“I know it,” muttered the dwarf, “but if Nefert would ask him?”
The widow drew herself up indignantly. She felt that she had allowed the dwarf too much freedom, and ordered him to leave her alone.
Nemu kissed her robe and asked timidly:
“Shall I forget that thou hast trusted me, or am I permitted to consider further as to thy son’s safety?” Katuti stood for a moment undecided, then she said:
“You were clever enough to find what I carelessly dropped; perhaps some God may show you what I ought to do. Now leave me.”
“Wilt thou want me early to-morrow?”
“Then I will go to the Necropolis, and offer a sacrifice.”
“Go!” said Katuti, and went towards the house with the fatal letter in her hand.
Nemu stayed behind alone; he looked thoughtfully at the ground, murmuring to himself.
“She must not lose her honor; not at present, or indeed all will be lost. What is this honor? We all come into the world without it, and most of us go to the grave without knowing it, and very good folks notwithstanding. Only a few who are rich and idle weave it in with the homely stuff of their souls, as the Kuschites do their hair with grease and oils, till it forms a cap of which, though it disfigures them, they are so proud that they would rather have their ears cut off than the monstrous thing. I see, I see—but before I open my mouth I will go to my mother. She knows more than twenty prophets.”
Before the sun had risen the next morning, Nemu got himself ferried over the Nile, with the small white ass which Mena’s deceased father had given him many years before. He availed himself of the cool hour which precedes the rising of the sun for his ride through the Necropolis.
Well acquainted as he was with every stock and stone, he avoided the high roads which led to the goal of his expedition, and trotted towards the hill which divides the valley of the royal tombs from the plain of the Nile.
Before him opened a noble amphitheatre of lofty lime-stone peaks, the background of the stately terrace-temple which the proud ancestress of two kings of the fallen family, the great Hatasu, had erected to their memory, and to the Goddess Hathor.
Nemu left the sanctuary to his left, and rode up the steep hill-path which was the nearest way from the plain to the valley of the tombs.
Below him lay a bird’s eye view of the terrace-building of Hatasu, and before him, still slumbering in cool dawn, was the Necropolis with its houses and temples and colossal statues, the broad Nile glistening with white sails under the morning mist; and, in the distant east, rosy with the coming sun, stood Thebes and her gigantic temples.
But the dwarf saw nothing of the glorious panorama that lay at his feet; absorbed in thought, and stooping over the neck of his ass, he let the panting beast climb and rest at its pleasure.