“I am not thy sister.”
“What! Hast quarreled with the gentle Seti?”
“Rameses, do not mock me. Seti does not even stir my pulses. He could not rob me of my peace.”
“What temperate love! Mine makes my temples crack and fills mine hours with sweet distress.”
Ta-user looked at him for a moment, then raising her hands, caught the folds of his robe over his breast.
“Rameses, how far wilt thou go in this trifling with the Lady Masanath?”
“To the marrying priests.” Without looking at her, he loosed her hands, swung them idly and let them go.
“She does not love thee,” she said after a little silence.
“Thy news is old. She told me that not a moment since.”
Ta-user drew a freer breath. “Thou wilt not wed her, then.”
“That I will. I have vowed it. Go, Ta-user, the hour is late. Have thy woman stir a potion for thee, and sleep. I would to mine own dreams. They yield me what the day denies.”
“Stay, Rameses,” she urged, catching at his robes once more. “I would have thee know something. But am I to tell thee in words what I would have thee know? Surely I have not let slip a single chance to show thee by token. Art thou stubborn or blind, that thou dost not pity me and spare me the avowal?”
Rameses looked down at her upturned face without a softening line on his pallid countenance.
“Ta-user,” he said deliberately, “had I been mummied and entombed I should have known thine intent. I marvel that thou couldst think I had not seen. Now, hast thou not guessed my mind by this? Have I not been sufficiently explicit? Must I, too, lay bare my heart in words?”
She did not speak for a moment. Then she said eagerly:
“Let not thy jealousy trouble thee concerning Seti—he is naught to me—I love him not—a boy, no more.”
“Seti!” he exclaimed contemptuously. “I have no feeling against Seti save for his unfealty to the little child who loves him,—whose heart thou hast most deliberately broken.”
“Not so,” she declared vehemently. “I can not help the boy’s attachment to me. She is a child, as thou hast said, and is easily comforted. Not so with maturer hearts like mine.”
She put her arms about his neck, and flinging her head back, gazed at him with a heavy eye.
“O, wilt thou put me aside for Masanath? What is her little dark beauty compared to mine? How can she, who is not even a stately subject, be a stately queen? Wilt thou set the crown upon her unregal head, invest her with the royal robes, and yield thy homage to a scowl and a bitter word? And me, in whom there is no drop of unroyal blood, in whom there is all the passion of the southlands and all the fidelity of the north, thou wilt humiliate. The gods made me for thee—schooled me for thy needs and shifted the nation’s history so that thou shouldst have need of me. Look upon me, Rameses. Why wilt thou thrust me aside?”