Death Comes as the End
She paused and then said simply:
‘When Khay went to Osiris I was very sad. But now I have come home and I shall be happy again and forget—for everything here is the same. Nothing is changed at all.’
‘You really think that?’
Renisenb looked at him sharply.
‘What do you mean, Hori?’
‘I mean there is always change. Eight years is eight years.’
‘Nothing changes here,’ said Renisenb with confidence.
‘Perhaps then, there should be change.’
Renisenb said sharply:
‘No, no, I want everything the same!’
‘But you yourself are not the same Renisenb who went away with Khay.’
‘Yes I am! Or if not, then I soon shall be again.’
Hori shook his head.
‘You cannot go back, Renisenb. It is like my measures here. I take half and add to it a quarter, and then a tenth and then a twenty-fourth—and at the end, you see, it is a different quantity altogether.’
‘But I am just Renisenb.’
‘But Renisenb has something added to her all the time, so she becomes all the time a different Renisenb!’
‘No, no. You are the same Hori.’
‘You may think so, but it is not so.’
‘Yes, yes, and Yahmose is the same, so worried and so anxious, and Satipy bullies him just the same, and she and Kait were having their usual quarrel about mats or beads, and presently when I go back they will be laughing together, the best of friends, and Henet still creeps about and listens and whines about her devotion, and my grandmother was fussing with her little maid over some linen! It was all the same, and presently my father will come home and there will be a great fuss, and he will say “why have you not done this?” and “you should have done that,” and Yahmose will look worried and Sobek will laugh and be insolent about it, and my father will spoil Ipy who is sixteen just as he used to spoil him when he was eight, and nothing will be different at all!’ She paused, breathless.
Hori sighed. Then he said gently:
‘You do not understand, Renisenb. There is an evil that comes from outside, that attacks so that all the world can see, but there is another kind of rottenness that breeds from within—that shows no outward sign. It grows slowly, day by day, till at last the whole fruit is rotten—eaten away by disease.’
Renisenb stared at him. He had spoken almost absently, not as though he were speaking to her, but more like a man who muses to himself.
She cried out sharply:
‘What do you mean, Hori? You make me afraid.’
‘I am afraid myself.’
‘But what do you mean? What is this evil you talk about?’
He looked at her then, and suddenly smiled.
‘Forget what I said, Renisenb. I was thinking of the diseases that attack the crops.’
Renisenb sighed in relief.
‘I’m glad. I thought—I don’t know what I thought.’
CHAPTER 2 (#ulink_0eb0553e-73e5-5ef5-a0b3-2c046f175524)
Third Month of Inundation 4th Day (#ulink_0eb0553e-73e5-5ef5-a0b3-2c046f175524)
Satipy was talking to Yahmose. Her voice had a high strident note that seldom varied its tone.
‘You must assert yourself. That is what I say! You will never be valued unless you assert yourself. Your father says this must be done and that must be done and why have you not done the others? And you listen meekly and reply yes, yes, and excuse yourself for the things that he says should have been done—and which, the Gods know, have often been quite impossible! Your father treats you as a child—as a young, irresponsible boy! You might be the age of Ipy.’
Yahmose said quietly:
‘My father does not treat me in the least as he treats Ipy.’
‘No, indeed.’ Satipy fell upon the new subject with renewed venom. ‘He is foolish about that spoiled brat! Day by day Ipy gets more impossible. He swaggers round and does no work that he can help and pretends that anything that is asked of him is too hard for him! It is a disgrace. And all because he knows that your father will always indulge him and take his part. You and Sobek should take a strong line about it.’
Yahmose shrugged his shoulders.
‘What is the good?’
‘You drive me mad, Yahmose—that is so like you! You have no spirit. You’re as meek as a woman! Everything that your father says you agree with at once!’
‘I have a great affection for my father.’
‘Yes, and he trades on that! You go on meekly accepting blame and excusing yourself for things that are no fault of yours! You should speak up and answer him back as Sobek does. Sobek is afraid of nobody!’
‘Yes, but remember, Satipy, that it is I who am trusted by my father, not Sobek. My father reposes no confidence in Sobek. Everything is always left to my judgement, not his.’
‘And that is why you should be definitely associated as a partner in the estate! You represent your father when he is away, you act as ka-priest in his absence, everything is left in your hands—and yet you have no recognized authority. There should be a proper settlement. You are now a man of nearly middle age. It’s not right that you should be treated still as a child.’
Yahmose said doubtfully:
‘My father likes to keep things in his own hands.’
‘Exactly. It pleases him that everyone in the household should be dependent upon him—and upon his whim of the moment. It is bad, that, and it will get worse. This time when he comes home you must tackle him boldly—you must say that you demand a settlement in writing, that you insist on having a regularized position.’
‘He would not listen.’
‘Then you must make him listen. Oh that I were a man! If I were in your place I would know what to do! Sometimes I feel that I am married to a worm.’