With a bound she was between him and the door.
“If he ask tell him there is naught between me and the royal scribe, but send him not hither,” she commanded with vehemence.
“If thou art rebellious, Masanath, I must chasten thee.”
“Threaten me not!” she cried, thoroughly aroused, “or by the Mother of Heaven, I shall demand audience with Meneptah and tell him what thou wouldst do.”
“Bluster!” he answered with an irritating laugh.
“Hast won the sanction of the Pharaoh for this betrothal?” she demanded.
“Meneptah’s will is clay in my hands,” he replied contemptuously.
“Vex me further and I shall tell him that!”
He caught her arm, and though the fierce grasp pinched her, she knew by that she had gained a point.
“And further,” she continued, gathering courage at each word, “I shall ask him why thou shouldst be so anxious to keep the breach between him and his brother and defeat his aims at peace.”
His face blazed and he shook her, but she went on in wild triumph. “I have a confederate in Rameses. He loves thee not. And I have but to hint and ruin thee beyond the restoring power of the marriages of a thousand daughters!”
Har-hat’s forte had been polished insult, but when the evil in him would have expressed itself in its own brutal manner he was helpless.
“Hotep—Hotep—” he snarled.
The name was potent. Again she recoiled.
“I shall yield him up to Rameses,” he went on.
“And in that very hour thou dost, in that same hour will I charge thee with treason before the throne of Meneptah!” she returned recklessly.
The pair gazed at each other, breathless with temper.
“Wilt thou wed Rameses?” he demanded.
“So thou wilt avoid the name of Hotep in the presence of Rameses and wilt shield him as if his safety were to bring thee gain,” she replied, thrusting skilfully, “I will wed the prince in one year. Furthermore, in that time I shall be free to go where and when I please, to dwell where I please and to be vexed with the sight of thee or that royal monster no more than is my desire. Say, wilt thou accept?”
He had twitted her about her frank face. He could not tell now but that she was fearless and had measured her strength. He did not know that within she trembled and felt that her threats were empty. But, being guilty in his soul, and facing righteousness, Har-hat succumbed.
“Have it thy way, then, vixen,” he exclaimed; “but remember, I hold a heavy hand above thy head and Hotep’s!”
He strode out of her presence, and when she was sure he was gone, she fell on her face and wept miserably.
THE HEIR INTERVENES
At Tanis, the next day after the arrival of Meneptah, there came a messenger from Thebes to Hotep, and the royal scribe retired to his apartments to read the letter.