Uarda : a Romance of Ancient Egypt — Volume 06

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

By Georg Ebers

Volume 6.

CHAPTER XXIV.

This eventful day had brought much that was unexpected to our friends in

Thebes, as well as to those who lived in the Necropolis.

The Lady Katuti had risen early after a sleepless night. Nefert had come
in late, had excused her delay by shortly explaining to her mother that
she had been detained by Bent-Anat, and had then affectionately offered
her brow for a kiss of “good-night.”

When the widow was about to withdraw to her sleeping-room, and Nemu had
lighted her lamp, she remembered the secret which was to deliver Paaker
into Ani’s hands. She ordered the dwarf to impart to her what he knew,
and the little man told her at last, after sincere efforts at resistance
—for he feared for his mother’s safety—that Paaker had administered
half of a love-philter to Nefert, and that the remainder was still in his
hands.

A few hours since this information would have filled Katuti with
indignation and disgust; now, though she blamed the Mohar, she asked
eagerly whether such a drink could be proved to have any actual effect.

“Not a doubt of it,” said the dwarf, “if the whole were taken, but Nefert
only had half of it.”

At a late hour Katuti was still pacing her bedroom, thinking of Paaker’s
insane devotion, of Mena’s faithlessness, and of Nefert’s altered
demeanor; and when she went to bed, a thousand conjectures, fears, and
anxieties tormented her, while she was distressed at the change which had
come over Nefert’s love to her mother, a sentiment which of all others
should be the most sacred, and the most secure against all shock.

Soon after sunrise she went into the little temple attached to the house,
and made an offering to the statue, which, under the form of Osiris,
represented her lost husband; then she went to the temple of Anion, where
she also prayed a while, and nevertheless, on her return home, found that
her daughter had not yet made her appearance in the hall where they
usually breakfasted together.

Katuti preferred to be undisturbed during the early morning hours, and
therefore did not interfere with her daughter’s disposition to sleep far
into the day in her carefully-darkened room.

When the widow went to the temple Nefert was accustomed to take a cup of
milk in bed, then she would let herself be dressed, and when her mother
returned, she would find her in the veranda or hall, which is so well
known to the reader.

To-day however Katuti had to breakfast alone; but when she had eaten a
few mouthfuls she prepared Nefert’s breakfast—a white cake and a little
wine in a small silver beaker, carefully guarded from dust and insects by
a napkin thrown over it—and went into her daughter’s room.

She was startled at finding it empty, but she was informed that Nefert
had gone earlier than was her wont to the temple, in her litter.

With a heavy sigh she returned to the veranda, and there received her
nephew Paaker, who had come to enquire after the health of his relatives,
followed by a slave, who carried two magnificent bunches of flowers, and
by the great dog which had formerly belonged to his father. One bouquet
he said had been cut for Nefert, and the other for her mother.

[Pictures on the monuments show that in ancient Egypt, as at the
present time, bouquets of flowers were bestowed as tokens of
friendly feeling.]

Katuti had taken quite a new interest in Paaker since she had heard of
his procuring the philter.

No other young man of the rank to which they belonged, would have allowed
himself to be so mastered by his passion for a woman as this Paaker was,
who went straight to his aim with stubborn determination, and shunned no
means that might lead to it. The pioneer, who had grown up under her
eyes, whose weaknesses she knew, and whom she was accustomed to look down
upon, suddenly appeared to her as a different man—almost a stranger—as
the deliverer of his friends, and the merciless antagonist of his
enemies.

These reflections had passed rapidly through her mind. Now her eyes
rested on the sturdy, strongly-knit figure of her nephew, and it struck
her that he bore no resemblance to his tall, handsome father. Often had
she admired her brother-in-law’s slender hand, that nevertheless could so
effectually wield a sword, but that of his son was broad and ignoble in
form.

While Paaker was telling her that he must shortly leave for Syria, she
involuntarily observed the action of this hand, which often went
cautiously to his girdle as if he had something concealed there; this was
the oval phial with the rest of the philter. Katuti observed it, and her
cheeks flushed when it occurred to her to guess what he had there.

The pioneer could not but observe Katuti’s agitation, and he said in a
tone of sympathy:

“I perceive that you are in pain, or in trouble. The master of Mena’s
stud at Hermonthis has no doubt been with you—No? He came to me
yesterday, and asked me to allow him to join my troops. He is very angry
with you, because he has been obliged to sell some of Mena’s gold-bays.
I have bought the finest of them. They are splendid creatures! Now he
wants to go to his master ‘to open his eyes,’ as he says. Lie down a
little while, aunt, you are very pale.”

Katuti did not follow this prescription; on the contrary she smiled, and
said in a voice half of anger and half of pity:

“The old fool firmly believes that the weal or woe of the family depends
on the gold-bays. He would like to go with you? To open Mena’s eyes?
No one has yet tried to bind them!”

Katuti spoke the last words in a low tone, and her glance fell. Paaker
also looked down, and was silent; but he soon recovered his presence of
mind, and said:

“If Nefert is to be long absent, I will go.”

“No—no, stay,” cried the widow. “She wished to see you, and must soon
come in. There are her cake and her wine waiting for her.”

With these words she took the napkin off the breakfast-table, held up the
beaker in her hand, and then said, with the cloth still in her hand:

“I will leave you a moment, and see if Nefert is not yet come home.”

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