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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XLIII |THE PHARAOH DREW NIGH|

The Yoke by Elizabeth Miller

CHAPTER XLIII |THE PHARAOH DREW NIGH|

In mid-afternoon of the following day, Kenkenes awoke and made ready to take up his search again. He was weary, listless and sore, but his mission urged him as if death threatened him.

The young man's athletic training had taught him how to recuperate. Most of the process was denied him now, because of his haste and the little time at his command, but the smallest part would be beneficial. He stepped into the streets of the treasure city, and paused again, till the recollection of the sorrow upon Egypt returned to him to explain the gloom over Pithom. The great melancholy of the land, attending him hauntingly, oppressed him with a sense of culpability. And he dared not ask himself wherein he deserved his good fortune above his countrymen, lest he seem to question the justice of the God of his adoption.

At a bazaar he purchased two pairs of horse-hide sandals, for the many miles on the roads had worn out the old and he needed foot-wear in reserve. From the booth he went straight to the baths, now wholly deserted; for when Egypt mourned, like all the East, she neglected her person.

When he came forth he was refreshed and stronger. Of the citizens, haggard and solemn as they had been in Tanis, he asked concerning the Pharaoh. None had seen him, nor had he entered the city. The last one he questioned was a countryman from Goshen, and from him he learned that the army was assembling in a great pasture on the southern limits of the Israelitish country.

At sunset he was again upon the way, taking the level highway of the Wady Toomilat for a mile toward the west, and turning south, after that distance, as the rustic had directed him.

The road was good and he ran with old-time ease. At midnight he came upon the spot where the army had camped, but the Pharaoh had already moved against Israel. He had left his track. The great belt of disturbed earth wheeled to the south, and as far as Kenkenes could see there was the same luminous veil of dust overhanging it, that he had noted over the path of Israel.

The messenger drank deep at an irrigation canal, for he turned away from water when he followed the army, and leaving the level, dust-cushioned road behind, plunged into a rock-strewn, rolling land, desolate and silent. The growing light of the moon was his only advantage.

The region became savage, the trail of the army wound hither and thither to avoid sudden eminences or sudden hollows. Kenkenes dogged it faithfully, for it found the smoothest way, and, besides, the wild beasts had been frightened from the track of a multitude.

In the early hour of the morning, Kenkenes emerged from a high-walled valley with battlemented summits. Before him was the army encamped, and wild, indeed, was the region chosen for the night's rest. The glistening soil was thickly strewn with rocks, varying in size from huge cubes to sharp shingle. Every abrupt ravine ahead was accentuated with profound shadow, and the dim horizon was broken with hills. The locality maintained an irregular slope toward the east. The camp stretched before the messenger for a mile, but the great army had changed its posture. It squatted like a tired beast.

Kenkenes approached it dropping with weariness, and after a time was passed through the lines and conducted to the headquarters of the king. In the center of the great field were pitched the multi-hued tents of Meneptah and his generals. Above them, turning like weather-vanes upon their staves, were the standards bearing the royal and divine device, the crown and the uplifted hands, the plumes and the god-head.

About the royal pavilion in triple cordon paced the noble body-guard of the Pharaoh.

Of one of these Kenkenes asked that a personal attendant of the king be sent to him.

In a little time, some one emerged from the Pharaoh's tent, and came through the guard-line to the messenger. It was Nechutes.

The cup-bearer took but a single glance at Kenkenes and started back.

|Thou!| he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. |Out of Amenti!|

|And nigh returning into it again,| was the tired reply.

In a daze, Nechutes took the offered hands and stared at Kenkenes through the dark.

|Where hast thou been?| he finally asked.

|In the profoundest depths of trouble, Nechutes, nor have I come out therefrom.|

The cup-bearer's face showed compassion even in the dusk.

|Nay, now; thine was but the fortune a multitude of lovers have suffered before thee,| he said, with a contrite note in his deep voice. |It was even odds between us and I won. Hold it not against me, Kenkenes.|

It was the sculptor's turn to be amazed. But with one of the instant realizations that acute memory effects, he recalled that he had disappeared immediately after Nechutes had been accepted by the Lady Ta-meri. And now, by the word of the apologetic cup-bearer, was it made apparent to Kenkenes that a tragic fancy concerning the cause of his disappearance had taken root in the cup-bearer's mind. With a desperate effort, Kenkenes choked the first desire to laugh that had seized him in months.

|Nay, let it pass, Nechutes,| he said in a strained voice. |Thou and I are friends. But lead me to the king, I pray thee.|

|To the king?| the cup-bearer repeated doubtfully. |The king sleeps. Will thine interests go to wreck if thou bidest till dawn?|

|I carry him a message,| Kenkenes explained.

|A message!|

|Even so. Hand hither a torch.|

A soldier went and returned with a flaming knot of pitch. In the wavering light of the flambeau, Nechutes read the address on the linen scroll.

|The king could not read by the night-lights,| he said after a little. |Much weeping is not helpful to such feeble eyes as his. Wait till dawn. My tent is empty and my bed is soft. Wait till daybreak as my guest.|

|Where is Har-hat?|

|In his tent, yonder,| pointing to a party-colored pavilion.

|Dost thou keep an unsleeping eye on the Pharaoh?|

|By night, aye.|

Kenkenes had a thought to accept the cup-bearer's hospitality. He knew that the expected climax would follow immediately upon the king's perusal of the message, and that the nature of that climax depended upon himself. He needed mental vigor and bodily freshness to make effective the work before him. His cogitations decided him.

|Let the unhappy king sleep, then, Nechutes; far be it from me to bring him back to the memory of his sorrows. Lead me to thy shelter, if thou wilt.|

With satisfaction in his manner Nechutes conducted his guest into a comfortably furnished tent, and showed him a mattress overlaid with sheeting of fine linen.

|Shame that thou must defer this soft sleeping till the noisy and glaring hours of the day,| Kenkenes observed as he fell on the bed.

|By this time to-morrow night, I may content myself in a bed of sand with a covering of hyena-fending stones,| the cup-bearer muttered.

|Comfort thee, Nechutes,| the artist said sententiously, |But do thou raise me from this ere daybreak, even if thou must take a persuasive spear to me.|

So saying, he fell asleep at once.

After some little employment among his effects, the cup-bearer came to the bedside on his way back to the king's tent, and bent over his guest.

|Holy Isis! but I am glad he died not!| he said to himself. |Aye, and there be many who are as glad as I am. Dear Ta-meri! She will be rejoiced, and Hotep. What a great happiness for the old murket -- | he paused and clasped his hands together. |He is Mentu's only son! Now, in the name of the mystery-dealing Hathors, how came it that he died not with the first-born?| After a silence he muttered aloud: |Gods! the army would barter its mummy to have the secret of his safety, this day!|

At the first glimmerings of the dawn, the melody of many winded trumpets arose over the encampment of the Egyptians. Now the notes were near and clear, now afar and tremulous; again, deep and sonorous; now, full and rich, and yet again, fine and sweet. There is a pathos in the call of a war-trumpet that no frivolous rendering can subdue -- it has sung so long at the death of men and nations.

Outlined in black silhouette against the whitening horizons, the sentries, tiny and slow-moving in the distance, tramped from post to post in a forward-leaning line. Soldiers began to shout to each other. The clanking of many arms made another and a harsher music. The tumult of thousands of voices burdened the wind and above this presently arose the eager and expectant whinnyings of a multitude of war-horses.

While the army broke its fast and prepared to move the king stood in the open space before his tent, with his eyes on the east. The Red Sea lay there beyond the uplifted line of desert sand, and it was the birthplace of many mists and unpropitious signs.

Would the sun look upon the king through a veil, or openly? Would he smile upon the purposes of the Pharaoh?

There were striations, watery and colorless, in the lower slopes of the morning sky, and these were taking on the light of dawn without its hues. Long wind-blown streaks crossed the zenith from east to west and the setting stars were blurred. The moon had worn a narrowing circlet in the night. Meneptah shook his head.

Suddenly some one in the ranks of the royal guard exclaimed to a mate:

|Look! Look to the southeast!|

Meneptah turned his eyes in that direction, as though he had been commanded. There, above the spot where he had guessed the Israelites to be, a straight and mighty column of vapor extended up, up into the smoky blue of the sky. The tortuous shapes of the striations across the zenith indicated that there was great wind at that height, but the column did not move or change its form. It was further distinguished from the clouds over the dawn, by a fine amber light upon it, deepening to gold in its shadows. So vivid the tint, that steady contemplation was necessary to assure the beholders that it was not fire, climbing in and out of the pillar's heart. Egypt's skies were rarely clouded and never by such a formation as this.

Meneptah turned his troubled eyes hurriedly toward the east. He must not miss the sunrise. At that moment, unheralded, the disk of the sun shot above the horizon as if blown from a crater of the under-world -- blurred, milky-white, without warmth.

He turned away and faced Nechutes, bending before him; behind the cup-bearer, a stately stranger -- Kenkenes.

|A message for thee, O Son of Ptah,| Nechutes said.

At a sign from the king, the messenger came forward, knelt and delivered the scroll. The king looked at the writing on the wrapping.

|From whom dost thou bring this?| he asked.

|From Jambres, the mystic, O Son of Ptah.|

|Ah!| It was the tone of one who has his surmises proved. |Now, what is contained herein?|

Kenkenes took it that the inquiry called for an answer.

|A warning, O King.|

|How dost thou know?|

|The purport of the message was told me ere I departed.|

|Wherefore? It is not common to lead the messenger into the secret he bears.|

|I know, O Son of Ptah,| Kenkenes replied quietly; |but the messenger who knew its contents would suffer not disaster or death to stay him in carrying it to thee.|

As if to delay the reading of it, the king dismissed Nechutes and signed Kenkenes to arise. Then he turned the scroll over and over in his hands, inspecting it.

|Age does not cool the fever of retaliation,| he said thoughtfully, |and this ancient Jambres hath a grudge against me. Come,| he exclaimed as if an idea had struck him, |do thou open it.|

Kenkenes took the scroll thrust toward him, and ripped off the linen wrapping. Unrolling the writing he extended it to the king.

|And there is naught in it of evil intent?| Meneptah asked, putting his hands behind him.

|Nay, my King; naught but great love and concern for thee.|

|Read it,| was the next command. |Mine eyes are dim of late,| he added apologetically, for, through the young man's reassuring tones, a faint realization of the trepidation he had exhibited began to dawn on Meneptah.

Kenkenes obeyed, reading without emphasis or inflection, for he knew no expression was needed to convey the force of the message to the already intimidated king.

When Kenkenes had finished, Meneptah was standing very close to him, as if assured of shelter in the heroic shadow of the tall young messenger. The color had receded from the monarch's face, and his eyes had widened till the white was visible all around the iris.

|Call me the guard,| he said hoarsely; but when Kenkenes made as if to obey, the king stayed him in a panic.

|Nay, heed me not. Mine assassin may be among them.| The sound of his own voice frightened him. |Soft,| he whispered, |I may be heard.|

Kenkenes maintained silence, for he was not yet ready.

Meanwhile, the king turned hither and thither, essayed to speak and cautiously refrained, grew paler of face and wider of eye, panted, trembled and broke out recklessly at last.

|Gods! Trapped! Hemmed like a wild beast in a circle of spears! Nay, not so honestly beset. Ringed about by vipers ready to strike at every step! And this from mine own people, whom I have cherished and hovered over as they were my children -- | His voice broke, but he continued his lament, growing unintelligible as he talked:

|Not enough that mine enemies menace me, but mine own must stab me in my straits! Not even is the identity of mine assassin revealed, and there is none on whom I may call with safety and ask protection -- |

|Nay, nay, Beloved of Ptah,| Kenkenes interrupted. |There be true men among thy courtiers.|

|Not one -- not one whom I may trust,| Meneptah declared hysterically.

|Here am I, then.|

Meneptah, with the inordinate suspicion of the hard-pressed, backed hurriedly away from Kenkenes.

|Who art thou?| he demanded. |How may I know thou art not mine enemy?|

|Not so,| Kenkenes protested. |Give me ear, I pray thee. Would I have brought thee thy warning, knowing it such, were I thine enemy? And further, did not Jambres, the mystic, who readeth men's souls, trust me?|

|Aye, so it seems,| the king admitted, glad to be won by such physical magnificence. |But who art thou?|

|Kenkenes, the son of Mentu, thy murket.|

|It can not be,| the king declared with suspicion in his eye. |The murket had but one son and he must be dead with the first-born.|

|Nay; I was in the land of Goshen, the night of death, and the God of Israel spared me.|

Meneptah continued to gaze at him stubbornly. Then a conclusive proof suggested itself to Kenkenes, which, under the stress of an austere purpose and a soul-trying suspense, he had no heart to use. But the need pressed him; he choked back his unwillingness, and submitted. Coming very close to Meneptah, he began to sing, with infinite softness, the song that the Pharaoh had heard at the Nile-side that sunrise, now as far away as his childhood seemed. How strange his own voice sounded to him -- how out of place!

At first, the expression of surprise in the king's face was mingled with perplexity. But the dim records of memory spoke at the urging of association. After a few bars, the Pharaoh's countenance had become reassured. Kenkenes ceased at once.

|Enough!| Meneptah declared. |The gods have most melodiously distinguished thee from all others. Thou art he whom I heard one dawn, and mine heir in Osiris, my Rameses, told me it was the son of Mentu.|

|Then, being of the house of Mentu, thou hast no fear of my steadfastness, O my Sovereign?|

|Nay; would that I might be as trustful of all my ministers. Alas, that a single traitor should lay the stain of unfaith upon all the court! Ah, who is mine enemy?|

The sentence, more exclamatory than questioning, seemed to the young man like a call upon him to voice his impeachments. His inclination pressed hard upon him and the tokens of his knowledge wrote themselves upon his open face. When a man is dodging death and expecting treachery, his perceptions become acute. The king, with his eyes upon the young man's countenance, caught the change of expression.

He sprang at Kenkenes and seized his arms.

|Speak!| he cried violently. |Thou knowest; thou knowest!|

A sudden ebullition of rage and vengeance sent a tingling current through the young man's veins. The moment had come. In the eye of a cautious man, he had been called upon for a dangerous declaration. He had a mighty man to accuse, no proof and little evidence at his command, and a weakling was to decide between them. But his cause equipped him with strength and a reckless courage. He faced the king fairly and made no search after ceremonious words. He spoke as he felt -- intensely.

|Nay; it is thou who shalt tell me, O my King. I know thee, even as all Egypt knows thee. There is no power in thee for great evil, but behold to what depths of misery is Egypt sunk! Through thee? Aye, if we charge the mouth for the word the mind willed it to say. Have the gods afflicted thee with madness, or have they given thee into the compelling hands of a knave? Say, who is it, thou or another, who playeth a perilous game with Israel, this day, when its God hath already rent Egypt and consumed her in wrath? Like a wise man thou admittest thine error and biddest thy scourge depart, and lo! ere thy words are cold thou dost arise and recall them and invite the descent of new and hideous affliction upon thine empire! Behold the winnings of thy play, thus far! From Pelusium to Syene, a waste, full of famine, mourners and dead men, and among these last -- thy Rameses! -- |

Meneptah did not permit him to finish. Purple with an engorgement of grief and fury, the monarch broke in, flailing the air with his arms.

|Har-hat!| he cried. |Not I! Har-hat, who cozened me!|

The voice rang through the royal inclosure, and the ministers came running.

Foremost was Har-hat.

At sight of his enemy, the king put Kenkenes between him and the fan-bearer. At sight of Kenkenes, Har-hat stopped in his tracks.

Behind followed Kephren and Seneferu, the two generals, who, with the exception of Har-hat, the commander-in-chief, were the only arms-bearing men away from their places among the soldiers; after these, Hotep and Nechutes, Menes of the royal body-guard, the lesser fan-bearers, the many minor attaches to the king's person -- in all a score of nobles.

They came upon a portentous scene.

The tumult of preparation had subsided and the hush of readiness lay over the desert. The orders were to move the army at sunrise, and that time was past. The pioneers, or path-makers for the army, were already far in advance. Horses had been bridled and each soldier stood by his mount. Captains with their eyes toward the royal pavilion moved about restlessly and wondered. The high commanding officers absent, the next in rank began to weigh their chances to assume command. Soldiers began to surmise to one another the cause of the delay, which manifestly found its origin in the quarters of the king.

All this was the environment of a hollow square formed by the royal guard. Within was the Pharaoh, shrinking by the side of his messenger. The messenger, taller, more powerful, it seemed, by the heightening and strengthening force of righteous wrath, faced the mightiest man in the kingdom. Har-hat, though a little surprised and puzzled, was none the less complacent, confident, nonchalant. Near the fan-bearer, but behind him, were the ministers, astonished and puzzled. But since the past days had been so filled with momentous events, they were ready to expect a crisis at the slightest incident.

The fan-bearer did not look at the king. It was Kenkenes who interested him.

The young man's frame did not show a tremor, nor his face any excitement. There was an intense quiescence in his whole presence. Hotep, who knew the provocation of his friend and interpreted the menace in his manner, walked swiftly over to Kenkenes, as if to caution or prevent. But the young sculptor undid the small hands of the king, clinging to his arm, and gave them to Hotep, halting, by that act, all interference from the scribe. Then he crossed the little space between him and the fan-bearer.

|What hast thou done with the Israelite?| he asked in a tone so low that none but Har-hat heard him. But the fan-bearer did not doubt the earnestness in the quiet demand.

|Hast thou come to trouble the king with thy petty loves, during this, the hour of war?|

|Answer!|

|She escaped me,| the fan-bearer answered.

|A lie will not save thee; the truth may plead for thee before Osiris. Hast thou spoken truly?|

|I have said, as Osiris hears me. Have done; I have no more time for thee!|

|Stand thou there! I have not done with thee.|

The thin nostril of the fan-bearer expanded and quivered wrathfully.

|Have a care, thou insolent!| he exclaimed.

Kenkenes did not seem to hear him. He had turned toward Meneptah.

|I have dared over-far, my King,| he said, |because of my love for Egypt and my concern for thee. Bear with me further, I pray thee.|

Meneptah bent his head in assent.

|Suffer mine inquiry, O Son of Ptah. Wilt thou tell me upon whose persuasion thou hast gathered thine army and set forth to pursue Israel?|

|Upon the persuasion of Har-hat, my minister.|

|Yet this question further, my King. Wherefore would he have thee overtake these people?|

|Since it was foolish to let them go, being my slaves, my builders and very needful to Egypt. But most particularly to execute vengeance upon them for the death of my Rameses, and for the first-born of Egypt.|

|Ye hear,| Kenkenes said to the nobles. Then he faced Har-hat. The fan-bearer's countenance showed a remarkable increase of temper, but there was no sign of apprehension or discomfiture upon it.

|Thou hast beheld the grace of thy king under question,| Kenkenes said calmly. |Therefore thou art denied the plea that submission to the same thing will belittle thee. Thy best defense is patience and prompt answer.|

|Perchance the king will recall his graceful testimony,| Har-hat replied with heat, |when he learns he hath been entangled in the guilty pursuit of a miscreant after -- |

Kenkenes stopped him with a menacing gesture.

|Say it not; nor tempt me further! Thou speakest of a quarrel between thee and me, and of that there may be more hereafter. Now, thou art to answer to mine impeachment of thee as an offender against the Pharaoh.|

Har-hat received the declaration with a wrathful exclamation.

|Thou! Thou to accuse me! I to plead before thee! By the gods, the limit is reached. The ranks of Egypt have been juggled, the law of deference reversed! A noble to bow to an artisan! Age to give account of itself to green youth!|

|And thou pratest of law! The benefits of law are for him who obeys it; the reverence of youth is for the honorable old. But thou wastest mine opportunity. Thou shalt silence me no longer.

|Thy dearest enemy, O Har-hat,| Kenkenes continued, |would not impugn thy wits. He deserves the epithet himself who calls thee fool. But be not puffed up for this thing I have said. Thou hast made a weapon of thy wits and it shall recoil upon thee. Thou seest Egypt; not in all the world is there another empire so piteously humbled. Her fields are white with bones instead of harvests; her cities are loud with mourning instead of commerce; the desert hath overrun the valley. And this from the hands of the Hebrews' God! Who doubts it? Hath Egypt won any honor in this quarrel with Israel? Look upon Egypt and learn. Hath the army of the Pharaoh availed him aught against these afflictions? Remember the polluted waters, the pests, the thunders, the darkness, the angel of death and tell me. 'Vengeance?' Vengeance upon a God who hath blasted a nation with His breath? Chastisement of a people whose murmurs brought down consuming fire upon the land? And yet, for vengeance and chastisement hast thou urged the king to follow after Israel. I know thee better, Har-hat! That serviceable wit of thine hath not failed thee in an hour. Thou hast not wearied of life that thou courtest destruction by the Hebrews' God. Never hast thou meant to overtake Israel! Never hast thou thought further to provoke their God! Rather was it thine intent here, somewhere in the desert, thyself to be a plague upon Meneptah and wear his crown after him!|

Confident were the words, portentous the manner as though proof were behind, astounding the accusation. One by one the ministers had fallen away from Har-hat and placed themselves by the king. After a long time of humiliation for them, the supplanter, the insulter, was overtaken, his villainy uncovered to the eyes of the king. Kenkenes had justified them, and their triumph had come with a gust of wrath that added further to their relief.

Hotep gazed fixedly at Kenkenes. Where had this young visionary, new-released from prison, found evidence to impeach this powerful favorite? How was he fortified? What would be his next play? How much more did he know? And while Hotep asked himself these things, trembling for Kenkenes, Har-hat put the same questions to himself. The roll of papyrus, with its seals, still in the young man's hands, was significant. He folded his arms and forced the issue.

|Your proof,| he demanded.

|Both the hour and need of my proof are past. Already art thou convicted.| Kenkenes indicated the king and the ministers behind him. The fan-bearer followed the motion of the arm and for the first time met the gaze of the angry group.

Kenkenes had not ventured blindly, nor dared without deep and shrewd thought. When the artist-soul can feel the fiercer passions it has the capacity to work them out in action. Kenkenes, having been wronged, grew vengeful, and therefore had it within him to aspire to vengeance. He knew his handicap, but had estimated well his strength. With calmness and deliberation he had studied conditions, assembled all contingencies and fortified himself against them, gathered hypotheses, summarized his evidence and brought about that which he had planned to accomplish -- the destruction of Har-hat's rule over Meneptah.

Har-hat was alone. Before him were all the powers of the land arrayed against him. Behind him in Tanis was Seti, the heir, who hated him, and the queen who had turned her back upon him. He had not seen the need of friends during the days of his supremacy over Meneptah. Now, not all his denials, eloquence, subtleties could establish him again in the faith of the frightened king. His ministership had crumbled beyond reconstruction. What would avail him, then, to defend himself? What proof had he to offer against this impeachment? The young man's argument met him at every avenue toward which he might turn for escape. At best his future in Egypt would be mere toleration; the worst, condign punishment.

A flame of feeling surged into his face. With a wide sweep of his arm, as though to thrust away pretense, he faced the ministers, all the defiance and audacity of his nature faithfully manifested in his manner.

|Why wait ye? Would ye see me cringe? Would ye hear me deny, protest, deprecate? Go to! ye glowering churls, I disappoint you! Flock to the king; dandle the royal babe a while! Endure the stress a little, for ye will not serve him long. And thou,| whirling upon Kenkenes, |dreamest thou I fear this bloody God of Israel, or all the gibbering, incense-sniffing, pedestal-cumbering gods of earth? I will show thee, thou ranting rabble spawn! See which of us hath the yellow-haired wanton when I return. For I go to wrest spoil and fighting men from Israel. Then, by all the demons of Amenti! then, I say! look to thy crown, thou puny, puling King!|

With a bound he broke through the cordon of royal guards, leaped into his chariot, and putting his horses to a gallop, drove at full speed to his place at the head of the army. There, in an instant, clear and long-drawn, his command to mount rang over the desert. Front and rear, wing and wing, the trumpets took up the call, |To horse!| A second command in the strong voice, a second winding of the many trumpets, and with a rush of air and jar of earth the great army of the Pharaoh swept like the wind toward the sea.

Kenkenes, Menes, Nechutes and those of the royal guard that had started in pursuit of the traitor, did well to save themselves from annihilation under the hoofs of twenty thousand horse. Bewildered and amazed, they were an instant realizing what was taking place.

|He is running away with the army!| they said to themselves in a daze. |He is running away with the army!| And they knew that not all the efforts of the guards and the ministers and the Pharaoh himself would avail, for the army had received its orders from its great commander and no man but he might turn it back.

So the short-poled chariots, multi-tinted and gorgeous, wheel to wheel, axle-deep in a cloud of dust, glittered out across the desert -- sixty ranks, ten abreast. Far to the left moved the horsemen, the dust of their rapid passage hiding their galloping mounts up to the stirrup. To the watchers by the king they seemed like an undulant sea of quilted helmets and flying tassels, while the sunlight smote through a level and straight-set forest of spears. They were seasoned veterans, many of them heroes of a quarter-century of wars. They had followed Rameses the Great into Asia and had extended the empire and the prowess of arms to the farthest corners of the known world. They had drunk the sweets of unalloyed victory from the blue Nile to the Euphrates and had filled Egypt with booty, scented with the airs of Arabia, gorgeous from the looms of India, and heavy with the ivory and gold of Ethiopia.

Now they went in formidable array in pursuit of two millions of slaves to dye their axes in unresisting blood, to return, not as victors over a heroic foe, but as drivers of men, herders of sheep and cattle, and laden with inglorious spoil.

Behind them, in regular ranks, beaten by their drivers into an awkward run, came the sumpter-mules, and after them the rumbling carts filled with provision.

Meneptah, raging and weeping, saw his army leave him and gallop in an aureole of dust toward the Red Sea.

Thus it was that |the Pharaoh drew nigh,| but came no farther after Israel.

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