And after he had read he was glad that he had secluded himself, for his demonstrations of relief at the news the message imparted were most extravagant and unrestrained. For the moment he permitted no reminder of Kenkenes’ present plight to subdue his joy in the realization that his friend was not dead.
Having exulted, he read the letter again, and then he summoned all his shrewdness to his aid.
He would wait till the confusion of the court’s settling itself had subsided before he presented the petition to Meneptah. Furthermore, he would relieve his underlings and write the king’s communications with his own hand till he knew that the reply to Kenkenes had been sent. Har-hat should be watched vigilantly.
But order and routine were not restored in the palace of Meneptah. The unrest that precedes a national crisis had developed into irritability and pugnacity.
Tanis was within hearing of the plaints of Israel, and the atmosphere quivered with omen and portent. Moses appeared in this place and that, each time nearer the temporary capital, and wherever he came he left rejoicing or shuddering behind him.
Meanwhile the fan-bearer laughed his way into the throne. Meneptah’s weakness for him grew into stubborn worship. The old and trusted ministers of the monarch took offense and sealed their lips; the new held their peace for trepidation. The queen, heretofore meek and self-effacing, laid aside her spindle one day and, meeting her lord at the door of the council chamber; protested in the name of his dynasty and his realm.
But the king was beyond help, and the queen, angry and hurt, bade him keep Har-hat out of her sight, and returned to her women. Thereafter even Meneptah saw her rarely.
The rise of the fan-bearer was achieved in an incredibly short time. It proved conclusively that until this period an influence against Har-hat had been at work upon Meneptah, and seeing that Rameses had subsided, having cause to propitiate the father of the woman he would wed, the courtiers began to blame the prince and talk of him to one another.
He seemed lost in a dream. In the council chamber he lounged in his chair with his eyes upon nothing and apparently hearing nothing. But the slow shifting of the spark in his sleepy eyes indicated to those who observed closely that he heard but kept his own counsel. If Meneptah spoke to him he but seconded Har-hat’s suggestions. But once again the observant ones noted that the fan-bearer did not advise at wide variance with any of the prince’s known ideas. Thus far the most caviling could not see that Har-hat’s favoritism had led to any misrule, but the field of possibilities opened by his complete dominance over the Pharaoh was crowded with disaster, individual and national.
The betrothal of Rameses to Har-hat’s daughter gave further material for contention. It seemed to indicate that the fan-bearer had builded for himself for two reigns.