Hotep waited in the house of his aunt, neighbor to the murket, and about the middle of the first watch asked again for Kenkenes.
Nay, the young master had not returned. But would not the noble Hotep enter and await him?
The scribe, however, returned to the palace, and put off his visit until the next day.
The following noon a page brought him a message from his aunt, the Lady Senci. It was short and distressed.
“Kenkenes has not returned, Hotep, and since he is known to have gone upon the Nile, we fear that disaster has overtaken him. Come and help the unhappy murket. His household is so dismayed that it is useless. Come, and come quickly.”
The probability of the young artist’s death in the Nile immediately took second place in the scribe’s mind. Kenkenes had displayed to Hotep the effect of Rameses’ savage boast to exterminate the Hebrews. It was that incident which had convinced the scribe that the Arabian hills would claim the artist on the morrow. He had not stopped to surmise the extremes to which Kenkenes would go, but his mysterious disappearance seemed to suggest that the lover had gone to the Israelitish camp to remain.
He made ready and repaired to the house of the murket. Mentu met him in the chamber of guests. By the dress of the great artist it would seem that he had returned at that moment from the streets.
Hotep sat down beside him, and with tact and well-chosen words told his story and summarized his narration with a mild statement of his suspicions.
There was no outbreak on the part of Mentu. But his broad chest heaved once, as though it had thrown off a great weight.
“But Kenkenes has been a dutiful son,” he said after a silence, “I can not think he would use me so cruelly—no word of his intent or his whereabouts.”
The objection was plausible.
“Then, let us go to Masaarah and discover of a surety,” the scribe suggested.
When Atsu emerged from the mouth of the little valley into the quarries some time after the midday meal, he was confronted by the murket and the royal scribe. Neither of the men was unknown to him.
Hotep halted him.
“Was there a guest with the fair-haired Israelite maiden last night?” the scribe asked.
Atsu’s face, pinched and darker than usual, blazed wrathfully.
“Have ye also joined yourselves with Har-hat to run that hard-pressed child to earth?” he exclaimed. “Do ye call yourselves men?”
“The gods forbid!” Hotep protested. “We do not concern ourselves with the maiden. It is the man who may be with her that we seek.”
The taskmaster made an angry gesture, and Hotep interrupted again.
“I do not question her decorum, and the man of whom I speak is of spotless character. He is lost and we seek him.”
“I can not help you; my wits are taxed in another search.”