Kenkenes, Menes, Nechutes and those of the royal guard that had started in pursuit of the traitor, did well to save themselves from annihilation under the hoofs of twenty thousand horse. Bewildered and amazed, they were an instant realizing what was taking place.
“He is running away with the army!” they said to themselves in a daze. “He is running away with the army!” And they knew that not all the efforts of the guards and the ministers and the Pharaoh himself would avail, for the army had received its orders from its great commander and no man but he might turn it back.
So the short-poled chariots, multi-tinted and gorgeous, wheel to wheel, axle-deep in a cloud of dust, glittered out across the desert—sixty ranks, ten abreast. Far to the left moved the horsemen, the dust of their rapid passage hiding their galloping mounts up to the stirrup. To the watchers by the king they seemed like an undulant sea of quilted helmets and flying tassels, while the sunlight smote through a level and straight-set forest of spears. They were seasoned veterans, many of them heroes of a quarter-century of wars. They had followed Rameses the Great into Asia and had extended the empire and the prowess of arms to the farthest corners of the known world. They had drunk the sweets of unalloyed victory from the blue Nile to the Euphrates and had filled Egypt with booty, scented with the airs of Arabia, gorgeous from the looms of India, and heavy with the ivory and gold of Ethiopia.
Now they went in formidable array in pursuit of two millions of slaves to dye their axes in unresisting blood, to return, not as victors over a heroic foe, but as drivers of men, herders of sheep and cattle, and laden with inglorious spoil.
Behind them, in regular ranks, beaten by their drivers into an awkward run, came the sumpter-mules, and after them the rumbling carts filled with provision.
Meneptah, raging and weeping, saw his army leave him and gallop in an aureole of dust toward the Red Sea.
Thus it was that “the Pharaoh drew nigh,” but came no farther after Israel.
THE WAY TO THE SEA
Kenkenes did not remain long in the apathy of amazement and helplessness. Consternation possessed him the instant he roused himself sufficiently to realize and speculate. He had saved the king and exposed Har-hat, but the accomplishing of this temporary good had forced the probable commission of a great evil. If death in some form did not overtake the fan-bearer he could enrich and strengthen himself from Israel. Then, even if Meneptah’s army did not continue to follow him, he would be enabled to buy mercenaries and return equipped to do battle with Meneptah, even as he had vowed. The flower of the military was with him; the Pharaoh was incapable and Egypt demoralized. The success of the traitor seemed assured. What then of Rachel, of his own father, of the faithful ministers, of all whom Kenkenes had loved or befriended? The thought filled him with resolution and vigor.