About these, the bazaars and residences, facade above facade, and tier upon tier, as the land sloped up to its center, shone fair and white under a cloudless sun.
Memphis was at the pinnacle of her greatness in the sixth year of the reign of the divine Meneptah. She had fortified herself and resisted the great invasion of the Rebu. Her generals had done battle with him and brought him home, chained to their chariots.
And after the festivities in celebration of her prowess, she laid down pike and falchion, bull-hide shield and helmet, and took up the chisel and brush, the spindle and loom once more.
The heavy drowsiness of a mid-winter noon had depopulated her booths and bazaars and quieted the quaint traffic of her squares. In the shadows of the city her porters drowsed, and from the continuous wall of houses blankly facing one another from either side of the streets, there came no sound. Each household sought the breezes on the balconies that galleried the inner walls of the courts, or upon the pillared and canopied housetops.
Memphis had eaten and drunk and, sheltered behind her screens, waited for the noon to pass.
Mentu, the king’s sculptor, however, had not availed himself of the hour of ease. He did not labor because he must, for his house stood in the aristocratic portion of Memphis, and it was storied, galleried, screened and topped with its breezy pavilion. Within the hollow space, formed by the right and left wings of his house, the chamber of guests to the front, and the property wall to the rear, was a court of uncommon beauty. Palm and tamarisk, acacia and rose-shrub, jasmine and purple mimosa made a multi-tinted jungle about a shadowy pool in which a white heron stood knee-deep. There were long stretches of sunlit sod, and walks of inlaid tile, seats of carved stone, and a single small obelisk, set on a circular slab, marked with measures for time—the Egyptian sun-dial. On every side were evidences of wealth and luxury.
So Mentu labored because he loved to toil. In a land languorous with tropical inertia, an enthusiastic toiler is not common. For this reason, Mentu was worth particular attention. He towered a palm in height over his Egyptian brethren, and his massive frame was entirely in keeping with his majestic stature. He was nearly fifty years of age, but no sign of the early decay of the Oriental was apparent in him. His was the characteristic refinement of feature that marks the Egyptian countenance, further accentuated by self-content and some hauteur. The idea of dignity was carried out in his dress. The kilt was not visible, for the kamis had become a robe, long-sleeved, high-necked and belted with a broad band of linen, encompassing the body twice, before it was fastened with a fibula of massive gold.