“He is in debt,” said Katuti. “I know that.”
“Thou should’st know it,” cried the dwarf, “for thou thyself hast forced him to enormous expenses. He has won the people of Thebes with dazzling festive displays; as guardian of Apis
[When Apis (the sacred bull) died under Ptolemy I. Soter, his keepers spent not only the money which they had received for his maintenance, in his obsequies but borrowed 50 talents of silver from the king. In the time of Diodurus 100 talents were spent for the same purpose.]
he gave a large donation to Memphis; he bestowed thousands on the leaders of the troops sent into Ethiopia, which were equipped by him; what his spies cost him at, the camp of the king, thou knowest. He has borrowed sums of money from most of the rich men in the country, and that is well, for so many creditors are so many allies. The Regent is a bad debtor; but the king Ani, they reckon, will be a grateful payer.”
Katuti looked at the dwarf in astonishment. “You know men!” she said.
“To my sorrow!” replied Nemu. “Do not apply to the Regent, and before thou dost sacrifice the labor of years, and thy future greatness, and that of those near to thee, sacrifice thy son’s honor.”
“And my husband’s, and my own?” exclaimed Katuti. “How can you know what that is! Honor is a word that the slave may utter, but whose meaning he can never comprehend; you rub the weals that are raised on you by blows; to me every finger pointed at me in scorn makes a wound like an ashwood lance with a poisoned tip of brass. Oh ye holy Gods! who can help us?”
The miserable woman pressed her hands over her eyes, as if to shut out the sight of her own disgrace. The dwarf looked at her compassionately, and said in a changed tone:
“Dost thou remember the diamond which fell out of Nefert’s handsomest ring? We hunted for it, and could not find it. Next day, as I was going through the room, I trod on something hard; I stooped down and found the stone. What the noble organ of sight, the eye, overlooked, the callous despised sole of the foot found; and perhaps the small slave, Nemu, who knows nothing of honor, may succeed in finding a mode of escape which is not revealed to the lofty soul of his mistress!”
“What are you thinking of?” asked Katuti.
“Escape,” answered the dwarf. “Is it true that thy sister Setchem has visited thee, and that you are reconciled?”
“She offered me her hand, and I took it?”
“Then go to her. Men are never more helpful than after a reconciliation. The enmity they have driven out, seems to leave as it were a freshly-healed wound which must be touched with caution; and Setchem is of thy own blood, and kind-hearted.”
“She is not rich,” replied Katuti. “Every palm in her garden comes from her husband, and belongs to her children.”
“Paaker, too, was with you?”