“Thou dost compel me to say what I had better not even think; but rather will I sin against obedience than against truth, the pure daughter of the Sun, whose aspect, Bent-Anat, thou dost wear. Whether the paraschites is unclean by birth or not, who am I that I should decide? But to me this man appeared—as to thee—as one moved by the same pure and holy emotions as stir and bless me and mine, and thee and every soul born of woman; and I believe that the impressions of this hour have touched thy soul as well as mine, not to taint, but to purify. If I am wrong, may the many-named Gods forgive me, Whose breath lives and works in the paraschites as well as in thee and me, in Whom I believe, and to Whom I will ever address my humble songs, louder and more joyfully, as I learn that all that lives and breathes, that weeps and rejoices, is the image of their sublime nature, and born to equal joy and equal sorrow.”
Pentaur had raised his eyes to heaven; now they met the proud and joyful radiance of the princess’ glance, while she frankly offered him her hand. He humbly kissed her robe, but she said:
“Nay—not so. Lay thy hand in blessing on mine. Thou art a man and a true priest. Now I can be satisfied to be regarded as unclean, for my father also desires that, by us especially, the institutions of the past that have so long continued should be respected, for the sake of the people. Let us pray in common to the Gods, that these poor people may be released from the old ban. How beautiful the world might be, if men would but let man remain what the Celestials have made him. But Paaker and poor Nefert are waiting in the scorching sun-come, follow me.”
She went forward, but after a few steps she turned round to him, and asked:
“What is thy name?”
“Thou then art the poet of the House of Seti?”
“They call me so.”
Bent-Anat stood still a moment, gazing full at him as at a kinsman whom we meet for the first time face to face, and said:
“The Gods have given thee great gifts, for thy glance reaches farther and pierces deeper than that of other men; and thou canst say in words what we can only feel—I follow thee willingly!”
Pentaur blushed like a boy, and said, while Paaker and Nefert came nearer to them:
“Till to-day life lay before me as if in twilight; but this moment shows it me in another light. I have seen its deepest shadows; and,” he added in a low tone “how glorious its light can be.”
An hour later, Bent-Anat and her train of followers stood before the gate of the House of Seti.
Swift as a ball thrown from a man’s hand, a runner had sprung forward and hurried on to announce the approach of the princess to the chief priest. She stood alone in her chariot, in advance of all her companions, for Pentaur had found a place with Paaker. At the gate of the temple they were met by the head of the haruspices.