“We have reached the end,” echoed the little man with meaning. “There is only a narrow bridge to step over.”
When they both stood on the shore, the dwarf said,
“I have to thank thee for thy hospitality, and when I can serve thee command me.”
“Come here,” cried the pioneer, and drew Nemu away with him under the shade of a sycamore veiled in the half light of the departing sun.
“What do you mean by a bridge which we must step over? I do not understand the flowers of speech, and desire plain language.”
The dwarf reflected for a moment; and then asked, “Shall I say nakedly and openly what I mean, and will you not be angry?”
“Mena is the crocodile. Put him out of the world, and you will have passed the bridge; then Nefert will be thine—if thou wilt listen to me.”
“What shall I do?”
“Put the charioteer out of the world.”
Paaker’s gesture seemed to convey that that was a thing that had long been decided on, and he turned his face, for a good omen, so that the rising moon should be on his right hand.
The dwarf went on.
“Secure Nefert, so that she may not vanish like her image in the dream, before you reach the goal; that is to say, ransom the honor of your future mother and wife, for how could you take an outcast into your house?”
Paaker looked thoughtfully at the ground.
“May I inform my mistress that thou wilt save her?” asked Nemu. “I may?—Then all will be well, for he who will devote a fortune to love will not hesitate to devote a reed lance with a brass point to it to his love and his hatred together.”
The sun had set, and darkness covered the City of the Dead, but the moon shone above the valley of the kings’ tombs, and the projecting masses of the rocky walls of the chasm threw sharply-defined shadows. A weird silence lay upon the desert, where yet far more life was stirring than in the noonday hour, for now bats darted like black silken threads through the night air, owls hovered aloft on wide-spread wings, small troops of jackals slipped by, one following the other up the mountain slopes. From time to time their hideous yell, or the whining laugh of the hyena, broke the stillness of the night.
Nor was human life yet at rest in the valley of tombs. A faint light glimmered in the cave of the sorceress Hekt, and in front of the paraschites’ but a fire was burning, which the grandmother of the sick Uarda now and then fed with pieces of dry manure. Two men were seated in front of the hut, and gazed in silence on the thin flame, whose impure light was almost quenched by the clearer glow of the moon; whilst the third, Uarda’s father, disembowelled a large ram, whose head he had already cut off.
“How the jackals howl!” said the old paraschites, drawing as he spoke the torn brown cotton cloth, which he had put on as a protection against the night air and the dew, closer round his bare shoulders.