The Wanderer's Necklace eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 285 pages of information about The Wanderer's Necklace.

“It seems that you are more interested than your niece, who has never spoken a word to me concerning her,” answered Palka.  “Well, since you are a man, I should not have thought this strange, had you not been blind, for they say she was the most beautiful woman in Egypt.  As for her fate, you must ask God, since none know it.  When the army of Musa was encamped yonder by the Nile my husband, Marcus, who had taken two donkey-loads of forage for sale to the camp and was returning by moonlight, saw her run past him, a red knife in her hand, her face set towards the Gateway of the Kings.  After that he saw her no more, nor did anyone else, although they hunted long enough, even in the tombs, which the Moslems, like our people, fear to visit.  Doubtless she fell or threw herself into some hole in the rocks; or perhaps the wild beasts ate her.  Better so than that a child of the old Pharaohs should become the woman of an infidel.”

“Yes,” I answered, “better so.  But why do folk fear to visit those tombs of which you speak, Palka?”

“Why?  Because they are haunted, that is all, and even the bravest dread the sight of a ghost.  How could they be otherwise than haunted, seeing that yonder valley is sown with the mighty dead like a field with corn?”

“Yet the dead sleep quietly enough, Palka.”

“Aye, the common dead, Hodur; but not these kings and queens and princes, who, being gods of a kind, cannot die.  It is said that they hold their revels yonder at night with songs and wild laughter, and that those who look upon them come to an evil end within a year.  Whether this be so I cannot say, since for many years none have dared to visit that place at night.  Yet that they eat I know well enough.”

“How do you know, Palka?”

“For a good reason.  With the others in this village I supply the offerings of their food.  The story runs that once the great building, of which this house is a part, was a college of heathen priests whose duty it was to make offerings to the dead in the royal tombs.  When the Christians came, those priests were driven away, but we of Kurna who live in their house still make the offerings.  If we did not, misfortune would overtake us, as indeed has always happened if they were forgotten or neglected.  It is the rent that we pay to the ghosts of the kings.  Twice a week we pay it, setting food and milk and water upon a certain stone near to the mouth of the valley.”

“Then what happens, Palka?”

“Nothing, except that the offering is taken.”

“By beggar folk, or perchance by wild creatures!”

“Would beggar folk dare to enter that place of death?” she answered with contempt.  “Or would wild beasts take the food and pile the dishes neatly together and replace the flat stones on the mouths of the jars of milk and water, as a housewife might?  Oh! do not laugh.  Of late this has always been done, as I who often fetch the vessels know well.”

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The Wanderer's Necklace from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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