“It is near sunset,” she said softly, “give me leave to depart.”
“Farewell, and the divine Mother attend thee.”
She bowed and left him.
That night in the dim work-room Kenkenes brought forth upon papyrus a face of Athor, so full of love and yearning that he knew his own heart had given his fingers direction and inspiration. He sought no further.
To-morrow in the niche in the desert he would carve the want of his own soul in the countenance of the goddess.
THE GODS OF EGYPT
It was Kenkenes’ first love and so was most rapturous, but it did not cast a glamour over the stern perplexities that it entailed. He knew the suspense that is immemorial among lovers, and further to trouble him he had the harsh obstacle of different society. Rachel was a quarry-slave, a member of the lowest rank in the Egyptian scale of classes. She was an Israelite, an infidel and a reviler of the gods.
He was a descendant of kings, a devout Osirian and welcomed in Egypt’s high places.
Never could extremes have been greater. But Kenkenes would not have given any of these obstacles a moment’s consideration had not the weight of their neglect fallen on the shoulders of Rachel. If he had been a sovereign he could have taken her freely, and purple-wearing Egypt would have kissed her sandal; but he occupied a place that could provide with honor only him who was born to it.
To lift Rachel to that position would be to expose her to the affronts of an undemocratic society. On the other hand he might sacrifice name and station and go down to her; but he was not to be judged harshly because he hesitated at this step.
Rachel had given him no sign of preference beyond a pretty fellowship. In the beginning this realization had hurt him, but as he tossed night after night, troubled beyond expression, he remembered this thing with some melancholy comfort. It was a sorry solution of his problem to feel that he was unloved, and even while he recognized its efficacy, he prayed that it might not be so.
His heavy heart did not retard the progress of his statue or make its beauty indifferent. The more he suffered the greater the passion in the face. He labored daily and tirelessly.
But day by day he looked, unseen, on his love in the valley, and the oftener he looked the more irresolute he grew. The conflict between his heart and his reason was gradually shifting in favor of his love.
His longing, as it continued to crave, grew from hunger to starving, and though his reason pointed to disastrous results, his heart justified itself in the blind cry, “Rachel, Rachel!”