At the end of the hour, he went once again to Rameses. He was calm and composed, but he made no apology for his abrupt departure, when last he was there. Perhaps, however, he gained in the respect of Rameses by that lapse. The blunt prince was more patient with the sincere than with the diplomatic.
“Thou hast said,” the prince began immediately, “that Har-hat hath imprisoned Kenkenes till what time he shall divulge the hiding-place of the Israelite?”
“The fan-bearer charges him with slave-stealing?”
“And sacrilege,” the scribe added. The prince opened his eyes. “Aye, Kenkenes carried his beauty-love into blasphemy. He executed a statue of Athor in defiance of the sculptor’s ritual. For this also, Har-hat holds a heavy hand over him.”
“A murrain on the lawless dreamer!” Rameses muttered. “Is there anything more?”
Hotep shook his head.
“He deserves his ill-luck. Mark me, now. He will not go mad with a year’s imprisonment, and he will profit by it. Furthermore, he can not be persuaded into betraying the Israelite, if he knows how long and how much he will have to endure. Once sentenced, Har-hat can add nothing more thereto. Has he confessed?”
“To me, he did. I know not what he said to the Pharaoh. But the Goddess Ma broodeth on the lips of Kenkenes.”
Rameses nodded, and clapped his hands. The attendant that appeared he ordered to bring the scribe’s writing-case and implements. When the servant returned, Hotep, at a sign from Rameses, prepared to write.
“Write thus to the jailer at Tape:
“’By order of the crown prince, Rameses, the prisoner, Kenkenes, held for slave-stealing and sacrilege, is sentenced to imprisonment for one year—’”
Hotep lifted his pen, and looked his rebellion.
“Write!” the prince exclaimed. “I do him a kindness, with a lesson added. Were it in my power to free him I would not—till he had learned that the law is inexorable and the power of its ministers supreme. Go on—’at such labor as the prisoner may elect. No further punishment may be added thereto.’ Affix my seal and send this without fail. Thou canst write whatever thou wilt to Kenkenes. For the Israelite, I shall not concern myself. The nearer friends to Kenkenes may look to her. Mine shall be the care only to see that they are not harassed by the fan-bearer. In this, I fulfil the law. Let Har-hat help himself.”
He dropped back on his divan and Hotep slowly collected his writing materials and made ready to depart. Having finished, he lingered a little.
“A word further, O Rameses. Kenkenes is proud. He would liefer die than suffer the humiliation of public shame. Memphis believes him dead. None but thyself, Har-hat, the noble Mentu and I know of his plight. Har-hat hath no call to tell it. Mentu will not; I shall not. Wilt thou keep his secret also, my Prince?”