“Swear, by Osiris!”
“And the Lady Masanath?”
“Gone, also, to Tanis with Unas, this morning.”
“Thou liest! In the dark?”
“Nay, I swear by Osiris,” she protested wildly. “The light came in with the hour of dawn.”
Kenkenes released her and hurried away. He did not doubt that the old woman had told the truth. He had overslept the light. Unas could not have taken Rachel and Masanath to Tanis together. The Israelite would have been sent on before.
There was yet Atsu to question, and then—on to Tanis to rescue Rachel or to avenge her.
He met no one until he reached a bazaar of jewels near the temple square. An armed watchman stood before the tightly closed front of the lapidary’s booth, above the portal of which a flaring torch was stuck in a sconce.
“The house of Atsu?” the watchman repeated after Kenkenes. “Atsu is no longer a householder in Memphis.”
“When did he depart?”
“Eight or nine months ago, at the persuasion of the Pharaoh.”
The lightness of the man’s manner irritated the already vexed spirit of the young artist.
“Be explicit,” he demanded sharply. “What meanest thou?”
“He was stripped of his insignia and reduced to the rank of ordinary soldier,” the man answered, “for pampering the Israelites. He is with the legions in the north.”
“Hath he kin in the city?”
“Nay, he is solitary.”
Kenkenes walked away unsteadily. The nervous energy that had upborne him during his intense excitement was deserting him. His hunger and weariness were asserting themselves.
He turned down the narrow passage leading to his father’s house. And suddenly, in the way of such vagrant thoughts, it occurred to him that the inscription on the tomb had been pointedly denied by the old woman’s statements.
“Ah, I might have known,” he said impatiently. “Rachel put the writing there for me when she left the tomb for the shelter Masanath offered her in Memphis.”
The admission cheered him somewhat, but it did not repair his exhausted forces. By the time he reached his father’s door he was unsteady, indeed, and beyond further exertion.
THE MURKET’S SACRIFICE
The murket sat at his place in the work-room, but no papyrus scrolls lay before him; his fine implements were not in sight; the ink-pots and pens were put away and the table was clear except for a copper lamp that sputtered and flared at one end. The great artist’s arms were extended across the table, his head bowed upon them, his hands clasped. The attitude was not that of weariness but of trouble.
Kenkenes hesitated. For the first time since the hour he left Memphis for Thebes, months before, he felt a sense of culpability. He realized, with great bounds of comprehension, that the results of his own trouble had not been confined to himself. He began to understand how infectious sorrow is.