Hornecht, commander of the archers, was among the prophet’s companions. Indeed they were on terms of intimacy, for the soldier was a leader amid the nobles who had conspired to dethrone Pharaoh.
As they approached Nun’s ruined dwelling, the prophet pointed to the wreck and said: “The former owner of this abode is the only Hebrew I would gladly spare. He was a man of genuine worth, and his son, Hosea. . . .”
“Will be one of us,” the captain interrupted. “There are few better men in Pharaoh’s army, and,” he added, lowering his voice, “I rely on him when the decisive hour comes.”
“We will discuss that before fewer witnesses,” replied Bai. “But I am greatly indebted to him. During the Libyan war—you are aware of the fact—I fell into the hands of the enemy, and Hosea, at the head of his little troop, rescued me from the savage hordes.” Sinking his tones, he went on in his most instructive manner, as though apologizing for the mischief wrought: “Such is the course of earthly affairs! Where a whole body of men merit punishment, the innocent must suffer with the guilty. Under such circumstances the gods themselves cannot separate the individual from the multitude; nay, even the innocent animals share the penalty. Look at the flocks of doves fluttering around the ruins; they are seeking their cotes in vain. And the cat with her kittens yonder. Go and take them, Beki; it is our duty to save the sacred animals from starving to death.”
And this man, who had just been planning the destruction of so many of his fellow-mortals, was so warmly interested in kindly caring for the senseless beasts, that he stopped his litter and watched his servants catch the cats.
This was less quickly accomplished than he had hoped; for one had taken refuge in the nearest cellar, whose opening was too narrow for the men to follow. The youngest, a slender Nubian, undertook the task; but he had scarcely approached the hole when he started back, calling: “There is a human being there who seems to be alive. Yes, he is raising his hand. It is a boy or a youth, and assuredly no slave; his head is covered with long waving locks, and—a sunbeam is shining into the cellar—I can see a broad gold circlet on his arm.”
“Perhaps it is one of Nun’s kindred, who has been forgotten,” said Hornecht, and Bai eagerly added:
“It is an interposition from the gods! Their sacred animals have pointed out the way by which I can render a service to the man to whom I am so much indebted. Try to get in, Beki, and bring the youth out.”
Meanwhile the Nubian had removed the stone whose fall had choked the opening, and soon after he lifted toward his companions a motionless young form which they brought into the open air and bore to a well whose cool water speedily restored consciousness.
As he regained his senses, he rubbed his eyes, gazed around him bewildered, as if uncertain where he was, then his head drooped as though overwhelmed with grief and horror, revealing that the locks at the back were matted together with black clots of dried blood.