The Gods indeed were in deep disgrace with him. How much he had expended upon them—and with what a grudging hand they had rewarded him; he knew of but one indemnification for his wasted life, and in that he believed so firmly that he counted on it as if it were capital which he had invested in sound securities. But at this moment his resentful feelings embittered the sweet dream of hope, and he strove in vain for calmness and clear-sightedness; when such cross-roads as these met, no amulet, no divining rod could guide him; here he must think for himself, and beat his own road before he could walk in it; and yet he could think out no plan, and arrive at no decision.
He grasped his burning forehead in his hands, and started from his brooding reverie, to remember where he was, to recall his conversation with the mother of the woman he loved, and her saying that she was capable of guiding men.
“She perhaps may be able to think for me,” he muttered to himself. “Action suits me better.”
He slowly went up to her and said:
“So it is settled then—we are confederates.”
“Against Rameses, and for Ani,” she replied, giving him her slender hand.
“In a few days I start for Syria, meanwhile you can make up your mind what commissions you have to give me. The money for your son shall be conveyed to you to-day before sunset. May I not pay my respects to Nefert?”
“Not now, she is praying in the temple.”
“Willingly, my dear friend. She will be delighted to see you, and to thank you.”
“Call me mother,” said the widow, and she waved her veil to him as a last farewell.
As soon as Paaker had disappeared behind the shrubs, Katuti struck a little sheet of metal, a slave appeared, and Katuti asked her whether Nefert had returned from the temple.
“Her litter is just now at the side gate,” was the answer.
“I await her here,” said the widow. The slave went away, and a few minutes later Nefert entered the hall.
“You want me?” she said; and after kissing her mother she sank upon her couch. “I am tired,” she exclaimed, “Nemu, take a fan and keep the flies off me.”
The dwarf sat down on a cushion by her couch, and began to wave the semi-circular fan of ostrich-feathers; but Katuti put him aside and said:
“You can leave us for the present; we want to speak to each other in private.”
The dwarf shrugged his shoulders and got up, but Nefert looked at her mother with an irresistible appeal.
“Let him stay,” she said, as pathetically as if her whole happiness depended upon it. “The flies torment me so, and Nemu always holds his tongue.”
She patted the dwarf’s big head as if he were a lap-dog, and called the white cat, which with a graceful leap sprang on to her shoulder and stood there with its back arched, to be stroked by her slender fingers.