“I too think it would have been better if your Highness had left him to be dealt with by the soldiers, after which there would have been nothing to fear from him in this world.”
“Well, I did not, so there’s an end. Ana, she is a fair woman and a sweet.”
“The fairest and the sweetest that ever I saw, my Prince.”
“Be careful, Ana. I pray you be careful, lest you should fall in love with one who is already affianced.”
I only looked at him in answer, and as I looked I bethought me of the words of Ki the Magician. So, I think, did the Prince; at least he laughed not unhappily and turned away.
For my part I rested ill that night, and when at last I slept, it was to dream of Merapi making her prayer in the rays of the moon.
Eight full days went by before we left the land of Goshen. The story that the Israelites had to tell was long, sad also. Moreover, they gave evidence as to many cruel things that they had suffered, and when this was finished the testimony of the guards and others must be called, all of which it was necessary to write down. Lastly, the Prince seemed to be in no hurry to be gone, as he said because he hoped that the two prophets would return from the wilderness, which they never did. During all this time Seti saw no more of Merapi, nor indeed did he speak of her, even when the Count Amenmeses jested him as to his chariot companion and asked him if he had driven again in the desert by moonlight.
I, however, saw her once. When I was wandering in the town one day towards sunset, I met her walking with her uncle Jabez upon one side and her lover, Laban, on the other, like a prisoner between two guards. I thought she looked unhappy, but her foot seemed to be well again; at least she moved without limping.
I stopped to salute her, but Laban scowled and hurried her away. Jabez stayed behind and fell into talk with me. He told me that she was recovered of her hurt, but that there had been trouble between her and Laban because of all that happened on that evening when she came by it, ending in his encounter with the captain.
“This young man seems to be of a jealous nature,” I said, “one who will make a harsh husband for any woman.”
“Yes, learned scribe, jealousy has been his curse from youth as it is with so many of our people, and I thank God that I am not the woman whom he is to marry.”
“Why, then, do you suffer her to marry him, Jabez?”
“Because her father affianced her to this lion’s whelp when she was scarce more than a child, and among us that is a bond hard to break. For my own part,” he added, dropping his voice, and glancing round with shifting eyes, “I should like to see my niece in some different place to that of the wife of Laban. With her great beauty and wit, she might become anything—anything if she had opportunity. But under our laws, even if Laban died, as might happen to so violent a man, she could wed no one who is not a Hebrew.”