“There were three of you and one man overthrew you all?” the high priest commented suspiciously.
“Holy Father!” the servant protested wildly, “he was a giant—a monster for bigness. Besides, there were but two of us, after he had all but throttled me.”
Har-hat laughed again. “Aye, and after he pitched Nak over the cliff, there was but one. But tell me this: was he noble or a churl?”
“He wore the circlet.”
Mentu’s long fingers bent as if he longed for a throat between them.
“The craven invented his giant to salve his valor,” the priest said.
“It may be,” the fan-bearer replied musingly, “but thy nephew, holy Father, is conspicuously tall and well-muscled. Likewise, he is a sculptor. Furthermore, the two slaves came home badly abused. Unas has some proof for his tale—”
“Kenkenes is the soul of fidelity,” the high priest retorted warmly. “He has had unnumbered opportunities to betray the gods and he has ever been steadfast.”
“Nay, I did not impugn him. The similarity merely appealed to me. Let us get down into the valley and question that villain Atsu. I would know what became of the girl.”
“Mine interests are solely with the ecclesiastical features of the offense, my Lord,” Asar-Mut replied. “I would get back to Memphis.”
“Bear us company a little longer, holy Father. The taskmaster may tell us somewhat of this blaspheming sculptor-giant.”
When the last sound of the departing men died away, Mentu turned across the hill toward the Nile-front of the cliff.
“Nay, I will go back to Memphis first,” he said grimly. “Mayhap Kenkenes hath returned. If Asar-Mut should question him, he would not evade nor equivocate, so I shall send him away that he may not meet his uncle. I would not have him lie, but he shall not accomplish his own undoing.”
But days of seeking followed, growing frantic as time went on, and there was no trace of the lost artist. Even his pet ape did not return. Asar-Mut questioned Mentu closely concerning the fidelity of Kenkenes to the faith and the ritual.
“I ask after his soul,” he explained. But he gained no evidence from Mentu.
On the fourteenth day after the disappearance of the young sculptor, Sepet, the boatman that had hired his bari to Kenkenes, found the boat among the wharf piling. It was overturned, its bottom ripped out, one side crushed as if a river-horse had played with it. In the small compartment at the tiller were provisions for a light lunch; a wallet, empty; a rope and a plummet of bronze used to moor a boat in midstream while the sportsman fished; the light woolen mantle worn as often for protection against the sun as against the cold, and other things to prove that Kenkenes had met with disaster.
The fate of the young man seemed to be explained. The great house of Mentu was darkened; the servants went unkempt and the artist wore a blue scarf knotted about his hips. The high priest dismissed the subject of the sacrilege from his mind, now that his nephew was dead. The people of Memphis who knew Kenkenes mourned with Mentu; the festivities were dull without him, and there were some, like Io and the Lady Senci, who went into retirement and were not to be comforted.