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- Uarda, Volume 7. - 2/10 -
fell upon me, and killed my dog and--by my Osirian father!--the crocodiles would long since have eaten him if a woman had not come between us, and made herself known to me as Bent-Anat, the daughter of Rameses. It was she herself, and the rascal was the young prince Rameri, who was yesterday forbidden this temple."
"Oho!" cried the old master of the hunt. "Oho! my lord! Is this the way to speak of the children of the king?"
Others of the company who were attached to Pharaoh's family expressed their indignation; but Ameni whispered to Paaker--"Say no more!" then he continued aloud:
"You never were careful in weighing your words, my friend, and now, as it seems to me, you are speaking in the heat of fever. Come here, Gagabu, and examine Paaker's wound, which is no disgrace to him--for it was inflicted by a prince."
The old man loosened the bandage from the pioneer's swollen hand.
"That was a bad blow," he exclaimed; "three fingers are broken, and--do you see?--the emerald too in your signet ring."
Paaker looked down at his aching fingers, and uttered a sigh of rehef, for it was not the oracular ring with the name of Thotmes III., but the valuable one given to his father by the reigning king that had been crushed. Only a few solitary fragments of the splintered stone remained in the setting; the king's name had fallen to pieces, and disappeared. Paaker's bloodless lips moved silently, and an inner voice cried out to him: "The Gods point out the way! The name is gone, the bearer of the name must follow."
"It is a pity about the ring," said Gagabu. "And if the hand is not to follow it--luckily it is your left hand--leave off drinking, let yourself be taken to Nebsecht the surgeon, and get him to set the joints neatly, and bind them up."
Paaker rose, and went away after Ameni had appointed to meet him on the following day at the Temple of Seti, and the Regent at the palace.
When the door had closed behind him, the treasurer of the temple said:
"This has been a bad day for the Mohar, and perhaps it will teach him that here in Thebes he cannot swagger as he does in the field. Another adventure occurred to him to-day; would you like to hear it?"
"Yes; tell it!" cried the guests.
"You all knew old Seni," began the treasurer. "He was a rich man, but he gave away all his goods to the poor, after his seven blooming sons, one after another, had died in the war, or of illness. He only kept a small house with a little garden, and said that as the Gods had taken his children to themselves in the other world he would take pity on the forlorn in this. 'Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked' says the law; and now that Seni has nothing more to give away, he goes through the city, as you know, hungry and thirsty himself, and scarcely clothed, and begging for his adopted children, the poor. We have all given to him, for we all know for whom he humbles himself, and holds out his hand. To-day he went round with his little bag, and begged, with his kind good eyes, for alms. Paaker has given us a good piece of arable land, and thinks, perhaps with reason, that he has done his part. When Seni addressed him, he told him to go; but the old man did not give up asking him, he followed him persistently to the grave of his father, and a great many people with him. Then the pioneer pushed him angrily back, and when at last the beggar clutched his garment, he raised his whip, and struck him two or three times, crying out: 'There- that is your portion!' The good old man bore it quite patiently, while he untied the bag, and said with tears in his eyes: 'My portion--yes-- but not the portion of the poor!'
"I was standing near, and I saw how Paaker hastily withdrew into the tomb, and how his mother Setchem threw her full purse to Seni. Others followed her example, and the old man never had a richer harvest. The poor may thank the Mohar! A crowd of people collected in front of the tomb, and he would have fared badly if it had not been for the police guard who drove them away."
During this narrative, which was heard with much approval--for no one is more secure of his result than he who can tell of the downfall of a man who is disliked for his arrogance--the Regent and the high-priest had been eagerly whispering to each other.
"There can be no doubt," said Ameni, that Bent-Anat did actually come to the festival."
"And had also dealings with the priest whom you so warmly defend," whispered the other.
"Pentaur shall be questioned this very night," returned the high- priest. "The dishes will soon be taken away, and the drinking will begin. Let us go and hear what the poet says."
"But there are now no witnesses," replied Ani.
"We do not need them," said Ameni. "He is incapable of a lie."
"Let us go then," said the Regent smiling, "for I am really curious about this white negro, and how he will come to terms with the truth. You have forgotten that there is a woman in the case."
"That there always is!" answered Ameni; he called Gagabu to him, gave him his seat, begged him to keep up the flow of cheerful conversation, to encourage the guests to drink, and to interrupt all talk of the king, the state, or the war.
"You know," he concluded, "that we are not by ourselves this evening. Wine has, before this, betrayed everything! Remember this--the mother of foresight looks backwards!"
Ani clapped his hand on the old man's shoulder. "There will be a space cleared to-night in your winelofts. It is said of you that you cannot bear to see either a full glass or an empty one; to-night give your aversion to both free play. And when you think it is the right moment, give a sign to my steward, who is sitting there in the corner. He has a few jars of the best liquor from Byblos, that he brought over with him, and he will bring it to you. I will come in again and bid you good- night." Ameni was accustomed to leave the hall at the beginning of the drinking.
When the door was closed behind him and his companion, when fresh rose- garlands had been brought for the necks of the company, when lotus blossoms decorated their heads, and the beakers were refilled, a choir of musicians came in, who played on harps, lutes, flutes, and small drums. The conductor beat the time by clapping his hands, and when the music had raised the spirits of the drinkers, they seconded his efforts by rhythmical clippings. The jolly old Gagabu kept up his character as a stout drinker, and leader of the feast.
The most priestly countenances soon beamed with cheerfulness, and the officers and courtiers outdid each other in audacious jokes. Then the old man signed to a young temple-servant, who wore a costly wreath; he came forward with a small gilt image of a mummy, carried it round the circle and cried:
"Look at this, be merry and drink so long as you are on earth, for soon you must be like this."
[A custom mentioned by Herodotus. Lucian saw such an image brought in at a feast. The Greeks adopted the idea, but beautified it, using a winged Genius of death instead of a mummy. The Romans also had their "larva."]
Gagabu gave another signal, and the Regent's steward brought in the wine from Byblos. Ani was much lauded for the wonderful choiceness of the liquor.
"Such wine," exclaimed the usually grave chief of the pastophori, "is like soap."
[This comparison is genuinely Eastern. Kisra called wine "the soap of sorrow." The Mohammedans, to whom wine is forbidden, have praised it like the guests of the House of Seti. Thus Abdelmalik ibn Salih Haschimi says: "The best thing the world enjoys is wine." Gahiz says: "When wine enters thy bones and flows through thy limbs it bestows truth of feeling, and perfects the soul; it removes sorrow, elevates the mood, etc., etc." When Ibn 'Aischah was told that some one drank no wine, he said: "He has thrice disowned the world." Ibn el Mu'tazz sang:
"Heed not time, how it may linger, or how swiftly take its flight, Wail thy sorrows only to the wine before thee gleaming bright. But when thrice thou st drained the beaker watch and ward keep o'er thy heart. Lest the foam of joy should vanish, and thy soul with anguish smart, This for every earthly trouble is a sovereign remedy, Therefore listen to my counsel, knowing what will profit thee, Heed not time, for ah, how many a man has longed in pain Tale of evil days to lighten--and found all his longing vain." --Translated by Mary J. Safford.]
"What a simile!" cried Gagabu. "You must explain it."
"It cleanses the soul of sorrow," answered the other. "Good, friend!" they all exclaimed. "Now every one in turn shall praise the noble juice in some worthy saying."
"You begin--the chief prophet of the temple of Atnenophis."
"Sorrow is a poison," said the priest, "and wine is the antidote."
"Well said!--go on; it is your turn, my lord privy councillor."
"Every thing has its secret spring," said the official, "and wine is the secret of joy."
"Now you, my lord keeper of the seal."
"Wine seals the door on discontent, and locks the gates on sorrow."
"That it does, that it certainly does!--Now the governor of Hermothis, the oldest of all the company."
"Wine ripens especially for us old folks, and not for you young people."
"That you must explain," cried a voice from the table of the military officers.
"It makes young men of the old," laughed the octogenarian, "and children of the young."
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