The Pharaoh and the Priest - An Historical Novel of Ancient Egypt
by Boleslaw Prus
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse



The Pharaoh and the Priest









All rights reserved. Published September, 1902.



The position of Ancient Egypt was unique, not in one, but in every sense. To begin at the very foundation of life in that country, we find that the soil was unlike any other on earth in its origin. Every acre of fruitful land between the first cataract and the sea had been brought from Inner Africa, and each year additions were made to it. Out of this mud, borne down thousands of miles from the great fertile uplands of Abyssinia by rivers, grew everything needed to feed and clothe man and nourish animals. Out of it also was made the brick from which walls, houses, and buildings of various uses and kinds were constructed. Though this soil of the country was rich, it could be utilized only by the unceasing co-ordinate efforts of a whole population constrained and directed. To direct and constrain was the task of the priests and the pharaohs.

Never have men worked in company so long and successfully at tilling the earth as the Egyptians, and never has the return been so continuous and abundant from land as in their case.

The Nile valley furnished grain to all markets accessible by water; hence Rome, Greece, and Judaea ate the bread of Egypt. On this national tillage was founded the greatness of the country, for from it came the means to execute other works, and in it began that toil, training, and skill indispensable in rearing the monuments and doing those things which have made Egypt famous forever, and preserved to us a knowledge of the language, religion, modes of living, and history of that wonderful people who held the Nile valley. No civilized person who has looked on the pyramid of Ghizeh, the temple of Karnak, and the tombs of the pharaohs in the Theban region, can ever forget them. But in those monuments are preserved things of far greater import than they themselves are. In the tombs and temples of Egypt we see on stone and papyrus how that immense work of making speech visible was accomplished, that task of presenting language to the eye instead of the ear, and preserving the spoken word so as to give it to eye or ear afterwards. In other terms, we have the history of writing from its earliest beginnings to the point at which we connect it with the system used now by all civilized nations excepting the Chinese. In those monuments are preserved the history of religion in Egypt, not from the beginning of human endeavor to explain first what the world is and then what we ourselves are and what we and the world mean together, but from a time far beyond any recorded by man in other places.

Egyptians had the genius which turned a narrow strip of Abyssinian mud and a triangular patch of swamp at the end of it into the most fruitful land of antiquity. They had also that genius which impels man to look out over the horizon around him, see more than the material problems of life, and gaze into the beyond, gaze intently and never cease gazing till he finds what his mind seeks. It was the possession of these two kinds of genius and the union of the two which made the position of Egypt in history unique and unapproachable.

The greatness of Egypt lay primarily in her ideas, and was achieved through a perfect control over labor by intellect. While this control was exerted even approximately in accordance with the nation's historical calling, it was effectual and also unchallenged. But when the exercise of power, with the blandishments and physical pleasures which always attend it, had become dearer to the priesthood and to pharaohs than aught else on earth or in their ideals, then began the epoch of Egypt's final doom: foreign bondage and national ruin.

The action presented in the volume before us relates to those days when the guiding intellect of Egypt became irrevocably dual, and when between the two parts of it, the priests and the pharaohs, opposition appeared so clearly defined and incurable that the ruin of both sides was evident in the future.

The ruin of a pharaoh and the fall of his dynasty, with the rise of a self-chosen sovereign and a new line of rulers, are the double consummation in this novel. The book ends with that climax, but the fall of the new priestly rulers is a matter of history, as is the destruction wrought on Egypt by tyrants from Assyria and Persia. The native pharaohs lost power through the priesthood, whose real interest it was to support them; but fate found the priests later on, and pronounced on them also the doom of extinction.

Alexander Glovatski was born in 1847 in Mashov, a village of the Government of Lublin. He finished his preliminary studies in the Lublin Gymnasium, and was graduated from the University of Warsaw. He took part in the uprising of 1863, but was captured, and liberated after some mouths' detention. As a student he showed notable power, and was exceptionally attracted by mathematics and science, to which he gives much attention yet, though occupied mainly in literature.

Glovatski's published works are in seventeen volumes. These books, with the exception of "The Pharaoh and the Priest," are devoted to modern characters, situations, and questions. His types are mainly from Polish life. Very few of his characters are German or Russian; of Polish types some are Jewish.

Alexander Glovatski is a true man of letters, a real philosopher, retiring, industrious, and modest. He spends all his winters in Warsaw, and lives every summer in the country. He permits neither society nor coteries, nor interests of any sort, to snatch away time from him, or influence his convictions. He goes about as he chooses, whenever he likes and wherever it suits him. When ready to work he sits down in his own house, and tells the world carefully and with kindness, though not without irony, what he sees in it. What he sees is exhibited in the seventeen volumes, which contain great and vivid pictures of life at the end of the recent century. Men and women of various beliefs, occupations, and values, are shown there.

Glovatski is entirely unknown to Americans. This book will present him.

Excepting the view in the temple of Luxor the illustrations given in this volume are from photographs taken by me in 1899, while I was traveling in Egypt.

The title of this volume has been changed from "The Pharaoh" to "The Pharaoh and the Priest," at the wish of the author.


BRISTOL, VERMONT, U. S. A., July 28, 1902.


Alexander Glovatski Frontispiece

Jeremiah Curtin at the Statue of Ramses the Great in the Temple of Luxor

Step Pyramid

Village of Bedreshen on the site of Memphis

Pyramid of Cheops

The Great Sphinx

Statue of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen

General View of the Ruins of Karnak

Tomb of a Pharaoh in the Libyan Hills

Avenue of Sphinxes from the Temple of Karnak to the Nile



In the northeastern corner of Africa lies Egypt, that land of most ancient civilization. Three, four, and even five thousand years ago, when the savages of Central Europe wore untanned skins for clothing and were cave-dwellers, Egypt had a high social organization, agriculture, crafts, and literature. Above all, it carried out engineering works and reared immense buildings, the remnants of which rouse admiration in specialists of our day.

Egypt is that rich ravine between the Libyan sands and the Arabian desert. Its depth is several hundred meters, its length six hundred and fifty miles, its average width barely five. On the west the gently sloping but naked Libyan hills, on the east the steep and broken cliffs of Arabia form the sides of a corridor on the bottom of which flows the river Nile.

With the course of the river northward the walls of the corridor decrease in height, while a hundred and twenty-five miles from the sea they expand on a sudden, and the river, instead of flowing through a narrow passage, spreads in various arms over a broad level plain which is shaped like a triangle. This triangle, called the Delta of the Nile, has for its base the shore of the Mediterranean; at its apex, where the river issues from the corridor, stands the city of Cairo, and near by are the ruins of Memphis, the ancient capital.

Could a man rise one hundred miles in the air and gaze thence upon Egypt, he would see the strange outlines of that country and the peculiar changes in its color. From that elevation, on the background of white and orange colored sands, Egypt would look like a serpent pushing with energetic twists through a desert to the sea, iii which it has dipped already its triangular head, which has two eyes, the left Alexandria, the right Damietta.

In October, when the Nile inundates Egypt, that long serpent would be blue, like water. In February, when spring vegetation takes the place of the decreasing river, the serpent would be green, with a blue line along its body and a multitude of blue veins on its head; these are canals which cut through the Delta. In March the blue line would be narrower, and the body of the serpent, because of ripening grain, would seem golden. Finally, in the first days of June the line of the Nile would be very narrow and the serpent's body gray from dust and drought. The chief climatic feature in Egypt is heat. During January it is 57 above zero, in July sometimes the heat reaches 149 which answers to the temperature of a Roman bath. Moreover, in the neighborhood of the Mediterranean, on the Delta, rain falls barely ten times a year; in Upper Egypt it falls once during ten years.

In these conditions Egypt, instead of being the cradle of civilization, would have been a desert ravine like one of those which compose the Sahara, if the waters of the sacred Nile had not brought life to it annually. From the last days of June till the end of September the Nile swells and inundates almost all Egypt; from the end of October to the last days in May the year following it falls and exposes gradually lower and lower platforms of land. The waters of the river are so permeated with mineral and organic matter that their color becomes brownish; hence, as the waters decrease, on inundated lands is deposited fruitful mud which takes the place of the best fertilizer. Owing to this, mud and to heat, Egyptian earth tillers, fenced in between deserts, have three harvests yearly and from one grain of seed receive back about three hundred.

Egypt, however, is not a flat plain, but a rolling country; some portions of its laud drink the blessed waters during two or three months only; others do not see it every year, as the overflow does not reach certain points annually. Besides, seasons of scant water occur, and then a part of Egypt fails to receive the enriching deposit. Finally, because of heat the earth dries up quickly, and then man has to irrigate out of vessels.

In view of all these conditions people inhabiting the Nile valley had to perish if they were weak, or regulate the water if they had genius. The ancient Egyptians had genius, hence they created civilization.

Six thousand years ago they observed that the Nile rose when the sun appeared under Sirius, and began to fall when it neared the constellation Libra. This impelled them to make astronomical observations and to measure time.

To preserve water for the whole year, they dug throughout their country a network of canals many thousand miles in length. To guard against excessive waste of water, they built mighty dams and dug reservoirs, among which the artificial lake Moeris occupied three hundred square kilometers of surface and was fifty-four meters deep. Finally, along the Nile and the canals they set up a multitude of simple but practical hydraulic works; through the aid of these they raised water and poured it out upon the fields; these machines were placed one or two stories higher than the water. To complete all, there was need to clear the choked canals yearly, repair the dams and build lofty roads for the army, which had to march at all seasons.

These gigantic works demanded knowledge of astronomy, geometry, mechanics, and architecture, besides a perfect organization. Whether the task was the strengthening of dams or the clearing of canals, it had to be done and finished within a certain period over a great area. Hence arose the need of forming an army of laborers, tens of thousands in number, acting with a definite purpose and under uniform direction, an army which demanded many provisions, much means, and great auxiliary forces.

Egypt established such an army of laborers, and to them were due works renowned during ages. It seems that Egyptian priests or sages created this army and then drew out plans for it, while the kings, or pharaohs, commanded. In consequence of this the Egyptians in the days of their greatness formed as it were one person, in which the priestly order performed the role of mind, the pharaoh was the will, the people formed the body, and obedience gave cohesion.

In this way nature, striving in Egypt for a work great, continuous, and ordered, created the skeleton of a social organism for that country as follows: the people labored, the pharaoh commanded, the priests made the plans. While these three elements worked unitedly toward the objects indicated by nature, society had strength to flourish and complete immortal labors.

The mild, gladsome, and by no means warlike Egyptians were divided into two classes, earth-tillers and artisans. Among earth-tillers there must have been owners of small bits of laud, but generally earth-tillers were tenants on lands belonging to the pharaohs, the priests, and the aristocracy. The artisans, the people who made clothing, furniture, vessels, and tools, were independent; those who worked at great edifices formed, as it were, an army.

Each of those specialties, and particularly architecture, demanded power of hauling and moving; some men had to draw water all day from canals, or transport stones from the quarries to where they were needed. These, the most arduous mechanical occupations, and above all work in the quarries were carried on by criminals condemned by the courts, or by prisoners seized in battle.

The genuine Egyptians had a bronze-colored skin, of which they were very proud, despising the black Ethiopian, the yellow Semite, and the white European. This color of skin, which enabled them to distinguish their own people from strangers, helped to keep up the nation's unity more strictly than religion, which a man may accept, or language, which he may appropriate.

But in time, when the edifice of the state began to weaken, foreign elements appeared in growing numbers. They lessened cohesion, they split apart society, they flooded Egypt and absorbed the original inhabitants.

The pharaohs governed the state by the help of a standing army and a militia or police, also by a multitude of officials, from whom was formed by degrees an aristocracy of family. By his office the pharaoh was lawgiver, supreme king, highest judge, chief priest; he was the son of a god, a god himself even. He accepted divine honors, not only from officials and the people, but sometimes he raised altars to his own person, and burnt incense before images of himself.

At the side of the pharaoh and very often above him were priests, an order of sages who directed the destinies of the country.

In our day it is almost impossible to imagine the extraordinary role which the priests played in Egypt. They were instructors of rising generations, also soothsayers, hence the advisers of mature people, judges of the dead, to whom their will and their knowledge guaranteed immortality. They not only performed the minute ceremonies of religion for the gods and the pharaohs, but they healed the sick as physicians, they influenced the course of public works as engineers, and also politics as astrologers, but above all they knew their own country and its neighbors.

In Egyptian history the first place is occupied by the relations which existed between the priests and the pharaohs. Most frequently the pharaoh laid rich offerings before the gods and built temples. Then he lived long, and his name, with his images cut out on monuments, passed from generation to generation, full of glory. But many pharaohs reigned for a short period only, and of some not merely the deeds, but the names disappeared from record. A couple of times it happened that a dynasty fell, and straightway the cap of the pharaohs, encircled with a serpent, was taken by a priest.

Egypt continued to develop while a people of one composition, energetic kings, and wise priests co-operated for the common weal. But a time came when the people, in consequence of wars, decreased in number and lost their strength through oppression and extortion; the intrusion of foreign elements at this period undermined Egyptian race unity. And when the energy of pharaohs and the wisdom of priests sank in the flood of Asiatic luxury, and these two powers began to struggle with each other for undivided authority to plunder the toiling people, then Egypt fell under foreign control, and the light of civilized life, which had burnt on the Nile for millenniums, was extinguished.

The following narrative relates to the eleventh century before Christ, when the twentieth dynasty fell, and after the offspring of the sun, the eternally living Ramses XIII, Sem-Amen-Herhor, the high priest of Amon and ever-living offspring of the sun, forced his way to the throne and adorned his head with the ureus.


In the thirty-third year of the happy reign of Ramses XII, Egypt celebrated two festivals which filled all its faithful inhabitants with pride and delight.

In the month of Mechir that is, during January the god Khonsu returned to Thebes covered with costly gifts. For three years and nine months he had traveled in the country of Buchten, where he restored health to the king's daughter, Bentres, and expelled an evil spirit not only from the royal family, but even from the fortress.

So in the month Farmuti (February) Mer-Amen-Ramses XII, the lord of Upper and Lower Egypt, the ruler of Phoenicia and nine nations, after consultation with the gods to whom he was equal, named as erpatr, or heir to the throne, his son, aged twenty years, Cham-Sem Merer-Amen- Ramses.

This choice delighted the pious priests, the worthy nomarchs, the valiant army, the faithful people, and every creature living in Egypt, because the older sons of the pharaoh, who were born of a Hittite princess, had been visited by an evil spirit through enchantments which no one had the power to investigate. One son of twenty-seven years was unable to walk after reaching maturity; the second opened his veins and died; the third, through poisoned wine, which he would not cease drinking, fell into madness, and believing himself a monkey, passed whole days among tree branches.

But the fourth son, Ramses, born of Queen Nikotris, daughter of the priest Amenhotep, was as strong as the bull Apis, as brave as a lion, and as wise as the priests. From childhood he surrounded himself with warriors, and while still a common prince, used to say,

"If the gods, instead of making me the youngest son of his holiness, had made me a pharaoh, like Ramses the Great, I would conquer nine nations, of which people in Egypt have never heard mention; I would build a temple larger than all Thebes, and rear for myself a pyramid near which the tomb of Cheops would be like a rosebush at the side of a full-grown palm-tree."

On receiving the much desired title of heir, the young prince begged his father to be gracious and appoint him to command the army corps of Memphis. To this his holiness, Ramses XII, after consultation with the gods, to whom he was equal, answered that he would do so in case the heir could give proof that he had skill to direct a mass of troops arrayed for battle.

A council was called under the presidency of the minister of war, Sem- Amen-Herhor, high priest of the great sanctuary of Amon in Thebes.

The council decided in this way: "The heir to the throne, in the middle of the month Mesore, will take ten regiments, disposed along the line which connects Memphis with the city of Pi-uto, situated on the Bay of Sebenico.

"With this corps of ten thousand men prepared for battle, provided with a camp and with military engines, the heir will betake himself eastward along the highroad from Memphis toward Hittite regions, which road lies on the boundary between the land of Goshen and the wilderness. At this time General Nitager, commander of the army which guards the gates of Egypt from attacks of Asiatic people, will move from the Bitter Lakes against the heir, Prince Ramses.

"Both armies, the Asiatic and the Western, are to meet near Pi-Bailos, but in the wilderness, so that industrious husbandmen in the land of Goshen be not hindered in their labors.

"The heir will be victorious if he does not let himself be surprised by Nitager, that is, if he concentrates all his forces and succeeds in putting them in order of battle to meet the enemy.

"His worthiness Herhor, the minister of war, will be present in the camp of Prince Ramses, and will report to the pharaoh."

Two ways of communication formed the boundary between the land of Goshen and the desert. One was the transport canal from Memphis to Lake Timrah; the other was the highroad. The canal was in the laud of Goshen, the highroad in the desert which both ways bounded with a half circle.

The canal was visible from almost every point upon the highroad. Whatever artificial boundaries might be, these neighboring regions differed in all regards. The land of Goshen, though a rolling country, seemed a plain; the desert was composed of limestone hills and sandy valleys. The land of Goshen seemed a gigantic chessboard the green and yellow squares of which were indicated by the color of grain and by palms growing on their boundaries; but on the ruddy sand of the desert and its white hills a patch of green or a clump of trees and bushes seemed like a lost traveler.

On the fertile land of Goshen from each hill shot up a dark grove of acacias, sycamores, and tamarinds which from a distance looked like our lime-trees; among these were concealed villas with rows of short columns, or the yellow mud huts of earth-tillers. Sometimes near the grove was a white village with flat-roofed houses, or above the trees rose the pyramidal gates of a temple, like double cliffs, many-colored with strange characters. From the desert beyond the first row of hills, which were a little green, stared naked elevations covered with blocks of stone. It seemed as if the western region, sated with excess of life, hurled with regal generosity to the other side flowers and vegetables, but the desert in eternal hunger devoured them in the following year and turned them into ashes.

The stunted vegetation, exiled to cliffs and sands, clung to the lower places until, by means of ditches made in the sides of the raised highroad, men conducted water from the canals to it. In fact, hidden oases between naked hills along that highway drank in the divine water. In these oases grew wheat, barley, grapes, palms, and tamarinds. The whole of such an oasis was sometimes occupied by one family, which when it met another like itself at the market in Pi-Bailos might not even know that they were neighbors in the desert.

On the fifteenth of Mesore the concentration of troops was almost finished. The regiments of Prince Ramses, which were to meet the Asiatic forces of Nitager, had assembled on the road above the city of Pi-Bailos with their camp and with some military engines.

The heir himself directed all the movements. He had organized two parties of scouts. Of these the first had to watch the enemy, the other to guard its own army from attack, which was possible in a hilly region with many ravines. Ramses, in the course of a week, rode around and examined all the regiments, inarching by various roads, looking carefully to see if the soldiers had good weapons and warm mantles for the night hours, if in the camps there was dried bread in sufficiency as well as meat and dried fish. He commanded, besides, that the wives, children, and slaves of warriors marching to the eastern boundary should be conveyed by canal; this diminished the number of chariots and eased the movements of the army.

The oldest generals admired the zeal, knowledge, and caution of the heir, and, above all, his simplicity and love of labor. His court, which was numerous, his splendid tent, chariots, and litters were left in the capital, and, dressed as a simple officer, he hurried from regiment to regiment on horseback, in Assyrian fashion, attended by two adjutants.

Thanks to this concentration, the corps itself went forward very swiftly, and the army was near Pi-Bailos at the time appointed.

It was different with the prince's staff, and the Greek regiment accompanying it, and with some who moved military engines.

The staff, collected in Memphis, had the shortest road to travel; hence it moved latest, bringing an immense camp with it. Nearly every officer, and they were young lords of great families, had a litter with four negroes, a two-wheeled military chariot, a rich tent, and a multitude of boxes with food and clothing, also jars full of beer and wine. Besides, a numerous troop of singers and dancers, with music, had betaken themselves to journey behind the officers; each woman must, in the manner of a great lady, have a car drawn by one or two pair of oxen, and must have also a litter.

When this throng poured out of Memphis, it occupied more space on the highway than the army of Prince Ramses. The march was so slow that the military engines which were left at the rear moved twenty-four hours later than was ordered. To complete every evil the female dancers and singers, on seeing the desert, not at all dreadful in that place, were terrified and fell to weeping. To calm these women it was necessary to hasten with the night camp, pitch tents, arrange a spectacle, and a feast afterward.

The night amusement in the cool, under the starry sky, with wild nature for a background, pleased dancers and singers exceedingly; they declared that they would travel thenceforth only through the desert. Meanwhile Prince Ramses sent an order to turn all women back to Memphis at the earliest and urge the march forward.

His dignity Herhor, minister of war, was with the staff, but only as a spectator. He had not brought singers himself, but he made no remarks to officers. He gave command to carry his litter at the head of the column, and accommodating himself to its movements, advanced or rested under the immense fan with which his adjutant shaded him.

Herhor was a man of forty and some years of age, strongly built, concentrated in character. He spoke rarely, and looked at people as rarely from under his drooping eyelids. He went with arms and legs bare, like every Egyptian, his breast exposed; he had sandals on his feet, a short skirt about his hips, an apron with blue and white stripes. As a priest, he shaved his beard and hair and wore a panther- skin hanging from his left shoulder. As a soldier, he covered his head with a small helmet of the guard; from under this helmet hung a kerchief, also in blue and white stripes; this reached his shoulders. Around his neck was a triple gold chain, and under his left arm a short sword in a costly scabbard. His litter, borne by six black slaves, was attended always by three persons: one carried his fan, another the mace of the minister, and the third a box for papyrus. This third man was Pentuer, a priest, and the secretary of Herhor. He was a lean ascetic who in the greatest heat never covered his shaven head. He came of the people, but in spite of low birth he occupied a high position in the state; this was due to exceptional abilities.

Though the minister with his officials preceded the staff and held himself apart from its movements, it could not be said that he was unconscious of what was happening behind him. Every hour, at times every half hour, some one approached Herhor's litter, now a priest of lower rank, an ordinary "servant of the gods," a marauding soldier, a freedman, or a slave, who, passing as it were indifferently the silent retinue of the minister, threw out a word. That word Pentuer recorded sometimes, but more frequently he remembered it, for his memory was amazing.

No one in the noisy throng of the staff paid attention to these details. The officers, sons of great lords, were too much occupied by running, by noisy conversation, or by singing, to notice who approached the minister; all the more since a multitude of people were pushing along the highway.

On the sixteenth of Mesore the staff of Prince Ramses, together with his dignity the minister, passed the night under the open sky at the distance of five miles from the regiments which were arranged in battle order across the highway beyond the city of Pi-Bailos.

In that early morning which precedes our six o'clock, the hills grew violet, and from behind them came forth the sun. A rosy light flowed over the land of Goshen. Villages, temples, palaces of magnates, and huts of earth-tillers looked like sparks and flames which flashed up in one moment from the midst of green spaces. Soon the western horizon was flooded with a golden hue, and the green land of Goshen seemed melting into gold, and the numberless canals seemed filled with molten silver. But the desert hills grew still more marked with violet, and cast long shadows on the sands, and darkness on the plant world.

The guards who stood along that highway could see with the utmost clearness fields, edged with palms, beyond the canal. Some fields were green with flax, wheat, clover; others were gilded with ripening barley of the second growth. Now earth-tillers began to come out to field labor, from huts concealed among trees; they were naked and bronze- hued; their whole dress was a short skirt and a cap. Some turned to canals to clear them of mud, or to draw water. Others dispersing among the trees gathered grapes and ripe figs. Many naked children stirred about, and women were busy in white, yellow, or red shirts which were sleeveless.

There was great movement in that region. In the sky birds of prey from the desert pursued pigeons and daws in the land of Goshen. Along the canal squeaking sweeps moved up and down, with buckets of fertilizing water; fruit-gatherers appeared and disappeared among the trees, like colored butterflies. But in the desert, on the highway, swarmed the army and its servants. A division of mounted lancers shot past. Behind them marched bowmen in caps and petticoats; they had bows in their hands, quivers on their shoulders, and broadswords at their right sides. The archers were accompanied by slingers who carried bags with missiles and were armed with short swords.

A hundred yards behind them advanced two small divisions of footmen, one division armed with darts, the other with spears. Both carried rectangular shields; on their breasts they had thick coats, as it were armor, and on their heads caps with kerchiefs behind to ward off the sun-rays. The caps and coats had blue and white stripes or yellow and black stripes, which made those soldiers seem immense hornets.

Behind the advance guard, surrounded by a retinue of macebearers, pushed on the litter of the minister, and behind it, with bronze helmets and breastplates, the Greek companies, whose measured tread called to mind blows of heavy hammers. In the rear was heard the creaking of vehicles, and from the side of the highway slipped along the bearded Phoenician merchant in his litter borne between two asses. Above all this rose a cloud of golden dust, and heat also.

Suddenly from the vanguard galloped up a mounted soldier and informed Herhor that Prince Ramses, the heir to the throne, was approaching. His worthiness descended from the litter, and at that moment appeared a mounted party of men who halted and sprang from their horses. One man of this party and the minister began to approach each other, halting every few steps and bowing.

"Be greeted, O son of the pharaoh; may he live through eternity!" said the minister.

"Be greeted and live long, O holy father!" answered Ramses; then he added,

"Ye advance as slowly as if your legs were sawn off, while Nitager will stand before our division in two hours at the latest."

"Thou hast told truth. Thy staff marches very slowly."

"Eunana tells me also," here Ramses indicated an officer standing behind him who was covered with amulets, "that ye have not sent scouts to search ravines. But in case of real war an enemy might attack from that side."

"I am not the leader, I am only a judge," replied the minister, quietly.

"But what can Patrokles be doing?"

"Patrokles is bringing up the military engines with his Greek regiment."

"But my relative and adjutant, Tutmosis?"

"He is sleeping yet, I suppose."

Ramses stamped impatiently, and was silent. He was a beautiful youth, with a face almost feminine, to which anger and sunburn added charm. He wore a close-fitting coat with blue and white stripes, a kerchief of the same color behind his helmet, a gold chain around his neck, and a costly sword beneath his left arm.

"I see," said the prince, "that Thou alone, Eunana, art mindful of my honor."

The officer covered with amulets bent to the earth.

"Tutmosis is indolent," said the heir. "Return to thy place, Eunana. Let the vanguard at least have a leader."

Then, looking at the suite which now surrounded him as if it had sprung from under the earth on a sudden, he added,

"Bring my litter. I am as tired as a quarryman."

"Can the gods grow tired?" whispered Eunana, still standing behind him.

"Go to thy place!" said Ramses.

"But perhaps Thou wilt command me, O image of the moon, to search the ravines?" asked the officer, in a low voice. "Command, I beg thee, for wherever I am my heart is chasing after thee to divine thy will and accomplish it."

"I know that Thou art watchful," answered Ramses. "Go now and look after everything."

"Holy father," said Eunana, turning to the minister, "I commend my most obedient service to thy worthiness."

Barely had Eunana gone when at the end of the marching column rose a still greater tumult. They looked for the heir's litter, but it was gone. Then appeared, making his way through the Greek warriors, a youth of strange exterior. He wore a muslin tunic, a richly embroidered apron, and a golden scarf across his shoulder. But he was distinguished above all by an immense wig with a multitude of tresses, and an artificial beard like cats' tails.

That was Tutmosis, the first exquisite in Memphis, who dressed and perfumed himself even during marches.

"Be greeted, Ramses!" exclaimed the exquisite, pushing aside officers quickly. "Imagine thy litter is lost somewhere; Thou must sit in mine, which really is not fit for thee, but it is not the worst."

"Thou hast angered me," answered the prince. "Thou sleepest instead of watching the army."

The astonished exquisite stopped.

"I sleep?" cried he. "May the man's tongue wither up who invented that calumny! I, knowing that Thou wouldst come, have been ready this hour past, and am preparing a bath for thee and perfumes."

"While thus engaged, the regiment is without a commander."

"Am I to command a detachment where his worthiness the minister of war is, and such a leader is present as Patrokles?"

Ramses was silent; meanwhile Tutmosis, approaching him, whispered,

"In what a plight Thou art, O son of the pharaoh! Without a wig, thy hair and dress full of dust, thy skin black and cracked, like the earth in summer. The queen, most deserving of honor, would drive me from the court were she to look at thy wretchedness."

"I am only tired."

"Then take a seat in my litter. In it are fresh garlands of roses, roast birds, and a jug of wine from Cyprus. I have kept also hidden in the camp," added he in a lower voice, "Senura."

"Is she here?" asked the prince; and his eyes, glittering a moment before, were now mist-covered.

"Let the army move on," said Tutmosis; "we will wait here for her."

Ramses recovered himself.

"Leave me, tempter! The battle will come in two hours."

"What! a battle?"

"At least the decision as to my leadership."

"Oh, laugh at it!" smiled the exquisite. "I would swear that the minister of war sent a report of it yesterday, and with it the petition to give thee the corps of Memphis."

"No matter if he did. Today I have no thought for anything but the army."

"In thee this wish for war is dreadful, war during which a man does not wash for a whole month, so as to die in—Brr! But if Thou couldst see Senura, only glance at her. ."

"For that very reason I shall not glance at her," answered Ramses, decisively.

At the moment when eight men were bringing from beyond the Greek ranks the immense litter of Tutmosis for the use of Ramses, a horseman raced in from the vanguard. He dropped from his horse and ran so quickly that on his breast the images of the gods or the tablets with their names rattled loudly. This was Eunana in great excitement.

All turned to him, and this gave him pleasure apparently.

"Erpatr, the loftiest lips," cried Eunana, bending before Ramses. "When, in accordance with thy divine command, I rode at the head of a detachment, looking carefully at all things, I noticed on the highroad two beautiful scarabs. Each of these sacred beetles was rolling an earth ball toward the sands near the roadside."

"What of that?" interrupted Ramses.

"Of course," continued Eunana, glancing toward Herhor, "I and my people, as piety enjoins, rendered homage to the golden symbols of the sun, and halted. That augury is of such import that no man of us would make a step forward unless commanded."

"I see that Thou art a pious Egyptian, though Thou hast the features of a Hittite," answered the worthy Herhor; and turning to certain dignitaries standing near, he added,

"We will not advance farther by the highway, for we might crush the sacred beetles. Pentuer, can we go around the road by that ravine on the right?"

"We can," answered the secretary. "That ravine is five miles long, and comes out again almost in front of Pi-Bailos."

"An immense loss of time!" interrupted Ramses, in anger.

"I would swear that those are not scarabs, but the spirits of my Phoenician usurers," said Tutmosis the exquisite. "Not being able, because of their death, to receive money from me, they will force me now to march through the desert in punishment!"

The suite of the prince awaited the decision with fear; so Ramses turned to Herhor,

"What dost Thou think of this, holy father?"

"Look at the officers," answered the priest, "and Thou wilt understand that we must go by the ravine."

Now Patrokles, leader of the Greeks, pushed forward and said to the heir,

"If the prince permit, my regiment will advance by the highway. My soldiers have no fear of beetles!"

"Your soldiers have no fear of royal tombs even," added the minister. "Still it cannot be safe in them since no one has ever returned."

The Greek pushed back to the suite confounded.

"Confess, holy father," hissed the heir, with the greatest anger, "that such a hindrance would not stop even an ass on his journey."

"True, but no ass will ever be pharaoh," retorted the minister, calmly.

"In that case thou, O minister, wilt lead the division through the ravine!" exclaimed Ramses. "I am unacquainted with priestly tactics; besides, I must rest. Come with me, cousin," said he to Tutmosis; and he turned toward some naked hills.


Straightway his worthiness Herhor directed his adjutant who carried the mace to take charge of the vanguard in place of Eunana. Then he commanded that the military engines for hurling great stones leave the road, and that the Greek soldiers facilitate passage for those engines in difficult places. All vehicles and litters of staff-officers were to move in the rear.

When Herhor issued commands, the adjutant bearing the fan approached Pentuer and asked,

"Will it be possible to go by this highway again?"

"Why not?" answered the young priest. "But since two sacred beetles have barred the way now, we must not go farther; some misfortune might happen."

"As it is, a misfortune has happened. Or hast Thou not noticed that Prince Ramses is angry at the minister? and our lord is not forgetful."

"It is not the prince who is offended with our lord, but our lord with the prince, and he has reproached him. He has done well; for it seems to the young prince, at present, that he is to be a second Menes."

"Or a Ramses the Great," put in the adjutant.

"Ramses the Great obeyed the gods; for this cause there are inscriptions praising him in all the temples. But Menes, the first pharaoh of Egypt, was a destroyer of order, and thanks only to the fatherly kindness of the priests that his name is still remembered, though I would not give one brass uten on this, that the mummy of Menes exists."

"My Pentuer," added the adjutant, "Thou art a sage, hence knowest that it is all one to us whether we have ten lords or eleven."

"But it is not all one to the people whether they have to find every year a mountain of gold for the priests, or two mountains of gold for the priests and the pharaoh," answered Pentuer, while his eyes flashed.

"Thou art thinking of dangerous things," said the adjutant, in a whisper.

"But how often hast Thou thyself grieved over the luxuries of the pharaoh's court and of the nomarchs?" inquired the priest in astonishment.

"Quiet, quiet! We will talk of this, but not now."

In spite of the sand the military engines, drawn each by two bullocks, moved in the desert more speedily than along the highway. With the first of them marched Eunana, anxiously. "Why has the minister deprived me of leadership over the vanguard? Does he wish to give me a higher position?" asked he in his own mind.

Thinking out then a new career, and perhaps to dull the fears which made his heart quiver, he seized a pole and, where the sands were deeper, propped the balista, or urged on the Greeks with an outcry.

They, however, paid slight attention to this officer.

The retinue had pushed on a good half hour through a winding ravine with steep naked walls, when the vanguard halted a second time. At this point another ravine crossed the first; in the middle of it extended a rather broad canal.

The courier sent to the minister of war with notice of the obstacle brought back a command to fill the canal immediately.

About a hundred soldiers with pickaxes and shovels rushed to the work. Some knocked out stones from the cliff; others threw them into the ditch and covered them with sand.

Meanwhile from the depth of the ravine came a man with a pickaxe shaped like a stork's neck with the bill on it. He was an Egyptian slave, old and entirely naked. He looked for a while with the utmost amazement at the work of the soldiers; then, springing between them on a sudden, he shouted,

"What are ye doing, vile people? This is a canal."

"But how darest Thou use evil words against the warriors of his holiness?" asked Eunana, who stood there.

"Thou must be an Egyptian and a great person, I see that," said the slave; "so I answer thee that this canal belongs to a mighty lord; he is the manager and secretary of one who bears the fan for his worthiness the nomarch of Memphis. Be on thy guard or misfortune will strike thee!"

"Do your work," said Eunana, with a patronizing tone, to the Greek soldiers who began to look at the slave.

They did not understand his speech, but the tone of it arrested them.

"They are filling in all the time!" said the slave, with rising fear. "Woe to thee!" cried he, rushing at one of the Greeks with his pickaxe.

The Greek pulled it from the man, struck him on the mouth, and brought blood to his lips; then he threw sand into the canal again.

The slave, stunned by the blow, lost courage and fell to imploring.

"Lord," said he, "I dug this canal alone for ten years, in the night time and during festivals! My master promised that if I should bring water to this little valley he would make me a servant in it, give me one fifth of the harvests, and grant me freedom do you hear? Freedom to me and my three children! O gods!"

He raised his hands and turned again to Eunana,

"They do not understand me, these vagrants from beyond the sea, descendants of dogs, brothers to Jews and Phoenicians! But listen, lord, to me! For ten years, while other men went to fairs and dances or sacred processions, I stole out into this dreary ravine. I did not go to the grave of my mother, I only dug; I forgot the dead so as to give freedom with laud to my children, and to myself even one free day before death. Ye, O gods, be my witnesses how many times has night found me here! how many times have I heard the wailing cries of hyenas in this place, and seen the green eyes of wolves! But I did not flee, for whither was I, the unfortunate, to flee, when at every path terror was lurking, and in this canal freedom held me back by the feet? Once, beyond that turn there, a lion came out against me, the pharaoh of beasts. The pickaxe dropped from my hands, I knelt down before him, and I, as ye see me, said these words: 'O lord! is it thy pleasure to eat me? I am only a slave.' But the lion took pity, the wolf also passed by; even the treacherous bats spared my poor head; but thou, O Egyptian."

The man stopped; he saw the retinue of Herhor approaching. By the fan he knew him to be a great personage, and by the panther skin, a priest. He ran to the litter, therefore, knelt down, and struck the sand with his forehead.

"What dost Thou wish, man?" asked the dignitary.

"O light of the sun, listen to me!" cried the slave. "May there be no groans in thy chamber, may no misfortune follow thee! May thy works continue, and may the current not be interrupted when Thou shalt sail by the Nile to the other shore."

"I ask what thy wish is," repeated Herhor.

"Kind lord," said the man, "leader without caprice, who conquerest the false and createst the true, who art the father of the poor, the husband of the widow, clothing for the motherless, permit me to spread thy name as the equal of justice, most noble of the nobles." [Authentic speech of a slave.]

"He wishes that this canal be not filled in," said Eunana.

Herhor shrugged his shoulders and pushed toward the place where they were filling the canal. Then the despairing man seized his feet.

"Away with this creature!" cried his worthiness, pushing back as before the bite of a reptile.

The secretary, Pentuer, turned his head; his lean face had a grayish color. Eunana seized the man by the shoulders and pulled, but, unable to drag him away from the minister's feet, he summoned warriors. After a while Herhor, now liberated, passed to the other bank of the canal, and the warriors tore away the earth-worker, almost carrying him to the end of the detachment. There they gave the man some tens of blows of fists, and subalterns who always carried canes gave him some tens of blows of sticks, and at last threw him down at the entrance to the ravine.

Beaten, bloody, and above all terrified, the wretched slave sat on the sand for a while, rubbed his eyes, then sprang up suddenly and ran groaning toward the highway,

"Swallow me, O earth! Cursed be the day in which I saw the light, and the night in which it was said, 'A man is born!' In the mantle of justice there is not the smallest shred for a slave. The gods themselves regard not a creature whose hands are for labor, whose mouth was made only for weeping, and whose back is for clubs. O death, rub my body into ashes, so that there, beyond on the fields of Osiris, I be not born into slavery a second time."


Panting with anger, Prince Ramses rushed up the hill, while behind him followed Tutmosis. The wig of the exquisite had turned on his head, his false beard had slipped down, and he carried it in his hand. In spite of exertion he would have been pale had it not been for the layers of rouge on his face.

At last Ramses halted at the summit. From the ravine came the outcry of warriors and the rattle of the onrolling balistas; before the two men stretched the immense plain of Goshen, bathed continually in sun-rays. That did not seem land, but a golden cloud, on which the mind painted a landscape in colors of silver, ruby, pearl, and topaz.

"Look," cried the heir to Tutmosis, stretching out his hand, "those are to be my lands, and here is my army. Over there the loftiest edifices are palaces of priests, and here the supreme chief of the troops is a priest! Can anything like this be suffered?"

"It has always been so," replied Tutmosis, glancing around with timidity.

"That is not true! I know the history of this country, which is hidden to thee. The leaders of armies and the masters of officials were the pharaohs alone, or at least the most energetic among them. Those rulers did not pass their days in making offerings and prayers, but in managing the state."

"If it is the desire of his holiness to pass his days that way?" said Tutmosis.

"It is not my father's wish that nomarchs should govern as they please in the capitals of provinces. Why, the governor of Ethiopia considered himself as almost equal to the king of kings. And it cannot be my father's wish that his army should inarch around two golden beetles because the minister of war is a high priest."

"He is a great warrior," whispered Tutmosis, with increasing timidity.

"He a great warrior? Because he dispersed a handful of Libyan robbers ready to flee at the mere sight of Egyptians. But see what our neighbors are doing. Israel delays in paying tribute and pays less and less of it. The cunning Phoenician steals a number of ships from our fleet every year. On the east we are forced to keep up a great army against the Hittites, while around Babylon and Nineveh there is such a movement that it is felt throughout all Mesopotamia.

"And what is the outcome of priestly management? This, that while my great-grandfather had a hundred thousand talents of yearly income and one hundred and sixty thousand troops, my father has barely fifty thousand talents and one hundred and twenty thousand troops.

"And what an army! Were it not for the Greek corps, which keeps them in order as a dog watches sheep, the Egyptian soldiers today would obey only priests and the pharaoh would sink to the level of a miserable nomarch."

"Whence hast Thou learned this?" asked Tutmosis, with astonishment.

"Am I not of a priestly family? And besides, they taught me when I was not heir to the throne. Oh, when I become pharaoh after my father, may he live through eternity! I will put my bronze-sandaled foot on their necks. But first of all I will seize their treasures, which have always been bloated, but which from the time of Ramses the Great have begun to swell out, and today are so swollen that the treasure of the pharaoh is invisible because of them."

"Woe to me and to thee!" sighed Tutmosis. "Thou hast plans under which this hill would bend could it hear and understand them. And where are thy forces, thy assistance, thy warriors? Against thee the whole people will rise, led by a class of men with mighty influence. But who is on thy rider?"

Ramses listened and fell to thinking. At last he said,

"The army."

"A considerable part of it will follow the priests."

"The Greek corps."

"A barrel of water in the Nile."

"The officials."

"Half of them belong to the priests."

The prince shook his head sadly, and was silent.

From the summit they went down by a naked and stony slope to the opposite base of the hill. Then Tutmosis, who had pushed ahead somewhat, cried,

"Has a charm fallen on my eyes? Look, Ramses! Why, a second Egypt is concealed between these cliffs!"

"That must be an estate of some priest who pays no taxes," replied the prince, bitterly.

In the depth before their feet lay a rich valley in the form of a fork the tines of which were hidden between cliffs. At the juncture of the tines a number of servants' huts were visible, and the beautiful little villa of the owner or manager. Palmtrees grew there, grapes, olives, figs with aerial roots, cypresses, even young baobabs. In the centre flowed a rivulet, and at the source of it, some hundreds of yards higher up, small gardens were visible.

When they had gone down among grapevines covered with ripe clusters, they heard a woman's voice which called, or rather sang in pensive notes:

"Where art Thou gone from me, where art thou, hen of mine? Thou hast fled, Thou art gone from me. I give thee drink and clean grain; what I give is so good that slaves envy thee. Where art Thou gone, my hen wilt Thou not answer me? Night will come down on thee, think of that; Thou wilt not reach thy home, where all are at work for thee. Come; if Thou come not, a falcon will fly from the desert and tear the heart out of thee. If he come Thou wilt call in vain, as I now call in vain to thee. Give answer, or I shall be angry and leave this place. If I leave Thou 'It go home on thy own feet."

The song came toward the two men. The songstress was a few yards from them when Tutmosis thrust, his head from between the bushes, and said,

"Just look, Ramses, but that is a beautiful maiden!"

Instead of looking, the prince sprang into the path and stopped the road before the songstress. She was really a beautiful maiden, with Grecian features and a complexion like ivory.

From under the veil on her head peeped forth an immense mass of dark hair, wound in a knot. She wore a white trailing robe which she held on one side with her hand; under the transparent covering were maiden breasts shaped like apples.

"Who art thou?" cried Ramses.

The threatening furrows vanished from his forehead and his eyes flashed.

"O Jehovah! O Father!" cried she, frightened, halting motionless on the path.

But she grew calm by degrees, and her velvety eyes resumed their expression of mild sadness.

"Whence hast Thou come?" inquired she of Ramses, with a voice trembling a little. "I see that Thou art a soldier, but it is not permitted soldiers to come here."

"Why is it not permitted?"

"Because this is the land of a great lord named Sesofris."

"Ho! ho!" laughed Ramses.

"Laugh not, for Thou wilt grow pale soon. The lord Sesofris is secretary to the lord Chaires, who carries his fan for the most worthy nomarch of Memphis. My father has seen him and fallen on his face before him."

"Ho! ho! ho!" repeated Ramses, laughing continually.

"Thy words are very insolent," said the maiden, frowning. "Were kindness not looking from thy face, I should think thee a mercenary from Greece or a bandit."

"He is not a bandit yet, but some day he may become the greatest bandit this laud has ever suffered," said Tutmosis the exquisite, arranging his wig,

"And Thou must be a dancer," answered the girl, grown courageous. "Oh! I am even certain that I saw thee at the fair in Pi-Bailos, enchanting serpents."

The two young men fell into perfect humor.

"But who art thou?" asked Ramses of the girl, taking her hand, which she drew back.

"Be not so bold. I am Sarah, the daughter of Gideon, the manager of this estate."

"A Jewess," said Ramses; and a shadow passed over his face.

"What harm in that? what harm in that?" cried Tutmosis.

"Dost think that Jewesses are less sweet than Egyptian girls? They are only more modest and more difficult, which gives their love an uncommon charm."

"So ye are pagans," said Sarah, with dignity. "Rest, if ye are tired, pluck some grapes for yourselves, and go with God. Our servants are not glad to see guests like you."

She wished to go, but Ramses detained her.

"Stop! Thou hast pleased me, and may not leave us in this way."

"The evil spirit has seized thee; no one in this valley would dare to speak thus to me," said Sarah, now indignant.

"Yes; for, seest thou," interrupted Tutmosis, "this young man is an officer of the priestly regiment of Ptah, and a secretary of the secretary of a lord who carries his fan over the fan-carrier of the nomarch of Habu."

"Surely he must be an officer," answered Sarah, looking with thoughtfulness at Ramses. "Maybe he is a great lord himself?" added she, putting her finger on her lips.

"Whoever I am, thy beauty surpasses my dignity," answered he, suddenly. "But tell me, is it true that the Jews eat pork?"

Sarah looked at him offended; and Tutmosis added,

"How evident it is that Thou knowest not Jewesses! I tell thee that a Jew would rather die than eat pork, which, for my part, I do not consider as the worst."

"But do they eat cats?" insisted Ramses, pressing Sarah's hand and looking into her eyes.

"And that is a fable, a vile fable!" exclaimed Tutmosis. "Thou mightst have asked me about those things instead of talking nonsense. I have had three Jewish mistresses."

"So far Thou hast told the truth, but now Thou art lying," called out Sarah. "A Jewess would not be any man's mistress," added she, proudly.

"Even the mistress of the secretary of a lord who carries the fan for the nomarch of Memphis?" asked Tutmosis, jeeringly.


"Even the mistress of the lord who carries the fan?"

Sarah hesitated, but answered,


"Then perhaps she would not become the mistress of the nomarch?"

The girl's hands dropped. With astonishment she looked in turn at the young men; her lips quivered, and her eyes filled with tears.

"Who are ye?" inquired she, alarmed. "Ye have come down from the hills, like travelers who wish bread and water, but ye speak to me as might the greatest lords. Who are ye? Thy sword," said she, turning to Ramses, "is set with emeralds, and on thy neck is a chain of such work as even our lord, the great Sesofris, has not in his treasury."

"Better tell me if I please thee," insisted Ramses, pressing her hand and looking into her eyes tenderly.

"Thou art beautiful, as beautiful as the angel Gabriel; but I fear thee, for I know not who Thou art."

Then from beyond the hilltop was heard the sound of a trumpet.

"They are calling thee!" cried Tutmosis.

"And if I were as great a lord as thy Sesofris?" asked Ramses.

"Then maybe" answered Sarah.

"And if I carried the fan of the nomarch of Memphis?"

"Thou mayest be even as great as that."

Somewhere beyond the hill was heard the second trumpet.

"Come, Ramses!" insisted the frightened Tutmosis.

"But if I were heir to the throne, wouldst Thou come to me?" cried the prince.

"O Jehovah!" exclaimed Sarah, dropping on her knees.

From various points trumpets summoned, now urgently.

"Let us run!" cried Tutmosis, in desperation. "Dost Thou not hear the alarm in the camp?"

Ramses took the chain from his neck quickly and threw it on Sarah.

"Give this to thy father. I will buy thee from him. Be in health."

He kissed her lips passionately, and she embraced-his knees. He tore away, ran a couple of paces, turned again, and again fondled her beautiful face and dark hair with kisses, as if he heard not those impatient calls to the army.

"In the name of his holiness the pharaoh, I summon thee, follow me!" cried Tutmosis; and he seized the prince's hand.

They ran toward the trumpet-calls. Ramses tottered at moments like a drunken man, and turned his head. At last they were climbing the opposite hill.

"And this man," thought Tutmosis, "wants to battle with the priesthood!"


RAMSES and his comrade ran about a quarter of an hour along the rocky ridge of the hill, drawing ever nearer to the trumpets, which sounded more and more urgently. At last they reached a point where they took in at a glance the whole region. Toward the left stretched the highway; beyond that were seen clearly the city of Pi-Bailos, the regiments of the heir drawn up behind it, and an immense cloud of dust which rose above his opponent hastening forward from the east.

On the right yawned a broad ravine, along the middle of which the Greek regiment was dragging military engines. Not far from the road the ravine was lost in another and a broader one which began in the depth of the desert.

At this point something uncommon was happening. The Greeks stood unoccupied not far from the junction of the two ravines; but at the juncture itself, and between the highway and the staff of Ramses, marched out four dense lines of some other army, like four fences, bristling with glittering darts.

In spite of the steep road the prince rushed down at full speed to his division, to the place where the minister of war stood surrounded by officers.

"What is happening?" called he, threateningly. "Why sound an alarm instead of marching?"

"We are cut off," said Herhor.

"By whom?"

"Our division by three regiments of Nitager, who has marched out of the desert."

"Then the enemy is there, near the highway?"

"Yes, the invincible Nitager himself."

It seemed in that moment that the heir to the throne had gone mad. His lips were contorted, his eyes were starting out of their sockets. He drew his sword, rushed to the Greeks, and cried,

"Follow me against those who bar the road to us."

"O heir, live forever!" cried Patrokles, who drew his sword also. "Forward, descendants of Achilles!" said he, turning to his men. "We will teach those Egyptian cowkeepers not to stop us!"

Trumpets sounded the attack. Four short but erect Greek columns rushed forward, a cloud of dust rose, and a shout in honor of Ramses.

After a couple of minutes the Greeks found themselves in the presence of the Egyptian regiments, and hesitated.

"Forward!" cried the heir, rushing on, sword in hand.

The Greeks lowered their spears. On the opposing side there was a movement, a murmur flew along the ranks, and spears also were lowered.

"Who are ye, madmen?" asked a mighty voice.

"The heir to the throne!" shouted Patrokles.

A moment of silence.

"Open ranks!" commanded the same voice, mighty as before.

The regiments of the eastern army opened slowly, like heavy folding- doors, and the Greek division passed between them.

Then a gray-haired warrior in golden helmet and armor approached Prince Ramses and said with a low obeisance,

"Erpatr, [Heir] Thou hast conquered. Only a great warrior could free himself from difficulty in that way."

"Thou art Nitager, the bravest of the brave!" cried the prince.

At that moment Herhor approached. He had heard the conversation, and said abruptly,

"Had there been on your side such an awkward leader as the erpatr, how could we have finished the maneuvers?"

"Let the young warrior alone!" answered Nitager. "Is it not enough for thee that he has shown the iron claws, as was proper for a son of the pharaoh?"

Tutmosis, noting the turn which the conversation had taken, asked Nitager,

"Whence hast Thou come, that thy main forces are in front of our army?"

"I knew how incompetently the division was marching from Memphis, when the heir was concentrating his regiments near Pi-Bailos, and for sport I wished to capture you young lords. To my misfortune the heir was here and spoiled my plans. Act that way always, Ramses, of course in presence of real enemies."

"But if, as today, he meets a force three times superior?" inquired Herhor.

"Daring keenness means more than strength," replied the old leader. "An elephant is fifty times stronger than a man; still he yields to him, or dies at his hands."

Herhor listened in silence.

The maneuvers were declared finished. Prince Ramses with the minister and commanders went to the army near Pi-Bailos. There he greeted Nitager's veterans, took farewell of his own regiments, commanded them to march eastward, and wished success to them.

Then, surrounded by a great suite, he returned by the highway to Memphis amid crowds from the land of Goshen, who with green garlands and in holiday robes congratulated the conqueror.

When the highway turned toward the desert, the crowd became thinner, and when they approached the place where the staff of the heir had entered the ravine because of the scarabs, there was no one.

Ramses nodded to Tutmosis, and pointing to the naked hill, whispered,

"Thou wilt go to Sarah."

"I understand."

"Tell her father that I will give him land outside Memphis."

"I understand. Thou wilt have her to-morrow."

After this conversation Tutmosis withdrew to the troops marching behind the suite, and vanished.

Almost opposite the ravine along which the army had passed in the morning, some tens of steps from the road, stood a tamarind-tree which, though old, was not large. At this point a halt was mad by the guard which had preceded the suite.

"Shall we meet scarabs again?" asked Ramses, with a laugh.

"We shall see," answered Herhor.

They looked; on the slender tree a naked man was hanging.

"What does this mean?" asked the heir, with emotion.

Adjutants ran to the tree, and saw that the hanging man was that old slave whose canal they had closed in the morning.

"He did right to hang himself!" cried Eunana among the officers. "Could ye believe it, that wretch dared to seize the feet of his holiness the minister!"

On hearing this, Ramses reined in his horse, dismounted, and walked up to the ominous tree.

The slave was hanging with his head stretched forward; his mouth was opened widely, his hands turned toward the spectators, and terror was in his eyes. He looked like a man who had wished to say something, but whose voice had failed him.

"The unfortunate!" sighed Ramses, with compassion.

On returning to the retinue he gave command to relate to him the history of the man, and then he rode a long time in silence.

Before his eyes was the picture of the suicide, and in his heart was the feeling that a great wrong had been done, such a wrong that even he, the son and the heir of the pharaoh, might halt in face of it.

The heat was unendurable, the dust dried up the water and pierced the eyes of man and beast. The division was detained for a short rest, and meanwhile Nitager finished his conversation with the minister.

"My officers," said the old commander, "never look under their feet, but always straight forward."

"That is the reason, perhaps, why no enemy has ever surprised me."

"Your worthiness reminds me, by these words, that I am to pay certain debts," remarked Herhor; and he commanded the officers and soldiers who were near by to assemble.

"And now," said the minister, "summon for me Eunana."

The officer covered with amulets was found as quickly as if he had been waiting for this summons a long time. On his countenance was depicted delight, which he restrained through humility, but with effort.

Herhor, seeing Eunana before him, began,

"By the will of his holiness, supreme command of the army comes into my hands again with the ending of the maneuvers."

Those present bowed their heads.

"It is my duty to use this power first of all in meting out justice."

The officers looked at one another.

"Eunana," said the minister, "I know that Thou hast always been one of the most diligent officers."

"Truth speaks through thy lips, worthy lord," replied Eunana. "As a palm waits for dew, so do I for the commands of superiors. And when I do not receive them, I am like an orphan in the desert when looking for a pathway."

Nitager's scar-covered officers listened with astonishment to the ready speech of Eunana, and thought, "He will be raised above others!"

"Eunana," said the minister, "Thou art not only diligent, but pious; not only pious, but watchful as an ibis over water. The gods have poured out on thee every virtue: they have given thee serpent cunning, with the eye of a falcon."

"Pure truth flows from thy lips, worthiness," added Eunana. "Were it not for my wonderful sight, I should not have seen the two scarabs."

"Yes, and Thou wouldst not have saved our camp from sacrilege. For this deed, worthy of the most pious Egyptian, I give thee."

Here the minister took a gold ring from his finger.

"I give thee this ring with the name of the goddess Mut, whose favor and prudence will accompany thee to the end of thy worldly wandering, if Thou deserve it."

His worthiness delivered the ring to Eunana, and those present uttered a great shout in honor of the pharaoh, and rattled their weapons.

As Herhor did not move, Eunana stood and looked him in the eyes, like a faithful dog which having received one morsel from his master is wagging his tail and waiting.

"And now," continued the minister, "confess, Eunana, why Thou didst not tell whither the heir to the throne went when the army was marching along the ravine with such difficulty. Thou didst an evil deed, for we had to sound the alarm in the neighborhood of the enemy."

"The gods are my witnesses that I know nothing of the most worthy prince," replied the astonished Eunana.

Herhor shook his head.

"It cannot be that a man gifted with such sight, a man who at some tens of yards away sees sacred scarabs in the sand, should not see so great a personage as the heir to the throne is."

"Indeed I did not see him!" explained Eunana, beating his breast. "Moreover no one commanded me to watch Ramses."

"Did I not free thee from leading the vanguard? Did I assign to thee an office?" asked the minister. "Thou wert entirely free, just like a man who is called to important deeds. And didst Thou accomplish thy task? For such an error in time of war Thou shouldst suffer death surely."

The ill-fated officer was pallid.

"But I have a paternal heart for thee, Eunana," said Herhor, "and, remembering the great service which Thou hast rendered by discovering the scarabs, I, not as a stern minister, but as a mild priest, appoint to thee a very small punishment. Thou wilt receive fifty blows of a stick on thy body."


"Eunana, Thou hast known how to be fortunate, now be manful and receive this slight remembrance as becomes an officer in the army of his holiness."

Barely had the worthy Herhor finished when the officers oldest in rank placed Eunana in a commodious position at the side of the highroad. After that one of them sat on his neck, another on his feet, while a third and a fourth counted out fifty blows of pliant reeds on his naked body.

The unterrified warrior uttered no groan; on the contrary, he hummed a soldier song, and at the end of the ceremony wished to rise. But his stiffened legs refused obedience, so he fell face downward on the sand; they had to take him to Memphis on a two-wheeled vehicle. While lying on this cart and smiling at the soldiers, Eunana considered that the wind does not change so quickly in Lower Egypt as fortune in the life of an inferior officer.

When, after the brief halt, the retinue of the heir to the throne moved on its farther journey, Herhor mounted his horse and riding at the side of Nitager, spoke in an undertone about Asiatic nations and, above all, about the awakening of Assyria.

Then two servants of the minister, the adjutant carrying his fan and the secretary Pentuer, began a conversation also.

"What dost Thou think of Eunana's adventure?" asked the adjutant.

"And what thinkest Thou of the slave who hanged himself?"

"It seems to me that this was his best day, and the rope around his neck the softest thing that has touched him in life. I think, too, that Eunana from this time on will watch the heir to the throne very closely."

"Thou art mistaken," answered Pentuer. "Eunana from this time on will never see a scarab, even though it were as large as a bullock. As to that slave, dost Thou not think that in every case it must have been very evil for him very evil in this sacred land of Egypt?"

"Thou knowest not slaves, hence speakest thus."

"But who knows them better?" asked Pentuer, gloomily. "Have I not grown up among them? Have I not seen my father watering land, clearing canals, sowing, harvesting, and, above all, paying tribute? Oh, Thou knowest not the lot of slaves in Egypt."

"But if I do not, I know the lot of the foreigner. My great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather was famous among the Hyksos, but he remained here, for he grew attached to this country. And what wilt Thou say? Not only was his property taken from him, but the stain of my origin rests on me at present. Thou thyself knowest what I bear frequently from Egyptians by race, though I have a considerable position. How, then, can I take pity on the Egyptian earth-worker, who, seeing my yellow complexion, mutters frequently, 'Pagan! foreigner!' The earth-worker is neither a pagan nor a foreigner."

"Only a slave," added Pentuer, "a slave whom they marry, divorce, beat, sell, slay sometimes, and command always to work, with a promise besides that in the world to come he will be a slave also."

"Thou art a strange man, though so wise!" said the adjutant, shrugging his shoulders. "Dost Thou not see that each man of us occupies some position, low, less low, or very low, in which he must labor? But dost Thou suffer because Thou art not pharaoh, and thy tomb will not be a pyramid? Thou dost not ponder at all over this, for Thou knowest it to be the world's condition. Each creature does its own duty: the ox ploughs, the ass bears the traveler, I cool his worthiness, Thou rememberest and thinkest for him, while the earth-worker tills land and pays tribute. What is it to us that some bull is born Apis, to whom all render homage, and some man a pharaoh or a nomarch?"

"The ten years' toil of that man was destroyed," whispered Pentuer.

"And does not the minister destroy thy toil?" asked the adjutant. "Who knows that Thou art the manager of the state, not the worthy Herhor?"

"Thou art mistaken. He manages really. He has power and will; I have only knowledge. Moreover, they do not beat thee, nor me, like that slave."

"But they have beaten Eunana, and they may beat us also. Hence there is need to be brave and make use of the position assigned us; all the more since, as is known to thee, our spirit, the immortal Ka, in proportion as it is purified rises to a higher plane, so that after thousands or millions of years, in company with spirits of pharaohs and slaves, in company with gods even, it will be merged into the nameless and all- mighty father of existence."

"Thou speakest like a priest," answered Pentuer, with bitterness. "I ought rather to have this calm! But instead of it I have pain in my soul, for I feel the wretchedness of millions."

"Who tells it to thee?"

"My eyes and my heart. My heart is like a valley between mountains which never can be silent, when it hears a cry, but must answer with an echo."

"I say to thee, Pentuer, that Thou thinkest too much over dangerous subjects. It is impossible to walk safely along precipices of the eastern mountains, for Thou mayst fall at any moment; or to wander through the western desert, where hungry lions are prowling, and where the raging simoom springs up unexpectedly."

Meanwhile the valiant Eunana moved on in the vehicle, which only added to his pain. But to show that he was valiant he requested food and drink; and when he had eaten a dry cake rubbed with garlic and had drunk some beer from a thick-bellied pot, he begged the driver to take a branch and drive the flies from his wounded body.

Thus lying on the bags and packs in that squeaking car, with his face toward the earth, the unfortunate Eunana sang with a groaning voice the grievous lot of the inferior officer,

"Why dost Thou say that the scribe's lot is worse than the officer's? Come and see my blue stripes and swollen body; meanwhile I will tell thee the tale of a downtrodden officer.

"I was a boy when they brought me to the barracks. For breakfast I had blows of fists in the belly, till I fainted; for dinner fists in the eyes, till my mouth gaped; and for supper I had a head covered with wounds and almost split open.

"Goon! let me tell how I made the campaign to Syria. Food and drink I had to carry on my back, I was bent down with weight as an ass is bent. My neck became stiff, like an ass's neck, and the joints of my back swelled. I drank rotten water, I was like a captive bird in the face of the enemy.

"I returned to Egypt, but here I am like a tree into which a worm is boring always. For any trifle they put me on the ground and beat me till I am breaking. I am sick and must lie at full length; they carry me in a car, meanwhile serving men steal my mantle and escape with it.

"So change thy mind, O scribe, about the happiness of officers." [Authentic]

Thus sang the brave Eunana; and his tearful song has outlived the Egyptian kingdom.


AS the suite of the heir approached Memphis, the sun was near its setting, while from countless canals and the distant sea came a wind filled with cool moisture. The road descended again to the fertile region, where on fields and among bushes continuous ranks of people were working, a rosy gleam was falling on the desert, and the mountain summits were in a blaze of sunlight.

Ramses halted and turned his horse. His suite surrounded him quickly, the higher officers approached with some leisure, while the marching regiments drew nearer slowly and with even tread. In the purple rays of the setting sun, the prince had the seeming of a divinity, the soldiers gazed at him with affection and pride, the chiefs looked admiringly.

He raised his hand. All were silent.

"Worthy leaders," began he, "brave officers, obedient soldiers! Today the gods have given me the pleasure of commanding you. Delight has filled my heart. And since it is my will that leaders, officers, and soldiers should share my happiness at all times, I assign one drachma to each soldier of those who have gone to the east, and to those who return with us from the eastern boundary; also one drachma each to the Greek soldiers who today, under my command, opened a passage out of the ravine; and one drachma to each man in the regiments of the worthy Nitager who wished to cut off the way to us."

There was a shout in the army.

"Be well, our leader! Be well, successor of the pharaoh, may he live eternally!" cried the soldiers; and the Greeks cried the loudest.

The prince continued,

"I assign five talents to be divided among the lower officers of my army and that of the worthy Nitager. And finally I assign ten talents to be divided between his worthiness the minister and the chief leaders."

"I yield ray part for the benefit of the army," answered Herhor.

"Be well, O heir! be well, O minister!" cried the officers and the soldiers.

The ruddy circle of the sun had touched the sands of the western desert. Ramses took farewell of the army and galloped towards Memphis; but his worthiness Herhor, amid joyous shouts, took a seat in his litter and commanded also to go in advance of the marching divisions.

When they had gone so far that single voices were merged into one immense murmur, like the sound of a cataract, the minister, bending toward the secretary, asked of him,

"Dost Thou remember everything?"

"Yes, worthy lord."

"Thy memory is like granite on which we write history, and thy wisdom like the Nile, which covers all the country and enriches it," said Herhor. "Besides, the gods have granted thee the greatest of virtues, wise obedience."

The secretary was silent.

"Hence Thou mayest estimate more accurately than others the acts and reasons of the heir, may he live through eternity!"

The minister stopped awhile, and then added,

"It has not been his custom to speak so much. Tell me then, Pentuer, and record this: Is it proper that the heir to the throne should express his will before the army? Only a pharaoh may act thus, or a traitor, or a frivolous stripling, who with the same heedlessness will do hasty deeds or belch forth words of blasphemy."

The sun went down, and soon after a starry night appeared. Above the countless canals of Lower Egypt a silvery mist began to thicken, a mist which, borne to the desert by a gentle wind, freshened the wearied warriors, and revived vegetation which had been dying through lack of moisture.

"Or tell me, Pentuer," continued the minister, "and inquire: whence will the heir get his twenty talents to keep the promise which he made this day to the army with such improvidence? Besides, it seems to me, and certainly to thee, a dangerous step for an heir to make presents to the army, especially now, when his holiness has nothing with which to pay Nitager's regiments returning from the Orient. I do not ask what thy opinions are, for I know them, as Thou knowest my most secret thoughts. I only ask thee to the end that Thou remember what Thou hast seen, so as to tell it to the priests in council."

"Will they meet soon?" inquired Pentuer.

"There is no reason yet to summon them. I shall try first to calm this wild young bull through the fatherly hand of his holiness. It would be a pity to lose the boy, for he has much ability and the energy of a southern whirlwind. But if the whirlwind, instead of blowing away Egypt's enemies, blows down its wheat and tears up its palm-trees!"

The minister stopped conversation, and his retinue vanished in the dark alley of trees which led to Memphis.

Meanwhile Ramses reached the palace of the pharaoh.

This edifice stood on an elevation in a park outside the city. Peculiar trees grew there: baobabs from the south; pines, oaks, and cedars from the north. Thanks to the art of gardeners, these trees lived some tens of years and reached a considerable height.

The shady alley led to a gate which was as high as a house of three stories. From each side of the gate rose a solid building like a tower in the form of a truncated pyramid, forty yards in width with the height of five stories. In the night they seemed like two immense tents made of sandstone. These peculiar buildings had on the ground and the upper stories square windows, and the roofs were flat. From the top of one of these pyramids without apex, a watch looked at the country; from the other the priest on duty observed the stars.

At the right and left of these towers, called pylons, extended walls, or rather long structures of one story, with narrow windows and flat roofs, on which sentries paced back and forth. On both sides of the main gate were two sitting statues fifteen feet in height. In front of these statues moved other sentries.

When the prince, with a number of horsemen, approached the palace, the sentry knew him in spite of the darkness. Soon an official of the court ran out of the pylon. He was clothed in a white skirt and dark mantle, and wore a wig as large as a headdress.

"Is the palace closed already?" inquired the prince.

"Thou art speaking truth, worthy lord," said the official. "His holiness is preparing the god for sleep."

"What will he do after that?"

"He will be pleased to receive the war minister, Herhor."

"Well, and later?"

"Later his holiness will look at the ballet in the great hall, then he will bathe and recite evening prayers."

"Has he not commanded to receive me?" inquired Ramses.

"Tomorrow morning after the military council."

"What are the queens doing?"

"The first queen is praying in the chamber of her dead son, and thy worthy mother is receiving the Phoenician ambassador, who has brought her gifts from the women of Tyre."

"Did he bring maidens?"

"A number of them. Each has on her person treasures to the value of ten talents."

"Who is moving about down there with torches?" asked the prince, pointing to the lower park.

"They are taking thy brother, worthiness, from a tree where he has been sitting since midday."

"Is he unwilling to come down?"

"He will come down now, for the first queen's jester has gone for him, and has promised to take him to the inn where dissectors are drinking."

"And hast Thou heard anything of the maneuvers of today?"

"They say that the staff was cut off from the corps."

"And what more?"

The official hesitated.

"Tell what Thou hast heard."

"We heard, moreover, that because of this five hundred blows of a stick were given to a certain officer at thy command, worthiness."

"It is all a lie!" said one of the adjutants of the heir in an undertone.

"The soldiers, too, say among themselves that it must be a lie," returned the official, with growing confidence.

Ramses turned his horse and rode to the lower part of the park where his small palace was situated. It had a ground and an upper story and was built of wood. Its form was that of an immense hexagon with two porticos, an upper and a lower one which surrounded the building and rested on a multitude of pillars. Lamps were burning in the interior; hence it was possible to see that the walls were formed of planks perforated like lace, and that these walls were protected from the wind by curtains of various colors. The roof of the building was flat, surrounded by a balustrade; on this roof stood a number of tents.

Greeted heartily by half-naked servitors, some of whom ran out with torches, while others prostrated themselves before him, the heir entered his residence. On the ground floor he removed his dusty dress, bathed in a stone basin, and put on a kind of great sheet which he fastened at the neck and bound round his waist with a cord for a girdle. On the first floor he ate a supper consisting of a wheaten cake, dates, and a glass of light beer. Then he went to the terrace of the building, and lying on a couch covered with a lion skin, commanded the servants to withdraw and to bring up Tutmosis the moment he appeared there.

About midnight a litter stopped before the residence, and out of it stepped the adjutant. When he walked along the terrace heavily yawning as he went, the prince sprang up from the couch and cried,

"Art Thou here? Well, what?"

"Then art Thou not sleeping yet?" replied Tutmosis. "O gods, after so many days of torture! I think that I should sleep until sunrise."

"What of Sarah?"

"She will be here the day after to-morrow, or Thou wilt be with her in the house beyond the river."

"Only after to-morrow!"

"Only? I beg thee, Ramses, to sleep. Thou hast taken too much bad blood to thy heart, fire will strike to thy head."

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16     Next Part
Home - Random Browse