The Hebrew leading Kenkenes slackened his step as if hesitating to approach so venerable a council, when suddenly the group separated, revealing a majestic man about whom it had been clustered.
After a word in his own tongue, delivered with bent head and deferential attitude, the Hebrew stood aside.
Kenkenes prepared to meet a prince of Egypt, whatever the personality of the Israelite. He dropped on one knee, bent his head and extended his hand with the palm toward Moses. The great man took the fingers and bade the young Egyptian arise. Forty years a courtier, forty years a shepherd, but the graces of the one had not been forgotten in the simplicities of the other. When Kenkenes gained his feet, lo! he faced the wondrous stranger he had seen in the tomb of the Incomparable Pharaoh.
At a sign from Moses Kenkenes came near to him, that the howl of the tempest and the turmoil of Israel might not drown their voices.
“Thou art weary, my son,” the Israelite said, glancing at the tired face and dusty raiment. “Hast thou come from afar?”
“From Goshen to Tanis, and hither, O Prince.”
“Thou hast journeyed farther than Israel, and Israel is most weary. I trust thy journey is done.”
And this was the confounder of Egypt, the vicar of God—this kindly noble!
“Not yet, O Prince; but its dearest mission endeth here. I come of the blood of the oppressors, but I am full of pity for thy people’s wrongs. Knowest thou that the Egyptians pursue thee? Is thy hand made strong with resource? Hath the Lord God prepared thee against them?”
“From whom art thou sent?” the Israelite asked pointedly.
“I am come of mine own accord.”
“Because I am one with Israel in faith.”
The great Lawgiver surveyed him in silence for a moment, but the penetrative brilliance in his eyes softened.
“Wast thou taught?” he asked at last.
“In casting away the idols, nay; in finding the true God, I was.”
In the pause that followed, Israel lifted up its voice, and to Kenkenes it seemed that the people besought their great captain, urgingly and chidingly. The Lawgiver listened for a little space. His gaze was absent, the lines of his face were sad. Something in his attitude seemed to say, “What profiteth all Thy care, O Lord? Behold Thy chosen—these men of little faith!”
Then, as if some thought of the young proselyte, the Egyptian, arose in contrast, his eyes came back to Kenkenes again.
“Thou hast filled me with gladness, my son,” he said simply.
Kenkenes bowed his head and made no answer. Presently the Israelite spoke to the panic-stricken people nearest to him. In the tone and the words he used there was a world of paternal kindliness—a composite of confidence, reassurance, and implied protection, that should have soothed.