Deborah flung up her hand, drawing away in her amazement.
“Thou! A coming queen over the proud land of Mizraim—a guest in the retreat of enslaved Israel!”
Masanath bent her head. “Ye, in your want and distress, are not more poor or wretched than I.”
The old Israelite’s brilliant eyes glittered in the dark.
“Hold!” she exclaimed. “Thou art not a slave—”
“Nay, am I not?” Masanath rejoined swiftly. “A slave, a chattel, doubly enthralled! But enough of this, I would have said that if I wed the prince, I can ask Rachel’s freedom at his hands.”
“So thou canst,” Deborah said eagerly—but before she could continue, Rachel appeared at the outer opening, the amphora held by one arm, the ape by the other. Her face was alight with a smile that seemed dangerously akin to tears.
“Here is water, clean and fresh, but the Nile is bank-full of the plague. It was Anubis that showed me!” She lowered the amphora into the rack and took up the linen band the ape had slipped. “Oh, it is ungrateful to tie thee, Anubis,” she went on, “but thou must not betray us, thou good creature.”
“It was Anubis!” Deborah repeated inquiringly.
“Aye. Not once did the hideous sight disturb him. He was athirst and he made me a well in the sand with his paws. See how Jehovah hath sent us succor by humble hands.” She stroked the hairy grotesque and tethered him reluctantly.
Deborah muttered under her breath. “I liked the creature not, since he made me think of the abominable idolatries of Mizraim, but he hath served the oppressed. He shall be more endurable to me.”
The night fell and the dawn came again and again, but holy Hapi was denied. Hour by hour the fuming lamp was set before the entrance, the door was put a little aside, that the entering air might be purified for those within. When the aromatic was exhausted, Rachel sought for the root once more, among the herbs at the river-bank; for the atmosphere, unsweetened, was beyond endurance.
Never a boat appeared on the water, nor was any human being seen abroad. Egypt retired to her darkest corner and shuddered.
But after the seven days were fulfilled, the horror on the waters was gone. It went as miasma is dispelled by the sun and wind—as pestilence is killed by the frost—unseen, unprotesting. The lifting of the plague was as awesome as its coming, but it was not horrible. That was the only difference. Egypt rejoiced, but she trembled nevertheless and went about timidly.
The Israelite and the Egyptian carried the punt, the boat of Khafra and Sigur, and launched it on the clean waters. Then they prepared themselves and Deborah and Anubis for a journey, and ere they departed, Masanath, at Rachel’s bidding, wrote with a soft soapstone upon the rock over the portal of the tomb, the whereabouts of its whilom dwellers: