“Three times the colchyte kissed the floor. and then he replied, knowing the dead could not hear him. ‘At Essouan lives Ne-ne-hofra, beautiful as Athor the beautiful. Send for her. She has refused all the lords and princes, and I know not how many kings; but who can say no to Oraetes?'”


“Ne-ne-hofra descended the Nile in a barge richer than any ever before seen, attended by an army in barges each but a little less fine. All Nubia and Egypt, and a myriad from Libya, and a host of Troglodytes, and not a few Macrobii from beyond the Mountains of the Moon, lined the tented shores to see the cortege pass, wafted by perfumed winds and golden oars.

“Through a dromos of sphinxes and couchant double-winged lions she was borne, and set down before Oraetes sitting on a throne specially erected at the sculptured pylon of the palace. He raised her up, gave her place by his side, clasped the uraeus upon her arm, kissed her, and Ne-ne-hofra was queen of all queens.

“That was not enough for the wise Oraetes; he wanted love, and a queen happy in his love. So he dealt with her tenderly, showing her his possessions, cities, places, people; his armies, his ships: and with his own hand he led her through his treasure-house, saying, ‘O, Ne-ne-hofra! but kiss me in love, and they are all thine.’ “And, thinking she could be happy, if she was not then, she kissed him once, twice, thrice- kissed him thrice, his hundred and ten years notwithstanding.

“The first year she was happy, and it was very short; the third year she was wretched, and it was very long; then she was enlightened: that which she thought love of Oraetes was only daze of his power. Well for her had the daze endured! Her spirits deserted her; she had long spells of tears, and her women could not remember when they heard her laugh; of the roses on her cheeks only ashes remained; she languished and faded gradually, but certainly. Some said she was haunted by the Erinnyes for cruelty to a lover; others, that she was stricken, by some god envious of Oraetes. Whatever the cause of her decline, the charms of the magicians availed not to restore her, and the prescript of the doctor was equally without virtue. Ne-ne-hofra was given over to die.

“Oraetes chose a crypt for her up in the tombs of the queens; and, calling the master-sculptors and painters to Memphis, he set them to work upon designs more elaborate than any even in the great galleries of the dead kings.

“‘O thou beautiful as Athor herself, my queen!’ said the king, whose hundred and thirteen years did not lessen his ardour as a lover, ‘tell me, I pray, the ailment of which, alas! thou art so certainly perishing before my eyes.’ “‘You will not love me any more if I tell you,’ she said, in doubt and fear.