Meneptah frowned with perplexity. But while he pondered, Ta-user drew near to him and said to him very softly:
“If his words be true, O my Sovereign, one lovely Israelite is as serviceable as another. The young man loves this maiden. Doubt it not! He is a worthy off-spring of that noble sire, Mentu. If he offended, he hath suffered sufficiently. Let him go, I pray thee.”
“It is my word against her surmises, O Meneptah,” Har-hat insisted.
The king frowned more and stroked his cheek.
“Thine anger should be abated by this time, Har-hat,” he said feebly.
“His rebellion is not yet broken. I have not the slave yet,” the fan-bearer retorted.
“Mayhap he is ready to surrender her now.”
“Not so!” the princess put in. “He hath endured eight months. If it were eight hundred years his silence would be the same. It is proof of my boast that he loves her. No man who would comfort his flesh alone would suffer such lengths of mortification of flesh! Let him go, my King, and give the clean-souled fan-bearer another Israelite for his daughter.”
“Why camest thou not sooner with this to the king?” Har-hat demanded.
“I have but this moment learned of it, and I could not leave the court without one last act for the good of the oppressed,” she replied.
“Have it thy way, Ta-user. Come to me in an hour,” Meneptah began.
“Nay, write it now.”
“Thou art insistent.”
“Thou didst promise,” she whispered, her face so close to his that the light from the facets of her emeralds turned on his cheek.
He took up his pen and wrote.
“Now promise that the signet shall go back to Mentu,” she continued.
“As thou wilt, Ta-user,” the king replied.
She caught up the roll, hesitated for a moment, and then kissed his cheek deliberately and was gone.
A moment later Har-hat overtook her in the hall.
“Hyena!” he exclaimed. “What is thy game?”
She laughed and shook the scroll in his face.
“It is my turn at the pawns now. Thou didst play between me and the crown. Now I shall harass thee for the joy of it. Thinkest thou I cared aught for the dreamer and his loves? Bah! I heard this tale eight months agone while I had naught to do but eavesdrop. Nay, it was but my one chance to vex thee.”
Again she laughed and ran away to the queen’s apartments.
“I am come to bid thee farewell,” she said, kneeling before the pale little woman who loved the king. The princess put up her face to be kissed.
“Not my lips!” she cried warningly. “They yet tingle with the kiss of Meneptah, thy husband. I would not have the ecstasy spoiled by another’s touch.”
The queen flushed and kissed the cheek.
“Farewell, and peace go with thee,” she said quietly.
The princess retained her composure until she reentered the hall. There she flung her arms above her head and laughed silently.