She was not dealing with Seti, or Siptah, or any other whom she had bewitched. There was no spell in the topaz eyes for Rameses. If her sorcery affected him at all, it won no more than a cursory interest in her next move.
“The night is too short to recount my reasons,” he replied calmly, as he put her arms away. “But I might point out the snarling cur, Siptah, for one, and a few other comely lords of Egypt.”
“What hast thou done in thy life?” she cried. “I am no more wicked than thou; thou hast found delight in others beside whom I am all innocence.”
“It may be. Who knows but there is somewhat of the vulture-nostril in man, tickled with a vague taint? But, even then, the sense is fleeting, more or less as the natures of men vary. A man hath his better moments, and how shall they be entirely pure in the presence of shame? Nay, I would not mate and live for ever with mine own sins.”
“Then as thou dost permit her spotlessness to cover her hate, let my love for thee hide my sins. From the first I have loved thee unasked. She is all unwon.”
“Thou hast said it. She is unwon. But doth the lion prey upon the carcass? Nay. His kill must be fresh and slain by his own might. Thou didst stultify thyself by thine instant acquiescence. Come, let us make an end to this. The more said the more thou shalt have of which to accuse thyself hereafter.”
But she dropped before him, her white robes cumbering his path, her arms clasping his knees.
“What more have I to do of which to accuse myself, O Rameses? Egypt knows why I came to court. Egypt will know why I shall leave it. What have I not offered and what hast thou given me? Where shall I find that refuge from the pitying smile of the nation? Spare my womanhood—”
“Ah, fie upon thy pretense, Ta-user! Art thou not shrewd enough to know how well I understand thee? Thou dost not love me. No woman who loves pleads beyond the first rebuff. Love is full of dudgeon. Thou dost betray thyself in thy very insistence. Thou beggest for the crown I shall wear, and if I were over-thrown to-morrow thou wouldst kneel likewise to mine enemy. Thou hast no womanhood to lose in Egypt’s sight. As thy caprice turned from Siptah to me, let it return thee to Siptah once again. And if thy heart doth in truth wince with jealousy, think on Io.”
He undid her arms, flung her from him and disappeared into the dark.
Masanath, suffocating with wrath and rebellion and overpowered with an exaggerated appreciation of her shame, tumbled down in the shadows of the narrow passage and wrapped her mantle around her head.
When she had wept till the creamy linen over her small face was wet and her throat hurt under the strain of angry sobs, and until she was sure that Rameses was gone, she picked herself up and went cautiously to the end of the passage to reconnoiter.