What were the words of that song none could ever remember, but to every man there present it opened a door in his heart, and brought back the knowledge of youth. She whom he had loved best danced before him, her tender hands caressed him; the words she sang were sighs which the dead had whispered in his ears. Even to Abi, old, unwieldy and steeped in cunning, these soft visions came, although it is true that it seemed to him that this lovely singer led him to a precipice, and that when she ceased her song and appeared to vanish, to seek her he leapt into the clouds that rushed beneath.
Now the dance was done, and the last echoes of the music died away against the ancient walls whence the images of Sekhet the cat-headed watched them with her cruel smile of vengeance. The dance was done, and the beautiful dancer stood before them unflushed, unheated, but laughing gently.
“Now go, divine Prince,” she said, “and you his followers, go, all of you, and leave me to my lonely house, until Pharaoh sends for me to share that new realm which he inherits beyond the West.”
But they would not go and could not if they would, for some power bound them to her, while, as for Abi he scarce could take his eyes from her, but heedless of who heard them, babbled out his passion at her feet, while the rest glowered on him jealously. She listened always smiling that same smile that was so sweet, yet so inhuman. Then when he stopped exhausted, at last she spoke, saying:
“What! do you love now more greatly than you fear, as the divine Prince of Kesh loved after Amen’s Star had sung to him. May your fate be happier, O noble Abi, but that, since it is not lawful that I should tell it to you, you shall discover. Abi, there shall be a royal marriage in Memphis of such joy and feasting as has not been known in the history of the Northern or the Southern Land, and for your allotted span you shall sit by the side of Egypt’s Queen and shine in her light. Have you not earned the place by right of blood, O conqueror of Pharaoh, and did not Pharaoh promise it to you in your sleep? Come, the sun of this new day shines, let us walk in it, and bid farewell to shadows.”
THE ROYAL MARRIAGE
A strange rumour ran through Memphis. It was said that the Queen had yielded; it was said that she would marry the Prince Abi, that she was already at the great White House waiting to be made a bride. Men wrangled about in the streets. They swore that it could not be true, for would this high lady, the anointed Pharaoh of Egypt, take her father’s murderer, and her own uncle to husband? Would she not rather die in her prison tower on which night by night they had seen her stand and sing? In their hearts they thought that she should die, for thus they had summed her up, this pure, high-hearted daughter of Amen, whom Fate had caught in an evil net. Yes, being men they held that she ought to die, and leave a story in the world, whereof Egypt could be proud for ever.