Death Comes as the End
‘I will see what I can do—I might, yes, I might perhaps speak to my father—ask him—’
‘Not ask—you must demand! After all, you have the whip hand of him. There is no one but you whom he can leave in charge here. Sobek is too wild, your father does not trust him, and Ipy is too young.’
‘There is always Hori.’
‘Hori is not a member of the family. Your father relies on his judgement, but he would not leave authority except in the hands of his own kin. But I see how it is; you are too meek and mild—and there is milk in your veins, not blood! You don’t consider me, or our children. Not till your father is dead shall we ever have our proper position.’
Yahmose said heavily:
‘You despise me, don’t you, Satipy?’
‘You make me angry.’
‘Listen, I tell you that I will speak to my father when he comes. There, it is a promise.’
Satipy murmured under her breath:
‘Yes—but how will you speak? Like a man—or like a mouse?’
Kait was playing with her youngest child, little Ankh. The baby was just beginning to walk and Kait encouraged her with laughing words, kneeling in front of her and waiting with outstretched arms until the child lurched precariously forward and toddled on uncertain feet into her mother’s arms.
Kait had been displaying these accomplishments to Sobek, but she realized suddenly that he was not attending, but was sitting with his handsome forehead furrowed into a frown.
‘Oh, Sobek—you were not looking. You do not see. Little one, tell your father he is naughty not to watch you.’
Sobek said irritably:
‘I have other things to think of—yes, and worry about.’
Kait leaned back on her heels, smoothing her hair back from her heavy dark brows where Ankh’s fingers had clutched it.
‘Why? Is there something wrong?’
Kait spoke without quite giving all her attention. The question was more than half mechanical.
Sobek said angrily:
‘The trouble is that I am not trusted. My father is an old man, absurdly old-fashioned in his ideas, and he insists on dictating every single action here—he will not leave things to my judgement.’
Kait shook her head and murmured vaguely:
‘Yes, yes, it is too bad.’
‘If only Yahmose had a little more spirit and would back me up there might be some hope of making my father see reason. But Yahmose is so timid. He carries out every single instruction my father gives him to the letter.’
Kait jingled some beads at the child and murmured:
‘Yes, that is true.’
‘In this matter of the timber I shall tell my father when he comes that I used my judgement. It was far better to take the price in flax and not in oil.’
‘I am sure you are right.’
‘But my father is as obstinate over having his own way as anyone can be. He will make an outcry, will shout out, “I told you to transact the business in oil. Everything is done wrong when I am not here. You are a foolish boy who knows nothing!” How old does he think I am? He doesn’t realize that I am now a man in my prime and he is past his. His instructions and his refusals to sanction any unusual transactions mean that we do not do nearly as good business as we might do. To attain riches it is necessary to take a few risks. I have vision and courage. My father has neither.’
Her eyes on the child, Kait murmured softly:
‘You are so bold and so clever, Sobek.’
‘But he shall hear some home truths this time if he dares to find fault and shout abuse at me! Unless I am given a free hand I shall leave. I shall go away.’
Kait, her hand stretched out to the child, turned her head sharply, the gesture arrested.
‘Go away? Where would you go?’
‘Somewhere! It is insupportable to be bullied and nagged at by a fussy, self-important old man who gives me no scope at all to show what I can do.’
‘No,’ said Kait sharply. ‘I say no, Sobek.’
He stared at her, recalled by her tone into noticing her presence. He was so used to her as a merely soothing accompaniment to his talk that he often forgot her existence as a living, thinking, human woman.
‘What do you mean, Kait?’
‘I mean that I will not let you be foolish. All the estate belongs to your father, the lands, the cultivation, the cattle, the timber, the fields of flax—all! When your father dies it will be ours—yours and Yahmose’s and our children’s. If you quarrel with your father and go off, then he may divide your share between Yahmose and Ipy—already he loves Ipy too much. Ipy knows that and trades on it. You must not play into the hands of Ipy. It would suit him only too well if you were to quarrel with Imhotep and go away. We have our children to think of.’
Sobek stared at her. Then he gave a short surprised laugh.
‘A woman is always unexpected. I did not know you had it in you, Kait, to be so fierce.’
Kait said earnestly:
‘Do not quarrel with your father. Do not answer him back. Be wise for a little longer.’
‘Perhaps you are right—but this may go on for years. What my father should do is to associate us with him in a partnership.’
Kait shook her head.
‘He will not do that. He likes too much to say that we are all eating his bread, that we are all dependent on him, that without him we should all be nowhere.’
Sobek looked at her curiously.
‘You do not like my father very much, Kait.’
But Kait had bent once more to the toddling baby.
‘Come, sweetheart—see, here is your doll. Come, then—come …’
Sobek looked down at her black bent head. Then, with a puzzled look, he went out.