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Title: The Mother of Masé Author: Josephine Tey (writing as Gordon Daviot) * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600331h.html Language: English Date first posted: March 2016 Most recent update: March 2016 This eBook was produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online.
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CHARACTERS In order of appearance YOHEB. HETSHEPSUT. LADY-IN-WAITING. MASÉ. ARON. A first-floor terrace in Thebes, about the year 1500 B.C. Although it is part of one of the palaces of the Eighteenth Dynasty it might, to look at, be the terrace of any modern block of luxury flats. The parapet, running along the back and overlooking an unseen courtyard below, is punctuated with small green trees in tubs. Right, the jutting wall of the house, with a door giving on to the terrace. Left, two pillars supporting the second storey, but giving free access to the rest of the terrace, which continues away to the left out of sight. By the parapet are bench-like seats; and immediately down from it a table, with, right of it, a chair. Working at the table is YOHEB, a still, dark woman of middle age. She is goffering a pile of transparently fine linen garments. The linen is heaped in a basket, and her goffering irons are heated in a small brazier by her side. Over everything is the clear Egyptian light. Enter from the doorway HETSHEPSUT, ruling princess of Egypt, followed by a very young LADY-IN-WAITING. HETSHEPSUT is one of those good-natured, handsome, managing women who are dressed by the best houses and continue to ruin their couturier's work by hanging and pinning on themselves irrelevant but favoured possessions. The kind of woman whose handbag is invariably a shapeless reticule containing everything but a Bradshaw. Her wig is brilliant, beautifully curled, but very faintly out of the plumb; and the general effect of her very lovely clothes is one of vague untidiness. A woman, in fact, too full of other interests, and too sure in any case of her abundant charm, to care what she looks like. At the moment she is carrying an armful of freshly cut flowers. She is talking as she comes, so that one hears her approach some distance away. As she comes in, YOHEB pauses in her work to give an automatic obeisance. HET.: [Hailing YOHEB] Ah, good morning, Yoheb! [To the LADY-IN-WAITING] Take the flowers, child, and begin the garland. I shall come presently. [Indicating the farther terrace] There is a table over there. [As the girl goes] And use a little taste as well as industry! [To the world at large] A good child, but without the light of the spirit. [Moving over to YOHEB] How are you this morning, Yoheb? YOHEB.: [With the impersonal glance of long intimacy] It is a strange thing how your highness makes a good piece of goffering look like a rag in fifteen minutes. HET.: It is hot in the garden, even so early. And anyhow, what do clothes matter? [Subsiding thankfully on to the chair] It is good to be in the garden again, after a week of the Council Chamber. What fools men are when they get together! They would sacrifice a province for the sake of scoring off a rival in debate. YOHEB.: [Goffering with detachment] They are all as some woman made them. HET.: I refuse to believe that any woman made the Chief Secretary. He is merely Stupidity become visible. As for the High Priest . . .! Oh, well! [Dismissing them] They can annoy their wives for the rest of the month. [As the comfortable silence settles about them; calmly] Where is he this morning, Yoheb? [She has not accented the pronoun. "He" is obviously their chief interest and normal subject of conversation.] YOHEB.: [With a slight backward movement of her head, which indicates that the affair is taking place somewhere below] He is playing hand-ball with the Chamberlain's sons. [After a short pause] He will come in presently to say that he has won. HET.: [Answering some unspoken criticism] It is good to win! YOHEB.: But not to boast about it. HET.: What is troubling you this morning, Yoheb? YOHEB.: He is. HET.: [Unbelieving] Masé! [Quickly] He's not ill, is he? YOHEB.: [Reassuring] No, highness, no. HET.: Well, then! You know very well that Masé has never given us a moment's care since that day I found him among the reeds. [Reminiscent, amused] Red with crying and very angry. It was hot in that little box. Fifteen years, Yoheb; and never a bad moment. Would that all adoptions turned out so well! And now you fret yourself into a sweat on a hot morning because he likes to win games. YOHEB.: No one boasts who is master of himself. He is not a child any longer, to need praise from others. HET.: [Conceding] Perhaps his stammer keeps him backward a little. We might consult the doctors about him, if they were not a pack of fools. YOHEB.: It is not magic he needs, but a new life. HET.: Oh, well; next year he will be sixteen and of age, and we can marry him to some nice girl. That will be interesting for him. YOHEB.: It might be wiser to wait. HET.: [In a new voice; simply] Are you disappointed in your son, Yoheb? [She means: In what I have made of your son.] YOHEB.: No, highness, no. But I am—anxious. [With a simplicity to match her mistress's; as one woman to another] I think we have spoiled him, between us. HET.: [Recovering her poise] You think I have spoiled him, 'm? Well, perhaps I have. Does it matter so much? He is happy; he is charming; he has a head full of learning, a good ear for music, and a good eye for the bow; he is mightily handsome and sufficiently popular. What more do you want him to be? YOHEB.: I should like him to be a man. [Tentatively] It would be a good thing, perhaps, if he were to be sent away. HET.: [Amazed and a little indignant] Sent away from Thebes? From me! [More kindly] Away from you, Yoheb? YOHEB.: But for the grace of Yahveh and your highness's charity I would not have had him these fifteen years. When I put him out on the river-bank I had not hoped for happiness like that. Who am I that I should keep him now from a wider life beyond the Court? HET.: So you want to put him out on the river-bank again—all for his own good? Well, perhaps he has been too long at Court. A little travel would do him no harm. There is an embassy going to Kadesh next month; he might go with that. Embassies are very broadening for the mind—if a little hard on the stomach. And he would have a pleasant time. YOHEB.: [A little more dryly than she had intended] Yes, he would have a pleasant time. HET.: [Annoyed] You, then, you suggest something, since you are so anxious to see him go. YOHEB.: [Calmly, but not finding it easy now that it has come to the point] The King is sending an expedition to Nubia. It might be a good thing if he were to see some service. HET.: Go to the war! YOHEB.: Go with the army. HET.: I won't hear of it! [As YOHEB says nothing] Have you spoken of this to him? YOHEB.: No, highness. HET.: I forbid you to mention it. YOHEB.: Yes, highness. HET.: I forbid you even to hint at it. An outrageous suggestion! Have I trained the boy in every princely talent to have a Nubian arrow bring it all to nothing! And you; how can you stand there calmly and propose to send him into danger? YOHEB.: I sent him away once before, when he was less able to take care of himself. HET.: But that was to save him from greater danger; from massacre. This is wanton! YOHEB.: He will not be killed. I know that in my heart. He will be a great prince, my son. But not until he can stand up in the light and look men and gods in the face. In Nubia he will not be any longer Masé, prince of Egypt. He will be no better than his own right arm, and his own will. And when he finds that these don't fail him, he will find himself. That is worth some danger—and some lying awake of nights. HET.: [Considering her] And I thought that I loved him! [Her mind going from YOHEB'S spiritual characteristics to her physical ones] I think sometimes that he grows very like you, Yoheb. It is a wonder that he doesn't notice. YOHEB.: One doesn't see the people one lives with. HET.: And he still has never asked about his parentage? YOHEB.: Never, highness. HET.: That is strange, isn't it? He must be curious. YOHEB.: I think he takes it for granted that if you knew, highness, you would have told him. HET.: You have been a faithful servant to me, Yoheb. And I should like to do something for you. If the boy ever asks, shall we tell him the truth? YOHEB.: [Instantly; shocked] No! No, highness. HET.: But you would be quite safe now. My father is dead, and no one in these days would prosecute you for having kept your child alive. Even if they did, you have my protection. I am Egypt now—whatever my husband may say. YOHEB.: I wasn't thinking of myself. Not that way, at least. HET.: As for Masé, we have never made any secret of his Hebrew blood. It would be no shock to him. YOHEB.: Who knows? We are a very poor family; very undistinguished, as your highness is aware. He may have pictured finer things for himself. There are prosperous people even among the Hebrews. HET.: Hezron the banker, for instance? Dripping with money and bloated with good living? Don't you think that any boy would be proud of a mother who risked her life to keep him alive? Who left her home and her family so that after all he might not be brought up by strangers? [As YOHEB does not speak] Is it possible that you don't want the boy to know? YOHEB.: There is nothing I want less, highness. HET.: But it is I who would be the loser, once he knew. If I don't mind, why should you? YOHEB.: He loves me now. But he loves me for what I am: the woman who taught him how to lace his first outdoor shoes, the woman who binds his cut finger and holds his head when he is sick. I could not bear to see him look at me differently; as if I were a stranger, perhaps. It would— HET.: But—but have you thought of him? You say he lacks confidence, that he doesn't know how to deal with the world. It might be a happier thing to know one's parents than to think of oneself as a waif. YOHEB.: [Unhappily; considering it] Yes, there is that. But I couldn't. I couldn't face losing the love I have from him now; and having nothing to put in its place, perhaps. I would do much for him, but not that. Let us not even think of it, highness. Please, highness, if I have served you in anything, let me have your word that you will never— HET.: [Soothing] Very well, Yoheb, very well. He shall not know; if that is how you would have it. [Briskly resuming the former subject] But I forbid you to mention going to the war to him. YOHEB.: [In a toneless submission that does not hide her opinion] Yes, highness. HET.: [Unable to bear the unspoken criticism; airily] If the subject is to be brought up at all, it is for me to speak of it. YOHEB.: [Carefully ignoring any capitulation] Yes, highness. HET.: If he wanted very much to go, that might be different. Something might be arranged. But only to the base, of course. YOHEB.: Yes, highness. HETSHEPSUT, becoming aware of the two of them and their solemn farce, utters a short bark of a laugh. HET.: [In grim amusement] Women! I thought that men were fools, but they are not fools enough to hurt themselves. [In business-like tones, as the memory comes back to her; and glad enough to carry the war into YOHEB'S country] Talking of women, I hear that daughter of yours has been making a fool of herself again. YOHEB.: Miriam was always headstrong. HET.: [Feeling that "headstrong" does not meet the case at all] But, preaching sedition in the market-place! Can't Aron do something to stop her? A nice sensible creature! He will lose his very good post in the Office of Works if she goes on like this. What ails her? YOHEB.: Well, you see, highness, there is a prophecy among my people. HET.: Prophecies are two for a groat. YOHEB.: It is foretold that after four hundred years we should leave Egypt and go back to Syria. HET.: What, all of you! YOHEB.: Yes, highness, every one. And the four hundred years are nearly up. HET.: And what power is going to make Hezron the banker join with Shimi the bricklayer in a jaunt to Syria? YOHEB.: The prophecy says that when the time comes a leader will come too; to unite the people. That is what moves Miriam. She says that the Hebrews must be prepared, for at any moment now the man whose destiny it is to lead them will appear. HET.: Don't tell me you believe such nonsense! But the end of the sentence is lost in the arrival of MASÉ, who comes in, breathless and radiant, from the terrace, left; the stitched leather ball he has been playing with still in his hand. MASÉ.: I've won! MASÉ is everything that HETSHEPSUT has claimed for him; he is also everything that YOHEB said he was. His remark is addressed to YOHEB, but now he catches sight of the princess, sitting in the chair beyond. MASÉ.: Mother! [He goes to her, pleased. Greeting her] How good to find you here! I haven't seen you for an age. Five days—six days? How was the Council? HET.: Much as usual. You must come to the next, I think. It is time you took an interest in affairs. MASÉ.: Oh, I am never going to be a man of affairs. I shall lead a nice quiet life writing your letters for you, and [with a light caress to take any sting from the words] being thankful that I am not your heir, princess. I should hate speechifying— HET.: There is no need to "speechify"— MASÉ.: And I lose my temper when I am contradicted, and that is fatal in a statesman. YOHEB.: [Goffering] One could, of course, learn to keep one's temper. He makes a face at her. HET.: But since you obviously cannot make a career of writing my letters— MASÉ.: Why not? I make up much better lies than you do. HET.: —we must find a medium for you. MASÉ.: [Lightly; anxious to shelve the subject] If it is all the same to you, I should like to be a charioteer. HET.: The professionals might object. MASÉ.: Then, failing that, a flute-player. HET.: Have I raised you in all the wisdom of the ages to have you joining a concert party? [Seriously] The Prime Minister was suggesting yesterday that you might make one of his staff for a little, and learn something about administration. MASÉ.: [With seeming irrelevance] I have just been playing with Senmut's nephew. [It is obvious that Senmut is the Prime Minister] He is going with the first draft to Nubia to-morrow. HET.: Oh? [Avoiding YOHEB'S eye] I—er—suppose you wouldn't like to go with him? MASÉ.: Go with him! To the war? [Ecstatic] Oh, that would be glorious! [Surprised] Would you let me go? [Punctured] But I should be no g-good as a soldier. I d-don't know anything ab-bout it; and I should stammer when it came to command. HET.: But you just tell the under-officers to do what they usually do. That is all being in the army is. MASÉ.: In peace, perhaps. But n-not in battle. One would have to be sure, then; and quick. I should be no good. I should only disgrace myself; and you. You had better allow me to write your letters, beloved. YOHEB.: The princess might let you go as an ordinary soldier; without a command. MASÉ.: Don't be ridiculous, Yoheb. Of course I couldn't go as an ordinary soldier! HET.: [With a glance at YOHEB, who refuses to meet her eye] Well. That seems to be that. We must . . . [Her eye going on from YOHEB to the distant LADY-IN-WAITING, and horror invading her countenance as she takes in the enormity of LADY-IN-WAITING'S handiwork] No, no, no, child! [Rising as her voice rises; in anyone but the majesty of Egypt it would be a yell] Not the marigolds! [To the others] A sweet child, but gods and gods! what a fool! [She rushes out to the rescue.] YOHEB.: [After a pause, to MASÉ lounging beside her] You had better change that tunic, hadn't you? It must be damp after your game. MASÉ.: [Not moving; in a new voice, unconsciously more intimate than the tone he has used to the princess] Yoheb, do you think perhaps they let me win? YOHEB.: [Matter-of-factly] Why should they? MASÉ.: Because I am the prince. YOHEB.: Don't you play well? MASÉ.: Yes, I suppose so. YOHEB.: Well, then. HET.: [Off] Use a little common sense, my dear sweet child; and a modicum of taste. MASÉ.: [Watching her; amused] She is lovely, isn't she? YOHEB.: Who? Nini? MASÉ.: No. My mother. YOHEB.: [After a moment] You love the princess very dearly, don't you? MASÉ.: [As who should say: What a silly question] Of course. YOHEB.: [Feeling like someone stepping into the sea for the first time, and not knowing how deep it was] Have you ever wondered about your own mother? MASÉ.: [Airily] Oh, I know all about that. YOHEB.: [Astounded] You know! MASÉ.: It was a clever idea, the box in the reeds, wasn't it! YOHEB.: [At a loss for words] Well, I . . . It seemed the obvious thing at the time, I suppose. MASÉ.: [Rather pleased to have surprised her] Did you really believe that I should not hear the Court gossip? Or that I could look in a mirror and not see the foreigner in my face? The very shape of my bones is Syrian. Did you know my father? YOHEB.: Did I know whom? MASÉ.:The Syrian prince my mother loved. She must have loved him greatly to risk a scandal for his sake. Did you know him, Yoheb? YOHEB.: [Slowly] No. No. MASÉ.: But you were there when I was born, weren't you? YOHEB.: Yes, I was there. MASÉ.: And he didn't come to see me? Or to see my mother? YOHEB.: No Syrian prince came to your cradle, my son. MASÉ.: Of course, being a hostage, he might not have been free. And there was the scandal to avoid. Very neatly it was avoided too, wasn't it? Finding me on the river-bank! Not that it fooled anyone, but it did make things easier, I suppose. And the trouble about the Hebrews' children gave someone the idea. Whose idea was it: the chest of papyrus and the finding in the reeds? YOHEB.: It was mine. MASÉ.: What! Well, who would have thought that my staid, upright, stolid Yoheb had such guile in her! I shall remember that next time you preach behaviour to me. YOHEB.: [Not knowing whether she is glad or sorry that the subject is settled for her] You had better change that tunic. MASÉ.: [Not listening] And here, if I am not mistaken, comes your staid, upright, stolid son. [They watch the arrival of someone on the farther terrace] I like Aron. You have a nice family, Yoheb. How did anything so attractive come out of a worthless race like the Hebrews? Before YOHEB can answer, HETSHEPSUT comes back with ARON in tow. ARON is handsome, dignified, intelligent, and grown-up. Indeed, though still a young man he has been grown-up for a long time. He has neither the temperament nor the doubts that make MASÉ such a problem to himself and to his elders. If his normal self-confidence is a little impaired at the moment, the fact is hardly apparent. HET.: Look! I've brought you a visitor, Yoheb. MASÉ.: Good morning, Aron. ARON.: [With an obeisance] Good morning, highness. YOHEB.: How are you, my son? MASÉ.: Aron, will you show me again how you get that backhand stroke? ARON.: Surely, highness. With pleasure. HET.: What is all this I hear about Miriam? Have you no control over her? She really must not be allowed to make a fool of herself in public, or she will get you all into trouble. ARON.: It was about Miriam that I came. [He pauses, uncertain.] HET.: Yes? ARON.: [Looking from one to the other and playing for time; he has not expected to run into HETSHEPSUT] It is all very difficult. She has visions, you see, highness . . . HET.: Well, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with visions. Very good and commendable things in their proper place. But this public agitating—it must stop, Aron. ARON.: I wish I knew what to do. Could I, with your gracious highness's permission, speak to my mother alone? HET.: Nonsense! Your mother's family has been mine for fifteen years. And if it is about Miriam it is practically public business. So let us hear what is worrying you. ARON.: [Comforting himself] Well, your highness would hear it sooner or later, I suppose. It is like this, highness. Miriam had one of her turns last night. A bad one. And the results are likely to be embarrassing. HET.: It is no doubt epilepsy or something of the sort. I shall send a doctor to see her to-day. They are all fools, so it is not likely that he will cure her, but he will take the responsibility from your shoulders. So don't worry about it, my good Aron. No one shall blame you or your family. ARON.: [Beginning to get desperate] Your highness doesn't understand. [Beginning again] Your highness knows, perhaps, that my sister preaches the coming of a deliverer for the Hebrews. [HET. assents.] Very well; last night she had a vision, or says she had, and in the vision it was revealed to her who the leader of our people is to be. HET.: And who is it? [Hopefully] Not Hezron the banker, I suppose? I would almost pay her a pension to embarrass that man. ARON.: No, highness. Not Hezron. HET.: Who, then? MASÉ has half turned to throw the ball he is holding to someone in the courtyard below. ARON turns his head slowly to look at him, and makes a helpless gesture in his direction. YOHEB.: [Quicker to understand than HETSHEPSUT; instantly repudiating] No! [HETSHEPSUT stares. MASÉ.: [Turning back from the parapet] Who is it to be, Aron? ARON.: [After a moment's pause] My youngest brother, highness. MASÉ.: [Lightly] That savours of nepotism, doesn't it? A truly Hebrew sin: keeping it in the family. [Seeing YOHEB'S face, and putting an arm across her shoulders in careless affection] Don't mind, Yoheb. Nothing will come of it. [To ARON] I didn't know you had a brother. [He is not greatly interested.] ARON.: He left home when he was very young, highness. MASÉ.: [To YOHEB, giving her a friendly squeeze] That was when you came to us, 'm? Well, I am glad that Miriam's choice fell on him and not on you, Aron. I should hate to see you made into a figurehead for a rabble. ARON.: [Stung by "rabble"] If the time were to come, I should make a better job of it than my brother. HET.: [Her political sense alert even now] If the time came! [Coldly] Do I understand that you consider it a possibility? ARON.: My sister's visions may be dreams, highness, but the whips on the backs of the Hebrew labourers are real enough. HET.: But it is Hebrews who do the whipping. ARON.: To please Egyptian masters. MASÉ.: Senmut says that a Hebrew would flog his grandmother for a groat. ARON.: [Restraining himself; he has not meant to make that remark about being a better leader than MASÉ] The Prime Minister has a weakness for a phrase. HET.: If you read a little history, my good Aron, you would know that there was no cruelty in Egypt until you Syrians brought it with you. It is a little late to be righteous about it. However, for Egypt's good I shall cause inquiry to be made. In the meantime, Miriam's tongue must be stopped. You understand? [The last phrase is a warning rather than a question; authority might ignore the vague prophecies of a madwoman, but the adopted son of the Princess of Egypt must on no account be compromised.] ARON.: Does your highness propose to cut it out? [As HETSHEPSUT pauses to examine his tone, not sure whether there is offence in it or not; smoothly] No one deplores the unsuitability of Miriam's visions more than your servant, gracious highness, but I have no power over her. She is possessed. Nothing but death would ever silence her. YOHEB.: [In appeal to HETSHEPSUT] Highness . . . HET.: Be assured, Yoheb. There is no question of that. Some other means must be found. ARON.: My brother might be sent away. YOHEB.: Yes. ARON.: There would be no following for an absent leader. Even Miriam might lose heart— HET.: Yes, that might be wise. MASÉ.: It is a little sad for your brother to be bundled out of Egypt just because Miriam wants to be sister to a hero! I take it that he has no yearnings to unite Israel? ARON.: [Growing frayed] There is no saying what folly he might commit. YOHEB.: [Warning] Aron! ARON.: It is a heady thing to speak for a people. Even your highness might one day show an interest in the Hebrews. MASÉ.: No. They don't wash enough. ARON.: They lack your highness's scented baths. MASÉ.: So do my people, most of them; but they find water enough. ARON.: Your people—highness? MASÉ.: The Egyptians. We wash, my dear Aron; rich or poor. I could never be sorry for a dirty skin. ARON.: [Who, what with MIRIAM and her misplaced revelations, is rapidly finding life not worth living; furious] And is your own skin become so thick, highness, that no Hebrew blood shows through? MASÉ.: [Taken aback] I think you are being insolent. And if what you say has any meaning, I fail to understand it. HET.: [Her mind divided between ARON'S unexpected bad manners and MASÉ'S Egyptian boastings] What is all this about Egyptian— YOHEB.: [Interposing hastily, in warning] His highness has heard Court gossip that your highness is his mother. HET.: [Not realising how much is involved] They give me too much credit. MASÉ.: [After a staggered pause] You mean that you are not my mother? [As HETSHEPSUT'S face, losing its smile now that the seriousness of the situation is becoming apparent, makes it obvious that she is not] You mean that I was truly a foundling? [As the thing begins to come home to him] A Hebrew brat? [HET. begins to speak, but he turns to YOHEB, accusing] But you said you were there! You said it was you who thought of the box . . . [Before he has finished the word "box" the implication is clear to him; in a dull voice] Oh. [Looking from one to another, and, because each of the three is momentarily at a loss, for once dominating them] Did you have to lie to me? HET.: No one lied to you, my dear. MASÉ.: [Overriding her attempt to speak] Why could I not have been told! Did it please you to see me making a fool of myself? Playing the prince— HET.: [Determined that he shall listen] Be reasonable, darling! Yoheb could have been put to death for having kept you alive. That was ample— MASÉ.: Why did she? Aren't there enough Hebrew brats in Egypt? [To ARON] And you. I suppose you have been enjoying me for a long time. [Mimicking ARON'S respectful voice] "Your highness knows best"; "As your highness wishes"; "Delighted, your highness, any time". ARON.: I have never mocked you, even in my mind. No, nor envied you. If I have spent emotion on you, it was to be sorry that so much glory was hung on so poor a frame. If the rest of Israel cannot wear prosperity any better than that, they had best remain in bondage. [To HETSHEPSUT, hurriedly] Forgive me, gracious highness, for anything I may have said, and permit me to leave your presence. [Exit.] MASÉ.: [Viciously] It is to be hoped that his brother has more charm, or he will do little with the sons of Israel. [Struck by a new thought] I suppose he has a brother? YOHEB.: Only you, my son. MASÉ utters a short, unamused laugh. MASÉ.: Does Miriam really believe that I would lead the Hebrews in a revolution? YOHEB.: [Quiet and dry] If she does, she is going to be disappointed. So far, you are incapable of leading a half-company of mercenaries to Nubia. HET.: [Kindly] Let him be, Yoheb. He has had enough for the moment. YOHEB.: This is the moment, highness. [To MASÉ] Who are you to despise the Hebrews? The very poorest of them is more to be reverenced than you. There is not one of them but takes his few pence with courage—and saves the odd coin for a feast day. What do you know of courage? It may not be a lovely thing to cart mud for a living, but to sing at the carting is lovely. To look men and gods in the face and be glad. MASÉ.: Do you want me to carry a hod, perhaps? YOHEB.: [Not heeding] I gave you life. Twice I gave you life. The princess gave you learning and a great place. By some mystery of God you are a prince of Egypt; and what are you besides? If you are crossed, you sulk; if you lose a game, you are at the point of death; if your nose bleeds it is the end of the world. HET.: You make too much of it, Yoheb. YOHEB.: Perhaps it is I who have bred a weakling. Or perhaps the air of Courts is thinning to Hebrew blood. If you had worked in the fields or the brickyards like your fellows, or herded sheep in the desert like your fathers, you might have grown up, who knows. Might have been master of yourself and master of men because of it. I only know that in a world full of danger and challenge and achievement the son I bore proposes to spend his manhood answering someone else's invitations to supper. MASÉ.: [Furious] You think I am a coward? YOHEB.: What else? HET.: You do the boy injustice, Yoheb. But neither is listening to, nor aware of, her. The issue is between them, and they have forgotten outsiders. MASÉ.: You think I am afraid to go to Nubia, afraid of being killed? YOHEB.: Oh, no. Being killed is the last thing you think of. You are afraid of not being good enough; afraid of new experience; afraid of responsibility; of being ridiculous; of being hurt; of being left out of things; of being let in for things, of being— MASÉ.: Stop it! YOHEB.: —supplanted while you are gone. Is there anything in heaven or earth that you are not frightened of, my son? MASÉ.: Don't call me that! I hate you! I wish you had killed me when you bore me, as you were ordered to. I shall go to the war, and go gladly! I shall see Senmut now and he will let me go with the draft to-morrow. I will show them that the son of sheep-herds can fight as well as any rice-fed Nile brat. Yes, and die as well! [Spoiling the effect of this excellent sentiment by a characteristic return to childishness] And when I am dead perhaps you will all be sorry! [He rushes out by the door, right.] HET.: [Moving as if to follow him, distressed] What have you done! YOHEB.: [Calmly] You said that he might go. HET.: But not like that! He will do some desperate thing. He will be killed in that barbarous country. YOHEB.: [Restraining her, more by her voice than by her gesture] No, highness. I have said he will live; and he will come back a man. He will be a great prince, my son. She reaches for the goffering, to pile it into the basket. HETSHEPSUT, about to hurry after MASÉ, changes her mind as her interest shifts to YOHEB. She stands arrested, looking back at her servant, as the curtain falls. CURTAIN
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