“You are a perfect cask of wisdom!” exclaimed the dwarf.
“And now you will go away,” said Hekt, “and reveal your schemes to your mistress and the Regent, and they will be astonished at your cleverness. To-day you still know that I have shown you what you have to do; to-morrow you will have forgotten it; and the day after to-morrow you will believe yourself possessed by the inspiration of the nine great Gods. I know that; but I cannot give anything for nothing. You live by your smallness, another makes his living with his hard hands, I earn my scanty bread by the thoughts of my brain. Listen! when you have half won Paaker, and Ani shows himself inclined to make use of him, then say to him that I may know a secret—and I do know one, I alone—which may make the Mohar the sport of his wishes, and that I may be disposed to sell it.”
“That shall be done! certainly, mother,” cried the dwarf. “What do you wish for?”
“Very little,” said the old woman. “Only a permit that makes me free to do and to practise whatever I please, unmolested even by the priests, and to receive an honorable burial after my death.”
“The Regent will hardly agree to that; for he must avoid everything that may offend the servants of the Gods.”
“And do everything,” retorted the old woman, “that can degrade Rameses in their sight. Ani, do you hear, need not write me a new license, but only renew the old one granted to me by Rameses when I cured his favorite horse. They burnt it with my other possessions, when they plundered my house, and denounced me and my belongings for sorcery. The permit of Rameses is what I want, nothing more.”
“You shall have it,” said the dwarf. “Good-by; I am charged to look into the tomb of our house, and see whether the offerings for the dead are regularly set out; to pour out fresh essences and have various things renewed. When Sechet has ceased to rage, and it is cooler, I shall come by here again, for I should like to call on the paraschites, and see how the poor child is.”
During this conversation two men had been busily occupied, in front of the paraschites’ hut, in driving piles into the earth, and stretching a torn linen cloth upon them.
One of them, old Pinem, whom we have seen tending his grandchild, requested the other from time to time to consider the sick girl and to work less noisily.
After they had finished their simple task, and spread a couch of fresh straw under the awning, they too sat down on the earth, and looked at the hut before which the surgeon Nebsecht was sitting waiting till the sleeping girl should wake.
“Who is that?” asked the leech of the old man, pointing to his young companion, a tall sunburnt soldier with a bushy red beard.
“My son,” replied the paraschites, “who is just returned from Syria.”