The point was to secure Hosea’s services in the army at any cost, so he laid his hand on his friend’s shoulder, saying:
“You know that it was my wife who won you and others over to our cause. She serves us better and more eagerly than many a man, and while I appreciate your daughter’s beauty, she never tires of lauding the winning charm of her innocence.”
“And Kasana is to take part in the plot?” cried the soldier angrily.
“Not as an active worker, like my wife,—certainly not.”
“She would be ill-suited to such a task,” replied the other in a calmer tone, “she is scarcely more than a child.”
“Yet through her aid we might bring to our cause a man whose good-will seems to me priceless.”
“You mean Hosea?” asked the captain, his brow darkening again, but the prophet added:
“And if I do? Is he still a real Hebrew? Can you deem it unworthy the daughter of a distinguished warrior to bestow her band on a man who, if our plans prosper, will be commander-in-chief of all the troops in the land?”
“No, my lord!” cried Hornecht. “But one of my motives for rebelling against Pharaoh and upholding Siptah is that the king’s mother was a foreigner, while our own blood courses through Siptah’s veins. The mother decides the race to which a man belongs, and Hosea’s mother was a Hebrew woman. He is my friend, I value his talents; Kasana likes him. . . .”
“Yet you desire a more distinguished son-in-law?” interrupted his companion. “How is our arduous enterprise to prosper, if those who are to peril their lives for its success consider the first sacrifice too great? You say that your daughter favors Hosea?”
“Yes, she did care for him,” the soldier answered; “yes, he was her heart’s desire. But I compelled her to obey me, and now that she is a widow, am I to give her to the man whom—the gods alone know with how much difficulty—I forced her to resign? When was such an act heard of in Egypt?”
“Ever since the men and women who dwell by the Nile have submitted, for the sake of a great cause, to demands opposed to their wishes,” replied the priest.
“Consider all this, and remember that Hosea’s ancestress—he boasted of it in your own presence—was an Egyptian, the daughter of a man of my own class.”
“How many generations have passed to the tomb since?”
“No matter! It brings us into closer relations with him. That must suffice. Farewell until this evening. Meanwhile, will you extend your hospitality to Hosea’s nephew and commend him to your fair daughter’s nursing; he seems in sore need of care.”
The house of Hornecht, like nearly every other dwelling in the city, was the scene of the deepest mourning. The men had shaved their hair, and the women had put dust on their foreheads. The archer’s wife had died long before, but his daughter and her women received him with waving veils and loud lamentations; for the astrologer, his brother-in-law, had lost both his first-born son and his grandson, and the plague had snatched its victims from the homes of many a friend.