“‘Not love you! I will love you the more. I swear it, by the genii of Amente! by the eye of Osiris, I swear it! Speak!’ he cried, passionate as a lover, authoritative as a king.
“‘Hear then,’ she said. ‘There is an anchorite, the oldest and holiest of his class, in a cave near Essouan. His name is Menopha. He was my teacher and guardian. Send for him, O Oraetes, and he will tell you that you seek to know; he will also help you find the cure for my affliction.’ “Oraetes arose rejoicing. He went away in spirit a hundred years younger than when he came.”
“‘Speak!’ said Oraetes to Menopha, in the palace at Memphis.
“And Menopha replied, ‘Most mighty king, if you were young, I should not answer, because I am yet pleased with life; as it is, I will say the queen like any other mortal, is paying the penalty of a crime.’ “‘A crime!’ exclaimed Oraetes, angrily.
“Menopha bowed very low.
“‘Yes; to herself.’ “‘I am not in mood for riddles,’ said the king.
“‘What I say is not a riddle, as you shall hear. Ne-ne-hofra grew up under my eyes, and confided every incident of her life to me; among others, that she loved the son of her father’s gardener, Barbec by name.’ “Oraetes’ frown, strangely enough, began to dissipate.
“‘With that love in her heart, O king, she came to you; of that love she is dying.’ “‘Where is the gardener’s son now?’ asked Oraetes.
“‘In Essouan.’ “The king went out and gave two orders. To one oeris he said, ‘Go to Essouan and bring hither a youth named Barbec. You will find him in the garden of the queen’s father;’ to another, ‘Assemble workmen and cattle and tools, and construct for me in Lake Chemmis an island, which, though laden with a temple, a palace, and a garden, and all manner of trees bearing fruit, and all manner of vines, shall nevertheless float about as the winds may blow it. Make the island, and let it be fully furnished by the time the moon begins to wane.’ “Then to the queen he said, “‘Be of cheer. I know all, and have sent for Barbec.’ “Ne-ne-hofra kissed his hands.
“‘You shall have him to yourself, and he you to himself; nor shall any disturb your loves for a year.’ “She kissed his feet; he raised her, and kissed her in return; and the rose came back to her cheek, the scarlet to her lips, and the laugh to her heart.”
“For one year Ne-ne-hofra and Barbec the gardener floated as the winds blew on the island of Chemmis, which became one of the wonders of the world; never a home of love more beautiful; one year, seeing no one and existing for no one but themselves. Then she returned in state to the palace in Memphis.
“‘Now whom lovest thou best?’ asked the king.