“Come,” she said, “as you may have learned to-night, I also have some knowledge of the hidden things. For otherwise, why did the earth shake and the everlasting pillars fall at my bidding? Now, between two of a trade there should be no secrets, so I will tell you something that perhaps you have already guessed, since I am sure that you will not repeat it even to your master or to Merytra. For I will add this—that the moment you repeat it will be the moment of your death, and the beginning of that punishment which here I withhold. Now, in the Name of the Eater-up of Souls, listen to me, O fashioner of waxen images!” and, bending down, she whispered into his ear.
Another instant, and, stark horror written on his face, the tall shape of Kaku was seen reeling backward, like to a drunken man. Indeed, had not Abi caught him he would have fallen over the edge of the dais.
“What did she tell you?” he muttered, for the Queen, who seemed to have forgotten all about him, was looking the other way.
But, making no answer, Kaku wrenched himself free and fled the place.
ABI LEARNS THE TRUTH
A moon had gone by, and on the first day of the new month Kaku the Vizier sat in the Hall of the Great Officers at Memphis, checking the public accounts of the city. It was not easy work, for during the past ten days twice these accounts had been sent back to him by the command of the Queen, or the Pharaoh as she called herself, with requests for information as to their items, and other awkward queries. Abi had overlooked such matters, recognising that a faithful servant was worthy of his hire—provided that he paid himself. But now it seemed that things were different, and that the amount received was the exact amount that had to be handed over to the Crown, neither more nor less. Well, there was a large discrepancy which must be made up from somewhere, or, in other words, from Kaku’s private store.
In a rage he caused the two head collectors of taxes to be brought before him, and as they would not pay, bade the executioners throw them down and beat them on the feet until they promised to produce the missing sums, most of which he himself had stolen.
Then, somewhat soothed, he retired from the hall into his own office, to find himself face to face with Abi, who was waiting for him. So changed was the Prince from his old, portly self, so aged and thin and miserable did he look, that in the dusk of that chamber Kaku failed to recognise him. Thinking that he was some suppliant, he began to revile him and order him to be gone. Then the fury of Abi broke out.
Rushing at him, he seized the astrologer by the beard and smote him on the ears, saying: “Dog, is it thus that you speak to your king? Well, on you at least I can revenge myself.”
“Pardon, your Majesty,” said Kaku, “I did not know you in these shadows. Your Majesty is changed of late.”