“Is this then thy final resolve? Can I expect no satisfaction?”
“None. I abide by what I have said.”
“Then tremble, not alone before Phanes, but before another—before one who holds thee in his power, and who himself is in ours.”
“Thou thinkest to alarm me; thou wouldst rend the bond formed only yesterday? Psamtik, Psamtik, I counsel thee to remember, that thou standest before thy father and thy king.”
“And thou, forget not that I am thy son! If thou compell’st me to forget that the gods appointed thee to be my father—if I can hope for no help from thee, then I will resort to my own weapons.”
“I am curious to learn what these may be.”
“And I need not conceal them. Know then that the oculist Nebenchari is in our power.”
Amasis turned pale.
“Before thou couldst possibly imagine that Cambyses would sue for the hand of thy daughter, thou sentest this man to the distant realm of Persia, in order to rid thyself of one who shared thy knowledge of the real descent of my, so-called, sister Nitetis. He is still there, and at a hint from the priests will disclose to Cambyses that he has been deceived, and that thou hast ventured to send him, instead of thine own, the child of thy dethroned predecessor Hophra. All Nebenchari’s papers are in our possession, the most important being a letter in thine own hand promising his father, who assisted at Nitetis’ birth, a thousand gold rings, as an inducement to secrecy even from the priests.”
“In whose hands are these papers?” asked Amasis in a freezing tone.
“In the hands of the priesthood.”
“Who speak by thy mouth?”
“Thou hast said it.”
“Repeat then thy requests.”
“Entreat Cambyses to punish Gyges, and grant me free powers to pursue the escaped Phanes as it shall seem good in mine eyes.”
“Is that all?”
“Bind thyself by a solemn oath to the priests, that the Greeks shall be prevented from erecting any more temples to their false gods in Egypt, and that the building of the temple to Apollo, in Memphis, shall be discontinued.”
“I expected these demands. The priests have discovered a sharp weapon to wield against me. Well, I am prepared to yield to the wishes of my enemies, with whom thou hast leagued thyself, but only on two conditions. First, I insist that the letter, which I confess to have written to the father of Nebenchari in a moment of inconsideration, be restored to me. If left in the hands of thy party, it could reduce me from a king to the contemptible slave of priestly intrigue.”
“That wish is reasonable. The letter shall be returned to thee, if. . . . "