The Plagues of Egypt

At the season of the annual inundation, when the waters of the Nile sweep down in flood from the mountains of Abyssinia, Pharaoh, attended by his courtiers, his priests and officers, proceeded in state from his palace to take part in a festival which, as in years gone by, was to be held upon the river. On his progress thither through the throngs which had come forth to acclaim him, and before he had embarked into the silken-sailed vessel that had been prepared for the ceremony and was moored beside the quay, Moses and Aaron confronted the king by the riverside, and yet again entreated him to grant the petition they had made on behalf of the Israelites. And again he refused to listen to them.

Then in sight of Pharaoh and of the great company assembled there, Moses lifted up his rod and smote the swirling waters. And behold, even as they watched, from shore to shore the whole surface of the flooding river began to run red as blood.

But though many were dismayed at this marvel, it moved Pharaoh not one whit. This also was within the knowledge of his wizards and magicians, and he paid no heed to it. When the ceremony was over, he returned to his palace. Nor did he show any sign of relenting when report was made to him that a wonder unknown in living memory had brought horror on the whole city.

For now the river not only continued to flow blood-red, but the fish in it perished. Its tide was laden with their puffed-up carcases, floating, belly upwards, as the flood-water swept from the mountains down to the sea. The river stank; and not the river alone. The water of the canals also that had been cut out for the irrigation of the fields glistened in the light of sunset, red as blood. Even in the reservoirs of the Egyptians, in their tanks and cisterns, in the very pots and jars they used in their houses—there was water red as blood. As it staled it putrefied and became foul and corrupt. Neither man nor beast dared taste of it. And the Egyptians were compelled to dig round about the river for water fit to drink, and to sink wells.

So it continued for seven days. And when the seven days were at an end Moses came again into the presence of Pharaoh. He warned him that unless he consented to do as the Lord God of Israel had ordained, the creeping things of the earth would bear witness against him and be a cause of shuddering and dread to the whole realm of Egypt. But Pharaoh stubbornly refused to pay heed to him, and dismissed him with contempt.

And even as Moses had foretold, there began to breed in the corrupt and blood-red waters of the river an unprecedented plague of frogs. The mud-shallows amidst the beds of reeds and rushes and the fringes of the water were soon astir and alive with them. They crawled up in an innumerable host from out of the swamps. They spread in myriads over the low-lying lands on either bank of the river, and swarmed everywhere, creeping and hopping not only into the orchards and gardens, fresh and lovely with their leafy trees and flowers, and into the lilied pools and conduits, but into the innermost rooms of the houses of the Egyptians, their bed-chambers and their beds, their cooking stoves or ovens, and even into the bowls wherein they kneaded their dough for the making of bread. Squat and noisome, there was no cranny or crevice free of them.

Clammy and cold as the mire from which they came, they climbed up, in the dead of night, upon the Egyptians’ bodies as they lay asleep, and leapt about the clods in myriads as they worked in the fields. The air resounded with their croaking. Swarms of these harmless, bright-coloured creatures had been seen in Egypt in previous years, to be soon devoured by the water-fowl or to return into the Nile. But there is horror to man in nature’s multitudes, and now, leaping and creeping, or staring and inert, they swarmed in every dwelling, even in the houses of the wealthiest nobles and the private chambers of Pharaoh and his queen.

The Egyptians were filled with loathing of the frogs. Why had their gods brought such a visitation upon them? If magic could bring such a pest, why could it not be conjured away? But the priests and sorcerers could do nought. At length Pharaoh himself sent for the chiefs of the Hebrews and commanded Moses to intercede with his God.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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