It was sunset before he had made an end. To return to the Nile by way of the cliff-front would have saved him time, but there was a boyish wish in his heart to look again on the lovely face that had helped him and baffled him. So he descended into the upper end of the ravine and slowly passed the outskirts of the camp, but the bond-girl was nowhere to be seen. The spaces between the low tents were filled with feeding laborers and there was an unusual amount of cheer to be noted among Israel of Masaarah. Kenkenes heard the talk and laughter with some wonderment as he passed. He admitted that he was disappointed when, without a glimpse of Rachel, he emerged into the Nile valley. But he leaped lightly down the ledge, crossed the belt of rubble, talus and desert sand, and entered the now well-marked wagon road between the dark green meadow land on either side. Egypt was in shadow—her sun behind the Libyan heights,—but the short twilight had not fallen. Overhead were the cooling depths of sky, as yet starless, but the river was breathing on the winds and the sibilant murmur of its waters began to talk above the sounds of the city. To the north, the south and the east was pastoral and desert quiet; to the west was the gradual subsidence of urban stir. Frogs were beginning to croak in the distance, and in the long grain here and there, a nocturnal insect chirred and stilled abruptly as the young man passed.
Within a rod of the pier some one called:
The voice came from a distance, but he knew whom he should see when he turned. Half-way across the field toward the quarries Rachel was coming, with a scroll in her lifted hand. He began to retrace his steps to meet her, but she noted the action and quickened her rapid walk into running.
“Thou didst drop this outside the camp,” she said as she came near. “I feared it might have somewhat pertaining to the statue on it, and I have brought it, with the permission of the taskmaster.” She stopped, and putting her hand into the folds of her habit on her breast, hesitated as if for words to speak further. Kenkenes interrupted her with his thanks.
“How thou hast fatigued thyself for me, Rachel! Out of all Egypt I doubt if I might find another so constant guardian of my welfare. The grace of the gods attend thee as faithfully. I thank thee, most gratefully.”
The purpose in her face dissolved, the hand that seemed to hold somewhat in the folds of her habit relaxed and fell slowly. While Kenkenes waited for her to speak, he noted that a dress of unbleached linen replaced the coarse cotton surplice she had worn before, and her feet were shod with simple sandals—an extravagance among slaves. But the garb was yet too mean. The sculptor wondered at that moment how the sumptuous attire of the high-born Memphian women would become her. He shook his head and in his imagination dressed her in snow-white robes with but the collar of rings about her throat, and stood back to marvel at his picture of splendid simplicity.