The position of Ancient Egypt was unique, not in one, but in every sense. To begin at the very foundation of life in that country, we find that the soil was unlike any other on earth in its origin. Every acre of fruitful land between the first cataract and the sea had been brought from Inner Africa, and each year additions were made to it. Out of this mud, borne down thousands of miles from the great fertile uplands of Abyssinia by rivers, grew everything needed to feed and clothe man and nourish animals. Out of it also was made the brick from which walls, houses, and buildings of various uses and kinds were constructed. Though this soil of the country was rich, it could be utilized only by the unceasing co-ordinate efforts of a whole population constrained and directed. To direct and constrain was the task of the priests and the pharaohs. Never have men worked in company so long and successfully at tilling the earth as the Egyptians, and never has the return been so continuous and abundant from land as in their case. The Nile valley furnished grain to all markets accessible by water; hence Rome, Greece, and Judaea ate the bread of Egypt. On this national tillage was founded the greatness of the country, for from it came the means to execute other works, and in it began that toil, training, and skill indispensable in rearing the monuments and doing those things which have made Egypt famous forever, and preserved to us a knowledge of the language, religion, modes of living, and history of that wonderful people who held the Nile valley.
Das E-Book können Sie in Legimi-Apps oder einer beliebigen App lesen, die das folgende Format unterstützen:
In the thirty-third year of the happy reign of Ramses XII, Egypt celebrated two festivals which filled all its faithful inhabitants with pride and delight.
In the month of Mechir that is, during January the god Khonsu returned to Thebes covered with costly gifts. For three years and nine months he had traveled in the country of Buchten, where he restored health to the king's daughter, Bentres, and expelled an evil spirit not only from the royal family, but even from the fortress.
So in the month Farmuti (February) Mer-Amen-Ramses XII, the lord of Upper and Lower Egypt, the ruler of Phoenicia and nine nations, after consultation with the gods to whom he was equal, named as erpatr, or heir to the throne, his son, aged twenty years, Cham-Sem Merer-Amen- Ramses.
This choice delighted the pious priests, the worthy nomarchs, the valiant army, the faithful people, and every creature living in Egypt, because the older sons of the pharaoh, who were born of a Hittite princess, had been visited by an evil spirit through enchantments which no one had the power to investigate. One son of twenty-seven years was unable to walk after reaching maturity; the second opened his veins and died; the third, through poisoned wine, which he would not cease drinking, fell into madness, and believing himself a monkey, passed whole days among tree branches.
But the fourth son, Ramses, born of Queen Nikotris, daughter of the priest Amenhotep, was as strong as the bull Apis, as brave as a lion, and as wise as the priests. From childhood he surrounded himself with warriors, and while still a common prince, used to say,
"If the gods, instead of making me the youngest son of his holiness, had made me a pharaoh, like Ramses the Great, I would conquer nine nations, of which people in Egypt have never heard mention; I would build a temple larger than all Thebes, and rear for myself a pyramid near which the tomb of Cheops would be like a rosebush at the side of a full-grown palm-tree."
On receiving the much desired title of heir, the young prince begged his father to be gracious and appoint him to command the army corps of Memphis. To this his holiness, Ramses XII, after consultation with the gods, to whom he was equal, answered that he would do so in case the heir could give proof that he had skill to direct a mass of troops arrayed for battle.
A council was called under the presidency of the minister of war, Sem-Amen-Herhor, high priest of the great sanctuary of Amon in Thebes.
The council decided in this way: "The heir to the throne, in the middle of the month Mesore, will take ten regiments, disposed along the line which connects Memphis with the city of Pi-uto, situated on the Bay of Sebenico.
"With this corps of ten thousand men prepared for battle, provided with a camp and with military engines, the heir will betake himself eastward along the highroad from Memphis toward Hittite regions, which road lies on the boundary between the land of Goshen and the wilderness. At this time General Nitager, commander of the army which guards the gates of Egypt from attacks of Asiatic people, will move from the Bitter Lakes against the heir, Prince Ramses.
"Both armies, the Asiatic and the Western, are to meet near Pi-Bailos, but in the wilderness, so that industrious husbandmen in the land of Goshen be not hindered in their labors.
"The heir will be victorious if he does not let himself be surprised by Nitager, that is, if he concentrates all his forces and succeeds in putting them in order of battle to meet the enemy.
"His worthiness Herhor, the minister of war, will be present in the camp of Prince Ramses, and will report to the pharaoh."
Two ways of communication formed the boundary between the land ofGoshen and the desert. One was the transport canal from Memphis to LakeTimrah; the other was the highroad. The canal was in the laud ofGoshen, the highroad in the desert which both ways bounded with a halfcircle.
The canal was visible from almost every point upon the highroad. Whatever artificial boundaries might be, these neighboring regions differed in all regards. The land of Goshen, though a rolling country, seemed a plain; the desert was composed of limestone hills and sandy valleys. The land of Goshen seemed a gigantic chessboard the green and yellow squares of which were indicated by the color of grain and by palms growing on their boundaries; but on the ruddy sand of the desert and its white hills a patch of green or a clump of trees and bushes seemed like a lost traveler.
On the fertile land of Goshen from each hill shot up a dark grove of acacias, sycamores, and tamarinds which from a distance looked like our lime-trees; among these were concealed villas with rows of short columns, or the yellow mud huts of earth-tillers. Sometimes near the grove was a white village with flat-roofed houses, or above the trees rose the pyramidal gates of a temple, like double cliffs, many-colored with strange characters. From the desert beyond the first row of hills, which were a little green, stared naked elevations covered with blocks of stone. It seemed as if the western region, sated with excess of life, hurled with regal generosity to the other side flowers and vegetables, but the desert in eternal hunger devoured them in the following year and turned them into ashes.
The stunted vegetation, exiled to cliffs and sands, clung to the lower places until, by means of ditches made in the sides of the raised highroad, men conducted water from the canals to it. In fact, hidden oases between naked hills along that highway drank in the divine water. In these oases grew wheat, barley, grapes, palms, and tamarinds. The whole of such an oasis was sometimes occupied by one family, which when it met another like itself at the market in Pi-Bailos might not even know that they were neighbors in the desert.
On the fifteenth of Mesore the concentration of troops was almostfinished. The regiments of Prince Ramses, which were to meet theAsiatic forces of Nitager, had assembled on the road above the city ofPi-Bailos with their camp and with some military engines.
The heir himself directed all the movements. He had organized two parties of scouts. Of these the first had to watch the enemy, the other to guard its own army from attack, which was possible in a hilly region with many ravines. Ramses, in the course of a week, rode around and examined all the regiments, inarching by various roads, looking carefully to see if the soldiers had good weapons and warm mantles for the night hours, if in the camps there was dried bread in sufficiency as well as meat and dried fish. He commanded, besides, that the wives, children, and slaves of warriors marching to the eastern boundary should be conveyed by canal; this diminished the number of chariots and eased the movements of the army.
The oldest generals admired the zeal, knowledge, and caution of the heir, and, above all, his simplicity and love of labor. His court, which was numerous, his splendid tent, chariots, and litters were left in the capital, and, dressed as a simple officer, he hurried from regiment to regiment on horseback, in Assyrian fashion, attended by two adjutants.
Thanks to this concentration, the corps itself went forward very swiftly, and the army was near Pi-Bailos at the time appointed.
It was different with the prince's staff, and the Greek regiment accompanying it, and with some who moved military engines.
The staff, collected in Memphis, had the shortest road to travel; hence it moved latest, bringing an immense camp with it. Nearly every officer, and they were young lords of great families, had a litter with four negroes, a two-wheeled military chariot, a rich tent, and a multitude of boxes with food and clothing, also jars full of beer and wine. Besides, a numerous troop of singers and dancers, with music, had betaken themselves to journey behind the officers; each woman must, in the manner of a great lady, have a car drawn by one or two pair of oxen, and must have also a litter.
When this throng poured out of Memphis, it occupied more space on the highway than the army of Prince Ramses. The march was so slow that the military engines which were left at the rear moved twenty-four hours later than was ordered. To complete every evil the female dancers and singers, on seeing the desert, not at all dreadful in that place, were terrified and fell to weeping. To calm these women it was necessary to hasten with the night camp, pitch tents, arrange a spectacle, and a feast afterward.
The night amusement in the cool, under the starry sky, with wild nature for a background, pleased dancers and singers exceedingly; they declared that they would travel thenceforth only through the desert. Meanwhile Prince Ramses sent an order to turn all women back to Memphis at the earliest and urge the march forward.
His dignity Herhor, minister of war, was with the staff, but only as a spectator. He had not brought singers himself, but he made no remarks to officers. He gave command to carry his litter at the head of the column, and accommodating himself to its movements, advanced or rested under the immense fan with which his adjutant shaded him.
Herhor was a man of forty and some years of age, strongly built, concentrated in character. He spoke rarely, and looked at people as rarely from under his drooping eyelids. He went with arms and legs bare, like every Egyptian, his breast exposed; he had sandals on his feet, a short skirt about his hips, an apron with blue and white stripes. As a priest, he shaved his beard and hair and wore a panther- skin hanging from his left shoulder. As a soldier, he covered his head with a small helmet of the guard; from under this helmet hung a kerchief, also in blue and white stripes; this reached his shoulders. Around his neck was a triple gold chain, and under his left arm a short sword in a costly scabbard. His litter, borne by six black slaves, was attended always by three persons: one carried his fan, another the mace of the minister, and the third a box for papyrus. This third man was Pentuer, a priest, and the secretary of Herhor. He was a lean ascetic who in the greatest heat never covered his shaven head. He came of the people, but in spite of low birth he occupied a high position in the state; this was due to exceptional abilities.
Though the minister with his officials preceded the staff and held himself apart from its movements, it could not be said that he was unconscious of what was happening behind him. Every hour, at times every half hour, some one approached Herhor's litter, now a priest of lower rank, an ordinary "servant of the gods," a marauding soldier, a freedman, or a slave, who, passing as it were indifferently the silent retinue of the minister, threw out a word. That word Pentuer recorded sometimes, but more frequently he remembered it, for his memory was amazing.
No one in the noisy throng of the staff paid attention to these details. The officers, sons of great lords, were too much occupied by running, by noisy conversation, or by singing, to notice who approached the minister; all the more since a multitude of people were pushing along the highway.
On the sixteenth of Mesore the staff of Prince Ramses, together with his dignity the minister, passed the night under the open sky at the distance of five miles from the regiments which were arranged in battle order across the highway beyond the city of Pi-Bailos.
In that early morning which precedes our six o'clock, the hills grew violet, and from behind them came forth the sun. A rosy light flowed over the land of Goshen. Villages, temples, palaces of magnates, and huts of earth-tillers looked like sparks and flames which flashed up in one moment from the midst of green spaces. Soon the western horizon was flooded with a golden hue, and the green land of Goshen seemed melting into gold, and the numberless canals seemed filled with molten silver. But the desert hills grew still more marked with violet, and cast long shadows on the sands, and darkness on the plant world.
The guards who stood along that highway could see with the utmost clearness fields, edged with palms, beyond the canal. Some fields were green with flax, wheat, clover; others were gilded with ripening barley of the second growth. Now earth-tillers began to come out to field labor, from huts concealed among trees; they were naked and bronze- hued; their whole dress was a short skirt and a cap. Some turned to canals to clear them of mud, or to draw water. Others dispersing among the trees gathered grapes and ripe figs. Many naked children stirred about, and women were busy in white, yellow, or red shirts which were sleeveless.
There was great movement in that region. In the sky birds of prey from the desert pursued pigeons and daws in the land of Goshen. Along the canal squeaking sweeps moved up and down, with buckets of fertilizing water; fruit-gatherers appeared and disappeared among the trees, like colored butterflies. But in the desert, on the highway, swarmed the army and its servants. A division of mounted lancers shot past. Behind them marched bowmen in caps and petticoats; they had bows in their hands, quivers on their shoulders, and broadswords at their right sides. The archers were accompanied by slingers who carried bags with missiles and were armed with short swords.
A hundred yards behind them advanced two small divisions of footmen, one division armed with darts, the other with spears. Both carried rectangular shields; on their breasts they had thick coats, as it were armor, and on their heads caps with kerchiefs behind to ward off the sun-rays. The caps and coats had blue and white stripes or yellow and black stripes, which made those soldiers seem immense hornets.
Behind the advance guard, surrounded by a retinue of macebearers, pushed on the litter of the minister, and behind it, with bronze helmets and breastplates, the Greek companies, whose measured tread called to mind blows of heavy hammers. In the rear was heard the creaking of vehicles, and from the side of the highway slipped along the bearded Phoenician merchant in his litter borne between two asses. Above all this rose a cloud of golden dust, and heat also.
Suddenly from the vanguard galloped up a mounted soldier and informed Herhor that Prince Ramses, the heir to the throne, was approaching. His worthiness descended from the litter, and at that moment appeared a mounted party of men who halted and sprang from their horses. One man of this party and the minister began to approach each other, halting every few steps and bowing.
"Be greeted, O son of the pharaoh; may he live through eternity!" said the minister.
"Be greeted and live long, O holy father!" answered Ramses; then he added,
"Ye advance as slowly as if your legs were sawn off, while Nitager will stand before our division in two hours at the latest."
"Thou hast told truth. Thy staff marches very slowly."
"Eunana tells me also," here Ramses indicated an officer standing behind him who was covered with amulets, "that ye have not sent scouts to search ravines. But in case of real war an enemy might attack from that side."
"I am not the leader, I am only a judge," replied the minister, quietly.
"But what can Patrokles be doing?"
"Patrokles is bringing up the military engines with his Greek regiment."
"But my relative and adjutant, Tutmosis?"
"He is sleeping yet, I suppose."
Ramses stamped impatiently, and was silent. He was a beautiful youth, with a face almost feminine, to which anger and sunburn added charm. He wore a close-fitting coat with blue and white stripes, a kerchief of the same color behind his helmet, a gold chain around his neck, and a costly sword beneath his left arm.
"I see," said the prince, "that Thou alone, Eunana, art mindful of my honor."
The officer covered with amulets bent to the earth.
"Tutmosis is indolent," said the heir. "Return to thy place, Eunana.Let the vanguard at least have a leader."
Then, looking at the suite which now surrounded him as if it had sprung from under the earth on a sudden, he added,
"Bring my litter. I am as tired as a quarryman."
"Can the gods grow tired?" whispered Eunana, still standing behind him.
"Go to thy place!" said Ramses.
"But perhaps Thou wilt command me, O image of the moon, to search the ravines?" asked the officer, in a low voice. "Command, I beg thee, for wherever I am my heart is chasing after thee to divine thy will and accomplish it."
"I know that Thou art watchful," answered Ramses. "Go now and look after everything."
"Holy father," said Eunana, turning to the minister, "I commend my most obedient service to thy worthiness."
Barely had Eunana gone when at the end of the marching column rose a still greater tumult. They looked for the heir's litter, but it was gone. Then appeared, making his way through the Greek warriors, a youth of strange exterior. He wore a muslin tunic, a richly embroidered apron, and a golden scarf across his shoulder. But he was distinguished above all by an immense wig with a multitude of tresses, and an artificial beard like cats' tails.
That was Tutmosis, the first exquisite in Memphis, who dressed and perfumed himself even during marches.
"Be greeted, Ramses!" exclaimed the exquisite, pushing aside officers quickly. "Imagine thy litter is lost somewhere; Thou must sit in mine, which really is not fit for thee, but it is not the worst."
"Thou hast angered me," answered the prince. "Thou sleepest instead of watching the army."
The astonished exquisite stopped.
"I sleep?" cried he. "May the man's tongue wither up who invented that calumny! I, knowing that Thou wouldst come, have been ready this hour past, and am preparing a bath for thee and perfumes."
"While thus engaged, the regiment is without a commander."
"Am I to command a detachment where his worthiness the minister of war is, and such a leader is present as Patrokles?"
Ramses was silent; meanwhile Tutmosis, approaching him, whispered,
"In what a plight Thou art, O son of the pharaoh! Without a wig, thy hair and dress full of dust, thy skin black and cracked, like the earth in summer. The queen, most deserving of honor, would drive me from the court were she to look at thy wretchedness."
"I am only tired."
"Then take a seat in my litter. In it are fresh garlands of roses, roast birds, and a jug of wine from Cyprus. I have kept also hidden in the camp," added he in a lower voice, "Senura."
"Is she here?" asked the prince; and his eyes, glittering a moment before, were now mist-covered.
"Let the army move on," said Tutmosis; "we will wait here for her."
Ramses recovered himself.
"Leave me, tempter! The battle will come in two hours."
"What! a battle?"
"At least the decision as to my leadership."
"Oh, laugh at it!" smiled the exquisite. "I would swear that the minister of war sent a report of it yesterday, and with it the petition to give thee the corps of Memphis."
"No matter if he did. Today I have no thought for anything but the army."
"In thee this wish for war is dreadful, war during which a man does not wash for a whole month, so as to die in—Brr! But if Thou couldst see Senura, only glance at her. ."
"For that very reason I shall not glance at her," answered Ramses, decisively.
At the moment when eight men were bringing from beyond the Greek ranks the immense litter of Tutmosis for the use of Ramses, a horseman raced in from the vanguard. He dropped from his horse and ran so quickly that on his breast the images of the gods or the tablets with their names rattled loudly. This was Eunana in great excitement.
All turned to him, and this gave him pleasure apparently.
"Erpatr, the loftiest lips," cried Eunana, bending before Ramses. "When, in accordance with thy divine command, I rode at the head of a detachment, looking carefully at all things, I noticed on the highroad two beautiful scarabs. Each of these sacred beetles was rolling an earth ball toward the sands near the roadside."
"What of that?" interrupted Ramses.
"Of course," continued Eunana, glancing toward Herhor, "I and my people, as piety enjoins, rendered homage to the golden symbols of the sun, and halted. That augury is of such import that no man of us would make a step forward unless commanded."
"I see that Thou art a pious Egyptian, though Thou hast the features of a Hittite," answered the worthy Herhor; and turning to certain dignitaries standing near, he added,
"We will not advance farther by the highway, for we might crush the sacred beetles. Pentuer, can we go around the road by that ravine on the right?"
"We can," answered the secretary. "That ravine is five miles long, and comes out again almost in front of Pi-Bailos."
"An immense loss of time!" interrupted Ramses, in anger.
"I would swear that those are not scarabs, but the spirits of my Phoenician usurers," said Tutmosis the exquisite. "Not being able, because of their death, to receive money from me, they will force me now to march through the desert in punishment!"
The suite of the prince awaited the decision with fear; so Ramses turned to Herhor,
"What dost Thou think of this, holy father?"
"Look at the officers," answered the priest, "and Thou wilt understand that we must go by the ravine."
Now Patrokles, leader of the Greeks, pushed forward and said to the heir,
"If the prince permit, my regiment will advance by the highway. My soldiers have no fear of beetles!"
"Your soldiers have no fear of royal tombs even," added the minister."Still it cannot be safe in them since no one has ever returned."
The Greek pushed back to the suite confounded.
"Confess, holy father," hissed the heir, with the greatest anger, "that such a hindrance would not stop even an ass on his journey."
"True, but no ass will ever be pharaoh," retorted the minister, calmly.
"In that case thou, O minister, wilt lead the division through the ravine!" exclaimed Ramses. "I am unacquainted with priestly tactics; besides, I must rest. Come with me, cousin," said he to Tutmosis; and he turned toward some naked hills.
Straightway his worthiness Herhor directed his adjutant who carried the mace to take charge of the vanguard in place of Eunana. Then he commanded that the military engines for hurling great stones leave the road, and that the Greek soldiers facilitate passage for those engines in difficult places. All vehicles and litters of staff-officers were to move in the rear.
When Herhor issued commands, the adjutant bearing the fan approachedPentuer and asked,
"Will it be possible to go by this highway again?"
"Why not?" answered the young priest. "But since two sacred beetles have barred the way now, we must not go farther; some misfortune might happen."
"As it is, a misfortune has happened. Or hast Thou not noticed thatPrince Ramses is angry at the minister? and our lord is not forgetful."
"It is not the prince who is offended with our lord, but our lord with the prince, and he has reproached him. He has done well; for it seems to the young prince, at present, that he is to be a second Menes."
"Or a Ramses the Great," put in the adjutant.
"Ramses the Great obeyed the gods; for this cause there are inscriptions praising him in all the temples. But Menes, the first pharaoh of Egypt, was a destroyer of order, and thanks only to the fatherly kindness of the priests that his name is still remembered, though I would not give one brass uten on this, that the mummy of Menes exists."
"My Pentuer," added the adjutant, "Thou art a sage, hence knowest that it is all one to us whether we have ten lords or eleven."
"But it is not all one to the people whether they have to find every year a mountain of gold for the priests, or two mountains of gold for the priests and the pharaoh," answered Pentuer, while his eyes flashed.
"Thou art thinking of dangerous things," said the adjutant, in a whisper.
"But how often hast Thou thyself grieved over the luxuries of the pharaoh's court and of the nomarchs?" inquired the priest in astonishment.
"Quiet, quiet! We will talk of this, but not now."
In spite of the sand the military engines, drawn each by two bullocks, moved in the desert more speedily than along the highway. With the first of them marched Eunana, anxiously. "Why has the minister deprived me of leadership over the vanguard? Does he wish to give me a higher position?" asked he in his own mind.
Thinking out then a new career, and perhaps to dull the fears which made his heart quiver, he seized a pole and, where the sands were deeper, propped the balista, or urged on the Greeks with an outcry.
They, however, paid slight attention to this officer.
The retinue had pushed on a good half hour through a winding ravine with steep naked walls, when the vanguard halted a second time. At this point another ravine crossed the first; in the middle of it extended a rather broad canal.
The courier sent to the minister of war with notice of the obstacle brought back a command to fill the canal immediately.
About a hundred soldiers with pickaxes and shovels rushed to the work. Some knocked out stones from the cliff; others threw them into the ditch and covered them with sand.
Meanwhile from the depth of the ravine came a man with a pickaxe shaped like a stork's neck with the bill on it. He was an Egyptian slave, old and entirely naked. He looked for a while with the utmost amazement at the work of the soldiers; then, springing between them on a sudden, he shouted,
"What are ye doing, vile people? This is a canal."
"But how darest Thou use evil words against the warriors of his holiness?" asked Eunana, who stood there.
"Thou must be an Egyptian and a great person, I see that," said the slave; "so I answer thee that this canal belongs to a mighty lord; he is the manager and secretary of one who bears the fan for his worthiness the nomarch of Memphis. Be on thy guard or misfortune will strike thee!"
"Do your work," said Eunana, with a patronizing tone, to the Greek soldiers who began to look at the slave.
They did not understand his speech, but the tone of it arrested them.
"They are filling in all the time!" said the slave, with rising fear."Woe to thee!" cried he, rushing at one of the Greeks with his pickaxe.
The Greek pulled it from the man, struck him on the mouth, and brought blood to his lips; then he threw sand into the canal again.
The slave, stunned by the blow, lost courage and fell to imploring.
"Lord," said he, "I dug this canal alone for ten years, in the night time and during festivals! My master promised that if I should bring water to this little valley he would make me a servant in it, give me one fifth of the harvests, and grant me freedom do you hear? Freedom to me and my three children! O gods!"
He raised his hands and turned again to Eunana,
"They do not understand me, these vagrants from beyond the sea, descendants of dogs, brothers to Jews and Phoenicians! But listen, lord, to me! For ten years, while other men went to fairs and dances or sacred processions, I stole out into this dreary ravine. I did not go to the grave of my mother, I only dug; I forgot the dead so as to give freedom with laud to my children, and to myself even one free day before death. Ye, O gods, be my witnesses how many times has night found me here! how many times have I heard the wailing cries of hyenas in this place, and seen the green eyes of wolves! But I did not flee, for whither was I, the unfortunate, to flee, when at every path terror was lurking, and in this canal freedom held me back by the feet? Once, beyond that turn there, a lion came out against me, the pharaoh of beasts. The pickaxe dropped from my hands, I knelt down before him, and I, as ye see me, said these words: 'O lord! is it thy pleasure to eat me? I am only a slave.' But the lion took pity, the wolf also passed by; even the treacherous bats spared my poor head; but thou, O Egyptian."
The man stopped; he saw the retinue of Herhor approaching. By the fan he knew him to be a great personage, and by the panther skin, a priest. He ran to the litter, therefore, knelt down, and struck the sand with his forehead.
"What dost Thou wish, man?" asked the dignitary.
"O light of the sun, listen to me!" cried the slave. "May there be no groans in thy chamber, may no misfortune follow thee! May thy works continue, and may the current not be interrupted when Thou shalt sail by the Nile to the other shore."
"I ask what thy wish is," repeated Herhor.
"Kind lord," said the man, "leader without caprice, who conquerest the false and createst the true, who art the father of the poor, the husband of the widow, clothing for the motherless, permit me to spread thy name as the equal of justice, most noble of the nobles." [Authentic speech of a slave.]
"He wishes that this canal be not filled in," said Eunana.
Herhor shrugged his shoulders and pushed toward the place where they were filling the canal. Then the despairing man seized his feet.
"Away with this creature!" cried his worthiness, pushing back as before the bite of a reptile.
The secretary, Pentuer, turned his head; his lean face had a grayish color. Eunana seized the man by the shoulders and pulled, but, unable to drag him away from the minister's feet, he summoned warriors. After a while Herhor, now liberated, passed to the other bank of the canal, and the warriors tore away the earth-worker, almost carrying him to the end of the detachment. There they gave the man some tens of blows of fists, and subalterns who always carried canes gave him some tens of blows of sticks, and at last threw him down at the entrance to the ravine.
Beaten, bloody, and above all terrified, the wretched slave sat on the sand for a while, rubbed his eyes, then sprang up suddenly and ran groaning toward the highway,
"Swallow me, O earth! Cursed be the day in which I saw the light, and the night in which it was said, 'A man is born!' In the mantle of justice there is not the smallest shred for a slave. The gods themselves regard not a creature whose hands are for labor, whose mouth was made only for weeping, and whose back is for clubs. O death, rub my body into ashes, so that there, beyond on the fields of Osiris, I be not born into slavery a second time."
Panting with anger, Prince Ramses rushed up the hill, while behind him followed Tutmosis. The wig of the exquisite had turned on his head, his false beard had slipped down, and he carried it in his hand. In spite of exertion he would have been pale had it not been for the layers of rouge on his face.
At last Ramses halted at the summit. From the ravine came the outcry of warriors and the rattle of the onrolling balistas; before the two men stretched the immense plain of Goshen, bathed continually in sun-rays. That did not seem land, but a golden cloud, on which the mind painted a landscape in colors of silver, ruby, pearl, and topaz.
"Look," cried the heir to Tutmosis, stretching out his hand, "those are to be my lands, and here is my army. Over there the loftiest edifices are palaces of priests, and here the supreme chief of the troops is a priest! Can anything like this be suffered?"
"It has always been so," replied Tutmosis, glancing around with timidity.
"That is not true! I know the history of this country, which is hidden to thee. The leaders of armies and the masters of officials were the pharaohs alone, or at least the most energetic among them. Those rulers did not pass their days in making offerings and prayers, but in managing the state."
"If it is the desire of his holiness to pass his days that way?" saidTutmosis.
"It is not my father's wish that nomarchs should govern as they please in the capitals of provinces. Why, the governor of Ethiopia considered himself as almost equal to the king of kings. And it cannot be my father's wish that his army should inarch around two golden beetles because the minister of war is a high priest."
"He is a great warrior," whispered Tutmosis, with increasing timidity.
"He a great warrior? Because he dispersed a handful of Libyan robbers ready to flee at the mere sight of Egyptians. But see what our neighbors are doing. Israel delays in paying tribute and pays less and less of it. The cunning Phoenician steals a number of ships from our fleet every year. On the east we are forced to keep up a great army against the Hittites, while around Babylon and Nineveh there is such a movement that it is felt throughout all Mesopotamia.
"And what is the outcome of priestly management? This, that while my great-grandfather had a hundred thousand talents of yearly income and one hundred and sixty thousand troops, my father has barely fifty thousand talents and one hundred and twenty thousand troops.
"And what an army! Were it not for the Greek corps, which keeps them in order as a dog watches sheep, the Egyptian soldiers today would obey only priests and the pharaoh would sink to the level of a miserable nomarch."
"Whence hast Thou learned this?" asked Tutmosis, with astonishment.
"Am I not of a priestly family? And besides, they taught me when I was not heir to the throne. Oh, when I become pharaoh after my father, may he live through eternity! I will put my bronze-sandaled foot on their necks. But first of all I will seize their treasures, which have always been bloated, but which from the time of Ramses the Great have begun to swell out, and today are so swollen that the treasure of the pharaoh is invisible because of them."
"Woe to me and to thee!" sighed Tutmosis. "Thou hast plans under which this hill would bend could it hear and understand them. And where are thy forces, thy assistance, thy warriors? Against thee the whole people will rise, led by a class of men with mighty influence. But who is on thy rider?"
Ramses listened and fell to thinking. At last he said,
"A considerable part of it will follow the priests."
"The Greek corps."
"A barrel of water in the Nile."
"Half of them belong to the priests."
The prince shook his head sadly, and was silent.
From the summit they went down by a naked and stony slope to the opposite base of the hill. Then Tutmosis, who had pushed ahead somewhat, cried,
"Has a charm fallen on my eyes? Look, Ramses! Why, a second Egypt is concealed between these cliffs!"
"That must be an estate of some priest who pays no taxes," replied the prince, bitterly.
In the depth before their feet lay a rich valley in the form of a fork the tines of which were hidden between cliffs. At the juncture of the tines a number of servants' huts were visible, and the beautiful little villa of the owner or manager. Palmtrees grew there, grapes, olives, figs with aerial roots, cypresses, even young baobabs. In the centre flowed a rivulet, and at the source of it, some hundreds of yards higher up, small gardens were visible.
When they had gone down among grapevines covered with ripe clusters, they heard a woman's voice which called, or rather sang in pensive notes:
"Where art Thou gone from me, where art thou, hen of mine? Thou hast fled, Thou art gone from me. I give thee drink and clean grain; what I give is so good that slaves envy thee. Where art Thou gone, my hen wilt Thou not answer me? Night will come down on thee, think of that; Thou wilt not reach thy home, where all are at work for thee. Come; if Thou come not, a falcon will fly from the desert and tear the heart out of thee. If he come Thou wilt call in vain, as I now call in vain to thee. Give answer, or I shall be angry and leave this place. If I leave Thou 'It go home on thy own feet."
The song came toward the two men. The songstress was a few yards from them when Tutmosis thrust, his head from between the bushes, and said,
"Just look, Ramses, but that is a beautiful maiden!"
Instead of looking, the prince sprang into the path and stopped the road before the songstress. She was really a beautiful maiden, with Grecian features and a complexion like ivory.
From under the veil on her head peeped forth an immense mass of dark hair, wound in a knot. She wore a white trailing robe which she held on one side with her hand; under the transparent covering were maiden breasts shaped like apples.
"Who art thou?" cried Ramses.
The threatening furrows vanished from his forehead and his eyes flashed.
"O Jehovah! O Father!" cried she, frightened, halting motionless on the path.
But she grew calm by degrees, and her velvety eyes resumed their expression of mild sadness.
"Whence hast Thou come?" inquired she of Ramses, with a voice trembling a little. "I see that Thou art a soldier, but it is not permitted soldiers to come here."
"Why is it not permitted?"
"Because this is the land of a great lord named Sesofris."
"Ho! ho!" laughed Ramses.
"Laugh not, for Thou wilt grow pale soon. The lord Sesofris is secretary to the lord Chaires, who carries his fan for the most worthy nomarch of Memphis. My father has seen him and fallen on his face before him."
"Ho! ho! ho!" repeated Ramses, laughing continually.
"Thy words are very insolent," said the maiden, frowning. "Were kindness not looking from thy face, I should think thee a mercenary from Greece or a bandit."
"He is not a bandit yet, but some day he may become the greatest bandit this laud has ever suffered," said Tutmosis the exquisite, arranging his wig,
"And Thou must be a dancer," answered the girl, grown courageous. "Oh! I am even certain that I saw thee at the fair in Pi-Bailos, enchanting serpents."
The two young men fell into perfect humor.
"But who art thou?" asked Ramses of the girl, taking her hand, which she drew back.
"Be not so bold. I am Sarah, the daughter of Gideon, the manager of this estate."
"A Jewess," said Ramses; and a shadow passed over his face.
"What harm in that? what harm in that?" cried Tutmosis.
"Dost think that Jewesses are less sweet than Egyptian girls? They are only more modest and more difficult, which gives their love an uncommon charm."
"So ye are pagans," said Sarah, with dignity. "Rest, if ye are tired, pluck some grapes for yourselves, and go with God. Our servants are not glad to see guests like you."
She wished to go, but Ramses detained her.
"Stop! Thou hast pleased me, and may not leave us in this way."
"The evil spirit has seized thee; no one in this valley would dare to speak thus to me," said Sarah, now indignant.
"Yes; for, seest thou," interrupted Tutmosis, "this young man is an officer of the priestly regiment of Ptah, and a secretary of the secretary of a lord who carries his fan over the fan-carrier of the nomarch of Habu."
"Surely he must be an officer," answered Sarah, looking with thoughtfulness at Ramses. "Maybe he is a great lord himself?" added she, putting her finger on her lips.
"Whoever I am, thy beauty surpasses my dignity," answered he, suddenly."But tell me, is it true that the Jews eat pork?"
Sarah looked at him offended; and Tutmosis added,
"How evident it is that Thou knowest not Jewesses! I tell thee that a Jew would rather die than eat pork, which, for my part, I do not consider as the worst."
"But do they eat cats?" insisted Ramses, pressing Sarah's hand and looking into her eyes.
"And that is a fable, a vile fable!" exclaimed Tutmosis. "Thou mightst have asked me about those things instead of talking nonsense. I have had three Jewish mistresses."
"So far Thou hast told the truth, but now Thou art lying," called outSarah. "A Jewess would not be any man's mistress," added she, proudly.
"Even the mistress of the secretary of a lord who carries the fan for the nomarch of Memphis?" asked Tutmosis, jeeringly.
"Even the mistress of the lord who carries the fan?"
Sarah hesitated, but answered,
"Then perhaps she would not become the mistress of the nomarch?"
The girl's hands dropped. With astonishment she looked in turn at the young men; her lips quivered, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Who are ye?" inquired she, alarmed. "Ye have come down from the hills, like travelers who wish bread and water, but ye speak to me as might the greatest lords. Who are ye? Thy sword," said she, turning to Ramses, "is set with emeralds, and on thy neck is a chain of such work as even our lord, the great Sesofris, has not in his treasury."
"Better tell me if I please thee," insisted Ramses, pressing her hand and looking into her eyes tenderly.
"Thou art beautiful, as beautiful as the angel Gabriel; but I fear thee, for I know not who Thou art."
Then from beyond the hilltop was heard the sound of a trumpet.
"They are calling thee!" cried Tutmosis.
"And if I were as great a lord as thy Sesofris?" asked Ramses.
"Then maybe" answered Sarah.
"And if I carried the fan of the nomarch of Memphis?"
"Thou mayest be even as great as that."
Somewhere beyond the hill was heard the second trumpet.
"Come, Ramses!" insisted the frightened Tutmosis.
"But if I were heir to the throne, wouldst Thou come to me?" cried the prince.
"O Jehovah!" exclaimed Sarah, dropping on her knees.
From various points trumpets summoned, now urgently.
"Let us run!" cried Tutmosis, in desperation. "Dost Thou not hear the alarm in the camp?"
Ramses took the chain from his neck quickly and threw it on Sarah.
"Give this to thy father. I will buy thee from him. Be in health."
He kissed her lips passionately, and she embraced-his knees. He tore away, ran a couple of paces, turned again, and again fondled her beautiful face and dark hair with kisses, as if he heard not those impatient calls to the army.
"In the name of his holiness the pharaoh, I summon thee, follow me!" cried Tutmosis; and he seized the prince's hand.
They ran toward the trumpet-calls. Ramses tottered at moments like a drunken man, and turned his head. At last they were climbing the opposite hill.
"And this man," thought Tutmosis, "wants to battle with the priesthood!"
RAMSES and his comrade ran about a quarter of an hour along the rocky ridge of the hill, drawing ever nearer to the trumpets, which sounded more and more urgently. At last they reached a point where they took in at a glance the whole region. Toward the left stretched the highway; beyond that were seen clearly the city of Pi-Bailos, the regiments of the heir drawn up behind it, and an immense cloud of dust which rose above his opponent hastening forward from the east.
On the right yawned a broad ravine, along the middle of which the Greek regiment was dragging military engines. Not far from the road the ravine was lost in another and a broader one which began in the depth of the desert.
At this point something uncommon was happening. The Greeks stood unoccupied not far from the junction of the two ravines; but at the juncture itself, and between the highway and the staff of Ramses, marched out four dense lines of some other army, like four fences, bristling with glittering darts.
In spite of the steep road the prince rushed down at full speed to his division, to the place where the minister of war stood surrounded by officers.
"What is happening?" called he, threateningly. "Why sound an alarm instead of marching?"
"We are cut off," said Herhor.
"Our division by three regiments of Nitager, who has marched out of the desert."
„Ich bin wirklich begeistert. Auch die Möglichkeit des zusätzlichen eReaders im Abo finde ich persönlich toll.”
„Die Auswahl von Legimi ist großartig.”
„Der Leser findet seine E-Books/Hörbücher sehr schnell und sie lassen sich, ob mit oder ohne Internetverbindung problemlos öffnen.”
Wurm sucht Buch
„Ich finde das Angebot von Legimi richtig toll.”
„Besonders schön finde ich die große Auswahl an möglichen Abo-Modellen und besonders die Abos mit eReader.”
Miss Foxy Reads
„Ich muss sagen, dass ich von dem E-Reader mehr als positiv überrascht bin.”
„Das ist wirklich eine großartige Idee und mal was ganz Anderes.”
Mikka liest das Leben...
Tausende von E-Books und Hörbücher
Ihre Zahl wächst ständig und Sie haben eine Fixpreisgarantie.
Sie haben über uns geschrieben:
Dabei gewährt der E-Book-Anbieter größtmögliche Freiheiten
Größter Vorteil die Möglichkeit, in der aktuellen App komfortabel zwischen E-Book und Hörbuchversion eines Titels
Spotify for E-Books