“Put out his eyes!” he cried; and these were the last words he spoke as he quitted his home.
Setchem looked after him for a long time; she had refused to bid him farewell, and now she implored the Gods to turn his heart, and to preserve him from malice and crime.
Three days had passed since the pioneer’s departure, and although it was still early, busy occupation was astir in Bent-Anat’s work-rooms.
The ladies had passed the stormy night, which had succeeded the exciting evening of the festival, without sleep.
Nefert felt tired and sleepy the next morning, and begged the princess to introduce her to her new duties for the first time next day; but the princess spoke to her encouragingly, told her that no man should put off doing right till the morrow, and urged her to follow her into her workshop.
“We must both come to different minds,” said she. “I often shudder involuntarily, and feel as if I bore a brand—as if I had a stain here on my shoulder where it was touched by Paaker’s rough hand.”
The first day of labor gave Nefert a good many difficulties to overcome; on the second day the work she had begun already had a charm for her, and by the third she rejoiced in the little results of her care.
Bent-Anat had put her in the right place, for she had the direction of a large number of young girls and women, the daughters, wives, and widows of those Thebans who were at the war, or who had fallen in the field, who sorted and arranged the healing herbs. Her helpers sat in little circles on the ground; in the midst of each lay a great heap of fresh and dry plants, and in front of each work-woman a number of parcels of the selected roots, leaves, and flowers.
An old physician presided over the whole, and had shown Nefert the first day the particular plants which he needed.
The wife of Mena, who was fond of flowers, had soon learnt them all, and she taught willingly, for she loved children.
She soon had favorites among the children, and knew some as being industrious and careful, others as idle and heedless:
“Ay! ay!” she exclaimed, bending over a little half-naked maiden with great almond-shaped eyes. “You are mixing them all together. Your father, as you tell me, is at the war. Suppose, now, an arrow were to strike him, and this plant, which would hurt him, were laid on the burning wound instead of this other, which would do him good—that would be very sad.”
The child nodded her head, and looked her work through again. Nefert turned to a little idler, and said: “You are chattering again, and doing nothing, and yet your father is in the field. If he were ill now, and has no medicine, and if at night when he is asleep he dreams of you, and sees you sitting idle, he may say to himself: ’Now I might get well, but my little girl at home does not love me, for she would rather sit with her hands in her lap than sort herbs for her sick father.’”