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Title: Uarda : a Romance of Ancient Egypt — Volume 04
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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UARDA

Volume 4.

By Georg Ebers



CHAPTER XV.

The afternoon shadows were already growing long, when a splendid chariot
drew up to the gates of the terrace-temple.  Paaker, the chief pioneer,
stood up in it, driving his handsome and fiery Syrian horses.  Behind him
stood an Ethiopian slave, and his big dog followed the swift team with
his tongue out.

As he approached the temple he heard himself called, and checked the pace
of his horses.  A tiny man hurried up to him, and, as soon as he had
recognized in him the dwarf Nemu, he cried angrily:

"Is it for you, you rascal, that I stop my drive?  What do you want?"

"To crave," said the little man, bowing humbly, "that, when thy business
in the city of the dead is finished, thou wilt carry me back to Thebes."

"You are Mena's dwarf?"  asked the pioneer.

"By no means," replied Nemu.  "I belong to his neglected wife, the lady
Nefert.  I can only cover the road very slowly with my little legs, while
the hoofs of your horses devour the way-as a crocodile does his prey."

"Get up!"  said Paaker.  "Did you come here on foot?"

"No, my lord," replied Nemu, "on an ass; but a demon entered into the
beast, and has struck it with sickness.  I had to leave it on the road.
The beasts of Anubis will have a better supper than we to-night."

"Things are not done handsomely then at your mistress's house?"  asked
Paaker.

"We still have bread," replied Nemu, "and the Nile is full of water.
Much meat is not necessary for women and dwarfs, but our last cattle take
a form which is too hard for human teeth."

The pioneer did not understand the joke, and looked enquiringly at the
dwarf.

"The form of money," said the little man, "and that cannot be chewed;
soon that will be gone too, and then the point will be to find a recipe
for making nutritious cakes out of earth, water, and palm-leaves.  It
makes very little difference to me, a dwarf does not need much--but the
poor tender lady!"

Paaker touched his horses with such a violent stroke of his whip that
they reared high, and it took all his strength to control their spirit.

"The horses' jaws will be broken," muttered the slave behind.  "What a
shame with such fine beasts!"

"Have you to pay for them?"  growled Paaker.  Then he turned again to the
dwarf, and asked:

"Why does Mena let the ladies want?"

"He no longer cares for his wife," replied the dwarf, casting his eyes
down sadly.  "At the last division of the spoil he passed by the gold and
silver; and took a foreign woman into his tent.  Evil demons have blinded
him, for where is there a woman fairer than Nefert?"

"You love your mistress."

"As my very eyes!"

During this conversation they had arrived at the terrace-temple.  Paaker
threw the reins to the slave, ordered him to wait with Nemu, and turned
to the gate-keeper to explain to him, with the help of a handful of gold,
his desire of being conducted to Pentaur, the chief of the temple.

The gate-keeper, swinging a censer before him with a hasty action,
admitted him into the sanctuary.  You will find him on the third
terrace," he said, "but he is no longer our superior."

"They said so in the temple of Seti, whence I have just come," replied
Paaker.

The porter shrugged his shoulders with a sneer, and said: "The palm-tree
that is quickly set up falls down more quickly still."  Then he desired a
servant to conduct the stranger to Pentaur.

The poet recognized the Mohar at once, asked his will, and learned that
he was come to have a wonderful vision interpreted by him.

Paaker explained before relating his dream, that he did not ask this
service for nothing; and when the priest's countenance darkened he added:

"I will send a fine beast for sacrifice to the Goddess if the
interpretation is favorable."

"And in the opposite case?"  asked Pentaur, who, in the House of Seti,
never would have anything whatever to do with the payments of the
worshippers or the offerings of the devout.

"I will offer a sheep," replied Paaker, who did not perceive the subtle
irony that lurked in Pentaur's words, and who was accustomed to pay for
the gifts of the Divinity in proportion to their value to himself.

Pentaur thought of the verdict which Gagabu, only two evenings since, had
passed on the Mohar, and it occurred to him that he would test how far
the man's superstition would lead him.  So he asked, while he suppressed
a smile:

"And if I can foretell nothing bad, but also nothing actually good?"--

"An antelope, and four geese," answered Paaker promptly.

"But if I were altogether disinclined to put myself at your service?"
asked Pentaur.  "If I thought it unworthy of a priest to let the Gods be
paid in proportion to their favors towards a particular person, like
corrupt officials; if I now showed you--you--and I have known you from a
school-boy, that there are things that cannot be bought with inherited
wealth?"

The pioneer drew back astonished and angry, but Pentaur continued
calmly--

"I stand here as the minister of the Divinity; and nevertheless, I see by
your countenance, that you were on the point of lowering yourself by
showing to me your violent and extortionate spirit.

"The Immortals send us dreams, not to give us a foretaste of joy or
caution us against danger, but to remind us so to prepare our souls that
we may submit quietly to suffer evil, and with heartfelt gratitude accept
the good; and so gain from each profit for the inner life.  I will not
interpret your dream!  Come without gifts, but with a humble heart, and
with longing for inward purification, and I will pray to the Gods that
they may enlighten me, and give you such interpretation of even evil
dreams that they may be fruitful in blessing.

"Leave me, and quit the temple!"

Paaker ground his teeth with rage; but he controlled himself, and only
said as he slowly withdrew:

"If your office had not already been taken from you, the insolence with
which you have dismissed me might have cost you your place.  We shall
meet again, and then you shall learn that inherited wealth in the right
hand is worth more than you will like."

"Another enemy!"  thought the poet, when he found himself alone and stood
erect in the glad consciousness of having done right.

During Paaker's interview with the poet, the dwarf Nemu had chatted to
the porter, and had learned from him all that had previously occurred.

Paaker mounted his chariot pale with rage, and whipped on his horses
before the dwarf had clambered up the step; but the slave seized the
little man, and set him carefully on his feet behind his master.

"The villian, the scoundrel!  he shall repent it--Pentaur is he called!
the hound!"  muttered the pioneer to himself.

The dwarf lost none of his words, and when he caught the name of Pentaur
he called to the pioneer, and said--

"They have appointed a scoundrel to be the superior of this temple; his
name is Pentaur.  He was expelled from the temple of Seti for his
immorality, and now he has stirred up the younger scholars to rebellion,
and invited unclean women into the temple.  My lips hardly dare repeat
it, but the gate-keeper swore it was true--that the chief haruspex from
the House of Seti found him in conference with Bent-Anat, the king's
daughter, and at once deprived him of his office."

"With Bent-Anat?"  replied the pioneer, and muttered, before the dwarf
could find time to answer, "Indeed, with Bent-Anat!"  and he recalled the
day before yesterday, when the princess had remained so long with the
priest in the hovel of the paraschites, while he had talked to Nefert and
visited the old witch.

"I should not care to be in the priest's skin," observed Nemu, "for
though Rameses is far away, the Regent Ani is near enough.  He is a
gentleman who seldom pounces, but even the dove won't allow itself to be
attacked in is own nest."

Paaker looked enquiringly at Nemu.

"I know," said the dwarf "Ani has asked Rameses' consent to marry his
daughter."

"He has already asked it," continued the dwarf as Paaker smiled
incredulously, "and the king is not disinclined to give it.  He likes
making marriages--as thou must know pretty well."

"I?"  said Paaker, surprised.

"He forced Katuti to give her daughter as wife to the charioteer.
That I know from herself.  She can prove it to thee."

Paaker shook his head in denial, but the dwarf continued eagerly, "Yes,
yes!  Katuti would have had thee for her son-in-law, and it was the king,
not she, who broke off the betrothal.  Thou must at the same time have
been inscribed in the black books of the  high gate, for Rameses used
many hard names for thee.  One of us is like a mouse behind the curtain,
which knows a good deal."

Paaker suddenly brought his horses to a stand-still, threw the reins to
the slave, sprang from the chariot, called the dwarf to his side, and
said:

"We will walk from here to the river, and you shall tell me all you know;
but if an untrue word passes your lips I will have you eaten by my dogs."

"I know thou canst keep thy word," gasped the little man.  "But go a
little slower if thou wilt, for I am quite out of breath.  Let Katuti
herself tell thee how it all came about.  Rameses compelled her to give
her daughter to the charioteer.  I do not know what he said of thee, but
it was not complimentary.  My poor mistress!  she let herself be caught
by the dandy, the ladies' man-and now she may weep and wail.  When I pass
the great gates of thy house with Katuti, she often sighs and complains
bitterly.  And with good reason, for it soon will be all over with our
noble estate, and we must seek an asylum far away among the Amu in the
low lands; for the nobles will soon avoid us as outcasts.  Thou mayst be
glad that thou hast not linked thy fate to ours; but I have a faithful
heart, and will share my mistress's trouble."

"You speak riddles," said Paaker, "what have they to fear?"

The dwarf now related how Nefert's brother had gambled away the mummy of
his father, how enormous was the sum he had lost, and that degradation
must overtake Katuti, and her daughter with her.

"Who can save them," he whimpered.  "Her shameless husband squanders his
inheritance and his prize-money.  Katuti is poor, and the little words
"Give me! scare away friends as the cry of a hawk scares the chickens.
My poor mistress!"

"It is a large sum," muttered Paaker to himself.  "It is enormous!"
sighed the dwarf, "and where is it to be found in these hard times?  It
would have been different with us, if--ah if--.  And it would be a form
of madness which I do not believe in, that Nefert should still care for
her braggart husband.  She thinks as much of thee as of him."

Paaker looked at the dwarf half incredulous and half threatening.

"Ay--of thee," repeated Nemu.  "Since our excursion to the Necropolis
the day before yesterday it was--she speaks only of thee, praising thy
ability, and thy strong manly spirit.  It is as if some charm obliged her
to think of thee."

The pioneer began to walk so fast that his small companion once more had
to ask him to moderate his steps.

They gained the shore in silence, where Paaker's boat was waiting, which
also conveyed his chariot.  He lay down in the little cabin, called the
dwarf to him, and said:

"I am Katuti's nearest relative; we are now reconciled; why does she not
turn to me in her difficulty?"

"Because she is proud, and thy blood flows in her veins.  Sooner would
she die with her child--she said so--than ask thee, against whom she
sinned, for an "alms."

"She did think of me then?"

"At once; nor did she doubt thy generosity.  She esteems thee highly--I
repeat it; and if an arrow from a Cheta's bow or a visitation of the Gods
attained Mena, she would joyfully place her child in thine arms, and
Nefert believe me has not forgotten her playfellow.  The day before
yesterday, when she came home from the Necropolis, and before the letter
had come from the camp, she was full of thee--

     ["To be full (meh) of any one" is used in the Egyptian language for
     "to be in love with any one."]

nay called to thee in her dreams; I know it from Kandake, her black
maid."  The pioneer looked down and said:

"How extraordinary! and the same night I had a vision in which your
mistress appeared to me; the insolent priest in the temple of Hathor
should have interpreted it to me."

"And he refused? the fool! but other folks understand dreams, and I am
not the worst of them--Ask thy servant.  Ninety-nine times out of a
hundred my interpretations come true.  How was the vision?"

"I stood by the Nile," said Paaker, casting down his eyes and drawing
lines with his whip through the wool of the cabin rug.  "The water was
still, and I saw Nefert standing on the farther bank, and beckoning to
me.  I called to her, and she stepped on the water, which bore her up as
if it were this carpet.  She went over the water dry-foot as if it were
the stony wilderness.  A wonderful sight!  She came nearer to me, and
nearer, and already I had tried to take her hand, when she ducked under
like a swan.  I went into the water to seize her, and when she came up
again I clasped her in my arms; but then the strangest thing happened--
she flowed away, she dissolved like the snow on the Syrian hills, when
you take it in your hand, and yet it was not the same, for her hair
turned to water-lilies, and her eyes to blue fishes that swam away
merrily, and her lips to twigs of coral that sank at once, and from her
body grew a crocodile, with a head like Mena, that laughed and gnashed
its teeth at me.  Then I was seized with blind fury; I threw myself upon
him with a drawn sword, he fastened his teeth in my flesh, I pierced his
throat with my weapon; the Nile was dark with our streaming blood, and so
we fought and fought--it lasted an eternity--till I awoke."

Paaker drew a deep breath as he ceased speaking; as if his wild dream
tormented him again.

The dwarf had listened with eager attention, but several minutes passed
before he spoke.

"A strange dream," he said, "but the interpretation as to the future is
not hard to find.  Nefert is striving to reach thee, she longs to be
thine, but if thou dost fancy that she is already in thy grasp she will
elude thee; thy hopes will melt like ice, slip away like sand, if thou
dost not know how to put the crocodile out of the way."

At this moment the boat struck the landing-place.  The pioneer started
up, and cried, "We have reached the end!"

"We have reached the end," echoed the little man with meaning.  "There is
only a narrow bridge to step over."

When they both stood on the shore, the dwarf said,

"I  have  to  thank  thee  for  thy  hospitality,  and when I can serve
thee command me."

"Come here," cried the pioneer, and drew Nemu away with him under the
shade of a sycamore veiled in the half light of the departing sun.

"What do you mean by a bridge which we must step over?  I do not
understand the flowers of speech, and desire plain language."

The dwarf reflected for a moment; and then asked, "Shall I say nakedly
and openly what I mean, and will you not be angry?"

"Speak!"

"Mena is the crocodile.  Put him out of the world, and you will have
passed the bridge; then Nefert will be thine--if thou wilt listen to me."

"What shall I do?"

"Put the charioteer out of the world."

Paaker's gesture seemed to convey that that was a thing that had long
been decided on, and he turned his face, for a good omen, so that the
rising moon should be on his right hand.

The dwarf went on.

"Secure Nefert, so that she may not vanish like her image in the dream,
before you reach the goal; that is to say, ransom the honor of your
future mother and wife, for how could you take an outcast into your
house?"

Paaker looked thoughtfully at the ground.

"May I inform my mistress that thou wilt save her?"  asked Nemu.
"I may?--Then all will be well, for he who will devote a fortune to love
will not hesitate to devote a reed lance with a brass point to it to his
love and his hatred together."



CHAPTER XVI.

The sun had set, and darkness covered the City of the Dead, but the moon
shone above the valley of the kings' tombs, and the projecting masses of
the rocky walls of the chasm threw sharply-defined shadows.  A weird
silence lay upon the desert, where yet far more life was stirring than in
the noonday hour, for now bats darted like black silken threads through
the night air, owls hovered aloft on wide-spread wings, small troops of
jackals slipped by, one following the other up the mountain slopes.  From
time to time their hideous yell, or the whining laugh of the hyena, broke
the stillness of the night.

Nor was human life yet at rest in the valley of tombs.  A faint light
glimmered in the cave of the sorceress Hekt, and in front of the
paraschites' but a fire was burning, which the grandmother of the sick
Uarda now and then fed with pieces of dry manure.  Two men were seated in
front of the hut, and gazed in silence on the thin flame, whose impure
light was almost quenched by the clearer glow of the moon; whilst the
third, Uarda's father, disembowelled a large ram, whose head he had
already cut off.

"How the jackals howl!"  said the old paraschites, drawing as he spoke
the torn brown cotton cloth, which he had put on as a protection against
the night air and the dew, closer round his bare shoulders.

"They scent the fresh meat," answered the physician, Nebsecht.  "Throw
them the entrails, when you have done; the legs and back you can roast.
Be careful how you cut out the heart--the heart, soldier.  There it is!
What a great beast."

Nebsecht took the ram's heart in his hand, and gazed at it with the
deepest attention, whilst the old paraschites watched him anxiously.  At
length:

"I promised," he said, "to do for you what you wish, if you restore the
little one to health; but you ask for what is impossible."

"Impossible?"  said the physician, "why, impossible?  You open the
corpses, you go in and out of the house of the embalmer.  Get possession
of one of the canopi,

     [Vases of clay, limestone, or alabaster, which were used for the
     preservation of the intestines of the embalmed Egyptians, and
     represented the four genii of death, Amset, Hapi, Tuamutef, and
     Khebsennuf.  Instead of the cover, the head of the genius to which
     it was dedicated, was placed on each kanopus.  Amset (tinder the
     protection of Isis) has a human head, Hapi (protected by Nephthys)
     an ape's head, Tuamutef (protected by Neith) a jackal's head, and
     Khebsennuf (protected by Selk) a sparrow-hawk's head.  In one of the
     Christian Coptic Manuscripts, the four archangels are invoked in the
     place of these genii.]

lay this heart in it, and take out in its stead the heart of a human
being.  No one--no one will notice it.  Nor need you do it to-morrow, or
the day after tomorrow even.  Your son can buy a ram to kill every day
with my money till the right moment comes.  Your granddaughter will soon
grow strong on a good meat-diet.  Take courage!"

"I am not afraid of the danger," said the old man, "but how can I venture
to steal from a dead man his life in the other world?  And then--in shame
and misery have I lived, and for many a year--no man has numbered them
for me--have I obeyed the commandments, that I may be found righteous in
that world to come, and in the fields of Aalu, and in the Sun-bark find
compensation for all that I have suffered here.  You are good and
friendly.  Why, for the sake of a whim, should you sacrifice the future
bliss of a man, who in all his long life has never known happiness, and
who has never done you any harm?"

"What I want with the heart," replied the physician, "you cannot
understand, but in procuring it for me, you will be furthering a great
and useful purpose.  I have no whims, for I am no idler.  And as to what
concerns your salvation, have no anxiety.  I am a priest, and take your
deed and its consequences upon myself; upon myself, do you understand?
I tell you, as a priest, that what I demand of you is right, and if the
judge of the dead shall enquire, 'Why didst thou take the heart of a
human being out of the Kanopus?' then reply--reply to him thus, 'Because
Nebsecht, the priest, commanded me, and promised himself to answer for
the deed.'"

The old man gazed thoughtfully on the ground, and the physician continued
still more urgently:

"If you fulfil my wish, then--then I swear to you that, when you die, I
will take care that your mummy is provided with all the amulets, and I
myself will write you a book of the Entrance into Day, and have it wound
within your mummy-cloth, as is done with the great.

     [The Books of the Dead are often found amongst the cloths, (by the
     leg or under the arm), or else in the coffin trader, or near, the
     mummy.]

That will give you power over all demons, and you will be admitted to the
hall of the twofold justice, which punishes and rewards, and your award
will be bliss."

"But the theft of a heart will make the weight of my sins heavy, when my
own heart is weighed," sighed the old man.

Nebsecht considered for a moment, and then said: "I will give you a
written paper, in which I will certify that it was I who commanded the
theft.  You will sew it up in a little bag, carry it on your breast, and
have it laid with you in the grave.  Then when Techuti, the agent of the
soul, receives your justification before Osiris and the judges of the
dead, give him the writing.  He will read it aloud, and you will be
accounted just."

     [The vignettes of Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead represent the
     Last Judgment of the Egyptians.  Under a canopy Osiris sits
     enthroned as Chief Judge, 42 assessors assist him.  In the hall
     stand the scales;  the dog headed ape, the animal sacred to Toth,
     guides the balance.  In one scale lies the heart of the dead man, in
     the other the image of the goddess of Truth, who introduces the soul
     into the hall of justice  Toth writs the record.  The soul affirms
     that it has not committed 42 deadly sins, and if it obtains credit,
     it is named "maa cheru," i.e. "the truth-speaker," and is therewith
     declared blessed.  It now receives its heart back, and grows into a
     new and divine life.]

"I am not learned in writing," muttered the paraschites with a slight
mistrust that made itself felt in his voice.

"But I swear to you by the nine great Gods, that I will write nothing on
the paper but what I have promised you.  I will confess that I, the
priest Nebsecht, commanded you to take the heart, and that your guilt is
mine."

"Let me have the writing then," murmured the old man.

The physician wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and gave the
paraschites his hand.  "To-morrow you shall have it," he said, "and I
will not leave your granddaughter till she is well again."

The soldier engaged in cutting up the ram, had heard nothing of this
conversation.  Now he ran a wooden spit through the legs, and held them
over the fire to roast them.  The jackals howled louder as the smell of
the melting fat filled the air, and the old man, as he looked on, forgot
the terrible task he had undertaken.  For a year past, no meat had been
tasted in his house.

The physician Nebsecht, himself eating nothing but a piece of bread,
looked on at the feasters.  They tore the meat from the bones, and the
soldier, especially, devoured the costly and unwonted meal like some
ravenous animal.  He could be heard chewing like a horse in the manger,
and a feeling of disgust filled the physician's soul.

"Sensual beings," he murmured to himself, "animals with consciousness!
And yet human beings.  Strange!  They languish bound in the fetters of
the world of sense, and yet how much more ardently they desire that which
transcends sense than we--how much more real it is to them than to us!"

"Will you have some meat?"  cried the soldier, who had remarked that
Nebsecht's lips moved, and tearing a piece of meat from the bone of the
joint he was devouring, he held it out to the physician.  Nebsecht shrank
back; the greedy look, the glistening teeth, the dark, rough features of
the man terrified him.  And he thought of the white and fragile form of
the sick girl lying within on the mat, and a question escaped his lips.

"Is the maiden, is Uarda, your own child?"  he said.

The soldier struck himself on the breast.  "So sure as the king Rameses
is the son of Seti," he answered.  The men had finished their meal, and
the flat cakes of bread which the wife of the paraschites gave them, and
on which they had wiped their hands from the fat, were consumed, when the
soldier, in whose slow brain the physician's question still lingered,
said, sighing deeply:

"Her mother was a stranger; she laid the white dove in the raven's nest."

"Of what country was your wife a native?"  asked the physician.

"That I do not know," replied the soldier.

"Did you never enquire about the family of your own wife?"

"Certainly I did: but how could she have answered me?  But it is a long
and strange story."

"Relate it to me," said Nebsecht, "the night is long, and I like
listening better than talking.  But first I will see after our patient."

When the physician had satisfied himself that Uarda was sleeping quietly
and breathing regularly, he seated himself again by the paraschites and
his son, and the soldier began:

"It all happened long ago.  King Seti still lived, but Rameses already
reigned in his stead, when I came home from the north.  They had sent me
to the workmen, who were building the fortifications in Zoan, the town of
Rameses.--[The Rameses of the Bible.  Exodus i.  ii.]--I was set over six
men, Amus,--[Semites]--of the Hebrew race, over whom Rameses kept such a
tight hand.

     [For an account of the traces of the Jews in Egypt, see Chabas,
     Melanges, and Ebers, AEgypten und die Bucher Moses]

Amongst the workmen there were sons of rich cattle-holders, for in
levying the people it was never: 'What have you?' but 'Of what race are
you?'  The fortifications and the canal which was to join the Nile and
the Red Sea had to be completed, and the king, to whom be long life,
health, and prosperity, took the youth of Egypt with him to the wars, and
left the work to the Amus, who are connected by race with his enemies in
the east.  One lives well in Goshen, for it is a fine country, with more
than enough of corn and grass and vegetables and fish and fowls, and I
always had of the best, for amongst my six people were two mother's
darlings, whose parents sent me many a piece of silver.  Every one loves
his children, but the Hebrews love them more tenderly than other people.
We had daily our appointed tale of bricks to deliver, and when the sun
burnt hot, I used to help the lads, and I did more in an hour than they
did in three, for I am strong and was still stronger then than I am now.

"Then came the time when I was relieved.  I was ordered to return to
Thebes, to the prisoners of war who were building the great temple of
Amon over yonder, and as I had brought home some money, and it would take
a good while to finish the great dwelling of the king of the Gods, I
thought of taking a wife; but no Egyptian.  Of daughters of paraschites
there were plenty; but I wanted to get away out of my father's accursed
caste, and the other girls here, as I knew, were afraid of our
uncleanness.  In the low country I had done better, and many an Amu and
Schasu woman had gladly come to my tent.  From the beginning I had set my
mind on an Asiatic.

"Many a time maidens taken prisoners in war were brought to be sold, but
either they did not please me, or they were too dear.  Meantime my money
melted away, for we enjoyed life in the time of rest which followed the
working hours.  There were dancers too in plenty, in the foreign quarter.

"Well, it was just at the time of the holy feast of Amon-Chem, that a new
transport of prisoners of war arrived, and amongst them many women, who
were sold publicly to the highest bidder.  The young and beautiful ones
were paid for high, but even the older ones were too dear for me.

"Quite at the last a blind woman was led forward, and a withered-looking
woman who was dumb, as the auctioneer, who generally praised up the
merits of the prisoners, informed the buyers.  The blind woman had strong
hands, and was bought by a tavern-keeper, for whom she turns the handmill
to this day; the dumb woman held a child in her arms, and no one could
tell whether she was young or old.  She looked as though she already lay
in her coffin, and the little one as though he would go under the grass
before her.  And her hair was red, burning red, the very color of Typhon.
Her white pale face looked neither bad nor good, only weary, weary to
death.  On her withered white arms blue veins ran like dark cords, her
hands hung feebly down, and in them hung the child.  If a wind were to
rise, I thought to myself, it would blow her away, and the little one
with her.

"The auctioneer asked for a bid.  All were silent, for the dumb shadow
was of no use for work; she was half-dead, and a burial costs money.

"So passed several minutes.  Then the auctioneer stepped up to her, and
gave her a blow with his whip, that she might rouse herself up, and
appear less miserable to the buyers.  She shivered like a person in a
fever, pressed the child closer to her, and looked round at every one as
though seeking for help--and me full in the face.  What happened now was
a real wonder, for her eyes were bigger than any that I ever saw, and a
demon dwelt in them that had power over me and ruled me to the end, and
that day it bewitched me for the first time.

"It was not hot and I had drunk nothing, and yet I acted against my own
will and better judgment when, as her eyes fell upon me, I bid all that I
possessed in order to buy her.  I might have had her cheaper!  My
companions laughed at me, the auctioneer shrugged his shoulders as he
took my money, but I took the child on my arm, helped the woman up,
carried her in a boat over the Nile, loaded a stone-cart with my
miserable property, and drove her like a block of lime home to the old
people.

"My mother shook her head, and my father looked as if he thought me mad;
but neither of them said a word.  They made up a bed for her, and on my
spare nights I built that ruined thing hard by--it was a tidy hut once.
Soon my mother grew fond of the child.  It was quite small, and we called
it Pennu--[Pennu is the name for the mouse in old Egyptian]--because it
was so pretty, like a little mouse.  I kept away from the foreign
quarter, and saved my wages, and bought a goat, which lived in front of
our door when I took the woman to her own hut.

"She was dumb, but not deaf, only she did not understand our language;
but the demon in her eyes spoke for her and understood what I said.  She
comprehended everything, and could say everything with her eyes; but best
of all she knew how to thank one.  No high-priest who at the great hill
festival praises the Gods in long hymns for their gifts can return thanks
so earnestly with his lips as she with her dumb eyes.  And when she
wished to pray, then it seemed as though the demon in her look was
mightier than ever.

"At first I used to be impatient enough when she leaned so feebly against
the wall, or when the child cried and disturbed my sleep; but she had
only to look up, and the demon pressed my heart together and persuaded me
that the crying was really a song.  Pennu cried more sweetly too than
other children, and he had such soft, white, pretty little fingers.

"One day he had been crying for a long time,  At last I bent down over
him, and was going to scold him, but he seized me by the beard.  It was
pretty to see!  Afterwards he was for ever wanting to pull me about, and
his mother noticed that that pleased me, for when I brought home anything
good, an egg or a flower or a cake, she used to hold him up and place his
little hands on my beard.

"Yes, in a few months the woman had learnt to hold him up high in her
arms, for with care and quiet she had grown stronger.  White she always
remained and delicate, but she grew younger and more beautiful from day
to day; she can hardly have numbered twenty years when I bought her.
What she was called I never heard; nor did we give her any name.  She was
'the woman,' and so we called her.

"Eight moons passed by, and then the little Mouse died.  I wept as she
did, and as I bent over the little corpse and let my tears have free
course, and thought--now he can never lift up his pretty little finger to
you again; then I felt for the first time the woman's soft hand on my
cheek.  She stroked my rough beard as a child might, and with that looked
at me so gratefully that I felt as though king Pharaoh had all at once
made me a present of both Upper and Lower Egypt.

"When the Mouse was buried she got weaker again, but my mother took good
care of her.  I lived with her, like a father with his child.  She was
always friendly, but if I approached her, and tried to show her any
fondness, she would look at me, and the demon in her eyes drove me back,
and I let her alone.

"She grew healthier and stronger and more and more beautiful, so
beautiful that I kept her hidden, and was consumed by the longing to make
her my wife.  A good housewife she never became, to be sure; her hands
were so tender, and she did not even know how to milk the goat.  My
mother did that and everything else for her.

"In the daytime she stayed in her hut and worked, for she was very
skillful at woman's work, and wove lace as fine as cobwebs, which my
mother sold that she might bring home perfumes with the proceeds.  She
was very fond of them, and of flowers too; and Uarda in there takes after
her.

"In the evening, when the folk from the other side had left the City of
the Dead, she would often walk down the valley here, thoughtful and often
looking up at the moon, which she was especially fond of.

"One evening in the winter-time I came home.  It was already dark, and I
expected to find her in front of the door.  All at once, about a hundred
steps behind old Hekt's cave, I heard a troop of jackals barking so
furiously that I said to myself directly they had attacked a human being,
and I knew too who it was, though no one had told me, and the woman could
not call or cry out.  Frantic with terror, I tore a firebrand from the
hearth and the stake to which the goat was fastened out of the ground,
rushed to her help, drove away the beasts, and carried her back senseless
to the hut.  My mother helped me, and we called her back to life.  When
we were alone, I wept like a child for joy at her escape, and she let me
kiss her, and then she became my wife, three years after I had bought
her.

"She bore me a little maid, that she herself named Uarda; for she showed
us a rose, and then pointed to the child, and we understood her without
words.

"Soon afterwards she died.

"You are a priest, but I tell you that when I am summoned before Osiris,
if I am admitted amongst the blessed, I will ask whether I shall meet my
wife, and if the doorkeeper says no, he may thrust me back, and I will go
down cheerfully to the damned, if I find her again there."

"And did no sign ever betray her origin?" asked the physician.

The soldier had hidden his face in his hand; he was weeping aloud, and
did not hear the question.  But, the paraschites answered:

"She was the child of some great personage, for in her clothes we found a
golden jewel with a precious stone inscribed with strange characters.  It
is very costly, and my wife is keeping it for the little one."



CHAPTER XVII.

In the earliest glimmer of dawn the following clay, the physician
Nebsecht having satisfied himself as to the state of the sick girl, left
the paraschites' hut and made his way in deepest thought to the 'Terrace
Temple of Hatasu, to find his friend Pentaur and compose the writing
which he had promised to the old man.

As the sun arose in radiance he reached the sanctuary.  He expected to
hear the morning song of the priests, but all was silent.  He knocked and
the porter, still half-asleep, opened the door.

Nebsecht enquired for the chief of the Temple.  "He died in the night,"
said the man yawning.

"What do you say?" cried the physician in sudden terror, "who is dead?"

"Our good old chief, Rui."

Nebsecht breathed again, and asked for Pentaur.

"You belong to the House of Seti," said the doorkeeper, "and you do not
know that he is deposed from his office?  The holy fathers have refused
to celebrate the birth of Ra with him.  He sings for himself now, alone
up on the watch-tower.  There you will find him."

Nebsecht strode quickly up the stairs.  Several of the priests placed
themselves together in groups as soon as they saw him, and began singing.
He paid no heed to them, however, but hastened on to the uppermost
terrace, where he found his friend occupied in writing.

Soon he learnt all that had happened, and wrathfully he cried: "You are
too honest for those wise gentlemen in the House of Seti, and too pure
and zealous for the rabble here.  I knew it, I knew what would come of it
if they introduced you to the mysteries.  For us initiated there remains
only the choice between lying and silence."

"The old error!"  said Pentaur, "we know that the Godhead is One, we name
it, 'The All,' 'The Veil of the All,' or simply 'Ra.'  But under the name
Ra we understand something different than is known to the common herd;
for to us, the Universe is God, and in each of its parts we recognize a
manifestation of that highest being without whom nothing is, in the
heights above or in the depths below."

"To me you can say everything, for I also am initiated," interrupted
Nebsecht.

"But neither from the laity do I withhold it," cried Pentaur, "only to
those who are incapable of understanding the whole, do I show the
different parts.  Am I a liar if I do not say, 'I speak,' but 'my mouth
speaks,' if I affirm, 'Your eye sees,' when it is you yourself who are
the seer.  When the light of the only One manifests itself, then I
fervently render thanks to him in hymns, and the most luminous of his
forms I name Ra.  When I look upon yonder green fields, I call upon the
faithful to give thanks to Rennut, that is, that active manifestation of
the One, through which the corn attains to its ripe maturity.  Am I
filled with wonder at the bounteous gifts with which that divine stream
whose origin is hidden, blesses our land, then I adore the One as the God
Hapi, the secret one.  Whether we view the sun, the harvest, or the Nile,
whether we contemplate with admiration the unity and harmony of the
visible or invisible world, still it is always with the Only, the All-
embracing One we have to do, to whom we also ourselves belong as those of
his manifestations in which lie places his self-consciousness.  The
imagination of the multitude is limited .  .  .  .  ."

"And so we lions,

     ["The priests," says Clement of Alexandria, "allow none to be
     participators in their mysteries, except kings or such amongst
     themselves as are distinguished for virtue or wisdom."  The same
     thing is shown by the monuments in many places]

give them the morsel that we can devour at one gulp, finely chopped up,
and diluted with broth as if for the weak stomach of a sick man."

"Not so; we only feel it our duty to temper and sweeten the sharp potion,
which for men even is almost too strong, before we offer it to the
children, the babes in spirit.  The sages of old veiled indeed the
highest truths in allegorical forms, in symbols, and finally in a
beautiful and richly-colored mythos, but they brought them near to the
multitude shrouded it is true but still discernible."

"Discernible?"  said the  physician, "discernible?  Why then the veil?"

"And do you imagine that the multitude could look the naked truth in the
face,

     [In Sais the statue of Athene (Neith) has the following,
     inscription: "I am the All, the Past, the Present, and the Future,
     my veil has no mortal yet lifted."  Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 9, a
     similar quotation by Proclus, in Plato's Timaeus.]

and not despair?"

"Can I, can any one who looks straight forward, and strives to see the
truth and nothing but the truth?"  cried the physician.  "We both of us
know that things only are, to us, such as they picture themselves in the
prepared mirror of our souls.  I see grey, grey, and white, white, and
have accustomed myself in my yearning after knowledge, not to attribute
the smallest part to my own idiosyncrasy, if such indeed there be
existing in my empty breast.  You look straight onwards as I do, but in
you each idea is transfigured, for in your soul invisible shaping powers
are at work, which set the crooked straight, clothe the commonplace with
charm, the repulsive with beauty.  You are a poet, an artist; I only seek
for truth."

"Only?"  said Pentaur, "it is just on account of that effort that I
esteem you so highly, and, as you already know, I also desire nothing but
the truth."

"I know, I know," said the physician nodding, "but our ways run side by
side without ever touching, and our final goal is the reading of a
riddle, of which there are many solutions.  You believe yourself to have
found the right one, and perhaps none exists."

"Then let us content ourselves with the nearest and the most beautiful,"
said Pentaur.

"The most beautiful?"  cried Nebsecht indignantly.  "Is that monster,
whom you call God, beautiful--the giant who for ever regenerates himself
that he may devour himself again?  God is the All, you say, who suffices
to himself.  Eternal he is and shall be, because all that goes forth from
him is absorbed by him again, and the great niggard bestows no grain of
sand, no ray of light, no breath of wind, without reclaiming it for his
household, which is ruled by no design, no reason, no goodness, but by a
tyrannical necessity, whose slave he himself is.  The coward hides behind
the cloud of incomprehensibility, and can be revealed only by himself--I
would I could strip him of the veil!  Thus I see the thing that you call
God!"

"A ghastly picture," said Pentaur, "because you forget that we recognize
reason to be the essence of the All, the penetrating and moving power of
the universe which is manifested in the harmonious working together of
its parts, and in ourselves also, since we are formed out of its
substance, and inspired with its soul."

"Is the warfare of life in any way reasonable?"  asked Nebsecht.  "Is
this eternal destruction in order to build up again especially well-
designed and wise?  And with this introduction of reason into the All,
you provide yourself with a self-devised ruler, who terribly resembles
the gracious masters and mistresses that you exhibit to the people."

"Only apparently," answered Pentaur, "only because that which transcends
sense is communicable through the medium of the senses alone.  When God
manifests himself as the wisdom of the world, we call him 'the Word,'
'He, who covers his limbs with names,' as the sacred Text expresses
itself, is the power which gives to things their distinctive forms; the
scarabaeus, 'which enters life as its own son' reminds us of the ever
self-renewing creative power which causes you to call our merciful and
benevolent God a monster, but which you can deny as little as you can the
happy choice of the type; for, as you know, there are only male scarabei,
and this animal reproduces itself."

Nebsecht smiled.  "If all the doctrines of the mysteries," he said,
"have no more truth than this happily chosen image, they are in a bad
way.  These beetles have for years been my friends and companions.
I know their family life, and I can assure you that there are males and
females amongst them as amongst cats, apes, and human beings.  Your 'good
God' I do not know, and what I least comprehend in thinking it over
quietly is the circumstance that you distinguish a good and evil
principle in the world.  If the All is indeed God, if God as the
scriptures teach, is goodness, and if besides him is nothing at all,
where is a place to be found for evil?"

"You talk like a school-boy," said Pentaur indignantly.  "All that is,
is good and reasonable in itself, but the infinite One, who prescribes
his own laws and his own paths, grants to the finite its continuance
through continual renewal, and in the changing forms of the finite
progresses for evermore.  What we call evil, darkness, wickedness, is in
itself divine, good, reasonable, and clear; but it appears in another
light to our clouded minds, because we perceive the way only and not the
goal, the details only, and not the whole.  Even so, superficial
listeners blame the music, in which a discord is heard, which the harper
has only evoked from the strings that his hearers may more deeply feel
the purity of the succeeding harmony; even so, a fool blames the painter
who has colored his board with black, and does not wait for the
completion of the picture which shall be thrown into clearer relief by
the dark background; even so, a child chides the noble tree, whose fruit
rots, that a new life may spring up from its kernel.  Apparent evil is
but an antechamber to higher bliss, as every sunset is but veiled by
night, and will soon show itself again as the red dawn of a new day."

"How convincing all that sounds!"  answered the physician, "all, even the
terrible, wins charm from your lips; but I could invert your proposition,
and declare that it is evil that rules the world, and sometimes gives us
one drop of sweet content, in order that we may more keenly feel the
bitterness of life.  You see harmony and goodness in everything.  I have
observed that passion awakens life, that all existence is a conflict,
that one being devours another."

"And do you not feel the beauty of visible creation, and does not the
immutable law in everything fill you with admiration and humility?"

"For beauty," replied Nebsecht, "I have never sought; the organ is
somehow wanting in me to understand it of myself, though I willingly
allow you to mediate between us.  But of law in nature I fully appreciate
the worth, for that is the veritable soul of the universe.  You call the
One 'Temt,' that is to say the total--the unity which is reached by the
addition of many units; and that pleases me, for the elements of the
universe and the powers which prescribe the paths of life are strictly
defined by measure and number--but irrespective of beauty or
benevolence."

"Such views," cried Pentaur troubled, "are the result of your strange
studies.  You kill and destroy, in order, as you yourself say, to come
upon the track of the secrets of life.  Look out upon nature, develop the
faculty which you declare to be wanting, in you, and the beauty of
creation will teach you without my assistance that you are praying to a
false god."

"I do not pray," said Nebsecht, "for the law which moves the world is as
little affected by prayers as the current of the sands in your hour-
glass.  Who tells you that I do not seek to come upon the track of the
first beginning of things?  I proved to you just now that I know more
about the origin of Scarabei than you do.  I have killed many an animal,
not only to study its organism, but also to investigate how it has built
up its form.  But precisely in this work my organ for beauty has become
blunt rather than keen.  I tell you that the beginning of things is not
more attractive to contemplate than their death and decomposition."

Pentaur looked at the physician enquiringly.

"I also for once," continued Nebsecht, "will speak in figures.  Look at
this wine, how pure it is, how fragrant; and yet it was trodden from the
grape by the brawny feet of the vintagers.  And those full ears of corn!
They gleam golden yellow, and will yield us snow-white meal when they are
ground, and yet they grew from a rotting seed.  Lately you were praising
to me the beauty of the great Hall of Columns nearly completed in the
Temple of Amon over yonder in Thebes.

     [Begun by Rameses I. continued by Seti I., completed by Rameses II.
     The remains of this immense hall, with its 134 columns, have not
     their equal in the world.]

How posterity will admire it!  I saw that Hall arise.  There lay masses
of freestone in wild confusion, dust in heaps that took away my breath,
and three months since I was sent over there, because above a hundred
workmen engaged in stone-polishing under the burning sun had been beaten
to death.  Were I a poet like you, I would show you a hundred similar
pictures, in which you would not find much beauty.  In the meantime, we
have enough to do in observing the existing order of things, and
investigating the laws by which it is governed."

"I have never clearly understood your efforts, and have difficulty in
comprehending why you did not turn to the science of the haruspices,"
said Pentaur.  "Do you then believe that the changing, and--owing to the
conditions by which they are surrounded--the dependent life of plants and
animals is governed by law, rule, and numbers like the movement of the
stars?"

"What a question!  Is the strong and mighty hand, which compels yonder
heavenly bodies to roll onward in their carefully-appointed orbits, not
delicate enough to prescribe the conditions of the flight of the bird,
and the beating of the human heart?"

"There we are again with the heart," said the poet smiling, "are you any
nearer your aim?"

The physician became very grave.  "Perhaps tomorrow even," he said,
"I may have what I need.  You have your palette there with red and black
color, and a writing reed.  May I use this sheet of papyrus?"

"Of course; but first tell me .  .  .  ."

"Do not ask; you would not approve of my scheme, and there would only be
a fresh dispute."

"I think," said the poet, laying his hand on his friend's shoulder, "that
we have no reason to fear disputes.  So far they have been the cement,
the refreshing dew of our friendship."

"So long as they treated of ideas only, and not of deeds."

"You intend to get possession of a human heart!"  cried the poet.  "Think
of what you are doing!  The heart is the vessel of that effluence of the
universal soul, which lives in us."

"Are you so sure of that?"  cried the physician with some irritation,
"then give me the proof.  Have you ever examined a heart, has any one
member of my profession done so?  The hearts of criminals and prisoners
of war even are declared sacred from touch, and when we stand helpless by
a patient, and see our medicines work harm as often as good, why is it?
Only because we physicians are expected to work as blindly as an
astronomer, if he were required to look at the stars through a board.
At Heliopolis I entreated the great Urma Rahotep, the truly learned chief
of our craft, and who held me in esteem, to allow me to examine the heart
of a dead Amu; but he refused me, because the great Sechet leads virtuous
Semites also into the fields of the blessed.

     [According to the inscription accompanying the famous
     representations of the four nations (Egyptians, Semites, Libyans,
     and Ethiopians) in the tomb of Seti I.]

And then followed all the old scruples: that to cut up the heart of a
beast even is sinful, because it also is the vehicle of a soul, perhaps a
condemned and miserable human soul, which before it can return to the
One, must undergo purification by passing through the bodies of animals.
I was not satisfied, and declared to him that my great-grandfather
Nebsecht, before he wrote his treatise on the heart, must certainly have
examined such an organ.  Then he answered me that the divinity had
revealed to him what he had written, and therefore his work had been
accepted amongst the sacred writings of Toth,

     [Called by the Greeks "Hermetic Books."  The Papyrus Ebers is the
     work called by Clemens of Alexandria "the Book of Remedies."]

which stood fast and unassailable as the laws of the world; he wished to
give me peace for quiet work, and I also, he said, might be a chosen
spirit, the divinity might perhaps vouchsafe revelations to me too.  I
was young at that time, and spent my nights in prayer, but I only wasted
away, and my spirit grew darker instead of clearer.  Then I killed in
secret--first a fowl, then rats, then a rabbit, and cut up their hearts,
and followed the vessels that lead out of them, and know little more now
than I did at first; but I must get to the bottom of the truth, and I
must have a human heart."

"What will that do for you?"  asked Pentaur; "you cannot hope to perceive
the invisible and the infinite with your human eyes?"

"Do you know my great-grandfather's treatise?"

"A little," answered the poet; "he said that wherever he laid his
finger, whether on the head, the hands, or the stomach, he everywhere met
with the heart, because its vessels go into all the members, and the
heart is the meeting point of all these vessels.  Then Nebsecht proceeds
to state how these are distributed in the different members, and shows--
is it not so?--that the various mental states, such as anger, grief,
aversion, and also the ordinary use of the word heart, declare entirely
for his view."

"That is it.  We have already discussed it, and I believe that he is
right, so far as the blood is concerned, and the animal sensations.  But
the pure and luminous intelligence in us--that has another seat," and the
physician struck his broad but low forehead with his hand.  "I have
observed heads by the hundred down at the place of execution, and I have
also removed the top of the skulls of living animals.  But now let me
write, before we are disturbed."

     [Human brains are prescribed for a malady of the eyes in the Ebers
     papyrus.  Herophilus, one of the first scholars of the Alexandrine
     Museum, studied not only the bodies of executed criminals, but made
     his experiments also on living malefactors.  He maintained that the
     four cavities of the human brain are the seat of the soul.]

The physician took the reed, moistened it with black color prepared from
burnt papyrus, and in elegant hieratic characters

     [At the time of our narrative the Egyptians had two kinds of
     writing-the hieroglyphic, which was generally used for monumental
     inscriptions, and in which the letters consisted of conventional
     representations of various objects, mathematical and arbitrary
     symbols, and the hieratic, used for writing on papyrus, and in
     which, with the view of saving time, the written pictures underwent
     so many alterations and abbreviations that the originals could
     hardly be recognized.  In the 8th century there was a further
     abridgment of the hieratic writing, which was called the demotic, or
     people's writing, and was used in commerce.  Whilst the hieroglyphic
     and hieratic writings laid the foundations of the old sacred
     dialect, the demotic letters were only used to write the spoken
     language of the people.  E. de Rouge's Chrestomathie Egyptienne.
     H.  Brugsch's Hieroglyphische Grammatik.  Le Page Renouf's shorter
     hieroglyphical grammar.  Ebers' Ueber das Hieroglyphische
     Schriftsystem, 2nd edition, 1875, in the lectures of Virchow
     Holtzendorff.]

wrote the paper for the paraschites, in which he confessed to having
impelled him to the theft of a heart, and in the most binding manner
declared himself willing to take the old man's guilt upon himself before
Osiris and the judges of the dead.

When he had finished, Pentaur held out his hand for the paper, but
Nebsecht folded it together, placed it in a little bag in which lay an
amulet that his dying mother had hung round his neck, and said, breathing
deeply:

"That is done.  Farewell, Pentaur."

But the poet held the physician back; he spoke to him with the warmest
words, and conjured him to abandon his enterprise.  His prayers, however,
had no power to touch Nebsecht, who only strove forcibly to disengage his
finger from Pentaur's strong hand, which held him as in a clasp of iron.
The excited poet did not remark that he was hurting his friend, until
after a new and vain attempt at freeing himself, Nebsecht cried out in
pain, "You are crushing my finger!"

A smile passed over the poet's face, he loosened his hold on the
physician, and stroked the reddened hand like a mother who strives to
divert her child from pain.

"Don't be angry with me, Nebsecht," he said, "you know my unlucky fists,
and to-day they really ought to hold you fast, for you have too mad a
purpose on hand."

"Mad?"  said the physician, whilst he smiled in his turn.  "It may be so;
but do you not know that we Egyptians all have a peculiar tenderness for
our follies, and are ready to sacrifice house and land to them?"

"Our own house and our own land," cried the poet: and then added
seriously, "but not the existence, not the happiness of another."

"Have I not told you that I do not look upon the heart as the seat of our
intelligence?  So far as I am concerned, I would as soon be buried with a
ram's heart as with my own."

"I do not speak of the plundered dead, but of the living," said the poet.
"If the deed of the paraschites is discovered, he is undone, and you
would only have saved that sweet child in the hut behind there, to fling
her into deeper misery."

Nebsecht looked at the other with as much astonishment and dismay, as if
he had been awakened from sleep by bad tidings.  Then he cried: "All that
I have, I would share with the old man and Uarda."

"And who would protect her?"

"Her father."

"That rough drunkard who to-morrow or the day after may be sent no one
knows where."

"He is a good fellow," said the physician interrupting his friend, and
stammering violently.  "But who 'would do anything to the child?  She is
so so ....  She is so charming, so perfectly--sweet and lovely."

With these last words he cast down his eyes and reddened like a girl.

"You understand that," he said, "better than I do; yes, and you also
think her beautiful!  Strange! you must not laugh if I confess--I am but
a man like every one else--when I confess, that I believe I have at
length discovered in myself the missing organ for beauty of form--not
believe merely, but truly have discovered it, for it has not only spoken,
but cried, raged, till I felt a rushing in my ears, and for the first
time was attracted more by the sufferer than by suffering.  I have sat in
the hut as though spell-bound, and gazed at her hair, at her eyes, at how
she breathed.  They must long since have missed me at the House of Seti,
perhaps discovered all my preparations, when seeking me in my room!  For
two days and nights I have allowed myself to be drawn away from my work,
for the sake of this child.  Were I one of the laity, whom you would
approach, I should say that demons had bewitched me.  But it is not
that,"--and with these words the physician's eyes flamed up--"it is not
that!  The animal in me, the low instincts of which the heart is the
organ, and which swelled my breast at her bedside, they have mastered the
pure and fine emotions here--here in this brain; and in the very moment
when I hoped to know as the God knows whom you call the Prince of
knowledge, in that moment I must learn that the animal in me is stronger
than that which I call my God."

The physician, agitated and excited, had fixed his eyes on the ground
during these last words, and hardly noticed the poet, who listened to him
wondering and full of sympathy.  For a time both were silent; then
Pentaur laid his hand on his friend's hand, and said cordially:

"My soul is no stranger to what you feel, and heart and head, if I may
use your own words, have known a like emotion.  But I know that what we
feel, although it may be foreign to our usual sensations, is loftier and
more precious than these, not lower.  Not the animal, Nebsecht, is it
that you feel in yourself, but God.  Goodness is the most beautiful
attribute of the divine, and you have always been well-disposed towards
great and small; but I ask you, have you ever before felt so irresistibly
impelled to pour out an ocean of goodness on another being, whether for
Uarda you would not more joyfully and more self-forgetfully sacrifice all
that you have, and all that you are, than to father and mother and your
oldest friend?"

Nebsecht nodded assentingly.

"Well then," cried Pentaur, "follow your new and godlike emotion, be good
to Uarda and do not sacrifice her to your vain wishes.  My poor friend!
With your--enquiries into the secrets of life, you have never looked
round upon itself, which spreads open and inviting before our eyes.  Do
you imagine that the maiden who can thus inflame the calmest thinker in
Thebes, will not be coveted by a hundred of the common herd when her
protector fails her?  Need I tell you that amongst the dancers in the
foreign quarter nine out of ten are the daughters of outlawed parents?
Can you endure the thought that by your hand innocence may be consigned
to vice, the rose trodden under foot in the mud?  Is the human heart that
you desire, worth an Uarda?  Now go, and to-morrow come again to me your
friend who understands how to sympathize with all you feel, and to whom
you have approached so much the nearer to-day that you have learned to
share his purest happiness."

Pentaur held out his hand to the physician, who held it some time, then
went thoughtfully and lingeringly, unmindful of the burning glow of the
mid-day sun, over the mountain into the valley of the king's graves
towards the hut of the paraschites.

Here he found the soldier with his daughter.  "Where is the old man?"
he asked anxiously.

"He has gone to his work in the house of the embalmer," was the answer.
"If anything should happen to him he bade me tell you not to forget the
writing and the book.  He was as though out of his mind when he left us,
and put the ram's heart in his bag and took it with him.  Do you remain
with the little one; my mother is at work, and I must go with the
prisoners of war to Harmontis."



CHAPTER XVIII.

While the two friends from the House of Seti were engaged in
conversation, Katuti restlessly paced the large open hall of her son-in-
law's house, in which we have already seen her.  A snow-white cat
followed her steps, now playing with the hem of her long plain dress, and
now turning to a large stand on which the dwarf Nemu sat in a heap; where
formerly a silver statue had stood, which a few months previously had
been sold.

He liked this place, for it put him in a position to look into the eyes
of his mistress and other frill-grown people.  "If you have betrayed me!
If you have deceived me!" said Katuti with a threatening gesture as she
passed his perch.

"Put me on a hook to angle for a crocodile if I have.  But I am curious
to know how he will offer you the money."

"You swore to me," interrupted his mistress with feverish agitation,
that you had not used my name in asking Paaker to save us?"

"A thousand times I swear it," said the little man.

"Shall I repeat all our conversation?  I tell thee he will sacrifice his
land, and his house-great gate and all, for one friendly glance from
Nefert's eyes."

"If only Mena loved her as he does!"  sighed the widow, and then again
she walked up and down the hall in silence, while the dwarf looked out at
the garden entrance.  Suddenly she paused in front of Nemu, and said so
hoarsely that Nemu shuddered:

"I wish she were a widow."  "The little man made a gesture as if to
protect himself from the evil eye, but at the same instant he slipped
down from his pedestal, and exclaimed:

"There is a chariot, and I hear his big dog barking.  It is he.  Shall I
call Nefert?"

"No!"  said Katuti in a low voice, and she clutched at the back of a
chair as if for support.

The dwarf shrugged his shoulders, and slunk behind a clump of ornamental
plants, and a few minutes later Paaker stood in the presence of Katuti,
who greeted him, with quiet dignity and self-possession.

Not a feature of her finely-cut face betrayed her inward agitation, and
after the Mohar had greeted her she said with rather patronizing
friendliness:

"I thought that you would come.  Take a seat.  Your heart is like your
father's; now that you are friends with us again it is not by halves."

Paaker had come to offer his aunt the sum which was necessary for the
redemption of her husband's mummy.  He had doubted for a long time
whether he should not leave this to his mother, but reserve partly and
partly vanity had kept him from doing so.  He liked to display his
wealth, and Katuti should learn what he could do, what a son-in-law she
had rejected.

He would have preferred to send the gold, which he had resolved to give
away, by the hand of one of his slaves, like a tributary prince.  But
that could not be done so he put on his finger a ring set with a valuable
stone, which king Seti I., had given to his father, and added various
clasps and bracelets to his dress.

When, before leaving the house, he looked at himself in a mirror, he said
to himself with some satisfaction, that he, as he stood, was worth as
much as the whole of Mena's estates.

Since his conversation with Nemu, and the dwarf's interpretation of his
dream, the path which he must tread to reach his aim had been plain
before him.  Nefert's mother must be won with the gold which would save
her from disgrace, and Mena must be sent to the other world.  He relied
chiefly on his own reckless obstinacy--which he liked to call firm
determination--Nemu's cunning, and the love-philter.

He now approached Katuti with the certainty of success, like a merchant
who means to acquire some costly object, and feels that he is rich enough
to pay for it.  But his aunt's proud and dignified manner confounded him.

He had pictured her quite otherwise, spirit-broken, and suppliant; and he
had expected, and hoped to earn, Nefert's thanks as well as her mother's
by his generosity.  Mena's pretty wife was however absent, and Katuti did
not send for her even after he had enquired after her health.

The widow made no advances, and some time passed in indifferent
conversation, till Paaker abruptly informed her that he had heard of her
son's reckless conduct, and had decided, as being his mother's nearest
relation, to preserve her from the degradation that threatened her.  For
the sake of his bluntness, which she took for honesty, Katuti forgave the
magnificence of his dress, which under the circumstances certainly seemed
ill-chosen; she thanked him with dignity, but warmly, more for the sake
of her children than for her own; for life she said was opening before
them, while for her it was drawing to its close.

"You are still at a good time of life," said Paaker.

"Perhaps at the best," replied the widow, "at any rate from my point of
view; regarding life as I do as a charge, a heavy responsibility."

"The administration of this involved estate must give you many, anxious
hours--that I understand."  Katuti nodded, and then said sadly:

"I could bear it all, if I were not condemned to see my poor child being
brought to misery without being able to help her or advise her.  You once
would willingly have married her, and I ask you, was there a maiden in
Thebes--nay in all Egypt--to compare with her for beauty?  Was she not
worthy to be loved,  and is she not so still?  Does she deserve that her
husband should leave her to starve, neglect her, and take a strange woman
into his tent as if he had repudiated her?  I see what you feel about it!
You throw all the blame on me.  Your heart says: 'Why did she break off
our betrothal,' and your right feeling tells you that you would have
given her a happier lot."

With these words Katuti took her nephew's hand, and went on with
increasing warmth.

"We know you to-day for the most magnanimous man in Thebes, for you have
requited injustice with an immense benefaction; but even as a boy you
were kind and noble.  Your father's wish has always been dear and sacred
to me, for during his lifetime he always behaved to us as an affectionate
brother, and I would sooner have sown the seeds of sorrow for myself than
for your mother, my beloved sister.  I brought up my child--I guarded her
jealously--for the young hero who was absent, proving his valor in Syria
--for you and for you only.  Then your father died, my sole stay and
protector."

"I know it all!"  interrupted Paaker looking gloomily at the floor.

"Who should have told you?"  said the widow.  "For your mother, when that
had happened which seemed incredible, forbid us her house, and shut her
ears.  The king himself urged Mena's suit, for he loves him as his own
son, and when I represented your prior claim he commanded;--and who may
resist the commands of the sovereign of two worlds, the Son of Ra?  Kings
have short memories; how often did your father hazard his life for him,
how many wounds had he received in his service.  For your father's sake
he might have spared you such an affront, and such pain."

"And have I myself served him, or not?"  asked the pioneer flushing
darkly.

"He knows you less," returned Katuti apologetically.  Then she changed
her tone to one of sympathy, and went on:

"How was it that you, young as you were, aroused his dissatisfaction, his
dislike, nay his--"

"His what?"  asked the pioneer, trembling with excitement.

"Let that pass!"  said the widow soothingly.  "The favor and disfavor of
kings are as those of the Gods.  Men rejoice in the one or bow to the
other."

"What feeling have I aroused in Rameses besides dissatisfaction, and
dislike?  I insist on knowing!"  said Paaker with increasing vehemence.

"You alarm me," the widow declared.  "And in speaking ill of you, his
only motive was to raise his favorite in Nefert's estimation."

"Tell me what he said!"  cried the pioneer; cold drops stood on his brown
forehead, and his glaring eyes showed the white eye-balls.

Katuti quailed before him, and drew back, but he followed her, seized her
arm, and said huskily:

"What did he say?"

"Paaker!"  cried the widow in pain and indignation.  "Let me go.  It is
better for you that I should not repeat the words with which Rameses
sought to turn Nefert's heart from you.  Let me go, and remember to whom
you are speaking."

But Paaker gripped her elbow the tighter, and urgently repeated his
question.

"Shame upon you!"  cried Katuti, "you are hurting me; let me go!  You
will not till you have heard what he said?  Have your own way then, but
the words are forced from me!  He said that if he did not know your
mother Setchem for an honest woman, he never would have believed you were
your father's son--for you were no more like him than an owl to an
eagle."

Paaker took his hand from Katuti's arm.  "And so--and so--" he muttered
with pale lips.

"Nefert took your part, and I too, but in vain.  Do not take the words
too hardly.  Your father was a man without an equal, and Rameses cannot
forget that we are related to the old royal house.  His grandfather, his
father, and himself are usurpers, and there is one now living who has a
better right to the throne than he has."

"The Regent Ani!"  exclaimed Paaker decisively.  Katuti nodded, she went
up to the pioneer and said in a whisper:

"I put myself in your hands, though I know they may be raised against me.
But you are my natural ally, for that same act of Rameses that disgraced
and injured you, made me a partner in the designs of Ani.  The king
robbed you of your bride, me of my daughter.  He filled your soul with
hatred for your arrogant rival, and mine with passionate regret for the
lost happiness of my child.  I feel the blood of Hatasu in my veins, and
my spirit is high enough to govern men.  It was I who roused the sleeping
ambition of the Regent--I who directed his gaze to the throne to which he
was destined by the Gods.  The ministers of the Gods, the priests, are
favorably disposed to us; we have--"

At this moment there was a commotion in the garden, and a breathless
slave rushed in exclaiming "The Regent is at the gate!"

Paaker stood in stupid perplexity, but he collected himself with an
effort and would have gone, but Katuti detained him.

"I will go forward to meet Ani," she said.  "He will be rejoiced to see
you, for he esteems you highly and was a friend of your father's."

As soon as Katuti had left the hall, the dwarf Nemu crept out of his
hiding-place, placed himself in front of Paaker, and asked boldly:

"Well?  Did I give thee good advice yesterday, or no?"

Put Paaker did not answer him, he pushed him aside with his foot, and
walked up and down in deep thought.

Katuti met the Regent half way down the garden.  He held a manuscript
roll in his hand, and greeted her from afar with a friendly wave of his
hand.

The widow looked at him with astonishment.

It seemed to her that he had grown taller and younger since the last time
she had seen him.

"Hail to your highness!"  she cried, half in joke half reverently, and
she raised her hands in supplication, as if he already wore the double
crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.  "Have the nine Gods met you?  have the
Hathors kissed you in your slumbers?  This is a white day--a lucky day--
I read it in your face!"  "That is reading a cipher!"  said Ani gaily,
but with dignity.  "Read this despatch."

Katuti took the roll from his hand, read it through, and then returned
it.

"The troops you equipped have conquered the allied armies of the
Ethiopians," she said gravely, "and are bringing their prince in fetters
to Thebes, with endless treasure, and ten thousand prisoners!  The Gods
be praised!"

"And above all things I thank the Gods that my general Scheschenk--my
foster-brother and friend--is returning well and unwounded from the war.
I think, Katuti, that the figures in our dreams are this day taking forms
of flesh and blood!"

"They are growing to the stature of heroes!"  cried the widow.  "And you
yourself, my lord, have been stirred by the breath of the Divinity.  You
walk like the worthy son of Ra, the Courage of Menth beams in your eyes,
and you smile like the victorious Horus."

"Patience, patience my friend," said Ani, moderating the eagerness of the
widow; "now, more than ever, we must cling to my principle of over-
estimating the strength of our opponents, and underrating our own.
Nothing has succeeded on which I had counted, and on the contrary many
things have justified my fears that they would fail.  The beginning of
the end is hardly dawning on us."

"But successes, like misfortunes, never come singly," replied Katuti.

"I agree with you," said Ani.  "The events of life seem to me to fall in
groups.  Every misfortune brings its fellow with it--like every piece of
luck.  Can you tell me of a second success?"

"Women win no battles," said the widow smiling. "But they win allies, and
I have gained a powerful one."

"A God or an army?"  asked Ani.

"Something between the two," she replied.  "Paaker, the king's chief
pioneer, has joined us;" and she briefly related to Ani the history of
her nephew's love and hatred.

Ani listened in silence; then he said with an expression of much disquiet
and anxiety:

"This man is a follower of Rameses, and must shortly return to him.  Many
may guess at our projects, but every additional person who knows them may
be come a traitor.  You are urging me, forcing me, forward too soon.  A
thousand well-prepared enemies are less dangerous than one untrustworthy
ally--"

"Paaker is secured to us," replied Katuti positively.  "Who will answer
for him?"  asked Ani.

"His life shall be in your hand," replied Katuti gravely.  "My shrewd
little dwarf Nemu knows that he has committed some secret crime, which
the law punishes by death."

The Regent's countenance cleared.

That alters the matter," he said with satisfaction.  "Has he committed a
murder?"

"No," said Katuti, "but Nemu has sworn to reveal to you alone all that he
knows.  He is wholly devoted to us."

"Well and good," said Ani thoughtfully, but he too is imprudent--much too
imprudent.  You are like a rider, who to win a wager urges his horse to
leap over spears.  If he falls on the points, it is he that suffers; you
let him lie there, and go on your way."

"Or are impaled at the same time as the noble horse," said Katuti
gravely.  "You have more to win, and at the same time more to lose than
we; but the meanest clings to life; and I must tell you, Ani, that I work
for you, not to win any thing through your success, but because you are
as dear to me as a brother, and because I see in you the embodiment of my
father's claims which have been trampled on."

Ani gave her his hand and asked:

"Did you also as my friend speak to Bent-Anat?  Do I interpret your
silence rightly?"

Katuti sadly shook her head; but Ani went on: "Yesterday that would have
decided me to give her up; but to-day my courage has risen, and if the
Hathors be my friends I may yet win her."

With these words he went in advance of the widow into the hall, where
Paaker was still walking uneasily up and down.

The pioneer bowed low before the Regent, who returned the greeting with a
half-haughty, half-familiar wave of the hand, and when he had seated
himself in an arm-chair politely addressed Paaker as the son of a friend,
and a relation of his family.

"All the world," he said, "speaks of your reckless courage.  Men like you
are rare; I have none such attached to me.  I wish you stood nearer to
me; but Rameses will not part with you, although--although--In point of
fact your office has two aspects; it requires the daring of a soldier,
and the dexterity of a scribe.  No one denies that you have the first,
but the second--the sword and the reed-pen are very different weapons,
one requires supple fingers, the other a sturdy fist.  The king used to
complain of your reports--is be better satisfied with them now?"

"I hope so," replied the Mohar; "my brother Horus is a practised writer,
and accompanies me in my journeys."

"That is well," said Ani.  "If I had the management of affairs I should
treble your staff, and give you four--five--six scribes under you, who
should be entirely at your command, and to whom you could give the
materials for the reports to be sent out.  Your office demands that you
should be both brave and circumspect; these characteristics are rarely
united; but there are scriveners by hundreds in the temples."

"So it seems to me," said Paaker.

Ani looked down meditatively, and continued--Rameses is fond of comparing
you with your father.  That is unfair, for he--who is now with the
justified--was without an equal; at once the bravest of heroes and the
most skilful of scribes.  You are judged unjustly; and it grieves me all
the more that you belong, through your mother, to my poor but royal
house.  We will see whether I cannot succeed in putting you in the right
place.  For the present you are required in Syria almost as soon as you
have got home.  You have shown that you are a man who does not fear
death, and who can render good service, and you might now enjoy your
wealth in peace with your wife."

"I am alone," said Paaker.

"Then, if you come home again, let Katuti seek you out the prettiest wife
in Egypt," said the Regent smiling.  "She sees herself every day in her
mirror, and must be a connoisseur in the charms of women."

Ani rose with these words, bowed to Paaker with studied friendliness,
gave his hand to Katuti, and said as he left the hall:

"Send me to-day the--the handkerchief--by the dwarf Nemu."

When he was already in the garden, he turned once more and said to Paaker

"Some friends are supping with me to-day; pray let me see you too."

The pioneer bowed; he dimly perceived that he was entangled in invisible
toils.  Up to the present moment he had been proud of his devotion to his
calling, of his duties as Mohar; and now he had discovered that the king,
whose chain of honor hung round his neck, undervalued him, and perhaps
only suffered him to fill his arduous and dangerous post for the sake of
his father, while he, notwithstanding the temptations offered him in
Thebes by his wealth, had accepted it willingly and disinterestedly.
He knew that his skill with the pen was small, but that was no reason why
he should be despised; often had he wished that he could reconstitute his
office exactly as Ani had suggested, but his petition to be allowed a
secretary had been rejected by Rameses.  What he spied out, he was told
was to be kept secret, and no one could be responsible for the secrecy of
another.

As his brother Horus grew up, he had followed him as his obedient
assistant, even after he had married a wife, who, with her child,
remained in Thebes under the care of Setchem.

He was now filling Paaker's place in Syria during his absence; badly
enough, as the pioneer thought, and yet not without credit; for the
fellow knew how to write smooth words with a graceful pen.

Paaker, accustomed to solitude, became absorbed in thought, forgetting
everything that surrounded him; even the widow herself, who had sunk on
to a couch, and was observing him in silence.

He gazed into vacancy, while a crowd of sensations rushed confusedly
through his brain.  He thought himself cruelly ill-used, and he felt too
that it was incumbent on him to become the instrument of a terrible fate
to some other person.  All was dim 'and chaotic in his mind, his love
merged in his hatred; only one thing was clear and unclouded by doubt,
and that was his strong conviction that Nefert would be his.

The Gods indeed were in deep disgrace with him.  How much he had expended
upon them--and with what a grudging hand they had rewarded him; he knew
of but one indemnification for his wasted life, and in that he believed
so firmly that he counted on it as if it were capital which he had
invested in sound securities.  But at this moment his resentful feelings
embittered the sweet dream of hope, and he strove in vain for calmness
and clear-sightedness; when such cross-roads as these met, no amulet, no
divining rod could guide him; here he must think for himself, and beat
his own road before he could walk in it; and yet he could think out no
plan, and arrive at no decision.

He grasped his burning forehead in his hands, and started from his
brooding reverie, to remember where he was, to recall his conversation
with the mother of the woman he loved, and her saying that she was
capable of guiding men.

"She perhaps may be able to think for me," he muttered to himself.
"Action suits me better."

He slowly went up to her and said:

"So it is settled then--we are confederates."

"Against Rameses, and for Ani," she replied, giving him her slender hand.

"In a few days I start for Syria, meanwhile you can make up your mind
what commissions you have to give me.  The money for your son shall be
conveyed to you to-day before sunset.  May I not pay my respects to
Nefert?"

"Not now, she is praying in the temple."

"But to-morrow?"

"Willingly, my dear friend.  She will be delighted to see you, and to
thank you."

"Farewell, Katuti."

"Call me mother," said the widow, and she waved her veil to him as a last
farewell.



CHAPTER XIX.

As soon as Paaker had disappeared behind the shrubs, Katuti struck a
little sheet of metal, a slave appeared, and Katuti asked her whether
Nefert had returned from the temple.

"Her litter is just now at the side gate," was the answer.

"I await her here," said the widow.  The slave went away, and a few
minutes later Nefert entered the hall.

"You want me?"  she said; and after kissing her mother she sank upon her
couch.  "I am tired," she exclaimed, "Nemu, take a fan and keep the
flies off me."

The dwarf sat down on a cushion by her couch, and began to wave the semi-
circular fan of ostrich-feathers; but Katuti put him aside and said:

"You can leave us for the present; we want to speak to each other in
private."

The dwarf shrugged his shoulders and got up, but Nefert looked at her
mother with an irresistible appeal.

"Let him stay," she said, as pathetically as if her whole happiness
depended upon it.  "The flies torment me so, and Nemu always holds his
tongue."

She patted the dwarf's big head as if he were a lap-dog, and called the
white cat, which with a graceful leap sprang on to her shoulder and stood
there with its back arched, to be stroked by her slender fingers.

Nemu looked enquiringly at his mistress, but Katuti turned to her
daughter, and said in a warning voice:

"I have very serious things to discuss with you."

"Indeed?"  said her daughter, "but I cannot be stung by the flies all the
same.  Of course, if you wish it--"

"Nemu may stay then," said Katuti, and her voice had the tone of that of
a nurse who gives way to a naughty child.  "Besides, he knows what I have
to talk about."

"There now!"  said Nefert, kissing the head of the white cat, and she
gave the fan back to the dwarf.

The widow looked at her daughter with sincere compassion, she went up to
her and looked for the thousandth time in admiration at her pretty face.

"Poor child," she sighed, "how willingly I would spare you the frightful
news which sooner or later you must hear--must bear.  Leave off your
foolish play with the cat, I have things of the most hideous gravity to
tell you."

"Speak on," replied Nefert.  "To-day I cannot fear the worst.  Mena's
star, the haruspex told me, stands under the sign of happiness, and I
enquired of the oracle in the temple of Besa, and heard that my husband
is prospering.  I have prayed in the temple till I am quite content.
Only speak!--I know my brother's letter from the camp had no good news in
it; the evening before last I saw you had been crying, and yesterday you
did not look well; even the pomegranate flowers in your hair did not suit
you."

"Your brother," sighed Katuti, "has occasioned me great trouble, and we
might through him have suffered deep dishonor--"

"We-dishonor?"  exclaimed Nefert, and she nervously clutched at the cat.

"Your brother lost enormous sums at play; to recover them he pledged the
mummy of your father--"

"Horrible!"  cried  Nefert.  "We must appeal at once to the king;--I will
write to him myself; for Mena's sake he will hear me.  Rameses is great
and noble, and will not let a house that is faithfully devoted to him
fall into disgrace through the reckless folly of a boy.  Certainly I will
write to him."

She said this in a voice of most childlike confidence, and desired Nemu
to wave the fan more gently, as if this concern were settled.

In Katuti's heart surprise and indignation at the unnatural indifference
of her daughter were struggling together; but she withheld all blame, and
said carelessly:

"We are already released, for my nephew Paaker, as soon as he heard what
threatened us, offered me his help; freely and unprompted, from pure
goodness of heart and attachment."

"How good of Paaker!"  cried Nefert.  "He was so fond of me, and you
know, mother, I always stood up for him.  No doubt it was for my sake
that he behaved so generously!"

The young wife laughed, and pulling the cat's face close to her own, held
her nose to its cool little nose, stared into its green eyes, and said,
imitating childish talk:

"There now, pussy--how kind people are to your little mistress."

Katuti was vexed daughter's childish impulses.

"It seems to me," she said, "that you might leave off playing and
trifling when I am talking of such serious matters.  I have long since
observed that the fate of the house to which your father and mother
belong is a matter of perfect indifference to you; and yet you would have
to seek shelter and protection under its roof if your husband--"

"Well, mother?"  asked Nefert breathing more quickly.

As soon as Katuti perceived her daughter's agitation she regretted that
she had not more gently led up to the news she had to break to her; for
she loved her daughter, and knew that it would give her keen pain.

So she went on more sympathetically:

"You boasted in joke that people are good to you, and it is true; you win
hearts by your mere being--by only being what you are.  And Mena too
loved you tenderly; but 'absence,' says the proverb, 'is the one real
enemy,' and Mena--"

"What has Mena done?"  Once more Nefert interrupted her mother, and her
nostrils quivered.

"Mena," said Katuti, decidedly, "has violated the truth and esteem which
he owes you--he has trodden them under foot, and--"

"Mena?"  exclaimed the young wife with flashing eyes; she flung the cat
on the floor, and sprang from her couch.

"Yes--Mena," said Katuti firmly.  "Your brother writes that he would have
neither silver nor gold for his spoil, but took the fair daughter of the
prince of the Danaids into his tent.  The ignoble wretch!"

"Ignoble wretch!"  cried Nefert, and two or three times she repeated her
mother's last words.  Katuti drew back in horror, for her gentle, docile,
childlike daughter stood before her absolutely transfigured beyond all
recognition.

She looked like a beautiful demon of revenge; her eyes sparkled, her
breath came quickly, her limbs quivered, and with extraordinary strength
and rapidity she seized the dwarf by the hand, led him to the door of one
of the rooms which opened out of the hall, threw it open, pushed the
little man over the threshold, and closed it sharply upon him; then with
white lips she came up to her mother.

"An ignoble wretch did you call him?"  she cried out with a hoarse husky
voice, "an ignoble wretch!  Take back your words, mother, take back your
words, or--"

Katuti turned paler and paler, and said soothingly:

"The words may sound hard, but he has broken faith with you, and openly
dishonored you."

"And shall I believe it?"  said Nefert with a scornful laugh.  "Shall I
believe it, because a scoundrel has written it, who has pawned his
father's body and the honor of big family; because it is told you by that
noble and brave gentleman! why a box on the ears from Mena would be the
death of him.  Look at me, mother, here are my eyes, and if that table
there were Mena's tent, and you were Mena, and you took the fairest woman
living by the hand and led her into it, and these eyes saw it--aye, over
and over again--I would laugh at it--as I laugh at it now; and I should
say, 'Who knows what he may have to give her, or to say to her,' and not
for one instant would I doubt his truth; for your son is false and Mena
is true.  Osiris broke faith with Isis--but Mena may be favored by a
hundred women--he will take none to his tent but me!"

"Keep your belief," said Katuti bitterly, "but leave me mine."

"Yours?"  said Nefert, and her flushed cheeks turned pale again.  "What
do you believe?  You listen to the worst and basest things that can be
said of a man who has overloaded you with benefits!  A wretch, bah!  an
ignoble wretch?  Is that what you call a man who lets you dispose of his
estate as you please!"

"Nefert," cried Katuti angrily, "I will--"

"Do what you will," interrupted her  indignant daughter, "but do not
vilify the generous man who has never hindered you from throwing away his
property on your son's debts and your own ambition.  Since the day before
yesterday I have learned that we are not rich; and I have reflected, and
I have asked myself what has become of our corn and our cattle, of our
sheep and the rents from the farmers.  The wretch's estate was not so
contemptible; but I tell you plainly I should be unworthy to be the wife
of the noble Mena if I allowed any one to vilify his name under his own
roof.  Hold to your belief, by all means, but one of us must quit this
house--you or I."

At these words Nefert broke into passionate sobs, threw herself on her
knees by her couch, hid her face in the cushions, and wept convulsively
and without intermission.

Katuti stood behind her, startled, trembling, and not knowing what to
say.  Was this her gentle, dreamy daughter?  Had ever a daughter dared to
speak thus to her mother?  But was she right or was Nefert?  This
question was the pressing one; she knelt down by the side of the young
wife, put her arm round her, drew her head against her bosom, and
whispered pitifully:

"You cruel, hard-hearted child; forgive your poor, miserable mother, and
do not make the measure of her wretchedness overflow."

Then Nefert rose, kissed her mother's hand, and went silently into her
own room.

Katuti remained alone; she felt as if a dead hand held her heart in its
icy grasp, and she muttered to herself:

"Ani is right--nothing turns to good excepting that from which we expect
the worst."

She held her hand to her head, as if she had heard something too strange
to be believed.  Her heart went after her daughter, but instead of
sympathizing with her she collected all her courage, and deliberately
recalled all the reproaches that Nefert had heaped upon her.  She did not
spare herself a single word, and finally she murmured to herself: "She
can spoil every thing.  For Mena's sake she will sacrifice me and the
whole world; Mena and Rameses are one, and if she discovers what we are
plotting she will betray us without a moment's hesitation.  Hitherto all
has gone on without her seeing it, but to-day something has been unsealed
in her--an eye, a tongue, an ear, which have hitherto been closed.  She
is like a deaf and dumb person, who by a sudden fright is restored to
speech and hearing.  My favorite child will become the spy of my actions,
and my judge."

She gave no utterance to the last words, but she seemed to hear them with
her inmost ear; the voice that could speak to her thus, startled and
frightened her, and solitude was in itself a torture; she called the
dwarf, and desired him to have her litter prepared, as she intended going
to the temple, and visiting the wounded who had been sent home from
Syria.

"And the handkerchief for the Regent?"  asked the little man.

"It was a pretext," said Katuti.  "He wishes to speak to you about the
matter which you know of with regard to Paaker.  What is it?"

"Do not ask," replied Nemu, "I ought not to betray it.  By Besa, who
protects us dwarfs, it is better that thou shouldst never know it."

"For to-day I have learned enough that is new to me," retorted Katuti.
"Now go to Ani, and if you are able to throw Paaker entirely into his
power--good--I will give--but what have I to give away?  I will be
grateful to you; and when we have gained our end I will set you free and
make you rich."

Nemu kissed her robe, and said in a low voice: "What is the end?"

"You know what Ani is striving for," answered the widow.  "And I have but
one wish!"

"And that is?"

"To see Paaker in Mena's place."

"Then our wishes are the same," said the dwarf and he left the Hall.

Katuti looked after him and muttered:

"It must be so.  For if every thing remains as it was and Mena comes home
and demands a reckoning--it is not to be thought of!  It must not be!"



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Ardently they desire that which transcends sense
Every misfortune brings its fellow with it
Medicines work harm as often as good
No good excepting that from which we expect the worst
Obstinacy--which he liked to call firm determination
Only the choice between lying and silence
Patronizing friendliness
Principle of over-estimating the strength of our opponents
Provide yourself with a self-devised ruler
Successes, like misfortunes, never come singly
The beginning of things is not more attractive





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