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- Uarda, Volume 9. - 4/10 -
friend we may lose, but expect to meet him lovingly in the other world. Speak, Rameri, what has caused a division between you?"
"I bear him no ill-will," answered Rameri. "You lately gave me the sword which Mernephtah has there stuck in his belt, because I did my duty well in the last skirmish with the enemy. You know we both sleep in the same tent, and yesterday, when I drew my sword out of its sheath to admire the fine work of the blade, I found that another, not so sharp, had been put in its place."
"I had only exchanged my sword for his in fun," interrupted Mernephtah. "But he can never take a joke, and declared I want to wear a prize that I had not earned; he would try, he said, to win another and then--"
"I have heard enough; you have both done wrong," said the King. "Even in fun, Mernephtah, you should never cheat or deceive. I did so once, and I will tell you what happened, as a warning.
"My noble mother, Tuaa, desired me, the first time I went into Fenchu --[Phoenicia: on monuments of the 18th dynasty.]--to bring her a pebble from the shore near Byblos, where the body of Osiris was washed. As we returned to Thebes, my mother's request returned to my mind; I was young and thoughtless--I picked up a stone by the way-side, took it with me, and when she asked me for the remembrance from Byblos I silently gave her the pebble from Thebes. She was delighted, she showed it to her brothers and sisters, and laid it by the statues of her ancestors; but I was miserable with shame and penitence, and at last I secretly took away the stone, and threw it into the water. All the servants were called together, and strict enquiry was made as to the theft of the stone; then I could hold out no longer, and confessed everything. No one punished me, and yet I never suffered more severely; from that time I have never deviated from the exact truth even in jest. Take the lesson to heart, Mernephtah--you, Rameri, take back your sword, and, believe me, life brings us so many real causes of vexation, that it is well to learn early to pass lightly over little things if you do not wish to become a surly fellow like the pioneer Paaker; and that seems far from likely with a gay, reckless temper like yours. Now shake hands with each other."
The young princes went up to each other, and Rameri fell on his brother's neck and kissed him. The king stroked their heads. "Now go in peace," he said, "and to-morrow you shall both strive to win a fresh mark of honor."
When his sons had left the tent, Rameses turned to his charioteer and said: "I have to speak to you too before the battle. I can read your soul through your eyes, and it seems to me that things have gone wrong with you since the keeper of your stud arrived here. What has happened in Thebes?" Mena looked frankly, but sadly at the king:
"My mother-in-law Katuti," he said, "is managing my estate very badly, pledging the land, and selling the cattle."
"That can be remedied," said Rameses kindly. "You know I promised to grant you the fulfilment of a wish, if Nefert trusted you as perfectly as you believe. But it appears to me as if something more nearly concerning you than this were wrong, for I never knew you anxious about money and lands. Speak openly! you know I am your father, and the heart and the eye of the man who guides my horses in battle, must be open without reserve to my gaze."
Mena kissed the king's robe; then he said:
"Nefert has left Katuti's house, and as thou knowest has followed thy daughter, Bent-Anat, to the sacred mountain, and to Megiddo."
"I thought the change was a good one," replied Rameses. "I leave Bent- Anat in the care of Bent-Anat, for she needs no other guardianship, and your wife can have no better protector than Bent-Anat."
"Certainly not!" exclaimed Mena with sincere emphasis. "But before they started, miserable things occurred. Thou knowest that before she married me she was betrothed to her cousin, the pioneer Paaker, and he, during his stay in Thebes, has gone in and out of my house, has helped Katuti with an enormous sum to pay the debts of my wild brother-in-law, and-as my stud-keeper saw with his own eyes-has made presents of flowers to Nefert."
The king smiled, laid his hand on Mena's shoulder, and said, as he looked in his face: "Your wife will trust you, although you take a strange woman into your tent, and you allow yourself to doubt her because her cousin gives her some flowers! Is that wise or just? I believe you are jealous of the broad-shouldered ruffian that some spiteful Wight laid in the nest of the noble Mohar, his father."
"No, that I am not," replied Mena, "nor does any doubt of Nefert disturb my soul; but it torments me, it nettles me, it disgusts me, that Paaker of all men, whom I loathe as a venomous spider, should look at her and make her presents under my very roof."
"He who looks for faith must give faith," said the king. "And must not I myself submit to accept songs of praise from the most contemptible wretches? Come--smooth your brow; think of the approaching victory, of our return home, and remember that you have less to forgive Paaker than he to forgive you. Now, pray go and see to the horses, and to-morrow morning let me see you on my chariot full of cheerful courage--as I love to see you."
Mena left the tent, and went to the stables; there he met Rameri, who was waiting to speak to him. The eager boy said that he had always looked up to him and loved him as a brilliant example, but that lately he had been perplexed as to his virtuous fidelity, for he had been informed that Mena had taken a strange woman into his tent--he who was married to the fairest and sweetest woman in Thebes.
"I have known her," he concluded, "as well as if I were her brother; and I know that she would die if she heard that you had insulted and disgraced her. Yes, insulted her; for such a public breach of faith is an insult to the wife of an Egyptian. Forgive my freedom of speech, but who knows what to-morrow may bring forth--and I would not for worlds go out to battle, thinking evil of you."
Mena let Rameri speak without interruption, and then answered:
"You are as frank as your father, and have learned from him to hear the defendant before you condemn him. A strange maiden, the daughter of the king of the Danaids,
[A people of the Greeks at the time of the Trojan war. They are mentioned among the nations of the Mediterranean allied against Rameses III. The Dardaneans were inhabitants of the Trojan provinces of Dardanin, and whose name was used for the Trojans generally.]
lives in my tent, but I for months have slept at the door of your father's, and I have not once entered my own since she has been there. Now sit down by me, and let me tell you how it all happened. We had pitched the camp before Kadesh, and there was very little for me to do, as Rameses was still laid up with his wound, so I often passed my time in hunting on the shores of the lake. One day I went as usual, armed only with my bow and arrow, and, accompanied by my grey-hounds, heedlessly followed a hare; a troop of Danaids fell upon me, bound me with cords, and led me into their camp.
[Grey-hounds, trained to hunt hares, are represented in the most ancient tombs, for instance, the Mastaba at Meydum, belonging to the time of Snefru (four centuries B. C.).]
There I was led before the judges as a spy, and they had actually condemned me, and the rope was round my neck, when their king came up, saw me, and subjected me to a fresh examination. I told him the facts at full length--how I had fallen into the hands of his people while following up my game, and not as an enemy, and he heard me favorably, and granted me not only life but freedom. He knew me for a noble, and treated me as one, inviting me to feed at his own table, and I swore in my heart, when he let me go, that I would make him some return for his generous conduct.
"About a month after, we succeeded in surprising the Cheta position, and the Libyan soldiers, among other spoil, brought away the Danaid king's only daughter. I had behaved valiantly, and when we came to the division of the spoils Rameses allowed me to choose first. I laid my hand on the maid, the daughter of my deliverer and host, I led her to my tent, and left her there with her waiting-women till peace is concluded, and I can restore her to her father."
"Forgive my doubts!" cried Rameri holding out his hand. "Now I understand why the king so particularly enquired whether Nefert believed in your constancy to her."
"And what was your answer?" asked Mena.
"That she thinks of you day and night, and never for an instant doubted you. My father seemed delighted too, and he said to Chamus: 'He has won there!"
"He will grant me some great favor," said Mena in explanation, "if, when she hears I have taken a strange maiden to my tent her confidence in me is not shaken, Rameses considers it simply impossible, but I know that I shall win. Why! she must trust me."
Before the battle,
[The battle about to be described is taken entirely from the epos of Pentaur.]
prayers were offered and victims sacrificed for each division of the army. Images of the Gods were borne through the ranks in their festal barks, and miraculous relics were exhibited to the soldiers; heralds announced that the high-priest had found favorable omens in the victims offered by the king, and that the haruspices foretold a glorious victory. Each Egyptian legion turned with particular faith to the standard which bore the image of the sacred animal or symbol of the province where it had been levied, but each soldier was also provided with charms and amulets of various kinds; one had tied to his neck or arm a magical text in a little bag, another the mystic preservative eye, and most of them wore a scarabaeus in a finger ring. Many believed themselves protected by having a few hairs or feathers of some sacred animal, and not a few put themselves under the protection of a living snake or beetle carefully concealed in a pocket of their apron or in their little provision-sack.
When the king, before whom were carried the images of the divine Triad of Thebes, of Menth, the God of War and of Necheb, the Goddess of Victory, reviewed the ranks, he was borne in a litter on the shoulders of twenty- four noble youths; at his approach the whole host fell on their knees, and did not rise till Rameses, descending from his position, had, in the
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