“Hadst thou no thought at all?” she persisted.
“I merely pondered on mine own uselessness,” he answered.
“Nay, even thou must see it. I live on my father’s bounty; I accept my people’s homage; I adore the gods. I bear no arms; I neither prepare to reign nor expect to serve. I am a thing set above the healthy labor of the world and below the cares of the exalted. I am nothing.”
“Fie! I say.”
Seti looked at her reproachfully.
“Thou hast wealth,” she began and paused.
“Wherein doth that make me useful?”
“Much can be done with gold. Is there none in need?”
“None who asks has been denied. Yet what right have I to deal alms to them from whom my riches come? If I yielded up everything, to my very cloak, should I have done more than return to them what they have given me? I should still be a penniless prince, more useless than ever.” He sat down on the broad lintel capping the parapet, but retained her hand.
“Ta-user,” he continued, as she opened her lips to speak, “what wouldst thou have me do?”
“I would have thee be useful.”
“I shall throw away my lordly trappings,” he said, “and become a lifter of the shadoof this day.”
“Seti,” she said sternly, putting his hand away, “with thy people imperiled by the sorcery of a wizard, with thy realm desolated by the plagues of his sending, canst thou, on whom I have built so much, thus lightly consider thy uses and ignore the things set at thy very hand to do?”
The prince looked at her with not a little discomfiture showing on his young face. But the interrogation was emphatic, and she awaited an answer.
“I have no weight with my father,” he said soberly. “Thou knowest that Egypt will never have peace until the Hebrews depart. But I can not persuade my father to release them and I can not persuade the Israelite to content himself to stay. Thou dost demand much of me if thou dost demand of me the impossible.”
As much of contempt as it was wise to show glimmered in her eyes.
“And thou art at thy wits’ end?” she asked.
“A little way to go. Help me, Ta-user. Bear with me.”
She moved closer to him and absently smoothed down the fine locks, disordered by the wind. Presently she lifted his face and said with sudden impulsiveness:
“Dost, of a truth, believe everything that is told thee?”
“Am I over-credulous?” he asked.
“Thou art. Thou believest this Hebrew to be honest in his show of interest in his people?”
“I can not doubt him, Ta-user. One has but to see him to be convinced.”
“One has but to see him to know that he might be coaxed into passiveness with that for which an Israelite would sell his mummy—gold!”
“Nay! Nay!” Seti exclaimed. “Thou dost wrong him! He is the soul of misdirected zeal. His is an earnestness not to be frightened with death nor abated with bribes.”