He crossed the room and laid a trembling hand on the murket’s shoulder. Instantly the great artist lifted his head and, seeing Kenkenes, leaped to his feet with a cry that was all joy.
The young man responded to the kiss of welcome with so little composure that Mentu forced him down on the bench and summoned a servant.
The old housekeeper appeared at the door, started with a suppressed cry and flung herself at her young master’s feet. He raised her and touched her cheek with his lips.
“Bring me somewhat to eat and drink, Sema,” he said weakly. “I have fasted, since I returned here, well-nigh four days agone.”
The stiff old creature rose with a murmur half of compassion, half of promise, and went forth immediately.
The murket stood very close to his son, regarding him with interrogation on his face.
“Memphis was full of famishing at the coming of dawn this morning,” he said. “For the first time in my life I knew hunger, and it is a fearsome thing, but thou—a shade from Amenti could not be ghastlier. Where hast thou been—what are thy fortunes, Kenkenes?”
“Rachel—thou knowest—” Kenkenes began, speaking with an effort.
“Aye, I know. Didst find her?”
“Aye, and lost her, even while I fought to save her!”
“Alas, thou unfortunate!” Mentu exclaimed. “Of a surety the gods have punished thee too harshly!”
Kenkenes was not in the frame of mind to receive so soft a speech composedly. A strong tremor ran over him and he averted his face. The murket came to his side and smoothed the damp hair.
The old housekeeper entered with broth and bread and a bottle of wine. Mentu broke the bread and filled the beaker, while Sema stood aloof and gazed with troubled eyes at the unhappy face of the young master. Silent, they watched him eat and drink, grieved because of the visible effort it required and because no life or strength returned to him with the breaking of his fast. When he had finished, the bowl and platter were taken away, but at a sign the old housekeeper left the wine with the murket. After she had gone Mentu glanced at the draggled dress of his son.
“Thou needest, further, the attention of thy slave, Kenkenes,” he suggested.
The young man shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “My time is short, and it is thy help I need.”
The murket sat down beside his son.
Without further introduction Kenkenes plunged into his story. He had had no time to tell it four days before. Then he had asked for Rachel with his second word, and finding her not, had rushed immediately to the search for her.
Mentu heard without comment till the story was done. Most of it he had known from Hotep, and only the recent events at the tomb excited him.
When Kenkenes made an end the murket brought his clenched hand down on the table with a force that made the lamp wink and the implements rattle in their boxes above him.