JOSHUA - VOLUME 4.
JOSHUA - VOLUME 4.
The storm which had risen as night closed in swept over the isthmus. The
waves in its lakes dashed high and the Red Sea which thrust a bay
shaped like the horn of a snail into it from the south was lashed to the
Farther northward where Pharaoh's army protected by the Migdol of the
South the strongest fort of the Etham line had encamped a short time
before the sand lashed by the storm whirled through the air and in the
quarter occupied by the king and his great officials hammers were
constantly busy driving the tent-pins deeper into the earth; for the
brocades cloths and linen materials which formed the portable houses of
Pharaoh and his court struck by the gale threatened to break from the
poles by which they were supported.
Black clouds hung in the north but the moon and stars were often
visible and flashes of distant lightning frequently brightened the
horizon. Even now the moisture of heaven seemed to avoid this rainless
region and in all directions fires were burning which the soldiers
surrounded in double rows like a living shield to keep the storm from
scattering the fuel.
The sentries had a hard duty; for the atmosphere was sultry in spite of
the north wind which still blew violently driving fresh clouds of sand
into their faces.
Only two sentinels were pacing watchfully to and fro at the most northern
gate of the camp but they were enough; for on account of the storm no
one had appeared for a long time to demand entrance or egress. At last
three hours after sunset a slender figure scarcely beyond boyhood
approached the guards with a firm step and showing a messenger's pass
asked the way to Prince Siptah's tent.
He seemed to have had a toilsome journey; for his thick black locks were
tangled and his feet were covered with dust and dried clay. Yet he
excited no suspicion; for his bearing was that of a self-reliant freeman
his messenger's pass was perfectly correct and the letter he produced
was really directed to Prince Siptah; a scribe of the corn storehouses
who was sitting at the nearest fire with other officials and subordinate
officers examined it.
As the youth's appearance pleased most of those present and he came from
Tanis and perhaps brought news a seat at the fire and a share in the
meal were offered; but he was in haste.
Declining the invitation with thanks he answered the questions curtly
and hurriedly and begged the resting soldiers for a guide. One was
placed at his disposal without delay. But he was soon to learn that it
would not be an easy matter to reach a member of the royal family; for
the tents of Pharaoh his relatives and dignitaries stood in a special
spot in the heart of the camp hedged in by the shields of the heavily-
When he entered he was challenged again and again and his messenger's
pass and the prince's letter were frequently inspected. The guide too
was sent back and his place was filled by an aristocratic lord called I
the 'eye and ear of the king' who busied himself with the seal of the
letter. But the messenger resolutely demanded it and as soon as it was
again in his hand and two tents standing side by side rocking in the
tempest had been pointed out to him one as Prince Siptah's the other as
the shelter of Masana the daughter of Hornecht for whom he asked he
turned to the chamberlain who came out of the former one showed him the
letter and asked to be taken to the prince; but the former offered to
deliver the letter to his master--whose steward he was--and Ephraim--for
he was the messenger--agreed if he would obtain him immediate admission
to the young widow.
The steward seemed to lay much stress upon getting possession of the
letter and after scanning Ephraim from top to toe he asked if Kasana
knew him and when the other assented adding that he brought her a
verbal message the Egyptian said smiling:
"Well then; but we must protect our carpets from such feet and you seem
weary and in need of refreshment. Follow me."
With these words he took him to a small tent before which an old slave
and one scarcely beyond childhood were sitting by the fire finishing
their late meal with a bunch of garlic.
They started up as they saw their master; but he ordered the old man to
wash the messenger's feet and bade the younger ask the prince's cook in
his name for meat bread and wine. Then he led Ephraim to his tent
which was lighted by a lantern and asked how he who from his appearance
was neither a slave nor a person of mean degree had come into such a
pitiable plight. The messenger replied that on his way he had bandaged
the wounds of a severely injured man with the upper part of his apron
and the chamberlain instantly went to his baggage and gave him a piece of
finely plaited linen.
Ephraim's reply which was really very near the truth had cost him so
little thought and sounded so sincere that it won credence and the
steward's kindness seemed to him so worthy of gratitude that he made no
objection when the courtier without injuring the seal pressed the roll
of papyrus with a skilful hand separating the layers and peering into
the openings to decipher the contents. While thus engaged the corpulent
courtier's round eyes sparkled brightly and it seemed to the youth as if
the countenance of the man whose comfortable plumpness and smooth
rotundity at first appeared like a mirror of the utmost kindness of
heart now had the semblance of a cat's.
As soon as the steward had completed his task he begged the youth to
refresh himself in all comfort and did not return until Ephraim had
bathed wrapped a fresh linen upper-garment around his hips perfumed and
anointed his hair and glancing into the mirror was in the act of
slipping a broad gold circlet upon his arm.
He had hesitated some time ere doing this; for he was aware that he would
encounter great perils; but this circlet was his one costly possession
and during his captivity it had been very difficult for him to hide it
under his apron. It might be of much service to him but if he put it
on it would attract attention and increase the danger of being
Yet the reflection he beheld in the mirror vanity and the desire
to appear well in Kasana's eyes conquered caution and prudent
consideration and the broad costly ornament soon glittered on his arm.
The steward stood in astonishment before the handsome aristocratic
youth so haughty in his bearing who had taken the place of the
unassuming messenger. The question whether he was a relative of Kasana
sprang to his lips and receiving an answer in the negative he asked to
what family he belonged.
Ephraim bent his eyes on the ground for some time in embarrassment and
then requested the Egyptian to spare him an answer until he had talked
with Hornecht's daughter.
The other shaking his head looked at him again but pressed him no
farther; for what he had read in the letter was a secret which might
bring death to whoever was privy to it and the aristocratic young
messenger was doubtless the son of a dignitary who belonged to the circle
of the fellow-conspirators of Prince Siptah his master.
A chill ran through the courtier's strong corpulent body and he gazed
with mingled sympathy and dread at the blooming human flower associated
thus early in plans fraught with danger.
His master had hitherto only hinted at the secret and it would still be
possible for him to keep his own fate separate from his. Should he do
so an old age free from care lay before him; but if he joined the
prince and his plan succeeded how high he might rise! Terribly
momentous was the choice confronting him the father of many children
and beads of perspiration stood on his brow as incapable of any coherent
thought he led Ephraim to Kasana's tent and then hastened to his
Silence reigned within the light structure which was composed of poles
and gay heavy stuffs tenanted by the beautiful widow.
With a throbbing heart Ephraim approached the entrance and when he at
last summoned courage and drew aside the curtain fastened firmly to the
earth which the wind puffed out like a sail he beheld a dark room from
which a similar one opened on the right and left. The one on the left
was as dark as the central one; but a flickering light stole through
numerous chinks of the one on the right. The tent was one of those with
a flat roof divided into three apartments which he had often seen and
the woman who irresistibly attracted him was doubtless in the lighted
To avoid exposing himself to fresh suspicion he must conquer his timid
delay and he had already stooped and loosed the loop which fastened the
curtain to the hook in the floor when the door of the lighted room
opened and a woman's figure entered the dark central chamber.
Was it she?
Should he venture to speak to her? Yes it must be done.
Panting for breath and clenching his hands he summoned up his courage as
if he were about to steal unbidden into the most sacred sanctuary of a
temple. Then he pushed the curtain aside and the woman whom he had just
noticed greeted him with a low cry.
But he speedily regained his composure for a ray of light had fallen on
her face revealing that the person who stood before him was not Kasana
but her nurse who had accompanied her to the prisoners and then to the
camp. She too recognized him and stared at him as though he had risen
from the grave.
They were old acquaintances; for when he was first brought to the
archer's house she had prepared his bath and moistened his wound with
balsam and during his second stay beneath the same roof she had joined
her mistress in nursing him. They had chatted away many an hour
together and he knew that she was kindly disposed toward him; for when
midway between waking and sleeping in his burning fever her hand had
stroked him with maternal tenderness and afterwards she had never
wearied of questioning him about his people and at last had acknowledged
that she was descended from the Syrians who were allied to the Hebrews.
Nay even his language was not wholly strange to her; for she had been a
woman of twenty when dragged to Egypt with other prisoners of Rameses the
Great. Ephraim she was fond of saying reminded her of her own son when
he was still younger.
The youth had no ill to fear from her so grasping her hand he whispered
that he had escaped from his guards and come to ask counsel from her
mistress and herself.
The word "escaped" was sufficient to satisfy the old woman; for her idea
of ghosts was that they put others to flight but did not fly themselves.
Relieved she stroked the youth's curls and ere his whispered
explanation was ended turned her back upon him and hurried into the
lighted room to tell her mistress whom she had found outside.
A few minutes after Ephraim was standing before the woman who had become
the guiding star of his life. With glowing cheeks he gazed into the
beautiful face still flushed by weeping and though it gave his heart a
pang when before vouchsafing him a greeting she enquired whether Hosea
had accompanied him he forgot the foolish pain when he saw her gaze
warmly at him. Yet when the nurse asked whether she did not think he
looked well and vigorous and withal more manly in appearance it seemed
as though he had really grown taller and his heart beat faster and
Kasana desired to learn the minutest details of his uncle's experiences;
but after he had done her bidding and finally yielded to the wish to
speak of his own fate she interrupted him to consult the nurse
concerning the means of saving him from unbidden looks and fresh
dangers--and the right expedient was soon found.
First with Ephraim's help the old woman closed the main entrance of the
tent as firmly as possible and then pointed to the dark room into which
he must speedily and softly retire as soon as she beckoned to him.
Meanwhile Kasana had poured some wine into a goblet and when he came
back with the nurse she made him sit down on the giraffe skin at her feet
and asked how he had succeeded in evading the guards and what he
expected from the future. She would tell him in advance that her father
had remained in Tanis so he need not fear recognition and betrayal.
Her pleasure in this meeting was evident to both eyes and ears; nay
when Ephraim commenced his story by saying that Prince Siptah's command
to remove the prisoners' chains for which they were indebted solely to
her had rendered his escape possible she clapped her hands like a
child. Then her face clouded and with a deep sigh she added that ere
his arrival her heart had almost broken with grief and tears; but Hosea
should learn what a woman would sacrifice for the most ardent desire of
She repaid with grateful words Ephraim's assurance that before his
flight he had offered to release his uncle from his bonds and when she
learned that Joshua had refused to accept his nephew's aid lest it might
endanger the success of the plan he had cleverly devised for him she
cried out to her nurse with tearful eyes that Hosea alone would have
been capable of such a deed.
To the remainder of the fugitive's tale she listened intently often
interrupting him with sympathizing questions.
The torturing days and nights of the past which had reached such a happy
termination seemed now like a blissful dream a bewildering fairy-tale
and the goblet she constantly replenished was not needed to lend fire to
Never before had he been so eloquent as while describing how in the
ravine he had stepped on some loose stones and rolled head foremost down
into the chasm with them. On reaching the bottom he had believed that
all was lost; for soon after extricating himself from the rubbish that
had buried him in order to hurry to the pool he had heard the whistle
of the guards.
Yet he had been a good runner from his childhood had learned in his
native pastures to guide himself by the light of the stars so without
glancing to the right or to the left he had hastened southward as fast
as his feet would carry him. Often in the darkness he had fallen over
stones or tripped in the hollows of the desert sand but only to rise
again quickly and dash onward onward toward the south where he knew he
should find her Kasana her for whose sake he recklessly flung to the
winds what wiser-heads had counselled her for whom he was ready to
sacrifice liberty and life.
Whence he derived the courage to confess this he knew not and neither
the blow from her fan nor the warning exclamation of the nurse: "Just
look at the boy!" sobered him. Nay his sparkling eyes sought hers still
mote frequently as he continued his story.
One of the hounds which attacked him he had flung against a rock and the
other he pelted with stones till it fled howling into a thicket. He had
seen no other pursuers either that night or during the whole of the
next day. At last he again reached a travelled road and found country
people who told him which way Pharaoh's army had marched. At noon
overwhelmed by fatigue he had fallen asleep under the shade of a
sycamore and when he awoke the sun was near its setting. He was very
hungry so he took a few turnips from a neighboring field. But their
owner suddenly sprang from a ditch near by and he barely escaped his
He had wandered along during a part of the night and then rested beside
a well on the roadside for he knew that wild beasts shun such frequented
After sunrise he continued his march following the road taken by the
army. Everywhere he found traces of it and when shortly before noon
exhausted and faint from hunger he reached a village in the cornlands
watered by the Seti-canal he debated whether to sell his gold armlet
obtain more strengthening food and receive some silver and copper in
change. But he was afraid of being taken for a thief and again
imprisoned for his apron had been tattered by the thorns and his
sandals had long since dropped from his feet. He had believed that even
the hardest hearts could not fail to pity his misery so hard as it was
for him he had knocked at a peasant's door and begged. But the man gave
him nothing save the jeering counsel that a strong young fellow like him
ought to use his arms and leave begging to the old and weak. A second
peasant had even threatened to beat him; but as he walked on with
drooping bead a young woman whom he had noticed in front of the
barbarian's house followed him thrust some bread and dates into his
hand and whispered hastily that heavy taxes had been levied on the
village when Pharaoh marched through or she would have given him
This unexpected donation which he had eaten at the next well had not
tasted exactly like a festal banquet but he did not tell Kasana that it
had been embittered by the doubt whether to fulfil Joshua's commission
and return to his people or yield to the longing that drew him to her.
He moved forward irresolutely but fate seemed to have undertaken to
point out his way; for after walking a short half hour the latter
portion of the time through barren land he had found by the wayside a
youth of about his own age who moaning with pain held his foot clasped
between both hands. Pity led him to go to him and to his astonishment
he recognized the runner and messenger of Kasana's father with whom he
had often talked.
"Apu our nimble Nubian runner?" cried the young widow and Ephraim
assented and then added that the messenger had been despatched to convey
a letter to Prince Siptah as quickly as possible and the swift-footed
lad who was wont to outstrip his master's noble steeds had shot over
the road like an arrow and would have reached his destination in two
hours more had he not stepped on the sharp edge of a bottle that had
been shattered by a wagon-wheel--and made a deep and terrible wound.
"And you helped him?" asked Kasana.
"How could I do otherwise?" replied Ephraim. "He had already lost a
great deal of blood and was pale as death. So I carried him to the
nearest ditch washed the gaping wound and anointed it with his balsam."
"I put the little box in his pouch myself a year ago" said the nurse who
was easily moved wiping her eyes. Ephraim confirmed the statement for
Apu had gratefully told him of it. Then he went on.
"I tore my upper garment into strips and bandaged the wound as well as I
could. Meanwhile he constantly urged haste held out the pass and letter
his master had given him and knowing nothing of the misfortune which had
befallen me charged me to deliver the roll to the prince in his place.
Oh how willingly I undertook the task and soon after the second hour
had passed I reached the camp. The letter is in the prince's hands and
here am I--and I can see that you are glad! But no one was ever so happy
as I to sit here at your feet and look up to you so grateful as I am
that you have listened to me so kindly and if they load me with chains
again I will bear it calmly if you will but care for me. Ah my
misfortune has been so great! I have neither father nor mother no one
who loves me. You you alone are dear and you will not repulse me will
He had fairly shouted the last words as if beside himself and carried
away by the might of passion and rendered incapable by the terrible
experiences of the past few hours of controlling the emotions that
assailed him the youth still scarcely beyond childhood who saw himself
torn away from and bereft of all that had usually sustained and supported
him sobbed aloud and like a frightened birdling seeking protection
under its mother's wings hid his head amid floods of tears in Kasana's
Warm compassion seized upon the tender-hearted young widow and her own
eyes grew dim. She laid her hands kindly upon his head and feeling the
tremor that shook the frame of the weeping lad she raised his head with
both hands kissed his brow and cheeks looked smilingly into his eyes
with tears in her own and exclaimed:
"You poor foolish fellow! Why should I not care for you why should I
repel you? Your uncle is the most beloved of men to me and you are like
his son. For your sakes I have already accepted what I should otherwise
have thrust far far from me! But now I must go on and must not care
what others may think or say of me if only I can accomplish the one
thing for which I am risking person life all that I once prized! Wait
you poor impulsive fellow!"--and here she again kissed him on the
cheeks--"I shall succeed in smoothing the path for you also. That is
This command sounded graver and was intended to curb the increasing
impetuosity of the ardent youth. But she suddenly started up exclaiming
with anxious haste: "Go go at once!"
The footsteps of men approaching the tent and a warning word from the
nurse had brought this stern order to the young widow's lips and
Ephraim's quick ear made him understand her anxiety and urged him to join
the old nurse in the dark room. There he perceived that a few moments'
delay would have betrayed him; for the curtain of the tent was drawn
aside and a man passed through the central space straight to the lighted
apartment where Kasana--the youth heard it distinctly--welcomed the new
guest only too cordially as though his late arrival surprised her.
Meanwhile the nurse had seized her own cloak flung it over the
fugitive's bare shoulders and whispered:
"Be near the tent just before sunrise but do not enter it until I call
you if you value your life. You have neither mother nor father and my
child Kasana ah what a dear loving heart she has!--she is the best
of all good women; but whether she is fit to be the guide of an
inexperienced young blusterer whose heart is blazing like dry straw with
love for her is another question. I considered many things while
listening to your story and on account of my liking for you I will tell
you this. You have an uncle who--my child is right there--is the best of
men and I know mankind. Whatever he advised do; for it will surely
benefit you. Obey him! If his bidding leads you far away from here and
Kasana so much the better for you. We are walking in dangerous paths
and had it not been done for Hosea's sake I would have tried to hold her
back with all my might. But for him--I am an old woman; but I would go
through fire myself for that man. I am more grieved than I can tell
both for the pure sweet child and for yourself whom my own son was once
so much like so I repeat: Obey your uncle boy! Do that or you will go
to ruin and that would be a pity!"
With these words without waiting for an answer she drew the curtain of
the tent aside and waited until Ephraim had slipped through. Then
wiping her eyes she entered as if by chance the lighted chamber;
but Kasana and her late guest had matters to discuss that brooked no
witnesses and her "dear child" only permitted her to light her little
lamp at the three-armed candelabra and then sent her to rest.
She promptly obeyed and in the dark room where her couch stood beside
that of her mistress she sank down hid her face in her hands and wept.
She felt as though the world was upside down. She no longer understood
her darling Kasana; for she was sacrificing purity and honor for the sake
of a man whom--she knew it--her soul abhorred.