Each feared the worst, and when the high-priest stood before them even Rameri’s mirth was quite quelled, for though Ameni looked neither angry nor threatening, his appearance commanded respect, and each one recognized in him a judge against whose verdict no remonstrance was to be thought of.
To their infinite astonishment Ameni spoke kindly to the thoughtless boys, praised the motive of their action—their attachment to a highly-endowed teacher—but then clearly and deliberately laid before them the folly of the means they had employed to attain their end, and at what a cost. “Only think,” he continued, turning to the prince, “if your father sent a general, who he thought would be better in a different place, from Syria to Kusch, and his troops therefore all went over to the enemy! How would you like that?”
So for some minutes he continued to blame and warn them, and he ended his speech by promising, in consideration of the great miracle that gave that day a special sanctity, to exercise unwonted clemency. For the sake of example, he said, he could not let them pass altogether unpunished, and he now asked them which of them had been the instigator of the deed; he and he only should suffer punishment.
He had hardly clone speaking, when prince Rameri stepped forward, and said modestly:
“We acknowledge, holy father, that we have played a foolish trick; and I lament it doubly because I devised it, and made the others follow me. I love Pentaur, and next to thee there is no one like him in the sanctuary.”
Ameni’s countenance grew dark, and he answered with displeasure:
“No judgment is allowed to pupils as to their teachers—nor to you. If you were not the son of the king, who rules Egypt as Ra, I would punish your temerity with stripes. My hands are tied with regard to you, and yet they must be everywhere and always at work if the hundreds committed to my care are to be kept from harm.”
“Nay, punish me!” cried Rameri. “If I commit a folly I am ready to bear the consequences.”
Ameni looked pleased at the vehement boy, and would willingly have shaken him by the hand and stroked his curly head, but the penance he proposed for Rameri was to serve a great end, and Ameni would not allow any overflow of emotion to hinder him in the execution of a well considered design. So he answered the prince with grave determination:
“I must and will punish you—and I do so by requesting you to leave the House of Seti this very day.”
The prince turned pale. But Ameni went on more kindly:
“I do not expel you with ignominy from among us—I only bid you a friendly farewell. In a few weeks you would in any case have left the college, and by the king’s command have transferred your blooming life, health, and strength to the exercising ground of the chariot-brigade. No punishment for you but this lies in my power. Now give me your hand; you will make a fine man, and perhaps a great warrior.”