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Boleslaw Prus' Pharaoh.

Chapter 49

Original edition in Polish Along the length of several months in which Rameses fulfulled the duties of viceroy in Low Egypt, his Holy Father fell ill little by little. And it came the moment when the Owner of Eternity, who wakes joy in the hearts, the mo­narch of Egypt and every country, who gives the Sun its light, was about to get his place among his respectable ancestors in the cata­combs lying across the city of Thebes. .

The Powerful One, who gave life to his subjects and had the right to take husbands from their wives, was not old yet. But the thirtieth year of his rule tired him so much that even he, himself, already wished to rest, spend his youth and beauty on the west land, where with no sorrow every pharaoh rules people so happy that none of them ever came back from there.

Still half a year ago the Holy Ruler himself fulfilled his duties from his royal position over which lack of danger and the happiness of the whole of the visible world are based.

In the morning, just after the first crwoing of the rooster, priests woke the monarch by a hymn honouring the rising sun. The Pharaoh then stood up from his bed and had a bath in a gold tube. Then he had his body rubbed with priceless oils as they whispered prayers which added the attribute to push evil spirits away.

In such a way cleaned and incensed, he went in the little chapel, broke the clay stamp on the door and went in alone in the holy room, where the miraculous statue of God Osiris was lying on an ivory bed. The god had an extraordinary peculiarity: every night his legs, arms, and head fell down, cut by the evil god Set; but after the Pharaoh's prayers every limb grew again without any help from others.

When His Holiness checked that Osiris was again flawless, he pulled the statue from the bed, gave a bath to it, dressed it in very expensive clothes and once he sat him on the malachite throne, and incensed it with perfume. That one was a very important ceremony: if Osiris' limbs were not whole, that would be a sign for great danger threatening Egypt, if not the whole world.

Once giving the god life and clothes again, His Holiness left the chapel door open so that blessings came from it to all over the country. At the same time he appointed the priests who should guard the holy place for the day, against not so much ill will of men, but from their lack of seriousness. Often happened that some stupid mortal came too near the holy place and got an invisible strike which deprived him of consciousness if not his life.

After the service, the Lord, surrounded by singing priests went into the great dining room where there were an armchair and a little table for him, and also there were nineteen other tables in front of as many statues, representing the nineteen previous dynasties. When the monarch sat down, young boys and girls ran into the room with golden dishes with meat and chicken, and also jars of wine. The priest who looks after the food tasted from the first dish and jar, and then he knelt to offer them to the Pharaoh. The other dishes and jars were set before the statues of the predecessors. When the monarch, calmed his hunger, left the room, the ancestors' food and drink could be had by the princes and priests.

From the dining room, the Lord went into the audience room, not smaller. There the highest state officials and nearest relatives fell on their faces, then the Minister Herhor, the High Treasurer, the High Judge, and the High Police Chief presented their reports on State Affairs. The reading was interrupted by religious music and dancing, while crowns and flower bouquets were thrown at the throne.

After the audience was over, His Holiness went to the side cabinet to have a nap. After that, he made offers to the gods with wine and incense, and told the priests his dreams, according to which the wise men wrote the highest orders on the business, which His Holiness must decide.

But other times, when he was not sleepy or when the explanations did not look fair to the Pharaoh, His Holiness smiled heartily and ordered to act in the matter in this or that way. The order was the law which nobody could change, only possible in certain details.

In the afternoon His Holiness, taken on a platform, was shown in the court to His faithful guard, and then went up to the terrace for him to see the four parts of Earth and send His blessings to them. Then on the high of the masts flags were hung and powerful trumpets were heard. Those who heard them both in the city and in the countryside, Egyptian or barbarian, fell on his face so that part of the highest favor fall on his or her head, too.

At that moment it was not allowed to hit a man or a beast: the stick raised on the back would never come down on it. If a criminal sentenced to death could prove his verdict was read to him at the moment when the Lord of Heaven and Earth appeared, his punishment would be ameliorated. Because before Pharaoh steps strength, and after him forgiveness.

Once made His people happy, the Lord of everything under heaven walked into his gardens, among palm and fig trees; there he rested some more time, there honoured him his women and the children of the house played in front of him. If any of them attracted His attention because of his beauty or ability, he called him and asked:
―Who are you, my little one?
—I am Prince Binotris, son of His Holiness —answered the boy.
—And what is your mother's name?
—My mother is Lady Ameses, a woman of His Holiness.
—What can you do?
—I can count as far as ten and write "May our father and god, Holy Pharaoh Rameses live eternally!"

The Lord of Eternity smiled heartily and touched the brave boy's head with his delicate, nearly translucent hand. At that moment the child really became a prince, though His Holiness still smiled enigmatically.

But he who was touched by the divine hand could never find failure in life and should be raised over the others.

For lunch, His Holiness went into another dining room and shared his food with the gods in every Nomo in Egypt, the statues of which stood against the walls. What was not eaten by the gods was for the priests and high lords in the court.

Before the evening His Holiness accepted the visit of Queen Nikrotis, the mother of the Crown Prince, saw religious dances and listened to a concert. Afterwards, he went to have a bath, and once cleansed he went into Osiris' chapel to undress and put to bed the miraculous god. Once he did so, he sealed the chapel door and, surrounded by a priest procession, he went to his bedroom.

The priests prayed to the Pharaoh's health softly all night till sunrise, as He was among the gods while he was sleeping. Then the priests presented the petitions about the fulfillment of the actual state things on the protection of Egypt's borders and the royal tombs so that no robbers durst get into them and interrupt the eternal rest of the glorious powerful ones. But the priest prayers, probably because of the night tiredness, not always were efficient: the embarrassment of the State grew, and people stole inside the holy tombs not only expensive things but even the Pharaoh's mummies.

That was the consequence of accepting so many different strangers and idol adorers into the land, and from them, the people learnt to despise Egyptian gods and the holiest places.

The Lord's rest was interrupted once at midnight. At that hour astrologists woke His Holiness to let Him know in which phase the Moon was, which planets glow over the horizon, which constellation goes through the meridian, in all, if there was something extraordinary. Because now and then there were clouds and the star number fell from the ordinary count, or fire globes flew over the land.

The Lord listened to the astrologers' reports and if there was any strange phenomenon, He appeased them on the safety of the world and ordered them to write down every observation in special tables which they sent the priests in the Sphynx temple every month, as they were the wisest men in Egypt. They drew conclusions from the tables, but they told nobody the most important ones, except, probably, to their Chaldean colleagues in Babylon.

After midnight the Pharaoh could sleep till the rooster's morning crowing if he wished.

That was the pious and industrious life led still for another half-year by the Good God, spreader of protection, life, and health who protected the earth and Heaven, the visible and invisible world. But since half a year ago the soul of the Eternally Alive got tired of earthly affairs and His Body Shell. There were days when he ate nothing, and nights in which he did not sleep at all. Once there were signals of deep pain on his face in the course of an audience, and he often fainted.

Queen Nikotris was terrified, Noble Herhor and the priests asked the Lord many times what happened to him. But the Lord shrugged his shoulders and kept quiet, always fulfilling his tiring duties.

Then the court's doctors started giving him the strongest remedies to strengthen him. They mixed horse and ox ash to his wine, later those of lion, rhinoceros, and elephant; but the powerful remedies had no use. His Holiness fainted so often, that they stopped reading him the reports.

One day Herhor, the Queen and the priests begged the Lord permission to explore his Divine Body. The Lord accepted, and the doctors examined and touched him, but they found noo dangerous symptom, except His great weight loss.
—What does Your Holiness feel? —asked finally the wisest doctor.

The Pharaoh smiled.
—I feel —he answered —that it is time for me to come back to my Sunny Father.
—That Your Holiness cannot do without huge damage to your people —Herhor mediated quickly.
—I'll leave you my son, Rameses, who is a lion and an eagle in a single person —answered the Lord. —And truly, if you obey him, he will give Egypt such a fortune as nobody ever heard of from the beginning of the world.

The Holy Herhor and other priests trembled at that promise. They knew that the Crown Prince was a lion and an eagle in a single person, indeed, and that they will have to obey him. But they'd rather have this Favor Lord for longer years, as His Heart was filled with compassion and He was like the north wind which brings rain onto the fields and refreshes people.

And that's why fell to the floor and moaning lied on their bellies everybody as if they were a single man till the Pharaoh agreed to undergo treatment.

Then the doctors took him to the garden for the whole day, among the sharp nice smelling trees, fed him with chunked meat, gave him strong broths, milk and old wine to drink. The feeding remedies strengthened His Holiness for around a week, but soon another weakening came, and to vanquish it they had to make the Lord drink fresh blood if calves coming from Apis. But that blood was no good for long, and they had to ask for advice from Evil God Set's High Priest.

Within general scare, the somber priest came in, looked at His Holiness and advised a terrible solution.
—You have —he said —to give the Pharaoh the blood of innocent children, a cup every day...

The priest and high nobles who crowded the room were silent at this solution. Then they started whispering that to that purpose the fittest would be the peasant's children, as the priests' and noble men's children were no longer innocent even from the cradle.

—It is not important whose children they are —answered the cruel priest —provided that His Holiness drinks fresh blood every day.

The Lord, lying down with his eyes closed, on his bed, heard the bloody solution and whispers from the courtiers. And when one of the doctors asked Herhor who could carry out the search of the best children, the Pharaoh regained consciousness. He fixed his wise eyes on those present and said:
—The crocodile doesn't eat his children, the jackal and hyena give their lives to save their offspring, and would I drink the blood of Egyptian children, who are my kids? Indeed, I'd never suppose anybody durst advice me such an ignoble solution!

The Evil God's Priest fell on his face, explaining that child blood was never drunk in Egypt, so far, but the hellish powers can give him back his health with this procedure. That solution at least was used in Phoenicia and Assyria.
—Shame on you —answered the Pharaoh —for speaking in the palace of the Egypt Powerful Ones about those abhorrent things. Don't you know that Phoenicians and Assyrians are unwise barbarians? But among us, not even the most ignorant peasant would believe that blood unjustly poured can be of use to anyone.

So spoke the Equal to the Immortals. The courtiers covered their faces, red with shame, and the High Priest of Set quietly went out of the room.

Then Herhor, to save the monarch's extinguishing life, used the last remedy, and told the Pharaoh that in one of the Thebes temples hid a Chaldean, Beroes, the wisest priest in Babylon and powerful miracle maker.
—To Your Holiness —said Herhor —he is a foreigner and has no right to give so important advice to our Lord. But allow, King, to be seen by him, as I am sure that he will find a solution against your illness, and in no way he'll offend Your Piety with godless words.

Also this time the Pharaoh agreed to His faithful servant's wish. And after two days, summoned in a secret way, Beroes came to Memphis.

The wise Chaldean, after just a quick glance at the Pharaoh, gave this advice:
—You have to find a man in Egypt. A man whose prayer gets the Highest One's throne. And when he says the most sincere prayer for the Pharaoh, the Monarch will get His health back and will live for long years.

Once he heard those words, the Lord looked at the crowd of priests surrounding him and said:
—I can see here so many Holy men that if some of them took care of me, I'd be healthy... —And he smiled slightly.
—We all are only men —said Holy Beroes —and our souls not always can arrive at the Eternal One's feet. But I'll give Your Holiness a trustworthy solution to find the man who prays most sincerely and efficiently.
—Well, you find him, so that he can become my friend in the last hour of my life.

After such favourable answer by the Lord, the Chaldean demanded a room where nobody lived and which had only one door. And on the same day, one hour before sunrise, he ordered His Holiness to be taken there.

At the desired time four of the highest priests dressed the Pharaoh in a new linen robe, they said a long prayer which certainly would put evil powers away, and once they sat him in a simple cedar platform, they took the Lord in the empty room where there was only one small table.

There was Beroes already there, who was praying facing the East.

When the priests got out, the Chaldean closed the heavy chamber door, got a purple scarf on his shoulders, and he put a black glass balloon on the table, in front of the Pharaoh. In his left hand he held a sharp dagger of Babylon steel, in his right one he held a stick covered with mysterious signs, and with this stick, he drew a circle in the air, around both of them. Then, turning to the four corners of the world one after the other, he whispered:

Amorul, Taneha, Latisten,
Rabur, Adonai...
Have pity and clean me,
Heavenly Father, favour and pity me...
On this unworthy servant
pour your holy blessing and spread
your omnipotent arm
against the stubborn and rebellious spirits
so that I can consider your holy works in peace...

He stopped and turned to the Pharaoh:
―Mer-amen-Rameses, Amon's High Priest: can you see a spark in the balloon?
—I can see a white spark which seems to move like a bee on a flower...
―Mer-amen-Rameses, watch at the spark and never take your eyes away from it... Don't look sideways at anything which may appear at either side...

And he whispered again:

Baralanensisk, Balda­hien­sis,
by means of the powerful princes
Genio, Lahidae,
ministers of the Hellish Kingdom,
I call you by the force
of His Highest Majesty
which is poured on me,
I can ask and order..

At that moment the Pharaoh trembled with horror.

―Mer-amen-Rameses, what can you see? —the Chaldean asked.
―From behind the balloon a horrible head is looking..., its yellow-reddish hairs stand straight, its face is green..., the pupils are turned down, I can see the white of the eyes..., the mouth is wide open, as if about to shout.
―That is Fear —said Beroes, and made the point of his dagger turn over the ballon

Suddenly the Pharaoh bent his body to the floor.
―Enough! —he shouted —why are you tormenting me? The tired body wants to rest, the soul..., fly to the land of eternal light... And you not only hinder me die but invent new torments... Ah!, I don't want...
―What can you see?
—From the ceiling, they come down two spider-like feet, horrible... Thick like palm-trees, covered with hair, with a hook at the end. I feel that there is a huge spider hanging over my head, and it is weaving around me a net of naval stairs...

Beroes turned the dagger upwards.
―Mer-amen-Rameses ―he said —don't stop watching the spark and don't turn your eyes sideways...

There's the sign which I show in your presence —he murmured. —There's me powerfully armed by divine help, I foreseeing and fearless, who commands thee..., Aye, Saraye, Aye, Saraye..., in the name of the powerful and eternally living God...

At that moment on the Pharaoh's face came a quiet smile.
―It seems to me —said the Lord —that I can see Egypt..., the whole of Egypt. Yes, that is the Nile the dessert. Here Memphis, there Thebes...

Truly he was seeing Egypt, the whole of it, but not any larger than the alley of his palace garden. The strange picture had a peculiarity, that if the Pharaoh looked a given point with more attention, the point grew to almost is normal size.

The Sun was going down, pouring its gold-purple light on the earth. The day birds were getting ready to sleep, the night ones were waking up in their hiding places. In the desert hyenas and jackals were yawning and spreading their powerful limbs in preparation to hunt their preys.

Nile fishermen quickly pulled their nets, large barges were being docked. Weary peasants took off buckets from the crane, whereby he drew the water all day. In the cities the lights were lit, in the temples, the priests gathered for their evening prayers. Dust dropped on the roads, and the ridge of the wheels was silenced. From the top of the pyramids, there were loud voices calling the people to prayer.

After a while, the Pharaoh remarked with astonishment a set of a sort of silver birds which were flying over the ground. They flew from the temples, palaces, factories, ships, rural houses, even from mines. At first, they all rushed up as an arrow; but immediately there was another flying silver-winged bird that blocked their way up the sky, hit them with all its force, and both fell dead to the ground.

Thence it was inconsistent prayers that prevented one another from rising to the throne of the Eternal...

The Pharaoh listened with care... At first, it reached Him only a flapping murmur of wings, but soon he could already distinguish the words causing it.

And he heard a sick man who prayed for his healing and at the same time a doctor who begged the patient to be sick. A master asked Amon to protect his barn and stall, a thief stretched out his hands to the sky so that he didn't have problems to lead out somebody else's cow and fill bags with stolen grain. Their prayers touched one another, like stones slung up.

A migrant in the desert fell on the sand begging the north wind to bring him a drop of water, a sailor hit the deck with his forehead, so that the east winds could blow one week longer. A farmer wanted the pools dry fast after the flood; a poor fisherman demanded that the holes would never dry.

Their prayers broke one anotherm never reaching Amon's divine ears.

The greatest noise dominated the quarries, where the criminals, bound by chains, burst out large stoves with hooks, dipped in water. There the day group of the workers asked for the night to go to sleep; the workers of the night group, being waken up by the guards, beat their breasts, beseeching the sun would never go. There, merchants buying the cut and squared stones, prayed for having a greater number of criminals in the mines, and the food brokers lay on the belly, longing for an epidemic to destroy workers so that they could gain a greater benefit.

The prayers of those who were in the mines did not reach the sky either.

On the western border, the Pharaoh saw two armies, preparing themselves for the battle. Both lay on the sand, beseeching Amon that he would exterminate the enemy. Libyans wished shame and death to the Egyptians; the Egyptians sent curses on the Libyans.

The prayers of each other, like two hawthorn heads, fought over the ground and fell on the desert. Amon never noticed them.

And wherever the Pharaoh turned his tired pupil, he ever saw the same thing.

The farmers prayed for rest and diminution of taxes; the scribes so that the taxes grow and work will never end. The priests asked Amon for a long life for Rameses XII and about the extermination of Phoenicians who made their financial operations worse, the nomarchs called on the God, so that he would keep Phoenicians and soon allow the throne to go to Rameses XIII, because he would put a bridle on the absolutism of the priests. The lions, jackals, and hyenas sparked with hunger and the desire of fresh blood; the deer, headaches, and hares with fear abandoned their hiding places, dreaming of keeping their miserable life still one day longer. However, the experience told them that in this night, several tens should be lost so that predators do not die.

And so there was a strife in the whole world. Everyone wanted what others feared; everyone asked for his own happiness, not wondering whether it would harm the neighbor.

Therefore their prayers, though they resembled silver birds flying to heaven never reached their goal. And the divine Amon, whom no voice of the earth arrived, leaning his hands on his knees pondered more and more deeply in the consideration of his own deity, whereas on earth, more and more often blind and random strength dominated.

Suddenly the Pharaoh heard a woman's voice.
—Naughty one! little devil! come home, it's time to pray.
—Ok, coming!—answered a child's voice.

The Monarch looked down there and saw a scribe's miserable clay house, one of those controlling cattle. The owner, at the brightness of the sunrise, was writing his registry, his wife was kneading wheat with a heavy stone to make a flat cake, and before the house, as if it were a young goat, a six-year-old boy was jumping and laughing, you'd never know at what.

Undoubtedly the smelly evening air enthralled him.
―Naughty one!, come to pray now!, —repeated the woman.
—Ok!, coming!

And again he ran and rejoiced like crazy.

Finally, the mother, seeing that the sun began to dump into the sands of the desert, put aside the stone and went out into the yard, seized the current boy as a colt. He fought her but finally yielded to the stronger force. The mother, having entered him into the house, immediately forced him down on the floor and held his hand, so that he did not run away.
―Do not move, —said she, —crush your legs and sit straight, put your hands together and get up to the sky ... Oh, bad child!

The boy knew he would not escape the prayer, so to go running in the yard sooner, he turned his eyes and his hands to the sky with devotion, and with a soft and screaming voice he prayed breathlessly:

I thank you, good god, Amon,
that you have kept dad
from unhappy events today,
and to mom, you gave wheat
for the plate cakes ...
And what still? ...

That you created the sky
and the earth and sent it
to it the Nile,
which brings us the bread ...
And what still? ... Oh, I know! ...

I thank you so much
that it is so beautiful
that flowers grow,
birds sing and palms
give us sweet dates.
And for all the good things
you gave us,
everyone should love you
and praise better than I,
for I am still small
and I have not been taught
the wisdom.

Already enough ...

Bad boy!, murmured the scribe leaning on his recording task.
―Bad boy, you carelessly honor Amon...


ut the Pharaoh in the miraculous globe noticed some­thing else. The prayer of the mis­chie­vous boy rose as a lark to heaven and flirting with its flapping wings rushed more and more unchallenged as far as the throne where Eternal Amon was sitting with his hands on his knees, disappeared in the consideration of his own omnipotence.

Then it rose even higher, to the head of the God himself and sang to him in a child's voice:

And for all the good things
you gave us, everyone
would love you,
as I do.

At these words, the God stopped drowning in himself and opened his eyes, and a ray of happiness was dropped out of them on the world. From the earth to the sky, unlimited silence began. Every pain, every fear, every injustice stopped. The sibling arrow froze in the air, the lion stopped in his jump on the deer, the raised stick did not fall on the slave's back. The sick man forgot about suffering, the vagabond in the desert forgot about hunger, the prisoner about his chains. The whirlwind was restrained and the wave ready to crush the ship halted. And so all over the earth, such a calm began that the sun, who had been hidden across the horizon, once again raised its radiant head ...

The Pharaoh regained cons­cious­ness again. He saw before him the little table, on it the black ball, and near it, the Chaldean Beroes.
—Mer-amen-Rameses —asked the priest— did you find the man whose prayers will reach the feet of the Eternal?
—Yes, —answered the Pharaoh.
—Is he a prince, Sir, a prophet, or perhaps a simple hermit?
—He is a small, six-year-old boy who did not ask for anything from Amon, but he thanked Him for everything.
—Do you know where he lives?
—I do —answered the Pharaoh, —but I do not want to steal the power of his prayers, for me. The world, Beroes, is a huge whirl in which human beings are thrown in like sand grains and throws displeasure at them. And the child gives people what they could not give themselves: a brief moment of forgetting and calm. Forgetfulness and tranquility... Can you understand that, Chaldean?

Beroes kept quiet.

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