Uarda : a Romance of Ancient Egypt — Volume 02

This eBook was produced by David Widger <widger@cecomet.net>

[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, or pointers, at the end of the
file for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an
entire meal of them. D.W.]

UARDA

Volume 2.

By Georg Ebers

CHAPTER V.

The night during which the Princess Bent-Anat and her followers had
knocked at the gate of the House of Seti was past.

The fruitful freshness of the dawn gave way to the heat, which began to
pour down from the deep blue cloudless vault of heaven. The eye could no
longer gaze at the mighty globe of light whose rays pierced the fine
white dust which hung over the declivity of the hills that enclosed the
city of the dead on the west. The limestone rocks showed with blinding
clearness, the atmosphere quivered as if heated over a flame; each minute
the shadows grew shorter and their outlines sharper.

All the beasts which we saw peopling the Necropolis in the evening had
now withdrawn into their lurking places; only man defied the heat of the
summer day. Undisturbed he accomplished his daily work, and only laid
his tools aside for a moment, with a sigh, when a cooling breath blew
across the overflowing stream and fanned his brow.

The harbor or clock where those landed who crossed from eastern Thebes
was crowded with barks and boats waiting to return.

The crews of rowers and steersmen who were attached to priestly
brotherhoods or noble houses, were enjoying a rest till the parties they
had brought across the Nile drew towards them again in long processions.

Under a wide-spreading sycamore a vendor of eatables, spirituous drinks,
and acids for cooling the water, had set up his stall, and close to him,
a crowd of boatmen, and drivers shouted and disputed as they passed the
time in eager games at morra.

     [In Latin “micare digitis.” A game still constantly played in the

     south of Europe, and frequently represented by the Egyptians. The

     games depicted in the monuments are collected by Minutoli, in the

     Leipziger Illustrirte Zeitung, 1852.]

Many sailors lay on the decks of the vessels, others on the shore; here
in the thin shade of a palm tree, there in the full blaze of the sun,
from those burning rays they protected themselves by spreading the cotton
cloths, which served them for cloaks, over their faces.

Between the sleepers passed bondmen and slaves, brown and black, in long
files one behind the other, bending under the weight of heavy burdens,
which had to be conveyed to their destination at the temples for
sacrifice, or to the dealers in various wares. Builders dragged blocks
of stone, which had come from the quarries of Chennu and Suan,

     [The Syene of the Greeks, non, called Assouan at the first

     cataract.]

on sledges to the site of a new temple; laborers poured water under the
runners, that the heavily loaded and dried wood should not take fire.

All these working men were driven with sticks by their overseers, and
sang at their labor; but the voices of the leaders sounded muffled and
hoarse, though, when after their frugal meal they enjoyed an hour of
repose, they might be heard loud enough. Their parched throats refused
to sing in the noontide of their labor.

Thick clouds of gnats followed these tormented gangs, who with dull and
spirit-broken endurance suffered alike the stings of the insects and the
blows of their driver. The gnats pursued them to the very heart of the
City of the dead, where they joined themselves to the flies and wasps,
which swarmed in countless crowds around the slaughter houses, cooks’
shops, stalls of fried fish, and booths of meat, vegetable, honey, cakes
and drinks, which were doing a brisk business in spite of the noontide
heat and the oppressive atmosphere heated and filled with a mixture of
odors.

The nearer one got to the Libyan frontier, the quieter it became, and the
silence of death reigned in the broad north-west valley, where in the
southern slope the father of the reigning king had caused his tomb to be
hewn, and where the stone-mason of the Pharaoh had prepared a rock tomb
for him.

A newly made road led into this rocky gorge, whose steep yellow and brown
walls seemed scorched by the sun in many blackened spots, and looked like
a ghostly array of shades that had risen from the tombs in the night and
remained there.

At the entrance of this valley some blocks of stone formed a sort of
doorway, and through this, indifferent to the heat of day, a small but
brilliant troop of the men was passing.

Four slender youths as staff bearers led the procession, each clothed
only with an apron and a flowing head-cloth of gold brocade; the mid-day
sun played on their smooth, moist, red-brown skins, and their supple
naked feet hardly stirred the stones on the road.

Behind them followed an elegant, two-wheeled chariot, with two prancing
brown horses bearing tufts of red and blue feathers on their noble heads,
and seeming by the bearing of their arched necks and flowing tails to
express their pride in the gorgeous housings, richly embroidered in
silver, purple, and blue and golden ornaments, which they wore—and even
more in their beautiful, royal charioteer, Bent-Anat, the daughter of
Rameses, at whose lightest word they pricked their ears, and whose little
hand guided them with a scarcely perceptible touch.

Two young men dressed like the other runners followed the chariot, and
kept the rays of the sun off the face of their mistress with large fans
of snow-white ostrich feathers fastened to long wands.

By the side of Bent-Anat, so long as the road was wide enough to allow
of it, was carried Nefert, the wife of Mena, in her gilt litter, borne by
eight tawny bearers, who, running with a swift and equally measured step,
did not remain far behind the trotting horses of the princess and her
fan-bearers.

Both the women, whom we now see for the first time in daylight, were of
remarkable but altogether different beauty.

The wife of Mena had preserved the appearance of a maiden; her large
almond-shaped eyes had a dreamy surprised look out from under her long
eyelashes, and her figure of hardly the middle-height had acquired a
little stoutness without losing its youthful grace. No drop of foreign
blood flowed in her veins, as could be seen in the color of her skin,
which was of that fresh and equal line which holds a medium between
golden yellow and bronze brown—and which to this day is so charming in
the maidens of Abyssinia—in her straight nose, her well-formed brow, in
her smooth but thick black hair, and in the fineness of her hands and
feet, which were ornamented with circles of gold.

The maiden princess next to her had hardly reached her nineteenth year,

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