The stage of hostilities was sufficiently advanced to be menacing, and the young sculptor hesitated to ponder on the advisability of pressing on. While he waited, several deputies of the constabulary, methodically silencing the crowd, came upon these belligerents in turn and belabored the foremost into silence. The act decided the young man. The feelings of the rabble were now in a state sufficiently warlike to make them forget their ancient respect for class and turn savagely upon him, should he show any desire to force his way through their lines. Therefore he gave up his attempt to reach the temple and made up his mind to remain where he was. At that moment, several gorgeous litters of the belated wealthy rammed a path to the very front and were set down before the rabble. Kenkenes seized upon their advance to proceed also, and, dropping between the first and second litter, made his way with little difficulty to the front. With the complacency of a man that has rank and authority on his side he turned up the roadway and continued toward the temple. He was halted before he had proceeded ten steps. A litter richly gilded and borne by four men, came pushing through the crowd and was deposited directly in his path.
But for the unusual appearance of the bearers, Kenkenes might have passed around the conveyance and continued. Instead, he caught the contagious curiosity of the crowd and stood to marvel. The men were stalwart, black-bearded and strong of feature, and robed in no Egyptian garb. They were draped voluminously in long habits of brown linen, fringed at the hem, belted by a yellow cord with tasseled ends. The sleeves were wide and showed the wristbands of a white under-garment. The head-dress was a brown kerchief bound about the brow with a cord, also yellow.
While Kenkenes examined them in detail, a long, in-drawn breath of wonder from the circle of spectators caused him to look at the alighting owner of the litter.
He took a backward step and halted, amazed.
Before him was a woman of heroic proportions, taller, with the exception of himself, than any man in the crowd. Upon her, at first glance, was to be discerned the stamp of great age, yet she was as straight as a column and her hair was heavy and midnight-black. Hers was the Semitic cast of countenance, the features sharply chiseled, but without that aggressiveness that emphasizes the outline of a withered face. Every passing year had left its mark on her, but she had grown old not as others do. Here was flesh compromising with age—accepting its majesty, defying its decay—a sublunar assumption of immortality. There was no longer any suggestion of femininity; the idea was dread power and unearthly grace. Of such nature might the sexless archangels partake.