“Her whom thou seekest thou wilt find in the palace of Har-hat, in the city.”
Perhaps under other circumstances Kenkenes would have understood correctly the origin and intent of the writing. Already, however, his fears pointed to the palace of Har-hat as the prison of Rachel, and this faint inscription was corroboration. It appealed to him as villainy worthy of the fan-bearer. It was like his exquisite effrontery.
Kenkenes whirled away with an indescribable sound, rather like the snarl of an infuriated beast than an expression of a reasoning creature. Dashing down the sand, he plunged into the Nile and swam with superhuman speed for the Memphian shore.
He defied death as a maniac does. The river was a mile in width and teeming with crocodiles. But the same saving Providence that shields the adventurous child attended him. He clambered up the opposite bank and struck out for Memphis on a hard run.
He had but one purpose and that was to find Har-hat and strangle him with grim joy. The rescue of Rachel did not occur to him, for in his excited mind the simple touch of the fan-bearer’s hand was sufficient to kill her with its dishonor.
He did not remember anything that Rachel had told him concerning her life in Memphis, or that Har-hat was in Tanis, and Masanath like to be the only resident in the fan-bearer’s palace. His reasoning powers abandoned their supremacy to all the fierce impulses toward revenge and bloodletting of which his nature was capable.
Though it was day when he entered the great capital of the Pharaohs, the streets were almost deserted, and every doorway and window showed interiors brilliant with a multitude of lamps. Memphis was prepared against a second smothering of the lights of heaven.
The few pedestrians Kenkenes met fell back and gave room to the dripping apparition which ran as if death-pursued. One told him on demand where the mansion of Har-hat stood, and after a few slow minutes he was within its porch. He flung himself against the blank portal and beat on it. He did not pause to await a response. He felt within him strength to batter down the doors if they did not open.
Presently an old portress came forth from a side entry and Kenkenes seized her. Fearing that she might cry out and defeat his purpose, he put his hand over her mouth.
“Your master,” he demanded hoarsely. “Where is he? Answer and answer quietly!”
For a moment she was dumb with terror.
“Gone,” she gasped at last when Kenkenes shook her.
“Where? When?” he insisted.
“To Tanis, eight months since!”
“Was an Israelite maiden brought here? Answer and truly, by your immortal soul!”
“Many months ago, aye, but she departed three days ago for Goshen,” the old woman answered falteringly.
“And she came not back?”