Paaker bowed; the princess bowed her head; the priest and his companions, who meanwhile had come out of the temple and joined him, raised their hands in blessing, and the belated procession moved towards the Nile.
Paaker remained alone with his two slaves; the commission with which the princess had charged him greatly displeased him. So long as the moonlight enabled him to distinguish the litter of Mena’s wife, he gazed after it; then he endeavored to recollect the position of the hut of the paraschites. The captain of the watch still stood with the guard at the gate of the temple.
“Do you know the dwelling of Pinem the paraschites?” asked Paaker.
“What do you want with him?”
“That is no concern of yours,” retorted Paaker.
“Lout!” exclaimed the captain, “left face and forwards, my men.”
“Halt!” cried Paaker in a rage. “I am the king’s chief pioneer.”
“Then you will all the more easily find the way back by which you came. March.”
The words were followed by a peal of many-voiced laughter: the re-echoing insult so confounded Paaker that he dropped his whip on the ground. The slave, whom a short time since he had struck with it, humbly picked it up and then followed his lord into the fore court of the temple. Both attributed the titter, which they still could hear without being able to detect its origin, to wandering spirits. But the mocking tones had been heard too by the old gate-keeper, and the laughers were better known to him than to the king’s pioneer; he strode with heavy steps to the door of the temple through the black shadow of the pylon, and striking blindly before him called out—
“Ah! you good-for-nothing brood of Seth.
[The Typhon of the Greeks. The enemy of Osiris, of truth, good and purity. Discord and strife in nature. Horns who fights against him for his father Osiris, can throw him and stun him, but never annihilate him.]
“You gallows-birds and brood of hell—I am coming.”
The giggling ceased; a few youthful figures appeared in the moonlight, the old man pursued them panting, and, after a short chase, a troop of youths fled back through the temple gate.
The door-keeper had succeeded in catching one miscreant, a boy of thirteen, and held him so tight by the ear that his pretty head seemed to have grown in a horizontal direction from his shoulders.
“I will take you before the school-master, you plague-of-locusts, you swarm of bats!” cried the old man out of breath. But the dozen of school-boys, who had availed themselves of the opportunity to break out of bounds, gathered coaxing round him, with words of repentance, though every eye sparkled with delight at the fun they had had, and of which no one could deprive them; and when the biggest of them took the old man’s chin, and promised to give him the wine which his mother was to send him next day for the week’s use, the porter let go his prisoner—who tried to rub the pain out of his burning ear—and cried out in harsher tones than before: