Meneptah’s eyes flashed, but again he controlled himself, and asked:
“If you should come to fill this place of mine, Prince Seti, tell us, here assembled, what policy will you pursue towards these Hebrews?”
“That policy, O Pharaoh, which I have counselled in the roll. If ever I fill the throne, I shall let them go whither they will, taking their goods with them.”
Now all those present stared at him and murmured. But Pharaoh rose, shaking with wrath. Seizing his robe where it was fastened at the breast, he rent it, and cried in a terrible voice:
“Hear him, ye gods of Egypt! Hear this son of mine who defies me to my face and would set your necks beneath the heel of a stranger god. Prince Seti, in the presence of these royal ones, and these my councillors, I——”
He said no more, for the Princess Userti, who till now had remained silent, ran to him, and throwing her arms about him, began to whisper in his ear. He hearkened to her, then sat himself down, and spoke again:
“The Princess brings it to my mind that this is a great matter, one not to be dealt with hastily. It may happen that when the Prince has taken counsel with her, and with his own heart, and perchance has sought the wisdom of the gods, he will change the words which have passed his lips. I command you, Prince, to wait upon me here at this same hour on the third day from this. Meanwhile, I command all present, upon pain of death, to say nothing of what has passed within these walls.”
“I hear Pharaoh,” said the Prince, bowing.
Meneptah rose to show that the Council was discharged, when the Vizier Nehesi approached him, and asked:
“What of the Hebrew prisoners, O Pharaoh, those murderers who were captured in the pass?”
“Their guilt is proved. Let them be beaten with rods till they die, and if they have wives or children, let them be seized and sold as slaves.”
“Pharaoh’s will be done!” said the Vizier.
THE SMITING OF AMON
That evening I sat ill at ease in my work-chamber in Seti’s palace, making pretence to write, I who felt that great evils threatened my lord the Prince, and knew not what to do to turn them from him. The door opened, and old Pambasa the chamberlain appeared and addressed me by my new titles, saying that the Hebrew lady Merapi, who had been my nurse in sickness, wished to speak with me. Presently she came and stood before me.
“Scribe Ana,” she said, “I have but just seen my uncle Jabez, who has come, or been sent, with a message to me,” and she hesitated.
“Why was he sent, Lady? To bring you news of Laban?”
“Not so. Laban has fled away and none know where he is, and Jabez has only escaped much trouble as the uncle of a traitress by undertaking this mission.”
“What is the mission?”