He drew her, unresisting, to him, and kissed her forehead.
“For my gentleness to the Hebrews of Pa-Ramesu,” he continued in a calmer tone as he released her, “they have stripped me of my rank and sent me to govern Masaarah. So they thought to punish me, never dreaming that they joined me to Rachel, and hid me away in a nook with a handful to whom I may be merciful and none will spy upon me! They thwarted their end.”
“Happy Masaarah!” Rachel said earnestly.
Atsu laughed again and disappeared in the dark.
Rachel drew her hand furtively across the place on her brow that the taskmaster’s lips had touched. The keen eyes of the old Israelite saw the motion and understood it.
“It is not Atsu,” she said astutely.
“Nay,” the girl protested, “and yet it is Atsu, in mine own meaning, or any one in Egypt who is fair to Israel. The grace of that one would be sufficient in God’s sight to save all Egypt from doom. That was my meaning.”
The light in the frame quarters of the taskmaster was extinguished and at that moment a shadowy figure emerged from the dark and approached the pair.
“A courier from Mesu speaketh without the camp, even now,” the visiting Israelite said in a half-whisper. “Atsu hath put out his light, to sleep, but even if he sleep not, the people may go without fear and listen to the speaker. Come ye and give him audience.”
“We come,” Deborah replied.
As the old woman and her ward walked down through the night in the direction taken by the entire population of the quarries, Deborah said quietly:
“Thy cloud of depression hath rifted somewhat since sunset, daughter.”
Rachel pressed her hand repentantly.
At the side of an open space, now closely filled with sitting listeners, stood a Hebrew, not older than thirty-five. A knot of flaming pitch, stuck in a crevice of rock near him, lighted his face and figure. His frame had the characteristic stalwart structure of the Israelitish bondman. The black hair waved back from a placid white forehead; the eyes were serene and level, the mouth rather wide but firm, the jaw square. The beard would have been light for a much younger man, and it was soft, red-brown and curling. It added a mildness and tenderness to the face. Whoever looked upon him was impressed with the unflinching piety of the countenance.
This was Caleb the Faithful, son of Jephunneh, the Kenezite.
He was talking when Rachel and her ancient guardian entered the hollow, and he continued in a passive tone throughout the several arrivals thereafter. He spoke as one that believes unfalteringly and has evidence for the faith. He did not recount Israel’s wrongs—he would have worked against his purpose had he wrought his hearers into an angry mood. Besides, the story would have been superfluous. None knew Israel’s wrongs better than Israel.