To these sounds now was added the dull crash of falling timbers and walls.
A faint smile played upon her thin lips, and she thought to herself: “There—that perhaps fell on the king, and my precious son-in-law, who does not deserve such a fate—if we had not fallen into disgrace, and if since the occurrences before Kadesh he did not cling to his indulgent lord as a calf follows a cow.”
She gathered fresh courage, and fancied she could hear the voice of Ethiopian troops hailing the Regent as king—could see Ani decorated with the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, seated on Rameses’ throne, and herself by his side in rich though unpretending splendor. She pictured herself with her son and daughter as enjoying Mena’s estate, freed from debt and increased by Ani’s generosity, and then a new, intoxicating hope came into her mind. Perhaps already at this moment her daughter was a widow, and why should she not be so fortunate as to induce Ani to select her child, the prettiest woman in Thebes, for his wife? Then she, the mother of the queen, would be indeed unimpeachable, and all-powerful. She had long since come to regard the pioneer as a tool to be cast aside, nay soon to be utterly destroyed; his wealth might probably at some future time be bestowed upon her son, who had distinguished himself at Kadesh, and whom Ani must before long promote to be his charioteer or the commander of the chariot warriors.
Flattered by these fancies, she forgot every care as she walked faster and faster to and fro in her tent. Suddenly the steward, whom she had this time sent to the very scene of the fire, rushed into the tent, and with every token of terror broke to her the news that the king and his charioteer were hanging in mid air on a narrow wooden parapet, and that unless some miracle happened they must inevitably be killed. It was said that incendiaries had occasioned the fire, and he, the steward, had hastened forward to prepare her for evil news as the mangled body of the pioneer, which had been identified by the ring on his finger, and the poor little corpse of Nemu, pierced through by an arrow, had been carried past him.
Katuti was silent for a moment.
“And the king’s sons?” she asked with an anxious sigh.
“The Gods be praised,” replied the steward, “they succeeded in letting themselves down to the ground by a rope made of their garments knotted together, and some were already safe when I came away.”
Katuti’s face clouded darkly; once more she sent forth her messenger. The minutes of his absence seemed like days; her bosom heaved in stormy agitation, then for a moment she controlled herself, and again her heart seemed to cease beating—she closed her eyes as if her anguish of anxiety was too much for her strength. At last, long after sunrise, the steward reappeared.
Pale, trembling, hardly able to control his voice, he threw himself on the ground at her feet crying out: