ofthelanguageandloreofthegreatpeoplewhointheselatterdaysarisefrom theirholytombstoinstructusinthesecretsofhistoryandfaith. WithdoubtIsubmittedtoyouthisstory,askingwhetheryouwishedtoaccept pagesthatcouldnot,Ifeared,befreefromerror,andwithsurpriseinduecourse Iread,amongotherkindthings,youradvicetometo“leaveitexactlyasitis.” SoItakeyouatyourword,althoughIcanscarcelythinkthatinpathssoremote anddifficultIhavenotsometimesgoneastray. Whatever may be the shortcomings, therefore, that your kindness has concealedfromme,sincethistalewassofortunateastopleaseandinterestyou, itsfirstcritic,Iofferittoyouasanearnestofmyrespectforyourlearningand yourlabours. Verysincerelyyours, H.RiderHaggard. Ditchingham. ToDoctorWallisBudge, KeeperofEgyptianandAssyrianAntiquities,BritishMuseum.
AUTHOR’SNOTE It may be thought that even in a story of Old Egypt to represent a “Ka” or “Double”asremaininginactiveoccupationofathrone,whiletheownerofthe said“Double”goesuponalongjourneyandachievessundryadventures,is,in fact, totake a libertywithDoubles.YetIbelievethatthisisscarcelythecase. 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 resurrectionofthatbody,withwhich,henceforth,itwouldbereunitedanddwell eternally.ToquoteWiedermannagain,“TheKacouldlivewithoutthebody,but thebodycouldnotlivewithouttheKa.....itwasmaterialinjustthesamewas asthebodyitself.” Also, it would seemthatincertainwaysitwassuperiorto 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,inthestoryof“SetnaandtheMagicBook,”translatedbyMasperoand byMr.FlindersPetrieinhis“EgyptianTales,”theKaplaysaverydistinctpart ofitsown.ThusthehusbandisburiedatMemphisandthewifeinKoptos,yet theKaofthewifegoestoliveinherhusband’stombhundredsofmilesaway, andconverseswiththeprincewhocomestostealthemagicbook. Although I know no actual precedent for it, in the case of a particularly powerfulDouble,suchaswasgiveninthisromancetoQueenNeter-Tuabyher spiritual father, Amen, the greatest of the Egyptian gods, it seems, therefore, legitimatetosupposethat,inordertosaveherfromtheabominationofaforced marriagewithheruncleandherfather’smurderer,theKawouldbeallowedto anticipatemattersalittle,andtoplaythepartrecordedinthesepages. It must not be understood, however, that the fact of marriage with an uncle wouldhaveshockedtheEgyptianmind,sincethesepeople,andespeciallytheir royalHouses,madeahabitofweddingtheirownbrothersandsisters,asinthis taleMermeswedhishalfsisterAsti. 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 RamesesIII.,overthreethousandyearsago,aplotwasmadetomurdertheking 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 whichenableditsuserto“employthemagicpowersofthegods.” Still, the end of these wizards was not encouraging to others, for they were foundguiltyandobligedtotaketheirownlives. 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 WestAfrica,asafetish,isstillpiercedwithpinsornails,Icanurgeinexcuse 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 leastanotherdaughterofAmen,amightyqueen,Hatshepu,worethecrownof 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 nottroublethemselveswithsuchmatters. Atanyrate,sobelieving,inthehopethatitmayinterestreadersofto-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 triumphoftrueloveovergreatdifficultiesanddangers.Itispleasanttodream thatthegodsareonthesideofsuchlovers,anddeignfortheirsakestoworkthe miracles in which for thousands of years mankind has believed, although the scientisttellsusthattheydonothappen. 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 historyisfullofit,sinceamongtheEgyptiansitwasanarticleoffaiththatthe Divinity,whichtheyworshippedundersomanynamesandsymbols,madeuse of such mysterious means to influence or direct the affairs of men and bring abouttheaccomplishmentofItsdecrees. H.R.H.
CHAPTERI THEPLOTOFABI It was evening in Egypt, thousands of years ago, when the Prince Abi, governorofMemphisandofgreatterritoriesintheDelta,madefasthisshipof statetoaquaybeneaththeoutermostwallsofthemightycityofUastorThebes, which we moderns know as Luxor and Karnac on the Nile. Abi, a large man, verydarkofskin,forhismotherwasoneofthehatedHyksosbarbarianswho oncehadusurpedthethroneofEgypt,satuponthedeckofhisshipandstaredat the setting sun which for a few moments seemed to rest, a round ball of fire, uponthebareandruggedmountains,thatringroundtheTombsoftheKings. He was angry, as the slave-women, who stood on either side fanning him, couldseewellenoughbythescowlonhiscoarsefaceandthefireinhislarge blackeyes.Presentlytheyfeltitalso,foroneofthem,staringatthetemplesand palacesofthewonderfulcitymadegloriousbythelightofthesettingsun,that cityofwhichshehadheardsooften,touchedhisheadwiththefeathersofher fan.Thereon,asthoughgladofanexcusetoexpresshisill-humour,Abisprang upandboxedherearssoheavilythatthepoorgirlfelltothedeck. “Awkward cat,”hecried,“dothatagainandyoushallbefloggeduntil your robestickstoyourback!” “Pardon,mightyLord,”shesaid,beginningtoweep,“itwasanaccident;the windcaughtmyfan.” “Sotherodshallcatchyourskin,ifyouarenotmorecareful,Merytra.Stop thatsnivellingandgosendKakutheAstrologerhere.Go,both,Iwearyofthe sightofyouruglyfaces.” Thegirlrose,andwithherfellowslaveranswiftlytotheladderthatledtothe waistoftheship. “He called me a cat,” Merytra hissed through her white teeth to her companion.“Well,ifso,Sekhetthecat-headedismygodmother,andsheisthe LadyofVengeance.” “Yes,”answeredtheother,“andhesaidthatwewerebothugly—we,whom every lord who comes near the Court admires so much! Oh! I wish a holy crocodilewouldeathim,blackpig!”
“Thenwhydon’ttheybuyus?Abiwouldsellhisdaughters,muchmorehis fan-bearers—ataprice.” “Becausetheyhopetogetusfornothing,mydear,andwhatismore,ifIcan manageitoneofthemshall,forIamtiredofthislife.Haveyourflingwhileyou can,Isay.WhoknowsatwhichcornerOsiris,LordofDeath,iswaiting.” “Hush!”whisperedMerytra,“thereisthatknaveofanastrologer,andhelooks cross,too.” Then, hand in hand, they went to this lean and learned man and humbly bowedthemselvesbeforehim. “MasteroftheStars,”saidMerytra,“wehaveamessageforyou.No,donot look at my cheek, please, the marks are not magical, only those of the divine fingersoftheglorioushandofthemostexaltedPrinceAbi,sonofthePharaoh happilyrulinginOsiris,etc.,etc.,etc.,oftheright,royalbloodofEgypt—thatis ononeside,andontheotherofadivineladywhomKhemtheSpirit,orPtahthe Creator,thoughtfittodipinavatofblackdye.” “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.TheroyalAbidoesnotliketohearthecolourofhislatemotherdefinedso closely.Butwhydidheslapyourface?” Shetoldhim. “Well,”heanswered,“ifIhadbeeninhisplaceIwouldratherhavekissedit, foritispretty,decidedlypretty,”andthislearnedmanforgothimselfsofarasto winkatMerytra. “There,Sister,”saidthegirl,“Ialwaystoldyouthatroughshellshavesweet nuts inside of them. Thank you for your compliment, Master of learning. Will youtellusourfortunefornothing?” “Yes,yes,”heanswered;“atleastthefeeIwantwillcostyounothing.Now stopthisnonsense,”headded,anxiously,“Igatherthatheiscross.” “Ineversawhimcrosser,Kaku.Iamgladitisyouwhoreadsthestars,notI. Listen!” Ashespokeanangryroarreachedthemfromthehighdeckabove. “Whereisthataccursedastrologer?”saidtheroar. “There,whatdidItellyou?Oh!nevermindtherestofthepapers,goatonce. Yourrobeisfullofrollsasitis.” “Yes,”answeredKakuasherantotheladder,“butthequestionis,howwill helikewhatisintherolls?”
“Thegodsbewithyou!”criedoneofthegirlsafterhim,“youwillneedthem all.” “Andifyougetbackalive,don’tforgetyourpromiseaboutthefortunes,”said theother. A minute later this searcher of the heavens, a tall, hook-nosed man, was prostratinghimselfbeforeAbiinhispavilionontheupperdeck,solowthathis Syrian-shapedcapfellfromhisbaldhead. “Whywereyousolongincoming?”askedAbi. “Becauseyourslavescouldnotfindme,royalSonoftheSun.Iwasatwork inmycabin.” “Indeed,IthoughtIheardthemgigglingwithyoudownthere.Whatdidyou callme?RoyalSonoftheSun?ThatisPharaoh’sname!Havethestarsshown you——?”andhelookedathimeagerly. “No, Prince, not exactly that. I did not think it needful to search them on a matterwhichseemsestablished,moreorless.” “Moreorless,”answeredAbigloomily.“Whatdoyoumeanbyyour‘moreor less’?HereamIattheturning-pointofmyfortunes,notknowingwhetherIam tobePharaohoftheUpperandLowerLands,oronlythepettylordofacityand a few provinces in the Delta, and you satisfy my hunger for the truth with an emptydishof‘moreorless.’Man,whatdoyoumean?” “IfyourMajestywillbepleasedtotellhisservantexactlywhatyoudesireto know,perhapsImaybeabletoanswerthequestion,”repliedKakuhumbly. “Majesty!Well,Idesiretoknowbywhatwarrantyoucallme‘Majesty,’who amonlyPrinceofMemphis.Didthestarsgiveittoyou?Haveyouobeyedme andaskedthemofthefuture?” “Certainly,certainly.HowcouldIdisobey?Iobservedthemalllastnight,and have been working out the results till this moment; indeed, they are not yet finished.QuestionandIwillanswer.” “You will answer, yes, but what will you answer? Not the truth, I fancy, becauseyouareacoward,thoughifanyonecanreadthetruth,itisyou.Man,” headdedfiercely,“ifyoudaretolietomeIwillcutyourheadoffandtakeitto Pharaohasatraitor’s;andyourbodyshalllie,notinthatfinetombwhichyou have made, but in the belly of a crocodile whence there is no resurrection. Do youunderstand?Thenletuscometothepoint.Look,thesunsetstherebehind theTombsofKings,wherethedepartedPharaohsofEgypttaketheirresttillthe DayofAwakening.Itisabadomenforme,Iknow,whowishedtoreachthis
cityinthemorningwhenRawasintheHouseofLife,theEast,andnotinthe HouseofDeath,theWest;butthataccursedwindsentbyTyphon,heldmeback andIcouldnot.Well,letusbeginattheendwhichmustcomeafterall.Tellme, youreaderoftheheavens,shallIsleepatlastinthatvalley?” “Ithinkso,Prince;atleast,sosaysyourplanet.Look,yonder,itspringstolife aboveyou,”andhepointedto anorbthatappearedat thetopmostedgeofthe redglowofthesunset. “Youarekeepingsomethingbackfromme,”saidAbi,searchingKaku’sface withhisfierceeyes.“ShallIsleepinthetombofPharaoh,inmyowneverlasting housethatIshallhavemadereadytoreceiveme?” “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 commandme.AnevilinfluenceisatworkinyourHouseofLife.Anotherstar crosses and re-crosses your path, and though for a long time you seem to swallowitup,yetatthelastiteclipsesyou—itandonethatgoeswithit.” “Whatstar?”askedAbihoarsely,“Pharaoh’s?” “Nay,Prince,thestarofAmen.” “Amen!WhatAmen?” “Amenthegod,Prince,themightyfatherofthegods.” “Amen the god,” repeated Abi in an awed voice. “How can a man fight againstagod?” “Say rather against two gods, for with the star of Amen goes the star of Hathor,QueenofLove.Notformanyperiodsofthousandsofyearshavethey beentogether,butnowtheydrawneartoeachother,andsowillremainforall your life. Look,” and Kaku pointed to the Eastern horizon where a faint rosy glowstilllingeredreflectedfromthewesternsky. As they watched this glow melted, and there in the pure heavens, lying just whereitmetthedistantland,seemingtorestupontheland,indeed,appeareda brightandbeautifulstar,andsoclosetoitthat,totheeye,theyalmosttouched,a twinstar.Forafewminutesonlyweretheyseen;thentheyvanishedbeneaththe lineofthehorizon. “The morning star of Amen, and with it the star of Hathor,” said the astrologer. “Well,Fool,whatofit?”exclaimedAbi.“Theyarefarenoughfrommystar; moreover,itistheythatsink,notI,whoridehighereverymoment.” “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 journeyingsonthisscrollandyoushallseewheretheyeatyouupyonder,yes, yonderovertheValleyofdeadKings,thoughtwentyyearsandmoremustgoby erethen,andtakethisforyourcomfort,duringthoseyearsyoushinealone,”and hebegantounfoldapapyrusroll. Abisnatcheditfromhim,crumpleditupandthrewitinhisface. “Youcheat!”hesaid.“Doyouthinktofrightenmewiththisnonsenseabout stars?Hereismystar,”andhedrewtheshortswordathissideandshookitover theheadofthetremblingKaku.“ThissharpbronzeisthestarIfollow,andbe carefullestitshouldeclipseyou,youfatheroflies.” “I have told the truth as I see it,” answered the poor astrologer with some dignity,“butifyouwish,OPrince,thatinthefutureIshouldindeedprophesy pleasantthingstoyou,why,itcanbedoneeasilyenough.Moreover,itseemsto me that this horoscope of yours is not so evil, seeing that it gives to you over twentyyearsoflifeandpower,morebyfarthanmostmencanexpect—atyour age.Ifafterthatcometroublesandtheend,whatofit?” “Thatisso,”repliedAbimollified.“Itwasmyill-temper,everythinghasgone crossto-day.Well,agoldcup,myown,shallpaythepriceofit.Bearmenoillwill, I pray you, learned scribe, and above all tell me no falsehood as the messageofthestarsyouserve.ItisthetruthIseek,thetruth.Ifonlyshemaybe seen,andclasped,Icarenothowill-favouredisherface.” Rejoicingattheturnwhichthingshadtaken,andespeciallyatthepromiseof the priceless cup which he had long coveted, Kaku bowed obsequiously. He pickeduphiscrumpledrollandwasabouttoretirewhenthroughthegloomof thefallingnight,somemenmounteduponasseswereseenridingoverthemud 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 bronzehelmet,“whobringsmePharaoh’sanswer.Nay,gonot,bideandhearit, Kaku,andgiveusyourcounselonit,yourtruecounsel.” So the astrologer stood aside and waited, till presently the captain appeared saluting. “WhatsaysPharaoh,mybrother?”askedthePrince. “Lord,hesaysthathewillreceiveyou,thoughashedidnotsendforyou,he thinks that you can scarcely come upon any necessary errand, as he has heard longagoofyourvictoryoverthedesert-dwellingbarbarians,anddoesnotwant theofferingofthesaltedheadsoftheirofficerswhichyoubringtohim.”
“Good,”saidAbicontemptuously.“ThedivinePharaohwaseverawomanin 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.Wewillwaituponhimto-morrow.” “Lord,”addedthecaptain,“thatisnotallPharaoh’smessage.Hesaysthatit hasbeenreportedtohimthatyouareaccompaniedbyaguardofthreehundred soldiers.Thesesoldiersherefusestoallowwithinthegates.Hedirectsthatyou shallappearbeforehisMajestyattendedbyfivepersonsonly.” “Indeed,”answeredAbiwithascornfullaugh.“DoesPharaohfear,then,lestI 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 shouldkillhimanddeclareyourselfPharaohasnextinblood.” “Ah!” said Abi, “as next of blood. Then I suppose that there are still no childrenattheCourt?” “None,OPrince.IsawAhura,theroyalwife,theLadyoftheTwoLands,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. Pharaohremainschildless.” “Ah!”saidAbiagain.Thenhewalkedforwardoutofthepavilionwhereofthe curtainsweredrawnback,andstoodawhileupontheprowofthevessel. Bynownighthadfallen,andthegreatmoon,risingfromtheearthasitwere, pouredherfloodofsilverlightoverthedesert,themountains,thelimitlesscity of Thebes, and the wide rippling bosom of the Nile. The pylons and obelisks, glitteringwithcopperandwithgold,toweredtothetendersky.Inthewindow places of palaces and of ten thousand homes lamps shone like stars. From gardens,streetsandthecourtsoftemplesfloatedthefaintsoundofsingingand ofmusic,whileonthegreatembattledwallsthewatchmencalledthehourfrom posttopost. 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 probablymustdobeforesoverylong. Yes,butbeforethenamiraclemighthappen;inthiswayorinthatasuccessor 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 flowedinhisveins?Oh!whatevilgodhadputitinhisfather’shearttogivehim aprincessoftheHyksosforamother,theHyksos,whomtheEgyptiansloathed, whenhehadthefairestwomenoftheworldfromwhomtochoose?Well,itwas doneandcouldnotbeundone,thoughbecauseofithemightlosehisheritageof the greatest throne in all the earth. Also was it not to this fierce Hyksos blood thatheowedhisstrengthandvigour? Why should he wait? Why should he not set his fortune on a cast? He had threehundredsoldierswithhim,pickedmenandbrave,childrenoftheseaand thedesert,sworntohisHouseandinterests.Itwasatimeoffestival,thosegates wereill-guarded.Whyshouldhenotforcethematthedeadofnight,makehis waytothepalace,causePharaohtobegatheredtohisfathers,andatthedawn discoverhimselfseateduponPharaoh’sthrone?AtthethoughtofitAbi’sheart leaptinhisbreast,hiswidenostrilsspreadthemselves,andheerectedhisstrong headasthoughalreadyhefeltuponittheweightofthedoublecrown.Thenhe turnedandwalkedbacktothepavilion. “Iammindedtostrikeablow,”hesaid.“Saynow,myofficer,wouldyouand thesoldiersfollowmeintotheheartofyondercityto-nighttowinathrone—or agrave?Ifitwerethefirst,youshouldbethegeneralofallmyarmy,andyou, astrologer, should become vizier, yes, after Pharaoh you two should be the greatestmeninalltheland.” Theylookedathimandgasped. “A venturesome deed, Prince,” said the captain at length; “yet with such a prizetowinIthinkthatIwoulddareit,thoughforthesoldiersIcannotspeak. Firsttheymustbetoldwhatisonfoot,andoutofsomany,howknowwethat theheartofoneormorewouldnotfail?Awordfromatraitorandbeforethis timeto-morrowtheembalmers,orthejackals,wouldbebusy.” Abiheardandlookedfromhimtohiscompanion. “Prince,”saidKaku,“putsuchthoughtsfromyou.Burythemdeep.Letthem risenomore.IntheheavensIreadsomethingofthisbusiness,butthenIdidnot understand,butnowIseetheblackdepthsofhellopeningbeneathourfeet.Yes, hellwouldbeourhomeifwedaredtolifthandagainstthedivinepersonofthe Pharaoh.Isaythatthegodsthemselveswouldfightagainstus.Letitbe,Prince, letitbe,andyoushallhavemanyyearsofrule,who,ifyoustrikenow,willwin nothingbutacrownofshame,anamelessgrave,andtheeverlastingtormentof thedamned.” AshespokeAbiconsideredtheman’sfaceandsawthatallcrafthadleftit.
Thiswasnocharlatanthatspoketohim,butoneinearnestwhobelievedwhathe said. “So be it,” he answered. “I accept your judgment, and will wait upon my fortune.Moreover,youarebothright,thethingistoodangerous,andeviloften fallsontheheadsofthosewhoshootarrowsatagod,especiallyiftheyhavenot enough arrows. Let Pharaoh live on while I make ready. Perhaps to-morrow I mayworkuponhimtonamemehisheir.” Theastrologersighedinrelief,nordidthecaptainseemdisappointed. “My head feels firmer on my shoulders than it did just now,” he said: “and doubtlesstherearetimeswhenwisdomisbetterthanvalour.Sleepwell,Prince; Pharaohwillreceiveyouto-morrowtwohoursaftersunrise.Haveweyourleave toretire?” “IfIwerewise,”saidAbi, fingeringthehilt ofhisswordashe spoke,“you wouldbothofyouretireforeverwhoknowallthesecretofmyheart,andwitha whispercouldbringdoomuponme.” Nowthepairlookedateachotherwithfrightenedeyes,and,likehismaster, thecaptainbegantoplaywithhissword. “Lifeissweettoallmen,Prince,”hesaid significantly,“andwehavenever givenyoucausetodoubtus.” “No,” answered Abi, “had it been otherwise I should have struck first and spokenafterwards.Onlyyoumustswearbytheoathwhichmaynotbebroken thatinlifeordeathnowordofthisshallpassyourlips.” So they swore, both of them, by the holy name of Osiris, the judge and the redeemer. “Captain,” said Abi, “you have served me well. Your pay is doubled, and I confirmthepromisethatImadetoyou—shouldIeverruleyonderyoushallbe mygeneral.” Whilethesoldierbowedhisthanks,theprincesaidtoKaku, “Masterofthestars,mygoldcupisyours.Isthereaughtelseofminethatyou desire?” “Thatslave,”answeredthelearnedman,“Merytra,whoseearsyouboxedjust now——” “HowdoyouknowthatIboxedherears?”askedAbiquickly.“Didthestars tellyouthatalso?Well,Iamtiredoftheslyhussy—takeher.SoonIthinkshe willboxyours.” ButwhenKakusoughtMerytratotellherthegladtidingsthatshewashis,he
CHAPTERII THEPROMISEOFTHEGOD It wasmorning atThebes,andthegreatcityglowedintheraysofthenewrisen sun. In a royal barge sat Abi the prince, splendidly apparelled, and with himKaku,hisastrologer,hiscaptainoftheguardandthreeotherofhisofficers, whileinasecondbargefollowedslaveswhoescortedtwochiefsandsomefair womencapturedinwar,alsothechestsofsaltedheadsandhands,offeringsto Pharaoh. Thewhite-robedrowersbenttotheiroars,andtheswiftboatshotforwardup theNilethroughadoublelineofshipsofwar,allofthemcrowdedwithsoldiers. 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 wallsabovehundredsofothermen,allarmed,fornowhesawwhatwouldhave happenedtohim,ifwithhislittledesperatebandhehadtriedtopiercethatiron ringofwatchingsoldiers. 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,“theHouseofAmenintheSouthernApt,”wheregaybannersfluttered fromthepointedmasts,upthelongstreetborderedwithtallhousessetintheir gardens,tillhecametothepalacewall.Heremoreguardsrolledbackthebrazen gateswhichinhisfollyofafewhoursgonehehadthoughtthathecouldforce, andthroughtheavenuesofbloomingtreeshewasledtothegreatpillaredhallof audience. After the brightness without, that hall seemed almost dark, only a ray of sunshineflowingfromanunshutteredspaceintheclerestoryabove,fellfullon the end of it, and revealed the crowned Pharaoh and his queen seated in state upontheirthronesofivoryandgold.Gatheredroundandabouthimalsowere scribes and councillors and captains, and beyond these other queens in their carvedchairsandattended,eachofthem,bybeautifulwomenofthehousehold
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 andcourage. ThecentreofallthismagnificencewasPharaoh,onhimthesunlightbeat,to him every eye was turned, and where his glance fell there heads bowed and kneeswerebent.Asmallthinmanofaboutfortyyearsofagewithapuckered, kindlyandanxiousface,andabrowthatseemedtosinkbeneaththeweightof thedoublecrownthat,saveforitsroyalsnake-crestofhollowgold,wasafterall 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 theworld,therulerwhommillionsthathadneverseenhimworshippedasagod. Abi,theburlyframed,thick-lipped,dark-skinned,round-eyedAbi,bornofthe samefather,staredathimwithwonderment,foryearshadpassedsincelastthey met,andinthepalacewhentheywerechildrenagulfhadbeensetbetweenthe offspringofaroyalmotherandthechildofaHyksosconcubinetakenintothe Householdforreasonsofstate.Inhisvigour,andthemightofhismanhood,he staredatthisweakling,thesonofabrotherandasister,andthegrandsonofa 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,butwithinitdwelttheproudspiritofthedescendantofahundred kings. Abiadvancedtothestepsofthethroneandkneltthere,tillafteralittlepause Pharaohstretchedoutthesceptreinhishandforhimtokiss.Thenhespokein hislight,quickvoice. “Welcome,Princeandmybrother,”hesaid.“Wequarrelledlongago,didwe not,andmanyyearshavepassedsincewemet,butTimehealsallwoundsand— welcome, son of my father. I need not ask if you are well,” and he glanced enviouslyatthegreat-framedmanwhokneltbeforehim. “HailtoyourdivineMajesty!”answeredAbiinhisdeepvoice.“Healthand strengthbewithyou,HolderoftheScourgeofOsiris,WeareroftheFeathersof Amen,MortalcrownedwiththegloryofRa.” “Ithankyou,Prince,”answeredPharaohgently,“andthathealthandstrength Ineed,whofearthatIshallonlyfindthemwhenIhaveyieldeduptheScourge ofOsiriswhereofyouspeaktohimwholentitme.Butenoughofmyself.Letus tobusiness,afterwardswewilltalkofsuchmatterstogether.Whyhaveyouleft yourgovernmentatMemphiswithoutleaveasked,tovisitmehereinmyCityof
theGates?” “Benotwrathwithme,”answeredAbihumbly.“Awhileago,inobedienceto yourdivinecommand,Iattackedthebarbarianswhothreatenedyourdominions inthedesert.LikeMenthu,godofwar,Ifelluponthem.Itookthembysurprise, 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 hundredoftheirsoldiers,inearnestofthetruthofmyword.Letthembespread outbeforeyou.IreporttoyourdivineMajestythatthosebarbariansarenomore, 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 countedoutbeforeyourMajesty,thatthesmellofthemmayriselikeincenseto yourdivinenostrils.” “No,no,”saidPharaoh,“myofficersshallcountthemwithout,forIlovenot suchsightsofdeath,andItakeyourwordforthenumber.Whatpaymentdoyou ask for this service, my brother, for with great gifts would I reward you, who havedonesowellformeandEgypt?” Before he answered Abi looked at the beautiful queen, Ahura, who sat at Pharaoh’sside,andattheotherroyalconsortsandwomen. “YourMajesty,”hesaid,“Iseeheremanywivesandladies,butroyalchildren 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,andthatImaytellofthem,eachofthem,totheircousinswhoawait meatMemphis.” AtthesewordsaflushasofshamespreaditselfoverthelovelyfaceofAhura, theroyalwife,theLadyoftheTwoLands;whilethewomenturnedtheirheads awaywhisperingtoeachotherbitterly,fortheinsulthurtthem.OnlyPharaohset hispalefaceandansweredwithdignity. “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 thatIhavenochildren.Whythendoyouaskmetoshowyoutheirloveliness?” “Ihadheardrumours,OPharaoh,”answeredthePrince,“nomore.Indeed,I didnotbelievethem,forwheretherearesomanywivesIwascertainthatthere would be some mothers. Therefore I asked to be sure before I proffered a petitionwhichnowIwillmaketoyounotformyownsakebutforEgypt’sand yours,OPharaoh.HaveIyourleavetospeakhereinpublic?” “Speakon,”saidPharaohsternly.“LetaughtthatisforthewelfareofEgypt
beheardbyEgypt.” “YourMajestyhastoldme,”repliedAbibowing,“thatthegods,beingwrath, havedeniedyouchildren.Notsomuchasonegirlofyourbloodhavetheygiven toyoutofillyourthroneafteryouwhenindueseasonitpleasesyoutodepartto Osiris. Were it otherwise, were there even but a single woman-child of your divinerace,Iwouldsaynothing,Iwouldbesilentasthegrave.Butsoitis,and thoughyourqueensbefairandmany,soitwouldseemthatitmustremain,since theearsofthegodshavingbeendeaftoyourpleadingsforsolong,althoughyou have built them glorious temples and made them offerings without count, will scarcelynowbeopened.EvenAmenyourfather,Amen,whosenameyoubear, willperformnomiracleforyou,OPharaoh,whoaresogreatthathehasdecreed thatyoushallshinealonelikethefullmoonatnight,notsharingyourglorywith asinglestar.” NowAhuratheQueen,whoallthiswhilehad beenlisteningintently,spoke forthefirsttimeinaquickangryvoice,saying, “Howknowyouthat,PrinceofMemphis?Sometimesthegodsrelentandthat whichtheyhavewithheldforaspace,theygive.Mylordlives,andIlive,anda childofhismayyetfillthethroneofEgypt.” “Itmaybeso,OQueen,”saidAbibowing,“andformypartIpraythatitwill beso,forwhoamIthatIshouldknowthepurposeofthekingsofheaven?Ifbut onegirlbebornofyouandPharaoh,thenItakebackmywordsandgivetoyou thattitle which formanyyearshasbeenwrittenfalselyuponyour thronesand monuments,thetitleofRoyalMother.” Now Ahura would have answered again, for this sneering taunt stung her to thequick.ButPharaohlaidhishanduponherkneeandsaid, “Continue,Princeandbrother.Wehaveheardfromyouthatwhichwealready knowtoowell—thatIamchildless.Telluswhatwedonotknow,thedesireof yourheartwhichlieshidbeneathallthesewords.” “Pharaoh,itisthis—Iamofyourholyblood,sprungofthesamedivinefather ——” “But of a mother who was not divine,” broke in Ahura; “of a mother taken fromaracethathasbroughtmanyacurseuponKhem,asanymirrorwillshow you,PrinceofMemphis.” “Pharaoh,”wentonAbiwithoutheedingher,“yougrowweak;heavendesires you, the earth melts beneath you. In the north and in the south many dangers threatenEgypt.Shouldyoudiesuddenlywithoutanheir,barbarianswillflowin fromthenorthandfromthesouth,andthegreatonesofthelandwillstruggle
foryourplace.Pharaoh,Iamawarrior;Iambuiltstrong;mychildrenaremany; myhouseisbuiltuponarock;thearmytrustsme;themillionsofthepeoplelove me.Takemethentorulewithyouandinthehearingofalltheearthnameme and my sons as your successors, so that our royal race may continue for generationaftergeneration.Soshallyouendyourdaysinpeaceandhope.Ihave spoken.” Now,asthemeaningofthisboldrequestsankintotheirhearts,allthecourt there gathered gasped and whispered, while the Queen Ahura in her anger crushedthelotusflowerwhichsheheldinherhandandcastittothefloor.Only Pharaohsatstillandsilent,hisheadbentandhiseyesshutasthoughinprayer. Foraminuteor more hesat thus,andwhenheliftedhispale,pure face,there wasasmileuponit. “Abi,mybrother,”hesaidinhisgentlevoice,“listentome.Therearethose whofilledthisthronebeforeme,whoonhearingsuchwordswouldhavepointed toyouwiththeirsceptres,whereon,Abi,thoselipsofyourswouldhavegrown still for ever, and you and your name and the names of all your House would havebeenblottedoutbydeath.But,Abi,youwereeverbold,andIforgiveyou forlayingopenthethoughtsofyourhearttome.Still,Abi,youhavenottoldus allofthem.Youhavenottoldus,forinstance,”hewentonslowly, andinthe midstofanintensesilence,“thatbutlastnightyoudebatedwhetheritwouldnot bepossiblewiththatguardofyourstobreakintomypalaceandputmetothe swordandnameyourselfPharaoh—byrightofblood,Abi;yes,byrightofblood —mybloodshedbyyou,mybrother.” Asthesewordslefttheroyallipsatumultaroseinthehall,thewomenandthe 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,onlyAbicriedinagreatvoice. “Whohasdaredtowhisperaliesomonstrous?”AndheglaredfirstatKaku andthenatthecaptainofhisguardwhostoodbehindhim,andchokedinwrath, orfear,orboth. “Suspectnotyourofficers,Prince,”wentonthePharaoh,stillsmiling,“foron myroyalwordtheyareinnocent.Yet,Abi,apavilionsetuponthedeckofaship is no good place to plot the death of kings. Pharaoh has many spies, also, at times,thegods,towhomasyousayheissonear,whispertidingstohiminhis sleep.Suspectnotyourofficers,Abi,althoughIthinkthattoyonderMasterof theStarswhostandsbehindyou,Ishouldbegrateful,since,hadyouattempted toexecutethismadness,butforhimImighthavebeenforcedtokillyou,Abi,as onekillsasnakethatcreepsbeneathhis mat.Astrologer,youshallhaveagift
fromme,foryouareawiseman.Itmaytaketheplace,perhaps,ofonethatyou havelost;wasitnotacertainwomanslavewhomyourmastergavetoyoulast night—afterhehadpunishedherfornofault?” KakuprostratedhimselfbeforethegloryofPharaoh,understandingatlastthat itwasthelostgirlMerytrawhohadoverheardandbetrayedthem.Butheeding himnomore,hisMajestywenton. “Abi,Princeandbrother,Iforgiveyouadeedthatyoupurposedbutdidnot attempt.Maythegodsandthespiritsofourfathersforgiveyoualso,iftheywill. Now as to your demand. You are my only living brother, and therefore I will weighit.Perchance,ifIshoulddiewithoutissue,althoughyouarenotallroyal, althoughthereflowsinyourveinsabloodthatEgypthates;althoughyoucould plotthemurderofyourlordandking,itmaybewellthatwhenIamgoneyou should fill my place, for you are brave and of the ancient race on one side, if base-bornontheother.ButIamnotyetdead,andchildrenmaystillcometome. Abi,willyoubeaprisoneruntilOsiriscallsme,orwillyouswearanoath?” “Iwillswearanoath,”answeredthePrincehoarsely,forheknewhisshame anddanger. “Thenkneelhere,andbythedreadfulNameswearthatyouwillliftnohand and plot no plot against me. Swear that if a child, male or female, should be giventome,youwillservesuchachildtrulyasyourlordandlawfulPharaoh.In the presence of all this company, swear, knowing that if you break the oath in letterorinspirit,thenallthegodsofEgyptshallpourtheircurseuponyourhead in life, and in death shall give you over to the everlasting torments of the damned.” So, having little choice, Abi swore by the Name and kissed the sceptre in tokenofhisoath. Itwasnight.Darkandsolemnwastheinnermostshrineofthevasttemple,the “HouseofAmenintheNorthernApt,”whichwecallKarnak,theveryholyof holies where, fashioned of stone, and with the feathered crown upon his head, stoodthestatueofAmen-ra,fatherofthegods.Here,wherenonebutthehighpriest 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.Withtearsandsupplicationsdidtheypraythatachildmightbegivento them. Thereinthesacredplace,litonlybyasinglelampwhichburnedfromageto 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