The morning of the second day after the lifting of the darkness lay golden over Egypt, blue-shadowed before the houses and trees to the west and shimmering and illusory toward the east. A slow-moving, fragmentary cloud had gathered in the zenith just after dawn and for many minutes over the northern part of Goshen there had been a perpendicular downpour of illuminated rain. Now the sky was as clear and blue as a sapphire and the little wind was burdened with odorous scents from the clean-washed pastures of Israel.
Seti had crossed the border into Goshen at daybreak and was now well into the grazing-lands, yet scintillating with the rain. The hoofs of his fat little horse were patched with wet sand of the roadway and there was no dust on the prince’s modest raiment. Behind the youth plodded two heavy-headed, limp-eared sumpter-mules, driven by a big-boned black.
Seti was not far from his destination, an obscure village of image-makers directly south of Tanis and situated on the northern border of Goshen. The same region that furnished clay to Israel for Egypt’s bricks afforded material for terra-cotta statuettes.
Ahead of him were fields with clouds of sheep upon the uplands and cattle standing under the shade of dom-palms. Here and there hovels with thatches no higher than a man’s head, or low tents, dark with long use, and lifted at one side, stood in a setting of green. About them were orderly and productive gardens. Nowhere was any sign of the desolation that prevailed over Egypt.
Seti looked upon the beautiful prosperity of Goshen at first with the natural delight loveliness inspires, and then with as much savage resentment as his young soul could feel. Belting this garden and stretching for seven hundred miles to the south, was Egypt, desolate, barren and comatose. The God of the Hebrews had avenged them fearfully.
“They had provocation,” he muttered to himself; “but they have overdone their vengeance.”
A figure appeared on the road over the comb of a slight ridge, and Seti regarded the wayfarer with interest.
He was a Hebrew. His draperies were loose, voluminous, heavily fringed, and of such silky texture of linen that they flowed in the light wind. His head was covered with a wide kerchief, which was bound with a cord, and hid the forehead.
He was of good stature and upright, but his drapings were so ample that the structure of his frame was not discernible. His eyes were black, bright and young in their alertness, but the beard that rippled over his breast to his girdle was as white as the foam of the Middle Sea.
The Hebrew walked in the grass by the roadside and came on, his face expectant. At sight of the prince he stepped into the roadway. Seti drew up.
“Thou art Seti-Meneptah?” the ancient wayfarer asked.