A great rush of impatience, suspense, eagerness and heart-hunger fell on the young artist the instant he knew his footsteps were turned toward Memphis and Rachel. The six days that must intervene between the present time and the moment he entered the old capital seemed insufferable. Never did a lover so fume against the inexorable deliberation of time and the obstinate length of distance. The preliminaries to departure seemed to accumulate and lengthen—and lessen in importance. Haste consumed him. Under a momentary impulse, with all seriousness he began to consider his own fleetness of foot as more expedient than travel by boat. But he put the thought aside, and summoning as much patience as was possible, set about with all speed preparing to depart.
Thebes had not awakened from the coma of horror into which it had lapsed during the great plagues. It was Kenkenes’ first visit to the city since he had left it for the desert, eight months before. Now, the change in the great capital of the south impressed itself upon him, in spite of his haste and his all-absorbing thought of Memphis. The activities of life seemed to be suspended. The call to prayers could be heard hourly from the great gongs of the temple at Karnak, when in happier days the sound had been lost in the city’s noises within the very shadow of the pylons. He could hear strains of music in religious processions, when the wind was fair, but he missed the acclaim of the populace. Besides these sounds, silence had settled over Thebes. Booths were closed in many instances; the streets, which ordinarily were quiet, were now deserted; there were no carpets swinging from balconies and housetops, and the citizens he saw were sober of countenance and of garb. So few, indeed, he met, that he noted each passer-by as an event. Once, some distance away from him, he saw again the youth whom he had met in the doorway of the prison.
At a caterer’s he purchased supplies for a day’s journey and looked about him for a carrier. Catching the boy’s eye, he beckoned him, but the youth turned on his heel and disappeared. The son of the merchant offering himself, Kenkenes continued rapidly toward the river where he engaged a vessel to take him to Memphis.
He roused the boatmen into immediate activity by promises of reward for every mile gained over the average day’s journey. Their passenger and cargo shipped, the men fell to their oars and the craft shot out of the still waters by the landings into midstream and turned toward the north.
As they cleared, the private passage boat belonging to a nobleman swept up near to them and crossing their track took the same direction several hundred yards nearer the Libyan shore. Kenkenes noted that it was a bari of elegant pattern, deep draft and more numerously manned than his. He noted further that one of the boat’s crew was the youth he had met thrice in a short space at Thebes.