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The night during which the Princess Bent-Anat and her followers had knocked at the gate of the House of Seti was past.
The fruitful freshness of the dawn gave way to the heat, which began to pour down from the deep blue cloudless vault of heaven. The eye could no longer gaze at the mighty globe of light whose rays pierced the fine white dust which hung over the declivity of the hills that enclosed the city of the dead on the west. The limestone rocks showed with blinding clearness, the atmosphere quivered as if heated over a flame; each minute the shadows grew shorter and their outlines sharper.
All the beasts which we saw peopling the Necropolis in the evening had now withdrawn into their lurking places; only man defied the heat of the summer day. Undisturbed he accomplished his daily work, and only laid his tools aside for a moment, with a sigh, when a cooling breath blew across the overflowing stream and fanned his brow.
The harbor or clock where those landed who crossed from eastern Thebes was crowded with barks and boats waiting to return.
The crews of rowers and steersmen who were attached to priestly brotherhoods or noble houses, were enjoying a rest till the parties they had brought across the Nile drew towards them again in long processions.
Under a wide-spreading sycamore a vendor of eatables, spirituous drinks, and acids for cooling the water, had set up his stall, and close to him, a crowd of boatmen, and drivers shouted and disputed as they passed the time in eager games at morra.
[In Latin “micare digitis.” A game still constantly played in the south of Europe, and frequently represented by the Egyptians. The games depicted in the monuments are collected by Minutoli, in the Leipziger Illustrirte Zeitung, 1852.]
Many sailors lay on the decks of the vessels, others on the shore; here in the thin shade of a palm tree, there in the full blaze of the sun, from those burning rays they protected themselves by spreading the cotton cloths, which served them for cloaks, over their faces.
Between the sleepers passed bondmen and slaves, brown and black, in long files one behind the other, bending under the weight of heavy burdens, which had to be conveyed to their destination at the temples for sacrifice, or to the dealers in various wares. Builders dragged blocks of stone, which had come from the quarries of Chennu and Suan,
[The Syene of the Greeks,
non, called Assouan at the first
on sledges to the site of a new temple; laborers poured water under the runners, that the heavily loaded and dried wood should not take fire.
All these working men were driven with sticks by their overseers, and sang at their labor; but the voices of the leaders sounded muffled and hoarse, though, when after their frugal meal they enjoyed an hour of repose, they might be heard loud enough. Their parched throats refused to sing in the noontide of their labor.
Thick clouds of gnats followed these tormented gangs, who with dull and spirit-broken endurance suffered alike the stings of the insects and the blows of their driver. The gnats pursued them to the very heart of the City of the dead, where they joined themselves to the flies and wasps, which swarmed in countless crowds around the slaughter houses, cooks’ shops, stalls of fried fish, and booths of meat, vegetable, honey, cakes and drinks, which were doing a brisk business in spite of the noontide heat and the oppressive atmosphere heated and filled with a mixture of odors.
The nearer one got to the Libyan frontier, the quieter it became, and the silence of death reigned in the broad north-west valley, where in the southern slope the father of the reigning king had caused his tomb to be hewn, and where the stone-mason of the Pharaoh had prepared a rock tomb for him.
A newly made road led into this rocky gorge, whose steep yellow and brown walls seemed scorched by the sun in many blackened spots, and looked like a ghostly array of shades that had risen from the tombs in the night and remained there.
At the entrance of this valley some blocks of stone formed a sort of doorway, and through this, indifferent to the heat of day, a small but brilliant troop of the men was passing.
Four slender youths as staff bearers led the procession, each clothed only with an apron and a flowing head-cloth of gold brocade; the mid-day sun played on their smooth, moist, red-brown skins, and their supple naked feet hardly stirred the stones on the road.
Behind them followed an elegant, two-wheeled chariot, with two prancing brown horses bearing tufts of red and blue feathers on their noble heads, and seeming by the bearing of their arched necks and flowing tails to express their pride in the gorgeous housings, richly embroidered in silver, purple, and blue and golden ornaments, which they wore—and even more in their beautiful, royal charioteer, Bent-Anat, the daughter of Rameses, at whose lightest word they pricked their ears, and whose little hand guided them with a scarcely perceptible touch.
Two young men dressed like the other runners followed the chariot, and kept the rays of the sun off the face of their mistress with large fans of snow-white ostrich feathers fastened to long wands.
By the side of Bent-Anat, so long as the road was wide enough to allow of it, was carried Nefert, the wife of Mena, in her gilt litter, borne by eight tawny bearers, who, running with a swift and equally measured step, did not remain far behind the trotting horses of the princess and her fan-bearers.
Both the women, whom we now see for the first time in daylight, were of remarkable but altogether different beauty.
The wife of Mena had preserved the appearance of a maiden; her large almond-shaped eyes had a dreamy surprised look out from under her long eyelashes, and her figure of hardly the middle-height had acquired a little stoutness without losing its youthful grace. No drop of foreign blood flowed in her veins, as could be seen in the color of her skin, which was of that fresh and equal line which holds a medium between golden yellow and bronze brown—and which to this day is so charming in the maidens of Abyssinia—in her straight nose, her well-formed brow, in her smooth but thick black hair, and in the fineness of her hands and feet, which were ornamented with circles of gold.
The maiden princess next to her had hardly reached her nineteenth year, and yet something of a womanly self-consciousness betrayed itself in her demeanor. Her stature was by almost a head taller than that of her friend, her skin was fairer, her blue eyes kind and frank, without tricks of glance, but clear and honest, her profile was noble but sharply cut, and resembled that of her father, as a landscape in the mild and softening light of the moon resembles the same landscape in the broad clear light of day. The scarcely perceptible aquiline of her nose, she inherited from her Semitic ancestors,
[Many portraits have come down to us of Rameses: the finest is the noble statue preserved at Turin. A likeness has been detected between its profile, with its slightly aquiline nose, and that of Napoleon I.]
as well as the slightly waving abundance of her brown hair, over which she wore a blue and white striped silk kerchief; its carefully-pleated folds were held in place by a gold ring, from which in front a horned urarus
[A venomous Egyptian
serpent which was adopted as the symbol of
sovereign power, in consequence of its swift effects for life or
death. It is never wanting to the diadem of the Pharaohs.]
raised its head crowned with a disk of rubies. From her left temple a large tress, plaited with gold thread, hung down to her waist, the sign of her royal birth. She wore a purple dress of fine, almost transparent stuff, that was confined with a gold belt and straps. Round her throat was fastened a necklace like a collar, made of pearls and costly stones, and hanging low down on her well-formed bosom.
Behind the princess stood her charioteer, an old officer of noble birth.
Three litters followed the chariot of the princess, and in each sat two officers of the court; then came a dozen of slaves ready for any service, and lastly a crowd of wand-bearers to drive off the idle populace, and of lightly-armed soldiers, who—dressed only in the apron and head-cloth— each bore a dagger-shaped sword in his girdle, an axe in his right hand, and in his left; in token of his peaceful service, a palm-branch.
Like dolphins round a ship, little girls in long shirt-shaped garments swarmed round the whole length of the advancing procession, bearing water-jars on their steady heads, and at a sign from any one who was thirsty were ready to give him a drink. With steps as light as the gazelle they often outran the horses, and nothing could be more graceful than the action with which the taller ones bent over with the water-jars held in both arms to the drinker.
The courtiers, cooled and shaded by waving fans, and hardly perceiving the noontide heat, conversed at their ease about indifferent matters, and the princess pitied the poor horses, who were tormented as they ran, by annoying gadflies; while the runners and soldiers, the litter-bearers and fan-bearers, the girls with their jars and the panting slaves, were compelled to exert themselves under the rays of the mid-day sun in the service of their masters, till their sinews threatened to crack and their lungs to burst their bodies.
At a spot where the road widened, and where, to the right, lay the steep cross-valley where the last kings of the dethroned race were interred, the procession stopped at a sign from Paaker, who preceded the princess, and who drove his fiery black Syrian horses with so heavy a hand that the bloody foam fell from their bits.
When the Mohar had given the reins into the hand of a servant, he sprang from his chariot, and after the usual form of obeisance said to the princess:
“In this valley lies the loathsome den of the people, to whom thou, O princess, dost deign to do such high honor. Permit me to go forward as guide to thy party.”
“We will go on foot,” said the princess, “and leave our followers behind here,”
Paaker bowed, Bent-Anat threw the reins to her charioteer and sprang to the ground, the wife of Mena and the courtiers left their litters, and the fan-bearers and chamberlains were about to accompany their mistress on foot into the little valley, when she turned round and ordered, “Remain behind, all of you. Only Paaker and Nefert need go with me.”
The princess hastened forward into the gorge, which was oppressive with the noon-tide heat; but she moderated her steps as soon as she observed that the frailer Nefert found it difficult to follow her.
At a bend in the road Paaker stood still, and with him Bent-Anat and Nefert. Neither of them had spoken a word during their walk. The valley was perfectly still and deserted; on the highest pinnacles of the cliff, which rose perpendicularly to the right, sat a long row of vultures, as motionless as if the mid-day heat had taken all strength out of their wings.
Paaker bowed before them as being the sacred animals of the Great Goddess of Thebes,
[She formed a triad
with Anion and Chunsu under the name of Muth.
The great “Sanctuary of the kingdom”—the temple of Karnak—was
dedicated to them.]
and the two women silently followed his example.
“There,” said the Mohar, pointing to two huts close to the left cliff of the valley, built of bricks made of dried Nile-mud, “there, the neatest, next the cave in the rock.”
Bent-Anat went towards the solitary hovel with a beating heart; Paaker let the ladies go first. A few steps brought them to an ill-constructed fence of canestalks, palm-branches, briars and straw, roughly thrown together. A heart-rending cry of pain from within the hut trembled in the air and arrested the steps of the two women. Nefert staggered and clung to her stronger companion, whose beating heart she seemed to hear. Both stood a few minutes as if spellbound, then the princess called Paaker, and said:
“You go first into the house.”
Paaker bowed to the ground.
“I will call the man out,” he said, “but how dare we step over his threshold. Thou knowest such a proceeding will defile us.”
Nefert looked pleadingly at Bent-Anat, but the princess repeated her command.
“Go before me; I have no fear of defilement.” The Mohar still hesitated.
“Wilt thou provoke the Gods?—and defile thyself?” But the princess let him say no more; she signed to Nefert, who raised her hands in horror and aversion; so, with a shrug of her shoulders, she left her companion behind with the Mohar, and stepped through an opening in the hedge into a little court, where lay two brown goats; a donkey with his forelegs tied together stood by, and a few hens were scattering the dust about in a vain search for food.
Soon she stood, alone, before the door of the paraschites’ hovel. No one perceived her, but she could not take her eyes-accustomed only to scenes of order and splendor—from the gloomy but wonderfully strange picture, which riveted her attention and her sympathy. At last she went up to the doorway, which was too low for her tall figure. Her heart shrunk painfully within her, and she would have wished to grow smaller, and, instead of shining in splendor, to have found herself wrapped in a beggar’s robe.
Could she step into this hovel decked with gold and jewels as if in mockery?—like a tyrant who should feast at a groaning table and compel the starving to look on at the banquet. Her delicate perception made her feel what trenchant discord her appearance offered to all that surrounded her, and the discord pained her; for she could not conceal from herself that misery and external meanness were here entitled to give the key-note and that her magnificence derived no especial grandeur from contrast with all these modest accessories, amid dust, gloom, and suffering, but rather became disproportionate and hideous, like a giant among pigmies.
She had already gone too far to turn back, or she would willingly have done so. The longer she gazed into the but, the more deeply she felt the impotence of her princely power, the nothingness of the splendid gifts with which she approached it, and that she might not tread the dusty floor of this wretched hovel but in all humility, and to crave a pardon.
The room into which she looked was low but not very small, and obtained from two cross lights a strange and unequal illumination; on one side the light came through the door, and on the other through an opening in the time-worn ceiling of the room, which had never before harbored so many and such different guests.
All attention was concentrated on a group, which was clearly lighted up from the doorway.
On the dusty floor of the room cowered an old woman, with dark weather-beaten features and tangled hair that had long been grey. Her black-blue cotton shirt was open over her withered bosom, and showed a blue star tattooed upon it.
In her lap she supported with her hands the head of a girl, whose slender body lay motionless on a narrow, ragged mat. The little white feet of the sick girl almost touched the threshold. Near to them squatted a benevolent-looking old man, who wore only a coarse apron, and sitting all in a heap, bent forward now and then, rubbing the child’s feet with his lean hands and muttering a few words to himself.
The sufferer wore nothing but a short petticoat of coarse light-blue stuff. Her face, half resting on the lap of the old woman, was graceful and regular in form, her eyes were half shut-like those of a child, whose soul is wrapped in some sweet dream-but from her finely chiselled lips there escaped from time to time a painful, almost convulsive sob.
An abundance of soft, but disordered reddish fair hair, in which clung a few withered flowers, fell over the lap of the old woman and on to the mat where she lay. Her cheeks were white and rosy-red, and when the young surgeon Nebsecht—who sat by her side, near his blind, stupid companion, the litany-singer—lifted the ragged cloth that had been thrown over her bosom, which had been crushed by the chariot wheel, or when she lifted her slender arm, it was seen that she had the shining fairness of those daughters of the north who not unfrequently came to Thebes among the king’s prisoners of war.
The two physicians sent hither from the House of Seti sat on the left side of the maiden on a little carpet. From time to time one or the other laid his hand over the heart of the sufferer, or listened to her breathing, or opened his case of medicaments, and moistened the compress on her wounded breast with a white ointment.
In a wide circle close to the wall of the room crouched several women, young and old, friends of the paraschites, who from time to time gave expression to their deep sympathy by a piercing cry of lamentation. One of them rose at regular intervals to fill the earthen bowl by the side of the physician with fresh water. As often as the sudden coolness of a fresh compress on her hot bosom startled the sick girl, she opened her eyes, but always soon to close them again for longer interval, and turned them at first in surprise, and then with gentle reverence, towards a particular spot.
These glances had hitherto been unobserved by him to whom they were directed.
Leaning against the wall on the right hand side of the room, dressed in his long, snow-white priest’s robe, Pentaur stood awaiting the princess. His head-dress touched the ceiling, and the narrow streak of light, which fell through the opening in the roof, streamed on his handsome head and his breast, while all around him was veiled in twilight gloom.
Once more the suffering girl looked up, and her glance this time met the eye of the young priest, who immediately raised his hand, and half-mechanically, in a low voice, uttered the words of blessing; and then once more fixed his gaze on the dingy floor, and pursued his own reflections.
Some hours since he had come hither, obedient to the orders of Ameni, to impress on the princess that she had defiled herself by touching a paraschites, and could only be cleansed again by the hand of the priests.
He had crossed the threshold of the paraschites most reluctantly, and the thought that he, of all men, had been selected to censure a deed of the noblest humanity, and to bring her who had done it to judgment, weighed upon him as a calamity.
In his intercourse with his friend Nebsecht, Pentaur had thrown off many fetters, and given place to many thoughts that his master would have held sinful and presumptuous; but at the same time he acknowledged the sanctity of the old institutions, which were upheld by those whom lie had learned to regard as the divinely-appointed guardians of the spiritual possessions of God’s people; nor was he wholly free from the pride of caste and the haughtiness which, with prudent intent, were inculcated in the priests. He held the common man, who put forth his strength to win a maintenance for his belongings by honest bodily labor—the merchant—the artizan—the peasant, nay even the warrior, as far beneath the godly brotherhood who strove for only spiritual ends; and most of all he scorned the idler, given up to sensual enjoyments.
He held him unclean who had been branded by the law; and how should it have been otherwise? These people, who at the embalming of the dead opened the body of the deceased, had become despised for their office of mutilating the sacred temple of the soul; but no paraschites chose his calling of his own free will.—[Diodorus I, 91]—It was handed down from father to son, and he who was born a paraschites—so he was taught—had to expiate an old guilt with which his soul had long ago burdened itself in a former existence, within another body, and which had deprived it of absolution in the nether world. It had passed through various animal forms, and now began a new human course in the body of a paraschites, once more to stand after death in the presence of the judges of the under-world.
Pentaur had crossed the threshold of the man he despised with aversion; the man himself, sitting at the feet of the suffering girl, had exclaimed as he saw the priest approaching the hovel:
“Yet another white robe! Does misfortune cleanse the unclean?”
Pentaur had not answered the old man, who on his part took no further notice of him, while he rubbed the girl’s feet by order of the leech; and his hands impelled by tender anxiety untiringly continued the same movement, as the water-wheel in the Nile keeps up without intermission its steady motion in the stream.
“Does misfortune cleanse the unclean?” Pentaur asked himself. “Does it indeed possess a purifying efficacy, and is it possible that the Gods, who gave to fire the power of refining metals and to the winds power to sweep the clouds from the sky, should desire that a man—made in their own image—that a man should be tainted from his birth to his death with an indelible stain?”
He looked at the face of the paraschites, and it seemed to him to resemble that of his father.
This startled him!
And when he noticed how the woman, in whose lap the girl’s head was resting, bent over the injured bosom of the child to catch her breathing, which she feared had come to a stand-still—with the anguish of a dove that is struck down by a hawk—he remembered a moment in his own childhood, when he had lain trembling with fever on his little bed. What then had happened to him, or had gone on around him, he had long forgotten, but one image was deeply imprinted on his soul, that of the face of his mother bending over him in deadly anguish, but who had gazed on her sick boy not more tenderly, or more anxiously, than this despised woman on her suffering child.
“There is only one utterly unselfish, utterly pure and utterly divine love,” said he to himself, “and that is the love of Isis for Horus—the love of a mother for her child. If these people were indeed so foul as to defile every thing they touch, how would this pure, this tender, holy impulse show itself even in them in all its beauty and perfection?”
“Still,” he continued, “the Celestials have implanted maternal love in the breast of the lioness, of the typhonic river-horse of the Nile.”
He looked compassionately at the wife of the paraschites.
He saw her dark face as she turned it away from the sick girl. She had felt her breathe, and a smile of happiness lighted up her old features; she nodded first to the surgeon, and then with a deep sigh of relief to her husband, who, while he did not cease the movement of his left hand, held up his right hand in prayer to heaven, and his wife did the same.
It seemed to Pentaur that he could see the souls of these two, floating above the youthful creature in holy union as they joined their hands; and again he thought of his parents’ house, of the hour when his sweet, only sister died. His mother had thrown herself weeping on the pale form, but his father had stamped his foot and had thrown back his head, sobbing and striking his forehead with his fist.
“How piously submissive and thankful are these unclean ones!” thought Pentaur; and repugnance for the old laws began to take root in his heart. “Maternal love may exist in the hyaena, but to seek and find God pertains only to man, who has a noble aim. Up to the limits of eternity—and God is eternal!—thought is denied to animals; they cannot even smile. Even men cannot smile at first, for only physical life—an animal soul—dwells in them; but soon a share of the world’s soul—beaming intelligence— works within them, and first shows itself in the smile of a child, which is as pure as the light and the truth from which it comes. The child of the paraschites smiles like any other creature born of woman, but how few aged men there are, even among the initiated, who can smile as innocently and brightly as this woman who has grown grey under open ill-treatment.”
Deep sympathy began to fill his heart, and he knelt down by the side of the poor child, raised her arm, and prayed fervently to that One who had created the heavens and who rules the world—to that One, whom the mysteries of faith forbade him to name; and not to the innumerable gods, whom the people worshipped, and who to him were nothing but incarnations of the attributes of the One and only God of the initiated—of whom he was one—who was thus brought down to the comprehension of the laity.
He raised his soul to God in passionate emotion; but he prayed, not for the child before him and for her recovery, but rather for the whole despised race, and for its release from the old ban, for the enlightenment of his own soul, imprisoned in doubts, and for strength to fulfil his hard task with discretion.
The gaze of the sufferer followed him as he took up his former position.
The prayer had refreshed his soul and restored him to cheerfulness of spirit. He began to reflect what conduct he must observe towards the princess.
He had not met Bent-Anat for the first time yesterday; on the contrary, he had frequently seen her in holiday processions, and at the high festivals in the Necropolis, and like all his young companions had admired her proud beauty—admired it as the distant light of the stars, or the evening-glow on the horizon.
Now he must approach this lady with words of reproof.
He pictured to himself the moment when he must advance to meet her, and could not help thinking of his little tutor Chufu, above whom he towered by two heads while he was still a boy, and who used to call up his admonitions to him from below. It was true, he himself was tall and slim, but he felt as if to-day he were to play the part towards Bent-Anat of the much-laughed-at little tutor.
His sense of the comic was touched, and asserted itself at this serious moment, and with such melancholy surroundings. Life is rich in contrasts, and a susceptible and highly-strung human soul would break down like a bridge under the measured tread of soldiers, if it were allowed to let the burden of the heaviest thoughts and strongest feelings work upon it in undisturbed monotony; but just as in music every key-note has its harmonies, so when we cause one chord of our heart to vibrate for long, all sorts of strange notes respond and clang, often those which we least expect.
Pentaur’s glance flew round the one low, over-filled room of the paraschites’ hut, and like a lightning flash the thought, “How will the princess and her train find room here?” flew through his mind.
His fancy was lively, and vividly brought before him how the daughter of the Pharaoh with a crown on her proud head would bustle into the silent chamber, how the chattering courtiers would follow her, and how the women by the walls, the physicians by the side of the sick girl, the sleek white cat from the chest where she sat, would rise and throng round her. There must be frightful confusion. Then he imagined how the smart lords and ladies would keep themselves far from the unclean, hold their slender hands over their mouths and noses, and suggest to the old folks how they ought to behave to the princess who condescended to bless them with her presence. The old woman must lay down the head that rested in her bosom, the paraschites must drop the feet he so anxiously rubbed, on the floor, to rise and kiss the dust before Bent-Anat. Whereupon—the “mind’s eye” of the young priest seemed to see it all—the courtiers fled before him, pushing each other, and all crowded together into a corner, and at last the princess threw a few silver or gold rings into the laps of the father and mother, and perhaps to the girl too, and he seemed to hear the courtiers all cry out: “Hail to the gracious daughter of the Sun!”—to hear the joyful exclamations of the crowd of women—to see the gorgeous apparition leave the hut of the despised people, and then to see, instead of the lovely sick child who still breathed audibly, a silent corpse on the crumpled mat, and in the place of the two tender nurses at her head and feet, two heart-broken, loud-lamenting wretches.
Pentaur’s hot spirit was full of wrath. As soon as the noisy cortege appeared actually in sight he would place himself in the doorway, forbid the princess to enter, and receive her with strong words.
She could hardly come hither out of human kindness.
“She wants variety,” said he to himself, “something new at Court; for there is little going on there now the king tarries with the troops in a distant country; it tickles the vanity of the great to find themselves once in a while in contact with the small, and it is well to have your goodness of heart spoken of by the people. If a little misfortune opportunely happens, it is not worth the trouble to inquire whether the form of our benevolence does more good or mischief to such wretched people.”
He ground his teeth angrily, and thought no more of the defilement which might threaten Bent-Anat from the paraschites, but exclusively, on the contrary, of the impending desecration by the princess of the holy feelings astir in this silent room.
Excited as he was to fanaticism, his condemning lips could not fail to find vigorous and impressive words.
He stood drawn to his full height and drawing his breath deeply, like a spirit of light who holds his weapon raised to annihilate a demon of darkness, and he looked out into the valley to perceive from afar the cry of the runners and the rattle of the wheels of the gay train he expected.
And he saw the doorway darkened by a lowly, bending figure, who, with folded arms, glided into the room and sank down silently by the side of the sick girl. The physicians and the old people moved as if to rise; but she signed to them without opening her lips, and with moist, expressive eyes, to keep their places; she looked long and lovingly in the face of the wounded girl, stroked her white arm, and turning to the old woman softly whispered to her
“How pretty she is!”
The paraschites’ wife nodded assent, and the girl smiled and moved her lips as though she had caught the words and wished to speak.
Bent-Anat took a rose from her hair and laid it on her bosom.
The paraschites, who had not taken his hands from the feet of the sick child, but who had followed every movement of the princess, now whispered, “May Hathor requite thee, who gave thee thy beauty.”
The princess turned to him and said, “Forgive the sorrow, I have caused you.”
The old man stood up, letting the feet of the sick girl fall, and asked in a clear loud voice:
“Art thou Bent-Anat?”
“Yes, I am,” replied the princess, bowing her head low, and in so gentle a voice, that it seemed as though she were ashamed of her proud name.
The eyes of the old man flashed. Then he said softly but decisively:
“Leave my hut then, it will defile thee.”
“Not till you have forgiven me for that which I did unintentionally.”
“Unintentionally! I believe thee,” replied the paraschites. “The hoofs of thy horse became unclean when they trod on this white breast. Look here—” and he lifted the cloth from the girl’s bosom, and showed her the deep red wound, “Look here—here is the first rose you laid on my grandchild’s bosom, and the second—there it goes.”
The paraschites raised his arm to fling the flower through the door of his hut. But Pentaur had approached him, and with a grasp of iron held the old man’s hand.
“Stay,” he cried in an eager tone, moderated however for the sake of the sick girl. “The third rose, which this noble hand has offered you, your sick heart and silly head have not even perceived. And yet you must know it if only from your need, your longing for it. The fair blossom of pure benevolence is laid on your child’s heart, and at your very feet, by this proud princess. Not with gold, but with humility. And whoever the daughter of Rameses approaches as her equal, bows before her, even if he were the first prince in the Land of Egypt. Indeed, the Gods shall not forget this deed of Bent-Anat. And you—forgive, if you desire to be forgiven that guilt, which you bear as an inheritance from your fathers, and for your own sins.”
The paraschites bowed his head at these words, and when he raised it the anger had vanished from his well-cut features. He rubbed his wrist, which had been squeezed by Pentaur’s iron fingers, and said in a tone which betrayed all the bitterness of his feelings:
“Thy hand is hard, Priest, and thy words hit like the strokes of a hammer. This fair lady is good and loving, and I know; that she did not drive her horse intentionally over this poor girl, who is my grandchild and not my daughter. If she were thy wife or the wife of the leech there, or the child of the poor woman yonder, who supports life by collecting the feet and feathers of the fowls that are slaughtered for sacrifice, I would not only forgive her, but console her for having made herself like to me; fate would have made her a murderess without any fault of her own, just as it stamped me as unclean while I was still at my mother’s breast. Aye—I would comfort her; and yet I am not very sensitive. Ye holy three of Thebes!—[The triad of Thebes: Anion, Muth and Chunsu.]—how should I be? Great and small get out of my way that I may not touch them, and every day when I have done what it is my business to do they throw stones at me.
[The paraschites, with an Ethiopian knife, cuts the flesh of the corpse as deeply as the law requires: but instantly takes to flight, while the relatives of the deceased pursue him with stones, and curses, as if they wished to throw the blame on him.]
“The fulfilment of duty—which brings a living to other men, which makes their happiness, and at the same time earns them honor, brings me every day fresh disgrace and painful sores. But I complain to no man, and must forgive—forgive—forgive, till at last all that men do to me seems quite natural and unavoidable, and I take it all like the scorching of the sun in summer, and the dust that the west wind blows into my face. It does not make me happy, but what can I do? I forgive all—”
The voice of the paraschites had softened, and Bent-Anat, who looked down on him with emotion, interrupted him, exclaiming with deep feeling:
“And so you will forgive me?—poor man!”
The old man looked steadily, not at her, but at Pentaur, while he replied: “Poor man! aye, truly, poor man. You have driven me out of the world in which you live, and so I made a world for myself in this hut. I do not belong to you, and if I forget it, you drive me out as an intruder—nay as a wolf, who breaks into your fold; but you belong just as little to me, only when you play the wolf and fall upon me, I must bear it!”
“The princess came to your hut as a suppliant, and with the wish of doing you some good,” said Pentaur.
“May the avenging Gods reckon it to her, when they visit on her the crimes of her father against me! Perhaps it may bring me to prison, but it must come out. Seven sons were mine, and Rameses took them all from me and sent them to death; the child of the youngest, this girl, the light of my eyes, his daughter has brought to her death. Three of my boys the king left to die of thirst by the Tenat,
[Literally the “cutting” which, under Seti I., the father of Rameses, was the first Suez Canal; a representation of it is found on the northern outer wall of the temple of Karnak. It followed nearly the same direction as the Fresh-water canal of Lesseps, and fertilized the land of Goshen.]
which is to join the Nile to the Red Sea, three were killed by the Ethiopians, and the last, the star of my hopes, by this time is eaten by the hyaenas of the north.”
At these words the old woman, in whose lap the head of the girl rested, broke out into a loud cry, in which she was joined by all the other women.
The sufferer started up frightened, and opened her eyes.
“For whom are you wailing?” she asked feebly. “For your poor father,” said the old woman.
The girl smiled like a child who detects some well-meant deceit, and said:
“Was not my father here, with you? He is here, in Thebes, and looked at me, and kissed me, and said that he is bringing home plunder, and that a good time is coming for you. The gold ring that he gave me I was fastening into my dress, when the chariot passed over me. I was just pulling the knots, when all grew black before my eyes, and I saw and heard nothing more. Undo it, grandmother, the ring is for you; I meant to bring it to you. You must buy a beast for sacrifice with it, and wine for grandfather, and eye salve
[The Egyptian mestem,
that is stibium or antimony, which was
introduced into Egypt by the Asiatics at a very early period and
for yourself, and sticks of mastic,
[At the present day
the Egyptian women are fond of chewing them, on
account of their pleasant taste. The ancient Egyptians used various
pills. Receipts for such things are found in the Ebers Papyrus.]
which you have so long lead to do without.”
The paraschites seemed to drink these words from the mouth of his grandchild. Again he lifted his hand in prayer, again Pentaur observed that his glance met that of his wife, and a large, warm tear fell from his old eyes on to his callous hand. Then he sank down, for he thought the sick child was deluded by a dream. But there were the knots in her dress.
With a trembling hand he untied them, and a gold ring rolled out on the floor.
Bent-Anat picked it up, and gave it to the paraschites. “I came here in a lucky hour,” she said, “for you have recovered your son and your child will live.”
“She will live,” repeated the surgeon, who had remained a silent witness of all that had occurred.
“She will stay with us,” murmured the old man, and then said, as he approached the princess on his knees, and looked up at her beseechingly with tearful eyes:
“Pardon me as I pardon thee; and if a pious wish may not turn to a curse from the lips of the unclean, let me bless thee.”
“I thank you,” said Bent-Anat, towards whom the old man raised his hand in blessing.
Then she turned to Nebsecht, and ordered him to take anxious care of the sick girl; she bent over her, kissed her forehead, laid her gold bracelet by her side, and signing to Pentaur left the hut with him.
During the occurrence we have described, the king’s pioneer and the young wife of Mena were obliged to wait for the princess.
The sun stood in the meridian, when Bent-Anat had gone into the hovel of the paraschites.
The bare limestone rocks on each side of the valley and the sandy soil between, shone with a vivid whiteness that hurt the eyes; not a hand’s breadth of shade was anywhere to be seen, and the fan-beaters of the two, who were waiting there, had, by command of the princess, staid behind with the chariot and litters.
For a time they stood silently near each other, then the fair Nefert said, wearily closing her almond-shaped eyes:
“How long Bent-Anat stays in the but of the unclean! I am perishing here. What shall we do?”
“Stay!” said Paaker, turning his back on the lady; and mounting a block of stone by the side of the gorge, he cast a practised glance all round, and returned to Nefert: “I have found a shady spot,” he said, “out there.”
Mena’s wife followed with her eyes the indication of his hand, and shook her head. The gold ornaments on her head-dress rattled gently as she did so, and a cold shiver passed over her slim body in spite of the midday heat.
“Sechet is raging in the sky,” said Paaker.
[A goddess with the head of a lioness or a cat, over which the Sun- disk is usually found. She was the daughter of Ra, and in the form of the Uraeus on her father’s crown personified the murderous heat of the star of day. She incites man to the hot and wild passion of love, and as a cat or lioness tears burning wounds in the limbs of the guilty in the nether world; drunkenness and pleasure are her gifts She was also named Bast and Astarte after her sister-divinity among the Phoenicians.]
“Let us avail ourselves of the shady spot, small though it be. At this hour of the day many are struck with sickness.”
“I know it,” said Nefert, covering her neck with her hand. Then she went towards two blocks of stone which leaned against each other, and between them afforded the spot of shade, not many feet wide, which Paaker had pointed out as a shelter from the sun. Paaker preceded her, and rolled a flat piece of limestone, inlaid by nature with nodules of flint, under the stone pavilion, crushed a few scorpions which had taken refuge there, spread his head-cloth over the hard seat, and said, “Here you are sheltered.”
Nefert sank down on the stone and watched the Mohar, who slowly and silently paced backwards and forward in front of her. This incessant to and fro of her companion at last became unendurable to her sensitive and irritated nerves, and suddenly raising her head from her hand, on which she had rested it, she exclaimed
“Pray stand still.”
The pioneer obeyed instantly, and looked, as he stood with his back to her, towards the hovel of the paraschites.
After a short time Nefert said, “Say something to me!”
The Mohar turned his full face towards her, and she was frightened at the wild fire that glowed in the glance with which he gazed at her.
Nefert’s eyes fell, and Paaker, saying:
“I would rather remain silent,” recommenced his walk, till Nefert called to him again and said,
“I know you are angry with me; but I was but a child when I was betrothed to you. I liked you too, and when in our games your mother called me your little wife, I was really glad, and used to think how fine it would be when I might call all your possessions mine, the house you would have so splendidly restored for me after your father’s death, the noble gardens, the fine horses in their stables, and all the male and female slaves!”
Paaker laughed, but the laugh sounded so forced and scornful that it cut Nefert to the heart, and she went on, as if begging for indulgence:
“It was said that you were angry with us; and now you will take my words as if I had cared only for your wealth; but I said, I liked you. Do you no longer remember how I cried with you over your tales of the bad boys in the school; and over your father’s severity? Then my uncle died;— then you went to Asia.”
And you,” interrupted Paaker, hardly and drily, “you broke your bethrothal vows, and became the wife of the charioteer Mena. I know it all; of what use is talking?”
“Because it grieves me that you should be angry, and your good mother avoid our house. If only you could know what it is when love seizes one, and one can no longer even think alone, but only near, and with, and in the very arms of another; when one’s beating heart throbs in one’s very temples, and even in one’s dreams one sees nothing—but one only.”
“And do I not know it?” cried Paaker, placing himself close before her with his arms crossed. “Do I not know it? and you it was who taught me to know it. When I thought of you, not blood, but burning fire, coursed in my veins, and now you have filled them with poison; and here in this breast, in which your image dwelt, as lovely as that of Hathor in her holy of holies, all is like that sea in Syria which is called the Dead Sea, in which every thing that tries to live presently dies and perishes.”
Paaker’s eyes rolled as he spoke, and his voice sounded hoarsely as he went on.
“But Mena was near to the king—nearer than I, and your mother—”
“My mother!”—Nefert interrupted the angry Mohar. “My mother did not choose my husband. I saw him driving the chariot, and to me he resembled the Sun God, and he observed me, and looked at me, and his glance pierced deep into my heart like a spear; and when, at the festival of the king’s birthday, he spoke to me, it was just as if Hathor had thrown round me a web of sweet, sounding sunbeams. And it was the same with Mena; he himself has told me so since I have been his wife. For your sake my mother rejected his suit, but I grew pale and dull with longing for him, and he lost his bright spirit, and was so melancholy that the king remarked it, and asked what weighed on his heart—for Rameses loves him as his own son. Then Mena confessed to the Pharaoh that it was love that dimmed his eye and weakened his strong hand; and then the king himself courted me for his faithful servant, and my mother gave way, and we were made man and wife, and all the joys of the justified in the fields of Aalu
[The fields of the blest,
which were opened to glorified souls. In
the Book of the Dead it is shown that in them men linger, and sow
and reap by cool waters.]
are shallow and feeble by the side of the bliss which we two have known— not like mortal men, but like the celestial gods.”
Up to this point Nefert had fixed her large eyes on the sky, like a glorified soul; but now her gaze fell, and she said softly—
“But the Cheta
[An Aramaean race, according
to Schrader’s excellent judgment. At
the time of our story the peoples of western Asia had allied
themselves to them.]
disturbed our happiness, for the king took Mena with him to the war. Fifteen times did the moon, rise upon our happiness, and then—”
“And then the Gods heard my prayer, and accepted my offerings,” said Paaker, with a trembling voice, “and tore the robber of my joys from you, and scorched your heart and his with desire. Do you think you can tell me anything I do not know? Once again for fifteen days was Mena yours, and now he has not returned again from the war which is raging hotly in Asia.”
“But he will return,” cried the young wife.
“Or possibly not,” laughed Paaker. “The Cheta, carry sharp weapons, and there are many vultures in Lebanon, who perhaps at this hour are tearing his flesh as he tore my heart.”
Nefert rose at these words, her sensitive spirit bruised as with stones thrown by a brutal hand, and attempted to leave her shady refuge to follow the princess into the house of the parascllites; but her feet refused to bear her, and she sank back trembling on her stone seat. She tried to find words, but her tongue was powerless. Her powers of resistance forsook her in her unutterable and soul-felt distress—heart-wrung, forsaken and provoked.
A variety of painful sensations raised a hot vehement storm in her bosom, which checked her breath, and at last found relief in a passionate and convulsive weeping that shook her whole body. She saw nothing more, she heard nothing more, she only shed tears and felt herself miserable.
Paaker stood over her in silence.
There are trees in the tropics, on which white blossoms hang close by the withered fruit, there are days when the pale moon shows itself near the clear bright sun;—and it is given to the soul of man to feel love and hatred, both at the same time, and to direct both to the same end.
Nefert’s tears fell as dew, her sobs as manna on the soul of Paaker, which hungered and thirsted for revenge. Her pain was joy to him, and yet the sight of her beauty filled him with passion, his gaze lingered spell-bound on her graceful form; he would have given all the bliss of heaven once, only once, to hold her in his arms—once, only once, to hear a word of love from her lips.
After some minutes Nefert’s tears grew less violent. With a weary, almost indifferent gaze she looked at the Mohar, still standing before her, and said in a soft tone of entreaty:
’My tongue is parched, fetch me a little water.”
“The princess may come out at any moment,” replied Paaker.
“But I am fainting,” said Nefert, and began again to cry gently.
Paaker shrugged his shoulders, and went farther into the valley, which he knew as well as his father’s house; for in it was the tomb of his mother’s ancestors, in which, as a boy, he had put up prayers at every full and new moon, and laid gifts on the altar.
The hut of the paraschites was prohibited to him, but he knew that scarcely a hundred paces from the spot where Nefert was sitting, lived an old woman of evil repute, in whose hole in the rock he could not fail to find a drink of water.
He hastened forward, half intoxicated with had seen and felt within the last few minutes.
The door, which at night closed the cave against the intrusions of the plunder-seeking jackals, was wide open, and the old woman sat outside under a ragged piece of brown sail-cloth, fastened at one end to the rock and at the other to two posts of rough wood. She was sorting a heap of dark and light-colored roots, which lay in her lap. Near her was a wheel, which turned in a high wooden fork. A wryneck made fast to it by a little chain, and by springing from spoke to spoke kept it in continual motion.—[From Theocritus’ idyl: The Sorceress.]—A large black cat crouched beside her, and smelt at some ravens’ and owls’ heads, from which the eyes had not long since been extracted.
Two sparrow-hawks sat huddled up over the door of the cave, out of which came the sharp odor of burning juniper-berries; this was intended to render the various emanations rising from the different strange substances, which were collected and preserved there, innocuous.
As Paaker approached the cavern the old woman called out to some one within:
“Is the wax cooking?”
An unintelligible murmur was heard in answer.
Then throw in the ape’s eyes,
[The sentences and mediums employed by the witches, according to papyrus-rolls which remain. I have availed myself of the Magic papyrus of Harris, and of two in the Berlin collection, one of which is in Greek. ]
and the ibis feathers, and the scraps of linen with the black signs on them. Stir it all a little; now put out the fire,
“Take the jug and fetch some water—make haste, here comes a stranger.”
A sooty-black negro woman, with a piece of torn colorless stuff hanging round her hips, set a large clay-jar on her grey woolly matted hair, and without looking at him, went past Paaker, who was now close to the cave.
The old woman, a tall figure bent with years, with a sharply-cut and wrinkled face, that might once have been handsome, made her preparations for receiving the visitor by tying a gaudy kerchief over her head, fastening her blue cotton garment round her throat, and flinging a fibre mat over the birds’ heads.
Paaker called out to her, but she feigned to be deaf and not to hear his voice. Only when he stood quite close to her, did she raise her shrewd, twinkling eyes, and cry out:
“A lucky day! a white day that brings a noble guest and high honor.”
“Get up,” commanded Paaker, not giving her any greeting, but throwing a silver ring among the roots that lay in her lap,
[The Egyptians had no
coins before Alexander and the Ptolemies, but
used metals for exchange, usually in the form of rings.]
“and give me in exchange for good money some water in a clean vessel.”
“Fine pure silver,” said the old woman, while she held the ring, which she had quickly picked out from the roots, close to her eyes; “it is too much for mere water, and too little for my good liquors.”
“Don’t chatter, hussy, but make haste,” cried Paaker, taking another ring from his money-bag and throwing it into her lap.
“Thou hast an open hand,” said the old woman, speaking in the dialect of the upper classes; “many doors must be open to thee, for money is a pass-key that turns any lock. Would’st thou have water for thy good money? Shall it protect thee against noxious beasts?—shall it help thee to reach down a star? Shall it guide thee to secret paths?—It is thy duty to lead the way. Shall it make heat cold, or cold warm? Shall it give thee the power of reading hearts, or shall it beget beautiful dreams? Wilt thou drink of the water of knowledge and see whether thy friend or thine enemy—ha! if thine enemy shall die? Would’st thou a drink to strengthen thy memory? Shall the water make thee invisible? or remove the 6th toe from thy left foot?”
“You know me?” asked Paaker.
“How should I?” said the old woman, “but my eyes are sharp, and I can prepare good waters for great and small.”
“Mere babble!” exclaimed Paaker, impatiently clutching at the whip in his girdle; “make haste, for the lady for whom—”
“Dost thou want the water for a lady?” interrupted the old woman. “Who would have thought it?—old men certainly ask for my philters much oftener than young ones—but I can serve thee.”
With these words the old woman went into the cave, and soon returned with a thin cylindrical flask of alabaster in her hand.
“This is the drink,” she said, giving the phial to Paaker. “Pour half into water, and offer it to the lady. If it does not succeed at first, it is certain the second time. A child may drink the water and it will not hurt him, or if an old man takes it, it makes him gay. Ah, I know the taste of it!” and she moistened her lips with the white fluid. “It can hurt no one, but I will take no more of it, or old Hekt will be tormented with love and longing for thee; and that would ill please the rich young lord, ha! ha! If the drink is in vain I am paid enough, if it takes effect thou shalt bring me three more gold rings; and thou wilt return, I know it well.”
Paaker had listened motionless to the old woman, and siezed the flask eagerly, as if bidding defiance to some adversary; he put it in his money bag, threw a few more rings at the feet of the witch, and once more hastily demanded a bowl of Nile-water.
“Is my lord in such a hurry?” muttered the old woman, once more going into the cave. “He asks if I know him? him certainly I do? but the darling? who can it be hereabouts? perhaps little Uarda at the paraschites yonder. She is pretty enough; but she is lying on a mat, run over and dying. We must see what my lord means. He would have pleased me well enough, if I were young; but he will reach the goal, for he is resolute and spares no one.”
While she muttered these and similar words, she filled a graceful cup of glazed earthenware with filtered Nile-water, which she poured out of a large porous clay jar, and laid a laurel leaf, on which was scratched two hearts linked together by seven strokes, on the surface of the limpid fluid. Then she stepped out into the air again.
As Paaker took the vessel from her looked at the laurel leaf, she said:
“This indeed binds hearts; three is the husband, four is the wife, seven is the chachach, charcharachacha.”—[This jargon is fund in a magic-papyrus at Berlin.]
The old woman sang this spell not without skill; but the Mohar appeared not to listen to her jargon. He descended carefully into the valley, and directed his steps to the resting place of the wife of Mena.
By the side of a rock, which hill him from Nefert, he paused, set the cup on a flat block of stone, and drew the flask with the philter out of his girdle.
His fingers trembled, but a thousand voices seemed to surge up and cry:
“Take it!—do it!—put in the drink!—now or never.” He felt like a solitary traveller, who finds on his road the last will of a relation whose possessions he had hoped for, but which disinherits him. Shall he surrender it to the judge, or shall he destroy it.
Paaker was not merely outwardly devout; hitherto he had in everything intended to act according to the prescriptions of the religion of his fathers. Adultery was a heavy sin; but had not he an older right to Nefert than the king’s charioteer?
He who followed the black arts of magic, should, according to the law, be punished by death, and the old woman had a bad name for her evil arts; but he had not sought her for the sake of the philter. Was it not possible that the Manes of his forefathers, that the Gods themselves, moved by his prayers and offerings, had put him in possession by an accident—which was almost a miracle—of the magic potion efficacy he never for an instant doubted?
Paaker’s associates held him to be a man of quick decision, and, in fact, in difficult cases he could act with unusual rapidity, but what guided him in these cases, was not the swift-winged judgment of a prepared and well-schooled brain, but usually only resulted from the outcome of a play of question and answer.
Amulets of the most various kinds hung round his neck, and from his girdle, all consecrated by priests, and of special sanctity or the highest efficacy.
There was the lapis lazuli eye, which hung to his girdle by a gold chain; When he threw it on the ground, so as to lie on the earth, if its engraved side turned to heaven, and its smooth side lay on the ground, he said “yes;” in the other case, on the contrary, “no.” In his purse lay always a statuette of the god Apheru, who opened roads; this he threw down at cross-roads, and followed the direction which the pointed snout of the image indicated. He frequently called into council the seal-ring of his deceased father, an old family possession, which the chief priests of Abydos had laid upon the holiest of the fourteen graves of Osiris, and endowed with miraculous power. It consisted of a gold ring with a broad signet, on which could be read the name of Thotmes III., who had long since been deified, and from whom Paaker’s ancestors had derived it. If it were desirable to consult the ring, the Mohar touched with the point of his bronze dagger the engraved sign of the name, below which were represented three objects sacred to the Gods, and three that were, on the contrary, profane. If he hit one of the former, he concluded that his father—who was gone to Osiris—concurred in his design; in the contrary case he was careful to postpone it. Often he pressed the ring to his heart, and awaited the first living creature that he might meet, regarding it as a messenger from his father;—if it came to him from the right hand as an encouragement, if from the left as a warning.
By degrees he had reduced these questionings to a system. All that he found in nature he referred to himself and the current of his life. It was at once touching, and pitiful, to see how closely he lived with the Manes of his dead. His lively, but not exalted fancy, wherever he gave it play, presented to the eye of his soul the image of his father and of an elder brother who had died early, always in the same spot, and almost tangibly distinct.
But he never conjured up the remembrance of the beloved dead in order to think of them in silent melancholy—that sweet blossom of the thorny wreath of sorrow; only for selfish ends. The appeal to the Manes of his father he had found especially efficacious in certain desires and difficulties; calling on the Manes of his brother was potent in certain others; and so he turned from one to the other with the precision of a carpenter, who rarely doubts whether he should give the preference to a hatchet or a saw.
These doings he held to be well pleasing to the Gods, and as he was convinced that the spirits of his dead had, after their justification, passed into Osiris that is to say, as atoms forming part of the great world-soul, at this time had a share in the direction of the universe— he sacrificed to them not only in the family catacomb, but also in the temples of the Necropolis dedicated to the worship of ancestors, and with special preference in the House of Seti.
He accepted advice, nay even blame, from Ameni and the other priests under his direction; and so lived full of a virtuous pride in being one of the most zealous devotees in the land, and one of the most pleasing to the Gods, a belief on which his pastors never threw any doubt.
Attended and guided at every step by supernatural powers, he wanted no friend and no confidant. In the fleld, as in Thebes, he stood apart, and passed among his comrades for a reserved man, rough and proud, but with a strong will.
He had the power of calling up the image of his lost love with as much vividness as the forms of the dead, and indulged in this magic, not only through a hundred still nights, but in long rides and drives through silent wastes.
Such visions were commonly followed by a vehement and boiling overflow of his hatred against the charioteer, and a whole series of fervent prayers for his destruction.
When Paaker set the cup of water for Nefert on the flat stone and felt for the philter, his soul was so full of desire that there was no room for hatred; still he could not altogether exclude the idea that he would commit a great crime by making use of a magic drink. Before pouring the fateful drops into the water, he would consult the oracle of the ring. The dagger touched none of the holy symbols of the inscription on the signet, and in other circumstances he would, without going any farther, have given up his project.
But this time he unwillingly returned it to its sheath, pressed the gold ring to his heart, muttered the name of his brother in Osiris, and awaited the first living creature that might come towards him.
He had not long to wait, from the mountain slope opposite to him rose, with heavy, slow wing-strokes, two light-colored vultures.
In anxious suspense he followed their flight, as they rose, higher and higher. For a moment they poised motionless, borne up by the air, circled round each other, then wheeled to the left and vanished behind the mountains, denying him the fulfilment of his desire.
He hastily grasped the phial to fling it from him, but the surging passion in his veins had deprived him of his self-control. Nefert’s image stood before him as if beckoning him; a mysterious power clenched his fingers close and yet closer round the phial, and with the same defiance which he showed to his associates, he poured half of the philter into the cup and approached his victim.
Nefert had meanwhile left her shady retreat and come towards him.
She silently accepted the water he offered her, and drank it with delight, to the very dregs.
“’Thank you,” she said, when she had recovered breath after her eager draught.
“That has done me good! How fresh and acid the water tastes; but your hand shakes, and you are heated by your quick run for me—poor man.”
With these words she looked at him with a peculiar expressive glance of her large eyes, and gave him her right hand, which he pressed wildly to his lips.
“That will do,” she said smiling; “here comes the princess with a priest, out of the hovel of the unclean. With what frightful words you terrified me just now. It is true I gave you just cause to be angry with me; but now you are kind again—do you hear?—and will bring your mother again to see mine. Not a word. I shall see, whether cousin Paaker refuses me obedience.”
She threatened him playfully with her finger, and then growing grave she added, with a look that pierced Paaker’s heart with pain, and yet with ecstasy, “Let us leave off quarrelling. It is so much better when people are kind to each other.”
After these words she walked towards the house of the paraschites, while Paaker pressed his hands to his breast, and murmured:
“The drink is working, and she will be mine. I thank ye—ye Immortals!”
But this thanksgiving, which hitherto he had never failed to utter when any good fortune had befallen him, to-day died on his lips. Close before him he saw the goal of his desires; there, under his eyes, lay the magic spring longed for for years. A few steps farther, and he might slake at its copious stream his thirst both for love and for revenge.
While he followed the wife of Mena, and replaced the phial carefully in his girdle, so as to lose no drop of the precious fluid which, according to the prescription of the old woman, he needed to use again, warning voices spoke in his breast, to which he usually listened as to a fatherly admonition; but at this moment he mocked at them, and even gave outward expression to the mood that ruled him—for he flung up his right hand like a drunken man, who turns away from the preacher of morality on his way to the wine-cask; and yet passion held him so closely ensnared, that the thought that he should live through the swift moments which would change him from an honest man into a criminal, hardly dawned, darkly on his soul. He had hitherto dared to indulge his desire for love and revenge in thought only, and had left it to the Gods to act for themselves; now he had taken his cause out of the hand of the Celestials, and gone into action without them, and in spite of them.
The sorceress Hekt passed him; she wanted to see the woman for whom she had given him the philter. He perceived her and shuddered, but soon the old woman vanished among the rocks muttering.
“Look at the fellow with six toes. He makes himself comfortable with the heritage of Assa.”
In the middle of the valley walked Nefert and the pioneer, with the princess Bent-Anat and Pentaur who accompanied her.
When these two had come out of the hut of the paraschites, they stood opposite each other in silence. The royal maiden pressed her hand to her heart, and, like one who is thirsty, drank in the pure air of the mountain valley with deeply drawn breath; she felt as if released from some overwhelming burden, as if delivered from some frightful danger.
At last she turned to her companion, who gazed earnestly at the ground.
“What an hour!” she said.
Pentaur’s tall figure did not move, but he bowed his head in assent, as if he were in a dream. Bent-Anat now saw him for the first time in fall daylight; her large eyes rested on him with admiration, and she asked:
“Art thou the priest, who yesterday, after my first visit to this house, so readily restored me to cleanness?”
“I am he,” replied Pentaur.
“I recognized thy voice, and I am grateful to thee, for it was thou that didst strengthen my courage to follow the impulse of my heart, in spite of my spiritual guides, and to come here again. Thou wilt defend me if others blame me.”
“I came here to pronounce thee unclean.”
“Then thou hast changed thy mind?” asked Bent-Anat, and a smile of contempt curled her lips.
“I follow a high injunction, that commands us to keep the old institutions sacred. If touching a paraschites, it is said, does not defile a princess, whom then can it defile? for whose garment is more spotless than hers?”
“But this is a good man with all his meanness,” interrupted Bent-Anat, “and in spite of the disgrace, which is the bread of life to him as honor is to us. May the nine great Gods forgive me! but he who is in there is loving, pious and brave, and pleases me—and thou, thou, who didst think yesterday to purge away the taint of his touch with a word—what prompts thee today to cast him with the lepers?”
“The admonition of an enlightened man, never to give up any link of the old institutions; because thereby the already weakened chain may be broken, and fall rattling to the ground.”
“Then thou condemnest me to uncleanness for the sake of all old superstition, and of the populace, but not for my actions? Thou art silent? Answer me now, if thou art such a one as I took the for, freely and sincerely; for it concerns the peace of my soul.” Pentaur breathed hard; and then from the depths of his soul, tormented by doubts, these deeply-felt words forced themselves as if wrung from him; at first softly, but louder as he went on.
“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.
The great doors of the pylon were wide open, and afforded a view into the forecourt of the sanctuary, paved with polished squares of stone, and surrounded on three sides with colonnades. The walls and architraves, the pillars and the fluted cornice, which slightly curved in over the court, were gorgeous with many colored figures and painted decorations. In the middle stood a great sacrificial altar, on which burned logs of cedar wood, whilst fragrant balls of Kyphi
[Kyphi was a celebrated Egyptian incense. Recipes for its preparation have been preserved in the papyrus of Ebers, in the laboratories of the temples, and elsewhere. Parthey had three different varieties prepared by the chemist, L. Voigt, in Berlin. Kyphi after the formula of Dioskorides was the best. It consisted of rosin, wine, rad, galangae, juniper berries, the root of the aromatic rush, asphalte, mastic, myrrh, Burgundy grapes, and honey.]
were consumed by the flames, filling the wide space with their heavy perfume. Around, in semi-circular array, stood more than a hundred white-robed priests, who all turned to face the approaching princess, and sang heart-rending songs of lamentation.
Many of the inhabitants of the Necropolis had collected on either side of the lines of sphinxes, between which the princess drove up to the Sanctuary. But none asked what these songs of lamentation might signify, for about this sacred place lamentation and mystery for ever lingered. “Hail to the child of Rameses!”—“All hail to the daughter of the Sun!” rang from a thousand throats; and the assembled multitude bowed almost to the earth at the approach of the royal maiden.
At the pylon, the princess descended from her chariot, and preceded by the chief of the haruspices, who had gravely and silently greeted her, passed on to the door of the temple. But as she prepared to cross the forecourt, suddenly, without warning, the priests’ chant swelled to a terrible, almost thundering loudness, the clear, shrill voice of the Temple scholars rising in passionate lament, supported by the deep and threatening roll of the basses.
Bent-Anat started and checked her steps. Then she walked on again.
But on the threshold of the door, Ameni, in full pontifical robes, stood before her in the way, his crozier extended as though to forbid her entrance.
“The advent of the daughter of Rameses in her purity,” he cried in loud and passionate tones, “augurs blessing to this sanctuary; but this abode of the Gods closes its portals on the unclean, be they slaves or princes. In the name of the Immortals, from whom thou art descended, I ask thee, Bent-Anat, art thou clean, or hast thou, through the touch of the unclean, defiled thyself and contaminated thy royal hand?”
Deep scarlet flushed the maiden’s cheeks, there was a rushing sound in her ears as of a stormy sea surging close beside her, and her bosom rose and fell in passionate emotion. The kingly blood in her veins boiled wildly; she felt that an unworthy part had been assigned to her in a carefully-premeditated scene; she forgot her resolution to accuse herself of uncleanness, and already her lips were parted in vehement protest against the priestly assumption that so deeply stirred her to rebellion, when Ameni, who placed himself directly in front of the Princess, raised his eyes, and turned them full upon her with all the depths of their indwelling earnestness.
The words died away, and Bent-Anat stood silent, but she endured the gaze, and returned it proudly and defiantly.
The blue veins started in Ameni’s forehead; yet he repressed the resentment which was gathering like thunder clouds in his soul, and said, with a voice that gradually deviated more and more from its usual moderation:
“For the second time the Gods demand through me, their representative: Hast thou entered this holy place in order that the Celestials may purge thee of the defilement that stains thy body and soul?”
“My father will communicate the answer to thee,” replied Bent-Anat shortly and proudly.
“Not to me,” returned Ameni, “but to the Gods, in whose name I now command thee to quit this sanctuary, which is defiled by thy presence.”
Bent-Anat’s whole form quivered. “I will go,” she said with sullen dignity.
She turned to recross the gateway of the Pylon. At the first step her glance met the eye of the poet. As one to whom it is vouchsafed to stand and gaze at some great prodigy, so Pentaur had stood opposite the royal maiden, uneasy and yet fascinated, agitated, yet with secretly uplifted soul. Her deed seemed to him of boundless audacity, and yet one suited to her true and noble nature. By her side, Ameni, his revered and admired master, sank into insignificance; and when she turned to leave the temple, his hand was raised indeed to hold her back, but as his glance met hers, his hand refused its office, and sought instead to still the throbbing of his overflowing heart.
The experienced priest, meanwhile, read the features of these two guileless beings like an open book. A quickly-formed tie, he felt, linked their souls, and the look which he saw them exchange startled him. The rebellious princess had glanced at the poet as though claiming approbation for her triumph, and Pentaur’s eyes had responded to the appeal.
One instant Ameni paused. Then he cried: “Bent-Anat!”
The princess turned to the priest, and looked at him gravely and enquiringly.
Ameni took a step forward, and stood between her and the poet.
“Thou wouldst challenge the Gods to combat,” he said sternly. “That is bold; but such daring it seems to me has grown up in thee because thou canst count on an ally, who stands scarcely farther from the Immortals than I myself. Hear this:—to thee, the misguided child, much may be forgiven. But a servant of the Divinity,” and with these words he turned a threatening glance on Pentaur—“a priest, who in the war of free-will against law becomes a deserter, who forgets his duty and his oath—he will not long stand beside thee to support thee, for he—even though every God had blessed him with the richest gifts—he is damned. We drive him from among us, we curse him, we—”
At these words Bent-Anat looked now at Ameni, trembling with excitement, now at Pentaur standing opposite to her. Her face was red and white by turns, as light and shade chase each other on the ground when at noon-day a palm-grove is stirred by a storm.
The poet took a step towards her.
She felt that if he spoke it would be to defend all that she had done, and to ruin himself. A deep sympathy, a nameless anguish seized her soul, and before Pentaur could open his lips, she had sunk slowly down before Ameni, saying in low tones:
“I have sinned and defiled myself; thou hast said it—as Pentaur said it by the hut of the paraschites. Restore me to cleanness, Ameni, for I am unclean.”
Like a flame that is crushed out by a hand, so the fire in the high-priest’s eye was extinguished. Graciously, almost lovingly, he looked down on the princess, blessed her and conducted her before the holy of holies, there had clouds of incense wafted round her, anointed her with the nine holy oils, and commanded her to return to the royal castle.
Yet, said he, her guilt was not expiated; she should shortly learn by what prayers and exercises she might attain once more to perfect purity before the Gods, of whom he purposed to enquire in the holy place.
During all these ceremonies the priests stationed in the forecourt continued their lamentations.
The people standing before the temple listened to the priest’s chant, and interrupted it from time to time with ringing cries of wailing, for already a dark rumor of what was going on within had spread among the multitude.
The sun was going down. The visitors to the Necropolis must soon be leaving it, and Bent-Anat, for whose appearance the people impatiently waited, would not show herself. One and another said the princess had been cursed, because she had taken remedies to the fair and injured Uarda, who was known to many of them.
Among the curious who had flocked together were many embalmers, laborers, and humble folk, who lived in the Necropolis. The mutinous and refractory temper of the Egyptians, which brought such heavy suffering on them under their later foreign rulers, was aroused, and rising with every minute. They reviled the pride of the priests, and their senseless, worthless, institutions. A drunken soldier, who soon reeled back into the tavern which he had but just left, distinguished himself as ringleader, and was the first to pick up a heavy stone to fling at the huge brass-plated temple gates. A few boys followed his example with shouts, and law-abiding men even, urged by the clamor of fanatical women, let themselves be led away to stone-flinging and words of abuse.
Within the House of Seti the priests’ chant went on uninterruptedly; but at last, when the noise of the crowd grew louder, the great gate was thrown open, and with a solemn step Ameni, in full robes, and followed by twenty pastophori—[An order of priests]—who bore images of the Gods and holy symbols on their shoulders—Ameni walked into the midst of the crowd.
All were silent.
“Wherefore do you disturb our worship?” he asked loudly and calmly.
A roar of confused cries answered him, in which the frequently repeated name of Bent-Anat could alone be distinguished.
Ameni preserved his immoveable composure, and, raising his crozier, he cried—
“Make way for the daughter of Rameses, who sought and has found purification from the Gods, who behold the guilt of the highest as of the lowest among you. They reward the pious, but they punish the offender. Kneel down and let us pray that they may forgive you, and bless both you and your children.”
Ameni took the holy Sistrum
[A rattling metal instrument used by the Egyptians in the service of the Gods. Many specimens are extant in Museums. Plutarch describes it correctly, thus: “The Sistrum is rounded above, and the loop holds the four bars which are shaken.” On the bend of the Sistrum they often set the head of a cat with a human face.]
from one of the attendant pastophori, and held it on high; the priests behind him raised a solemn hymn, and the crowd sank on their knees; nor did they move till the chant ceased and the high-priest again cried out:
“The Immortals bless you by me their servant. Leave this spot and make way for the daughter of Rameses.”
With these words he withdrew into the temple, and the patrol, without meeting with any opposition, cleared the road guarded by Sphinxes which led to the Nile.
As Bent-Anat mounted her chariot Ameni said “Thou art the child of kings. The house of thy father rests on the shoulders of the people. Loosen the old laws which hold them subject, and the people will conduct themselves like these fools.”
Ameni retired. Bent-Anat slowly arranged the reins in her hand, her eyes resting the while on the poet, who, leaning against a door-post, gazed at her in beatitude. She let her whip fall to the ground, that he might pick it up and restore it to her, but he did not observe it. A runner sprang forward and handed it to the princess, whose horses started off, tossing themselves and neighing.
Pentaur remained as if spell-bound, standing by the pillar, till the rattle of the departing wheels on the flag-way of the Avenue of Sphinxes had altogether died away, and the reflection of the glowing sunset painted the eastern hills with soft and rosy hues.
The far-sounding clang of a brass gong roused the poet from his ecstasy. It was the tomtom calling him to duty, to the lecture on rhetoric which at this hour he had to deliver to the young priests. He laid his left hand to his heart, and pressed his right hand to his forehead, as if to collect in its grasp his wandering thoughts; then silently and mechanically he went towards the open court in which his disciples awaited him. But instead of, as usual, considering on the way the subject he was to treat, his spirit and heart were occupied with the occurrences of the last few hours. One image reigned supreme in his imagination, filling it with delight—it was that of the fairest woman, who, radiant in her royal dignity and trembling with pride, had thrown herself in the dust for his sake. He felt as if her action had invested her whole being with a new and princely worth, as if her glance had brought light to his inmost soul, he seemed to breathe a freer air, to be borne onward on winged feet.
In such a mood he appeared before his hearers. When he found himself confronting all the the well-known faces, he remembered what it was he was called upon to do. He supported himself against the wall of the court, and opened the papyrus-roll handed to him by his favorite pupil, the young Anana. It was the book which twenty-four hours ago he had promised to begin upon. He looked now upon the characters that covered it, and felt that he was unable to read a word.
With a powerful effort he collected himself, and looking upwards tried to find the thread he had cut at the end of yesterday’s lecture, and intended to resume to-day; but between yesterday and to-day, as it seemed to him, lay a vast sea whose roaring surges stunned his memory and powers of thought.
His scholars, squatting cross-legged on reed mats before him, gazed in astonishment on their silent master who was usually so ready of speech, and looked enquiringly at each other. A young priest whispered to his neighbor, “He is praying—” and Anana noticed with silent anxiety the strong hand of his teacher clutching the manuscript so tightly that the slight material of which it consisted threatened to split.
At last Pentaur looked down; he had found a subject. While he was looking upwards his gaze fell on the opposite wall, and the painted name of the king with the accompanying title “the good God” met his eye. Starting from these words he put this question to his hearers, “How do we apprehend the Goodness of the Divinity?”
He challenged one priest after another to treat this subject as if he were standing before his future congregation.
Several disciples rose, and spoke with more or less truth and feeling. At last it came to Anana’s turn, who, in well-chosen words, praised the purpose-full beauty of animate and inanimate creation, in which the goodness of Amon
[Amon, that is to say, “the hidden one.” He was the God of Thebes, which was under his aegis, and after the Hykssos were expelled from the Nile-valley, he was united with Ra of Heliopolis and endowed with the attributes of all the remaining Gods. His nature was more and more spiritualized, till in the esoteric philosophy of the time of the Rameses he is compared to the All filling and All guiding intelligence. He is “the husband of his mother, his own father, and his own son,” As the living Osiris, he is the soul and spirit of all creation.]
[Ra, originally the
Sun-God; later his name was introduced into the
pantheistic mystic philosophy for that of the God who is the
[Ptah is the Greek Henhaistas, the oldest of the Gods, the great maker of the material for the creation, the “first beginner,” by whose side the seven Chnemu stand, as architects, to help him, and who was named “the lord of truth,” because the laws and conditions of being proceeded from him. He created also the germ of light, he stood therefore at the head of the solar Gods, and was called the creator of ice, from which, when he had cleft it, the sun and the moan came forth. Hence his name “the opener.”]
as well as of the other Gods, finds expression.
Pentaur listened to the youth with folded arms, now looking at him enquiringly, now adding approbation. Then taking up the thread of the, discourse when it was ended, he began himself to speak.
Like obedient falcons at the call of the falconer, thoughts rushed down into his mind, and the divine passion awakened in his breast glowed and shone through his inspired language that soared every moment on freer and stronger wings. Melting into pathos, exulting in rapture, he praised the splendor of nature; and the words flowed from his lips like a limpid crystal-clear stream as he glorified the eternal order of things, and the incomprehensible wisdom and care of the Creator—the One, who is one alone, and great and without equal.
“So incomparable,” he said in conclusion, “is the home which God has given us. All that He—the One—has created is penetrated with His own essence, and bears witness to His Goodness. He who knows how to find Him sees Him everywhere, and lives at every instant in the enjoyment of His glory. Seek Him, and when ye have found Him fall down and sing praises before Him. But praise the Highest, not only in gratitude for the splendor of that which he has created, but for having given us the capacity for delight in his work. Ascend the mountain peaks and look on the distant country, worship when the sunset glows with rubies, and the dawn with roses, go out in the nighttime, and look at the stars as they travel in eternal, unerring, immeasurable, and endless circles on silver barks through the blue vault of heaven, stand by the cradle of the child, by the buds of the
The tomtom which announced the end of the hour interrupted him.
Pentaur ceased speaking with a deep sigh, and for a minute not a scholar moved.
At last the poet laid the papyrus roll out of his hand, wiped the sweat from his hot brow, and walked slowly towards the gate of the court, which led into the sacred grove of the temple. He had hardly crossed the threshold when he felt a hand laid upon his shoulder.
He looked round. Behind him stood Ameni. “You fascinated your hearers, my friend,” said the high-priest, coldly; “it is a pity that only the Harp was wanting.”
Ameni’s words fell on the agitated spirit of the poet like ice on the breast of a man in fever. He knew this tone in his master’s voice, for thus he was accustomed to reprove bad scholars and erring priests; but to him he had never yet so spoken.
“It certainly would seem,” continued the high-priest, bitterly, “as if in your intoxication you had forgotten what it becomes the teacher to utter in the lecture-hall. Only a few weeks since you swore on my hands to guard the mysteries, and this day you have offered the great secret of the Unnameable one, the most sacred possession of the initiated, like some cheap ware in the open market.”
“Thou cuttest with knives,” said Pentaur.
“May they prove sharp, and extirpate the undeveloped canker, the rank weed from your soul,” cried the high-priest. “You are young, too young; not like the tender fruit-tree that lets itself be trained aright, and brought to perfection, but like the green fruit on the ground, which will turn to poison for the children who pick it up—yea even though it fall from a sacred tree. Gagabu and I received you among us, against the opinion of the majority of the initiated. We gainsaid all those who doubted your ripeness because of your youth; and you swore to me, gratefully and enthusiastically, to guard the mysteries and the law. To-day for the first time I set you on the battle-field of life beyond the peaceful shelter of the schools. And how have you defended the standard that it was incumbent on you to uphold and maintain?”
“I did that which seemed to me to be right and true,” answered Pentaur deeply moved.
“Right is the same for you as for us—what the law prescribes; and what is truth?”
“None has lifted her veil,” said Pentaur, “but my soul is the offspring of the soul-filled body of the All; a portion of the infallible spirit of the Divinity stirs in my breast, and if it shows itself potent in me—”
“How easily we may mistake the flattering voice of self-love for that of the Divinity!”
“Cannot the Divinity which works and speaks in me—as in thee—as in each of us—recognize himself and his own voice?”
“If the crowd were to hear you,” Ameni interrupted him, “each would set himself on his little throne, would proclaim the voice of the god within him as his guide, tear the law to shreds, and let the fragments fly to the desert on the east wind.”
“I am one of the elect whom thou thyself hast taught to seek and to find the One. The light which I gaze on and am blest, would strike the crowd —I do not deny it—with blindness—”
“And nevertheless you blind our disciples with the dangerous glare-”
“I am educating them for future sages.”
“And that with the hot overflow of a heart intoxicated with love!”
“I stand before you, uninvited, as your teacher, who reproves you out of the law, which always and everywhere is wiser than the individual, whose defender the king—among his highest titles—boasts of being, and to which the sage bows as much as the common man whom we bring up to blind belief—I stand before you as your father, who has loved you from a child, and expected from none of his disciples more than from you; and who will therefore neither lose you nor abandon the hope he has set upon you—
“Make ready to leave our quiet house early tomorrow morning. You have forfeited your office of teacher. You shall now go into the school of life, and make yourself fit for the honored rank of the initiated which, by my error, was bestowed on you too soon. You must leave your scholars without any leave-taking, however hard it may appear to you. After the star of Sothis
[The holy star of Isis, Sirius or the dog star, whose course in the time of the Pharaohs coincided with the exact Solar year, and served at a very early date as a foundation for the reckoning of time among the Egyptians.]
has risen come for your instructions. You must in these next months try to lead the priesthood in the temple of Hatasu, and in that post to win back my confidence which you have thrown away. No remonstrance; to-night you will receive my blessing, and our authority—you must greet the rising sun from the terrace of the new scene of your labors. May the Unnameable stamp the law upon your soul!”
Ameni returned to his room.
He walked restlessly to and fro.
On a little table lay a mirror; he looked into the clear metal pane, and laid it back in its place again, as if he had seen some strange and displeasing countenance.
The events of the last few hours had moved him deeply, and shaken his confidence in his unerring judgment of men and things.
The priests on the other bank of the Nile were Bent-Anat’s counsellors, and he had heard the princess spoken of as a devout and gifted maiden. Her incautious breach of the sacred institutions had seemed to him to offer a welcome opportunity for humiliating—a member of the royal family.
Now he told himself that he had undervalued this young creature that he had behaved clumsily, perhaps foolishly, to her; for he did not for a moment conceal from himself that her sudden change of demeanor resulted much more from the warm flow of her sympathy, or perhaps of her, affection, than from any recognition of her guilt, and he could not utilize her transgression with safety to himself, unless she felt herself guilty.
Nor was he of so great a nature as to be wholly free from vanity, and his vanity had been deeply wounded by the haughty resistance of the princess.
When he commanded Pentaur to meet the princess with words of reproof, he had hoped to awaken his ambition through the proud sense of power over the mighty ones of the earth.
How had his gifted admirer, the most hopeful of all his disciples, stood the test.
The one ideal of his life, the unlimited dominion of the priestly idea over the minds of men, and of the priesthood over the king himself, had hitherto remained unintelligible to this singular young man.
He must learn to understand it.
“Here, as the least among a hundred who are his superiors, all the powers of resistance of his soaring soul have been roused,” said Ameni to himself. “In the temple of Hatasu he will have to rule over the inferior orders of slaughterers of victims and incense-burners; and, by requiring obedience, will learn to estimate the necessity of it. The rebel, to whom a throne devolves, becomes a tyrant!”
“Pentuar’s poet soul,” so he continued to reflect “has quickly yielded itself a prisoner to the charm of Bent-Anat; and what woman could resist this highly favored being, who is radiant in beauty as Ra-Harmachis, and from whose lips flows speech as sweet as Techuti’s. They ought never to meet again, for no tie must bind him to the house of Rameses.”
Again he paced to and fro, and murmured:
“How is this? Two of my disciples have towered above their fellows, in genius and gifts, like palm trees above their undergrowth. I brought them up to succeed me, to inherit my labors and my hopes.
“Mesu fell away;
[Mesu is the Egyptian
name of Moses, whom we may consider as a
contemporary of Rameses, under whose successor the exodus of the
Jews from Egypt took place.]
and Pentaur may follow him. Must my aim be an unworthy one because it does not attract the noblest? Not so. Each feels himself made of better stuff than his companions in destiny, constitutes his own law, and fears to see the great expended in trifles; but I think otherwise; like a brook of ferruginous water from Lebanon, I mix with the great stream, and tinge it with my color.”
Thinking thus Ameni stood still.
Then he called to one of the so-called “holy fathers,” his private secretary, and said:
“Draw up at once a document, to be sent to all the priests’-colleges in the land. Inform them that the daughter of Rameses has lapsed seriously from the law, and defiled herself, and direct that public—you hear me public—prayers shall be put up for her purification in every temple. Lay the letter before me to be signed within in hour. But no! Give me your reed and palette; I will myself draw up the instructions.”
The “holy father” gave him writing materials, and retired into the background. Ameni muttered: “The King will do us some unheard-of violence! Well, this writing may be the first arrow in opposition to his lance.”
The moon was risen over the city of the living that lay opposite the Necropolis of Thebes.
The evening song had died away in the temples, that stood about a mile from the Nile, connected with each other by avenues of sphinxes and pylons; but in the streets of the city life seemed only just really awake.
The coolness, which had succeeded the heat of the summer day, tempted the citizens out into the air, in front of their doors or on the roofs and turrets of their houses; or at the tavern-tables, where they listened to the tales of the story-tellers while they refreshed them selves with beer, wine, and the sweet juice of fruits. Many simple folks squatted in circular groups on the ground, and joined in the burden of songs which were led by an appointed singer, to the sound of a tabor and flute.
To the south of the temple of Amon stood the king’s palace, and near it, in more or less extensive gardens, rose the houses of the magnates of the kingdom, among which, one was distinguished by it splendor and extent.
Paaker, the king’s pioneer, had caused it to be erected after the death of his father, in the place of the more homely dwelling of his ancestors, when he hoped to bring home his cousin, and install her as its mistress. A few yards further to the east was another stately though older and less splendid house, which Mena, the king’s charioteer, had inherited from his father, and which was inhabited by his wife Nefert and her mother Isatuti, while he himself, in the distant Syrian land, shared the tent of the king, as being his body-guard. Before the door of each house stood servants bearing torches, and awaiting the long deferred return home of their masters.
The gate, which gave admission to Paaker’s plot of ground through the wall which surrounded it, was disproportionately, almost ostentatiously, high and decorated with various paintings. On the right hand and on the left, two cedar-trunks were erected as masts to carry standards; he had had them felled for the purpose on Lebanon, and forwarded by ship to Pelusium on the north-east coast of Egypt. Thence they were conveyed by the Nile to Thebes.
On passing through the gate one entered a wide, paved court-yard, at the sides of which walks extended, closed in at the back, and with roofs supported on slender painted wooden columns. Here stood the pioneer’s horses and chariots, here dwelt his slaves, and here the necessary store of produce for the month’s requirements was kept.
In the farther wall of this store-court was a very high doorway, that led into a large garden with rows of well-tended trees and trellised vines, clumps of shrubs, flowers, and beds of vegetables. Palms, sycamores, and acacia-trees, figs, pomegranates, and jasmine throve here particularly well—for Paaker’s mother, Setchem, superintended the labors of the gardeners; and in the large tank in the midst there was never any lack of water for watering the beds and the roots of the trees, as it was always supplied by two canals, into which wheels turned by oxen poured water day and night from the Nile-stream.
On the right side of this plot of ground rose the one-storied dwelling house, its length stretching into distant perspective, as it consisted of a single row of living and bedrooms. Almost every room had its own door, that opened into a veranda supported by colored wooden columns, and which extended the whole length of the garden side of the house. This building was joined at a right angle by a row of store-rooms, in which the garden-produce in fruits and vegetables, the wine-jars, and the possessions of the house in woven stuffs, skins, leather, and other property were kept.
In a chamber of strong masonry lay safely locked up the vast riches accumulated by Paaker’s father and by himself, in gold and silver rings, vessels and figures of beasts. Nor was there lack of bars of copper and of precious stones, particularly of lapis-lazuli and malachite.
In the middle of the garden stood a handsomely decorated kiosk, and a chapel with images of the Gods; in the background stood the statues of Paaker’s ancestors in the form of Osiris wrapped in mummy-cloths.
[The justified dead
became Osiris; that is to say, attained to the
fullest union (Henosis) with the divinity.]
The faces, which were likenesses, alone distinguished these statues from each other.
The left side of the store-yard was veiled in gloom, yet the moonlight revealed numerous dark figures clothed only with aprons, the slaves of the king’s pioneer, who squatted on the ground in groups of five or six, or lay near each other on thin mats of palm-bast, their hard beds.
Not far from the gate, on the right side of the court, a few lamps lighted up a group of dusky men, the officers of Paaker’s household, who wore short, shirt-shaped, white garments, and who sat on a carpet round a table hardly two feet high. They were eating their evening-meal, consisting of a roasted antelope, and large flat cakes of bread. Slaves waited on them, and filled their earthen beakers with yellow beer. The steward cut up the great roast on the table, offered the intendant of the gardens a piece of antelope-leg, and said:
[The Greeks and Romans report that the Egyptians were so addicted to satire and pungent witticisms that they would hazard property and life to gratify their love of mockery. The scandalous pictures in the so-called kiosk of Medinet Habu, the caricatures in an indescribable papyrus at Turin, confirm these statements. There is a noteworthy passage in Flavius Vopiscus, that compares the Egyptians to the French.]
“My arms ache; the mob of slaves get more and more dirty and refractory.”
“I notice it in the palm-trees,” said the gardener, “you want so many cudgels that their crowns will soon be as bare as a moulting bird.”
“We should do as the master does,” said the head-groom, “and get sticks of ebony—they last a hundred years.”
“At any rate longer than men’s bones,” laughed the chief neat-herd, who had come in to town from the pioneer’s country estate, bringing with him animals for sacrifices, butter and cheese. “If we were all to follow the master’s example, we should soon have none but cripples in the servant’s house.”
“Out there lies the lad whose collar-bone he broke yesterday,” said the steward, “it is a pity, for he was a clever mat-platter. The old lord hit softer.”
“You ought to know!” cried a small voice, that sounded mockingly behind the feasters.
They looked and laughed when they recognized the strange guest, who had approached them unobserved.
The new comer was a deformed little man about as big as a five-year-old boy, with a big head and oldish but uncommonly sharply-cut features.
The noblest Egyptians kept house-dwarfs for sport, and this little wight served the wife of Mena in this capacity. He was called Nemu, or “the dwarf,” and his sharp tongue made him much feared, though he was a favorite, for he passed for a very clever fellow and was a good tale-teller.
“Make room for me, my lords,” said the little man. “I take very little room, and your beer and roast is in little danger from me, for my maw is no bigger than a fly’s head.”
“But your gall is as big as that of a Nile-horse,” cried the cook.
“It grows,” said the dwarf laughing, “when a turn-spit and spoon-wielder like you turns up. There—I will sit here.”
“You are welcome,” said the steward, “what do you bring?”
“Then you bring nothing great.”
“Else I should not suit you either!” retorted the dwarf. “But seriously, my lady mother, the noble Katuti, and the Regent, who just now is visiting us, sent me here to ask you whether Paaker is not yet returned. He accompanied the princess and Nefert to the City of the Dead, and the ladies are not yet come in. We begin to be anxious, for it is already late.”
The steward looked up at the starry sky and said: “The moon is already tolerably high, and my lord meant to be home before sun-down.”
“The meal was ready,” sighed the cook. “I shall have to go to work again if he does not remain all night.”
“How should he?” asked the steward. “He is with the princess Bent-Anat.”
“And my mistress,” added the dwarf.
“What will they say to each other,” laughed gardener; “your chief litter-bearer declared that yesterday on the way to the City of the Dead they did not speak a word to each other.”
“Can you blame the lord if he is angry with the lady who was betrothed to him, and then was wed to another? When I think of the moment when he learnt Nefert’s breach of faith I turn hot and cold.”
“Care the less for that,” sneered the dwarf, “since you must be hot in summer and cold in winter.”
“It is not evening all day,” cried the head groom. “Paaker never forgets an injury, and we shall live to see him pay Mena—high as he is—for the affront he has offered him.
“My lady Katuti,” interrupted Nemu, “stores up the arrears of her son-in-law.”
Besides, she has long wished to renew the old friendship with your house, and the Regent too preaches peace. Give me a piece of bread, steward. I am hungry!”
“The sacks, into which Mena’s arrears flow seem to be empty,” laughed the cook.
“Empty! empty! much like your wit!” answered the dwarf. “Give me a bit of roast meat, steward; and you slaves bring me a drink of beer.”
“You just now said your maw was no bigger than a fly’s head,” cried the cook, “and now you devour meat like the crocodiles in the sacred tank of Seeland. You must come from a world of upside-down, where the men are as small as flies, and the flies as big as the giants of the past.”
“Yet, I might be much bigger,” mumbled the dwarf while he munched on unconcernedly, “perhaps as big as your spite which grudges me the third bit of meat, which the steward—may Zefa bless him with great possessions —is cutting out of the back of the antelope.”
“There, take it, you glutton, but let out your girdle,” said the steward laughing, “I had cut the slice for myself, and admire your sharp nose.”
“All noses,” said the dwarf, “they teach the knowing better than any haruspex what is inside a man.”
“How is that?” cried the gardener.
“Only try to display your wisdom,” laughed the steward; for, if you want to talk, you must at last leave off eating.”
“The two may be combined,” said the dwarf. “Listen then! A hooked nose, which I compare to a vulture’s beak, is never found together with a submissive spirit. Think of the Pharaoh and all his haughty race. The Regent, on the contrary, has a straight, well-shaped, medium-sized nose, like the statue of Amon in the temple, and he is an upright soul, and as good as the Gods. He is neither overbearing nor submissive beyond just what is right; he holds neither with the great nor yet with the mean, but with men of our stamp. There’s the king for us!”
“A king of noses!” exclaimed the cook, “I prefer the eagle Rameses. But what do you say to the nose of your mistress Nefert?”
“It is delicate and slender and moves with every thought like the leaves of flowers in a breath of wind, and her heart is exactly like it.”
“And Paaker?” asked the head groom.
“He has a large short nose with wide open nostrils. When Seth whirls up the sand, and a grain of it flies up his nose, he waxes angry—so it is Paaker’s nose, and that only, which is answerable for all your blue bruises. His mother Setchem, the sister of my lady Katuti, has a little roundish soft—”
“You pigmy,” cried the steward interrupting the speaker, “we have fed you and let you abuse people to your heart’s content, but if you wag your sharp tongue against our mistress, I will take you by the girdle and fling you to the sky, so that the stars may remain sticking to your crooked hump.”
At these words the dwarf rose, turned to go, and said indifferently: “I would pick the stars carefully off my back, and send you the finest of the planets in return for your juicy bit of roast. But here come the chariots. Farewell! my lords, when the vulture’s beak seizes one of you and carries you off to the war in Syria, remember the words of the little Nemu who knows men and noses.”
The pioneer’s chariot rattled through the high gates into the court of his house, the dogs in their leashes howled joyfully, the head groom hastened towards Paaker and took the reins in his charge, the steward accompanied him, and the head cook retired into the kitchen to make ready a fresh meal for his master.
Before Paaker had reached the garden-gate, from the pylon of the enormous temple of Amon, was heard first the far-sounding clang of hard-struck plates of brass, and then the many-voiced chant of a solemn hymn.
The Mohar stood still, looked up to heaven, called to his servants—“The divine star Sothis is risen!” threw himself on the earth, and lifted his wards the star in prayer.
The slaves and officers immediately followed his example.
No circumstance in nature remained unobserved by the priestly guides of the Egyptian people. Every phenomenon on earth or in the starry heavens was greeted by them as the manifestation of a divinity, and they surrounded the life of the inhabitants of the Nile-valley—from morning to evening—from the beginning of the inundation to the days of drought— with a web of chants and sacrifices, of processions and festivals, which inseparably knit the human individual to the Divinity and its earthly representatives the priesthood.
For many minutes the lord and his servants remained on their knees in silence, their eyes fixed on the sacred star, and listening to the pious chant of the priests.
As it died away Paaker rose. All around him still lay on the earth; only one naked figure, strongly lighted by the clear moonlight, stood motionless by a pillar near the slaves’ quarters.
The pioneer gave a sign, the attendants rose; but Paaker went with hasty steps to the man who had disdained the act of devotion, which he had so earnestly performed, and cried:
“Steward, a hundred strokes on the soles of the feet of this scoffer.”
The officer thus addressed bowed and said: “My lord, the surgeon commanded the mat-weaver not to move and he cannot lift his arm. He is suffering great pain. Thou didst break his collar-bone yesterday.
“It served him right!” said Paaker, raising his voice so much that the injured man could not fail to hear it. Then he turned his back upon him, and entered the garden; here he called the chief butler, and said: “Give the slaves beer for their night draught—to all of them, and plenty.”
A few minutes later he stood before his mother, whom he found on the roof of the house, which was decorated with leafy plants, just as she gave her two-years’-old grand daughter, the child of her youngest son, into the arms of her nurse, that she might take her to bed.
Paaker greeted the worthy matron with reverence. She was a woman of a friendly, homely aspect; several little dogs were fawning at her feet. Her son put aside the leaping favorites of the widow, whom they amused through many long hours of loneliness, and turned to take the child in his arms from those of the attendant. But the little one struggled with such loud cries, and could not be pacified, that Paaker set it down on the ground, and involuntarily exclaimed:
“The naughty little thing!”
“She has been sweet and good the whole afternoon,” said his mother Setchem. “She sees you so seldom.”
“May be,” replied Paaker; “still I know this—the dogs love me, but no child will come to me.”
“You have such hard hands.”
“Take the squalling brat away,” said Paaker to the nurse. “Mother, I want to speak to you.”
Setchem quieted the child, gave it many kisses, and sent it to bed; then she went up to her son, stroked his cheeks, and said:
“If the little one were your own, she would go to you at once, and teach you that a child is the greatest blessing which the Gods bestow on us mortals.” Paaker smiled and said: “I know what you are aiming at—but leave it for the present, for I have something important to communicate to you.”
“Well?” asked Setchem.
“To-day for the first time since—you know when, I have spoken to Nefert. The past may be forgotten. You long for your sister; go to her, I have nothing more to say against it.”
Setchem looked at her son with undisguised astonishment; her eyes which easily filled with tears, now overflowed, and she hesitatingly asked: “Can I believe my ears; child, have you?—”
“I have a wish,” said Paaker firmly, “that you should knit once more the old ties of affection with your relations; the estrangement has lasted long enough.”
“Much too long!” cried Setchem.
The pioneer looked in silence at the ground, and obeyed his mother’s sign to sit down beside her.
“I knew,” she said, taking his hand, “that this day would bring us joy; for I dreamt of your father in Osiris, and when I was being carried to the temple, I was met, first by a white cow, and then by a wedding procession. The white ram of Anion, too, touched the wheat-cakes that I offered him.”—[It boded death to Germanicus when the Apis refused to eat out of his hand.]
“Those are lucky presages,” said Paaker in a tone of conviction.
“And let us hasten to seize with gratitude that which the Gods set before us,” cried Setchem with joyful emotion. “I will go to-morrow to my sister and tell her that we shall live together in our old affection, and share both good and evil; we are both of the same race, and I know that, as order and cleanliness preserve a house from ruin and rejoice the stranger, so nothing but unity can keep up the happiness of the family and its appearance before people. What is bygone is bygone, and let it be forgotten. There are many women in Thebes besides Nefert, and a hundred nobles in the land would esteem themselves happy to win you for a son-in-law.”
Paaker rose, and began thoughtfully pacing the broad space, while Setchem went on speaking.
“I know,” she said, that I have touched a wound in thy heart; but it is already closing, and it will heal when you are happier even than the charioteer Mena, and need no longer hate him. Nefert is good, but she is delicate and not clever, and scarcely equal to the management of so large a household as ours. Ere long I too shall be wrapped in mummy-cloths, and then if duty calls you into Syria some prudent housewife must take my place. It is no small matter. Your grandfather Assa often would say that a house well-conducted in every detail was a mark of a family owning an unspotted name, and living with wise liberality and secure solidity, in which each had his assigned place, his allotted duty to fulfil, and his fixed rights to demand. How often have I prayed to the Hathors that they may send you a wife after my own heart.”
“A Setchem I shall never find!” said Paaker kissing his mother’s forehead, “women of your sort are dying out.”
“Flatterer!” laughed Setchem, shaking her finger at her son. But it is true. Those who are now growing up dress and smarten themselves with stuffs from Kaft,—[Phoenicia]—mix their language with Syrian words, and leave the steward and housekeeper free when they themselves ought to command. Even my sister Katuti, and Nefert—
“Nefert is different from other women,” interrupted Paaker, “and if you had brought her up she would know how to manage a house as well as how to ornament it.”
Setchem looked at her son in surprise; then she said, half to herself: “Yes, yes, she is a sweet child; it is impossible for any one to be angry with her who looks into her eyes. And yet I was cruel to her because you were hurt by her, and because—but you know. But now you have forgiven, I forgive her, willingly, her and her husband.”
Paaker’s brow clouded, and while he paused in front of his mother he said with all the peculiar harshness of his voice:
“He shall pine away in the desert, and the hyaenas of the North shall tear his unburied corpse.”
At these words Setchem covered her face with her veil, and clasped her hands tightly over the amulets hanging round her neck. Then she said softly:
“How terrible you can be! I know well that you hate the charioteer, for I have seen the seven arrows over your couch over which is written ’Death to Mena.’
“That is a Syrian charm which a man turns against any one whom he desires to destroy. How black you look! Yes, it is a charm that is hateful to the Gods, and that gives the evil one power over him that uses it. Leave it to them to punish the criminal, for Osiris withdraws his favor from those who choose the fiend for their ally.”
“My sacrifices,” replied Paaker, “secure me the favor of the Gods; but Mena behaved to me like a vile robber, and I only return to him the evil that belongs to him. Enough of this! and if you love me, never again utter the name of my enemy before me. I have forgiven Nefert and her mother—that may satisfy you.”
Setchem shook her head, and said: “What will it lead to! The war cannot last for ever, and if Mena returns the reconciliation of to-day will turn to all the more bitter enmity. I see only one remedy. Follow my advice, and let me find you a wife worthy of you.”
“Not now!” exclaimed Paaker impatiently. “In a few days I must go again into the enemy’s country, and do not wish to leave my wife, like Mena, to lead the life of a widow during my existence. Why urge it? my brother’s wife and children are with you—that might satisfy you.”
“The Gods know how I love them,” answered Setchem; “but your brother Horns is the younger, and you the elder, to whom the inheritance belongs. Your little niece is a delightful plaything, but in your son I should see at once the future stay of our race, the future head of the family; brought up to my mind and your father’s; for all is sacred to me that my dead husband wished. He rejoiced in your early betrothal to Nefert, and hoped that a son of his eldest son should continue the race of Assa.”
“It shall be by no fault of mine that any wish of his remains unfulfilled. The stars are high, mother; sleep well, and if to-morrow you visit Nefert and your sister, say to them that the doors of my house are open to them. But stay! Katuti’s steward has offered to sell a herd of cattle to ours, although the stock on Mena’s land can be but small. What does this mean?”
“You know my sister,” replied Setchem. “She manages Mena’s possessions, has many requirements, tries to vie with the greatest in splendor, sees the governor often in her house, her son is no doubt extravagant—and so the most necessary things may often be wanting.”
Paaker shrugged his shoulders, once more embraced his mother and left her.
Soon after, he was standing in the spacious room in which he was accustomed to sit and to sleep when he was in Thebes. The walls of this room were whitewashed and decorated with pious glyphic writing, which framed in the door and the windows opening into the garden.
In the middle of the farther wall was a couch in the form of a lion. The upper end of it imitated a lion’s head, and the foot, its curling tail; a finely dressed lion’s skin was spread over the bell, and a headrest of ebony, decorated with pious texts, stood on a high foot-step, ready for the sleeper.
Above the bed various costly weapons and whips were elegantly displayed, and below them the seven arrows over which Setchem had read the words “Death to Mena.” They were written across a sentence which enjoined feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and clothing the naked; with loving-kindness, alike to the great and the humble.
A niche by the side of the bed-head was closed with a curtain of purple stuff.
In each corner of the room stood a statue; three of them symbolized the triad of Thebes-Anion, Muth, and Chunsu—and the fourth the dead father of the pioneer. In front of each was a small altar for offerings, with a hollow in it, in which was an odoriferous essence. On a wooden stand were little images of the Gods and amulets in great number, and in several painted chests lay the clothes, the ornaments and the papers of the master. In the midst of the chamber stood a table and several stool-shaped seats.
When Paaker entered the room he found it lighted with lamps, and a large dog sprang joyfully to meet him. He let him spring upon him, threw him to the ground, let him once more rush upon him, and then kissed his clever head.
Before his bed an old negro of powerful build lay in deep sleep. Paaker shoved him with his foot and called to him as he awoke—
“I am hungry.”
The grey-headed black man rose slowly, and left the room.
As soon as he was alone Paaker drew the philter from his girdle, looked at it tenderly, and put it in a box, in which there were several flasks of holy oils for sacrifice. He was accustomed every evening to fill the hollows in the altars with fresh essences, and to prostrate himself in prayer before the images of the Gods. To-day he stood before the statue of his father, kissed its feet, and murmured: “Thy will shall be done.— The woman whom thou didst intend for me shall indeed be mine—thy eldest son’s.”
Then he walked to and fro and thought over the events of the day.
At last he stood still, with his arms crossed, and looked defiantly at the holy images; like a traveller who drives away a false guide, and thinks to find the road by himself.
His eye fell on the arrows over his bed; he smiled, and striking his broad breast with his fist, he exclaimed, “I—I—I—”
His hound, who thought his master meant to call him, rushed up to him. He pushed him off and said—“If you meet a hyaena in the desert, you fall upon it without waiting till it is touched by my lance—and if the Gods, my masters, delay, I myself will defend my right; but thou,” he continued turning to the image of his father, “thou wilt support me.”
This soliloquy was interrupted by the slaves who brought in his meal.
Paaker glanced at the various dishes which the cook had prepared for him, and asked: “How often shall I command that not a variety, but only one large dish shall be dressed for me? And the wine?”
“Thou art used never to touch it?” answered the old negro.
“But to-day I wish for some,” said the pioneer.” Bring one of the old jars of red wine of Kakem.”
The slaves looked at each other in astonishment; the wine was brought, and Paaker emptied beaker after beaker. When the servants had left him, the boldest among them said: “Usually the master eats like a lion, and drinks like a midge, but to-day—”
“Hold your tongue!” cried his companion, “and come into the court, for Paaker has sent us out beer. The Hathors must have met him.”
The occurrences of the day must indeed have taken deep hold on the inmost soul of the pioneer; for he, the most sober of all the warriors of Rameses, to whom intoxication was unknown, and who avoided the banquets of his associates—now sat at the midnight hours, alone at his table, and toped till his weary head grew heavy.
He collected himself, went towards his couch and drew the curtain which concealed the niche at the head of the bed. A female figure, with the head-dress and attributes of the Goddess Hathor, made of painted limestone, revealed itself.
Her countenance had the features of the wife of Mena.
The king, four years since, had ordered a sculptor to execute a sacred image with the lovely features of the newly-married bride of his charioteer, and Paaker had succeeded in having a duplicate made.
He now knelt down on the couch, gazed on the image with moist eyes, looked cautiously around to see if he was alone, leaned forward, pressed a kiss to the delicate, cold stone lips; laid down and went to sleep without undressing himself, and leaving the lamps to burn themselves out.
Restless dreams disturbed his spirit, and when the dawn grew grey, he screamed out, tormented by a hideous vision, so pitifully, that the old negro, who had laid himself near the dog at the foot of his bed, sprang up alarmed, and while the dog howled, called him by his name to wake him.
Paaker awoke with a dull head-ache. The vision which had tormented him stood vividly before his mind, and he endeavored to retain it that he might summon a haruspex to interpret it. After the morbid fancies of the preceding evening he felt sad and depressed.
The morning-hymn rang into his room with a warning voice from the temple of Amon; he cast off evil thoughts, and resolved once more to resign the conduct of his fate to the Gods, and to renounce all the arts of magic.
As he was accustomed, he got into the bath that was ready for him. While splashing in the tepid water he thought with ever increasing eagerness of Nefert and of the philter which at first he had meant not to offer to her, but which actually was given to her by his hand, and which might by this time have begun to exercise its charm.
Love placed rosy pictures—hatred set blood-red images before his eyes. He strove to free himself from the temptations, which more and more tightly closed in upon him, but it was with him as with a man who has fallen into a bog, who, the more vehemently he tries to escape from the mire, sinks the deeper.
As the sun rose, so rose his vital energy and his self-confidence, and when he prepared to quit his dwelling, in his most costly clothing, he had arrived once more at the decision of the night before, and had again resolved to fight for his purpose, without—and if need were—against the Gods.
The Mohar had chosen his road, and he never turned back when once he had begun a journey.
Blossom of the thorny wreath of sorrow
Eyes kind and frank, without tricks of glance
Money is a pass-key that turns any lock
Repugnance for the old laws began to take root in his heart
Thou canst say in words what we can only feel
Whether the form of our benevolence does more good or mischief
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