“Hail, mighty Pharaoh! who smites with his glance and annihilates with his spear. He overthrew companies alone, and with his lions he routed armies. His enemies crumbled before him like men of clay, for he breathed hot coals in his wrath and flames in his vengeance.” And the enthusiasm that inspired the eulogy was sincere. Meneptah was none the less loved because Memphis understood him. The Pharaoh was the apple of her eye and she worshiped him stubbornly.
Now he was returning from a bloodless campaign—one that neither required nor brought forth any generalship—but it was a victory and had been personally conducted by Meneptah, so Memphis was preparing to fall into paroxysms of delight, little short of hysteria.
An hour after sunrise on the day of the Pharaoh’s coming a gorgeous regatta assembled off the wharves of Memphis. It was a flotilla of the rank and wealth of the capital, with that of On, Bubastis, Busiris, and even Mendes and Tanis. The boats were high-riding, graceful and finished at head and stern with sheaves of carved lotus. Hull and superstructure were painted in gorgeous colors with a preponderance of ivory and gold. Masts, rigging and oars were wrapped with lotus, roses and mimosa. Sails and canopies were brilliant with dyes and undulant with fringes. Troops of tiny boys, innocent of raiment, were posted about the sides of the vessels holding festoons. Oarsmen wore chaplets on the head or garlands around the loins, and half-clad slave-girls were scattered about with fans of dyed plumes. Bridges of boats had been hastily run out between the vessels, and over these the embarking voyagers or visitors passed in a stream. On shore was a great multitude and every advantageous point of survey was occupied. And here were catastrophes and riots, panics and love-making, gambling and gossip and all the other things that mark the assembly of a crowd. But these incidents drew the attention of the populace only momentarily from the revel of the nobility on the Nile. For there were laughter and songs, strumming of the lyre, shouts, polite contention and the drone of general conversation among such numbers that the sound was of great volume.
At the head of the pageant were the boats of the nomarch and the courtiers to Meneptah who remained in Memphis. Near the forefront of these was the pleasure-boat of Mentu.
Kenkenes dropped from its deck to the walk rising and falling at its side, and made his way through the crowd in search of a vessel bearing a winged sun and the oval containing the symbols of On. As he passed the prow of a tall pleasure-boat he was caught in a rope of flowers let down from above and looped about him with a dexterous hand. He turned in the pretty fetters and looked up. Above him was a row of a dozen little girl-faces, set like apple-blossoms along the side of the vessel. The youngest was not over twelve years of age, the oldest, fourteen.