“You are a poor butcher,” she said at length, “after so many years of practice. Let Kaku yonder try. I think he has more skill in murder.”
“Oh! your Majesty,” broke in the astrologer, “unsay those cruel words, you who know that rather than lift hands against you I would die a thousand times.”
“Yes,” she answered gravely, “the Prince Abi suggested it to you but now, did he not, after you had suggested it to him, and you refused—for your own reasons?”
Then the sword fell from Abi’s hand, and there was silence in that chamber.
“What were you talking of, Abi, before you peeped through the shutters and saw that captain of yours and me together in the garden, and why did you wish to kill this dog?” she went on presently. “Must I answer for you? You were talking of how you might be rid of me, and you wished to kill him because he did not dare to tell you why he could not do the deed, knowing that if he did so he must die. Well, since you desire to know, you shall learn, and now. Look on me, wretched Man, whom men name my husband. Look on me, accursed Slave, whom Amen has given into my hand to punish here upon the earth, until you pass to his yonder in the Under-world.”
He looked up, and Kaku looked also, because he could not help it, but what they saw they never told. Only they fell down upon their faces, both of them, and groaned; beating the floor with their foreheads.
At length the icy terror seemed to be lifted from their hearts, and they dared to glance up again, and saw that she was as she had been, a most royal and lovely woman, but no more.
“What are you?” gasped Abi. “The goddess Sekhet in the flesh, or Isis, Queen of Death, or but dead Tua’s ghost sent here for vengeance?”
“All of them, or none of them, as you will, though, Man, it is true that I am sent here for vengeance. Ask the Wizard yonder. He knows, and I give him leave to say.”
“She is the Double of Amen’s daughter,” moaned Kaku. “She is her Ka set free to bring doom upon those who would have wronged her. She is a ghost armed with the might of the gods, and all we who have sinned against dead Pharaoh and her and her father Amen are given into her hand to be tormented and brought to doom.”
“Where, then, is Neter-Tua, who was Queen of Egypt?” gasped Abi, rolling his great eyes. “Is she with Osiris?”
“I will tell you, Man,” answered the royal Shape. “She is not dead—she lives, and is gone to seek one she loves. When she returns with him and a certain Beggar, then I shall depart and you will die, both of you, for such is the punishment decreed upon you. Until then, arise and do my bidding.”
THE BOAT OF RA
Tua, Star of Amen, opened her eyes. For some time already she had lain as one lies between sleep and waking, and it seemed to her that she heard the sound of dipping oars, and of water that rippled gently against the sides of a ship. She thought to herself that she dreamed. Doubtless she was in her bed in the palace at Thebes, and presently, when it was light, her ladies would come to waken her.