Nevertheless when the sun disappeared behind the rocks he bent over her once more, and said:
“It is growing cool; shall I carry you indoors?”
“Let me alone,” she said crossly. “I am hot, keep farther away. I am no longer ill, and could go indoors by myself if I wished; but grandmother will be here directly.”
Nebsecht rose, and sat down on a hen-coop that was some paces from Uarda, and asked stammering, “Shall I go farther off?”
“Do as you please,” she answered. “You are not kind,” he said sadly.
“You sit looking at me,” said Uarda, “I cannot bear it; and I am uneasy—for grandfather was quite different this morning from his usual self, and talked strangely about dying, and about the great price that was asked of him for curing me. Then he begged me never to forget him, and was so excited and so strange. He is so long away; I wish he were here, with me.”
And with these words Uarda began to cry silently. A nameless anxiety for the paraschites seized Nebsecht, and it struck him to the heart that he had demanded a human life in return for the mere fulfilment of a duty. He knew the law well enough, and knew that the old man would be compelled without respite or delay to empty the cup of poison if he were found guilty of the theft of a human heart.
It was dark: Uarda ceased weeping and said to the surgeon:
“Can it be possible that he has gone into the city to borrow the great sum of money that thou—or thy temple—demanded for thy medicine? But there is the princess’s golden bracelet, and half of father’s prize, and in the chest two years’ wages that grandmother had earned by wailing he untouched. Is all that not enough?”
The girl’s last question was full of resentment and reproach, and Nebsecht, whose perfect sincerity was part of his very being, was silent, as he would not venture to say yes. He had asked more in return for his help than gold or silver. Now he remembered Pentaur’s warning, and when the jackals began to bark he took up the fire-stick,
[The hieroglyphic sign Sam seems
to me to represent the wooden stick
used to produce fire (as among some savage tribes) by rapid friction
in a hollow piece of wood.]
and lighted some fuel that was lying ready. Then he asked himself what Uarda’s fate would be without her grandparents, and a strange plan which had floated vaguely before him for some hours, began now to take a distinct outline and intelligible form. He determined if the old man did not return to ask the kolchytes or embalmers to admit him into their guild—and for the sake of his adroitness they were not likely to refuse him—then he would make Uarda his wife, and live apart from the world, for her, for his studies, and for his new calling, in which he hoped to learn a great deal. What did he care for comfort and proprieties, for recognition from his fellow-men, and a superior position!