The Twice Born

The Twice Born by Pauline Gedge Read Free Book Online

Book: The Twice Born by Pauline Gedge Read Free Book Online
Authors: Pauline Gedge
Tags: Fiction, Historical
their bed and snuggling up to Itu as she drowsed, herself unwilling to get up. Sometimes Huy went back to sleep curled into the crook of her arm and he did not know that she lay crying quietly, inhaling his warm child smell, aware that no matter how often she was privileged to hold him in the future it would never be the same. His childhood was almost over.
    His father gave him a large leather bag for his clothes and sandals and a smaller one for whatever personal items he did not need but wanted to take. Huy received them in silence. Hapzefa and his mother took charge of the larger one, filling it with loincloths and new kilts and shirts, a comb and a plain copper mirror, natron and linen cloths for washing himself, his drinking cup, a knife and a dish. Itu fretted continuously. Would there be someone to help him dress, wash his clothes, tie his sandals if he knotted the thongs—and what if he became ill? Would anyone notice or care? Surely the local school could give him an adequate education! Wisely Hapzefa did not respond to Itu’s panicked questions that had no answers, and Hapu, tired and filthy when he returned late from the fields, could only keep reassuring her that many boys had begun their careers at Iunu and had come to no harm, that Huy was healthy and resilient, and that Ker had promised not only to deliver Huy to the temple and see that he was safe but also to visit Iunu as often as possible during Huy’s first six months at the school. Itu was not mollified, but having voiced every worry several times she found their stings less painful and lapsed into a precarious quiet.
    Huy put the sennet game and his paints into the bottom of his bag. He wondered if he would be allowed to paint on the temple walls. He had already mastered the writing of his name and had daubed it not only on his door but on every outside wall of the house. Into his cedar box went the scarab and his Nefer amulet. The other compartments remained empty and he wondered what precious trophies might fill them in the years to come. He left the hated monkey on the table by his cot. “It will be there to welcome me when I come home,” he told Itu mendaciously. “It might be stolen if I take it with me.” Hapzefa coughed discreetly and turned back to the packing.
    His mother smiled. “How very thoughtful of you, Huy.” The smile broadened. “I will make sure that it comes to no harm.” Huy, catching her eye, wondered for the first time whether she had ever believed any of his lies.
    Then, suddenly, too suddenly, Hapzefa was washing him for the last time, his mother had come into his room to kiss him good night for the last time, and he laid his head on his pillow for what he believed, with a cold shiver, to be his final sleep on his cot. “Ker will come for you in the morning,” Itu told him, “and he will take you right to the temple and talk to the priest in charge of your class. You are expected, Huy. Shall I leave a lamp with you?”
    He nodded, numb with a dread he had not felt since the evening his father had broken the news to him that he really would be going away. He tried to remember the kind priest’s words but could not as he watched Itu’s dark hair fall over her brown shoulder, and inhaled the lilies of her perfume. Save me, Mother! he wanted to scream. Tell me it was all a joke!
    Itu went to his empty clothes chest, knelt, and, lifting the lid, brought up the monkey. “I think I had better start looking after this right away, don’t you, Huy?” she said gravely. “I will move it to my own chest, where it will be undisturbed. Until the morning, little one.” She left quietly and Huy was alone.
    It was a great relief to know that the monkey was not lying in the chest, eyes open in the darkness, peering about for him. For a long time Huy lay gazing up at the sweet familiarity of the cracks across the ceiling, trying to stay awake, to make every remaining moment count, but before long his eyelids grew heavy and he

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