“She is saner than he!”
On the way back to Memphis he maintained a thoughtful silence. Since he had seen Rachel, he began to understand the love of Kenkenes for her.
THE SON OF THE MURKET
March and April had passed and now it was the first of May. Five days before, the ceremony of installation had been held for the murket and the cup-bearer and for four days thereafter the new officers passed through initiatory formalities. But on the fifth day the rites of investiture had been brought to an end, and Mentu and Nechutes entered on the routine of service.
To Mentu fell the dignified congratulations of his own world of sedate old nobles and stately women. But Nechutes was younger and well beloved by youthful Memphis, so on the night of the fifth day, the house of Senci was aglow and in her banquet-room there was much young revel in his honor.
Aromatic torches flaring in sconces lighted the friezes of lotus, the painted paneling on the walls, and the clustered pillars that upheld the ceiling of the chamber. The tables had been removed; the musicians and tumblers common to such occasions were not present, for the rout was small and sufficient unto itself for entertainment.
Gathered about a central figure, which must needs be the one of highest rank—and in this instance it was the crown prince—were the young guests. They were noblemen and gentlewomen of Memphis, freed for an evening from the restraint of pretentious affairs and spared the awesome repression of potentates and monitors.
Hotep was host and these were his guests.
First, there was Rameses, languid, cynical, sumptuous, and enthroned in a capacious fauteuil, significantly upholstered in purple and gold.
Close beside him and similarly enthroned was Ta-user. She wore a double robe of transparent linen, very fine and clinging in its texture. The over-dress was simply a white gauze, striped with narrow lines of green and gold. From the fillet of royalty about her forehead, an emerald depended between her eyes. Her zone was a broad braid of golden cords, girdling her beneath the breast, encompassing her again about the hips, and fastened at last in front by a diamond-shaped buckle of clustered emeralds. Her sandals were mere jeweled straps of white gazelle-hide, passing under the heel and ball of the foot. She was as daringly dressed as a lissome dancing-girl.
On a taboret at her right was Seti, the little prince. Although he was nearly sixteen he looked to be of even tenderer years. In him, the charms of the Egyptian countenance had been so emphasized, and its defects so reduced, that his boyish beauty was unequaled among his countrymen.
At his feet was Io, playing at dice with Ta-meri and Nechutes. Ta-meri was more than usually brilliant, and Nechutes, flushed with her favor, was playing splendidly and rejoicing beyond reason over his gains.