“Have you ever seen these ghosts, Palka?”
“Yes, once I saw one of them. It was about two months ago that I passed the mouth of the valley after moonrise, for I had been kept out late searching for a kid which was lost. Thinking that it might be in the valley, I peered up it. As I was looking, from round a great rock glided a ghost. She stood still, with the moonlight shining on her, and gazed towards the Nile. I, too, stood still in the shadow, thirty or forty paces away. Then she threw up her arms as though in despair, turned and vanished.”
“She!” I said, then checked myself and asked indifferently: “Well, what was the fashion of this ghost?”
“So far as I could see that of a young and beautiful woman, wearing such clothes as we find upon the ancient dead, only wrapped more loosely about her.”
“Had she aught upon her head, Palka?”
“Yes, a band of gold or a crown set upon her hair, and about her neck what seemed to be a necklace of green and gold, for the moonlight flashed upon it. It was much such a necklace as you wear beneath your robe, Hodur.”
“And pray how do you know what I wear, Palka?” I asked.
“By means of what you lack, poor man, the eyes in my head. One night when you were asleep I had need to pass through your chamber to reach another beyond. You had thrown off your outer garment because of the heat, and I saw the necklace. Also I saw a great red sword lying by your side and noted on your bare breast sundry scars, such as hunters and soldiers come by. All of these things, Hodur, I thought strange, seeing that I know you to be nothing but a poor blind beggar who gains his bread by his skill upon the harp.”
“There are beggars who were not always beggars, Palka,” I said slowly.
“Quite so, Hodur, and there are great men and rich who sometimes appear to be beggars, and—many other things. Still, have no fear that we shall steal your necklace or talk about the red sword or the gold with which your niece Hilda weights her garments. Poor girl, she has all the ways of a fine lady, one who has known Courts, as I think you said was the case. It must be sad for her to have fallen so low. Still, have no fear, Hodur,” and she took my hand and pressed it in a certain secret fashion which was practised among the persecuted Christians in the East when they would reveal themselves to each other. Then she went away laughing.
As for me, I sought Martina, who had been sleeping through the heat, and told her everything.
“Well,” she said when I had finished, “you should give thanks to God, Olaf, since without doubt this ghost is the lady Heliodore. So should Jodd,” I heard her add beneath her breath, for in my blindness my ears had grown very quick.
THE VALLEY OF THE DEAD KINGS