“Get up!” said Paaker. “Did you come here on foot?”
“No, my lord,” replied Nemu, “on an ass; but a demon entered into the beast, and has struck it with sickness. I had to leave it on the road. The beasts of Anubis will have a better supper than we to-night.”
“Things are not done handsomely then at your mistress’s house?” asked Paaker.
“We still have bread,” replied Nemu, “and the Nile is full of water. Much meat is not necessary for women and dwarfs, but our last cattle take a form which is too hard for human teeth.”
The pioneer did not understand the joke, and looked enquiringly at the dwarf.
“The form of money,” said the little man, “and that cannot be chewed; soon that will be gone too, and then the point will be to find a recipe for making nutritious cakes out of earth, water, and palm-leaves. It makes very little difference to me, a dwarf does not need much—but the poor tender lady!”
Paaker touched his horses with such a violent stroke of his whip that they reared high, and it took all his strength to control their spirit.
“The horses’ jaws will be broken,” muttered the slave behind. “What a shame with such fine beasts!”
“Have you to pay for them?” growled Paaker. Then he turned again to the dwarf, and asked:
“Why does Mena let the ladies want?”
“He no longer cares for his wife,” replied the dwarf, casting his eyes down sadly. “At the last division of the spoil he passed by the gold and silver; and took a foreign woman into his tent. Evil demons have blinded him, for where is there a woman fairer than Nefert?”
“You love your mistress.”
“As my very eyes!”
During this conversation they had arrived at the terrace-temple. Paaker threw the reins to the slave, ordered him to wait with Nemu, and turned to the gate-keeper to explain to him, with the help of a handful of gold, his desire of being conducted to Pentaur, the chief of the temple.
The gate-keeper, swinging a censer before him with a hasty action, admitted him into the sanctuary. “You will find him on the third terrace,” he said, “but he is no longer our superior.”
“They said so in the temple of Seti, whence I have just come,” replied Paaker.
The porter shrugged his shoulders with a sneer, and said: “The palm-tree that is quickly set up falls down more quickly still.” Then he desired a servant to conduct the stranger to Pentaur.
The poet recognized the Mohar at once, asked his will, and learned that he was come to have a wonderful vision interpreted by him.
Paaker explained before relating his dream, that he did not ask this service for nothing; and when the priest’s countenance darkened he added:
“I will send a fine beast for sacrifice to the Goddess if the interpretation is favorable.”
“And in the opposite case?” asked Pentaur, who, in the House of Seti, never would have anything whatever to do with the payments of the worshippers or the offerings of the devout.