The Cat Of Bubastes

THE CAT OF BUBASTES.
A TALE OF ANCIENT EGYPT.
BY G. A. HENTY,

_Author of “The Young Carthaginian,” “For the Temple,”
“In the Reign of Terror,” “Bonnie Prince Charlie,”
“In Freedom’s Cause,” etc., etc._

_FIVE PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. R. WEGUELIN._

NEW YORK:
THE F. M. LUPTON PUBLISHING COMPANY.

PREFACE.

My Dear Lads: Thanks to the care with which the Egyptians depicted
upon the walls of their sepulchers the minutest doings of their daily
life, to the dryness of the climate which has preserved these records
uninjured for so many thousand years, and to the indefatigable labor
of modern investigators, we know far more of the manners and customs
of the Egyptians, of their methods of work, their sports and
amusements, their public festivals, and domestic life, than we do of
those of peoples comparatively modern. My object in the present story
has been to give you as lively a picture as possible of that life,
drawn from the bulky pages of Sir J. Gardner Wilkinson and other
writers on the same subject. I have laid the scene in the time of
Thotmes III., one of the greatest of the Egyptian monarchs, being
surpassed only in glory and the extent of his conquests by Rameses the
Great. It is certain that Thotmes carried the arms of Egypt to the
shores of the Caspian, and a people named the Rebu, with fair hair and
blue eyes, were among those depicted in the Egyptian sculptures as
being conquered and made tributary. It is open to discussion whether
the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt took place in the reign of Thotmes
or many years subsequently, some authors assigning it to the time
of Rameses. Without attempting to enter into this much-discussed
question, I have assumed that the Israelites were still in Egypt at
the time of Thotmes, and by introducing Moses just at the time he
began to take up the cause of the people to whom he belonged, I leave
it to be inferred that the Exodus took place some forty years later. I
wish you to understand, however, that you are not to accept this date
as being absolutely correct. Opinions differ widely upon it; and as no
allusion whatever has been discovered either to the Exodus or to any
of the events which preceded it among the records of Egypt, there is
nothing to fix the date as occurring during the reign of any one among
the long line of Egyptian kings. The term Pharaoh used in the Bible
throws no light upon the subject, as Pharaoh simply means king, and
the name of no monarch bearing that appellation is to be found on the
Egyptian monuments. I have in no way exaggerated the consequences
arising from the slaying of the sacred cat, as the accidental killing
of any cat whatever was an offense punished by death throughout the
history of Egypt down to the time of the Roman connection with that
country.

Yours sincerely,
G. A. HENTY.

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. - The King of the Rebu

CHAPTER II. - The Siege of the City

CHAPTER III. - Captive

CHAPTER IV. - An Easy Servitude

CHAPTER V. - In Lower Egypt

CHAPTER VI. - Fowling and Fishing

CHAPTER VII. - Hippopotamus and Crocodile

CHAPTER VIII. - The Conspiracy in the Temple

CHAPTER IX. - A Startling Event

CHAPTER X. - The Cat of Bubastes

CHAPTER XI. - Dangers Thicken

CHAPTER XII. – The Death of Ameres

CHAPTER XIII. - The Search for Mysa

CHAPTER XIV. - A Prince of Egypt

CHAPTER XV. - Ameres is Revenged

CHAPTER XVI. - Up the Nile

CHAPTER XVII. - Out of Egypt

CHAPTER XVIII. - The Desert Journey

CHAPTER XIX. - Home at Last

CHAPTER XX. - The King of the Rebu

THE CAT OF BUBASTES.

CHAPTER I.

THE KING OF THE REBU.

The sun was blazing down upon a city on the western shore of the
Caspian. It was a primitive city, and yet its size and population
rendered it worthy of the term. It consisted of a vast aggregation of
buildings, which were for the most part mere huts. Among them rose,
however, a few of more solid build and of higher pretensions. These
were the abodes of the chiefs and great men, the temples, and places
of assembly. But although larger and more solidly built, these
buildings could lay no claim to architectural beauty of any kind, but
were little more than magnified huts, and even the king’s palace was
but a collection of such buildings closely adjoining each other.

The town was surrounded by a lofty wall with battlements and
loopholes, and a similar but higher wall girt in the dwellings of the
king and of his principal captains. The streets were alive with the
busy multitude; and it was evident that although in the arts of peace
the nation had made but little progress, they had in every thing
appertaining to war made great advances. Most of the men wore helmets
closely fitting to the head and surmounted by a spike. These were
for the most part composed of hammered brass, although some of the
headpieces were made of tough hide studded with knobs of metal. All
carried round shields–those of the soldiers, of leather stiffened
with metal; those of the captains, of brass, worked with considerable
elaboration.

In their belts all wore daggers, while at their backs were slung
quivers of iron; painted bows hung over one shoulder, and some had at
their waist a pouch of smooth flat stones and leather slings. Their
chief garment was a sort of kilt falling to the knee. Above the waist
some wore only a thin vest of white linen, others a garment not unlike
the nightgown of modern times, but with short sleeves. The kilt was
worn over this. Some had breastpieces of thick leather confined by
straps behind; while in the case of the officers the leather was
covered with small pieces of metal, forming a cuirass.

All carried two or three javelins in the left hand and a spear some
ten feet long in the right. Horsemen galloped about at full speed
to and from the royal palace, while occasionally chariots, drawn
sometimes by one, sometimes by two horses, dashed along. These
chariots were small, the wheels not exceeding three feet in height.
Between them was placed the body of the vehicle, which was but just
large enough for two men to stand on. It consisted only of a small
platform, with a semicircular rail running round the front some
eighteen inches above it. A close observer would have perceived at
once that not only were the males of the city upon the point of
marching out on a military expedition, but that it was no mere foray
against a neighboring people, but a war on which the safety of the
city depended.

Women were standing in tearful groups as they watched the soldiers
making toward the gates. The men themselves had a resolute and
determined look, but there was none of the light-hearted gayety among
them which betokened the expectation of success and triumph. Inside
the palace the bustle of preparation was as marked as without. The
king and his principal councilors and leaders were assembled in the
great circular hut which formed the audience-room and council-chamber.
Messengers arrived in close succession with news of the progress and
strength of the enemy, or with messages from the neighboring towns and
tribes as to the contingents they had furnished, and the time at which
these had set out to join the army.

The king himself was a tall and warlike figure, in the prime of life.
He had led his warriors on many successful expeditions far to the
west, and had repulsed with great loss the attempts of the Persians to
encroach upon his territory. Standing behind him was his son, Amuba, a
lad of some fifteen years of age. The king and his councilors, as well
as all the wealthier inhabitants of the city, wore, in addition to the
kilt and linen jacket, a long robe highly colored and ornamented with
fanciful devices and having a broad rich border. It was fastened at
the neck with a large brooch, fell loosely from the shoulders to the
ankles, and was open in front. The girdles which retained the kilts
and in which the daggers were worn were highly ornamented, and the
ends fell down in front and terminated in large tassels.

All wore a profusion of necklaces, bracelets, and other ornaments of
gold; many of the chiefs wore feathers in their helmets, and the
greater portion of all ranks had figures tattooed on their arms and
legs. They were fair in complexion, with blue eyes; their hair was for
the most part golden or red, and they wore their beards short and
pointed. The young Prince Amuba was attired for the field; his helmet
was of gold and his cuirass covered with plates of the same metal. He
listened with suppressed impatience to the arguments of his elders,
for he was eager to be off, this being the first time that he had been
permitted to take part in the military expeditions of his country.

After listening for some time and perceiving that there was no
prospect of the council breaking up, he retired to the large hut
adjoining the council-chamber. This served as the dwelling place of
the ladies and their family. It was divided into several apartments by
screens formed of hide sewn together and hidden from sight by colored
hangings. In one of these a lady was seated on a low couch covered
with panthers’ skins.

“They have not done talking yet, mother. It has been a question as to
where we shall assemble to give battle. It does not seem to me to make
much difference where we fight, but they seem to think that it is most
important; and of course they know more about it than I do. They have
fixed upon a place at last–it is about fifteen miles from here. They
say that the ground in front is marshy and can hardly be traversed by
the enemy’s chariots; but if they cannot get at us, it seems to me
that we cannot get at them. Messengers have been sent off to order all
the contingents to assemble at that spot. Six thousand men are to
remain behind to guard the city, but as we mean to beat them I do not
think there can be much occasion for that; for you think we shall beat
them–don’t you, mother?”

“I hope so, Amuba, but I am very fearful.”

“But we have several times repulsed them when they have invaded our
country, mother; why should we not do so this time?”

“They are much stronger than they have ever been before when they have
come against us, my boy, and their king is a great warrior who has
been successful in almost every enterprise he has undertaken.”

“I cannot think why he wants to conquer us, mother. They say the
riches of Egypt are immense and the splendor of their temples and
buildings such as we have no idea of. We have no quarrel with them if
they will but let us alone.”

“No country is so rich that it does not desire more, my son. We
have gold and are skilled in the working of it, and no doubt they
anticipate that they will capture much treasure in the land; besides,
as you say, their expeditions against the Rebu have been several times
repulsed, and therefore their monarch will reap all the greater honor
if he should defeat us. As to their having no quarrel with us, have we
not made many expeditions to the west, returning with captives and
much booty? And yet the people had no quarrel with us–many of them,
indeed, could scarcely have known us by name when our army appeared
among them. Some day, my son, things may be managed differently; but
at present kings who have power make war upon people that are weaker
than themselves, spoil them of their goods, and make slaves of them.

“I hope, Amuba, you will not expose yourself too much in the conflict.
You have not come to man’s strength yet; and remember you are my only
child. See that your charioteer covers you with his shield when you
have entered the battle, for the Egyptians are terrible as archers.
Their bows carry much further than do ours, and the arrows will pierce
even the strongest armor. Our spearmen have always shown themselves as
good as theirs–nay, better, for they are stronger in body and full of
courage. It is in the goodness of her archers and the multitude of her
chariots that the strength of Egypt lies. Remember that although your
father, as king, must needs go into the thick of the battle to
encourage his soldiers, there is no occasion why you, who are yet a
boy, should so expose yourself.

“It will doubtless be a terrible battle. The Egyptians have the memory
of past defeats to wipe out, and they will be fighting under the eye
of their king. I am terrified, Amuba. Hitherto when your father has
gone out to battle I have never doubted as to the result. The Persians
were not foes whom brave men need dread; nor was it difficult to force
the hordes passing us from the eastward toward the setting sun to
respect our country, for we had the advantage in arms and discipline.
But the Egyptians are terrible foes, and the arms of their king have
been everywhere victorious. My heart is filled with dread at the
thought of the approaching conflict, though I try to keep up a brave
face when your father is with me, for I would not that he should deem
me cowardly.”

“I trust, mother, that your fears are groundless, and I cannot think
that our men will give way when fighting for their homes and country
upon ground chosen by themselves.”

“I hope not, Amuba. But there is the trumpet sounding; it is the
signal that the council have broken up and that your father is about
to start. Bless you, my dear boy, and may you return safe and sound
from the conflict!”

The queen fondly embraced her son, who left the apartment hastily as
his father entered in order that the latter might not see the traces
of tears on his cheeks. A few minutes later the king, with his
captains, started from the palace. Most of them rode in chariots,
the rest on horseback. The town was quiet now and the streets almost
deserted. With the exception of the garrison, all the men capable of
bearing arms had gone forth; the women with anxious faces stood in
groups at their doors and watched the royal party as it drove out.

The charioteer of Amuba was a tall and powerful man; he carried a
shield far larger than was ordinarily used, and had been specially
selected by the king for the service. His orders were that he was not
to allow Amuba to rush into the front line of fighters, and that he
was even to disobey the orders of the prince if he wished to charge
into the ranks of the enemy.

“My son must not shirk danger,” his father said, “and he must needs go
well in the fight; but he is still but a boy, not fit to enter upon a
hand-to-hand contest with the picked warriors of Egypt. In time I hope
he will fight abreast of me, but at present you must restrain his
ardor. I need not bid you shield him as well as you can from the
arrows of the Egyptians. He is my eldest son, and if aught happens
to me he will be the king of the Rebu; and his life is therefore a
precious one.”

Half an hour later they came upon the tail of the stragglers making
their way to the front. The king stopped his chariot and sharply
reproved some of them for their delay in setting out, and urged them
to hasten on to the appointed place. In two hours the king arrived at
this spot, where already some forty thousand men were assembled. The
scouts who had been sent out reported that although the advance-guard
of the Egyptians might arrive in an hour’s time, the main body were
some distance behind and would not be up in time to attack before
dark.

This was welcome news, for before night the rest of the forces of the
Rebu, fully thirty thousand more, would have joined. The king at once
set out to examine the ground chosen by his general for the conflict.
It sloped gently down in front to a small stream which ran through
soft and marshy ground, and would oppose a formidable obstacle to the
passage of chariots. The right rested upon a dense wood, while a
village a mile and a half distant from the wood was held by the left
wing.

A causeway which led from this across the marsh had been broken up,
and heavy blocks of stone were scattered thickly upon it to impede the
passage of chariots. The archers were placed in front to harass the
enemy attempting to cross. Behind them were the spearmen in readiness
to advance and aid them if pressed. The chariots were on the higher
ground in the rear ready to dash in and join in the conflict should
the enemy succeed in forcing their way through the marsh.

The visit of inspection was scarcely finished when a cloud of dust was
seen rising over the plain. It approached rapidly. The flash of arms
could be seen in the sun, and presently a vast number of horses were
seen approaching in even line.

“Are they horsemen, father?” Amuba asked.

“No, they are chariots, Amuba. The Egyptians do not, like us, fight on
horseback, although there may be a few small bodies of horsemen with
the army; their strength lies in their chariots. See, they have
halted; they have perceived our ranks drawn up in order of battle.”

The chariots drew up in perfect line, and as the clouds of dust blew
away four lines of chariots could be made out ranged at a distance of
a hundred yards apart.

“There are about a thousand in each line,” the king said, “and this is
but their advance-guard. We have learned from fugitives that there are
fully fifteen thousand chariots with their army.”

“Is there no other place where they can pass this swamp, father?”

“Not so well as here, Amuba; the valley deepens further on, and the
passage would be far more difficult than here. Above, beyond the wood,
there is a lake of considerable extent, and beyond that the ground is
broken and unsuited for the action of chariots as far as the sea.
Besides, they have come to fight us, and the pride of their king
would not permit of their making a detour. See, there is some great
personage, probably the king himself, advancing beyond their ranks to
reconnoiter the ground.”

A chariot was indeed approaching the opposite brow of the depression;
there were two figures in it; by the side walked numerous figures,
who, although too far off to be distinguished, were judged to be the
attendants and courtiers of the king. The sun flashed from the side
of the chariot, which appeared at this distance to be composed of
burnished gold. Great fans carried on wands shaded the king from the
heat of the sun.

He drove slowly along the edge of the brow until he reached a point
opposite the wood, and then, turning, went the other way till he
reached the causeway which passed on through the village. After this
he rode back to the line of chariots and evidently gave a word of
command, for instantly the long line of figures seen above the horses
disappeared as the men stepped off the chariots to the ground. No
movement took place for an hour; then there was a sudden stir, and the
long lines broke up and wheeled round to the right and left, where
they took up their position in two solid masses.

“The main army are at hand,” the king said. “Do you see that great
cloud, ruddy in the setting sun? That is the dust raised by their
advance. In another hour they will be here, but by that time the sun
will have set, and assuredly they will not attack until morning.”

The front line were ordered to remain under arms for a time; the
others were told to fall out and prepare their food for the night. The
Egyptian army halted about a mile distant, and as soon as it was
evident that no further movement was intended, the whole of the
soldiers were ordered to fall out. A line of archers were placed along
the edge of the swamp, and ere long a party of Egyptian bowmen took up
their post along the opposite crest. Great fires were lighted, and a
number of oxen which had been driven forward in readiness were
slaughtered for food.

“If the Egyptians can see what is going on,” the king said to his son,
“they must be filled with fury, for they worship the oxen as among
their chief gods.”

“Is it possible, father, that they can believe that cattle are gods?”
Amuba asked in surprise.

“They do not exactly look upon them as gods, my son, but as sacred to
their gods. Similarly they reverence the cat, the ibis, and many other
creatures.”

“How strange!” Amuba said. “Do they not worship, as we and the
Persians do, the sun, which, as all must see, is the giver of light
and heat, which ripens our crops and gives fertility in abundance?”

“Not so far as I know, Amuba; but I know that they have many gods who
they believe give them victory over their enemies.”

“They don’t always give them victory,” Amuba said, “since four times
they have been repulsed in their endeavors to invade our land. Perhaps
our gods are more powerful than theirs.”

“It may be that, my son; but so far as I can see the gods give victory
to the bravest and most numerous armies.”

“That is to say, they do not interfere at all, father.”

“I do not say that, my son; we know little of the ways of the gods.
Each nation has its own, and as some nations overthrow others, it must
be that either some gods are more powerful than others or that they do
not interfere to save those who worship them from destruction. But
these things are all beyond our knowledge. We have but to do our part
bravely, and we need assuredly not fear the bulls and the cats and
other creatures in which the Egyptians trust.”

Some hours were spent by the king, his leaders, and his captains in
going about among the troops seeing that all the contingents had
arrived well armed and in good order, notifying to the leaders of each
the position they should take up in the morning, and doing all in
their power to animate and encourage the soldiers. When all was done
the king sat down on a pile of skins which had been prepared for him
and talked long and earnestly with his son, giving him advice as to
his conduct in future if aught should befall him in the coming fight.

“You are my heir,” he said, “and as is customary to the country the
throne goes down from father to son. Were I to survive for another
eight or ten years you would, of course, succeed me, but should I fall
to-morrow and should the Egyptians overrun the land, things may happen
otherwise. In that case the great need of the people would be a
military leader who would rouse them to prolonged resistance and lead
them again and again against the Egyptians until these, worn out by
the perpetual fighting, abandon the idea of subjecting us and turn
their attention to less stubborn-minded people.

“For such work you are far too young, and the people would look to
Amusis or one of my other captains as their leader. Should success
crown his efforts they may choose him as their king. In that case I
would say, Amuba, it will be far better for you to acquiesce in the
public choice than to struggle against it. A lad like you would have
no prospect of success against a victorious general, the choice of the
people, and you would only bring ruin and death upon yourself and your
mother by opposing him.

“I can assure you that there is nothing so very greatly to be envied
in the lot of a king, and as one of the nobles of the land your
position would be far more pleasant here than as king. A cheerful
acquiescence on your part to their wishes will earn you the good will
of the people, and at the death of him whom they may choose for their
king their next choice may fall upon you. Do all in your power to win
the good will of whoever may take the place of leader at my death by
setting an example of prompt and willing obedience to his orders. It
is easy for an ambitious man to remove a lad from his path, and your
safety absolutely demands that you shall give him no reason whatever
to regard you as a rival.

“I trust that all this advice may not be needed and that we may
conquer in to-morrow’s fight, but if we are beaten the probability
that I shall escape is very small, and it is therefore as well that
you should be prepared for whatever may happen. If you find that in
spite of following my advice the leader of the people, whoever he
may be, is ill-disposed toward you, withdraw to the borders of the
country, collect as large a band as you can–there are always plenty
of restless spirits ready to take part in any adventure–and journey
with them to the far west, as so many of our people have done before,
and establish yourself there and found a kingdom.

“None of those who have ever gone in that direction have returned, and
they must therefore have found space to establish themselves, for had
they met with people skilled in war and been defeated, some at least
would have found their way back; but so long as traditions have been
handed down to us tribes from the east have poured steadily westward
to the unknown land, and no band has ever returned.”

His father spoke so seriously that Amuba lay down that night on his
couch of skins in a very different mood to that in which he had ridden
out. He had thought little of his mother’s forebodings, and had looked
upon it as certain that the Rebu would beat the Egyptians as they had
done before, but his father’s tone showed him that he too felt by no
means confident of the issue of the day.

As soon as daylight broke the Rebu stood to their arms, and an hour
later dense masses of the Egyptians were seen advancing. As soon as
these reached the edge of the slope and began to descend toward the
stream, the king ordered his people to advance to the edge of the
swamp and to open fire with their arrows.

A shower of missiles flew through the air and fell among the ranks of
the Egyptian footmen who had just arrived at the edge of the swamp. So
terrible was the discharge that the Egyptians recoiled and, retreating
halfway up the slope, where they would be beyond the reach of the
Rebu, in turn discharged their arrows. The superiority of the Egyptian
bowmen was at once manifest. They carried very powerful bows, and
standing sideways drew them to the ear, just as the English archers
did at Crecy, and therefore shot their arrows a vastly greater
distance than did their opponents, who were accustomed to draw their
bows only to the breast.

Scores of the Rebu fell at the first discharge, and as the storm of
arrows continued, they, finding themselves powerless to damage the
Egyptians at that distance, retired halfway up the side of the slope.
Now from behind the lines of the Egyptian archers a column of men
advanced a hundred abreast, each carrying a great fagot. Their object
was evident: they were about to prepare a wide causeway across the
marsh by which the chariots could pass. Again the Rebu advanced to the
edge of the swamp and poured in their showers of arrows; but the
Egyptians, covering themselves with the bundles of fagots they
carried, suffered but little harm, while the Rebu were mown down by
the arrows of the Egyptian archers shooting calmly and steadily beyond
the range of their missiles.

As soon as the front rank of the Egyptian column reached the edge of
the swampy ground the men of the front line laid down their fagots in
a close row and then retired in the intervals between their comrades
behind them. Each rank as it arrived at the edge did the same. Many
fell beneath the arrows of the Rebu, but the operation went on
steadily, the fagots being laid down two deep as the ground became
more marshy, and the Rebu saw, with a feeling approaching dismay, the
gradual but steady advance of a causeway two hundred yards wide across
the swamp.

The king himself and his bravest captains, alighting from their
chariots, went down among the footmen and urged them to stand firm,
pointing out that every yard the causeway advanced their arrows
inflicted more fatal damage among the men who were forming it. Their
entreaties, however, were vain; the ground facing the causeway was
already thickly incumbered with dead, and the hail of the Egyptian
arrows was so fast and deadly that even the bravest shrank from
withstanding it. At last even their leaders ceased to urge them, and
the king gave the order for all to fall back beyond the range of the
Egyptian arrows.

Some changes were made in the formation of the troops, and the best
and most disciplined bands were placed facing the causeway so as to
receive the charge of the Egyptian chariots. The two front lines were
of spearmen, while on the higher ground behind them were placed
archers whose orders were to shoot at the horses, and to pay no heed
to those in the chariots; then came the chariots, four hundred in
number. Behind these again was a deep line of spearmen; on the right
and left extending to the wood and village were the main body of the
army, who were to oppose the Egyptian footmen advancing across the
swamp.

The completion of the last portion of the causeway cost the Egyptians
heavily, for while they were exposed to the arrows of the Rebu archers
these were now beyond the range of the Egyptians on the opposite
crest. But at last the work was completed. Just as it was finished
and the workmen had retired, the king leaped from his chariot, and,
leading a body of a hundred men carrying blazing brands, dashed down
the slope. As soon as they were seen the Egyptian archers ran forward
and a storm of arrows was poured into the little band. Two-thirds of
them fell ere they reached the causeway; the others applied their
torches to the fagots.

The Egyptian footmen rushed across to extinguish the flames, while the
Rebu poured down to repel them. A desperate fight ensued, but the
bravery of the Rebu prevailed, and the Egyptians were driven back.
Their attack, however, had answered its purpose, for in the struggle
the fagots had been trodden deeper into the mire, and the fire was
extinguished. The Rebu now went back to their first position and
waited the attack which they were powerless to avert. It was upward
of an hour before it began, then the long line of Egyptian footmen
opened, and their chariots were seen fifty abreast, then with a mighty
shout the whole army advanced down the slope. The Rebu replied with
their warcry.

At full speed the Egyptian chariots dashed down the declivity to the
causeway. This was the signal for the Rebu archers to draw their bows,
and in an instant confusion was spread among the first line of
chariots. The horses wounded by the missiles plunged madly. Many,
stepping between the fagots, fell. For a moment the advance was
checked, but the Egyptian footmen, entering the swamp waist-deep,
opened such a terrible fire with their arrows that the front line of
the Rebu were forced to fall back, and the aim of their archers became
wild and uncertain.

In vain the king endeavored to steady them. While he was doing so, the
first of the Egyptian chariots had already made their way across the
causeway, and behind them the others poured on in an unbroken column.
Then through the broken lines of spearmen the Rebu chariots dashed
down upon them, followed by the host of spearmen. The king’s object
was to arrest the first onslaught of the Egyptians, to overwhelm the
leaders, and prevent the mass behind from emerging from the crowded
causeway.

The shock was terrible. Horses and chariots rolled over in wild
confusion, javelins were hurled, bows twanged, and the shouts of the
combatants and the cries of the wounded as they fell beneath the feet
of the struggling horses created a terrible din. Light and active, the
Rebu footmen mingled in the fray, diving under the bellies of the
Egyptian horses, and inflicting vital stabs with their long knives or
engaging in hand-to-hand conflicts with the dismounted Egyptians.
Amuba had charged down with the rest of the chariots. He was
stationed in the second line, immediately behind his father; and his
charioteer, mindful of the orders he had received, strove, in spite of
the angry orders of the lad, to keep the chariot stationary; but the
horses, accustomed to maneuver in line, were not to be restrained, and
in spite of their driver’s efforts charged down the slope with the
rest.

Amuba, who had hunted the lion and leopard, retained his coolness,
and discharged his arrows among the Egyptians with steady aim. For
a time the contest was doubtful. The Egyptian chariots crowded on
the causeway were unable to move forward, and in many places their
weight forced the fagots so deep in the mire that the vehicles were
immovable. Meanwhile, along the swamp on both sides a terrible contest
was going on. The Egyptians, covered by the fire of their arrows,
succeeded in making their way across the swamp, but here they were met
by the Rebu spearmen, and the fight raged along the whole line.

Then two thousand chosen men, the bodyguard of the Egyptian king, made
their way across the swamp close to the causeway, while at the same
time there was a movement among the densely packed vehicles. A
tremendous impulse was given to them from behind: some were pressed
off into the swamp, some were overthrown or trampled under foot, some
were swept forward on to the firm ground beyond, and thus a mass of
the heaviest chariots drawn by the most powerful horses forced their
way across the causeway over all obstacles.

In their midst was the King of Egypt himself, the great Thotmes.

The weight and impetus of the mass of horses and chariots pressed all
before it up the hill. This gave to the chariots which came on behind
room to open to the right and left. The king’s bodyguard shook the
solid formation of the Rebu spearmen with their thick flights of
arrows, and the chariots then dashed in among them. The Rebu fought
with the valor of their race. The Egyptians who first charged among
them fell pierced with their arrows, while their horses were stabbed
in innumerable places. But as the stream of chariots poured over
without a check, and charged in sections upon them, bursting their way
through the mass of footmen by the force and fury with which they
charged, the infantry became broken up into groups, each fighting
doggedly and desperately.

At this moment the officer in command of the Rebu horse, a thousand
strong, charged down upon the Egyptian chariots, drove them back
toward the swamp, and for a time restored the conflict; but the breaks
which had occurred between the Rebu center and its two flanks had
enabled the Egyptian bodyguard to thrust themselves through and to
fall upon the Rebu chariots and spearmen, who were still maintaining
the desperate conflict. The Rebu king had throughout fought in the
front line of his men, inspiriting them with his voice and valor. Many
times, when his chariot was so jammed in the mass that all movement
was impossible, he leaped to the ground, and, making his way through
the throng, slew many of the occupants of the Egyptian chariots.

But his efforts and those of his captains were unavailing. The
weight of the attack was irresistible. The solid phalanx of Egyptian
chariots pressed onward, and the Rebu were forced steadily back. Their
chariots, enormously outnumbered, were destroyed rather than defeated.
The horses fell pierced by the terrible rain of arrows, and the wave
of Egyptians passed over them. The king, looking round in his
chariot, saw that all was lost here, and that the only hope was to
gain one or other of the masses of his infantry on the flank, and to
lead them off the field in solid order. But as he turned to give
orders, a shaft sent by a bowman in a chariot a few yards away struck
him in the eye and he fell back dead in his chariot.

CHAPTER II.

THE SIEGE OF THE CITY.

Amuba saw his father fall, and leaping from his chariot, strove to
make his way through the mingled mass of footmen and chariots to the
spot. Jethro followed close behind him. He, too, had caught sight of
the falling figure, and knew what Amuba did not–that the Rebu had
lost their king. He was not forgetful of the charge which had been
laid on him, but the lad was for a moment beyond his control, and he,
too, was filled with fury at the fall of the king, and determined if
possible to save his body. He reached Amuba’s side just in time to
interpose his shield between the boy and an Egyptian archer in a
chariot he was passing. The arrow pierced the shield and the arm that
held it. Jethro paused an instant, broke off the shaft at the shield,
and seizing the point, which was projecting two inches beyond the
flesh, pulled the arrow through the wound.

It was but a moment’s work, but short as it was it almost cost Amuba
his life, for the archer, leaning forward, dropped the end of his bow
over the lad’s head–a trick common among the Egyptian archers–and in
a moment dragged him to the ground, while his comrade in the chariot
raised his spear to dispatch him. Jethro sprang forward with a shout
of rage, and with a blow of his sword struck off the head of the spear
as it was descending. Then shortening his sword, he sprang into the
chariot, ran the man holding the bow through the body, and grappled
with the spearman.

The struggle was a short one. Leaving his sword in the body of the
archer, Jethro drew his dagger and speedily dispatched his foe. Then
he jumped down, and lifting Amuba, who was insensible from the sharp
jerk of the bowstring upon his throat and the violence of his fall,
carried him back to his chariot. This with the greatest difficulty he
managed to draw out of the heat of the conflict, which was for the
moment raging more fiercely than before. The Rebu who had seen the
fall of their king had dashed forward to rescue the body and to avenge
his death. They cleared a space round him, and as it was impossible to
extricate his chariot, they carried his body through the chaos of
plunging horses, broken chariots, and fiercely struggling men to the
rear.

Then it was placed in another chariot, and the driver started with it
at full speed for the city. Jethro, on emerging from the crowd, paused
for a moment to look round. He saw at once that the battle was lost.
The center was utterly broken, and the masses of the Egyptians who had
crossed the swamp were pressing heavily on the flanks of the Rebu
footmen, who were still opposing a firm stand to those attacking them
in front. For the moment the passage of the Egyptian chariots was
arrested; so choked was the causeway with chariots and horses which
were imbedded in the mire, or had sunk between the fagots that further
passage was impossible, and a large body of footmen were now forming a
fresh causeway by the side of the other.

This would soon be completed, for they were now working undisturbed by
opposition, and Jethro saw that as soon as it was done the Egyptian
host would sweep across and fall upon the rear of the Rebu. Jethro ran
up to two mounted men, badly wounded, who had like himself made their
way out of the fight.

“See,” he said, “in a quarter of an hour a new causeway will be
completed, and the Egyptians will pour over. In that case resistance
will be impossible, and all will be lost. Do one of you ride to each
flank and tell the captains that the king is dead, that there are none
to give orders here, and that their only chance to save their troops
is to retreat at full speed but keeping good order to the city.”

The horsemen rode off immediately, for Jethro, as the king’s own
charioteer, was a man of some impatience. After dispatching the
messengers he returned to his chariot and at once drove off. Amuba was
now recovering, and the rough motion of the vehicle as it dashed along
at full speed aroused him.

“What is it, Jethro? What has happened?”

“The battle is lost, prince, and I am conveying you back to the city.
You have had a rough fall and a narrow escape of your life, and can do
no more fighting even if fighting were of any good, which it is not.”

“And the king, my father?” Amuba said, struggling to his feet. “What
of him? Did I not see him fall?”

“I know naught of him for certain,” Jethro replied. “There was a
terrible fight raging, and as I had you to carry out I could take no
share in it. Besides, I had an arrow through my left arm–if I had
been a moment later it would have gone through your body instead. And
now, if you do not mind taking the reins, I will bandage it up. I have
not had time to think about it yet, but it is bleeding fast, and I
begin to feel faint.”

This was indeed true; but Jethro had called Amuba’s attention to his
wound principally for the sake of diverting his thoughts for a moment
from his fear for his father. As Amuba drove, he looked back. The
plain behind him was covered with a mass of fugitives.

“I see that all is lost,” he said mournfully. “But how is it that we
are not pursued?”

“We shall be pursued before long,” Jethro answered. “But I fancy that
few of the Egyptian chariots which first passed are in a condition to
follow. Most of them have lost horses or drivers. Numbers were broken
to pieces in the _mêlée_. But they are making a fresh causeway, and
when that is completed those who cross will take up the pursuit. As
for their footmen, they have small chance of catching the Rebu.”

“Surely our men ought to retreat in good order, Jethro. Scattered as
they are, they will be slaughtered in thousands by the Egyptian
chariots.”

“They could not oppose much resistance to them anyhow,” Jethro
replied. “On a plain footmen cannot withstand a chariot charge. As it
is, many will doubtless fall; but they will scatter to the right and
left, numbers will reach the hills in safety, some will take refuge
in woods and jungles, while many will outrun the chariots. The new
causeway is narrow, and a few only can cross abreast, and thus, though
many of our men will be overtaken and killed, I trust that the greater
part will escape.”

“Let us draw up here for a short time, Jethro. I see there are several
chariots and some horsemen behind, and as they are with the main body
of the fugitives, they are doubtless friends. Let us join them and
proceed in a body to the town. I should not like to be the first to
enter with the news of our defeat.”

“You are right, prince. As our horses are good, we need not fear being
overtaken. We can therefore wait a few minutes.”

A score of chariots presently came up, and all halted on seeing Amuba.
One of them contained Amusis, the chief captain of the army. He leaped
from his chariot when he saw Amuba, and advanced to him.

“Prince,” he said, “why do you delay? I rejoice at seeing that you
have escaped in the battle, for I marked you bravely fighting in the
midst; but let me beg you to hasten on. A few minutes and the host of
Egyptian chariots will be upon us.”

“I am ready to proceed, Amusis, since you have come. Have you any news
of my father?”

“The king has been sorely wounded,” the general said, “and was carried
off out of the battle; but come, prince, we must hasten on. Our
presence will be sorely needed in the city, and we must get all in
readiness for defense before the Egyptians arrive.”

The chariots again started, and reached the city without seeing
anything of the Egyptians, who did not indeed arrive before the walls
until an hour later, having been delayed by the slaughter of the
fugitives. As the party entered the town they found confusion and
terror prevailing. The arrival of the body of the king was the first
intimation of disaster, and this had been followed by several horsemen
and chariots, who had spread the news of the defeat of the army. The
cries of women filled the air; some in their grief and terror ran
wildly here and there; some sat at their doors with their faces hidden
by their hands, wailing loudly; others tore their garments and behaved
as if demented.

On their way to the palace they met the troops who had been left
behind to guard the city, moving down stern and silent to take their
places on the wall. During the drive Amusis, who had driven in Amuba’s
chariot, had broken to the boy the news that his father was dead, and
Amuba was prepared for the loud lamentation of women which met him as
he entered the royal inclosure.

“I will see my mother,” he said to Amusis, “and then I will come down
with you to the walls and will take whatever part you may assign me in
the defense. It is to your experience and valor we must now trust.”

“I will do all that I can, prince. The walls are strong, and if, as I
hope, the greater part of our army find their way back, I trust we may
be able to defend ourselves successfully against the Egyptian host.
Assure your royal mother of my deep sympathy for her in her sorrow,
and of my devotion to her personally.”

The general now drove off, and Amuba entered the royal dwellings. In
the principal apartment the body of the king was laid upon a couch in
the middle of the room. The queen stood beside it in silent grief,
while the attendants raised loud cries, wrung their hands, and filled
the air with their lamentation, mingled with praises of the character
and bravery of the king. Amuba advanced to his mother’s side. She
turned and threw her arms round him.

“Thank the gods, my son, that you are restored to me; but what a loss,
what a terrible loss is ours!”

“It is indeed, mother. No better father ever lived than mine. But I
pray you, mother, lay aside your grief for awhile; we shall have time
to weep and mourn for him afterward. We have need of all our courage.
In a few hours the Egyptian hosts will be before our walls, and every
arm will be needed for their defense. I am going down to take my place
among the men, to do what I can to encourage them; but the confusion
in the city is terrible. None know whether they have lost husbands or
fathers, and the cries and lamentations of the women cannot but
dispirit and dishearten the men. I think, mother, that you might do
much if you would; and I am sure that my father in his resting-place
with the gods would far rather see you devoting yourself to the safety
of his people than to lamentations here.”

“What would you have me do?”

“I should say, mother, mount a chariot and drive through the streets
of the town; bid the women follow the example of their queen and defer
their lamentation for the fallen until the foe has been repelled. Bid
each do her part in the defense of the city; there is work for
all–stones to be carried to the walls, food to be cooked for the
fighting men, hides to be prepared in readiness to be carried to the
ramparts where the attack is hottest, to shield our soldiers from
arrows. In these and other tasks all can find employment, and, in thus
working for the defense of the town, the women would find distraction
from their sorrows and anxieties.”

“Your advice is wise, Amuba, and I will follow it. Order a chariot
to be brought down. My maidens shall come with me; and see that two
trumpeters are in readiness to precede us. This will insure attention
and silence, and my words will be heard as we pass along. How did you
escape from the conflict?”

“The faithful Jethro bore me off, mother, or I, too, should have
fallen; and now, with your permission, I will go to the wall.”

“Do so, Amuba, and may the gods preserve you. You must partake of some
food before you go, for you will need all your strength, my son.”

Amuba hastily ate the food that was placed before him in another
apartment, and drank a goblet of wine, and then hurried down to the
wall.

The scene was a heart-rending one. All over the plain were scattered
groups of men hurrying toward the city, while among them dashed the
Egyptian chariots, overthrowing and slaying them; but not without
resistance. The Rebu were well disciplined, and, as the chariots
thundered up, little groups gathered together, shield overlapping
shield, and spears projecting, while those within the circle shot
their arrows or whirled stones from their slings. The horses wounded
by the arrows often refused to obey their drivers, but rushed headlong
across the plain; others charged up only to fall pierced with the
spears, while the chariots were often empty of their occupants before
they broke into the phalanx.

Thus, although many fell, many succeeded in gaining the gates of the
town, and the number of men available for the defense had already
largely increased when Amuba reached the walls. Although the Egyptian
chariots came up in great numbers, night fell without the appearance
of the main body of the Egyptian army. After darkness set in great
numbers of the Rebu troops who had escaped to the hills made their way
into the town. The men of the contingents furnished by the other Rebu
cities naturally made their way direct to their homes, but before
morning the six thousand men left behind to guard the city when the
army set out had been swelled to four times their numbers.

Although this was little more than half the force which had marched
out to battle, the return of so large a number of the fugitives caused
a great abatement of the panic and misery that had prevailed. The
women whose husbands or sons had returned rejoiced over those whom
they had regarded as lost, while those whose friends had not yet
returned gained hopes from the narratives of the fresh comers that
their loved ones might also have survived, and would ere long make
their way back. The example of the queen had already done much to
restore confidence. All knew the affection that existed between the
king and her, and the women all felt that if she could lay aside her
deep sorrow, and set such an example of calmness and courage at such a
time, it behooved all others to set aside their anxieties and to do
their best for the defense of the town.

Amusis gave orders that all those who had returned from battle should
rest for the night in their homes, the troops who had remained in the
city keeping guard upon the walls. In the morning, however, all
collected at the trumpet-call, and were formed up according to the
companies and battalions to which they belonged. Of some of these
which had borne the brunt of the combat there were but a handful of
survivors, while of others the greater portion were present; weak
battalions were joined to the strong; fresh officers were appointed to
take the place of those who were missing; the arms were examined, and
all deficiencies made good from the public stores.

Ten thousand men were set aside as a reserve to be brought up to the
points most threatened, while to the rest were allotted those portions
of the wall which they were to occupy. As soon as morning broke the
women recommenced the work that had been interrupted by night, making
their way to the walls in long trains, carrying baskets of stones on
their heads. Disused houses were pulled down for the sake of their
stones and timber, parties of women with ropes dragging the latter to
the walls in readiness to be hurled down upon the heads of the enemy.
Even the children joined in the work, carrying small baskets of earth
to those portions of the wall which Amusis had ordered to be
strengthened.

The position of the city had been chosen with a view to defense. It
stood on a plateau of rock raised some fifty feet above the plain.
The Caspian washed its eastern face; on the other three sides a high
wall, composed of earth roughly faced with stones, ran along at the
edge of the plateau; above it, at distances of fifty yards apart, rose
towers. The entire circuit of the walls was about three miles. Since
its foundation by the grandfather of the late king the town had never
been taken, although several times besieged, and the Rebu had strong
hopes that here, when the chariots of the Egyptians were no longer to
be feared, they could oppose a successful resistance to all the
efforts of the enemy.

At noon the Egyptian army was seen advancing, and, confident as the
defenders of the city felt, they could not resist a feeling of
apprehension at the enormous force which was seen upon the plain. The
Egyptian army was over three hundred thousand strong. It moved in
regular order according to the arms or nationality of the men. Here
were Nubians, Sardinians, Etruscans, Oscans, Dauni, Maxyes, Kahaka, a
race from Iberia, and bodies of other mercenaries from every tribe and
people with whom the Egyptians had any dealings.

The Sardinians bore round shields, three or four spears or javelins, a
long straight dagger, and a helmet surmounted by a spike, with a ball
at the top. The Etruscans carried no shields, and instead of the
straight dagger were armed with a heavy curved chopping-knife; their
headdress resembled somewhat in shape that now worn by the Armenians.
The Dauni were Greek in the character of their arms, carrying a round
shield, a single spear, a short straight sword, and a helmet of the
shape of a cone.

The Egyptians were divided according to their arms. There were
regiments of archers, who carried, for close combat, a slightly curved
stick of heavy wood; other regiments of archers carried hatchets. The
heavy infantry all bore the Egyptian shield, which was about three
feet long. It was widest at the upper part, where it was semicircular,
while the bottom was cut off straight. The shields had a boss near the
upper part. Some regiments carried, in addition to the spears, heavy
maces, others axes. Their helmets all fitted closely to the head; most
of them wore metal tassels hanging from the top. The helmets were for
the most part made of thick material, quilted and padded; these were
preferred to metal, being a protection from the heat of the sun.

Each company carried its own standard; these were all of religious
character, and represented animals sacred to the gods, sacred boats,
emblematic devices, or the names of the king or queen. These were
in metal, and were raised at the ends of spears or staves. The
standard-bearers were all officers of approved valor. Behind the army
followed an enormous baggage-train; and as soon as this had arrive on
the ground the tents of the king and the principal officers were
pitched.

“What a host!” Jethro said to Amuba, who, after having his arm dressed
on his arrival at the palace, had accompanied the young prince to the
walls. “It seems a nation rather than an army. I do not wonder now
that we were defeated yesterday, but that we so long held our ground,
and that so many escaped from the battle.”

“It is wonderful, truly, Jethro. Look at the long line of chariots
moving in as regular order as the footmen. It is well for us that they
will now be forced to be inactive. As to the others, although they are
countless in numbers, they cannot do much against our walls. No towers
that they can erect upon the plains will place them on a level with us
here, and the rock is so steep that it is only here and there that it
can be climbed.”

“It would seem impossible for them to take it, prince; but we must not
be too confident. We know that many towns which believed themselves
impregnable have been captured by the Egyptians, and must be prepared
for the most daring enterprises. The gates have been already fastened,
and so great a thickness of rocks piled against them that they are now
the strongest part of the wall; those parts of the roads leading up to
them that were formed of timber have been burned, and they cannot now
reach the gates except by climbing, as at other points. We have
provisions enough to last for well-nigh a year, for all the harvest
has been brought in from the whole district round, together with many
thousands of cattle; of wells there are abundance.”

“Yes, I heard the preparations that were being made, Jethro, and doubt
not that if we can resist the first onslaught of the Egyptians we can
hold out far longer than they can, for the difficulty of victualing so
huge an army will be immense. In what way do you think they will
attack? For my part I do not see any method which offers a hope of
success.”

“That I cannot tell you. We know that to us and to the peoples around
our cities seem impregnable. But the Egyptians are skilled in all the
devices of war. They have laid siege to and captured great numbers of
cities, and are doubtless full of plans and expedients of which we
know nothing. However, to-morrow morning will show us something.
Nothing will be attempted to-day. The generals have first to inspect
our walls and see where the assault is to be delivered, and the army
will be given a day’s rest at least before being called upon to
assault such a position.”

In the afternoon a _cortége_ of chariots made the circuit of the walls
from the shore of the sea round the great plateau to the sea again,
keeping just beyond the range of arrows.

“If we had but a few of their archers here,” Jethro said, “the
Egyptian king would not be so overbold in venturing so near. It is
wonderful how strongly they shoot. Their arrows have fully double the
range of ours, and their power is sufficient to carry them through the
strongest shields, even when strengthened with metal. Had I not seen
it I should have thought it impossible that living men, and those no
bigger or stronger than we, could have sent their arrows with such
power. They stand in a different attitude to that of our archers, and
though their shafts are fully a foot longer than ours they draw them
to the head. I regarded myself as a good bowman till I met the
Egyptians, and now I feel as a child might do when watching a man
performing feats of strength of which he had not even imagined a
possibility.”

In the evening the great council met. It included all the principal
officers of the army, the priests, the royal councilors, and the
leading men in the state. After a discussion it was determined that
in the present crisis it were best to postpone taking any steps to
appoint a successor to the late king, but that so long as the siege
lasted Amusis should be endowed with absolute powers. In order that
there should be no loss of time for the necessity of consulting any
one Amuba was present with his mother at the council, though neither
of them took any active part in it. But at its commencement an
announcement was made in their name that they were willing to abide by
whatever the council should decide, and that indeed both mother and
son desired that while this terrible danger hung over the state the
supreme power should be placed in the hands of whomsoever the general
voice might select as the person best fitted to take the command in
such an extremity.

That night the body of the king was consumed on a great funeral pile.
Under ordinary occasions the ceremony would have taken place on a
narrow promontory jutting out into the sea, about five miles from the
city. Here the previous monarchs had been consumed in sight of a
multitude of their people, and had been buried beneath great mounds of
earth. The priests had long ago pronounced this place the most sacred
in the kingdom, and had declared that the anger of the gods would fall
upon any who ventured to set foot upon the holy ground. But it was
impossible for the present to lay the ashes of the king by the side of
those of his forefathers, and the ceremony was therefore conducted
within the royal inclosure, only the officiating priests and the wife
and son of the deceased being present. When all was over the ashes
were collected and were placed in a casket, which was destined, when
better times returned, to be laid, in the sight of the whole people,
in the sacred inclosure on the promontory.

Early next morning the trumpets of the guards on the walls called all
the troops to arms. As soon as Amuba reached his post he saw the
Egyptian army marching against the city. When they arrived within
bowshot the archers, who formed the front lines, opened fire upon the
defenders on the walls. Their arrows, however, for the most part fell
short, while those of the besieged rained down upon them with effect.
They were therefore withdrawn a short distance, and contracting their
ranks a vast number of footmen poured through, and in irregular order
ran forward to the foot of the rock, where they were sheltered from
the arrows of those on the wall.

“What can they be going to do now?” Amuba exclaimed, laying aside his
bow.

Jethro shook his head.

“They are working with a plan,” he said. “We shall see before very
long. Listen.”

Even above the din caused by so vast a multitude a sharp metallic
sound was presently heard like that of innumerable hammers striking on
steel.

“Surely,” Amuba exclaimed, “they can never be thinking of quarrying
the rock away! That is too great a task even were the whole people of
Egypt here.”

“It certainly is not that,” Jethro agreed; “and yet I cannot think
what else can be their intentions.”

It was nigh an hour before the mystery was solved. Then, at the blast
of a trumpet sounded at the post where the Egyptian king had placed
himself, and taken up along the whole of the line, a great number of
heads appeared along the edge of rock at the foot of the walls. The
Egyptians had been employed in driving spikes in the crevices of the
rock. Standing on the first so driven, they then inserted others three
feet higher, and so had proceeded until a number of men had climbed up
the face of the rock. These let down ropes, and ladders had been
hauled up the steepest places. Great numbers of ropes were hung down
to assist those who followed in the ascent, and the men who first
showed themselves over the brow were followed by a stream of others,
until the ledge, which was in most cases but a few feet wide, was
crowded with soldiers.

The ladders were now hauled up and placed against the wall, and the
Egyptians swarmed up in great numbers; but the Rebu were prepared for
the assault, and a storm of stones, beams of wood, arrows, javelins,
and other missiles rained down on the Egyptians. Many of the ladders,
in spite of the number of men upon them, were thrown back by the
defenders, and fell with a crash over the edge of the rock to the
plain below. Here and there the Egyptians gained a footing on the wall
before the Rebu had recovered from their first surprise at their
daring manner of attack; but so soon as they rallied they attacked the
Egyptians with such fury that in every case the latter were slain
fighting or were thrown over the embattlements.

For several hours the Egyptians continued their efforts, but after
losing vast numbers of men without obtaining any success they were
recalled by the sound of the trumpet.

“That has not been very serious, Jethro,” Amuba said, wiping the
perspiration from his forehead; for he had been encouraging the men by
assisting in the lifting and casting over the massive stones and beams
of wood.

“It was not difficult to repulse them under such conditions,” Jethro
said; “but the manner of their attack was a surprise indeed to us, and
they have fought with the greatest bravery. You will see that the next
time they will have benefited by the lesson, and that we shall have
some new device to cope with. Now that they have once found a way to
scale the rock we may expect but little rest.”

The fight was not renewed until evening, when, just as darkness fell,
a large number of the Egyptians again ascended the rock. As before,
the Rebu poured missiles down upon them; but this time only a
sufficient number had climbed up to be able to stand along close to
the foot of the wall, where they were to a great extent sheltered from
the missiles from above. The night was a dark one, and all night long
the Rebu continued to shower down missiles upon their invisible foe,
of whose continued presence they were assured by the sounds which from
time to time were heard.

When daylight enabled the defenders to see what was going on at the
foot of their walls they raised a shout of surprise and dismay. During
the night the Egyptians had hoisted up by ropes a quantity of the
timber brought with them for the construction of shelters for those
who were engaged on siege operations. The timbers were all cut and
prepared for fitting together, and were easily jointed even in the
dark. Thus, then, when the besiegers looked over, they saw forty or
fifty of these shelters erected against the foot of their walls. They
were so formed that they sloped down like a pent-house and were
thickly covered with hides.

The besieged soon found that so solid were these constructions that
the beams and great stones which they dropped upon them simply bounded
off and leaped down into the plain. Ladders fastened together had been
fixed by the Egyptians from each of these shelters to the plain below,
so that the men at work could be relieved or reinforced as the
occasion required.

In vain the besieged showered down missiles, in vain poured over the
caldrons of boiling oil they had prepared in readiness. The strength
of the beams defied the first; the hides lapping over each other
prevented the second from penetrating to those below.

“Truly these are terrible foes, prince,” Jethro said. “I told you that
we might expect new plans and devices, but I did not think that the
very day after the siege began we should find that they had overcome
all the difficulties of our natural defenses, and should have
established themselves in safety at the foot of our walls.”

“But what is to be done, Jethro? The men working in those shelters
will speedily dislodge these stones facing the walls, and will then
without difficulty dig through the earthwork behind.”

“The matter is serious,” Jethro agreed; “but as yet there is no
reason to alarm ourselves. The greater portion of our troops will be
assembled behind the wall, and should the Egyptians gain a way through
we should pour in at the openings, and as they can be only reinforced
slowly, would speedily hurl them all over the edge of the cliff. It is
not that I fear.”

“What is it that you do fear, Jethro?”

“I fear, prince, because I do not know what it is I have to fear.
We are as children in a struggle of this kind as opposed to the
Egyptians. Already they have wholly overthrown all our calculations,
and it is just because I do not know what they will do next that I am
afraid. It must be as plain to them as it is to us that if they dig
through the walls we shall rush in and overpower them.”

“Perhaps they intend to work right and left and to undermine the
walls, until large portions of them tumble over and breaches are
made.”

Jethro shook his head.

“That would destroy the Egyptian shelters and bury their workmen; or,
even did they manage to retire before the walls fell, they would gain
nothing by it. In fact, I wish that we ourselves could tumble the
walls over, for in that case the heap of earth and stones would rise
from the very edge of the rock, and as the Egyptians could only
climb up in small numbers at a time, we could destroy them without
difficulty. I see now that our builders made a mistake in surrounding
the city with a high wall; it would have been best to have built a
mere breastwork at the very edge of the cliff all round. Here comes
Amusis; we shall hear what his opinion of the matter is.”

Amusis looked flushed and anxious, although when he saw the prince he
assumed an expression of carelessness.

“The Egyptians are going to burrow through our walls,” he said; “but
when they do we will drive them like rats out of the holes. Do you not
think so, Jethro?”

“I do not know,” Jethro said gravely. “If they dig through our walls
we shall certainly, as you say, drive them out of their holes; but I
cannot believe that that is what they are going to do.”

“What do you think they are going to do?” Amusis asked roughly.

“I have no idea, Amusis. I wish that I had; but I am quite sure that
they haven’t taken all this trouble for nothing.”

CHAPTER III.

CAPTIVE.

So confident were the Rebu that if the Egyptians dug through their
walls, or even threw them down by undermining them, they could repel
their assault, that they took but little heed to the huts established
at the foot of the wall, except that a strong body of men were
stationed behind the walls, half of whom were always to be under arms
in readiness to repel the Egyptians should they burrow through. This
confidence proved their ruin. The Egyptians were thoroughly accustomed
to mining operations, and were fully aware that were they to pierce
the wall the Rebu could at once overwhelm the small working parties;
they, therefore, after penetrating a considerable distance into the
embankment, drove right and left, making an excavation of considerable
size, the roof being supported by beams and planks hauled up at night.

The number of those employed in the work was increased as fast as
there was room for them; and while the Rebu thought that there were at
most a dozen men in each of the sheltered places, there were, at the
end of twenty-four hours, fully two hundred men at work in the heart
of the embankment at each point. The Egyptian king had ordered the
chief of his engineers to have everything in readiness for the capture
of the city by the end of the third day.

Each night the numbers of workmen increased, while the excavations
were carried in further and further. No picks were used in the work,
the earth being cut away with wide daggers. Absolute silence was
enjoined among the workers, and they were thus enabled to extend their
excavations close to the surface without the defenders having an idea
of their proximity. The distance that they were from the inner face
was ascertained by boring through at night-time with spears. By the
end of the third day the excavations had been carried so far that
there was but a foot or so of earth remaining, this being kept from
moving, on pressure from the outside, by a lining of boards supported
by beams. Thus at twenty points the Egyptians were in readiness to
burst through among the unsuspecting defenders.

As soon as it was dark the preparations for the assault began. Great
numbers of stagings of vast length had been prepared, together with an
immense number of broad and lofty ladders. These last were brought
forward noiselessly to the foot of the cliff, and great numbers of the
Egyptians mounted before the alarm was given by those on the walls.
But by this time the excavations were all crowded with men. The
Egyptian army now advanced with shouts to the assault. The great
stages were brought forward by the labor of thousands of men and
placed against the cliff.

The besieged had now rushed to defend the walls, and volleys of
missiles of all sorts were poured down upon the Egyptians as they
strove to mount the ladders and stages. No one thought of any possible
danger from the little shelters lying at the foot of the wall, and the
din was so great that the work of digging through the remaining wall
of earth was unheard. The troops who had been specially told off to
watch these points had joined their comrades on the walls, and none
marked the stream of dark figures which presently began to pour out
from the embankment at twenty different points.

At last the besieged, whose hopes were rising as the Egyptians
appeared to falter under the showers of missiles poured down, were
startled by the sound of a trumpet in their rear–a sound which was
answered instantly from a score of points. Rushing with cries of
dismay to the back of the rampart, they saw dark bodies of footmen
drawn up in regular order, and a rain of arrows was opened upon them.
The Rebu, without a moment’s hesitation, rushed down to attack the
foes who had gained a footing, they scarce knew how, in their
fortress. But each of the Egyptian companies was four hundred strong,
composed of picked troops, and these for a time easily beat off the
irregular attacks of the Rebu.

Amusis and the other leaders of the Rebu strove to get their men into
solid order, for so alone could they hope to break the phalanxes of
the Egyptians; but the confusion was too great. In the meantime the
Egyptians outside had taken advantage of the diversion created by
the attack within, and poured up their ladders and stagings in vast
numbers. Some dragging up ladders after them planted them against the
walls, others poured through by the passages which had been dug, and
these, as soon as they were numerous enough, ascended the embankments
from behind and fell upon the Rebu still defending the wall.

Never did the tribesmen fight with greater bravery; but the
completeness of the surprise, the number of the Egyptians who had
established themselves in their rear, the constant pushing in of
reinforcements both through and over the wall, rendered it impossible
for them to retrieve their fortunes; and in the confusion and darkness
they were unable to distinguish friend from foe. The various
battalions and companies were hopelessly mixed together; the orders
of their leaders and officers were unheard in the din.

Upon the Egyptian side everything had been carefully planned. One of
the companies which first entered had made their way quietly along the
foot of the wall, and were not noticed until they suddenly threw
themselves upon defenders of one of the gates. As soon as they had
obtained possession of this, great fires were lighted, and a large
body of Egyptian troops, headed by engineers carrying beams and
planks, advanced. The gaps across the roadway were bridged over, and
the Egyptians poured in at the gate before the Rebu could dislodge the
party which had taken possession of it. Every moment added to the
confusion of the scene. To the Rebu it seemed as if their foes were
springing from the very earth upon them, and, despairing of regaining
the ground that had been lost, they began to break away and make some
for their homes, some for the water face of the city–the only one
which was open to them, for the Egyptians were now pressing forward
from the three other faces of the town. The boats lying along the sand
were quickly crowded with fugitives and pushed off from shore, and
those who arrived later found all means of escape gone. Some threw
down their arms and made their way to their homes, others ran back to
meet the Egyptians and die fighting.

It was some hours before the conflict ceased, for the Egyptians too
were confused with the darkness, and many desperate fights took place
between different battalions before they discovered they were friends.
Light was gained by firing numbers of the houses lying nearest to the
walls; but as soon as the Egyptians advanced beyond the arc of light
they were fiercely attacked by the Rebu, and at last the trumpet
sounded the order for the troops to remain in the positions they
occupied until daylight.

As soon as morning broke a vast crowd of women were seen advancing
from the center of the town. As they neared the Egyptians they threw
themselves on the ground with loud cries for mercy. There was a pause;
and then some Egyptian officers advanced and bade a score of the women
follow them to the presence of the king. Thotmes had entered with the
troops who made their way into the city by the gate, but yielding to
the entreaties of the officers that he would not expose himself to be
killed in the confusion, perhaps by an arrow shot by his own soldiers,
he had retired to the plain, and had just returned to take part in the
occupation of the city.

The Rebu women were led to him over ground thickly covered with dead.
Fully half the defenders of the city had fallen, while the loss of
the Egyptians had been almost as large. The women threw themselves
on their faces before the great monarch and implored mercy for
themselves, their children, and the remnant of the men of the city.

Thotmes was well satisfied. He had captured a city which was regarded
as impregnable; he had crushed the people who had inflicted defeats
upon his predecessors; he had added to his own glory and to the renown
of the Egyptian arms. The disposition of the Egyptians was lenient.
Human sacrifices were unknown to their religion, and they do not
appear at any time to have slain in cold blood captives taken in war.
Human life was held at a far higher value in Egypt than among any
other nation of antiquity, and the whole teaching of their laws tended
to create a disposition toward mercy.

An interpreter translated to the king the words of the women.

“Has all resistance ceased?” the king asked. “Have all the men laid
down their arms?”

The women exclaimed that there was not now an armed man in the city,
all the weapons having been collected during the night and placed in
piles in the open space in front of the entrance to the palace.

“Then I give to all their lives,” the king said graciously. “When I
fight with cowards I have little mercy upon them, for men who are not
brave are unfit to live; but when I fight with men I treat them as
men. The Rebu are a valiant people, but as well might the jackal fight
with the lion as the Rebu oppose themselves to the might of Egypt.
They fought bravely in the field, and they have bravely defended their
walls; therefore I grant life to all in the city–men, women, and
children. Where is your king?”

“He died in the battle four days since,” the women replied.

“Where is your queen?”

“She drank poison last night, preferring to join her husband than to
survive the capture of the city.”

Thotmes had now ordered the whole of the inhabitants to be taken
out to the plain and kept there under a guard. The town was then
methodically searched and everything of value brought together. The
king set aside a certain portion of the golden vessels for the
services of the Temple, some he chose for himself, and after
presenting others to his generals, ordered the rest to be divided
among the troops. He then ordered a hundred captives–fifty young men
and fifty maidens of the highest rank–to be selected to be taken to
Egypt as slaves, and then fixed the tribute which the Rebu were in
future to pay. The army then evacuated the city and the inhabitants
were permitted to return.

The next day messengers arrived from the other Rebu towns. The fall of
the capital, which had been believed to be impregnable, after so short
a siege had struck terror into the minds of all, and the messengers
brought offers of submission to the king, with promises to pay any
tribute that he might lay upon them.

The king, well satisfied with his success and anxious to return
to Egypt, from which he had been absent nearly two years, replied
graciously to the various deputations, informing them that he had
already fixed the tribute that the nation was to pay annually, and
ordered a contribution to be sent in at once by each city in
proportion to its size. In a few days the required sums, partly
in money, partly in vessels of gold, embroidered robes, and other
articles of value, were brought in. When the full amount had been
received the camp was struck and the army started on their long march
back to Egypt, an officer of high rank being left as governor of the
newly captured province, with ten thousand men as a garrison.

Amuba was one of the fifty selected as slaves. Amusis had escaped in
the confusion, as had many others. Jethro was also one of the selected
band. Amuba was for a time careless of what befell him. The news of
the death of his mother, which had met him as, after fighting to the
last, he returned to the palace, had been a terrible blow, following
as it did so closely upon the loss of his father and the overthrow
of the nation. His mother had left the message for him that although
as life had no longer a charm for her she preferred death to the
humiliation of being carried a prisoner to Egypt, she trusted that he
would bear the misfortunes which had fallen on him and his people with
submission and patience; he was young, and there was no saying what
the future had in store for him.

“You will doubtless, my son,” were the words of her message, “be
carried away captive into Egypt, but you may yet escape some day and
rejoin your people, or may meet with some lot in which you may find
contentment or even happiness there. At any rate, my last words to you
are, bear patiently whatever may befall you, remember always that your
father was king of the Rebu, and whatever your station in life may be,
try to be worthy of the rank to which you were born. There is no
greater happiness on a throne than in a cottage. Men make their own
happiness, and a man may be respected even though only a slave. May
the gods of your country preside over and protect you always.”

The message was delivered by an old woman who had been with the queen
since her birth, and struck down with grief as Amuba was at his
mother’s death, he yet acknowledged to himself that even this loss was
less hard to bear than the knowledge that she who had been so loved
and honored by the people should undergo the humiliation of being
dragged a slave in the train of the conquering Egyptians. He was,
however, so prostrate with grief that he obeyed with indifference the
order to leave the city, and was scarcely moved when the Egyptian
officer appointed to make the selection chose him as one of the party
that were to be taken as slaves to Egypt.

Prostrate as he was, however, he felt it to be a satisfaction and
comfort when he found that Jethro was also of the party set aside.

“It is selfish, Jethro,” he said, “for me to feel glad that you too
are to be dragged away as a slave, but it will be a great comfort to
have you with me. I know almost all the others of the party, but to
none shall I be able to talk of my father and mother and my home here
as I should to you whom I have known so long.”

“I am not sorry that I have been chosen,” Jethro said, “for I have no
family ties, and now that the Rebu are a conquered people I should
have little satisfaction in my life here. When we get to Egypt we
shall probably be separated, but there is a march of months’ duration
before us, and during that time we may at least be together; since,
then, my being with you is as you say, prince, a comfort to you, I am
well content that I have been chosen. I thought it a hard thing when
my wife died but a few weeks after our marriage. Now I rejoice that it
was so, and that I can leave without any one’s heart being wrung at my
departure. You and I, prince, perhaps of all those chosen will feel
the least misery at the fate that has befallen us. Most of those here
are leaving wives and children behind; some of the youngest are still
unmarried, but they have fathers and mothers from whom they will be
separated. Therefore, let us not bemoan our lot, for it might have
been worse, and our life in Egypt may not be wholly unbearable.”

“That is just what my dear mother said, Jethro,” Amuba replied,
repeating the message the queen had sent him.

“My dear mistress was right,” Jethro said. “We may find happiness in
Egypt as elsewhere; and now let us try to cheer up our companions, for
in cheering them we shall forget our own misfortunes.”

Jethro and Amuba went among the rest of the captives, most of whom
were prostrated with grief, and did their best to rouse them from
their stupor.

“The Egyptians have seen that the Rebu are men in the field,” Amuba
said to some of them. “Let them see that we can also bear misfortune
like men. Grieving will not mitigate our lot, nay, it will add to its
burden. If the Egyptians see that we bear our fate manfully they will
have far more compassion upon us than if they see that we bemoan
ourselves. Remember we have a long and toilsome journey before us, and
shall need all our strength. After all, the hardship of our lot is as
nothing to that of the women yonder. We are accustomed to exercise and
toil, but the journey, which we can support as well as the Egyptians,
will be terrible to them, delicate in nature as they are. Let us
therefore set them an example of courage and patience; let us bear
ourselves as men whose suffering is unmerited, who have been conquered
but not disgraced, who are prepared to defy fate and not to succumb to
it.”

Amuba’s words had a great effect upon the captives. They regarded him
with respect as the son of their late king, and as one who would have
been king himself had not this misfortune befallen them; and his
calmness and manly speech encouraged them to strive against their
grief and to look their fate more hopefully in the face. As long as
the army remained in camp the hands of the captives were tied behind
them, but when the march was begun they were relieved of their bonds
and were placed in the center of an Egyptian regiment.

It was a long and tedious journey. On the way the train of captives
was very largely increased by those who had been taken in the earlier
conquests of the army, and who had been left in charge of the troops
told off to the various provinces brought into subjection by the
Egyptians until the army passed through on its homeward march.
Provisions had been everywhere collected to supply it on its progress,
and as the distance traversed each day was small the captives suffered
but little until they entered upon the passage of the desert tract
between the southern point of Syria and the mouth of the Nile.

Here, although vast quantities of water were carried in the train of
the army, the supply given to the captives was extremely small,
and as the sun blazed down with tremendous heat, and they were
half-suffocated by the dust which rose in clouds under the feet of the
vast body of men, their sufferings were very severe. The Rebu captives
had gained the respect of the troops who escorted them by their manly
bearing and the absence of the manifestations of grief which were
betrayed by most of the other captives. The regiment was composed of
Libyan mercenaries, hardy, active men, inured alike to heat and
fatigue.

During the three months which the march had occupied Amuba and Jethro,
and indeed most of the captives, had acquired some knowledge of the
Egyptian language. Jethro had from the first impressed upon the young
prince the great advantage this would be to them. In the first place,
it would divert their thoughts from dwelling upon the past, and in the
second, it would make their lot more bearable in Egypt.

“You must remember,” he said, “that we shall be slaves, and masters
are not patient with their slaves. They give them orders, and if the
order is not understood so much the worse for the slaves. It will add
to our value, and therefore obtain for us better treatment, if we are
able to converse in their tongue.”

Amuba was thankful indeed when the gray monotony of the desert was
succeeded by the bright verdure of the plains of Egypt. As they
entered the land the order in which they had marched was changed, and
the long line of captives followed immediately after the chariot of
the king. Each of them was laden with a portion of the spoil taken
from their native country. Amuba bore on his head a large golden vase
which had been used in the ceremonies of the temple. Jethro carried a
rich helmet and armor which had belonged to the king.

The first city they entered Amuba was astonished at the massive
splendor of the buildings and at the signs of comfort and wealth which
everywhere met his eye. The streets were thronged with people who,
bending to the ground, shouted their acclamations as the king passed
along, and who gazed with interest and surprise at the long procession
of captives representing the various nations who had been subjected to
his arms. Most of all he was surprised at the temples with their long
avenues of sphinxes, the gigantic figures representing the gods, the
rows of massive pillars, the majesty and grandeur of the edifices
themselves.

“How were they built, Jethro?” he exclaimed over and again. “How were
these massive stones placed in order? How did they drag these huge
figures across the plains? What tools could they have used to carve
them out of the solid granite?”

“I am afraid, Amuba,” Jethro said grimly, for the lad had positively
forbidden him to address him any longer as prince, saying that such
title addressed to a slave was no better than mockery, “we are likely
to learn to our cost before long how they manage these marvels, for
marvels they assuredly are. It must have taken the strength of
thousands of men to have transported even one of these strange
figures, and although the people themselves may have aided in the
work, you may be sure the slaves bore the brunt of it.”

“But what is the meaning of these figures, Jethro? Surely neither in
this country nor in any other are there creatures with the faces of
women and the bodies of lions and great wings such as these have.
Some, too, have the faces of men and the bodies of bulls, while others
have heads like birds and bodies like those of men.”

“Assuredly there can be no such creatures, Amuba; and I wonder that a
people so enlightened and wise as the Egyptians should choose such
strange figures for their gods. I can only suppose that these figures
represent their attributes rather than the gods themselves. Do you
see, the human head may represent their intelligence, the bodies of
the lions or bulls their strength and power, the wings of the bird
their swiftness. I do not know that it is so, but it seems to me that
it is possible that it may be something of this sort. We cannot but
allow that their gods are powerful, since they give them victory over
all other people; but no doubt we shall learn more of them and of many
other things in time.”

The journey was continued for another three weeks, and was the cause
of constant surprises to the captives. The extraordinary fertility of
the land especially struck them. Cultivation among the Rebu was of a
very primitive description, and the abundance and variety of the crops
that everywhere met their eye seemed to them absolutely marvelous.
Irrigation was not wholly unknown to the Rebu, and was carried on to a
considerable extent in Persia; but the enormous works for the purpose
in Egypt, the massive embankments of the river, the network of canals
and ditches, the order and method everywhere apparent, filled them
with surprise and admiration.

Many of the cities and temples greatly surpassed in magnificence and
splendor those they had first met with, and Amuba’s wonder reached its
climax when they arrived at Memphis, till lately the capital of Egypt.
The wealth and contents of the city astonished the captives, but most
of all were they surprised when they saw the enormous bulk of the
pyramids rising a few miles distant from the town, and learned that
these were some of the tombs of the kings.

The country had now altered in character. On the left a range of steep
hills approached the river, and as the march proceeded similar though
not so lofty hills were seen on the right.

At last, after another fortnight’s traveling, a shout of joy from the
army proclaimed that Thebes, the capital of Egypt, the goal of the
long and weary march was in view.

Thebes stood on both sides of the Nile. On the eastern bank the
largest portion of the population was gathered, but this part of the
city was inhabited principally by the poorer class. There was, too, a
large population on the Libyan side of the Nile, the houses being
densely packed near the bank of the river. Behind these were numbers
of temples and palaces, while the tombs of the kings and queens were
excavated in a valley further back, whose precipitous sides were
honeycombed with the rock sepulchers of the wealthy. As the
dwelling-houses were all low, the vast piles of the temples, palaces,
and public buildings rose above them, and presented a most striking
appearance to those approaching the city, which lay in a great natural
amphitheater, the hills on both sides narrowing toward the river both
above and below it. The march of the royal army from Memphis had been
on the western bank of the river, and it was the great Libyan suburb
with its palaces and temples that they were approaching. As they
neared the city an enormous multitude poured out to welcome the king
and the returning army. Shouts of enthusiasm were raised, the sound of
trumpets and other musical instruments filled the air, religious
processions from the great temples moved with steady course through
the dense crowd, which separated at once to allow of the passage of
the figures of the gods, and of the priests and attendants bearing
their emblems.

“Indeed, Jethro,” Amuba exclaimed with enthusiasm, “it is almost worth
while being made a slave if it is only to witness this glorious scene.
What a wonderful people are these; what knowledge, and power, and
magnificence! Why, my father’s palace would be regarded as a mere hut
in Thebes, and our temples, of which we thought so much, are pygmies
by the side of these immense edifices.”

“All that is true enough, Amuba, and I do not say that I, too, am not
filled with admiration, and yet you know the Rebu several times drove
back their forces, and man for man are more than a match for their
soldiers. Our people are taller than they by half a head. We have not
so much luxury, nor did we want it. All this must make people
effeminate.”

“Perhaps so,” Amuba assented; “but you must remember it is not so very
long ago that we were a people living in tents, and wandering at will
in search of pasture, and we have not, I think, become effeminate
because we have settled down and built towns. No one can say that the
Egyptians are not brave; certainly it is not for us to say so, though
I agree with you that physically they are not our equals. See how the
people stare and point at us, Jethro. I should think they have never
seen a race like ours with blue eyes and fair hair, though even among
them there are varying shades of darkness. The nobles and upper
classes are lighter in hue than the common people.”

The surprise of the Egyptians was indeed great at the complexion of
their captives, and the decoration of their walls has handed down in
paintings which still remain the blue eyes and fair hair of the Rebu.
The rejoicings upon the return of the king went on for several days;
at the end of that time the captives were distributed by the royal
order. Some were given to the generals who had most distinguished
themselves. Many were assigned to the priests, while the great bulk
were sent to labor upon the public works.

The Rebu captives, whose singular complexion and fairness caused them
to be regarded with special interest, were distributed among the
special favorites of the king. Many of the girls were assigned to the
queen and royal princesses, others to the wives of the priests and
generals who formed the council of the king. The men were, for the
most part, given to the priests for service about the temples.

To his great delight Amuba found that Jethro and himself were among
the eight captives who were assigned to the service of the priests of
one of the great temples. This was scarcely the effect of chance, for
the captives were drawn up in line, and the number assigned to each
temple were marched off together in order that there might be no
picking and choosing of the captives, but that they might be divided
impartially between the various temples, and as Jethro always placed
himself by Amuba’s side, it naturally happened that they fell to the
same destination.

On reaching the temple the little band of captives were again drawn
up, and the high priest, Ameres, a grave and distinguished-looking
man, walked along the line scrutinizing them. He beckoned to Amuba to
step forward. “Henceforth,” he said, “you are my servant. Behave well,
and you will be well treated.” He again walked down the line, and
Amuba saw that he was going to choose another, and threw himself on
his knees before him.

“Will my lord pardon my boldness,” he said, “but may I implore you to
choose yonder man who stood next beside me? He has been my friend
from childhood, he covered me with his shield in battle, he has been a
father to me since I have lost my own. Do not, I implore you, my lord,
separate us now. You will find us both willing to labor at whatsoever
you may give us to do.”

The priest listened gravely.

“It shall be as you wish,” he said; “it is the duty of every man to
give pleasure to those around him if it lies in his power, and as your
friend is a man of thews and sinews, and has a frank and honest face,
he will assuredly suit me as well as another; do you therefore both
follow me to my house.”

The other captives saluted Amuba as he and Jethro turned to follow.
The priest observed the action, and said to the lad:

“Were you a person of consequence among your people that they thus at
parting salute you rather than your comrade, who is older than you?”

“I am the son of him who was their king,” Amuba said. “He fell in
action with your troops, and had not our city been taken, and the
nation subdued by the Egyptians, I should have inherited the throne.”

“Is it so?” the priest said. “Truly the changes and fortunes of life
are strange. I wonder that, being the son of their king, you were not
specially kept by Thotmes himself.”

“I think that he knew it not,” Amuba said. “We knew not your customs,
and my fellow-captives thought that possibly I might be put to death
were it known that I was a son of their king, and therefore abstained
from all outward marks of respect, which, indeed, would to one who was
a slave like themselves have been ridiculous.”

“Perhaps it is best so,” the priest said thoughtfully. “You would not
have been injured, for we do not slay our captives taken in war;
still maybe your life will be easier to bear as the servant of a
priest than in the household of the king. You had better, however,
mention to no one the rank you have borne, for it might be reported to
the king, and then you might be sent for to the palace; unless indeed
you would rather be a spectator of the pomp and gayety of the court
than a servant in a quiet household.”

“I would far rather remain with you, my lord,” Amuba said eagerly.
“You have already shown the kindness of your heart by granting my
request, and choosing my comrade Jethro as my fellow-slave, and I feel
already that my lot will be a far happier one than I had ventured to
hope.”

“Judge not hastily by appearances,” the priest said. “At the same
time, here in Egypt, slaves are not treated as they are among the wild
peoples of Nubia and the desert. There is a law for all, and he who
kills a slave is punished as if he took the life of an Egyptian.
However, I think I can say that your life will not be a hard one; you
have intelligence, as is shown by the fact that you have so rapidly
acquired sufficient knowledge of our tongue to speak it intelligibly.
Can you, too, speak our language?” he asked Jethro.

“I can speak a little,” Jethro said; “but not nearly so well as Amuba.
My lips are too old to fashion a strange tongue as rapidly as can his
younger ones.”

“You speak sufficiently well to understand,” the priest said, “and
doubtless will in time acquire our tongue perfectly. This is my
house.”

The priest entered an imposing gateway, on each side of which
stretched a long and lofty wall. At a distance of fifty yards from the
gate stood a large dwelling, compared to which the royal abode which
Amuba had been brought up in was but a miserable hut. Inclosed within
the walls was a space of ground some three hundred yards square, which
was laid out as a garden. Avenues of fruit trees ran all round it, a
portion was laid out as a vineyard, while separated from the rest by
an avenue of palm trees was a vegetable garden.

In front of the house was a large piece of water in which floated a
gayly-painted boat; aquatic plants of all kinds bordered its edges.
Graceful palms grouped their foliage over it, the broad flat leaves of
lilies floated on its surface, while the white flowers which Amuba had
seen carried in all the religious processions and by large numbers of
people of the upper rank, and which he heard were called the lotus,
rose above them. The two captives were struck with surprise and
admiration at the beauty of the scene, and forgot for a moment that
they were slaves as they looked round at a vegetation more beautiful
than they had ever beheld. A smile passed over the countenance of the
priest.

“Perfect happiness is for no man,” he said, “and yet methinks that you
may in time learn at least contentment here.”

CHAPTER IV.

AN EASY SERVITUDE.

Just as the priest finished speaking, a lad of about the same age as
Amuba appeared at the portico of the house, and ran down to his
father.

“Oh, father!” he exclaimed, “have you brought two of those strange
captives home? We saw them in the procession, and marveled greatly at
the color of their hair and eyes. Mysa and I particularly noticed this
lad, whose hair is almost the color of gold.”

“As usual, Chebron, your tongue outruns your discretion. This youth
understands enough Egyptian to know what you are saying, and it is not
courteous to speak of a person’s characteristics to his face.”

The lad flushed through his olive cheeks.

“Pardon me,” he said courteously to Amuba. “I did not think for a
moment that one who had but newly arrived among us understood our
language.”

“Do not apologize,” Amuba replied with a smile. “Doubtless our
appearance is strange to you, and indeed even among the peoples of
Lydia and Persia there are few whose hair and eyes are as fair as
ours. Even had you said that you did not like our appearance I should
not have felt hurt, for all people I think like that to which they are
accustomed; in any case, it is good of you to say that you regret what
you said; people do not generally think that captives have feelings.”

“Chebron’s apology was right,” his father said. “Among us politeness
is the rule, and every Egyptian is taught to be considerate to all
people. It is just as easy to be polite as to be rude, and men are
served better for love than for fear.”

“And are they to stay here, father,” Chebron asked, “or have you only
brought them for to-day?”

“They are to stay here, my son. I have chosen them from those set
aside for our temple. I selected the younger because he was about your
age, and it is good for a man to have one near him who has been
brought up with him, and is attached to him; who, although
circumstances may not have made them equal in condition, can yet be a
comrade and a friend, and such, I hope, you will find in Amuba, for
such he tells me is his name. I have said whom circumstances have
placed in an inferior position, for after all circumstances are
everything. This youth, in his own country, held a position even
higher than you do here, for he was the son of the king; and, since
his father fell in battle, would now be the king of his people had
they not been subjected to us. Therefore, Chebron, bear it always in
mind that although misfortune has placed him a captive among us, he is
in birth your superior, and treat him as you yourself would wish to be
treated did you fall a captive into the hands of a hostile nation.”

“I will gladly treat you as my friend,” the young Egyptian said
frankly to Amuba. “Although you are so different from me in race, I
can see in your face that you are true and loyal. Besides,” he added,
“I am sure that my father would not have bade me so trust you had he
not read your character and been certain that you will be a fit friend
for me.”

“You and your father are both good,” Amuba replied. “I know how hard
is the lot of captives taken in war, for we Rebu had many slaves whom
we took in various expeditions, and I was prepared to suffer. You can
judge, then, how grateful I feel to our gods that they have placed me
in hands so different from those I had looked for, and I swear to you,
Chebron, that you shall find me faithful and devoted to you. So, too,
will you find my friend here, who in any difficulty would be far more
able to render you service than I could. He was one of our bravest
warriors. He drove my chariot in the great battle we fought with your
people, and saved my life several times; and should you need the
service of a strong and brave man, Jethro will be able to aid you.”

“And have you been in battle?” Chebron asked in surprise.

“That was the first time I had ever fought with men,” Amuba said; “but
I had often hunted the lion, and he is almost as terrible an enemy as
your soldiers. I was young to go to battle, but my father naturally
wished me to take my place early among the fighting men of our
nation.”

“By the way, Chebron,” Ameres said, “I would warn you, mention to no
one the rank that Amuba held in his own country. Were it known he
might be taken away from us to serve in the palace. His people who
were taken captives with him said nothing as to his rank, fearing that
ill might befall him were it known, and it was therefore supposed that
he was of the same rank as the other captives, who were all men of
noble birth among the Rebu. Therefore tell no one, not even your
mother or your sister Mysa. If there is a secret to be kept, the fewer
who know it the better.”

While this conversation had been going on Amuba had been narrowly
examining the lad who had promised to treat him as a friend.

Like his father he was fairer in complexion than the majority of the
Egyptians, the lighter hue being, indeed, almost universal among the
upper class. He was much shorter and slighter than the young Rebu, but
he carried himself well, and had already in his manner something of
the calm and dignity that distinguished Egyptians born to high rank.
He was disfigured, as Amuba thought, by the custom, general throughout
Egypt, of having his head smoothly shaven, except one lock which fell
down over the left ear. This, as Amuba afterward learned, was the
distinguishing sign of youth, and would be shaved off when he attained
man’s estate, married, or entered upon a profession.

At present his head was bare, but when he went out he wore a
close-fitting cap with an orifice through which the lock of hair
passed out and fell down to his shoulder. He had not yet taken to the
custom general among the upper and middle classes of wearing a wig.
This general shaving of the head had, to Amuba, a most unpleasant
effect until he became accustomed to it. It was adopted, doubtless, by
the Egyptians for the purpose of coolness and cleanliness; but Amuba
thought that he would rather spend any amount of pains in keeping his
hair free from dust than go about in the fantastic and complicated
wigs that the Egyptians wore.

The priest now led them within the house. On passing through the
entrance they entered a large hall. Along its side ran a row of
massive columns supporting the ceiling, which projected twelve feet
from each wall; the walls were covered with marble and other colored
stones; the floor was paved with the same material; a fountain played
in the middle, and threw its water to a considerable height, for the
portion of the hall between the columns was open to the sky; seats of
a great variety of shapes stood about the room; while in great pots
were placed palms and other plants of graceful foliage. The ceiling
was painted with an elaborate pattern in colors. A lady was seated
upon a long couch. It had no back, but one end was raised as a support
for the arm, and the ends were carved into the semblance of the heads
of animals.

Two Nubian slave girls stood behind her fanning her, and a girl about
twelve years old was seated on a low stool studying from a roll of
papyrus. She threw it down and jumped to her feet as her father
entered, and the lady rose with a languid air, as if the effort of
even so slight a movement was a trouble to her.

“Oh, papa–” the girl began, but the priest checked her with a motion
of his hand.

“My dear,” he said to his wife, “I have brought home two of the
captives whom our great king has brought with him as trophies of his
conquest. He has handed many over for our service and that of the
temples, and these two have fallen to my share. They were of noble
rank in their own country, and we will do our best to make them forget
the sad change in their position.”

“You are always so peculiar in your notions, Ameres,” the lady said
more pettishly than would have been expected from her languid
movements. “They are captives; and I do not see that it makes any
matter what they were before they were captives, so that they are
captives now. By all means treat them as you like, so that you do not
place them about me, for their strange-colored hair and eyes and their
white faces make me shudder.”

“Oh, mamma, I think it so pretty,” Mysa exclaimed. “I do wish my hair
was gold-colored like that boy’s, instead of being black like everyone
else’s.”

[Illustration: C. of B.
THE HIGH-PRIEST PRESENTS AMUBA AND JETHRO TO
HIS WIFE.--Page 68.]

The priest shook his head at his daughter reprovingly; but she seemed
in no way abashed, for she was her father’s pet, and knew well enough
that he was never seriously angry with her.

“I do not propose placing them near you, Amense,” he said calmly in
reply to his wife. “Indeed, it seems to me that you have already more
attendants about you than you can find any sort of employment for. The
lad I have specially allotted to Chebron; as to the other I have not
exactly settled as to what his duties will be.”

“Won’t you give him to me, papa?” Mysa said coaxingly. “Fatina is not
at all amusing, and Dolma, the Nubian girl, can only look good-natured
and show her white teeth, but as we can’t understand each other at all
I don’t see that she is of any use to me.”

“And what use do you think you could make of this tall Rebu?” the
priest asked, smiling.

“I don’t quite know, papa,” Mysa said, as with her head a little on
one side she examined Jethro critically, “but I like his looks, and I
am sure he could do all sorts of things; for instance, he could walk
with me when I want to go out, he could tow me round the lake in the
boat, he could pick up my ball for me, and could feed my pets.”

“When you are too lazy to feed them yourself,” the priest put in.
“Very well, Mysa, we will try the experiment. Jethro shall be your
special attendant, and when you have nothing for him to do, which will
be the best part of the day, he can look after the waterfowl. Zunbo
never attends them properly. Do you understand that?” he asked Jethro.

Jethro replied by stepping forward, taking the girl’s hand, and
bending over it until his forehead touched it.

“There is an answer for you, Mysa.”

“You indulge the children too much, Ameres,” his wife said irritably.
“I do not think in all Egypt there are any children so spoiled as
ours. Other men’s sons never speak unless addressed, and do not think
of sitting down in the presence of their father. I am astonished
indeed that you, who are looked up to as one of the wisest men in
Egypt, should suffer your children to be so familiar with you.”

“Perhaps, my dear,” Ameres said with a placid smile, “it is because
I am one of the wisest men in Egypt. My children honor me in their
hearts as much as do those who are kept in slavelike subjection. How
is a boy’s mind to expand if he does not ask questions, and who
should be so well able to answer his questions as his father? There,
children, you can go now. Take your new companions with you, and show
them the garden and your pets.”

“We are fortunate, indeed, Jethro,” Amuba said as they followed
Chebron and Mysa into the garden. “When we pictured to ourselves as we
lay on the sand at night during our journey hither what our life would
be, we never dreamed of anything like this. We thought of tilling the
land, of aiding to raise the great dams and embankments, of quarrying
stones for the public buildings, of a grinding and hopeless slavery,
and the only thing that ever we ventured to hope for was that we might
toil side by side, and now, see how good the gods have been to us. Not
only are we together, but we have found friends in our masters, a home
in this strange land.”

“Truly it is wonderful, Amuba. This Priest Ameres is a most excellent
person, one to be loved by all who come near him. We have indeed been
most fortunate in having been chosen by him.”

The brother and sister led the way through an avenue of fruit trees,
at the end of which a gate led through a high paling of rushes into an
inclosure some fifty feet square. It was surrounded by trees and
shrubs, and in their shade stood a number of wooden structures.

In the center was a pool occupying the third of the area, and like the
large pond before the house bordered with aquatic plants. At the edge
stood two ibises, while many brilliantly plumaged waterfowl were
swimming on its surface or cleaning their feathers on the bank.

As soon as the gate closed there was a great commotion among the
waterfowl; the ibises advanced gravely to meet their young mistress,
the ducks set up a chorus of welcome, those on the water made for the
shore, while those on land followed the ibises with loud quackings.
But the first to reach them were two gazelles, which bounded from one
of the wooden huts and were in an instant beside them, thrusting their
soft muzzles into the hands of Chebron and Mysa, while from the other
structures arose a medley of sounds–the barking of dogs and the
sounds of welcome from a variety of creatures.

“This is not your feeding-time, you know,” Chebron said, looking at
the gazelles, “and for once we have come empty-handed; but we will
give you something from your stores. See, Jethro, this is their
larder,” and he led the way into a structure somewhat larger than the
rest; along the walls were a number of boxes of various sizes, while
some large bins stood below them. “Here, you see,” he went on, opening
one of the bins and taking from it a handful of freshly cut vetches,
and going to the door and throwing it down before the gazelles, “this
is their special food; it is brought in fresh every morning from our
farm, which lies six miles away. The next bin contains the seed for
the waterfowl. It is all mixed here, you see. Wheat and peas and
pulse and other seeds. Mysa, do give them a few handfuls, for I can
hardly hear myself speak from their clamor.

“In this box above you see there is a pan of sopped bread for the
cats. There is a little mixed with the water; but only a little, for
it will not keep good. Those cakes are for them, too. Those large,
plain, hard-baked cakes in the next box are for the dogs; they have
some meat and bones given them two or three times a week. These frogs
and toads in this cage are for the little crocodile; he has a tank all
to himself. All these other boxes are full of different food for the
other animals you see. There’s a picture of the right animal upon
each, so there is no fear of making a mistake. We generally feed them
ourselves three times a day when we are here, but when we are away it
will be for you to feed them.”

“And please,” Mysa said, “above all things be very particular that
they have all got fresh water; they do love fresh water so much, and
sometimes it is so hot that the pans dry up in an hour after it has
been poured out. You see, the gazelles can go to the pond and drink
when they are thirsty, but the others are fastened up because they
won’t live peaceably together as they ought to do; but we let them out
for a bit while we are here. The dogs chase the waterfowl and frighten
them, and the cats will eat up the little ducklings, which is very
wrong when they have plenty of proper food; and the ichneumon, even
when we are here, would quarrel with the snakes if we let him into
their house. They are very troublesome that way, though they are all
so good with us. The houses all want making nice and clean of a
morning.”

The party went from house to house inspecting the various animals, all
of which were most carefully attended. The dogs, which were, Chebron
said, of a Nubian breed, were used for hunting; while on comfortable
beds of fresh rushes three great cats lay blinking on large cushions,
but got up and rubbed against Mysa and Chebron in token of welcome. A
number of kittens that were playing about together rushed up with
upraised tails and loud mewings. Amuba noticed that their two guides
made a motion of respect as they entered the house where the cats
were, as well as toward the dogs, the ichneumon, and the crocodile,
all of which were sacred animals in Thebes.

Many instructions were given by Mysa to Jethro as to the peculiar
treatment that each of her pets demanded, and having completed their
rounds the party then explored the garden, and Amuba and Jethro were
greatly struck by the immense variety of plants, which had indeed been
raised from seeds or roots brought from all the various countries
where the Egyptian arms extended.

For a year the time passed tranquilly and pleasantly to Amuba in the
household of the priest. His duties and those of Jethro were light. In
his walks and excursions Amuba was Chebron’s companion. He learned to
row his boat when he went out fishing on the Nile. When thus out
together the distinction of rank was altogether laid aside; but when
in Thebes the line was necessarily more marked, as Chebron could not
take Amuba with him to the houses of the many friends and relatives of
his father among the priestly and military classes. When the priest
and his family went out to a banquet or entertainment Jethro and Amuba
were always with the party of servants who went with torches to escort
them home. The service was a light one in their case; but not so in
many others, for the Egyptians often drank deeply at these feasts, and
many of the slaves always took with them light couches upon which to
carry their masters home. Even among the ladies, who generally took
their meals apart from the men upon these occasions, drunkenness was
by no means uncommon.

When in the house Amuba was often present when Chebron studied, and as
he himself was most anxious to acquire as much as he could of the
wisdom of the Egyptians, Chebron taught him the hieroglyphic
characters, and he was ere long able to read the inscriptions upon the
temple and public buildings and to study from the papyrus scrolls, of
which vast numbers were stowed away in pigeon-holes ranged round one
of the largest rooms in the house.

When Chebron’s studies were over Jethro instructed him in the use of
arms, and also practiced with Amuba. A teacher of the use of the bow
came frequently–for Egyptians of all ranks were skilled in the use of
the national weapon–and the Rebu captives, already skilled in the bow
as used by their own people, learned from watching his teaching of
Chebron to use the longer and much more powerful weapon of the
Egyptians. Whenever Mysa went outside the house Jethro accompanied
her, waiting outside the house she visited until she came out, or
going back to fetch her if her stay was a prolonged one.

Greatly they enjoyed the occasional visits made by the family to their
farm. Here they saw the cultivation of the fields carried on, watched
the plucking of the grapes and their conversion into wine. To extract
the juice the grapes were heaped in a large flat vat above which ropes
were suspended. A dozen barefooted slaves entered the vat and trod out
the grapes, using the ropes to lift themselves in order that they
might drop with greater force upon the fruit. Amuba had learned from
Chebron that although he was going to enter the priesthood as an
almost necessary preliminary for state employment, he was not intended
to rise to the upper rank of the priesthood, but to become a state
official.

“My elder brother will, no doubt, some day succeed my father as high
priest of Osiris,” he told Amuba. “I know that my father does not
think that he is clever, but it is not necessary to be very clever to
serve in the temple. I thought that, of course, I too should come to
high rank in the priesthood; for, as you know, almost all posts are
hereditary, and though my brother as the elder would be high priest, I
should be one of the chief priests also. But I have not much taste
that way, and rejoiced much when one day saying so to my father, he
replied at once that he should not urge me to devote my life to the
priesthood, for that there were many other offices of state which
would be open to me, and in which I could serve my country and be
useful to the people. Almost all the posts in the service of the state
are, indeed, held by the members of priestly families; they furnish
governors to the provinces, and not infrequently generals to the army.

“‘Some,’ he said, ‘are by disposition fitted to spend their lives in
ministering in the temples, and it is doubtless a high honor and
happiness to do so; but for others a more active life and a wider
field of usefulness is more suitable. Engineers are wanted for the
canal and irrigation works, judges are required to make the law
respected and obeyed, diplomatists to deal with foreign nations,
governors for the many peoples over whom we rule; therefore, my son,
if you do not feel a longing to spend your life in the service of the
temple, by all means turn your mind to study which will fit you to be
an officer of the state. Be assured that I can obtain for you from the
king a post in which you will be able to make your first essay, and
so, if deserving, rise to high advancement.’”

There were few priests during the reign of Thotmes III. who stood
higher in the opinion of the Egyptian people than Ameres. His piety
and learning rendered him distinguished among his fellows. He was high
priest in the temple of Osiris, and was one of the most trusted of the
councilors of the king. He had by heart all the laws of the sacred
books; he was an adept in the inmost mysteries of the religion. His
wealth was large, and he used it nobly; he lived in a certain pomp and
state which were necessary for his position, but he spent but a tithe
of his revenues, and the rest he distributed among the needy.

If the Nile rose to a higher level than usual and spread ruin and
destruction among the cultivators, Ameres was ready to assist the
distressed. If the rise of the river was deficient, he always set the
example of remitting the rents of the tenants of his broad lands, and
was ready to lend money without interest to tenants of harder or more
necessitous landlords.

Yet among the high priesthood Ameres was regarded with suspicion, and
even dislike. It was whispered among them that, learned and pious as
he was, the opinions of the high priest were not in accordance with
the general sentiments of the priesthood; that although he performed
punctiliously all the numerous duties of his office, and took his part
in the sacrifices and processions of the god, he yet lacked reverence
for him, and entertained notions widely at variance with those of his
fellows.

Ameres was, in fact, one of those men who refuse to be bound by the
thoughts and opinions of others, and to whom it is a necessity to
bring their own judgment to bear on every question presented to them.
His father, who had been high priest before him–for the great offices
of Egypt were for the most part hereditary–while he had been
delighted at the thirst for knowledge and the enthusiasm for study in
his son, had been frequently shocked at the freedom with which he
expressed his opinions as step by step he was initiated into the
sacred mysteries.

Already at his introduction to the priesthood, Ameres had mastered all
there was to learn in geometry and astronomy. He was a skillful
architect, and was deeply versed in the history of the nation. He had
already been employed as supervisor in the construction of canals and
irrigation works on the property belonging to the temple, and in all
these respects his father had every reason to be proud of the success
he had attained and the estimation in which he was held by his
fellows. It was only the latitude which he allowed himself in
consideration of religious questions which alarmed and distressed
his father.

The Egyptians were the most conservative of peoples. For thousands
of years no change whatever took place in their constitution, their
manners, customs, and habits. It was the fixed belief of every
Egyptian that in all respects their country was superior to any other,
and that their laws and customs had approached perfection. All, from
the highest to the lowest, were equally bound by these. The king
himself was no more independent than the peasant; his hour of rising,
the manner in which the day should be employed, the very quantity and
quality of food he should eat, were all rigidly dictated by custom. He
was surrounded from his youth by young men of his own age–sons of
priests, chosen for their virtue and piety.

Thus he was freed from the influence of evil advisers, and even had he
so wished it, had neither means nor power of oppressing his subjects,
whose rights and privileges were as strictly defined as his own. In a
country then, where every man followed the profession of his father,
and where from time immemorial everything had proceeded on precisely
the same lines, the fact that Ameres, the son of the high priest of
Osiris, and himself destined to succeed to that dignity, should
entertain opinions differing even in the slightest from those held by
the leaders of the priesthood, was sufficient to cause him to be
regarded with marked disfavor among them; it was indeed only because
his piety and benevolence were as remarkable as his learning and
knowledge of science that he was enabled at his father’s death to
succeed to his office without opposition.

Indeed, even at that time the priests of higher grade would have
opposed his election; but Ameres was as popular with the lower classes
of the priesthood as with the people at large, and their suffrages
would have swamped those of his opponents. The multitude had, indeed,
never heard so much as a whisper against the orthodoxy of the high
priest of Osiris. They saw him ever foremost in the sacrifices and
processions; they knew that he was indefatigable in his services in
the temple, and that all his spare time was devoted to works of
benevolence and general utility; and as they bent devoutly as he
passed through the streets they little dreamed that the high priest of
Osiris was regarded by his chief brethren as a dangerous innovator.

And yet it was on one subject only that he differed widely from his
order. Versed as he was in the innermost mysteries, he had learned
the true meaning of the religion of which he was one of the chief
ministers. He was aware that Osiris and Isis, the six other great
gods, and the innumerable divinities whom the Egyptians worshiped
under the guise of deities with the heads of animals, were in
themselves no gods at all, but mere attributes of the power, the
wisdom, the goodness, the anger of the one great God–a God so mighty
that his name was unknown, and that it was only when each of his
attributes was given an individuality and worshiped as a god that it
could be understood by the finite sense of man.

All this was known to Ameres and the few who, like him, had been
admitted to the inmost mysteries of the Egyptian religion. The rest
of the population in Egypt worshiped in truth and in faith the
animal-headed gods and the animals sacred to them; and yet as to these
animals there was no consensus of opinion. In one nome or division of
the kingdom the crocodile was sacred; in another he was regarded with
dislike, and the ichneumon, that was supposed to be his destroyer, was
deified. In one the goat was worshiped, and in another eaten for food;
and so it was throughout the whole of the list of sacred animals,
which were regarded with reverence or indifference according to the
gods who were looked upon as the special tutelary deities of the nome.

It was the opinion of Ameres that the knowledge, confined only to the
initiated, should be more widely disseminated, and, without wishing to
extend it at present to the ignorant masses of the peasantry and
laborers, he thought that all the educated and intelligent classes of
Egypt should be admitted to an understanding of the real nature of the
gods they worshiped and the inner truths of their religion. He was
willing to admit that the process must be gradual, and that it would
be necessary to enlarge gradually the circle of the initiated. His
proposals were nevertheless received with dismay and horror by his
colleagues. They asserted that to allow others besides the higher
priesthood to become aware of the deep mysteries of their religion
would be attended with terrible consequences.

In the first place, it would shake entirely the respect and reverence
in which the priesthood were held, and would annihilate their
influence. The temples would be deserted, and, losing the faith which
they now so steadfastly held in the gods, people would soon cease to
have any religion at all. “There are no people,” they urged, “on the
face of the earth so moral, so contented, so happy, and so easily
ruled as the Egyptians; but what would they be did you destroy all
their beliefs, and launch them upon a sea of doubt and speculation! No
longer would they look up to those who have so long been their guides
and teachers, and whom they regard as possessing a knowledge and
wisdom infinitely beyond theirs. They would accuse us of having
deceived them, and in their blind fury destroy alike the gods and
their ministers. The idea of such a thing is horrible.”

Ameres was silenced, though not convinced. He felt, indeed, that there
was much truth in the view they entertained of the matter, and that
terrible consequences would almost certainly follow the discovery by
the people that for thousands of years they had been led by the
priests to worship as gods those who were no gods at all, and he saw
that the evil which would arise from a general enlightenment of the
people would outweigh any benefit that they could derive from the
discovery. The system had, as his colleagues said, worked well; and
the fact that the people worshiped as actual deities imaginary beings
who were really but the representatives of the attributes of the
infinite God, could not be said to have done them any actual harm. At
any rate, he alone and unaided could do nothing. Only with the general
consent of the higher priesthood could the circle of initiated be
widened, and any movement on his part alone would simply bring upon
himself disgrace and death. Therefore, after unburdening himself in a
council composed only of the higher initiates, he held his peace and
went on the quiet tenor of his way.

Enlightened as he was, he felt that he did no wrong to preside at
the sacrifices and take part in the services of the gods. He was
worshiping not the animal-headed idols, but the attributes which they
personified. He felt pity for the ignorant multitude who laid their
offerings upon the shrine; and yet he felt that it would shatter their
happiness instead of adding to it were they to know that the deity
they worshiped was a myth. He allowed his wife and daughter to join
with the priestesses in the service at the temple, and in his heart
acknowledged that there was much in the contention of those who argued
that the spread of the knowledge of the inner mysteries would not
conduce to the happiness of all who received it. Indeed he himself
would have shrunk from disturbing the minds of his wife and daughter
by informing them that all their pious ministrations in the temple
were offered to non-existent gods; that the sacred animals they tended
were in no way more sacred than others, save that in them were
recognized some shadow of the attributes of the unknown God.

His eldest son was, he saw, not of a disposition to be troubled with
the problems which gave him so much subject for thought and care. He
would conduct the services consciously and well. He would bear a
respectable part when, on his accession to the high-priesthood, he
became one of the councilors of the monarch. He had common sense, but
no imagination. The knowledge of the inmost mysteries would not
disturb his mind in the slightest degree, and it was improbable that
even a thought would ever cross his mind that the terrible deception
practiced by the enlightened upon the whole people was anything but
right and proper.

Ameres saw, however, that Chebron was altogether differently
constituted. He was very intelligent, and was possessed of an ardent
thirst for knowledge of all kinds; but he had also his father’s habit
of looking at matters from all points of view and of thinking for
himself. The manner in which Ameres had himself superintended his
studies and taught him to work with his understanding, and to convince
himself that each rule and precept was true before proceeding to the
next, had developed his thinking powers. Altogether, Ameres saw that
the doubts which filled his own mind as to the honesty, or even
expediency, of keeping the whole people in darkness and error would
probably be felt with even greater force by Chebron.

He had determined, therefore, that the lad should not work up through
all the grades of the priesthood to the upper rank, but should, after
rising high enough to fit himself for official employment, turn his
attention to one or other of the great departments of state.

CHAPTER V.

IN LOWER EGYPT.

“I am going on a journey,” Ameres said to his son a few days after the
return from the farm. “I shall take you with me, Chebron, for I am
going to view the progress of a fresh canal that is being made on our
estate in Goshen. The officer who is superintending it has doubts
whether, when the sluices are opened, it will altogether fulfill its
purpose, and I fear that some mistake must have been made in the
levels. I have already taught you the theory of the work; it is well
that you should gain some practical experience in it; for there is no
more useful or honorable profession than that of carrying out works by
which the floods of the Nile are conveyed to the thirsty soil.”

“Thank you, father. I should like it greatly,” Chebron replied in a
tone of delight, for he had never before been far south of Thebes.
“And may Amuba go with us?”

“Yes; I was thinking of taking him,” the high priest said. “Jethro can
also go, for I take a retinue with me. Did I consult my own pleasure I
would far rather travel without this state and ceremony; but as a
functionary of state I must conform to the customs. And, indeed, even
in Goshen it is as well always to travel in some sort of state. The
people there are of a different race to ourselves. Although they have
dwelt a long time in the land and conform to its customs, still they
are notoriously a stubborn and obstinate people, and there is more
trouble in getting the public works executed there than in any other
part of the country.”

“I have heard of them, father. They belong to the same race as the
shepherd kings who were such bitter tyrants to Egypt. How is it that
they stayed behind when the shepherds were driven out?”

“They are of the same race, but they came not with them, and formed no
part of their conquering armies. The shepherds, who, as you know, came
from the land lying to the east of the Great Sea, had reigned here for
a long time when this people came. They were relations of the Joseph
who, as you have read in your history, was chief minister of Egypt.

“He came here as a slave, and was certainly brought from the country
whence our oppressors came. But they say that he was not of their
race, but that his forefathers had come into the land from a country
lying far to the east; but that I know not. Suffice it he gained the
confidence of the king, became his minister, and ruled wisely as far
as the king was concerned, though the people have little reason to
bless his memory. In his days was a terrible famine, and they say he
foretold its coming, and that his gods gave him warning of it. So vast
granaries were constructed and filled to overflowing, and when the
famine came and the people were starving the grain was served out, but
in return the people had to give up their land. Thus the whole tenure
of the land in the country was changed, and all became the property of
the state, the people remaining as its tenants upon the land they
formerly owned. Then it was that the state granted large tracts to the
temples, and others to the military order, so that at present all
tillers of land pay rent either to the king, the temples, or the
military order.

“Thus it is that the army can always be kept up in serviceable order,
dwelling by its tens of thousands in the cities assigned to it. Thus
it is that the royal treasury is always kept full, and the services of
the temples maintained. The step has added to the power and dignity of
the nation, and has benefited the cultivators themselves by enabling
vast works of irrigation to be carried out–works that could never
have been accomplished had the land been the property of innumerable
small holders, each with his own petty interests.”

“But you said, father, that it has not been for the good of the
people.”

“Nor has it in one respect, Chebron, for it has drawn a wide chasm
between the aristocratic classes and the bulk of the people, who can
never own land, and have no stimulus to exertion.”

“But they are wholly ignorant, father. They are peasants, and nothing
more.”

“I think they might be something more, Chebron, under other
circumstances. However, that is not the question we are discussing.
This Joseph brought his family out of the land at the east of the
Great Sea, and land was given to them in Goshen, and they settled
there and throve and multiplied greatly. Partly because of the
remembrance of the services Joseph had rendered to the state, partly
because they were a kindred people, they were held in favor as long as
the shepherd kings ruled over us. But when Egypt rose and shook off
the yoke they had groaned under so long, and drove the shepherds and
their followers out of the land, this people–for they had now so
grown in numbers as to be in verity a people–remained behind, and
they have been naturally viewed with suspicion by us. They are akin to
our late oppressors, and lying as their land does to the east, they
could open the door to any fresh army of invasion.

“Happily, now that our conquests have spread so far, and the power of
the people eastward of the Great Sea has been completely broken, this
reason for distrust has died out, but Joseph’s people are still viewed
unfavorably. Prejudices take long to die out among the masses, and the
manner in which these people cling together, marrying only among
themselves and keeping themselves apart from us, gives a certain
foundation for the dislike which exists. Personally, I think the
feeling is unfounded. They are industrious and hard-working, though
they are, I own, somewhat disposed to resist authority, and there is
more difficulty in obtaining the quota of men from Goshen for the
execution of public works than from any other of the provinces of
Egypt.”

“Do they differ from us in appearance, father?”

“Considerably, Chebron. They are somewhat fairer than we are, their
noses are more aquiline, and they are physically stronger. They do not
shave their heads as we do, and they generally let the hair on their
faces grow. For a long time after their settlement I believe that they
worshiped their own gods, or rather their own God, but they have long
adopted our religion.”

“Surely that must be wrong,” Chebron said. “Each nation has its gods,
and if a people forsake their own gods it is not likely that other
gods would care for them as they do for their own people.”

“It is a difficult question, Chebron, and one which it is best for you
to leave alone at present. You will soon enter into the lower grade of
the priesthood, and although if you do not pass into the upper grades
you will never know the greater mysteries, you will yet learn enough
to enlighten you to some extent.”

Chebron was too well trained in the respect due to a parent to ask
further questions, but he renewed the subject with Amuba as they
strolled in the garden together afterward.

“I wonder how each nation found out who were the gods who specially
cared for them, Amuba?”

“I have no idea,” Amuba, who had never given the subject a thought,
replied. “You are always asking puzzling questions, Chebron.”

“Well, but it must have been somehow,” Chebron insisted. “Do you
suppose that any one ever saw our gods? and if not, how do people know
that one has the head of a dog and another of a cat, or what they are
like? Are some gods stronger than others, because all people offer
sacrifices to the gods and ask for their help before going to battle?
Some are beaten and some are victorious; some win to-day and lose
to-morrow. Is it that these gods are stronger one day than another, or
that they do not care to help their people sometimes? Why do they not
prevent their temples from being burned and their images from being
thrown down? It is all very strange.”

“It is all very strange, Chebron. I was not long ago asking Jethro
nearly the same question, but he could give me no answer. Why do you
not ask your father. He is one of the wisest of the Egyptians.”

“I have asked my father, but he will not answer me,” Chebron said
thoughtfully. “I think sometimes that it is because I have asked these
questions that he does not wish me to become a high priest. I did not
mean anything disrespectful to the gods. But somehow when I want to
know things, and he will not answer me, I think he looks sadly, as if
he was sorry at heart that he could not tell me what I want to know.”

“Have you ever asked your brother Neco?”

“Oh, Neco is different,” Chebron said with an accent almost of
disdain. “Neco gets into passions and threatens me with all sorts of
things; but I can see he knows no more about it than I do, for he has
a bewildered look in his face when I ask him these things, and once or
twice he has put his hands to his ears and fairly run away, as if I
was saying something altogether profane and impious against the gods.”

On the following day the high priest and his party started for Goshen.
The first portion of the journey was performed by water. The craft was
a large one, with a pavilion of carved wood on deck, and two masts,
with great sails of many colors cunningly worked together. Persons of
consequence traveling in this way were generally accompanied by at
least two or three musicians playing on harps, trumpets, or pipes;
for the Egyptians were passionately fond of music, and no feast was
thought complete without a band to discourse soft music while it was
going on. The instruments were of the most varied kinds; stringed
instruments predominated, and these varied in size from tiny
instruments resembling zithers to harps much larger than those used in
modern times. In addition to these they had trumpets of many forms,
reed instruments, cymbals, and drums, the last-named long and narrow
in shape.

Ameres, however, although not averse to music after the evening meal,
was of too practical a character to care for it at other times. He
considered that it was too often an excuse for doing nothing and
thinking of nothing, and therefore dispensed with it except on state
occasions. As they floated down the river he explained to his son the
various objects which they passed; told him the manner in which the
fishermen in their high boats made of wooden planks bound together by
rushes, or in smaller crafts shaped like punts formed entirely of
papyrus bound together with bands of the same plant, caught the fish;
pointed out the entrances to the various canals, and explained the
working of the gates which admitted the water; gave him the history of
the various temples, towns, and villages; named the many waterfowl
basking on the surface of the river, and told him of their habits and
how they were captured by the fowlers; he pointed out the great tombs
to him, and told him by whom they were built.

“The largest, my son, are monuments of pride and folly. The greatest
of the pyramids was built by a king who thought it would immortalize
him; but so terrible was the labor that its construction inflicted
upon the people that it caused him to be execrated, and he was never
laid in the mausoleum he had built for himself. You see our custom of
judging kings after their death is not without advantages. After a
king is dead the people are gathered together and the question is put
to them, Has the dead monarch ruled well? If they reply with assenting
shouts, he is buried in a fitting tomb which he has probably prepared
for himself, or which his successor raises to him; but if the answer
is that he has reigned ill, the sacred rites in his honor are omitted
and the mausoleum he has raised stands empty forever.

“There are few, indeed, of our kings who have thus merited the
execration of their people, for as a rule the careful manner in which
they are brought up, surrounded by youths chosen for their piety and
learning, and the fact that they, like the meanest of their subjects,
are bound to respect the laws of the land, act as sufficient check
upon them. But there is no doubt that the knowledge that after death
they must be judged by the people exercises a wholesome restraint
even upon the most reckless.”

“I long to see the pyramids,” Chebron said. “Are they built of brick
or stone? for I have been told that their surface is so smooth and
shiny that they look as if cut from a single piece.”

“They are built of vast blocks of stone, each of which employed the
labor of many hundreds of men to transport from the quarries where
they were cut.”

“Were they the work of slaves or of the people at large?”

“Vast numbers of slaves captured in war labored at them,” the priest
replied. “But numerous as these were they were wholly insufficient for
the work, and well-nigh half the people of Egypt were forced to leave
their homes to labor at them. So great was the burden and distress
that even now the builders of these pyramids are never spoken of save
with curses; and rightly so, for what might not have been done with
the same labor usefully employed! Why, the number of the canals in the
country might have been doubled and the fertility of the soil vastly
increased. Vast tracts might have been reclaimed from the marshes and
shallow lakes, and the produce of the land might have been doubled.”

“And what splendid temples might have been raised!” Chebron said
enthusiastically.

“Doubtless, my son,” the priest said quietly after a slight pause.
“But though it is meet and right that the temples of the gods shall
be worthy of them, still, as we hold that the gods love Egypt and
rejoice in the prosperity of the people, I think that they might have
preferred so vast an improvement as the works I speak of would have
effected in the condition of the people, even to the raising of long
avenues of sphinxes and gorgeous temples in their own honor.”

“Yes, one would think so,” Chebron said thoughtfully. “And yet,
father, we are always taught that our highest duty is to pay honor to
the gods, and that in no way can money be so well spent as in raising
fresh temples and adding to the beauty of those that exist.”

“Our highest duty is assuredly to pay honor to the gods, Chebron; but
how that honor can be paid most acceptably is another and deeper
question which you are a great deal too young to enter upon. It will
be time enough for you to do that years hence. There, do you see that
temple standing on the right bank of the river? That is where we stop
for the night. My messenger will have prepared them for our coming,
and all will be in readiness for us.”

As they approached the temple they saw a number of people gathered on
the great stone steps reaching down to the water’s edge, and strains
of music were heard. On landing Ameres was greeted with the greatest
respect by the priests all bowing to the ground, while those of
inferior order knelt with their faces to the earth, and did not raise
them until he had passed on. As soon as he entered the temple a
procession was formed. Priests bearing sacred vessels and the symbols
of the gods walked before him to the altar; a band of unseen musicians
struck up a processional air; priestesses and maidens, also carrying
offerings and emblems, followed Ameres. He naturally took the
principal part in the sacrifice at the altar, cutting the throat of
the victim, and making the offering of the parts specially set aside
for the gods.

After the ceremonies were concluded the procession moved in order as
far as the house of the chief priest. Here all again saluted Ameres,
who entered, followed by his son and attendants. A banquet was already
in readiness. To this Ameres sat down with the principal priests,
while Chebron was conducted to the apartment prepared for him, where
food from the high table was served to him. Amuba and the rest of the
suit of the high priest were served in another apartment. As soon as
Chebron had finished he joined Amuba.

“Let us slip away,” he said. “The feasting will go on for hours, and
then there will be music far on into the night. My father will be
heartily tired of it all; for he loves plain food, and thinks that the
priests should eat none other. Still, as it would not be polite for a
guest to remark upon the viands set before him, I know that he will go
through it all. I have heard him say that it is one of the greatest
trials of his position that whenever he travels people seem to think
that a feast must be prepared for him; whereas I know he would rather
sit down to a dish of boiled lentils and water than have the richest
dishes set before him.”

“Is it going to be like this all the journey?” Amuba asked.

“Oh, no! I know that all the way down the river we shall rest at a
temple, for did my father not do so the priests would regard it as
a slight; but then we leave the boat and journey in chariots or
bullock-carts. When we reach Goshen we shall live in a little house
which my father has had constructed for him, and where we shall have
no more fuss and ceremony than we do at our own farm. Then he will
be occupied with the affairs of the estates and in the works of
irrigation; and although we shall be with him when he journeys about,
as I am to begin to learn the duties of a superintendent, I expect we
shall have plenty of time for amusement and sport.”

They strolled for an hour or two on the bank of the river, for the
moon was shining brightly and many boats were passing up and down;
the latter drifted with the stream, for the wind was so light that the
sails were scarce filled; the former kept close to the bank, and were
either propelled by long poles or towed by parties of men on the bank.
When they returned to the house they listened for a time to the music,
and then retired to their rooms. Amuba lay down upon the soft couch
made of a layer of bulrushes, covered with a thick woollen cloth, and
rested his head on a pillow of bulrushes which Jethro had bound up for
him; for neither of the Rebu had learned to adopt the Egyptian fashion
of using a stool for a pillow.

These stools were long, and somewhat curved in the middle to fit the
neck. For the common people they were roughly made of wood, smoothed
where the head came; but the head-stools of the wealthy were
constructed of ebony, cedar, and other scarce woods, beautifully
inlaid with ivory. Amuba had made several trials of these head-stools,
but had not once succeeded in going to sleep with one under his head,
half an hour sufficing to cause such an aching of his neck that he was
glad to take to the pillow of rushes to which he was accustomed.
Indeed, to sleep upon the stool-pillows it was necessary to lie upon
the side with an arm so placed as to raise the head to the exact level
of the stool, and as Amuba had been accustomed to throw himself down
and sleep on his back or any other position in which he first lay, for
he was generally thoroughly tired either in hunting or by exercise of
arms, he found the cramped and fixed position necessary for sleeping
with a hard stool absolutely intolerable.

For a week the journey down the river continued, and then they arrived
at Memphis, where they remained for some days. Ameres passed the time
in ceremonial visits and in taking part in the sacrifices in the
temple. Chebron and Amuba visited all the temples and public
buildings, and one day went out to inspect the great pyramids attended
by Jethro.

“This surpasses anything I have seen,” Jethro said as they stood at
the foot of the great pyramid of Cheops. “What a wonderful structure,
but what a frightful waste of human labor!”

“It is marvelous, indeed,” Amuba said. “What wealth and power a
monarch must have had to raise such a colossal pile! I thought you
said, Chebron, that your kings were bound by laws as well as other
people. If so, how could this king have exacted such terrible toil and
labor from his subjects as this must have cost?”

“Kings should be bound by the laws,” Chebron replied; “but there are
some so powerful and haughty that they tyrannize over the people.
Cheops was one of them. My father has been telling me that he ground
down the people to build this wonderful tomb for himself. But he had
his reward, for at his funeral he had to be judged by the public
voice, and the public condemned him as a bad and tyrannous king.
Therefore he was not allowed to be buried in the great tomb that he
had built for himself. I know not where his remains rest, but this
huge pyramid stands as an eternal monument of the failure of human
ambition–the greatest and costliest tomb in the world, but without an
occupant, save that Theliene, one of his queens, was buried here in a
chamber near that destined for the king.”

“The people did well,” Jethro said heartily; “but they would have done
better still had they risen against him and cut off his head directly
they understood the labor he was setting them to do.”

On leaving Memphis one more day’s journey was made by water, and the
next morning the party started by land. Ameres rode in a chariot,
which was similar in form to those used for war, except that the sides
were much higher, forming a sort of deep open box, against which those
standing in it could rest their bodies. Amuba and Chebron traveled in
a wagon drawn by two oxen; the rest of the party went on foot.

At the end of two days they arrived at their destination. The house
was a small one compared to the great mansion near Thebes, but it was
built on a similar plan. A high wall surrounded an inclosure of a
quarter of an acre. In the center stood the house with one large
apartment for general purposes, and small bedchambers opening from it
on either side. The garden, although small, was kept with scrupulous
care. Rows of fruit trees afforded a pleasant shade. In front of the
house there was a small pond bordered with lilies and rushes. A Nubian
slave and his wife kept everything in readiness for the owner whenever
he should appear. A larger retinue of servants was unnecessary, as a
cook and barber were among those who traveled in the train of Ameres.
The overseer of the estate was in readiness to receive the high
priest.

“I have brought my son with me,” Ameres said when the ceremonial
observances and salutations were concluded. “He is going to commence
his studies in irrigation, but I shall not have time at present to
instruct him. I wish him to become proficient in outdoor exercises,
and beg you to procure men skilled in fishing, fowling, and hunting,
so that he can amuse his unoccupied hours with sport. At Thebes he has
but rare opportunities for these matters; for, excepting in the
preserves, game has become well-nigh extinct, while as for fowling,
there is none of it to be had in Upper Egypt, while here in the
marshes birds abound.”

The superintendent promised that suitable men should be forthcoming,
one of each caste; for in Egypt men always followed the occupation of
their fathers, and each branch of trade was occupied by men forming
distinct castes, who married only in their own caste, worked just as
their fathers had done before them, and did not dream of change or
elevation. Thus the fowler knew nothing about catching fish or the
fishermen of fowling. Both, however, knew something about hunting; for
the slaying of the hyenas, that carried off the young lambs, and kids
from the villages, and the great river-horses, which came out and
devastated the fields, was a part of the business of every villager.

The country where they now were was for the most part well cultivated
and watered by the canals, which were filled when the Nile was high.

A day’s journey to the north lay Lake Menzaleh–a great shallow lagoon
which stretched away to the Great Sea, from which it was separated
only by a narrow bank of sand. The canals of the Nile reached nearly
to the edge of this, and when the river rose above its usual height
and threatened to inundate the country beyond the usual limits, and to
injure instead of benefiting the cultivators, great gates at the end
of these canals would be opened, and the water find its way into the
lagoon. There were, too, connections between some of the lower arms of
the Nile and the lake, so that the water, although salt, was less so
than that of the sea. The lake was the abode of innumerable waterfowl
of all kinds, and swarmed also with fish.

These lakes formed a fringe along the whole of the northern coast of
Egypt, and it was from these and the swampy land near the mouths of
the Nile that the greater portion of the fowl and fish that formed
important items in the food of the Egyptians was drawn. To the
southeast lay another chain of lakes, whose water was more salt than
that of the sea. It was said that in olden times these had been
connected by water both with the Great Sea to the north and the
Southern Sea; and even now, when the south wind blew strong and the
waters of the Southern Sea were driven up the gulf with force, the
salt water flowed into Lake Timsah, so called because it swarmed with
crocodiles.

“I shall be busy for some days, to begin with,” Ameres said to his son
on the evening of their arrival, “and it will therefore be a good
opportunity for you to see something of the various branches of sport
that are to be enjoyed in this part of Egypt. The steward will place
men at your disposal, and you can take with you Amuba and Jethro. He
will see that there are slaves to carry provisions and tents, for it
will be necessary for much of your sport that you rise early, and not
improbably you may have to sleep close at hand.”

In the morning Chebron had an interview with the steward, who told him
that he had arranged the plan for an expedition.

“You will find little about here, my lord,” he said, “beyond such game
as you would obtain near Thebes. But a day’s journey to the north you
will be near the margin of the lake, and there you will get sport of
all kinds, and can at your will fish in its waters, snare waterfowl,
hunt the great river-horse in the swamps, or chase the hyena in the
low bushes on the sandhills. I have ordered all to be in readiness,
and in an hour the slaves with the provisions will be ready to start.
The hunters of this part of the country will be of little use to you,
so I have ordered one of my chief men to accompany you.

“He will see that when you arrive you obtain men skilled in the sport
and acquainted with the locality and the habits of the wild creatures
there. My lord your father said you would probably be away for a week,
and that on your return you would from time to time have a day’s
hunting in these parts. He thought that as your time will be more
occupied then it were better that you should make this distant
expedition to begin with.”

An hour later some twenty slaves drew up before the house, carrying on
their heads provisions, tents, and other necessaries. A horse was
provided for Chebron, but he decided that he would walk with Amuba.

“There is no advantage in going on a horse,” he said, “when you have
to move at the pace of footmen, and possibly we may find something to
shoot on the way.”

The leader of the party, upon hearing Chebron’s decision, told him
that doubtless when they left the cultivated country, which extended
but a few miles further north, game would be found. Six dogs
accompanied them. Four of them were powerful animals, kept for the
chase of the more formidable beasts, the hyena or lion, for although
there were no lions in the flat country, they abounded in the broken
grounds at the foot of the hills to the south. The other two were much
more lightly built, and were capable of running down a deer. Dogs were
held in high honor in Egypt. In some parts of the country they were
held to be sacred. In all they were kept as companions and friends in
the house as well as for the purposes of the chase. The season was the
cold one, and the heat was so much less than they were accustomed to
at Thebes–where the hills which inclosed the plain on which the city
was built cut off much of the air, and seemed to reflect the sun’s
rays down upon it–that the walk was a pleasant one.

Chebron and Amuba, carrying their bows, walked along, chatting gayly,
at the head of the party. Jethro and Rabah the foreman came next. Then
followed two slaves, leading the dogs in leashes, ready to be slipped
at a moment’s notice, while the carriers followed in the rear.
Occasionally they passed through scattered villages, where the women
came to their doors to look at the strangers, and where generally
offerings of milk and fruit were made to them. The men were for the
most part at work in the fields.

“They are a stout-looking race. Stronger and more bony than our own
people,” Chebron remarked to the leader of the party.

“They are stubborn to deal with,” he replied. “They till their ground
well, and pay their portion of the produce without grumbling, but when
any extra labor is asked of them there is sure to be trouble. It is
easier to manage a thousand Egyptian peasants than a hundred of these
Israelites, and if forced labor is required for the public service it
is always necessary to bring down the troops before we can obtain it.

“But indeed they are hardly treated fairly, and have suffered much.
They arrived in Egypt during the reign of Usertuen I., and had land
allotted to them. During the reign of the king and other successors of
his dynasty they were held in favor and multiplied greatly; but when
the Theban dynasty succeeded that of Memphis, the kings, finding this
foreign people settled here, and seeing that they were related by
origin to the shepherd tribes who at various times have threatened our
country from the east, and have even conquered portions of it and
occupied it for long periods, regarded them with hostility, and have
treated them rather as prisoners of war than as a portion of the
people. Many burdens have been laid upon them. They have had to give
far more than their fair share of labor toward the public works, the
making of bricks, and the erection of royal tombs and pyramids.”

“It is strange that they do not shave their heads as do our people,”
Chebron said.

“But I do not,” Amuba laughed, “nor Jethro.”

“It is different with you,” Chebron replied. “You do not labor and get
the dust of the soil in your hair. Besides, you do keep it cut quite
short. Still, I think you would be more comfortable if you followed
our fashion.”

“It is all a matter of habit,” Amuba replied. “To us, when we first
came here, the sight of all the poorer people going about with their
heads shaven was quite repulsive–and as for comfort, surely one’s own
hair must be more comfortable than the great wigs that all of the
better class wear.”

“They keep off the sun,” Chebron said, “when one is out of doors, and
are seldom worn in the house, and then when one comes in one can wash
off the dust.”

“I can wash the dust out of my hair,” Amuba said. “Still, I do think
that these Israelites wear their hair inconveniently long; and yet the
long plaits that their women wear down their back are certainly
graceful, and the women themselves are fair and comely.”

Chebron shook his head. “They may be fair, Amuba, but I should think
they would make very troublesome wives. They lack altogether the
subdued and submissive look of our women. They would, I should say,
have opinions of their own, and not be submissive to their lords; is
that not so, Rabah?”

“The women, like the men, have spirit and fire,” the foreman answered,
“and have much voice in all domestic matters; but I do not know that
they have more than with us. They can certainly use their tongues; for
at times, when soldiers have been here to take away gangs of men for
public works, they have had more trouble with them than with the men.
The latter are sullen, but they know that they must submit; but the
women gather at a little distance and scream curses and abuse at the
troops, and sometimes even pelt them with stones, knowing that the
soldiers will not draw weapon upon them, although not infrequently it
is necessary in order to put a stop to the tumult to haul two or three
of their leaders off to prison.”

“I thought they were viragoes,” Chebron said with a laugh. “I would
rather hunt a lion than have the women of one of these villages set
upon me.”

In a few miles cultivation became more rare; sandhills took the place
of the level fields, and only here and there in the hollows were
patches of cultivated ground. Rabah now ordered the slave leading the
two fleet dogs to keep close up and be in readiness to slip them.

“We may see deer at any time now,” he said. “They abound in these
sandy deserts which form their shelter, and yet are within easy
distance of fields where when such vegetation as is here fails them
they can go for food.”

A few minutes later a deer started from a clump of bushes. The dogs
were instantly let slip and started in pursuit.

“Hurry on a hundred yards and take your position on that mound!” Rabah
exclaimed to Chebron, while at the same time he signaled to the slaves
behind to stop. “The dogs know their duty, and you will see they will
presently drive the stag within shot.”

Chebron called Amuba to follow him and ran forward. By the time they
reached the mound the stag was far away, with the dogs laboring in
pursuit. At present they seemed to have gained but little, if at all,
upon him, and all were soon hidden from sight among the sandhills. In
spite of the assurance of Rabah the lads had doubts whether the dogs
would ever drive their quarry back to the spot where they were
standing, and it was full a quarter of an hour before pursuers and
pursued came in sight again. The pace had greatly fallen off, for one
of the dogs was some twenty yards behind the stag; the other was out
on its flank at about the same distance away, and was evidently aiding
in turning it toward the spot where the boys were standing.

“We will shoot together,” Chebron said. “It will come within fifty
yards of us.”

They waited until the stag was abreast of them. The dog on its flank
had now fallen back to the side of his companion as if to leave the
stag clear for the arrows of the hunters. The lads fired together just
as the stag was abreast; but it was running faster than they had
allowed for, and both arrows flew behind it. They uttered exclamations
of disappointment, but before the deer had run twenty yards it gave a
sudden leap into the air and fell over. Jethro had crept up and taken
his post behind some bushes to the left of the clump in readiness to
shoot should the others miss, and his arrow had brought the stag to
the ground.

“Well done, Jethro!” Amuba shouted. “It is so long since I was out
hunting that I seem to have lost my skill; but it matters not since we
have brought him down.”

The dogs stood quiet beside the deer that was struggling on the
ground, being too well trained to interfere with it. Jethro ran out
and cut its throat. The others were soon standing beside it. It was
of a species smaller than those to which the deer of Europe belong,
with two long straight horns.

“It will make a useful addition to our fare to-night,” Rabah said,
“although, perhaps, some of the other sorts are better eating.”

“Do the dogs never pull them down by themselves?” Amuba asked.

“Very seldom. These two are particularly fleet, but I doubt whether
they would have caught it. These deer can run for a long time, and
although they will let dogs gain upon them they can leave them if they
choose. Still I have known this couple run down a deer when they could
not succeed in driving it within bowshot; but they know very well they
ought not to do so, for, of course, deer are of no use for food unless
the animals are properly killed and the blood allowed to escape.”

Several other stags were startled, but these all escaped, the dogs
being too fatigued with their first run to be able to keep up with
them. The other dogs were therefore unloosed and allowed to range
about the country. They started several hyenas, some of which they
themselves killed; others they brought to bay until the lads ran up
and dispatched them with their arrows, while others which took to
flight in sufficient time got safely away, for the hyena, unless
overtaken just at the start, can run long and swiftly and tire out
heavy dogs such as those the party had with them.

After walking some fifteen miles the lads stopped suddenly on the brow
of a sandhill. In front of them was a wide expanse of water bordered
by a band of vegetation. Long rushes and aquatic plants formed a band
by the water’s edge, while here and there huts with patches of
cultivated ground dotted the country.

“We are at the end of our journey,” Rabah said. “These huts are
chiefly inhabited by fowlers and fishermen. We will encamp at the foot
of this mound. It is better for us not to go too near the margin of
the water, for the air is not salubrious to those unaccustomed to it.
The best hunting ground lies a few miles to our left, for there, when
the river is high, floods come down through a valley which is at all
times wet and marshy. There we may expect to find game of all kinds in
abundance.”

CHAPTER VI.

FOWLING AND FISHING.

The tents, which were made of light cloth intended to keep off the
night dews rather than to afford warmth, were soon pitched, fires were
lighted with fuel that had been brought with them in order to save
time in searching for it, and Rabah went off to search for fish and
fowl. He returned in half an hour with a peasant carrying four ducks
and several fine fish.

“We shall do now,” he said; “with these and the stag our larder is
complete. Everything but meat we have brought with us.”

Chebron, although he had kept on bravely, was fatigued with his walk
and was glad to throw himself down on the sand and enjoy the prospect,
which to him was a new one, for he had never before seen so wide an
expanse of water.

When on the top of the hill he had made out a faint dark line in the
distance, and this Rabah told him was the bank of sand that separated
the lake from the Great Sea. Now from his present position this was
invisible, and nothing but a wide expanse of water stretching away
until it seemed to touch the sky met his view. Here and there it was
dotted with dark patches which were, Rabah told him, clumps of
waterfowl, and in the shallow water near the margin, which was but a
quarter of a mile away, he could see vast numbers of wading birds,
white cranes, and white and black ibises, while numbers of other
waterfowl, looking like black specks, moved about briskly among them.

Sometimes with loud cries a number would rise on the wing, and either
make off in a straight line across the water or circle round and
settle again when they found that their alarm was groundless.

“It is lovely, is it not?” he exclaimed to Amuba, who was standing
beside him leaning on his bow and looking over the water.

Amuba did not reply immediately, and Chebron looking up saw that there
were tears on his cheeks.

“What is it, Amuba?” he asked anxiously.

“It is nothing, Chebron; but the sight of this wide water takes my
thoughts homeward. Our city stood on a sea like this, not so large as
they say is this Great Sea we are looking at, but far too large for
the eye to see across, and it was just such a view as this that I
looked upon daily from the walls of our palace, save that the shores
were higher.”

“Maybe you will see it again some day, Amuba,” Chebron said gently.

Amuba shook his head.

“I fear the chances are small indeed, Chebron. Jethro and I have
talked it over hundreds of times, and on our route hither we had
determined that if we fell into the hands of harsh masters, we would
at all hazards try some day to make our escape; but the journey is
long and would lie through countries subject to Egypt. The people of
the land to be passed over speak languages strange to us, and it would
be well-nigh impossible to make the journey in safety. Still we would
have tried it. As it is, we are well contented with our lot, and
should be mad indeed to forsake it on the slender chances of finding
our way back to the land of the Rebu, where, indeed, even if we
reached it, I might not be well received, for who knows what king may
now be reigning there?”

“And if you could get away and were sure of arriving there safely,
would you exchange all the comforts of a civilized country like Egypt
for a life such as you have described to me among your own people?”

“There can be no doubt, Chebron, that your life here is far more
luxurious and that you are far more civilized than the Rebu. By the
side of your palaces our houses are but huts. We are ignorant even of
reading and writing. A pile of rushes for our beds and a rough table
and stools constitute our furniture; but, perhaps, after all one is
not really happier for all the things you have. You may have more
enjoyments, but you have greater cares. I suppose every man loves his
own country best, but I do not think that we can love ours as much as
you do. In the first place, we have been settled there but a few
generations, large numbers of our people constantly moving west,
either by themselves or joining with one of the peoples who push past
us from the far East; beside, wherever we went we should take our
country with us, build houses like those we left behind, live by the
chase or fishing in one place as another, while the Egyptians could
nowhere find a country like Egypt. I suppose it is the people more
than the country, the familiar language, and the familiar faces and
ways. I grant freely that the Egyptians are a far greater people than
we, more powerful, more learned, the masters of many arts, the owners
of many comforts and luxuries, and yet one longs sometimes for one’s
free life among the Rebu.”

“One thing is, Amuba, you were a prince there and you are not here.
Had you been but a common man, born to labor, to toil, or to fight at
the bidding of your king, you might perhaps find that the life even of
an Egyptian peasant is easier and more pleasant than yours was.”

“That may be,” Amuba said thoughtfully, “and yet I think that the very
poorest among us was far freer and more independent than the richest
of your Egyptian peasants. He did not grovel on the ground when the
king passed along. It was open to him if he was braver than his
fellows to rise in rank. He could fish, or hunt, or till the ground,
or fashion arms as he chose; his life was not tied down by usage or
custom. He was a man, a poor one, perhaps–a half-savage one, if you
will–but he was a man, while your Egyptian peasants, free as they may
be in name, are the very slaves of law and custom. But I see that the
meal is ready, and I have a grand appetite.”

“So have I, Amuba. It is almost worth while walking a long way for the
sake of the appetite one gets at the end.”

The meal was an excellent one. One of the slaves who had been brought
was an adept at cooking, and fish, birds, and venison were alike
excellent, and for once the vegetables that formed so large a portion
of the ordinary Egyptian repast were neglected.

“What are we going to do to-morrow, Rabah?” Chebron asked after the
meal was concluded.

“I have arranged for to-morrow, if such is your pleasure, my lord,
that you shall go fowling. A boat will take you along the lake to a
point about three miles off where the best sport is to be had; then
when the day is over it will carry you on another eight miles to the
place I spoke to you of where good sport was to be obtained. I shall
meet you on your landing there, and will have everything in readiness
for you.”

“That will do well,” Chebron said. “Amuba and Jethro, you will, of
course, come with me.”

As soon as it was daylight Rabah led Chebron down to the lake, and the
lad with Amuba and Jethro entered the boat, which was constructed of
rushes covered with pitch and drew only two or three inches of water.
Two men with long poles were already in the boat; they were fowlers by
profession, and skilled in all the various devices by which the
waterfowl were captured. They had, during the night, been preparing
the boat for the expedition by fastening rushes all round it; the
lower ends of these dipped into the water, the upper ends were six
feet above it, and the rushes were so thickly placed together as to
form an impenetrable screen.

The boat was square at the stern, and here only was there an opening a
few inches wide in the rushes to enable the boatman standing there to
propel the boat with his pole. One of the men took his station here,
the other at the bow, where he peered through a little opening between
the rushes, and directed his comrade in the stern as to the course he
should take. In the bottom of the boat lay two cats who, knowing that
their part was presently to come, watched all that was being done with
an air of intelligent interest. A basket well stored with provisions,
and a jar of wine, were placed on board, and the boat then pushed
noiselessly off.

Parting the reeds with their fingers and peeping out, the boys saw
that the boat was not making out into the deeper part of the lake, but
was skirting the edge, keeping only a few yards out from the band of
rushes at its margin.

“Do you keep this distance all the way?” Chebron asked the man with
the pole.

The man nodded.

“As long as we are close to the rushes the waterfowl do not notice our
approach, while were we to push out into the middle they might take
the alarm; although we often do capture them in that way, but in that
case we get to windward of the flock we want to reach, and then drift
down slowly upon them, but we shall get more sport now by keeping
close in. The birds are numerous, and you will soon be at work.”

In five minutes the man at the bow motioned his passengers that they
were approaching a flock of waterfowl. Each of them took up his bow
and arrows and stood in readiness, while the man in the stern used his
pole even more quickly and silently than before. Presently at a signal
from his comrades he ceased poling. All round the boat there were
slight sounds–low contented quackings, and fluttering of wings, as
the birds raised themselves and shook the water from their backs.
Parting the rushes in front of them, the two lads and Jethro peeped
through them.

They were right in the middle of a flock of wildfowl who were feeding
without a thought of danger from the clump of rushes in their midst.
The arrows were already in their notches, the rushes were parted a
little further, and the three shafts were loosed. The twangs of the
bows startled the ducks, and stopping feeding they gazed at the rushes
with heads on one side. Three more arrows glanced out, but this time
one of the birds aimed at was wounded only, and uttering a cry of pain
and terror it flapped along the surface of the water.

[Illustration: C. of B. FOWLING WITH THE THROWING-STICK.--Page 111.]

Instantly, with wild cries of alarm, the whole flock arose, but before
they had fairly settled in their flight, two more fell pierced with
arrows. The cats had been standing on the alert, and as the cry of
alarm was given leaped overboard from the stern, and proceeded to
pick up the dead ducks, among which were included that which had at
first flown away, for it had dropped in the water about fifty yards
from the boat. A dozen times the same scene was repeated until some
three score ducks and geese lay in the bottom of the boat. By this
time the party had had enough of sport, and had indeed lost the
greater part of their arrows, as all which failed to strike the bird
aimed at went far down into the deep mud at the bottom and could not
be recovered.

“Now let the men show us their skill with their throwing-sticks,”
Chebron said. “You will see they will do better with them than we with
our arrows.”

The men at once turned the boat’s head toward a patch of rushes
growing from the shallow water a hundred yards out in the lake.
Numbers of ducks and geese were feeding round it, and the whole rushes
were in movement from those swimming and feeding among them, for the
plants were just at that time in seed. The birds were too much
occupied to mark the approach of this fresh clump of rushes. The men
had removed the screen from the side of the boat furthest from the
birds, and now stood in readiness, each holding half a dozen sticks
about two feet long, made of curved and crooked wood.

When close to the birds the boat was swung round, and at once with
deafening cries the birds rose; but as they did so the men with great
rapidity hurled their sticks one after another among them, the last
being directed at the birds which, feeding among the rushes, were not
able to rise as rapidly as their companions. The lads were astonished
at the effect produced by these simple missiles. So closely packed
were the birds that each stick, after striking one, whirled and
twisted among the others, one missile frequently bringing down three
or four birds.

The cats were in an instant at work. The flapping and noise was
prodigious, for although many of the birds were killed outright,
others struck in the wing or leg were but slightly injured. Some made
off along the surface of the water, others succeeded in getting up and
flying away, but the greater part were either killed by the cats, or
knocked on the head by the poles of the two fowlers. Altogether
twenty-seven birds were added to the store in the boat.

“That puts our arrows to shame altogether, Amuba,” Chebron said. “I
have always heard that the fowlers on these lakes were very skilled
with these throwing-sticks of theirs, but I could not have believed it
possible that two men should in so short a space have effected such a
slaughter; but then I had no idea of the enormous quantities of birds
on these lakes.”

Jethro was examining the sticks which, as well as the ducks, had been
retrieved by the cats.

“They are curious things,” he said to Amuba. “I was thinking before
the men used them that straight sticks would be much better, and was
wondering why they chose curved wood, but I have no doubt now the
shape has something to do with it. You see, as the men threw they gave
them a strong spinning motion. That seems the secret of their action.
It was wonderful to see how they whirled about among the fowl,
striking one on the head, another on the leg, another on the wing,
until they happened to hit one plump on the body; that seemed to stop
them. I am sure one of those sticks that I kept my eyes fixed on must
have knocked down six birds. I will practice with these things, and if
I ever get back home I will teach their use to our people. There are
almost as many waterfowl on our sea as there are here. I have seen it
almost black with them down at the southern end, where it is bordered
by swamps and reed-covered marshes.”

“How do they catch them there, Jethro?” Chebron asked.

“They net them in decoys, and sometimes wade out among them with their
heads hidden among floating boughs, and so get near enough to seize
them by the legs and pull them under water; in that way a man will
catch a score of them before their comrades are any the wiser.”

“We catch them the same way here,” one of the fowlers who had been
listening remarked. “We weave little bowers just large enough for our
heads and shoulders to go into, and leave three or four of them
floating about for some days near the spot where we mean to work. The
wild fowl get accustomed to them, and after that we can easily go
among them and capture numbers.”

“I should think fowling must be a good trade,” Chebron said.

“It is good enough at times,” the man replied; “but the ducks are not
here all the year. The long-legged birds are always to be found here
in numbers, but the ducks are uncertain, so are the geese. At certain
times in the year they leave us altogether. Some say they go across
the Great Sea to the north; others that they go far south into Nubia.
Then even when they are here they are uncertain. Sometimes they are
thick here, then again there is scarce one to be seen, and we hear
they are swarming on the lakes further to the west. Of course the
wading birds are of no use for food; so you see when the ducks and
geese are scarce, we have a hard time of it. Then, again, even when we
have got a boat-load we have a long way to take it to market, and when
the weather is hot all may get spoiled before we can sell them; and
the price is so low in these parts when the flocks are here that it
is hard to lay by enough money to keep us and our families during the
slack time. If the great cities Thebes and Memphis lay near to us,
it would be different. They could consume all we could catch, and
we should get better prices, but unless under very favorable
circumstances there is no hope of the fowl keeping good during the
long passage up the river to Thebes. In fact, were it not for our
decoys we should starve. In these, of course, we take them alive, and
send them in baskets to Thebes, and in that way get a fair price for
them.”

“What sort of decoys do you use?” Jethro asked.

“Many kinds,” the man replied. “Sometimes we arch over the rushes, tie
them together at the top so as to form long passages over little
channels among the rushes; then we strew corn over the water, and
place near the entrance ducks which are trained to swim about outside
until a flock comes near; then they enter the passage feeding, and the
others follow. There is a sort of door which they can push aside
easily as they pass up, but cannot open on their return.”

“That is the sort of decoy they use in our country,” Jethro said.

“Another way,” the fowler went on, “is to choose a spot where the
rushes form a thick screen twenty yards deep along the bank; then a
light net two or three hundred feet long is pegged down on to the
shore behind them, and thrown over the tops of the rushes, reaching to
within a foot or two of the water. Here it is rolled up, so that when
it is shaken out it will go down into the water. Then two men stand
among the rushes at the ends of the net, while another goes out far on
to the lake in a boat. When he sees a flock of ducks swimming near the
shore he poles the boat toward them; not so rapidly as to frighten
them into taking flight, but enough so to attract their attention and
cause uneasiness. He goes backward and forward, gradually approaching
the shore, and of course managing so as to drive them toward the point
where the net is. When they are opposite this he closes in faster, and
the ducks all swim in among the rushes. Directly they are in, the men
at the ends of the net shake down the rolled-up part, and then the
whole flock are prisoners. After that the fowlers have only to enter
the rushes, and take them as they try to fly upward and are stopped by
the net. With luck two or three catches can be made in a day, and a
thousand ducks and sometimes double that number can be captured. Then
they are put into flat baskets just high enough for them to stand in
with their heads out through the openings at the top, and so put on
board the boat and taken up the Nile.”

“Yes, I have often seen the baskets taken out of the boats,” Chebron
said, “and thought how cruel it was to pack them so closely. But how
do they feed them for they must often be a fortnight on the way?”

“The trader who has bought them of us and other fowlers waits until he
has got enough together to freight a large craft–for it would not pay
to work upon a small scale–accompanies them up the river, and feeds
them regularly with little balls made of moistened flour, just in the
same way that they do at the establishments in Upper Egypt, where they
raise fowl and stuff them for the markets. If the boat is a large one,
and is taking up forty or fifty thousand fowl, of course he takes two
or three boys to help him, for it is no light matter to feed such a
number, and each must have a little water as well as the meal. It
seems strange to us here, where fowl are so abundant, that people
should raise and feed them just as if they were bullocks. But I
suppose it is true.”

“It is quite true,” Chebron replied. “Amuba and I went to one of the
great breeding-farms two or three months ago. There are two sorts–one
where they hatch, the other where they fat them. The one we went to
embraced both branches, but this is unusual. From the hatching-places
collectors go round to all the people who keep fowls for miles round
and bring in eggs, and beside these they buy them from others at a
greater distance. The eggs are placed on sand laid on the floor of
a low chamber, and this is heated by means of flues from a fire
underneath. It requires great care to keep the temperature exactly
right; but of course men who pass their lives at this work can
regulate it exactly, and know by the feel just what is the heat at
which the eggs should be kept.

“There are eight or ten such chambers in the place we visited, so that
every two or three days one or other of them hatches out and is ready
for fresh eggs to be put down. The people who send the eggs come in at
the proper time and receive each a number of chickens in proportion to
the eggs they have sent, one chicken being given for each two eggs.
Some hatchers give more, some less; what remain over are payment
for their work; so you see they have to be very careful about the
hatching. If they can hatch ninety chickens out of every hundred eggs,
it pays them very well; but if, owing to the heat being too great or
too little, only twenty or thirty out of every hundred are raised,
they have to make good the loss. Of course they always put in a great
many of the eggs they have themselves bought. They are thus able to
give the right number to their customers even if the eggs have not
turned out well.

“Those that remain after the proper number has been given to the
farmers the breeders sell to them or to others, it being no part of
their business to bring up the chickens. The fattening business is
quite different. At these places there are long rows of little boxes
piled up on each other into a wall five feet high. The door of each of
these boxes has a hole in it through which the fowl can put its head,
with a little sort of shutter that closes down on it. A fowl is placed
in each bow. Then the attendants go around two together; one carries a
basket filled with little balls of meal, the other lifts the shutter,
and as the fowl puts its head out catches it by the neck, makes it
open its beak, and with his other hand pushes the ball of meal down
its throat. They are so skillful that the operation takes scarce a
moment; then they go on to the next, and so on down the long rows
until they have fed the last of those under their charge. Then they
begin again afresh.”

“Why do they keep them in the dark?” the fowler asked.

“They told us that they did it because in the dark they were not
restless, and slept all the time between their meals. Then each time
the flap is lifted they think it is daylight, and pop out their heads
at once to see. In about ten days they get quite fat and plump, and
are ready for market.”

“It seems a wonderful deal of trouble,” the fowler said. “But I
suppose, as they have a fine market close at hand, and can get good
prices, it pays them. It seems more reasonable to me than the hatching
business. Why they should not let the fowls hatch their own eggs is
more than I can imagine.”

“Fowls will lay a vastly greater number of eggs than they will hatch,”
Chebron said. “A well-fed fowl should lay two hundred and fifty eggs
in the year; and, left to herself, she will not hatch more than two
broods of fifteen eggs in each. Thus, you see, as it pays the
peasants much better to rear fowls than to sell eggs, it is to their
profit to send their eggs to the hatching-places, and so to get a
hundred and twenty-five chickens a year instead of thirty.”

“I suppose it does,” the fowler agreed. “But here we are, my lord, at
the end of our journey. There is the point where we are to land, and
your servant who hired us is standing there in readiness for you. I
hope that you are satisfied with your day’s sport.”

Chebron said they had been greatly pleased, and in a few minutes the
boat reached the landing-place, where Rabah was awaiting them. One of
the fowlers, carrying a dozen of the finest fowl they had killed,
accompanied them to the spot Rabah had chosen for the encampment. Like
the last, it stood at the foot of the sandhills, a few hundred yards
from the lake.

“Is the place where we are going to hunt near here?” was Chebron’s
first question.

“No, my lord; it is two miles away. But, in accordance with your
order last night, I have arranged for you to fish to-morrow. In the
afternoon I will move the tents a mile nearer to the country where you
will hunt, but it is best not to go too close, for near the edge of
these great swamps the air is unhealthy to those who are not
accustomed to it.”

“I long to get at the hunting,” Chebron said; “but it is better, as
you say, to have the day’s fishing first, for the work would seem tame
after the excitement of hunting the river-horse. We shall be glad of
our dinner as soon as we can get it, for although we have done justice
to the food you put on board, we are quite ready again. Twelve hours
of this fresh air from the sea gives one the appetite of a hyena.”

“Everything is already in readiness, my lord. I thought it better not
to wait for the game you brought home, which will do well to-morrow,
and so purchased fish and fowl from the peasants. As we have seen your
boat for the last two or three hours, we were able to calculate the
time of your arrival, and thus have everything in readiness.”

The dinner was similar to that on the previous day, except that a hare
took the place of the venison–a change for the better, as the hare
was a delicacy much appreciated by the Egyptians. The following day
was spent in fishing. For this purpose a long net was used, and the
method was precisely similar to that in use in modern times. One end
of the net was fastened to the shore, the net itself being coiled up
in the boat. This was rowed out into the lake, the fishermen paying
out the net as it went. A circuit was then made back to the shore,
where the men seized the two ends of the net and hauled it to land,
capturing the fish inclosed within its sweep. After seeing two or
three hauls made, the lads went with Jethro on board the boat. They
were provided by the fishermen with long two-pronged spears.

The boat was then quietly rowed along the edge of the rushes, where
the water was deeper than usual. It was, however, so clear that they
could see to the bottom, and with their spears they struck at the fish
swimming there. At first they were uniformly unsuccessful, as they
were ignorant that allowance must be made for diffraction, and were
puzzled at finding that their spears instead of going straight down at
the fish they struck at seemed to bend off at an angle at the water’s
edge. The fishermen, however, explained to them that an allowance must
be made for this, the allowance being all the greater the greater the
distance the fish was from the boat, and that it was only when it lay
precisely under them that they could strike directly at it. But even
after being instructed in the matter they succeeded but poorly, and
presently laid down their spears and contented themselves with
watching their boatmen, who rarely failed in striking and bringing
up the prey they aimed at.

Presently their attention was attracted to four boats, each containing
from six to eight men. Two had come from either direction, and when
they neared each other volleys of abuse were exchanged between their
occupants.

“What is all this about?” Chebron asked as the two fishermen laid by
their spears, and with faces full of excitement turned round to watch
the boats.

“The boats come from two villages, my lord, between which at present
there is a feud arising out of some fishing-nets that were carried
away. They sent a regular challenge to each other a few days since, as
is the custom here, and their champions are going to fight it out. You
see the number of men on one side are equal to those on the other, and
the boats are about the same size.”

Amuba and Jethro looked on with great interest, for they had seen
painted on the walls representations of these fights between boatmen,
which were of common occurrence, the Egyptians being a very combative
race, and fierce feuds being often carried on for a long time between
neighboring villages. The men were armed with poles some ten feet in
length, and about an inch and a half in diameter, their favorite
weapons on occasions of this kind. The boats had now come in close
contact, and a furious battle at once commenced, the clattering of the
sticks, the heavy thuds of the blows, and the shouts of the combatants
creating a clamor that caused all the waterfowl within a circle of
half a mile to fly screaming away across the lake. The men all used
their heavy weapons with considerable ability, the greater part of the
blows being warded off. Many, however, took effect, some of the
combatants being knocked into the water, others fell prostrate in
their boats, while some dropped their long staves after a disabling
blow on the arm.

“It is marvelous that they do not all kill each other,” Jethro said.
“Surely this shaving of the head, Amuba, which has always struck us as
being very peculiar, has its uses, for it must tend to thicken the
skull, for surely the heads of no other men could have borne such
blows without being crushed like water-jars.”

That there was certainly some ground for Jethro’s supposition is
proved by the fact that Herodotus, long afterward writing of the
desperate conflicts between the villagers of Egypt, asserted that
their skulls were thicker than those of any other people.

Most of the men who fell into the water scrambled back into the boats
and renewed the fight, but some sank immediately and were seen no
more. At last, when fully half the men on each side had been put _hors
de combat_, four or five having been killed or drowned, the boats
separated, no advantage resting with either party; and still shouting
defiance and jeers at each other, the men poled in the direction of
their respective villages.

“Are such desperate fights as these common?” Chebron asked the
fishermen.

“Yes; there are often quarrels,” one of them replied, quietly resuming
his fishing as if nothing out of the ordinary way had taken place. “If
they are water-side villages their champions fight in boats, as you
have seen; if not, equal parties meet at a spot halfway between the
villages and decide it on foot. Sometimes they fight with short
sticks, the hand being protected by a basket hilt, while on the left
arm a piece of wood, extending from the elbow to the tips of the
fingers, is fastened on by straps serving as a shield; but more
usually they fight with the long pole, which we call the neboot.”

“It is a fine weapon,” Jethro said, “and they guard their heads with
it admirably, sliding their hands far apart. If I were back again,
Amuba, I should like to organize a regiment of men armed with those
weapons. It would need that the part used as a guard should be covered
with light iron to prevent a sword or ax from cutting through it; but
with that addition they would make splendid weapons, and footmen armed
with sword and shield would find it hard indeed to repel an assault by
them.”

“The drawback would be,” Amuba observed, “that each man would require
so much room to wield his weapon that they must stand far apart, and
each would be opposed to three or four swordsmen in the enemy’s line.”

“That is true, Amuba, and you have certainly hit upon the weak point
in the use of such a weapon; but for single combat, or the fighting of
broken ranks, they would be grand. When we get back to Thebes if I can
find any peasant who can instruct me in the use of these neboots I
will certainly learn it.”

“You ought to make a fine player,” one of the fishermen said, looking
at Jethro’s powerful figure. “I should not like a crack on the head
from a neboot in your hands. But the sun is getting low, and we had
best be moving to the point where you are to disembark.”

“We have had another capital day, Rabah,” Chebron said when they
reached their new encampment. “I hope that the rest will turn out as
successful.”

“I think that I can promise you that they will, my lord. I have been
making inquiries among the villagers, and find that the swamp in the
river bed abounds with hippopotami.”

“How do you hunt them–on foot?”

“No, my lord. There is enough water in the river bed for the flat
boats made of bundles of rushes to pass up, while in many places are
deep pools in which the animals lie during the heat of the day.”

“Are they ferocious animals?” Amuba asked. “I have never yet seen one;
for though they say that they are common in the Upper Nile, as well as
found in swamps like this at its mouth, there are none anywhere in the
neighborhood of Thebes. I suppose that there is too much traffic for
them, and that they are afraid of showing themselves in such water.”

“There would be no food for them,” Rabah said. “They are found only in
swamps like this, or in places on the Upper Nile where the river is
shallow and bordered with aquatic plants, on whose roots they
principally live. They are timid creatures and are found only in
little-frequented places. When struck they generally try to make their
escape; for although occasionally they will rush with their enormous
mouth open at a boat, tear it in pieces, and kill the hunter, this
very seldom happens. As a rule they try only to fly.”

“They must be cowardly beasts!” Jethro said scornfully. “I would
rather hunt an animal, be it ever so small, that will make a fight for
its life. However, we shall see.”

Upon the following morning they started for the scene of action. An
exclamation of surprise broke from them simultaneously when, on
ascending a sandhill, they saw before them a plain a mile wide
extending at their feet. It was covered with rushes and other aquatic
plants, and extended south as far as the eye could see.

“For one month in the year,” Rabah said, “this is a river, for eleven
it is little more than a swamp, though the shallower boats can make
their way up it many miles. But a little water always finds its way
down, either from the Nile itself or from the canals. It is one of the
few places of Northern Egypt where the river-horse is still found, and
none are allowed to hunt them unless they are of sufficient rank to
obtain the permission of the governor of the province. The steward
wrote for and obtained this as soon as he knew by letter from your
father that you were accompanying him and would desire to have some
sport.”

“Are there crocodiles there?” Amuba asked.

“Many,” Rabah replied, “although few are now found in the lakes. The
people here are not like those of the Theban zone, who hold them in
high respect–here they regard them as dangerous enemies, and kill
them without mercy.”

CHAPTER VII.

HIPPOPOTAMUS AND CROCODILE.

Guided by Rabah the party now descended to the edge of the swamp. Here
in the shallow water lay three boats, or rather rafts, constructed of
bundles of bulrushes. They were turned up in front so as to form a
sort of swan-necked bow, and in outline were exactly similar to the
iron of modern skates. Upon each stood a native with a pole for
pushing the rafts along, and three or four spears. These were of
unusual shape, and the lads examined them with curiosity. They had
broad short blades, and these were loosely attached to the shafts, so
that when the animal was struck the shaft would drop out, leaving the
head imbedded in its flesh. To the head was attached a cord which was
wound up on a spindle passing through a handle.

“Those rafts do not look as if they would carry three,” Chebron said.

“They will do so at a push,” the man replied; “but they are better
with two only.”

“I will stop onshore, with your permission, Chebron,” Jethro said. “I
see there are a number of men here with ropes. I suppose they have
something to do with the business, and I will accompany them.”

“The ropes are for hauling the beasts ashore after we have struck
them.”

“Well, I will go and help pull them. I can do my share at that, and
should be of no use on one of those little rafts; indeed, I think
that my weight would bury it under the water.”

“We have been out this morning, my lord,” the boatman said, addressing
Chebron, “and have found out that there is a river-horse lying in a
pool a mile up the river. I think he is a large one and will give us
good sport.”

Chebron and Amuba now took their places on the two rafts; and the men,
laying down the spears and taking the poles, pushed off from the
shore. Noiselessly they made their way among the rushes. Sometimes the
channels were so narrow that the reeds almost brushed the rafts on
both sides; then they opened out into wide pools, and here the water
deepened so much that the poles could scarce touch the bottom. Not a
word was spoken, as the men had warned them that the slightest noise
would scare the hippopotami and cause them to sink to the bottom of
the pools, where they would be difficult to capture. After half an
hour’s poling they reached a pool larger than any that they had
hitherto passed, and extending on one side almost to the bank of the
river.

The man on his raft now signed to Chebron to take up one of the
spears; but the lad shook his head and motioned to him to undertake
the attack, for he felt that, ignorant as he was of the habits of the
animal, it would be folly for him to engage in such an adventure. The
man nodded, for he had indeed been doubting as to the course which the
affair would take, for it needed a thrust with a very powerful arm to
drive the spear through the thick hide of the hippopotamus. Amuba
imitated Chebron’s example, preferring to be a spectator instead of an
actor in this unknown sport.

For three or four minutes the boats lay motionless, then a blowing
sound was heard, and the boatman pointed to what seemed to the boys
two lumps of black mud projecting an inch or two above the water near
the margin of the rushes. They could not have believed that these
formed part of an animal but that slight ripples widening out on the
glassy water showed that there had been a movement at the spot
indicated. With a noiseless push Chebron’s hunter sent the boat in
that direction, and then handed the end of the pole to Chebron,
signing to him to push the boat back when he gave the signal.

When within ten yards of the two little black patches there was a
sudden movement; they widened into an enormous head, and a huge beast
rose to his feet, startled at the discovery he had just made that men
were close at hand. In an instant the hunter hurled his spear with all
his force. Tough as was the animal’s hide, the sharp head cut its way
through. With a roar the beast plunged into the rushes, the shaft of
the spear falling out of its socket as it did so, and the strong cord
ran out rapidly from the reel held by the hunter. Presently the strain
ceased. “He has laid down again in shelter,” the hunter said; “we will
now follow him and give him a second spear.”

Pushing the rushes aside the boat was forced along until they again
caught sight of the hippopotamus, that was standing up to its belly in
water.

“Is he going to charge?” Chebron asked, grasping a spear.

“No, there is little chance of that. Should he do so and upset the
boat, throw yourself among the rushes and lie there with only your
face above water. I will divert his attention and come back and get
you into the boat when he has made off.”

Another spear was thrown with good effect. There was a roar and a
great splash. Chebron thought that the animal was upon them; but he
turned off and dashed back to the pool where he had been first lying.

“I thought that was what he would do,” the hunter said. “They always
seek shelter in the bottom of the deep pools; and here, you see, the
water is not deep enough to cover him.”

The boat again followed the hippopotamus. Amuba was still on his raft
on the pool.

“What has become of him?” Chebron asked as they passed beyond the
rushes.

“He has sunk to the bottom of the pool,” Amuba replied. “He gave me a
start, I can tell you. We heard him bursting through the rushes, and
then he rushed out with his mouth open–a mouth like a cavern; and
then, just as I thought he was going to charge us, he turned off and
sank to the bottom of the pool.”

“How long will he lie there?” Chebron asked the hunter.

“A long time if he is left to himself, but we are going to stir him
up.”

So saying he directed the boat toward the rushes nearest to the bank
and pushed the boat through them.

“Oh, here you are, Jethro!” Chebron said, seeing the Rebu and the men
he had accompanied standing on the bank.

“What has happened, Chebron–have you killed one of them? We heard a
sort of roar and a great splashing.”

“We have not killed him, but there are two spear-heads sticking into
him.”

The hunter handed the cords to the men and told them to pull steadily,
but not hard enough to break the cords. Then he took from them the end
of the rope they carried and poled back into the pool.

“Those cords are not strong enough to pull the great beast to the
shore, are they?” Chebron asked.

“Oh, no, they would not move him; but by pulling on them it causes the
spear-heads to give him pain, he gets uneasy, and rises to the surface
in anger. Then, you see, I throw this noose over his head, and they
can pull upon that.”

In two or three minutes the animal’s head appeared above the water.
The instant it did so the hunter threw the noose. The aim was correct,
and with a jerk he tightened it round the neck.

“Now pull!” he shouted.

The peasants pulled, and gradually the hippopotamus was drawn toward
the bank, although struggling to swim in the opposite direction.

As soon, however, as he reached the shallow water and his feet touched
the ground he threw his whole weight upon the rope. The peasants were
thrown to the ground and the rope dragged through their fingers as
the hippopotamus again made his way to the bottom of the pool. The
peasants regained their feet and pulled on the rope and cords. Again
the hippopotamus rose and was dragged to the shallow, only to break
away again. For eight or ten times this happened.

“He is getting tired now,” the hunter said. “Next time or the time
after they will get him on shore. We will land then and attack him
with spears and arrows.”

The hippopotamus was indeed exhausted, and allowed itself to be
dragged ashore at the next effort without opposition. As soon as it
did so he was attacked with spears by the hunters, Jethro, and the
boys. The latter found that they were unable to drive their weapons
through the thick skin, and betook themselves to their bows and
arrows. The hunters, however, knew the points at which the skin was
thinnest, and drove their spears deep into the animal just behind the
fore leg, while the boys shot their arrows at its mouth. Another noose
had been thrown over its head as it issued from the water, and the
peasants pulling on the ropes prevented it from charging. Three or
four more thrusts were given from the hunters; then one of the spears
touched a vital part–the hippopotamus sank on its knees and rolled
over dead.

The peasants sent up a shout of joy, for the flesh of the hippopotamus
is by no means bad eating, and here was a store of food sufficient for
the whole neighborhood.

“Shall we search for another, my lord?” the hunter asked Chebron.

“No. I think I have had enough of this. There is no fun in killing an
animal that has not spirit to defend itself. What do you think,
Amuba?”

“I quite agree with you, Chebron. One might almost as well slaughter a
cow. What is that?” he exclaimed suddenly as a loud scream was heard
at a short distance away. “It is a woman’s voice.”

Chebron darted off in full speed in the direction of the sound,
closely followed by Amuba and Jethro. They ran about a hundred yards
along the bank, when they saw the cause of the outcry. An immense
crocodile was making his way toward the river, dragging along with it
the figure of a woman.

In spite of his reverence for the crocodile Chebron did not hesitate a
moment, but rushing forward smote the crocodile on the nose with all
his strength with the shaft of his spear. The crocodile dropped its
victim and turned upon its assailant, but Jethro and Amuba were close
behind, and these also attacked him. The crocodile seeing this
accession of enemies now set out for the river, snapping its jaws
together.

“Mind its tail!” one of the hunters exclaimed, running up.

But the warning was too late, for the next moment Amuba received a
tremendous blow which sent him to the ground. The hunter at the same
moment plunged his spear into the animal through the soft skin at the
back of its leg. Jethro followed his example on the other side. The
animal checked its flight, and turning round and round lashed with its
tail in all directions.

“Keep clear of it!” the hunter shouted. “It is mortally wounded and
will need no more blows.”

In fact, the crocodile had received its death-wound. Its movements
became more languid, it ceased to lash its tail, though it still
snapped at those nearest to it, but gradually this action also ceased,
its head sank, and it was dead. Jethro as soon as he had delivered his
blow ran to Amuba.

“Are you hurt?” he asked anxiously.

“No, I don’t think so,” Amuba gasped. “The brute has knocked all the
breath out of my body; but that’s better than if he had hit me in the
leg, for I think he would have broken it had he done so. How is the
woman–is she dead?”

“I have not had time to see,” Jethro replied. “Let me help you to your
feet, and let us see if any of your ribs are broken. I will see about
her afterward.”

Amuba on getting up declared that he did not think he was seriously
hurt, although unable for the time to stand upright.

“I expect I am only bruised, Jethro. It was certainly a tremendous
whack he gave me, and I expect I shall not be able to take part in any
sporting for the next few days. The crocodile was worth a dozen
hippopotami. There was some courage about him.”

They now walked across to Chebron, who was stooping over the figure of
the crocodile’s victim.

“Why, she is but a girl!” Amuba exclaimed. “She is no older than your
sister, Chebron.”

“Do you think she is dead?” Chebron asked in hushed tones.

“I think she has only fainted,” Jethro replied. “Here,” he shouted to
one of the peasants who were gathered round the crocodile, “one of you
run down to the water and bring up a gourdful.”

“I don’t think she is dead,” Amuba said. “It seemed to me that the
crocodile had seized her by the leg.”

“We must carry her somewhere,” Jethro said, “and get some woman to
attend to her. I will see if there is a hut near.” He sprang up to the
top of some rising ground and looked round. “There is a cottage close
at hand,” he said as he returned. “I dare say she belongs there.”

Bidding two of the peasants run to fetch some women, he lifted up the
slight figure and carried her up the slope, the two lads following. On
turning round the foot of a sandhill they saw a cottage lying nestled
behind it. It was neater and better kept than the majority of the huts
of the peasants. The walls of baked clay had been whitewashed and were
half-covered with bright flowers. A patch of carefully cultivated
ground lay around it. Jethro entered the cottage. On a settle at the
further end a man was sitting. He was apparently of great age; his
hair and long beard were snowy white.

“What is it?” he exclaimed as Jethro entered. “Has the God of our
fathers again smitten me in my old age, and taken from me my pet lamb?
I heard her cry, but my limbs have lost their power, and I could not
rise to come to her aid.”

“I trust that the child is not severely injured,” Jethro said. “We had
just killed a hippopotamus when we heard her scream, and running up
found a great crocodile dragging her to the river, but we soon made
him drop her. I trust that she is not severely hurt. The beast seemed
to us to have seized her by the leg. We have sent to fetch some women.
Doubtless they will be here immediately. Ah! here’s the water.”

He laid the girl down upon a couch in the corner of the room, and
taking the gourd from the peasant who brought it sprinkled some water
on her face, while Amuba, by his direction, rubbed her hands. It was
some minutes before she opened her eyes, and just as she did so two
women entered the hut. Leaving the girl to their care, Jethro and the
boys left the cottage.

“I trust that the little maid is not greatly hurt,” Amuba said. “By
her dress it seems to me that she is an Israelite, though I thought we
had left their land behind us on the other side of the desert. Still
her dress resembles those of the women we saw in the village as we
passed, and it is well for her it does so, for they wear more and
thicker garments than the Egyptian peasant women, and the brute’s
teeth may not have torn her severely.”

In a few minutes one of the women came out and told them that the maid
had now recovered and that she was almost unhurt. “The crocodile seems
to have seized her by her garments rather than her flesh, and although
the teeth have bruised her, the skin is unbroken. Her grandfather
would fain thank you for the service you have rendered him.”

They re-entered the cottage. The girl was sitting on the ground at her
grandfather’s feet holding one of his hands in hers, while with his
other he was stroking her head. As they entered, the women, seeing
that their services were no longer required, left the cottage.

“Who are those to whom I owe the life of my grandchild?” the old man
asked.

“I am Chebron, the son of Ameres, the high priest of the temple of
Osiris at Thebes. These are my friends, Amuba and Jethro, two of the
Rebu nation who were brought to Egypt and now live in my father’s
household.”

“We are his servants,” Amuba said, “though he is good enough to call
us his friends.”

“‘Tis strange,” the old man said, “that the son of a priest of Osiris
should thus come to gladden the last few hours of one who has always
withstood the Egyptian gods. And yet had the crocodile carried off my
Ruth, it might have been better for her, seeing that ere the sun has
risen and set many times she will be alone in the world.”

The girl uttered a little cry, and rising on her knees threw her arms
round the old man’s neck.

“It must be so, my Ruth. I have lived a hundred and ten years in this
land of the heathen, and my course is run; and were it not for your
sake I should be glad that it is so, for my life has been sorrow and
bitterness. I call her my grandchild, but she is in truth the daughter
of my grandchild, and all who stood between her and me have passed
away before me and left us alone together. But she trusts in the God
of Abraham, and he will raise up a protector for her.”

Chebron, who had learned something of the traditions of the Israelites
dwelling in Egypt, saw by the old man’s words that Jethro’s surmises
were correct and that he belonged to that race.

“You are an Israelite,” he said gently. “How is it that you are not
dwelling among your people instead of alone among strangers?”

“I left them thirty years back when Ruth’s mother was but a tottering
child. They would not suffer me to dwell in peace among them, but
drove me out because I testified against them.”

“Because you testified against them?” Chebron repeated in surprise.

“Yes. My father was already an old man when I was born, and he was one
of the few who still clung to the faith of our fathers. He taught me
that there was but one God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of
Jacob, and that all other gods were but images of wood and stone. To
that faith I clung, though after awhile I alone of all our people held
to the belief. The others had forgotten their God and worshiped the
gods of the Egyptians. When I would speak to them they treated my
words as ravings and as casting dishonor on the gods they served.

“My sons went with the rest, but my daughter learned the true faith
from my lips and clung to it. She taught her daughter after her, and
ten years ago, when she too lay dying, she sent Ruth by a messenger to
me, praying me to bring her up in the faith of our fathers, and saying
that though she knew I was of a great age, she doubted not that when
my time came God would raise up protectors for the child. So for ten
years we have dwelt here together, tilling and watering our ground and
living on its fruit and by the sale of baskets that we weave and
exchange for fish with our neighbors. The child worships the God of
our fathers, and has grown and thriven here for ten years; but my
heart is heavy at the thought that my hours are numbered and that I
see no way after me but that Ruth shall return to our people, who will
assuredly in time wean her from her faith.”

“Never, grandfather,” the girl said firmly. “They may beat me and
persecute me, but I will never deny my God.”

“They are hard people the Israelites,” the old man said, shaking his
head, “and they are stubborn and must needs prevail against one so
tender. However, all matters are in the hands of God, who will again
reveal himself in his due time to his people who have forgotten him.”

Amuba, looking at the girl, thought that she had more power of
resistance than the old man gave her credit for. Her face was of the
same style of beauty as that of some of the young women he had seen in
the villages of the Israelites, but of a higher and finer type. Her
face was almost oval, with soft black hair, and delicately marked
eyebrows running almost in a straight line below her forehead. Her
eyes were large and soft, with long lashes veiling them, but there was
a firmness about the lips and chin that spoke of a determined will,
and gave strength to her declaration “Never.”

There was silence a moment, and then Chebron said almost timidly:

“My father, although high priest of Osiris, is not a bigot in his
religion. He is wise and learned, and views all things temperately, as
my friends here can tell you. He knows of your religion; for I have
heard him say that when they first came into this land the Israelites
worshiped one God only. I have a sister who is of about the same age
as Ruth, and is gentle and kind. I am sure that if I ask my father he
will take your grandchild into his household to be a friend and
companion to Mysa, and I am certain that he would never try to shake
her religion, but would let her worship as she chooses.”

The old man looked fixedly at Chebron.

“Your speech is pleasant and kind, young sir, and your voice has an
honest ring. A few years back I would have said that I would rather
the maiden were dead than a handmaid in the house of an Egyptian; but
as death approaches we see things differently, and it may be that she
would be better there than among those who once having known the true
God have forgotten him and taken to the worship of idols. I have
always prayed and believed that God would raise up protectors for
Ruth, and it seems to me now that the way you have been brought hither
in these latter days of my life is the answer to my prayer. Ruth, my
child, you have heard the offer, and it is for you to decide. Will you
go with this young Egyptian lord and serve his sister as a handmaiden,
or will you return to the villages of our people?”

Ruth had risen to her feet now, and was looking earnestly at Chebron,
then her eyes turned to the faces of Amuba and Jethro, and then slowly
went back again to Chebron.

“I believe that God has chosen for me,” she said at last, “and has
sent them here not only to save my life, but to be protectors to me;
their faces are all honest and good. If the father of this youth will
receive me, I will, when you leave me, go and be the handmaid of his
daughter.”

“It is well,” the old man said. “Now I am ready to depart, for my
prayers have been heard. May God deal with you and yours, Egyptian,
even as you deal with my child.”

“May it be so,” Chebron replied reverently.

“I can tell you,” Jethro said to the old man, “that in no household in
Egypt could your daughter be happier than in that of Ameres. He is the
lord and master of Amuba and myself, and yet, as you see, his son
treats us not as servants, but as friends. Ameres is one of the
kindest of men; and as to his daughter Mysa, whose special attendant I
am, I would lay down my life to shield her from harm. Your grandchild
could not be in better hands. As to her religion, although Ameres has
often questioned Amuba and myself respecting the gods of our people,
he has never once shown the slightest desire that we should abandon
them for those of Egypt.”

“And now,” Chebron said, “we will leave you; for doubtless the
excitement has wearied you, and Ruth needs rest and quiet after her
fright. We are encamped a mile away near the lake, and will come and
see you to-morrow.”

Not a word was spoken for some time after they left the house, and
then Chebron said:

“It really would almost seem as if what that old man said was true,
and that his God had sent us there that a protector might be found for
his daughter. It was certainly strange that we should happen to be
within sound of her voice when she was seized by that crocodile, and
be able to rescue her just in time. It needed, you see, first, that we
should be there, then that the crocodile should seize her at that
moment, and, lastly, that we should be just in time to save her being
dragged into the river. A crocodile might have carried her away ten
thousand times without any one being within reach to save her and the
chances were enormously against any one who did save her being in a
position to offer her a suitable home at her grandfather’s death.”

“It is certainly strange. You do not think that your father will have
any objection to take her?” Amuba asked.

“Oh, no; he may say that he does not want any more servants in the
house, but I am sure that when he sees her he will be pleased to have
such a companion for Mysa. If it was my mother I do not know. Most
likely she would say no; but when she hears that it has all been
settled, she will not trouble one way or the other about it. I will
write my father a letter telling him all about it, and send off one of
the slaves with it at once. He can get back to-morrow, and it will
gladden the old man’s heart to know that it is all arranged. I wish to
tell my father, too, of my trouble.”

“What trouble?” Amuba asked in surprise. “You have told me nothing
about anything troubling you.”

“Do you not understand, Amuba? I am in trouble because I struck the
crocodile; it is an impious action, and yet what could I do?”

Amuba repressed an inclination to smile.

“You could do nothing else, Chebron, for there was no time to mince
matters. He was going too fast for you to explain to him that he was
doing wrong in carrying off a girl, and you therefore took the only
means in your power of stopping him; besides, the blow you dealt him
did him no injury whatever. It was Jethro and the hunter who killed
him.”

“But had I not delayed his flight they could not have done so.”

“That is true enough, Chebron; but in that case he would have reached
the water with his burden and devoured her at his leisure. Unless you
think that his life is of much more importance than hers, I cannot see
that you have anything to reproach yourself with.”

“You do not understand me, Amuba,” Chebron said pettishly. “Of course
I do not think that the life of an ordinary animal is of as much
importance as that of a human being; but the crocodiles are sacred,
and misfortune falls upon those who injure them.”

“Then in that case, Chebron, misfortune must fall very heavily on the
inhabitants of those districts where the crocodile is killed wherever
he is found. I have not heard that pestilence and famine visit those
parts of Egypt with more frequency than they do the districts where
the crocodile is venerated.”

Chebron made no answer. What Amuba said was doubtless true; but upon
the other hand, he had always been taught that the crocodile was
sacred, and if so he could not account for the impunity with which
these creatures were destroyed in other parts of Egypt. It was another
of the puzzles that he so constantly met with. After a long pause he
replied:

“It may seem to be as you say; but you see, Amuba, there are some
gods specially worshiped in one district, others in another. In the
district that a god specially protects he would naturally be indignant
were the animals sacred to him to be slain, while he might pay no heed
to the doings in those parts in which he is little concerned.”

“In that case, Chebron, you can clearly set your mind at rest. Let us
allow that it is wrong to kill a crocodile in the district in which he
is sacred and where a god is concerned about his welfare, but that no
evil consequences can follow the slaying of him in districts in which
he is not sacred, and where his god, as you say, feels little interest
in him.”

“I hope that is so, Amuba; and that as the crocodile is not a sacred
animal here no harm may come from my striking one, though I would give
much that I had not been obliged to do so. I hope that my father will
regard the matter in the same light.”

“I have no doubt that he will do so, Chebron, especially as we agreed
that you did no real harm to the beast.”

“Is it not strange, Jethro,” Amuba said when Chebron had gone into the
tent, “that wise and learned people like the Egyptians should be so
silly regarding animals?”

“It is strange, Amuba, and it was hard to keep from laughing to hear
you so gravely arguing the question with Chebron. If all the people
held the same belief I should not be surprised; but as almost every
animal worshiped in one of the districts is hated and slain in
another, and that without any evil consequences arising, one would
have thought that they could not but see for themselves the folly of
their belief. What are we going to do to-morrow?”

“I do not think that it is settled; we have had one day at each of the
sports. Rabah said that to-morrow we could either go out and see new
modes of fishing, or accompany the fowlers and watch them catching
birds in the clap nets, or go out into the desert and hunt ibex.
Chebron did not decide, but I suppose when he has finished his letter
we shall hear what he intends to do.”

After Chebron had finished his letter, which was a long one, he called
Rabah and asked him to dispatch it at once by the fleetest-footed of
the slaves.

“He will get there,” he said, “before my father retires to rest. If he
does not reply at once, he will probably answer in the morning, and at
any rate the man ought to be back before midday.”

At dinner Amuba asked Chebron whether he had decided what they should
do the next day.

“We might go and look at the men with the clap nets,” Chebron
answered. “They have several sorts in use, and take numbers of pigeons
and other birds. I think that will be enough for to-morrow. We have
had four days’ hard work, and a quiet day will be pleasant, and if we
find the time goes slowly, we can take a boat across the lake and look
at the Great Sea beyond the sandhills that divide the lake from it;
beside, I hope we shall get my father’s answer, and I should like some
further talk with that old Israelite. It is interesting to learn about
the religion that his forefathers believed in, and in which it seems
that he and his grandchild are now the last who have faith.”

“It will suit me very well to have a quiet day, Chebron; for in any
case I do not think I could have accompanied you. My ribs are sore
from the whack the crocodile gave me with his tail, and I doubt
whether I shall be able to walk to-morrow.”

Indeed, the next morning Amuba was so stiff and sore that he was
unable to rise from his couch.

Soon after breakfast the messenger returned, bringing a letter from
Ameres. It was as follows:

“It seems to me, Chebron, that Mysa has no occasion for further
attendants; but as your story of this old Israelite and his
daughter interests me, and the girl is of Mysa’s age and might
be a pleasant companion for her, I have no objection to her
entering our household. I should have liked to talk with the
old man himself, and to have heard from him more about the
religion that Joseph and his people brought to Egypt. It is
recorded in some of the scrolls that these people were
monotheists; but although I have many times questioned
Israelites, all have professed to be acquainted with no
religion but that of Egypt. If you have further opportunity
find out as much as you can from this old man upon the subject.

“Assure him from me that his daughter shall be kindly treated
in my household, and that no attempt whatever will be made to
turn her from the religion she professes. As to your adventure
with the crocodile, I do not think that your conscience need
trouble you. It would certainly be unfortunate to meet in Upper
Egypt a crocodile carrying off a peasant, and I am not called
upon to give an opinion as to what would be the proper course
to pursue under the circumstances; but as you are at present in
a district where the crocodile, instead of being respected, is
held in detestation, and as the people with you would probably
have overtaken and slain him even without your intervention, I
do not think that you need trouble yourself about the knock
that you gave him across his snout. Had I found myself in the
position you did I should probably have taken the same course.
With respect to the girl, you had best give them instructions
that when the old man dies she shall travel by boat to Thebes;
arrived there, she will find no difficulty in learning which is
my house, and on presenting herself there she will be well
received. I will write at once to Mysa, telling her that you
have found a little Israelite handmaiden as her special
attendant, and that, should the girl arrive before my return,
she is at once to assume that position.

“It would not do for her to come here were her grandfather to
die before we leave for home. In the first place, she would be
in the way, and in the second, her features and dress would
proclaim her to be an Israelite. The people in the villages she
passed through might detain her, and insist on her remaining
with them; or, should she arrive here, the fact of her
departing with us might be made a subject of complaint, and the
Israelites would not improbably declare that I had carried off
a young woman of their tribe as a slave. Therefore, in all
respects it is better that she should proceed up the river to
Thebes.

“As they are poor you had best leave a sum of money with them
to pay for her passage by boat, and for her support during the
voyage. I find that I shall have finished with the steward
earlier than I had expected, and shall be starting in about
three days to inspect the canals and lay out plans for some
fresh ones; therefore, if by that time you have had enough
sport to satisfy you, you had best journey back.”

“My father has consented,” Chebron said joyously as he finished the
letter. “I felt sure that he would; still, I was anxious till I got
the letter, for it would have been a great disappointment to the old
man could it not have been managed. I will go off and tell him at
once. I shall not want you this morning, Jethro; so you can either
stay here with Amuba or do some fishing or fowling on the lake. The
boat is all in readiness, you know.”

Chebron went off to the cottage. Ruth was in the garden tending the
vegetables, and he stopped to speak to her before entering.

“I have not heard yet,” he said, “how it came about that you were
seized by the crocodile.”

“I hardly know how it was,” she said. “I am in the habit of going down
many times a day to fetch up water for the garden, and I always keep a
lookout for these creatures before I fill my jar; but yesterday I had
just gone round the corner of the sandhill when I was struck down with
a tremendous blow, and a moment afterward the creature seized me. I
gave a scream; but I thought I was lost, for there are no neighbors
within sound of the voice, and my grandfather has not been able to
walk for months. Then I prayed as well as I could for the pain, and
God heard me and sent you to deliver me.”

“It is not often that they go up so far from the river, is it?”

“Not often. But yesterday we had a portion of a kid from a neighbor
and were cooking it, and perhaps the smell attracted the crocodile;
for they say that they are quick at smell, and they have been known to
go into cottages and carry off meat from before the fire.”

“I see you walk very lame still.”

“Yes. Grandfather would have me keep still for a day or two; but I
think that as soon as the bruises die out and the pain ceases I shall
be as well as ever. Beside, what would the garden do without water? My
grandfather will be glad to see you, my lord; but he is rather more
feeble than usual this morning. The excitement of yesterday has shaken
him.”

She led the way into the cottage.

“Your granddaughter has told me you are not very strong to-day,”
Chebron began.

“At my age,” the old man said, “even a little thing upsets one, and
the affair of yesterday was no little thing. I wonder much that the
agitation did not kill me.”

“I have satisfactory news to give you,” Chebron said. “I yesterday
dispatched a message to my father, and have just received the answer.”
And taking out the scroll he read aloud the portion in which Ameres
stated his readiness to receive Ruth in his household, and his promise
that no pressure whatever should be put upon her to abandon her
religion.

“The Lord be praised!” the old man exclaimed. “The very animals are
the instruments of his will, and the crocodile that threatened death
to the child was, in truth, the answer sent to my prayer. I thank you,
my young lord; and as you and yours deal with my child, so may the God
of my fathers deal with you. But she may stay on with me for the
little time that remains, may she not?”

“Surely. We should not think of taking her now. My father sends
instructions as to what she is to do, and money to pay for her journey
up the Nile to Thebes. This is what he says.” And he read the portion
of the scroll relating to the journey. “And now,” he said, “let me
read to you what my father says about your religion. He is ever a
searcher after truth, and would fain that I should hear from your lips
and repeat to him all that you can tell me relating to this God whom
you worship.”

“That will I with gladness, my young lord. The story is easily told,
for it is simple, and not like that of your religion with its many
deities.”

Chebron took a seat upon a pile of rushes and prepared to listen to
the old man’s story of the God of the Israelites.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE CONSPIRACY IN THE TEMPLE.

For two days longer the party lingered by the side of the lake fishing
and fowling, and then returned across the desert to the headquarters
of Ameres. Two months were spent in examining canals and water
courses, seeing that the dykes were strengthened where needed, and
that the gates and channels were in good repair. Levels were taken for
the construction of several fresh branches, which would considerably
extend the margin of cultivation. The natives were called upon to
furnish a supply of labor for their formation; but the quota was
not furnished without considerable grumbling on the part of the
Israelites, although Ameres announced that payment would be given them
for their work. At last, having seen that everything was in train,
Ameres left one of his subordinates to carry out the work, and then
started with his son for Thebes.

A fortnight after his return home he was informed that a young female,
who said her name was Ruth, wished to see him. He bade the servant
conduct her to him, and at the same time summon Chebron from his
studies. The lad arrived first, and as Ruth entered presented her to
his father.

“Welcome, child, to this house,” the high priest said. “I suppose by
your coming that the old man, your great-grandfather, of whom my son
has spoken to me, is no more?”

“He died a month since, my lord,” Ruth replied; “but it was two weeks
before I could find a passage in a boat coming hither.”

“Chebron, tell Mysa to come here,” Ameres said, and the lad at once
fetched Mysa, who had already heard that an Israelite girl was coming
to be her special attendant, and had been much interested in Chebron’s
account of her and her rescue from the crocodile.

“This is Ruth, Mysa,” Ameres said when she entered, “who has come to
be with you. She has lost her last friend, and I need not tell you, my
child, to be kind and considerate with her. You know what you would
suffer were you to be placed among strangers, and how lonely you would
be at first. She will be a little strange to our ways, but you will
soon make her at home, I hope.”

“I will try and make her happy,” Mysa replied, looking at her new
companion.

Although the girls were about the same age, Ruth looked the elder of
the two. Mysa was still little more than a child, full of fun and
life. Ruth was broken down by the death of her grandfather and by the
journey she had made; but in any case she would have looked older than
Mysa, the difference being in manner rather than in face or figure.
Ruth had long had many responsibilities on her shoulders. There was
the care and nursing of the old man, the cultivation of the garden on
which their livelihood depended, the exchange of its products for
other articles, the preparation of the meals. Her grandfather had been
in the habit of talking to her as a grown-up person, and there was an
expression of thoughtfulness and gravity in her eyes. Mysa, on the
contrary, was still but a happy child, who had never known the
necessity for work or exertion; her life had been like a summer day,
free from all care and anxiety. Naturally, then, she felt as she
looked at Ruth that she was a graver and more serious personage than
she had expected to see.

“I think I shall like you,” she said when her examination was
finished, “when we know each other a little better, and I hope you
will like me; because, as my father says, we are to be together.”

“I am sure we shall,” Ruth replied, looking admiringly at Mysa’s
bright face. “I have never had anything to do with girls of my own
age, and you will find me clumsy at first; but I will do my best to
please you, for your father and brother have been very good to me.”

“There, take her away, Mysa. I have told your mother about her coming,
and want to go on with my reading,” Ameres said. “Show her your garden
and animals, and where she is to sleep; and give her in charge of old
Male, who will see that she has all that she wants, and get suitable
garments and all that is requisite.”

Before many days were over Ruth became quite at home in her new abode.
Her position was a pleasant one. She was at once companion and
attendant to Mysa, accompanying her in her walks under the escort of
Jethro, playing with her in the garden, helping her to feed the
animals, and amusing her when she preferred to sit quiet by telling
her about her life near the lake by the Great Sea, about the fowling
and fishing there, and especially about the river course close to the
cottage, with its hippopotami and crocodiles. Ruth brightened up
greatly in her new surroundings, which to her were marvelous and
beautiful; and she soon caught something of the cheerfulness of her
young mistress, and the laughter of the two girls was often heard
rising from Mysa’s inclosure at the further end of the quiet garden.

Shortly after the return from their visit to Lower Egypt an important
event took place, Chebron being initiated into the lowest grade of the
priesthood. His duties at first were slight; for aspirants to the
higher order, who were with scarce an exception the sons of the
superior priesthood, were not expected to perform any of the drudgery
that belonged properly to the work of the lower class of the order. It
was necessary to ascend step by step; but until they arrived at the
grade beyond which study and intelligence alone led to promotion,
their progress was rapid, and they were expected only to take part in
such services and ceremonies of the temple as required the attendance
of all attached to it.

His duties, therefore, interfered but little with his studies or
ordinary mode of life, and he was almost as much at home as before. He
could now, however, enter the temple at all hours, and had access to
the inner courts and chambers, the apartments where the sacred animals
were kept, and other places where none but the priests were permitted
to enter. He availed himself of this privilege chiefly of an evening.
All the great courts were open to the sky, and Chebron loved to roam
through them in the bright moonlight, when they were deserted by the
crowd of worshipers and all was still and silent. At that time the
massive columns, the majestic architecture, the strange figures of the
gods exercised an influence upon his imagination which was wanting in
the daytime. Upon the altars before the chief gods fire ever burned,
and in the light of the flickering flames the faces assumed life and
expression.

Now and then a priest in his white linen robe moved through the
deserted courts; but for the most part Chebron had undisturbed
possession, and was free to meditate without interruption. He found
that his mind was then attuned to a pitch of reverence and devotion
to the gods that it failed to attain when the sun was blazing down
upon the marble floor and the courts were alive with worshipers. Then,
strive as he would, he could not enter as he wanted into the spirit of
the scene. When he walked in the solemn procession carrying a sacred
vessel or one of the sacred emblems, doubts whether there could be
anything in common between the graven image and the god it represented
would occur to him.

He would wonder whether the god was really gratified by these
processions, whether he felt any real pleasure in the carrying about
of sacred vessels, emblems, and offerings of flowers. He was shocked
at his own doubts, and did his best to banish them from his mind. At
times it seemed to him that some heavy punishment must fall upon him
for permitting himself to reason on matters so far beyond his
comprehension, and he now rejoiced at what he before was inclined to
regret, that his father had decided against his devoting his whole
life to the service of the temple.

Sometimes he thought of speaking to his father and confessing to him
that his mind was troubled with doubts, but the thought of the horror
with which such a confession would be received deterred him from doing
so. Even to Amuba he was silent on the subject, for Amuba he thought
would not understand him. His friend believed firmly in the gods of
his own country, but accepted the fact that the Egyptian deities were
as powerful for good or evil to the Egyptians as were his own to the
Rebu. And, indeed, the fact that the Egyptians were so great and
powerful, and prevailed over other nations, was, he was inclined to
think, due to the superior power of their gods.

The majesty of the temples, the splendor of the processions, and the
devoutness with which the people worshiped their gods, alike impressed
him; and although the strangeness of the images struck him as
singular, he was ready to admit that the gods might take any shape
they pleased. Thus, then, Chebron could look for no sympathy from him,
and shrank from opening his mind to him. Nevertheless he sometimes
took Amuba with him in his visits to the temple. The doors at all
times stood open, and any could enter who chose, and had they in the
inner courts met with any of the priests, Amuba would have passed
unnoticed as being one of the attendants of the temple in company with
Chebron.

But few words were exchanged between the lads during these rambles,
for the awful grandeur of the silent temple and its weird aspect in
the moonlight affected Amuba as strongly as it did Chebron. At times
he wondered to himself whether if he ever returned home and were to
introduce the worship of these terrible gods of Egypt, they would
extend their protection to the Rebu.

Near the house of Ameres stood that of Ptylus, a priest who occupied a
position in the temple of Osiris, next in dignity to that of the high
priest.

Between the two priests there was little cordiality, for they differed
alike in disposition and manner of thought. Ptylus was narrow and
bigoted in his religion, precise in every observance of ceremonial;
austere and haughty in manner, professing to despise all learning
beyond that relating to religion, but secretly devoured with jealousy
at the esteem in which Ameres was held by the court, and his
reputation as one of the first engineers, astronomers and statesmen of
Egypt. He had been one of the fiercest in the opposition raised to the
innovations proposed by Ameres, and had at the time exerted himself to
the utmost to excite such a feeling against him as would render it
necessary for him to resign his position in the temple.

His disappointment had been intense when–owing in no slight degree to
the influence of the king himself, who regarded Ameres with too much
trust and affection to allow himself to be shaken in his confidence
even by what he held to be the erroneous views of the high priest of
Osiris–his intrigue came to nothing; but he had ever since kept an
unceasing watch upon the conduct of his colleague, without, however,
being able to find the slightest pretense for complaint against him.
For Ameres was no visionary; and having failed in obtaining a
favorable decision as to the views he entertained, he had not striven
against the tide, knowing that by doing so he would only involve
himself and his family in ruin and disgrace, without forwarding in the
smallest degree the opinions he held.

He was thus as exact as ever in his ministration in the temple,
differing only from the other performers of the sacred rites inasmuch
as while they offered their sacrifices to Osiris himself, he in his
heart dedicated his offerings to the great God of whom Osiris was but
a feeble type or image.

A certain amount of intimacy was kept up between the two families.
Although there was no more liking between the wives of the two priests
than between their husbands, they were of similar dispositions–both
were fond of show and gayety, both were ambitious; and although in
society both exhibited to perfection the somewhat gentle and indolent
manner which was considered to mark high breeding among the women of
Egypt, the slaves of both knew to their cost that in their own homes
their bearing was very different.

In their entertainments and feasts there was constant rivalry between
them, although the wife of the high priest considered it nothing short
of insolence that the wife of one inferior to her husband’s rank
should venture to compete with her; while upon the other hand, the
little airs of calm superiority her rival assumed when visiting her
excited the deepest indignation and bitterness in the heart of the
wife of Ptylus. She, too, was aware of the enmity that her husband
bore to Ameres, and did her best to second him by shaking her head and
affecting an air of mystery whenever his name was mentioned, leaving
her friends to suppose that did she choose she could tell terrible
tales to his disadvantage.

Ameres on his part had never alluded at home either to his views
concerning religion or to his difference of opinion with his
colleagues. There was but little in common between him and his
wife. He allowed her liberty to do as she chose, to give frequent
entertainments to her female friends, and to spend money as she liked
so long as his own mode of life was not interfered with. He kept in
his own hands, too, the regulation of the studies of Chebron and Mysa.

One day when he was in his study his wife entered. He looked up with
an expression of remonstrance, for it was an understood thing that
when occupied with his books he was on no account to be disturbed
except upon business of importance.

“You must not mind my disturbing you for once, Ameres; but an
important thing has happened. Nicotis, the wife of Ptylus, has been
here this afternoon, and what do you think she was the bearer of–a
proposal from her husband and herself that their son Plexo should
marry our Mysa.”

Ameres uttered an exclamation of surprise and anger.

“She is a child at present; the thing is ridiculous!”

“Not so much a child, Ameres, after all. She is nearer fifteen than
fourteen, and betrothal often takes place a year earlier. I have been
thinking for some time of talking the matter over with you, for it is
fully time that we thought of her future.”

Ameres was silent. What his wife said was perfectly true, and Mysa
had reached the age at which the Egyptian maidens were generally
betrothed. It came upon him, however, as an unpleasant surprise. He
had regarded Mysa as still a child, and his affections were centered
in her and Chebron; for his eldest son, who resembled his mother in
spirit, he had but little affection or sympathy.

“Very well,” he said at last in a tone of irritation very unusual to
him, “if Mysa has reached the age when we must begin to think whom she
is to marry, we will think of it, but there is no occasion whatever
for haste. As to Plexo, I have marked him often when he has been here
with Chebron, and I do not like his disposition. He is arrogant and
overbearing, and, at the same time, shallow and foolish. Such is not
the kind of youth to whom I shall give Mysa.”

The answer did not quite satisfy his wife. She agreed with him in
objecting to the proposed alliance, but on entirely different grounds.
She had looked forward to Mysa making a brilliant match, which would
add to her own consequence and standing. On ceremonial occasions, as
the wife of the high priest, and herself a priestess of Osiris, she
was present at all the court banquets; but the abstemious tastes and
habits of Ameres prevented her from taking the part she desired in
other festivities, and she considered that were Mysa to marry some
great general, or perhaps even one of the princes of the blood, she
would then be able to take that position in society to which she
aspired, and considered, indeed, that she ought to fill as the wife of
Ameres, high priest of Osiris and one of the most trusted counselors
of the king.

Such result would certainly not flow from Mysa’s marriage to the son
of one of less rank in the temple than her husband, and far inferior
in public estimation. Being content, however, that her husband
objected to the match on other grounds, she abstained from pressing
her own view of the subject, being perfectly aware that it was one
with which Ameres would by no means sympathize. She therefore only
said:

“I am glad that you object to the match, Ameres, and am quite in
accord with you in your opinion of the son of Ptylus. But what reason
shall I give Nicotis for declining the connection?”

“The true one, of course!” Ameres said in surprise. “What other reason
could there be? In respect to position no objection could arise, nor
upon that of wealth. He is an only son, and although Ptylus may not
have so large an income as myself (for I have had much state
employment), he can certainly afford to place his son in at least as
good a position as we can expect for Mysa. Were we to decline the
proposal without giving a reason Ptylus would have good ground for
offense.”

“I do not suppose, Amense, he will be pleased at fault being found
with his son, but that we cannot help. Parents cannot expect others
to see their offspring with the same eyes that they do. I should
certainly feel no offense were I to propose for a wife for Chebron to
receive as an answer that he lacked some of the virtues the parents
required in a husband for their daughter. I might consider that
Chebron had those virtues, but if they thought otherwise why should I
be offended?”

“It is not everyone who sees matters as you do, Ameres, and no one
likes having his children slighted. Still, if it is your wish that I
should tell Nicotis that you have a personal objection to her son, of
course I will do so.”

“Do not put it that light, Amense. It is not that I have a personal
objection to him. I certainly do not like him, but that fact has
nothing to do with my decision. I might like him very much, and yet
consider that he would not make Mysa a good husband; or, on the other
hand, I might dislike him personally, and yet feel that I could safely
intrust Mysa’s happiness to him. You will say, then, to Nicotis that
from what I have seen of Plexo, and from what I have learned of his
character, it does not appear to me that a union between him and Mysa
would be likely to conduce to her happiness; and that, therefore, I
decline altogether to enter into negotiations for the bringing about
of such a marriage.”

Amense was well pleased, for she felt that this message, given in her
husband’s name, would be a great rebuff for her rival, and would far
more than counterbalance the many triumphs she had gained over her by
the recital of the number of banquets and entertainments in which she
had taken part.

Had Amense been present when Nicotis informed Ptylus of the refusal of
their proposal for the hand of Mysa, she might have felt that even the
satisfaction of mortifying a rival may be dearly purchased.

“You know the woman, Ptylus, and can picture to yourself the air of
insolence with which she declined our proposal. I wished at the moment
we had been peasants’ wives instead of ladies of quality. I would have
given her cause to regret her insolence for a long time. As it was, it
was as much as I could do to restrain myself, and to smile and say
that perhaps, after all, the young people were not as well suited for
each other as could be wished; and that we had only yielded to the
wishes of Plexo, having in our mind another alliance which would in
every respect be more advantageous. Of course she replied that she was
glad to hear it, but she could not but know that I was lying, for the
lotus flower I was holding in my hand trembled with the rage that
devoured me.”

“And it was, you say, against Plexo personally that the objection was
made?” Ptylus said gloomily.

“So she seemed to say. Of course she would not tell me that she had
set her mind on her daughter marrying one of the royal princes, though
it is like enough that such is her thought, for the woman is pushing
and ambitious enough for anything. She only said, in a formal sort of
way, that while the alliance between the two families would naturally
be most agreeable to them, her husband was of opinion that the
dispositions of the young people were wholly dissimilar, and that he
feared such a union would not be for the happiness of either; and that
having perhaps peculiar ideas as to the necessity for husband and wife
being of one mind in all matters, he thought it better that the idea
should be abandoned. I had a mind to tell her that Ameres did not seem
to have acted upon those ideas in his own case, for everyone knows
that he and Amense have not a thought in common–that she goes her way
and he goes his.”

“Let them both beware!” Ptylus said. “They shall learn that we are not
to be insulted with impunity. This Ameres, whom the people regard as
so holy, is at heart a despiser of the gods. Had he not been a
favorite of Thotmes he would ere now have been disgraced and degraded,
and I should be high priest in his place; for his son, Neco, is too
young for such a dignity. But he is ascending in the scale, and every
year that his father lives and holds office he will come more and more
to be looked upon as his natural successor. A few more years and my
chance will be extinguished.”

“Then,” Nicotis said decidedly, “Ameres must not hold office for many
more years. We have talked the matter over and over again, and you
have always promised me that some day I should be the wife of the high
priest, and that Plexo should stand first in the succession of the
office. It is high time that you carried your promises into effect.”

“It is time, Nicotis. This man has too long insulted the gods by
ministering at their services, when in his heart he was false to them.
It shall be so no longer; this last insult to us decides me! Had he
agreed to our proposal I would have laid aside my own claims, and with
my influence could have secured that Plexo, as his son-in-law, should
succeed, rather than that shallow-brained fool, Neco. He has refused
the offer, and he must bear the consequences. I have been too patient.
I will be so no longer, but will act. I have a strong party among the
upper priesthood who have long been of my opinion that Ameres is a
disgrace to our caste and a danger to our religion. They will join me
heart and soul, for they feel with me that his position as high priest
is an outrage to the gods. Ask me no questions, Nicotis, but be
assured that my promises shall be kept. I will be high priest; Plexo
shall marry this child he fancies, for his doing so will not only
strengthen my position, but render his own succession secure, by
silencing those who might at my death seek to bring back the
succession to Neco.”

“That is well, Ptylus. I have long wondered that you were content to
be lorded over by Ameres. If I can aid you in any way be sure that I
will do so. By the way, Amense invited us to a banquet she is about to
give next week. Shall we accept the invitation?”

“Certainly. We must not show that we are in any way offended at what
has passed. As far as Ameres himself is concerned it matters not, for
the man has so good an opinion of himself that nothing could persuade
him that he has enemies; but it would not do, in view of what I have
resolved upon, that any other should entertain the slightest suspicion
that there exists any ill-feeling between us.”

Great preparations were made by Amense for the banquet on the
following week, for she had resolved that this should completely
eclipse the entertainments of Nicotis. Ameres had, as usual, left
everything in her hands, and she spared no expense. For a day or two
previous large supplies of food arrived from the farm and from the
markets in the city; and early on the morning of the entertainment a
host of professional cooks arrived to prepare the dinner. The head
cooks superintended their labors. The meat consisted of beef and
goose, ibex, gazelle, and oryx; for although large flocks of sheep
were kept for their wool, the flesh was not eaten by the Egyptians.
There were, besides, great numbers of ducks, quails, and other small
fowl. The chief cooks superintended the cutting up of the meat and the
selection of the different joints for boiling or roasting. One servant
worked with his feet a bellows, raising the fire to the required heat;
another skimmed the boiling caldrons with a spoon; and a third pounded
salt, pepper, and other ingredients in a large mortar. Bakers and
confectioners made light bread and pastry; the former being made in
the form of rolls, sprinkled at the top with carraway and other seeds.
The confectionary was made of fruit and other ingredients mixed with
dough, and this was formed by a skillful workman into various artistic
shapes, such as recumbent oxen, vases, temples, and other forms.
Besides the meats there was an abundance of all the most delicate
kinds of fish.

When the hour of noon approached Ameres and Amense took their seats on
two chairs at the upper end of the chief apartment, and as the guests
arrived each came up to them to receive their welcome. When all had
arrived the women took their places on chairs at the one side of the
hall, the men on the other. Then servants brought in tables, piled up
with dishes containing the viands, and in some cases filled with
fruits and decorated with flowers, and ranged them down the center of
the room.

Cups of wine were then handed round to the guests, lotus flowers
presented to them to hold in their hands, and garlands of flowers
placed round their necks. Stands, each containing a number of jars of
wine, stoppered with heads of wheat and decked with garlands, were
ranged about the room. Many small tables were now brought in, and
round these the guests took their seats upon low stools and
chairs–the women occupying those on one side of the room, the men
those on the other.

The servants now placed the dishes on the small tables, male
attendants waiting on the men, while the women were served by females.
Egyptians were unacquainted with the use of knives and forks, the
joints being cut up by the attendants into small pieces, and the
guests helping themselves from the dishes with the aid of pieces of
bread held between the fingers. Vegetables formed a large part of the
meal, the meats being mixed with them to serve as flavoring; for in so
hot a climate a vegetable diet is far more healthy than one composed
principally of meat. While the meal was proceeding a party of female
musicians, seated on the ground in one corner of the room, played and
sang.

The banquet lasted for a long time, the number of dishes served being
very large. When it was half over the figure of a mummy, of about
three feet in length, was brought round and presented to each guest in
succession, as a reminder of the uncertainty of existence. But as all
present were accustomed to this ceremony it had but little effect, and
the sound of conversation and laughter, although checked for a moment,
broke out again as soon as the figure was removed. Wine of many kinds
was served during the dinner, the women as well as the men partaking
of it.

When all was concluded servants brought round golden basins with
perfumed water and napkins, and the guests removed from their fingers
the gravy that even with the daintiest care in feeding could not be
altogether escaped. Then the small tables and stools were removed, and
the guests took their places on the chairs along the sides of the
room. Then parties of male and female dancers by turn came in and
performed. Female acrobats and tumblers then entered, and went through
a variety of performances, and jugglers showed feats of dexterity with
balls, and other tricks, while the musicians of various nationalities
played in turns upon the instruments in use in their own countries.
All this time the attendants moved about among the guests, serving
them with wine and keeping them supplied with fresh flowers. A bard
recited an ode in honor of the glories of King Thotmes, and it was not
until late in the evening that the entertainment came to an end.

“It has gone off splendidly,” Amense said to Ameres when all was
over, and the last guest had been helped away by his servants; for
there were many who were unable to walk steadily unaided. “Nothing
could have been better–it will be the talk of the whole town; and I
could see Nicotis was devoured by envy and vexation. I do think great
credit is due to me, Ameres, for you have really done nothing toward
the preparations.”

“I am perfectly willing that you should have all the credit, Amense,”
Ameres said wearily, “and I am glad that you are satisfied. To me the
whole thing is tedious and tiresome to a degree. All this
superabundance of food, this too lavish use of wine, and the postures
and antics of the actors and dancers is simply disgusting. However, if
everyone else was pleased, of course I am content.”

“You are the most unsatisfactory husband a woman ever had,” Amense
said angrily. “I do believe you would be perfectly happy shut up in
your study with your rolls of manuscript all your life, without seeing
another human being save a black slave to bring you in bread and fruit
and water twice a day.”

“I think I should, my dear,” Ameres replied calmly. “At any rate, I
should prefer it vastly to such a waste of time, and that in a form to
me so disagreeable as that I have had to endure to-day.”

CHAPTER IX.

A STARTLING EVENT.

It was some days later that Chebron and Amuba again paid a visit to
the temple by moonlight. It was well-nigh a month since they had been
there; for, save when the moon was up, the darkness and gloom of the
courts, lighted only by the lamps of the altars, was so great that the
place offered no attractions. Amuba, free from the superstitions which
influenced his companion, would have gone with him had he proposed it,
although he too felt the influence of the darkness and the dim, weird
figures of the gods, seen but faintly by the lights that burned at
their feet. But to Chebron, more imaginative and easily affected,
there was something absolutely terrible in the gloomy darkness, and
nothing would have induced him to wander in the silent courts save
when the moon threw her light upon them.

On entering one of the inner courts they found a massive door in the
wall standing ajar.

“Where does this lead to?” Amuba asked.

“I do not know. I have never seen it open before. I think it must have
been left unclosed by accident. We will see where it leads to.”

Opening it they saw in front of them a flight of stairs in the
thickness of the wall.

“It leads up to the roof,” Chebron said in surprise. “I knew not there
were any stairs to the roof, for when repairs are needed the workmen
mount by ladders.”

“Let us go up, Chebron; it will be curious to look down upon the
courts.”

“Yes, but we must be careful, Amuba; for, did any below catch sight of
us, they might spread an alarm.”

“We need only stay there a minute or two,” Amuba urged. “There are so
few about that we are not likely to be seen, for if we walk
noiselessly none are likely to cast their eyes so far upward.”

So saying Amuba led the way up the stairs, and Chebron somewhat
reluctantly followed him. They felt their way as they went, and after
mounting for a considerable distance found that the stairs ended in a
narrow passage, at the end of which was an opening scarce three feet
high and just wide enough for a man to pass through. This evidently
opened into the outer air, as sufficient light passed through to
enable them to see where they were standing. Amuba crept out through
the opening at the end. Beyond was a ledge a foot wide; beyond that
rose a dome some six feet high and eight or ten feet along the ledge.

“Come on, Chebron; there is plenty of room for both of us,” he said,
looking backward. Chebron at once joined him.

“Where can we be?” Amuba asked. “There is the sky overhead. We are
twenty feet from the top of the wall, and where this ledge ends, just
before it gets to the sides of this stone, it seems to go straight
down.”

Chebron looked round him.

“This must be the head of one of the statues,” he said after a pause.
“What a curious place! I wonder what it can have been made for. See,
there is a hole here!”

Just in front of them was an opening of some six inches in diameter in
the stone.

Amuba pushed his hand down.

“It seems to go a long way down,” he said; “but it is narrowing,” and
removing his arm he looked down the hole.

“There is an opening at the other end,” he said; “a small narrow slit.
It must have been made to enable any one standing here to see down,
though I don’t think they could see much through so small a hole. I
should think, Chebron, if this is really the top of the head of one of
the great figures, that slit must be where his lips are. Don’t you
think so?”

Chebron agreed that it was probable.

“In that case,” Amuba went on, “I should say that this hole must be
made to allow the priests to give answers through the mouth of the
image to supplications made to it. I have heard that the images
sometimes gave answers to the worshipers. Perhaps this is the secret
of it.”

Chebron was silent. The idea was a painful one to him; for if this
were so, it was evident that trickery was practiced.

“I think we had better go,” he said at last. “We have done wrong in
coming up here.”

“Let me peep over the side first,” Amuba said. “It seems to me that I
can hear voices below.”

But the projection of the head prevented his seeing anything beyond.
Returning he put his foot in the hole and raised himself sufficiently
to get on the top of the stone, which was here so much flattened that
there was no risk of falling off. Leaning forward he looked over the
edge. As Amuba had guessed would be the case, he found himself on the
head of the principal idol in the temple. Gathered round the altar at
its foot were seven or eight men, all of whom he knew by the whiteness
of their garment to be priests. Listening intently he could
distinctly hear their words. After waiting a minute he crawled back.

“Come up here, Chebron; there is something important going on.”

Chebron joined him, and the two, lying close together, looked down at
the court.

“I tell you we must do away with him,” one of the group below said in
tones louder than had been hitherto used. “You know as well as I do
that his heart is not in the worship of the gods. He has already shown
himself desirous of all sorts of innovations, and unless we take
matters in our hands there is no saying to what lengths he may go. He
might shatter the very worship of the gods. It is no use to try to
overthrow him openly; for he has the support of the king, and the
efforts that have been made have not in any way shaken his position.
Therefore he must die. It will be easy to put him out of the way.
There are plenty of small chambers and recesses which he might be
induced to enter on some pretext or other, and then be slain without
difficulty, and his body taken away by night and thrown into some of
the disused catacombs.

“It would be a nine days’ wonder when he was missed, but no one could
ever learn the truth of his disappearance. I am ready to kill him with
my own hands, and should regard the deed as one most pleasing to the
gods. Therefore if you are ready to undertake the other arrangements,
and two of you will join me in seeing that the deed is carried out
without noise or outcry, I will take the matter in hand. I hate him,
with his airs of holiness and his pretended love for the people.
Besides, the good of our religion requires that he shall die.”

There was a chorus of approbation from the others.

“Leave me to determine the time and place,” the speaker went on, “and
the excuse on which we will lead him to his doom. Those who will not
be actually engaged with me in the business must be in the precincts
of the place, and see that no one comes that way, and make some excuse
or other should a cry by chance be heard, and must afterward set on
foot all sorts of rumors to account for his actions. We can settle
nothing to-night; but there is no occasion for haste, and on the third
night hence we will again gather here.”

Chebron touched Amuba, and the two crept back to where they had been
standing on the ledge.

“The villains are planning a murder in the very temple!” Chebron said.
“I will give them a fright;” and applying his mouth to the orifice he
cried:

“Beware, sacrilegious wretches! Your plots shall fail and ruin fall
upon you!”

“Come on, Chebron!” Amuba exclaimed, pulling his garment. “Some of the
fellows may know the secret of this statue, and in that case they will
kill us without mercy if they find us here.”

Passing through the opening they groped their way to the top of the
stairs, hurried down these as fast as they could in the darkness, and
issued out from the door.

“I hear footsteps!” Amuba exclaimed as they did so. “Run for your
life, Chebron!”

Just as they left the court they heard the noise of angry voices and
hurried footsteps close by. At full speed they ran through several
courts and apartments.

“We had better hide, Amuba.”

“It will be no use trying to do that. They will guard the entrance
gates, give the alarm, and set all the priests on duty in the temple
in search. No, come along quickly. They cannot be sure that it is we
who spoke to them, and will probably wait until one has ascended the
stairs to see that no one is lurking there. I think we are safe for
the moment; but there are no good hiding-places. I think you had
better walk straight to the entrance, Chebron. Your presence here is
natural enough, and those they post at the gates would let you pass
out without suspicion. I will try and find myself a hiding-place.”

“I certainly will not do that, Amuba. I am not going to run away and
leave you in the scrape, especially as it was I who got us into it by
my rashness.”

“Is there any place where workmen are engaged on the walls?” Amuba
asked suddenly.

“Yes, in the third court on the right after entering,” Chebron
replied. “They are repainting the figures on the upper part of the
wall. I was watching them at work yesterday.”

“Then in that case there must be some ladders. With them we might get
away safely. Let us make for the court at once, but tread noiselessly,
and if you hear a footstep approaching hide in the shadow behind the
statue. Listen! they are giving the alarm. They know that their number
would be altogether insufficient to search this great temple
thoroughly.”

Shouts were indeed heard, and the lads pressed on toward the court
Chebron had spoken of. The temple now was echoing with sounds, for the
priests on duty, who had been asleep as usual when not engaged in
attending to the lights, had now been roused by one of their number,
who ran in and told them some sacrilegious persons had made their way
into the temple.

“Here is the place,” Chebron said, stopping at the foot of the wall.

Here two or three long light ladders were standing. Some of these
reached part of the distance only up the walls, but the top of one
could be seen against the skyline.

“Mount, Chebron! There is no time to loose. They may be here at any
moment.”

Chebron mounted, followed closely by his companion. Just as he gained
the top of the wall several men carrying torches ran into the court
and began to search along the side lying in shadow. Just as Amuba
joined Chebron one of the searchers caught sight of them, and with a
shout ran toward the ladder.

“Pull, Chebron!” Amuba exclaimed as he tried to haul up the ladder.

Chebron at once assisted him, and the foot of the ladder was already
many feet above the ground before the men reached it. The height of
the wall was some fifty feet, and light as was the construction of the
ladder, it was as much as the lads could do to pull it up to the top.
The wall was fully twelve feet in thickness, and as soon as the ladder
was up Amuba said:

“Keep away from the edge, Chebron, or it is possible that in this
bright moonlight we may be recognized. We must be going on at once.
They will tie the short ladders together and be after us directly.”

“Which way shall we go?”

“Toward the outer wall, as far as possible from the gate. Bring the
ladder along.”

Taking it upon their shoulders they hurried along. Critical as the
position was, Amuba could not help remarking on the singularity of
the scene. The massive walls were all topped with white cement and
stretched like broad ribbons, crossing and recrossing each other in
regular parallelograms on a black ground.

Five minutes’ running took them to the outer wall, and the ladder was
again lowered and they descended, and then stood at its foot for a
moment to listen. Everything was still and silent.

“It is lucky they did not think of sending men to watch outside the
walls when they first caught sight of us, or we should have been
captured. I expect they thought of nothing but getting down the other
ladders and fastening them together. Let us make straight out and get
well away from the temple, and then we will return to your house at
our leisure. We had better get out of sight if we can before our
pursuers find the top of the ladder, then as they will have no idea in
which direction we have gone they will give up the chase.”

After an hour’s walking they reached home. On the way they had
discussed whether or not Chebron should tell Ameres what had taken
place, and had agreed that it would be best to be silent.

“Your father would not like to know that you have discovered the
secret of the image, Chebron. If it was not for that I should say you
had best have told him. But I do not see that it would do any good
now. We do not know who the men were who were plotting or whom they
were plotting against. But one thing is pretty certain, they will not
try to carry out their plans now, for they cannot tell how much of
their conversation was overheard, and their fear of discovery will put
an end for the present to this scheme of theirs.”

Chebron agreed with Amuba’s views, and it was decided to say nothing
about the affair unless circumstances occurred which might alter their
intentions. They entered the house quietly and reached their apartment
without disturbing any of the inmates.

On the following morning one of the priests of the temple arrived at
an early hour and demanded to see Ameres.

“I have evil tidings to give you, my lord,” he said. “Your son Neco
has this morning been killed.”

“Neco killed?” Ameres repeated.

“It is, alas! but too true, my lord. He left the house where he lives
with two other priests but a short distance from the gate of the
temple at his usual hour. It was his turn to offer the sacrifices at
dawn, and it must have been still dark when he left the house. As he
did not arrive at the proper time a messenger was sent to fetch him,
and he found him lying dead but a few paces from his own door, stabbed
to the heart.”

Ameres waved his hand to signify that he would be alone, and sat down
half-stunned by the sudden shock.

Between himself and his eldest son there was no great affection. Neco
was of a cold and formal disposition, and although Ameres would in his
own house have gladly relaxed in his case, as he had done in that of
Chebron, the rigid respect and deference demanded by Egyptian custom
on the part of sons toward their father, Neco had never responded to
his advances and had been punctilious in all the observances practiced
at the time. Except when absolutely commanded to do so, he had never
taken a seat in his father’s presence, had never addressed him unless
spoken to, had made his appearance only at stated times to pay his
respects to him, and when dismissed had gladly hurried away to the
priest who acted as his tutor.

As he grew up the gap had widened instead of closing. Ameres saw with
regret that his mind was narrow and his understanding shallow, that in
matters of religion he was bigoted; while at the same time he
perceived that his extreme zeal in the services of the temple, his
absorption in ceremonial observances of all kinds, were due in no
slight degree to ambition, and that he was endeavoring to obtain
reputation for distinguished piety with a view to succeeding some day
to the office of high priest. He guessed that the eagerness with which
Neco embraced the first opportunity of withdrawing himself from his
home and joining two other young priests in their establishment was
due to a desire to disassociate himself from his father, and thus to
make an unspoken protest against the latitude of opinion that had
raised up a party hostile to Ameres.

Although living so close it was very seldom that he had, after once
leaving the house, again entered it; generally choosing a time when
his father was absent and so paying his visits only to his mother.
Still the news of his sudden death was a great shock, and Ameres sat
without moving for some minutes until a sudden outburst of cries in
the house betokened that the messenger had told his tidings to the
servants, and that these had carried them to their mistress. Ameres at
once went to his wife’s apartment and endeavored to console her, but
wholly without success.

Amense was frantic with grief. Although herself much addicted to the
pleasures of the world, she had the highest respect for religion, and
the ardor of Neco in the discharge of his religious duties had been a
source of pride and gratification to her. Not only was it pleasant to
hear her son spoken of as one of the most rising of the young
priesthood, but she saw that he would make his way rapidly and would
ere long become the recognized successor to his father’s office.
Chebron and Mysa bore the news of their brother’s death with much more
resignation. For the last three years they had scarcely seen him, and
even when living at home there had been nothing in common between him
and them. They were indeed more awed by the suddenness of his death
than grieved at his loss.

When he left them Ameres went at once to the house of Neco to make
further inquiries into the matter. There he could learn nothing that
could afford any clew. Neco had been late at the temple and had not
returned until long after the rest of the household were in bed, and
none had seen him before he left in the morning. No sound of a
struggle or cry for help had been heard. His death had apparently been
instantaneous. He had been stabbed in the back by some one who had
probably been lurking close to the door awaiting his coming out.

The general opinion there and in the temple was that he must have
fallen a victim to a feeling of revenge on the part of some attendant
in the building who on his report had undergone disgrace and
punishment for some fault of carelessness or inattention in the
services or in the care of the sacred animals. As a score of
attendants had at one time or other been so reported by Neco, for
he was constantly on the lookout for small irregularities, it was
impossible to fix the crime on one more than another.

The magistrates, who arrived soon after Ameres to investigate the
matter, called the whole of those who could be suspected of harboring
ill-will against Neco to be brought before them and questioned as to
their doings during the night. All stoutly asserted that they had been
in bed at the time of the murder, and nothing occurred to throw a
suspicion upon one more than another. As soon as the investigation was
concluded Ameres ordered the corpse to be brought to his own house.

[Illustration: C. of B.
AMENSE AND MYSA BEWAIL THE DEATH OF NECO.--Page 175.]

Covered by white cloths it was placed on a sort of sledge. This was
drawn by six of the attendants of the temple; Ameres and Chebron
followed behind, and after them came a procession of priests. When it
arrived at the house, Amense and Mysa, with their hair unbound and
falling around them, received the body–uttering loud cries of
lamentation, in which they were joined by all the women of the house.
It was carried into an inner apartment, and there until evening a loud
wailing was kept up, many female relatives and friends coming in and
joining in the outcry. Late in the evening the body was taken out,
placed upon another sledge, and, followed by the male relatives and
friends and by all the attendants and slaves of the house, was carried
to the establishment of Chigron the embalmer. During the forty days
occupied by the process the strictest mourning was observed in the
house. No meat or wheaten bread was eaten, nor wine served at the
table–even the luxury of the bath was abandoned. All the males shaved
their eyebrows, and sounds of loud lamentation on the part of the
women echoed through the house.

At the end of that time the mummy was brought back in great state, and
placed in the room which was in all large Egyptian houses set apart
for the reception of the dead. The mummy-case was placed upright
against the wall. Here sacrifices similar to those offered at the
temple were made. Ameres himself and a number of the priests of the
rank of those decorated with leopard skins took part of the services.
Incense and libation were offered. Amense and Mysa were present at the
ceremony, and wailed with their hair in disorder over their shoulders
and dust sprinkled on their heads. Oil was poured over the head of the
mummy, and after the ceremony was over Amense and Mysa embraced the
mummied body, bathing its feet with their tears and uttering
expressions of grief and praises of the deceased.

In the evening a feast was held in honor of the dead. On this occasion
the signs of grief were laid aside, and the joyful aspect of the
departure of the dead to a happy existence prevailed. A large number
of friends and relatives were present. The guests were anointed and
decked with flowers, as was usual at these parties, and after the meal
the mummy was drawn through the room in token that his spirit was
still present among them. Amense would fain have kept the mummy for
some time in the house, as was often the practice, but Ameres
preferred that the funeral should take place at once.

Three days later the procession assembled and started from the house.
First came servants bearing tables laden with fruit, cakes, flowers,
vases of ointment, wine, some young geese in a crate for sacrifice,
chairs, wooden tables, napkins, and other things. Then came others
carrying small closets containing the images of the gods; they also
carried daggers, bows, sandals, and fans, and each bore a napkin upon
his shoulder. Then came a table with offerings and a chariot drawn by
a pair of horses, the charioteer driving them as he walked behind the
chariot. Then came the bearers of a sacred boat and the mysterious eye
of Horus, the god of stability. Others carried small images of blue
pottery representing the deceased under the form of Osiris, and the
bird emblematic of the soul. Then eight women of the class of paid
mourners came along beating their breasts, throwing dust upon their
heads, and uttering loud lamentations. Ameres, clad in a leopard skin,
and having in his hands the censer and vase of libation, accompanied
by his attendants bearing the various implements used in the services,
and followed by a number of priests also clad in leopard skins, now
came along. Immediately behind them followed the consecrated boat
placed upon a sledge, and containing the mummy-case in a large
exterior case covered with paintings. It was drawn by four oxen and
seven men. In the boat Amense and Mysa were seated. The sledge was
decked with flowers, and was followed by Chebron and other relatives
and friends of the deceased, beating their breasts and lamenting
loudly.

When they arrived at the sacred lake, which was a large piece of
artificial water, the coffin was taken from the small boat in which it
had been conveyed and placed in the baris, or consecrated boat of the
dead. This was a gorgeously painted boat with a lofty cabin. Amense,
Mysa, and Chebron took their places here. It was towed by a large boat
with sails and oars. The members of the procession then took their
places in other richly decorated sailing boats, and all crossed the
lake together. The procession was then reformed and went in the same
order to the tomb. Here the mummy-case was placed on the slab prepared
for it, and a sacrifice with libation and incense offered. The door of
the tomb was then closed, but not fastened, as sacrificial services
would be held there periodically for many years. The procession then
returned on foot to the house.

During all this time no certain clew had been obtained as to the
authors of the murder. Upon going up to the temple on the day of
Neco’s death Chebron found all sorts of rumors current. The affair of
the previous night had been greatly magnified, and it was generally
believed that a strong party of men had entered the temple with the
intention of carrying off the sacred vessels, but that they had been
disturbed just as they were going to break into the subterranean
apartments where these were kept, and had then fled to the ladders and
escaped over the wall before a sufficient force could be collected to
detain them. It was generally supposed that this affair was in some
way connected with the death of Neco. Upon Chebron’s return with this
news he and Amuba agreed that it was necessary to inform Ameres at
once of their doings on the previous night. After the evening meal
was over Ameres called Chebron into his study.

“Have you heard aught in the temple, Chebron, as to this strange
affair that took place there last night? I cannot see how it can have
any connection with your brother’s death; still, it is strange. Have
you heard who first discovered these thieves last night? Some say that
it was Ptylus, though what he should be doing there at that hour I
know not. Four or five others are named by priests as having aroused
them; but curiously not one of these is in the temple to-day. I have
received a letter from Ptylus saying that he has been suddenly called
to visit some relations living on the seashore near the mouths of the
Nile. The others sent similar excuses. I have sent to their houses,
but all appear to have left at an early hour this morning. This is
most strange, for none notified to me yesterday that they had occasion
to be absent. What can be their motive in thus running away when
naturally they would obtain praise and honor for having saved the
vessels of the temple? Have you heard anything that would seem to
throw any light upon the subject?”

“I have heard nothing, father; but I can tell you much. I should have
spoken to you the first thing this morning had it not been for the
news about Neco.” Chebron then related to Ameres how he and Amuba had
the night before visited the temple, ascended the stairs behind the
image of the god, and overheard a plot to murder some unknown person.

“This is an extraordinary tale, Chebron,” Ameres said when he had
brought his story to a conclusion. “You certainly would have been
slain had you been overtaken. How the door that led to the staircase
came to be open I cannot imagine. The place is only used on very rare
occasions, when it is deemed absolutely necessary that we should
influence in one direction or another the course of events. I can only
suppose that when last used, which is now some months since, the door
must have been carelessly fastened, and that it only now opened of
itself. Still, that is a minor matter, and it is fortunate that it
is you who made the discovery. As to this conspiracy you say you
overheard, it is much more serious. To my mind the sudden absence of
Ptylus and the others would seem to show that they were conscious of
guilt. Their presence in the temple so late was in itself singular;
and, as you say, they cannot know how much of their conversation was
overheard. Against whom their plot was directed I can form no idea;
though, doubtless, it was a personage of high importance.”

“You do not think, father,” Chebron said hesitatingly, “that the plot
could have been to murder Neco? This is what Amuba and I thought when
we talked it over this afternoon.”

“I do not think so,” Ameres said after a pause. “It is hardly likely
that four or five persons would plot together to carry out the murder
of one in his position; it must be some one of far greater importance.
Neco may not have been liked, but he was certainly held in esteem by
all the priests in the temple.”

“You see, father,” Chebron said, “that Ptylus is an ambitious man, and
may have hoped at some time or other to become high priest. Neco would
have stood in his way, for, as the office is hereditary, if the eldest
son is fitted to undertake it, Neco would almost certainly be
selected.”

“That is true, Chebron, but I have no reason to credit Ptylus with
such wickedness; beside, he would hardly take other people into his
confidence did he entertain such a scheme. Moreover, knowing that
they were overheard last night, although they cannot tell how much may
have been gathered by the listener, they would assuredly not have
carried the plan into execution; besides which, as you say, no plan
was arrived at, and after the whole temple was disturbed they would
hardly have met afterward and arranged this fresh scheme of murder.
No. If Neco was killed by them, it must have been that they suspected
that he was one of those who overheard them. His figure is not unlike
yours. They may probably have obtained a glimpse of you on the walls,
and have noticed your priest’s attire. He was in the temple late, and
probably left just before you were discovered. Believing, then, that
they were overheard, and thinking that one of the listeners was Neco,
they decided for their own safety to remove him. Of course it is mere
assumption that Ptylus was one of those you overheard last night. His
absence to-day is the only thing we have against him, and that alone
is wholly insufficient to enable us to move in the matter. The whole
affair is a terrible mystery; be assured I will do my best to unravel
it. At present, in any case, we can do nothing. Ptylus and the four
priests who are absent will doubtless return when they find that no
accusation is laid against them. They will suppose that the other
person who overheard them, whoever he was, is either afraid to come
forward, or perhaps heard only a few words and is ignorant of the
identity of the speakers. Indeed, he would be a bold man who would
venture to prefer so terrible an accusation against five of the
priests of the temple. I do not blame you in the matter, for you could
not have foreseen the events that have happened. It was the will of
the gods that you should have learned what you have learned; perhaps
they intend some day that you shall be their instrument for bringing
the guilty to justice. As to the conspiracy, no doubt, as you say, the
plot, against whomsoever it was directed, will be abandoned, for they
will never be sure as to how much is known of what passed between
them, and whether those who overheard them may not be waiting for the
commission of the crown to denounce them. In the meantime you will on
no account renew your visit to the temple or enter it at any time,
except when called upon to do so by your duties.”

The very day after Neco’s funeral Mysa and her mother were thrown into
a flutter of excitement by a message which arrived from Bubastes. Some
months before the sacred cat of the great temple there–a cat held in
as high honor in Lower Egypt as the bull Apis in the Thebaid–had
fallen sick, and, in spite of the care and attendance lavished upon
it, had died. The task of finding its successor was an important and
arduous one, and, like the bull of Apis, it was necessary not only
that the cat should be distinguished for its size and beauty, but that
it should bear certain markings. Without these particular markings no
cat could be elevated to the sacred post, even if it remained vacant
for years; therefore as soon as the cat was dead a party of priests
set out from Bubastes to visit all the cities of Egypt in search of
its successor.

The whole country was agitated with the question of the sacred cat,
and at each town they visited lists were brought to the priests of all
the cats which, from size, shape, and color, could be considered as
candidates for the office. As soon as one of the parties of the
priests had reached Thebes Amense had sent to them a description of
Mysa’s great cat Paucis. Hitherto Amense had evinced no interest
whatever in her daughter’s pets, seldom going out into the garden,
except to sit under the shade of the trees near the fountain for a
short time in the afternoon when the sun had lost its power.

In Paucis, indeed, she had taken some slight interest; because, in
the first place, it was only becoming that the mistress of the house
should busy herself as to the welfare of animals deemed so sacred;
and in the second, because all who saw Paucis agreed that it was
remarkable alike in size and beauty, and the presence of such a
creature in the house was in itself a source of pride and dignity.
Thus, then, she lost no time in sending a message to the priests
inviting them to call and visit her and inspect the cat. Although, as
a rule, the competitors for the post of sacred cat of Bubastes were
brought in baskets by their owners for inspection, the priests were
willing enough to pay a visit in person to the wife of so important a
man as the high priest of Osiris.

Amense received them with much honor, presented Mysa to them as the
owner of the cat, and herself accompanied the priests in their visit
to the home of Mysa’s pets. Their report was most favorable. They had,
since they left Bubastes, seen no cat approaching Paucis in size and
beauty, and although her markings were not precisely correct, they yet
approximated very closely to the standard. They could say no more than
this, because the decision could not be made until the return of all
the parties of searchers to Bubastes. Their reports would then be
compared, and unless any one animal appeared exactly to suit all
requirements, a visit would be made by the high priest of the temple
himself to three or four of the cats most highly reported upon. If he
found one of them worthy of the honor, it would be selected for the
vacant position.

If none of them came up to the lofty standard the post would remain
unfilled for a year or two, when it might be hoped that among the
rising generation of cats a worthy successor to the departed one might
be found. For themselves, they must continue their search in Thebes
and its neighborhood, as all claimants must be examined; but they
assured Amense that they thought it most improbable that a cat equal
to Paucis would be found.

Some months had passed, and it was not until a week after the funeral
of Neco that a message arrived, saying that the report concerning
Paucis by the priests who had visited Thebes was so much more
favorable than that given by any of the other searchers of the animals
they had seen, that it had been decided by the high priest that it
alone was worthy of the honor.

The messenger stated that in the course of a fortnight a deputation
consisting of the high priest and several leading functionaries of the
temple, with a retinue of the lower clergy and attendants, would set
out from Bubastes by water in order to receive the sacred cat, and to
conduct her with all due ceremony to the shrine of Bubastes. Mysa was
delighted at the honor which had befallen her cat. Privately she was
less fond of Paucis than of some of the less stately cats; for Paucis,
from the time it grew up, had none of the playfulness of the tribe,
but deported itself with a placid dignity which would do honor to its
new position, but which rendered it less amusing to Mysa than its
humbler but more active companions.

Amense was vastly gratified at the news. It was considered the highest
honor that could befall an Egyptian for one of his animals to be
chosen to fill the chief post in one of the temples, and next in
dignity to Apis himself was the sacred cat of the great goddess known
as Baste, Bubastes, or Pasht.

As soon as the news was known, all the friends and acquaintances of
the family flocked in to offer their congratulations; and so many
visits were paid to Mysa’s inclosure that even the tranquility of
Paucis was disturbed by the succession of admirers, and Amense,
declaring that she felt herself responsible for the animal being in
perfect health when the priests arrived for it, permitted only the
callers whom she particularly desired to honor to pay a visit of
inspection to it.

CHAPTER X.

THE CAT OF BUBASTES.

For several days, upon paying their morning visit to the birds and
other pets in the inclosure in the garden, Chebron and Mysa had
observed an unusual timidity among them. The wildfowl, instead of
advancing to meet them with demonstrations of welcome, remained close
among the reeds, and even the ibis did not respond at once to their
call.

“They must have been alarmed at something,” Chebron said the third
morning. “Some bird of prey must have been swooping down upon them.
See here, there are several feathers scattered about, and some of them
are stained with blood. Look at that pretty drake that was brought to
us by the merchants in trade with the far East. Its mate is missing.
It may be a hawk or some creature of the weasel tribe. At any rate, we
must try to put a stop to it. This is the third morning that we have
noticed the change in the behavior of the birds. Doubtless three of
them have been carried off. Amuba and I will watch to-morrow with our
bows and arrows and see if we cannot put an end to the marauder. If
this goes on we shall lose all our pets.”

Upon the following morning Chebron and Amuba went down to the
inclosure soon after daybreak, and concealing themselves in some
shrubs waited for the appearance of the intruder. The ducks were
splashing about in the pond, evidently forgetful of their fright of
the day before; and as soon as the sun was up the dogs came out of
their house and threw themselves down on a spot where his rays could
fall upon them, while the cats sat and cleaned themselves on a ledge
behind a lattice, for they were only allowed to run about in the
inclosure when some one was there to prevent their interference with
birds.

For an hour there was no sign of an enemy. Then one of the birds gave
a sudden cry of alarm, and there was a sudden flutter as all rushed to
shelter among the reeds; but before the last could get within cover a
dark object shot down from above. There was a frightened cry and a
violent flapping as a large hawk suddenly seized one of the waterfowl
and struck it to the ground. In an instant the watchers rose to their
feet, and as the hawk rose with its prey in its talons they shot their
arrows almost simultaneously. Amuba’s arrow struck the hawk between
the wings, and the creature fell dead still clutching its prey.
Chebron’s arrow was equally well aimed, but it struck a twig which
deflected its course and it flew wide of the mark.

Amuba gave a shout of triumph and leaped out from among the bushes.
But he paused and turned as an exclamation of alarm broke from
Chebron. To his astonishment, he saw a look of horror on his
companion’s face. His bow was still outstretched, and he stood as if
petrified.

“What’s the matter, Chebron?” Amuba exclaimed. “What has happened? Has
a deadly snake bit you? What is it, Chebron?”

“Do you not see?” Chebron said in a low voice.

“I see nothing,” Amuba replied, looking round, and at the same time
putting another arrow into his bowstring ready to repel the attack of
some dangerous creature. “Where is it? I can see nothing.”

“My arrow; it glanced off a twig and entered there; I saw one of the
cats fall. I must have killed it.”

Two years before Amuba would have laughed at the horror which
Chebron’s face expressed at the accident of shooting a cat, but he had
been long enough in Egypt to know how serious were the consequences of
such an act. Better by far that Chebron’s arrow had lodged in the
heart of a man. In that case an explanation of the manner in which the
accident had occurred, a compensation to the relatives of the slain,
and an expiatory offering at one of the temples would have been deemed
sufficient to purge him from the offense; but to kill a cat, even by
accident, was the most unpardonable offense an Egyptian could commit,
and the offender would assuredly be torn to pieces by the mob. Knowing
this, he realized at once the terrible import of Chebron’s words.

For a moment he felt almost as much stunned as Chebron himself, but he
quickly recovered his presence of mind.

“There is only one thing to be done, Chebron; we must dig a hole and
bury it at once. I will run and fetch a hoe.”

Throwing down his bow and arrows he ran to the little shed at the
other end of the garden where the implements were kept, bidding a
careless good-morning to the men who were already at work there. He
soon rejoined Chebron, who had not moved from the spot from which he
had shot the unlucky arrow.

“Do you think this is best, Amuba? Don’t you think I had better go and
tell my father?”

“I do not think so, Chebron. Upon any other matter it would be right
at once to confer with him, but as high priest it would be a fearful
burden to place upon his shoulders. It would be his duty at once to
denounce you; and did he keep it secret, and the matter be ever found
out, it would involve him in our danger. Let us therefore bear the
brunt of it by ourselves.”

“I dare not go in,” Chebron said in awestruck tones. “It is too
terrible.”

“Oh, I will manage that,” Amuba said lightly. “You know to me a cat is
a cat and nothing more, and I would just as soon bury one as that
rascally hawk which has been the cause of all this mischief.”

So saying he crossed the open space, and entering a thick bush beyond
the cat house, dug a deep hole; then he went into the house. Although
having no belief whatever in the sacredness of one animal more than
another, he had yet been long enough among the Egyptians to feel a
sensation akin to awe as he entered and saw lying upon the ground the
largest of the cats pierced through by Chebron’s arrow.

Drawing out the shaft he lifted the animal, and putting it under his
garment went out again, and entering the bushes buried it in the hole
he had dug. He leveled the soil carefully over it, and scattered a few
dead leaves on the top.

“There, no one would notice that,” he said to himself when he had
finished; “but it’s awfully unlucky it’s that cat of all others.”

Then he went in, carefully erased the marks of blood upon the floor,
and brought out the shaft, took it down to the pond and carefully
washed the blood from it, and then returned to Chebron.

“Is it–” the latter asked as he approached. He did not say more, but
Amuba understood him.

“I am sorry to say it is,” he replied. “It is horribly unlucky, for
one of the others might not have been missed. There is no hoping that
now.”

Chebron seemed paralyzed at the news.

“Come, Chebron,” Amuba said, “it will not do to give way to fear; we
must brave it out. I will leave the door of the cat house open, and
when it is missed it will be thought that it has escaped and wandered
away. At any rate, there is no reason why suspicion should fall upon
us if we do but put a bold face upon the matter; but we must not let
our looks betray us. If the worst comes to the worst and we find that
suspicions are entertained, we must get out of the way. But there will
be plenty of time to think of that; all that you have got to do now is
to try and look as if nothing had happened.”

“But how can I?” Chebron said in broken tones. “To you, as you say, it
is only a cat; to me it is a creature sacred above all others that I
have slain. It is ten thousand times worse than if I had killed a
man.”

“A cat is a cat,” Amuba repeated. “I can understand what you feel
about it, though to my mind it is ridiculous. There are thousands of
cats in Thebes; let them choose another one for the temple. But I
grant the danger of what has happened, and I know that if it is found
out there is no hope for us.”

“You had nothing to do with it,” Chebron said; “there is no reason why
you should take all this risk with me.”

“We were both in the matter, Chebron, and that twig might just as well
have turned my arrow from its course as yours. We went to kill a hawk
together and we have shot a cat, and it is a terrible business, there
is no doubt; and it makes no difference whatever whether I think the
cat was only a cat if the people of Thebes considered it is a god. If
it is found out it is certain death, and we shall need all our wits to
save our lives; but unless you pluck up courage and look a little more
like yourself, we may as well go at once and say what has happened
and take the consequences. Only if you don’t value your life I do
mine; so if you mean to let your looks betray us, say so, and stop
here for a few hours till I get a good start.”

“I will tell my father,” Chebron said suddenly, “and abide by what he
says. If he thinks it his duty to denounce me, so be it; in that case
you will run no risk.”

“But I don’t mind running the risk, Chebron; I am quite ready to share
the peril with you.”

“No; I will tell my father,” Chebron repeated, “and abide by what he
says. I am sure I can never face this out by myself, and that my looks
will betray us. I have committed the most terrible crime an Egyptian
can commit, and I dare not keep such a secret to myself.”

“Very well, Chebron, I will not try to dissuade you, and I will go and
see Jethro. Of course to him as to me the shooting of a cat is a
matter not worth a second thought; but he will understand the
consequences, and if we fly will accompany us. You do not mind my
speaking to him? You could trust your life to him as to me.”

Chebron nodded, and moved away toward the house.

“For pity sake, Chebron!” Amuba exclaimed, “do not walk like that. If
the men at work get sight of you they cannot but see that something
strange has happened, and it will be recalled against you when the
creature is missed.”

Chebron made an effort to walk with his usual gait. Amuba stood
watching him for a minute, and then turned away with a gesture of
impatience.

“Chebron is clever and learned in many things, and I do not think that
he lacks courage; but these Egyptians seem to have no iron in their
composition when a pinch comes. Chebron walks as if all his bones had
turned to jelly. Of course he is in a horrible scrape; still, if he
would but face it out with sense and pluck it would be easier for us
all. However, I do not think that it is more the idea that he has
committed an act of horrible sacrilege than the fear of death that
weighs him down. If it were not so serious a matter one could almost
laugh at any one being crushed to the earth because he had
accidentally killed a cat.”

Upon entering the house Chebron made his way to the room where his
father was engaged in study. Dropping the heavy curtains over the door
behind him he advanced a few paces, then fell on his knees, and
touched the ground with his forehead.

“Chebron!” Ameres exclaimed, laying down the roll of papyrus on which
he was engaged and rising to his feet. “What is it, my son? Why do you
thus kneel before me in an attitude of supplication? Rise and tell me
what has happened.”

Chebron raised his head, but still continued on his knees. Ameres was
startled at the expression of his son’s face. The look of health and
life had gone from it, the color beneath the bronze skin had faded
away, drops of perspiration stood on his forehead, his lips were
parched and drawn.

“What is it, my son?” Ameres repeated, now thoroughly alarmed.

“I have forfeited my life, father! Worse, I have offended the gods
beyond forgiveness! This morning I went with Amuba with our bows and
arrows to shoot a hawk which has for some time been slaying the
waterfowl. It came down and we shot together. Amuba killed the hawk,
but my arrow struck a tree and flew wide of the mark, and entering the
cats’ house killed Paucis, who was chosen only two days to take the
place of the sacred cat in the temple of Bubastes.”

An exclamation of horror broke from the high priest, and he recoiled a
pace from his son.

“Unhappy boy,” he said, “your life is indeed forfeited. The king
himself could not save his son from the fury of the populace had he
perpetrated such a deed.”

“It is not my life I am thinking of, father,” Chebron said, “but first
of the horrible sacrilege, and then that I alone cannot bear the
consequences, but that some of these must fall upon you and my mother
and sister; for even to be related to one who has committed such a
crime is a terrible disgrace.”

Ameres walked up and down the room several times before he spoke.

“As to our share of the consequences, Chebron, we must bear it as best
we can,” he said at last in a calmer tone than he had before used; “it
is of you we must first think. It is a terrible affair; and yet, as
you say, it was but an accident, and you are guiltless of any
intentional sacrilege. But that plea will be as nothing. Death is the
punishment for slaying a cat; and the one you have slain having been
chosen to succeed the cat of Bubastes is of all others the one most
sacred. The question is, What is to be done? You must fly and that
instantly, though I fear that flight will be vain; for as soon as the
news is known it will spread from one end of Egypt to the other, and
every man’s hand will be against you, and even by this time the
discovery may have been made.”

“That will hardly be, father; for Amuba has buried the cat among the
bushes, and has left the door of the house open so that it may be
supposed for a time that it has wandered away. He proposed to me to
fly with him at once; for he declares that he is determined to share
my fate since we were both concerned in the attempt to kill the hawk.
But in that of course he is wrong; for it is I, not he, who has done
this thing.”

“Amuba has done rightly,” Ameres said. “We have at least time to
reflect.”

“But I do not want to fly, father. Of what good will life be to me
with this awful sin upon my head? I wonder that you suffer me to
remain a moment in your presence–that you do not cast me out as a
wretch who has mortally offended the gods.”

Ameres waved his hand impatiently.

“That is not troubling me now, Chebron. I do not view things in the
same way as most men, and should it be that you have to fly for your
life I will tell you more; suffice for you that I do not blame you,
still less regard you with horror. The great thing for us to think of
at present is as to the best steps to be taken. Were you to fly now
you might get several days’ start, and might even get out of the
country before an alarm was spread; but upon the other hand, your
disappearance would at once be connected with that of the cat as soon
as it became known that she is missing, whereas if you stay here
quietly it is possible that no one will connect you in any way with
the fact that the cat is gone.

“That something has happened to it will speedily be guessed, for a cat
does not stray away far from the place where it has been bred up;
besides, a cat of such a size and appearance is remarkable, and were
it anywhere in the neighborhood it would speedily be noticed. But now
go and join Amuba in your room, and remain there for the morning as
usual. I will give orders that your instructor be told that you will
not want him to-day, as you are not well. I will see you presently
when I have thought the matter fully out and determined what had best
be done. Keep up a brave heart, my boy; the danger may yet pass over.”

Chebron retired overwhelmed with surprise at the kindness with which
his father had spoken to him, when he had expected that he would be so
filled with horror at the terrible act of sacrilege that he would not
have suffered him to remain in the house for a moment after the tale
was told. And yet he had seemed to think chiefly of the danger to his
life, and to be but little affected by what to Chebron himself was by
far the most terrible part of the affair–the religious aspect of the
deed. On entering the room where he pursued his studies he found
Jethro as well as Amuba there.

“I am sorry for you, young master,” Jethro said as he entered. “Of
course to me the idea of any fuss being made over the accidental
killing of a cat is ridiculous; but I know how you view it, and the
danger in which it has placed you. I only came in here with Amuba to
say that you can rely upon me, and that if you decide on flight I am
ready at once to accompany you.”

“Thanks, Jethro,” Chebron replied. “Should I fly it will indeed be a
comfort to have you with me as well as Amuba, who has already promised
to go with me; but at present nothing is determined. I have seen my
father and told him everything, and he will decide for me.”

“Then he will not denounce you,” Amuba said. “I thought that he would
not.”

“No; and he has spoken so kindly that I am amazed. It did not seem
possible to me that an Egyptian would have heard of such a dreadful
occurrence without feeling horror and destation of the person who did
it, even were he his own son. Still more would one expect it from a
man who, like my father, is a high priest to the gods.”

“Your father is a wise as well as a learned man,” Jethro said: “and
he knows that the gods cannot be altogether offended at an affair for
which fate and not the slayer is responsible. The real slayer of the
cat is the twig which turned the arrow, and I do not see that you are
any more to blame, or anything like so much to blame, as is the hawk
at whom you shot.”

This, however, was no consolation to Chebron, who threw himself down
on a couch in a state of complete prostration. It seemed to him that
even could this terrible thing be hidden he must denounce himself and
bear the penalty. How could he exist with the knowledge that he was
under the ban of the gods? His life would be a curse rather than a
gift under such circumstances. Physically, Chebron was not a coward,
but he had not the toughness of mental fibre which enables some men to
bear almost unmoved misfortunes which would crush others to the
ground. As to the comforting assurances of Amuba and Jethro, they
failed to give him the slightest consolation. He loved Amuba as a
brother, and in all other matters his opinion would have weighed
greatly with him; but Amuba knew nothing of the gods of Egypt, and
could not feel in the slightest the terrible nature of the act of
sacrilege, and therefore on this point his opinion could have no
weight.

“Jethro,” Amuba said, “you told me you were going to escort Mysa one
day or other to the very top of the hills, in order that she could
thence look down upon the whole city. Put it into her head to go this
morning, or at least persuade her to go into the city. If she goes
into the garden she will at once notice that the cat is lost; whereas
if you can keep her away for the day it will give us so much more
time.”

“But if Ameres decides that you had best fly, I might on my return
find that you have both gone.”

“Should he do so, Jethro, he will tell you the route we have taken,
and arrange for some point at which you can join us. He would
certainly wish you to go with us, for he would know that your
experience and strong arm would be above all things needful.”

“Then I will go at once,” Jethro agreed. “There are two or three
excursions she has been wanting to make, and I think I can promise
that she shall go on one of them to-day. If she says anything about
wanting to go to see her pets before starting, I can say that you have
both been there this morning and seen after them.”

“I do not mean to fly,” Chebron said, starting up, “unless it be that
my father commands me to do so. Rather a thousand worlds I stay here
and meet my fate!”

Jethro would have spoken, but Amuba signed to him to go at once, and
crossing the room took Chebron’s hand. It was hot and feverish, and
there was a patch of color in his cheek.

“Do not let us talk about it, Chebron,” he said. “You have put the
matter in your father’s hands, and you may be sure that he will decide
wisely; therefore the burden is off your shoulders for the present.
You could have no better counselor in all Egypt, and the fact that he
holds so high and sacred an office will add to the weight of his
words. If he believes that your crime against the gods is so great
that you have no hope of happiness in life, he will tell you so; if he
considers that, as it seems to me, the gods cannot resent an accident
as they might do a crime against them done willfully, and that you may
hope by a life of piety to win their forgiveness, then he will bid you
fly.

“He is learned in the deepest of the mysteries of your religion, and
will view matters in a different light to that in which they are
looked at by the ignorant rabble. At any rate, as the matter is in
his hands, it is useless for you to excite yourself. As far as
personal danger goes, I am willing to share it with you, to take half
the fault of this unfortunate accident, and to avow that as we were
engaged together in the act that led to it we are equally culpable of
the crime.

“Unfortunately, I cannot share your greater trouble–your feeling of
horror at what you regard as sacrilege; for we Rebu hold the life of
one animal no more sacred than the life of another, and have no more
hesitation in shooting a cat than a deer. Surely your gods cannot be
so powerful in Egypt and impotent elsewhere; and yet if they are as
powerful, how is it that their vengeance has not fallen upon other
peoples who slay without hesitation the animals so dear to them?”

“That is what I have often wondered,” Chebron said, falling readily
into the snare, for he and Amuba had had many conversations on such
subjects, and points were constantly presenting themselves which he
was unable to solve.

An hour later, when a servant entered and told Chebron and Amuba that
Ameres wished to speak to them, the former had recovered to some
extent from the nervous excitement under which he had first suffered.
The two lads bowed respectfully to the high priest, and then standing
submissively before him waited for him to address them.

“I have sent for you both,” he said after a pause, “because it seems
to me that although Amuba was not himself concerned in this sad
business, it is probable that as he was engaged with you at the time
the popular fury might not nicely discriminate between you.” He paused
as if expecting a reply, and Amuba said quietly:

“That is what I have been saying to Chebron, my lord. I consider
myself fully as guilty as he is. It was a mere accident that his arrow
and not mine was turned aside from the mark we aimed at, and I am
ready to share his lot, whether you decide that the truth shall be
published at once, or whether we should attempt to fly.” Ameres bowed
his head gravely, and then looked at his son.

“I, father, although I am ready to yield my wishes to your will, and
to obey you in this as in all other matters, would beseech you to
allow me to denounce myself and to bear my fate. I feel that I would
infinitely rather die than live with this terrible weight and guilt
upon my head.”

“I expected as much of you, Chebron, and applaud your decision,”
Ameres said gravely.

Chebron’s face brightened, while that of Amuba fell. Ameres, after a
pause, went on:

“Did I think as you do, Chebron, that the accidental killing of a cat
is a deadly offense against the gods, I should say denounce yourself
at once, but I do not so consider it.”

Chebron gazed at his father as if he could scarce credit his sense of
hearing, while even Amuba looked surprised.

“You have frequently asked me questions, Chebron, which I have either
turned aside or refused to answer. It was, indeed, from seeing that
you had inherited from me the spirit of inquiry that I deemed it best
that you should not ascend to the highest order of the priesthood; for
if so, the knowledge you would acquire would render you, as it has
rendered me, dissatisfied with the state of things around you. Had it
not been for this most unfortunate accident I should never have spoken
to you further on the subject, but as it is I feel that it is my duty
to tell you more.

“I have had a hard struggle with myself, and have, since you left me,
thought over from every point of view what I ought to do. On the one
hand, I should have to tell you things known only to an inner circle,
things which were it known I had whispered to any one my life would be
forfeited. On the other hand, if I keep silent I should doom you to a
life of misery. I have resolved to take the former alternative. I may
first tell you what you do not know, that I have long been viewed with
suspicion by those of the higher priesthood who know my views, which
are that the knowledge we possess should not be confined to ourselves,
but should be disseminated, at least among that class of educated
Egyptians capable of appreciating it.

“What I am about to tell you is not, as a whole, fully understood
perhaps by any. It is the outcome of my own reflections, founded upon
the light thrown upon things by the knowledge I have gained. You asked
me one day, Chebron, how we knew about the gods–how they first
revealed themselves, seeing that they are not things that belong to
the world? I replied to you at the time that these things are
mysteries–a convenient answer with which we close the mouths of
questioners.

“Listen now and I will tell you how religion first began upon earth,
not only in Egypt, but in all lands. Man felt his own powerlessness.
Looking at the operations of nature–the course of the heavenly
bodies, the issues of birth and life and death–he concluded, and
rightly, that there was a God over all things, but this God was too
mighty for his imagination to grasp.

“He was everywhere and nowhere, he animated all things, and yet was
nowhere to be found; he gave fertility and he caused famine, he gave
life and he gave death, he gave light and heat, he sent storms and
tempests. He was too infinite and too various for the untutored mind
of the early man to comprehend, and so they tried to approach him
piecemeal. They worshiped him as the sun, the giver of heat and life
and fertility; they worshiped him as a destructive god, they invoked
his aid as a beneficent being, they offered sacrifices to appease his
wrath as a terrible one. And so in time they came to regard all these
attributes of his–all his sides and lights under which they viewed
him–as being distinct and different, and instead of all being the
qualities of one God as being each the quality or attribute of
separate gods.

“So there came to be a god of life and a god of death, one who sends
fertility and one who causes famine. All sorts of inanimate objects
were defined as possessing some fancied attribute either for good or
evil, and the one Almighty God became hidden and lost in the crowd of
minor deities. In some nations the fancies of man went one way, in
another another. The lower the intelligence of the people the lower
their gods. In some countries serpents are sacred, doubtless because
originally they were considered to typify at once the subtleness and
the destructive power of a god. In others trees are worshiped. There
are peoples who make the sun their god. Others the moon. Our
forefathers in Egypt being a wiser people than the savages around
them, worshiped the attributes of gods under many different names.
First, eight great deities were chosen to typify the chief
characteristics of the Mighty One. Chnoumis, or Neuf, typified the
idea of the spirit of God–that spirit which pervades all creation.
Ameura, the intellect of God. Osiris, the goodness of God. Ptah
typified at once the working power and the truthfulness of God. Khem
represents the productive power–the god who presides over the
multiplication of all species: man, beast, fish, and vegetable–and so
with the rest of the great gods and of the minor divinities, which are
reckoned by the score.

“In time certain animals, birds, and other creatures whose qualities
are considered to resemble one or other of the deities are in the
first place regarded as typical of them, then are held as sacred to
them, then in some sort of way become mixed up with the gods and to be
held almost as the gods themselves. This is, I think, the history of
the religions of all countries. The highest intelligences, the men of
education and learning, never quite lose sight of the original truths,
and recognize that the gods represent only the various attributes of
the one Almighty God. The rest of the population lose sight of the
truth, and really worship as gods these various creations, that are
really but types and shadows.

“It is perhaps necessary that it should be so. It is easier for the
grosser and more ignorant classes to worship things that they can see
and understand, to strive to please those whose statues and temples
they behold, to fear to draw upon themselves the vengeance of those
represented to them as destructive powers, than to worship an
inconceivable God, without form or shape, so mighty the imagination
cannot picture him, so beneficent, so all-providing, so equable and
serene that the human mind cannot grasp even a notion of him. Man is
material, and must worship the material in a form in which he thinks
he can comprehend it, and so he creates gods for himself with figures,
likenesses, passions, and feelings like those of the many animals he
sees around him.

“The Israelite maid whom we brought hither, and with whom I have
frequently conversed, tells me that her people before coming to this
land worshiped but one God like unto him of whom I have told you, save
that they belittled him by deeming that he was their own special God,
caring for them above all peoples of the earth; but in all other
respects he corresponded with the Almighty One whom we who have gained
glimpses of the truth which existed ere the Pantheon of Egypt came
into existence, worship in our hearts, and it seems to me as if this
little handful of men who came to Egypt hundreds of years ago were the
only people in the world who kept the worship of the one God clear and
undefiled.”

Chebron and Amuba listened in awestruck silence to the words of the
high priest. Amuba’s face lit up with pleasure and enthusiasm as he
listened to words which seemed to clear away all the doubts and
difficulties that had been in his mind. To Chebron the revelation,
though a joyful one, came as a great shock. His mind, too, had long
been unsatisfied. He had wondered and questioned, but the destruction
at one blow of all the teachings of his youth, of all he had held
sacred, came at first as a terrible shock. Neither spoke when the
priest concluded, and after a pause he resumed.

“You will understand, Chebron, that what I have told you is not in its
entirety held even by the most enlightened, and that the sketch I have
given you of the formation of all religions is, in fact, the idea
which I myself have formed as the result of all I have learned, both
as one initiated in all the learning of the ancient Egyptians and from
my own studies both of our oldest records and the traditions of all
the peoples with whom Egypt has come in contact. But that all our gods
merely represent attributes of the one deity, and have no personal
existence as represented in our temples, is acknowledged more or less
completely by all those most deeply initiated in the mysteries of our
religion.

“When we offer sacrifices we offer them not to the images behind our
altar, but to God the creator, God the preserver, God the fertilizer,
to God the ruler, to God the omnipotent over good and evil. Thus, you
see, there is no mockery in our services, although to us they bear an
inner meaning not understood by others. They worship a personality
endowed with principle; we the principle itself. They see in the
mystic figure the representation of a deity; we see in it the type of
an attribute of a higher deity.

“You may think that in telling you all this I have told you things
which should be told only to those whose privilege it is to have
learned the inner mysteries of their religion; that maybe I am
untrue to my vows. These, lads, are matters for my own conscience.
Personally, I have long been impressed with the conviction that it
were better that the circles of initiates should be very widely
extended, and that all capable by education and intellect of
appreciating the mightiness of the truth should no longer be left in
darkness. I have been overruled, and should never have spoken had not
this accident taken place; but when I see that the whole happiness of
your life is at stake, that should the secret ever be discovered you
will either be put to death despairing and hopeless, or have to fly
and live despairing and hopeless in some foreign country, I have
considered that the balance of duty lay on the side of lightening your
mind by a revelation of what was within my own. And it is not, as I
have told you, so much the outcome of the teaching I have received as
of my own studies and a conviction I have arrived at as to the nature
of God. Thus, then, my son, you can lay side the horror which you have
felt at the thought that by the accidental slaying of a cat you
offended the gods beyond forgiveness. The cat is but typical of the
qualities attributed to Baste. Baste herself is but typical of one of
the qualities of the One God.”

“Oh, my father!” Chebron exclaimed, throwing himself on his knees
beside Ameres and kissing his hand, “how good you are. What a weight
have you lifted from my mind! What a wonderful future have you opened
to me if I escape the danger that threatens me now! If I have to die I
can do so like one who fears not the future after death. If I live I
shall no longer be oppressed with the doubts and difficulties which
have so long weighed upon me. Though till now you have given me no
glimpse of the great truth, I have at times felt not only that the
answers you gave me failed to satisfy me, but it seemed to me also
that you yourself with all your learning and wisdom were yet unable to
set me right in these matters as you did in all others upon which I
questioned you. My father, you have given me life, and more than
life–you have given me a power over fate. I am ready now to fly,
should you think it best, or to remain here and risk whatever may
happen.”

“I do not think you should fly, Chebron. In the first place, flight
would be an acknowledgment of guilt; in the second, I do not see where
you could fly. To-morrow, at latest, the fact that the creature is
missing will be discovered, and as soon as it was known that you had
gone a hot pursuit would be set up. If you went straight down to the
sea you would probably be overtaken long before you got there; and
even did you reach a port before your pursuers you might have to wait
days before a ship sailed.

“Then, again, did you hide in any secluded neighborhood, you would
surely be found sooner or later, for the news will go from end to end
of Egypt, and it will be everyone’s duty to search for and denounce
you. Messengers will be sent to all countries under Egyptian
government, and even if you passed our frontiers by land or sea your
peril would be as great as it is here. Lastly, did you surmount all
these difficulties and reach some land beyond the sway of Egypt, you
would be an exile for life. Therefore I say that flight is your last
resource, to be undertaken only if a discovery is made; but we may
hope that no evil fortune will lead the searchers to the conclusion
that the cat was killed here.

“When it is missed there will be search high and low in which every
one will join. When the conclusion is at last arrived at that it has
irrecoverably disappeared all sorts of hypotheses will be started to
account for it; some will think that it probably wandered to the hills
and became the prey of hyenas or other wild beasts; some will assert
that it has been killed and hidden away; others that it has made its
way down to the Nile and has been carried off by a crocodile. Thus
there is no reason why suspicion should fall upon you more than upon
others, but you will have to play your part carefully.”

CHAPTER XI.

DANGERS THICKEN.

When Chebron and Amuba returned to the room set apart for their use
and study their conversation did not turn upon the slaying of the cat
or the danger which threatened them, but upon the wonderful revelation
that Ameres had made. Neither of them thought for a moment of doubting
his words. Their feeling of reverence for his wisdom and learning
would have been sufficient in itself for them to accept without a
question any statement that he made to them. But there was in addition
their own inward conviction of the truth of his theory. It appealed at
once to their heads and hearts. It satisfied all their longing and
annihilated their doubts and difficulties; cleared away at once the
pantheon of strange and fantastic figures that had been a source of
doubting amusement to Amuba, of bewilderment to Chebron.

“The Israelite maid Ruth was right, then,” Amuba said. “You know that
she told us that her forefathers who came down into Egypt believed
that there was one God only, and that all the others were false gods.
She said that he could not be seen or pictured; that he was God of all
the heavens, and so infinite that the mind of man could form no idea
of him. Everything she said of him seems to be true, except inasmuch
as she said he cared more for her ancestors than for other men; but of
course each nation and people would think that.”

“It is wonderful,” Chebron replied as he paced restlessly up and down
the room. “Now that I know the truth it seems impossible I could have
really believed that all the strange images of our temples really
represented gods. It worried me to think of them. I could not see how
they could be, and yet I never doubted their existence. It seems to me
now that all the people of Egypt are living in a sort of nightmare.
Why do those who know so much suffer them to remain in such darkness?”

“I understood your father to say, Chebron, that he himself is only in
favor of the more enlightened and educated people obtaining a glimpse
of the truth. I think I can understand that. Were all the lower class
informed that the gods they worshiped were merely shadows of a great
God and not real living deities, they would either fall upon and rend
those who told them so as impious liars, or, if they could be made to
believe it, they would no longer hold to any religion, and in their
rage might tear down the temples, abolish the order of priesthood
altogether, spread tumult and havoc through the land, rebel against
all authority, destroy with one blow all the power and glory of
Egypt.”

“That is true,” Chebron said thoughtfully. “No doubt the ignorant mass
of the people require something material to worship. They need to
believe in gods who will punish impiety and wrong and reward
well-doing; and the religion of Egypt, as they believe it, is better
suited to their daily wants than the worship of a deity so mighty and
great and good that their intellect would fail altogether to grasp
him.”

Their conversation was suddenly interrupted by the entrance of Ruth.

“Paucis is missing. When we came back from our walk we went out to the
animals, and the door of the house is open and the cat has gone. Mysa
says will you come at once and help look for it? I was to send all the
women who can be spared from the house to join in the search.”

Work was instantly abandoned, for all knew that Paucis had been chosen
to be the sacred cat at Bubastes; but even had it been one of the
others, the news that it was missing would have caused a general
excitement. So esteemed were even the most common animals of the cat
tribe that, if a cat happened to die in a house, the inhabitants went
into mourning and shaved their eyebrows in token of their grief; the
embalmers were sent for, the dead cat made into a mummy, and conveyed
with much solemnity to the great catacombs set aside for the burial of
the sacred animals. Thus the news that Paucis was missing was so
important that work was at once laid aside and the men and female
slaves began to search the garden thoroughly, examining every bush and
tree, and calling loudly to the missing animal. Chebron and Amuba
joined in the search as actively as the rest.

“Where can it be?” Mysa exclaimed. “Why should it have wandered away?
It never did so before, though the door of the cat house is often left
open all day. Where do you think it can have gone to? Do you think it
could have got over the wall?”

“It could get over the wall easily enough,” Chebron replied.

“It is a terrible misfortune!” continued Mysa with tears in her eyes.
“Mamma fainted on hearing the news, and her women are burning feathers
under her nose and slapping her hands and sprinkling water on her
face. Whatever will be done if it does not come back before to-morrow?
for I hear a solemn procession is coming from Bubastes to fetch it
away. Poor dear Paucis! And it seemed so contented and happy, and it
had everything it could want! What can have induced her to wander
away?”

“Cats are often uncertain things,” Amuba said. “They are not like
dogs, who are always ready to follow their masters, and who will lie
down for hours, ready to start out whenever called upon.”

“Yes, but Paucis was not a common cat, Amuba. It did not want to catch
mice and birds for a living. It had everything it could possibly
want–cushions to lie on, and fresh water and milk to drink, and
plenty of everything to eat.”

“But even all that will not satisfy cats when the instinct to wander
comes upon them,” Amuba said.

Ameres himself soon came out of the house, and, upon hearing that the
cat was not to be found either in the garden or within, gave orders
for the whole of the males of the household to sally out in the
search, to inform all the neighbors what had happened, and to pray
them to search their gardens. They were also to make inquiries of all
they met whether they had seen a cat resembling Paucis.

“This is a very serious matter,” Ameres said. “After the choice of the
priest of Bubastes had fixed upon Paucis to be the sacred cat of the
temple of Bubastes, the greatest care and caution should have been
exercised respecting an animal toward whom all the eyes of Egypt were
turned. For the last two or three weeks the question as to which cat
was to succeed to the post of honor has been discussed in every
household. Great has been the excitement among all the families
possessing cats that had the smallest chance whatever of being
selected; and what will be said if the cat is not forthcoming when the
procession arrives to-morrow from Bubastes to conduct her there, I
tremble to think of. The excitement and stir will be prodigious, and
the matter will become of state importance. Well, do not stand here,
but go at once and join in the search.”

“I felt horribly guilty when talking to Mysa,” Chebron said. “Of
course she is very proud that Paucis was chosen for the temple, but I
know that she has really been grieving over the approaching loss of
her favorite. But of course that was nothing to what she will feel
when she finds that no news whatever can be obtained of the creature;
and it was hard to play the part and to pretend to know nothing about
it, when all the time one knew it was lying dead and buried in the
garden.”

“Yes, I felt that myself,” Amuba agreed, “but we cannot help it. Mysa
will probably in the course of her life have very much more serious
grief to bear than the loss of a cat.”

All day the search was maintained, and when it was dark great numbers
of men with torches searched every point far and near on that side of
Thebes. The news had now spread far and wide, and numbers of the
friends of the high priest called to inquire into the particulars of
the loss and to condole with him on the calamity which had befallen
his house. Innumerable theories were broached as to the course the
animal would have taken after once getting out of the garden, while
the chances of its recovery were eagerly discussed. The general
opinion was that it would speedily be found. A cat of such remarkable
appearance must, it was argued, attract notice wherever it went; and
even if it did not return of its own accord, as was generally
expected, it was considered certain that it would be brought back
before many hours.

But when upon the following morning it was found that it had not
returned and that all search for it had been fruitless, there was a
feeling akin to consternation. For the first time men ventured to hint
that something must have befallen the sacred cat. Either in its
rambles some evil dog must have fallen upon it and slain it, or it
must have been carried off by a crocodile as it quenched its thirst at
a pool. That it had fallen by the hand of man no one even suggested.
No Egyptian would be capable of an act of such sacrilege. The idea was
too monstrous to entertain for a moment.

Mysa had cried herself to sleep, and broke forth in fresh lamentation
when upon waking in the morning she heard that her favorite was still
absent; while her mother took the calamity so seriously to heart that
she kept her bed. The slaves went about silently and spoke with bated
breath, as if a death had taken place in the house. Ameres and Chebron
were both anxious and disturbed, knowing that the excitement would
grow every hour; while Amuba and Jethro, joining busily in the search
and starting on horseback the first thing in the morning to make
inquiries in more distant localities, were secretly amused at the fuss
and excitement which was being made over the loss of a cat.

It was well for the household of Ameres that he occupied so exalted a
position in the priesthood. Had he been a private citizen, the
excitement, which increased hour by hour when the vigilant search
carried on far and wide for the missing cat proved fruitless, would
speedily have led to an outbreak of popular fury. But the respect due
to the high priest of Osiris, his position, his well-known learning
and benevolence rendered it impossible for the supposition to be
entertained for a moment that the cat could have come to an untimely
end within the limits of his house or garden, but it was now generally
believed that, after wandering away, as even the best conducted of
cats will do at times, it had fallen a victim to some savage beast or
had been devoured by a crocodile.

So heavy was the penalty for the offense, so tremendous the sacrilege
in killing a cat, that such an act was almost unknown in Egypt, and
but few instances are recorded of its having taken place. As in the
present case the enormity of the act would be vastly increased by the
size and beauty of the cat, and the fact that it had been chosen for
the temple of Bubastes seemed to put it altogether beyond the range of
possibility that the creature had fallen by the hands of man. When a
week passed without tidings it was generally accepted as a fact that
the cat must be dead, and Ameres and his household, in accordance with
the custom, shaved their eyebrows in token of mourning.

Although not suspected of having had anything to do with the loss
of the cat, the event nevertheless threw a sort of cloud over the
household of Ameres. It was considered to be such a terrible stroke of
ill-luck that a cat, and above all such a cat, should have been lost
upon the very eve of her being installed as the most sacred animal in
the temple of Bubastes, that it seemed as if it must be a direct proof
of the anger of the gods, and there was a general shrinking on the
part of their friends and acquaintances from intercourse with people
upon whom such a misfortune had fallen. Ameres cared little for public
opinion, and continued on his way with placid calmness, ministering in
the temple and passing the rest of his time in study.

The example of Ameres, however, was wholly lost upon his wife. The
deference paid to her as the wife of the high priest, and also to
herself as the principal figure in the services in which women took
part, was very dear to her, and she felt the change greatly. Her
slaves had a very bad time of it, and she worried Ameres with constant
complaints as to the changed demeanor of her acquaintances and his
indifference to the fact that they were no longer asked to
entertainments; nor was she in any way pacified by his quiet
assurances that it was useless for them to irritate themselves over
trifles, and that matters would mend themselves in time.

But as the days went on, so far from mending things became worse;
groups of people frequently assembled round the house, and shouts of
anger and hatred were raised when any of the occupants entered or
left. Even when Ameres was passing through the streets in procession
with the sacred emblems hoots and cries were raised among the crowd.
Chebron took this state of things greatly to heart, and more than once
he implored his father to allow him to declare the truth openly and
bear the consequences.

“I am not afraid of death, father. Have you not trained me to regard
life as of no account? Do we not in our feasts always see the image of
a dead man carried past to remind us that death is always among us?
You have Mysa and my mother. I fear death far less than this constant
anxiety that is hanging over us.”

But Ameres would not hear of the sacrifice. “I do not pretend that
there is no danger, Chebron. I thought at first that the matter would
soon pass over, but I own that I was wrong. The unfortunate fact that
the creature was chosen as sacred cat for the temple at Bubastes has
given its loss a prominence far beyond that which there would have
been had it been an ordinary animal of its class, and the affair has
made an extraordinary sensation in the city. Still I cannot but think
that an enemy must be at work stirring up the people against me. I
suspect, although I may be wrong, that Ptylus is concerned in the
matter. Since he reappeared after his sudden absence following the
night when you overheard that conversation, he has affected a feeling
of warmth and friendship which I believe has been entirely feigned.

“Whether he was one of those you overheard I am unable to say, but his
sudden disappearance certainly favors that idea. At any rate, he can
have no real reason for any extra cordiality toward me at present, but
would more naturally still feel aggrieved at my rejection of his son
as a husband for Mysa. I thought at first when you told me what you
had overheard that possibly it was a plot against my life. Now I feel
sure of it.

“No doubt they believe, as no measures were taken, that their
conversation was not overheard or that only a few words reached the
listeners, and his manner to me is designed to allay any suspicion I
might have conceived had as much of the conversation as was overheard
been reported to me. It has had just the opposite effect. At any rate,
an enemy is at work, and even were you to sacrifice yourself by
admitting that you slew the missing animal, not only would your death
be the result, but a general ruin would fall upon us.

“The mob would easily be taught to believe that I must to a great
extent be responsible; the opinions I have expressed would be quoted
against me, and even the favor of the king could not maintain me in my
present position in defiance of popular clamor. No, my son, we must
stand or fall together. Jethro offered yesterday if I liked to dig up
the remains of the cat, carry it away and hide it under some rocks at
a distance, but I think the danger would be greater than in allowing
matters to remain as they are. It is certain that the house is
watched. As you know, servants going in and out after nightfall have
been rudely hustled and thrown down. Some have been beaten, and
returned well-nigh stripped to the skin. I doubt not that these
attacks were made in order to discover if they had anything concealed
under their garments. Were Jethro to venture upon such an attempt he
might either be attacked and the cat found upon him, or he might be
followed and the place where he hid it marked down. Things must go on
as they are.”

Ameres did not tell Chebron the whole of the conversation he had had
with Jethro. After declining his offer to endeavor to dispose of the
body of the cat elsewhere he said:

“But, Jethro, although I cannot accept this perilous enterprise you
have offered to undertake, I will intrust you with a charge that will
show you how I confide in your devotion to my family. Should this
storm burst, should the populace of this town once become thoroughly
imbued with the idea that the sacred cat has been slain here, there
will be an outburst of fanatical rage which will for the time carry
all before it.

“For myself I care absolutely nothing. I am perfectly willing to die
as soon as my time comes. I have done my work to the best of my power,
and can meet the Mighty One with uplifted head. I have wronged no man,
and have labored all my life for the good of the people. I have never
spared myself, and am ready for my rest; but I would fain save Chebron
and Mysa from harm. Even in their wrath the populace will not injure
the women, but Mysa without a protector might fall into evil hands. As
to her, however, I can do nothing; but Chebron I would save. If he
grows up he will, I think, do good in the world. He has not the
strength and vigor of Amuba, but he is not behind other lads of his
age. He has been well educated. His mind is active and his heart
good. I look to you, Jethro, to save him, if it be possible, with
Amuba, for I fear that Amuba is in as much danger as he is.

“Should the slaves be seized and questioned, and perhaps flogged, till
they say what they know, the fact would be sure to come out that the
two lads were together among the animals on the morning before the cat
was missed. It will be noticed, too, that they took with them their
bows and arrows. It will therefore be assumed that the responsibility
of the act lies upon both of them. Chebron, I know, would proclaim the
truth if he had an opportunity for speech, but an angry crowd does not
stop to listen, and the same fate will befall them both.

“You who are a stranger to our manners can hardly conceive the frenzy
of excitement and rage in which the population of Egypt are thrown by
the killing of a cat. I doubt whether even the king’s person would be
held sacred were the guilt of such an offense brought home to him;
and, of course, the fact that this unfortunate beast was to have gone
to the temple of Bubastes makes its death a matter ten times graver
than ordinary. Therefore should the storm burst, there is no hope for
either of them but in flight. The question is, whither could they fly?

“Certainly they would be safe nowhere in Egypt. Nor were it possible
that they could journey north and reach the sea, could they do so
before the news reached the ports. Naturally messengers would be sent
to the frontier towns, and even the governors of the provinces lying
east of the Great Sea would hear of it; and could they leave the
country and cross the desert they might be seized and sent back on
their arrival. For the same reason the routes from here to the ports
on the Arabian Sea are closed to them. It seems to me that their only
hope of safety lies in reaching the country far up the Nile and
gaining Meroe, over whose people the authority of Egypt is but a
shadow; thence possibly they might some day reach the Arabian Sea,
cross that and pass up through the country east of the Great Sea, and
traveling by the route by which you came hither reach your country.
Long before they could leave the savage tribes and start upon their
journey this matter would have been forgotten, and whatever dangers
might befall them, that of arrest for participation in this matter
would not be among them.

“I know that your fidelity and friendship for the son of your late
king would cause you to risk all dangers and hardships for his sake,
and that if bravery and prudence could take him safely through such
terrible dangers as would be encountered in such a journey as I speak
of, you will conduct him through them. I ask you to let Chebron share
your protection, and to render him such service as you will give to
Amuba.”

“I can promise that willingly, my lord,” Jethro answered. “He has
treated Amuba more as a brother than a servant since we came here, and
I will treat him as if he were a brother to Amuba, now that danger
threatens. The journey you speak of would, indeed, be a long and
dangerous one; but I agree with you that only by accomplishing it is
there even a chance of escape.”

“Then I commit my son to your charge, Jethro, and I do so with full
confidence that if it be possible for him to make this journey in
safety he will do so. I have already placed in the hands of Chigron,
the embalmer, a large sum of money. You can trust him absolutely. It
is through my patronage that he has risen from being a small worker to
be the master of one of the largest businesses in Egypt, and he has
the embalming of all the sacred animals belonging to our temple and
several others. He will hide the boys for a time until you are ready
to start on your journey.

“When you are once a few days south of Thebes you will be fairly safe
from pursuit, for they will never think of looking for you in that
direction, but will make sure that you will attempt to leave the
country either by sea, by the Eastern Desert, or that you may possibly
try to reach some of the tribes in the west, and so to go down upon
the Great Sea there. I thought at first that this might be the best
direction; but the tribes are all subject to us and would naturally
regard Egyptians going among them as fugitives from justice, and so
hand them over to us.”

“You can rely upon me, my lord, to carry out your directions and do
all that is possible to serve the two lads. What the country through
which we have to pass is like, or its inhabitants, I know not, but at
least we will do our best to reach the Arabian Sea as you direct.
Amuba is hardy and strong, and Chebron, though less powerful in frame,
is courageous, and able to use his weapons. We should, of course,
travel in disguise. But you spoke something about your daughter–in
what way can I serve her? I have now accompanied her in her walks for
months, and would lay down my life for her.”

“I fear that you can do nothing,” Ameres said after a pause. “We have
many friends, one of whom will doubtless receive her. At first I
would, if it were possible, that she should go to some relatives of
mine who live at Amyla, fifty miles up the river. She was staying with
them two years ago and will know the house; but I do not see how you
could take her–the boys will be sufficient charge on your hands. She
will have her mother with her, and though I fear that the latter has
little real affection for her, having no time to think of aught but
her own pleasure and amusement, she will be able to place her among
the many friends she has.

“It is not her present so much I am thinking of as her future. I
should like my little Mysa to marry happily. She is a little
self-willed, and has been indulged; and although, of course, she would
marry as I arrange for her, I would not give her to any one who was
not altogether agreeable to her. I fear that should anything happen to
me the same consideration might not be paid to her inclinations.
However, Jethro, I see no manner in which you can be useful to Mysa.
So far as she is concerned things must be left to take their own
course.”

“I trust,” Jethro said, “that your forebodings will not be verified. I
cannot believe that an absurd suspicion can draw away the hearts of
the people from one whom they have so respected as yourself.”

Ameres shook his head.

“The people are always fickle, Jethro, and easily led; and their love
and respect for the gods renders it easy for any one who works on that
feeling to lash them into fury. All else is as nothing in their eyes
in comparison with their religion. It is blind worship, if you will;
but it is a sincere one. Of all the people in the world there are none
to whom religion counts so much as to the Egyptians. It is interwoven
with all their daily life. Their feasts and processions are all
religious, they eat and drink and clothe themselves according to its
decrees, and undertake no action, however trifling, without consulting
the gods. Thus, therefore, while in all other respects obedience is
paid to the law, they are maddened by any supposed insult to their
religion, or any breach of its observances. I know that we are in
danger. The ideas that I have held of the regeneration of the people
by purifying their religious beliefs have been used as weapons against
me. I know from what has come to my ears that it has been hinted among
them that in spite of my high office I have no respect for the gods.

“The accusation is false, but none the less dangerous for that.
Nothing is more difficult than to expose or annihilate a falsehood. It
spreads like wildfire, and the clearest demonstration of its falsity
fails to reach a tithe of those who believe it. However, it is
needless to speak of it now. You know what I wish you to do if danger
comes–get the boys away, and conduct them to the place I have
indicated. If they are from home seek them and take them there. Do not
waste time in vain attempts to succor me. If you are attacked, and
this may possibly be the case, make, I pray you, no resistance save
such as may be needed to get away. Above all, do not try to interfere
on my behalf. One man, though endowed with supernatural strength,
cannot overcome a mob, and your trying to aid me would not benefit me,
and might cost you your life, and so deprive Chebron and Amuba of
their protector.”

Jethro promised strictly to follow the instructions he had received,
and to devote himself in case of need solely to insuring the safety of
the boys.

Two days later, Ameres sent Chebron and Amuba away to the farm, and
told them to remain there until he sent for them.

“You cannot go in and out here without unpleasantness,” he said, “and
had best be away. Your presence here can be of no use, and you are
probably quite as much suspected as I am. As to your mother and
sister, the present state of things is inconvenient to them, but that
is all. There can be no danger for them; however violent a mob they
would not molest females.”

“Why should not you also, father, go away until the trouble is
passed?”

“I cannot leave my duties, Chebron; nor would it benefit me if I did.
I am convinced that this cry against us is a mere pretext which has
been seized by enemies who dare not attack me openly. Were I to depart
from Thebes my absence would be denounced as a proof of my guilt, and
the people be inflamed more and more against me, and nowhere in Egypt
should I be safe. My only course is to face the storm, trusting to the
integrity of my life, to the absence of any deed which could offend
the great God I believe in, and to the knowledge that my life is in
his hands. When it is his will, and not before, it will return to him
who gave it me.”

“Could you not apply to the king for guards?”

“The king spoke to me yesterday at the termination of the council,”
Ameres replied, “and told me that he had been informed of the murmurs
of the populace against me. He said that as one of his most trusted
counselors, and as a high priest of Osiris, he knew that the charges
against me were baseless; but that in view of the proneness of the
people of Thebes to excitement and tumult, he should be glad to order
a company of soldiers to keep guard over my house. I refused. I said
that I was conscious of no evil, that none could say that I was slack
in my ministrations in the temple, or that I had ever spoken a word in
disrespect of our religion. That as for the disappearance of the
sacred cat, of which so much had been made, I had had no hand in it,
and that whatever had happened to it had been, I was sure, the result
of accident. Were I to have soldiers placed to guard me it would be a
confession that I was conscious of ill-doing, and knew that I had
forfeited the protection of the gods. It would, too, help to keep up
the talk and excitement, which I trusted would die away ere long.”

Chebron did not think of further questioning the orders of Ameres, and
an hour later he and Amuba rode out to the farm. Before they started
Ameres had a long talk with Chebron, and told him that he had placed
him in charge of Jethro in the event of any popular outbreak taking
place.

“Remember, Chebron,” he said, “that whatever comes of this affair you
are not to blame yourself for the accident of killing the cat. All
things are in the hands of the great God, and your arrow would not
have struck the twig and flown straight to the heart of that creature
had it not been his will. Moreover, you must always remember that the
loss of this cat is but a pretext for the tumult.

“The populace believe that they are angry on account of the loss of
the sacred cat, whereas, in fact, they are but instruments in the
hands of my enemies. I have no doubt whatever now that the plot you
overheard in the temple was directed against my life, and had not the
loss of the cat happened opportunely and served them as a lever with
which to work against me, the plot would have taken some other form. I
trust sincerely that whatever fate may befall your sister she may
never have to marry the son of the man who has plotted against my
life. But it is no use thinking of that now. Should aught happen
before we meet again, remember I have placed you in the hands of
Jethro, and have delegated my authority to him. He is shrewd, strong,
and courageous, and can be relied upon to do what is best. In Amuba
you will find a friend who will be as a brother to you. So farewell,
my son, and may the great One who rules all things keep you!”

A stay at the farm had hitherto been regarded by Chebron as a
delightful change from the city, but upon this occasion he proceeded
there sad and depressed in spirit.

“Even here we are watched, you see, Chebron,” Amuba said as they rode
along. “Do you see those runners behind us? Doubtless they will follow
us to the farm, and set a watch upon us there. However, there, at
least, they can search as much as they like, and find out nothing.”

CHAPTER XII.

THE DEATH OF AMERES.

The days passed slowly at the farm. The lads went out listlessly to
watch the cattle treading in the seed and the other operations on the
lands, but they were too anxious as to what was going on in the city
to feel the slightest interest in the work of the farm. The second and
fourth days after their coming, Jethro had paid them a short visit to
say that there was no change in the situation. The officer in command
of some troops whom the king had sent down to within a short distance
of the house had come down to the mob as they were shouting outside
the gate, and threatened them with the severe displeasure of the king
unless they desisted from their demonstrations, but had been answered
with shouts, “The gods are above all kings, and not even kings can
protect those who insult them.” Amense, he said, on the occasion of
his second visit, had left the house and taken up her abode with some
relations in the city, declaring that the anxiety and disgrace were
killing her. She had wished to take Mysa with her, but the girl had
positively refused to leave her father; and as her mother seemed
indifferent whether she went or stayed she had had her way. In a
private talk with Amuba, Jethro said:

“It is a relief to us all that she has gone; she was bad enough before
you went, but for the last three days she has been doing nothing but
weep and bewail herself till the house has been well-nigh unbearable.
Ameres goes backward and forward between his house and the temple,
walking unmoved through those gathered near his door, who are for the
most part quiet when he passes, being abashed by the presence of one
who has so long been held in high esteem among them. As for Mysa, she
seems to think only of her father. The Hebrew girl is a great comfort
to her, for while the example of their mistress and the shouts of the
populace have terribly scared the other maids, and they go about the
house in fear and trembling, Ruth is quiet and self-contained as if
she were again in her quiet cottage with her grandfather. She greatly
comforts and sustains Mysa, and Ameres said to me only this morning
that Mysa was fortunate indeed in that Chebron had furnished her with
so brave and steadfast a companion at a time like this.”

On the evening of the fifth day Jethro came suddenly in at the house.
The boys started to their feet as he entered, for they saw at once
that something terrible had happened. His face was stained with blood,
his breath came short, for he had run for the six intervening miles
between the farm and the city at the top of his speed.

“Quick, my lord!” he said, “there is not a moment to lose. The whole
matter has been discovered, and ere long they will be here in pursuit
of you.”

“What of my father?” Chebron exclaimed.

“I will tell you all about it afterward, Chebron. There is no time for
talking now, his orders must be instantly carried out. Where are the
fellows who are spying over you?”

“One of them is probably seated outside at the entrance to the farm.
You must have passed him as you entered,” Amuba replied. “I have not
seen more than one at a time since they first came.”

“Take up your arms and follow me,” Jethro said, taking a heavy staff
from the corner of the room, and, followed by the lads, he went
outside the gate.

It was now getting dark, and as they passed out a man standing near
approached as if to see who they were. Without a word Jethro sprang
forward and brought down the staff with tremendous force upon his
head, and he fell without a cry upon the road.

“There is no fear of his giving the alarm,” Jethro said grimly, and
set off in a run in the direction of the city at a pace that taxed the
powers of Chebron to keep up with. Once or twice as he ran the boy
gasped out a question as to his father’s safety, but Jethro did not
appear to hear him, but kept on at a steady pace.

Presently he stopped suddenly and listened. A vague, confused sound
was heard in front of them, and Jethro quitted the road and took his
course over the fields. Amuba heard the sound increase, and was
presently conscious that a crowd of people were passing along the
road.

“It is well I managed to get through,” Jethro said. “They would have
made short work of you both had they arrived at the farm and found you
unprepared.”

Jethro did not return to the road, but kept on in an oblique line
toward the foot of the hills near the city.

“Where are you going, Jethro?” Amuba asked at last.

“I am going to Chigron, the embalmer. Ameres has arranged with him to
hide you there for the present.”

The boys knew the place, for they had more than once been there to
watch the process of embalming the bodies and preparing them for
burial. It was an extensive establishment, for Chigron was one of the
most celebrated embalmers of the day; and not only did he embalm, but
he kept with him men who performed the further processes required,
namely, the wrapping up in the mummy cloths, and the construction of
the great cases and the placing the bodies in them ready to be handed
over to their friends. These were usually distinct and separate
trades, the embalmers generally returning the bodies to the friends
after they had completed the process of embalming. Another set of
men then prepared the corpse for burial, while the mummy-cases or
sarcophagi were prepared by men of another trade. Of the three trades,
that of the embalmers was held in by far the highest respect, the work
being considered as sacred and the embalmers ranking and associating
with the priests.

In Chigron’s establishment the men of the three trades worked apart
and separate from each other; and although Chigron was in fact at the
head of all, he personally superintended only the embalming, the men
of the other trades being directed by their own masters, and it was as
if the three establishments had been placed near each other simply for
the purpose of convenience.

When they reached the house of Chigron Jethro went forward alone and
knocked at the door. An attendant presented himself. “Give this ring
to Chigron,” Jethro said, “and say that the bearer of it would fain
speak to him here.”

In two or three minutes Chigron himself came out.

“I have brought the lads hither in obedience to the order of Ameres,”
Jethro said. “He told me that he had arranged the matter with you.”

“And Ameres himself?” Chigron asked.

“He is no more,” Jethro said. “The villains who sought his ruin have
triumphed, and a furious mob this afternoon broke into his house and
murdered him. Chebron does not know it yet, though he cannot but
suspect that something terrible has happened, as I would not answer
his questions, fearing that he might break down when his strength was
most needed.”

The Egyptian uttered an exclamation of sorrow.

“Fools and madmen!” he exclaimed; “in all the land none were more
worthy of honor than Ameres. He was just and generous, ever ready to
befriend those who needed his aid, calm in judgment, and powerful in
council. Surely the gods must be angry with Egypt when they suffered
such a one to fall a victim to the passions of the mob. But where are
the lads? I myself will conduct them to the place I have already
prepared. The workers have all left, so there is no fear in passing
through the house.”

At Jethro’s call the lads came up.

“Follow me, my lord,” Chigron said to Chebron. “I have had everything
in readiness for your reception for some days. Would that your visit
had been made on some more cheerful occasion.”

The embalmer led the way through the portion of the house occupied by
himself, then he entered a large apartment whose floor was covered
with sawdust.

Here on slabs of stone lay a number of bodies of those in the first
state of preparation, while in a still larger apartment behind were a
number of stone baths each long enough to contain a body. These were
occupied by the corpses which had undergone their first state of
preparation, and which were now lying covered with a strong solution
of salt and water. Beyond again were other chambers for the reception
of bodies embalmed by other processes than that of salt.

Passing through a door at the rear the lads found themselves in the
open air again. Above them the hill rose in a precipitous rock.
Chigron led the way along the foot of this for some little distance,
and then stopped at a portal hewn in the rock itself. All this time
he had carried a lighted lamp, although the chambers in which the dead
were lying were illuminated with lamps hanging from the ceiling. Upon
entering the portal and closing the door behind him he produced from a
niche in the wall several other lamps, lighted them, and gave one to
each of his companions.

“This,” he said, “was cut by a wealthy inhabitant of Thebes centuries
ago as a tomb for himself and his family. What happened to him I know
not, but the place was never used beyond this chamber, which has been
utilized for mummies of sacred animals. Beyond in the main chamber
everything is as it was left by those who formed it. There I have
during the last ten days privately stored up such articles as would be
necessary for you, and I trust that you will not find yourself
uncomfortable.”

Upon entering the apartment, which was some twenty feet square, they
found that the embalmer had not exaggerated what he had done. A table
with several settles stood in the middle; three couches piled with
rushes were placed against the wall. Mats had been laid down to cover
the floor and give warmth to the feet, and lamps ready for burning
stood upon the table. In a corner stood two jars of wine, with
drinking vessels.

“All is here except food,” Chigron said. “That I could not prepare
until I knew you were coming; but be assured that you shall be served
regularly. There is no fear of intrusion from any employed in the
establishment. They have no occasion to come out to the back of the
house, and probably few know of the existence of this tomb. Should I
have any ground for believing that there is danger, I will take other
measures for your concealment. Should you need anything, do not
hesitate to say so. I owe my position to the patronage of my lord
Ameres, and there is nothing I would not do to insure the safety of
his son. And now, my lord, I will retire, and will presently send you
by a trusty servant the food of which I have no doubt that you stand
in need.”

Chebron said a few words in thanks, but he was too anxious and full of
grief to say more. Directly Chigron had left he turned to Jethro.

“Now, Jethro, tell me all; I am prepared for the worst. My dear father
is no more. Is it not so?”

“It is too true, Chebron,” Jethro replied. “Your noble father has been
killed by a base and cowardly mob urged on by some villains of the
priesthood.”

Chebron threw himself down on one of the couches and wept bitterly,
while Amuba was almost as deeply affected, for Ameres had behaved to
him with the kindness of a father. It was not until the following
morning that Chebron was sufficiently recovered to ask Jethro to
relate to him the details of his father’s death.

“I was in the garden,” Jethro began. “Mysa and Ruth were in a boat on
the pond, and I was towing them when I heard a tumult at the gate. I
pulled the boat ashore, and hurried them up to the house and told Mysa
to retire to her apartment, and that she was not to leave it whatever
noise she might hear, that being her father’s command. Then I went out
to the gate. Just as I got there it fell in, and a crowd of people
rushed through. As there were only myself and two or three of the
gardeners who had run up we could do nothing to stop them. Just as
they reached the house your father came out into the portico and said,
‘Good people, what will you have?’

“Those in front of him were silent a moment, abashed by his presence
and the calm manner in which he spoke, but others behind set up the
cry ‘Where is the sacred cat? We will find it!’ while others again
shouted out ‘Down with the impious priest!’ Ameres replied, ‘You can
search the place if you will; though, indeed, it seems that you need
not my permission, seeing that you have taken the matter into your own
hands. Only I pray you enter not the house. There are the ladies of my
family and other women there, and I swear to you that neither alive
nor dead is the cat to be found there.’

“The cry was raised, ‘Let us search the garden!’ In all this it struck
me that there were two parties among the mob, the one ignorant and
bigoted, believing really that an offense had been committed against
their gods; the other, men who kept in the background, but who were
the moving spirits. I was not pleased when I saw the crowd so readily
abandon the idea of searching the house and scatter themselves over
the garden, for it seemed to me that from one of the gardeners or
others they might have obtained some sort of clew that might put them
on the road to discovery. I saw that several among the crowd had with
them dogs trained for the chase, and this made me more uneasy. I told
one of the men to run at once and summon the troops, and then followed
the crowd.

“I was the more uneasy to see that without wasting time in searching
elsewhere they made straight to the inclosure where the animals were
kept. No sooner did they get there than they began to search, urging
on the dogs to assist them. Suddenly I started, for there was a touch
upon my shoulder, and looking round I saw Ameres. ‘Remember my
instructions, Jethro,’ he said in a quiet voice; ‘I commit Chebron to
your charge.’

“‘Oh, my lord!’ I exclaimed, ‘why are you here? The troops are but a
short distance away. Why do you not place yourself under their
protection?’

“‘Because I have done no wrong, Jethro,’ he replied calmly. ‘I have
not offended the gods, nor have I ever wronged one of my countrymen.
Why should I fly?’

“At this moment there was a yell of rage among the crowd, and I knew
that one of those accursed hounds must have smelled the dead cat and
scratched the earth from over it. Then I heard a voice cry above the
rest, ‘See! even now the wounds are manifest; it has been pierced by
an arrow, even as I told you. The sacred cat has been slain!’ Then the
crowd turned. ‘Fly, Jethro,’ Ameres said. ‘It is my last command.’

“But even then I could not obey him. There was death in the eyes of
those who were rushing toward him shouting ‘Down with the despiser of
the gods! Down with the slayer of the sacred cat!’ and seeing that, I
rushed at them. After that all was confusion. I had caught up a staff
from the portico as I passed, and with it I struck right and left.
Many fell, I know, before they closed with me. Blows were showered
upon me, and the staff then fell from my hands, but I fought with my
naked fists. Several times I was beaten down, but each time I rose
again. Then, as in a dream, I seemed to hear your father’s command, ‘I
commit Chebron to your care,’ and I burst my way through them and
threw myself upon a group standing further on, but I saw as I broke
through them that I could do nothing there.

“Your father lay on the ground looking as calm and peaceful as when he
had spoken to me but five minutes before; but his white garments were
stained with blood, and the half of a dagger stood up just over his
heart. There was no time to see more. His last command was to be
obeyed, and shaking off those who tried to hold me, and evading the
blows aimed at me with their knives, I fled. As I rushed out through
the gate I saw the troops I had sent for coming toward the house. But
they were too late now; besides, some of my pursuers were close
behind me, and so without a pause I took the road to the farm. I think
that is all I have to tell you.”

Chebron was weeping bitterly, and Amuba, who was himself deeply
affected, went over to him.

“Console yourself, Chebron. I know what you are feeling now, but do
not blame yourself too greatly for this calamity. You know what your
father said–that it was but an accident, and that it was doubtless
the will of the great God that your arrow should fly as it did; and he
himself declared that he believed that all this was but the result of
conspiracy, and that, as we heard in the temple, there were men
determined to take his life.”

A few minutes later the embalmer entered bringing them food. He saw at
once that Chebron had been informed of the fate that had befallen his
father.

“Have you heard aught of what is passing in the city?” Amuba asked
him.

“Yes,” Chigron answered; “naught else is talked about. Many of those
concerned in the deed escaped either by the entrance before the
soldiers arrived there, or over the walls; but many were seized, and
are now in prison for their sacrilegious deed in raising their hand
against the person of the high priest of Osiris. There were tumults in
the city during the night, many maintaining that the deed was well
done, others the contrary.

“Those who had been taken all declared that they had been informed by
one who said he knew it for certain that the cat was buried in the
inclosure, and that it had been slain by you and my young lord here,
as you had been seen going with your bows and arrows to the inclosure
and were there for some time, after which the cat was never seen
again. The general opinion is that though the prisoners taken will be
punished–some with flogging, some with death–your lives are also
assuredly forfeited, and that even the friendship of the king for your
father would not avail to protect you, for that he, like others, must
obey the law, and that the law of Egypt is that whomsoever shall take
the life of a cat shall be slain.”

“I am perfectly willing to die,” Chebron said; “and my greatest regret
now is that I did not follow my first impulse and denounce myself as
the accidental killer of the cat. No blame could have then been
attached to my father or to any but myself.”

“The disgrace would have fallen upon your whole family,” the embalmer
said; “for those nearly related to one who performed an impious action
must needs suffer with him. Not that I blame you, Chebron; for I know
that your father did not do so. He told me when he arranged that I
should, if needs be, furnish you with a hiding-place, that although
you might need a refuge it would be for no fault of your own. I do not
understand how he could have said so, seeing the terrible guilt of
even accidentally taking the life of a cat, and specially of this cat,
which was sacred above all others in the land. Still I know your
father’s wisdom equaled his goodness; and although I own that I cannot
understand his saying, I am content to accept it, and will do all in
my power to save you. Doubtless the search after you will be a hot
one, but we must hope for the best.”

“I will go out and see what is doing,” Jethro said. “It may be that it
will be more safe to move away at once than to remain here.”

“In that case,” the embalmer said, “you will need to be disguised
before you start. It is known that Ameres had two fair-skinned slaves,
and that one of them was concerned with my young lord here in the
matter; also that the other, after fighting furiously in the garden,
and, as I heard, slaying several of his master’s enemies, managed to
make his escape. Fortunately I have the materials at hand. We use
paints and stains in abundance for the sere clothes of the dead and
the decorations of their coffins, and I can easily make you as dark as
any of our people. That, with one of my wigs and Egyptian garments,
will alter you so that, so long as you do not look any one fairly in
the face, there will be no fear whatever of your discovery; but you
must not look up, for even when I have blackened your lashes the
lightness of your eyes would at once betray you.”

In half an hour Jethro was transformed into a middle-class citizen of
Thebes, and started on his mission of inquiry. During the day some
officials came to the establishment and made many inquiries after the
missing lads. Not contented with denials, they went through the whole
buildings, examining all the chambers closely.

“It is known,” they said to Chigron, “that they several times came
here, and that Ameres was a patron of yours. It is our duty to search
any house where shelter might have been given them, though we can
hardly believe that any one would hold communication, far less receive
into this house, persons guilty of such an act of sacrilege as they
have been. However, there is no chance of their escaping us. Messages
have been sent all over Egypt. Moreover, as they had no horses they
cannot have gone far. Yours is the first house we have searched, for
the servants all say the same–that the son of Ameres was frequently
here.”

“He was not here very frequently,” Chigron replied, “though he
certainly came sometimes, and was interested in watching the various
processes.”

Chebron had, in fact, been several times to the embalmer’s. Amuba had
accompanied him, although he himself would have preferred staying
away, for to him the whole scene was repulsive. Chebron’s temperament
differed, however, widely from that of his friend. The dead were
sacred in Egypt, and all the rites and ceremonies connected with them
bore a religious character. They had no fear of death, and deemed it
but a sleep that would last three thousand years. It was for this
reason that the bodies of human beings and the sacred animals were so
carefully embalmed and laid away either in massive tombs or rock-hewn
caverns.

They believed, and as has been proved rightly, that the remains so
carefully prepared would endure for that time, and thought that when
the spirit returned to it it would resume its former shape in all
particulars. Thus the dead of all ranks were embalmed; the process,
however, in the case of the wealthy differing widely from that to
which the bodies of the poorer classes were submitted. There were many
kinds of embalming, varying according to the means of the family of
the deceased. The process employed for the wealthy was a long and
expensive one. First, an official called a scribe marked on the side
of the corpse where an aperture should be made; this was cut by
another person, who after doing so fled, pursued with execrations and
pelted with stones, as although necessary the operation was considered
a dishonorable one and as an injury to a sacred body.

Through this aperture the embalmers removed the whole of the internal
organs, which, after being cleansed and embalmed in spices, were
deposited in four vases, which were subsequently placed in the tomb
with the coffins. Each of these vases contained the parts sacred to a
separate deity. The body was then filled with aromatic resin and
spices, and rubbed for thirty days with a mixture of the same
ingredients. In the case of the very wealthy the whole body was then
gilded; in other cases only the face and portions of the body. The
skin of the mummy so preserved is found to be of an olive color, dry
and flexible as if tanned; the features are preserved and appear as
during life, and the teeth, hair of the head, and eyebrows are well
preserved.

In some cases, instead of the aromatic resin, the bodies were filled
with bitumen; in others saltpeter was used, the bodies being soaked in
it for a long time and finally filled with resin and bitumen. In the
second quality of mummies, those of persons of the middle class, the
incision was not made, but resin or bitumen was used and the bodies
soaked in salt for a long time. In the case of the poorer classes the
bodies were simply dipped into liquid pitch. None of these, however,
were treated in the establishment of Chigron, who operated only upon
the bodies of the wealthy.

After the preparation was complete the body passed from the hands of
the embalmers into those of another class, who enveloped it in its
coverings. These were linen bandages, which in the case of the rich
were sometimes a thousand yards in length. It was then inclosed in a
sort of case fitting closely to the mummied body. This case was richly
painted, covered in front with a network of beads and bugles arranged
in a tasteful form, the face being overlaid with thick gold leaf and
the eyes made of enamel. This again was placed in other cases,
sometimes three or four in number, all similarly ornamented with
painting and gilding, and the whole inclosed in a sarcophagus or
coffin of wood or stone, profusely decorated with painting and
sculpture. It was then handed over to the family of the deceased, and
afterward taken in solemn procession across the sacred lake, followed
by the mourning relatives throwing dust upon their heads.

Every Egyptian city had a lake of this kind, either natural or
artificial. Notice was given beforehand to the judges and public of
the day on which the funeral would take place, and these assembled at
the side of the lake, where the decorated boat in readiness for the
passage was lying. Before the coffin could be placed upon the boat it
was lawful for any person present to bring forward his accusation
against the deceased. If it could be proved that he had led an evil
life the judge declared that the body was deprived of the accustomed
sepulture. If the accused failed to establish his charge he was
subject to the heaviest penalties. If there was no accuser or if the
accusation was not proved the judge declared the dead man innocent.
The body was placed in the boat and carried across the lake, and then
either taken to the family catacombs or to the room specially prepared
for its reception in the house of the deceased.

The greatest grief and shame were felt by the family of those deprived
of the right of sepulture, for they believed that thereby he was
excluded from the mansions of the blessed, and that in the course of
the transmigrations through which his spirit would pass before it
again returned to a human form, it might be condemned to inhabit the
body of an unclean animal.

As none from the lowest to the very highest rank could escape the
ordeal of public accusation after death, there can be little doubt
that this ceremony exercised a most wholesome effect upon the life of
the Egyptians, and was most efficacious in repressing tyranny,
cruelty, and vice of all kinds among them. Even the most powerful
kings were restrained by the knowledge that should they give cause of
complaint to their subjects they were liable after death to be accused
and deprived of the right of lying in the mighty tombs they had so
carefully prepared for their reception.

Chebron’s brain, therefore, while he was watching the process of
embalming, was busy with thoughts and fancies as to the future of the
spirit that had inhabited the body he looked at. Had it already passed
into the body of some animal? Was it still disconnected and searching
for an abode? Through what changes would it pass and how long would be
the time before it returned to this human tenement? For the three
thousand years was believed to be the shortest period of transition
through the various changes in the case of the man of the purest and
most blameless life, while in other cases the period was vastly
extended.

As Amuba was not gifted with a strong imagination, and saw in the
whole matter merely the preservation of a body which in his opinion
had much better have been either buried or placed on a funeral pile
and destroyed by fire, these visits to the embalmers had constituted
the most unpleasant part of his duties as Chebron’s companion.

Jethro had anticipated when he left that his visit to the city would
be of short duration, and that he should return in an hour at the
latest; but as the day passed and night fell without his return the
lads became exceedingly anxious, and feared that something serious had
taken place to detain him. Either his disguise had been detected and
he had been seized by the populace, or some other great misfortune
must have befallen him.

It had been arranged indeed that they should that night have started
upon their journey, and Jethro after his return was to have made out a
list of such articles as he deemed necessary for their flight, and
these Chigron had promised to purchase for him. Their plans, however,
were completely upset by his nonappearance, and late in the afternoon
Chigron himself went down into the city to ascertain, if he could, if
Jethro had been discovered, for his name had been associated with that
of the boys. It was not believed indeed that he had taken any actual
part in the slaying of the cat, but it was deemed certain from his
close connection with them, and his disappearance shortly before the
time they had suddenly left the farm, that he was in league with them.
Chigron returned with the news that so far as he could learn nothing
had been heard of Jethro.

No other subject was talked of in the city but the event of the
previous day, and the indignation of the people was equally divided
between the murderers of Ameres and the slayers of the sacred cat. The
boys were full of grief and perplexity. To Amuba Jethro had taken the
place of an elder brother. He had cheered him in the darkest moment of
his life and had been his friend and companion ever since, and the
thought that ill might have befallen him filled him with sorrow. With
this was mingled an intense anxiety as to the future. Without Jethro’s
strong arm and advice how was this terrible journey to be
accomplished?

Chebron was in no state either to act or plan. A deep depression had
seized upon him; he cared not whether he escaped or not, and would
indeed have hailed detection and death as boons. Intense, therefore,
was Amuba’s relief when late in the evening a footstep was heard in
the outer chamber, and Jethro entered. He sprang to his feet with a
cry of gladness.

“Oh, Jethro! thank the gods you have returned. I have suffered
terribly on your account. What has happened to you, and so long
delayed your return here?”

“There is fresh trouble,” Jethro replied in a stern voice.

“Fresh trouble, Jethro? In what way?” And even Chebron, who had
scarcely sat up languidly on his couch on Jethro’s entrance, looked up
with some interest for Jethro’s answer.

“Mysa has been carried off,” he replied grimly.

Chebron sprang to his feet. He was devoted to his sister, and for a
moment this new calamity effaced the remembrance of those which had
preceded it.

“Mysa carried off!” he exclaimed at the same moment as Amuba. “Who has
done it?–when was it done?–how did you learn it?” were questions
which broke quickly from the lads.

“On leaving here I went as arranged down into the city,” Jethro
replied. “There was no difficulty in learning what there was to learn,
for all business seemed suspended and the streets were full of groups
of people talking over the events of yesterday. The whole city is
shaken by the fact that two such terrible acts of sacrilege as the
slaying of the sacred cat of Bubastes and the murder of a high priest
of Osiris should have taken place within so short a time of each
other. All prophesy that some terrible calamity will befall the land,
and that the offended gods will in some way wreak their vengeance upon
it. A royal order has been issued enjoining all men to search for and
arrest every person concerned in the murder of Ameres, and doubtless
the severest penalties will be dealt to them. The same decree orders
your arrest wherever found, and enjoins upon all officials throughout
the kingdom to keep a strict watch in the towns and villages, to
examine any strangers who may present themselves, and to send hither
bound in chains all young men who may fail to give a satisfactory
account of themselves. Sacrifices will be offered up at all the
temples throughout the land to appease the wrath of the gods.
Messengers have been dispatched in all directions in the provinces,
and all seemed to consider it certain that in a few hours our
hiding-place would be discovered. All made sure that we had made
either for the seacoast or the desert on one side or the other, and as
the messengers would reach the coast long before we could do so, it
was considered impossible for us to get through unnoticed.

“Then I went to the house, not intending to go in, but simply to see
if those in the neighborhood had heard any further news. The gates
were open, and quite a crowd of people were passing in and out to
gratify their curiosity by gazing on the scene. Relying upon my
disguise I went in with the rest. None entered the house, for a guard
of soldiers had been stationed there. I passed round at the back and
presently Lyptis, the old female slave, came out to fetch water. I
spoke to her in my assumed character, but she only shook her head and
made no reply. Then believing that she, like all the others in the
house, was attached to the family and could be trusted, I spoke to her
in my natural voice, and she at once knew me. I made a sign to her to
be silent and withdrew with her alone to some bushes. The tears were
streaming down her face.

“‘Oh, Jethro!’ she exclaimed, ‘did the gods ever before hurl such
calamities upon a household? My dear master is dead; my lord Chebron
is hunted for as men hunt for a wild beast; my dear young mistress,
Mysa, is missing!’

“‘Missing!’ I exclaimed. ‘What do you mean?’

“‘Have you not heard it?’ she said.

“‘I have heard nothing!’ I cried. ‘Tell me all!’

“‘Just after the gates were beaten down and the crowd rushed along
into the garden, four men burst into the house and ran from chamber to
chamber until they entered that of my young mistress. We heard a
scream, and a moment later they came out again bearing a figure
enveloped in a wrapping. We strove to stop them, but there were naught
but women in the house. They struck two of us to the ground, and
rushed out. Some of us ran out into the garden crying for aid, but
there we saw a terrible scene. A great struggle was going on, and
presently you broke forth, covered with blood and wounds, and ran
swiftly past. None heeded us or our cries.

“‘When the soldiers arrived we told the officer what had happened; but
it was too late then, and nothing could be done. Had there been a
guard over the house all these things would never have happened.’

“I asked her if she could describe to me the appearance of the men.
She said that they were attired as respectable citizens, but that from
their language and manner she believed that they were ruffians of the
lowest class.

“For a time I was so overwhelmed with this news that I could think of
nothing, but went out and roamed through the streets. At last I
bethought me of the girl Ruth. She was with Mysa at the time, and
might, if questioned, be able to tell me more than the old woman had
done. I therefore returned, but had to wait for three hours before old
Lyptis came out again.

“‘I want to speak to Ruth,’ I said. ‘Send her out to me.’

“‘Ruth has gone,’ she said.

“‘Gone!’ I repeated. ‘Where and whither?’

“‘That we know not. It was not until hours after Mysa was carried off
that any one thought of her. We were too overwhelmed with grief at the
death of our dear lord and the loss of Mysa to give a thought to the
young Israelite. Then one asked, where was she? No one had noticed
her. We went to Mysa’s chamber, thinking that the villains who carried
our young mistress off might have slain her; but there were no signs
of her there.’

“‘But she was with Mysa, was she not,’ I asked, ‘when the attack was
made? Did she not pass in with her when she came in from the garden?’

“‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘they came in together and passed through us; for
we gathered in the front chamber, being greatly frightened at the
clamor at the gate. As they passed us our young mistress said, ‘Keep
silent; what is the use of screaming and crying?”

“I asked if she was sure Ruth was not carried off as well as Mysa.

“‘Quite sure,’ she said. ‘One bore a figure and the other three
cleared the way.’”

“‘And that was the last time,’ I asked, ‘that any of you saw the
Israelite?’

“‘It was,’ she answered. ‘She must have passed out by the door at the
end of the passage, which she might well have done without being
observed by any of us.’

“This was a new mystery. Why Ruth should have fled I could not guess,
because as soon as the soldiers appeared there was no more danger in
remaining. Besides, I did not think Ruth was one to shrink from
danger. However, there was no more to be learned, and I again went
out into the streets.”

CHAPTER XIII.

THE SEARCH FOR MYSA.

“Perhaps Ruth had gone to tell my mother that Mysa was lost,” Chebron
suggested when Jethro had gone so far in his story.

“That could hardly have been,” Jethro replied, “for I should have told
you that your mother returned early this morning to the house with
many relatives, and that all were weeping and mourning round the body
of your father. Had Ruth gone to her, she would either have returned
with her, or Lyptis would have heard where she was.”

“Did you hear how my mother bore her misfortunes, Jethro?”

“She was overwhelmed with grief, Lyptis said, at your father’s
death–so overwhelmed that she seemed to have no thought for anything
else. She had, of course, been told the night before that Mysa was
missing; but it seemed to make no impression upon her. She only said
that doubtless friends had carried her off to save her from the danger
that Chebron’s wickedness had brought upon us all. This morning she
made some further inquiries, but did not seem in any serious alarm;
but the magistrates, when they came last night to inquire into the
whole matter, took note of Mysa having been carried off, and when on
their coming again this morning they found that nothing had been heard
of her, gave orders that a search should be made for her, and a
proclamation was issued this afternoon denouncing punishment on those
who carried her off, and enjoining all who could give any information
on the subject to present themselves before them immediately.

“Since I came out from the house I have been wandering about trying to
think what is best to be done, and hoping that something might occur
to me which would put me upon the track of the villains who carried
Mysa off.”

“You do not think of carrying out our plans for to-morrow, Jethro?”
Chebron asked anxiously. “We could never go away from here in
ignorance of what had become of her.”

“Certainly not, Chebron. I consider it my duty, as well as my
inclination, to stay here until she is found. Your father spoke to me
of her as well as of you, but as he did not see any way in which we
could aid her he said that she must take her chance–meaning take her
chance under the guardianship of your mother to obtain some day a
husband whom she could love. But the present misfortune entirely
alters the case. She has need of our active help, and whatever are
the risks we must postpone our start.

“Whether you will be able to stay here or not is doubtful. Each day
that passes without news being received of your capture in the
provinces north of us, will increase the belief that you are hiding
somewhere in the neighborhood of the city, and in that case the search
will become more and more earnest. However, for a day or two we may be
safe here. As to that, though, we must abide by Chigron’s opinion. He
is running no small risk in concealing us here, and if he considers
the danger is becoming greater than he is willing to run, we must
betake ourselves to the hills. There are lonely spots there where we
could lie concealed for a long time, or, at least, as long as such
supplies of food and water as we could carry with us hold out. But, at
any rate, we must set aside all thought of flight for the present, and
devote all our energies to the discovery and rescue of Mysa.”

“I do not think we have far to look for the contrivers of the
outrage,” Amuba said. “It seems to me that it is of a piece with the
whole of the misfortunes that have befallen us. We know that Ameres
refused the request of Ptylus for Mysa as a wife for his son. After
that came the plot which we overheard in the temple for the murder of
some one. The knowledge that they were overheard put a stop to that
scheme. Then came the stirring up of the people, partly by the story
of that unfortunate cat, partly by whispers that Ameres, although high
priest of Osiris, was yet a scorner of the gods. Then came the attack
upon the house, in which, while the main body of the mob attacked
Ameres, a chosen band carried off Mysa.

“This villain, Ptylus, had several motives to spur him on. In the
first place, there was anger at the rejection of his son’s suit; next,
that he would, at the death of Ameres, naturally succeed to the high
priesthood; thirdly, he may have thought that if he could obtain
possession of Mysa and marry her to his son, she would bring with her
no small portion of her father’s lands as a dowry. With the influence
which he, as high priest, would have with the king and council he
could rely upon her obtaining a share of the estate, especially as the
villain would calculate that Chebron as well as his father would be
put out of the way.

“He has only to keep Mysa immured until his power as high priest is
consolidated, and then if he gain the consent of the king to the match
Mysa could not refuse to accept the fate prepared for her.”

“I think that you have accurately reasoned out the case, Amuba, and
that we have penetrated the whole conspiracy. The question is, what
are we to do?”

“It must not be, Jethro!” Chebron cried excitedly, pacing up and down
the chamber. “Mysa cannot bear Plexo. She spoke of him with something
like horror when she heard of the proposal Ptylus made. I do not like
him myself. He is thin lipped and crafty and cruel. Mysa had better be
dead than married to him.”

“I think I can promise you, Chebron,” Jethro said grimly, “that that
marriage shall never come about. We may not find Mysa, who may be
hidden either in Ptylus’ house, or in one of the many chambers of the
temple, or in the caves near it; but, at any rate, I can find Plexo,
and before we leave Egypt I will slay him as well as his father, whom
I regard as the murderer of Ameres. I may not be able to do this and
to get away, and in that case you must journey alone; but I am not
going to quit Egypt and leave them to enjoy the gains of their crime.”
As he finished speaking Chigron entered.

“I was coming in to see if Jethro had returned.”

He was told the reasons for his prolonged absence–the abduction of
Mysa, and the determination to remain and search for her place of
concealment. He shook his head.

“It is a rash resolution. Even were you free to come and go as you
choose, your chance of finding out her hiding-place would be small
indeed–hunted as you yourselves are, your quest seems to be an
absolutely hopeless one. As to your remaining here long, I think it
would be madness.

“It is not only for myself that I say this, but for you. In the first
place, there are so many men employed here that your coming in and
going out would be sure to be noticed by some one; in the second
place, the cave would scarcely escape search a second time. Were it
not for my workmen I could conceal you in the house; and if I saw men
in search of you approaching I could place you in one of the inner
casings of the mummies, and put two or three more casings on. Then,
lying as you would be among a number of corpses in a similar state of
advancement toward burial, none would think of opening the cases.

“But with so many people about it would be well-nigh impossible to do
this without observation–unless, indeed, the search was made at night
or after the workmen had departed, which would hardly be likely to
happen. Therefore I think it impossible for you to stay here more than
another day or two; but there are many caves and burial-places higher
up on the hillside where you might be concealed. In many of these
there are sarcophagi. If we choose one in which there are several
coffins I can remove the mummies and their casings into another cave,
so that should a party of searchers approach the place you can lie
down in the sarcophagus and lower the lid down upon you.”

“It would be sacrilege to move the dead,” Chebron said with a shudder.

“It would be sacrilege for others,” Chigron replied, “but not to us,
whose business and duty it is to handle the dead. I can replace the
mummies in their cases after you have left, and they will be none the
worse for their temporary removal. It will be necessary, of course,
that there should be no signs of habitation in the cave–nothing to
excite their suspicions that it has been disturbed.”

“I think that is a very good plan,” Jethro said. “We can make
sleeping-places in the open air near. We shall sleep in the open air
on our journey, and it would be no hardship to begin at once. I
should think it best to remove to one of these caves at once. There is
never any saying when the searchers may be here again; therefore if
you will, Chigron, I will at early daybreak go with you, choose a
cave, and make our arrangements.”

“I think, indeed, that that will be the best plan,” the embalmer
agreed. “I will, of course, take care to bring you up every night a
store of provisions. And now I will leave you to sleep.”

It was long, however, before the occupants of the chamber threw
themselves upon their piles of rushes. Sometimes they talked of Mysa,
and discussed all possible plans for discovering where she was
concealed. Then they wondered what had become of Ruth, who would be
friendless in the great city, and might not have money sufficient to
buy a meal with her.

“She had her ornaments,” Jethro said; “a silver bracelet that Mysa
gave her she always wore. She had two silver necklaces and earrings of
her own. I should think they had been handed down to her from her
mother; they seemed good and would fetch money. Ruth is a shrewd
little maid; for though but fifteen years old she has long been
accustomed to manage a house and look after her grandfather. Why she
has run away I cannot think, except that perhaps from the noise and
tumult she thought that all were going to be killed. But even in that
case she would probably have found her way back by this morning, if
not sooner.”

“I cannot help thinking myself,” Chebron said, “that she has followed
Mysa. Although she has not been here for many months, I am sure that
she was very fond of her.”

“That she certainly was,” Jethro said. “I often thought when I was
walking behind them that it was pretty to see them together. Mysa
knew so much more of everything; and yet it was the Hebrew maid who
gave her opinion most decidedly, and Mysa listened to her as she
talked in that grave way of hers as if she had been an elder sister.
And you think she might have followed her? I hope that it may have
been so. But in that case the women must have seen her.”

“The women were scared out of their senses,” Chebron said, “and, I
have no doubt, were screaming and wringing their hands and attending
to nothing else. If I could but be sure that Ruth is with Mysa I
should feel less anxious, for I am certain she would be a comfort and
support to her.”

“She would, indeed,” Jethro agreed. “And moreover I should have
greater hopes of finding where they are concealed; for if it be
possible to get away and to spread the alarm I am sure that Ruth would
seize the first opportunity promptly.”

It was but a short time after they lay down that Chigron entered and
said that morning was beginning to break. They at once rose and
followed him. He led them along the foot of the hill for some
distance, and then turning began to ascend at a spot where it sloped
gradually. They passed many tombs, partly erected with masonry and
partly cut out from the rock behind; and it was not until after
walking fully half an hour that he stopped before the entrance of one
of them.

“This is the one that I thought of as being suitable for the purpose,”
he said. “It is one of the most lonely, and there is little likelihood
of any chance passer coming near it. In the second place, I know that
the stone door which rolls across the entrance has not been cemented
in its place. I know indeed to whom the tomb belongs. The last mummy
was placed here but a short time back; and the son of the man then
buried told me that he should not have it cemented because his wife
was grievously sick, and he feared would shortly follow his father.
Therefore there will be no difficulty in effecting an entry. In the
second place, there is hard by a small tomb that was cut in the rock
and then left–the owners changing their minds and having a larger
tomb made lower down the hill. As nothing beyond the chamber and the
narrow entrance were made, we can there hide the mummies from this
chamber and heap stones and earth over the entrance, so that none
would suspect its existence.”

“Nothing could be better,” Jethro said. “Let us set to work and
prepare it at once.”

The stone across the entrance to the tomb, which was but three feet
high and of the same width, was pushed back without difficulty and
they entered. Four wooden sarcophagi stood there. Jethro aided Chigron
in opening three of these. The mummies in their cases were taken out,
the outer cases opened and replaced in the coffins after the mummies
with the inner cases had been removed from them. These were then
carried to the unfinished tomb fifty yards away and there deposited.
Stones were then piled together so as to conceal the entrance, and the
men returned to the tomb.

“Here you will be perfectly safe,” Chigron said. “You can keep the
stone rolled back unless you see any one approaching; and you would be
sure to make out any considerable number of searchers mounting the
hillside long before they reach you. Should you see them, you will of
course close the door, enter each of you one of the sarcophagi, lie
down in the inner case, close the lid of the sarcophagus, and place
the lid of the inner case over you. I think it unlikely in the extreme
that any search will be made for you, or at any rate a search only
of untenanted tombs. The fact of the stone here being left uncemented
is a mere accident probably known only to myself and its owner. It is
only as an extreme resource that you could need to take to these
hiding-places. As far as passers-by are concerned you might remain
outside altogether, but in that case you would run some risk of being
noticed. You may be sure that the hills will be closely scanned, and
if figures were seen moving about here a party might set out to see
whether these were the fugitives so eagerly sought for. Therefore I
say, during the daytime keep yourselves concealed here. As soon as it
is dark you can of course issue out and pass the night wherever you
may think fit.”

[Illustration: C. of B.
THE HIDING-PLACE OF CHEBRON AND HIS FRIENDS.--Page 252.]

“We shall certainly follow your advice,” Jethro said. “Undoubtedly the
plan you propose is by far the safest. I cannot think that there is
much chance of an earnest search being made among the tombs, though
likely enough they may visit those which are open and empty; but as
you say, they would never dream of examining the tombs in use, as they
would naturally suppose that all were securely fastened. In case of
the very worst, there are the coffins for us to betake ourselves to;
and these, assuredly, no one would think of examining.”

“If you will come down,” Chigron said, “as soon as it is dark, I will
give you provisions for some days, together with the peasants’ dresses
I have prepared for you and the money Ameres committed to my charge.
It is not likely that anything will occur to decide you to make a move
suddenly, but it is best that you should have everything in readiness
for so doing should the occasion possibly arise. I will come up myself
to-morrow night if all is well, an hour after sunset. I name the time
exactly in order that if you sleep at any distance away you can be
here at that hour to meet me; and now I leave you to the protection
of the gods. This evening I shall dismantle the chamber you have used
and remove all signs of its having been inhabited.”

Chebron thanked the embalmer very earnestly for the kindness he had
shown them, the trouble he had taken, and the risk he had run on their
behalf.

“I would have done more if I could,” Chigron said. “Your father’s son
has the highest claims upon me, and were it to half my fortune I would
spend it to carry out the last wishes that Ameres expressed to me.”

As soon as the embalmer left them the three friends sat down just
within the entrance to the tomb, looking out over the quiet city lying
in the plain below them.

“I wish we had our peasant dresses,” Chebron said, “that we might go
down with you and join in the search for Mysa.”

“It would be too dangerous,” Jethro said decidedly. “Too many have
seen you taking part in the services and procession for you to have a
chance of passing unnoticed. Amuba is less likely than you to be
detected, and if his skin was stained, his eyebrows blackened, and his
head shaved, he might manage to pass providing he walked with his eyes
fixed on the ground; but in that way he would not have much chance of
coming upon traces of Mysa.

“Any search you make must be at night. I shall to-day station myself
near the house of Ptylus. I do not expect to gain any information from
gazing at the high wall which surrounds it, but I will follow, as
closely as I can without attracting observation, all the slaves or
servants who may come out, especially if two issue forth together; I
may then catch a few words of their talk, and possibly gather some
clew to the mystery. Still I own that the chance is small, and you
must not look forward in any way to my returning with news.”

“I wish, Jethro,” Chebron said, “that if possible you would again go
to our house, see the old woman, and get her to bring out to you a
suit of my priests’ garments; with these I could at night enter the
temple, and wander unquestioned through the chambers and courts. The
nights are dark now, and unless I pass close to a lamp none could
recognize me. We overheard one conversation of importance there, and
it may be that I could overhear another.”

“There would be danger in the attempt,” Jethro said doubtfully.

“That matters not at all!” Chebron exclaimed impetuously. “All this
trouble has come upon us through me, and even should there be some
slight risk I would willing face it; but in truth I think there is no
chance whatever of my being recognized. See how often Amuba went there
with me, and though the nights were always moonlit we never were once
addressed, nor was it noticed that Amuba was not one of the regular
attendants of the temple, who alone have a right to penetrate beyond
the great courts.”

“So be it, then,” Jethro said. “Then you shall explore the temple,
Amuba and I will search every cavern in the hills. There are many
great tombs behind the temple, and just as we have selected such a
hiding-place, Ptylus may have chosen one as a place of concealment for
Mysa. There are many tombs there built by princes, nobles, and wealthy
priests for their reception after death which could be turned into a
comfortable dwelling. After we have spent some time in searching
there, we must, if unsuccessful, try further away. Ptylus, no doubt,
like Ameres, has farms and country residences, and she may be hidden
in one of these.”

“I believe myself,” Amuba said, “that a better plan than yours will
be for us to establish a watch over Plexo. Ptylus has his duties and
is no doubt fully occupied in securing his election to the high
priesthood, but Plexo would most probably go sometimes to see Mysa in
her place of imprisonment; he will naturally be anxious to conciliate
or frighten her into giving her consent to marry him as soon as
possible. Therefore, if we can but watch him sufficiently closely, he
is sure to lead us at last to her.”

“That will certainly be the best way, Amuba. I did not think of it
before, but it is clearly the plan that promises the best chance of
success. We might search the country for years without finding her;
and although I wish to keep up your hopes, I really despaired in my
own mind. But, as you say, if we follow Plexo, sooner or later he is
sure to bring us to her. But to do so we shall want many disguises. I
will think the matter over as I walk to-day, and when I see Chigron
this evening will beg him to get the disguises that seem to him the
best for us to use.”

“As for me, Jethro,” Chebron said, “I will visit the temple of an
evening, as I said. But long before midnight all will be quiet there;
so that will give me plenty of time for sleep, and in the daytime I
will work with you. Get me the garb of a peasant woman. In such a
dress and with a female head-covering I could surely get myself up so
that even those who know me best would pass by without suspicion. Many
women are taller than I am. The disguise would be out of the question
for Amuba, who is well-nigh as tall as you are, besides being wide and
strong-looking, but for me it would do well.”

“Yes, I think you could pass as a woman,” Jethro agreed; “and
certainly the more of us there are to watch this rascal the better.
But for myself I think that we are more likely to succeed by night
than by day. Plexo, too, has his duties in the temple, and would be
likely to pay his visits after dark. Then it would be a mere question
of speed of foot, and Amuba and I used to be trained in running, and
it will be a swift horse that will outpace us. And now I am going down
to the city. I feel more hopeful than I did, lads, and for the first
time begin to think that we have a chance of discovering where the
villains have carried Mysa.”

The day passed slowly to Chebron and Amuba. They would not show
themselves outside the tomb, as Chigron had earnestly begged them not
to do so; besides, there were frequently people about on the hillside,
for many came daily to offer prayers at the tombs of their relatives.
Still they had much to talk of–the chances of finding Mysa; the
question with whom she should be placed if recovered; the prospects
of the long and adventurous journey which lay before them. Amuba
encouraged talk on all these points, and started the conversation
afresh whenever it dropped, for he saw that the excitement concerning
Mysa had done a great deal for Chebron. It had weaned his thoughts
from the death of his father, and the consequences that had arisen
from his unfortunate shot; it had given him fresh subject for thought,
and had revived his spirits and interest in life. Both lads were glad
when, late in the afternoon, they saw Jethro ascending the hill.

“I have no news,” he said as he came up to them. “I have been all day
in the neighborhood of the house of Ptylus, and have followed all who
came out two together from it. I have overheard many scraps of
conversation, and one and all talked upon the same subject, the death
of Ameres and of the sacred cat, and the want of success in the
search for you. The fact of Mysa being carried off was spoken of once
or twice; but I was convinced by the manner in which the slaves spoke
to each other on the subject that they had not the slightest idea that
their master was concerned in the matter, and they had assuredly no
knowledge whatever of her being in the house.

“Of course it is possible that she might be there without its being
generally known to all the slaves. Still you know how things leak out
in a household, and how everything done by the master and mistress
soon becomes public property; and had any one among them heard
something unusual was going on, it would by this time have been known
to all the servants. I hardly thought that Ptylus would have ventured
to have her carried home, for he might suppose that her mother’s
suspicions might be directed toward him just as ours have been, and
that if she made a complaint against him a search of his house might
be ordered; besides, there are too many servants there for a secret to
be kept. No, if a clew is to be obtained it will be in the temple or
by our following Plexo.”

As soon as it was dark they descended the hill together. Chebron had
attired himself in the garments bearing the distinguishing marks of
the priesthood that Jethro had brought up with him, having obtained
them from old Lyptis. When near the house of the embalmer the lad
stopped, and Jethro went on and returned in half an hour with the
various disguises he had asked Chigron to obtain for him. All these,
with the exception of the scanty attire of two peasants, he hid for
the present in some bushes near the path, then he rubbed Amuba’s skin
and his own with a fluid he had obtained from Chigron; and after
putting on the peasants’ clothes they took their way toward the house
of Ptylus.

While Chebron went toward the temple, which was but a short distance
from the house, Jethro and Amuba sat down by the wall close to the
gate so that none could leave it without their knowledge. But beyond
servants and visitors no one came out. At ten o’clock they heard the
bolts of the gates fastened, but remained where they were until near
midnight, when Chebron joined them. He had spent the time wandering
from court to court of the temple, but beyond a solitary priest moving
here and there replenishing the lamps of the altars he had seen no
one, and had been himself entirely unnoticed. Amuba and Chebron were
both inclined to be dispirited at the want of success of their
watching, but Jethro chid them for their impatience.

“You do not suppose,” he said, “that you are going to find out a
secret so well hidden by a few hours’ watching. It may be weeks before
we succeed. To-morrow we will begin our watch two or three hours
before sundown. I am better known to the servants at the house of
Ptylus than you are, as I have often taken messages there; besides,
in my disguise I could not so well loiter about without attracting
attention as you could. I will, therefore, content myself with
watching the northern road from the city upon the chance of his taking
that way, while you in your dress as peasants can watch the house
itself. You, Chebron, might sit down by the wall fifty yards from the
house on the north side, while you, Amuba, had best keep on the other
side of the road and somewhat to the south of the gate. In this way
you will be in sight of each other and yet not together; solitary
figures are less likely to attract attention than two together, for it
is for two boys that people will be looking. As I should scarcely know
you myself now that your skins are darkened, there is, I trust, small
fear of others detecting your disguise.”

Accordingly the next day, three hours after noon, Amuba and Chebron,
disguised as peasants, went down to the house of Ptylus and took their
posts as arranged. Late in the afternoon Amuba noticed that one of the
slaves from the house of Ptylus suddenly checked his walk as he passed
Chebron and gazed fixedly at him. Amuba left the spot where he was
standing and walked quickly in that direction. The slave spoke to
Chebron, who rose to his feet. A moment later the slave seized him. As
they were struggling Amuba ran up.

“Here is a find!” the slave exclaimed. “This is the slayer of the
sacred cat. Aid me to drag him into the house of my master.”

But to his surprise Amuba sprang upon him and struck him such a heavy
blow in the face that he released his hold of Chebron and staggered
backward.

“Run for your life!” Amuba exclaimed to his friend. “I will take
another route.”

The slave, recovering from his blow, rushed at Amuba, shouting at the
top of his voice:

“Death to the insulters of the gods! Death to the slayers of the
sacred cat!”

But Amuba, who was now eighteen years of age, was at once stronger and
more active than the slave, whose easy life in the household of the
priest had unfitted him for such a struggle. Springing back to avoid
the grasp of his assailant, Amuba struck him with all his strength in
the face, and as he reeled backward repeated the blow, and the man
fell heavily to the ground. But several other people attracted by the
conflict and the shouts of the slave, were running up, and Amuba took
to his heels at the top of his speed. As he expected, the passers-by
paused to assist the fallen man and to learn the cause of the fray
before they took up the pursuit, and he was nearly two hundred yards
away when he heard the cry again raised, “Death to the slayer of the
sacred cat!”

By this time he was alongside of Chebron, who had paused to see the
issue of the contest with the slave.

“Do you turn off, Chebron, and take a turning or two and conceal
yourself, and then make your way up to the hill. I will keep straight
on for awhile. I have more last than you have and can outrun these
fellows, never fear. Do as I tell you,” he said almost angrily as he
saw that Chebron hesitated when they reached the next turning. “If we
keep together they will overtake us both.”

Chebron hesitated no longer, but took the turning indicated. Amuba
slackened his speed now, judging correctly that his pursuers if they
saw they gained upon him would not trouble themselves about his
companion, of whose identity they were probably still ignorant. When,
on looking back, he saw that all had passed the turning, he again
quickened his speed. He was not afraid of being overtaken by those
behind him, but that he might meet other people who, seeing the
pursuit, would take him for a fugitive from justice, and endeavor to
stop him. One or two did indeed make feeble attempts to do so, but did
not care to grapple in earnest with a powerful young man, evidently
desperate, and of whose crime they knew nothing.

As soon as he felt sure that Chebron was quite safe from pursuit, he
turned off from the road he was following and struck across the
country. A quarter of an hour’s running took him fairly beyond the
villas and detached houses scattered so thickly round Thebes. The
ground here was closely cultivated. It was intersected everywhere by
channels conveying the water needed for the irrigation of the crops.
The holdings were small, and in the center of each stood a little
hut.

Some of these were inhabited, but for the most part the cultivators
lived in the villages, using the huts only when it was necessary to
scare away the birds and keep a close watch over their fruit. In some
of these patches the fruit trees were thick, and Amuba took advantage
of the cover to turn off at right angles to the course he had been
pursuing, and then shaping his course so as to keep in shelter of the
trees, ran until he arrived at a hut whose door stood open. A glance
within showed that it was not at present used by the owner. He entered
and closed the door behind him, and then climbed up a ladder, and
threw himself down on some boards that lay on the rafters for the
storage of fruit, pulling the ladder up after him.

The last glimpse he had of his pursuers showed him that they were
fully four hundred yards behind him when he turned off from the line
he had been following, and he would have kept on and trusted to his
speed and endurance to outrun them had he not been sure that many of
the cultivators whom he had passed in his flight, and who had
contented themselves with shouting threats at him for crossing their
land, would, on learning from his pursuers the crime with which he was
charged, join in the pursuit. Thus fresh runners would be constantly
taking up the chase, and he would eventually be run down; he therefore
thought it best to attempt to conceal himself until night fell.

Scarcely had he thrown himself down when he heard loud shouts rise
close at hand, and had no doubt that some laborer unobserved by him
had noticed him enter the hut. He sprang down again from the loft, and
seizing a stake which with several others was standing in a corner, he
again sallied out. As he did so he was suddenly grasped. Twisting
himself free he saw a powerful Nubian armed with a hoe. Without a
moment’s hesitation Amuba sprang at him with his stake. The Nubian
parried the blow with his hoe, and in turn dealt a sweeping blow at
the lad.

Amuba sprang back just in time, and before the negro could recover his
guard, struck him a heavy blow on the wrist with his stake. The negro
dropped his hoe, uttering a cry of pain and rage. Amuba followed up
the blow on the wrist with one on the ankle, and as the man fell,
bounded away again. But the negro’s shouts had been heard, and the
pursuers were now but fifty yards away. Amuba saw that their numbers
had swollen considerably, and a doubt as to his ability to escape them
for the first time entered his mind.

They were too close for any further attempts at concealment, and he
had now only his speed to rely on. But he had already run nearly three
miles, while many of those behind him were fresh, and he soon found
that he could not again widen the space between them. For another two
miles he still kept ahead, at first leaping the ditches lightly and
without a pause, but at last often landing in the middle, and
scrambling out with difficulty. He was becoming completely exhausted
now. Those who had at first taken up the chase had long since
abandoned it; but, as he had feared, fresh men constantly joined the
ranks of his pursuers. They were but a few paces behind him when he
found himself again on the highroad.

A few hundred yards away he saw a chariot approaching, and feeling
that further flight was hopeless he turned, stake in hand, to face his
pursuers, who were but a few paces behind him. With cries of “Kill
him!” “Death to the insulter of the gods!” they rushed at him. Panting
and breathless he defended himself as best he could. But his guard
was beaten down and blows were showered upon him.

He fell, but with a great effort struggled to his feet again; his
senses were fast deserting him now, but he was conscious that the
chariot drew up beside him, scattering his assailants right and left.
He heard a voice raised in tones of indignant reproach, and then a
renewal of the cries of hatred. He felt strong arms round him; then he
was lifted, and for a time became unconscious.

CHAPTER XIV.

A PRINCE OF EGYPT.

When Amuba recovered his senses he was lying in a heap at the bottom
of the chariot. Two men were standing in the car beside him. The one
he supposed to be the driver, the other the owner of the chariot.

In a few minutes the chariot turned off through a stately gateway. The
driver leaped down and closed the gates, and then led the horses to
the steps leading up to a splendid mansion. The man beside him called
out, and two or three slaves ran down the steps. Then he was lifted
out, carried into the house, and laid upon a couch. A cup of wine was
placed to his lips, and after he had drunk a slave bathed his head
with cold water, and bandaged up the numerous cuts from which blood
was flowing.

This greatly refreshed him, and he raised himself on his arm. An order
was given, and the slaves left the apartment, and Amuba looking up saw
a tall and stately figure standing before him. He recognized him at
once, for he had seen him following the king in one of the processions
among the princes of Egypt.

“Who are you? and is it true what those men whom I found maltreating
you averred, that you are the slayer of the Cat of Bubastes?”

“My name is Amuba, my lord,” the lad said, striving to stand upright,
but his questioner signed to him to remain seated. “I am a Rebu taken
prisoner of war, and handed as a slave to Ameres, high priest of
Osiris. I am not the slayer of the cat, but it is true that I was
present at its death, and that it might just as well have been my
arrow that accidentally pierced it as that of him who did so.”

“Then it was an accident?” the noble said.

“It was wholly an accident, my lord. We fired at a hawk that had been
thinning the pet birds of my master’s daughter. One of the arrows
struck a tree, and glancing off entered the house in which the cat was
kept and unfortunately caused its death. We regretted the accident
bitterly, knowing how sacred was the animal in the sight of the
Egyptians.”

“And not in your sight, young man? You are not yet a follower of the
gods of the Egyptians?”

“I am not, my lord,” Amuba answered; “but at the same time I would not
upon any account have willfully done aught to offend the religious
opinions of others, although I myself have not been taught to consider
the life of a cat as of more value than that of other animals.”

“Then you worship the gods of your own people?”

Amuba was silent for a moment.

“I would answer frankly, my lord, and I hope that you will not be
displeased. Since I have come to Egypt I have come to think that
neither the gods of the Egyptians nor the gods my fathers worshiped
are the true gods. I believe that there is one great God over all, and
that the others are but as it were his attributes, which men worship
under the name of gods.”

The Egyptian uttered an exclamation of surprise.

“Whence did you obtain such a belief as this?” he asked.

Amuba was silent.

“It must have been from Ameres himself,” the noble went on, seeing
that the lad was reluctant to answer. “I knew him well, and also that
he carried to an extreme the knowledge he had gained. But how came it
that he should speak of such matters to you–a slave?”

“My master was good enough to make me a companion and friend to his
son rather than a servant to him,” Amuba replied, “partly because he
thought that I should lead him to a more active life, which he needed,
for he was overstudious; partly because I had high rank in my own
country, of which my father was the king. But he never spoke of this
matter until after the accident of the cat. My friend Chebron was
utterly cast down at the sin that he thought he had committed, and
would at once have denounced himself, preferring death to living with
such a burden upon his mind. Then his father, seeing that his whole
life would be imbittered, and that he would probably be forced to fly
from Egypt and dwell in some other land, told him the belief which he
himself held. I believed this all the more readily because I had heard
much the same from an Israelite maiden who served my master’s
daughter.”

Again Amuba’s listener uttered an exclamation of surprise.

“I knew not,” he said, after a pause, “that there was an Israelite who
still adhered to the religion of their ancestors.”

“The maiden told me that for the most part they had taken to the
worship of the Egyptians, and indeed, so far as she knew, she was the
last who clung to the old belief. She had been brought up by a
great-grandfather who had been driven from his people and forced to
dwell apart because he reproached them for having forsaken their God,
and he instructed her in the faith he held, which was that there was
but one God over all the earth.”

“Do you know who I am?” the noble asked abruptly.

“I know that you are one of the princes of the land, my lord, for I
have seen you in a procession following closely behind the king with
his sons and other princes.”

“I also am an Israelite. It seems strange to you, doubtless,” he went
on, as Amuba started in astonishment at hearing a prince of Egypt
declare himself as belonging to the hated race. “Many years ago, at
the time I was an infant, there was a great persecution of the
Israelites, and as is supposed my father and mother, fearing for my
life, placed me in a little cradle and set me afloat on the water. It
chanced–or was it chance or the will of God?–that the water took me
to the spot where the Princess Thermuthis, the daughter of the then
king, was bathing with her maidens. She had compassion upon me and
adopted me, and as I grew up I had all the rights and privileges of
her son, and rank, as you say, with the princes of Egypt. She called
me Moses; for that was the name, as it seems, that was writ upon a
piece of papyrus fastened to my cradle. I was instructed in all the
learning of the Egyptians, and grew up as one of them. So I lived for
many years, and had almost forgotten that I was not one of them; but
now–” And here he stopped and began thoughtfully to pace up and down
the apartment.

“What has become of the maiden of whom you spoke?” he asked, suddenly
stopping before Amuba.

“That I know not, my lord. Upon the day that Ameres was murdered by
the mob his little daughter was carried off, and Ruth, for that is her
name, has also been missing ever since. It is for that reason we have
lingered here, otherwise we should have fled at once.”

“You and the son of Ameres?”

“Yes, my lord, and another Rebu, one of my father’s warriors, who was
a fellow-captive with me, and also slave of Ameres. The high priest
had great confidence in him, and committed to him the mission of
aiding Chebron to escape and of conducting us if possible back to my
own land; but when we found that my young mistress was missing we
decided to remain to search for her.”

“What will you do when you find her?”

“If we can rescue her from those who have carried her away we shall
hand her over to her mother, and then leave the land as we had
intended. Unless, indeed, you, my lord, in your goodness, could obtain
for Chebron a pardon for an offense which was wholly accidental.”

“That I can never do,” Moses said. “This is wholly beyond my power;
the king himself could not withstand the demand of the populace for
his life. Until lately I might have in some way aided you, but I have
no longer influence and have myself fallen into disgrace at court.”

After again pacing the apartment for some time, Moses went on:

“If you find this little Israelite maiden tell her that she is not the
last of the Israelites who believes in the God of Abraham, our
ancestor; tell her that Moses also holds to the faith. You again look
surprised, young man, and you may well be so, seeing that I have from
the days of my infancy been separated from my people.

“But our priests keep accurate records of all things connected with
the countries and religion of the people with whom we come in contact.
Thus, then, it was easy for me, who have access to all the stores of
knowledge, to examine the rolls recording the first coming of my
people, the rule of Joseph, the great governor, the coming of his
relations here and their settlement in the country. Thus I learned
that they worshiped one God, whom they believed to be the only God,
in the world. I have been interested deeply in the learning of the
priesthood, and have long seen that behind all the forms and mysteries
of the Egyptian religion this central idea seemed to be hidden. None
with whom I have spoken acknowledged boldly that it was so; but I
heard reports that Ameres was bold enough to entertain the idea that
there was but one God, and that our far-back ancestors, who had first
worshiped him under the various attributes they ascribed to him, came
in course of time to lose the truth altogether and to regard shadows
as substances. Therefore, I said to myself, I too will believe in the
one God worshiped by my forefathers, hoping that in time it may be
that I may learn more of him.

“Until the last two or three years I have been content to live as one
of the Egyptian princes; but of late my heart has turned much to my
oppressed people, and I have determined upon doing what I can to
relieve their burden. I have even raised my voice in the council in
their favor, and this has created a coldness between the court and
myself. They consider that I, having had the honor of adoption into
the royal family, should myself forget, and allow others to forget,
what they regard as my base origin. Sometimes I own that I myself
wonder that I should feel so drawn toward them, and even wish that I
could forget my origin and give my whole mind to the duties and
pleasures of my present rank; but I feel moved by a spirit stronger
than my own. But we must talk no longer; I see that you are now
stronger. Do you think that you can walk?”

“Oh, yes,” Amuba replied, getting up and walking across the apartment.
“I have not lost much blood, and was only dizzy from their blows.”

“Then it is better that you should leave at once. The people from whom
I snatched you will have carried the news speedily to the city, and
officials will doubtless soon arrive here to demand that you be given
up to them. Take, therefore, another draught of wine and a piece of
bread. I will then give you in charge of a trusty slave, who will lead
you through the garden and through a small door at the back, and will
guide you to any spot where you may wish to go. Even now, doubtless, a
watch is being kept up in the front of the house. When the officials
arrive I shall tell them the truth–that coming, as I drove, upon a
lad who was being attacked and murdered by a number of brutal
peasants, I carried him off in my chariot. As to the shouts I heard,
that you were the slayer of the Cat of Bubastes, I regarded it as an
invention designed to hinder me from interfering on your behalf; that
I questioned you upon your arrival here, and finding that, as I had
supposed, you were entirely innocent of the offense charged against
you, I urged you to leave at once, letting you depart by the garden
gate in order to escape the fury of your persecutors. As you are not
an Israelite, no one can suppose that I could have any motive for
shielding an offender from the punishment of his crimes. Do not thank
me, for time presses, and you must be moving, so as to be well away
before it is known that you have left. May the God we both worship,
though as yet in ignorance, guide and preserve you and carry you and
your friends through the dangers that beset you.”

Moses drew back the curtains from before the entrance to the chamber
and clapped his hands, and ordered the servant who answered the call
to tell Mephres to come to him. An old slave speedily appeared, and
Moses ordered him to take Amuba out by the private way and to guide
him by quiet roads back to the city. Then cutting short his guest’s
expressions of thanks for the great kindness he had rendered him, he
hurried him away, for he knew that at any moment the officials might
arrive from the city.

It was well that Amuba had been supplied with a guide, for upon
issuing into the night air–for by this time darkness had fallen–he
found that he could with difficulty direct his steps; his head
throbbed as if it would split from the blows that had been dealt him,
and every limb ached. The old slave, however, seeing that he stumbled
as he walked, placed his staff in one of Amuba’s hands, and taking him
firmly by the arm led him steadily on. It seemed to the lad that he
went on walking all night, and yet it was less than an hour after
starting when his conductor found that he could go no further, and
that he was wholly unable to answer his questions as to whither he
wished to be guided. He determined to stop with him until he should be
able to proceed again. He therefore led Amuba aside into an orchard,
and there laid him down under the shelter of a tree, covering him with
one of his own garments.

“It is well for the lad that my lord arrived just when he did,” he
said to himself as he sat down by the side of Amuba and listened to
his heavy breathing–for all in the house had heard from the
charioteer of the rescue of the lad from the hands of furious
peasants.

“He must have been very near death when he was saved from their hands.
Maxis said that his assailants shouted out that he was the slayer of
the Cat of Bubastes about which such a turmoil has been made. Had it
been so I do not think that my lord would have aided him thus to
escape; though for my part I care not if he had killed all the cats in
Egypt, seeing that in my native Libya we worship not the gods of the
Egyptians.”

Several times during the night the old man got up and plucked large
handfuls of grass wet with dew and placed them on Amuba’s head, and
when he perceived the first faint gleam of morning in the sky he
aroused him. Amuba sat up and looked round with an air of
astonishment.

“Where am I?” he exclaimed.

“You are at present in an orchard, my young friend, though to whom it
may belong I know not; but finding that you were unable to continue
your journey I drew you aside here, and you have slept well all night,
and I hope feel better for it and able to proceed.”

“I remember now,” Amuba said; “it seemed to me that I walked for hours
leaning on your arm.”

“It was but an hour,” the slave replied; “we are not yet two miles
from my lord’s house.”

“And you have watched over me all night,” Amuba said; “for it was, I
know, but an hour after sunset when we started. Truly I am deeply
indebted to you for your kindness.”

“Speak not of it,” the old man replied. “My lord gave you into my
charge, and I cannot return until I can tell him that you are in
safety. But if you are able to walk we must pass on, for there may be
a search for you as soon as it is light.”

“I am perfectly able to go on,” Amuba said; “thanks to the wet grass I
see you have been piling round my head, the heat seems to have passed
away and the throbbing to have ceased.”

Amuba was indeed now able to walk at a brisk pace.

“Which way do you want to go?” the slave asked him in a short time.
“It is getting light enough now for me to see your face, and it will
never do for you to meet any one. Your head is still swollen, and
there are marks of bruises and cuts all over the scalp. Your
appearance will attract attention at once, and if any saw you who had
heard of last evening’s doings you would be at once suspected.”

“I will make direct for the hills,” Amuba said. “They are not far
distant, and I can easily conceal myself among the rocks until
sunset.”

“Let us hurry on, then,” the slave said; “it is but half an hour’s
walk. But as we may at any moment now meet peasants going to their
work, I will go on ahead; do you follow a hundred yards behind me. If
I see any one coming I will lift my hand above my head, and do you at
once step aside from the road into the vineyard or orchard, and lie
there until they have passed.”

Amuba followed these instructions, and it was more than an hour before
he reached the foot of the hills, so often did he have to turn aside
to avoid groups of peasants. At last he reached the foot of the rugged
ascent. Here he took leave of his guide with many warm thanks for his
kindness and services, and with a message of gratitude to his lord.
Then Amuba ascended the hill for a short distance, and laid himself
down among some great bowlders.

Although greatly refreshed by his night’s rest he was still weak and
shaken, and felt altogether unequal to making his way along the hills
for the four miles which intervened between himself and the
hiding-place of his friends among the tombs above the city. He was
soon asleep again, and the sun was already some distance down the sky
when he awoke. He waited until it sank behind the brow of the hill
above him, and then climbing some distance higher made his way along
the hillside, having little fear that his figure would be noticed now
that the hillside was in shadow. Darkness had just fallen when he
arrived at the tomb they used as their shelter. A figure was standing
there in deep shadow. As he turned the path and approached, it
advanced to meet him. Then there was a cry of joy, and Jethro sprang
forward and clasped him in his arms.

“My dear Amuba, I never thought to see you in life again!”

A moment later Chebron ran out, and in his turn embraced Amuba.

“I shall never forgive you and I shall never forgive myself,” he said
reproachfully. “What right had you to take my danger upon yourself? It
was wrong, Amuba; and I have suffered horribly. Even though we are as
brothers, why should you sacrifice yourself for me, especially when it
is my life and not yours that is forfeited? I told myself a thousand
times last night that I was base and cowardly in allowing you and
Jethro to risk your lives for me, when by giving myself up the rage of
the people will be satisfied, and you could make your way out of this
land without great danger. It was bad enough that you should share my
risk, but when it comes to your taking it all upon your shoulders that
I should escape free, I can accept such sacrifice no longer; and
to-morrow I will go down and surrender myself.”

Amuba was about to burst into remonstrance, when Jethro touched him as
a sign to be silent. The Rebu knew how acutely Chebron had suffered
and how he had spent the night in tears and self-reproaches, and felt
that it was better to allow his present agitation to pass before
arguing with him.

“Are you hungry, Amuba?” he asked.

“That I am, Jethro. I had nothing save a mouthful of bread since our
meal here yesterday; and you will get no news out of me until I have
eaten and drunk.” A meal of cakes and cool fish and a draught of wine
was soon taken; and Amuba said, “Now I will tell you all about it.”

“We know the first part,” Jethro said. “When I returned here yesterday
evening I found Chebron almost beside himself with anxiety. He told me
how he had been discovered by one of the slaves of Ptylus who knew him
by sight; how you had attacked the slave, rescued him from his hands,
and then joined him in his flight; how you insisted that you should
separate; and how the pursuers had all followed on your track, leaving
him to return here unmolested. He had been here upward of two hours
when I arrived, and as the time had passed on without your return he
had become more and more anxious. Of course I at once started out to
gather news, and had the greatest difficulty in persuading him to
remain here, for he scorned the idea of danger to himself from the
search which would be sure to be again actively set on foot. However,
as I pointed out it was necessary that if you returned you should find
somebody here, he at last agreed to remain.

“When I got into the town I found the whole city in the streets. The
news had come that the slayers of the cat had been discovered; that
one had escaped, but that the other had been overtaken after a long
chase; and that he had been set upon and would have been slain, as he
well deserved, had not one of the princes of the royal house arrived
and carried him off in his chariot. This news excited the greatest
surprise and indignation, and two officers of the city had gone out to
the prince’s mansion, which was six miles away from the city, to claim
the fugitive and bring him to the town, when he would be at once
delivered to the just anger of the populace.

“As soon as I learned this I started out along the road by which they
would return, and hurried on past the people already gathered there. I
had brought my sword with me, and my intention was that as the chariot
returned with you I would leap upon it, surprise and slay the
officials, and drive off with you; for I knew you would be able to
take no part in making the escape, as I had heard that you were
already insensible when carried off in the chariot. There were groups
of people all along the road with torches, but I thought that a sudden
surprise would probably be successful.

“At last I heard the chariot approaching. It was being driven more
slowly than I had expected. As it came to a large group of people some
distance ahead of me it stopped for a moment, and the official
addressed the people. There was no shout or sound of exultation, and I
felt convinced at once that either upon their arrival they had found
that you were already dead, or that in some miraculous way you had
escaped. I therefore hurried back to the next group. When the chariot
came up there was a shout of, ‘What is the news? Where is the
malefactor?’ The officials checked their horses and replied: ‘A
mistake has been made. The prince assures us that the lad was a poor
slave and wholly innocent of this affair. He has satisfied himself
that in their jealousy for the honor of the gods the peasants who
attacked the lad committed a grievous wrong and fell upon a wholly
innocent person. After assuring himself of this he had had his wounds
bound up and suffered him to depart. The prince intends to lay a
complaint before the council against the persons who have cruelly
maltreated and nearly murdered an innocent person, who, he stated,
interfered in the matter because he saw a slave attacking a young lad,
and who fled fearing trouble because of the punishment he had
inflicted upon the aggressor.’

“The announcement was received in silence; but when the chariot had
driven on again there was much murmuring. This account had certainly
the appearance of truth; for it was already known by the narrative of
the slave who recognized Chebron that the person who rescued him was a
youth and a stranger to him, and that it was this youth who had been
pursued while Chebron himself had escaped. Still there was murmuring
that the prince should in so important a matter have suffered the
youth to depart without a more searching examination. Some said that
even if the boy’s story was true he deserved punishment for attacking
the slave who had arrested Chebron, while others said that as he had
certainly been beaten almost to death, he had been punished
sufficiently. All agreed that no doubt the whole affair would be
investigated.

“I hurried back again with the news, and all night we watched for you,
and when morning came without your arrival we were almost as anxious
as before, fearing that you had been too badly injured to rejoin us,
and that to-day you would almost certainly be recaptured. As the
search for Chebron would assuredly be actively carried out, I insisted
on his remaining quiet here while I made frequent journeys down to the
city for news; but beyond the certainty that you had not been
recaptured, although a diligent search had been made for you as well
as for Chebron, I learned nothing. Now, Amuba, I have relieved you of
the necessity for much talk; you have only to fill in the gaps of the
story and to tell us how it was that you persuaded this Egyptian
prince of your innocence.”

“It is rather a long story, Jethro; but now that I have had a meal I
feel strong enough to talk all night, for I have had nearly
twenty-four hours’ sleep. First, I will tell Chebron that when I took
the pursuers off his track I had no idea of sacrificing myself, for I
made sure that I should be able to outrun them, and I should have done
so easily had it not been for fresh people constantly taking up the
pursuit and at last running me down.”

Amuba then related the whole story of his flight, his attack with
the peasants and his rescue, and then recited the whole of his
conversation with his rescuer and his proceedings after leaving his
house. “So you see,” he concluded, “that strangely enough it was the
teaching of your father, Chebron, and the tale that Ruth told us, and
that her grandfather before told you, of the God of their forefathers,
that saved my life. Had it not been that this prince of Israelitish
birth also believed in one God, it could hardly be that he would have
saved me from the vengeance of the people, for as he says he is in
disfavor with the king, and his conduct in allowing me to go free
merely on my own assertion of my innocence is likely to do him further
harm. This he would assuredly never have risked had it not been for
the tie between us of a common faith in one great God.”

“It is a strange story,” Jethro said when Amuba brought his narrative
to a conclusion, “and you have had a marvelous escape. Had it not been
for the arrival of this prince upon the spot at the very moment you
must have been killed. Had he not have been of a compassionate nature
he would never, in the first place, have interfered on your behalf;
and had it not been for your common faith, he would have held you
until the officials arrived to claim you. Then, too, you were
fortunate, indeed, in the kindness of your guide; for evidently had it
not been for your long rest, and the steps he took to reduce the heat
of your wounds, you must have fallen into the hands of the searchers
this morning. Above all, I consider it extraordinary that you should
at the critical moment have been rescued by perhaps the one man in
Egypt who would have had the will and the courage to save you.”

Upon the following morning Jethro and Amuba succeeded with some
difficulty in dissuading Chebron from his determination to give
himself up, the argument that had the most powerful effect being that
by so doing he would be disobeying the last orders of his father. It
was resolved that in future as a better disguise he should be attired
as a woman, and that the watch upon the house of Ptylus should be
recommenced; but that they should station themselves further away. It
was thought, indeed, that the search in that neighborhood was likely
to be less rigorous than elsewhere, as it would not be thought
probable that the fugitives would return to a spot where they had been
recognized. Amuba’s disguise was completely altered. He was still in
the dress of a peasant, but, by means of pigments obtained from
Chigron, Jethro so transformed him as to give him, to a casual
observer, the appearance of advanced years.

They had had a long discussion as to the plan they would adopt, Amuba
and Jethro wishing Chebron to leave the watching entirely to them. But
this he would not hear of, saying that he was confident that, in his
disguise as a woman, no one would know him.

“We must find out which way he goes, to begin with,” he said. “After
that none of us need go near the house. I will buy a basket and some
flowers from one of the peasant women who bring them in, and will take
my seat near the gate. By three o’clock Plexo will have finished his
offices in the temple, and may set out half an hour later. I shall see
at least which road he takes. Then, when you join me at dusk, one of
you can walk a mile or two along the road; the other twice as far. We
shall then see when he returns whether he has followed the road any
considerable distance or has turned off by any crossroads, and can
post ourselves on the following day so as to find out more.”

“The plan is a very good one, Chebron, and we will follow it. Once we
get upon his trail I will guarantee that it will not be long before we
trace him to his goal.”

Accordingly that afternoon Chebron, dressed as a peasant woman, took
his seat with a basket of flowers fifty yards from the entrance to the
house of Ptylus. At about the time he expected Plexo and his father
returned together from the temple. Half an hour later a light chariot
with two horses issued from the gate. Plexo was driving and an
attendant stood beside him. Chebron felt sure that if Plexo was going
to visit Mysa he would take the road leading into the country, and the
post he had taken up commanded a view of the point where the road
divided into three–one running straight north along the middle of the
valley, while the others bore right and left until one fell into the
great road near the river, the other into that on the side of the
valley near the hills. It was this last that Plexo took; and although
he might be going to visit acquaintances living in the many villas
scattered for miles and miles along the roadside, Chebron felt a
strong hope that he was going to Mysa’s hiding-place. As soon as it
was dark he was joined by Jethro and Amuba.

“He started at three o’clock!” Chebron exclaimed as they came up to
him, “and took the road leading to the foot of the hills.”

“We will go on there at once,” Jethro said. “He may return before
long, and we must hurry. Do you walk quietly on, Chebron, and stop at
the point where the road ahead runs into the main road. Amuba shall
stop two miles further; I will go two miles further still. If he comes
along the road past me we will begin at that point to-morrow.”

Jethro had but just reached the spot at which he proposed to wait when
he heard the sound of wheels approaching, and a minute later the
chariot drove along. The moon was not up, but the night was clear and
bright; and, advancing as close he could to the passing chariot, he
was able to recognize Plexo. The latter gave an angry exclamation as
his horses shied at the figure which had suddenly presented itself,
and gave a cut with his whip at Jethro. A minute later the chariot had
disappeared and Jethro returned toward the city, picking up on his way
Amuba and Chebron.

The next night Amuba took up his station a mile beyond the spot at
which Jethro had seen the chariot, Jethro another mile ahead, while
Chebron watched the crossroads near the town; but this time it did not
come along, although Chebron had seen him start the same hour as
before.

“I hardly expected to see him to-night,” Jethro said when he joined
the others after fruitlessly waiting for three hours. “He will hardly
be likely to visit her two days in succession. He will be more likely
to leave her for a week to meditate on the hopelessness of refusing to
purchase her liberty at the price of accepting him as her husband.
Doubtless he has to-day merely paid a visit to some friends.”

It was not, indeed, until the fourth night of waiting that Plexo came
along. This time he did not pass Jethro at all, and it was therefore
certain that he had turned off from the main road either to the right
or left at some point between the post of Jethro and that of Amuba.
When this was determined they agreed, after a consultation, not to
return to their hiding-places near Thebes that night, but to lie down
under some trees by the roadside until morning broke, and then to
examine the road carefully. It was not likely that another chariot
would pass before morning, and they might be able to follow the tracks
along the dusty road.

In this way they discovered the road where he had turned off; but
beyond this the tracks did not show, as the road was hard and almost
free from dust. It lay, as they expected, toward the hills; but there
were so many country mansions of the wealthy classes dotted about, and
so many crossroads leading to these and to the farmhouses of the
cultivators, that they felt they were still far from attaining the
object of their search.

After some discussion it was agreed that they should ascend the hills
and remain there during the day, and that Jethro should return to the
town as soon as it became dark to obtain a store of provisions
sufficient to last them for a week. This was done, and the next day
they separated at dawn and took up their places on the hills at a
distance of about a mile apart, choosing spots where they commanded a
view over the valley, and arranging to meet at a central point when
night came on.

CHAPTER XV.

AMERES IS REVENGED.

Six days passed without their watch being rewarded; then Chebron,
whose post was just opposite the road where they had traced the
wheels, saw a chariot turn from the main road into it. As many others
had taken that course every day he did not at first feel very hopeful,
although the time precisely tallied with that at which Plexo should
have arrived had he started at the same hour as before. As it came
near, however, he became convinced that it was the vehicle he was
looking for. The horses tallied in color with those of Plexo, and the
color of his dress could even at that distance be distinguished. This
time, however, he was not accompanied by a servant, but by a figure
the whiteness of whose garment showed him also to be a priest. “That
must be Ptylus,” he said to himself, “my father’s murderer. Would I
were down by the edge of the road, with my bow and arrows; high priest
as he has now become, I would send an arrow through his heart!”

The chariot turned off by the road parallel to that which had been
followed from Thebes, and so close to the foot of the hills that from
Chebron’s post he could no longer see it. As soon as it was out of
sight he leaped to his feet and hurried along the hills to join Amuba,
whose post was next to his own. He found his friend had already gone
on, and he hurried breathlessly on until he reached Jethro, who had
been joined by Amuba a few minutes before.

“Have you seen them?” he exclaimed.

“I have seen them and marked them down,” Jethro replied. “You see that
roof among those trees at the foot of the hill half a mile further
along? They turned off the road and entered these trees. Our search is
over at last.”

“What had we better do, Jethro? Wait until they have left again, and
then go down?”

“No,” Jethro said sternly. “There are two things to be done–the one
is to rescue Mysa; the other to punish the murderer of Ameres. But
even did we determine to delay our vengeance I should say we must
still press on. You saw that arch-villain Ptylus with his son. He has
assuredly come for some purpose; probably he may intend to terrify the
girl until he drives her into taking some solemn oath that she will
accept Plexo as her husband. What can a girl of that age do in the
hands of unscrupulous villains like these? It may be that this fox
Plexo has been trying flattery; and, finding that failed, has called
in Ptylus, who can threaten her with the anger of these gods of hers,
to say nothing of perpetual imprisonment and harsh treatment. We will
therefore push on at once. Amuba and I carry our stout peasant staves,
while you, Chebron, have your dagger concealed under that female
dress. We shall have all the advantage of surprise in our favor. It is
not likely that there are more than one or two men there, with perhaps
a female servant. Ptylus would not wish the secret to be known to more
than was absolutely necessary. Of course it is possible that the four
men who carried her off may all be on guard there, but if so, it makes
but six; and what with the surprise, and what with their not knowing
how numerous we are, that number should not be more than sufficient
for us to dispose of without difficulty. At any rate, were there
twenty I would not hesitate; honest men need never fear an encounter
with rogues.”

“Especially,” Amuba said, “when the honest men possess such sinews as
yours, Jethro, and a good heavy cudgel in their hands.”

Jethro smiled, but was in too earnest a mood to answer, and at once
led the way along the hillside until immediately behind the house
among the trees; then they descended, climbing with some difficulty
over the wall surrounding the wood, and entered the inclosure.
Treading as lightly as possible Jethro and his companions passed
through the wood and made their way up to the house. It was small but
handsomely built, and was surrounded with a colonnade supported by
carved pillars. The garden immediately around it was evidently
carefully tended, and the house, from its secluded position, was well
fitted as a place of sojourn for a wealthy priest or noble desirous of
a few days’ rest and retirement from the bustle of the great city. As
all were barefooted they passed across the garden to the colonnade
without the slightest sound. As they reached it Jethro held up his
hand for them to stop, for the sound of voices came through the wide
doorway of an apartment opening out to the colonnade. Both Chebron and
Amuba at once recognized the voice of Ptylus.

“I will put up with no more of this folly, Mysa. You should think
yourself fortunate in the extreme, in the position in which you are,
belonging to a disgraced family, to receive such an offer as my son
makes to you. I will have an answer at once. You will either swear
before the gods that you accept Plexo as your future husband, that you
will reply to all who question you that you have been staying here by
your own free will, and that you remained in concealment simply
because you were overwhelmed with horror at the terrible act of
sacrilege committed by your brother, or you will this night be
confined in a tomb, where you will remain alone and without the light
of day until you agree to my conditions. You don’t think, you little
fool, that I, Ptylus, high priest of Osiris, am to be thwarted in my
plans by the opposition of a child like you.”

Here a voice, which the three listeners recognized to their surprise
as that of Ruth, broke out:

“Do not listen to him, Mysa. Whatever comes of it, never consent to
lie before God, as this wicked man would have you. You call yourself a
high priest, sir. What must be the worth of the gods you pretend to
worship if they suffer one like you to minister to them? Were they
gods, and not mere images of stone, they would strike you dead at the
altar.”

A furious exclamation broke from Ptylus, and he stepped forward and
seized the Hebrew girl roughly by the shoulder, only to start back
with another exclamation as Ruth struck him with her open hand, with
all her force, on the cheek.

“Drag her hence, Plexo!” he exclaimed. But at this moment the entrance
was darkened, and the three listeners sprang into the room.

Ptylus had the courage that distinguished his race, and although for a
moment startled at the sudden entry he did not recoil, but drawing a
sword from his girdle he said haughtily:

“Who are you, and what means this intrusion?”

“We are those whom you have been hunting to death, Ptylus; and we come
here as avengers of blood. As you brought about the murder of Ameres,
so you must die–to say naught of your offense in carrying off the
daughter of the man you slew.”

Without a word Ptylus rushed upon Jethro with his sword, thinking to
make short work of this insolent peasant; but as he did so, Jethro
whirled his massive club round his head, and catching the blow upon
it, shivered the sword in pieces.

Ptylus stopped his arm, and, gazing steadily at his opponent, said:

“Wretch, do you dare to murder the high priest of Osiris?”

“No,” Jethro said, “but I dare to execute him,” and he brought his
heavy club down with all his strength upon the head of the priest.

At this moment Plexo, who had stolen unobserved from the room the
instant the others entered, returned, followed by three armed men.
Chebron and Amuba were so intent upon the combat between Jethro and
the priest that they did not notice the entrance of Plexo, who, with
uplifted knife, sprang upon Chebron.

There was a scream of warning, and quick as thought Ruth sprang
forward and pushed Plexo as he sprang through the air. The sudden
shock threw both to the ground. Ruth sprang to her feet again, but
Plexo lay there motionless. The three armed men stood for a moment
stupefied at the fall of their two employers, and then, seeing two men
and a woman, rushed forward to attack them. One sweeping blow with
Jethro’s staff felled the first of his assailants to the ground; the
others paused irresolute.

“Drop your weapons, or you are dead men!” Jethro exclaimed. “You are
outnumbered; and if you move, you die!”

As Chebron had now thrown back his female robe and drawn his dagger,
and taken his place at the door, while Jethro and Amuba were advancing
against them, the two men dropped their weapons.

“Hold out your hands,” Jethro said. “My son, stand over them with your
club, and break the skull of either who may move.”

The men did as they were ordered. Jethro tore strips of cloth off
their garments, twisted them into ropes, and bound their wrists firmly
together. The meaning tone in which Jethro had called Amuba his son
had not escaped either Amuba or Chebron, who saw that Jethro was
desirous of concealing their names. Mysa, who had raised a cry of joy
when Jethro first spoke, had sunk terrified upon a couch, and had
hidden her face in her hands during the short encounter; while Ruth
had stood silent and vigilant beside her, moving only when Plexo
rushed at Chebron, and retiring to Mysa’s side again as soon as she
had regained her feet. She, too, understood Jethro’s motives in
calling Amuba his son, and stooping over Mysa she said:

“It is all over now, Mysa, but remain quiet at present. Do not speak
until you see what is going to be done.”

As soon as the men were tied Jethro secured in the same manner the man
who was lying stunned from his blow. Then he turned to Plexo, who had
not moved since he had fallen. He half turned him round, and uttered a
low exclamation of surprise.

“Gastrion,” he said to Chebron, “go with the young lady into the
garden, and remain there until we join you.”

Chebron passed out on to the colonnade, following Mysa and Ruth. The
moment they were unobserved Mysa threw her arms round him, and burst
into tears with joy.

“Oh, Chebron!” she exclaimed, “you have arrived just in time. I
thought we were never going to get away from that dreadful man; and I
don’t know what I should have done if it hadn’t been for Ruth. And,
oh! they have been telling me such terrible things–but they can’t be
true–that our dear father had been killed; and that it was you,
Chebron, who killed dear Paucis; but of course I did not believe
them–I knew it was all their wickedness.”

“Never mind about that, dear,” Chebron said; “we will talk about all
this afterward. The first thing is to get you away from this place.
Jethro and Amuba will soon decide what is best to be done. Are there
any others in the house?”

“There is one other man,” Ruth replied, “and an old woman; I think the
other man is at the door with the chariot.”

“I had better tell Jethro,” Chebron said, and he again went into the
room and told Jethro what he had heard.

“We will seize the woman first,” Jethro said, “and then go out round
the house and come down from the other way upon the chariot. The man
will have heard the outcry; and if we came suddenly out of the door,
might leap into the chariot and drive off before we could overtake
him. But if we come upon it from behind we shall secure him.”

“But you have forgotten to bind Plexo,” Chebron said.

“Plexo is dead,” Jethro replied. “As he fell his arm was beneath him,
and the knife with which he had intended to strike you pierced his
heart. I am very glad that you observed the way I spoke to Amuba. It
was of the greatest importance that the name should not be mentioned.
This affair will cause a tremendous excitement. There is nothing to
connect us with Ptylus, and it may be supposed that it is the work of
some malefactors who came down from the hills in search of plunder.
The fact that Mysa was here and was carried away is not in itself any
proof that we had a hand in it, for Libyan robbers might well have
carried her and Ruth away to make slaves of. Plexo caught but a
glimpse of us, and doubtless only rushed out and called to the men to
come to his father’s assistance. At any rate, let there be no names
mentioned. Now let us finish our work here.”

The female servant was soon found and bound; then the four prisoners
were placed in different rooms, and fastened securely to the wall or
pillars.

“Never put two prisoners together,” Jethro said; “always remember
that. Tie one man up and you may keep him; tie up two and they are
sure to escape. They can bite through each other’s cords, or untie the
knot with their teeth, or possibly even with their fingers.”

“Now, what is the next thing to do?” Amuba asked.

“The next thing is to have a consultation. Do you, Chebron, go out
into the garden to the girls. Amuba and I will deal with the other
man.”

As soon as Jethro and Amuba had left him Chebron rejoined the girls.

“You saved my life, Ruth. I shall never forget it.”

“You saved me from the crocodile, my lord. It was but a push and he
fell. I scarce know how it was done.”

“Your quickness saved my life all the same, Ruth. I had not noticed
him till you cried out, and then it would have been too late. We have
been anxious for you also, Ruth. We hoped that you might be with Mysa,
but none saw you go out with her.”

“My place was with my mistress,” Ruth said quietly. “And she was more
than a mistress–she was as a friend to me.”

“But how came you here, Chebron,” Mysa again asked, “and why are you
dressed up like a peasant woman? It is not seemly in any man, much
less in you, a priest. And Amuba and Jethro, too; they are dressed as
peasants, and their faces seem changed, I do not know how. They look
darker, and I should not have known them had I not recognized Jethro’s
voice.”

“It is a long story, dear, and I will tell you all presently; and we
want to hear your story too. Ah! here come the others. It is to them,
Mysa, far more than to me that you owe your rescue. I may know more of
the learning of our people, but I have none of the readiness and
coolness of Amuba, while Jethro is as prudent as he is brave. It would
have fared hardly with me as well as with you, Mysa, had it not been
for these good friends.”

Mysa went up to them as they approached.

“Oh, Jethro! I feel how much I owe to you; and to you, Amuba. My
courage had all but given way, although Ruth strove so hard to give me
hope, and I fear I could not have long withstood the threats of that
bad man. You cannot tell what joy I felt when I recognized your
voice.”

“Our joy was as great in finding you as yours in seeing us,” Jethro
replied. “Amuba and I would gladly have laid down our lives for you.
And now let us have a consultation; there is much to decide upon and
arrange. Let us go round to the garden at the other side of the house.
There we can sit and talk, and at the same time keep watch that no one
else enters. It is not likely that any one will do so, for the place
is secluded, and none would know that these men were here; still a
peasant might enter to sell fowls or fruit, therefore it were best to
keep an eye upon the entrance.”

They went round to some seats placed beneath trees on the other side
of the house. A fountain worked by the water of a little rill on the
hillside played in front of them, and a few tame waterfowl swam in a
shallow basin around it. Everything was still and peaceful, and to
Chebron it seemed as if the events of the last three weeks had been a
hideous dream, and that they were again sitting in the garden of their
house at Thebes.

“Now, first of all,” Mysa said, “I must have my questions answered.
How are my father and mother and everyone?”

Jethro took Amuba’s arm and turned away.

“We will leave you, Chebron, to tell Mysa what has taken place. It
will be better for you to do so alone.”

Ruth rose from her seat to leave also, but Mysa put her hand on her
arm.

“I am frightened, Ruth; stay with me.”

“You told me, Mysa,” Chebron began, “that they had told you tales that
our father was dead, and that it was I who killed Paucis.”

“Yes; but I did not believe them, Chebron. Of course I did not for a
moment–at least not for a moment about you. But when I thought of
those bad men at the gate, and the crash we heard, and the noise of
the people rushing in shouting, I thought–I was afraid–that perhaps
it might be true about our father. But, oh, Chebron, surely it is not
so?”

“Alas! Mysa, it is true! They cruelly slew our father. I wish I had
been there to have fallen by his side; but you know Amuba and I were
away. Jethro fought desperately to the last, and would have died with
him had not our father himself commanded that in case anything
happened to him he was to take charge of me, and to carry me out of
the land.”

Mysa was crying bitterly now. Presently she looked up.

“But why should you want to leave the land, Chebron? Surely–surely it
is not true that you—-”

The thing seemed too terrible for her to put into words.

“That I killed poor Paucis? That is true also, Mysa.”

Mysa gave a little cry of horror.

“Oh, Ruth!” she cried, “this is too dreadful!”

Ruth put her arms round the sobbing girl. “You may be sure, Mysa, that
your brother did not do it intentionally.”

“But it is all the same,” Mysa cried. “It was the sacred cat, you
know–the Cat of Bubastes.”

“It was, Mysa; and I thought at first, as you did, that although it
was the result of an accident the anger of the gods would be poured
out against me, that I was as one accursed, whose life was forfeited
in this world, and whose spirit was destined to dwell in unclean
beasts after death. But when I told my father all, he reassured me,
and told me not to fear in any way the wrath of the gods.”

He then related to his sister the manner in which the cat had been
killed, the steps he and Amuba had taken to conceal the body, and his
avowal to his father of his fault.

“I see it was not your fault, Chebron. But you know the laws of Egypt,
and the punishment for killing even a common cat. How could our father
say that the gods would not be angry?”

“I cannot tell you all he said, Mysa; though some day had I remained
with you I might have done so. But he did say so, and you know how
wise and good he was. Therefore I want you to remember what he said,
so that when I am gone you will not all your life think of me as one
accursed.”

“Oh! I should never do that!” Mysa exclaimed, starting up and throwing
her arms round her brother’s neck. “How could you think so? But why
are you talking about going, and where are you going?”

“I am going, Mysa, because the people of Egypt do not view this matter
in the same light as my father, but are hunting all the land to find
and slay me and Amuba; for, not knowing the exact truth, they put us
down as equally guilty. So we must fly. Our father gave full
directions to Jethro, and we should by this time have been a long
distance away had it not been that we stayed to find and rescue you.”

“Then if the other things they told me are true, Chebron, it may be
true too that the letter they showed me ordering me to consent to
marry Plexo was from my mother. How could she tell me that when she
knew that I hated him, and she has over and over again spoken
scornfully of his family before me?”

“What did she say?” Chebron asked.

“She said that now disgrace had fallen on the family I might think
myself very fortunate in obtaining such an offer.”

Chebron was silent. He knew that his mother had never shown any
earnest love either for Mysa or himself, that her thoughts were
entirely devoted to dress and entertainments, and that any love she
had to give had been bestowed upon his brother.

“I fear it is true, Mysa.”

“But I will never marry Plexo!” Mysa exclaimed passionately. “My
father always said I should never marry a man I disliked.”

“You will never marry Plexo, Mysa–he is dead.”

Ruth uttered an exclamation.

“He died by his own hand, Ruth–that is, by an accident. As he fell
his dagger pierced his own heart, and when Jethro went to look at him
he was dead.”

“The Lord requited him for his evil,” Ruth said firmly. “All things
are in his hands. As I did not mean to slay him, I lament not over
his death. Besides, he strove to take your life, and had I had a
dagger in my hand I should assuredly have used it.”

“Then what is to become of me?” Mysa asked.

“You must go back to your mother, Mysa. There is naught else for you
to do.”

“I will not!” Mysa exclaimed. “She never loved me. She would have
married me against my will to Plexo, although she knew he was bad, and
that I hated him. She would make me marry some one else who was rich,
regardless of my wishes. No, Chebron, nothing shall make me go back to
her.”

Chebron looked perplexed.

“Here come Jethro and Amuba, dear. You had best talk it over with
them. I see nothing else for you to do.”

As Jethro came up Mysa walked to meet him.

“I will not go back to my mother, Jethro!” she exclaimed impetuously.
“She wanted me to marry Plexo. She would give me to some one else, and
my father always said I should only marry some one I liked. You can
never be so cruel as to give me up to her?”

“I know that your father’s wishes were strong upon that point,” Jethro
said; “for he spoke to me of you when he gave me his commands
respecting Chebron. He said that he wished that I could watch over you
as over him, and it was because of what he had said that I disregarded
his orders as to our instant flight, and lingered here in hopes of
freeing you. Still I see not anything else to be done. Your mother
doubtless wrote while still overpowered by grief at your father’s
loss, and thought that she was acting for your welfare in securing you
an advantageous marriage in spite of the cloud under which your family
was resting.”

“I will not go to her!” Mysa repeated. “She thought of herself, as
she always did, and not of me in any way. You know it was so,
Chebron–you cannot deny it!”

Chebron was silent. His whole affection had been given to his father,
for his mother he had comparatively little. As a child he had seldom
been allowed to come into the room where she was. She declared that
his noise was too much for her, that his talk made her head ache, and
that his fidgeting about was too much to be borne. Nor since that time
had he been much more with her. It was his father who had seen to his
welfare and that of Mysa, who would put aside his grave studies to
walk and talk with them, who was always indulgent, always anxious to
give them pleasure. He therefore thoroughly entered into Mysa’s
feelings, but saw no possible alternative for her.

“But where could you go, Mysa?” Jethro asked. “Where could you be
placed? Wherever you were your mother in time would be sure to hear of
it and would reclaim you.”

“I shall go with Chebron, and you, and Amuba,” Mysa said positively.

“Impossible!” Jethro replied. “We are going upon a tremendous journey,
full of danger and fatigue. We are going among unknown and savage
peoples; the chances are a hundred to one against our ever arriving at
the end of our journey. If this is so to myself and to young men like
Chebron and Amuba–for they are now past eighteen, and will speedily
be men–what chance would there be of success with you with us?”

“I can walk as well as Chebron,” Mysa said. “You know that, Chebron.
And I suppose I could suffer hardship just as well. At any rate, I
would rather suffer anything and be with him and all of you than stop
here. The people have murdered my father. My mother would sell me to
the highest bidder. If the chances are so great that you will never
get through your journey in safety, my being with you cannot make them
so much greater. I have only Chebron in the world, and I will go where
he goes and die where he dies. The gods can protect me just as well on
a journey as here. Have they not protected you now, and Chebron too,
by what he says? You will take me with you, dear Jethro, won’t you?”
she urged pleadingly. “You say my father wished you to watch over me;
do not forsake me now. Ruth will come with us too–will you not,
Ruth?–I am sure she will not be more afraid of the journey than I
am.”

“I will assuredly go if you go, Mysa. The God of Israel can take us
safely through all dangers if it be his will.”

Jethro was silent. Such an addition to his charge would assuredly add
immensely to the difficulties of the journey; but on the other hand he
remembered the anxiety of Ameres about Mysa, and he asked himself what
his late master would have wished had he known how matters stood. He
glanced at Amuba and Chebron and saw at once that their wishes agreed
with those of Mysa. He turned away abruptly, and for some minutes
paced up and down the garden. Then he returned to the group, among
whom not a word had been exchanged since he left them.

“Mysa,” he said gravely, “this is a great thing that you ask; there is
no disguising that your presence will add greatly to our difficulties,
will add also to our perils, and may render it impossible for me to
carry out your father’s wishes and to conduct Chebron to a land where
he will be beyond the persecution of Egypt. Such an enterprise must be
undertaken in no light spirit. If you go you must be prepared to face
death in all forms–by hunger and thirst and the weapons of the wild
natives. It may even be that your lot may be that of slavery among
them. It is a terrible journey for men, more terrible still for women;
still, if you are resolved, resolved with the strength and mind of a
woman and not of a child, that after having once turned your back upon
Egypt you will never repent the step you have taken or wish to return,
but will be steadfast under all the trials that may befall us, then I
say that you shall share our lot.”

Mysa uttered an exclamation of joy.

“I promise, Jethro; and whatever may happen–hardship, danger, or
death–you shall never hear a word of complaint from me. Are you not
glad, Ruth?”

“I think it well,” Ruth said gravely. “It is a great undertaking; but
I think that God’s hand is in it. I, too, would fain leave this land
of idols; and except those here I have none in the world to care for.”

“And now, Jethro,” Amuba said, “what had we best do? It is already
almost dark, therefore we could set out at once. Could we make use of
the chariot?”

Jethro considered for a short time.

“Except for carrying any things we may want for our first start, I do
not see that we can do so,” he said; “for where we leave the chariot
to-morrow morning it would be found, and when it is known that Ptylus’
chariot was missing it would soon be recognized as his, and thus a
clue be afforded to the fact that we had fled south. As to traveling
in it beyond to-night, it would be out of the question. Besides, it
will only hold three at the most. No, if we use it at all it must be
to drive north, and so throw them off the scent. I think it will be
worth doing that.”

“I will undertake that part of the business,” Amuba said. “There will
be much for you to do to-morrow, Jethro, which only you can arrange.
There’s the boat to be hired, stores laid in, and all got in
readiness. I think the best plan will be for you both to start at once
with the girls for Thebes. You and Chebron can occupy your
hiding-place on the hill, and Chigron will be glad to take the girls
into his house. There is no danger of an immediate search being made
for them.

“To-night when the priest and his son do not return their servants
will suppose that they have slept here. It will not be until late
to-morrow afternoon that there will be any alarm or any likelihood of
a messenger being sent over here; then the consternation and confusion
that will be caused will be so great that probably no one will think
of carrying the news to the officials until the next morning. Besides,
until the story of Mysa’s having been here and of her being missing is
generally known, there is no reason that what has taken place should
be attributed to us; therefore, for the next forty-eight hours I think
that they would be perfectly safe at the embalmer’s. I will drive the
chariot thirty or forty miles north, then turn the horses loose where
they are sure to be noticed ere long, and will return on foot and join
you in your hiding-place to-morrow night.”

“I think your plan is a very good one, Amuba. Before we start I will
make a search through the house. There will be nothing we want to take
with us, nor would we touch any of the treasure of the villains were
the house full of it; but if I toss some of the things about it will
look as if robbery had been the motive of what has taken place. The
men in bonds can know nothing of the real state of things. Plexo, when
he rushed out for their aid, could have had no time to do more than
to tell them to take up their arms and follow him; indeed, it is
doubtful whether he himself had any idea that we were aught but what
we seemed. Therefore, the first impression assuredly will be that we
were malefactors of the worst kind, escaped slaves, men with no
respect for the gods; for assuredly no Egyptians, even the worst of
criminals, would, in cold blood, have laid hands on the high priest of
Osiris.”

“They laid hands on my father,” Chebron said bitterly.

“Yes, but not in cold blood. Reports had first been spread among them
that he was untrue to the gods, and then they were maddened by
fanaticism and horror at the death of that sacred cat. But in cold
blood, as I said, no Egyptian, however vile and criminal, would lift
his hand against a priest. You may as well come with me, Amuba; it
would be strange if one of us only took part in the search.”

In ten minutes Jethro and Amuba had turned the place into confusion in
forcing open chests and cabinets and littering the floor with
garments; then taking a few of the most valuable vases and jewels they
threw them into the pond round the fountain, where they would be
concealed from view by the water-lilies which floated on its surface.

They examined afresh the fastenings of the captives, and felt assured
that by no possibility could they free themselves.

“They will be sure to be freed by to-morrow night,” Amuba said,
“otherwise I should not like to leave them here to die of hunger and
thirst.”

“I should be only too glad,” Jethro said, “if I thought there was a
chance of their being here forty hours instead of twenty. Doubtless
this is not the first evil business they have carried out for their
villain master, and they may think themselves lucky indeed that we do
not take what would be in every way the safest and best course,
namely, to run a sword through their bodies and silence them forever.
If I thought they could tell anything I would do so now; but I really
do not think that anything they can tell will add to our danger. Of
course the priest’s wife knows that Mysa is hidden here, and will
proclaim the fact that she has been here and is now missing, as she
would consider it might afford a clew for the apprehension of those
who attacked the house and slew her husband and son; therefore I do
not see that there would be much to be gained by silencing these
people; but if you think differently I will finish them at once.”

Amuba shook his head, for although human life in those days was
thought little of, save by the Egyptians themselves, he shrank from
the thought of slaying captives in cold blood.

“No, they can tell nothing, Jethro. You had best be moving; there is
nothing more to talk over. I think all our plans were arranged long
ago; except, of course, that you must get rather a larger boat than
you had intended, together with garments for the girls. I think it
would be best that Chebron should still be disguised as a woman; but
we can settle that to-morrow night. There is a good store of dresses
for us to choose from at Chigron’s.”

Amuba led the horses to a stone water trough and allowed them to
quench their thirst. Then he mounted the chariot and drove off, while
the rest of the party set out on foot for Thebes. It was so late
before they reached Chigron’s house that they thought it better not to
arouse the inmates, as comment would be excited by the arrival of
women at so late an hour and unexpected by the master; the girls,
therefore, passed the night in the rock chamber behind the building,
while Jethro and Chebron lay down outside.

As soon as dawn broke they moved some distance away. Jethro went to
the house as soon as there was a sign that there was any one astir,
and told Chigron that they had discovered and rescued Mysa. Chigron
was much disturbed when he heard of the death of the high priest and
his son.

“I don’t say these men were not villains, Jethro; but that two high
priests should be slaughtered in the course of a month is enough to
bring the anger of all the gods upon Egypt. However, the poor girls
are not responsible for it in any way, and I will willingly shelter
them, especially as it is but for one night; but I own that I shall be
vastly relieved when I know that you are all fairly on your journey.”

“That I can well understand,” Jethro said; “and believe me, the
gratitude of those you have sheltered, which you will have as long as
they live, may well outweigh any doubts that may present themselves as
to whether you have acted wisely in aiding those who are victims to
the superstitions of your countrymen.”

Chigron called his servants and told them that he had just heard of
the arrival from the country of some friends, and ordered a room to be
prepared for them. He then went out and returned an hour later with
the two girls. He led them quietly into the house and direct to the
apartment prepared for them, so that they were unseen by any of the
servants.

Then he called an old servant on whose fidelity he could rely, and
charged her to wait upon them during the day, and to suffer none other
to enter the apartment. He bade her convey the impression to the other
servants that the visitors were aged women, and to mention that they
intended to make a stay of a few hours only, until some friends with
whom they were going to stay should send in a cart to carry them to
their house in the country. The old woman at once prepared baths for
the girls and then supplied them with a meal, after which they lay
down on couches and were soon fast asleep; for the excitement of the
preceding evening and the strangeness of their position in the
comfortless stone chamber had prevented their closing an eye during
the night, and they had spent the hours in talking over the terrible
loss Mysa had sustained, and the journey that lay before them.

Half an hour later Chigron went out again and was soon joined by
Jethro, who had now resumed his attire as a citizen of middle class.
It was necessary that Chigron should accompany him and take the chief
part in making the arrangements; for although Jethro had learned, in
his two years’ captivity, to speak Egyptian fluently, he could not
well pass as a native. Chigron therefore did most of the bargaining,
Jethro keeping somewhat in the background.

They first took their course down to the river bank. Here innumerable
craft lay moored; for the Nile was the highway of Egypt, and except
for short journeys all traffic was carried on on its waters. As soon
as it was known that they were looking for a boat they were surrounded
by the owners of the various craft, each praising the speed, safety,
and comfort of his boat. Chigron, however, was some time before he
made his choice; then he fixed upon a boat that seemed well suited for
the purpose. She carried a mast and large sail to take advantage of
favorable winds. She was light and of very small draught, and, being
constructed entirely for passenger traffic, she had a large
cabin–divided into two parts for the accommodation of ladies–the
crew, consisting of the captain and four men, sleeping on the deck.

“I think your boat will do very well,” he said to the captain,
“provided we can come to terms. My friend is going up with his family
as far as Syene at any rate, and possibly on to Ibsciak; his business
may take him even further. What will be your terms a week?”

“I suppose my lord will provide food for the crew as well as for his
own family?”

“That will be the best way,” Jethro said.

“Then will he pay for extra hands where the current runs so strong
that the crew cannot tow the boat unaided against it?”

Jethro assented.

“And will he return with it, or remain for awhile at the end of his
journey?”

“It is probable that his business may detain him there for a
considerable time,” Chigron replied. “He has relations there with whom
he will wish to make a stay. But this should make no difference; you
will have no difficulty in obtaining passengers or freight for your
journey down.”

It was a long time before a bargain was struck, for Chigron knew that
the boatman would consider it strange indeed were the terms he first
asked to be accepted. But at last an arrangement satisfactory to both
parties was concluded. It was arranged that the start should take
place early on the following morning, and Chigron then proceeded with
Jethro to make the purchases requisite for the voyage–mats, cushions,
and curtains for furnishing the boat, cooking utensils and provisions
for the crew and passengers. Of these, however, it was not necessary
to take a very large quantity, as the boat would lie up to the bank
every night near one of the frequent villages, and here there would be
no difficulty in purchasing provisions of all kinds.

Some jars of good wine were, however, among the stores purchased, and
in addition to these were several bales of costly merchandise and a
large stock of such articles as would be useful for trade with the
natives of the wilder parts of the country. A supply of arms–bows,
arrows, and lances–was also placed on board. It was late in the
afternoon before all these things were got on board the boat and
everything arranged in order. Having seen all complete, Chigron
returned with Jethro to his house. Jethro, after seeing the girls, who
had just woke up and partaken of a meal, went up to the hiding-place
on the hill and found that Amuba had just joined Chebron there.

“Is all going on well?” the lads asked as he entered.

“Everything is in readiness. The boat is hired and furnished. I have a
good store of merchandise for trading in Meroe, besides trinkets of
many kinds for the peoples lying between Meroe and the Red Sea. So far
everything promises well. The boatmen belong to the Upper Nile, and
their dialect differs too widely from that spoken here for them to be
able to distinguish that I do not talk pure Egyptian. I wondered why
it was that Chigron was such a long time in making his choice between
the boats, when, as far as I could see, there were scores that would
have equally suited our purpose. But I found afterward that it was the
boatmen rather than the boat which he was selecting, and that he chose
those coming from far up the river, partly because their speech
differed so widely from that of Thebes that they would not detect the
roughness of my tongue; and secondly, because they would be more
likely to continue the voyage further to the south than would the
boatmen of this port, who would regard it as a serious undertaking to
proceed beyond Ibsciak. Therefore we need fear no suspicion on the
part of our boatmen. I suppose you disposed of the chariot as we
arranged, Amuba?”

“Yes, I drove north for five hours and then turned aside into a wood.
Here I loosed the horses so that they could feed as they chose. They
would doubtless by morning stray into the fields, and so attract
attention. Then there would be a search to see to whom they belonged,
and the chariot would be found. By the time that the news spreads that
Ptylus is dead, and also that his chariot and horses are missing, and
have doubtless been taken off by those who had attacked him, the
tidings that the chariot is found will have been taken to the nearest
town, and it will shortly be reported all over the country that we are
making north, and the search for us will be made in that direction
only.”

“Are you going back to the house, Jethro?”

“Yes. Chigron has given out to his servants that the visitors are
relatives of mine, and as I have been frequently seen going in and out
in this garb they are now accustomed to me; and it will be natural for
me to sleep there to-night and to start with them in the morning. We
shall start exactly at sunrise. You had better wait at a distance from
the house and follow us, coming up and joining us just as we reach the
river side. The boat will be taken above the city to the highest
steps; and we shall be able to proceed to that point without entering
the town itself. Be careful with your disguises. The news of the death
of Ptylus will not, I hope, be generally known in the city until we
are fairly afloat. Were it otherwise it would be dangerous for you to
run the risk of being seen abroad.”

CHAPTER XVI.

UP THE NILE.

Late at night Jethro again went up to the hiding-place on the hill.
Chigron had just returned from another visit to the city. He said:

“The whole of the town is in an uproar. The news that Ptylus and his
son have been found slain has been received, and the excitement is
tremendous. The death by violence of two high priests of Osiris
within so short a time is regarded as a presage of some terrible
national misfortune. That one should have been slain was an almost
unprecedented act–an insult of a terrible kind to the gods; but this
second act of sacrilege has almost maddened the people. Some regard it
as a judgment of Osiris, and deem that it is a proof that, as a few
ventured to whisper before, the death of Ameres was brought about by
an intrigue among a party of the priests, headed by Ptylus. Others see
in it a fresh proof of the anger of the god against Egypt.

“The king himself will, it is said, take part in services of
propitiation in the temple of Osiris to-morrow; sacrifices are to
be offered, they say, in all the temples. A solemn fast will be
proclaimed to-morrow, and all the people, high and low, are to shave
their eyebrows and to display the usual signs of mourning. So far I
have heard nothing as to the fact that two girls who were in the house
are discovered to be missing, but to-morrow, when those who were in
the house are questioned by the magistrates, this fact will doubtless
come out, and the men will own that by the orders of Ptylus they
carried Mysa away at the time the attack on the house was made.

“At present, however, there is no question of women in the case; and I
can go down to the boat with the girls in company with Chigron without
any fear whatever. But it is better that you should not be with us
when we embark; for when the matter comes to be talked over, some one
who sees us embark might notice that our number tallies with that of
the three persons present when Ptylus was killed, and the two missing
girls. Therefore Chigron’s opinion is that it will be safer for you to
start at once and walk to Mita, a village twenty miles up the river.
There the boat will lie up to-morrow night, and as soon as it is dark
you can come on board. I shall tell the boatmen that I expect you to
join us there, as you have gone on ahead to transact some business for
me in the neighborhood.”

“That is certainly the best plan,” Amuba agreed. “There are too many
who know Chebron by sight for it to be safe for him to go down to the
boat here and embark in broad daylight. I will take two hours’ sleep
before I start; for as I did not sleep last night, and have walked
forty miles since I left the chariot, I feel in need of a little
repose before I start again. I was foolish not to have slept this
afternoon, for I have since midday been hiding near; but there was so
much to think about that I had no inclination to do so, especially as
I believed that we would have a night’s rest here.”

“I will wake you,” Chebron said. “I have been asleep the better part
of the day, having had nothing to do since we arrived here yesterday
evening.”

Chebron sat watching the stars until he saw that they had made two
hours’ journey through the sky. Then he roused Amuba. Both now laid
aside their garments as peasants and put on the attire prepared for
them as the sons of a small trader. Amuba had submitted, although with
much disgust, to have his head shaved on the night following the death
of Ameres, and it was a satisfaction to him to put on a wig; for,
accustomed as he was to see the bare heads of the peasants, it was
strange and uncomfortable to him to be going about in the same
fashion.

As soon as they were dressed they started, made their way down to the
bank of the river above the town, and walked along the broad causeway
by the stream until within a mile or two of their destination. Then
they turned off toward a clump of trees which were visible by the
first gleam of dawn a quarter of a mile away. Here they slept for some
hours, and late in the afternoon returned to the side of the river and
strolled quietly along, watching the boats. Those in the middle of the
stream were making their way down with the current lightly and easily,
the crews often singing merrily, rejoicing over the approaching
meeting with their friends after an absence of many weeks. The boats
going up the stream were all close to the bank, the crews walking
along the causeway and laboring at the towropes, for there was not
enough wind to render the sails of any utility in breasting the
stream. The craft were of various kinds, some shapeless and rudely
fashioned, used in conveying corn from the country higher up down to
Thebes, and now returning empty. Others were the fancifully painted
boats of the wealthy, with comfortable cabins and sails of many colors
richly decorated and embroidered. These were carrying their owners up
or down the river, between their country mansions and the city.

It was half an hour after sunset when the two friends arrived at
Mita. Darkness falls quickly in Egypt after the sun has gone down, and
their features could scarcely have been recognized had they been met
by any one acquainted with them in the streets. The scene in the
streets of the little village was a busy one. Its distance from Thebes
rendered it a general halting-place for the night of the boats which
had left the capital early, and a great number of these were already
moored off the bank, while others were arriving in quick succession.
The boatmen and passengers were busy making their purchases at the
shops; fishermen, with well-filled baskets, were shouting the praises
of their fish; fowlers, with strings of ducks and geese hanging from
poles from their shoulders, were equally clamorous in offering them
for sale.

The shops of the fruiterers and bakers and those of the venders of the
vegetables that formed so large a portion of the diet of the Egyptians
were all crowded, and the wine shops were doing a brisk business.

Chebron and Amuba made their way through the busy scene, keeping a
sharp lookout for Jethro, for they considered it certain that owing to
the early start the boat was to make it would have arrived there some
hours before, and that he would be on the lookout for them. In a few
minutes they saw him looking into one of the shops. He started as they
went up to him and touched him, for he had not perceived them before.

“All well?” Amuba asked.

“Everything has gone off admirably. We got off without the slightest
trouble. But come on board at once; the girls are anxious about you,
although I assured them that there was not the slightest risk of your
being discovered on your way here.”

So saying, Jethro led the way to the boat, which was moored by the
bank a hundred yards above the village, “in order,” Jethro said, “that
they could make an early start in the morning, and be off before the
rest of the boats were under way.”

“Here are your brothers,” Jethro said in a loud voice as he stepped on
board. “I found them dawdling and gossiping in the street, forgetting
altogether that you were waiting for your evening meal until they came
on board.”

Both entered the cabin, which was about eight feet wide and twelve
feet long, but not high enough for them to stand upright. The floor
was spread with a thick carpet; cushions and pillows were arranged
along each side, and thick matting hung from the top. In the daytime
this was rolled up and fastened, so that the air could play through
the cabin and those within could look out at the river; but at present
it closed the openings and kept out both the night air and the glances
of passers-by. At the other end was a door opening into the smaller
cabin allotted to the girls. A lamp swung from the beams overhead.
Mysa gave a cry of pleasure as they entered and was about to spring to
her feet, when Jethro exclaimed:

“Mind your head, child! You are not accustomed to these low quarters
yet.”

“Thank the gods we are together again!” Mysa said as Chebron, after
embracing her, sat down on the cushion beside her. “I feel almost
happy now, in spite of the dreadful times that have passed.”

“It does feel homelike here,” Chebron said, looking round, “especially
after sleeping in the open air on the hard ground, as we have been
doing for the last month.”

“I should hardly have known you, Amuba,” Mysa said. “You do look so
different in your wig, and with your skin darkened.”

“I must look horrible,” Amuba replied rather ruefully.

“You don’t look so nice,” Mysa replied frankly. “I used at first to
think that short, wavy golden hair of yours was strange, and that you
would look better in a wig like other people; but now I am sorry it is
gone.”

“Here is our meal,” Jethro said as the hangings that served as a door
were drawn aside, and one of the men entered bearing a dish of fried
fish and another of stewed ducks, which he placed on the floor.

Jethro produced some cups and a jar of wine from a locker in the
cabin, and then the men, by his orders, brought in a jar of water for
the use of the girls. Then sitting round the dishes they began their
meal, Jethro cutting up the food with his dagger, and all helping
themselves with the aid of their fingers and pieces of bread, that
served them for the purpose of forks. Mysa had been accustomed always
to the use of a table; but these were only used in the abodes of the
rich, and the people in general sat on the ground to their meals.

“We have not begun our hardships yet,” Mysa said, smiling. “I should
not mind how long this went on. I call this much better than living in
a house; don’t you, Ruth?”

“It is more natural to me than that great house of yours,” Ruth
replied; “and of course to me it is far more homelike and comfortable.
For I do not think I was a favorite among the other servants; they
were jealous of the kindness you showed me.”

“There is one thing I wanted to say,” Jethro said. “It is better that
we should not call each other by our names, I am sure that the boatmen
have no suspicion here that we are other than what we seem to be; but
they can hardly help hearing our names, for all Egypt has rung with
them for the last month, and it would be well if we change them for
the present. You must of necessity call me father, since that is the
relation I am supposed to bear to you. Amuba can become Amnis and
Chebron Chefu.”

“And I will be Mytis,” Mysa said. “What name will you take, Ruth?
There is no Egyptian name quite like yours.”

“It matters not what you call me,” Ruth said.

“We will call you Nite,” Mysa said. “I had a great friend of that
name, but she died.”

“And there is one thing, Nite,” Chebron said, “that I wish you to
understand. Just now you spoke to me as my lord Chebron. That sort of
thing must not be any longer. We are all fugitives together, and Mysa
and I have no longer any rank. Jethro and Amuba are of high rank in
their own country, and if we ever get safely to their own people they
will be nobles in the land, while we shall be but strangers, as he was
when he and Jethro came into Egypt. Therefore any talk of rank among
us is but folly. We are fugitives, and my life is forfeited if I am
discovered in my own land. Jethro is our leader and guardian, alike by
the will of our father and because he is older and wiser than any of
us. Amuba is as my elder brother, being stronger and braver and more
accustomed to danger than I; while you and Mysa are sisters, inasmuch
as you are both exiled from your own land, and are friendless, save
for each other and us.”

“I am glad to hear you say that, brother,” Mysa said. “I spoke to her
last night about it, for she would insist on treating me as if she
were still my servant; which is absurd, and not nice of her, when she
is going out with us to share our dangers only because she loves me.
It is I rather who should look up to her, for I am very helpless, and
know nothing of work or real life, while she can do all sorts of
things; besides, when we were captives it was she who was always brave
and hopeful, and kept up my spirits when, I do think, if it had not
been for her I should have died of grief and terror.”

“By the way,” Jethro said, “we have not heard yet how it was that you
were together. We heard of your being carried off, but old Lyptis told
me that no one had seen aught of you.”

“They were all scared out of their senses,” Ruth said scornfully. “The
men suddenly ran into the room and seized Mysa, and twisted a shawl
round her head before she had time to call out. I screamed, and one of
them struck me a blow which knocked me down. Then they carried her
off. I think I was stunned for a moment. When I recovered I found they
were gone. I jumped up and ran along the passage and through the hall,
where the women were screaming and crying, and then out of the house
through the garden, and out of the gate. Then I saw four men at a
short distance off carrying Mysa to a cart standing a hundred yards
away. I ran up just as they laid her in it. One of them turned upon me
with a dagger. I said:

“‘Let me go with her, and I will be quiet. If not, I will scream; and
if you kill me, it will only set the people on your traces.’

“The men hesitated, and I ran past them and climbed into the cart, and
threw myself down by Mysa, and then they drove off.”

“It was brave and good of you, Ruth,” Jethro said, laying his hand on
the girl’s shoulder; “but why did you not scream when you first came
out of the gate? It might have brought aid and prevented Mysa from
being carried off.”

“I thought of that,” Ruth said, “but there were numbers of rough men
still coming in at the gate; and knowing how the people had been
stirred up to anger against us, I did not know what might happen if I
gave the alarm. Besides, I was not sure at first that these men,
although they seemed so rough and violent, were not really friends,
who were taking away Mysa to save her from the popular fury.”

“Yes, that might have been the case,” Jethro agreed. “At any rate,
child, you acted bravely and well. We were hoping all along that you
were with Mysa, for we knew what a comfort you would be to her. Only,
as the women all declared you did not pass out after her, we did
not see how that could be. And now, Mytis and Nite, you had better
retire to your own cabin to rest; for though you have both kept up
wonderfully, all this has been a great strain for you, and you are
both looking fagged and heavy-eyed. To-night you can sleep in comfort;
for, for the present, I think that there is no occasion whatever for
the slightest anxiety.”

It was some time before Jethro and his companions lay down to sleep.
They talked long and earnestly of the journey that lay before them;
and when they had exhausted this topic, Chebron said:

“Till now, Jethro, I have not asked you about my father’s funeral.
When is it to be? I have thought of it often, but as you did not speak
I thought it better not to question you.”

“I was glad you did not,” Jethro replied. “It will be in about ten
days’ time. As I believed you guessed, Chigron is embalming him; the
process will not be completed for another four days, and, as you know,
the relatives do not see the corpse after it is in the hands of the
embalmer until it is swathed and in the coffin. Chigron has done so
much that must have been against his conscience that I did not like
him to be asked to allow you to break through that custom, which to
him is a sort of religion; beside, dear lad, I thought it better for
yourself not to renew your griefs by gazing on a lifeless face.

“During the last month you have fortunately had so much to distract
your thoughts that you have not had time to dwell upon your loss.
Moreover, you have needed all your strength and your energy for your
search for your sister, and right sure am I that your father, who was
as sensible as he was wise–and the two things do not always go
together–would be far better pleased to see you energetic and active
in your search for your sister and in preparation for this new life on
which we are entering, than in vain regrets for him; therefore, lad,
for every reason I thought it better to keep silent upon the subject.
It may be a satisfaction, however, for you to know that everything
will be done to do honor to the dead.

“The king and all the great men of Egypt will be present, and Thebes
will turn out its thousands to express its grief for the deed done by
a section of its population. Had it not been for the express commands
of your father I should have thought that it might have been worth
while for you to present yourself on that occasion and it may be that
for once even the fanatics would have been satisfied to have pardoned
the offense of the son because of the wrong done to the father.
However, this affair of Ptylus puts that out of the question, for when
it is generally known that Mysa was carried off when Ptylus was slain,
public opinion will arrive at the truth and say that the fugitives of
whom they were in search, the slayers of the sacred cat, were the
rescuers of the daughter of Ameres and the slayers of the high
priest.”

“You are right, Jethro, it will be better for me not to have seen my
father; I can always think of him now as I saw him last, which is a
thousand times better than if he dwelt in my memory as he lies in the
cere-clothes in the embalming room of Chigron. As to what you say
about my appearing at the funeral, I would in no case have done it; I
would a thousand times rather live an exile or meet my death at the
hands of savages than crave mercy at the hands of the mob of Thebes,
and live to be pointed at all my life as the man who had committed the
abhorred offense of killing the sacred cat.”

The conversation in the cabin had all been carried on in an undertone;
for although through an opening in the curtains they could see the
crew–who had been eating their meal by the light of a torch of
resinous wood, and were now wrapped up in thick garments to keep off
the night dew–chatting merrily together and occasionally breaking
into snatches of song, it was prudent to speak so that not even a
chance word should be overheard. The boatmen, indeed, were in high
spirits. Their home lay far up near the borders of Upper Egypt, and it
was seldom indeed that they obtained a job which gave them the chance
of visiting their friends. Thus the engagement was most satisfactory
to them, for although their leader had haggled over the terms, he and
they would gladly have accepted half the rate of pay rather than let
such an opportunity slip. As Chebron finished speaking they were
preparing for the night by laying down a few mats on the boards of the
fore deck. Then they huddled closely together, pulled another mat or
two over them, extinguished the torch, and composed themselves to
sleep.

“We will follow their example; but a little more comfortably, I hope,”
Jethro said.

The cushions and pillows were arranged, the lamp turned low, and in a
short time all on board the boat were sound asleep. No ray of light
had entered the cabin when Amuba was awakened by a movement of the
boat, caused by a stir among the crew. He felt his way to the door and
threw back the hangings and looked out; there was a faint
greenish-yellow light in the east, but the stars were still shining
brightly.

“Good-morning, young master!” the captain said. “I hope you have slept
well.”

“So well that I could hardly believe it was morning,” Amuba replied.
“How long will it be before you are off?”

“We shall be moving in ten minutes; at present there is not light
enough to see the shore.”

“Chefu, are you awake?”

“Yes,” Chebron answered sleepily, “I am awake; thanks to your talking.
If you had lain quiet we might have slept for another hour yet.”

“You have had plenty of sleep the last twenty-four hours,” Amuba
retorted. “Take a cloth and let us land and run along the banks for a
mile, and have a bath before the boat comes along.”

“It is very cold for it,” Chebron said.

“Nonsense! the water will refresh you.”

“Come along, Chefu,” Jethro said, “your brother is right; a dip will
refresh us for the day.”

The Egyptians were most particular about bathing and washing. The heat
and dust of the climate rendered cleanliness an absolute necessity,
and all classes took their daily bath–the wealthy in baths attached
to their houses, the poor in the water of the lakes or canals. Jethro
and the two lads leaped ashore and ran briskly along the bank for
about a mile, stripped and took a plunge into the river, and were
dressed again just as the boat came along with the four men towing
her, and the captain steering with an oar at the stern. It was light
enough now for him to distinguish the faces of his passengers, and he
brought the boat straight alongside the bank. In a few minutes the
girls came out from their cabin, looking fresh and rosy.

“So you have been bathing?” Mysa said. “We heard what you were saying,
and we have had our bath too.”

“How did you manage that?” Chebron asked.

“We went out by the door at the other side of our cabin in our woollen
robes, on to that little platform on which the man is standing to
steer, and poured jars of water over each other.”

“And you both slept well?”

“Yes, indeed, and without waking once till we heard Amnis call you to
get up.”

“You disturbed everyone, you see, Amnis,” Chebron said.

“And a very good thing too,” Amuba laughed. “If we had not had our
bath when we did, we should not have got an opportunity all day. Now
we all feel fresh.”

“And ready for something to eat,” Mysa put in.

“What would you like, Mytis?” Ruth asked. “I am a capital cook, you
know, and I don’t suppose the men will be preparing their breakfast
for a long time yet.”

“I think that will be a very good plan, Mytis,” Jethro said; “but we
will divide the labor between us. The two boys shall stir up the
brands smoldering on the flat stone hearth forward, I will clean and
get ready some fish, Nite shall cook them, while Mytis shall, under
her directions, make us some cakes and put them into the hot ashes to
bake. We shall have to shift for ourselves later on. There is nothing
like getting accustomed to it. Of course the men will cook the
principal meals, but we can prepare little meals between times. It is
astonishing how many times you can eat during the day when you are in
the open air.”

In half an hour the meal, consisting of the fish, light dough-cakes,
which Mysa had with much amusement prepared under Ruth’s directions,
and fruit, was ready. The latter consisted of grapes and melons. The
meal was greatly enjoyed, and by the time it was finished the sun was
already some distance up the sky. For an hour the party sat on the
deck forward watching the boats coming down the stream and the
villages on the opposite shore; but as the sun gained power they were
glad to enter into the cabin. The mats were rolled up now to allow a
free passage of air, and as they sat on the cushions they could look
out on both sides.

Day after day passed quietly and smoothly. The men generally towed the
boat from sunrise until eleven o’clock in the day; then they moored
her to the bank, prepared a meal, and after eating it went ashore if
there were trees that afforded a shade there, or if not, spread out
some mats on poles over the boat and slept in their shade till three
o’clock. Then they towed until sunset, moored her for the night,
cooked their second meal, talked and sang for an hour or two, and then
lay down for the night. Sometimes the wind blew with sufficient
strength to enable the boat to stem the stream close inshore by means
of the sail alone; then the boatmen were perfectly happy and spent
their day in alternate eating and sleeping. Generally the passengers
landed and walked alongside of the boat for an hour or two after they
had had their early breakfast, and again when the heat of the day was
over; it made a change, and at the same time kept their muscles in a
state of health and activity.

“We may have to make long journeys on foot,” Jethro said, “and the
more we can accustom ourselves to walking the better.”

The time passed so quietly and pleasantly that both Mysa and Chebron
at times blamed themselves for feeling as light hearted as they did;
but when the latter once said so to Jethro he replied:

“Do not be uneasy on that score. Remember that in the first place it
is a comfort to us all that you and your sister are cheerful
companions. It makes the journey lighter for us. In the next place,
good spirits and good health go together; and although, at present,
our life is an easy one, there will be need for health and strength
presently. This flight and exile are at present blessings rather than
misfortunes to you. Just as Amuba’s captivity following so closely
upon the death of his father and mother was to him.”

“I can hardly believe,” Mysa said, “that we are really going upon a
dangerous expedition. Everything is so pleasant and tranquil. The days
pass without any care or trouble. I find it difficult to believe that
the time is not very far off when we shall have to cross deserts, and
perhaps to meet savage beasts and wild people, and be in danger of our
lives.”

“It will be a long time first, Mytis. It will be months before we
arrive at Meroe, the capital of the next kingdom, which lies at the
junction of the two great arms of this river. Up to that point I do
not think there will be dangers, though there may be some little
difficulty, for they say there are tremendous rapids to be passed.
It is only lately that the king overran Meroe, defeated its armies,
and forced it to pay tribute, but as there is a considerable trade
carried on with that country I do not think there is any danger of
molestation. It is on leaving Meroe that our difficulties will
commence; for, as I hear, the road thence to the east through the
city of Axoum, which is the capital of the country named Abyssinia,
passes through a wild land abounding with savage animals; and again,
beyond Axoum the country is broken and difficult down to the sea.

“Chigron told me, however, that he had heard from a native of Meroe
who had worked for him that there is a far shorter road to the sea
from a point at which the river takes a great bend many hundreds of
miles below the capital. When we get higher up we can of course make
inquiries as to this. I hope that it may prove to be true, for if so
it will save us months of travel.”

Several large towns were passed as they journeyed upward. Hermonthis,
standing on the western bank, by which they were traveling, was the
first passed. Then came Esneh, with grand temples dedicated to Kneph
and Neith, and standing where the Nile Valley opens to a width of five
miles. Then they passed Eilithya, standing on the eastern bank, with
many temples rising above it, and with the sandstone rock behind it
dotted with the entrances to sepulchers.

A few miles higher up they passed Edfu. Above this the valley
gradually narrowed, the hills closing in until they rose almost
perpendicularly from the edge of the stream. Here were temples
erected especially for the worship of the Nile and of his emblem the
crocodile. It appeared to the Egyptians the most appropriate place for
the worship of the river, which seemed here to occupy the whole width
of Egypt. Here, too, were vast quarries, from which the stone was
extracted for the building of most of the temples of Upper Egypt.

Sixteen miles higher Ombi was passed, with its great temple in honor
of the crocodile-headed god Sebak. Along this part of the river the
country was comparatively barren and the villages small and far
apart. In the narrow places the river at times ran so rapidly that it
was necessary to hire a number of peasants to assist the boatmen to
drag the boat against the stream, and the progress made each day was
very slight.

Four days after leaving Ombi they arrived at Syene,[A] by far the
largest town they had come to since leaving Thebes. This brought the
first stage of their journey to an end. Hitherto they had been
traveling along a tranquil river, running strongly at times, but
smooth and even. Before them they had a succession of cataracts and
rapids to pass, and a country to traverse which, although often
subjugated, was continually rising against the power of Egypt.

[A] The modern Assouan.

At Syene they remained for three days. They would gladly have pushed
on without delay, for although the Egyptian authority extended further
up the river, Syene was the last town where the governor would concern
himself with the affairs of Egypt, or where fugitives from justice
were likely to be arrested. However, as it was customary to give
boatmen a few days of repose after their labor, and before undertaking
the still more severe work which lay before them, Jethro thought it
better to avoid any appearance of haste.

There was much to be seen that was new to them at Syene. A great trade
was carried on with Meroe. Most of the merchants engaged in it dwelt
here, buying on the one hand the products of Upper and Lower Egypt and
sending or taking them up the river, and on the other hand buying the
products of Meroe and dispatching them to Thebes. The streets were
filled with a mingled population. Egyptians with their spotless
garments and tranquil mien; merchants absorbed in business; officers
and soldiers in large numbers, for Syene was an important military
station; officials belonging to the great quarries near, and gangs of
slaves of many nationalities working under their orders.

Wild-looking figures moved among the crowd, their garments, thrown
loosely round them, affording a striking contrast to the cleanness of
those of the Egyptians, while their unkempt hair was in equally strong
contrast to the precise wigs of the middle-class Egyptians and the
bare heads of the lower class. Their skins, too, were much darker in
color, though there was considerable variation in this respect. Among
them were a sprinkling of men of entirely different type, almost black
in hue, with thicker lips and flatter features. These were Ethiopians,
whose land lay beyond that of Meroe and who had also felt the weight
and power of the arms of Egypt.

“These people of Meroe,” Amuba said, “are very similar in features to
the Egyptians, Chebron. And their tongue is also not unlike yours; I
can understand their speech.”

“Our oldest books,” Amuba said, “say that we are kindred people, and
are Asiatic rather than African in our origin. The people of Meroe say
that their far-back ancestors came from Arabia, and first spreading
along the western shore of the Red Sea, ascended to the high lands and
drove out the black people who inhabited them.

“As to our own origin, it is vague; but my father has told me that the
opinion among those most skilled in the ancient learning is that we
too came from Arabia. We were not all one people, that is certain; and
it is comparatively of recent years, though a vast time as far as
human lives go, that the people of the Thebaid–that is, of Upper
Egypt–extended their dominion over Lower Egypt and made the whole
country one nation. Even now, you know, the king wears two crowns–the
one of Upper Egypt, the other of the lower country. Along the shores
of the Great Sea to the west are Libyans and other peoples similar in
race to ourselves. My father considered that the tribes which first
came from Asia pressed on to the west, driving back or exterminating
the black people. Each fresh wave that came from the east pushed the
others further and further, until at last the ancestors of the people
of Lower Egypt arrived and settled there.

“In Meroe the temples and religion are similar to our own. Whether
they brought that religion from Arabia, or whether we planted it there
during our various conquests of the country, I cannot tell you; but
certain it is that there is at present but little more difference
between Upper Egypt and Meroe than there is between Upper Egypt and
the Delta.”

“And beyond Meroe the people are all black like those we see here?”

“So I believe, Amuba. Our merchants penetrate vast distances to the
south exchanging our products for gold and ivory, and everywhere they
find the country inhabited by black people living in wretched
villages, without, as it seems, any government, or law, or order,
waging war with each other and making slaves, whom they also sell to
our merchants. They differ so wholly from us that it is certain that
we cannot come from the same stock. But they are strong and active and
make excellent slaves. Lying between Meroe and the sea, the country
called Abyssinia is also inhabited by a race of Arab blood, but
differing more from us than those of Meroe.

“They have great towns, but I do not think that their religion is the
same as ours; our traders say that their language can be understood by
them, although more rough and unpolished. I have heard my father say
that he considered that all the country lying east of the Nile, and of
its eastern branch that rises in Abyssinia and is called the Tacazze,
belongs to Asia rather than to Africa.”

The party found that the death by violence of two successive high
priests of Osiris was one of the principal topics of conversation
in Syene, but none appeared to think that there was the remotest
probability of any concerned in those occurrences making for the
south. However, Jethro thought it prudent that the whole party should
not land together, and therefore Amuba and Chebron usually went one
way and he with the girls another. They paid visits to the sacred
island of Ebo opposite the town, and to the quarries of Phile, four
miles away. Here they saw the gangs of slaves cutting colossal
statues, obelisks, and shrines from the solid rock.

First the outline was traced on the rock, then the surrounding stone
was removed with chisels and wedges, and at last the statue or obelisk
was itself severed from the rock. Then it was hewn and sculptured by
the masons, placed on rollers and dragged by hundreds of men down to
the landing-place below the rapids, and these placed on rafts to be
floated down the river to its destination. They saw many of these
masses of stone in all stages of manufacture. The number of slaves
employed was enormous, and these inhabited great buildings erected
near the quarries, where also were barracks for the troops who kept
guard over them.

Watching the slaves at their painful labor, Jethro and Amuba were both
filled with gratitude at the good fortune that had placed them with
Ameres instead of sending them to pass their lives in such unceasing
and monotonous toil. Among the slaves were several whom, by their
complexion and appearance, they judged to be Rebu. As at first all
those brought to Egypt had been distributed among the priests and
great officers, they supposed that either from obstinacy, misconduct,
or from attempts to escape they had incurred the displeasure of their
masters, and had been handed over by them for the service of the
state.

Had the slaves been in the hands of private masters, Jethro and Amuba,
who were filled with pity at seeing their countrymen in such a state,
would have endeavored to purchase them and take them with them upon
their journey. This was out of the question now, nor was it possible
to hold any communication with them, or to present them with a small
sum of money to alleviate their misery without exciting suspicion. The
whole party were heartily glad when on the morning of the fourth day
after their arrival the boat was pushed off from the shore and the
work of ascending the rapids began.

CHAPTER XVII.

OUT OF EGYPT.

The river had begun to rise before they left Thebes, and although it
had not yet reached its highest point, a great volume of water was
pouring down; and the boatmen assured Jethro that they would be able
to ascend the cataract without difficulty, whereas when the Nile was
low there was often great danger in passing, and at times indeed no
boats could make the passage. Ten men were engaged in addition to the
crew to take the boats up beyond the rapids.

But although assured that there was no danger, the girls declared that
they would rather walk along the bank, for the hurry and rush of the
mighty flood, rising sometimes in short angry waves, were certainly
trying to the nerves. Jethro and the lads of course accompanied them,
and sometimes seized the rope and added their weight when the force of
the stream brought the men towing to a standstill and seemed as if it
would, in spite of their efforts, tear the boat from their grasp. At
last the top of the rapids was gained, and they were glad to take
their places again in the boat as she floated on the quiet water. So a
month passed–sometimes taken along by favorable winds, at others
being towed along quiet waters close to the shore, at others battling
with the furious rapids. They found that the cataract they had first
passed was as nothing to those higher up. Here the whole cargo had to
be unloaded and carried up to the top of the rapids, and it needed
some forty men to drag the empty boat through the turmoil of waters,
while often the slightest error on the part of the helmsman would have
caused the boat to be dashed to pieces on the great rocks rising in
the midst of the channel. But before arriving at the second cataract
they had tarried for several days at Ibsciak, the city to which their
crew belonged.

They had passed many temples and towns during the hundred and eighty
miles of journey between Syene and this place, but this was the
largest of them. Here two great grotto temples were in course of
construction, the one dedicated to the gods Amun and Phre, and built
at the expense of Rameses himself, the other dedicated to Athor by
Lofreai, the queen. On these temples were engraved the records of the
victories of Rameses over various nations of Africa and Asia.

Jethro offered, if the boatmen wished to make a longer stay here, that
he would charter another boat to take them further; but they declared
their willingness to proceed at the end of a week after their arrival,
being well satisfied with their engagement and treatment. After
passing the second cataract they arrived at another large town named
Behni.[B] This was a very large city and abounded with temples and
public buildings. The largest temple was dedicated to Thoth. All along
the river a belt of cultivated land extended for some miles back from
the bank. This was dotted with numerous villages, and there was no
difficulty whatever in obtaining food of all kinds.

[B] Now Wady-Halfa.

At last they reached Semneh, the point to which the boatmen had agreed
to take them. This was the furthest boundary to which at that time the
Egyptian power extended. The river here took a great bend to the
east, then flowing south and afterward again west, forming a great
loop. This could be avoided by cutting across the desert to Merawe, a
flourishing town which marked the northern limit of the power of
Meroe, the desert forming a convenient neutral ground between the two
kingdoms. Sometimes Egypt under a powerful king carried her arms much
further to the south, at other times a warlike monarch of Meroe would
push back the Egyptian frontier almost to Syene; but as a rule the
Nile as far south as Semneh was regarded as belonging to Egypt.

The traders arriving at Semneh generally waited until a sufficient
number were gathered together to form a strong caravan for mutual
protection against the natives inhabiting the desert, who held
themselves independent alike of Egypt and of Meroe, and attacked and
plundered parties crossing the desert, unless these were so strong and
well armed as to be able to set them at defiance. Erecting two tents
and landing their goods and merchandise, Jethro and his party encamped
near the river bank. They had not yet settled whether they would cross
the desert or continue their journey by water.

The choice between the two routes was open to them; for although the
traders usually crossed the desert, taking with them their lighter and
more valuable merchandise, the heavier goods made the long detour in
boats, going up in large flotillas, both for protection against the
natives and for mutual aid in ascending the rapids which had to be
encountered. There was no difficulty in hiring another boat, for it
was the universal rule to make a transshipment here, as the Egyptian
boatmen were unwilling to enter Meroe. The transport beyond this
point, therefore, was in the hands of the people of this country.

In consultation with the traders gathered at Semneh Jethro learned
that it was by no means necessary to proceed up the river to the city
of Meroe[C] and thence eastward through Axoum, the capital of
Abyssinia, to the sea, but that a far shorter road existed from the
easternmost point of the bend of the river direct to the sea. There
were, indeed, several large Egyptian towns upon the Red Sea, and from
these a flourishing trade was carried on with Meroe and Abyssinia; and
the first merchant to whom Jethro spoke was much surprised to find
that he was in ignorance of the existence of the route he had
described.

[C] Now Khartoum.

The journey, although toilsome, was said to be no more so than that
from Meroe through Axoum, while the distance to be traversed was small
in comparison. After much consultation it was therefore agreed that
the best plan was to dispose of the merchandise that they had brought
with them to one of the traders about to proceed south, retaining
only sufficient for the payment of the men whom it would be necessary
to take with them for protection on their journey. Jethro had no
difficulty in doing this, alleging as his reason for parting with his
goods that he found that the expenses to Meroe would greatly exceed
the sum he had calculated upon, and that therefore he had determined
to proceed no further. As they thought it best to allow six months
from the date of their departure from Thebes to elapse before they
entered any large Egyptian town, they remained for nearly two months
at Semneh, and then finding that a flotilla of boats was ready to
ascend the river, they made an arrangement with some boatmen for the
hire of their craft to the point where they were to leave the river
and again set out on their journey.

The difficulties of the journey were very great. After traveling for
some sixty miles they came to rapids more dangerous than any they had
passed, and it took the flotilla more than a fortnight passing up
them, only four or five boats being taken up each day by the united
labors of the whole of the crews. There was great satisfaction when
the last boat had been taken up the rapids, and there was a general
feast that evening among the boatmen. During the whole time they had
been engaged in the passage a number of armed scouts had been placed
upon the rocky eminences near the bank; for the place had an evil
reputation, and attacks were frequently made by the desert tribesmen
upon those passing up or down upon the river.

So far no signs of the presence of hostile natives had been perceived.
The usual precautions, however, had been taken; the cargoes had all
been carried up by hand and deposited so as to form a breastwork, and
as night closed in several sentries were placed to guard against
surprise. It had been arranged that the men belonging to the boats
each day brought up should that night take sentinel duty; and this
evening Jethro, his companions and boatmen were among those on guard.
Many of the boats had left Semneh before them, and they had been among
the last to arrive at the foot of the cataracts, and consequently came
up in the last batch.

As owners they had been exempt from the labors of dragging up the
boats, and had spent much of their time during the enforced delay in
hunting. They had obtained dogs and guides from the village at the
foot of the cataracts and had had good sport among the ibex which
abounded in the rocky hills. The girls had seldom left their cabin
after leaving Semneh. There was nothing remarkable in the presence of
women in a boat going so far up the river, as many of the traders
took their wives on their journeys with them. When, however, they
journeyed beyond Semneh they left them there until their return, the
danger and hardships of the desert journey being too great for them to
encounter, and it was therefore thought advisable that the girls
should remain in seclusion.

Jethro, Amuba, and Chebron were standing together at one of the angles
of the encampment when the former suddenly exclaimed:

“There are men or animals moving on that steep hill opposite! I
thought several times I heard the sound of stones being displaced. I
certainly heard them then.” Then turning round he raised his voice: “I
can hear sounds on the hill. It were best that all stood to their arms
and prepare to resist an attack.”

In an instant the sound of song and laughter ceased amid the groups
assembled round the fires and each man seized his arms. There was a
sharp ringing sound close to Jethro, and stooping he picked up an
arrow which had fallen close to him.

“It is an enemy!” he shouted. “Draw up close to the breastwork and
prepare to receive them. Scatter the fires at once and extinguish the
blazing brands. They can see us, while themselves invisible.”

As he spoke a loud and terrible yell rose from the hillside and a
shower of arrows was poured into the encampment. Several men fell, but
Jethro’s orders were carried out and the fires promptly extinguished.

“Stoop down behind the breastwork,” Jethro shouted, “until they are
near enough for you to take aim. Have your spears ready to check their
onslaught when they charge.”

Although Jethro held no position entitling him to command, his orders
were as promptly obeyed as if he had been in authority. The men
recognized at once, by the calmness of his tones, that he was
accustomed to warfare, and readily yielded to him obedience. In a
minute or two a crowd of figures could be seen approaching, and the
Egyptians, leaping to their feet, poured in a volley of arrows. The
yells and screams which broke forth testified to the execution wrought
in the ranks of the enemy, but without a check they still rushed
forward. The Egyptians discharged their arrows as fast as they could
during the few moments left them, and then, as the natives rushed at
the breastwork, they threw down their bows, and, grasping the spears,
maces, swords, axes, or staves with which they were armed, boldly met
the foe.

For a few minutes the contest was doubtful, but encouraged by the
shouts of Jethro, whose voice could be heard above the yells of the
natives, the Egyptians defended their position with vigor and courage.
As fast as the natives climbed over the low breastwork of merchandise
they were either speared or cut down, and after ten minutes’ fierce
fighting their attack ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and as if by
magic a dead silence succeeded the din of battle.

“You have done well comrades,” Jethro said, “and defeated our
assailants; but we had best stand to arms for awhile, for they may
return. I do not think they will, for they have found us stronger and
better prepared for them than they had expected. Still, as we do not
know their ways, it were best to remain on our guard.”

An hour later, as nothing had been heard of the enemy, the fires were
relighted and the wounded attended to. Sixteen men had been shot dead
by the arrows of the assailants and some fifty were more or less
severely wounded by the same missiles, while eighteen had fallen in
the hand-to-hand contest at the breastwork. Thirty-seven natives were
found dead inside the breastwork. How many had fallen before the
arrows of the defenders the latter never knew, for it was found in the
morning that the natives had carried off their killed and wounded who
fell outside the inclosure. As soon as the fighting was over Chebron
ran down to the boat to allay the fears of the girls and assure them
that none of their party had received a serious wound, Jethro alone
having been hurt by a spear thrust, which, however, glanced off his
ribs, inflicting only a flesh wound, which he treated as of no
consequence whatever.

“Why did not Amuba come down with you?” Mysa asked. “Are you sure that
he escaped without injury?”

“I can assure you that he has not been touched, Mysa; but we are still
on guard, for it is possible that the enemy may return again, although
we hope that the lesson has been sufficient for them.”

“Were you frightened, Chebron?”

“I felt a little nervous as they were coming on, but when it came to
hand-to-hand fighting I was too excited to think anything about the
danger. Besides, I was standing between Jethro and Amuba, and they
have fought in great battles, and seemed so quiet and cool that I
could scarcely feel otherwise. Jethro took the command of everyone,
and the rest obeyed him without question. But now I must go back to my
post. Jethro told me to slip away to tell you that we were all safe,
but I should not like not to be in my place if they attack again.”

“I have often wondered, Ruth,” Mysa said when Chebron had left them,
“what we should have done if it had not been for Jethro and Amuba. If
it had not been for them I should have been obliged to marry Plexo,
and Chebron would have been caught and killed at Thebes. They arrange
everything, and do not seem afraid in the slightest.”

“I think your brother is brave, too,” Ruth said; “and they always
consult with him about their plans.”

“Yes; but it is all their doing,” Mysa replied. “Chebron, before they
came, thought of nothing but reading, and was gentle and quiet. I
heard one of the slaves say to another that he was more like a girl
than a boy; but being with Amuba has quite altered him. Of course, he
is not as strong as Amuba, but he can walk and run and shoot an arrow
and shoot a javelin at a mark almost as well as Amuba can; still he
has not so much spirit. I think Amuba always speaks decidedly, while
Chebron hesitates to give an opinion.”

“But your brother has a great deal more learning than Amuba, and so
his opinion ought to be worth more, Mysa.”

“Oh, yes, if it were about history or science; for anything of that
sort of course it would, Ruth, but not about other things. Of course,
it is natural that they should be different, because Amuba is the son
of a king.”

“The son of a king?” Ruth repeated in surprise.

“Yes, I heard it when he first came; only father said it was not to be
mentioned, because if it were known he would be taken away from us and
kept as a royal slave at the palace. But he is really the son of a
king, and as his father is dead he will be king himself when he gets
back to his own country.”

“And Jethro is one of the same people, is he not?” Ruth asked.

“Oh, yes! they are both Rebu. I think Jethro was one of the king’s
warriors.”

“That accounts,” Ruth said, “for what has often puzzled me. Jethro is
much the oldest of our party, and altogether the leader, and yet I
have observed that he always speaks to Amuba as if the latter were the
chief.”

“I have not noticed that,” Mysa said, shaking her head; “but I do
know, now you mention it, that he always asked Amuba’s opinion before
giving his own.”

“I have constantly noticed it, Mysa, and I wondered that since he and
Amuba were your father’s slaves he should always consult Amuba instead
of your brother; but I understand now. That accounts, too, for Amuba
giving his opinion so decidedly. Of course, in his own country, Amuba
was accustomed to have his own way. I am glad of that, for I like
Amuba very much, and it vexed me sometimes to see him settling things
when Jethro is so much older. And you think if he ever gets back to
his own country he will be king?”

“I am not sure,” Mysa said doubtfully. “Of course, he ought to be. I
suppose there is some other king now, and he might not like to give up
to Amuba.”

“I don’t suppose we shall ever get there,” Ruth said. “Amuba said the
other day that this country lay a great distance further than the land
my people came from a long time ago.”

“But that is not so very far, Ruth. You said that the caravans went in
six or seven days from that part of Egypt where you dwelt to the east
of the Great Sea where your fathers came from.”

“But we are a long way from there, Mysa.”

“But if it is only six or seven days’ journey why did not your people
go back again, Ruth?”

“They always hoped to go back some day, Mysa; but I don’t think your
people would have let them go. You see, they made them useful for
building and cutting canals and other work. Besides, other people
dwell now in the land they came from, and these would not turn out
unless they were beaten in battle. My people are not accustomed to
fight; besides, they have stopped so long that they have become as the
Egyptians. For the most part they talk your language, although some
have also preserved the knowledge of their own tongue. They worship
your gods, and if they were not forced to labor against their will I
think now that most of them would prefer to live in ease and plenty in
Egypt rather than journey into a strange country, of which they know
nothing except that their forefathers hundreds of years ago came
thence. But here are the others,” she broke off as the boat heeled
suddenly over as some one sprang on board. “Now we shall hear more
about the fighting.”

The next day the journey was continued, and without further adventure
the flotilla arrived at last at the town where the party would leave
the river and strike for the coast. Having unloaded their goods and
discharged the boat, Jethro hired a small house until arrangements
were made for their journey to the seacoast. El Makrif[D] was a place
of no great importance. A certain amount of trade was carried on with
the coast, but most of the merchants trading with Meroe preferred the
longer but safer route through Axoum. Still parties of travelers
passed up and down and took boat there for Meroe; but there was an
absence of the temples and great buildings which had distinguished
every town they had passed between Thebes and Semneh.

[D] Now called Berber.

Jethro upon inquiry found that there were wells at the camping-places
along the whole route. The people were wild and savage, the Egyptian
power extending only from the seashore to the foot of the hills, some
fifteen miles away. Occasionally expeditions were got up to punish the
tribesmen for their raids upon the cultivated land of the coast, but
it was seldom that the troops could come upon them, for, knowing every
foot of the mountains, these eluded all search by their heavy-armed
adversaries. Jethro found that the custom was for merchants traveling
across this country to pay a fixed sum in goods for the right of
passage. There were two chiefs claiming jurisdiction over the road,
and a messenger was at once dispatched to the nearest of these with
the offer of the usual payment and a request for an escort.

A week later four wild-looking figures presented themselves at the
house and stated that they were ready to conduct the travelers through
their chief’s territory. Jethro had already made arrangements with the
head man of the place to furnish him with twelve men to carry
provisions necessary for the journey, and upon the following morning
the party started, and Mysa and Ruth assumed the garb of boys, Jethro
finding that although traders might bring up the ladies of their
family to Semneh, or even take them higher up the river in boats, they
would never think of exposing them to the fatigue of a journey across
the mountains, and that the arrival of two girls at the Egyptian town
on the sea would therefore assuredly attract remark, and possibly
inquiry, on the part of the authorities.

For the first few hours the girls enjoyed the change of traveling
after the long confinement on the boat, but long before nightfall they
longed for the snug cushions and easy life they had left behind. The
bearers, heavy laden as they were, proceeded at a steady pace that
taxed the strength of the girls to keep up with after the first few
miles were passed. The heat of the sun was intense. The country after
a short distance had been passed became barren and desolate. They did
not suffer from thirst, for an ample supply of fruit was carried by
one of the bearers, but their limbs ached, and their feet, unused to
walking, became tender and painful.

“Can we not stop for awhile, Jethro?” Mysa asked beseechingly.

Jethro shook his head.

“We must keep on to the wells. They are two hours further yet. They
told us at starting that the first day’s journey was six hours’ steady
walking.”

Mysa was about to say that she could walk no further, when Ruth
whispered in her ear:

“We must not give way, Mysa. You know we promised that if they would
take us with them, we would go through all difficulties and dangers
without complaining.”

The admonition had its effect. Mysa felt ashamed that she had been on
the point of giving way on the very first day of their starting on
their real journey, and struggled bravely on; but both girls were
utterly exhausted by the time they arrived at the wells. They felt
rewarded, however, for their sufferings by the hearty commendation
Jethro bestowed upon them.

“You have held on most bravely,” he said; “for I could see you were
terribly fatigued. I am afraid you will find it very hard work just at
first, but after that it will be more easy to you. To-morrow’s journey
is a shorter one.”

It was well that it was so, for the girls were limping even at the
start, and needed the assistance of Jethro and the boys to reach the
next halting-place; and as soon as the tent, which was separated into
two parts by hangings, was erected, they dropped upon their cushions,
feeling that they could never get through another day’s suffering like
that they had just passed.

Jethro saw that this was so, and told their escort that he must halt
next day, for that his young sons had been so long in the boat that
the fatigue had quite overcome them; he accompanied the intimation
with a present to each of the four men.

They offered no objections, while the porters, who were paid by the
day, were well contented with the halt.

The day’s rest greatly benefited the girls, but it was not long enough
to be of any utility to their feet; these, however, they wrapped in
bandages, and started in good spirits when the porters took up the
loads. They were now following the course of what in wet weather was a
stream in the mountains. Sometimes the hills on either side receded a
little; at others they rose almost perpendicularly on either side of
the stream, and they had to pick their way among great bowlders and
rocks. This sort of walking, however, tired the girls less than
progressing along a level. Their feet were painful, but the soft
bandages in which they were enveloped hurt them far less than the
sandals in which they had at first walked, and they arrived at the
halting-place in much better condition than on the previous occasions.

“The worst is over now,” Jethro said to them encouragingly. “You will
find each day’s work come easier to you. You have stood it far better
than I expected; and I feel more hopeful now that we shall reach the
end of our journey in safety than I have done since the evening when I
first agreed to take you with us.”

While passing through some of the ravines the party had been greatly
amused by the antics of troops of apes. Sometimes these sat tranquilly
on the hillside, the elder gravely surveying the little caravan, the
younger frisking about perfectly unconcerned. Sometimes they would
accompany them for a considerable distance, making their way along the
rough stones of the hillside at a deliberate pace, but yet keeping up
with the footmen below.

As the ape was a sacred animal in Egypt, Mysa was gladdened by their
sight, and considered it a good omen for the success of their journey.
The men who escorted them told them that if undisturbed the apes never
attack travelers, but if molested they would at once attack in a body
with such fury that even four or five travelers together would have
but little chance of escape with their lives. During the first week’s
journey they saw no other animals; although at night they heard the
cries of hyenas, who often came close up to the encampment, and once
or twice a deep roar which their guide told them was that of a lion.

On the seventh day, however, soon after they had started upon their
march, the sound of breaking branches was heard among some trees a
short distance up the hillside, and immediately afterward the heads of
four or five great beasts could be seen above the mimosa bushes which
extended from the wood to the bottom of the hill. The bearers gave a
cry of terror, and throwing down their loads took to their heels. The
four men of the escort stood irresolute. Although none of Jethro’s
party had ever before seen an elephant, they knew from pictures and
carvings, and from the great statues in the Island of Elephanta, what
these great creatures were.

“Will they attack us?” Jethro asked the men.

“They do not often do so,” one of them replied; “although at times
they come down and waste the fields round villages, and will sometimes
slay any they come across. But it is best to get out of their way.”

Jethro pointed out a few of the more valuable packages, and taking
these up they entered the bushes on the other slope of the hill and
made their way among them as far as they could. This was, however, but
a short distance, for they were full of sharp thorns and offered
terrible obstacles to passage. All of the party received severe
scratches, and their garments suffered much, in making their way but
twenty yards into the bush.

“That will do,” Jethro said. “We shall be torn to pieces if we go
further; and we are as much concealed from sight here as we should be
another hundred yards further. I will see what they are doing.”

Standing up and looking cautiously through the screen of feathery
leaves, Jethro saw that the elephants were standing immovable. Their
great ears were erected and their trunks outstretched as if scenting
the air. After two or three minutes hesitation they continued to
descend the hill.

“Are they afraid of man?” Jethro asked one of the escort.

“Sometimes they are seized with a panic and fly at the approach of a
human being; but if attacked they will charge any number without
hesitation.”

“Do you ever hunt them?”

“Sometimes; but always with a great number of men. It is useless to
shoot arrows at them; the only way is to crawl out behind and cut the
back sinews of their legs. It needs a strong man and a sharp sword,
but it can be done. Then they are helpless, but even then it is a long
work to dispatch them. Generally we drive them from our villages by
lighting great fires and making noises. Solitary elephants are more
dangerous than a herd. I have known one of them kill a dozen men,
seizing some in his trunk and throwing them in the air as high as the
top of a lofty tree, dashing others to the ground and kneeling upon
them until every bone is crushed to pieces.”

The elephants had now reached the bottom of the valley, and the chief
of the escort held up his hand for perfect silence. All were prepared
to fight if the elephants pursued them into the bushes, for further
retreat was impossible. Amuba and Chebron had fitted their arrows into
the bowstrings and loosened their swords in the scabbards. The four
natives had drawn the short heavy swords they carried, while Jethro
grasped the ax that was his favorite weapon. “Remember,” he had
whispered to the boys, “the back sinews of the legs are the only
useful point to aim at; if they advance, separate, and if they make
toward the girls try to get behind them and hamstring them.”

There was a long pause of expectation. The elephants could be heard
making a low snorting noise with their trunks; and Jethro at last
raised himself sufficiently to look through the bushes at what was
going on. The elephants were examining the bundles that had been
thrown down.

“I believe that they are eating up our food,” he whispered as he sat
down again.

Half an hour elapsed, and then there was a sound of breaking the
bushes. Jethro again looked out.

“Thank the gods!” he exclaimed, “they are going off again.”

Trampling down the mimosa thicket as if it had been grass, the
elephants ascended the opposite hill and at last re-entered the wood
from which they had first emerged. The fugitives waited for a quarter
of an hour and then made their way out again from the thicket, Jethro
cutting a path with his ax through the thorns. An exclamation of
surprise broke from them as they gained the open ground. The whole of
their stores were tossed about in the wildest confusion. Everyone of
the packages had been opened. Tents, garments, and carpets hung upon
the bushes as if the animals had tossed them contemptuously there as
being unfit to eat. Everything eatable had disappeared. The fruit,
grain, and vegetables had been completely cleared up. The skins of
wine were bursted; but the contents had been apparently appreciated,
for none remained in the hollows of the rocks.

“What greedy creatures!” Mysa exclaimed indignantly; “they have not
left us a single thing.”

“They do not often get a chance of such dainty feeding,” Amuba said.
“I don’t think we ought to blame them, especially as they do not seem
to have done very much damage to our other goods.”

“Look how they have trampled down the bushes as they went through. I
wish their skins were as thin as mine,” Mysa said as she wiped away
the blood from a deep scratch on her cheek; “they would keep up in
their own woods then and not come down to rob travelers.”

“At any rate, Mysa, we ought to feel indebted to them,” Chebron said,
“for not having pushed their investigations further. We should have
had no chance either of escape or resistance in these bushes. Jethro
told us to move round and attack them from behind; but moving round in
these thorns is all very well to talk about, but quite impossible to
do. Two minutes of active exercise and there would not be a morsel of
flesh left on one’s bones.”

It was two or three hours before the bearers came back one by one.
They were assailed with fierce reproaches by Jethro for the cowardice
which had been the means of losing all the provisions. Four of their
number were at once paid off and sent back, as there was no longer
anything for them to carry. The others would have left also had it
not been for the escort, who threatened death if they did not at once
take up their burdens and proceed. For Jethro had been liberal with
his stores, and they were as indignant as he was himself at the sudden
stoppage of their rations.

Three days later they arrived at a small village, which marked the
commencement of the territory of the second chief through whose
country the road ran. Here the escort and carriers left them, their
place being supplied by natives of the village. There was no
difficulty in obtaining a supply of grain and goats’-milk cheese; but
these were a poor substitute for the stores that the elephants had
devoured. They were too glad, however, at having accomplished half
the toilsome journey to murmur at trifles, and after a day’s halt
proceeded on their way. Another fortnight’s travel and they stood on
the lower slopes of the hills, and saw across a wide belt of flat
country the expanse of the sea glistening in the sun.

Two more days’ journey and they reached the Egyptian trading station.
This was situated on a little peninsula connected with the mainland by
a narrow neck of land, across which a massive wall had been built to
repulse the attacks of the wild tribesmen, who frequently swept down
and devastated the cultivated fields up to the very wall. As soon as
they entered the town Jethro was ordered by an official to accompany
him to the house of the governor. Taking Chebron with him, he left it
to Amuba to arrange for the use of a small house during their stay.

The governor’s inquiries were limited to the state of the country, the
behavior of the tribesmen along the road, the state of the wells, and
the amount of provisions obtainable along the line of route.

“There are a party of Arab traders from the other side who wish to
pass up to carry their goods either to Semneh or Meroe, but I have
detained them until news should reach me from above, for if any wrong
should happen to them their countrymen might probably enough hold us
responsible for their deaths, and this might lead to quarrels and loss
of trade; but since you have passed through with so small a party
there can be no fear, and they can arrange with the people who brought
you down as to the amount to be paid to the chiefs for free passage.”

He inquired Jethro’s reason for making the journey over the mountains
instead of proceeding by the Nile. He replied that he had received an
advantageous offer for all his merchandise and had disposed of it to a
trader going up to Meroe, and that as the Nile had now fallen and the
danger in passing down the cataracts was considerable, he thought it
better to make the short land journey and to travel by sea to Lower
Egypt; especially as he was told that the natives were now friendly,
and that no difficulty would be met with on the way. Another reason
for his choosing that route was that he might determine whether on his
next venture it would not be more advantageous to bring down his
merchandise by ship and start from the seashore for Meroe.

“Undoubtedly it would be better,” the governor said; “but it were
wiser to sail another two days’ journey down the coast and then to
journey by way of Axoum.”

A week’s rest completely recruited the strength of the girls, and
Jethro then engaged a passage in a trading ship which was going to
touch at various small ports on its way north.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE DESERT JOURNEY.

The journey was a long one. The winds were often so light that the
vessels scarcely moved, and the heat was greater than anything they
had felt during their journey. They stopped at many small ports on the
Arabian side; the captain trading with the natives–selling to them
articles of Egyptian manufacture, and buying the products of the
country for sale in Egypt. The party had, before starting, arranged
that they would land at Ælana, a town lying at the head of the gulf of
the same name, forming the eastern arm of the Red Sea.[E] By so doing
they would avoid the passage through Lower Egypt.

[E] Now the Gulf of Akabah.

The question had not been decided without long debate. By crossing
from Arsinoe[F] to Pelusium they would at the latter port be able to
obtain a passage in a Phoenician trader to a port in the north of
Syria, and there strike across Asia Minor for the Caspian. Jethro was
in favor of this route, because it would save the girls the long and
arduous journey up through Syria. They, however, made light of this,
and declared their readiness to undergo any hardships rather than to
run the risk of the whole party being discovered either upon landing
at Arsinoe or on their journey north, when they would pass through
the very country that Amuba and Chebron had visited and that was
inhabited by Ruth’s people.

[F] Now Suez.

All allowed that the time had long since passed when the authorities
would be keeping up a special watch for them; but as upon entering
port a scribe would come on board and make a list of the passengers
with their place of birth and vocation, for registration in the
official records, it would be difficult in the extreme to give such
answers as would avoid exciting suspicion.

When the vessel reached the mouth of the long and narrow gulf the
party were struck by the grandeur of the mountains that rose from the
water’s edge on their left.

The captain told them that the chief of these was known as Mount
Sinai, and that barren and desolate as the land looked, it contained
valleys where sheep were pastured and where wandering tribes found a
subsistence. No hint had been given to the captain that they had any
intention of cutting short their voyage before arriving at Arsinoe,
for it would have seemed an extraordinary proceeding for a trader
journeying with his family to leave the ship at any of the Arabian
ports. While sailing up the gulf Mysa complained of illness, and
indeed so overpowered was she by the heat that there was but little
fiction in the complaint. Upon arriving at Ælana Jethro had her
carried on shore, and, hiring a house there, stayed on shore while
the ship was in port.

There was a small Egyptian garrison in the town, which carried on
a considerable trade with Moab and the country to the east. No
attention, however, was paid to the landing of the traders, for, as
the country beyond the walls of the town lay beyond the limit of
Egyptian rule, the landing and departure of persons at the port was a
matter of no interest to the authorities. Two days later Jethro went
on board again and said that his young son was so ill that there was
no chance of him being able to proceed on the journey, and that
therefore he must forfeit the passage money paid to Arsinoe.

He said that as it might be many weeks before another vessel would
come along, he should endeavor to pay his way by trading with the
natives, and he therefore wished to purchase from him a portion of his
remaining goods suitable for the purpose. As the captain saw that he
would save the provisions for five persons for the month or six weeks
that the voyage would yet last, and at the same time get rid of some
of his surplus cargo, he assented without question to Jethro’s
proposal. Several bales of goods were made up, consisting principally
of cloths of various texture and color of Egyptian manufacture,
trinkets, and a selection of arms.

These were landed, and two days later the vessel set sail. Jethro
called upon the Egyptian commandant, and by making him a handsome
present at once enlisted his aid in his enterprise. He said that as he
had been detained by the illness of his son, and it might be a long
time before any vessel came, he thought of getting rid of the rest of
the merchandise he had brought with him by trade with the people of
Moab.

“That you can do if you reach Moab,” the Egyptian said, “for traders
are everywhere well received; but the journey from here is not without
dangers. It is a country without a master; the people have no fixed
abodes, moving here and there according as they can find food for
their animals, sometimes among the valleys of Sinai, sometimes in
the desert to the east. These people plunder any whom they may come
across, and not content with plunder might slay or carry you away as
slaves. Once you have passed through as far as Moab you are safe; as
you would also be if you journeyed to the west of the Salt Lake, into
which runs the river Jordan. There are many tribes there, all living
in cities, warlike and valorous people, among whom also you would
be safe. We have had many wars with them, and not always to our
advantage. But between us is a sort of truce–they do not molest our
armies marching along by the seacoast, nor do we go up among their
hills to meddle with them. These are the people who at one time
conquered a portion of Lower Egypt, and reigned over it for many
generations until, happily, we rose and drove them out.”

“Is the journey between this and the Salt Lake you speak of an arduous
one?”

“It is by no means difficult, except that it were best to carry water
upon the journey, for the wells are few and often dry; but the country
is flat for the whole distance; indeed, there is a tradition that this
gulf at one time extended as far north as the Salt Lake. The road,
therefore, though stony and rough, offers no difficulties whatever;
but I should advise you, if you determine upon the journey, to leave
your son behind.”

“It is better for him to travel than to remain here without me,”
Jethro said; “and if we go up through the people you speak of to the
west of this lake and river, it would be but a short journey for us
after disposing of our goods to make our way down to a port on the
Great Sea, whence we may take ship and return quickly to Pelusium, and
thus arrive home before we should find a ship to take us hence.”

“That is so,” the Egyptian said. “The winds are so uncertain on these
seas that, as far as time goes, you might journey by the route you
propose and reach Egypt more speedily than you would do if you went on
board a ship at once. The danger lies almost entirely in the first
portion of your journey. The caravans that go hence once or twice a
year through Moab to Palmyra are numerous and well armed, and capable
of resisting an attack by these robber tribesmen. But one left a few
weeks ago, and it may be some months before another starts.”

“What animals would you recommend me to take with me?”

“Beyond all doubt camels are the best. They are used but little in
this country, but come down sometimes with the caravans from Palmyra;
and I believe that there is at present in the town an Arab who
possesses six or seven of them. He came down with the last caravan,
but was taken ill and unable to return with it. Doubtless you could
make a bargain with him. I will send a soldier with you to the house
he occupies.”

Jethro found that the man was anxious to return to his own country,
which lay on the borders of Media, and therefore directly in the
direction which Jethro wished to travel. He was, however, unwilling to
undertake the journey except with a caravan, having intended to wait
for the next however long the time might be; but the sum that Jethro
offered him for the hire of his animals as far as Palmyra at last
induced him to consent to make the journey at once, bargaining,
however, that a party of ten armed men should be hired as an escort as
far as the borders of Moab. Highly pleased with the result of his
inquiries, Jethro returned home and told his companions the
arrangements he had made.

“I have only arranged for our journey as far as Palmyra,” he said, “as
it would have raised suspicion had I engaged him for the whole journey
to Media; but of course he will gladly continue the arrangement for
the whole journey. He has bargained for an escort of ten men, but we
will take twenty. There is ample store of your father’s gold still
unexhausted; and, indeed, we have spent but little yet, for the sale
of our goods when we left the boat paid all our expenses of the
journey up the Nile. Therefore, as this seems to be the most hazardous
part of our journey, we will not stint money in performing it in
safety. I have told him that we shall start in a week’s time. It would
not do to leave earlier. You must not recover too rapidly from your
illness. In the meantime I will make it my business to pick out a
score of good fighting men as our escort.”

In this the Egyptian captain was of use, recommending men whose
families resided in Ælana, and would therefore be hostages for their
fidelity. This was necessary, for no small portion of the men to be
met with in the little town were native tribesmen who had encamped at
a short distance from its walls, and had come in to trade in horses or
the wool of their flocks for the cloths of Egypt. Such men as these
would have been a source of danger rather than of protection.

By the end of the week he had collected a party of twenty men, all of
whom were to provide their own horses. The sum agreed upon for their
escort was to be paid into the hands of the Egyptian officer, who was
to hand it to them on their return, with a document signed by Jethro
to the effect that they had faithfully carried out the terms of their
agreement.

Jethro found that the expense of the escort was less than he had
anticipated, for when the men found that the party would be a strong
one, therefore capable of protecting itself both on the journey out
and on its return, they demanded but a moderate sum for their
services. When the owner of the camels learned that they had decided
positively to pass to the east of the Salt Lake, he advised them
strongly, instead of following the valley of Ælana to the Salt Lake,
where it would be difficult to obtain water, to take the road to the
east of the range of hills skirting the valleys, and so to proceed
through Petra and Shobek and Karik to Hesbon in Moab. This was the
route followed by all the caravans. Villages would be found at very
short distances, and there was no difficulty whatever about water.

“My camels,” he said, “can go long distances without water, and could
take the valley route, but the horses would suffer greatly.”

Jethro was glad to hear that the journey was likely to be less
toilsome than he had anticipated; and all the arrangements having been
concluded, the party started soon after dawn on the day at first fixed
upon.

The girls were still in male attire, and rode in large baskets, slung
one on each side of a camel. The camel-driver walked at the head of
the animal, leading it by a cord. Its fellows followed in a long line,
each fastened to the one before it. Jethro, Amuba, and Chebron, all
armed with bows and arrows, as well as swords, rode beside the girls’
camel. Half the escort went on ahead; the other half formed the rear
guard.

“Which is the most dangerous part of the journey?” Jethro asked the
camel-driver.

“That on which we are now entering,” he replied. “Once we arrive at
Petra we are comparatively safe; but this portion of the journey
passes over a rough and uninhabited country, and it is across this
line that the wandering tribesmen pass in their journeys to or from
the pastures round Mount Sinai. The steep hills on our left form at
once a hiding-place and a lookout. There they can watch for travelers
passing along this road, and swoop down upon them.”

“How long shall we be reaching Petra?”

“It is three days’ fair traveling; but as the beasts are fresh, by
journeying well on to sundown we could accomplish it in two days.
After that we can travel at our ease; the villages lie but a few miles
apart.”

“Let us push on, then, by all means,” said Jethro. “We can stay a day
at Petra to rest the beasts, but let us get through this desolate and
dangerous country as soon as we can.”

The girls had been greatly amused at first at the appearance of the
strange animal that was carrying them; but they soon found that the
swinging action was extremely fatiguing, and they would have gladly
got down and walked.

Jethro, however, said that this could not be, for the pace of the
animal, deliberate though it seemed, was yet too great for them to
keep up with on foot, and it was needful for the first two days to
push on at full speed.

The sun blazed with tremendous force, and was reflected from the black
rock of the hills and the white sand lying between the stones that
everywhere strewed the plain along which they were traveling, and the
heat was terrible. After traveling for three hours they halted for an
hour, and Jethro managed, with the poles that had been brought to form
the framework of tents, and some cloths, to fasten an awning over the
baskets in which the girls were riding. The camels had lain down as
soon as they halted, and the girls stepped into the baskets before
they arose. They gave a simultaneous cry as the animal rose. They had
prepared for him to rise on his fore legs, and when his hind quarter
suddenly rose in the air they were almost thrown from their baskets.

“I don’t like this creature a bit,” Mysa said as they moved on. “Who
would suppose that he was going to get up the wrong way first?
Besides, why does he keep on grumbling? I am sure that Ruth and I
cannot be such a very heavy load for such a great beast. I believe he
would have bit us as we got in if the driver had not jerked the rope
at its head. It must be much nicer to sit on a horse. I am sure that
looks easy enough.”

“It is not so easy as it looks, Mysa,” Chebron replied; “besides, you
know women never do ride horses.”

“They do in our country,” Amuba said. “When we get there, Mysa, I will
teach you how to sit on them.”

“Ah! it is a long way off, Amuba,” Mysa replied; “and I believe this
creature has made up his mind to shake us to pieces as soon as he
can.”

“You should not try to sit stiff,” Jethro said. “Sit quite easily, and
sway backward and forward with the motion of the basket. You will soon
get accustomed to it, and will find that ere long you will be able to
sleep as if in a cradle.”

They traveled on until the sun was just sinking, and then prepared to
camp for the night. They had brought with them several skins of water,
and from these a scanty drink was given to each of the horses. A few
handfuls of grain were also served out to each. The drivers stuck
their spears firmly into the ground and to these fastened them. The
camels were made to kneel down so as to form a square. In the center
of this the tent was pitched for the girls, the horses being arranged
in a circle outside.

The men had all brought with them flat cakes, and with these and a
handful of dates they made their meal; and there was no occasion for
lighting a fire, for Jethro’s party had brought an ample store of
cooked provisions for their own use. In a short time quiet reigned in
the camp. The journey had been a hot and fatiguing one, and the men
wrapping themselves in their cloaks lay down, each by his spear, and
were soon asleep, with the exception of four who took their posts as
sentries. Jethro had agreed with Amuba and Chebron that they also
would divide the night between them, taking it by turns to keep watch.

The men of the escort were, however, of opinion that there was very
little probability of any attack before morning, even had they been
watched by a party among the hills.

“They could hardly hope to take us by surprise, for they would be sure
that we should set a watch in the darkness. They could not make their
way down the hills without some noise; besides, they believe the
powers of evil are potent at night, and seldom stir out of their camps
after dark. If we are attacked at all, it is likely to be just before
sunrise.”

Jethro had therefore arranged that Chebron should keep the first
watch, Amuba the second, and that he himself would take charge four
hours before daylight.

The night passed without any cause for alarm. As soon as daylight
broke the camp was astir. Another ration of water and grain was served
out to the horses, a hasty meal was made by the men, and just as the
sun rose the cavalcade moved on. They had journeyed but half a mile,
when from behind a spur of the hills running out in the plain a large
party was seen to issue forth. There must have been fully a hundred of
them, of whom some twenty were mounted and the rest on foot. The
travelers halted and had a short consultation. Jethro with one of the
escort then rode out to meet the advancing party, waving a white cloth
in token of amity. Two of the Arabs rode forward to meet them. It was
some time before Jethro returned to the party, who were anxiously
awaiting the termination of the colloquy.

“What do they say, Jethro?” Amuba asked as he rode up.

“He says, to begin with, that we ought to have purchased from him the
right of traveling across the country. I said that I would gladly have
paid a moderate sum had I been aware that such was required, but that
as he was not in Ælana I could not tell that he claimed such a right.
At the same time I was ready to make an offer of four rolls of
Egyptian cloth. He rejected the offer with scorn, and after a long
conversation let me know pretty plainly that he intended to take all
our goods and animals, and that we might think ourselves fortunate in
being allowed to pursue our way on foot. I said that I would consult
my friends; that if they agreed to his terms we would keep the white
flag flying; if we refused them, we would lower it.”

“Then you may as well lower it at once, Jethro,” Amuba said. “We might
as well be killed at once as be plundered of all we possess by these
Arab rascals. Besides, as there are twenty-three of us, and all well
armed, we ought to be able to cut our way through them. At the worst
the girls could mount behind us, and we could make a circuit so as to
avoid the footmen, and if the horsemen ventured to attack us we could
soon give a good account of them.”

“Yes. But we should lose our seven camel-loads of goods, and we shall
want them for trade as we go along,” Jethro said. “I propose that we
should form the camels into a square, as we did last night; that you
two and six of the men armed with bows and arrows shall occupy it and
take care of the girls, while the rest of us charge the Arabs. If we
can defeat the horsemen it is probable that the men on foot will draw
off. But while we are doing so some of those on foot may rush forward
and attack you. We will take care not to pursue, and you can rely
upon our coming to your assistance as soon as you are attacked.”

“I think that is the best plan, Jethro. We can keep them off for some
time with our bows and arrows, for certainly Chebron and I can bring
down a man with each shot at a hundred yards.”

Jethro chose six of the men who professed themselves to be good
archers. Their horses’ legs were tied and the animals thrown down just
outside the square formed by the kneeling camels. Strict instructions
were given to the girls to lie down, and the saddles and bales were
arranged outside the camels to shield them from missiles. Then when
all was prepared the white flag was lowered, and Jethro with his
fourteen men rode at full gallop against the Arabs.

Trusting to their somewhat superior numbers the Arab horsemen advanced
to meet them; but Jethro’s party, obeying his orders to keep in a
close line together with their spears leveled in front of them, rode
right over the Arabs, who came up singly and without order. Men and
horses rolled over together, several of the former transfixed by the
spears of the horsemen. Jethro called upon his men to halt and turned
upon the Arabs.

Some of the latter fled toward the footmen, who were running up to
their assistance, but were pursued and cut down. Others fought to the
last silently and desperately; but these, too, were slain. As soon as
the footmen approached they opened fire with slings and stones. Jethro
rallied his men and formed them in line again, and at their head
charged the Arabs. The latter fought steadily. Giving way for a
moment, they closed in round the little party of horsemen, throwing
their javelins and hacking at them with their swords. Jethro spurred
his horse into their midst, dealing blows right and left with his
heavy ax. His followers pressed after him, and after hard fighting cut
their way through their opponents.

Again and again the maneuver was repeated, the resistance of the Arabs
weakening, as most of their best men had fallen, while the large
shields carried by the horsemen repelled the greater part of the
missiles they hurled at them. Another minute or two and the Arabs
broke and fled from the hills, leaving over twenty of their number on
the ground, in addition to the whole of their mounted men. Jethro had
now time to look round, and saw for the first time that he had not, as
he supposed, been engaged with the whole of the enemy’s party. While
some fifty of them had attacked him, the rest had made direct for the
camels, and were now gathered in a mass around them.

With a shout to his men to follow him Jethro galloped at full speed
toward the Arabs, and with a shout flung himself upon them, clearing
his way through them with his ax. He was but just in time. A desperate
conflict was raging across the camels. At one point several of the
Arabs had broken into the square, and these were opposed by Amuba,
Chebron, and one of the men, while the others still held back the
Arabs on the other side. The arrival of Jethro, followed closely by
the rest of his men, instantly put a stop to the conflict.

The Arabs no longer thought of attacking, but with cries of dismay
started for the hills, hotly pursued by the horsemen, who followed
them until they reached the foot of the rocks. As soon as the Arabs
gained their fastnesses they again betook themselves to their slings,
and the horsemen fell back to the camels. Jethro had not joined in the
pursuit, but as soon as the Arabs fled had leaped from his horse.

“You were almost too late, Jethro,” Amuba said.

“I was, indeed,” Jethro replied. “I thought that I was engaged with
the whole of the footmen, and in the heat of the fight did not notice
that a party had moved off to attack you. You are terribly hurt, I
fear, both you and Chebron. Are both the girls unharmed?”

Mysa and Ruth had both risen to their feet as soon as the attack
ceased.

“We are both safe,” Mysa replied. “But oh, how terribly you are hurt,
both of you; and Jethro, too, is wounded!”

“My wound is nothing,” Jethro said; “let us look to those of Chebron
first,” for Chebron had sat down against one of the camels.

“Do not be alarmed,” Chebron said faintly. “I think it is only loss of
blood; my shield covered my body.”

“Now, girls,” Jethro said, “do you get beyond the camels, open one of
the bales of cloth, and set to work tearing it up in strips for
bandages. I will look after these two.”

After an examination of their wounds Jethro was able to say that he
did not think that any of them would have very serious consequences.
Both had been wounded in the leg with javelins, the side of Chebron’s
face was laid open by a sword cut, and a spear had cut through the
flesh and grazed the ribs on the right side.

Amuba’s most serious wound had been inflicted by a javelin thrown at
him sideways. This had passed completely through his back under both
shoulder-blades and had broken off there. Jethro cut off the ragged
end, and taking hold of the point protruding behind the left arm, drew
the shaft through. Then taking some of the bandages from the girls, he
bound up all the wounds, and then proceeded to examine those of the
men who were already occupied in stanching the flow of blood from
their comrades’ wounds. It was found that one of the defenders of the
square was dead and three others severely wounded.

Of Jethro’s party two had fallen and all had received wounds more or
less severe. Had it not been for the shields that covered their
bodies, few would have emerged alive from the conflict; but these gave
them an immense advantage over the Arabs, who carried no such means of
protection. The owner of the camels had escaped unhurt, having
remained during the fight hidden under some bales. As soon as the
wounds were all bandaged and a drink of wine and water had been served
out to each, the camels were unbound and permitted to rise.

Three of the men most seriously wounded, being unable to sit on their
horses, were placed on the bales carried by camels, and the party
again set out. It was well that they were obliged to proceed at the
pace of the camels, for several men could scarcely sit their horses,
and could not have done so at a pace exceeding a walk.

“Now, Amuba, let us hear about your fight,” Jethro said. “I have not
had time to ask a question yet.”

“There is naught to tell,” Amuba said. “We saw you charge down upon
their horsemen and destroy them, and then ride into the middle of
their foot. At once a party of about thirty strong detached themselves
and made straight for us. As soon as they came within range of our
arrows we began. I shot four before they reached us, and I think
Chebron did the same; but the men with us shot but poorly, and I do
not think that they can have killed more than seven or eight between
them. However, altogether, that accounted for about half their number,
and there were only about fifteen who got up to a hand-to-hand fight
with us. For a bit, aided by our breastwork, we kept them out. But at
last they managed to spring over, and although we were doing our best
and several of them had fallen, we had been wounded, and it would have
gone very hard with us in another minute or two if you had not come up
to the rescue. Now let us hear what you were doing.”

Jethro then described the encounter he and his party had had with the
footmen.

“They fight well, these Arabs,” he said, “and it was well for us that
we all carried shields; for had we not done so they would have riddled
us with their javelins. As you see, I had a narrow escape; for had
that dart that went through my ear been an inch or two to the right it
would have pierced my eye. I have two or three nasty gashes with their
swords on the legs, and I think that most of the other men came out
worse than I did. It was lucky that they did not strike at the horses;
but I suppose they wanted them, and so avoided inflicting injury on
them. However, it has been a tough fight, and we are well out of it. I
hope I shall not be called on to use my battle-ax again until I am
fighting in the ranks of the Rebu.”

CHAPTER XIX.

HOME AT LAST.

When they neared Petra a horn was heard to blow, and people were seen
running about among the houses.

“They take us for a party of Arabs,” one of the horsemen said. “As I
have often been through the town and am known to several persons here,
I will, if you like, hurry on and tell them that we are peaceful
travelers.”

The party halted for a few minutes and then moved slowly forward
again. By the time they reached the town the news that the party were
traders had spread, and the people were issuing from their houses.
These were small and solidly built of stone. They were but one story
high. The roof was flat, with a low wall running round it, and the
houses had but one door, opening externally. This was very low and
narrow, so that those inside could offer a determined resistance
against entry. As the town stood on the slope of the hill, and the
roofs of the lower houses were commanded by those from above, the
place was capable of offering a determined resistance against
marauding tribes. The head man of the place met the travelers and
conducted them to an empty house, which he placed at their disposal,
and offered a present of fowls, dates, and wine. The news that a heavy
defeat had been inflicted upon one of the wandering bands excited
satisfaction, for the interference of these plunderers greatly
affected the prosperity of the place, as the inhabitants were unable
to trade with Ælana unless going down in very strong parties. Every
attention was paid to the party by the inhabitants. Their wounds were
bathed and oil poured into them, and in the more serious cases boiled
herbs of medicinal virtue were applied as poultices to the wounds.

Petra at that time was but a large village, but it after ward rose
into a place of importance. The travelers remained here for a week, at
the end of which time all save two were in a fit state to continue
their journey.

Without further adventure the journey was continued to Moab. On their
arrival here the escort was dismissed, each man receiving a present in
addition to the stipulated rate of pay that they were to draw upon
their return to Ælana.

Moab was a settled country. It contained no large towns; but the
population, which was considerable, was gathered in small villages of
low stone-built houses, similar to those in Petra. The inhabitants
were ready to trade. Their language was strange to Jethro and Amuba;
but it was closely related to that spoken by Ruth, and she generally
acted as interpreter between Jethro and the natives. After traveling
through Moab, they took the caravan road across the desert to the
northeast, passed through the oasis of Palmyra, a large and
flourishing city, and then journeyed on the Euphrates. They were now
in the country of the Assyrians, and not wishing to attract attention
or questions, they avoided Nineveh and the other great cities, and
kept on their way north until they reached the mountainous country
lying between Assyria and the Caspian.

They met with many delays upon the way, and it was six months after
leaving Ælana before, after passing through a portion of Persia, they
reached the country inhabited by the scattered tribes known by the
general name of Medes, and to whom the Rebu were related. Through
this country Thotmes had carried his arms, and most of the tribes
acknowledged the dominion of Egypt and paid a tribute to that country,
Egyptian garrisons being scattered here and there among them.

Jethro and Amuba now felt at home, but as they determined that when
they reached their own country they would, until they found how
matters were going on there, disguise their identity, they now
traveled as Persian traders. Long before reaching Persia they had
disposed of the stock of goods with which they started, and had now
supplied themselves with articles of Persian manufacture. They thus
passed on unquestioned from village to village, as the trade in those
regions was entirely carried on by Persian merchants, that country
having already attained a comparatively high amount of civilization;
while the Median tribes, although settled down into fixed communities,
had as yet but little knowledge of the arts of peace. The party
journeyed in company with some Persian traders, and gradually worked
their way north until they arrived at the first Rebu village.

They had many times debated the question of the part they should here
play, and had agreed that it would be better to continue to maintain
their character as Persian traders until they had learned the exact
position of affairs. In order to be able to keep up their disguise
they had laid in a fresh stock of Persian goods at the last large town
through which they passed. Had Jethro been alone he could at once have
declared himself, and would have been received with joy as one who had
made his way back from captivity in Egypt; but for Amuba there would
have been danger in his being recognized until the disposition of the
occupant of the throne was discovered. There would, indeed, have been
small chance of his being recognized had he been alone. Nearly four
years had elapsed since he had been carried away captive, and he had
grown from a boy into a powerful young man; but had Jethro been
recognized his companion’s identity might have been suspected, as he
was known to have been the special mentor and companion of the young
prince.

As to Amuba, he had no desire whatever to occupy the throne of the
Rebu, and desired only to reside quietly in his native country. The
large sum that Ameres had handed over to the care of Jethro had been
much diminished by the expenses of their long journey, but there was
still ample to insure for them all a good position in a country where
money was not abundant.

In their journey through Persia they had picked up many of the words
of that language differing from those of the Rebu, and using these in
their conversation they were able to pass well as traders who in their
previous journeys in the land had acquired a fair knowledge of the
dialect of the people. They soon learned that an Egyptian garrison
still occupied the capital, that the people groaned under the
exactions necessary to pay the annual tribute, and that General
Amusis, who had, as Amuba’s father expected he would do, seized the
throne of the Rebu after the departure of the main Egyptian army, was
in close intimacy with the Egyptian officials, and was in consequence
extremely unpopular among the people. He had, on his accession to
power, put to death all the relatives of the late king who could be
considered as rival claimants for the throne, and there could be
little doubt that did he suspect that Amuba had returned from Egypt he
would not hesitate to remove him from his path.

Amuba had several long consultations with Jethro as to his course. He
repeated to him the conversation that he had had with his father on
the day previous to the battle in which the latter was slain, how he
had warned him, against the ambition of Amusis, and advised him,
rather than risk the chances of civil war in endeavoring to assert his
rights, to collect a body of adherents and to seek a new home in the
far west. Jethro, however, was strongly of opinion that the advice,
although excellent at the time, was no longer appropriate.

“To begin with, Amuba, you were then but a boy of sixteen, and engaged
as we were in war with Egypt, the people would naturally have
preferred having a well-known and skillful general at their head to
a boy whom they could not hope would lead them successfully in war.
You are now a man. You have had a wide experience. You have an
acquaintance with the manners and ways of our conquerors, and were you
on the throne could do much for the people, and could promote their
welfare by encouraging new methods of agriculture and teaching them
something of the civilization in Egypt.

“In the second place, in the four years that have elapsed Amusis has
had time to make himself unpopular. The necessity for heavy taxation
to raise the annual tribute has naturally told against him, to say
nothing of the fact that he is said to be on friendly terms with our
foreign oppressors. Therefore the chances would be all in your favor.”

“But I have no desire to be king,” Amuba replied. “I want to live in
quiet contentment.”

“You are born to be king, Prince Amuba,” Jethro said; “it is not a
matter of your choice. Besides, it is evident that for the good of the
people it is necessary that the present usurper should be overthrown
and the lawful dynasty restored. Besides this, it is clear that you
cannot live in peace and contentment as you say; you might at any
moment be recognized and your life forfeited. As to the original plan,
I am sure that your father would not have advocated it under the
changed circumstances; besides, I think you have had your fair share
of wandering and dangers.

“Moreover, I suppose you would hardly wish to drag Mysa with you on
your journey to an unknown country, where all sorts of trials and
struggles must unquestionably be encountered before you succeed in
founding a new settlement. I suppose,” he said with a smile, “you
would not propose leaving her here to whatever fate might befall her.
I fancy from what I have seen during the last six months that you have
altogether other intentions concerning her.”

Amuba was silent for some time.

“But if Amusis is supported by the Egyptians,” he said at last, “and
is viewed by them as their ally, I should not be able to overthrow him
without becoming involved in hostilities with them also. It is not,”
he went on, seeing that Jethro was about to speak, “of the garrison
here that I am thinking, but of the power of Egypt behind it. Did I
overthrow Amusis and defeat the Egyptians, his friends, I should bring
upon my country a fresh war with Egypt.”

“Egypt is, as we have found, a very long way off, Amuba. Occasionally
a warlike monarch arises under whom her arms are carried vast
distances and many nations are brought under her sway, but such
efforts are made but rarely, and we lie at the extremest limit of her
power. Thotmes himself has gained sufficient glory. He was absent for
years from his country, and at the end of long journeyings returned
home to enjoy the fruits of his victories. It is not likely that he
would again start on so long an expedition merely to bring so distant
a corner of the land subject to Egypt again under her sway. The land
is stripped of its wealth; there is nothing to reward such vast toil
and the outlay that would be required to carry out such an expedition,
and it may be generations before another monarch may arise thirsting
like Thotmes for glory, and willing to leave the luxuries of Egypt for
a course of distant conquest.

“Besides, Egypt has already learned to her cost that the Rebu are not
to be overcome bloodlessly, and that defeat is just as likely as
victory to attend her arms against us. Therefore I do not think that
the thought of the vengeance of Egypt need deter you. In other
respects the present occupation by them is in your favor rather than
otherwise, for you will appear before the people not only as their
rightful king but as their liberator from the hated Egyptian yoke.”

“You are right, Jethro,” Amuba said after a long silence; “it is my
duty to assert my rights and to restore the land to freedom. My mind
is made up now. What is your advice in the matter?”

“I should journey through the land until we reach a port by the sea
frequented by Persian traders, and should there leave the two girls in
charge of the family of some trader in that country; there they can
remain in tranquillity until matters are settled. Chebron will, I am
sure, insist upon sharing our fortunes. Our long wanderings have made
a man of him, too. They have not only strengthened his frame and
hardened his constitution, but they have given stability to his
character. He is thoughtful and prudent, and his advice will always be
valuable, while of his courage I have no more doubt than I have of
yours. When you have once gained your kingdom you will find in
Chebron a wise counselor, one on whom you can lean in all times of
difficulty.

“When we have left the girls behind we will continue our journey
through the land, and gradually put ourselves into communication with
such governors of towns and other persons of influence as we may learn
to be discontented with the present state of things, so that when we
strike our blow the whole country will declare for you at once. As we
travel we will gradually collect a body of determined men for the
surprise of the capital. There must be numbers of my old friends and
comrades still surviving, and there should be no difficulty in
collecting a force capable of capturing the city by a surprise.”

Jethro’s plans were carried out, and the girls placed under the care
of the wife of a Persian trader in a seaport close to the frontier of
Persia; the others then started upon their journey, still traveling as
Persians. Jethro had little difficulty in discovering the sentiments
of the principal men in the towns through which they passed.
Introducing himself first to them as a Persian trader desirous of
their protection in traveling through the country, he soon disclosed
to them his own individuality.

To many of them he was known either personally or by repute. He
informed them that he had escaped from Egypt with Amuba, but he led
them to believe that his companion was waiting in Persian territory
until he learned from him that the country was ripe for his
appearance; for he thought it best in no case to disclose the fact
that Amuba was with him, lest some of those with whom he communicated
should endeavor to gain rewards from the king by betraying him. His
tidings were everywhere received with joy, and in many cases Jethro
was urged to send at once for Amuba and to show him to the people,
for that all the land would instantly rise on his behalf.

Jethro, however, declared that Amuba would bide his time, for that a
premature disclosure would enable the king to call together a portion
of the army which had formerly fought under his orders, and that with
the assistance of the Egyptians he might be able to form a successful
resistance to a popular rising.

“I intend,” he said, “if possible, to collect a small force to seize
the person of the usurper by surprise, and so paralyze resistance; in
which case there would only be the Egyptians to deal with, and these
would be starved out of their fortress long before assistance could
reach them.”

After visiting most of the towns Jethro and his companions journeyed
through the villages remote from the capital. Here the king’s
authority was lightly felt save when troops arrived once a year to
gather in the taxes. Less caution was therefore necessary, and Jethro
soon made himself known and began to enlist men to the service. This
he had no difficulty in doing. The news that an attempt was at once
to be made to overthrow the usurper and to free the land of the
Egyptians, and that at the proper time the rightful king would present
himself and take the command, was received with enthusiasm.

In each valley through which they passed the whole of the young men
enrolled themselves, receiving orders to remain perfectly quiet and
to busy themselves in fabricating arms, of which the land had been
stripped by the Egyptians, until a messenger arrived summoning them to
meet at a rendezvous on an appointed day.

In six weeks the numbers of the enrolled had reached the point that
was considered necessary for the enterprise, and a day was fixed on
which they were to assemble among the hills a few miles distant from
the town. Upon the appointed day the bands began to arrive. Jethro had
purchased cattle and provisions, and receiving each band as it arrived
formed them into companies and appointed their leaders. Great fires
were lighted and the cattle slaughtered. Chebron aided in the
arrangements; but Amuba, by Jethro’s advice, passed the day in a small
tent that had been pitched in the center of the camp.

By the evening the whole of the contingents had arrived, and Jethro
saw with satisfaction the spirit that animated them all and the useful
if somewhat rough weapons that they had fashioned. When all had
assembled he drew them up in a body; and after a speech that excited
their patriotic feelings to the utmost, he went to the tent, and
leading Amuba forth presented him to them as their king.

He had in his journeys through the towns procured from some of the
principal men arms and armor fitted for persons of high rank, which
had been lying concealed since the conquest by the Egyptians. Amuba
was accoutered in these, and as he appeared at the door of his tent a
wild shout of greeting burst from the troops, and breaking their ranks
they rushed forward, and throwing themselves on their faces round him,
hailed him as their king and promised to follow him to the death.

It was a long time before the enthusiasm and excitement abated; then
Amuba addressed his followers, promising them deliverance from the
Egyptian yoke and from the taxation under which they so long groaned.

A week was spent in establishing order and discipline in the
gathering, sentries being placed at a distance round the camp to
prevent any stranger entering, or any one leaving to carry the news to
the city. In the meantime trusted men were sent to the town to
ascertain the exact position of affairs there, and to learn whether
the garrison had been placed on their guard by any rumors that might
have reached the town of disaffection in the country districts. They
returned with the intelligence that although reports had been received
that the late king’s son had escaped captivity in Egypt and would
shortly appear to claim his rights, the news had been received with
absolute incredulity, the king and his Egyptian allies scoffing at the
idea of a captive making his escape from Egypt and traversing the long
intervening distance. So complete had been the quiet throughout the
country since the Egyptian occupation that the garrison had ceased to
take any precautions whatever. No watch was set, and the gates of the
city were seldom closed even at night.

The plans were now finally arranged. Jethro, with a band of two
hundred men, was to enter the town in the daytime; some going down to
the next port and arriving by sea, others entering singly through the
gates. At midnight they were to assemble in the square round the
palace, which was to be suddenly attacked. Amuba, with the main body,
was to approach the city late in the evening and to station themselves
near one of the gates.

Jethro was before the hour named for the attack to see whether this
gate was open and unguarded, and if he found that it was closed and
under charge of an Egyptian guard, he was to tell off fifty men of his
command to attack and overpower the Egyptians, and throw open the gate
the instant they heard the trumpet, which was to be the signal for the
attack of the palace. Jethro’s party were, therefore, the first to
start, going off in little groups, some to the neighboring ports,
others direct to the city. Jethro himself was the last to set out,
having himself given instructions to each group as they started as to
their behavior and entry into the city, and the rendezvous at which
they were to assemble. He also arranged that if at any time they
should hear his call upon the horn, which was to be repeated by three
or four of his followers, who were provided with similar instruments,
they were to hurry to the spot at the top of their speed.

“One can never tell,” he said, when he told Amuba the orders he had
given, “what may happen. I believe that every man here is devoted to
you, but there may always be one traitor in a crowd; but even without
that, some careless speech on the part of one of them, a quarrel with
one of the king’s men or with an Egyptian, and the number of armed men
in the city might be discovered, for others would run up to help their
comrade, and the broil would grow until all were involved. Other
reasons might render it advisable to strike at an earlier hour than I
arranged.”

“I cannot think so,” Amuba replied. “I should say if anything were to
precipitate affairs it would be most prejudicial. You, with your small
force, would be certain to be overwhelmed by the large body of
followers whom, as we have learned, the king keeps in his palace, to
say nothing of the Egyptians. In that case not only would you lose
your lives, but you would put them so thoroughly upon their guard that
our enterprise at night would have little chance of success.”

“That is true,” Jethro said; “and I certainly do not mean to make the
slightest variation from the plan we agreed upon unless I am driven to
it. Still it is as well to be prepared for everything.”

“Of course I know that you will do nothing that is rash, Jethro. After
being all these years my guide and counselor, I know that you would do
nothing to endanger our success now that it seems almost assured.”

Jethro had in fact a reason for wishing to be able to collect his men
suddenly which he had not mentioned to Amuba. He thought it possible
that, as he had said, at the last moment the plot might by some means
or other be discovered. And his idea was that if that were the case he
would instantly gather his followers and attack the palace, trusting
to surprise and to his knowledge of the building in the endeavor to
fight his way to the king’s abode and slay him there, even if he
himself and his men were afterward surrounded and cut to pieces. The
usurper once removed, Jethro had no doubt that the whole nation would
gladly acknowledge Amuba, who would then have only the Egyptian
garrison to deal with.

No such accident, however, happened. The men entered the town
unnoticed. Those who had come by boat, and who were for the most part
natives of villages along the shore, remained in the lower town near
the landing-place. Such of them as had friends went to their houses.
Those who entered the gates sauntered about the town singly or in
pairs, and as their weapons were hidden they attracted no notice,
having the appearance of men who had come in from the country round to
dispose of their produce or the spoils of the chase, or to exchange
them for such articles as were required at home. Jethro went at once
to the house of an old friend with whom he had already communicated by
messenger.

The house was situated on the open space facing the palace. Here from
time to time he received messages from his sub-leaders, and learned
that all was going on well. He heard that the continual rumors from
the country of the approaching return of the son of the late king had
at last caused some anxiety to the usurper, who had that morning
seized and thrown into prison several leading men who were known to be
personally attached to the late king. Not, indeed, that he believed
that Amuba could have returned; but he thought it possible that some
impostor might be trading on his name.

Several bodies of men had been dispatched from the town to the places
whence these rumors had been received, to ascertain what truth there
was in them and to suppress at once any signs of revolt against the
king’s authority. This was highly satisfactory news to Jethro, as in
the first place it showed that the king did not dream of danger in his
capital; and, in the second place, it reduced the number of fighting
men in the palace to a number but slightly exceeding the force at his
own disposal.

Jethro did not stir abroad until nightfall, his face being so well
known in the town that he might at any moment be recognized. But as
soon as it was dark he went out, and, accompanied by his friend, went
round the town. He found that some changes had taken place since he
had last been there. The Egyptians had entirely cleared away the huts
toward the end of the rock furthest from the sea, and had there
erected large buildings for the use of the governor, officers, and
troops; and had run a wall across from the walls on either side,
entirely separating their quarter from the rest of the town. Jethro’s
friend informed him that the erection of these buildings had greatly
added to the hatred with which the Egyptians were regarded, as they
had been erected with forced labor, the people being driven in by
thousands and compelled to work for many months at the buildings.

Jethro learned that as soon as the inner wall was completed the
Egyptians had ceased altogether to keep watch at the gates of the city
walls, but that they had for a long time kept a vigilant guard at the
gate leading to their quarters through the new wall. For the last
year, however, owing to the absence of any spirit of revolt among the
Rebu, and to their confidence in the friendship of the king, they had
greatly relaxed their vigilance.

By nine o’clock all was quiet in the town. Jethro sent out a messenger
by the road by which Amuba’s force would approach, to tell him that
the city walls were all unguarded, and that he had better enter by the
gate half an hour before midnight, instead of waiting until he heard
the signal for attack. He could then move his men up close to the
Egyptian wall so as to attack that gate when the signal was given,
otherwise the Egyptians would be put on their guard by the sound of
fighting at the palace before he could arrive at their gate.

At the time he had named Jethro went to the gate by which Amuba was to
enter, and soon heard a faint confused noise, and a minute or two
later a dark mass of men were at the path at the gate. They were
headed by Amuba. Jethro at once explained to him the exact position;
and his companion placed himself by the side of Amuba to act as his
guide to the Egyptian wall.

Jethro then returned to the rendezvous, where his men were already
drawn up in order. Midnight was now close at hand. Quietly the band
crossed the square to the gate of the palace; then Jethro gave a loud
blast of his horn, and in an instant a party of men armed with heavy
axes rushed forward and began to hew down the gate. As the thundering
noise rose on the night air cries of terror and the shouts of officers
were heard within the royal inclosure. Then men came hurrying along
the wall, and arrows began to fall among the assailants; but by this
time the work of the axmen was nearly done, and in five minutes after
the first blow was struck the massive gates fell splintered and Jethro
rushed in at the head of his band.

The garrison, headed by the usurper himself, endeavored to stem their
inrush; but, taken by surprise, half-armed, and ignorant of the
numbers of their assailants, they could not long withstand the
determined onslaught of Jethro’s men. Jethro himself made his way
through the crowd of fighting men and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight
with the usurper, who, furious with rage and despair at the sudden
capture of the palace, fought but wildly, and Jethro’s heavy ax soon
terminated the conflict by hewing clean through helmet and head.

The fall of the usurper was for the moment unnoticed in the darkness
and confusion, but Jethro shouted to his men to hold their hands and
fall back. Then he called upon the garrison to surrender, telling them
that Amusis had fallen, and that Amuba, the son of Phrases, had
arrived, and was now king of the Rebu.

“We do not war against our own people. The Egyptians are our only
enemies. Some of you may know me. I am Jethro, and I call upon you to
join us and make common cause against the Egyptians, who are even now
being attacked by our young king.”

The garrison were but too glad to accept the terms. Fear rather than
love had attached them to Amusis; and they were delighted to escape
the prospect of death, which had the moment before stared them in the
face, and to swear allegiance to their rightful king. As Jethro
ceased, therefore, shouts of “Long live Amuba, king of the Rebu!” rose
from them.

“Form up in order instantly under your captains,” Jethro commanded,
“and follow us.”

The fray had been so short that it was but ten minutes from the moment
when Jethro’s horn had given the signal for attack to that when he led
his force, now increased to twice its former dimensions, to the
assistance of Amuba. When he reached the wall that separated the
Egyptian barracks from the rest of the town he found that Amuba had
entered without resistance and had captured two or three buildings
nearest to the gate, surprising and slaying their occupants; but
beyond that he had made no progress. The Egyptians were veterans in
warfare, and after the first moment of surprise had recovered their
coolness, and with their flights of arrows so swept the open spaces
between the buildings that the Rebu could make no progress.

Jethro ordered the troops who had just joined him, all of whom carried
bows and arrows, to ascend the walls and open fire upon the buildings
occupied by the Egyptians. Then he with his own band joined Amuba.

“All has gone well,” he said. “The palace is captured and Amusis
slain. I would do nothing further to-night. The Egyptians are four
thousand strong, while we have but half that number. It would be
madness to risk a repulse now. I will send off messengers at once to
the governors of all the towns and to our friends there, informing
them that the usurper is slain, that you are proclaimed king and are
now besieging the Egyptians in their quarters, and ordering them to
march hither at once with every man capable of bearing arms.

“In three days we shall have twenty thousand men here, and the
Egyptians, finding their position hopeless, will surrender; whereas if
you attack now we may be repulsed and you may be slain, and in that
case the country, left without a leader, will fall again into
slavery.”

Amuba, whose armor had already been pierced by several arrows and who
was bleeding freely, was with some difficulty persuaded by Jethro to
adopt his counsel. He saw at last that it was clearly the wisest plan
to adopt, and orders were at once issued to the men to desist from
further assaults, but to content themselves with repelling any attacks
the Egyptians might make.

These, however, were too ignorant as to the strength of their
assailants to think of taking the offensive, and until morning both
sides contented themselves with keeping up an incessant fire of arrows
against the openings in the buildings occupied by their foes. In the
morning Amuba ordered some green branches to be elevated on the flat
terrace of the house he occupied. The signal was observed and the fire
of the Egyptians ceased. As soon as it did so Jethro presented himself
on the terrace, and a minute or two later the Egyptian governor
appeared on the terrace of the opposite building. Not a little
surprised was he to hear himself addressed in his own language.

“In the name of King Amuba, son of King Phrases and lawful ruler of
the Rebu, I, Jethro his general, summon you to surrender. The usurper
Amusis is dead and the whole land has risen against you. Our force is
overpowering–resistance can only result in the death of every
Egyptian under your orders. Did we choose we could starve you out, for
we know that you have no more than a week’s provisions in your
magazines.

“There is no possibility that assistance can reach you. No messenger
could pass the watchers in the plain; and could they do so your
nearest force is hundreds of miles away, and is of no strength to
fight its way hither. In the name of the king I offer to allow you to
depart, carrying with you your arms and standards. The king has been
in your country. He knows how great and powerful is your nation, and
fain would be on terms of friendship with it; therefore he would
inflict no indignity upon you. The tribute which your king laid upon
the land is far more than it can pay, but the king will be willing to
send every year, to the nearest garrison to his frontiers, a tribute
of gold and precious stones of one-fifth the value of that which has
been until now wrung from the land. This he will do as a proof of the
honor in which he holds your great nation and as a recognition of its
power. The king ordered me to say that he will give you until
to-morrow morning to reflect over his offer. If it is refused the
whole garrison will be put to the sword.”

So saying Jethro descended from the terrace, leaving the Egyptians to
consider the terms he proposed.

CHAPTER XX.

THE KING OF THE REBU.

The offer that Amuba had made through Jethro was a politic one, and he
was influenced by two motives in granting a delay of twenty-four hours
before receiving the answer. In the first place, he felt sure that his
own force would, before the conclusion of that time, be trebled in
strength, and that should the Egyptians refuse he would be able to
repel any efforts they might make to cut their way out until he would
be at the head of such a force that he could at will either storm
their positions or, as he intended, beleaguer them until starvation
forced them to surrender.

In the second place, he thought that the Egyptian answer, if given at
once, would probably be a refusal; but the time for reflection would
enable them to look their position in the face and to recognize its
hopelessness. On the one side would be certain defeat and death; on
the other their general would lead out his command intact and without
dishonor. Although he had threatened to put the garrison to the sword
in case they refused, Amuba had no intention to carry out his threat,
but on the contrary had determined that even were the Egyptians forced
to surrender by famine he would freely grant them the same terms he
now offered.

He knew the proud and haughty nature of the Egyptians, and that the
news of the massacre of a great garrison and the successful rising of
a tributary province would excite such deep feeling that sooner or
later an army would be dispatched to avenge the disaster. If, however,
the garrison left the country with their arms and standards no
disgrace would be inflicted upon the national arms, and as a tribute,
however much reduced, would still be paid, they could still regard the
Rebu as under their domination. The reduction of the tribute, indeed,
would be an almost imperceptible item in the revenue of Egypt.

Leaving Jethro in command of the beleaguering force, Amuba,
accompanied by Chebron, who had been by his side during the fighting,
and a small bodyguard, went back into the town. The news of his coming
had already spread, and the inhabitants, who had remained in their
houses in terror during the, to them, unaccountable tumult of the
night, had now poured out into the streets, the great space in front
of the palace being densely packed with people. As Amuba approached a
deafening shout of welcome was raised; the gates of the prisons had
been thrown open, and those arrested the previous day, and many others
of the principal captains of his father’s army, thronged round him and
greeted him as their king.

With difficulty a way was cleared to the gate of the royal inclosure.
Amuba, after entering, mounted the wall and addressed a few words to
the people. He told them that in defiance of all probability he had
escaped from his captivity in Egypt and had made his way back to his
native land, intent not so much on claiming his rightful position
there as of freeing them from the power of their oppressors. He
promised them that he would always respect their rights and usages,
and should endeavor to follow in the footsteps of his father. Then he
retired to the palace, where he held a council with the captains and
leading men in the city. Orders were at once issued for every man
capable of bearing arms to provide himself with some kind of weapon,
and to assemble at noon in the great square.

Lists were drawn up of all the officers of the late army still living
in the town, and when the gathering took place at noon these were
appointed to form the men into companies, to appoint sub-officers, to
see to the state of the arms, and, as far as possible, to supply
deficiencies. A larger proportion than was expected of the three
thousand men that assembled were found to be provided with weapons.
Although nominally all arms had been surrendered to the Egyptians,
great numbers of spear and arrow heads, swords, and axes had been
buried. Shafts had been hastily made for the spears, and bows used for
the purposes of the chase were now brought out to do service as
fighting weapons.

Many hundreds of spears and swords had been found in the stores at the
palace, and when these were served out most of the men had a weapon of
some sort. They were at once marched up to the Egyptian inclosure.
Those with bows and arrows were placed upon the walls; the rest were
massed near the gate in readiness to advance to the assistance of the
band within should the Egyptians make an attempt to cut their way out.
In point of numbers Amuba’s forces were now superior to those of the
Egyptians, but he was well aware that the superior arms and discipline
of the latter would enable them to make a successful sortie should
they determine to do so.

The women of the town were ordered to set to work to grind the grain
served out from the magazine in the palace, and to bake bread both for
the fighting men present and for those expected to arrive. By noon
the latter began to flock in, the contingents from the towns arriving
in regular order, while the shepherds and villagers straggled in
irregularly as the news reached them of the events of the previous
night. By evening fully ten thousand men had arrived, and as the
Egyptians had remained quiet all day Amuba had every hope that they
had decided to accept the terms he offered, and that there would be no
occasion for further fighting. The troops, however, remained under
arms all night, ready to repel an attack, and in the morning Amuba and
Jethro mounted together on to the terrace of the building from which
the parley had taken place on the previous day.

A few minutes later the Egyptian governor and a group of his officers
appeared on the opposite house.

“This is King Amuba,” Jethro said in a loud voice. “He is here to
confirm the terms offered yesterday, and to receive your answer.”

“We are ready,” the Egyptian governor said, “to retire beyond your
frontier, carrying with us our arms, standards, and valuables, it
being understood that we make no surrender whatever, but that we march
out on equal terms, holding, as we do, that we could, if we chose, cut
our way out in spite of any resistance.”

“You may hold that belief,” Amuba said (and the Egyptian was
astonished at finding that the king, as well as his general, was
capable of conversing in the Egyptian tongue); “and, indeed, knowing
and honoring the valor of the Egyptian troops, I admit it is possible
that, although with great loss, you might make your way out, but more
than that you could not do. You could not hold the country, for you
have a nation against you. It is doubtful whether you could reach the
frontier. Surely it is better, then, that you should leave with honor
and without loss.”

“As to the tribute that you offer,” the Egyptian commander said, “I
have no power to agree to any diminution of the terms imposed by the
king, and if it be his will that an army invades your country to
enforce the former terms, I, with the troops here, must march as
ordered, without imputation of having behaved treacherously.”

“That is quite understood,” Amuba said; “but I trust, my lord, that
you, having seen for yourself how poor is our country, how utterly
unable to continue to pay the tribute formerly demanded from us, which
has already impoverished us to the last degree, will represent the
same in your dispatches to the king, and will use your good offices in
obtaining his favorable consideration of our case. I can promise you
that the tribute shall be paid regularly. I regard Egypt as the
greatest power in the world, and I am most desirous to continue in
friendly relations with it, and I swear to you that it will be no
fault of mine if any complaint reach you of trouble on our part.”

Amuba’s speech was well calculated to soothe the pride of the
Egyptian. The latter was perfectly conscious, although he spoke
confidently, that it would be no easy matter for his troops to cut
their way through the narrow gateway held by the masses of the Rebu,
still less to make their way, harassed as he was, to their frontier.
If he returned with his troops intact and in good condition he could
so represent circumstances that no blame or discredit would fall upon
him; and personally he was exceedingly pleased at the prospect of the
termination of his soldiering at a post so far removed from Egypt and
civilization. He therefore agreed to the terms Amuba proposed, and
after a short parley the conditions of the evacuation of the town by
the Egyptians were arranged.

Amuba agreed to withdraw his men from the buildings that they
occupied, and also from the gate, and to place them all upon the
walls, thus saving the Egyptians the humiliation of passing through
lines of armed men, and avoiding the risk of a broil arising between
the soldiers. He at once issued the necessary orders, and the Rebu
retired to the walls, where they could defend themselves in case of
any treachery on the part of the Egyptians, and the inhabitants of the
city were all ordered back from the road leading from the entrance to
the Egyptian inclosure to the gate in the city walls. An hour later
the Egyptians drew up in order in their inclosure.

Each man carried with him food sufficient for a week’s subsistence,
and Amuba had arranged that a certain number of bullocks should be
sent forward at once to each halting-place on the way to the frontier,
and that there a herd sufficient for their subsistence during their
march to the nearest Egyptian garrison should be awaiting them. In
firm and steady order the Egyptians marched out. The images and
symbols of the gods were carried aloft, and the bearing of the
soldiers was proud and defiant, for they, too, were doubtful whether
the Rebu might not intend to make an attack upon them, the terms
granted them seeming to be almost too good to be trusted. No sooner
had the rear of the column passed out through the city gate than the
Rebu with shouts of joy flocked down from the walls, and the city gave
itself up to rejoicing.

Jethro had at once sent out messengers to see that the oxen were
collected at the points agreed upon, and to issue orders that the
population along the line of march should all retire before the
arrival of the Egyptians, who might otherwise have been tempted to
seize them and carry them off as slaves with them in their retreat.

For the next few days Amuba’s time was wholly occupied in receiving
deputations from the various towns and districts, in appointing fresh
officials, and in taking measures for the rearming of the people and
their enrolment in companies, so that the country should be in a
position to offer a desperate resistance should the Egyptians
determine to recapture it. It was certain that many months must elapse
before any force capable of undertaking their invasion could march
from Egypt; but Amuba was determined that no time should be lost in
making preparations, and he decided that something of the tactics and
discipline of the Egyptians should be introduced into the Rebu army.

He had on the very night of the surprise of the town sent on a message
to inform the girls of his success, and that neither Chebron nor
himself was hurt. Having by unremitting work got through his most
pressing business, he left Jethro, who was now formally appointed
general-in-chief, to carry on the work, and started with Chebron to
fetch the girls to his capital. But he was now obliged to travel with
a certain amount of state, and he was accompanied by twenty of the
leading men of the Rebu in chariots and by an escort of light-armed
horsemen. At each town through which he passed he was received with
rapturous greetings and hailed as king and deliverer of the nation.

Two days after starting he arrived at the little seaport, and after
receiving the usual greeting from the inhabitants and holding an
audience at which he received the principal inhabitants who came to
tender their allegiance, he made his way to the house of the Persian
merchant where he had placed the girls. As his chariot stopped at the
door the merchant appeared on the threshold and made a profound
prostration. He had until the arrival of Amuba at the town been in
entire ignorance that those who had placed the girls under his charge
were other than they seemed. He knew indeed from their ignorance of
his language that the girls were not Persians, but supposed that they
were female slaves who had been brought from a distance, with a view,
perhaps, of being presented as an offering to the king.

After a word or two with him, Amuba and Chebron entered the house and
ascended to the apartment which had been set aside for the girls. They
were standing timidly at one end of the room, and both bent profoundly
as he entered. Amuba for a moment paused in astonishment, and then
burst into a fit of laughter.

“Is this your sister, Chebron, who thus greets her old friend in such
respectful fashion? Am I myself or some one else?”

“You are King Amuba,” Mysa said, half-smiling, but with tears in her
eyes.

“That is true enough, Mysa; but I was always prince, you know. So
there is nothing very surprising in that.”

“There is a great difference,” Mysa said; “and it is only right where
there is such a difference of rank—-”

“The difference of rank need not exist long, Mysa,” Amuba said,
stepping forward and taking her hand. “Chebron, who is your brother,
and like a brother to me, has given me his consent, and it rests only
with you whether you will be queen of the Rebu and Amuba’s wife. You
know that if I had not succeeded in winning a throne I should have
asked you to share my lot as an exile, and I think you would have said
yes. Surely you are not going to spoil my triumph now by saying no. If
you do I shall use my royal power in earnest and take you whether you
will or not.”

But Mysa did not say no, and six weeks later there was a royal
wedding in the capital. Amuba had at once allotted one of the largest
houses in the royal inclosure to Chebron, and to this he took Mysa
while Amuba was making the tour of his country, receiving the homage
of the people, hearing complaints, and seeing that the work of
preparation for the defense of the country was being carried on, after
which he returned to the capital. The wedding was celebrated in great
state, though it was observed that the religious ceremonies were
somewhat cut short, and that Amuba abstained from himself offering
sacrifice on the altars of the gods. The ceremony was a double one,
for at the same time Chebron was united to Ruth.

For the next year the preparations for war went on vigorously and the
Rebu army was got into a state of great efficiency. Amuba and Jethro
felt confident that it could successfully withstand any invading force
from Egypt, but, as they had hoped, Egypt made no effort to regain her
distant conquest, but was content to rank the land of the Rebu among
the list of her tributary nations and to accept the diminished
tribute.

Once prepared for war, Amuba turned his attention to the internal
affairs of the country. Many of the methods of government of Egypt
were introduced. Irrigation was carried out on a large scale and the
people were taught no longer to depend solely upon their flocks and
herds. Stone took the place of mud in the buildings of the towns,
rigorous justice was enforced throughout the land, wagons and carts
similar to those of Egypt took the place of pack animals, which had
hitherto been used for transport, improved methods of agriculture were
taught, and contentment and plenty reigned in the land.

Chebron remained Amuba’s chief minister, adviser, and friend, and
under their joint efforts the Rebu rose from the condition of a mere
settled tribe to that of a small but flourishing nation.

Another change was made, but more slowly. Soon after his ascension
Amuba assembled many of the leading men and chief priests in the
country, and explained to them the convictions held by himself and
Chebron and their wives, that there was but one God who ruled over
the world, and that this knowledge was the highest wisdom of the
Egyptians. He explained to the priests that he did not wish to
overthrow the temples or disturb the worship of the former gods, but
that he desired that the people should not remain in ignorance, but
should be taught that the gods as they worshiped them were but symbols
or images of the one great God. He said he had no thought of enforcing
his convictions upon others, but that all would be free to worship as
they pleased, and that at all times he and Chebron would be ready to
confer with those who wished to inquire into these matters.

In this matter alone Amuba met with much opposition in carrying out
his plans, and had he been less popular than he was with the people
his efforts might have cost him his throne and his life: but the Rebu
were devoted to him, and as the priests came gradually to see that the
change would not diminish their power, their opposition died away,
especially as many of the younger men were soon convinced by the
arguments of the king and his minister, and preached the new religion
with enthusiasm among the people. But it was not until many years
after that Amuba had the satisfaction of knowing that the one God was
worshiped among his people. He was well aware that the success of the
work was to no small extent due to the earnestness with which Mysa and
Ruth had labored among the wives and daughters of the nobles.

“How strangely things turn out,” Chebron said one day ten years after
their arrival in the land, when the little party who had traveled so
long together were gathered in a room in the palace. “At one time it
seemed that that unlucky shot of mine would not only bring ruin on all
connected with me but be a source of unhappiness to me to the end of
my life. Now I see that, except for the death of my father, it was the
most fortunate event of my life. But for that, I should all my life
have gone on believing in the gods of Egypt; but for that, although
you, Amuba and Jethro, might some day have made your escape, Mysa and
I would assuredly never have left Egypt, never have known anything of
the life of happiness and usefulness that we now enjoy. All this I
consider I owe to the fortunate shot that killed the Cat of Bubastes.”

THE END.