All through that day she could neither eat nor drink, but lay with closed eyes on her couch, while her steward—who had soon learnt what a terrible share his former master had taken in the incendiarism, and who now gave up his lady’s cause for lost—sought every where for the high-priest Ameni; but as he was among the persons nearest to the king it was impossible to see him that day, and it was not till the next morning that he was able to speak with him. Ameni inspired the anxious and sorrowful old retainer with, fresh courage, returned with him in his own chariot to the harbor, and accompanied him to Setchem’s boat to prepare her for the happiness which awaited her after her terrible troubles. But he came too late, the spirit of the poor lady was quite clouded, and she listened to him without any interest while he strove to restore her to courage and to recall her wandering mind. She only interrupted him over and over again with the questions: “Did he do it?” or “Is he alive?”
At last Ameni succeeded in persuading her to accompany him in her litter to his tent, where she would find her son. Pentaur was wonderfully like her lost husband, and the priest, experienced in humanity, thought that the sight of him would rouse the dormant powers of her mind. When she had arrived at his tent, he told her with kind precaution the whole history of the exchange of Paaker for Pentaur, and she followed the story with attention but with indifference, as if she were hearing of the adventures of others who did not concern her. When Ameni enlarged on the genius of the poet and on his perfect resemblance to his dead father she muttered:
“I know—I know. You mean the speaker at the Feast of the Valley,” and then although she had been told several times that Paaker had been killed, she asked again if her son was alive.
Ameni decided at last to fetch Pentaur himself,
When he came back with him, fully prepared to meet his heavily-stricken mother, the tent was empty. The high-priest’s servants told him that Setchem had persuaded the easily-moved old prophet Gagabu to conduct her to the place where the body of Paaker lay. Ameni was very much vexed, for he feared that Setchem was now lost indeed, and he desired the poet to follow him at once.
The mortal remains of the pioneer had been laid in a tent not far from the scene of the fire; his body was covered with a cloth, but his pale face, which had not been injured in his fall, remained uncovered; by his side knelt the unhappy mother.
She paid no heed to Ameni when he spoke to her, and he laid his hand on her shoulder and said as he pointed to the body:
“This was the son of a gardener. You brought him up faithfully as if he were your own; but your noble husband’s true heir, the son you bore him, is Pentaur, to whom the Gods have given not only the form and features but the noble qualities of his father. The dead man may be forgiven—for the sake of your virtues; but your love is due to this nobler soul—the real son of your husband, the poet of Egypt, the preserver of the king’s life.”