Vastly more simple and time-saving would have been one of the capacious water carts. But what would have employed these ten youthful Hebrews in the event of such improvement? There was to be no labor-saving in the quarries. Therefore, through the dust, up the weary slanting plane, again and again till the day’s work amounted to a journey of miles, the Hebrew children toiled with their captain and co-laborer, Rachel.
At the summit of the wooden slope the beautiful Israelite, who had preceded her charges, passed up the burden of each one to the Hebrews on the scaffold. From his aery Kenkenes watched this particular phase of her tasks with interest. She was not too far from him for the details of her movements to be distinguishable, and the posture of the outstretched arms and lifted face fulfilled his requirements. He abandoned the modeling of her features for that day and copied the attitude. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon a countryman of hers, strong, young and but lightly bearded, stepped down from his place on the scaffold and relieved her. The sculptor noted the act with some degree of disquiet, hoping that the graceful protests of the girl might prevail. When the stalwart Hebrew overrode her remonstrances, and motioned her toward a place at the side of the frame-work where she might rest, the young sculptor frowned impatiently. But his humane heart chid him and he waited with some assumption of grace till she should take up her burden again.
At sunset he retired cautiously, but several dawns found him among the rocks, with reed pen, papyri and molds of clay. When he climbed to his retreat within the walls of stone, on the hillside in the late afternoon, he hid several studies of the girl’s head and statuettes of clay under the matting.
At last he began the creation of Athor the Golden. For days he labored feverishly, forgetting to eat, fretting because the sun set and the darkness held sway for so long. Having overstepped the law, he placed no limit to the extent of his artistic transgression.
After choosing nature as his model, he followed it slavishly. On the occasion of his initial departure from the accepted rules, he had never dreamed it possible to disregard ritualistic commandments so absolutely. He even ignored the passive and meditative repose, immemorial on the carven countenances of Egypt.
The face of Athor, as she put forth her arms to receive the sun, must show love, submission, eagerness and great appeal.
As Kenkenes said this thing to himself, he lowered chisel and mallet and paused. Posture and form would avail nothing without these emotions written on the face. He began to wonder if he might carve them, unaided. He had not found them in the Israelite, and he confessed to himself, with a little laugh, a doubt that he should ever see them on her countenance.
Then a vagabond impulse presented itself unbidden in his mind and was frowned down with a blush of apology to himself. And yet he remembered his coquetry with the Lady Ta-meri as some small defense in the form of precedent.