And like a shadow she was gone.
As he hurried on again through the dense gloom of the ravine, the young man thought long on the Israelite and her words. She had offered him theories that peremptorily contradicted the accepted idea among Egyptians, that Moses was inspired by a personal motive of revenge. The argument put forth by his father began to show sundry weaknesses. Furthermore Rachel’s version gave him a much coveted opportunity to slip from his shoulders the discomforting blame that had rested there since he had heard that a miscarried letter might effect a national disturbance. Much as the practical side of his nature sought to decry the great Hebrew’s motive, a sense of relief possessed him.
“I fear me, Kenkenes, thou durst not boast thyself an embroiler of nations,” he said to himself. “The Hebrew prince is a zealot, and zealots have no fear for their lives. Truly those Israelites are an uncommon and a proud people. But, by Besa, is she not beautiful!”
He enlarged on this latter thought at such exhaustive length that he had traversed the valley and field, found his boat, crossed the Nile and was at home before he had made an end.
THE COMING OF THE PHARAOH
On the first day of February, runners, dusty, breathless and excited, passed the sentries of the Memphian palace of Meneptah with the news that the Pharaoh was but a day’s journey from his capital. They were the last of a series of couriers that had kept the city informed of the king’s advance. For days before, public drapers were to be seen clinging cross-legged to obelisk and peristyle; moving in spread-eagle fashion, hung in a jacket of sail-cloth attached to cables, across the fronts of buildings, looping garlands, besticking banners and spreading tapestries. Scattering sounds of hammer and saw continued even through the night. The city’s metals were polished, her streets were sprinkled and rolled, her stone wharves scoured, her landings painted, her flambeaux new-soaked in pitch. The gardens, the storehouses and the wine-lofts felt unusual draft for the festivities, and the great capital was decked and scented like a bride.
Now, on the eve of the Pharaoh’s coming, the preparations were complete. The city was full of excitement and pleasant expectancy. Only once before during the six years of Meneptah’s reign had such enthusiasm prevailed. When the Rebu horde descended upon Egypt, Meneptah had sent his generals out to meet the invader, but he, himself, had remained under cover in Memphis because he said the stars were unpropitious. And this was the son of Rameses II, than whom, if the historians and the singer Pentaur say true, there was never a more puissant monarch! But when the marauder was overthrown and routed, and his generals turned toward Memphis with their captives in chains, Meneptah hastened to meet them, decked his chariot with war trophies and entered his capital in triumph. He was hailed with exultant acclaim.