“They are not warriors; they are poor and unequipped for hostilities; they are thoroughly under subjection,” the young man pursued. “What can they do against us?”
“Do!” Mentu exclaimed with impatience in the repetition. “They have only to say to the banished Hyksos: ’Come ye, let us do battle with Egypt. We will be your mercenaries.’ They have only to send greeting to that lean traitor Amon-meses, thus: ’Give us the Delta to be ours and we will help you win all Egypt,’ and there will be enough done.”
“They must have a pact among themselves and a leader, first,” Kenkenes objected.
“Have I not said they are organized? And their leader is found. He is a foster-brother to Meneptah; an initiated priest of Isis; a sorcerer and an infidel of the blackest order. He is Prince Mesu, a Hebrew by birth.”
“Dost thou know him?” Kenkenes asked with interest.
“Nay, he has dwelt in Midian these forty years. He returned some time ago and hath dwelt passively in Goshen till—”
The artist dropped his voice and came nearer to his son.
“He hath dwelt passively in Goshen till of late, and it is whispered that some secret work against him inaugurated by the priesthood, or mayhap the Pharaoh, hath given him provocation to revolt against Meneptah.”
After a silence Kenkenes asked in a lowered tone:
“Hath he made demonstration?”
“O, aye, he is clamoring to lead his people a three days’ journey into the wilderness to make sacrifice to their god.”
“Shades of mine ancestors! If that is all, let them, so they return,” Kenkenes said amicably.
“Let them!” the sculptor exploded. “Dost thou believe that they would return?”
“I apprehend that the Rameside army would be capable of thwarting them if they were disposed to depart permanently.”
“Thou dost apprehend—aye, of a truth, I know thou dost! Halt all our works of peace for an indefinite time; mass the vast army of the Pharaoh and spend days and good arrows in retrieving the runaways, merely that a barbarian god may smell the savor of holy animals sacrificed! Gods! Kenkenes, thou art as trustworthy a counselor as Har-hat!”
Thereafter there was a silence in the work-room. But a peppery man is seldom sulky, and Kenkenes was fully prepared for the mildness in his father’s voice when he spoke again.
“Thou shouldst see the pretense in his demand, Kenkenes. He must have provocation to urge him to rebellion, and he knows full well that Meneptah will not grant that petition.”
“But hath he not provocation—thou hast but a moment ago told—”
“But that was only an offense against him. The whole people would not go into revolt because some one had conspired against one of their number. Therefore he telleth Israel that its God would have Israel make a pilgrimage, promising curses upon the people if they obey not. Then he putteth the appeal to the Pharaoh and the Pharaoh denieth it. Wherefore the whole people is enraged and hath rallied to the conspirator’s cause. Seest thou, my son?”