“Still the poet—the preacher!” said Ameni. Then he added severely. “I beg for a short and clear an swer. We know for certain that the princess took part in the festival in the disguise of a woman of low rank, for she again declared herself to Paaker; and we know that it was she who saved you. But did you know that she meant to come across the Nile?”
“How should I?” asked Pentaur.
“Well, did you believe that it was Bent-Anat whom you saw before you when she ventured on to the scene of conflict?”
“I did believe it,” replied Pentaur; he shuddered and cast down his eyes.
“Then it was most audacious to drive away the king’s daughter as an impostor.”
“It was,” said Pentaur. “But for my sake she had risked the honor of her name, and that of her royal father, and I—I should not have risked my life and freedom for—”
“We have heard enough,” interrupted Ameni.
“Not so,” the Regent interposed. “What became of the girl you had saved?”
“An old witch, Hekt by name, a neighbor of Pinem’s, took her and her grandmother into her cave,” answered the poet; who was then, by the high-priest’s order, taken back to the temple-prison.
Scarcely had he disappeared when the Regent exclaimed:
“A dangerous man! an enthusiast! an ardent worshipper of Rameses!”
“And of his daughter,” laughed Ameni, but only a worshipper. Thou hast nothing to fear from him—I will answer for the purity of his motives.”
“But he is handsome and of powerful speech,” replied Ani. “I claim him as my prisoner, for he has killed one of my soldiers.”
Ameni’s countenance darkened, and he answered very sternly:
“It is the exclusive right of our conclave, as established by our charter, to judge any member of this fraternity. You, the future king, have freely promised to secure our privileges to us, the champions of your own ancient and sacred rights.”
“And you shall have them,” answered the Regent with a persuasive smile. “But this man is dangerous, and you would not have him go unpunished.”
“He shall be severely judged,” said Ameni, “but by us and in this house.”
“He has committed murder!” cried Ani. “More than one murder. He is worthy of death.”
“He acted under pressure of necessity,” replied Ameni. “And a man so favored by the Gods as he, is not to be lightly given up because an untimely impulse of generosity prompted him to rash conduct. I know— I can see that you wish him ill. Promise me, as you value me as an ally, that you will not attempt his life.”
“Oh, willingly!” smiled the Regent, giving the high-priest his hand.
“Accept my sincere thanks,” said Ameni. “Pentaur was the most promising of my disciples, and in spite of many aberrations I still esteem him highly. When he was telling us of what had occurred to-day, did he not remind you of the great Assa, or of his gallant son, the Osirian father of the pioneer Paaker?”