“O had I the tongue of Miriam!” she exclaimed.
“Go not yet. Wilt thou give me up, after a single effort? Miriam could not win me, nor all thy priests. I shall be led by thee alone. A day longer—an hour—”
“But after the manner of man, thou wilt put off and wait and wait. Thou art too able, Kenkenes, too full of power for aid of mine—”
“Rachel, if thou goest into Goshen—” he began passionately, but she clutched him wildly, as if to hold him, though death itself dragged at her fingers.
“Hide me!” she gasped in a terrified whisper. “The servant of Har-hat!”
At the mention of his enemy’s name, Kenkenes turned swiftly about.
Two half-clad Nubians were at the river’s edge, hauling up an elegant passage boat. It was deep of draft and had many sets of oars. Approaching over the sand, hesitatingly, and with timid glances toward the tomb beyond, were four others. The foremost was the youth he had seen in Thebes. The next wore a striped tunic. Fourth and last was Unas.
“Now, by my soul,” Kenkenes exclaimed aloud, “there is no more mystery concerning the boy.” He turned and took Rachel in his arms.
“Now, do thou test the helpfulness of thy God! I have been tricked and I see no help for us. Enter the tomb and close the door, and since thou lovest honor better than liberty, let this be thine escape.”
He put his only weapon, his dagger, into her hands. For an instant he gazed at her tense white face; then bending over her, he kissed her once and put her behind him.
“Go,” he said.
“What want ye?” he demanded of the men.
“A slave,” Unas answered evilly, stepping to the fore.
“Your authority?” The fat courier flourished a document and held up a blue jewel, hanging about his neck. Meneptah had forgotten his promise to return the lapis-lazuli signet to Mentu.
“Thou art undone, knave!” the courier added with a short laugh. He clapped his hands and the four Nubians advanced rapidly upon Kenkenes. There was to be no parley.
Kenkenes glanced at the youth. He was not full grown,—spare, light and small in stature.
“I am sorry for thee, boy,” Kenkenes muttered. “Thy gods judge between thee and me!”
The Nubians, two by two, each man ready to spring, rushed.
With a bound, Kenkenes seized the youth by the ankles and swung him like an animate bludgeon over his head. The attacking party was too precipitate to halt in time and the yelling weapon swung round, horizontally mowing down the foremost pair of men like wooden pins. The weight of the boy, more than the force of the blow, jerked him from the sculptor’s hands. Kenkenes recovered himself and retreated. As he did so, he stumbled on a fragment of rock. He wrenched it from its bed and balanced it above his head.
The powerful figure with the primitive weapon was too savage a picture for the remaining pair to contemplate at close quarters. Unas had made no movement to help in the assault. He had felt the weight of the sculptor’s hand and had evidently published the savagery of the young man to his assistants. They had come prepared to capture an athletic malefactor, but here was a jungle tiger brought to bay. They retired till their fallen fellows should arise.