The Yoke eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 464 pages of information about The Yoke.

“I will stay till my people go—­if they depart within twenty days,” Rachel made answer.  “But I must be gone ere thy father’s servant returns.”

Masanath rebelled, sobbing.

“Nay, weep not.  The hour is distant.  In that time, since these are days of miracles, thy sorrows and mine may have faded like a mist.  Come, no more.  Let us bide the workings of the good God.”

[1] Imhotep—­The physician-god.

CHAPTER XXXIII

BACK TO MEMPHIS

The valley in which Thebes Diospolis was situated was wide and the overflow of the Nile did not reach the arable uplands near the Arabian hills.  Three thousand years before, Menes had established a system of irrigation which had added hundreds of square miles to the agricultural area of Egypt, and every monarch after him had unfailingly preserved the institution.  From Syene to Pelusium the country was ramified with canals, and vast sums and great labor were expended yearly upon their keeping.

Since the work was heavy and the demand for it constant, it became a punitive part of each nome’s administration.  Therefore, the convicts whose misdeeds were too serious to be punished adequately by the bastinado or the fine, and yet not grave enough to merit a sentence to the quarries or the mines, were sent to the canals.

So here in the canals of the eastern Thebaid, was Kenkenes, a prisoner known only by a number.  His fellows were unjust public weighers, usurers, rioters, habitual tax-evaders, broken debtors, forgers and housebreakers.

The season of toil had been unusually severe.  The native convicts had more to endure than the lash, the bitter fare, the terrible sun by day, and a bed of dust by night, for the afflictions that befell all Egypt were theirs also.  The strange prisoner among them suffered these things and had further the drawback of his own physical strength to combat.  The plagues overcame the weaker convicts and decimated the number of laborers, so Kenkenes was put, alone, to the work that two men had done before.

However, the accumulation of toil came upon him gradually and his supple frame toughened as the demand upon it increased.  Nor was he sensible of pain or great weariness, for his mind was far away from the sun-heated desert of the eastern Thebaid.  He spoke seldom, and held himself aloof from his fellow prisoners.  He regarded his taskmasters as if they were written authority no more animate than watered scrolls of papyrus.  No one doubted from the beginning that he was high-born, and this mark of a great fall might have exposed him to abuse; but his great strength and unusual deportment did not invite mistreatment.  In short, he was looked upon as mildly mad.

When Kenkenes had rejected the gods, hope, sundered from faith, groped wildly and desperately.  In his rare moments of cheer he could not anticipate freedom without trusting to something, and in his misanthropy his doubt had placed no limit on its scope, questioning the honor of king or slave.  In these better moments he wanted to believe in something.

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The Yoke from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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