“Take this knife, boy,” she said to the little one. “Cut the ropes the poor thing is tied with. The papyrus cords are strong, saw them with the blade.”
[Papyrus was used not only for writing
on, but also for ropes. The
bridge of boats on which Xerxes crossed the Hellespont was fastened
with cables of papyrus.]
While the boy eagerly followed her instructions with all his little might, she rubbed the soldier’s temples with an essence which she had in the bottle, and poured a few drops of it between his lips. Kaschta came to himself, stretched his limbs, and stared in astonishment at the place in which he found himself. She gave him some water, and desired him to drink it, saying, as Uarda shook herself free from the bonds:
“The Gods have predestined you to great things, you white maiden. Listen to what I, old Hekt, am telling you. The king’s life is threatened, his and his children’s; I purpose to save them, and I ask no reward but this-that he should have my body embalmed and interred at Thebes. Swear to me that you will require this of him when you have saved him.”
“In God’s name what is happening?” cried Uarda. “Swear that you will provide for my burial,” said the old woman.
“I swear it!” cried the girl. “But for God’s sake—”
“Katuti, Paaker, and Nemu are gone to set fire to the palace when Rameses is sleeping, in three places. Do you hear, Kaschta! Now hasten, fly after the incendiaries, rouse the servants, and try to rescue the king.”
“Oh fly, father,” cried the girl, and they both rushed away in the darkness.
“She is honest and will keep her word,” muttered Hekt, and she tried to drag herself back to her own tent; but her strength failed her half-way. Little Scherau tried to support her, but he was too weak; she sank down on the sand, and looked out into the distance. There she saw the dark mass of the palace, from which rose a light that grew broader and broader, then clouds of black smoke, then up flew the soaring flame, and a swarm of glowing sparks.
“Run into the camp, child,” she cried, “cry fire, and wake the sleepers.”
Scherau ran off shouting as loud as he could.
The old woman pressed her hand to her side, she muttered: “There it is again.”
“In the other world—Assa—Assa,” and her trembling lips were silent for ever.
Katuti had kept her unfortunate nephew Paaker concealed in one of her servants’ tents. He had escaped wounded from the battle at Kadesh, and in terrible pain he had succeeded, by the help of an ass which he had purchased from a peasant, in reaching by paths known to hardly any one but himself, the cave where he had previously left his brother. Here he found his faithful Ethiopian slave, who nursed him till he was strong enough to set out on his journey to Egypt. He reached Pelusium, after many privations, disguised as an Ismaelite camel-driver; he left his servant, who might have betrayed him, behind in the cave.