The events of the last few hours had moved him deeply, and shaken his confidence in his unerring judgment of men and things.
The priests on the other bank of the Nile were Bent-Anat’s counsellors, and he had heard the princess spoken of as a devout and gifted maiden. Her incautious breach of the sacred institutions had seemed to him to offer a welcome opportunity for humiliating—a member of the royal family.
Now he told himself that he had undervalued this young creature that he had behaved clumsily, perhaps foolishly, to her; for he did not for a moment conceal from himself that her sudden change of demeanor resulted much more from the warm flow of her sympathy, or perhaps of her, affection, than from any recognition of her guilt, and he could not utilize her transgression with safety to himself, unless she felt herself guilty.
Nor was he of so great a nature as to be wholly free from vanity, and his vanity had been deeply wounded by the haughty resistance of the princess.
When he commanded Pentaur to meet the princess with words of reproof, he had hoped to awaken his ambition through the proud sense of power over the mighty ones of the earth.
How had his gifted admirer, the most hopeful of all his disciples, stood the test.
The one ideal of his life, the unlimited dominion of the priestly idea over the minds of men, and of the priesthood over the king himself, had hitherto remained unintelligible to this singular young man.
He must learn to understand it.
“Here, as the least among a hundred who are his superiors, all the powers of resistance of his soaring soul have been roused,” said Ameni to himself. “In the temple of Hatasu he will have to rule over the inferior orders of slaughterers of victims and incense-burners; and, by requiring obedience, will learn to estimate the necessity of it. The rebel, to whom a throne devolves, becomes a tyrant!”
“Pentuar’s poet soul,” so he continued to reflect “has quickly yielded itself a prisoner to the charm of Bent-Anat; and what woman could resist this highly favored being, who is radiant in beauty as Ra-Harmachis, and from whose lips flows speech as sweet as Techuti’s. They ought never to meet again, for no tie must bind him to the house of Rameses.”
Again he paced to and fro, and murmured:
“How is this? Two of my disciples have towered above their fellows, in genius and gifts, like palm trees above their undergrowth. I brought them up to succeed me, to inherit my labors and my hopes.
“Mesu fell away;
[Mesu is the Egyptian name of Moses,
whom we may consider as a
contemporary of Rameses, under whose successor the exodus of the
Jews from Egypt took place.]
and Pentaur may follow him. Must my aim be an unworthy one because it does not attract the noblest? Not so. Each feels himself made of better stuff than his companions in destiny, constitutes his own law, and fears to see the great expended in trifles; but I think otherwise; like a brook of ferruginous water from Lebanon, I mix with the great stream, and tinge it with my color.”