He took the reins from his servitor’s hands and turned again toward Rachel.
“I go forth to hunt, and there is danger in that pastime. I may not return. It would be most fitting to bid me a tender farewell, but thou art cruel. Nevertheless, I shall care for myself most diligently this day, and return to thee in Memphis by nightfall. Farewell!” He sprang into his chariot and, urging his horses, pursued the far-away procession at a gallop.
Unas was already at the Nile-side, preparing to return to Memphis. To Rachel it seemed as if she had been set free for a moment, that her efforts to escape and her inevitable capture might amuse her tormentor. And after the manner of the miserable captive so beset, she seized upon the momentary release and sought to fly. The three little Hebrews clung to her—the one that had answered Har-hat weeping bitterly and remorsefully.
“Nay, weep not,” she said in a hurried whisper. “It would have ended just the same. Heard ye not what he said concerning a husband? But let me go! Let Rachel hide ere the serving men return!”
She undid their arms and ran back toward the quarries. For a moment the children hesitated and then they pursued her, crying in an undertone as they ran. Past the stone-pits, up the winding valley she fled until she reached the encampment and her own tent.
The women saw her come and old Deborah, who was preparing vegetables for the noonday meal, left the fires and hastened to the shelter. There, Rachel, choking with terror and tears, gave the story of the morning.
Deborah made no interruption and after the disjointed and unhappy recital was complete, she sat for some moments, motionless and silent. Then she arose and made as if to leave the tent, but Rachel caught at her hand in affright.
“Nay, be not so frightened,” the old woman said soothingly. “I go to look for Atsu. He will come in a little while.”
With that, she went forth. After a time—more than two hours, in truth, but infinitely longer to Rachel, the voice of the taskmaster was heard without, talking with Deborah. He was permitting no curb to the expression of his rage.
“The gods rend his heart to ribbons!” he panted after a tempest of anathema. “Curse the insatiate brute! Is there not enough of Egypt’s women who are willingly loose that he must destroy the purest spirit on earth? He shall not have her, if I take his life to save her!”
After a moment’s savage rumination, he broke out again.
“He has us on the hip! We shall be put to it to hide her away from him now. Do thou go to her—nay, I will go.”
Rachel heard him enter the tent and walk across the matting on the floor. She flung her arm over her face and huddled closer to the linen-covered heap of straw against which she had thrown herself. Even the eyes of the taskmaster were intolerable, in her shame. Atsu plunged into the heart of his subject at once.