“No,” she replied, “that were to reverse the relation. Did I not ask you to ride with me? I am indebted to you, and would begin payment. You may talk and I will listen, or I will talk and you will listen: that choice is yours; but it shall be mine to choose where we go, and the way thither.”

“And where may that be?”

“You are alarmed again.”

“O fair Egyptian, I but asked you the first question of every captive.”

“Call me Egypt.”

“I would rather call you Iras.”

“You may think of me by that name, but call me Egypt.”

“Egypt is a country, and means many people.”

“Yes, yes! And such a country!”

“I see; it is to Egypt we are going.”

“Would we were! I would be so glad.”

She sighed as she spoke.

“You have no care for me, then,” he said.

“Ah, by that I know you were never there.”

“I never was.”

“Oh, it is the land where there are no unhappy people, the desired of all the rest of the earth, the mother of all the gods, and therefore supremely blest. There, O son of Arrius, there the happy find increase of happiness, and the wretched, going, drink once of the sweet water of the sacred river, and laugh and sing, rejoicing like children.”

“Are not the very poor with you there as elsewhere?”

“The very poor in Egypt are the very simple in wants and ways,” she replied. “They have no wish beyond enough, and how little that is, a Greek or a Roman cannot know.”

“But I am neither Greek nor Roman.”

She laughed.

“I have a garden of roses, and in the midst of it is a tree, and its bloom is the richest of all. Whence came it, think you?”

“From Persia, the home of the rose.”

“No.”

“From India, then.”

“No.”

“Ah! one of the isles of Greece.”

“I will tell you,” she said; “a traveller found it perishing by the roadside on the plain of Rephaim.”

“Oh, in Judea!”

“I put it in the earth left bare by the receding Nile, and the soft south wind blew over the desert and nursed it, and the sun kissed it in pity; after which it could not else than grow and flourish. I stand in its shade now, and it thanks me with much perfume. As with the roses, so with the men of Israel. Where shall they reach perfection but in Egypt?”

“Moses was but one of millions.”

“Nay, there was a reader of dreams. Will you forget him?”

“The friendly Pharaohs are dead.”

“Ah, yes! The river by which they dwelt sings to them in their tombs; yet the same sun tempers the same air to the same people.”

“Alexandria is but a Roman town.”