He was a man of one attitude, one mood and few words. The Memnon might as well have been expected to smile. The earliest riser found him there; the latest night wanderer came upon him. When the day broke, after the falling of the dreadful night, the brave or the thirsty who ventured forth saw him at his post, silent, unastonished, unafraid.
Once only the soldier had been seen to flinch. Merenra, now nomarch of Bubastis, but whilom commander over Israel at Pa-Ramesu, paused one noon with his train at the well. The governor glanced at the soldier, glanced again, shrugged his shoulders and rode away. The man-at-arms winced, and often thereafter stood in abstracted contemplation of the distance.
Just after sunrise on the second day following the passing of the darkness, four Egyptians, lank, big-footed and brown, came from the northeast. By their dress they had been prosperous rustics of the un-Israelite Delta. But the healthful leanness, characteristic of the race, had become emaciation; there was the studious unkemptness of mourning upon them, and they, who had ridden once, before the plagues of murrain and hail, traveled afoot.
They were evidently journeying to On, where the benevolence of Ra would feed them.
They said nothing, looking a little awed at the soldier and puzzled at the stela. The warrior read the command and the unlettered men fell on their knees, each to a different god. The Egyptian was not ashamed of his piety nor did he closet himself to pray.
“Incline the will of the Pharaoh to accord with the needs of the hour, O thou Melter of Hearts!”
“Rescue the kingdom, O thou Controller of Nations, for it descendeth into death and none succoreth it!”
“Deal thou as thou deemest best with the destroyer of Egypt, O thou Magistrate over Kings!”
Thus, in these fragments of prayers was it made manifest that the worm was turning, apologetically, it is true, but surely. For once the prescribed defense of the Pharaoh was ignored. “It is not the fault of the Child of the Sun, but his advisers, who are evil men and full of guile.” And in the odd perversity of fate for once its observance would have been just.
Having fulfilled the command and relieved their souls, the four arose and went their way, soft of foot and stately of carriage, after the manner of all their countrymen.
Next, descending with a volley of yells, a rout of the nomad tribes, mounted on horses, came from the southwest.
They were chiefly Bedouins, their women perched behind them with the tiniest members of their broods. But every child that could bestride a horse was mounted independently. Whatever worldly possessions the nomads owned were bound in numerous flat rolls on other horses which they led.
“Hail!” they shouted to the warrior, for the desert races are prankish and unabashed. A younger among them, without wife or goods, drew his gaunt horse back upon its scarred haunches and saluted the soldier.