The prince stood under the single lamp in the great corridor, between her and the refuge of her chamber. Another was close to him, her hands upon his shoulders.
Masanath retired into the dusk and waited. When she looked again the hands were clasped about the prince’s neck. Back into the shadows she shrank, pressing her tiny palms together in a wild prayer for Ta-user’s triumph. After an interval she looked again in time to see Rameses undo the arms about his knees and fling the princess from him. Cold with dismay and shaking with her sudden descent from hope to despair, Masanath watched him disappear into the dark.
“O most ill-timed, iron continence!” she wailed under her breath. But the change which had come over Ta-user interested her immediately. Fascinated, she forgot to hide again, but the light of the single lamp did not penetrate to her position.
The princess kept the posture of abandoned humiliation, into which Rameses had flung her, until the heir’s footsteps died away up the corridor. Then she raised herself and faced the direction the prince had taken. Her lithe body bent a little, her rigid arms were thrust back of her, and the hands were clenched hard. Her head was forced forward, the long neck curved sinuously like a vulture’s. She began to speak in a whisper that hissed as though she breathed through her words. Masanath felt her flesh crawl and her soft hair take on life. Not all the words of the sorceress were intelligible. At first only her ejaculations were distinct.
“Puny knave!” Masanath heard. “Well for thee I do not love thee, else thou shouldst sleep this night in the reeking cave of a paraschite, with the whine of feeding flies about thee for dreams. Well for me that I do not love thee, for thine instant death would rob me of the long revenge that I would liefer have! Share thy crown with me! When Ta-user hath done with thee thou shalt have no crown to share! Turned from Siptah for thee! How thou wilt marvel when thou learnest that I never turned from Siptah nor wooed thee with a single glance but for Siptah’s sake. Go on! Sleep well! Have no regrets, for thy doom was spoken long before this night’s haughty work. Rather do I thank thee for thy scorn. It robs me of qualms and adds instead a dark delight in that which I shall do!”
She turned toward Masanath, walking swiftly. The fan-bearer’s daughter, stricken with panic, fled, nor paused until she had passed far beyond the chamber of Ta-user.
Cowering in a friendly niche, she waited until the princess had disappeared, and then only after a long time was she sufficiently reassured to reach her own apartments.
It was the next day’s noon before Masanath saw her father. Then he came with light step as she sat in her room. Approaching from behind her, he took her face between his hands, and tilting it back, kissed her.
“I give thee joy, Masanath. Thou hast melted the iron prince.”