“She perhaps may be able to think for me,” he muttered to himself. “Action suits me better.”
He slowly went up to her and said:
“So it is settled then—we are confederates.”
“Against Rameses, and for Ani,” she replied, giving him her slender hand.
“In a few days I start for Syria, meanwhile you can make up your mind what commissions you have to give me. The money for your son shall be conveyed to you to-day before sunset. May I not pay my respects to Nefert?”
“Not now, she is praying in the temple.”
“Willingly, my dear friend. She will be delighted to see you, and to thank you.”
“Call me mother,” said the widow, and she waved her veil to him as a last farewell.
As soon as Paaker had disappeared behind the shrubs, Katuti struck a little sheet of metal, a slave appeared, and Katuti asked her whether Nefert had returned from the temple.
“Her litter is just now at the side gate,” was the answer.
“I await her here,” said the widow. The slave went away, and a few minutes later Nefert entered the hall.
“You want me?” she said; and after kissing her mother she sank upon her couch. “I am tired,” she exclaimed, “Nemu, take a fan and keep the flies off me.”
The dwarf sat down on a cushion by her couch, and began to wave the semi-circular fan of ostrich-feathers; but Katuti put him aside and said:
“You can leave us for the present; we want to speak to each other in private.”
The dwarf shrugged his shoulders and got up, but Nefert looked at her mother with an irresistible appeal.
“Let him stay,” she said, as pathetically as if her whole happiness depended upon it. “The flies torment me so, and Nemu always holds his tongue.”
She patted the dwarf’s big head as if he were a lap-dog, and called the white cat, which with a graceful leap sprang on to her shoulder and stood there with its back arched, to be stroked by her slender fingers.
Nemu looked enquiringly at his mistress, but Katuti turned to her daughter, and said in a warning voice:
“I have very serious things to discuss with you.”
“Indeed?” said her daughter, “but I cannot be stung by the flies all the same. Of course, if you wish it—”
“Nemu may stay then,” said Katuti, and her voice had the tone of that of a nurse who gives way to a naughty child. “Besides, he knows what I have to talk about.”
“There now!” said Nefert, kissing the head of the white cat, and she gave the fan back to the dwarf.
The widow looked at her daughter with sincere compassion, she went up to her and looked for the thousandth time in admiration at her pretty face.
“Poor child,” she sighed, “how willingly I would spare you the frightful news which sooner or later you must hear—must bear. Leave off your foolish play with the cat, I have things of the most hideous gravity to tell you.”