Bent-Anat too tried to teach Uarda, but learning to read was not easy to the girl, however much pains she might take. Nevertheless, the princess would not give up the spelling, for here, at the foot of the immense sacred mountain at whose summit she gazed with mixed horror and longing, she was condemned to inactivity, which weighed the more heavily on her in proportion as those feelings had to be kept to herself which she longed to escape from in work. Uarda knew the origin of her mistress’s deep grief, and revered her for it, as if it were something sacred. Often she would speak of Pentaur and of his father, and always in such a manner that the princess could not guess that she knew of their love.
When the prisoners were passing Bent-Anat’s tent, she was sitting within with Nefert, and talking, as had become habitual in the hours of dusk, of her father, of Mena, Rameri, and Pentaur.
“He is still alive,” asserted Nefert. “My mother, you see, says that no one knows with certainty what became of him. If he escaped, he beyond a doubt tried to reach the king’s camp, and when we get there you will find him with your father.”
The princess looked sadly at the ground. Nefert looked affectionately at her, and asked:
“Are you thinking of the difference in rank which parts you from the man you have chosen?”
“The man to whom I offer my hand, I put in the rank of a prince,” said Bent-Anat. “But if I could set Pentaur on a throne, as master of the world, he would still be greater and better than I.”
“But your father?” asked Nefert doubtfully.
“He is my friend, he will listen to me and understand me. He shall know everything when I see him; I know his noble and loving heart.”
Both were silent for some time; then Bent-Anat spoke:
“Pray have lights brought, I want to finish my weaving.”
Nefert rose, went to the door of the tent, and there met Uarda; she seized Nefert’s hand, and silently drew her out into the air.
“What is the matter, child? you are trembling,” Nefert exclaimed.
“My father is here,” answered Uarda hastily. “He is escorting some prisoners from the mines of Mafkat. Among them there are two chained together, and one of them—do not be startled—one of them is the poet Pentaur. Stop, for God’s sake, stop, and hear me. Twice before I have seen my father when he has been here with convicts. To-day we must rescue Pentaur; but the princess must know nothing of it, for if my plan fails—”
“Child! girl!” interrupted Nefert eagerly. “How can I help you?”
“Order the steward to give the drivers of the gang a skin of wine in the name of the princess, and out of Bent-Anat’s case of medicines take the phial which contains the sleeping draught, which, in spite of your wish, she will not take. I will wait here, and I know how to use it.”
Nefert immediately found the steward, and ordered him to follow Uarda with a skin of wine. Then she went back to the princess’s tent, and opened the medicine case.