“Then I will throw my spell upon you, and your senses shall leave you and you shall fall headlong to that white line, which is a street, and before to-morrow morning the dogs will have picked your broken bones, so that none can know you, for you have heard too much to go hence alive unless it be to do my bidding. Oh, no! Think not to say ‘I will’ and afterwards deceive me, for that image which you take with you is my servant, and will keep watch on you and make report to me and to the god, its master. Now choose.”
“I will obey,” said Merytra faintly, and as she spoke she thought that she heard a laugh in the air outside the window.
“Good. Now hide the box beneath your cloak and drop it not, for if so that which is within will call aloud after you, and they will kill you for a sorceress. Unless my word come to you, lay the figure in Pharaoh’s bed to-morrow evening, and at the hour of moonrise hold its limbs in the flame in your own chamber, and hide it away, and afterwards bring it back to me that I may enchant it afresh, if there be any need. Now come, and I will guard you to the gates of the old temple of Sekhet, where Pharaoh dwells.”
THE DOOM OF PHARAOH
On the morrow when the lady Asti came to dress the Queen for that day’s ceremony, she asked her if Amen had given her the wisdom that she sought.
“Not so,” answered the young Queen, “all he gave me was very bad dreams, and in every one of them was mixed up that waiting woman of my father, Merytra, of whom you spoke to me. If I believed in omens I should say that she was about to bring some evil upon our House.”
“It may well be so, Queen,” answered Asti, “and in that case I think that she is at the work. At any rate, watching from the little window of my room, by the light of the moon I saw her return across the temple court at midnight. Moreover, it seemed to me that she was carrying something beneath her robe.”
“Whence did she return?”
“From the city, I suppose. She has Pharaoh’s pass, and can go in and out when she will. I have caused Mermes to question the officer of the guard, and he says that she came to the gate accompanied by a tall man wrapped in a dark cloak, who spoke with her earnestly, and left her. From this description I think it must have been the astrologer, Kaku, with whom she was talking at the feast.”
“That is bad news, Nurse. What else have you to tell?”
“Only this, Queen. The gates are guarded more closely even than we thought. I tried to send out a man to Thebes this morning with a message on my own account—never mind what it was—and the sentries turned him back.”
“By the gods!” exclaimed Tua, “before I have reigned a year every gate in Memphis shall be melted down for cooking vessels, and I will set their captains to work in the desert mines. Nay, such threats are foolishness, I’ll not threaten, I’ll strike when the time comes, but that is not yet. Can I speak with the Pharaoh?”