Uarda : a Romance of Ancient Egypt — Volume 07

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
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entire meal of them. D.W.]

UARDA

Volume 7.

By Georg Ebers

CHAPTER XXIX.

At last the pioneer’s boat got off with his mother and the body of the
dog, which he intended to send to be embalmed at Kynopolis, the city in
which the dog was held sacred above all animals;

[Kynopolis, or in old Egyptian Saka, is now Samalut; Anubis was the
chief divinity worshipped there. Plutarch relates a quarrel between
the inhabitants of this city, and the neighboring one of Oxyrynchos,
where the fish called Oxyrynchos was worshipped. It began because
the Kynopolitans eat the fish, and in revenge the Oxyrynchites
caught and killed dogs, and consumed them in sacrifices. Juvenal
relates a similar story of the Ombites—perhaps Koptites—and
Pentyrites in the 15th Satire.]

Paaker himself returned to the House of Seti, where, in the night which
closed the feast day, there was always a grand banquet for the superior
priests of the Necropolis and of the temples of eastern Thebes, for the
representatives of other foundations, and for select dignitaries of the
state.

His father had never failed to attend this entertainment when he was in
Thebes, but he himself had to-day for the first time received the much-
coveted honor of an invitation, which—Ameni told him when he gave it—he
entirely owed to the Regent.

His mother had tied up his hand, which Rameri had severely hurt; it was
extremely painful, but he would not have missed the banquet at any cost,
although he felt some alarm of the solemn ceremony. His family was as
old as any in Egypt, his blood purer than the king’s, and nevertheless he
never felt thoroughly at home in the company of superior people. He was
no priest, although a scribe; he was a warrior, and yet he did not rank
with royal heroes.

He had been brought up to a strict fulfilment of his duty, and he devoted
himself zealously to his calling; but his habits of life were widely
different from those of the society in which he had been brought up—
a society of which his handsome, brave, and magnanimous father had been
a chief ornament. He did not cling covetously to his inherited wealth,
and the noble attribute of liberality was not strange to him, but the
coarseness of his nature showed itself most when he was most lavish, for
he was never tired of exacting gratitude from those whom he had attached
to him by his gifts, and he thought he had earned the right by his
liberality to meet the recipient with roughness or arrogance, according
to his humor. Thus it happened that his best actions procured him not
friends but enemies.

Paaker’s was, in fact, an ignoble, that is to say, a selfish nature; to
shorten his road he trod down flowers as readily as he marched over the
sand of the desert. This characteristic marked him in all things, even
in his outward demeanor; in the sound of his voice, in his broad
features, in the swaggering gait of his stumpy figure.

In camp he could conduct himself as he pleased; but this was not
permissible in the society of his equals in rank; for this reason, and
because those faculties of quick remark and repartee, which distinguished
them, had been denied to him, he felt uneasy and out of his element when
he mixed with them, and he would hardly have accepted Ameni’s invitation,
if it had not so greatly flattered his vanity.

It was already late; but the banquet did not begin till midnight, for the
guests, before it began, assisted at the play which was performed by lamp
and torch-light on the sacred lake in the south of the Necropolis, and
which represented the history of Isis and Osiris.

When he entered the decorated hall in which the tables were prepared, he
found all the guests assembled. The Regent Ani was present, and sat on
Ameni’s right at the top of the centre high-table at which several places
were unoccupied; for the prophets and the initiated of the temple of Amon
had excused themselves from being present. They were faithful to Rameses
and his house; their grey-haired Superior disapproved of Ameni’s severity
towards the prince and princess, and they regarded the miracle of the
sacred heart as a malicious trick of the chiefs of the Necropolis against
the great temple of the capital for which Rameses had always shown a
preference.

The pioneer went up to the table, where sat the general of the troops
that had just returned victorious from Ethiopia, and several other
officers of high rank, There was a place vacant next to the general.
Paaker fixed his eyes upon this, but when he observed that the officer
signed to the one next to him to come a little nearer, the pioneer
imagined that each would endeavor to avoid having him for his neighbor,
and with an angry glance he turned his back on the table where the
warriors sat.

The Mohar was not, in fact, a welcome boon-companion. “The wine turns
sour when that churl looks at it,” said the general.

The eyes of all the guests turned on Paaker, who looked round for a seat,
and when no one beckoned him to one he felt his blood begin to boil. He
would have liked to leave the banqueting hall at once with a swingeing
curse. He had indeed turned towards the door, when the Regent, who had
exchanged a few whispered words with Ameni, called to him, requested him
to take the place that had been reserved for him, and pointed to the seat
by his side, which had in fact been intended for the high-priest of the
temple of Amon.

Paaker bowed low, and took the place of honor, hardly daring to look
round the table, lest he should encounter looks of surprise or of
mockery. And yet he had pictured to himself his grandfather Assa, and
his father, as somewhere near this place of honor, which had actually
often enough been given up to them. And was he not their descendant and
heir? Was not his mother Setchem of royal race? Was not the temple of
Seti more indebted to him than to any one?

A servant laid a garland of flowers round his shoulders, and another
handed him wine and food. Then he raised his eyes, and met the bright
and sparkling glance of Gagabu; he looked quickly down again at the
table.

Then the Regent spoke to him, and turning to the other guests mentioned
that Paaker was on the point of starting next day for Syria, and resuming
his arduous labors as Mohar. It seemed to Paaker that the Regent was
excusing himself for having given him so high a place of honor.

Presently Ani raised his wine-cup, and drank to the happy issue of his
reconnoitring-expedition, and a victorious conclusion to every struggle
in which the Mohar might engage. The high-priest then pledged him, and
thanked him emphatically in the name of the brethren of the temple, for
the noble tract of arable land which he had that morning given them as a
votive offering. A murmur of approbation ran round the tables, and
Paaker’s timidity began to diminish.

He had kept the wrappings that his mother had applied round his still
aching hand.

“Are you wounded?” asked the Regent.

“Nothing of importance,” answered the pioneer. “I was helping my mother
into the boat, and it happened—”

“It happened,” interrupted an old school-fellow of the Mohar’s, who
himself held a high appointment as officer of the city-watch of Thebes—
“It happened that an oar or a stake fell on his fingers.”

“Is it possible!” cried the Regent.

“And quite a youngster laid hands on him,” continued the officer. “My
people told me every detail. First the boy killed his dog—”

“That noble Descher?” asked the master of the hunt in a tone of regret.

“Your father was often by my side with that dog at a boar-hunt.”

Paaker bowed his head; but the officer of the watch, secure in his
position and dignity, and taking no notice of the glow of anger which
flushed Paaker’s face, began again:

“When the hound lay on the ground, the foolhardy boy struck your dagger

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