“Hotep!” ejaculated Kenkenes aloud, catching the name from the lips of the students. “By Apis, he is the royal scribe!”
Not until then had he realized the extent of his friend’s exaltation.
He turned again toward the temple, walking between the crowds and the marching soldiers, indifferent to the shouts of the spectators—lost in contemplation. But the procession moved more swiftly than he and the last rank passed him with half his journey yet to complete. Instantly the vast throng poured out into the way behind the rearmost soldier and swallowed up the sculptor in a shifting multitude. For an hour he was hurried and halted and pushed, progressing little and moving much. Before he could extricate himself, the runners preceding the pageant returning the great god to his shrine, beat the multitude back from the dromos and once again Kenkenes was imprisoned by the hosts. And once again after the procession had passed, he did fruitless battle with a tossing human sea. But when the street had become freer, he stood before the closed portal of the great temple. The solemn porter scrutinized the young sculptor sharply, but the display of the linen-wrapped roll was an efficient passport. In a little space he was conducted across the ringing pavements, under the vaulted shadows, into the presence of Loi, high priest to Amen.
The ancient prelate had just returned from installing the god in his shrine and was yet invested in his sacerdotal robes. At one time this splendid raiment had swathed an imposing figure, but now the frame was bowed, its whilom comfortable padding fallen away, its parchment-like skin folded and wrinkled and brown. He was trembling with the long fatigue of the spectacle.
He spelled the hieratic writings upon the outer covering of the roll which the young man presented to him, and asked with some eagerness in his voice:
“Hast thou traveled with all speed?”
“Scarce eight days have I been on the way. Only have I been delayed a few hours by the crowds of the festival.”
“It is well,” replied the pontiff. “Wait here while I see what says my brother at On.”
He motioned Kenkenes to a seat of inlaid ebony and retired into a curtained recess.
The apartment into which Kenkenes had been conducted was small. It was evidently the study of Loi, for there was a small library of papyri in cases against the wall; a deep fauteuil was before a heavy table covered with loosely rolled writings. The light from a high slit under the architrave sifted down on the floor strewn with carpets of Damascene weave. Two great pillars, closely set, supported the ceiling. They were of red and black granite, and each was surmounted by a foliated encarpus of white marble. The ceiling was a marvelous marquetry of many and wondrously harmonious colors.