“Yet you desire a more distinguished son-in-law?” interrupted his companion. “How is our arduous enterprise to prosper, if those who are to peril their lives for its success consider the first sacrifice too great? You say that your daughter favors Hosea?”
“Yes, she did care for him,” the soldier answered; “yes, he was her heart’s desire. But I compelled her to obey me, and now that she is a widow, am I to give her to the man whom—the gods alone know with how much difficulty—I forced her to resign? When was such an act heard of in Egypt?”
“Ever since the men and women who dwell by the Nile have submitted, for the sake of a great cause, to demands opposed to their wishes,” replied the priest.
“Consider all this, and remember that Hosea’s ancestress—he boasted of it in your own presence—was an Egyptian, the daughter of a man of my own class.”
“How many generations have passed to the tomb since?”
“No matter! It brings us into closer relations with him. That must suffice. Farewell until this evening. Meanwhile, will you extend your hospitality to Hosea’s nephew and commend him to your fair daughter’s nursing; he seems in sore need of care.”
The house of Hornecht, like nearly every other dwelling in the city, was the scene of the deepest mourning. The men had shaved their hair, and the women had put dust on their foreheads. The archer’s wife had died long before, but his daughter and her women received him with waving veils and loud lamentations; for the astrologer, his brother-in-law, had lost both his first-born son and his grandson, and the plague had snatched its victims from the homes of many a friend.
But the senseless youth soon demanded all the care the women could bestow, and after bathing him and binding a healing ointment on the dangerous wound in his head, strong wine and food were placed before him, after which, refreshed and strengthened, he obeyed the summons of the daughter of his host.
The dust-covered, worn-out fellow was transformed into a handsome youth. His perfumed hair fell in long curling locks from beneath the fresh white bandage, and gold-bordered Egyptian robes from the wardrobe of Kasana’s dead husband covered his pliant bronzed limbs. He seemed pleased with the finery of his garments, which exhaled a subtle odor of spikenard new to his senses; for the eyes in his handsome face sparkled brilliantly.
It was many a day since the captain’s daughter, herself a woman of unusual beauty and charm, had seen a handsomer youth. Within the year she had married a man she did not love Kasana had returned a widow to her father’s house, which lacked a mistress, and the great wealth bequeathed to her, at her husband’s death, made it possible for her to bring into the soldier’s unpretending home the luxury and ease which to her had now become a second nature.