“I wish she were a widow.” “The little man made a gesture as if to protect himself from the evil eye, but at the same instant he slipped down from his pedestal, and exclaimed:
“There is a chariot, and I hear his big dog barking. It is he. Shall I call Nefert?”
“No!” said Katuti in a low voice, and she clutched at the back of a chair as if for support.
The dwarf shrugged his shoulders, and slunk behind a clump of ornamental plants, and a few minutes later Paaker stood in the presence of Katuti, who greeted him, with quiet dignity and self-possession.
Not a feature of her finely-cut face betrayed her inward agitation, and after the Mohar had greeted her she said with rather patronizing friendliness:
“I thought that you would come. Take a seat. Your heart is like your father’s; now that you are friends with us again it is not by halves.”
Paaker had come to offer his aunt the sum which was necessary for the redemption of her husband’s mummy. He had doubted for a long time whether he should not leave this to his mother, but reserve partly and partly vanity had kept him from doing so. He liked to display his wealth, and Katuti should learn what he could do, what a son-in-law she had rejected.
He would have preferred to send the gold, which he had resolved to give away, by the hand of one of his slaves, like a tributary prince. But that could not be done so he put on his finger a ring set with a valuable stone, which king Seti I., had given to his father, and added various clasps and bracelets to his dress.
When, before leaving the house, he looked at himself in a mirror, he said to himself with some satisfaction, that he, as he stood, was worth as much as the whole of Mena’s estates.
Since his conversation with Nemu, and the dwarf’s interpretation of his dream, the path which he must tread to reach his aim had been plain before him. Nefert’s mother must be won with the gold which would save her from disgrace, and Mena must be sent to the other world. He relied chiefly on his own reckless obstinacy—which he liked to call firm determination—Nemu’s cunning, and the love-philter.
He now approached Katuti with the certainty of success, like a merchant who means to acquire some costly object, and feels that he is rich enough to pay for it. But his aunt’s proud and dignified manner confounded him.
He had pictured her quite otherwise, spirit-broken, and suppliant; and he had expected, and hoped to earn, Nefert’s thanks as well as her mother’s by his generosity. Mena’s pretty wife was however absent, and Katuti did not send for her even after he had enquired after her health.
The widow made no advances, and some time passed in indifferent conversation, till Paaker abruptly informed her that he had heard of her son’s reckless conduct, and had decided, as being his mother’s nearest relation, to preserve her from the degradation that threatened her. For the sake of his bluntness, which she took for honesty, Katuti forgave the magnificence of his dress, which under the circumstances certainly seemed ill-chosen; she thanked him with dignity, but warmly, more for the sake of her children than for her own; for life she said was opening before them, while for her it was drawing to its close.