Moon of Israel - H. Rider Haggard - ebook

Moon of Israel ebook

H. Rider Haggard

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The adventure novel „Moon of Israel”includes everything the reader may desire. Here there is historical information, action, internal struggle with the Egyptians and Jews, as well as between Jews and Egyptians. The main story revolves around the prince of Seti, who is devoid of inheritance, because he doesn’t follow the idea of?? his father to kill Jews. It is also a love story that goes beyond the clash of two cultures between Seti and Merapi.

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Liczba stron: 441

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Contents

Author’s Note

Chapter 1. Scribe Ana Comes To Tanis

Chapter 2. The Breaking Of The Cup

Chapter 3. Userti

Chapter 4. The Court Of Betrothal

Chapter 5. The Prophecy

Chapter 6. The Land Of Goshen

Chapter 7. The Ambush

Chapter 8. Seti Counsels Pharaoh

Chapter 9. The Smiting Of Amon

Chapter 10. The Death Of Pharaoh

Chapter 11. The Crowning Of Amenmeses

Chapter 12. The Message Of Jabez

Chapter 13. The Red Nile

Chapter 14. Ki Comes To Memphis

Chapter 15. The Night Of Fear

Chapter 16. Jabez Sells Horses

Chapter 17. The Dream Of Merapi

Chapter 18.The Crowning Of Merapi

AUTHOR’S NOTE

This book suggests that the real Pharaoh of the Exodus was not Meneptah or Merenptah, son of Rameses the Great, but the mysterious usurper, Amenmeses, who for a year or two occupied the throne between the death of Meneptah and the accession of his son the heir-apparent, the gentle-natured Seti II.

Of the fate of Amenmeses history says nothing; he may well have perished in the Red Sea or rather the Sea of Reeds, for, unlike those of Meneptah and the second Seti, his body has not been found.

Students of Egyptology will be familiar with the writings of the scribe and novelist Anana, or Ana as he is here called.

It was the Author’s hope to dedicate this story to Sir Gaston Maspero, K.C.M.G., Director of the Cairo Museum, with whom on several occasions he discussed its plot some years ago. Unhappily, however, weighed down by one of the bereavements of the war, this great Egyptologist died in the interval between its writing and its publication. Still, since Lady Maspero informs him that such is the wish of his family, he adds the dedication which he had proposed to offer to that eminent writer and student of the past.

Dear Sir Gaston Maspero, When you assured me as to a romance of mine concerning ancient Egypt, that it was so full of the “inner spirit of the old Egyptians” that, after kindred efforts of your own and a lifetime of study, you could not conceive how it had been possible for it to spring from the brain of a modern man, I thought your verdict, coming from such a judge, one of the greatest compliments that ever I received. It is this opinion of yours indeed which induces me to offer you another tale of a like complexion. Especially am I encouraged thereto by a certain conversation between us in Cairo, while we gazed at the majestic countenance of the Pharaoh Meneptah, for then it was, as you may recall, that you said you thought the plan of this book probable and that it commended itself to your knowledge of those dim days. With gratitude for your help and kindness and the sincerest homage to your accumulated lore concerning the most mysterious of all the perished peoples of the earth, Believe me to remain Your true admirer, H. Rider Haggard.

CHAPTER 1

SCRIBE ANA COMES TO TANIS

This is the story of me, Ana the scribe, son of Meri, and of certain of the days that I have spent upon the earth. These things I have written down now that I am very old in the reign of Rameses, the third of that name, when Egypt is once more strong and as she was in the ancient time. I have written them before death takes me, that they may be buried with me in death, for as my spirit shall arise in the hour of resurrection, so also these my words may arise in their hour and tell to those who shall come after me upon the earth of what I knew upon the earth. Let it be as Those in heaven shall decree. At least I write and what I write is true.

I tell of his divine Majesty whom I loved and love as my own soul, Seti Meneptah the second, whose day of birth was my day of birth, the Hawk who has flown to heaven before me; of Userti the Proud, his queen, she who afterwards married his divine Majesty, Saptah, whom I saw laid in her tomb at Thebes. I tell of Merapi, who was named Moon of Israel, and of her people, the Hebrews, who dwelt for long in Egypt and departed thence, having paid us back in loss and shame for all the good and ill we gave them. I tell of the war between the gods of Egypt and the god of Israel, and of much that befell therein.

Also I, the King’s Companion, the great scribe, the beloved of the Pharaohs who have lived beneath the sun with me, tell of other men and matters. Behold! is it not written in this roll? Read, ye who shall find in the days unborn, if your gods have given you skill. Read, O children of the future, and learn the secrets of that past which to you is so far away and yet in truth so near.

As it chanced, although the Prince Seti and I were born upon the same day and therefore, like the other mothers of gentle rank whose children saw the light upon that day, my mother received Pharaoh’s gift and I received the title of Royal Twin in Ra, never did I set eyes upon the divine Prince Seti until the thirtieth birthday of both of us. All of which happened thus.

In those days the great Pharaoh, Rameses the second, and after him his son Meneptah who succeeded when he was already old, since the mighty Rameses was taken to Osiris after he had counted one hundred risings of the Nile, dwelt for the most part at the city of Tanis in the desert, whereas I dwelt with my parents at the ancient, white-walled city of Memphis on the Nile. At times Meneptah and his court visited Memphis, as also they visited Thebes, where this king lies in his royal tomb to-day. But save on one occasion, the young Prince Seti, the heir-apparent, the Hope of Egypt, came not with them, because his mother, Asnefert, did not favour Memphis, where some trouble had befallen her in youth–they say it was a love matter that cost the lover his life and her a sore heart–and Seti stayed with his mother who would not suffer him out of sight of her eyes.

Once he came indeed when he was fifteen years of age, to be proclaimed to the people as son of his father, as Son of the Sun, as the future wearer of the Double Crown, and then we, his twins in Ra–there were nineteen of us who were gently born–were called by name to meet him and to kiss his royal feet. I made ready to go in a fine new robe embroidered in purple with the name of Seti and my own. But on that very morning by the gift of some evil god I was smitten with spots all over my face and body, a common sickness that affects the young. So it happened that I did not see the Prince, for before I was well again he had left Memphis.

Now my father Meri was a scribe of the great temple of Ptah, and I was brought up to his trade in the school of the temple, where I copied many rolls and also wrote out Books of the Dead which I adorned with paintings. Indeed, in this business I became so clever that, after my father went blind some years before his death, I earned enough to keep him, and my sisters also until they married. Mother I had none, for she was gathered to Osiris while I was still very little. So life went on from year to year, but in my heart I hated my lot. While I was still a boy there rose up in me a desire–not to copy what others had written, but to write what others should copy. I became a dreamer of dreams. Walking at night beneath the palm-trees upon the banks of the Nile I watched the moon shining upon the waters, and in its rays I seemed to see many beautiful things. Pictures appeared there which were different from any that I saw in the world of men, although in them were men and women and even gods.

Of these pictures I made stories in my heart and at last, although that was not for some years, I began to write these stories down in my spare hours. My sisters found me doing so and told my father, who scolded me for such foolishness which he said would never furnish me with bread and beer. But still I wrote on in secret by the light of the lamp in my chamber at night. Then my sisters married, and one day my father died suddenly while he was reciting prayers in the temple. I caused him to be embalmed in the best fashion and buried with honour in the tomb he had made ready for himself, although to pay the costs I was obliged to copy Books of the Dead for nearly two years, working so hard that I found no time for the writing of stories.

When at length I was free from debt I met a maiden from Thebes with a beautiful face that always seemed to smile, and she took my heart from my breast into her own. In the end, after I returned from fighting in the war against the Nine Bow Barbarians, to which I was summoned like other men, I married her. As for her name, let it be, I will not think of it even to myself. We had one child, a little girl which died within two years of her birth, and then I learned what sorrow can mean to man. At first my wife was sad, but her grief departed with time and she smiled again as she used to do. Only she said that she would bear no more children for the gods to take. Having little to do she began to go about the city and make friends whom I did not know, for of these, being a beautiful woman, she found many. The end of it was that she departed back to Thebes with a soldier whom I had never seen, for I was always working at home thinking of the babe who was dead and how happiness is a bird that no man can snare, though sometimes, of its own will, it flies in at his window-place.

It was after this that my hair went white before I had counted thirty years.

Now, as I had none to work for and my wants were few and simple, I found more time for the writing of stories which, for the most part, were somewhat sad. One of these stories a fellow scribe borrowed from me and read aloud to a company, whom it pleased so much that there were many who asked leave to copy it and publish it abroad. So by degrees I became known as a teller of tales, which tales I caused to be copied and sold, though out of them I made but little. Still my fame grew till on a day I received a message from the Prince Seti, my twin in Ra, saying that he had read certain of my writings which pleased him much and that it was his wish to look upon my face. I thanked him humbly by the messenger and answered that I would travel to Tanis and wait upon his Highness. First, however, I finished the longest story which I had yet written. It was called the Tale of Two Brothers, and told how the faithless wife of one of them brought trouble on the other, so that he was killed. Of how, also, the just gods brought him to life again, and many other matters. This story I dedicated to his Highness, the Prince Seti, and with it in the bosom of my robe I travelled to Tanis, having hidden about me a sum of gold that I had saved.

So I came to Tanis at the beginning of winter and, walking to the palace of the Prince, boldly demanded an audience. But now my troubles began, for the guards and watchmen thrust me from the doors. In the end I bribed them and was admitted to the antechambers, where were merchants, jugglers, dancing-women, officers, and many others, all of them, it seemed, waiting to see the Prince; folk who, having nothing to do, pleased themselves by making mock of me, a stranger. When I had mixed with them for several days, I gained their friendship by telling to them one of my stories, after which I was always welcome among them. Still I could come no nearer to the Prince, and as my store of money was beginning to run low, I bethought me that I would return to Memphis.

One day, however, a long-bearded old man, with a gold-tipped wand of office, who had a bull’s head embroidered on his robe, stopped in front of me and, calling me a white-headed crow, asked me what I was doing hopping day by day about the chambers of the palace. I told him my name and business and he told me his, which it seemed was Pambasa, one of the Prince’s chamberlains. When I asked him to take me to the Prince, he laughed in my face and said darkly that the road to his Highness’s presence was paved with gold. I understood what he meant and gave him a gift which he took as readily as a cock picks corn, saying that he would speak of me to his master and that I must come back again.

I came thrice and each time that old cock picked more corn. At last I grew enraged and, forgetting where I was, began to shout at him and call him a thief, so that folks gathered round to listen. This seemed to frighten him. At first he looked towards the door as though to summon the guard to thrust me out; then changed his mind, and in a grumbling voice bade me follow him. We went down long passages, past soldiers who stood at watch in them still as mummies in their coffins, till at length we came to some broidered curtains. Here Pambasa whispered to me to wait, and passed through the curtains which he left not quite closed, so that I could see the room beyond and hear all that took place there.

It was a small room like to that of any scribe, for on the tables were palettes, pens of reed, ink in alabaster vases, and sheets of papyrus pinned upon boards. The walls were painted, not as I was wont to paint the Books of the Dead, but after the fashion of an earlier time, such as I have seen in certain ancient tombs, with pictures of wild fowl rising from the swamps and of trees and plants as they grow. Against the walls hung racks in which were papyrus rolls, and on the hearth burned a fire of cedar-wood.

By this fire stood the Prince, whom I knew from his statues. His years appeared fewer than mine although we were born upon the same day, and he was tall and thin, very fair also for one of our people, perhaps because of the Syrian blood that ran in his veins. His hair was straight and brown like to that of northern folk who come to trade in the markets of Egypt, and his eyes were grey rather than black, set beneath somewhat prominent brows such as those of his father, Meneptah. His face was sweet as a woman’s, but made curious by certain wrinkles which ran from the corners of the eyes towards the ears. I think that these came from the bending of the brow in thought, but others say that they were inherited from an ancestress on the female side. Bakenkhonsu my friend, the old prophet who served under the first Seti and died but the other day, having lived a hundred and twenty years, told me that he knew her before she was married, and that she and her descendant, Seti, might have been twins.

In his hand the Prince held an open roll, a very ancient writing as I, who am skilled in such matters that have to do with my trade, knew from its appearance. Lifting his eyes suddenly from the study of this roll, he saw the chamberlain standing before him.

“You came at a good time, Pambasa,” he said in a voice that was very soft and pleasant, and yet most manlike. “You are old and doubtless wise. Say, are you wise, Pambasa?”

“Yes, your Highness. I am wise like your Highness’s uncle, Khaemuas the mighty magician, whose sandals I used to clean when I was young.”

“Is it so? Then why are you so careful to hide your wisdom which should be open like a flower for us poor bees to suck at? Well, I am glad to learn that you are wise, for in this book of magic that I have been reading I find problems worthy of Khaemuas the departed, whom I only remember as a brooding, black-browed man much like my cousin, Amenmeses his son–save that no one can call Amenmeses wise.”

“Why is your Highness glad?”

“Because you, being by your own account his equal, can now interpret the matter as Khaemuas would have done. You know, Pambasa, that had he lived he would have been Pharaoh in place of my father. He died too soon, however, which proves to me that there was something in this tale of his wisdom, since no really wise man would ever wish to be Pharaoh of Egypt.”

Pambasa stared with his mouth open.

“Not wish to be Pharaoh!” he began -

“Now, Pambasa the Wise,” went on the Prince as though he had not heard him. “Listen. This old book gives a charm ‘to empty the heart of its weariness,’ that it says is the oldest and most common sickness in the world from which only kittens, some children, and mad people are free. It appears that the cure for this sickness, so says the book, is to stand on the top of the pyramid of Khufu at midnight at that moment when the moon is largest in the whole year, and drink from the cup of dreams, reciting meanwhile a spell written here at length in language which I cannot read.”

“There is no virtue in spells, Prince, if anyone can read them.”

“And no use, it would seem, if they can be read by none.”

“Moreover, how can any one climb the pyramid of Khufu, which is covered with polished marble, even in the day let alone at midnight, your Highness, and there drink of the cup of dreams?”

“I do not know, Pambasa. All I know is that I weary of this foolishness, and of the world. Tell me of something that will lighten my heart, for it is heavy.”

“There are jugglers without, Prince, one of whom says he can throw a rope into the air and climb up it until he vanishes into heaven.”

“When he has done it in your sight, Pambasa, bring him to me, but not before. Death is the only rope by which we climb to heaven–or be lowered into hell. For remember there is a god called Set, after whom, like my great-grandfather, I am named by the way–the priests alone know why –as well as one called Osiris.”

“Then there are the dancers, Prince, and among them some very finely made girls, for I saw them bathing in the palace lake, such as would have delighted the heart of your grandfather, the great Rameses.”

“They do not delight my heart who want no naked women prancing here. Try again, Pambasa.”

“I can think of nothing else, Prince. Yet, stay. There is a scribe without named Ana, a thin, sharp-nosed man who says he is your Highness’s twin in Ra.”

“Ana!” said the Prince. “He of Memphis who writes stories? Why did you not say so before, you old fool? Let him enter at once, at once.”

Now hearing this I, Ana, walked through the curtains and prostrated myself, saying,

“I am that scribe, O Royal Son of the Sun.”

“How dare you enter the Prince’s presence without being bidden–” began Pambasa, but Seti broke in with a stern voice, saying,

“And how dare you, Pambasa, keep this learned man waiting at my door like a dog? Rise, Ana, and cease from giving me titles, for we are not at Court. Tell me, how long have you been in Tanis?”

“Many days, O Prince,” I answered, “seeking your presence and in vain.”

“And how did you win it at last?”

“By payment, O Prince,” I answered innocently, “as it seems is usual. The doorkeepers–”

“I understand,” said Seti, “the doorkeepers! Pambasa, you will ascertain what amount this learned scribe has disbursed to ‘the doorkeepers’ and refund him double. Begone now and see to the matter.”

So Pambasa went, casting a piteous look at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Tell me,” said Seti when he was gone, “you who must be wise in your fashion, why does a Court always breed thieves?”

“I suppose for the same reason, O Prince, that a dog’s back breeds fleas. Fleas must live, and there is the dog.”

“True,” he answered, “and these palace fleas are not paid enough. If ever I have power I will see to it. They shall be fewer but better fed. Now, Ana, be seated. I know you though you do not know me, and already I have learned to love you through your writings. Tell me of yourself.”

So I told him all my simple tale, to which he listened without a word, and then asked me why I had come to see him. I replied that it was because he had sent for me, which he had forgotten; also because I brought him a story that I had dared to dedicate to him. Then I laid the roll before him on the table.

“I am honoured,” he said in a pleased voice, “I am greatly honoured. If I like it well, your story shall go to the tomb with me for my Ka to read and re- read until the day of resurrection, though first I will study it in the flesh. Do you know this city of Tanis, Ana?”

I answered that I knew little of it, who had spent my time here haunting the doors of his Highness.

“Then with your leave I will be your guide through it this night, and afterwards we will sup and talk.”

I bowed and he clapped his hands, whereon a servant appeared, not Pambasa, but another.

“Bring two cloaks,” said the Prince, “I go abroad with the scribe, Ana. Let a guard of four Nubians, no more, follow us, but at a distance and disguised. Let them wait at the private entrance.”

The man bowed and departed swiftly.

Almost immediately a black slave appeared with two long hooded cloaks, such as camel-drivers wear, which he helped us to put on. Then, taking a lamp, he led us from the room through a doorway opposite to that by which I had entered, down passages and a narrow stair that ended in a courtyard. Crossing this we came to a wall, great and thick, in which were double doors sheathed with copper that opened mysteriously at our approach. Outside of these doors stood four tall men, also wrapped in cloaks, who seemed to take no note of us. Still, looking back when we had gone a little way, I observed that they were following us, as though by chance.

How fine a thing, thought I to myself, it is to be a Prince who by lifting a finger can thus command service at any moment of the day or night.

Just at that moment Seti said to me:

“See, Ana, how sad a thing it is to be a Prince, who cannot even stir abroad without notice to his household and commanding the service of a secret guard to spy upon his every action, and doubtless to make report thereof to the police of Pharaoh.”

There are two faces to everything, thought I to myself again.

CHAPTER 2

THE BREAKING OF THE CUP

We walked down a broad street bordered by trees, beyond which were lime- washed, flat-roofed houses built of sun-dried brick, standing, each of them, in its own garden, till at length we came to the great market-place just as the full moon rose above the palm-trees, making the world almost as light as day. Tanis, or Rameses as it is also called, was a very fine city then, if only half the size of Memphis, though now that the Court has left it I hear it is much deserted. About this market-place stood great temples of the gods, with pylons and avenues of sphinxes, also that wonder of the world, the colossal statue of the second Rameses, while to the north upon a mound was the glorious palace of Pharaoh. Other palaces there were also, inhabited by the nobles and officers of the Court, and between them ran long streets where dwelt the citizens, ending, some of them, on that branch of the Nile by which the ancient city stood.

Seti halted to gaze at these wondrous buildings.

“They are very old,” he said, “but most of them, like the walls and those temples of Amon and Ptah, have been rebuilt in the time of my grandfather or since his day by the labour of Israelitish slaves who dwell yonder in the rich land of Goshen.”

“They must have cost much gold,” I answered.

“The Kings of Egypt do not pay their slaves,” remarked the Prince shortly.

Then we went on and mingled with the thousands of the people who were wandering to and fro seeking rest after the business of the day. Here on the frontier of Egypt were gathered folk of every race; Bedouins from the desert, Syrians from beyond the Red Sea, merchants from the rich Isle of Chittim, travellers from the coast, and traders from the land of Punt and from the unknown countries of the north. All were talking, laughing and making merry, save some who gathered in circles to listen to a teller of tales or wandering musicians, or to watch women who danced half naked for gifts.

Now and again the crowd would part to let pass the chariot of some noble or lady before which went running footmen who shouted, “Make way, Make way!” and laid about them with their long wands. Then came a procession of white- robed priests of Isis travelling by moonlight as was fitting for the servants of the Lady of the Moon, and bearing aloft the holy image of the goddess before which all men bowed and for a little while were silent. After this followed the corpse of some great one newly dead, preceded by a troop of hired mourners who rent the air with their lamentations as they conducted it to the quarter of the embalmers. Lastly, from out of one of the side streets emerged a gang of several hundred hook-nosed and bearded men, among whom were a few women, loosely roped together and escorted by a company of armed guards.

“Who are these?” I asked, for I had never seen their like.

“Slaves of the people of Israel who return from their labour at the digging of the new canal which is to run to the Red Sea,” answered the Prince.

We stood still to watch them go by, and I noted how proudly their eyes flashed and how fierce was their bearing although they were but men in bonds, very weary too and stained by toil in mud and water. Presently this happened. A white-bearded man lagged behind, dragging on the line and checking the march. Thereupon an overseer ran up and flogged him with a cruel whip cut from the hide of the sea-horse. The man turned and, lifting a wooden spade that he carried, struck the overseer such a blow that he cracked his skull so that he fell down dead. Other overseers rushed at the Hebrew, as these Israelites were called, and beat him till he also fell. Then a soldier appeared and, seeing what had happened, drew his bronze sword. From among the throng sprang out a girl, young and very lovely although she was but roughly clad.

Since then I have seen Merapi, Moon of Israel, as she was called, clad in the proud raiment of a queen, and once even of a goddess, but never, I think, did she look more beauteous than in this hour of her slavery. Her large eyes, neither blue nor black, caught the light of the moon and were aswim with tears. Her plenteous bronze-hued hair flowed in great curls over the snow-white bosom that her rough robe revealed. Her delicate hands were lifted as though to ward off the blows which fell upon him whom she sought to protect. Her tall and slender shape stood out against a flare of light which burned upon some market stall. She was beauteous exceedingly, so beauteous that my heart stood still at the sight of her, yes, mine that for some years had held no thought of woman save such as were black and evil.

She cried aloud. Standing over the fallen man she appealed to the soldier for mercy. Then, seeing that there was none to hope for from him, she cast her great eyes around until they fell upon the Prince Seti.

“Oh! Sir,” she wailed, “you have a noble air. Will you stand by and see my father murdered for no fault?”

“Drag her off, or I smite through her,” shouted the captain, for now she had thrown herself down upon the fallen Israelite. The overseers obeyed, tearing her away.

“Hold, butcher!” cried the Prince.

“Who are you, dog, that dare to teach Pharaoh’s officer his duty?” answered the captain, smiting the Prince in the face with his left hand.

Then swiftly he struck downwards and I saw the bronze sword pass through the body of the Israelite who quivered and lay still. It was all done in an instant, and on the silence that followed rang out the sound of a woman’s wail. For a moment Seti choked–with rage, I think. Then he spoke a single word–”Guards!”

The four Nubians, who, as ordered, had kept at a distance, burst through the gathered throng. Ere they reached us I, who till now had stood amazed, sprang at the captain and gripped him by the throat. He struck at me with his bloody sword, but the blow, falling on my long cloak, only bruised me on the left thigh. Then I, who was strong in those days, grappled with him and we rolled together on the ground.

After this there was great tumult. The Hebrew slaves burst their rope and flung themselves upon the soldiers like dogs upon a jackal, battering them with their bare fists. The soldiers defended themselves with swords; the overseers plied their hide whips; women screamed, men shouted. The captain whom I had seized began to get the better of me; at least I saw his sword flash above me and thought that all was over. Doubtless it would have been, had not Seti himself dragged the man backwards and thus given the four Nubian guards time to seize him. Next I heard the Prince cry out in a ringing voice:

“Hold! It is Seti, the son of Pharaoh, the Governor of Tanis, with whom you have to do. See,” and he threw back the hood of his cloak so that the moon shone upon his face.

Instantly there was a great quiet. Now, first one and then another as the truth sunk into them, men began to fall upon their knees, and I heard one say in an awed voice:

“The royal Son, the Prince of Egypt struck in the face by a soldier! Blood must pay for it.”

“How is that officer named?” asked Seti, pointing to the man who had killed the Israelite and well-nigh killed me.

Someone answered that he was named Khuaka.

“Bring him to the steps of the temple of Amon,” said Seti to the Nubians who held him fast. “Follow me, friend Ana, if you have the strength. Nay, lean upon my shoulder.”

So resting upon the shoulder of the Prince, for I was bruised and breathless, I walked with him a hundred paces or more to the steps of the great temple where we climbed to the platform at the head of the stairs. After us came the prisoner, and after him all the multitude, a very great number who stood upon the steps and on the flat ground beyond. The Prince, who was very white and quiet, sat himself down upon the low granite base of a tall obelisk which stood in front of the temple pylon, and said:

“As Governor of Tanis, the City of Rameses, with power of life and death at all hours and in all places, I declare my Court open.”

“The Royal Court is open!” cried the multitude in the accustomed form.

“This is the case,” said the Prince. “Yonder man who is named Khuaka, by his dress a captain of Pharaoh’s army, is charged with the murder of a certain Hebrew, and with the attempted murder of Ana the scribe. Let witnesses be called. Bring the body of the dead man and lay it here before me. Bring the woman who strove to protect him, that she may speak.”

The body was brought and laid upon the platform, its wide eyes staring up at the moon. Then soldiers who had gathered thrust forward the weeping girl.

“Cease from tears,” said Seti, “and swear by Kephera the creator, and by Maat the goddess of truth and law, to speak nothing but the truth.”

The girl looked up and said in a rich low voice that in some way reminded me of honey being poured from a jar, perhaps because it was thick with strangled sobs:

“O Royal Son of Egypt, I cannot swear by those gods who am a daughter of Israel.”

The Prince looked at her attentively and asked:

“By what god then can you swear, O Daughter of Israel?”

“By Jahveh, O Prince, whom we hold to be the one and only God, the Maker of the world and all that is therein.”

“Then perhaps his other name is Kephera,” said the Prince with a little smile. “But have it as you will. Swear, then, by your god Jahveh.”

Then she lifted both her hands above her head and said:

“I, Merapi, daughter of Nathan of the tribe of Levi of the people of Israel, swear that I will speak the truth and all the truth in the name of Jahveh, the God of Israel.”

“Tell us what you know of the matter of the death of this man, O Merapi.”

“Nothing that you do not know yourself, O Prince. He who lies there,” and she swept her hand towards the corpse, turning her eyes away, “was my father, an elder of Israel. The captain Khuaka came when the corn was young to the Land of Goshen to choose those who should work for Pharaoh. He wished to take me into his house. My father refused because from my childhood I had been affianced to a man of Israel; also because it is not lawful under the law for our people to intermarry with your people. Then the captain Khuaka seized my father, although he was of high rank and beyond the age to work for Pharaoh, and he was taken away, as I think, because he would not suffer me to wed Khuaka. A while later I dreamed that my father was sick. Thrice I dreamed it and ran away to Tanis to visit him. But this morning I found him and, O Prince, you know the rest.”

“Is there no more?” asked Seti.

The girl hesitated, then answered:

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This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.