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- Uarda, Volume 6. - 12/12 -
Pentaur shortly narrated the affair to the captain, and named himself to him.
The soldier offered him his hand.
"If there were many men in Rameses' army," said he, who could strike such a blow as you, the war with the Cheta would soon be at an end. But you have struck down, not Asiatics, but citizens of Thebes, and, much as I regret it, I must take you as a prisoner to Ameni."
"You only do your duty," replied Pentaur, bowing to the captain, who ordered his men to take up the body of the paraschites, and to bear it to the temple of Seti.
"I ought to take the girl in charge too," he added, turning to Pentaur.
"She is ill," replied the poet.
And if she does not get some rest," added Nebsecht, "she will be dead. Leave her alone; she is under the particular protection of the princess Bent-Anat, who ran over her not long ago."
"I will take her into my house," said Hekt, "and will take care of her. Her grandmother is lying there; she was half choked by the flames, but she will soon come to herself--and I have room for both."
"Till to-morrow," replied the surgeon. "Then I will provide another shelter for her."
The old woman laughed and muttered: "There are plenty of folks to take care of her, it seems."
The soldiers obeyed the command of their leader, took up the wounded, and went away with Pentaur, and the body of Pinem.
Meanwhile, Bent-Anat and her party had with much difficulty reached the river-bank. One of the bearers was sent to find the boat which was waiting for them, and he was enjoined to make haste, for already they could see the approach of the procession, which escorted the God on his return journey. If they could not succeed in finding their boat without delay, they must wait at least an hour, for, at night, not a boat that did not belong to the train of Amon--not even the barge of a noble--might venture from shore till the whole procession was safe across.
They awaited the messenger's signal in the greatest anxiety, for Nefert was perfectly exhausted, and Bent-Anat, on whom she leaned, felt her trembling in every limb.
At last the bearer gave the signal; the swift, almost invisible bark, which was generally used for wild fowl shooting, shot by--Rameri seized one end of an oar that the rower held out to him, and drew the little boat up to the landing-place.
The captain of the watch passed at the same moment, and shouting out, "This is the last boat that can put off before the passage of the God!"
Bent-Anat descended the steps as quickly as Nefert's exhausted state permitted. The landing-place was now only dimly lighted by dull lanterns, though, when the God embarked, it would be as light as day with cressets and torches. Before she could reach the bottom step, with Nefert still clinging heavily to her arm, a hard hand was laid on her shoulder, and the rough voice of Paaker exclaimed:
"Stand back, you rabble! We are going first." The captain of the watch did not stop him, for he knew the chief pioneer and his overbearing ways. Paaker put his finger to his lips, and gave a shrill whistle that sounded like a yell in the silence.
The stroke of oars responded to the call, and Paaker called out to his boatmen:
"Bring the boat up here! these people can wait!" The pioneer's boat was larger and better manned than that of the princess.
"Jump into the boat!" cried Rameri.
Bent-Anat went forward without speaking, for she did not wish to make herself known again for the sake of the people, and for Nefert's; but Paaker put himself in her way.
"Did I not tell you that you common people must wait till we are gone. Push these people's boat out into the stream, you men."
Bent-Anat felt her blood chill, for a loud squabble at once began on the landing-steps.
Rameri's voice sounded louder than all the rest; but the pioneer exclaimed:
"The low brutes dare to resist? I will teach them manners! Here, Descher, look after the woman and these boys!"
At his call his great red hound barked and sprang forward, which, as it had belonged to his father, always accompanied him when he went with his mother to visit the ancestral tomb. Nefert shrieked with fright, but the dog at once knew her, and crouched against her with whines of recognition.
Paaker, who had gone down to his boat, turned round in astonishment, and saw his dog fawning at the feet of a boy whom he could not possibly recognize as Nefert; he sprang back, and cried out:
"I will teach you, you young scoundrel, to spoil my dog with spells--or poison!"
He raised his whip, and struck it across the shoulders of Nefert, who, with one scream of terror and anguish, fell to the ground.
The lash of the whip only whistled close by the cheek of the poor fainting woman, for Bent-Anat had seized Paaker's arm with all her might.
Rage, disgust, and scorn stopped her utterance; but Rameri had heard Nefert's shriek, and in two steps stood by the women.
"Cowardly scoundrel!" he cried, and lifted the oar in his hand. Paaker evaded the blow, and called to the dog with a peculiar hiss:
"Pull him down, Descher."
The hound flew at the prince; but Rameri, who from his childhood, had been his father's companion in many hunts and field sports, gave the furious brute such a mighty blow on the muzzle that he rolled over with a snort.
Paaker believed that he possessed in the whole world no more faithful friend than this dog, his companion on all his marches across desert tracts or through the enemy's country, and when he saw him writhing on the ground his rage knew no bounds, and he flew at the youngster with his whip; but Rameri--madly excited by all the events of the night, full of the warlike spirit of his fathers, worked up to the highest pitch by the insults to the two ladies, and seeing that he was their only protector-- suddenly felt himself endowed with the strength of a man; he dealt the pioneer such a heavy blow on the left hand, that he dropped his whip, and now seized the dagger in his girdle with his right.
Bent-Anat threw herself between the man and the stripling, who was hardly more than a boy, once more declared her name, and this time her brother's also, and commanded Paaker to make peace among the boatmen. Then she led Nefert, who remained unrecognized, into the boat, entered it herself with her companions, and shortly after landed at the palace, while Paaker's mother, for whom he had called his boat, had yet a long time to wait before it could start. Setchem had seen the struggle from her litter at the top of the landing steps, but without understanding its origin, and without recognizing the chief actors.
The dog was dead. Paaker's hand was very painful, and fresh rage was seething in his soul.
"That brood of Rameses!" he muttered. "Adventurers! They shall learn to know me. Mena and Rameses are closely connected--I will sacrifice them both."
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Her white cat was playing at her feet Human sacrifices, which had been introduced into Egypt by the Phoenicians The dressing and undressing of the holy images Thought that the insane were possessed by demons Use words instead of swords, traps instead of lances
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