“We will see!” replied the Regent. He threw a ring of gold to the dwarf and got into his chariot.
So large a crowd had collected in the vicinity of the palace, that Ani apprehended mischief, and ordered his charioteer to check the pace of the horses, and sent a few police-soldiers to the support of the out-runners; but good news seemed to await him, for at the gate of the castle he heard the unmistakable acclamations of the crowd, and in the palace court he found a messenger from the temple of Seti, commissioned by Ameni to communicate to him and to the people, the occurrence of a great miracle, in that the heart of the ram of Anion, that had been torn by wolves, had been found again within the breast of the dead prophet Rui.
Ani at once descended from his chariot, knelt down before all the people, who followed his example, lifted his arms to heaven, and praised the Gods in a loud voice. When, after some minutes, he rose and entered the palace, slaves came out and distributed bread to the crowd in Ameni’s name.
“The Regent has an open hand,” said a joiner to his neighbor; “only look how white the bread is. I will put it in my pocket and take it to the children.”
“Give me a bit!” cried a naked little scamp, snatching the cake of bread from the joiner’s hand and running away, slipping between the legs of the people as lithe as a snake.
“You crocodile’s brat!” cried his victim. “The insolence of boys gets worse and worse every day.”
“They are hungry,” said the woman apologetically. “Their fathers are gone to the war, and the mothers have nothing for their children but papyrus-pith and lotus-seeds.”
“I hope they enjoy it,” laughed the joiner. “Let us push to the left; there is a man with some more bread.”
“The Regent must rejoice greatly over the miracle,” said a shoemaker. “It is costing him something.”
“Nothing like it has happened for a long time,” said a basket-maker. “And he is particularly glad it should be precisely Rui’s body, which the sacred heart should have blessed. You ask why?—Hatasu is Ani’s ancestress, blockhead!”
“And Rui was prophet of the temple of Hatasu,” added the joiner.
“The priests over there are all hangers-on of the old royal house, that I know,” asserted a baker.
“That’s no secret!” cried the cobbler. “The old times were better than these too. The war upsets everything, and quite respectable people go barefoot because they cannot pay for shoe-leather. Rameses is a great warrior, and the son of Ra, but what can he do without the Gods; and they don’t seem to like to stay in Thebes any longer; else why should the heart of the sacred ram seek a new dwelling in the Necropolis, and in the breast of an adherent of the old—”
“Hold your tongue,” warned the basket-maker. “Here comes one of the watch.”
“I must go back to work,” said the baker. “I have my hands quite full for the feast to-morrow.”