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- Uarda, Volume 3. - 5/13 -
"Not God even," said Anat firmly. "But you are Ani's friend, and as I esteem him, I would save him from this humiliation. Endeavor to persuade him to give up his suit. I will meet him as though I knew nothing of his letter to my father."
Katuti looked down reflectively. Then she said--"The Regent certainly likes very well to pass his hours of leisure with me gossiping or playing draughts, but I do not know that I should dare to speak to him of so grave a matter."
"Marriage-projects are women's affairs," said Bent-Anat, smiling.
"But the marriage of a princess is a state event," replied the widow. "In this case it is true the uncle
[Among the Orientals--and even the Spaniards--it was and is common to give the name of uncle to a parent's cousin.]
only courts his niece, who is dear to him, and who he hopes will make the second half of his life the brightest. Ani is kind and without severity. Thou would'st win in him a husband, who would wait on thy looks, and bow willingly to thy strong will."
Bent-Anat's eyes flashed, and she hastily exclaimed: "That is exactly what forces the decisive irrevocable 'No' to my lips. Do you think that because I am as proud as my mother, and resolute like my father, that I wish for a husband whom I could govern and lead as I would? How little you know me! I will be obeyed by my dogs, my servants, my officers, if the Gods so will it, by my children. Abject beings, who will kiss my feet, I meet on every road, and can buy by the hundred, if I wish it, in the slave market. I may be courted twenty times, and reject twenty suitors, but not because I fear that they might bend my pride and my will; on the contrary, because I feel them increased. The man to whom I could wish to offer my hand must be of a loftier stamp, must be greater, firmer, and better than I, and I will flutter after the mighty wing- strokes of his spirit, and smile at my own weakness, and glory in admiring his superiority."
Katuti listened to the maiden with the smile by which the experienced love to signify their superiority over the visionary.
"Ancient times may have produced such men," she said. "But if in these days thou thinkest to find one, thou wilt wear the lock of youth,
[The lock of youth was a curl of hair which all the younger members of princely families wore at the side of the head. The young Horus is represented with it.]
till thou art grey. Our thinkers are no heroes, and our heroes are no sages. Here come thy brother and Nefert."
"Will you persuade Ani to give up his suit!" said the princess urgently.
"I will endeavor to do so, for thy sake," replied Katuti. Then, turning half to the young Rameri and half to his sister, she said:
"The chief of the House of Seti, Ameni, was in his youth such a man as thou paintest, Bent-Anat. Tell us, thou son of Rameses, that art growing up under the young sycamores, which shall some day over-shadow the land- whom dost thou esteem the highest among thy companions? Is there one among them, who is conspicuous above them all for a lofty spirit and strength of intellect?"
The young Rameri looked gaily at the speaker, and said laughing: "We are all much alike, and do more or less willingly what we are compelled, and by preference every thing that we ought not."
"A mighty soul--a youth, who promises to be a second Snefru, a Thotmes, or even an Amem? Dost thou know none such in the House of Seti?" asked the widow. "Oh yes!" cried Rameri with eager certainty.
"And he is--?" asked Katuti.
"Pentaur, the poet," exclaimed the youth. Bent-Anat's face glowed with scarlet color, while her, brother went on to explain.
"He is noble and of a lofty soul, and all the Gods dwell in him when he speaks. Formerly we used to go to sleep in the lecture-hall; but his words carry us away, and if we do not take in the full meaning of his thoughts, yet we feel that they are genuine and noble."
Bent-Anat breathed quicker at these words, and her eyes hung on the boy's lips.
"You know him, Bent-Anat," continued Rameri. "He was with you at the paraschites' house, and in the temple-court when Ameni pronounced you unclean. He is as tall and handsome as the God Mentli, and I feel that he is one of those whom we can never forget when once we have seen them. Yesterday, after you had left the temple, he spoke as he never spoke before; he poured fire into our souls. Do not laugh, Katuti, I feel it burning still. This morning we were informed that he had been sent from the temple, who knows where--and had left us a message of farewell. It was not thought at all necessary to communicate the reason to us; but we know more than the masters think. He did not reprove you strongly enough, Bent-Anat, and therefore he is driven out of the House of Seti. We have agreed to combine to ask for him to be recalled; Anana is drawing up a letter to the chief priest, which we shall all subscribe. It would turn out badly for one alone, but they cannot be at all of us at once. Very likely they will have the sense to recall him. If not, we shall all complain to our fathers, and they are not the meanest in the land."
"It is a complete rebellion," cried Katuti. "Take care, you lordlings; Ameni and the other prophets are not to be trifled with."
"Nor we either," said Rameri laughing, "If Pentaur is kept in banishment, I shall appeal to my father to place me at the school at Heliopolis or Chennu, and the others will follow me. Come, Bent-Anat, I must be back in the trap before sunset. Excuse me, Katuti, so we call the school. Here comes your little Nemu."
The brother and sister left the garden.
As soon as the ladies, who accompanied them, had turned their backs, Bent-Anat grasped her brother's hand with unaccustomed warmth, and said:
"Avoid all imprudence; but your demand is just, and I will help you with all my heart."
As soon as Bent-Anat had quitted Mena's domain, the dwarf Nemu entered the garden with a letter, and briefly related his adventures; but in such a comical fashion that both the ladies laughed, and Katuti, with a lively gaiety, which was usually foreign to her, while she warned him, at the same time praised his acuteness. She looked at the seal of the letter and said:
"This is a lucky day; it has brought us great things, and the promise of greater things in the future." Nefert came close up to her and said imploringly: "Open the letter, and see if there is nothing in it from him."
Katuti unfastened the wax, looked through the letter with a hasty glance, stroked the cheek of her child, and said:
"Perhaps your brother has written for him; I see no line in his handwriting."
Nefert on her side glanced at the letter, but not to read it, only to seek some trace of the well-known handwriting of her husband.
Like all the Egyptian women of good family she could read, and during the first two years of her married life she had often--very often--had the opportunity of puzzling, and yet rejoicing, over the feeble signs which the iron hand of the charioteer had scrawled on the papyrus for her whose slender fingers could guide the reed pen with firmness and decision.
She examined the letter, and at last said, with tears in her eyes:
"Nothing! I will go to my room, mother."
Katuti kissed her and said, "Hear first what your brother writes."
But Nefert shook her head, turned away in silence, and disappeared into the house.
Katuti was not very friendly to her son-in-law, but her heart clung to her handsome, reckless son, the very image of her lost husband, the favorite of women, and the gayest youth among the young nobles who composed the chariot-guard of the king.
How fully he had written to-day--he who weilded the reed-pen so laboriously.
This really was a letter; while, usually, he only asked in the fewest words for fresh funds for the gratification of his extravagant tastes.
This time she might look for thanks, for not long since he must have received a considerable supply, which she had abstracted from the income of the possessions entrusted to her by her son-in-law.
She began to read.
The cheerfulness, with which she had met the dwarf, was insincere, and had resembled the brilliant colors of the rainbow, which gleam over the stagnant waters of a bog. A stone falls into the pool, the colors vanish, dim mists rise up, and it becomes foul and clouded.
The news which her son's letter contained fell, indeed, like a block of stone on Katuti's soul.
Our deepest sorrows always flow from the same source as might have filled us with joy, and those wounds burn the fiercest which are inflicted by a hand we love.
The farther Katuti went in the lamentably incorrect epistle--which she could only decipher with difficulty--which her darling had written to her, the paler grew her face, which she several times covered with her trembling hands, from which the letter dropped.
Nemu squatted on the earth near her, and followed all her movements.
When she sprang forward with a heart-piercing scream, and pressed her forehead to a rough palmtrunk, he crept up to her, kissed her feet, and exclaimed with a depth of feeling that overcame even Katuti, who was accustomed to hear only gay or bitter speeches from the lips of her
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