The third evening he paused opposite a ruined city on the eastern bank of the Nile. Hunters not infrequently went inland at this point for large game, and although the place was in a state of partial demolishment, Kenkenes hoped that there might be an inn. He tied his boat to a stake and entered Khu-aten, the destroyed capital of Amenophis IV, self-styled Khu-n-Aten.
Here under a noble king, who loved beauty and had it not, the barbarous rites of the Egyptian religion were overthrown and sensuous and esthetic ceremonies were established and made obligatory all over the kingdom. In his blind groping after the One God, the king had directed worship to the most fitting symbol of Him—the sun.
He appeased the luminous divinity by offerings of flowers, regaled it with simmerings from censers, besought it with the tremulous harp and had it pictured with grace and vested with charm. And since the power of the national faith was all-permeating, its reconstruction was far-reaching in effect. Egypt was swept into a tremendous and beautiful heresy by a homely king, whose word was law.
But at his death the reaction was vast and vindictive. The orthodox faith reasserted itself with a violence that carried every monument to the apostasy and the very name of the apostate into dust. Now the remaining houses of Khu-ayen were the homes of the fishers—its ruins the habitation of criminals and refugees.
The hand of the insulted zealot, of the envious successor, of the invader and conqueror, had done what the reluctant hand of nature might not have accomplished in a millennium. The ruins showed themselves, stretching afar toward and across the eastern sky, in ragged and indefinable lines. The oblique rays of the newly risen moon slanted a light that was weird and ghostly because it fell across a ruin. Kenkenes climbed over a chaos of prostrate columns, fallen architraves and broken colossi, and the sounds of his advance stirred the rat, the huge spider, the snake and the hiding beast from the dark debris. Here and there were solitary walls standing out of heaps of wreckage, which had been palaces, and frequent arid open spaces marked the site of groves. In complex ramifications throughout the city sandy troughs were still distinguishable, where canals had been, and in places of peculiarly complete destruction the strips of uneven pavement showed the location of temples.
There was not a house at which Kenkenes dared to ask hospitality. Those that lived so precariously would have little conscience about stripping him of his possessions.
He retraced his steps to the wharves and drew away, prepared to spend the night in his boat.
After leaving Khu-aten, the Nile wound through wild country, the hills approaching its course so closely as to suggest the confines of a gorge. The narrow strip of level land on the eastern side lay under a receding shadow cast by the hills, but the river and the western shore were in the broad brilliance of the moon. The night promised to be one of exceeding brightness and Kenkenes shared the resulting wakefulness of the wild life on land.