When he had reached half the height of the hill, he perceived the sound of footsteps coming nearer and nearer to him.
The vigorous walker had soon reached him, and bid him good morning, which he civilly returned.
The hill-path was narrow, and when Nemu observed that the man who followed him was a priest, he drew up his donkey on a level spot, and said reverently:
“Pass on, holy father; for thy two feet carry thee quicker than my four.”
“A sufferer needs my help,” replied the leech Nebsecht, Pentaur’s friend, whom we have already seen in the House of Seti, and by the bed of the paraschites’ daughter; and he hastened on so as to gain on the slow pace of the rider.
Then rose the glowing disk of the sun above the eastern horizon, and from the sanctuaries below the travellers rose up the pious many-voiced chant of praise.
Nemu slipped off his ass, and assumed an attitude of prayer; the priest did the same; but while the dwarf devoutly fixed his eyes on the new birth of the Sun-God from the eastern range, the priest’s eyes wandered to the earth, and his raised hand fell to pick up a rare fossil shell which lay on the path.
In a few minutes Nebsecht rose, and Nemu followed him.
“It is a fine morning,” said the dwarf; “the holy fathers down there seem more cheerful to-day than usual.”
The surgeon laughed assent. “Do you belong to the Necropolis?” he said. “Who here keeps dwarfs?”
“No one,” answered the little man. “But I will ask thee a question. Who that lives here behind the hill is of so much importance, that a leech from the House of Seti sacrifices his night’s rest for him?”
“The one I visit is mean, but the suffering is great,” answered Nebsecht.
Nemu looked at him with admiration, and muttered, “That is noble, that is ——” but he did not finish his speech; he struck his brow and exclaimed, “You are going, by the desire of the Princess Bent-Anat, to the child of the paraschites that was run over. I guessed as much. The food must have an excellent after-taste, if a gentleman rises so early to eat it. How is the poor child doing?”
There was so much warmth in these last words that Nebsecht, who had thought the dwarf’s reproach uncalled for, answered in a friendly tone:
“Not so badly; she may be saved.”
“The Gods be praised!” exclaimed Nemu, while the priest passed on.
Nebsecht went up and down the hillside at a redoubled pace, and had long taken his place by the couch of the wounded Uarda in the hovel of the paraschites, when Nemu drew near to the abode of his Mother Hekt, from whom Paaker had received the philter.
The old woman sat before the door of her cave. Near her lay a board, fitted with cross pieces, between which a little boy was stretched in such a way that they touched his head and his feet.
Hekt understood the art of making dwarfs; playthings in human form were well paid for, and the child on the rack, with his pretty little face, promised to be a valuable article.