The Yoke eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 464 pages of information about The Yoke.

[1] The tombs of the Orient in ancient times were common places of refuge for fugitives, lepers and outcasts.

CHAPTER XXI

ON THE WAY TO THEBES

The moon was ampler and its light stronger.  The Nile was a vast and faintly silvered expanse, roughened with countless ripples blown opposite the direction of the current.  The north wind had risen and swept through the crevice between the hills with more than usual strength, adding its reedy music to the sound of the swiftly flowing waters.

After launching his bari, Kenkenes gazed a moment, and then, with a prayer to Ptah for aid, struck out for the south, rowing with powerful strokes.

At the western shore lighted barges swayed at their moorings or journeyed slowly, but the Nile was wide, and the craft, blinded by their own brilliance, had no thought of what might be hugging the Arabian shore.  Yet Kenkenes, with the inordinate apprehension of the fugitive, lurked in the shadows, dashed across open spaces and imagined in every drifting, drowsy fisher’s raft a pursuing party.  He prayed for the well-remembered end of the white dike, where the Nile curved about the southernmost limits of the capital.  The day had not yet broken when he passed the last flambeau burning at the juncture of the dike with the city wall.  He rowed on steadily for Memphis, and immediate danger was at last behind him.

The towers of the city had sunk below the northern horizon when, opposite a poor little shrine for cowherds on the shore, a brazen gong sounded musically for the sunrise prayers.  The Libyan hilltops were, at that instant, illuminated by the sun, and Kenkenes, in obedience to lifelong training, rested his oars and bent his head.  When he pulled on again he did not realize that he had been, with the stubbornness of habit, maintaining the breach between him and Rachel.  There was no thought in his mind to give over his faith.

At noon, weary with heat, hunger and heavy labor, he drew up at Hak-heb, on the western side of the Nile, fifty miles above Memphis.  The town was the commercial center for the pastoral districts of the posterior Arsinoeite nome—­Nehapehu.  Here were brought for shipment the wine, wheat and cattle of the fertile pocket in the Libyan desert.  Being at a season of commercial inactivity, when the farmers were awaiting the harvest, the sunburnt wharves were almost deserted.

Few saw Kenkenes arrive.  Most of the inhabitants were taking the midday rest, and every moored boat was manned by a sleeping crew.  He made a landing and went up through the sand and dust of the hot street to the only inn.  Here he ate and slept till night had come again.  Refreshed and invigorated, he continued his journey.  At noon the next day he stopped to sleep at another town and to buy a lamp, materials for making fire, ropes and a plummet of bronze sufficiently heavy to anchor his boat.  He was entering a long stretch of distance wherein there was no inhabited town, and he was making ready to sleep in the bari.  Then he began to travel by day, for he was too far from Memphis to fear pursuit, and rest in an open boat under a blazing sun would be impossible.

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The Yoke from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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