar-man, commanded
it, your Majesty," answered the High-Priest. "Now we understand that
they are brought hither to be judged for the murder of Pharaoh, the
good god who was your father."
"Shall a wife sit in judgment on her husband?" broke in Abi.
"Man," said Tua, "I never was your wife. How can I have been your
wife, who have not seen you since the death of Pharaoh? Listen, now,
all of you, to the tale of that marvel which has come to pass. At my
birth--you, O High-Priest, should know it well--Amen gave to me a Ka,
a Self within myself, to protect me in all dangers. The dangers came
upon me, and Asti the Magician, my foster-mother, speaking the words
that had been taught to her by the spirit of the divine Ahura who bore
me, called forth that Ka of mine, and left it where I had been, to be
the wife of Abi, such a wife, I think, as never man had before. But
me, Amen, my father, rescued, and with me Asti, bearing us in the Boat
of the Sun to far lands, and protecting us in many perils, till at
length we came to the city of Napata, where we found a certain servant
of mine whom, as it chances, I--love," and she looked at Rames and
"Meanwhile, my Shadow did the work to which it was appointed, ruling
for me in Egypt, and drawing on Abi to his ruin. But last night It
returned to me, and will be seen no more by men, except, perchance, in
my tomb after I am dead. Judge you if my tale be true, and whether I
am indeed Neter-Tua, Daughter of Amen," and opening the wrappings
about her throat, she showed the holy sign that was stamped above her
"The High-Priest yonder should know this mark, for he saw it at my
Now the aged man drew near, looked, and said:
"It is the sign. Here shines the Star of Amen and no other. Still we
do not understand. Tell us the tale, O Asti."
So Asti stood forward, and told that tale, omitting nothing, and then
Rames told his tale, whereto Tua the Queen added a little, and,
although ere they finished the sun was high, none wearied in listening
save only Abi, Kaku, and Merytra, who heard death in every word.
It was done at length, and a great silence fell upon the place, for
the tongues of men were tied. Presently, the High-Priest, who all this
while had stood with bent head, lifted up his eyes to heaven, crying:
"O Amen, Father of the Spirit of this Queen, show now thy will, that
we may learn it and obey."
For a while there was silence, till suddenly a sound was heard in the
dark sanctuary where stood the statue of the god, a sound as of a
stick tapping upon the granite floor. Then the curtains of that
sanctuary were drawn, and standing between them there appeared the
figure of an ancient, bearded man, with stony eyes, who was clad in a
beggar's robe. It was he who had met Tua and Asti in the wilderness
and eaten up their food. It was he who had saved them in the palace of
the desert king. It was he who but last night had walked the camp of
"I am that Messenger whom men from the beginning have called Kepher,"
he said. "I am the Dweller in the wilderness whom your fathers knew,
and your sons shall know. I am he who seeks for charity and pays it
back in life and death. I am the pen of Thoth the Recorder, I am the
scourge of Osiris. I am the voice of Amen, god above the gods. Hearken
you people of Egypt--not for a little end have these things come to
pass, but that ye may learn that there is design in heaven, and
justice upon earth, and, after justice, judgment. Pharaoh, the good
servant of the gods, was basely murdered by his own kin whom he
trusted. Neter-Tua, his daughter, and daughter of Amen, was condemned
to shame, Rames of the royal race was sent forth to danger or to
death, far from her he loved, and who loved him by that divine command
which rules the hearts of men. This is the command of the gods--Let
these twain be wed and take Egypt as their heritage, and call down
upon it peace and greatness. But as for these murderers and wizards"--
and he pointed to Abi, to Kaku, and to Merytra--"let them be placed in
the sanctuary of Amen, to await what he shall send them."
So spoke Kepher the Messenger, and departed whence he came, nor in
that generation did any see him more.
Then they took up Abi, Kaku, and Merytra, and cut their bonds. They
threw them into the dark sanctuary before the great stone image of the
god. They shut the electrum doors upon them, and left them there
wailing and cursing, while the High-Priest of Amen joined the hands of
Rames and of Tua, and declared them to be man and wife for ever.
Now, after these things were done, the Pharaoh and his Queen drove
through the hosts of Egypt in their golden chariot, and received the
homage of the hosts ere they departed northwards for Thebes. At
nightfall they returned again and sat side by side at the marriage
feast, and once more Tua swept her harp of ivory and gold, and sang
the ancient song of him who dared much for love, and won the prize.
So in the dim, forgotten years, their joy fell on Rames and on Tua,
Morning-Star of Amen, which still with them remains in the new
immortal kingdom that they have won long and long ago.
But when in the morning Asti the wise dared to open the great doors
and peer into the sanctuary of Amen, she saw a dreadful sight. For
there at the feet of the effigy of the god lay Abi, who slew his
brother, and Kaku the sorcerer, and Merytra the traitress, dead, slain
by their own or by each other's hand, and the stony eyes of the god
stared down upon them.
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