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- Uarda, Volume 2. - 13/13 -
"My sacrifices," replied Paaker, "secure me the favor of the Gods; but Mena behaved to me like a vile robber, and I only return to him the evil that belongs to him. Enough of this! and if you love me, never again utter the name of my enemy before me. I have forgiven Nefert and her mother--that may satisfy you."
Setchem shook her head, and said: "What will it lead to! The war cannot last for ever, and if Mena returns the reconciliation of to-day will turn to all the more bitter enmity. I see only one remedy. Follow my advice, and let me find you a wife worthy of you."
"Not now!" exclaimed Paaker impatiently. "In a few days I must go again into the enemy's country, and do not wish to leave my wife, like Mena, to lead the life of a widow during my existence. Why urge it? my brother's wife and children are with you--that might satisfy you."
"The Gods know how I love them," answered Setchem; "but your brother Horns is the younger, and you the elder, to whom the inheritance belongs. Your little niece is a delightful plaything, but in your son I should see at once the future stay of our race, the future head of the family; brought up to my mind and your father's; for all is sacred to me that my dead husband wished. He rejoiced in your early betrothal to Nefert, and hoped that a son of his eldest son should continue the race of Assa."
"It shall be by no fault of mine that any wish of his remains unfulfilled. The stars are high, mother; sleep well, and if to-morrow you visit Nefert and your sister, say to them that the doors of my house are open to them. But stay! Katuti's steward has offered to sell a herd of cattle to ours, although the stock on Mena's land can be but small. What does this mean?"
"You know my sister," replied Setchem. "She manages Mena's possessions, has many requirements, tries to vie with the greatest in splendor, sees the governor often in her house, her son is no doubt extravagant--and so the most necessary things may often be wanting."
Paaker shrugged his shoulders, once more embraced his mother and left her.
Soon after, he was standing in the spacious room in which he was accustomed to sit and to sleep when he was in Thebes. The walls of this room were whitewashed and decorated with pious glyphic writing, which framed in the door and the windows opening into the garden.
In the middle of the farther wall was a couch in the form of a lion. The upper end of it imitated a lion's head, and the foot, its curling tail; a finely dressed lion's skin was spread over the bell, and a headrest of ebony, decorated with pious texts, stood on a high foot-step, ready for the sleeper.
Above the bed various costly weapons and whips were elegantly displayed, and below them the seven arrows over which Setchem had read the words "Death to Mena." They were written across a sentence which enjoined feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and clothing the naked; with loving-kindness, alike to the great and the humble.
A niche by the side of the bed-head was closed with a curtain of purple stuff.
In each corner of the room stood a statue; three of them symbolized the triad of Thebes-Anion, Muth, and Chunsu--and the fourth the dead father of the pioneer. In front of each was a small altar for offerings, with a hollow in it, in which was an odoriferous essence. On a wooden stand were little images of the Gods and amulets in great number, and in several painted chests lay the clothes, the ornaments and the papers of the master. In the midst of the chamber stood a table and several stool- shaped seats.
When Paaker entered the room he found it lighted with lamps, and a large dog sprang joyfully to meet him. He let him spring upon him, threw him to the ground, let him once more rush upon him, and then kissed his clever head.
Before his bed an old negro of powerful build lay in deep sleep. Paaker shoved him with his foot and called to him as he awoke--
"I am hungry."
The grey-headed black man rose slowly, and left the room.
As soon as he was alone Paaker drew the philter from his girdle, looked at it tenderly, and put it in a box, in which there were several flasks of holy oils for sacrifice. He was accustomed every evening to fill the hollows in the altars with fresh essences, and to prostrate himself in prayer before the images of the Gods. To-day he stood before the statue of his father, kissed its feet, and murmured: "Thy will shall be done.-- The woman whom thou didst intend for me shall indeed be mine--thy eldest son's."
Then he walked to and fro and thought over the events of the day.
At last he stood still, with his arms crossed, and looked defiantly at the holy images; like a traveller who drives away a false guide, and thinks to find the road by himself.
His eye fell on the arrows over his bed; he smiled, and striking his broad breast with his fist, he exclaimed, "I--I--I--"
His hound, who thought his master meant to call him, rushed up to him. He pushed him off and said--"If you meet a hyaena in the desert, you fall upon it without waiting till it is touched by my lance--and if the Gods, my masters, delay, I myself will defend my right; but thou," he continued turning to the image of his father, "thou wilt support me."
This soliloquy was interrupted by the slaves who brought in his meal.
Paaker glanced at the various dishes which the cook had prepared for him, and asked: "How often shall I command that not a variety, but only one large dish shall be dressed for me? And the wine?"
"Thou art used never to touch it?" answered the old negro.
"But to-day I wish for some," said the pioneer." Bring one of the old jars of red wine of Kakem."
The slaves looked at each other in astonishment; the wine was brought, and Paaker emptied beaker after beaker. When the servants had left him, the boldest among them said: "Usually the master eats like a lion, and drinks like a midge, but to-day--"
"Hold your tongue!" cried his companion, "and come into the court, for Paaker has sent us out beer. The Hathors must have met him."
The occurrences of the day must indeed have taken deep hold on the inmost soul of the pioneer; for he, the most sober of all the warriors of Rameses, to whom intoxication was unknown, and who avoided the banquets of his associates--now sat at the midnight hours, alone at his table, and toped till his weary head grew heavy.
He collected himself, went towards his couch and drew the curtain which concealed the niche at the head of the bed. A female figure, with the head-dress and attributes of the Goddess Hathor, made of painted limestone, revealed itself.
Her countenance had the features of the wife of Mena.
The king, four years since, had ordered a sculptor to execute a sacred image with the lovely features of the newly-married bride of his charioteer, and Paaker had succeeded in having a duplicate made.
He now knelt down on the couch, gazed on the image with moist eyes, looked cautiously around to see if he was alone, leaned forward, pressed a kiss to the delicate, cold stone lips; laid down and went to sleep without undressing himself, and leaving the lamps to burn themselves out.
Restless dreams disturbed his spirit, and when the dawn grew grey, he screamed out, tormented by a hideous vision, so pitifully, that the old negro, who had laid himself near the dog at the foot of his bed, sprang up alarmed, and while the dog howled, called him by his name to wake him.
Paaker awoke with a dull head-ache. The vision which had tormented him stood vividly before his mind, and he endeavored to retain it that he might summon a haruspex to interpret it. After the morbid fancies of the preceding evening he felt sad and depressed.
The morning-hymn rang into his room with a warning voice from the temple of Amon; he cast off evil thoughts, and resolved once more to resign the conduct of his fate to the Gods, and to renounce all the arts of magic.
As he was accustomed, he got into the bath that was ready for him. While splashing in the tepid water he thought with ever increasing eagerness of Nefert and of the philter which at first he had meant not to offer to her, but which actually was given to her by his hand, and which might by this time have begun to exercise its charm.
Love placed rosy pictures--hatred set blood-red images before his eyes. He strove to free himself from the temptations, which more and more tightly closed in upon him, but it was with him as with a man who has fallen into a bog, who, the more vehemently he tries to escape from the mire, sinks the deeper.
As the sun rose, so rose his vital energy and his self-confidence, and when he prepared to quit his dwelling, in his most costly clothing, he had arrived once more at the decision of the night before, and had again resolved to fight for his purpose, without--and if need were--against the Gods.
The Mohar had chosen his road, and he never turned back when once he had begun a journey.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Blossom of the thorny wreath of sorrow Eyes kind and frank, without tricks of glance Money is a pass-key that turns any lock Repugnance for the old laws began to take root in his heart Thou canst say in words what we can only feel Whether the form of our benevolence does more good or mischief
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