“Now I will put on the dress of a gardener,” cried Rameri, “and cross over with the wreaths.”
“You will leave us alone?” asked Bent-Anat.
“Do not make me anxious,” said Rameri.
“Go then,” said the princess. “If my father were here how willingly I would go too.”
“Come with me,” cried the boy. “We can easily find a disguise for you too.”
“Folly!” said Bent-Anat; but she looked enquiringly at Nefert, who shrugged her shoulders, as much as to say: “Your will is my law.”
Rameri was too sharp for the glances of the friends to have escaped him, and he exclaimed eagerly:
“You will come with me, I see you will! Every beggar to-day flings his flower into the common grave, which contains the black mummy of his father—and shall the daughter of Rameses, and the wife of the chief charioteer, be excluded from bringing garlands to their dead?”
“I shall defile the tomb by my presence,” said Bent-Anat coloring.
“You—you!” exclaimed Rameri, throwing his arms round his sister’s neck, and kissing her. “You, a noble generous creature, who live only to ease sorrow and to wipe away tears; you, the very image of my father—unclean! sooner would I believe that the swans down there are as black as crows, and the rose-wreaths on the balcony rank hemlock branches. Bek-en-Chunsu pronounced you clean, and if Ameni—”
“Ameni only exercises his rights,” said Bent-Anat gently, “and you know what we have resolved. I will not hear one hard word about him to-day.”
“Very well! he has graciously and mercifully kept us from the feast,” said Rameri ironically, and he bowed low in the direction of the Necropolis, “and you are unclean. Do not enter the tombs and the temples on my account; let us stay outside among the people. The roads over there are not so very sensitive; paraschites and other unclean folks pass over them every day. Be sensible, Bent-Anat, and come. We will disguise ourselves; I will conduct you; I will lay the garlands in the tombs, we will pray together outside, we will see the sacred procession and the feats of the magicians, and hear the festive discourse. Only think! Pentaur, in spite of all they have said against him, is to deliver it. The temple of Seti wants to do its best to-day, and Ameni knows very well that Pentaur, when he opens his mouth, stirs the hearts of the people more than all the sages together if they were to sing in chorus! Come with me, sister.”
“So be it then,” said Bent-Anat with sudden decision.
Rameri was surprised at this quick resolve, at which however he was delighted; but Nefert looked anxiously at her friend. In a moment her eyes fell; she knew now who it was that her friend loved, and the fearful thought—“How will it end?” flashed through her mind.
An hour later a tall, plainly dressed woman crossed the Nile, with a dark-skinned boy and a slender youth by her side. The wrinkles on her brow and cheeks agreed little with her youthful features; but it would have been difficult to recognize in these three the proud princess, the fair young prince, and the graceful Nefert, who looked as charming as ever in the long white robe of a temple-student.