“If I were wise,” said Abi, fingering the hilt of his sword as he spoke, “you would both of you retire for ever who know all the secret of my heart, and with a whisper could bring doom upon me.”
Now the pair looked at each other with frightened eyes, and, like his master, the captain began to play with his sword.
“Life is sweet to all men, Prince,” he said significantly, “and we have never given you cause to doubt us.”
“No,” answered Abi, “had it been otherwise I should have struck first and spoken afterwards. Only you must swear by the oath which may not be broken that in life or death no word of this shall pass your lips.”
So they swore, both of them, by the holy name of Osiris, the judge and the redeemer.
“Captain,” said Abi, “you have served me well. Your pay is doubled, and I confirm the promise that I made to you—should I ever rule yonder you shall be my general.”
While the soldier bowed his thanks, the prince said to Kaku,
“Master of the stars, my gold cup is yours. Is there aught else of mine that you desire?”
“That slave,” answered the learned man, “Merytra, whose ears you boxed just now——”
“How do you know that I boxed her ears?” asked Abi quickly. “Did the stars tell you that also? Well, I am tired of the sly hussy—take her. Soon I think she will box yours.”
But when Kaku sought Merytra to tell her the glad tidings that she was his, he could not find her.
Merytra had disappeared.
THE PROMISE OF THE GOD
It was morning at Thebes, and the great city glowed in the rays of the new-risen sun. In a royal barge sat Abi the prince, splendidly apparelled, and with him Kaku, his astrologer, his captain of the guard and three other of his officers, while in a second barge followed slaves who escorted two chiefs and some fair women captured in war, also the chests of salted heads and hands, offerings to Pharaoh.
The white-robed rowers bent to their oars, and the swift boat shot forward up the Nile through a double line of ships of war, all of them crowded with soldiers. Abi looked at these ships which Pharaoh had gathered there to meet him, and thought to himself that Kaku had given wise counsel when he prayed him to attempt no rash deed, for against such surprises clearly Pharaoh was well prepared. He thought it again when on reaching the quay of cut stones he saw foot and horse-men marshalled there in companies and squadrons, and on the walls above hundreds of other men, all armed, for now he saw what would have happened to him, if with his little desperate band he had tried to pierce that iron ring of watching soldiers.