This story is set in Ancient Egypt, which is very different for an Agatha Christie’s story. It may not be one of the best Agatha Christie’s stories that I have read, but the underlying meaning is very thoughts provoking.
Whether the story is written in 1944 or in 2012, there are some human elements which will never change over time.
1. Hori, the father Imhotep’s advisor was in a conversation with Renisenb (Imhotep’s daughter). They were talking about the young concubine, Nofret that Imhotep had just taken. Hori say Renisenb “You are a child.”, when she cried out that Nofret is beautiful and cruel and bad!
Renisenb later then understood what he meant. Those words of hers had meant nothing – you could not dismiss a human being so easily. What sorrow, what bitterness, what despair lay behind Nofret’s cruel smile? What had Renisenb, what had any of them, done to make Nofret welcome?
2. Hori was describing to Renisenb that people are like tombs which always have a false door. They create a false door to deceive. If they are conscious of weakness, of inefficiency, they make an imposing door of self-assertion, of bluster, of overwhelming authority – and, after a time, they get to believe in it themselves.
They think, and everybody thinks, that they are like that. But behind that door,is bare rock…. And so when reality comes and touches them with the feather of truth – their true self reasserts itself.
For Kait gentleness and submission brought her all she desired – a husband and children. Stupidity made life easier for her – but when reality in the form of danger threatened, her true nature appeared. She did not change – that strength and that ruthlessness were always there.
3. Rottenness come from within. There must always be growth – and that if one does not grow kinder and wiser and greater, then the growth must be the other way, fostering evil things. Or it may be that, like a disease of crops, it is contagious, that first one and then another sickened.
For some people, by reason of their temperaments, could get relief. But Yahmose has always been timid, easily ruled and with never enough courage to rebel. He loved his father and worked hard to please him, and the father found him well-meaning but stupid and slow. He despised him. The brother too treated Yahmose with all of the scorn of a bullying nature. Slowly his burden of resentment, concealed but deeply felt, grew heavier. The meeker he seemed, the more his inward anger grew.
The young concubine Nofret who came after Yahmose’s wife sharp tongue finally goaded Yahmose beyond endurance. It was her jeers, her taunt that she was a better man than he, that finally sapped his self control. He met Nofret on this path and -driven beyond endurance – he threw her down the cliff.
So this goes to show, one has to be careful of one’s words and bullying. If one day you push someone beyond their self control and endurance, they may start to do terrible things beyond their usual nature.
4. You remember, Renisenb, how I told you the story of Sobek and Yahmose as children, and how Sobek beat Yahmose’s head against the ground and how your mother came, all pale and trembling and said, “That is dangerous.” I think Renisenb, that her meaning was that to do such things to Yahmose was dangerous. Remember the next day how Sobek was ill – food poisoning, they thought – I think your mother knew something of the queer self-contained furty that dwelt within the breast of her gentle, meek little son and feared that some day it might be roused.