“It is her goodness and her grace that win, Rameses. If that be sorcery, let it prevail the world over. Give her freedom and save her spotlessness.”
“Har-hat shall not take her, I promise thee. I shall send her back to her place in the brick-fields.”
Masanath recoiled in horror. “To the brick-fields!” she cried. “Rachel to the brick-fields!”
“I have said. Her Israelitish spotlessness will be secure there, and the reduction of her charms will be the saving of Kenkenes.”
“Alas! what have I done?” she cried. “I am as fit for the brick-fields as Rachel. O, if thou but knew her, Rameses!”
“Nay, it is as well that I do not; she might bewitch me. And seeing that she is born of slaves, how shall she be pampered above her parents? Put the folly from thy mind, Masanath, and trouble me not concerning a single slave. Shall I let one go, seeing that I am holding the body at the sacrifice of Egypt?”
Great was Masanath’s distress to make her seize him so beseechingly.
“Turn not away, my Lord,” she begged. “See what havoc I have wrought for Rachel when I sought to help her. And behold the honesty of thy boast of love for me. My first boon and thou dost deny it!”
He laughed, and slipping an arm about her, pressed her to him.
“First am I a king—next a lover,” he said. “Thy prayer seeketh to come between me and my rule over the Israelites. Ask for something which hath naught to do with my scepter.”
“Surely if thou sendest her to the brick-fields Kenkenes will go into slavery with her,” she persisted, enduring his clasp in the hope that he might soften.
“Then it were time for the dreamer to be awakened by his prince.”
“Thou wilt not come between them!” she exclaimed.
“Nay, no need. Seven days of the lash and the sun of the slave-world will heal Kenkenes.”
“Thou shalt see!” Masanath declared, endeavoring to free herself. “And the gods judge thee for thy savage use of maidenhood!”
Again he laughed, and this time he kissed her in spite of her resistance.
“The gods judge me rather for this sweeter use of maidenhood,” he said. “Let them continue to prosper me in it and hasten the day of her willingness. Meanwhile,” he continued, still holding her, as if he enjoyed the mastery over her, “get thee back to thy sleep and put the thought of slaves out of thy mind. To-morrow thou settest thy feet in the path to the throne; to-morrow there will be ceremonies and prayers and blessings out of number; and to-morrow sunset thou art no longer betrothed but a bride! My bride! Go now, and be proud of me if thou canst not love me!”
He released her and, as he entered his apartments, lifted the curtain and stood for an instant looking back at her.
Masanath saw him through her despairing tears—strong, immovable, terrible—in his youth and his purposes and his capabilities.