Ephraim nodded, and answered:
“You mean that death alone can stay you from obeying the summons of God, and your father’s command.”
“Ay, that was my meaning,” replied the chief. “If they ask why I did not slip away from Pharaoh and escape his power, say that Hosea desired to enter on his new office as a true man, unstained by perjury or, if it is the will of God, to die one. Now repeat the message.”
Ephraim obeyed; his uncle’s remarks must have sunk deep into his soul; for he neither forgot nor altered a single word. But scarcely had he performed the task of repetition when, with impetuous earnestness, he grasped Hosea’s hand and besought him to tell him whether he had any cause to fear for his life.
The warrior clasped him affectionately in his arms and answered that he hoped he had entrusted this message to him only to have it forgotten. “Perhaps,” he added, “they will strive to keep me by force, but by God’s help I shall soon be with you again, and we will ride to Succoth together.”
With these words he hurried out, unheeding the questions his nephew called after him; for he had heard the rattle of wheels outside. Two chariots, drawn by mettled steeds, rapidly approached the tent and stopped directly before the entrance.
The men who stepped from the chariots were old acquaintances of Hosea. They were the head chamberlain and one of the king’s chief scribes, come to summon him to the Sublime Porte.
[Palace of the king. The name
of Pharaoh means “the Sublime
No hesitation nor escape was possible, and Hosea, feeling more surprise than anxiety, entered the second chariot with the chief scribe. Both officials wore mourning robes, and instead of the white ostrich plume, the insignia of office, black ones waved over the temples of both. The horses and runners of the two-wheeled chariots were also decked with all the emblems of the deepest woe. And yet the monarch’s messengers seemed cheerful rather than depressed; for the eagle they were to bear to Pharaoh was ready to obey his behest, and they had feared that they would find his eyrie abandoned.
Swift as the wind the long-limbed bays of royal breed bore the light vehicles over the uneven sandy road and the smooth highway toward the palace.
Ephraim, with the curiosity of youth, had gone out of the tent to view a scene so novel to his eyes. The soldiers were pleased by the Pharaoh’s sending his own carriage for their commander, and the lad’s vanity was flattered to see his uncle drive away in such state. But he was not permitted the pleasure of watching him long; dense clouds of dust soon hid the vehicles.