His eyes ignited and his face grew white.
“Starve within this cave,” he went on intensely, approaching her, “but deliver her not into his hands, I charge thee, for the welfare of thy immortal soul. If thou art beset and there is no escape, before she shall live for the despoiler—take her life!”
Deborah scanned him narrowly, and when he made an end she opened her lips as though to speak. But something deterred her, and she moved away from him.
“Come, spread the matting, Rachel,” she said. “The master will stay with us to-night.”
Obediently the girl came, still white of face, but composed. She made a pallet of one roll of the matting, generously sprinkled the floor about it with oil to keep away the insects, put the lamp behind the amphora rack, hung her scarf over the frame that the light might not shine in her guest’s eyes, and set the door a little aside to let the cool night air enter from the river. Having completed her service, she bade him a soft good-night and disappeared into the inner crypt, where Deborah had gone before her.
Kenkenes immediately flung himself upon the pallet because Rachel’s hands had made it, and in a moment became acutely conscious of all the ache of body and the pain of soul the day had brought him. The first deprived him of comfort, the second of his peace, and there was the smell of dawn on the breeze before he fell asleep.
After sunset the next day Deborah roused him. He awoke restored in strength and hungry. The old Israelite had prepared some of the gazelle-meat for him, and this, with a draft of wine from an amphora, refreshed him at once. Provisions had been put in his wallet, and a double handful of golden rings, with several jewels, much treasure in small bulk, had been wrapped in a strip of linen and was ready for him. By the time all preparations were complete the night had come.
He bade Deborah farewell and took Rachel’s hand. It was cold and trembled pitifully. Without a word he pressed it and gave it back. He had reached the entrance, when it seemed that a suppressed sound smote on his ears, and he stopped. Deborah, her face grown stern and hard, had moved a step or two forward and stood regarding Rachel sharply. Neither saw her.
“Did you speak, Rachel?” Kenkenes asked. He fancied that her arms had fallen quickly as he turned.
“Nay, except to bid thee take care of thyself, Kenkenes,” she faltered, “more for thine own sake than for mine.”
He returned and, on his knee, pressed her hand to his lips.
“God’s face light thee and His peace attend thee,” she continued. The blessing was full of wondrous tenderness and music. He knew how her face looked above him; how the free hand all but rested on his head, and for a moment his fortitude seemed about to desert him. But she whispered:
And he arose and went forth.