The man smiled and nodded. “Naught but the darts of Amenti shall delay me.”
Kenkenes gave him the message, and a handful of rings. The man expressed his thanks, after which he went forth, and the door was barred.
Kenkenes stood for a while, motionless before the tightly fitted portal of stone. Then through the high crevice that was his window the sounds of life outside smote upon his ear. The noise of the city seemed to become all revel. Some one under the walls laughed—the hearty, raucous laugh of the care-free boor.
He turned about and flung himself face down in the straw of his pallet.
He had begun to wait.
THE LOVE OF RAMESES
By the twentieth of May, the court of Meneptah was ready to proceed to Tanis.
The next week the Pharaoh would depart. To-night he received noble Memphis for a final revel.
His palace was aglow, from its tremendous portals to the airy hypostyle upon its root and from far-reaching wing to wing, with countless colored lights. From every architrave and cornice depended garlands and draperies, and tinted banners waved unseen in the dark. The great loteform pillars supporting the porch were festooned with lotus flowers, and the approaches were strewn with palm-leaves.
The guests came in chariots with but a single attendant or in litters accompanied by a gorgeous retinue and much authority. Charioteers swore full-mouthed oaths and smote slaves; horses reared and plunged and bearers hurried back through the dark with empty chairs. Meanwhile the pacing sentries made frank criticism and gazed at each alighting new-comer with eyes of connoisseurs.
When the portals opened, a broad shaft of light shot into the night, a multitude of attendants was seen bowing; gusts of reedy music and babble and the smell of wilting flowers and Puntish incense swept into the outer air.
Within, the great feast began and proceeded to completeness. The tables were removed and the stage of the revel was far advanced. The levels of scented vapor from the aromatic torches undulated midway between the ceiling and the floor and belted the frescoes upon the paneled walls. Far up the vaulted hall, the Pharaoh and his queen, in royal isolation, were growing weary.
The lions chained to their lofty dais slept. The guardian nobles that stood about the royal pair leaned heavily upon their arms.
Out in the sanded strip across the tessellated floor, tumblers were glistening with perspiration from their vaguely noticed efforts. Apart from the guests the painted musicians squatted close together and made the air vibrant with the softly monotonous strumming of their instruments.
The company, which was large, had fallen into easy attitudes; an exciting game of drafts, or a story-teller, or a beauty, attracting groups here and there over the hall.