“It will not do,” said the Regent. “I need Ameni’s support—not for to-day and to-morrow only. I will not become his blind tool; but he must believe that I am.”
The old woman shrugged her shoulders, rose, went into her cave, and brought out a phial.
“Take this,” she said. “Four drops of it in his wine infallibly destroys the drinker’s senses; try the drink on a slave, and thou wilt see how effectual it is.”
“What shall I do with it?” asked Ani.
“Justify thyself to Ameni,” said the witch laughing. “Order the ship’s captain to come to thee as soon as he returns; entertain him with wine—and when Ameni sees the distracted wretch, why should he not believe that in a fit of craziness he sailed past Chennu?”
“That is clever! that is splendid!” exclaimed Ani. “What is once remarkable never becomes common. You were the greatest of singers—you are now the wisest of women—my lady Beki.”
“I am no longer Beki, I am Hekt,” said the old woman shortly.
“As you will! In truth, if I had ever heard Beki’s singing, I should be bound to still greater gratitude to her than I now am to Hekt,” said Ani smiling. “Still, I cannot quit the wisest woman in Thebes without asking her one serious question. Is it given to you to read the future? Have you means at your command whereby you can see whether the great stake—you know which I mean—shall be won or lost?”
Hekt looked at the ground, and said after reflecting a short time:
“I cannot decide with certainty, but thy affair stands well. Look at these two hawks with the chain on their feet. They take their food from no one but me. The one that is moulting, with closed, grey eyelids, is Rameses; the smart, smooth one, with shining eyes, is thyself. It comes to this—which of you lives the longest. So far, thou hast the advantage.”
Ani cast an evil glance at the king’s sick hawk; but Hekt said: “Both must be treated exactly alike. Fate will not be done violence to.”
“Feed them well,” exclaimed the Regent; he threw a purse into Hekt’s lap, and added, as he prepared to leave her: “If anything happens to either of the birds let me know at once by Nemu.”
Ani went down the hill, and walked towards the neighboring tomb of his father; but Hekt laughed as she looked after him, and muttered to herself:
“Now the fool will take care of me for the sake of his bird! That smiling, spiritless, indolent-minded man would rule Egypt! Am I then so much wiser than other folks, or do none but fools come to consult Hekt? But Rameses chose Ani to represent him! perhaps because he thinks that those who are not particularly clever are not particularly dangerous. If that is what he thought, he was not wise, for no one usually is so self-confident and insolent as just such an idiot.”
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