“Stand back, you rabble! We are going first.” The captain of the watch did not stop him, for he knew the chief pioneer and his overbearing ways. Paaker put his finger to his lips, and gave a shrill whistle that sounded like a yell in the silence.
The stroke of oars responded to the call, and Paaker called out to his boatmen:
“Bring the boat up here! these people can wait!” The pioneer’s boat was larger and better manned than that of the princess.
“Jump into the boat!” cried Rameri.
Bent-Anat went forward without speaking, for she did not wish to make herself known again for the sake of the people, and for Nefert’s; but Paaker put himself in her way.
“Did I not tell you that you common people must wait till we are gone. Push these people’s boat out into the stream, you men.”
Bent-Anat felt her blood chill, for a loud squabble at once began on the landing-steps.
Rameri’s voice sounded louder than all the rest; but the pioneer exclaimed:
“The low brutes dare to resist? I will teach them manners! Here, Descher, look after the woman and these boys!”
At his call his great red hound barked and sprang forward, which, as it had belonged to his father, always accompanied him when he went with his mother to visit the ancestral tomb. Nefert shrieked with fright, but the dog at once knew her, and crouched against her with whines of recognition.
Paaker, who had gone down to his boat, turned round in astonishment, and saw his dog fawning at the feet of a boy whom he could not possibly recognize as Nefert; he sprang back, and cried out:
“I will teach you, you young scoundrel, to spoil my dog with spells—or poison!”
He raised his whip, and struck it across the shoulders of Nefert, who, with one scream of terror and anguish, fell to the ground.
The lash of the whip only whistled close by the cheek of the poor fainting woman, for Bent-Anat had seized Paaker’s arm with all her might.
Rage, disgust, and scorn stopped her utterance; but Rameri had heard Nefert’s shriek, and in two steps stood by the women.
“Cowardly scoundrel!” he cried, and lifted the oar in his hand. Paaker evaded the blow, and called to the dog with a peculiar hiss:
“Pull him down, Descher.”
The hound flew at the prince; but Rameri, who from his childhood, had been his father’s companion in many hunts and field sports, gave the furious brute such a mighty blow on the muzzle that he rolled over with a snort.
Paaker believed that he possessed in the whole world no more faithful friend than this dog, his companion on all his marches across desert tracts or through the enemy’s country, and when he saw him writhing on the ground his rage knew no bounds, and he flew at the youngster with his whip; but Rameri—madly excited by all the events of the night, full of the warlike spirit of his fathers, worked up to the highest pitch by the insults to the two ladies, and seeing that he was their only protector—suddenly felt himself endowed with the strength of a man; he dealt the pioneer such a heavy blow on the left hand, that he dropped his whip, and now seized the dagger in his girdle with his right.