Of the first of these Userti warned me by a messenger, but the second and worse Ki discovered in some strange way, so that the murderer was trapped at the gate and killed by the watchman, whereon Seti said that after all he had been wise to give hospitality to Ki, that is, if to continue to live were wisdom. The lady Merapi also said as much to me, but I noted that always she shunned Ki, whom she held in mistrust and fear.
THE NIGHT OF FEAR
Then came the hail, and some months after the hail the locusts, and Egypt went mad with woe and terror. It was known to us, for with Ki and Bakenkhonsu in the palace we knew everything, that the Hebrew prophets had promised this hail because Pharaoh would not listen to them. Therefore Seti caused it to be put about through all the land that the Egyptians should shelter their cattle, or such as were left to them, at the first sign of storm. But Pharaoh heard of it and issued a proclamation that this was not to be done, inasmuch as it would be an insult to the gods of Egypt. Still many did so and these saved their cattle. It was strange to see that wall of jagged ice stretching from earth to heaven and destroying all upon which it fell. The tall date-palms were stripped even of their bark; the soil was churned up; men and beasts if caught abroad were slain or shattered.
I stood at the gate and watched it. There, not a yard away, fell the white hail, turning the world to wreck, while here within the gate there was not a single stone. Merapi watched also, and presently came Ki as well, and with him Bakenkhonsu, who for once had never seen anything like this in all his long life. But Ki watched Merapi more than he did the hail, for I saw him searching out her very soul with those merciless eyes of his.
“Lady,” he said at length, “tell your servant, I beseech you, how you do this thing?” and he pointed first to the trees and flowers within the gate and then to the wreck without.
At first I thought that she had not heard him because of the roar of the hail, for she stepped forward and opened the side wicket to admit a poor jackal that was scratching at the bars. Still this was not so, for presently she turned and said:
“Does the Kherheb, the greatest magician in Egypt, ask an unlearned woman to teach him of marvels? Well, Ki, I cannot, because I neither do it nor know how it is done.”
Bakenkhonsu laughed, and Ki’s painted smile grew as it were brighter than before.
“That is not what they say in the land of Goshen, Lady,” he answered, “and not what the Hebrew women say here in Memphis. Nor is it what the priests of Amon say. These declare that you have more magic than all the sorcerers of the Nile. Here is the proof of it,” and he pointed to the ruin without and the peace within, adding, “Lady, if you can protect your own home, why cannot you protect the innocent people of Egypt?”