He swung himself upon his horse and while trotting toward Tanis, faithful to his oath, his soul was free from fear, though he did not conceal from himself that he was going to meet great perils. His fairest hopes were destroyed, yet deep grief struggled with glad exaltation. A new and lofty emotion, which pervaded his whole being, had waked within him and was but slightly dimmed, though he had experienced a sorrow bitter enough to darken the light of any other man’s existence. Naught could surpass the noble objects to which he intended to devote his blood and life—his God and his people. He perceived with amazement this new feeling which had power to thrust far into the background every other emotion of his breast—even love.
True, his head often drooped sorrowfully when he thought of his old father; but he had done right in repressing the eager yearning to clasp him to his heart. The old man would scarcely have understood his motives, and it was better for both to part without seeing each other rather than in open strife.
Often it seemed as though his experiences had been but a dream, and while he felt bewildered by the excitements of the last few hours, his strong frame was little wearied by the fatigues he had undergone.
At a well-known hostelry on the road, where he met many soldiers and among them several military commanders with whom he was well acquainted, he at last allowed his horse and himself a little rest and food; and as he rode on refreshed active life asserted its claims; for as far as the gate of the city of Rameses he passed bands of soldiers, and learned that they were ordered to join the cohorts he had himself brought from Libya.
At last he rode into the capital and as he passed the temple of Amon he heard loud lamentations, though he had learned on the way that the plague had ceased. What many a sign told him was confirmed at last by some passing guards—the first prophet and high-priest of Amon, the grey-haired Rui, had died in the ninety-eighth year of his life. Bai, the second prophet, who had so warmly protested his friendship and gratitude to Hosea, had now become Rui’s successor and was high-priest and judge, keeper of the seals and treasurer, in short, the most powerful man in the realm.
“Help of Jehovah!” murmured a state-prisoner, laden with heavy chains, five days later, smiling bitterly as, with forty companions in misfortune, he was led through the gate of victory in Tanis toward the east.
The mines in the Sinai peninsula, where more convict labor was needed, were the goal of these unfortunate men.
The prisoner’s smile lingered a short time, then drawing up his muscular frame, his bearded lips murmured: “Strong and steadfast!” and as if he desired to transmit the support he had himself found he whispered to the youth marching at his side: “Courage, Ephraim, courage! Don’t gaze down at the dust, but upward, whatever may come.”