Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 97"Do not answer his speeches," said the king, "but put his words in writing and bring them to us. See that he and his wife and children are supplied with meat and drink, but do not let him know who provides it."
The Lord Steward did as the king had commanded him. He gave to the peasant a daily ration of bread and beer, and to his wife sufficient corn to feed herself and her children. But the sekhti knew not whence the provisions came.
A second time the peasant sought the judgment-hall and poured forth his complaint to the Lord Steward; and yet a third time he came, and the Lord Steward commanded that he be beaten with staves, to see whether he would desist. But no, the sekhti came a fourth, a fifth, a sixth time, endeavouring with pleasant speeches to open the ear of the judge. Meruitensa hearkened to him not at all, yet the sekhti did not despair, but came again unto the ninth time. And at the ninth time the Lord Steward sent two of his followers to the sekhti, and the peasant trembled exceedingly, for he feared that he was about to be beaten once more because of his importunity. The message, however, was a reassuring one. Meruitensa declared that he had been greatly delighted by the peasant's eloquence and would see that he obtained satisfaction. He then caused the sekhti's petitions to[Pg 224] be written on clean papyri and sent to the king, according as the monarch had commanded. Neb-ka-n-ra was also much pleased with the speeches, but the giving of judgment he left entirely in the hands of the Lord Steward.
Meruitensa therefore deprived Tehuti-nekht of all his offices and his property, and gave them to the sekhti, who thenceforth dwelt at the king's palace with all his family. And the sekhti became the chief overseer of Neb-ka-n-ra, and was greatly beloved by him.
The manuscript of this tale of the Nineteenth Dynasty was bought in Italy by Mme. Elizabeth d'Orbiney, and is called the d'Orbiney Papyrus. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1857 and copied in facsimile. It has been translated over and over again. The manuscript extends to nineteen pages of ten lines each, the first five pages having been considerably torn. Several gaps have been filled in by the modern possessors of the manuscript, and the restorations are signed. The original manuscript is stamped in two places with the name of its ancient owner, Sety Merenptah, whom we know as Sety II. It was executed by Anena, a scribe who lived during the reigns of Rameses II, Merenptah, and Sety II, and is more than three thousand years old. Bitou, the hero of the story, a herd and husbandman, is perhaps identifiable with the Greek god Bitys.
Anapou and Bitou were two brothers who lived in Egypt a long time ago. To Anapou, as the elder, belonged house, cattle, and fields; and Bitou, the younger, worked for him. Bitou was marvellously clever in his management of the cattle and in all things relating to agriculture—he could even tell what[Pg 225] the cattle said to him and to each other. One day, as the brothers were working in the fields, Anapou sent Bitou home for a large quantity of seed, as he saw the time had come for sowing. Bitou went and got the seed, and after their day's work the two returned, to find Anapou's wife lying moaning, and saying she had been thrashed by Bitou until she was sore because she would not yield him something he had asked of her when he came for the seed. Then Anapou sought to kill Bitou by stealth, but Bitou, warned by the cattle, fled. His brother overtook him, but the god Phra-Harmakhis caused a wide stream full of crocodiles to arise between them, and Bitou asked his brother to wait till break of day, when he would explain all that had happened. When day broke Bitou told Anapou the truth, refusing at the same time ever to return to the house where Anapou's wife was. "I shall go," he said, "to the Vale of the Acacia. Now listen to what will happen. I shall tear out my heart by magic so as to place it on the topmost bough of the acacia, and when the acacia is cut down, and my heart will fall to the ground, you will come to look for it. After you have looked for seven years do not be discouraged, but put it in a vessel of cold water; that will bring me to life again. I shall certainly live again and be revenged on my enemies. You will know that something of moment is about to happen to me when a jug of beer is given you and the froth shall run over. They will then give you a jug of wine of which the sediment will rise to the top. Rest no more when these things come about."