It was near sunset when a company of royal guards, under Menes, rode up from the north.
The captain flung himself from his horse and hurried to Masanath’s litter.
“Holy Isis! Lady Masanath,” he exclaimed; “where in all Egypt hast thou hidden thyself these fourteen days? The whole army of the north hath been searching after thee, and Rameses hath raved like a madman since that day long past on which thou shouldst have arrived in Tanis.”
“I have been on the way,” she answered loftily. “The haste of the prince is unseemly. I would not fatigue myself nor court disaster by incautiousness, these perilous days.”
Menes bowed. “I am reproved, and contrite. I forgot that I spoke with my queen. But I am most grateful that thou didst permit me to find thee, for Rameses sent me forth an hour since, with the hard alternative of fetching thee to him or losing my head. But that he was sure of my success is proved by the litter he sent between two horses for thee. Wilt thou leave this and proceed in the other?”
Masanath answered by extending her hand to him. Three of the soldiers laid their cloaks on the earth for her feet; six others let down the litter and Menes assisted her into the sumptuous conveyance Rameses had sent.
Another soldier, after rapid and low-spoken instructions from the captain, whirled his horse about, saluted and took the road toward Tanis at a gallop.
The six shouldered the litter of the crown princess-to-be, Menes mounted his horse and rode beside her; Unas, her Memphian train, and the riderless horses were left to bring up the rear, and Masanath continued to the capital.
“Perchance, thou hast been famished these fourteen days in the matter of court-gossip,” the captain said. “Wherefore I am come as thy informant with such news as thou shouldst know. For, being ignorant of the infelicities in the household of the king, it may be that thou wouldst ask after the little prince, Seti, and wherefore the queen appears no more at the side of the Pharaoh, nor speaks with thy lord nor sees thy noble father; and furthermore, where Ta-user hath taken herself and other things which would embarrass thee to hear answered openly.”
Masanath roused herself and prepared to listen. Serious words from the lips of the light-hearted captain were not common, and when he spoke in that manner it was time to take heed.
“I had heard of the little prince’s misfortune and of the treason of Ta-user and her party, and the placing of a price upon her head; but nothing more hath come to mine ears. Is there more, of a truth?”
“Remember, I pray thee,” the captain replied, riding near to her, “that I bring thee this for thine own sake—not for the love of tale-bearing. On the counsel of Rameses, this day the Pharaoh sentenced Seti to banishment for a year to the mines of Libya—”
“To the mines!” Masanath cried in horror.