He had endured a month before his fortitude succumbed entirely. Once near sunset, as Rachel was proceeding toward the camp from some helpful mission to the quarries, she caught the fragments of a song, so distantly and absently sung that she could not locate it. There were singers among the Israelites, but they sang with wild exultation and more care for the sense than the melody. They had cultivated the chant and forgotten the lyric, because they had more heart for prophecy than passion. Rachel had revered her people’s song, but there was something in this half-heard music that touched her youth and her love of life. She stopped to hear it well.
It had all the power and profundity of the male voice, but it was as subdued, as flawless and sympathetic as a distant, deep-toned bell. There was not even a breath of effort in it, nor an insincere expression, and it pursued a theme of little range and much simplicity. The singer sang as spontaneously as a bird sings. She did not catch the words, but something in the fervor of the music told her it was a song of love—and a song of love unsatisfied. There was a pathos in it that touched the fountain of her tears and awoke to willingness that impulse in her womanhood that longs to comfort.
As she stood in an attitude of rapt attention. Kenkenes rounded a curve in the valley just ahead of her. The song died suddenly on his lips and the color deepened in his cheeks.
“Fie!” he exclaimed. “Here thou art, O Athor, catching me in the imperfection of my practice. Now will the keen edge of their perfect beauty be dulled upon thine ear when I come to lift my tuneful devotions to thee.”
“And it was thou singing?” she asked.
“It was I—and Pentaur; mine the voice; Pentaur’s the song.”
“Together ye have wrought an eloquent harmony, but such a voice as thine would gild the pale effort of the poorest words,” she said earnestly. “What dost thou with thy voice?”
“Once I won me a pretty compliment with it,” he said softly, bending his head to look at her. She flushed and her eyes fell.
“Nay, it is but my pastime and at the command of my friends,” he continued. “See. This is what has made me sing.”
He unslung his wallet and took out of it a statuette of creamy chalk.
“Thus far has the Athor of the hills progressed.” He put it into her hands for examination. The face was complete, the minute features as perfect as life, the plaits of long hair and all the figure exquisitely copied and shaped. The pedestal was yet in rough block. Rachel inspected it, wondering. Finally she looked up at him with praise in her eyes.
“Dost thou forgive me?” he asked.
“It is for me to ask thy forgiveness,” she answered. “So we be equally indebted and therefore not in debt.”
“Not so. I know the joy of creating uncramped, and the joy of copying such a model far outweighs any small delight thy little vanity may have experienced. Thy vanity? Hast thou any vanity?”