Then Pharaoh sent messengers to the governor of the prison, and bade him (if this young Hebrew were still alive), deliver him up without delay, and bring him into the presence of the king. Whereupon the governor of the prison sent in haste for Joseph to do the king’s bidding, and told him that Pharaoh himself had sent for him. They were by now friends together, servant and master, and he spoke kindly to him, and wished him well, and lent him suitable clothes in which to appear before the king. So Joseph shaved himself, put off his prison clothes, and changed his raiment, and was brought into the vast pillared council hall of the royal palace, and into the presence of Pharaoh himself.

Surrounded by his priests and diviners, his noblemen and officers of state, some among them men of Syria and Ethiopia and of Nubia, chosen from near and far for their sagacity or valour or influence to serve him, Pharaoh was seated upon a dais under a canopy. He was garbed in a robe of fine linen adorned with gold and coloured enamel. His chair of state was of gold. Two serpent heads of gold couched on his temples. Beside him stood his fan-bearers.

When Joseph had been brought in, he made obeisance to Pharaoh, bowing with his face to the ground before him, and stood where he was. But Pharaoh bade him draw near, and looking gravely upon him, spoke with him—these two together.

‘I have dreamed a dream,’ he said, ‘which the spirit within me assures me has a meaning that is of moment—and a meaning moreover of which I should be made speedily aware. But there is none among my priests and diviners who can expound it to me. It has been told to Pharaoh that thou thyself art possessed of a natural understanding of dreams, and a divination to pierce through their strange disguises to what they intend. Is that so?’

And Joseph answered the king: ‘The interpretation of dreams is with God, and only he of his wisdom can give the insight to divine this dream.’

Pharaoh stooped forward a little where he sat. ‘So be it,’ he said. And he told Joseph his dream.

‘I dreamed,’ he said, ‘I stood upon the bank of a great river in flood. And as I stood musing there, looking upon the turbid flowing waters, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine. They came up, I say, out of the river—sleek, well-nourished beasts, and comely. They browsed together in the green sedges in the pastures of the marsh by the brink of the river. And as I looked, yet another seven kine came up from out of the river; but these were beasts lank and deformed, dreadful to look upon and ominous. Indeed I have never seen their like before in the whole land of Egypt. These also stood grazing awhile, and in so doing, drew near to the other seven. And it seemed in my dream—more swiftly even than I can recount it now—that of a sudden the lean lank cows fell upon and utterly devoured the seven that were sleek and comely. Yet could no mortal eye see any change in them. They were none the better for it, but remained as lean and lank as before. At this I awoke, troubled with an inward dread.

‘When at length sleep returned to me, I dreamed again. But this dream is hard to tell, it was so swift in vanishing; and it appeared, as it were, all in the empty air. I saw upon one stalk seven ears of corn, full and fair and ripe for harvest, which yet in an instant were clean gone and vanished away, devoured by seven other ears, meagre and mildewed and smitten with the corruption of the burning blast of the east wind. Then I awoke and could sleep no more.

‘These then are the dreams that I have related to my magicians and diviners of secret things, and not one of them has yet been able to make clear their meaning to me, yet meaning my mind assures me they have.’

He ceased speaking, and Joseph stood awhile silent before him, his face rapt and absent, his eyes fixed. Then he raised his head and looked on Pharaoh, and bowed himself before him and made answer:

‘The two dreams,’ he said, ‘have one meaning, and in both of them God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The river the king saw in his dream was the river of Egypt, which, like time, flows on

  By PanEris using Melati.

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