He would have preferred to send the gold, which he had resolved to give away, by the hand of one of his slaves, like a tributary prince. But that could not be done so he put on his finger a ring set with a valuable stone, which king Seti I., had given to his father, and added various clasps and bracelets to his dress.
When, before leaving the house, he looked at himself in a mirror, he said to himself with some satisfaction, that he, as he stood, was worth as much as the whole of Mena’s estates.
Since his conversation with Nemu, and the dwarf’s interpretation of his dream, the path which he must tread to reach his aim had been plain before him. Nefert’s mother must be won with the gold which would save her from disgrace, and Mena must be sent to the other world. He relied chiefly on his own reckless obstinacy—which he liked to call firm determination—Nemu’s cunning, and the love-philter.
He now approached Katuti with the certainty of success, like a merchant who means to acquire some costly object, and feels that he is rich enough to pay for it. But his aunt’s proud and dignified manner confounded him.
He had pictured her quite otherwise, spirit-broken, and suppliant; and he had expected, and hoped to earn, Nefert’s thanks as well as her mother’s by his generosity. Mena’s pretty wife was however absent, and Katuti did not send for her even after he had enquired after her health.
The widow made no advances, and some time passed in indifferent conversation, till Paaker abruptly informed her that he had heard of her son’s reckless conduct, and had decided, as being his mother’s nearest relation, to preserve her from the degradation that threatened her. For the sake of his bluntness, which she took for honesty, Katuti forgave the magnificence of his dress, which under the circumstances certainly seemed ill-chosen; she thanked him with dignity, but warmly, more for the sake of her children than for her own; for life she said was opening before them, while for her it was drawing to its close.
“You are still at a good time of life,” said Paaker.
“Perhaps at the best,” replied the widow, “at any rate from my point of view; regarding life as I do as a charge, a heavy responsibility.”
“The administration of this involved estate must give you many, anxious hours—that I understand.” Katuti nodded, and then said sadly:
“I could bear it all, if I were not condemned to see my poor child being brought to misery without being able to help her or advise her. You once would willingly have married her, and I ask you, was there a maiden in Thebes—nay in all Egypt—to compare with her for beauty? Was she not worthy to be loved, and is she not so still? Does she deserve that her husband should leave her to starve, neglect her, and take a strange woman into his tent as if he had repudiated her? I see what you feel about it! You throw all the blame on me. Your heart says: ’Why did she break off our betrothal,’ and your right feeling tells you that you would have given her a happier lot.”