“Did she not struggle?” said Hekt.
“Like a mad thing,” said the dwarf. “But the Regent’s dumb slave, who was ordered by his master to obey me in everything to-day, helped me. We tied up her mouth that she might not be heard screaming!”
“Will you leave her alone when you go to do your errand?”
“Her father is with her!”
“Kaschta, the red-beard?” asked the old woman in surprise. “And did he not break you in pieces like an earthenware pot?”
“He will not stir,” said Nemu laughing. “For when I found him, I made him so drunk with Ani’s old wine that he lies there like a mummy. It was from him that I learned where Uarda was, and I went to her, and got her to come with me by telling her that her father was very ill, and begged her to go to see him once more. She flew after me like a gazelle, and when she saw the soldier lying there senseless she threw herself upon him, and called for water to cool his head, for he was raving in his dreams of rats and mice that had fallen upon him. As it grew late she wanted to return to her mistress, and we were obliged to prevent her. How handsome she has grown, mother; you cannot imagine how pretty she is.”
“Aye, aye!” said Hekt. “You will have to keep an eye upon her when she is your wife.”
“I will treat her like the wife of a noble,” said Nemu. “And pay a real lady to guard her. But by this time Katuti has brought home her daughter, Mena’s wife; the stars are sinking and—there—that was the first signal. When Katuti whistles the third time we are to go to work. Lend me your fire-box, mother.”
“Take it,” said Hekt. “I shall never need it again. It is all over with me! How your hand shakes! Hold the wood firmly, or you will drop it before you have brought the fire.”
The dwarf bid the old woman farewell, and she let him kiss her without moving. When he was gone, she listened eagerly for any sound that might pierce the silence of the night, her eyes shone with a keen light, and a thousand thoughts flew through her restless brain. When she heard the second signal on Katuti’s silver whistle, she sat upright and muttered:
“That gallows-bird Paaker, his vain aunt and that villain Ani, are no match for Rameses, even when he is asleep. Ani’s hawk is dead; he has nothing to hope for from Fortune, and I nothing to hope for from him. But if Rameses—if the real king would promise me—then my poor old body—Yes, that is the thing, that is what I will do.”
She painfully raised herself on her feet with the help of her stick, she found a knife and a small flask which she slipped into her dress, and then, bent and trembling, with a last effort of her remaining strength she dragged herself as far as Nemu’s tent. Here she found Uarda bound hand and foot, and Kaschta lying on the ground in a heavy drunken slumber.
The girl shrank together in alarm when she saw the old woman, and Scherau, who crouched at her side, raised his hands imploringly to the witch.