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- Uarda, Volume 6. - 5/12 -
were being aired and set out; here sceptres, censers and other metal- vessels were being cleaned, and there the sacred bark which was to be carried in the procession was being decorated. In the sacred groves of the temple the school-boys, under the direction of the gardeners, wove garlands and wreaths to decorate the landing-places, the sphinxes, the temple, and the statues of the Gods. Flags were hoisted on the brass- tipped masts in front of the pylon, and purple sails were spread to give shadow to the court.
The inspector of sacrifices was already receiving at a side-door the cattle, corn and fruit, offerings which were brought as tribute to the House of Seti, by citizens from all parts of the country, on the occasion of the festival of the Valley, and he was assisted by scribes, who kept an account of all that was brought in by the able-bodied temple-servants and laboring serfs.
Ameni was everywhere: now with the singers, now with the magicians, who were to effect wonderful transformations before the astonished multitude; now with the workmen, who were erecting thrones for the Regent, the emissaries from other collegiate foundations--even from so far as the Delta--and the prophets from Thebes; now with the priests, who were preparing the incense, now with the servants, who were trimming the thousand lamps for the illumination at night--in short everywhere; here inciting, there praising. When he had convinced himself that all was going on well he desired one of the priests to call Pentaur.
After the departure of the exiled prince Rameri, the young priest had gone to the work-room of his friend Nebsecht.
The leech went uneasily from his phials to his cages, and from his cages back to his flasks. While he told Pentaur of the state he had found his room in on his return home, he wandered about in feverish excitement, unable to keep still, now kicking over a bundle of plants, now thumping down his fist on the table; his favorite birds were starved to death, his snakes had escaped, and his ape had followed their example, apparently in his fear of them.
"The brute, the monster!" cried Nebsecht in a rage. He has thrown over the jars with the beetles in them, opened the chest of meal that I feed the birds and insects upon, and rolled about in it; he has thrown my knives, prickers, and forceps, my pins, compasses, and reed pens all out of window; and when I came in he was sitting on the cupboard up there, looking just like a black slave that works night and day in a corn-mill; he had got hold of the roll which contained all my observations on the structure of animals--the result of years of study-and was looking at it gravely with his head on one side. I wanted to take the book from him, but he fled with the roll, sprang out of window, let himself down to the edge of the well, and tore and rubbed the manuscript to pieces in a rage. I leaped out after him, but he jumped into the bucket, took hold of the chain, and let himself down, grinning at me in mockery, and when I drew him up again he jumped into the water with the remains of the book."
"And the poor wretch is drowned?" asked Pentaur.
"I fished him up with the bucket, and laid him to dry in the sun; but he had been tasting all sorts of medicines, and he died at noon. My observations are gone! Some of them certainly are still left; however, I must begin again at the beginning. You see apes object as much to my labors as sages; there lies the beast on the shelf."
Pentaur had laughed at his friend's story, and then lamented his loss; but now he said anxiously:
"He is lying there on the shelf? But you forget that he ought to have been kept in the little oratory of Toth near the library. He belongs to the sacred dogfaced apes,
[The dog faced baboon, Kynokephalos, was sacred to Toth as the Moongod. Mummies of these apes have been found at Thebes and Hermopolis, and they are often represented as reading with much gravity. Statues of them have been found to great quantities, and there is a particularly life-like picture of a Kynokephalos in relief on the left wall of the library of the temple of Isis at Philoe.]
and all the sacred marks were found upon him. The librarian gave him into your charge to have his bad eye cured."
"That was quite well," answered Nebsecht carelessly.
"But they will require the uninjured corpse of you, to embalm it," said Pentaur.
"Will they?" muttered Nebsecht; and he looked at his friend like a boy who is asked for an apple that has long been eaten.
"And you have already been doing something with it," said Pentaur, in a tone of friendly vexation.
The leech nodded. "I have opened him, and examined his heart.'
"You are as much set on hearts as a coquette!" said Pentaur. "What is become of the human heart that the old paraschites was to get for you?"
Nebsecht related without reserve what the old man had done for him, and said that he had investigated the human heart, and had found nothing in it different from what he had discovered in the heart of beasts.
"But I must see it in connection with the other organs of the human body," cried he; "and my decision is made. I shall leave the House of Seti, and ask the kolchytes to take me into their guild. If it is necessary I will first perform the duties of the lowest paraschites."
Pentaur pointed out to the leech what a bad exchange he would be making, and at last exclaimed, when Nebsecht eagerly contradicted him, "This dissecting of the heart does not please me. You say yourself that you learned nothing by it. Do you still think it a right thing, a fine thing--or even useful?"
"I do not trouble myself about it," replied Nebsecht. "Whether my observations seem good or evil, right or heinous, useful or useless, I want to know how things are, nothing more."
"And so for mere curiosity," cried Pentaur, "you would endanger the blissful future of thousands of your fellow-men, take upon yourself the most abject duties, and leave this noble scene of your labors, where we all strive for enlightenment, for inward knowledge and truth."
The naturalist laughed scornfully; the veins swelled angrily in Pentaur's forehead, and his voice took a threatening tone as he asked:
"And do you believe that your finger and your eyes have lighted on the truth, when the noblest souls have striven in vain for thousands of years to find it out? You descend beneath the level of human understanding by madly wallowing in the mire; and the more clearly you are convinced that you have seized the truth, the more utterly you are involved in the toils of a miserable delusion."
"If I believed I knew the truth should I so eagerly seek it?" asked Nebsecht. "The more I observe and learn, the more deeply I feel my want of knowledge and power."
"That sounds modest enough," said the poet, "but I know the arrogance to which your labors are leading you. Everything that you see with your own eyes and touch with your own hand, you think infallible, and everything that escapes your observation you secretly regard as untrue, and pass by with a smile of superiority. But you cannot carry your experiments beyond the external world, and you forget that there are things which lie in a different realm."
"I know nothing of those things," answered Nebsecht quietly.
"But we--the Initiated," cried Pentaur, "turn our attention to them also. Thoughts--traditions--as to their conditions and agency have existed among us for a thousand years; hundreds of generations of men have examined these traditions, have approved them, and have handed them down to us. All our knowledge, it is true, is defective, and yet prophets have been favored with the gift of looking into the future, magic powers have been vouchsafed to mortals. All this is contrary to the laws of the external world, which are all that you recognize, and yet it can easily be explained if we accept the idea of a higher order of things. The spirit of the Divinity dwells in each of us, as in nature. The natural man can only attain to such knowledge as is common to all; but it is the divine capacity for serene discernment--which is omniscience--that works in the seer; it is the divine and unlimited power--which is omnipotence --that from time to time enables the magician to produce supernatural effects!"
"Away with prophets and marvels!" cried Nebsecht.
"I should have thought," said Pentaur, "that even the laws of nature which you recognize presented the greatest marvels daily to your eyes; nay the Supreme One does not disdain sometimes to break through the common order of things, in order to reveal to that portion of Himself which we call our soul, the sublime Whole of which we form part--Himself. Only today you have seen how the heart of the sacred ram--"
"Man, man!" Nebsecht interrupted, "the sacred heart is the heart of a hapless sheep that a sot of a soldier sold for a trifle to a haggling grazier, and that was slaughtered in a common herd. A proscribed paraschites put it into the body of Rui, and--and--" he opened the cupboard, threw the carcase of the ape and some clothes on to the floor, and took out an alabaster bowl which he held before the poet--"the muscles you see here in brine, this machine, once beat in the breast of the prophet Rui. My sheep's heart wilt be carried to-morrow in the procession! I would have told you all about it if I had not promised the old man to hold my tongue, and then--But what ails you, man?" Pentaur had turned away from his friend, and covered his face with his hands, and he groaned as if he were suffering some frightful physical pain. Nebsecht divined what was passing in the mind of his friend. Like a child that has to ask forgiveness of its mother for some misdeed, he went close up to Pentaur, but stood trembling behind him not daring to speak to him.
Several minutes passed. Suddenly Pentaur raised his head, lifted his hands to heaven, and cried:
"O Thou! the One!--though stars may fall from the heavens in summer nights, still Thy eternal and immutable laws guide the never-resting planets in their paths. Thou pure and all-prevading Spirit, that dwellest in me, as I know by my horror of a lie, manifest Thyself in me-- as light when I think, as mercy when I act, and when I speak, as truth-- always as truth!"
The poet spoke these words with absorbed fervor, and Nebsecht heard them as if they were speech from some distant and beautiful world. He went affectionately up to his friend, and eagerly held out his hand. Pentaur grasped it, pressed it warmly, and said:
"That was a fearful moment! You do not know what Ameni has been to me,
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