An hour later, Ani, in rich attire, left his father’s tomb, and drove his brilliant chariot past the witch’s cave, and the little cottage of Uarda’s father.
Nemu squatted on the step, the dwarf’s usual place. The little man looked down at the lately rebuilt hut, and ground his teeth, when, through an opening in the hedge, he saw the white robe of a man, who was sitting by Uarda.
The pretty child’s visitor was prince Rameri, who had crossed the Nile in the early morning, dressed as a young scribe of the treasury, to obtain news of Pentaur—and to stick a rose into Uarda’s hair.
This purpose was, indeed, the more important of the two, for the other must, in point of time at any rate, be the second.
He found it necessary to excuse himself to his own conscience with a variety of cogent reasons. In the first place the rose, which lay carefully secured in a fold of his robe, ran great danger of fading if he first waited for his companions near the temple of Seti; next, a hasty return from thence to Thebes might prove necessary; and finally, it seemed to him not impossible that Bent-Anat might send a master of the ceremonies after him, and if that happened any delay might frustrate his purpose.
His heart beat loud and violently, not for love of the maiden, but because he felt he was doing wrong. The spot that he must tread was unclean, and he had, for the first time, told a lie. He had given himself out to Uarda to be a noble youth of Bent-Anat’s train, and, as one falsehood usually entails another, in answer to her questions he had given her false information as to his parents and his life.
Had evil more power over him in this unclean spot than in the House of Seti, and at his father’s? It might very well be so, for all disturbance in nature and men was the work of Seth, and how wild was the storm in his breast! And yet! He wished nothing but good to come of it to Uarda. She was so fair and sweet—like some child of the Gods: and certainly the white maiden must have been stolen from some one, and could not possibly belong to the unclean people.
When the prince entered the court of the hut, Uarda was not to be seen, but he soon heard her voice singing out through the open door. She came out into the air, for the dog barked furiously at Rameri. When she saw the prince, she started, and said:
“You are here already again, and yet I warned you. My grandmother in there is the wife of a paraschites.”
“I am not come to visit her,” retorted the prince, “but you only; and you do not belong to them, of that I am convinced. No roses grow in the desert.”
“And yet: am my father’s child,” said Uarda decidedly, “and my poor dead grandfather’s grandchild. Certainly I belong to them, and those that do not think me good enough for them may keep away.”