“There is no escape in the choosing of the tens, now, Rachel. I have said that I would not vex thee again with my love. Once I offered thee marriage as refuge. My love and the shelter of my name are thine to take or leave. I will urge thee no more.”
He paused for a space and, as she made no answer, he went on as though she had rejected him explicitly.
“Then I shall hide thee somewhere in Egypt. The ruse is not secure, but it may serve.”
She sat up and put the hair back from her face.
“Thou good Atsu,” she said in a voice subdued with much weeping, “Wilt thou add more to mine already hopeless indebtedness to thee? Art thou blind to the ill-use thou invitest upon thine own head in thy care for me? Let me imperil thee no more. Is there no other way?”
He shook his head. Slowly her face fell, and she sighed for very heaviness of spirit. Atsu stooped and took her hand.
“Make ready and let us leave this place,” he said kindly, “and thou canst decide in the securer precincts of Memphis what thou wilt do. Lose no time.” He turned away and, signing to Deborah to follow him, left the tent.
Rachel arose and began her preparations to depart. The formidable blockade in the way to safety seemed to clear and her heart leaped at the anticipation of freedom or stopped at the suggestion of failure. She hastened slowly, for her excitement made most of her movements vain. Her hands trembled and held things insecurely; she forgot the place of many of her belongings, in that humble, orderly house. Alternately praying and fearing, she stopped now and then to be sure that the sounds of the camp were not those of the returning servants. The simple apparel gathered together, she collected the remaining mementoes of her family,—saved with so much pain and guarded with such diligence by old Deborah. These were trinkets of gold and ivory, bits of frail gauzes in which a wondrous perfume lingered, and a scroll of sheep-skin bearing the records of the house. And after all these had been found and gathered together, she furtively put the straw aside and drew forth the collar of golden rings.
With the first glint of light on the red metal, the hope and animation in her heart went out. What of Kenkenes? No thought came to her now, but the most unhappy. The obligations which she would have gladly laid on him had fallen to Atsu. She dared not confess to him her love, and she could not give him gratitude. He had entered her life like a bewildering radiance, but it was Atsu who had saved her and emancipated her and would save her again.