“I remember,” he said at last. “Thou art Ranas, courier to Snofru, priest of On. Greeting and welcome to Memphis. Enter and be seated.”
“Many thanks, but mine errand is urgent. I have been a guest of my son, who abideth just without Memphis, and this morning a messenger came to my son’s door. He had been sent by Snofru to Tape, but had fallen ill on the river between On and Memphis. As it happened, the house of my son was the nearest, and thither he came, in fever and beyond traveling another rod. As the message he bore concerned the priesthood, I went to Asar-Mut and I am come from him to thee. He bids thee prepare for a journey before presenting thyself to him, at the temple.”
Kenkenes frowned in some perplexity.
“His command is puzzling. Am I to become a messenger for the gods?”
“The first messenger was a nobleman,” the old courier explained in a conciliatory tone, “and the holy father spoke of thy fidelity and despatch.”
“Mine uncle is gracious. Salute him for me and tell him I obey.”
The old man bowed once more and withdrew.
When Kenkenes crossed the court a little time later he met his father.
“The Lady Senci brings me news that makes me envious,” Mentu began at once, “and shames me because of thee!”
Kenkenes lifted an expressive brow at this unexpected onslaught. “Nay, now, what have I done?”
“Nothing!” Mentu asserted emphatically; “and for that reason am I wroth. The Lady Senci’s nephew, Hotep, is the new chief of the royal scribes.”
“I call that good tidings,” Kenkenes replied, a cheerful note in his voice, “and worth greeting with a health to Hotep. But thou must remember, my father, that he is older than I.”
“How much?” the elder sculptor asked.
“Three whole revolutions of Ra.”
The artist regarded his son scornfully for a moment.
“The Lady Senci wishes me to prepare plans for the further elaboration of her tomb,” he went on, at last, “but the work on the obelisk may not be laid aside. If I might trust you to go on with them, the Lady Senci need not wait.”
“But I have, this moment, been summoned by my holy uncle, Asar-Mut, to go on a journey, and I know not when I return,” Kenkenes explained.
Mentu gazed at him without comprehending.
“A messenger on his way to Tape from Snofru was overtaken with misfortune here, and Asar-Mut, getting word of it, sent for me,” the young man continued. “I can only guess that he wishes me to carry on the message.”
“Humph!” the elder sculptor remarked. “Asar-Mut has kingly tastes. The couriers of priests are not usually of the nobility. But get thee gone.”
The pair separated and the young man passed into the house. The ape under the bunch of leaves in a palm-top looked after him fixedly for a moment, and then sliding down the tree, disappeared among the flowers.