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Title: Istar of Babylon - A Phantasy
Author: Potter, Margaret Horton
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Istar of Babylon - A Phantasy" ***

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    Transcriber's Notes:

    Older spellings have been retained. Variations in the spelling of a
    few personal and place names, listed at the end of the text have also
    been retained.

    Some minor printer's errors have been corrected. They are listed at
    the end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.

  Istar of Babylon

  A Phantasy




  Copyright, 1902, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

  All rights reserved.
  Published September, 1902.



          Book I

          THE JOURNEY

  CHAPTER                              PAGE

  I.      THE SEA                         3

  II.     THE VOW                        21

  III.    INTO THE EAST                  43

  IV.     ASHTORETH                      62

  V.      TO THE GATE OF GOD             79

          Book II

          THE GREAT CITY

  I.      THE Â-IBUR-SABÛ               101

  II.     THE SANCTUARY OF ISTAR        119


  IV.     BELSHAZZAR                    156

  V.      THE JEW                       176

  VI.     ISTAR OF ERECH                191

  VII.    LORD RIBÂTA'S GARDEN          207

  VIII.   BABA                          228

  IX.     BABYLON BY NIGHT              248

  X.      THE ANGER OF BEL              268


  XII.    ÊGIBI & SONS                  309

  XIII.   THE RAB-MAG                   327

  XIV.    STRANGE GODS                  350

  XV.     SIPPAR                        366

  XVI.    BELTI-SHAR-UZZUR              385

  XVII.   THE WOMAN'S WOE               405

  XVIII.  THE FEAST OF TAMMUZ           420

  XIX.    THE REGIMENT OF GUTI          441

  XX.     PESTILENCE                    455

  XXI.    KURUSH THE KING               472

  XXII.   AT THE GATE                   483

  XXIII.  THE SILVER SKY                490


"The higher ideas, my dear friend, can hardly be set forth except
through the medium of examples; every man seems to know all things in a
kind of dream, and then again to know nothing when he wakes.... But
people seem to forget that some things have sensible images, which may
be easily shown when any one desires to exhibit any of them or explain
them to an inquirer, without any trouble or argument; while the greatest
and noblest truths have no outward image of themselves visible to man
which he who wishes to satisfy the longing soul of the inquirer can
adapt to the eye of sense, and therefore we ought to practise ourselves
in the idea of them; for immaterial things, which are the highest and
greatest, are shown only in thought and idea, and in no other way, _and
all that we are saying is said for the sake of them._"[1]

"Then reflect ... that the soul is in the very likeness of the divine,
and immortal and intelligible and uniform and unchangeable; and the body
is in the very likeness of the human, and mortal and unintelligible and
multiform and dissoluble and changeable.

"And were we not saying long ago that the soul, when using the body as
an instrument of perception, ... is then dragged by the body into the
region of the changeable, and wanders and is confused; the world spins
round her, and she is like a drunkard when under their influence.

"But when, returning unto herself, she reflects, then she passes into
the realm of purity and eternity and immortality and unchangeableness,
which are her kindred; ... then she ceases from erring ways, and, being
in communion with the unchanging, is unchanging."[2]


Book I

 THERON: _A citizen of the Doric town of Selinous in Sicily. The father
    of Charmides._

 HERAIA: _The wife of Theron, and mother of Charmides._

 PHALARIS: _An athlete; the elder brother of Charmides._

 CHARMIDES: _A young Greek rhapsode, who, hearing a story of the living
    goddess, Istar of Babylon, becomes inspired with the desire to see
    and worship her, and sets out from Selinous to journey to

 KABIR: _A Phœnician trader, shipwrecked off the harbor of Selinous,
    with whom Charmides travels as far as Tyre._

 ABDOSIR: _The brother of Kabir, a citizen of Tyre._

 HODO: _A Babylonian trader, head of a caravan travelling between
    Babylon and Tyre, with whom Charmides goes from Tyre to the Great

 ALLARAINE: _The archetype of song; once a companion spirit of Istar of

Book II

 ISTAR: _The archetype of womanhood, made mortal as a punishment for
    having doubted the mercy of God. She became incarnate in Babylon,
    and was worshipped there as the famous Babylonian goddess "Istar,"
    though her archetypal name was "Narahmouna."_

 NABONIDUS: _Or "Nabu-Nahîd," last native king of Babylon, through his
    mother a grandson of Nebuchadrezzar. He reigned from B.C. 555-538,
    when Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great._

 BELSHAZZAR: _Or Belti-shar-uzzur, son of Nabonidus, and governor of
    Babylon. He was never proclaimed king of Babylon._

 BELITSUM: _The second queen of Nabonidus; a woman of plebeian origin._

 CYRUS: _The Great, conqueror of Media, Persia, and Elam, to whom
    Babylon fell by treachery._

 CAMBYSES: _The elder son of Cyrus, who, after him, became king of
    Babylon. He afterwards committed suicide in Egypt, on being
    accused of the murder of his brother._

 BARDIYA: _The younger son of Cyrus, afterwards murdered by his
    brother, Cambyses._

 GOBRYAS: _Cyrus' general: the conqueror of Sippar; once governor of
    Gutium under the king of Babylon._

 LORD RIBÂTA BIT-SHUMUKIN: _A royal councillor of Nabonidus, a member
    of the prince's suite, and the intimate companion of Belshazzar:
    also landlord of the tenement of Ut._

 DANIEL: _The Hebrew prophet, also called Beltishazzar, who, after the
    death of Nebuchadrezzar, lost his position at court, and at the
    time of the fall of Babylon was living in a small house in the
    Jewish quarter._

 AMRAPHEL: _The high-priest of Babylon, and priest of Bel; a traitor to
    the crown._

 VUL-RAMÂN OF BIT-YAKIN: _Priest of Nebo and Nergal, and second in
    power to Amraphel._

 LUDAR: _President of the college of priests at Sippar, and high-priest
    of the temple of Shamash. A traitor to the crown._

 NÂNÂ-BABILÛ: _Governor of Sippar. Loyal to Nabonidus._

 BUNANITÛ: _A Jewess, the head of the historic banking-firm of

 KALNEA: _A Jew, the son of Bunanitû._

 KABTIYA: _The son of Kalnea, a Jewish boy._

 BELTANI: _A Babylonish widow of the lower class, living in the
    tenement of Ut. The mother of Ramûa and Baba._

 RAMÛA: _A flower-girl, the daughter of Beltani, afterwards married to

 BABA: _Younger daughter of Beltani, afterwards the slave of Lord

 BAZUZU: _Beltani's negro slave._

 ZOR: _Baba's pet goat._

 HODO: _The Babylonish trader._

 CHARMIDES: _The Greek rhapsode._

 ALLARAINE: _The archetype of song._



  Thronged in Uranian mists, all the archtype spirits of heaven,
  Gathered in slow-firing wrath against one of their natural number,
  Watched her who, first of them all since Jehovah created their order,
  Daring the Almighty ire, did forget her transcendence for man.
  Wonder divine o'er the sorrow and sin of the earth-condemned races
  Dwelt in the heart of the moon-daughter, now beyond ken of her
  They who, betwixt the one Godhead, His logos, creation, and man,
  Infinite, soulless, essential, divine, were highest ideas,
  Perfect observance forever had kept of their order, till now,
  Seemingly fearless in great disobedience, Istar, the moon-child,
  Caught and had struck to her heart a great earth-flown vibration:
        so learned
  All that her high-worshipped fellows knew not of mankind and of woe.
  Fleeing the loud-rolling world with her new apperception, she sped
  Far to the heart of the moon, where her father, the moon-god,
        received her.
  Then, on her silence of wisdom and grief, rose a fast-winging
  Carried across vasty deeps by the loud-surging breath of the wind.
  Host upon host, then, the infinite tide, the reflectors of being
  Swept towards the refuge of Istar. Their voices, in anger uplifted,
  Crashed in a thunderous whirlwind through space; and their
        far-flowing light
  Gleaming and streaming in chaos of bright iridescence, in flames
  Violet, yellow and green, silver, crimson, and shimmering gold,
  Glorified space and struck down the world-dwellers to terrified
  Sin, the great moon-god, the father of her who sought refuge alone,
  Mourned in his mystical home; cried aloud through the uprising
  Asking indulgence for Istar the woman. Him answered but one:
  Allaraine, son of the stars, the bard of Æolian songs,
  Lord of white clouds, who, begot of a sunset, went winging his way
  Far through the star-vault at midnight, full-sprung, with his
        heavenly path
  Marked by mellifluous song--'twas he who to Sin made reply.
  He, who alone, from the earth's evening glow had beheld earthly
  Tranced by the high, fearless wrong of incarnate humanity's power,
  Fearlessly now, before all the tumultuous host, voiced his pity.
  Vain were his words, though they fell into space like the pearls
        of the sea,
  Melting round God's very throne, with melodious ecstasy fraught.
  Silent the archtypes heard, and in silence of trembling delight
  Istar, the lover of souls, concealed in the moon's dim retreat,
  Heard him. And silent the earth-world revolved and Time's pulses
        were stilled.
  Finally, out of the deep, where space is not and time cannot be,
  God, the Almighty Jehovah, made answer to Allaraine's plea:
  "Istar, who knowledge of incarnate souls was forbidden to hold,
  Thou, who unknowing, daredst pity men's sorrows and sins manifold.
  Go to the earth-world as one among men, and there shalt thou behold
  Life, and its correlate, Death. Sentient there thou shalt live,
        but shalt be
  Heaven-born still, and thus worshipped on earth, though thou mayst
        not be free
  Till, 'neath the sorrows of flesh, _thou shalt find man's relation
        to me_."

       *       *       *       *       *

  Out of the mists of the moon floated Istar the daughter of Sin.
  Out of the mists and the fog came she forth, and Æolian choirs,
  Winds of the evening, sang low of her going. Upborne by her tresses
  Floating above and about her, she sank; and the dawn was not yet.
  Istar, the daughter of Sin, in her vestment of tissue of silver,
  Under which glowed the deep purple proclaiming her godhead,
        and there,
  Full on her breast, the bright flush of the crimson that told
        of her passion,
  Laughed to herself and the winds, as she came forth from out
        of her refuge.
  Down, far adown the dark, mystical depths of the chasm of chaos
  Floated the mystical maiden; a voice like a clarion echo
  Calling from out of the mist she had left: "O Istar, beloved,
  Hear and return unto me, father, archtype, soul of the sphere!"
  Istar, the daughter of Sin, obeying the word of the Lord,
  Heard but not heeded the voice. Only pausing a thought in her course,
  Flinging her head to the stars, laughed aloud with her lips
        that were scarlet.
  Then, with a shake and a shrug of her bare, cloud-born shoulders,
        she sent
  Clashing and ringing below into space a bright silvery shower
  Flashing and pringling with light; which earth-men calléd shower
        of stars.
  Istar continued her flight and went swaying her tortuous way
  Down and adown past all planets and suns in their horror of heat,
  Till, in the end, the great fall was accomplished, and Istar was born,
  Soulless and pure in the city called "Gateway of God."

Book I




A hot April sun shone full over the waters to the pencilled line of the
southern horizon, where a long circle divided the misty, shimmering
dove-color of the Mediterranean from the richer blue of the swelling
sky. A path of sun-strewn ripples, broadening as the afternoon advanced,
ended at that distant line, and found its starting-point at the rocky
base of the Selinuntian acropolis, on the southwestern coast of Sicily.
The day was warm, and the air rich with the perfume of sweet alyssum,
beneath which delicate flower the whole island lay buried. A light
breeze feathered the sea, occasionally sweeping away enough powdered
sunshine to disclose the rich sapphire depths of the under-waters.
Nevertheless more perfect skies had been, and generally were, at this
season of the year; for to-day half the west was hidden by a curtain of
short, thick clouds that threatened to hide the usual evening glory of
wine-tinted waters and crimson-flooded skies.

Upon the height of the cliff that terminates the broad Selinuntian
plain, Selinous, white, Doric city, with her groups of many-columned
temples and her well-built walls, sent forth the usual droning murmur of
life. White-robed men and women were wont to move in unhurried dignity
in their citadels in those days when Æneas was not yet a myth, before
Syracuse knew Gelon, when the first Aahmes ruled in Egypt, when Crœsus
of Lydia and Astyages of Media were paying bitter tribute to the great
Elamite just retired from Babylonian plains to his far Rhagæ in the
Eastern hills; and here, on the Sicilian coast, the Greek city lay in
placid beauty upon her two hills, divided by the philosophically drained
valley, bounded upon the right hand by her shining river, while far to
the left, in the direction of Acragas, a line of rugged hills rose into
the blue. The four bright temples of the acropolis were mirrored in the
sea below. On the east hill, at some distance from where the gigantic
new sanctuary to Apollo was building, and directly in front of the old
temple of Hera, on the very edge of the cliff, drowsing in the sunlight,
lay Charmides, a shepherd, surrounded by his flock.

The life of a shepherd in the flood-time of a Sicilian spring was not an
arduous one. If it had been, Theron's son would not, in all probability,
have followed that calling through the few years that he was required to
spend at ordinary labor. For, as his family realized and his appearance
too markedly proclaimed, this child of the Spartans did not partake of
the spirit of his race. Rarely, singularly beautiful he was, and fair as
an Athenian. Apollo himself might have turned envious at sight of this
disciple of his as he slept on a drift of wild daisies, his short, white
tunic stained with green, the thong that served him for a girdle loosely
tied, much-worn sandals bound upon his feet, and a wreath of gray
olive-leaves woven into the rumpled hair that fell upon his neck in
rings of living gold. Charmides' eyes had the color of the sea. His
brows were fine and straight; his mouth not altogether lacking in
strength, yet perfect as a woman's. As he slept, one of the youth's
sunburned hands grasped a tuft of herbs that grew upon the edge of the
slope, while the other, even in his unconsciousness, drew a fleeting
harmony from the lyre that lay beside him.

This dalliance with the honored instrument, taken with his unathletic
physique, was evidence enough of the chosen profession of the temporary
shepherd. Four years ago, at the age of eighteen, Charmides had elected
to enter the ranks of that band of rhapsodists known to us now only as
the predecessors of fire-winged Pindar and his glorious brethren. Never
was the shepherd seen following his flock over the fields without lyre
or flute in his hands; and no holiday or festival was quite complete
without some lyric chanted in his clear tenor to the accompaniment of
those sweet, primitive chords that so fittingly clothed the syllables of
the most melodious of all tongues. Charmides' poems, however, were
always of one type. Natural beauty, the evening wind, the perfume of a
flower, the red of dawn, the silver of moonlight, he would reproduce so
perfectly in words that he was left unrivalled in his peculiar field.
But greater themes, battle-hymns of Mars and Nike, or idyls of Cythera
and the dove-drawn chariot, had not apparently occurred to him as
desirable subjects for his art. Either Charmides was what his athlete
brother declared him--a woman dressed in too short a tunic--or his true
nature was sleeping far beyond its natural period.

The sun hung just above the clouds as the youth sat up and looked about
him. His flock, a drove of white, long-haired sheep, whose wool was
woven into many a tunic of their herdsman, had wandered out of sight
behind the temple of Hera. Charmides unbound his flageolet from the side
of his left leg, and, without stirring from his place, lifted the
instrument to his lips, playing upon it a quaint, primitive strain full
of minor cadences, mournful, but peculiarly pleasing. For two or three
minutes this tune was the only sound to be heard. Then, of a sudden,
came a distant "Ba-a!" from the direction of the temple, and round its
eastern columns appeared a white head, another, and another, till the
whole flock was visible. For a moment or two they halted, regarding
their keeper with silly, affectionate eyes. Charmides smiled as he
watched them, and presently gave a little nod. At sight of it the leader
of the company started forward again, and the entire number followed, at
a gentle trot. When he was entirely surrounded by his animals, Charmides
put his pipe back in its place, caressed with rough tenderness the
nearest lamb, and finally, having had enough of afternoon with the sea,
sprang to his feet thinking to proceed farther afield. As his eyes met
the western horizon, from which his face had for the last few moments
been turned, he broke his yawn short off in the middle, and his intent
was forgotten. The cloud, which now covered the sun, was no longer gray,
but a deep purple, palpitating with inward fire; while far to the west a
galley, a little, black patch upon the waters, rose upon the horizon,
coming from Mazzara. Charmides saw possibilities of hexameters in the
race, and, though its outcome did not affect him in the least, he had a
desire to know whether he must have Zeus with his bolts bring vengeance
on some disobedient mortal, or whether Father Neptune and his dolphins
were to lead the men of the galley safely into the little Selinuntian

It was not many minutes before the little vessel had become a Phœnician
bireme with a huge, brown mainsail hanging loosely on the mast, and
barely visible oars churning the water on each side with hasty vigor. By
this time the last radiance had been swept from the sky. The distant
waters darkened, and their restless, uneasy masses began to show flecks
of foam. Presently, for a bare second, through a single rift in the
cloud, a thin gleam of sunlight shot out and down to the misty sea,
lighting the dark surface to opalescent brightness, and then
disappearing in a single breath. As the sky darkened again the air grew
cold. Three or four petrels, birds of the storm, rising from the distant
sands, veered joyously out over the flattening waters. A faint murmur of
angry winds came from the west, and with its first sound Charmides was
recalled from the scene in which he was blithely living to his flock,
who were upon the verge of a stampede. They had ceased to eat and were
standing quiveringly still, heads up, nostrils distended, fore-legs
stiffening for the leap and race which would follow the first
thunder-clap. Their shepherd was just in time. Putting all thought of
the storm behind him, he lifted his lyre and started forward, singing as
he went. The sheep followed him, with implicit faith, across the broad
pasture and down the long, gentle slope in the direction of their fold
and his father's house, till the sea and the galley and the storm were
left to the petrels and those on the acropolis to watch.

There, indeed, in front of the basilica, quite a band of citizens had
assembled, watching with interest and anxiety the progress of the
storm-beset vessel. The little ship had apparently a daring captain. No
precautions whatever had been made for the first gust of wind; neither
did the ship's course suggest that there would be an effort to gain the
inner harbor of the city as speedily as possible. Instead, those that
watched realized that she would be a hundred feet off the base of the
acropolis cliff when the storm broke. At present the wind had so nearly
died away that the main-sail flapped at the mast. The double banks of
oars were working rapidly and unevenly, and the main deck of the vessel
was, to all appearances, entirely deserted. Evidently an unusual state
of affairs prevailed on board of the Phœnician galley.

The pause that preceded the breaking of the storm was unnaturally long.
Save for the gleam of an occasional, faintly hissing wave-crest, the
waters had grown black. The heart of the storm-cloud seethed in purple,
while all the rest of the sky was hung with gray. There came one long
moment when the atmosphere sank under a weight of sudden heat. Then the
far-distant murmur, which till now had been scarcely audible, rushed
upon the silence in a mighty roar, as, up from the south, driven before
the gale, came a long line of white waves that rose as they advanced
till the very Tritons bent their heads and the nymphs scurried down to
greener depths. Now a sudden, zigzag streak of fire shot through the
cloud, followed by a crash as of all the bolts of Zeus let off at once.
The galley seemed to be scarcely moving. Her sail hung loose upon its
mast. Not a soul was to be seen upon the upper deck. Only the oars still
creaked in their holes, and the water churned unevenly along the
vessel's sides. The wind was nearly upon her. There was a second glare
of lightning, a second crash more fearful than the first; and then it
was as if the fragile craft, seized by some cyclopean hand, had been
lifted entirely from the water to be plunged downward again into the
midst of chaos.

The number of spectators of this unusual scene had by this time been
greatly augmented. Upon the acropolis, at the point where the street of
Victory came to an end upon the edge of the precipitous cliff, stood a
crowd of men and women, to whom others were continually coming from the
shelter of their houses. Presently Charmides, together with his brother,
Phalaris, both breathless from their run across the valley of the
Hypsas, arrived on the cliff. The galley was now struggling in the
centre of the storm, writhing and shuddering over the waves directly in
front of the acropolis. As the only possible salvation, her bow had been
pointed directly to the south into the wind, a move which made it
necessary for the rowers, backing water with all their strength, to keep
her from driving backward upon the great rock, fragments of which were
strewn far out through the water from the base of the cliff behind.
Through the incessant lightning flashes the violent and uneven use of
the oars was clearly visible, and, after watching them in silence for a
few moments, Phalaris shook his head.

"The rowers will not endure long under such labor. The boat must be
driven ashore."

"As yet they have lost no distance, though."

And this, indeed, was true. Full fifty yards now lay between the first
rock and the stern of the galley. It seemed, too, as if the storm had
lulled a little. Charmides shouted the idea into his brother's ear, but
Phalaris again shook his head, and both looked once more to the vessel,
just in time to see her struck by a fresh gust of wind that tore the
overstrained sail into ribbons and shreds. At the same instant the oars
ceased their work. The boat spun completely round, twice, like a wheel,
and a second later was driven, by one great wave, straight towards the
huge rocks off the cliff.

"Apollo! What has happened to the rowers?" cried one of the elders.

"And where is the captain of this vessel? Is he a madman?"

"In three minutes more she will be a wreck. Come, Charmides!" shouted
Phalaris, starting over the cliff.

Together the brothers climbed down the precipitous descent to the narrow
strip of sand at its base. Here was a scene of no little activity. The
Theronides found themselves last of a company of their friends to arrive
at this point of vantage, where not a few had been standing for half an
hour. Several older men were also grouped along the beach, anxiously
watching the drama which threatened to terminate in a tragedy. At the
moment when the brothers reached the lower shore, the galley, lifted
high upon the wave, hung for a second on its summit, and then, as it
broke, spun down and forward with sickening speed straight upon two
horn-shaped rocks, between which she was presently wedged fast and
firmly, twenty yards from shore.

A little cry broke from Charmides' lips. With the next flash he beheld
the galley heeled far upon her right side, oars shattered, sides still
uncrushed, while on her prow there stood at last a black swarm of men.

By this time a dozen of the young Greeks, stripped of their wet tunics,
were making their way out into the breakers, intent upon saving the
wrecked sailors from being dashed upon the rocks as they escaped from
their ship. Charmides hastily followed the example of his fellows and
ran into the chilly water after Phalaris, who stood in, shoulder-deep,
fifty feet from the ship. It was nearly impossible to keep a footing
there. Breaker after breaker dashed over their heads, and Phalaris,
expert swimmer as he was, found himself unable to stand upright, and
frequently struggled to his feet choking for breath, with sea-water in
his eyes, ears, and nose. Charmides fared worse still. Overbalanced by
the second wave that struck him, he was whirled round and round in it,
and finally washed up on shore, half drowned. After a moment or two of
gasping and reeling, he returned pluckily into the water, this time
finding shelter beside a rock which he could also grasp. Phalaris
managed to reach his side and share his protection, and there the two of
them stood, waiting.

A period of delay and general commotion on the deck of the galley
ensued. Three men in the centre of the company of sailors were engaged
in some altercation, in which all the rest seemed far more interested
than in making an escape from the vessel, which, apparently, was in no
immediate danger of breaking up. Presently, however, to Phalaris'
immense relief, for the useless battling with breakers was becoming too
much, alike for his strength and for his patience, one of the men from
the galley was seen to throw a rope over the vessel's side, make it fast
upon the bulwark, and begin to lower himself, hand over hand, down to
the water. At the rope's end he stopped, hung there for a moment,
waiting for a wave to go by, and then slipped lightly in. Like all
Phœnicians he was a good swimmer. Phalaris knew, from the manner in
which he threw himself forward, that there was little danger of his not
reaching the shore. Yet when, presently, a wave dashed violently over
him, Charmides gave a little cry at seeing the man hurled helplessly
forward, and then roll over and over in the grasp of the sea. Phalaris
shouted above the clamor of winds and waters:

"Watch, Charmides, to seize him!"

As the writhing body swirled towards them, both Greeks, leaning forward,
caught and held it fast. The man was not drowned nor even unconscious.
Accustomed to living more or less in the sea, he had swallowed but
little water, and, being set upright again, with his feet touching
bottom, he stood still for a moment, said something in Phœnician to his
rescuers, and proceeded towards the shore, where most of the young men,
less patient and less expert than Theron's sons, now stood.

Phalaris and Charmides, however, perceiving that they were likely to be
of real use where they were, held their position; and, exhilarated by
the excitement and pleasure of the first rescue, they caught and
assisted, one by one, nearly the whole crew of the galley. Phalaris,
indeed, was amazed at the way in which his brother bore himself. The
rhapsode worked as vigorously as the athlete, showed no fear at the
onslaught of the waves, and was almost as successful as the other at
catching and holding the distressed swimmers as they came by. At length
there remained upon the galley only the three men that had first been
engaged in the discussion. Of these, two presently disappeared from
sight in the hold of the ship, leaving one alone by the bulwark. As this
person, the length of whose tunic showed him to be no common sailor,
finally climbed over the ship's side and began to lower himself
leisurely to the water, Phalaris turned to look upon his brother.
Charmides' form was dimly outlined in the gathering darkness, and his
features were indistinguishable. A lightning flash, however, presently
revealed the face, pale and drawn with exhaustion. Phalaris perceived it

"For this one man we will wait. Then, if there are not to be two drowned
Greeks, we must make our way ashore," he said, hoarsely, and Charmides
nodded assent.

The last man, for all his easy bearing, proved to be a far less expert
swimmer than his predecessors. He had not accomplished more than a
single, uncertain stroke when a wave caught him, rolled over his head,
and buried him completely from the straining vision of his would-be
rescuer. He was under water for what seemed to Charmides an eternity;
and when, finally, by the light of a flash of lightning, the body was
seen to reappear from the foam of a broken wave, it tossed there,
lifeless, making no effort at resistance. Charmides rushed through the
water to the drowning man's side, and, before reaching him, found
himself out of his depth. As he sent a despairing shout to Phalaris, the
supposed unconscious one addressed him, shouting above the surrounding
roar, in Phœnician:

"Save yourself, youth! I shall float--" The sentence was interrupted by
a rush of water, which threw Charmides forward, and once more buried the
light, limp body of this unusual person.

Acting upon the excellent advice of the floater, the Greek made his
difficult way to the shore, arriving on the beach at the same time with
Phalaris, and a moment later than the stranger, who had been washed up
unhurt and apparently not much disturbed by his contest with the waves.

The two brothers, reaching dry land again, found but few of their
friends left on the sand. As the wet and half-drowned sailors arrived,
one by one, on the shore, they had been approached by the native Greeks,
and, the relations between Carthage and Selinous being as yet of the
most amicable nature, hospitably taken up to the city, where warmth,
food, and rest were to be had. Among the group of three or four that
remained when the last Phœnician was washed up by the waves, was one who
hastened to Charmides, as he stood dizzily on the sand looking back into
the sea that was in such a furious commotion.

"Charmides, you have been foolhardy enough. Such work is well for
Phalaris, perhaps, but--"

"Father, it seems to me that for many months Charmides has been
deceiving us. By nature he is an excellent athlete--better than I."

Charmides shook his head and replied, faintly: "Let us go home. There is
no more to do."

"But there remain still two men on the galley."

"For them," put in the stranger, speaking in awkward Greek, "you need
not fear. They are still below with the slaves, but they will easily
reach the shore, if, indeed, they wish to do so. I think they will
rather remain where they are to-night."

"The galley does not appear to be breaking up."

"No. Her bottom did not strike. She is only wedged fast between two

In the little pause which followed, Theron peered through the darkness
in an attempt to distinguish the features of the stranger. Night had
closed in, however, in intense blackness, and before Charmides had time
to put in a second, shivering appeal, his father said:

"Come then, my sons, we will start homeward. Your mother must be waiting
our return. And you, O stranger, if you will accept of shelter and food
at our hands, such as we have, in the name of Apollo, are yours."

The man from the galley accepted, without hesitation, the proffered
hospitality. Then Theron bade good-night to those with whom he had been
talking, and the stranger followed in the footsteps of the young men,
who were hastening along the sand that skirted the cliff and thence ran
into a wider beach that terminated the valley between the two hills.

It was twenty minutes of difficult walking even in daylight to reach the
abode of Theron from the acropolis; and to-night, amid the heavy
darkness, and in their exhausted condition, both Charmides and his
brother were completely spent before the friendly light of their home
became visible in front of them. The house was well built, of stone
covered with the usual stucco, brightly colored without and prettily
frescoed within. The rooms above ground numbered only four; while
beneath the living-room, reached by a flight of stone steps, was a
cellar stored with a goodly number of amphoræ filled with wine of
varied make and excellence--most of it from vines that covered the
much-disputed Egestan plain; some, of more celebrated vintage, sent up
from Syracuse.

Theron's wife, Heraia, and Doris, the pretty slave, their day's spinning
and embroidery ended, were busy preparing the evening meal. Heraia was
not a little anxious over the absence of her husband and her two sons
through the whole of the storm, and she was particularly uneasy about
Charmides, whom she loved more with the tenderness felt for a daughter
than for a son. Some time since she had despatched Sardeis, the male
slave, to the sheep-run, to see if the rhapsode's flock had been safely
housed, and if there were any signs of the shepherd's return. And the
matron had herself gone many times to the door and looked forth into the
oft-illumined darkness in the hope that the storm was abating. A stew of
goat's flesh steamed fragrantly in the kettle by the fire, and Doris
kneaded cakes of ground corn that were to be laid before the fire
immediately upon Theron's return. Heraia was setting the table with
plates and drinking-cups, when suddenly Phalaris threw open the door.
His appearance was not reassuring. Doris gave a faint shriek, and Heraia
cried, in great anxiety:

"Thy father--and Charmides--where are they? You are half fainting,
Phalaris! Come in. What has happened?"

"The others are with me, just behind, bringing up a Phœnician from the
galley that went on the rocks below the acropolis. Here they are."

The other three at that moment appeared out of the darkness beyond the
door-way. Theron and the stranger in front, Charmides lagging weakly in
the rear. Heraia sighed with relief at beholding them, wet, bedraggled,
and spent as they were. Phalaris, and the stranger, about whose legs the
long, soaked tunic flapped uncomfortably, and Charmides, whose wet skin
was of the color and texture of polished ivory, were all three shivering
with cold. Theron, then, as the only unspent one of the party, cried
out, vigorously:

"Heraia, there must be wine, food, and dry garments for us all,
especially for this Phœnician, who, driven from his ship by wind, wave,
and rock, seeks shelter at our hands, and is for the night our honored
guest. He--"

"--proffers thanks to you and to the protecting gods for rescue from the
waters and reception into your home," put in the stranger, gracefully,
if with some languor.

Heraia merely smiled her welcome as her eyes flashed once over his
swarthy face; and then, as one long accustomed to such demands upon her
resources, she took command of the situation. From a carven chest on one
side of the room she brought dry raiment for them all, despatching her
boys first to their room with it while she stopped the Phœnician for a
moment with an apology.

"I have no vestment to offer that can equal yours in texture and color,"
she said, regretfully, gazing with admiring eyes on the long, yellow
tunic, with its deep borders of the wonderful Tyrian purple which no
amount of sea-water could dim and no sun of the tropics fade to a paler
hue. "But at least it shall be carefully dried and stretched smooth upon
the frame. Now if you will but follow Charmides"--she pointed to a
door-way leading to the next room--"wine shall be carried to you while
you dress, and food will be ready before you are. Go then at once."

Smiling to himself at her woman's tongue, the Phœnician very willingly
obeyed her behest, and joined the two young men in their room. Here the
three of them rubbed one another back into a glow of warmth, while
Theron, in another chamber, doffed his rain-soaked vestment for a gayly
bordered tunic, and pretty Doris, in the living-room, still knelt before
the fire over her well-kneaded cakes.

Half an hour later the family and their guest, all much refreshed by the
combination of wine and warmth, seated themselves on stools round the
table, where various dishes were set forth about a big jar of mellow
wine. Doris, upon whose graceful figure Phalaris' eyes were often
seen to rest, while the stranger glanced at her once or twice in
contemplative admiration, poured wine as it was wanted into the
wrought-metal cups, and took care that no one lacked for food. Presently
Theron, perceiving that his guest's spirits were rising under the genial
influence of the Syracusan product, began to question him concerning his

The Greeks, out of courtesy, spoke in the Phœnician tongue, which, owing
to their proximity to the easterly Phœnician settlements, and their
constant trading intercourse with the Carthaginians, they spoke with
some fluency. The stranger, with equal politeness and with more
difficulty, made his replies in the language of his hosts.

"Your race, indeed, are daring travellers. It is said that the Phœnician
biremes have been known to pass the pillars of Hercules beyond the
setting sun. Tell us, have you ever looked upon that outer stream of
water that flows round the plain of earth?"

Kabir laughed. "The sea that lies beyond the Herculean pillars is not
part of the stream that surrounds the earth. I have but now come from
far beyond those little mountains. We left Tyre seven months ago, at the
beginning of the rainy season, touching at Carthage and her colonies on
the coast of Hispania. Then we passed the pillars, and sailed away to
that far, cold country of savages where we go for a kind of dye-plant
with which the natives stain their bodies blue, and for a bright metal
which they dig from the earth, but which is not found in the East. The
savages there are gentle enough with us. They like our warm, woollen
cloth, and our weapons, and brass-work, and our jewelry. This time, when
we had finished our trading on their shores, we took one of them on
board with us to guide us up the northern sea to the cold land of
Boreas. Across this frozen country, through forests and over hills,
among fierce native tribes, we Phœnicians have made a road which leads
us farther north, to the shores of an inner sea in whose waters are to
be found marvellous gems of a bright yellow color, sometimes clear as
glass, again thick, like unpolished gold. These we gather and carry home
with us, to be cut into ornaments for our princes and their wives, and
for our temple-fanes. They sell them to us for our cloth, these dwellers
by the sea. Then we return, by the way we came, to our ship. This is the
third time that I, master-trader of the _Fish of Tyre_, have, by the
favor of Baal and Melkart, accomplished the journey."

The exceptionally modest recital ended in a burst of genuine wonderment
and admiration from the auditors. Finally, when the requisite questions
and compliments had been passed, Phalaris observed, curiously:

"The sailors of your galley--they have travelled very far. Are they
well-disciplined men?"

Kabir nodded. "They are as good at sails and ropes and as fearless in
distant seas as they were at ease in the water to-day. You saw them?"

Phalaris gave a chuckle. "If you, master-trader, are as good at making a
bargain as you are at floating, then indeed must the savages of the
North be rueful after your departure. But your rowers--the slaves--they
also are trustworthy and patient?"

Kabir's pale face suddenly flushed. "The dogs! By the hand of Moloch, if
I had had my way, every man of them would lie with a slit nose to-night!
It was they that wrecked our galley to-day. For a month we have been on
the verge of an outbreak from them. They have complained forever about
everything--their food, their places, their chains, the length of the
voyage, too little rest. Latterly it has been a risk each night when we
loosened their bonds to let them sleep. And this afternoon, long before
the storm, their insolence had become unbearable. For three hours their
master, Sydyk, and Eshmun and I stood whipping them to their work. The
wind was on us while we were still below, and Taker, Eshmun's cousin,
fool that he was, forbore to have the sail drawn. It was not till we
were facing the full gale and those panic-stricken dogs pulling like
madmen to keep us off the rocks, that Eshmun went up to see what could
be done. At the moment when he reached the deck the sail was blown into
shreds, and we were spun round as if Scylla herself had caught us.
Hearing a great clamor above them, and feeling the ship suddenly reel
under their oars, every slave in the hold fell forward on his face,
shrieking out prayers to Baal and giving no heed to the bloody lashes
that we still whirled over their heads. Both Sydyk and I foresaw that
thing which shortly happened; and at the moment when the galley was
first thrown between the rocks, we reached the upper air, finding Eshmun
ready to descend once more that he might unchain the slaves, who would
otherwise drown during the night at their posts. Sydyk, however, vowed
that not one of them should live, in consequence of their rebellious
folly. When the dispute between them was thus begun, I, unwisely,
interposed, advising speedy escape for ourselves, letting the animals
below live or perish as they would. They might certainly survive till
morning, since by now we could plainly perceive that the galley could
not sink, wedged as she was in the rocks. So the discussion continued,
and was in no way concluded between the two of them when you saw me
leave the vessel and start for shore. I can float, but I cannot swim as
well as most children, and I needed what strength was mine to get me to
land. Besides this, I was most wet, most chilled, and fagged enough with
the unpleasant events of the afternoon. Therefore let us drink another
libation to the gods, who led me to-night under the shadow of your
kindly roof."

This short explanation of the trouble on the galley over which the
citizens of Selinous had so wondered that afternoon, was listened to
with great interest, and received various comments. Phalaris strongly
sympathized with Kabir's disgust with the slaves. Theron expressed more
temperate ideas; and Heraia gently voiced her pity for the unfortunate
wretches. Charmides, who was entirely of his mother's mind, remained
silent. When the discussion had lost its vigor, he rose from the table,
and, moving rather aimlessly to the door, opened it to look out.

"It will soon be too warm, mother, for your fire," he said. "The clouds
have parted, and the great night-star hangs in the heavens."

The chance remark brought silence to the little party, and they sat
absently watching the shepherd who had halted in the door-way, his white
profile silhouetted against the outer blackness. Kabir, especially,
gazed on him in growing admiration.

"By Hercules!" he observed, softly, to Phalaris, "thy brother's form
would make a fitting Tammuz for the great Istar of Babylon!"

Charmides chanced to catch the last words of this sentence, and he
slowly turned his head. "Istar of Babylon," he asked. "Who is she?"

The Phœnician regarded him intently. "They call you a rhapsode," he

Charmides nodded.

"And you have not heard of the living goddess?"

"The living goddess!" came from three mouths at once.

"Listen then. It is a fitting subject for the lyre."



Charmides, with a look of unusual curiosity in his face, left his post
and crossed to the fireplace, seating himself upon the ground before it.
During the story that followed, the shepherd's bright blue eyes sought
the ruddiest depths of the leaping flames, while his expressive mouth
responded to every passing thought, and the narrator was fascinated by
the glory of his hair, which caught the firelight, and tossed off its
burning reflection in a thousand dazzling rays, till Charmides' head was
surrounded by such a halo as saint has never worn. Theron, Phalaris, and
Heraia, who, however incredulous they might be, could not but be struck
by the stranger's theme, gathered closer to him, and listened with an
intensity flattering enough to spur Kabir to great efforts in his
narrative. He, however, well aware that, at his best, he could never
dream of rivalling the Greek professional in this art of arts, chose
rather to treat his subject in the simplest possible manner.

"Two years ago, in the fourteenth year of the reign of Nabu-Nahid,
King of Babylon,[3] men say that Istar, the great goddess--our
Astarte--Aphrodite to you--came in the flesh to Babylon. For three days
and three nights flames of white fire hung over the temples of Bel, of
Marduk, and of Nebo, while the images of the gods in their shrines
chanted unceasingly in an unknown tongue. On the morning of the fourth
day the hierodules attached to the temple of Istar, ascending her
ziggurat to the sanctuary on the seventh stage, found the goddess
herself, asleep upon her golden couch.

"How she awoke, what she said to her priestesses, or in what manner she
first descended to take up her abode in the temple below, I have never
heard. But before a month was past, all Babylon, and in three months all
the East, from Sidon to Gaza, and from Ur to Damascus, rang with the
wonder of her divinity and her beauty. It is now long since I heard of
her, having been so many months away from my country. But formerly every
caravan that came from the great city held some that had seen her, or
perhaps had heard her speak, and throngs would assemble in the
marketplaces to listen to the least story of her personality. It was

"Yes, yes. She was beautiful, you say? How beautiful? How did she look?"
interrupted Charmides, in stumbling haste.

Kabir, noting the flush upon the shepherd's cheek, smiled a little to
himself. "She is the most fair of any goddess, yet none has ever beheld
so much as her face quite clearly, it is said. Always she is surrounded
by a dazzling white radiance, an aureole, which the strongest eyes have
not been able to pierce. Yet men declare that her face has the clear
whiteness of alabaster, her eyes are like the moon, and her hair like a
floating, silken veil. More I cannot truthfully say.

"Her vestments have been offered her by the King himself and by the
priests of the great gods. They are such as Nitokris never wore and
queens might sigh over with envy. Yet they seem too coarse and poor to
proffer to such a being.

"The first sign of Istar's divinity is the music that continually
follows her presence. They say that those who hear the sounds as she
passes are overcome, and fall upon the dust, or reel away like drunken
men affected by fumes of wine. What this music is--bells or chords of
the lyre or notes from the flute--no man has ever told, for when the
sounds cease, every memory of them, save that of the ecstasy of
listening, leaves him who has heard. And at sunset every night, when the
goddess has retired to her sanctuary to commune with the great gods in
solitude, there issue from the ziggurat sounds so marvellous that the
priestesses and hierodules flee the neighborhood of the tower in the
fear that, hearing, they may lose their reason.

"Istar is possessed of all knowledge. She speaks to each man in his
native tongue--Chaldaic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Phœnician, or Egyptian--and on
feast days she converses with the gods, her brothers, in that unknown
language spoken by their statues. Bel and Nebo come forth from their
shrines to receive her; Marduk and Shamash embrace her, their sister.
Sin, her father, sends to her temple blood-offerings and heave-offerings
of oxen and of doves."

"And men," asked the shepherd, still staring into the flames--"what do
the men who have eyes to look upon her?"

"Of those that have dared, some become as children that know no more
what they do. A few, it is said, have died, but these she raises from
the kingdom of death and returns again to the world to fulfil their
rightful time. Others still have given their manhood in order to join
the order of temple-servants attached to her sanctuary.

"For all these reasons the temple of Istar has become more famous than
any other in the East, and the name of Istar, the living goddess, is in
every mouth. Many Egyptians from Memphis and Thebes have taken the long
journey to Babylon for the purpose of beholding her; and in the land of
the Nile each man prays that Isis may show her people favor and appear
before them incarnate. She has shaken the faith of the Jews in their one
God. Phrygia and Lydia send yearly offerings to her in the great city.
And in Tyre itself we were to build a new temple to Astarte, where a six
months' sacrifice and festival would be held, in the hope that our great
goddess of fertility might appear before us in her double form. And
that, O Charmides, is all that I can relate to you concerning the Lady
of Babylon."

"It seems that Charmides sleeps over the tale, or else that he is
drunken with the mere thought of the divine personage. Wake, rhapsode!
Tune your lyre and sing for us the inspired ode that hangs upon your
lips!" cried Phalaris, rather ill-naturedly, and with a supercilious
smile at his brother.

Charmides did not stir. A thoughtful frown puckered his forehead, and he
appeared oblivious of Phalaris' mockery. Theron, seeing that the
Phœnician was a little crestfallen with the ill-success of his story,
made haste to express his interest in it, and to ask a further question
or two upon the matter, without, however, infusing much enthusiasm into
his tone. Heraia followed her husband's lead with less effort. She had
in her the original strain of poetry that had been extended to her
younger son, but was entirely lacking in Theron and Phalaris. Therefore,
being imaginative and a woman, Heraia had no difficulty in crediting
Kabir's words, and she also understood Charmides' present mood as none
of the others could.

Now ensued a pause extremely uncomfortable to three of the group. Only
Phalaris was undisturbed by, and Charmides oblivious of, its distressing
length. The shepherd finally turned his head and shifted his gaze to the
Phœnician's face, where his eyes remained fixed for two or three minutes
in a contemplative scrutiny. Then he drew a long breath, returned into
the present, and, rising, moved slowly to the door again. From there he
glanced at his mother, and was about to speak, when Phalaris reached
over to the chest near which he sat, drew forth from it a lyre inlaid
with ivory, and held it out to his brother.

"A hymn, Charmides, to Astarte. I can read one written in your eyes."

Charmides flushed scarlet. The eyes of the stranger were on him, and he
felt a sudden pang of inexpressible shame at the laughter of his
brother's tone.

"Have no fear, little athlete!" he responded, slowly, "an ode will be
ready for you when you overthrow Theocles in the festival games. But I
think I need not hurry in composing it. Morpheus attend you all. I am
going to my bed." And, turning upon his heel, without looking at the
still proffered instrument, he strode off to the room which he was to
share with Phalaris and the stranger.

Charmides' anger always passed as rapidly as it rose. To-night, by the
time he had disrobed and made his prayer to Apollo and Father Zeus, his
mind was once more in a state of truce with Phalaris, and he determined
to make peace with his brother as soon as he found opportunity; for
Phalaris felt the sting of a sharp speech till it was healed by the balm
of a very humble apology.

Once ready for the night the shepherd drew his light couch under the one
unshuttered window of the room, and laid him down so that his eyes might
rest upon the heavens before he slept, and where he could watch the
rising of the sun when he woke again. By this time the last shred of the
storm-cloud had disappeared from on high, and the moon, which was all
but in the full, flooded the night with silver. Its luminous radiance
melted over the shepherd's face and caused his locks to shine palely.
Charmides lay watching the beams with wide-open eyes. In spite of his
very unusual exertions of the afternoon, and the nervous strain that he
had endured in watching for men from the wreck, he had never been
further from sleep than to-night. His mind was unusually active, and,
try as he would, he could not turn his thoughts from one subject--the
thing that Phalaris had tried to shame away, the incredible tale told by
the Phœnician about the Aphrodite of the East. Charmides knew well
enough how his father and brother would laugh at him for allowing
himself to think seriously for one moment about that idealized being,
who, in all probability, lived only in the depths of the trader's
imagination. Nevertheless, Kabir's few words had conjured up to
Charmides' quick fancy a singularly real shape, and in the solitary
night his thoughts played about her continually, now with eager delight,
again reluctantly and irresistibly. Once, twice, thrice he tried to
escape from her, but she refused to be banished. He saw her slipping
down towards him from a great height, on the path of a moonbeam. With a
sigh of renunciation he resolutely turned his head. Still she did not
go. Nay, flashing in an aureole of white light, her face veiled from
him, divinity crying from every curve of her figure, she advanced more
definitely than before, from the corners of the room. A quiver of
painful delight stirred Charmides' heart. He closed his eyes. Then she
came out of the depths of his own brain, in a sea of rainbow mist, with
faint chimes of distant bells ringing around her, a veil of silken hair
covering her beneath the mantle of light. At last he was quite beneath
her spell. Fragments of hexameter, of great beauty and great
indistinctness, rose in his mind. And presently, lo! an ode, the first
of any depth that had ever come to him, became possible. Here were the
first lines of it, lying ready to his tongue. He whispered them once to
himself, delightedly, and then banished them with resolution. He must
first obtain his form. The structure must be broad enough adequately to
express the thought born in him by the secret inspiration of the night.

An hour passed, and the white light of the moon crept slowly over the
shepherd's head into the far corners of the room. Charmides lay with
closed eyes and lips compressed, the vision growing clearer and his task
more intricate. Mere words began to be inadequate. How many men, how
many women, how many lifeless things, even, have been extolled in
matchless syllables? And how was he as far to surpass all these lines as
his subject surpassed the subjects of his predecessors? He grew more and
more troubled, and the labor of his mind was painful. Intoxication was
gone. The time of work, of unexalted concentration, was upon him. Into
the midst of this second stage, however, came Phalaris and Kabir,
sleepy, yet talking pleasantly together in unsubdued tones. Charmides
clenched his hand, but did not unclose his eyes. For twenty minutes he
lay in an agony of broken thought. Then his self-control was rewarded.
He was left alone once more in the night, with only the light, regular
breathing of two unconscious men to disturb his thoughts.

Through the misty hours sleep did not visit the shepherd, yet neither
did he accomplish his desire. He watched the pale moon faint from the
sky and the white stars melt, one by one, into the tender dawn. Sunrise
found him spent, exhausted, and bitter with disappointment; for the
burning night had left no trace of its fever save in deep circles under
his eyes and a hungering anxiety over something that he could not name.

Theron and Phalaris were up betimes, and, before they had finished the
morning libation, were joined by Charmides and Kabir. During breakfast
the stranger talked to Theron about the galley, and the length of time
it would take before she could be rendered fit to continue again upon
her voyage.

"You were going home?" asked the Selinuntian.

"Yes. We should stop at the Sikelian cities as far as Syracuse, passing
then eastward through the islands, touching at Crete, Naxos, perhaps,
and Cyprus. Our voyage had been too long already."

"Well, if you are ready," observed Theron, rising, "we will go down to
the shore at once to find out the condition of the galley. And while you
remain in Selinous, Kabir, we beg that you will make our hearth your

The Phœnician gratefully expressed his thanks. Then, as Theron and
Phalaris moved together towards the door, evidently expecting him to
follow them, Kabir turned to Charmides, who remained in the background.

"Do you not come with us?" he asked.

The Greek hurriedly shook his head. "I take the flock to pasture," he
explained; and so the Phœnician turned away.

By the time the three men reached the shore below the city, the sun was
two hours high and the beach was lined with Selinuntians and Tyrians,
all talking together about the best method for pulling the galley from
between the two rocks where she still lay, fast wedged. As soon as Kabir
made his appearance a tall fellow, in a deep-red robe, hurried up to him
with expressions of delight. Kabir saluted him as an equal, and
presently brought him up to Theron and Phalaris, introducing him as
Eshmun, captain of the _Fish of Tyre_. Then followed among the four of
them an earnest conversation as to the length of time needed for repairs
after the ship was once more in clear water.

"Prayers and libations to Melkart and Baal have been offered up,"
observed Eshmun, piously, "and men in the city are already at work
making new oars. Yonder on the beach are all the small boats, which are
to be manned by our sailors and the young men of the city. They,
proceeding to the _Fish_, will lay hold of her stern with ropes, and,
all pulling in the same direction, by the aid of the gods we shall hope
to get her out."

"And the galley-slaves?" queried Kabir. "What has been done with them?"

"May Bacchus confound them! Last night, before leaving the ship, I
persuaded Sydyk into loosening their chains, and when Sydyk, at sunrise,
reached the galley, he found every man of them sprawled out on deck in a
drunken sleep. They had used up four casks of the best Massilian wine!
Sydyk had them whipped back to their places, where they are now chained,
waiting to help push the ship off with their unbroken oars."

Up to this point Theron and his son stood beside Kabir, listening
attentively to the Phœnician tongue, which was just unfamiliar enough to
demand close attention. But now Phalaris, seeing that the small boats
were being rapidly manned, went off to join one of them. Theron walked
leisurely after his son towards a group of elders, leaving Kabir with
Eshmun. For ten or fifteen minutes the Tyrians continued their
conversation, and then, the fleet of rowboats being ready to put off,
the captain hurried away to take command of the operations, and his
companion was left alone upon the shore.

Kabir, as master-trader of the vessel, was under no obligation to do
anything towards the assistance of the wreck. Few men, perhaps, would
have considered this freedom as a reason for actually taking no part in
the affair of the moment. But Kabir was one of these few. He was by
nature a true Phœnician, and by cultivation a true merchant: thoroughly
indolent where his immediate advantage was not concerned; good-natured
because good-nature made men more pliable to his secret will; keen as a
knife-blade, and quite indefatigable in any matter that concerned his or
his employer's profit; indifferent to the weal or woe of his nearest
friend, so long as by that woe or weal his own comfort was unconcerned.
He stood now on the beach below the acropolis, content to be alone,
sufficiently occupied with the scenes of beauty and activity before him.
There, far to the south and east, stretched the sea, smooth and blue,
sprinkled with sun-sparkles, a lolling roll half-concealed in its
mischievous depths, otherwise bearing not a trace of last night's spasm
of rage. From the very edge of the beach out to a distance of two
hundred yards from shore, was a jumble of brown rocks, large and small,
between which the water ran in little, opalescent eddies, forming a
dangerous and threatening boundary to the west side of the otherwise
peaceful harbor. Between two of these horned rocks lay the barnacled,
dismasted ship, which had ventured so far into distant, perilous seas,
to be brought to bay at last, wounded and weary, by the shock of a merry
Sicilian thunderstorm. Half-way between ship and shore thirty small
boats, plied vigorously by friendly Greek and anxious Tyrian, were
making a flashing progress to the galley's side; while all along the
shore white-robed Selinuntian elders and fair-faced Doric women watched
with high interest the movements of the boats.

Once and again Kabir overlooked the scene. Then, tired of standing, and
undesirous of spending the whole morning inactively, he turned and
looked around him, up the rocky height of the temple-crowned acropolis.
An ascent into the city seemed the most feasible method of amusement.
Therefore he proceeded leisurely towards the nearest upward path, when,
somewhat to his amazement, he perceived the figure of Charmides coming
rapidly towards him along the beach. The moment his eyes met those of
the youth the shepherd's pace grew perceptibly slower.

"I will avoid him, then," thought the Phœnician, calmly, and thereupon,
with a distant salutation, he started forward once more to the upward
path. To his further surprise this act brought Charmides hastily to his

"Where is thy flock, O rhapsode?" inquired Kabir, lightly, in the manner
of Phalaris.

"In care of Sardeis. I was seeking you."

"And your purpose? What may I do?"

"N--nothing. I thought you might desire, perhaps, to see the city. Shall
I conduct you to the agora? Would you like to see our temples?--and the
statues?--and the new pediment that Eumenides is making for the

"Very much. I was, indeed, just about to go alone up to the city,"
replied Kabir, courteously. But while the youth began abruptly to ascend
the path in front of him, Kabir was wondering, in rather a puzzled way,
what could be the reason for the young Greek's sudden solicitude for his
amusement, and for the want of interest in what should have been his
first object of inquiry--the galley's rescue from the rocks.

The two of them passed in silence through the well-kept street that led
to the agora from the west, and had almost reached the height of the
acropolis before a further word was spoken between them. Kabir's
curiosity was turning to amusement, and he was inclined to put the
shepherd down as half-witted, when the boy turned on him and burst out,
as if driven to the speech:

"Kabir, tell me, was that that you were saying last night--about the
goddess of Babylon--true or not? Is there such a being, or is she but an
invention of your mind? I conjure you, if you have pity, tell me the

As he spoke, Charmides, from being very pale, had flushed crimson, and
his young eyes burned with unquenchable fire. A sudden, unique
revelation was borne in upon the Phœnician, and he willingly passed over
the blunt suggestion in the shepherd's question, in the pleasure of
finding what was, to him, an entirely novel bent of mind. While they
proceeded, then, on their way to the market-place, Kabir replied to the
substance of Charmides' new queries.

"I told you the truth last evening, shepherd; as much truth, indeed, as
I knew. I myself have never been in Babylon, and therefore have not,
with mine own eyes, seen the goddess. But others, my friends, on
returning to Tyre from the great city, have been able to talk of nothing
but Istar, this living divinity. Yet it is many months since I was at
home. By now she may have returned to the skies, from which, they say,
she came. But that there was once such a being on earth I know; else I
and all men of the East are gone suddenly demented."

"But her face--how do you imagine it? Her form--is it like a woman's?
Tell me, Kabir! Tell me more of her!"

"How can I, never having looked upon her? How shall I imagine what no
man, seeing, knows?"

"Surely you know of the music that surrounds her. Whence does it appear
to come? Is it the sound of lyre or flute; or perhaps of many
instruments together? Perhaps some hint of its melody is--"

"Shepherd, shepherd! Have I not told you that I know nothing of it? Said
I not last night that that music drove mad those that listened? Lyres!
Flutes! How could I know? How should I guess?"

"It is unbearable, this yearning. I am kept from sleep. I cannot eat. I
am haunted by a face that I cannot see, lines that will not rise out of
the chaos in which they lie. And no man will tell me what he knows. No
man--no man."

The shepherd muttered these words to himself so incoherently that Kabir
could scarcely distinguish one from another. Suddenly, however,
Charmides lifted his head and looked at the Phœnician with a deep
sadness in his eyes. "Kabir!" he exclaimed, softly, "I am possessed!"

"Truly, I think you are!" growled the trader to himself. But with
Charmides he abruptly changed the subject of conversation, and said, in
a very different tone, with a phlegmatic smile: "It is my turn for
questioning now. We are here in the agora, and you have told me as yet
nothing of the temples, which are, so far as I can judge, most worthy of
their gods."

Charmides restrained a sigh of impatience, but his disappointment showed
plainly in his face. However, his native courtesy and his training in
hospitality did not desert him, and for the next hour he devoted himself
to his task so successfully that Kabir was well pleased with him. The
boy's effort to keep his mind fixed upon immediate matters did not
escape the Phœnician, who, before the morning was over, conceived a very
different idea of the shepherd's character. On the whole, the last half
of the morning was much more enjoyable to him than the first.

At this time, in the spring of the five hundred and thirty-ninth year
before the birth of Christ, the Hyblean city was in the height of its
prosperity as an independent Doric colony; and its citizens had taken a
generous and a reverent pride in the adornment of their acropolis and of
the opposite hill, both of which were wreathed with temples which, in
conception and erection, will never be surpassed. Kabir looked
appreciatively at the agora, surrounded as it was with the fluted
columns of the sanctuaries of Demeter, Apollo, and Zeus, and the
somewhat too square basilica. The market-place teemed with life. A
sacrifice and prayer to Father Zeus was in progress, and white-robed
priests passed to and fro among the youths and maids of the open school,
the slaves who came for water from the central fountain, or the venders
of grains, fruit, and flowers that accosted one at every step. Passing
out of the agora, after a considerable time spent in viewing its
pleasant gayety, the stranger and his shepherd guide went back to
examine the stone fort which rendered this eminence utterly impregnable
upon its north side; and then they followed the high stone wall
southward along the edge of the cliff till they reached the southeastern
gate of Hystaspes. Through this Charmides passed rapidly, and led the
way along well-paved streets down into the valley of the Hypsas River,
which separated the acropolis from the east hill. Crossing the little
bridge on foot, the two began their second ascent up the eminence where
stood Charmides' home, near which were three other temples--one to
Hecate, one to Hera, and the third, half finished, dedicated to the
patron god of the city, Apollo, and destined to be the largest temple of
them all and the third largest in the Greek world.

The walk had proved long, and the last part of the way was difficult.
Kabir was glad enough to sit and rest in the portico of Hera's shrine,
looking out over the brow of the hill down to the rocky harbor where the
galley still obstinately stuck. Charmides had ceased to talk, and his
companion asked no more questions about the city. It was in perfect
amicability, yet in perfect silence, that the two finished their short
walk to Theron's house. The young Greek had fallen into a reverie from
which it would have been difficult to rouse him; and he moved with his
eyes fixed sometimes in the clouds, more often on the ground, while his
mouth drooped and his expression grew more and more grave. Kabir glanced
occasionally at his companion, needing no interpreter to determine the
subject of his thoughts, but himself far more interested in the question
as to whether there would be meat, or merely bread, cheese, wine, and
fruit at the noon meal to which they were going.

As it turned out, there was mutton, well spitted, and done to a turn, a
double portion of which was easily obtainable, for Phalaris did not come
up from the harbor, and Charmides sat staring absently into space, while
Theron, Heraia, and their guest ate and discussed the events of the
morning. The galley, it appeared, had been moved a little, but was not
yet completely out of the clutches of the rocks. It was hoped, however,
that by nightfall she would, by the combined strength of the oars and
the small boats, be got off and safely beached in a spot where the
carpenters could begin work upon her crushed sides and torn bottom.

"It will be a matter of fifteen days, however, before she can continue
her voyage. There is far more to be done upon her than we thought at
first. Meantime, O Kabir, our dwelling is yours."

"May the gods duly requite your hospitality, good friends!" returned
Kabir, as the four of them rose from the table.

After the meal Kabir went down into the harbor with his host, and
Charmides sought the fields with his flock, not returning till an hour
after sunset. The family was seated at supper when he appeared. His
unusual tardiness elicited a remark or two from his father; but Heraia,
reading the weariness in his eyes, forbore to question him. It required
forbearance, indeed, for she found something in the shepherd's face that
had not been there before; and on the meaning of it she speculated in

In spite of the fact that he had eaten little at noon, and that his
afternoon had been unusually long, Charmides took nothing to-night.
Kabir watched him discreetly, interested in his state, the cause of
which he alone so much as suspected. Phalaris was weary after his long
day at the oars, and showed his displeasure with his brother for making
no inquiry as to the galley's progress by utterly ignoring Charmides
after the first word of greeting. The rather uncomfortable meal at an
end, Heraia ventured a customary request.

"Come, Charmides, get thy lyre or flute, and play to us. The sheep have
been hearing thee all afternoon. Give us, also, music to-night."

None of the others echoed the request. Theron rarely encouraged either
son in his chosen profession, though he was as interested in their
success as they themselves. Phalaris still sulked, unnoticed; and the
Phœnician was too anxious for an opportunity of judging his new
protégé's ability to risk protest by undue urging. He was fortunate in
choosing the passive course. At his mother's request, Charmides rose at
once and brought out his well-strung lyre. Seating himself in a corner
of the open door-way, and looking out upon the night, he struck two or
three thin, minor chords. Then, in a voice whose limpid tenor Kabir had
never heard equalled, he sang. It was a melody well known to all Greeks,
but transposed from the major to the minor key. The words were
Charmides' own--of exquisite simplicity--twenty lines on the grief and
weariness of a lost Pleiad. It rose gradually to a plaintive climax, and
ended in a tired pianissimo. There was no applause. None of his audience
and neither of the slaves cared to break silence as the shepherd rose
and returned the instrument to its place. Kabir thirsted for more; and
presently Theron, with a little effort, asked, softly:

"Why do you stop?"

"Father, I am tired. Grant me permission to go to my bed."

"Permission need not be asked. Get thee away, and the gods send you
dreamless sleep."

Half an hour later Phalaris and the Phœnician followed the shepherd's
example, and Theron and his wife also sought a willing rest. The athlete
made quick work of preparing for the night, and, almost upon the instant
of his lying down, fell fast asleep. Kabir was slower. He had disrobed
as promptly as his companion, but he did not immediately lay him down.
As on the previous evening, the window was open, and the moonlight
streamed over Charmides' bed. Kabir stole across the room to look out
upon the night, moving noiselessly, that he might not disturb the
shepherd, who, since the others entered the room, had lain motionless.
The Phœnician, standing over him, brought his eyes slowly from the moon
to the fair face below him, and gave a quick, unfeigned start to find
Charmides' eyes wide open, staring up at him. Neither of them spoke.
Kabir, in unaccountable confusion, quickly returned to his own couch and
lay down upon it, far wider awake than he had been ten minutes before.

Now ensued a period of silence and of uneasiness. The shepherd, his form
flooded with silver light, lay immovable, eyes still unclosed, hands
clenched, brain on fire, listening mechanically to the regular breathing
of Phalaris, and waiting eagerly, anxiously, tensely, for the same sound
from the couch of the Phœnician. His nerves, too highly strung, twitched
and pulled. His body gradually grew numb. And still, while he waited,
ears pricked, eyes brilliant, Kabir refused to sleep. The moon rode in
mid-heavens before the sign came. At last the faint snores sounded like
muffled drum-taps, one--two--three--four--five. A long sigh escaped
Charmides' lips. For one blessed instant his muscles relaxed. Then he
rose swiftly, drew on his day tunic, threw about him the chlamys that
Phalaris had worn, and slipped noiselessly from the room. For a moment
after his disappearance everything remained quiet behind him. Then,
suddenly, Kabir's snores ceased, and he sat cautiously up. Yes,
Charmides was really gone. The Phœnician rose and passed over to the
door. The living-room was empty and the outer door open to the night.
Throwing on as much clothing as he needed in the mild air, the trader
hurried outside and looked about him, first towards the sea, then along
the path to the city. Upon this, walking swiftly, and already far on his
moonlit way, went the shepherd. Kabir, with a kind of wonderment at his
own curiosity, started at a half-run to follow.

Evidently Charmides was bound for a definite spot. He moved straight
along through the rank grass, gorse, and wild onion that here took the
place of near-growing daisies and sweet alyssum, and, looking neither to
the right nor left, passed along the path to the acropolis.

The shepherd was acting on what was hardly an impulse. His strange
action had been irresistibly impelled by some force emanating from his
own mind, and yet _not_ of himself. He wished to be upon consecrated
ground, in the precincts of a temple, where, it seemed to him, the
burning thirst of his imagination might be quenched. In obedience to his
guiding voice, he left behind him the temples of the hill on which he
lived, and made his way towards the abode of his patron god of the
Silver Bow, who had for years been worshipped on the acropolis, and
whose immense temple on the other hill was still unfinished. Charmides
had brought with him his lyre, again obeying the impulse, though without
any idea of how he was to use it. He accomplished most of his journey,
indeed, without thought of any kind; and not till the last, sharp ascent
up the acropolis road was begun did it occur to him that, at this hour
of the night, he might not pass the guard at the gate. The thought, when
it came, scarcely troubled him. He would go at least as far as he could.
He passed rapidly up the steep slope, Kabir following noiselessly; and,
as they drew near the gate of Dawn, the southeastern opening in the
defending wall, Charmides saw a strange thing. The guard, one of a
long-trained company for whom discovered slumber at his post meant
death, sat squat upon the ground, his helmeted head bowed between his
knees, sunk in a deep sleep. The passage into the agora was open.
Charmides and the other passed into the empty square, finally pausing
before the portico of the temple of Apollo.

A scene of supernal beauty confronted them. The great market-place,
filled from dawn to dusk with murmurous life of the city, was robed by
night in ineffable stillness. All around, the white columns rose in
shadowy beauty to their high architraves; while the ground below was
barred with fluted shadows. The warm, perfume-laden air was heavy with
the essence of spring. Below, on the sides of the hill, the city lay
asleep; and the only sound that broke the universal silence was the
distant, musical swish of the rising tide.

In the midst of this Charmides stood, half panting, his overwrought mind
in a state of blankness. Then, still passively obeying his guiding
impulse, he ascended the two steps that led into the portico of the
temple of Apollo, and, after hesitating for a moment, entered the open
door-way. By the light of the two sacred torches that burned throughout
the night by the altar of the god, the youth made his way to the
high-walled fane, within which was the celebrated statue of the Patron
of Selinous. Here, in the dim, bluish light, with the cool stillness
above and around him, and the divine presence very near, the shepherd
fell upon one knee and bowed his head in a prayer, the words of which
rose to his lips without any effort of thought on his part, and were
more beautiful than any that he had ever heard spoken by priest or poet.

When he had finished he did not rise. It seemed to him that, if he but
dared to lift his eyes, he should see the Lord of the Silver Bow above
him, in all his blinding radiance. Charmides' head swam. A cloud of
faintest incense enveloped him. His parted lips drank in air that
affected him like rare old wine. A fine intoxication stole upon all his
senses. He waited, breathlessly, for that which he knew at last was to
come. Yet in the beginning of the miracle his heart for a long moment
ceased to beat, and he swayed forward till he lay prone upon the marble

A sound, a long note, thin and bright and finely drawn as silver wire,
was quivering down from the dusk of the uppermost vault. On it spun, and
on, over the head of the listener, whose every nerve quivered beneath
the spell of its vibration. Time had ceased for him, and he did not know
whether it was a moment or an hour before the single note became two,
then three, and gradually many more, which mingled and melted together
in a stream of delicious harmony, so strange, so marvellous, that the
shepherd strained ears and brain in an agony lest he should fail to
catch a single tone. But the low Æolian chimes grew fainter after a
little while; and then, at the pianissimo, there entered into their
midst something that no man of earth had as yet dreamed of--a mighty
organ note, that rose and swelled through the moving air in a peal of
such majesty that Charmides, trembling with his temerity, rose to his
feet and looked up. Nothing unusual was to be seen in the temple room.
Half-way down, between the frescoed columns, burned the two torches
before the empty altar. Yes, and there, in the shadow of the wall, stood
Kabir, the Phœnician, watching quietly the movements of the shepherd.
Charmides perceived him, but failed to wonder at his presence. It was
natural that any one should wish to be here to-night. Yet how could any
living man stand unmoved in the midst of such a glory of sound as
whirled about him now? The lyre music rose anew to a great fortissimo,
high above the deeply resonant chords of the sky-organ. Flutes and
trumpets, and the minor notes of myriad plaintive flageolets, and a
high-pealing chime of silver-throated bells joined in swinging harmony,
finally resolving into such a pæan of praise that Charmides was carried
back to the memories of many a former dream. Shaking the dripping sweat
from his forehead, he stepped forward a pace or two, and, lifting his
lyre, joined its tones and those of his pygmy voice to the mighty
orchestra. Though he was unaware of it, he had never sung like this
before. The inspiration of his surroundings was upon him. His voice rang
forth, clear as a trumpet-call. Strange and beautiful words poured from
his lips; words that he had always known, yet uttered now for the first
time. He was drawn far from life. He was on the threshold of another
world, into which he could see dimly. There, before him, poised in
ether, shining ever more distinctly through the rosy cloud that
enveloped her, was the statue-like, veil-swathed form of a woman. Tall,
lithe, round was the shape that he beheld--the body of a woman of earth,
and yet more, and less, than that. Neither feature nor flesh could he
perceive through the radiance that surrounded and emanated from her. He
knew, in his heart, that this was a goddess, she whom his soul sought.

"Ishtar! Ishtar! Ishtar kâ Babilû!"

Once, twice, thrice he cried her name, in descending minor thirds, while
all the bells of heaven pealed round them both.

"Ishtar of Babilû, I come to seek your city! Where you are, there I
shall find you. Great Apollo, Lord of the Silver Bow, son of Latona and
of Father Zeus, hear me and heed my words: I will seek the living
goddess where she dwells in the land of the rising sun. To her I will
proffer my homage ere the year be gone. If I fulfil not this vow, made
here within thy holy temple, take thou my body for the dogs to feed
upon, and let my spirit cross the river into the darkest cavern of
Hades. Lord Son of Latona, hear my vow!"

With the last words Charmides sank again upon his knees, his face still
uplifted to the spot whence his vision had faded into blackness. The
celestial music ceased. The passionate ecstasy was gone. Weak and
exhausted in body and mind, the shepherd rose, trembling, and began to
move towards the entrance of the temple. The light from the sinking moon
streamed white through the open door. Presently, from the shadows behind
him, Kabir glided gently up to the youth, who was groping blindly

"I heard the vow," said the Phœnician, almost in a whisper. "Will you,
then, sail with us when we depart again in our galley, to Tyre, on your
way into Babylon of the East?"

For a moment Charmides stared at the man in wonderment. He was coming
back to life. Then he nodded slowly, and with dry lips answered:

"You heard the vow. You have said it."



Next morning Kabir opened his eyes earlier than might have been
expected, considering his nocturnal exercise and the hour at which he
had finally retired. Charmides was performing ablutions with water from
an earthen jar, and talking amicably, if absent-mindedly, with his
brother, who was ready dressed. The Phœnician rose hastily, and began
his usual toilet, while Phalaris, after giving him morning greeting, and
bidding the shepherd have a care not to drown himself, left them for the
more satisfying charms of breakfast.

On their way back from the acropolis, on the previous night, Kabir and
Charmides had not spoken to each other. Therefore the one question and
answer before they left the temple was the only conversation they had
had on the subject of the inspiration and its result. This morning,
then, the moment that Phalaris disappeared, Charmides set down the
water-jar, turned sharply about, and, looking searchingly into his
companion's face, asked:

"Kabir--have I dreamed?"

"Dreamed? Where? How?"

A sudden light sprang into the shepherd's face. "You were not with me,
then, last night, in the temple of Apollo?"

"Certainly I was--and heard the hymn you sang to the Babylonian goddess.
That was an inspiration, Charmides. Can you recall the words and the
rhythm this morning?"

But Charmides shrank from the question. He had become very pale. After a
long silence, during which Kabir, much puzzled, strove to understand his
mood, he asked again, faintly:

"And the vow? I vowed to Apollo--"

"To seek the Babylonian goddess; to proffer her homage before the year
had fallen, or--" The Phœnician stopped. Charmides held up his hand with
such an imploring gesture that a sudden light broke in upon the trader.
He realized now that regret for his emotional folly was strong upon the
youth, and he saw no reason for not helping him to be rid of its

"You have lost the desire, O Charmides, to fulfil that vow?" he asked.

Charmides bent his head in shamed acquiescence.

"Why, then, keep it? You may trust me. I shall say not a word of the
matter to any one. None but I saw you. The guard at the gate was asleep.
You are safe. Forget the matter, and be--" again he paused. Charmides
was regarding him with open displeasure.

"None _saw_! What of the god, Phœnician? What of the god Apollo--my

Kabir perceived the shepherd's earnestness, and the corners of his mouth
twitched. Phœnician polytheism had crossed swords, long ago, with
Phœnician practicality; and the gods, it must be confessed, had been
pretty well annihilated in the series of contests. Nevertheless, Kabir
knew very well that he could not scoff at another's religion. He was
puzzled. He tried argument, persuasion, entreaty, every form of rhetoric
that occurred to him as holding out possibilities of usefulness; but all
alike failed to move in the slightest degree Charmides' abject
determination. The unprofitable conversation was finally ended by the
shepherd's sensible proposal:

"I will lay the matter before my father this morning, Kabir, and by his
decision I will abide."

The Phœnician nodded approval. It was a simple solution of a puzzle
which, after all, did not really concern him. As a matter of fact it
would have been hard enough for him to tell why he was taking
such an unaccountable interest in this impulsive and irresponsible
shepherd-boy--he, a man who had cared for neither man nor woman all his
life through, whose whole interest had hitherto been centred in material
things. But he was, as many others had been and would be, under the
influence of the peculiar charm of the young Greek, a charm that
emanated not more from the incomparable beauty of his physique than from
the frank and ingenuous sincerity of his manner.

At the conclusion of their peculiar conversation, the two men passed
into the living-room, to find their morning meal just ready and Theron
and his son sitting down to table, while Heraia still bent over the
hearth where bread was baking.

Charmides gave his usual morning salutation to his father and mother,
and then seated himself in silence. During the meal he said not a word,
though Phalaris was in a lively mood, and conversation flowed easily
enough among the others. When the athlete had risen, however, and Kabir
was detaining the others by making a pretence of eating in order to
watch the shepherd, Charmides turned to his father and asked, boldly:

"Father, may one break a vow made within his temple to Apollo?"

Theron looked at his son carefully. "You know that he may not. Why have
you asked?"

"Because I have made such a vow. Last night, after a great vision, it
was wrung from me."

Phalaris came back and seated himself quietly at the table. Then Heraia
leaned forward, looking at her son as if something long expected, long
hoped for, had come to pass.

"A vision? Of what? Where?"

"At midnight, unable to sleep for the chaos of my thoughts, I went to
the acropolis and entered into the temple of my god. There I heard the
music of the gods, most marvellous, most incomprehensible; and there a
great vision was before me--a silver cloud in which the goddess Istar of
Babylon appeared to me and called to me. Thereupon I vowed to Apollo to
set forth into the East, seeking her to whom, ere the year be fallen, I
must proffer my homage."

Buoyed up by the pleasure and sympathy in his mother's eyes, Charmides
had spoken quite cheerfully. Looking into her face after his last words,
however, he found there something that caused his head to droop in
new-found dejection, while he waited for his father's decision. It did
not come. There was a heavy silence, finally broken by Phalaris, who
said, a little contemptuously:

"You had a dream, Charmides. You did not leave the room in which I slept
last night."

Heraia raised her head in sudden hope, but here Theron broke in:

"Nay--even if it were but a dream, the gods have more than once appeared
to favored mortals in sleep."

"But this, Theron, was no dream. I followed Charmides to the temple. It
is true that I saw no vision, and all the music that came to my ears was
made by Charmides himself, who sang an inspired hymn to the goddess. But
his vow to Apollo was most certainly made. The shepherd has spoken

There was another pause. Then Theron sighed heavily and spoke. "He must
abide by the vow. You, O Phœnician, will you take him in the galley to
your far city, on his way to the abode of the goddess?"

"That I promised him last night."

"But," interrupted Phalaris, still incredulous, "how did you both pass
the guard at the gate by which you entered the acropolis?"

"He slept!" replied Charmides and Kabir, in the same breath.

Heraia let a faint sigh that was more than half sob escape her; and
Charmides drew a hand across his brow. "You bid me go, father?" he said.

Theron hesitated. Finally, in a tone of grave reproval, he replied, "It
is not I that can bid you go. You yourself owe obedience to your patron
god and to the strange goddess that put this thing into your heart.
Though I shall lose you, though the heart of your mother is faint at the
thought of your departure, yet I dare not command you to break the vow.
Yes, Charmides--you must go."

A momentary spasm of pain crossed Charmides' young face, and was gone as
it had come. Only by his straightened mouth could one have guessed that
he was not as usual. Heraia's eyes were bright with tears which she did
not allow to fall; and even Phalaris, the true Spartan of the family,
who was a little scornful of his brother for permitting his feelings to
betray themselves even for a moment, himself felt an unlooked-for quiver
at the heart when he thought of a life empty of his girlish brother's
presence. Both he and his mother sat absently looking at the rhapsode,
till Theron, seeing danger of weakness in the scene, abruptly rose:

"Come, Phalaris, we will go down together to the galley. I will speak
with Eshmun on behalf of Charmides. Perhaps you, also, Kabir, will care
to come?"

"And I. I will work now upon the ship till she sails again. Sardeis can
take the flock."

"Eager to be gone, boy?" asked Theron, smiling rather sadly; but his
question needed no other answer than his son's expression. So,
presently, the four men left the house, and Heraia was left alone to
face this all-unexpected grief that had come to her--the loss of the
child that had made her life beautiful.

The next ten days flew by on wings--wings of grief and dread foreboding
for those in Theron's house. Work on the galley proceeded vigorously.
Down from the hills, far to the east of the city, a long, tapering
cedar-tree was brought. Its branches were hewn off, its bark stripped
away, and the bare trunk set up in the place of the old, broken mast.
New sails were an easy matter of provision, for the Selinuntians were
adepts at making them, and three days sufficed for the shaping and
sewing of these. Oars took more time, for strong wood was hard to
procure around Selinous, and only two or three men in the city had any
idea of the manner of carving out these heavy and unshapely things. The
mending of the torn bottom of the ship and the replacing of her crushed
bulwarks and sides required many days of skilful carpentry; and when all
this was done, the heavy-clinging barnacles were carefully scraped from
their comfortable abiding-place, and the good ship set right side up
once more. Finally, on the last day of April, Eshmun declared her ready
for the new launching, and sent word to all his crew that in forty-eight
hours more their journey would be recommenced, and that on the evening
before their start prayers and a sacrifice for a safe journey would be
made at an altar erected on the sands.

Charmides had worked well and steadily at the remantling of the ship;
and in this way became acquainted with her captain and all the crew,
who, when they learned that he was to sail with them for Tyre, took some
pains to show him courtesy. During this fortnight of labor Charmides'
thoughts were busier than his hands, and they moved not wholly through
regretful ways. It would have been wonderful had his young imagination
not been excited by the prospect before him, that of strange lands and
peoples, of pleasures and dangers with which he was to become
acquainted. His fancy strayed often through pleasant paths, so that
sometimes half a day went by before a remembrance of the coming
separation from his home and from his mother brought a shadow across his
new road.

The prospect of departure was, too, far easier for Charmides to
contemplate than it would have been for Phalaris, with all the athlete's
affected stoicism. Up to this time Charmides had led a lonely life; no
tastes that rendered him companionable towards others, or, rather,
holding within himself resources that enabled him to lead a life in
which the presence of others was unnecessary and undesirable. The
existence that his imagination conjured up from the lands of the unreal
had become dearer to him than that of actualities. He had created a
world for himself, and peopled it with creatures of his fancy. With
these he walked and held converse, and no one but Heraia, his mother,
could have understood how completely they satisfied his every need of
companionship. Thus he was able to take away with him almost all of his
former life; and Charmides and Heraia both realized, in their secret
hearts, that the way of another in his place would have been far harder
than it promised to be for him.

During the last week before the sailing of the ship, Charmides held one
or two long and serious talks with his father and brother. Theron, with
grave, undemonstrative affection, gave him good counsel and excellent
advice as to his dealings with men, and his behavior in various possible
situations with them. Theron was not a poor man, neither was he an
ungenerous one; and the bag of silver coins given the shepherd to carry
away with him contained enough to transport him to the gates of the
great city itself. Regarding the object of that journey, the father,
after the first morning, said not one word. He felt that Charmides knew
best what he intended to do; and it must be confessed that, despite his
piety and his reverence for the gods of his race, the Selinuntian felt
his credulity much taxed when it came to Istar, the living goddess of
Babylon, of whose existence Kabir was their single witness, and at that
a witness only at second hand, according to the Tyrian's own admission.
Phalaris shared his father's views on this point; but, to his credit be
it said, not the least suggestion of this feeling ever escaped him in
his brother's presence after Charmides' decision to go had been finally
and irrevocably made.

Kabir, in the mean time, found his admiration of the shepherd
increasing. Charmides now held many a talk with him on practical things,
and the Phœnician found his prospective companion by no means lacking in
common-sense. The young Greek very soon read enough of the other's
nature to realize that poetry and imagination held small places in his
category of desirable characteristics; and the young man ceased to lay
before the older one any pretty notions regarding sea-myths in which he
was indulging himself when contemplating the long, eastward voyage. Now
and then they spoke of Istar, and Tyre, and Babylon, which Kabir knew
well by hearsay. But legends of mischievous Tritons and dangerous
Sirens, of fair Nymphs and hideous sea-monsters, and stories of Delos
and Naxos, of Crete and Halicarnassus, the rhapsode kept for himself and
his lyre.

At length came the dawning of the last day of the shepherd's old life.
The galley was launched and ready to sail. Food and water were stowed
away on board; and the libations and sacrifices had taken place on the
beach the evening before. Now, on this last afternoon, Charmides sat
alone, a little way in front of the house, looking off upon the seas to
which, to-morrow, he was to trust himself for safe convoy to such
distant lands. It was a fair afternoon, and very warm. The rhapsode,
basking in the sunlight, felt his emotions dulled under the beauty
around him. His blue eyes wandered slowly over the familiar and yet
ever-changing scene. His mind was almost at rest. Indeed, his eyelids
had begun to droop with suspicious heaviness, when a gentle hand was
laid upon his shoulder, and he turned to find his mother at his side.

"Charmides!" she said, in a strained voice. And then again: "My

"My mother!" And she was held close in his arms, her tears raining down
upon his face, his head drawn close upon her breast.

"Charmides! My boy, my beloved, my companion! How can I give thee up?"

The shepherd stood still and silent while her hands caressed his shining
hair and her breath came and went in a vain effort to re-establish her
self-control. After two or three minutes, in which his thoughts spun
dizzily, he took both her hands in his own and lifted them to his lips.

"Mother," he said, rather brokenly, "Apollo will forgive, will release
me from the vow. I will not go away. I will not leave thee here--alone."
He kissed the hand again. "Come with me to the temple of the god, and I
will absolve myself from the vow."

Heraia drew the boy still closer, and put her lips to the hair that
clustered about his ear. "The gods bless thee, my dear one. Apollo will
hardly forgive my weakness. Nay, Charmides, I did not come here to
grieve over you, but to talk with you on many things that a mother has
in her heart to say to her children. Let us sit here together and look
off upon the sea--the sea that I must hereafter watch alone."

Thus speaking, she drew him down upon the ground beside her, into one of
the daisy drifts, and they sat in silence for a little, looking off
together over the far expanse of shimmering blue, with the turquoise
horizon-line melting into the still bluer tint of the sky above. And
when Heraia began again to talk, her tone was so low and so even that
the words seemed to her listener to mingle with the afternoon, becoming
at length so entirely a part of their surroundings that in his memory of
the scene, as his mind held it in later years, her voice was forever
accompanied by the shining of bright waters and the faint fragrance of
the carpet of flowers surrounding her.

"Your father, my Charmides, has talked with you of your long and lonely
journey, of men, the ways of men, and your dealings with them. Obey his
wishes in all these things, for his advice is that of one who has lived
long and wisely in the world. But I, dear son, must speak to you in
another way, of things which, were you not as you are, I should not
mention before you. But you are young, and you are very pure; and your
nature, with its hidden joys and hidden woe, I understand through my

"Your face and form, my Charmides, are beautiful--more beautiful and
more strange than those of any man I have ever seen." She paused for a
moment to look wistfully into that face, with its golden frame of hair,
while the boy, astonished and displeased, muttered, resentfully:

"My face is that of a woman!"

His mother smiled at his disgust. "Nay, child, thy face has the man in
it most plainly written. There is in it what women love--and it is of
this that I would speak.

"Excepting myself, Charmides, you have known no woman well; and the
feeling of a man for his mother is never his feeling for any other
of her sex. Woman's nature is as yet, I think, closed to your
understanding. In this long journey upon which you are faring forth, I
do not doubt that you will encounter women, more than one, who will seek
you for the beauty of your face. For women love beauty in men, as men
desire it in them.

"In your connection with women, whether the acquaintance be of their
seeking or of yours, remember this one thing, that I most firmly
believe: All women, all in the world, of any land, I think, have in them
two natures--one that is evil, and one that is good. It will rest with
you alone which one you choose to look upon. For there is no woman so
degraded, so lost to virtue, that she cannot remember a time of purity
which you can reawaken in her. And there is no woman so good that, for
the man she truly loves with her heart and with her soul, she will not
fall; for so men have taught them, through the ages, to love. Therefore,
my son, may the greatest of all humiliations come upon you if, knowing
what I say to be true, you treat any woman with other than reverence and
honor. For a woman who clings in dishonor to the man she loves is not to
be blamed by the gods so much as the man she has trusted. For a man is
strong and should have control over all his senses; but to a woman love
is life; and it is decreed that life is all in all to us.

"Yours, Charmides, is a white soul, a soul as beautiful as the body that
holds it. As yet it is unspotted by a single act of wrong-doing. That
you keep that soul pure throughout your life is my one prayer for you. I
give you up to the wide world--to poverty, to wretchedness, to suffering
perhaps--but in this I trust you to keep faith with me. Remember that I
hold your honor as my own. Though Apollo may not vouchsafe that I see
you again after to-morrow--ever; though the memory of me shall grow dim
in your after-life; yet remember--strive to remember always--my last
words, spoken out of my great, my aching love for you. For in these
words my motherhood reaches its end. Your manhood has begun."

She kept her voice steady, her tears from falling, till the end. Not so
the boy. When the last word had left her lips and she had bowed her head
under her weight of sorrow, Charmides could not speak for the straining
of his throat; and his eyes, brimming with salt tears, looked blindly
upon the flushing clouds. For many minutes they were silent, sitting
together for the last time, while the sunset hour drew on and the golden
shadows fell athwart the daisies, and Heraia's words sank deeper into
the shepherd's heart. Finally they rose, and moved, hand in hand, in the
deepening twilight, back through the field to Theron's house. There
Charmides passed once more through the door-way of his youth.

The evening was long and very sad. After the forlorn supper the little
group sat close together, saying little, yet loath to make a proposal of
bed, for it had come home poignantly to all of them how very empty life
would seem with Charmides taken away. After a time Kabir thoughtfully
left them and went out to walk alone in the starlight. Then the two
slaves, Doris and Sardeis, crept in and seated themselves in a distant
corner of the living-room. Doris' wide eyes were tinged with red, and
her mien was as dejected as Heraia's; for Charmides had been her comrade
always. He had helped her in her tasks, had sung his shepherd songs to
her from the fields, had not seldom procured pardon for her for some
neglect of duty. And Sardeis, the skilful but rather churlish slave, who
hated Phalaris and all his ways, and treated Theron with respect only
because it meant a whipping if he failed to do so, had never once
objected in his own heart to taking Charmides' flock from him as often
as the youth desired lazy freedom, or to performing numberless little
kindnesses for him that no beating could have drawn forth for the
athlete. He, too, on this eve of the boy's departure, was beyond speech.

After nearly an hour of cheerless silence, Phalaris, with a desperate
effort to relieve the general strain, brought out his brother's lyre and
put it into Charmides' hands. There was a little repressed sob from
Heraia, but the rhapsode's face brightened. For a few seconds he
lovingly fingered the instrument. Then, lifting up his voice, he sang a
song to the sea, a quaintly rhymed little melody, in his invariable
minor. Finishing it, he began again, improvising as he went, with an
ease and carelessness that produced wonderfully happy combinations. Now,
as always, he found consolation for every grief in his incomparable
talent. And when, after a last merry little tune that rose continually
from its first tones till it ran out of his range at the end, he finally
put the instrument away, Heraia and the slave alike had ceased to weep,
Phalaris was smiling, and Theron rose cheerfully:

"Now, Charmides, you must rise at dawn; therefore I bid you go to rest.
Be up with the earliest light, and I will go with you to the temple,
where, before Archemides, you will renew your vow and offer sacrifice of
the youngest lamb in our fold. Kabir will join us there after the
service is ended, and with him you will go down to the ship. Good-night.
The gods grant you sleep."

Before Charmides had left the room Kabir came in again, and presently
went off to his couch with the brothers.

Charmides' rest was broken, filled with dreams of far countries and with
uncertain visions of her whom he was to seek. Disconnected sounds of
music, bells, and phrases of charmed melody rang through his
unconsciousness. Only in the last hour before dawn did he sink into
untroubled slumber, from which, with the first glimmer of day, he rose.
His mind was at rest, his heart filled with peace in the inward
knowledge that what he was going forth alone to seek was no chimera, but
a marvellous reality. It was, then, with a great, confident joy written
upon his face that, at the rising of the sun, he stood before the altar
of Apollo, and, in the presence of Archemides, the high-priest,
surrounded by his father, brother, and the elders of Selinous, renewed
his solemn vow and offered prayer and sacrifice to the Olympian of the
Silver Bow.

The hour following the ceremony was painful enough. As the boy looked
back upon it afterwards, it was only a haze of tears, filled with his
mother's incoherent words, his father's irrelevant advice, Phalaris'
poor attempts at laughing at the rest: all of these things finally
ending in a choked prayer and kiss from Heraia. Her last embrace, given
as they stood upon the shore beside the little boat that was to row him
out to the galley, sent a sharp pang through his heart. He knew that his
father gently loosened her arms from his neck. He had a decided memory
of the last mighty grip of Phalaris' fingers. Then he and the Phœnician,
each with his bundle of clothes and money, stepped into the boat and
were pulled over the smooth waters to the side of the _Fish of Tyre_,
resplendent in her new rigging and furnishing.

They were the last to go on board. Eshmun awaited them anxiously,
wishing to get away at once, into the fresh easterly breeze that was
bellying out the ready-hoisted sail. Thus the pain of lingering in sight
of the city, his home, was not protracted for the rhapsode. Ten minutes
after he had stepped upon the deck of the ship her anchor was weighed,
the tiller was pushed hard down, the sails sprang full, and the shore
and rocky heights of the Greek city began slowly to recede from view.

Now came, for Charmides, twelve days of pure delight. He was alive and
he was living upon the sea, that moving plain, every aspect of which was
one of new beauty. From dawn to dusk, and back again in dreams to dawn,
he fed his mind upon the all-abiding peace, the stillness made more
still by the music of the ripples. Perfect freedom was his. He was as in
the very centre of the world, the sea around him unbroken, as far as eye
could reach, or perhaps some low-hanging, faintly olive-green cloud that
others called an island, just touching the distant horizon-line, west or
south. It was here and now, only, that the image of Istar, as he
conceived her, took absolute possession of his soul. By day he walked
with her, by night she watched over his light sleep. He talked to her,
believing that she answered him. He sang to her and dreamed of her and
prayed to her as something especially his own. Yet, near as was this
image of his mind, Charmides never looked straight upon her face
unveiled. Dimly, many times, he conjured up her features. Her eyes shone
upon him out of the spangled night, but their color he did not know. Her
cheek, smooth, warm, semi-transparent, tinted as the petal of the
asphodel, was near his lips, but never desecrated by them. And while she
thus moved near him, drawing him onward with intenser desire towards her
far abiding-place, she was forever the goddess, in that she kept him
always from all desire of a more human approach than this mystic,
half-mental companionship.

During the voyage the sailors regarded Charmides with a curiosity tinged
with dislike. Eshmun himself was at a loss to comprehend the unsociable
and idle existence of the youth, who lay all day long on the high stern,
under the awning, singing to his lyre and watching the sea. And Kabir
passed a good deal of time studying this intense phase of the shepherd's
malady, and seeking to think out its cure. Considering the trader's
eminent practicality, he conceived, with remarkable penetration, the
workings of a poetically unbalanced mind. Only he, out of all the ship's
company, cared to listen to the rhapsode's music. Only he lay awake by
night to listen to and piece together the strange words that Charmides
spoke in his sleep. But even he, it must be confessed, did not respect
the effeminate romance that could lead a grown man into such ecstasies
over a divine ideal.

The _Fish of Tyre_ took her course down the high coast of southern
Sicily, halting once at Akragas and again at the easternmost point,
Syracuse, where more water was taken on, and purchase made of a number
of jars of a rosier, sweeter liquid. Then away to sea they sailed again,
southward, round the heel of Italy, and north once more to the shores of
Mother Greece herself, stopping finally at many-storied Crete, where the
long sand-stretches on the coast yielded every year to the Phœnicians a
store of their wonderful little dye-mollusks. Leaving the city of tyrant
kings, the galley entered upon the waters that formed a setting for
those jewels of the Mediterranean, the Grecian Isles, that rose like so
many emeralds upon their amethystine waters, shot with gold by day,
lying dim and murmurous by night under the dome of lapis-lazuli pricked
with diamond stars. The galley, homeward bound, carrying her burden of
homesick men, made no halt between Crete and Cyprus, which last was, to
Tyrians, a second home. Charmides witnessed, with a little tug at his
heart-strings, the great joy of his comrades, even Kabir and Eshmun, at
once more beholding the familiar shores. A night was spent in the
Karchenian harbor, for it was but one day's journey now to Tyre herself.

During that last night, while they were at anchor, Charmides, in his
accustomed place on the deck, lay wide awake. The moon, half-grown, set
about midnight over the land. The night was still and sweet, and the air
warm with approaching summer. The planets shone like little moons, more
radiant than Charmides had ever known them before. Now and then, from
the town on shore, came the baying of a dog. The Greek's heart swelled
with a painful longing that he could not define. It was the first twinge
of homesickness, the first realization of the greatness of the world
around him, and his own insignificance within it. Istar, the goddess,
might indeed be near him; but the shepherd longed less for divinity than
for the clasp of a warm human hand upon his own.

It was better when the dawn, red-robed, came up out of the east. There
was a bustle of sailors on deck, a creaking of ropes, and a flapping of
sail-cloth. Then came the hoarse shouts of Sydyk, rousing the slaves
from their chained slumber, bidding them bend cheerily to their oars,
for the end of their eight months of agony and toil was near its end.
The little ship sped out of the friendly harbor, gallantly distancing
the waves, sending forth two hissing curls of foam off her prow, her
rudder cutting a deep, pale line in the smooth wake. As the morning star
died on the crimson of the east, the breeze freshened. The whole long
horizon was shot with rosy clouds and topped by a line of gold that
paled into delicate green as it melted towards the fair blue of the
upper sky, in which the white stars had now long since hidden themselves

Charmides let his lyre rest as he stood by one of the bulwarks watching
a bird float away from the ship, back towards the receding Cyprenian
shore. Presently Kabir came to join him, and the two sat down together,
cross-legged, on the deck. In one hand the Phœnician had brought a
platter of cooked fish and some bread, while in the other he had a small
jar of sweet wine.

"Food, my poet; food for the morning. Pray Apollo to make it sweet."

"You should be returning thanks to Melkart and Baal for the approaching
end of the voyage," returned the Greek, speaking Phœnician in rather a
subdued voice.

Kabir smiled to himself, but made no answer other than to hold out food
to Charmides, who helped himself not too bountifully. The rhapsode,
indeed, was in danger of falling into a melancholy reverie at this the
very beginning of the day. But, after ten minutes' silence, his
self-appointed friend fortunately broke in upon him.

"Aphrodite's rites you practise, Charmides. Istar of the Babylonians you
have come to seek. But our Nature goddess, our divinity of fertility and
beauty, you know nothing of. In Tyre, before you move farther to the
east, you must let me show you how we are accustomed to worship
Ashtoreth. Across the bay, on the mainland opposite the great Sidonian
harbor, she has a vast sanctuary. We shall go there together, you and I,
and you shall learn--" Kabir stopped speaking, and regarded the boy

"Learn--what?" asked Charmides, turning towards him slightly.

"Many things, Charmides, that it will be well for you to know. Will you
drink of this? And there is new bread, also."

But the Greek refused more food, and was not sufficiently interested in
the conversation begun to question Kabir further on the things that he
should learn. The sun was rising now--a great, fiery wheel, burnished
and dripping, sending its rays of dazzling drops high up the curved way,
while it came on more slowly, more surely, till it rolled clear of the
horizon, in a cloud of glorious, blinding flame.

Charmides prayed silently till the day was well begun, and sea and sky
were resolved into their ordinary hues of blue and white and gold. Then,
Kabir having gone again, the rhapsode, spent with his wakeful night, and
sorrowful at heart with longing for his distant home, lay down upon the
planks and slept. It was near noon when he woke again; and over all the
ship one could feel the vibrations of excitement at thought of the
nearness of Tyre, the home city. It should show along the horizon by
sunset, and for that hour every soul on board was eagerly, impatiently

To Charmides, standing forlornly near the prow, it appeared, at last, in
a dream-like mist of scarlet and gold. Rushing water and green eddies
and that marvellous, blinding haze mingled together and melted away to
make room for the long-dreamed-of cloud picture that rose, like a
conjured vision, out of the east. It was a mirrored city of white walls
and drooping cypress-trees that stood far out in front of the gradually
heightening coast-line behind them. It was Tyre, the city of the rising
sun, viewed thus for the first time at the day's end. It was the gate of
the new world. Charmides had stood long before its closed door, waiting,
watching for admittance. Now, at last, the key was in his hand.

"It is fair, my home," observed Kabir, coming to stand at his shoulder,
his tone fraught with suppressed joy and pride.

Charmides assented quietly. "Oh yes, Kabir. It is, indeed, fair.



Not until an hour after sunset did Charmides at last set foot on shore
and stand, in the dim evening crimson, on the western strand of the
island city. His bundle of clothing and money was on his back. His lyre
hung from his waist by a thong; and on his head, over its usual fillet,
he wore a peaked cap of crimson cloth, cut after the Tyrian fashion. He
was waiting for Kabir, who lingered to indulge in a round of chaff with
half a dozen loquacious fellows on a small barge that was just about to
put off for the galley. Kabir had, in the friendliest way, invited the
shepherd to share his own lodging at the house of his brother in the
city; but, notwithstanding this, the rhapsode felt forlorn enough as he
stood looking out across the darkening waters in the direction of his
home. It was a sudden and most untoward emotion that made the Greek
blind to his appearance when Kabir finally came to his side. For not
till the Phœnician's hand fell upon his shoulder, and the rather raucous
voice sounded close in his ear, did Charmides turn, with a start, to
follow his guide out into the streets of Tyre.

They were narrow, these streets, and twisting, and very dirty. Moreover,
though the business of the day was finished, the thoroughfares were
still a wriggling mass of litters, chariots, camels, asses, dogs, and
men. Charmides slipped through patches of filth, and stumbled over
animals that lay in his path, while he looked about him in dull
displeasure at the buildings of stone and clay-brick and dried mud,
sumptuous or wretched beyond belief, that lined these lanes. On all
sides rose the clamor of rude, Phœnician voices and the mouthing of
ungraceful words. Here and there a fire of sticks, burning in some
court-yard and visible through an open door-way, cast an uncertain light
across their path. Kabir walked rapidly, and in silence. His momentary
feeling of excitement at being again in his native city had passed, and
he had regained his usual placid indifference--the indifference that
Charmides before now had found unexpectedly sympathetic.

After nearly half an hour's walk the Phœnician halted before a very
fair-sized wooden house, and, knocking ponderously upon the closed,
brass-bound door, turned to Charmides with a slight smile, saying:

"It is the house of my brother, where I, also, make my home when I am
here. You will be welcome in my family."

Charmides had no time to make a fitting reply, for the door was quickly
opened by some one who, after peering for a moment or two into the
darkness at the waiting figures, gave a sudden, loud shout of delight
and seized Kabir by the girdle. For the next ten minutes the young Greek
stood in the background, watching the general mêlée that ensued upon the
shout. Four children, besides the half-grown boy who had opened
the door, made a speedy appearance; and they were followed by a
quiet-looking woman who manifested extreme pleasure at sight of Kabir.
Finally, out of the gloom of the interior, drawn by the hubbub of
excitement at the door, appeared a dignified and well-dressed man, who,
on perceiving Kabir, gave a quick exclamation, and, brushing away the
clinging children, embraced his brother with every sign of delighted

Half an hour later the whole party were seated in a well-furnished room,
Charmides and Kabir partaking of supper, while the Phœnicians sat close
about them, listening eagerly to the story of the long voyage, the
disaster on the rocks of Selinous, and the account of Charmides and his

"So you fare on to Babylon, stranger?" observed Abdosir, Kabir's
brother. "It is well that you reached Tyre no later. The last caravan of
the summer leaves for the East in three days, under charge"--he turned
to his brother--"under charge of Hodo, whom you, Kabir, will surely
remember. A month ago he came up from the great city, has now finished
his business, and returns homeward by way of Damascus. The Greek will do
well in his care."

"Yes, that is excellent.--Hodo! One could have asked no better master of
the caravan." Kabir turned to Charmides with a smile; but the youth sat
silent, his eyes still fixed on the face of Abdosir, his expression
containing little enough of joy.

"You have heard what my brother says," continued Kabir, in Greek. "This
Hodo is a Babylonian, and well known to us. He is a shrewd merchant and
an excellent comrade. We will recommend you to him to-morrow. If your
caravan starts in three days' time you will reach the city of Istar
easily enough in another month."

Charmides tried hard to answer this speech in a proper spirit, but he
found it an effort to speak at all. At the present moment the only wish
of his heart was that any communication with distant Babylon might be
found impossible, and that he himself might be at liberty to turn his
face once more to the west. Perhaps this mood was partly induced by
weariness. If so, Kabir knew his companion better than the Greek knew
himself; for, after finishing their meat and wine, and talking for a few
minutes with his nephews and nieces, Kabir quietly suggested to his
sister-in-law that the Greek be shown a sleeping-apartment to which he
might retire when he would, which proved to be immediately.

The room in which Charmides finally fell asleep was one that boasted of
greater luxury than he had ever known before. Walled with painted tiles,
hung with embroideries, carpeted with rugs from far Eastern looms, and
lighted by a hanging-lamp of wrought bronze, it presented to the Greek
an appearance of comfort that drew from him a long sigh of content; and
he sank to sleep on the soft couch with the name of Zeus on his lips and
the image of his mother in his heart.

He awoke alone. Kabir's bed, across the room, had been slept on, but was
empty now. The daylight about him was dim enough, but the half-light
gave no hint of the hour; for the single window in the room was scarcely
so large as a man's hand. Sounds of life were to be heard in the city
outside, and from the house around him. Once really awake, then, and
conscious of his whereabouts, Charmides rose in haste, dressed, smoothed
his hair, looked for water but found none, and proceeded with some
hesitation into the living-room. This he found to be occupied only by
one of the children, a little girl, who greeted him shyly, and bade him
eat of the food that had been left for him upon the table. Charmides, as
timid as the child, forbore to ask for the water without which he felt
it impious to begin the day, and sat down, as he was bid, to a repast of
millet bread, buffalo milk, and lentils. These things he finished, to
the satisfaction of the little Phœnician, and then looked about him
wondering what to do. It was evidently late. By a question or two he
learned that Kabir and Abdosir had been gone from the house for an hour
or more, that Zarada was out on a visit, and that, in all probability,
it would be noon before any one returned to the house. With this
knowledge Charmides sought his mantle and cap, and went forth into the
city to learn something of Tyre for himself.

Tyre by daylight was no less unlovely but rather more interesting than
Tyre at night. Charmides, accustomed to the well-ordered dignity of life
in his distant Doric city, was amazed and bewildered here, in the midst
of this labyrinth of narrow streets choked with men and animals. Having
some idea of direction, he felt no dread of losing his way, but wandered
on at will, hurried and pushed from one side of a street to the other,
always too diverted by what he saw to resent the interferences. He
chanced presently on a broader thoroughfare, one fairly well kept,
stretching in a straight line from north to south. This, as he guessed,
was the principal street of the city, terminating, as he could not know,
on the north, in the great agenorium, or open mart, east of the Sidonian
harbor, and, on the south, in the grove and temple of Melkart. Charmides
moved along up this street, admiring the solid stone buildings that
lined it on either side; watching the graceful chariots drawn by richly
caparisoned horses, and driven by men who, from their dress, were
evidently rulers in the oligarchy; and constantly annoyed by the
importunities of beggars or venders of cheap wares that were to be found
everywhere through the city, but most of all on this street. He had
walked farther than he knew, for at length he came in sight of the sea
that stretched out before him from the other side of a great, open
square running down to the water's edge.

Open square it had been, no doubt, at the time of its planning; but, in
all probability, since the day of completion, no one had ever seen it
empty. Just now, certainly, there was not a spare foot of pavement in
its entire area, and Charmides looked about him with the wonderment and
pleasure of a child. Directly before him were the shoe and sandal
venders, who occupied about a quarter of an acre of space. Shoes were an
article that Charmides had never seen worn. Their purpose was easy to
divine, however, and he fell to admiring the cleverness of their
invention and the beauty of their ornamentation. Beyond this interesting
spot came the silk and cloth merchants, then the leather venders, brass
and metal workers, and dealers in Egyptian and Sidonian jewelry. To the
left of these was the market, where grain, fish, fruits, meat, and wines
were to be had; while down the whole eastern edge of the space lay a row
of dirty, supercilious-looking camels, half of them for sale, half of
them owned by sellers in the mart.

Charmides had not yet begun to thread a path through the tangle of men
and merchandise when he felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to find
Kabir at his side.

"So you are here, my Charmides! Have you come to seek us out? Who
directed you hither?"

"I came by chance to this place, not knowing you were here. It is
wonderful! I have not seen anything like it before."

"No. Selinous certainly has no such place. Here, indeed, we are well
met. Desert needs of yours may be supplied before we leave the market.
Now, Charmides, you must be made known to him who will lead you farther
into the East. Hodo the Babylonian is with me. Hodo! Here!"

Kabir looked round and beckoned to a little fellow who had left him to
examine the goods of a cloth merchant near by. At Kabir's call, however,
he turned, and, seeing Charmides, came over to his friend's side.
Charmides beheld a small man, hardly five feet high, swathed from head
to heels in white garments of rich texture. Well as they were worn,
however, they could not conceal the semi-deformity of the little fellow.
He was altogether crooked: crooked in his legs, in his back, in his
nose, in his expression--an ugly little man with an ugly little face
that had in it a singularly infectious gleam of humor.

Hodo looked at Charmides, and his ugliness gathered and broke into a
delighted smile that transformed every feature of his face. Charmides
looked at Hodo and could not refrain from answering the smile with a gay
laugh. Thenceforward Hodo felt that he had Charmides for a friend.

"Now, Theronides, Hodo will go with us into the mart here and will tell
us what you need for the desert journey, that we may buy."

"But what things should I need? I have all necessary garments, as many
as I can carry with me, now."

"What to wear on the head for dust?" demanded Hodo, speaking Phœnician
in a deep and rather rich voice.

"This cap--and my fillet. In the heat I shall not need even those."

"Hump!" Hodo grinned, crookedly. "I have crossed the desert nineteen
times, young Greek, and I will tell you what you must wear. See--you are
a yellow man, and your skin is as thin as a Phrygian's, while mine is
like leather. Your hair is too fine to shield you at all from the fierce
rays of Shamash. There must be a square of silk to wind about your head,
and two thicknesses of muslin to protect your neck in the back. Then, if
you think me versed in desert knowledge, you will leave off that short
tunic and get a single linen garment that will cover you down to your
heels. You will want a light cloak, perhaps, for night, for comfort; but
you will not often wear it. The rains are over. Summer is upon us. None
will suffer from cold upon the desert."

Charmides listened closely to this speech, yet was not able to
understand all that the Babylonian said, for he spoke Phœnician as
thickly as a Phœnician spoke Greek. The rhapsode, therefore, turned
appealingly to Kabir, who explained the words at length; and then,
Charmides having very sensibly put himself into Hodo's hands, the three
proceeded to make the necessary purchases, for which Kabir paid, while
Charmides repaid him from his bag at Kabir's abode. On their return walk
Charmides questioned Hodo as to when and whence their caravan was to
start, and he found that it would be but two days before men and camels
assembled on the mainland, in a little square opposite the Egyptian

"And we do not go straight to Babylon?"

"As straight as will be well in this season. Damascus first, then out
and over the desert. It is the easiest route--twenty days' ride from the
gate of Six Thieves."

"And you come now from Babylon?"

"Two months ago I was there, Greek. Kabir knoweth it."

Charmides nodded apologetically and said no more. Kabir watched for the
light to come into his eyes, and waited for a certain question. But the
youth kept silent, and, after a pause, the Babylonian took the words out
of Kabir's mouth and rushed in upon the young man's thoughts.

"It is said, Greek, that you take this long journey for the sake of our
goddess, the lady Istar, queen of the gods of Babylon."

Kabir kept his eyes fixed on those of Charmides, but failed to see any
interest come into the youth's expression. Instead, a frown spread
itself over the fair forehead, and the young mouth straightened

"The object of my journey matters little," was his low-voiced reply.

Hodo's eyes stretched open. He sent a grimace of astonishment to Kabir,
and silence followed Charmides' last words. The three walked on
uncomfortably, till there came sounds of a surprising chuckle from the
Babylonian, who, as both his companions turned towards him, exclaimed,

"The thought of Ishtar brings me to another. Kabir--to-morrow, I
remember, is the day of the semi-yearly rites of Ashtoreth--at her
sanctuary on the mainland."

For a second or two Kabir did not reply. He was musing--on a subject
relative to Charmides' girlish purity. Finally he said: "Yes. The yearly
festival of Tammuz took place a month ago. To-morrow is the festival of
the virgin rites. We will go--all three. You, Charmides, shall see the
ceremonies of our Aphrodite, Astarte of the Mazzarines. She is our
Tyrian Istar."

Charmides looked at him with new animation. "Do they offer sacrifice?"

"Yes--in the grove--doves and lambs, and one young bullock. But the real
ceremony takes place within the temple. Knowing but little of our
Eastern customs, you will do well to see that."

Charmides nodded acquiescence, and Hodo chuckled to himself again. But
the silence that followed lasted till they had once more reached the
house of Abdosir.

During the remainder of that day Charmides made no remark on the subject
of the amusement promised for the morrow. Kabir tried to draw him to it
by talking of the great temples of Melkart, Baal, and the Olympian Zeus
that were on the island. But Charmides seemed to be developing a
surprising and unnecessary taciturnity, for which the Phœnician,
regarding him as extraordinarily young, would hardly have given him
credit; and, before the evening was over, Kabir was moved to consider, a
little more closely, how much depth of character really lay behind that
open and ingenuous personality.

As a matter of fact, Charmides' silence was the result of a chance
remembrance of his last talk with his mother, mingled with a prophetic
intuition of what the morrow would bring forth. When the morrow arrived,
however, and Hodo, gay in red embroideries, came with it, Charmides
appeared in his holiday garments, and seemed as ready as his companions
to set forth to the holy place.

The grove and temple of Ashtoreth, or Astarte, of Tyre, were outside the
city proper, and lay on the mainland, south of the Egyptian harbor. From
the spot where ferry-boats left one after the passage of the narrow
channel, there was a walk of nearly a mile southward to the entrance of
the grove. This was marked by open gates and two ill-carved stone
statues, the subjects of which Charmides regarded with haughty
displeasure. His first impression, however, was ameliorated by the great
beauty of the wood, where cedar and cypress trees grew at will, while
the shaded ground was kept clear of leaves and brush, and was covered
with a rare velvet turf. The coolness and shade to be found beneath the
great branches, after the pitiless sunshine through which they had been
walking, was delicious; and the Greek would willingly have given the
afternoon to wandering here, watching the golden shadows and exploring
the sinuous paths that wound everywhere before him. He did not, however,
venture to suggest this course. There was now a stream of men passing
and following them to the temple. Hodo was half running in his
eagerness, and Kabir himself had perceptibly quickened his pace. Neither
of them spoke, and the Greek was free to watch the people around him, to
marvel at the richness of their garments, the profusion of their
jewelry, and the extreme animation of their faces. He caught glimpses,
also, of three stone altars, carved in indistinguishable bas-relief,
covered with offerings, and attended by yellow-robed priestesses, with
whom, indeed, the way to the temple was thronged. It was ten minutes'
walk from the entrance of the grove before the temple itself was

A broad, low, badly proportioned building of stone, colonnaded with
pillars of Assyrian design and startlingly disagreeable to the Greek
eye, frieze and pediment carved with gross caricatures of the Phœnician
pantheon, and a sloping, square door-way of Egyptian style, was the
sight that met Charmides' eyes--the far-famed sanctuary of Ashtoreth of
Tyre. The crowd of men assembling at this door-way from every part of
the grove made it necessary to wait one's turn before entering. Hodo,
Kabir, and Charmides had difficulty in keeping together in the crush,
but finally found themselves inside.

Here was darkness, odorous with stale incense, dotted with glimmering
lights, moving with men. Once within, Kabir and Hodo performed some
prostrations and muttered a prayer or two, to the words of which
Charmides listened rather blankly. Then the three of them passed from
the entrance hall into the great room of the temple. This was lighted
from the roof by hundreds of swinging lamps; and, Charmides' eyes having
become accustomed to the softened light, he was able to see everything

The entire company of spectators halted at the upper end of the room.
Opposite them, in the farther wall, was the shrine of the goddess, in
which her statue stood. About this shrine hung bronze lamps of beautiful
workmanship, in which burned perfumed oil and frankincense. In front of
the shrine, which was paved with African marble, was a slab of smooth
granite, eight feet long, six broad, and about four in height. Around
this knelt a company of priestesses, all but one of whom were robed in
yellow. The one, whose bowed head could hardly be seen, was clad in a
single garment of white veiling; and her hair, unbound, fell in a brown
curtain to the floor on either side of her. Charmides, taking his eyes
from the group of worshippers, looked again around the room. About it,
built into the walls behind the pillars, were half a hundred dim niches,
shadowy, unlighted, of indeterminable depth, the purpose of which he
failed to divine. Except for these, the pillars, the shrine, and the
altar, there was nothing to look at in the room, for the walls were bare
of inscriptions, and there were no other statues than the one of
Ashtoreth in her sanctum.

This survey finished, Charmides turned all his attentions to the group
of priestesses at the end of the room. They were now chanting aloud;
and, from the restlessness among the company of men, Charmides decided
that the ceremony was approaching a point of interest. Presently Kabir
seized his hand and the two of them followed in the wake of Hodo, who
was eagerly forcing a passage into the front rank.

All those in the first row were, whether by chance or design Charmides
could not know, young, more or less comely, and dressed with extreme
elegance. As the rhapsode gained his new position he felt upon him the
eyes of half the company; and not a few whispers relative to his fair
skin and his fine physique reached his ears. His speculation as to the
reason for this was presently forgotten, however, for the women down the
room had formed into a semicircular phalanx, in the very centre of which
stood the white-robed, unveiled girl. Then, to the sound of a
processional chant, all of them began a slow advance up the hall towards
the orderly ranks of men. The Greek caught a new order of whispers, now,
that rose about him on all sides. Of these he understood here and there
a phrase: "Beautiful this time!" "Her hair is her veil!" "Ashtoreth will
that she choose me!" "Baal did well to let her come!" And then, as the
chant ended and the women halted ten feet from the front row of men,
every sound ceased. After a short pause the priestesses separated into
two groups, and from their midst the white virgin came slowly forth. At
her appearance every man dropped upon one knee, Kabir pulling the
wide-eyed Greek down beside him. Again there was a pause, during which
Charmides felt his heart beating uncomfortably. The maiden was regarding
the ranks of men before her. Slowly, fearfully, her eyes moved along
from face to face, their passage marked here and there by a sharply
drawn breath from some one before her. Charmides, entirely ignorant of
the meaning of this rite, watched her with tentative interest. She was
young, her face as white as her robe, her big, half-terrified eyes of a
dove-gray color. Pretty--very pretty--she was, as pretty as Doris--but
not beautiful. Charmides had, of late, been picturing too divine a
beauty to feel any tremor of eagerness before this gentle priestess of

All at once her eyes flashed to his. He drew back, earnestly hoping that
she would pass him by. But this was not to be. The gray orbs halted at
the blue ones, moved languidly over his perfect face, descended to his
shoulders--arms--body--and at last a faint tinge of red crept into her
deathly cheeks. She nodded once to him, murmuring half a dozen
indistinguishable words. Instantly Charmides felt two violent shoves,
the one from Kabir on the right, the other from Hodo on the left.

"Rise! Rise to your feet!" Kabir whispered, peremptorily.

Charmides obeyed.

"Go forward to her. The hierodules will take you."

Charmides went towards the girl. Before he had reached her two of the
other women advanced to his side and took him by the hands, at the same
time recommencing their chant. Thereupon the whole company, women and
men, began a slow march back towards the shrine. Charmides was still in
the maze of his first surprise. He walked mechanically between his
conductresses, his eyes fixed on the back of the sacrificial maiden who
moved in front of him. At twenty paces from the altar the general
company stopped. Only Charmides, the girl, and two priestesses advanced
till they stood directly in front of the shrine with the altar behind
them. Then a hush fell upon the multitude, and Charmides experienced a
sudden tremor--a dread of what was to happen next. He had no idea
whatever for what purpose he had been chosen, whether it threatened his
life, endangered his freedom, or gave promise of honor. Kabir had been
eager for him to go, however; and it was evident that many had desired
his place. At any rate, the blood in his veins was Greek--and Doric
Greek. This thought brought tranquillity, and he stood with renewed
indifference till a move was made that struck him like a blow. At a
certain phrase in the chant the two women stepped to either side of the
white virgin, unclasped the two wrought pins that held her robe upon the
shoulders, and, with a quick twist, let the garment fall to the floor.

There was an impulsive quickening in the song. Slowly the girl faced
Charmides, her head drooping, her hands clasped before her, her brown
hair falling about her shoulders. Supported on either side, she moved
towards him till her knee touched his tunic. Charmides took a hasty step
backwards, not hearing the faint sigh that escaped her lips. Then one of
the priestesses frowned.

"Take her up to Ashtoreth!" she said, pointing from the girl to the
stone altar.

Now at last Charmides understood, and he turned white with wrath. For an
instant he let his eyes rest in utter scorn, utter disgust, upon the
three women in front of him. Then he hurled at them a Greek phrase,
fortunately incomprehensible to the multitude. Lastly, unheeding the
look of abject terror that was overspreading the face of the girl, he
turned upon his heel and began to walk rapidly down the long hall to the

By this time the chant had given place to a rising chorus of
astonishment and wrath on the part of the men, and of woe on the side of
the women. Still the Greek, absorbed in his own displeasure, kept on his
way, and would presently have been outside the building, when Kabir,
darting from the throng, seized him roughly by the shoulders.

"Charmides! Thou fool! What do you?"

The rhapsode, frowning angrily, tried to shake off his companion, but
Kabir's hands were strong.

"Know you, I say, what you do?"

Charmides turned upon him. "I will not dishonor her, neither myself!" he
said, in a voice husky with repression.

"Dishonor--in the rites of Ashtoreth! Nay, you would kill her, rather,

Charmides shrugged.

"You have refused her after the presentation. That is a sign that she is
displeasing to the goddess. She will now be offered up upon the altar of
death. Her blood must wash away the shame you put on her. Her heart will
be cut out and thrown to the dogs to eat."

The young Greek shivered and stood passive. His eyes wandered aimlessly
over the scene before him. Kabir dropped his hold, but Charmides made no
move to go on. He seemed to be considering. The company was eying him in
an anxious silence that had something of respect in it. But the eyes of
the doomed girl burned upon his back in mute, despairing entreaty. Every
murmur had died away, and a deadly hush settled over the great hall. The
lights burned calmly from above, and the odor of fresh incense became
overpowering. Still the shepherd did not move. One instant more and
Aris, the high-priestess, would send the order for the sacrificial
knife. The Greek's thoughts wavered vaguely between his mother and his
own natural instincts of purity on the one hand; and, on the other, the
exigencies of the Phœnician religion. The struggle was fierce. Heraia's
memory was infinitely dear, and the Greek idea of manhood strong within
him. Still, death--death was terrible to his mind; and the death of this
young girl--

His meditations were interrupted here. Something had suddenly clasped
his feet, something lay twisted on the floor before him. A white body,
half covered with the long locks of dishevelled hair that flowed from a
lowered head, lay there on the stones. Two strained arms caught at his
knees. A faint voice, choked with the tears of despair, was begging
incoherently for the life that he could give. All of a sudden he melted.
He bent his head, drawing a long breath of resignation. Then he stooped,
lifted the girl in his arms, and carried her rapidly over to the altar
of Ashtoreth. And the great bacchanal that followed upon his act the
youth neither saw nor heard.

       *       *       *       *       *

Kabir and Hodo were both of them abjectly respectful to Charmides next
day. For all his defeat, the youth had been left their master, and he
knew it. The name of Ashtoreth was not spoken before him in Abdosir's
house; no mention ever after did either Phœnician or Babylonian make of
the affair of yesterday; and in one day more Charmides had looked his
last upon the city of the sea.

It was in a state of mental chaos that Charmides began his journey to
Babylon. In the glare of midday the long row of well-watered camels,
heavy laden with riches of the West, swayed to their feet, on the
mainland of Tyre, and turned their heads in the direction of Damascus.
Charmides had said good-bye to Kabir an hour before, and now sat his
animal with an eager light in his eyes and a clutch of regret in his
heart--desire for the new, love for the old. He tried hard that day to
fix his mind on the great object of his journey, the goddess of Babylon,
whom he was so soon to see. But all things around him were new, all
things fair, and soon he gave up the attempt at abstraction to watch
what went on around him. Far ahead, upon the foremost camel, was Hodo,
the leader of the caravan, who, with his desert costume, had also donned
an undeniable dignity of demeanor. Before and behind Charmides, in the
very centre of the line, sat solemn Orientals whose nationality he did
not know. Far to the right stretched flat, fertile fields of grain. To
the left, at no great distance, the river Leontes flashed a tumultuous,
sunlit course down to the sea. Eastward, in front, rose an uneven line
of jutting hills, bathed in the luminous, tranquil light of intensely
pure air. The day was hot, the motion of the camel so far rather
soothing. Charmides' turbaned head drooped. His eyelids closed. Thoughts
of Istar were mingled with memories of the white virgin. Presently,
then, he fell asleep.



Five days later the camels of a shortened caravan passed out of the
Hittite city and turned their faces towards the southeast. It was early
morning. Before them the sky was radiant with promise of the coming of
the lord of day. Behind them, Damascus slept. Far to the right, a mere
olive-colored shadow on the horizon, was the line of verdure that marked
the course of the river Jordan, the eastern boundary of Phœnicia.
Ahead, and on every side for endless miles, in infinite, sparkling,
yellow waves, stretched the desert, a vast, silent plain of death,
dreaded by man and beast; a foe that Assyrian armies had found
more terrible than all the strength of Egypt; that Babylon in her
mighty decadence knew to be a safer guard against plundering
hoards than all her towering walls; that the wandering Hittites,
Damascenes born of the burning sand, themselves would not venture
upon at this season of the growing year. And into this, light-hearted,
went Charmides the Greek, for the final proof of his steadfastness,
 the final trial of his strength, for which the reward was to be
a sight of the great goddess--Ish-tar--kâ--Bab-i-lû.

Now, indeed, at this early hour, when night's sweetness had not yet been
dispelled, Charmides, bareheaded, sat smiling at the sunrise, at the
novelty of the sand-plain, at the steady, awkward trot of his camel, at
the solemnity of the turbaned Babylonians before and behind him, and at
Hodo's crooked little figure at the head of the line. There were twenty
camels, well packed with articles of Tyrian and Damascene manufacture,
and a man to add to each load. On the back of every animal, where the
sight of it would not continually tantalize the desert traveller, hung a
water-skin, still dripping from contact with the well, but not to be
replenished for five weary days. Before their departure, Hodo had
explained to the Greek the best hours for, and the most satisfying
methods of, drinking; for these things had been reduced to a minute
system by traders, in seasons when wells might go dry and water was in
any case scarce. In consequence of his instructions, and the
determination to obey them rigidly, Charmides found himself from the
very first in a state of thirst. In the freshness of the morning this
was not difficult to bear; but by noon, when the whole sky blazed like
molten gold and the desert was a plain of fire, the desire for drink
increased till it became a torture before which he weakened and fell. He
took more than a cupful of water from his skin before the tents were
pitched for the mid-day rest, and he felt himself an object of censure
for the entire caravan; though, in truth, there was no trader of them
all but had done the same thing many times, before long training had
hardened him to endurance.

This caravan was the last to cross the desert that year; and the heat
bore with it one compensation. The strong guard of soldiers, or
fighting-men, that generally accompanied a caravan to guard it from
plunder by the wild desert tribes, had been dispensed with. The
forefathers of the modern Bedâwin were not hardier than their
descendants, and they made no dwelling-place in the Syrian desert at
this season. It was, indeed, dangerously late for the passage; and each
succeeding day brought a fiercer sun and shorter hours of darkness. The
rest at noon was long, but there was no halt at all by night. Oases
wells were low, and there must be no lagging by the way. Hodo held daily
council in his tent with the three eldest traders, to make sure of the
best course to keep, and to save the few miles possible to save. At one
of these conferences, some days out, the man that rode behind Charmides,
Ralchaz by name, spoke to Hodo of the young Greek, suggesting that
Charmides was bearing the journey hardly, and would need care if he were
to cross the desert alive. Hodo, a little conscience-smitten with the
knowledge of neglect, hastened off to the tent occupied by Charmides and
two of the younger men. Here he found that it was, indeed, high time to
attend to the rhapsode's condition.

Charmides was lying, face down, on the rug that covered the sand in the
tent. Motionless, his body rigid, his hands clasped in front of him,
making no sound, breathing inaudibly, he lay; while at a little distance
his two companions, Babylonians, squatted together over their meal of
locust-beans, bread, and dates, now and then regarding the youth with a
kind of wistful helplessness.

Hodo, scarcely looking at the other two, ran to Charmides' side, knelt
by him, and, placing a hand on his shoulder, cried out:

"Charmides! Charmides! Speak! What demon of sickness has got you?"

He spoke in Chaldaic, using the idiom that a Greek would not understand.
The entreaty, however, had its effect. Charmides made an effort, rolled
upon his back, and looked up at the master of the caravan. Hodo gave a
quick exclamation of dismay and cried out:

"Tirutû! Bring me some water!"

One of the men sprang to his feet. "Gladly! Yet he will not drink."

"Not drink! Allât help us! Why?"

"He has emptied his own skin and will not accept of water from ours."

Hodo nodded his understanding. "Go, then, to my tent, and bring one of
the skins of extra water, together with a jar of the wine of Helbon--and
see that you move like Râman!"

Charmides understood not a word of this conversation, but he surmised
its trend, and essayed to say something in Phœnician. Coherent speaking,
however, had become impossible; for his tongue was swollen out of all
shape, and his mouth was on fire with fever. Hodo laid a gentle hand
upon his forehead, smoothed the hair back from it, noted the inflamed
and pitiable condition of the wide, blue eyes, the brilliant fever-flush
that burned upon the fair cheeks, and his face grew graver still.

"The journey will go hard with him," he muttered.

Tirutû presently returned with the damp pigskin on his shoulder, and a
small, glazed stone flask in his right hand. Ustanni, the second of
Charmides' fellow-tentsmen, was already at Hodo's side with a bronze
cup. This they filled with a mixture of water and wine, and then Hodo,
lifting the Greek's head upon his arm, held the drink to his lips.
Charmides' nostrils quivered like an animal's. The tears started to his
eyes, and there was a convulsive working of the saliva glands in his
mouth. For one agonized moment he resisted the temptation; and then,
with the abandon of a creature half crazed, he drank at a gulp all that
the cup contained, and begged guiltily, with his fevered eyes, for more.
Hodo let him take all that he wanted. Then food--bread, dates, and
cooked sesame--was fed him. Next his eyes, rendered almost useless by
the desert glare, were rubbed with a balm brought from Hodo's tent,
which reduced their fever and inflammation in a miraculous way. Two
hours later, at the forming of the caravan, Charmides' camel was led out
and fastened next to Hodo's at the head of the line; and when the Greek,
walking more easily than for three days past, came to mount, he found a
full water-skin strapped upon the animal's back, and two little jars of
Hodo's rare wine balancing each other on either side of its neck.
Venturing to remonstrate feebly at this lavish generosity, the rhapsode
was silenced by a flood of angry eloquence from Hodo, who finished his
tirade by saying:

"Drink as often as yours is the desire, for I tell you this truly:
Shamash is pitiless to those who pray not to Mermer; and, in drinking of
his gift, you will do honor to the god of Rains. I will not leave you
behind me in the desert, Charmides; and yet I cannot carry your dead
body on to Babylon. Therefore you will do well to live. For I think that
the Lady Istar will be displeased if, when you are so near, you desert
her for the Queen of Death. So, Charmides, again I bid you drink; shut
your eyes to the sun; eat and sleep as you can. See that you heed these
words." And with a little chuckle at his own advice, Hodo mounted his
beast, and, after the usual tumultuous rising, with many shouts and much
wielding of his hide-whip, set the caravan once more in motion.

For forty-eight hours more Charmides, making a strong effort, stubbornly
refusing to admit that he was still sick, made an appearance of recovery
from his indisposition. He talked with Hodo, asking welcome questions
about trade, life, and home. He spoke to those members of the caravan
from whom hitherto he had held aloof. And he made a desperate effort to
learn from the leader a few phrases in the Babylonish tongue. This last,
however, proved a Herculean task. The Greek race was notoriously the
least apt of any nation at learning foreign tongues. Phœnician had been
difficult enough; but when it came to the harsh, thick accents, the many
syllables, and the curious construction of this other language, the
language of the people of Istar, Charmides found it an apparently
hopeless task, from which, in his present condition, he shrank

The desert days crept on. The hours from red dawn to redder twilight
were filled with fainting prayers for night and darkness. And when night
came, and with it the golden moon, it seemed that the heat scarcely
lessened; for up from the yellow sands rose a burning stream of
day-gathered fire that made the very camels wince, and called forth many
a smothered curse and groan from the long-seasoned men. Yet these nights
were wonderful things. The high moon overshadowed all her lesser lights,
so that the sky around was strung with few stars; but these glittered
with dazzling radiance against their luminous background. And when the
dread dawn approached, and the moon grew great on the western horizon,
balanced by the long, palpitating lines of light in the east, the sight,
to any but desert travellers, was a thing to pray to. Charmides, indeed,
in spite of his condition, did marvel at the miracles of the sky. But
his lyre was heavy in his hands, his voice too cracked for song, and he
could but sit, drooping, on his camel, head throbbing, body on fire,
drinking in the golden fire, and wondering vaguely if he should ever
find the Babylon that he sought, or whether Apollo had destined him for
a different and a higher place.

Another besides the Greek had begun to speculate on the same subject.
Hodo, with his Babylonish idea of the dreary after-life, watched his
charge with an anxiety and a grief that betrayed a surprising affection
for the youth. Though Charmides suffered no longer from thirst, though
Hodo's own food was prepared for him, though the best camel in the
caravan was at his disposal, he grew weaker and yet more weak, and his
fever increased till the desert sands themselves were no hotter than his
skin. On the eighteenth day of the journey Charmides was lifted from his
animal at the noon halt, talking incoherently of Selinous, of Heraia, of
Kabir, and Apollo. He showed no sign of recognizing Hodo and the pitying
traders that clustered about the tent where he lay. Rather, he gave them
strange names which they had never heard; he talked to them in his own
language; and he tried continually to sing in his cracked, harsh voice.
Hodo watched him doubtfully for a time; then his lips straightened out
and his crooked face grew grim. He dismissed every one from his tent,
and set himself to watch over the sick man alone. Gradually Charmides
sank into a drowsy state, and, five hours later, when the camels were
reloaded and placed in line for the long night march, he was still but
half conscious. Hodo had him lifted upon his camel and strapped there,
since he showed himself unable to sit upright. A moment or two later the
cry for the march was given, and the little procession started forward
at its usual trot. Next morning Charmides lay limply forward upon his
animal's neck, in a state of irresistible coma; and Hodo mentally
prepared to bury him there in the sand before another dawn. All day,
indeed, the Greek hovered on the borderland of death; yet, since he had
not passed it when the halt was ended, he went on again with the rest in
the late afternoon.

For twelve hours now the rhapsode had been unconscious. It was, perhaps,
the sudden renewal of motion, after the mid-day rest, that roused him.
At all events, the caravan was scarcely moving before his eyes lost
their glazed stare, and he half closed them while he looked about him.
It was a pleasant hour of the afternoon. Behind him the sun was nearing
the horizon, and in the sky overhead floated two or three feathery
shreds of cloud--a gladsome sight. With an effort, in which he
discovered how very weak he had become, the rhapsode turned himself till
he lay in such a position that he could watch the sunset. He had almost
an hour to wait--a long, hot, drowsy hour, during which, however, he did
not drop back into torpor. As the sun sank, a ridge of white, billowy
clouds, such as are almost never to be seen in those skies in summer,
rose to catch the falling globe. And when the fire reached them,
Charmides quivered with delight to see the flood of color--scarlet and
purple, and pale, pinkish gold--that ran over the white mass. A valley
between two of these lofty hills received the central stream of
blood-fire, and on this blinding spot the Greek fixed his eyes and
gazed, till his brain reeled with the seething glory. When the sun had
left the world and the other lights grew pale, this one place retained
all its brightness. The watcher was too feeble even to wonder at the
phenomenon; nor did he marvel when, out of this bank of fire, a figure
began to resolve--a figure human in form and yet most splendidly divine.
There was a face that glowed with the hues of the evening, framed in
short, waving locks of auburn red, still fiery with the sunset, and
crowned with a circlet of silver stars that burned radiantly through the
coming dusk. Then Charmides perceived that all the clouds had formed
into a flowing garment that enveloped the body of the apparition. When
the glow was quite gone, and purple shadows had stolen softly through
the whole sky, the mighty figure stood out clearly and more clear, till
every fold in the royal vestment was distinct, till the two bright
streaks that had stretched out on either side of the shoulders had
become wings of silver, and the patch of gold low on the right was a
lyre, ready-strung. The vision was complete. Charmides, now but half
sensible, scarcely noting the cool breath of the descending night,
watched and thirsted for what he knew must come.

He had not long to wait. As the first, faint star came out into the
evening, the heavenly figure moved, floating in stately swiftness upon
his outstretched wings towards the wormlike caravan that crawled across
the sands. And as he moved he lifted the lyre, drawing his hand across
its strings. Charmides gave a faint gasp. It was as if his body had been
plunged into a running stream. Allaraine's music swept across his
senses, now in the faintest, long-drawn vibration, that drew the soul to
one's lips and let it hang there, seeking to follow the flight of the
sound; now in broad chords that swept like the storm-wind over the
plain; again, melting into melody that bore one to the shore of the
sunlit sea. The Heavenly One played on while the shepherd, in helpless
ecstasy, lay back, unnerved and numb, held to the camel only by the
thongs with which Hodo had bound him there. It was a long time, though
how long the rhapsode could not tell, before he was roused by a warm
thrill, to find that the bard of the skies floated beside him, one of
the effulgent wings spreading out over his body, the light from it
bathing his whole figure in a stream of strength-giving fire. And even
in his amazement Charmides wondered why he heard no sound from any
member of the caravan. All was still around him. Star-spangled darkness
was over them all. The moon had not yet risen. Hodo was nodding on his
camel, and many of the traders were in their first sleep. Only he, only
the Charmides whom they had thought dying, was awake to welcome the
messenger of the gods that honored them by his coming. The Greek, lying
under the shadow of the silver wing, felt that a prayer or some other
fitting acknowledgment of the presence should be made. So he struggled
to an upright position and raised his face to that of the god. Slowly
the star-crowned head turned to him, and a pair of deeply glowing eyes,
filled with benign pity, and great with suffering, looked upon the
youth. Charmides' lids fell shut in sudden, ecstatic terror, and, while
his head was bent, he felt upon his hair the touch of the god. Instantly
he fell back. Then, once upon his left eye and once upon his right, came
the imprint of the divine mouth. With the kisses blackness rolled over
him. His spirit slept.

Morning, clear, cloudless, infinitely stifling, swept over the desert.
Hodo, who had drowsed through the night, lifted his head and looked
about him, trying to define the sense of weight at his heart. He
realized it presently, and, reluctant with fear, turned and looked
behind him. Yes. The dread was justified. Charmides lay white and limp
upon his camel. They must bury him that day under the yellow sand of
this godless waste. Hodo's crooked little face screwed up spasmodically.
Then he gave the long, quavering cry that meant, "Halt the caravan."
With some little difficulty the camels were reined up, and all watched
Hodo make the dismount and run to the side of the animal on which the
Greek was bound. Then they understood; and a long, low, minor wail, the
greeting to death, rose from every throat. It stopped with extreme
suddenness when Hodo gave a sudden shout of amazement. Every trader saw
Charmides suddenly sit up, and a few directly behind heard his voice,
stronger than for a week past, cry to his friend a Phœnician greeting.

"Charmides is not dead!" shouted the leader, in unmistakable delight.
"It is a miracle! He is well again! The fever is gone!"

The rhapsode smiled, and spoke his thanks to Hodo for all the past care;
but of how he had been made well he said not a word, for he knew that
the miracle had been for him alone. At the noon halt the merchants one
by one came up to him, pressing his hand to their breasts and giving
every expression of friendly joy at his recovery. And fully recovered he
was, indeed. During the succeeding days his fever did not return; nor
did the long hours of the march tire him as hitherto. He returned now to
the tent that he had at first occupied; and, as he ate and slept with
his Babylonish comrades, he tried again, with more success, to acquire a
few phrases in the new tongue. He found his companions willing and
patient teachers. And, truly, patience was necessary. The lips that
could so aptly form the melodious syllables of the most beautiful of
languages were awkward beyond belief at mouthing out the thick words and
strangely constructed phrases of the Semitic tongue.

In the days that followed his recovery Charmides passed the hours of the
march in profound reveries, which, as the days went by, became troubled.
One afternoon, after long deliberation, he made his way to Hodo's tent.
That little fellow was sitting cross-legged on a rug, drinking khilbum
from a bronze cup, and blinking thoughtfully at the stretch of yellow
sand before him. Hodo gave cordial greeting to the Greek, proffered him
wine, and then sank once more into silence. Charmides disposed of his
beverage at a draught, and, after a little hesitancy, looked at his
companion and asked:

"Hodo, how many gods do thy people worship?"

The Babylonian looked up quickly. "Twelve--of the great gods, without
Asshur, whom the Assyrians brought among us, besides many demons, many
spirits, and Mulge and Allât of the under-world. Why do you ask?"

"Because I would learn which it is among your gods that is winged with
silver, crowned with stars, dressed in a purple vesture, and carries in
his right hand a lyre of gold."

Hodo screwed his face into a puzzled knot. "Stars--wings--purple
vesture--lyre--I do not know. Never have I heard that any of the gods
carried a lyre. It is not an instrument much known to us. In the sacred
scriptures Bel is said to carry a staff, and I have seen him on the
walls of the temple with wings. So also Namtar flies. But the rest--how
do you know these things?"

"This god appeared to me in a dream," replied the rhapsode.

Hodo found nothing to say to this, and Charmides also was silent. The
Babylonian refilled their wine-cups, and, after they had been emptied,
the Greek rose and left the tent, unsatisfied, yet deterred by an
indefinable feeling from talking further on the subject of the vision.

So the weeks went by, and the moon waned and grew young again, until,
upon the twenty-first day after leaving Damascus, they were but
forty-eight hours out of the Great City. That afternoon, just after the
start was made, when the camels, after more water than usual, were
moving briskly over the sand, Charmides' eyes, wandering to the distant
horizon, encountered something that set his heart wildly throbbing.

"Hodo! Hodo!" he shouted. "It is the city! Look! The Great City!"

From Hodo, in front, there came, after a minute's look, a ringing laugh.
"Yes, it is the ghost of the false city. We see it often here in the
desert, as we see lakes and trees that are not. Truly it is a strange

Charmides heard him incredulously. Before his eyes was certainly a
vision of mighty walls, and square towers, and gates, and many-roofed
palaces outlined against the heat-blurred sky. They kept their places,
too, seeming to grow more and more distinct as the caravan proceeded.
The rhapsode closed his eyes and opened them again. It was still there.
Yes, he could now see the groups of palm-trees and faint outlines of
olive foliage around the walls; and presently, when a broad, blue river
was to be seen winding its way from east to west through the plain,
Charmides turned on his camel and called to Tirutû behind:

"Is not yonder city indeed Babylon, Tirutû?"

But the trader smiled and slowly shook his head, and Charmides, half
angry and wholly unconvinced, turned again to the sight that entranced
him. Clear and straight, for ten minutes more, it stood out against the
sky. Then, of a sudden, the city vanished in one quiver, and, where it
had been, only the dark horizon-line, straight and unbroken, stretched
away as usual. Charmides was sad that the dream had vanished; but he
could laugh at himself when Hodo turned to look at him with good-natured
amusement. Still, the picture remained with him, and came to seem, in
after years, his first impression of the far-famed city that was to be
his home.

The march that night was more rapid than usual, and the halt next day
not made till the heat was past bearing. At the noon meal mirth ran
high, and wine and water were drunk with an abandon possible only to men
who had for three weeks practised a cruel restraint. Twenty-four hours
more would bring them to Babylon, and already they were on the borders
of civilization and fertility.

On this day Charmides sat apart from his companions, feeling no desire
to join in their loud joy. When finally the company lay down to rest,
the Greek felt that sleep was impossible for him, and he went off alone
to the little tent where formerly a guard had been stationed, but which
was empty now. Here he sat down upon the sand and let his thoughts hold
unbridled sway. For he was standing on the threshold of his new world,
and he could not but pause for a moment to think of all that he had left
behind him. It was a melancholy time, but not a long, before Hodo's
voice was to be heard giving the signal for the last mount. Quickly the
tents were struck and bound upon the camels; and then the little
procession moved away towards the line of green that bounded the yellow

By morning they found on all sides fertile fields of grain, already
ripening. And Charmides' sand-weary eyes rested with untold delight on
the rows of wheat, millet, and sesame, barred here and there with little
streams of water conducted from the broad canals that ran everywhere
through the land, and filled all the year round by the great
mother-stream, Euphrates. Now and then the caravan passed a mud-village
set in the midst of a broad field of grass where goats, sheep, and
bullocks herded and donkeys and camels were tethered side by side. The
people of these villages were of the lowest Chaldaic type, nearly black,
thick-lipped, large-nosed, and short of stature. Charmides regarded them
with dismay. He had seen one or two negro slaves brought from northern
Africa to Mazzara, and they had seemed to him less than human. Were the
men of this new race all like that? Presently, however, they came upon a
reassuring sight. The caravan passed one of the large stone wells that
stood in the middle of a grain-field. From it a buffalo, at work in his
rude tread-mill, was drawing water, and beside the animal, clothed in a
long, white garment, bearing a tall jar on her head, one hand upraised,
the other on her hip, stood a slight girl with a skin almost as white as
Charmides' own. Her eyes and hair were shining black; but as Charmides
looked at her she flashed a smile at him, showing a set of pearly teeth,
and, a moment later, laughing aloud, a pure, ringing laugh, that in some
way set Charmides into a cheery frame of mind for the rest of the day.

He came afterwards to know that it was not a native of Babylonia whom he
saw at the well, but one of a captive race resident in this Eastern land
since the year when the city of Solomon fell before the armies of the
great son of Nabopolassar. But there were Babylonians also as white as
the Jews, their Semitic blood having at some time been mingled with that
of Aryan races, Persians, Elamites, or, perhaps, Assyrians, whom a
thousand years of a colder clime had materially bleached.

This last day became fiercely hot, but no noon halt was made. Each man
munched a piece of bread and a handful of dates, and drank a cup of
goat's milk purchased on the way, and the camels were given twenty
minutes' rest and an armful of fodder in the shade of a palm grove near
a canal. Then the march was eagerly resumed, for, even now, many miles
away, the gigantic walls of Nimitti-Bel, the outer wall of the city,
were to be seen towering up on the horizon. At four o'clock they passed
through Borsip, the suburb of Babylon, towards which Hodo cast loving
eyes, for it was his home. But it was night before they entered the open
gateway of Nimitti-Bel, that incredibly gigantic structure, the fame of
which had spread over all the East; and it took nearly an hour to
traverse the sparsely inhabited space between that and the smaller,
inside wall, Imgur-Bel. And before they had reached this, Hodo, turning,
called to the Greek:

"We sleep to-night outside the gate of Bel. It is too late for admission
to the city. The sun has set."

Charmides nodded an absent-minded acquiescence. His thoughts had been
stunned by the first glimpse of this tremendous city, and the chaos in
his mind was too great for him to pay attention to any trivial remark.
Hitherto his measure of magnitude of buildings had been the new temple
of Apollo at Selinous, with its length of four hundred feet, its width
of two hundred, its columns more than fifty feet high: this for a
temple, the third largest in the Greek world. Now he was confronted by a
wall, a wall of defence, forty miles long, two hundred feet from base to
summit,[4] and of such a thickness that upon its top two four-horse
chariots could pass with ease. Watch-towers, in which guards lived, rose
higher still from the great wall, that was open in a hundred places,
each opening provided with a gate of wrought brass, which was closed
from sunset to dawn.

As the caravan neared the inner and lesser wall and approached the gate
of Bel, Charmides saw that before it was a square space, well paved and
arranged with stalls and booths, in which a goodly number of people
evidently purposed passing the night. Each of the hundred gates was
provided with a sort of customs bureau, where all goods to be sold in
the city were appraised and taxed according to a fixed tariff. From this
petty fee cattle, grain, and fruits were not exempt; and, since the
officer of taxes was off duty from sunset till sunrise, it frequently
occurred that, on a market or festival day, each rébit, or square before
a gate, was occupied through the night by those that wished to enter the
city early in the morning.

As the line of weary camels came to a final halt, and the score of
wearier men dismounted for the last time, there was one general, short
cry of thanksgiving, in which Charmides joined as heartily as the rest;
and then Hodo sought him and took him by the arm, drawing him along the
square as he said:

"We will sup together, Charmides--yonder."

In a corner against the wall an enterprising merchant had set up a small
restaurant of clever design, where hot wheaten cakes, roast goat's
flesh, and cooked sesame, together with various fruits, flasks of
fermented liquor, jars of beer, or flagons of goat's milk might be
bought at a very reasonable price. Charmides rejoiced at the sight of
food, for he was spent with the heat and the journey. And he offered to
change one of his silver pieces for such of the food as Hodo and he
desired. But this the little Babylonian would not have.

"This night is the last, my Greek. Eat with me. Many a use there will be
for that silver of yours. On your first night within Nimitti-Bel you
shall be my guest."

Then Charmides tried to thank his friend once more for all the voluntary
and unlooked-for kindness that had been shown him since the caravan left
Tyre. It was with difficulty, indeed, that the rhapsode found words
fittingly sincere for his gratitude. But, long before he had finished,
Hodo, with a little, deprecating gesture, stopped him.

"You shall not thank _me_, Charmides," he said, sadly. "Rather bless
those gods that gave you a face so fair and a personality so gracious
that he who comes in contact with you cannot but love you. Truly, youth,
I am loath to part with you; and I hope that you will not rise so high
that in after-time your eyes will be above the level of mine."

Charmides' reply to this was simply to press the other's hand to his
brow. Then, the two having finished their meal, they wrapped up their
cloaks for cushions and sat down, with their backs to the wall, to watch
the sights in the square. Charmides held his bundle on his knees, and
his lyre lay beside him on the ground. He was bareheaded, and, as he sat
in the shadow of the wall, his face was indistinguishable to the
passers-by. Hodo was silent, and Charmides felt no inclination to talk.
His eyes wandered over the busy square, from which a clatter of
talk was rising. To the Greek, looking on, it seemed as if a hundred
nationalities were before him, so different were the faces, dress,
and manners of the men and women passing on every side. Here a
heavy-bearded, coarse-clad goatherd, with his flock around him, lay
already asleep. There a company of market-girls, bare-headed, in loosely
fluttering robes, stood gossiping together or laughing at the little
date-merchant opposite. Before the gate were half a dozen soldiers with
permits for entering the city after hours, quaffing beer, or the heavy
liquor of the date-cabbage, from their helmets. Farther away a
donkey-boy was beating a refractory member of his drove into submission;
while, in the very centre of the square, the group of camels belonging
to Hodo's caravan lay gazing loftily at the scene before them, their
self-satisfied faces showing no trace of the fatigue that three long
weeks upon the desert sands must surely have brought them. All these,
and infinitely more, the rhapsode watched with increasing interest. New
arrivals were frequent, and the square gradually became massed with

"To-morrow is the eleventh of the month," observed Hodo, suddenly, from
his reverie. "There will be the procession of Nebo and Nergal, and,
later, a feast in the temple. That is why _so_ many of the country-folk
have come."

Charmides nodded assent. He was watching some one of whom he had caught
sight three or four moments before--a young girl, making her way through
a drove of donkeys and sheep. She was accompanied by a single large,
white goat, that followed her closely, and to which she paid but little
attention, seeming sure of its faithfulness. Barefooted, long-haired,
raggedly clad, and very young--a mere child of fourteen or so--she was.
Yet, as Charmides watched her, he found something in the quiet droop of
her eyelids, the pathetic curve of her mouth, and the pallor of her
tired face that stayed in his mind through the whole evening. She
lingered for a moment or two outside the great gate. Then one of the
soldiers, catching sight of her, left his companions to open a small
inner door that led into the city. Through this the goat-girl passed,
and Charmides once more turned to his companion, who was saying:

"Where do you go to-morrow, Charmides?"

The Greek paused to consider. Finally he answered, rather doubtfully: "I
do not know. I seek Istar of Babylon."

Hodo smiled, pityingly. "And after that--?"

Charmides shook his head. "I do not know," he repeated.

"Charmides, you will do well to come with me and stay with me for some
days, till you have learned the ways of Babylon. Will you, then--"

But the Greek quickly shook his head. "Again I thank you, Hodo. You are
good to me. But Apollo, my Lord, watches over me; and the god of the
golden lyre has made me well. With them I shall enter Babylon. With them
I go before Istar. Say no more."

Hodo accepted the decision without further protest. Indeed, he rather
believed Charmides to be, in some respects, a little more than human. At
any rate, after a few moments more of watching the still-moving throng,
he wrapped his cloak about him and lay down upon the stones. Charmides
shortly followed his example. And then, beneath the towering walls of
the Great City, Charmides, in his dreams, knocked again upon the gate of

Book II




As the first yellow streaks of the false dawn paled in the east on this
morning of the eleventh of June, the city of Babylon awoke. And by the
time that Shamash had come forth from the world beyond the Euphrates,
the city streets were alive with men, women, and animals. An hour later
these were fixed in two long phalanxes, twenty rows deep, on either side
of the Â-Ibur-Sabû--King Nebuchadrezzar's sacred way, that stretched,
from the gate of Bel on the south side of the city, northward as far as
the sanctuary of Istar. Half-way along its course this street, or
boulevard, ran through the great square of the gods, that was to-day the
centre of interest; for here, upon the right hand and upon the left,
were the temples of Nebo and Nergal, whose feast-day this was. The great
religious procession of gods and men was to pass from the second
monastery of Zicarî southward across the canal of the Ukhatû to the
temple of Istar, where they would enter upon the Â-Ibur-Sabû, and so
pass directly down to the temples where the sacrifice was to be
conducted by the high-priests of the temples of Bel, of Marduk, of Nebo,
and of Nergal, in the presence of the Lady Istar, the gods her brothers,
the king of Babylon, and the king's son. The day was an annual holiday
in the city, whose three million inhabitants were now, apparently, every
one of them struggling to obtain the best position on the Â-Ibur-Sabû,
just at the entrance of the square of the gods.

The noise in this part of the city was such as only a vast, good-natured
crowd can make. They pushed and elbowed, and indulged in guttural
altercations that commanded too speedy mirth from by-standers ever to
result in an actual quarrel. Frequently a commoner, driving his
bullock-cart down some side street towards the main thoroughfare, would
be hauled from his place to see his vehicle led back to a distant point.
Men and women on donkeys, however, were permitted to trot on unmolested;
for the little, mouse-colored creatures found a passage where their
riders would have been wholly at fault. Now and then a drove of goats
passed down the sacred way in a cloud of dust, their owner doing a
thriving business in the way of selling milk from his animals to the
thirsty throng. Venders of eggs, ready-cooked grain, fresh water,
fruits, and sweetmeats added their long-drawn, half-incomprehensible
cries to the general clamor; while at frequent intervals a squad of
cavalry or the chariot of a nobleman clattered along the Â-Ibur, causing
the people to scurry from beneath their hoofs, but never making the
slightest move to draw up for unfortunates.

The sun rose higher, and the heat grew stifling. Water-sellers emptied
their skins so rapidly that the liquid had no time to cool by
evaporation before it was taken, in its tepid, nauseous state. The
morning was well advanced. Children began to cry with fatigue, and men
and women alike became impatient for the procession. But by the time
Charmides reached the temple of Nebo there was still no sign of its

The Greek had slept late, under the shadow of the great wall; and when
he awoke the sun was well up, Hodo was nowhere to be seen, and the rébit
was empty of those that had passed the night there. Charmides arose with
a very hasty prayer to Apollo, performed some ablutions at the public
well, and then, his heart beating high with long-delayed curiosity,
passed the gate and went into the Great City.

He entered directly upon the Â-Ibur-Sabû; and the distance from the gate
to the square of the gods was not great. Plenty of people were moving in
the direction of the temples, and presently the rhapsode, a little
bewildered with their number, wholly interested in their appearance,
halted on the right hand of the street, beside a building, to watch
those around him for a little while. He remained at his vantage-point
for some time, regarding with interested eyes all that passed. Finally,
however, the sight of a young girl, tall, lithe, straight, with
brilliant eyes and dark skin, brought him back with a start to his great
object, the quest of Istar. In passing, the girl flashed an impudent
little smile at him, and on impulse he ran forward, to ask her in his
own way how to reach the temple of the goddess. Whether by instinct,
intuition, or divine Providence, the girl understood what he said; but
her quick answer was unintelligible to him, and he had only her gesture
to go by. That, however, commanded him to keep to the north, and he
started eagerly forward in that direction.

Fifteen minutes' rapid walking brought him to the edge of the dense
crowd that bordered the square of the gods. Here the people bewildered
him. He felt the heat intensely, and, incidentally, had become both
thirsty and hungry. There was food and drink enough on all sides of him
for sale; but the youth felt disinclined to offer a piece of his
Sicilian money in exchange for a breakfast; not on account of any
penurious notions, but because, utterly ignorant as he was of Babylonish
coinage, he dreaded Babylonish curiosity or the ridicule that might be
expressed on presentation of such foreign coins as he had. Therefore he
wavered on the outer edge of the crowd, chafing with impatience,
extremely uncomfortable, and still afraid to make known his needs. The
throng was dense, and the Greek by no means tall enough to see over the
many heads in front of him. Therefore whatever might be going on in the
square beyond was quite hidden from his view. Presently he trod, by
mistake, upon the fringed tunic of a man beside him. Turning to offer an
apology, his eyes suddenly fell upon a face that seemed familiar--so
familiar that he made an effort to remember where he had seen it before.

After all, it proved to be only the little goat-girl who had been in the
rébit on the previous evening. This time, however, the child saw him;
and she seemed to find something in his face that kept her eyes riveted
on his for a long moment, and then sent them drooping, till he could see
the pretty, olive lids and the long, black lashes; while at the same
time a wave of crimson swept up and over her face. Then Charmides
discovered that, after all, he knew something of women. He felt at once
that from this girl there would be no ridicule for him. The goat was
still with her; and, as he went quickly to her side, he perceived, round
the creature's neck, a metal cup on a string, the purpose of which
vessel he was not slow to guess.

The girl waited for Charmides, and pushed her goat away for him with
evident pleasure. As he halted, her big eyes were upraised, and her look
travelled ingenuously from his sunlit hair over his burned face down to
his roughly sandalled feet. Then she watched him open the little
money-bag that he had drawn from his bundle. From it he extracted a
silver piece, stamped with the parsley sprig of Selinous, and, holding
it out to her, he pointed from the cup on the goat to his own lips and
then back to the animal again. The business was done. Baba, disregarding
the proffered money, knelt down beside the docile animal and obtained
Charmides' belated breakfast with a practised hand.

Charmides drank the warm milk with relish, and, the cup emptied, placed
his coin inside it and returned it to the girl. She took it with a shy
smile, that suddenly vanished when she perceived the silver. Picking up
the coin, she examined it for some seconds. Then, while Charmides looked
on uneasily, Baba opened a pouch at her side, extracted therefrom a
handful of small, copper disks, and held them out to the Greek, saying
something to him at the same time. He shook his head and smiled at her
as he accepted them. They were all alike: little scraps of stamped
copper, which he afterwards learned to be _se_, the smallest of the
Babylonish coins.

The chief matter of the moment thus satisfactorily concluded, the Greek
lingered still at Baba's side, debating on the advisability of
questioning her further. She seemed not disinclined to conversation, and
as he glanced at her furtively he found her eyes again fixed upon his
face. He answered the look, and then, with the usual effort, said, in
the thick way of the Babylonians, the one word:


Baba appeared to understand him at once. "Belit will come to the square
of the gods and the temples there in the sacred procession," she said,
pointing at the same time to the north along the Â-Ibur-Sabû.

Charmides understood the gesture, not the words; and, thanking her in
his own language, he left her, not without a vague hope that he might
find her again some time. As he strode away he did not know how
longingly Baba's eyes followed him; how for a few steps she crept after
him, this new god with the hair of gold, and how at length, abashed by
the thought of her own boldness, she sat down beside her goat and
addressed a fervent prayer to Lady Istar to send peace to her thoughts.

Meantime the object of this homage was hurrying down a narrow street
that ran westward; and, having a good notion of localities and distance,
he succeeded in skirting the crowd on the square without much
difficulty, and in reaching the Â-Ibur-Sabû again a little farther to
the north. Here, indeed, the throng seemed denser than ever; and here,
as Charmides now guessed, Istar herself would come in procession with
the gods and priests this very morning--nay, within the hour. With the
thought his heart beat furiously, his throat grew dry, and his eyes were
dim. His head swam with emotion as he started to edge a way through the
mass of people. Not a little to his surprise, he found this easy to do.
The people voluntarily gave place to him, staring in wonder at his
beauty, his bright hair, and the shining lyre that he carried in his
hand. Ignorant as he was of the gigantic system of superstition that
formed the foundation of the Chaldaic religious life, he still
concluded, vaguely, that they were regarding him as something more than
human, all these people that inclined a little as he usurped their room.
As a matter of fact, he had been identified by some as one of the
Annunâki, or earth-spirits; by others as one of the band of Îgigî, or
heavenly beings, come among them to-day to do honor to his lords and
theirs, the great gods of civil administration and of learning, Father
Nebo and his son Nergal.

Here was Charmides at last at his journey's end, standing in the heart
of the Great City, upon the Â-Ibur-Sabû, the ziggurat of Nebo on his
right hand, the house of the high-priest of Bel opposite, the broad
Euphrates winding through the sunshine far in front, and, somewhere to
the north, moving towards him from her holy temple, Istar, the living
goddess of the city of kings. It all seemed a dream to him now. The
miles that lay between him and his home had put him into another life,
still unreal, but always more and more tangible as he looked around and
moved and breathed. The great multitude hardly caught his attention. He
wished himself free to think under the spell of the new world. But now,
far up the street, could be seen a whirling cloud of dust, in which
low-moving forms were all but hidden. These presently resolved into
three droves of animals--goats, bullocks, and sheep for the sacrifice,
driven by eunuchs of the temple. The horns of the bullocks were gilded,
and the necks of the smaller beasts were twined with wreaths of
flowers--just as the hecatombs of Zeus were ornamented at home.
Charmides watched the flocks pass with joy at his heart. The familiar
sight made Babylon homelike to him. His fingers sought the strings of
his lyre, and he hummed to himself a genial little tune, that ceased
when there rose about him a murmur of exclamations, followed by a quick
silence. Charmides turned his eyes to the north. There again was dust;
this time gleaming with brass-work and glinting with trappings of
horses. Into the silence came a distant sound of cymbals and wooden
flutes. The great procession was moving--was coming. _She_ was
coming--Istar--the Lady of Babylon--the Divine One.

The crowd on either side of the street voluntarily pressed back to allow
a wider space for the passage of the gods. No one was speaking now, and
Charmides himself was breathless with expectation. The wavering
dust-cloud advanced towards the square, and the blare of trumpets grew
louder, yet the procession seemed barely to move. Distant shouts of
praise and acclamation could be heard, and there was a short, silent
struggle for place. That was all. Everything waited.

Presently a phalanx of men, marching in excellent order and at a rapid
pace, resolved from the dust and passed the house of the high-priest.
These wore the regulation priest's tunic of white muslin; but they had
no goat-skins on the shoulder, and the knives in their girdles
proclaimed them slayers of the sacrifice. They were, in fact, Zicarû, or
under-priests, from the monastery below the temple of Nebo. Behind them
came a chariot, in which stood one man, a tall, muscular fellow, dark
and bearded, with the goat-skin over his left arm, a golden girdle about
his waist, and a rosetted tiara on his head--Vul-Ramân of the great
Bit-Yakin,[5] high-priest of Nebo, and, next to Amraphel of Bel, the
most powerful official of the priesthood. Behind him, borne on the
shoulders of six Enû, or elders, and surrounded by a group of sixteen
anointers (Pasisû), and officials of the libation (Ramkû), was the great
bronze statue of Bel-Marduk, the father-god of the city, before whose
passage the people bent their heads and prayed. After this idol came his
priest Amraphel, ruler of the Babylonish orders, in his dazzling
chariot, wearing a leopard-skin over his cloudy tunic. Charmides looked
into the face of this man, and in the one glance experienced a curious
sensation--a sense of evil that he never quite forgot.

Now there came an apparently endless string of temple-servants, priests
in chariots, and little gods carried by their worshippers. Also there
were groups of prophets (Asipû), dream-interpreters (Makhatû), and the
great seer Nâbu-bani-âkhi. Charmides watched them all go by without
great interest, for his expectation was becoming keener. Each moment he
thought to perceive, in the distance, _her_; and by the heart-throb that
followed the thought he knew that he should recognize her presence from
afar. As time passed, however, he began to grow fearful lest, after all,
she was not; lest Kabir, first, and afterwards Hodo and the rest, had
spoken falsely, had deceived him, had brought him to this great, lonely
place, out of his world, with no hope of return, and no prospect in
life. The thought brought a spasm of fear to his heart. Yet--yet--there,
up the line, was a great burst of music from a band of musicians that
surrounded a new, dazzling chariot, in which stood a solitary figure,
clad--Charmides turned faint and shut his eyes. Then, hearing shouts of
acclamation, he opened them again, fearfully, and looked up to behold--a

The first feeling was wholly of bewilderment. Then, as the rhapsode's
eyes saw more, they forgot to fall. If Istar of Babylon was a man, at
least he was one to look upon with wonder. Never before had Charmides
beheld so imperial a face. Never had he imagined such features. The
skin, as compared with his own, was very dark; yet it was whiter than
that of any other Chaldee. Black hair, cut almost short, clustered about
the head. The face was smooth-shaven, after the custom of the royal
house; and, though Charmides could not see it from where he stood, the
eyes were blue--the deep, purplish blue of a storm-cloud. The man wore
the dress of the priesthood, yet it went incongruously with his bearing.
Power and the habit of command stood out in every line of his figure, in
the Zeus-like poise of the head, in the hand that controlled the two
powerful black horses which drew the chariot along. If this were
Istar--well, Charmides could hardly regret. So much he muttered aloud,
in Phœnician. To his amazement, the words were answered from behind him:

"That is no Istar, fool! That is Belshazzar, the prince royal, the
tyrant of Babylon."

"And Istar--the goddess!" cried the Greek, turning to the man that

"The creature Istar? She comes," was the frowning reply made by the
hook-nosed, ill-kempt man at his shoulder.

Charmides said no more. His pulses were throbbing violently. At a little
distance he perceived a new vehicle, a triumphal-car, at the approach of
which the great masses of people to the right and left sank, as a man,
to their knees, bowing to the dust. Charmides raised his eyes and beheld
her sitting upon the broad platform of the car. And as he looked, as he
knelt, even as his brow touched the ground, Charmides knew that he had
not been deceived, that rumor had spoken truth, because more than truth
could not here be spoken. Yet when she had passed, the Greek did not
know her. He had not seen so much as a line of her figure. She swam in a
glory of light that radiated from herself. Her head had been crowned,
yet with what he did not know. His heart and head were afire, and he
heeded nothing more of the procession. Most of all, he did not hear the
words of the man behind him, who had knelt with the rest at the approach
of the car, because fear of death is a great leveller; but had the words
that he muttered been heard and understood by the populace, it is
doubtful whether all his influence had saved his life from them.

"Asha confound this instrument of evil! Yahveh's wrath light upon her
soul! God of Judea visit her with the fires of Sheol!" And then the
former servant of Nebuchadrezzar the Great rose and turned away through
the crowd. Charmides later sought vainly for his Phœnician-tongued
informant, whom men to-day call Daniel the prophet.

While the Greek still stood, dazed and stupid, his head swimming with
the delight of knowing her actually to be, the procession passed, and a
great multitude of people swept along at its heels towards the temple
square. Any attempt to force a passage through that packed throng would
have been useless. This Charmides perceived at once, and presently, as
the crowd melted away from where he stood, he turned and began to walk
slowly towards the north, along the Â-Ibur-Sabû. In the street there
were not a few people who, like himself, had felt it useless to try for
a place to see the sacrifice, and, the procession over, were on the way
home, perhaps to some family festival. But Charmides saw little enough
of those around him. His feet moved mechanically while his thoughts

He had seen her--he had seen Istar. The object of his journey was over;
and yet--to leave Babylon now, without knowing more of her, was
impossible. He felt that while Babylon was the shrine of such a being,
in Babylon he must worship. Sicily, his friends, his mother, were now
become things of another life--things fair and dear to think upon, but
for which he no longer yearned. Istar, far above his reach as she was,
yet made his interest, his religion--in fine, his home--in this new

It was while such thoughts as these were mingling in his heart that the
Greek found himself brought to a halt. He had come to the end of the
famous street that terminated in a square nearly two miles north of the
temples of Nebo and his son and the square of the gods. On the edge of
the new square Charmides paused and looked around him. Beside him, to
the right and to the left, were two large buildings of the usual brick,
low-roofed, and surrounded by walls in which the great wrought bronze
gates were shut. Through their bars he caught glimpses of fair gardens
filled with flowers of brilliant hues and shaded by flowering bushes and
tall date-palms. But in these places there was no sign of life; nor was
any living creature to be seen on the flat roofs that served, in
Babylon, the purpose of summer living-rooms. On the right-hand side of
the square stood what was unmistakably a temple. Here, on the top of the
broad platform, and again on the steps ascending it, and about the open
doors of the holy house, several people moved, while others were dotted
on the broad incline that ran around the outside of the ziggurat, or
tower, without which no holy building was complete, and which stood,
campanile-like, to the left of the temple itself.

Glad of company, even that of total strangers, and seeing that the
platform stair offered opportunity for a much-needed rest, Charmides
moved wearily across the square, mounted a step or two, and sat down
with a long sigh of relief. Near him were three or four people--venders
of various commodities suited to the place. An old man held between his
knees a basket of small, clay bricks, inscribed with Accadian prayers.
Close to him was a scribe of a semi-religious order, ready provided with
cuneiform iron and a supply of kneaded clay. A little beyond, a street
water-carrier had stopped to rest, with his heavy pigskin beside him.
Nearest of all was a young girl, holding on her lap a basket of
nosegays. The picture in itself was pleasing; but Charmides soon
discovered about it something that interested him much more. This was
the sight of half a wheaten loaf and a handful of dates that lay, nearly
covered with a bit of cloth, in a corner of the flower-basket.

The nourishment in Charmides' early breakfast of goat's milk had not
served to keep up his strength so long as this, and now the sight of
solid food made him faint for it. He hesitated a little what to do; for
he could not be sure whether what he saw were the girl's noonday meal or
the remains of it. Having gazed long and eagerly, however, at the loaf,
he suddenly lifted his eyes to encounter her own--very pretty ones they
were--fixed on him with a mixture of curiosity and admiration. Thereupon
courage born of hunger came upon the rhapsode with a mighty rush. He
rose and went over to the side of the flower-girl, and, taking from his
bag the coppers given him by Baba, he proffered them all to the
flower-seller. Smiling till she showed a very pretty set of small, white
teeth, she picked up all her remaining bouquets and held them up to him
in both hands. Charmides looked at them lovingly, but shook his head.
With surprise written in her face, the girl put them down again and
seemed to wait for him to speak. Thereupon Charmides seated himself
carefully on the other side of the basket, put one finger on the wheaten
loaf, pointed to his mouth, and looked inquiringly at his new friend.
She understood instantly, and, laughing, took up the food and set it
before the Greek.

While he ate they talked--in the universal language of primitive sounds
and gestures. And so skilful at this occupation did the two of them find
themselves, that Charmides shortly learned how the girl had partaken of
her noon meal some time before, and that he was quite welcome to what
was left of it. Hereupon the rhapsode spread out all his _se_, nine of
them, in a neat row, and suggested that she take as many as the bread
and fruit were worth. The maiden hesitated over this part of the affair,
but, as Charmides was quite firm, she finally picked out three of the
coppers and put them in a little pouch hanging from her girdle; and
Charmides perceived, without much thinking about it, that this pouch was
the counterpart of that from which Baba had that morning extracted his

During his meal, which Charmides caused to last for some time, his eyes
were much employed. He was making a careful scrutiny of his new
companion--one so very careful that, in the interest of it, the awe and
fiery enthusiasm excited in him by the sight of Istar was gradually
dispelled. Thus he came gracefully down to human interests, and
discovered that this Babylonian maid was rather more to his taste than
any Doric Sicilian he could remember.

In very truth, Ramûa of Beltani's house, the flower-girl of the temple
of the great goddess, was a goodly sight for tired eyes. Young and fresh
of color, sweet of voice, and modest of demeanor she always was. To be
sure, her long tunic was colorless, old, and much patched. Her pretty
feet were bare, and her only head-covering the long, silken hair that
was plaited and coiled round and round her shapely head. But it had been
a pity to hide those glossy locks under the rarest of coronets. No
jewels that she could have worn would have rivalled her eyes in
brilliancy; and as for the small, brown feet--Charmides surveyed them
covertly with unique enjoyment, and could not remember to have seen a
sandal fit to grace them.

Musing in this profitable fashion, the rhapsode finished his meal, and
invested another _se_ in the purchase of a cup of water from the
water-seller. This he proffered first to the girl, who refused it with
exceeding grace, and a very definite hope in her eyes that the sunny
Greek would not yet depart. Evidently he had ideas of so doing, for,
returning to her side, but not sitting down, he once more pronounced his


"This is her temple," was the quick reply, as Ramûa pointed to the top
of the platform.

Charmides caught hopefully at the gesture. "This is the temple of Istar?
The goddess will return here?" he asked, uselessly, in Greek.

Ramûa smiled at him.

Charmides felt irritated and helpless. He looked from the girl to the
temple, and back again. Then he paused, wavered, might perhaps have
cursed in his own tongue, and finally sat down again where he had been
before. Silence ensued. Ramûa played in a very unbusiness-like way with
a flower, till she had spoiled it. Charmides, more stolid and less
concerned, stared out upon the sunny square and down the far stretch of
the Â-Ibur-Sabû, from which far-distant sounds of music came faintly to
his ears. Gradually he fell into a noonday reverie, from which he was
roused by Ramûa, who, hoping perhaps to attract his attention, had
lifted his lyre and was running her hand over its strings. Charmides
looked up at her in surprise, and at once she held the instrument out to
him, motioning him to play. Nothing loath, he took it, stood up, and
turned to her. For a moment his hand wandered among the strings. Then he
found the melody he sought, and sang it to her in full-throated,
mellifluous Greek--the myth of the Syracusan nymph, Arethuse, and
Alpheus, the river-god.

The flower-girl listened spellbound to such sounds as she had never
heard before; and, on stopping, Charmides found a group of pedestrians,
attracted by his song, standing near at hand behind him. One of them, a
stiff-robed, high-crowned nobleman, tossed him a piece of money at the
conclusion of the poem. Charmides took it up with a momentary impulse to
throw it back at the man. Prudence, however, came to his aid, and, after
a moment of inward rebellion, he accepted the coin, realizing that
chance had just shown him a way for a future livelihood. He might,
perhaps, have sung again, but for an interruption that claimed the
attention of every one around the temple.

The noise of distant trumpets had become much louder, and two specks
afar down the Â-Ibur-Sabû had by now resolved themselves into a
two-horse chariot and the car of Istar--both of them coming towards the

Charmides' heart bounded as he distinguished the radiant figure that sat
upon the golden platform of the divine vehicle. So he was to see her
again--now--so soon. This time, if she passed him closely, she might
even see him. And if her eyes should fall upon him--_had_ she eyes? Had
she features and organs? Was she, in fact, anything but a mystic vision
that people saw dizzily and turned from, half blinded? He glanced down
at the flower-girl by his side, and it came over him with a rush of
pleasure that she was human and susceptible to human emotions.

Istar's car approached the platform steps. It was followed by the
attendant chariot, in which Charmides once more beheld Belshazzar, the
"tyrant of Babylon," whom at first sight he had reckoned as a demi-god.
As the car stopped, the prince leaped from his place and went to stand
near the goddess as she alighted. The little company of people that had
assembled to watch Istar's arrival, bent the knee. Charmides alone
remained upright--why, he could not have told. Certainly it was not from
lack of reverence. His eyes were fixed upon the form of Istar, while
with all the strength of his mind he strove to pierce the veil of
impenetrable, dazzling light that hung about her like a garment. As she
rose from her sitting posture, Charmides looked to see her slaves offer
assistance in her descent from the high place. But the eunuchs at her
horses' heads did not move, and Belshazzar stood motionless on the first
step, his head slightly bowed, but his strange eyes fixed as eagerly as
Charmides' own.

Presently the goddess was beside the prince. How she had descended,
Charmides did not know. He seemed to have seen her float down a shaft of
light to the ground.

After performing the proper obeisance to their lady, the people rose, as
Istar, with Belshazzar at her elbow, began to ascend the platform steps.
Charmides could see that her feet moved, yet they barely touched the
bricks. He did not know, however, that a year ago she had had no need
for steps. As yet, it had never even been whispered by any man that she
was more than formerly of earth.

One, two, three stairs Istar mounted. The young Greek was choking with
excitement. In another moment she would be abreast of him--nay, was
abreast of him, had ceased to move, had turned her head. Belshazzar, on
the other side, halted in astonishment. Charmides' heart stopped. He
found himself looking into a pair of great, unfathomable eyes that gazed
into his own with the light of all knowledge. At the look, courage,
confidence, and an unspeakable joy took possession of him. Without
amazement he heard her speak to him in his own tongue.

"Welcome, thou Charmides, to Babylon! I had word of your coming when
Allaraine banished thy desert fever, in order that the Great City, and I
in it, should know thy voice."


"The journey has been long, and has taken patience and fortitude."

"The way has been but a dream of my goddess. Long ago, through Lord
Apollo, I beheld thee."

"Yes--in the temple of Selinous--that dedicated to Apollo, who is
Allaraine to me. Charmides, you have no home in Babylon. Will you take
up an abode in that of the flower-girl beside you?"

Charmides made no answer in words. Turning a little towards the young
girl, who stood, pale and wide-eyed, on his right hand, he smiled at

Then Istar also turned to Ramûa, and spoke in Chaldaic: "Thou, maiden,
take you at evening-time this stranger home to the house of your mother,
Beltani, and keep him there as he were one of you; and in return he will
bring you great happiness. This is my wish."

Ramûa fell again upon her knees and bowed her head upon the clay bricks.
She was incapable of speech; but the flush of crimson that had
overspread her face told Istar that the command would not be unwillingly
obeyed. Then the goddess turned again to the Greek.

"Charmides, go thou home to-night with the maiden here. Her name is
called Ramûa, and she is of her mother Beltani, that is a widow. At
sunset, when her flowers are gone, follow you after her. And again you
shall come to me in my temple and play to me the music of your lyre. You
have heard the chords of Allaraine of the skies. They shall come again
to you to fill your heart with peace, and you shall be the most
wonderful of all musicians in the Great City. Let, then, far Sicily,
vanish forever from your mind."

Charmides bowed low. His tongue was tied with awe. He knew not what
reply to make to her. When he lifted his eyes again she had passed, and
was floating like a silver cloud across the great platform towards the
open portals of the temple. Thereupon the Greek turned his face to
Ramûa, and, as he clasped her hand in his and saw her black eyes lifted
up, he laughed in his heart with joy of the Great City, and what he had
found it to hold for him.



The temple of the Lady of Erech,[6] in Babylon, was the smallest of the
eight temples consecrated to the worship of the twelve great gods. This
temple contained but three parts--the entrance hall, the great hall of
the sacrifice, and, at the farthest end of this room, the inmost shrine,
or holy of holies, where the statue of the god was generally kept.
Besides these, there were half a dozen little places, hardly more than
niches, where the priestesses and hierodules could don sacrificial
garments. At the end of the great hall, in front of the rich curtain
that hid the door of the inmost shrine, and behind the sacrificial altar
and the table for shew-bread, was the Parakhû, or mercy-seat, from which
the god, generally in spirit, it was thought, was accustomed to hear and
answer the prayers of his worshippers, to perform miracles of healing,
and to accept offerings. Here, each day, Istar was accustomed to sit for
an hour, hearing many plaints, listening to many woes, learning much of
the piteous side of the lives of men and women of the world. And from
this place Istar had delivered many an oracle. Here, too, she cogitated
painfully over the sins of mankind, which were all incomprehensible to
her. She, who was alone of her race on earth, sorrowed most over the
loneliness of others--those that mourned a friend dead, a lover lost, a
child in far-off lands--because this grief she could in some measure
understand. But though the face of the goddess was always sad when she
left the mercy-seat, the brilliance of her aureole was more bewildering
than ever, for pity quickened her divinity continually to fresh life.

Behind the temple of worship was the building in which Istar dwelt. It
was a little labyrinth of small, open courts and narrow, dimly lighted
rooms. Nearer to the dwelling-place than to the temple, on the same
platform with them both, was the ziggurat--that most characteristic
feature of Babylonian architecture. On top of it, in the centre of the
space used by astronomers and astrologers attached to the temple, was
the little room devoted to the person of the goddess. It was here that
she was supposed to sleep by night when wearied with the labors of the
long day. Istar's chamber on her ziggurat was rendered almost
unapproachably sacred by the fact that here she had first been found;
here she was supposed to have undergone her incarnation; and probably
here she would resume intangibility, when her period of life on earth
was over. In point of fact Istar was devoted to this little place.
During the hot summer months she generally stayed within it from sunset
to dawn, perhaps asleep, perhaps fled in spirit to other regions. The
place had been fitted up with incredible costliness, and was kept in
scrupulous order by servants consecrated especially for the work, who
entered it only at stated periods when its mistress was absent.

On her return from the long ceremonials attendant on the sacrifice to
Nebo and Nergal, Istar went to the mercy-seat at once, for it was past
her accustomed hour. There were few suppliants for pity to-day. Babylon
had just propitiated two of its great gods with a wholesale slaughter of
animals, and the people doubtless felt that for a day, at least, they
might rest from the continual round of religious duties, relying
meantime on the newly invigorated power of Nebo and Nergal to protect
them from the legions of hellish and earthly demons that beset life with
such innumerable ills.

Istar's hour was not long to her. Her thoughts were centred on
Charmides, his young, sunny presence, and the light of wonder and
worship in his face when she had spoken to him. She had seen that he
carried his lyre with him; and she dreamed of the day when he should
come before her and sing as none other but Allaraine could sing.
Meantime his face was before her and would not be banished, although in
the shadows before the altar stood another man whose presence had long
been part of her surroundings, towards whom she felt--if indeed she felt
at all--as towards no other human being; whose whole presence was as
perfect a contrast to that of Charmides as could well be imagined. It
was Belshazzar, who, since matters of government did not much hold him,
had, in the last months become Istar's shadow. He lingered about the
temple whenever she was there; he followed her over the city in his
chariot when she went abroad; at sunset he ascended the ziggurat, to
stand outside the curtained door of her sanctuary, unable to see her,
but feeling her presence. When she was near him his eyes were not always
upon her, yet her slightest movement never escaped him. And at such
times a kind of divinity--a reflection, perhaps, from her--was thrown
about him, till it had once or twice been said that the prince, like his
goddess, moved in a silver cloud. Whether or not it was possible
that Belshazzar--Belshazzar the tyrannical, the dissolute, the
fierce-tempered--had by dint of will-power and persistence been able to
pierce the veil that hid Istar secure from all mortal eyes, it would be
impossible to tell. Istar herself did not know. But now, as many times
before, she wondered vaguely if her unearthly powers would or would not
hold her from the understanding of this unholy man.

The mercy hour over, two attendant ûkhatû approached her with the
purifying water and her white garment for the evening. Istar washed away
from her own person the sins and sorrows of her suppliants, suffered the
robe to be laid over her shoulders, and then sent away the women,
forbidding the temple to be lighted till she was gone from it, and
commanding the dismissal of the two that prayed near the basin of the
sea. So, presently, she was alone in the vast, shadowy room with
Belshazzar, who still stood, silent, immovable, arms folded, head
slightly bent, beside the shew-table, his storm-blue eyes fixed in a
side glance on her face.

Istar rose and descended from the high place, and then moved slowly in
her floating way to Belshazzar's side. There, a few inches from him, she
halted, and, putting forth her hand, laid it lightly on his arm.

A tremor of intense feeling shot through him. He shook for a moment as
with palsy. Then, raising both hands in the attitude of prayer, he
uttered the one word--"Belit!"

Istar regarded him with a kind of curiosity. "Bel-shar-utsur," she said,
lingeringly, with a suggestion of hesitation. Again the prince trembled.
"Bel-shar-utsur--wilt thou follow me?"

"To the kingdom of Lillât, if my goddess asks," he answered, quickly, in
a maze of confused delight.

The light of her divinity burned brighter round the figure of the
goddess, and she made a slight gesture for the man to walk beside her.
He obeyed with an eagerness that was tempered by a peculiar,
half-resisted reluctance which Istar perceived but did not understand;
for the soul of this majestic body was unknown, utterly unknown to her.

Together, however, they left the temple and passed across the deserted
platform, which was still flooded with sunlight, till they reached the
foot of the ziggurat. Here Belshazzar halted with a quick breath and an
inaudible exclamation. Istar, turning a little towards him, gave him a
wondering glance.

"You fear?" she asked, hardly knowing how to voice her idea.

And Belshazzar, he who had in his youth, in pursuance of amusement, swum
the Euphrates lashed to the back of a wounded crocodile, now raised his
hands again, saying imploringly: "O Belit!--I fear!"

"And what? Is it I?"

He bent his head.

"Belshazzar--come thou and teach me."


"Yea, for there is much that I must know. There, on the ziggurat, where
the air is sweet, where we shall be nearer the silver sky, thou shalt
learn the purpose of my earth-life, and shalt tell me how to attain it;
for I of myself know not the way. Come."

This time Belshazzar obeyed the command without hesitation, silently.
Together they made the ascent of the broad, inclined plane that wound
round and round up the tower. The man's steps were swinging and
vigorous; yet, walk as rapidly as he would, the goddess kept always a
little ahead of him though she made neither effort nor motion, except
that now and then she touched her feet lightly to the bricks. At the
top, opening from the broad gallery that ran round the building of the
tower, was the low door-way that gave entrance to the holy of holies,
Istar's shrine. There was no one on the height to-day, though ordinarily
at this hour several ascended the ziggurat to watch the ascent of the
goddess. Rejoicing in the solitude, Istar leaned over the south parapet
of the wall, and looked out upon the light-flooded city, while
Belshazzar, in a dream, waited at her shoulder. After a little while she
turned, and, pushing aside the leathern curtain that hung across the
door, conducted the prince over the threshold of the sacred place.

It was a wonderful room. At the time of the coming of Istar, indeed, all
Babylon had contributed to its adorning. Not more than ten feet square
was the little place, yet so did it glisten and shine with the lustre of
clear gems and burnished gold, that it seemed to contain unfathomable
depths, and to be imbued with something of the divine radiance of its
mistress. The couch in it, like the walls, was covered with plates of
beaten gold, and piled high with the softest and costliest stuffs from
the famous Babylonian looms. The throne and the two chairs, or
tabourets, were of Indian ebony, inlaid with ivory; and the table and
deep basin for water were of chased silver, worked with crystals and
emeralds. All the daylight that could enter this room must come through
the arched door-way; but a swinging-lamp of wrought gold, hanging in the
centre of the little place, burned continually, night and day, and shed
a dim effulgence over everything.

When this interior was first revealed to him, Belshazzar halted where he
stood, gazing around with self-contained pleasure till Istar, seating
herself on the great chair that was her throne, motioned him to one of
the lower seats. Belshazzar sat in her presence, and a silence fell
between them: a silence that the prince could not have broken had his
life been at stake. Istar, looking from her place out through the
door-way into the tower-tipped sky, seeming not to feel in the slightest
the great discomfort of her guest, finally said, softly:

"Belshazzar, from thy heart, tell me, what are thy gods?"

The man looked at her in quick amazement. For an instant he was about to
speak on impulse. Then he resisted; and when he did make answer the
reply was conventional. "Thou, Istar, art my goddess. Babylon is mine
only god."

"That last thou hast said well. Yet it, too, is a false god."

"But thou, O Istar, I know--"

"I am no goddess, Belti-shar-utsur."

The prince started nervously to his feet. "You are not mortal?"

"No. I think, indeed, that I am not. Yet I am not sure. You came to
earth a baby, born of woman--is it not so?"

"Like all men."

"And I descended from the highest void through space, till I touched
earth almost upon this spot, a woman as I am now, clothed in my silver
garment. It was by the command of god, the great Bel, the One, the True,
that I came hither from the upper realms of the great kingdom. I was
what they call archetype. I was decreed to pass through the fire of the
world and return not to my home till the hearts of men were bare before
my eyes, till I learned the secret of the creation. Yet how these things
are to be shown to me I do not know. Thy heart, O Belshazzar--what is

"It is thine, Lady of All."

"Open it to me that I may read."

The pleading simplicity of the tone made Belshazzar look at her sharply,
and in a new way. Still his eyes failed to pierce the wave of baffling
light that flowed about her; and still her purpose was enigmatical to
him. She had become more incomprehensible than ever.

"The hearts of men, Istar, are not always known to themselves. Mine I
could not show you."

Istar thought for a little while in troubled silence. Then she asked
once more, not hopefully: "Your loves and hates, your joys and sorrows,
your hopes and fears--knowing these, could I not understand them and

"It may be. I do not know."

"Then let me hear, that I may judge."

"All of them, Istar--love, hate, hope, fear, joy, sorrow--are woven
around my city, Babylon, the gate of god. My love is for her and my fear
for her enemies. As she is the greatest of all cities, so is she the
most loved and the most hated. In her lie all my joy and sorrow. In her
dwell many that I love, some that I hate, one that I fear. But this--"

"This will not open to me your secret heart, Belshazzar. It is an

"By the power of the twelve great gods--it is not!"

"Then there are two lives in you: this one, and another that is hidden."

Belshazzar looked at her again strangely. "It is true," he said, at
length, a curious smile curving his lips.

"It is of this second life that you must tell me."

"I cannot!" he said, quickly.


"It is too ignoble for your ears."

"Too ignoble? What should be that for me? Nay, prince of the city, my
earth-life is weary and long, because that I am kept away from life. I
am set apart, worshipped as one afar off, and true life is not laid
before me. To teach your race the secret of the one god is forbidden. It
is I that come hither to learn; yet I am given no way of learning. What
am I? Whither am I to go, that I may learn truth from the hearts of

"Hearts, Divine One, may read each other. But no immortal that cannot
feel the world may understand them."

"Let me, then, become mortal, O God!"

The cry rang out louder than it had been spoken, and seemed to echo
forth, to vibrate through the room, to flow out and away into the
distant sky. The two in the sanctuary listened to it in silence,
wondering. Then Istar, tremulous, and wavering with light, arose.

"Leave me, Belshazzar!" she cried, suddenly. "Leave me alone here! I
fear you!"

"Fear me?" He spoke softly, taking the attitude of prayer. "You are the
goddess of Babylon. It is I that fear. I beseech thee, lady, spare me
thy wrath. As a reed shalt thou bend me. As a twig shall I be broken
before the strength of thy will. Divine One, grant me favor! Lady Belit,
have pity upon my mortality!"

As he spoke she stood looking at him, shrinkingly, uncertainly, trying
to fathom the false ring of the conventional phrases. His attitude, his
expression, his demeanor, were perfectly sincere; yet, whether he
himself were conscious of it or not, the words were not honest. She
perceived it instantly. After the little pause of thought she repeated,

"Depart from me!" adding, afterwards, "You mock at me."

The prince drew a quick breath that sounded like a gasp. Then, coming
forward, he sank to his knees, took the hem of her fiery garment, and
held it for a moment to his lips. Its flame did not harm. Rather, it
sent through his whole being a shock of vitality. Rising hurriedly after
the obeisance, he inclined himself again before her and swept away, as
she had commanded, leaving her alone in her sanctuary.

Istar remained where he left her, lying back in the chair, one hand
supporting her cheek, her thoughts chaotic and troubled as never before.
For many months past she had felt, vaguely, that which had just
definitely come home to her. Her time on earth was passing uselessly
away. She was now no closer to mankind than she had been before her
descent. She was treated with such reverent awe as utterly precluded
anything like familiar intercourse with any one. The very prayers were
addressed to her in terms as florid and as general as possible. Her
personal attendants performed their duties in silent reverence. The
priesthood treated her with the impenetrable respect that they showed
towards the graven images of the gods. And now, for the first time, the
significance of all these things came to her definitely. She perceived
how they were baffling her purpose, and the thought caused her deep
disquiet. There seemed to be but one way of opening life to her immortal
vision. It was through the person of Belshazzar, who dared, before her,
to keep his individuality. This way, however, as she had told him, she
feared. What the fear was, when it had come or why, who could tell? Not
Istar. Now, for so long a time the prince had been part of her
wearisome, objective existence that, up to to-night, she had been more
inclined to regard him as something spiritual than as a man. Mentally
she reviewed him and his personality, and she found therein much that
was beyond her undeveloped powers of appreciation and analysis. His deep
eyes--how was it that they looked on her? She had not seemed to him so
awe-inspiring a thing as others found her. Why? His continual presence
before her--was it all from a sense of pure religion? Yet, if it were
not, what was the motive? Istar did not, could not, know. He did not
pray to her--quite. His attitude was peculiar--distant--reverent--yet at
times there was something other than reverence in his face. What it
was--the look that seemed to burn through her veil--Istar could not
tell. Yet it was that look that had made her fear.

How long she sat, passive and quiet-browed within her sanctuary,
thinking of these many things, she did not know. But when finally she
straightened, the clouds in the east were pink with the reflected light
of the setting sun.

The sky was singularly beautiful to her. It held in its far depths the
mystery of her birth. She regarded it sometimes with yearning, sometimes
with an unfathomable wisdom held in her inmost being. Now the curtain
hid it from her gaze, and, with an oppressive sadness in her heart, she
crossed to the door-way and lifted the curtain-folds, to encounter the
piercing gaze of a man who stood more than half-way across the sanctuary
threshold. Thin, pallid, hook-nosed, bearded, and wretchedly clothed, he
stood over her radiant person and seemed to peer into her very
soul--this child of the West, Beltishazzar the Jew.

Istar gasped and shrank quickly back into the room, without letting go
her hold on the curtain. Daniel pressed his advantage and intruded
farther, till he also was inside. Her face was indistinguishable to him,
for the light-waves had quickened protectively round her whole body,
till she swam in glory. Seemingly unabashed, the Jew addressed her:

"Istar of Babylon, grant me an hour wherein I may hold speech with
you--here, or without--upon the ziggurat."

There was less of entreaty than of command in the tone; and Istar,
unduly affected by the fanatical appearance of the man, put his presence
on a level with her own personality, and, replying to his speech in
Hebrew, his language, said:

"Then enter here, O Daniel, and I will listen to you."

"You know me!" he said, quickly.

"I know men's names."

"And their hearts?"

"Their hearts! You have said it! Their hearts! Oh, thou man of
Jerusalem, canst thou give me knowledge as to them?"

He looked at her closely, as if to make sure of her meaning. Then,
taking courage, he replied: "Men's hearts! Who, in truth, but Yaveh, the
one God, shall know them?"

Istar made no answer to the question, but once more motioned the Jew to
enter the faintly lighted room. This he did without hesitation.
Thereupon she covered the door-way with its curtain, turned without any
sign of haste, and seated herself once more on the high throne, but left
the Jew to stand before her. Finally, before the words he had framed
could leave his lips, she swayed forward slightly and asked:

"What have you, the child of Yaveh, to gain from me?"

"Much--or nothing."

"It is no answer, Daniel."

Beltishazzar bent his head and folded his arms over his breast. So he
stood for many minutes, silent and motionless, while Istar waited
serenely for him to speak; and, when he spoke, she was not startled by
his words and their blunt directness.

"Istar of Babylon, what are you--who are you? child of God, or
instrument of the devil?--archangel, as some say, or arch-fiend, as many
think? What is your mission in Babylon? Whence came you? Whither do you

Istar smiled. "Neither angel nor fiend am I, Beltishazzar, but archetype
of God's creation. I came from space. Into it, in time, I shall return
again. My mission I have told you. I come to learn the hearts of men,
their relationship to God."

As she ceased to speak she found Beltishazzar's eyes fixed upon her in a
look so penetrating that it seemed impossible it should not pierce her
veil. Presently, in the silence that followed, the Jew began to pace up
and down the little room. He walked nervously. His brows were knitted,
his shoulders drawn up, his head sunk between them in an abstraction
that Istar never thought of disturbing. When, at length, he looked up at
her again, she found in him a new enthusiasm, a spirituality, an
exaltation even, that gleamed like fire from his sunken eyes and
increased his unhealthy pallor till his skin was like that of a dead

"Istar," he began, in a voice low and tremulous with incipient
passion--"Istar, you have said it was from God that you came hither from
space--you, a heavenly being, an archangel. God despatched you to earth
for an unknown purpose, a purpose that, in its fulness, hath not been
confided to you, but is revealed unto me, the prophet of Nebuchadrezzar,
the great king. Listen, and thou shalt feel the response of truth throb
within thee at my words.

"Forty-and-seven years ago the holy city of Judah fell before the
onslaught of the Babylonian king. Zedekiah and his race were taken
captive by the hands of the wicked, and were carried away into exile to
the city abhorred of God--Babylon, the queen of evil. Since then, in
sickness and sorrow, in captivity and death, our people have dwelt here,
a piteous hunger for the promised land gnawing at their hearts, while
Babylon waxed great and strong in her wickedness off the fat of many
captive lands and peoples. Long have we been without hope of salvation.
But now Nebuchadrezzar, the fierce ruler, is dead many years since. In
his kingdom are sown the seeds of dissension and strife, and, in the
weakness of her strength, she shall reap bitter fruit. For Babylon, even
as Nineveh before her, must fall. At the hands of her captives shall the
great city suffer destruction and death. Again in their strength the
Jews shall rise up and smite the tyrant down. And now, O Istar, hear
thou the word of the Lord! In this great retribution it is thou that
shalt lead us, the chosen ones; thou that shalt win glory and honor
among us; thou that, as Moses from Egypt, shalt lead us out of Babylonia
through the wilderness, back to the land of our fathers!"

He paused for an instant in the midst of his delight, to note the effect
of his words on the woman--or angel. She sat before him radiant,
wavering with light, motionless, unmoved, inscrutable, showing no desire
to interrupt the flow of his words; rather, in her silence, urging him
to greater heights. So he continued:

"For forty-and-seven years have we, the captives, dwelt in the land of
bondage; and in that time, even with the hand of God heavy upon us, have
acquired honor and riches in the country of our woe. Is it not a sign
that God is with us--that he holds sacred that spot in which we dwell?
Thou also art from Him! The end of our trial approaches! By night I hear
the voice of the Lord crying from the high places that thou art here as
a sign of His protection. And I and thou are destined to lead the
children of Jerusalem out of bondage. Mine is the hand that will strike
down the weak and faltering king of Babylon--Nabu-Nahid, the foolish
one. At our hands priest and noble, citizen and soldier, yea, mother and
infant of this unholy people, shall be made to drink of their own blood.
And for thee, O Istar, shall be reserved the triumph, the deed of danger
and of glory! For by thy hand, in stealth, when he shall come to worship
idolatrously at thy shrine, shalt thou strike to earth the monster
tyrant of the city, Nabu-Nahid's son, the child of sin, Belshazzar! Now

"Thou infamous one!"

Daniel's rush of words suddenly ceased. He paused long enough, fully
enough, this time, to perceive and to understand the situation. Istar,
trembling with anger and disgust, had risen from her place and towered
above him like an archangel indeed. Through the blaze of light her two
eyes glowed like burning coals upon the insignificant creature cowering
below her. Beyond her exclamation, Istar found no words to say. The two
confronted each other in palpitating stillness, and as they stood,
Daniel, inch by inch, began to regain his stature, and gradually to move
away, backward, towards the door. When finally he had his shoulders
against the leathern curtain, and knew his ability to effect a quick
escape should it become necessary, he delivered himself of a final

"Thou thing of evil, the Lord hath stripped from mine eyes the veil! I
behold thee nourishing the serpent in thy bosom. Thy master, Satan,
stands at thy right shoulder. Upon the other hand is Belshazzar, thy
paramour. But I say unto you that the streets of Babylon shall run with
the tyrant's blood. There shall come a night when Babylon shall burst
into flames; when Nabonidus will be no more; when Belshazzar's life
shall be taken by the hands of his own people; when thou, in mortal
terror, shalt flee the city of thy wickedness; when the Jew shall
triumph over Bel, and the God of Judea lift up his sword in the heavens!
Thus, in mine ear, sounds the mighty voice of the Lord!"

Then, with one baleful gesture, and a fiery glance of hatred from his
bright, black eyes, Daniel flung back the curtain of the sanctuary and
slunk away, with his usual gait, out into the twilight and down the
winding plane of the ziggurat.

For many minutes Istar remained as she had stood while listening to the
last words of the leader of the captive race. Her limbs trembled. Her
eyes were dim. When presently she felt the cool breath of the evening
envelop her, her senses swam. In the midst of it all, in the midst of
that terrible vision that the Jew had conjured up before her, there was
one thing that stood out before all else, till the rest had lost all
significance. Kill Belshazzar! _She_ kill Belshazzar! Over and over she
repeated it to herself, unable to understand why the horror of the mere
thought should be so great.

The swinging-lamp in the sanctuary mingled its dim, steady light with
that of the rosy evening. From far below, over the Great City, came the
faint hum of weary millions that had ceased from toil--a drowsy, restful
murmur, suggestive of approaching sleep. The sound came gratefully to
Istar's ears. Here were no battle-cries, no shouts of attack, no wails
of the dying. Beltishazzar surely lied. Nay, over her senses began to
steal a sensation of subtle delight, of exquisite content, of freedom
from earth-weariness. The hum of the city was gradually replaced by a
long-drawn celestial chord, spun out and out with fainter, increasing
vibrations, till it died away in the glow of unearthly light that was
gradually suffusing the room.

Istar gave one low cry of love and relief, and, moving from her strained
position, lay down upon the soft couch in an attitude of expectancy and
happiness. Minute by minute the glow increased in brilliance till the
little shrine palpitated with the fires of a midsummer sunset. Vapors of
gold, in hot, whirling eddies, floated from ceiling to floor. The
objects in the room became indistinguishable, and the light was such as
must have struck mortal eyes blind. Gradually, in the meeting-point of
the radiating light-streams, there became visible a darkly opaque shape
upon which Istar fixed her eyes. It became more and more definable.
Suddenly, from the head, there flashed forth five points of diamond
light; and at the same instant Allaraine, star-crowned, emerged in
mortal semblance from the melting glory. The moon-daughter rose from her
couch, and silently the two greeted each other, looking eye into eye
with all the companionship of divinity. While they stood thus, Allaraine
touched his lyre, and the chords of the night-song of stillness and
peace spread through the room and out into the darkness beyond. To
mortal senses it was the essence of the summer day, with its fragrance
and its passion, hanging still, by early night, over the land and the
drowsy city. But to immortal ears it was as the voice of God. Istar
drank it in as a thirsty field receives the rivulets of irrigation. And,
little by little, as the spell was woven to its close, the star-crowned
one drew her towards the throne, on which he caused her to sit, himself
floating at a little distance.

"Allaraine! Allaraine! You bring again the breath of space, my home!"

"Yea, Istar!"

"And a half-mortal sadness looks upon me from your incarnate eyes."

"Beloved of the skies, I am troubled--troubled for you. It is as a
messenger knowing little that I come to you from the great throne."

"What message? What message?"

"This: 'As immortal men are yet mortal, so shalt thou be. And by means
of pain, of sin, of death, and of love, shalt thou in the end know
mankind through thyself; and for thee will there be freedom of choice.'"

Measuredly, clearly, but unintelligently, Allaraine pronounced the words
that were to him a mystery; and Istar listened, wondering, a dim
foreboding at her heart. After a long pause she spoke mechanically the
two words:

"_Mortal! I!_"

"Mortal. Thou. Istar, the heavens mourn!"

"And why, Allaraine?"

"To see thee in pain, in sin, in death--"

Istar raised her hand. "Have peace! These are in the world, but they are
not all. There is something besides, that I have seen, yet that neither
I, nor thou, nor any of our kind can understand. Sweeter than all the
rest are hard, higher than sin is low, more joyful than death is sad,
love reigns over men. Love is from the central fire of God, as we are
but its outer rays. Love walks through all the earth, passing to and fro
among men, making them to forswear sin, to forget suffering, to overcome
death. Those that love are happy in spite of all things. This much have
I learned on earth. And if mortality is decreed for me, I shall find
love with the rest. Fear not for me, for willingly I bow down in
acceptance of suffering, of pain, of wandering in the maze of ignorance,
for the sake of this thing that men know and that I cannot understand."

"And thou wilt gladly forget us?"

"Nay, Allaraine. In the long nights and troubled days, thou, as ever,
wilt bring me comfort."

"Ah, Istar--that may not be."

"May not? I shall lose the music--the communion--"

"All things divine will be lost. You enter into the wilderness of the

Istar bent her head and was silent. She who had seemed to understand so
much, realized nothing. At last, lifting her head heavily, she asked:
"When does it come, this farewell to--my home?"

"Not until you, of your own will, renounce divinity."

"Not till I seek it? Nay, this very night I asked it of the Almighty."

"Yea, and the cry was heard. Mortality shall be yours whenever of your
own free will you renounce us all for that which mortality will give."

"Ah, then--then, immortal one--I shall remain the Narahmouna."[7]

Allaraine shook his head thoughtfully and said: "Of that I do not know.
I have brought the message. Sleep, celestial woman. I go."

Obediently Istar lay down upon her couch, and the white eyelids closed
over the unfathomable eyes. Allaraine, standing over her, looking down
upon her mortal form with infinite pity, infinite ignorance, lifted up
his lyre once more, and, by the magic of his power, Istar's spirit
quickly fled to the land of dreams. There Allaraine left her to await
the dawn of the new day, with its monotonous, wearying duties, and its
weight of dim, indefinable foreboding, that as yet was all of the
earth-life of Narahmouna the divine.



Babylon, the largest, richest, and most powerful city in the world, and
of Oriental cities probably the most beautiful, presented, to the
discerning eye, not a few glaring incongruities. Though its population
had always been large, and was at the present time greater than ever
before or after, the actual area of the city was, nevertheless, much too
great for the number of people that dwelt in it. There have been
kingdoms of fewer acres than those over which the monster city spread.
Between the two walls, Imgur and Nimitti-Bel, were grain-fields of
sufficient extent to supply the entire population with sesame, barley,
and wheat in the event of a prolonged siege. This part of Babylon,
therefore, called city by courtesy, was really more in the nature of
farm-lands than anything else. While within the inner wall, indeed
almost in the heart of the city, were many bare and unsightly acres,
used for nothing better than dumping-grounds, or for encampments of the
troops of dogs that wandered freely through the streets as scavengers.
In some quarters, however, and especially along the banks of the five
canals cut from the Euphrates, and winding out towards Borsip on the
west and Cutha on the east, every available inch of soil was occupied.
Houses jutted over the streets and were crowded together, side by side
and back to back, without any attempt at system: tenement districts such
as the worst cities of later times never dreamed of. Here the
three-story, flat-roofed buildings would be rented out, room by room, to
as many people as poverty obliged to live in them. And these were
myriad. For as Babylon was the wealthiest of cities, so she concealed in
her depths nests of filthy, swarming life, of suffering and of privation
such as only human beings could see and still tolerate.

On the edge of one of these districts, between the square of Nisân and
the square of the gods, on the north bank of the canal of the New Year,
in two tiny rooms, with a little space also on the roof, lived the widow
Beltani, her daughters, and their male slave. The slave was Beltani's
sole inheritance from her husband. He was her luxury, her delight, the
outlet of her not unfrequent tempers, and one of the three sources of a
very limited income. Her daughters were the other two means of
livelihood, but to them--though as girls go they were pretty--she was
indifferent. Beltani herself was not, like so many of the Babylonish
women, in trade. She did the work of the household; cooked--what there
was to cook; washed--also what there was to wash; kept the rooms clean,
as was consistent with tradition; and, hardest of hard tasks, managed
the general income so that, in the two years of their unprotected life,
none of the four had starved outright, and none of them had gone naked,
while the rent was also paid as regularly as it could not be avoided.
Besides this, Beltani held the patronage of two of the great gods; and
by their help, together with frequent incantations, had kept the devils
of the under-world from inflicting upon her any particularly direful
misfortune. Images of the god Sin, of Bel-Marduk, and of the demons of
Headache and the West Wind, were the only ornaments of her rooms. Each
of these, however, had its shrine, and was regularly addressed three
times a day; and it is to be hoped that if any demon had a due sense of
proportion, he would refrain from inflicting any further ill of life
upon these poor and pious creatures.

Neither chair nor rug had Beltani. Four pallets, such as they were,
three in an inner room, one in a corner of the living-room; a wooden
movable table and a brick stationary one; some vessels of clay, two iron
pots, three knives, and a two-pronged fork, together with an iron
brazier that was kept upon the roof, and lastly, three or four rough,
wooden stools, formed the furniture of the house. Nevertheless laughter,
and that from very pretty throats, was a thing not unheard in this
poverty-stricken place; and as many human sensations, from joy of life
to pain of death, had run their course in these rooms as in the
magnificent abode of Lord Ribâta Bit-Shumukin, just across the canal.

At sunset on the day of the great sacrifice to Nebo and Nergal, Beltani
stood in the door-way of her living-room, watching the gory light burn
over the city, and, fist on hip, shouting gossip to neighbor Noubta of
the next tenement.

"Have you been on the Â-Ibur to-day, Beltani?" called the Bee, when one
of their intimates had been pretty well demolished at that distance.

"No. Few enough holidays are mine to take. From morning to night the
girls run about the city, and some one must be at home to manage."

"Ay, there's your slave. What good is he if he can't take the rooms in
charge once in a month? We have no slave, and my man's at work on the
reservoir all day; but I slipped out this morning and went off to see
the sights. Such crowds! All the city was out. I've a rent in my fresh

"Well, I couldn't go. One's slave may do much, but he isn't to be
trusted with everything. Bazuzu, is the sesame ground?" This last
ostentatiously; for Noubta was busily pounding her own barley.

Bazuzu made some reply from within, and after a moment came out of the
room, bowl in hand. Jet-black, high-shouldered, and slightly lame, for
all that as powerful as an ox was Bazuzu. His appearance was startlingly
uncouth as he limped out in answer to Beltani's question. But a gentler
light never shone from mortal eyes than from his; and a gentler nature
never lurked in so ugly a body.

Beltani took the bowl from his hand, and, calling a good-night to her
neighbor, proceeded leisurely to the stair-way that ran up the outside
of the building to the roof. It was on the roof that every family in the
tenement did its cooking, except, indeed, in the rainy season. In all
these districts the roof was the one luxury, the one comfortable, light,
shaded spot, cool and airy in the summer evenings, protected through the
day by an awning hung each morning and taken down at sunset. Roof-space
was portioned off to tenants according to the number of their rooms; and
up here, for them, life was sometimes really worth the living.

While Beltani was up-stairs beginning the preparations for supper,
Bazuzu remained in the door-way, shading his eyes from the light of the
west, and looking with some interest out towards the canal. Noubta the
Bee, still pounding barley, looked also, and presently called to him:

"Baba is coming, there, with the goat, Bazuzu."

And Baba presently appeared. She walked slowly, with a limp, for her
feet were sore and inflamed from contact with the burning pavements.
Beside her the silky goat, Zor, trotted along with gentle friendliness.
Over her left shoulder hung a long string of pine-cones, gathered in a
grove by the river and brought home for firewood. As she reached the
door-way the slave took these from her and carried them up to Beltani.
Baba, meantime, entered the house, passed into the second room, where
she, her mother, and sister slept, and threw herself wearily down upon
her bed. She lay here quite still, eyes wide open, one thin, brown fist
thrown above her head, the other hand on her breast, an expression of
intense, never-ending weariness upon her peaked little face. Over her,
lying thus as usual after the long day of wandering, Zor stood, looking
at her with half-human disturbance. Presently she ran her tongue
sympathetically over Baba's hand, and then, with a goat-sigh, settled
down on the floor beside her, her white, silken coat close to Baba's
coarse, cotton garment. It was a peaceful half-hour that they spent
before Bazuzu came to relieve Zor of her burden of milk. Then Baba
opened her eyes, realizing that it approached supper-time. Rising with
an effort, she passed into the other room to wash at the big, open jar
of water standing there. Her head, arms, and hair were just dripping
refreshingly, when there came an incursion from without. First arrived
Beltani, flushed with astonishment and anger; after her followed Ramûa,
in company with a golden-haired youth bearing a silver lyre. At sight of
him Baba gave a spasmodic gurgle of amazement, and then stood wet and
staring, while her sister gave an explanation of the coming of

"Istar hath bidden it, O my mother," she said, pleadingly, while Beltani
still glared. "He is come from over the desert. He is weary, and he is

This last explanation was the worst mistake that Ramûa could have made.
"Poor!" burst forth Beltani, angrily. "_Poor!_ And is it thy thought
that our wealth is so great that we must house here another one--we who
have not the wherewithal to exist except in misery? Why is the great
goddess wroth with us? Wherein have I offended her, that she sends me
another mouth to feed? What can he do, this pale-eyed, white-headed
thing? Who is he that you bring him home with you? What have you done,
Ramûa? How speak you to men that you do not know--men of his class? I

She suddenly stopped; for Charmides' "pale" eyes were fastened on her
intently, as if he would have read her words from her expression. And
indeed, if this was his idea, the success of it was unique. For when the
gaze that caused Beltani to stop speaking, Baba to shake with cold,
confusion, and hysterical laughter, and Ramûa to turn fiery red with
shame, had lasted as long as Beltani could endure it, Charmides, with
business-like precision, brought forth his money-bag, drew therefrom a
piece of silver, and quietly proffered it to the mistress of the house.

Beltani accepted the money without the grace of an instant's hesitation.
Moreover, she advanced into the light, where she could examine it more
closely to make sure that it was good. "It is not our money. Has it any
value?" she asked, looking squarely at the Greek.

Baba went white, Ramûa blushed crimson, and only Charmides kept his
countenance unchanged. It was to Ramûa that he looked, this time, for
some guidance as to Beltani's meaning; and, looking at her, he presently
forgot to wonder why the old woman still held his leafy coin
suspiciously up in the light, after a moment repeating, sharply:

"Is the money of real silver, I say?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" cried Baba, disrespectfully. "This very morning I
changed one of them for twenty _se_."

"_You_ changed one?" asked Ramûa, wonderingly. "How?"

"He bought of me a cup of Zor's milk this morning as we stood near the
square of the gods in the Â-Ibur."

Ramûa laughed merrily. "Then it was your _se_ that he paid me for bread
and dates at noon."

"He pays, then?" queried Beltani.

Ramûa had begun her reply when, to the surprise of all three of them,
Charmides himself, who at last had understood a whole phrase, and thus
grasped the situation, came out with a stammering and broken, "I pay."
And forthwith he took from his bag another piece of silver and held it
out to Beltani, who received it shamelessly, while both girls, indignant
and helpless, looked on. Fortunately, at this juncture, Bazuzu came
down-stairs to say that the sesame boiled, the dates were cooled, and
the jar of beer had been set out on the roof.

Baba returned to her neglected toilet; while Beltani, turning to Ramûa
with a very agreeable "Bring the stranger up-stairs," departed in haste
to see that enough had been cooked to include Charmides in the meal, and
yet leave something for Bazuzu afterwards.

Ramûa waited till Baba had retired to the sleeping-room to bind up her
hair; and then, rather apologetically, indicated to Charmides the
water-jar. He proceeded, not without a little qualm of distaste, to
plunge his head and arms into the same water used ten minutes before by
Baba. How Ramûa managed Charmides never learned; for, while he shook the
water from his hair, and wiped his face and hands with a garment of his
own taken from his bundle, his companion followed her sister to the
inner room, from which they presently emerged together, glowing, demure,
smooth-haired, and ragged only as to tunics. The three together then
mounted the brick staircase in the deepening twilight, to find the whole
tenement on the roof at supper.

Beltani, who had waited impatiently for their appearance, was shouting
across to a friend certain pieces of information in a way that terrified
Ramûa. Charmides might again display that unlooked-for comprehension;
and if he did!--Ramûa flushed in the semi-darkness. But the rhapsode,
though he did not understand one word in twenty of those that were
spoken about him, had already formed a very fair opinion of Ramûa's
mother; and nothing that she could have said would much have amazed him.
But, disagreeable as she was, he felt that more than she might be
endured for the sake of sitting, at each meal, so close to that
delightful bit of humanity, Ramûa. As to Baba, with her big eyes and
pinched face, and the wonderfully beautiful little body concealed by her
hopelessly insolvent garments, she meant nothing to him now, one way or
the other. It was all Ramûa--Ramûa, who, with her pretty, quiet
helpfulness, her modesty, and also, in no small measure, her very
apparent satisfaction in his presence, made the impressionable Sicilian
at home in Babylon.

Before supper was begun Bazuzu came up to the roof again, bearing
in his hand a lighted dish-lamp. Chaldean twilights were very short.
Day and night were too fond to be kept at arm's-length, and almost
before a sunset had time to reach the height of its glory, gray
shadows, the loving arms of darkness, were encircling the glow, and
presently--lo!--from the east a string of stars was shining forth, and
day had fallen to the night's caress.

The hour of the meal was as a dream to Charmides; a dream so vivid that,
long years after, when he approached old age, he found himself able to
recall with ease every look, every gesture, every shadow that passed
before his eyes. The taste of boiled sesame and garlic never failed to
bring back the impression of this meal; and time came to be when the
master-singer, of his own accord, would go forth to purchase the coarse
food that should conjure up again before him Beltani's masculine face
watching him out of the shadows; Baba's big eyes fixed unwinkingly upon
him; the ungainly figure of Bazuzu, standing in the background beside
Zor, the goat; lastly, delight of all delights, Ramûa again beside him,
at his shoulder, her head turned just a little away, her eyes refusing,
out of shyness, to meet his, her pure profile all that was to be seen of
her face, a little of her smooth shoulder just visible through a sudden
rent in the tunic. And at this point Charmides would cover his eyes with
his hands to hold the memory, and laugh a little out of pure joy that it
had all been so.

At the time of its happening, however, one could not have called
Charmides joyful. He was weary, he was hungry, he was conscious that the
object of his journey had been fulfilled, and that, now that all was
done, his home was at a measureless distance, and there seemed no
immediate prospect of returning to it. Onion-flavored grain, eaten with
an awkward wooden spoon out of the same dish from which three others
were also eating, might be poetic to think of, but was not delightful in
actuality. To eat with Ramûa--well and good in its way; with Beltani,
however--no! and as for Baba, he regarded her already with displeasure.
Her eyes were too big and her body too meagre.

There was not much conversation at supper. The uncertainty as to the
actual powers of Charmides in the way of understanding the Babylonish
tongue was dampening to the general spirit. Beltani could only dream of
the morrow, when she should have an hour's rest, at any cost, for
chatter with Noubta; at which time the estate and importance of the
fair-haired one would be definitely settled. Meantime supper must be got
over as rapidly as possible. The sesame duly finished, what remained in
the dish was handed over to Bazuzu; and bread, dates, and cheese being
portioned out, the women rose from their stiff postures and took up less
constrained positions in various spots on the roof. Ramûa carried her
fruit over to the edge of the roof and sat there in the starlight, her
feet hanging over the unrailed edge, munching comfortably. Charmides
finished his second course where he sat at table. Baba had thrown
herself down by Zor, who was eating a hearty supper of refuse; and
Beltani went to the other end of the roof to visit a friend. Now the
Greek, scenting an opportunity, finished his dates, and darted down the
stair-way, to return after a few minutes' search in the darkness with
his lyre. Ramûa did not notice his return, for she had not seen him go.
But Baba's little hand tightened on Zor's silken hair, when she felt
that he had come back to the roof. Without moving or making any sound,
without even a change in expression, she saw him hesitate for the
fraction of a second, and then pass quietly over and seat himself at
Ramûa's side.

Charmides was disappointed, perhaps, that the maiden made no sign of
satisfaction at his coming. She sat staring up into the high,
star-spangled heavens, oblivious, apparently, of everything below them.
He also remained silent, looking off towards the dark canal that wound,
black and smooth, between the high buildings jutting over it on either
side. After all, Babylon, the city of which he had dreamed so long, held
nothing that was strange to him. It had been so long his heart-home that
he loved it now. As he thought of all that he had done for the sake of
being within its giant walls, and as he reflected upon the success of
his great purpose, he forgot Ramûa beside him. He had not come for her.
She was only a part of the city, the city that he had discovered out of
the mighty west. How far above him he had thought all Babylon must be!
Yet here it was, at his right hand; and he might touch it where he
would, it would welcome him.

Pleased with his thoughts, Charmides ran his fingers over the silver
strings of his lyre; and, because he was accustomed to express his
emotions in that way, he lifted up his voice and sang, in a gentle tone,
some rippling Grecian verses in a melody so delightful that Ramûa turned
to marvel, and little Baba laid her head down upon Zor's warm coat in
rapturous delight.

Presently, however, Charmides stopped short. Beltani, drawn by the sound
of his voice, returned to her corner of the roof, and in the darkness
stumbled over Baba's prostrate body. There was a harshly angry
exclamation, a sharp blow, a stifled cry of distress, and then her
mother was at Ramûa's side, commanding her down-stairs. The girl obeyed
without protest, and Charmides followed her, distressed and helpless. In
the rooms below, a torch and a lamp gave forth a dim and greasy light.
In the first room, against the wall, sat Bazuzu, who had just finished
arranging a bed for the stranger. It was but a heap of rags and mats,
covered over with a torn rug; and Charmides was soon made to understand
that upon this he was expected to pass the night.

The whole room was utterly uninviting. However, he was tired enough
genuinely to welcome the thought of rest, and he looked for the women to
retreat to their own room at once. He soon discovered, however, that
there was no hope of their immediate retirement. Baba, having driven her
goat into its corner, where it obediently lay down, went back to the
door-way and stood looking out upon the night. Ramûa was busy making a
little fire on the brick table, out of two pine-cones. Beltani held a
bit of wood, which she was laboriously shaping with a knife into a crude
imitation of a human figure. Charmides watched her with no little
curiosity. Her whittling finished, she carefully gathered up all the
shavings and threw them into the fire. Then, with a word, she summoned
Baba and Bazuzu to her side, and, with an imperious gesture, brought the
Greek also into the circle around the little fire. Very solemnly she
placed in the centre of the flame the wooden image that she had carved;
and, while the fire caught it up, the four Babylonians lifted their
voices dolefully, in the old Accadian incantation against demons:

"O witch, whosoever thou art, whose heart conceiveth my misfortune,
whose tongue uttereth spells against me, whose lips poison me, and in
whose footsteps death standeth, I ban thy mouth, I ban thy tongue, I ban
thy glittering eyes, I ban thy swift feet, I ban thy toiling knees, I
ban thy laden hands, I ban thy hands behind. And may the moon-god, our
god, destroy thy body; and may he cast thee abroad into the lake of
water and of fire. Amanû."

This prayer, of which Charmides understood not a word, but the import of
which he pretty clearly guessed, was the regular conclusion of the day.
No Babylonian of the lower class could have passed the night in peace
having omitted this exorcism. When it was over Bazuzu filled a dish with
the ashes and carried it outside the door, setting it just over the
threshold, where no thing of evil could enter the house without passing
it. This done, Beltani, with a gesture of good-night to the stranger,
retreated into her bedroom, with Baba on the one side of her and Ramûa
on the other.

Now at last Charmides was free to rest. Bazuzu, of course, was in the
room; but he, having extinguished the lamp, and making signs that when
Charmides was ready to sleep he should put out the torch, laid himself
down upon his pallet, and, turning his face to the wall, fell soundly
asleep. Charmides did not follow immediately. In the flickering light he
knelt down and prayed to his lord, Apollo of the Silver Bow, rendering
thanks for the safe accomplishment of his journey, and acknowledging the
god-head of Istar, whom, in his heart, he regarded as Artemis incarnate.

His devotions over, he rose, extinguished the torch, and felt his way to
the bed. He sank upon it with a sensation of delight. His weary limbs
relaxed, and for a moment his head swam with the relief of the reclining
position. Nevertheless, it was some time before he slept. Through the
open door-way the cool, sweet breath of the summer night stole in upon
him. In the square, black patch of sky visible where he lay came two or
three stars: the same stars that had looked on him in Sicily. A sudden
spasm of longing and of fear--fear of his strangeness, his helplessness
in this vast city, came over him then. From out of the night he heard
his mother's voice calling him from the shore of the sea; and he
answered her with a moan. For a little time her form stood out before
his eyes, clear and luminous against the black background. Then,
gradually, the blinding rays of Istar's aureole replaced her, and Istar
herself was before him, in all her surpassing beauty. After a time she
flashed out of his sight, but not before the thought had come to him,
unsummoned, that he had not yet finished with Istar of Babylon in her
city; that she, the great, the unapproachable goddess, would need him at
some future time to succor her. He smiled at the idea, thinking it a
dream. And with the thought of dreams he entered the land of them, nor
came forth again till morning dawned.

The night wore along, and there came to be but one sleeper in the room.
Black Bazuzu was awake, sitting--no, standing up. He moved noiselessly
to the door-way, and picked up there one of the baskets of his own
making. With this he crossed the threshold of the door, stepping
carefully over the witch's plate, and presently disappeared into the
blackness beyond. An hour later he came quietly in again, put his basket
into its place, and stopped to listen carefully to the sound of his
companion's breathing. It had not changed. With a satisfied nod the
slave returned to his couch, laid him gladly down, and slept.

Sunlight streaming over his face, the sound of a quick exclamation, and
a little ripple of laughter, brought the Greek to his senses next
morning. Ramûa, bright-eyed and smiling, sat in the door-way, a heap of
fresh and dewy flowers in her lap, a basket-tray beside her. She was
fastening up little bouquets of roses, lilies, heliotrope, nasturtiums,
iris, narcissi, and the beautiful lotus. Baba, as usual, was playing
with Zor, who had just made another rent in her much-tattered garments;
and Bazuzu lay upon his pallet, still asleep. Presumably Beltani was on
the roof. Charmides hoped so. He had already come to prefer her at a
distance. But at present the rather unusual arrangements of this
household puzzled him; and he could not tell, from precedent, where any
of its members would ordinarily be at this hour.

Charmides rose, not a little embarrassed at having been asleep in the
presence of Ramûa and her sister. He became in time accustomed to the
very free manners current among Babylonians of the lower class; but at
present he was mightily relieved when Ramûa, with a tact hardly to be
hoped for, jumped up from her place, and, calling to Baba to follow her,
departed towards the roof with her fragrant burden. Charmides at once
began his toilet, which he happily finished without interruption. Then,
leaving Bazuzu still asleep, he sought his hosts in the upper air.
Breakfast was ready, and it proved to be a gala meal. There was
meat--goat's flesh from the yesterday's sacrifice. For on days that
followed great religious festivals the flesh from the sacrificial
hecatombs was sold at a minimum price to the poor, so that the greater
part of Babylon had meat to eat. Besides this, there were milk and
bread; and Charmides, in a sunny mood, felt that the king himself could
have desired nothing more.

The meal was quickly over, and, a few minutes afterwards, Charmides
could scarcely have told how, he found himself walking, lyre in hand, at
Ramûa's side, along the bank of the canal, on the way to the temple of
Istar. On her head Ramûa carried her basket of fresh flowers. The Greek
watched her closely and with delight as she moved, lithe, straight, and
graceful as a young tiger, her bare feet making delicate marks in the
dust of the way, her hair, to-day unbound, swinging behind her in long,
silken masses. And Charmides' beauty-loving eyes brought joy to his soul
as he regarded her. Yet his walk was not wholly a light-hearted one. His
mind was troubled with thinking, as other men thought, as he had not
thought before, of a means of livelihood. Here he was, thrown utterly on
his own resources. If he would live he must work--must gain enough to
keep him, however simply, when his father's money was used up. This
conviction was not an easy one to face. There was but one thing that he
knew how to do well, and at all times liked to do, and that thing held
forth small promise of earning him money. His poor lyre! In any province
of Greece, or Lydia, there had been small cause for worry. Rhapsodists
were of a class apart, and were reverenced by an art-loving people as on
an equality with their priests. Zeus might be the greatest Olympian; but
Apollo had a shrine in every heart. Babylonia, however, was not Greece;
and what the Babylonian fancy for music might be, Charmides did not
know. Thus when the long walk was ended, and Ramûa had taken her place
on the platform steps below the temple of Istar, she looked up into his
face to find the usually bright countenance as solemn as that of an
ibis. Nor could any word or look of hers bring more than the shadow of a
smile to his lips.

Charmides stood beside her for a few moments, looking across the thinly
peopled square. Then his shoulders straightened. He gave a little
outward manifestation of his mental state, looked at Ramûa with a
farewell smile, and left her, walking swiftly away towards the

Ramûa, confounded, cried after him impulsively: "You will return! You
will return to me at noon?"

Charmides looked round, nodding reassuringly, but whether in response to
her words or merely in answer to her voice, the maiden could not tell.
She sat quite still where he had left her, her head drooping a little,
utterly forgetful of her business, paying not the least attention to
possible buyers. The sun poured its bright, scorching heat down upon the
gray bricks. Water-sellers were to be heard crying their ever-welcome
refreshment. Chariots, carts, and litters passed through the square. The
city's voice rose murmurously through the heat, and one by one the usual
beggars and venders made their appearance on the platform steps.

Through the hours Ramûa sat spiritless, watching those that passed up
the temple steps, selling her flowers unsmilingly, half unwillingly, to
those that offered to buy. At early noon she felt a first qualm of
hunger, and looked up to find the sun at its zenith. With a start she
came to herself. It was past her usual luncheon hour. All around her
little meals of bread, sesame, and dates were being brought forth by the
habitués of the steps. The cripple on Ramûa's left hand, thinking
perhaps that she must go hungry to-day, proffered her half of his loaf
with a compassionate, misshapen grin. Ramûa refused him with a forced
smile, and, heavy-hearted, took out her food and showed it to him. There
was enough for two in her package to-day; and she regarded it unhappily,
still hesitating to eat, while the hope that Charmides might return died
within her. Once again she looked over the deserted square, and then,
resolutely turning her face to the temple, took one dry mouthful of
bread. Charmides was gone for evermore. She should not see him again.
Another bite: Charmides had been killed. A third: his body was floating,
face downward, in the black, hurrying waters of the cruel Euphrates. A
fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and there appeared a tear, that rolled
uncontrollably down her pretty nose. She put her bread away--when before
had she not been hungry at noon?--and then sat with her head bent,
trying to conceal her grief from the sympathetic beggar.

Presently some one came up the steps and sat down close beside her. She
felt the presence, but did not look round. Suddenly a big, ripe melon
was placed before her, by a hand too white for Babylon. Ramûa started
up, with a spasmodic breath, and her face glowed like the sun after a
summer storm. Charmides, the morning trouble all gone from his face, was
at her side. In one hand he held a number of ripe figs. The other had
borne the melon. Ramûa retired at once within herself, too shy to do
more than smile faintly and then try to hide her face, with its
unconcealable joy. But such a welcome pleased the Greek more than
anything else; for, as he was beginning to realize, his instincts
regarding woman nature were quite unexpectedly reliable.

Luncheon was now eaten in earnest; and the cripple could not but be
amazed at the change in Ramûa's appetite. With a little laugh she broke
the melon on the steps, and proffered a large piece of it, together with
his bread and dates, to the Greek. She herself ate slowly but willingly,
answering the looks of the rhapsode, and even talking to him in the
tongue that he could not understand.

There came a time, however, after the last fig was gone and the cup of
water had been bought and drunk, when embarrassment fell between the
two. Ramûa feared, dreaded, and then half hoped that Charmides would
rise and go away again, this time to stay. She felt that she could make
no effort to keep him at her side. She would have given half her life to
be able to treat him with natural gayety; and yet, had she been able to
do so, the essence of delight in all this would be gone. Charmides
himself was suffering from the inability to talk to her. But after an
unbearable period of awkward silence he strove to solve their
difficulty. Leaning over from where he sat, and touching the girl's
tunic, he said to her, by means of signs and looks, and a word or two:

"What is the name of this?"

Ramûa smiled with delight. "_Kadesh_" she replied; and in this way
Charmides' course of study was begun. The first lesson lasted for an
hour, and at the end of it the Greek knew not a few words that promised
to stick in his memory. When he felt that he could retain no more, he
stopped her, and sat conning his lesson on the steps in the sunshine,
while she, tardily recalled to duty, took her flower-basket and went
forth into the square to proffer her somewhat drooping bouquets to the
passers-by. By the time she returned to her companion the sun was midway
down the heavens, and Charmides, lyre in hand, stood, evidently waiting
for her. By means of signs he made her understand that he must leave her
till after sunset, when he would return again to the square to go home
with her.

Ramûa did not ask his destination. Very probably he could not have made
her understand it had she done so. She watched him pass down a narrow
street that led to the southwest, out of the square of Istar, in the
direction of the temple of Sin. It was to the holy house of the moon-god
that Charmides went; for his single morning in Babylon had found him a
means of livelihood.

Though he himself was unaware of the exact position that he held, he was
attached to the temple as an oracle. That morning, as he had hummed
himself through the square of Sin, one of the Zicarû, or monks in
service at the temple, had chanced to hear his voice, and, perceiving
that the singer was of foreign race, and being himself a highly educated
man, as were all of his order, addressed the fair-haired one in the
westernmost language that he knew--Phœnician. Charmides had come near to
falling at his feet and worshipping in the delight of finding some one
to speak to. But the Zicarî led him gravely into one of the inner rooms
of the temple and there asked him sing and speak and play upon his
instrument, and after a time made him an offer to join the temple
service, unordered as he was, and to do exactly what he was told for
about three hours in the day. The pay was high, and to Charmides it
seemed that a miracle of fortune had befallen him. Such being the case,
it was, perhaps, just as well that he did not understand the full
significance of his duties. For an hour in the morning he was to stand
inside of the heroic statue of the god, and to speak through the
half-open mouth words whispered in his ear by an attendant priest. He
was not told that his peculiar pronunciation of the Babylonian syllables
and the melodious softness of his voice were invaluable adjuncts to the
oracle of Sin; and that, furthermore, the fact that he understood not a
word of what he said made him more desirable for the place than any
member of the under-priesthood would have been. Besides this curious
work, he was supposed to assist at sacrifices by playing on the flute or
lyre; and by means of these light duties his livelihood became an
assured thing, and his place in Babylon was secure. He asked no
questions, either of himself or of the priest, his master. He accepted
everything with childlike faith; and, verily, it seemed that, brush as
he would against the world, the bloom of his pristine innocence would
never be rubbed from Charmides' unstained soul.

So, having found a home and an occupation, within forty-eight hours
after his arrival in the Great City, Charmides' life in Babylon began.



Charmides found no loneliness in his Babylonish life. In an unaccountable
way he felt it to be the home of his spirit. The dirty, narrow,
barely furnished rooms of the tenement of Ut; the vast temple of
Sin, where he performed the light tasks that gave him his livelihood;
the platform of the temple of the goddess, where, with Ramûa close at
hand, the hours were wont to fly on rosy wings; the long streets, the
myriads of people, the hum of the city, the curious, solemn, ceremonious
bearing of its inhabitants, all these welded themselves into such a life
that sometimes, in dead of night, he cried out in the fear that it was
all a dream: a dream from which he could only pray not to wake.

In the second week there happened something that gave him a great thrill
of exalted pride. It was eight days after his arrival; in fact, the noon
after the third Sabbatû of the month of Duzu (June). He was sitting with
Ramûa on the steps of the temple of Istar, munching dates and struggling
with new phrases in the apparently hopeless Chaldean tongue, when a
veiled hierodule came out of the temple and down the platform stairs
with the request that Charmides follow her to the presence of Belit
Istar, who longed for the sound of his voice.

The Greek felt a quiver, half of fear, half of delight; and, rising at
once, and leaving Ramûa and his meal behind, followed the attendant, not
into the temple, but behind it, towards the entrance court of Istar's
dwelling. Here, upon a heap of rugs, beneath a canopy of Egyptian
embroidery, the goddess reclined. Charmides, however, did not see her
till after he had encountered the gaze of one who stood just inside the
arch of the door in the wall. This was he who had followed Istar in his
chariot home from the procession of the gods, he at whose remarkable
appearance Charmides had so marvelled: Belshazzar, the king's son. Still
was he godlike, imperial enough to look upon; but the Greek forgot his
presence while Istar was again before him. When his gaze fell on her he
started slightly, turned his eyes away for an instant, and looked again.
Yes--it was true. Through the shimmering veil her form was clearly
visible. She was not now only a cloud of dazzling, palpitating light.
Immortal still, and radiant she was, but--Charmides let his thoughts
break off quickly. Istar was commanding him, in Greek, to play to her.
He lifted his lyre at once, and, under the spell of music, he forgot
himself, half forgot her before whom he played, in contemplation of the
ideal created by the harmonies. When, after half an hour, he was stopped
and dismissed, he left the divine presence in a state of exaltation.
Belshazzar was but a blur beside the door-way, and Ramûa, when he
returned to her, seemed a trifle less beautiful than usual.

After this, every day, Charmides gave half of his noon hour to this new
form of worship. It was Ramûa's pride as well as his. She never grudged
the time; and, on his return to her side, never failed to ask of his
success, nor to beam with delight when he confessed it. At each of these
visits Charmides realized that Belshazzar was present; but the fact made
little impression on him. He saw her whom he worshipped quicken to new
life, to new radiance, at sound of his voice and the chords of his lyre;
and, when he left the court, the storm in the eyes of the king's son
went unnoticed. Yet the storm was there, daily increasing in fury; and
there came a time when it passed control and burst forth in the very
presence of her whom both men worshipped.

It was noon on the seventh of Abû (July), a day on which Babylon lay
quivering under a fiercer sun than before. The city was exhausted with
the recent end of the annual three-day feast of Tammuz; and Charmides
himself was weary and a little faint when he entered Istar's presence.
Belshazzar, with what seemed a scarce pardonable liberty, had thrown
himself face downward on a rug near the portal of the court. At the
first note of Charmides' song a slight twitching of the muscles in the
prince's back betrayed his hearing of the song. But as the voice went
on, as Charmides, even in his weariness, sang with a depth of feeling
that he had never before exhibited, the other man lifted his head to
look at Istar. Under the spell of the music that was a divine gift, she
was becoming more and more the old-time unapproachable goddess. The rays
of the aureole, which, half an hour before, had vibrated so slowly as
scarcely to disturb the eye, were quickened to a new life. Blinding
streams of light poured about her now. And Istar herself was quivering
with a strength, with a delight, that was apart from earthly things.
Charmides' voice showed its power, its beauty, its clear heights, its
mellow depths, as never before. He had begun with a most delicate
pianissimo, in tones of exquisite restraint and purity, the old myth of
Alpheus and Arethuse--a thing that he had sung a hundred times before,
yet never as now. The tones blended with the rippling harmonies of his
lyre in a stream as pure and limpid as the current of the sacred river.
The Greek syllables, music in themselves, fitted so perfectly to the
melody, that Allaraine himself, afar off, listened with surprise and
pleasure. Belshazzar alone, perceiving how Istar's divinity increased
with each sweep of the instrument, trembled with anger. The song rose
towards its climax. Istar had become oblivious to everything but the
sound of that voice. Charmides, inspired, had lost himself in the heaven
of his own making. Suddenly, from beside him, came a hoarse, choked cry,
the sound of hurried running, and the lyre was struck furiously from his
hands down to the brick pavement.

" Ὥς εἰπὼν Ἀλφέυς μὲν...!" The song stopped. Panting with broken
emotion, Charmides faced about. His face was pale and his lips drawn
with displeasure--with something more than that. Before him, shaking
with jealous wrath, towered Belshazzar, his hand uplifted, his eyes

There was silence. Charmides waited immovably for the blow to fall. But
Belshazzar did not strike him. Istar lay back, trembling. Under the
influence of these human and gross emotions, the vibrations of light
around her diminished so rapidly that one could see them melt away; and
soon she was left almost without divine protection--a woman, in woman's
garb. Finally, however, with no trace of weakness in her manner, she
rose, confronting the two men. For a moment her gaze travelled from one
to the other. Then, passing to Charmides, she halted by his side,
touched his shoulder lightly with her hand, and pointed to the door-way.

"Go, thou disciple of Apollo. Fear not. I will send to thee a lyre that
is not dishonored. To-morrow come to me again--as always."

Then, while the Greek still quivered with the thrill of her touch, she
walked with him, two or three steps, towards the open arch.

In the mean time Belshazzar, broken now, waited before her place. When
the light trailing of her garments passed near his feet again, he
suddenly lifted his head and looked at her. They were face to face, and
their eyes met. Istar's glance shone clear and baffling upon the man,
yet before it Belshazzar would not lower his. He was making an almost
inhuman effort, mental and physical, to overcome the perfect poise that
proclaimed her more than human. But Belshazzar could not cope with a
thing divine. His strength, to the last drop, was gone. She was superior
to him. He knew it. Goddess she was--must be! He must acknowledge
it--must submit. Slowly he lifted his arms and crossed them on his
breast. Slowly his dark head was lowered. With bitter humiliation he
gave the signal of defeat. Istar moved slightly.

"Give me the broken lyre," she said, softly.

Belshazzar sought it where it lay, bright and shattered on the pavement.
He proffered it to her humbly, and saw her, receiving it, touch it to
her breast. He shut his eyes that he might not see the hated thing made
whole; but, looking up again, he saw the instrument still splintered,
still unstrung. She had not, then, performed the miracle.

He had but a moment more with her. Presently she raised her hand, and,
with the slightest of gestures, dismissed him from her presence.
Belshazzar could not disobey the command. Blindly, weakly, without a
glance behind, he moved towards the portal. Thus he did not see the
goddess, as he left the court, suddenly reel, and an instant afterwards
fall back upon the pile of rugs, covering her face with her hands, and
exhibiting every sign of human distress. On the contrary, humiliated,
hopeless, and disturbed by the temerity of his thoughts, yet as
rebellious as before, the prince of Babylon crossed the platform and
descended the steps where Charmides sat with Ramûa. The prince scarcely
saw the Greek as he passed him; and Charmides only lifted his eyes in
time to behold Belshazzar's back, and to watch him cross the square to
the spot where his chariot waited. The driver, at his master's approach,
leaped to his place, drawing up the heads of the powerful black animals.
The prince entered the vehicle. Nebo-Ailû gave a quavering cry. The
horses plunged forward, and the shining chariot clattered after them
down the Â-Ibur-Sabû.

"To the house of Amraphel," said Belshazzar; and Nebo-Ailû inclined his

They passed swiftly down the great street to where, north of the square
of the gods and the holy houses of Nebo and Nergal, stood the spacious
palace of Amraphel, high-priest of Bel-Marduk, and chief of the
priesthood of Babylon.

As the chariot of the prince royal drew up before the palace gate, two
attendants always in waiting there ran out, their swords held
horizontally above their heads, in presentation to one high in
authority. Belshazzar remained like a statue where he stood, and
Nebo-Ailû requested audience with the high-priest in such terms as the
prince would have used towards an equal; for the priest of Bel-Marduk
was not at the command of the king.

The slaves disappeared with their message, and Belshazzar waited,
motionless, moving not so much as an eyelash, acknowledging no obeisance
made him by a passer-by: for such was the etiquette of royalty at that
day. After many minutes in this trying attitude, a little company of
eunuchs emerged from the gateway. In their midst, shaded by a large,
swinging parasol, and fanned on either side by black slaves, was
Amraphel, an old man, white-bearded, bright-eyed, his stiff, white hair
crowned with a red, conical cap, his flowing muslin skirts sweeping the
pavement, and the goat-skin bound upon his left shoulder. Slowly he
moved towards the chariot. Ten feet from the wheel he stopped. At the
same instant Belshazzar turned his head. They gave to each other the
brother salute--of the mind, the lips, and the heart. Then Amraphel, who
was doing the prince an extraordinary honor, said:

"Will the lord prince, governor of the city, enter into my house?"

"Receive my thanks for thy favor. Nay, Amraphel, it is Nabu-Nahid, the
king, my father, that asks if thou wilt be conducted by me to his
presence. He has some communication to make to thee."

"I will command my chariot."

Belshazzar leaped from his place, while Nebo-Ailû descended more
carefully and went to stand at the horses' heads. "Let my chariot be
yours, Lord Amraphel," observed the prince, courteously.

The old priest bowed acknowledgment, and, having quickly whispered in
the ear of his nearest slave: "My chariot at the gate of the new palace
within an hour," stepped forward and mounted into the royal vehicle.
Belshazzar followed him, and this time took the reins himself, leaving
Nebo-Ailû to reach home on foot; for there were few chariots that
afforded comfortable standing-room for more than two people.

Nebo-Ailû left the horses' heads just as Belshazzar's ringing cry sent
them plunging up the Â-Ibur-Sabû. At no great distance north of the
palace of the high-priest there ran off from the boulevard a narrow but
well-paved road, that wound eastward and north to that part of the river
that was lined with palaces--on the east shore Nebuchadrezzar's and
Nabopolassar's, side by side, connected by the great bridge with those
on the opposite bank--the hanging gardens, Nabu-Nahid's royal dwelling,
and the vast hunting-park used by Belshazzar. The Street of Palaces
skirted this park, passed the portals of the present royal palace, and
branched off to the west end of the great bridge. Along this way to-day
Belshazzar guided his steeds at break-neck pace; for in all Chaldea
there was not such another horseman as he, when he chose to exercise his
skill; and it must be confessed that there was nothing in the person of
Amraphel that made Belshazzar desirous of prolonging their drive
together. The priest showed neither nervousness nor displeasure at the
pace set. Through all the jolting, the jarring, and the swift, dangerous
curves, he maintained an expressionless, passive demeanor. It was only
when, with a wide sweep, the vehicle rounded up and the quivering steeds
came to a halt before Nabû-Nahid's gateway, that Amraphel, alighting
first, remarked, ceremoniously:

"Thine are goodly horses, Prince Bel-shar-utsur. May Ramân guard them
that you break not their breath some day with fast running."

"There are other horses to be bought for gold," was the brusque answer,
as Belshazzar leaped from the chariot and signed to a slave to lead the
frothing animals to their stables.

Prince and priest entered the palace together; but, once across the
outer court-yard, Belshazzar left his companion to be announced before
the king, while he himself retreated to his own apartments, where
many hours' labor awaited him. Steward and chancellor sat in his
council-chamber when he entered it, and he greeted them with the air of
a man who was about to begin work. Yet work was impossible to-day to
him. Treasury and grain reports, accounts of the crops within the walls,
lists of taxes, military supplies, arrangements of reviews, matters of
pension and promotion, deeds of sale, mortgages, matters of transport,
all alike were impossible to be considered. That thing which was
haunting him would not go; and, after half an hour of wearisome effort
to concentrate his mind on what was before him, he suddenly pushed away
all the clay tablets and rolls of papyrus, leaped to his feet, and,
curtly dismissing the officials, himself left the room. Passing out of
his many and rather forlorn apartments, he walked aimlessly out across
the wide, central court-yard, around which the separate portions of the
palace met, and went through a small gateway that led into the seraglio.
The small court, off which opened various sets of rooms, was white with
the glare of the afternoon sun. Three piles of scarlet rugs, an
embroidery frame, and a broken peacock-feather fan, gave evidence of the
feminine character of the inhabitants of the court; but there was no
woman here at the present moment. Huddled in the shadow of the wall, his
bronze back turned upon the world, lay a child of three or four years,
fast asleep. Before each of the several door-ways stood a cotton-clad
eunuch, palm-staff in hand, rigid and sleepy. These inclined decorously
as Belshazzar swept across the court, and they watched him from under
their eyelids as he halted near the great entrance, looking thoughtfully
around. From some chamber far in the interior came the droning sound of
a dulcimer and the crooning of a woman's voice. Other than this, the
seraglio was still.

Belshazzar stood apathetically listening to the song. Should he seek out
the singer? After a moment's indecision, and a step or two in the
direction of a small door-way, he halted. He had had enough of singing
for one day. Yet, till the day was cooler, time must be passed in some
way. He might go to his father--his father and Amraphel, who were
closeted together. His father and Amraphel--clay and a sculptor; soft
metal and a hot fire; an arrow and the bow. Belshazzar caught at his
idea, never looked again at the court-yard, but turned sharply on his
heel and set off across the palace for his father's favorite
lounging-room. He was met at its curtained door-way by Shâ-Nânâ-Shî,
chief eunuch of the king's house, who regarded the advisability of an
intrusion by the prince as a matter of doubtful wisdom.

"The priest of Bel is within, Lord Belshazzar."

"Who else?"


"The architect?"

"My lord speaks."

"Let me enter, then. Amraphel is dangerous, I say!"

Nânâ, his duty done, stood aside; and Belshazzar, unannounced, strode
into his father's place of dreams.

His entrance brought with it sudden silence. The prince felt this before
his hand had dropped the curtain. He looked from the effeminate figure
of the king, reclining on a couch, to Amraphel, who stood stiffly on the
other side of the room, and then back to little Shûla, with his scrolls
of papyrus upon the floor before him, and his expression apprehensive of
some unexpected disturbance. Belshazzar, in his one swift glance, read
the drama, smiled inwardly, shrugged, and stepped over to Nabonidus'

"My coming is ill-timed, lord my father?" he asked, in a gently grieved
tone, after the filial obeisance.

"No, Belshazzar, no," replied his father, with hasty courtesy. "I
rejoice at your arrival. You may, perhaps, show us the way out of our

"And of what is it that you speak?"

"The great temple of Ishtar, in Erech, which I, at the behest and for
the love of the gods my fathers, have lately restored. Shûla's drawings
of the new building are here."

Little Shûla's face betrayed wary signs of enthusiasm. Shûla, alone with
his master the king, was an inspiriting sight; for the one was no less
ardent than the other on their particular hobby. But Shûla with Amraphel
on the one hand, Belshazzar on the other, and Nabonidus in the
background, was an unhappy object. The high-priest was like a wedge
inserted between two teeth; himself unfeeling, impassive, unswerving, he
possessed the unhappy faculty of causing everybody about him the most
exquisite discomfort by the mere fact of his presence. From behind the
drawings that had been presented to him by Shûla, Belshazzar looked
about him. The constraint of the atmosphere was still a mystery.

"So," he said, presently, in a tone of slow good-humor, "your discussion
is regarding the holy temple of Istar of Erech. And what of this

"My Lord Nabu-Nahid, why should this feeble matter in any way concern
the prince thy son? Has he not perplexities enough in the ruling of the

"Nay, Amraphel," cut in Belshazzar, hastily, "I am here because of my
idleness. Here, if my father says me not nay, I will stay, and listen to
your speech. What speak you of?" He turned again to his father, as the
high-priest, with an angry frown, gave up the point.

"Yes, yes, Belshazzar, stay and tell Amraphel that the goddess Ishtar
must not be removed from Babylon to dwell for evermore in her holy house
at Erech."

Belshazzar's head swam; and he felt a pang as of a stab at his heart.
The knowledge that Amraphel's hawk-eyes were reading him like a bare
tablet, enabled him to straighten up, without having betrayed himself

"The Lady Istar removed from Babylon?" he repeated.

"Listen, Lord Belshazzar," observed Amraphel, smoothly. "The primeval
seat of Belit Ishtar was, as you know, in the ancient city of Erech. It
was from there, more than sixty thousand years ago,[8] after the death
of Izdubar, that her worship was extended to all Chaldea. Now, on the
site of her old and ruined temple, your father has caused to be erected
the magnificent building of which the plans lie yonder. The king, out of
the goodness of his heart, is about to decree a great religious festival
in honor of the goddess and the opening of the temple. At present the
rightful inhabitant of that temple is alive in Babylonia. How
displeasing to her and to the gods her brothers would it be, if her
temple should be opened without her!"

Amraphel finished in a tone of quiet authority that was peculiarly
irritating. That his logic, however, was incontrovertible, was at once
apparent to Belshazzar. Again, however, Nabonidus began with his
plaintive, unreasoning: "No, no. Babylon shall be protected. Babylon
must keep her goddess."

Amraphel shifted his weight and gave the faintest shrug of the
shoulders. The sheep-like complaint must run its course. After it, a
victory would be a simple matter. But Belshazzar's expression was not
that of his father. Amraphel regarded it uneasily. The high-priest's one
desire was to get Istar, goddess or demon, whichever she might be, out
of Babylon, where her hold on the credulous and superstitious masses was
something against which the priesthood could not contend. And this
desirable end might easily have been arranged with Nabonidus alone.
Belshazzar's entrance at this particular time was the most unfortunate
thing that could have happened. Amraphel had some faint, hardly defined
suspicion of Belshazzar's state of mind; and he was instinctively aware
that to remove Istar from Belshazzar's seat of government, would be a
task next to impossible. Belshazzar, after a few moments of thought,
said, quietly:

"My father, Amraphel of Bel is right inasmuch as he saith that Belit
Istar should go down into Erech to receive worship in her holy temple.
Decree the festival in honor of her and of the great gods her brothers;
and let her be in Erech for that time. But as the goddess of Chaldea
suffered her first incarnation in Erech, and there dwelt during her
first earth-life, so now, since she received the flesh in Babylon, let
her also dwell here, returning hither again after the opening of her
temple in the ancient city. Is it not reasonable that it should be so, O

"Truly, truly, Belshazzar, thou art inspired of the gods!" cried
Nabonidus, delightedly, from his couch.

Little Shûla ventured to smile; and Amraphel signalized a partial defeat
by seating himself in an ivory chair, disdained by him a half-hour
before. Belshazzar remained standing. He felt that his point was won.
There were, indeed, more words on both sides, but nothing further was
gained by the priest. The festival was planned for the following week;
and it was decided that Istar, the king, the prince, and many of the
priesthood, should descend the river in the state barges kept ready
equipped and frequently used by the king and the official household. At
Erech itself there would be processions, pageants, sacrifices, and
merry-makings of every description. For three days should Istar be
installed in her holy house, returning afterwards to Babylon as she had
come. To this plan Amraphel was obliged to submit; for if the force of
logic pitted against him was as strong as his own, and the strength of
will were as great again, it was because Amraphel was laboring through
hate, while Belshazzar worked in the thrall of an overweening, hopeless,
unconquerable passion that meant more to him than his religion, and
against which none could have contended. It was part of their times,
probably, that in the midst of the dispute it should not once occur to
any of the three that Istar herself could best decide the place of her
future dwelling. Goddess though she might be, her gender was feminine;
and that fact, in this oldest of Oriental lands, in a way half
neutralized her godhead.

The discussion ended, Nabonidus waited fretfully to be alone; but the
high-priest still lingered, and Belshazzar, as Amraphel very well knew,
remained for the purpose of watching him and preventing any attempted
influence with the king. It was not, indeed, till Nabu-Nahid dismissed
Shûla, and, rising, announced that he was going to the apartments of his
low-born queen, that Amraphel took an obligatory leave, and Belshazzar,
in a very good humor, watched the high-priest drive from the portals of
the palace in his own chariot.

By now the sun hung low in the heavens. The heat of the day was passed;
and the prince, dismissing from his mind all further thoughts of work,
commanded his chariot again. The victory of the afternoon had almost
counterbalanced the hopeless affair of the earlier day; and it was in a
careless and light-hearted mood that the prince royal started forth into
the city, chatting as he went with Nebo-Ailû, and showing by this means
that his business was unofficial.

Their way led once more into the Â-Ibur, down which they rattled past
the treasury, the granaries, the house of Amraphel, the square of the
gods, and finally across the bridge of the New Year. Here they turned
off to drive along the street that ran by the south bank of the canal,
till they drew up in front of the palace and extensive gardens that
stood almost directly opposite the tenement of Ut. Here, at a bound,
Belshazzar alighted, dismissed his chariot, and turned to the
resplendent slave who hurried out to meet him.

"Tell Lord Ribâta that Bit-Shamash--nay, lead me rather into his
presence without announcement. I can speak for myself."

The servant cringed obediently, and led the way through the empty
court-yard into a long series of dimly lighted and sparsely furnished
halls, elaborately decorated, but as cold and as lifeless as unused
chambers always are. From these they presently emerged into a very
livable apartment, where, in a big arm-chair, in front of a narrow
table, bending over a heap of neatly inscribed tablets which he was
examining with the aid of a magnifying-glass, sat the master of the
house, Ribâta Bit-Shumukin, one of the most important and one of the
youngest officials in the kingdom. His back was to the door-way, and he
was much engrossed in his task. Therefore he had no inkling of the
appearance of Belshazzar till it was announced by a burst of hilarious
laughter, and the words: "Truly here is an example for thy prince!"

Bit-Shumukin started up and wheeled round. Belshazzar's laughter seemed
to be catching, for Ribâta, at sight of his friend's face, joined in his
merriment, and the two laughed together till the solemn secretaries and
the slave-porter were constrained to think the heir-apparent either very
drunk or very crazy.

"How art th--thou melancholy, O my Ribâta? Is it granaries or Elam that
know thy labors at this hour of repose?" gasped Belshazzar, when their
mirth had diminished somewhat.

"Granaries, my prince. But if I labor further now, it is thou that shalt
be blamed for it."

"Never! Dismiss thy sweating secretaries and send them to their play.
Then thou shalt once more show me Khamma, if thy jealousy hath indeed
abated. Let her dance for us to the strains of the zither. Let us quaff
wines of Khilbum and of Lebanon. Let us laugh, and make joy to flow
about us like rain in Tabitû. Yea! Harken unto me, for I speak as a
prophet; I speak as the mighty prophet of my father's father--what was
his name? Bel--Bel--"


"Belti-shar-utsur! That! Without the _ti_ it is mine own. Come away,
Ribâta, from this den of toil."

Belshazzar's flow of nonsense ceased as suddenly as it had begun, and
the last phrase was spoken rather impatiently. Ribâta recognized the
change and hastily obeyed his companion's suggestion, dismissing his
secretaries, and slipping a familiar arm through that of Belshazzar, as
they started away together towards the women's apartments. Here they
entered a small, empty hall, at the upper end of which was a raised daïs
covered with rugs and cushions, and overhung by a purple canopy.
Belshazzar threw himself wearily down, while Ribâta sent for refreshment
of cool wines and fruits, for slaves with fans and perfumes, and,
finally, for Khamma, the fairest of his dancing-women.

While he was waiting for these various luxuries, Belshazzar lay back
upon the soft resting-place with an air of intense weariness. His
evanescent gayety had gone, and he was bent beneath a weight of unknown
cares. Ribâta understood him in this state as well as in the other, for
the two men were as brothers--Bit-Shumukin having lived all his life
under the royal protection. Bit-Shamash and he had played together as
children; together had reached the period of adolescence; had tasted the
first delights of young manhood, entered upon a career of the wildest
dissipation, and finally settled down to take up the duties of life,
still in each other's company, still holding fast to a brotherhood of
spirit that was perhaps the most beautiful thing in the life of each.
Ribâta was in no way possessed of the remarkable personal beauty that
had rendered Belshazzar famous--or, some said, infamous, through the
land. Still, in his way, he was a handsome fellow, of good stature,
cleanly built, with refined features, a merry eye, and the blackest
possible hair and beard. His wealth was great and his taste highly
cultivated; so that Belshazzar had only to admire whatever he might find
in the house of his friend. This, a few weeks past, had been a fact
somewhat unfortunate; for a new slave of Bit-Shumukin's purchase, Khamma
by name, a dancing-girl of some beauty, had appeared before the prince,
and for the moment caught his fancy. The girl herself, being called to
him and receiving a word or two and a caress, suddenly fell on her knees
before her master, and pleaded with childish tears and sobs to be sold
to this man over whose wonderful eyes she was suddenly gone desperate.
It had been an embarrassing situation. Belshazzar knew Ribâta to be, for
the moment, enamoured of his purchase; and he escaped her adoring
presence as adroitly as possible. Yet for days thereafter Khamma had
chosen to weaken her eyes with incessant tears, her voice with moans and
wails, and, worst of all, her owner's affection by her exhibition of
dislike for him. The result was that Ribâta's passion cooled as rapidly
as it had risen, and, a day or two before, he had actually offered her
to Belshazzar, taking care to warn the prince that, save for her
dancing, she was a perfectly useless piece of household furniture.
Belshazzar was not too enthusiastic over her, but consented to see her
again, and hence his visit to-day. But now, while they waited her
coming, his mind was anywhere but upon her.

Side by side the two men lay back on their cushions. The perfumed air
was stirred about them by the huge, slowly moving fans. At their feet
stood a bronze pitcher of wine, and in their hands were chased silver
cups. After a sleepy pause the prince, taking a long draught, introduced
an unlooked-for topic.

"Beltishazzar, Ribâta, the prophet of Nebuchadrezzar--he was one of the
captives of Judea, I have heard."

"Ay. He is a Jew."


"It is so. He lives, I know too well where. Thou, also, must have seen
him many times. His dwelling is in the Jews' quarter, not far from the
traders' square, and close to the house of Êgibi. In time, my lord
prince, upon some council day, I shall speak to thee concerning the race
of this Beltishazzar. For the last two years I have watched them, and I
find them giving promise of danger to the state. Beltishazzar himself,
he whom his people call Daniel, is no poor man; but he goes about with
the slinking manner of a pauper, ill-kempt, unclean, dirtily dressed,
and yet--mark it well, O prince--he is not seldom seen in the company of
temple priests, with Amraphel himself sometimes, and with Vul-Ramân of

Ribâta paused, noting with regret that he had brought a frown of trouble
into the brow of Belshazzar, and that the prince was slipping away from
the present scene of enjoyment to a realm of anxious thought. "Priests!"
he muttered, half to himself. "Priests again! Priests forever! Priests!
I tell thee, Ribâta," and his voice rose high with anger--"I tell thee
that should Babylon ever fall it would be at the hand of a priest. Their
power is mightier than that of the throne. Everywhere through the land

He broke off suddenly, displeased with himself for having spoken in such
a manner here. Two eunuchs were entering from the lower end of the room,
and they seated themselves on either side of the door-way, with zithers
on their knees. Behind them appeared a woman, or, more properly, a girl,
lithe and slender, with pretty, vacant face and floating black hair
twisted with golden ribbons. Her feet were sandalled in red and gold.
Her dress was of flying, yellow gauze, with a girdle of crimson. Scarlet
poppies were bound about her head, and a crimson scarf was in her hands.
She halted in the door-way with an air of grave modesty, performed a
humble obeisance before the two men, never lifting her eyes to the face
of either; and then, as the zither-players began their music, she,
Khamma, began the dance. Certainly she was a graceful creature, and, in
her dreamy way, possessed of a perfect sense of rhythm. Belshazzar
watched her with half-closed eyes. Ribâta's attitude was that of polite
weariness. While the dance progressed, both men replenished their
wine-cups, and occasionally addressed each other in an undertone. Khamma
did not look at them. Nevertheless her whole body was cold with emotion,
and as she continued the dance she trembled, and her very teeth
chattered with terror and delight at the near presence of Belshazzar.
Ordinarily she had remarkable powers of endurance, and often danced for
half an hour at a time before Ribâta. But to-day was different. At the
end of fifteen minutes she was in a state of utter exhaustion; and, as
the eunuchs, noting her condition, mercifully began their closing
harmonies, she advanced up the room to the foot of the daïs, and
presently sank, half swooning, in the last prostration before her

Ribâta glanced at his friend. "Wilt thou have her?" he muttered, too
softly for the girl to hear.

Belshazzar considered, and a different expression came over his face.
"Nay," he said.

"What sayest thou!" cried Ribâta, in astonishment. "Since when dost thou
refuse my gifts? Is she so unlovely?"

At this last phrase, which she had heard, Khamma looked up, straight
into Belshazzar's eyes. Instantly a sharp sigh, like a groan, escaped
her lips, and in spite of himself the prince softened.

"She is fair--enough. Let her be conveyed to my house. Thy gift could
not be unwelcome, Ribâta, thou knowest it. Accept this, my brother, in
place of her."

Belshazzar took from his shoulder a pin of beautifully wrought gold and
fastened it upon his friend's sleeve. Ribâta's little displeasure was
dispelled, and, after returning affectionate thanks, he signalled the
eunuchs to come forward and lead the girl away. Before going she knelt
before Belshazzar, and left upon his feet the hot imprint of her lips.
This act affected the recipient in a curious way. His color suddenly
fled. The storm-eyes opened wide, and flashed with a new fire. He drew a
gasping breath, and then, while his face grew crimson, the veins in his
neck and in his temples swelled out in bright, purplish blue. His
muscles twitched with emotion. Ribâta, watching him with a smile of
sympathy, looked to see his comrade rise and run after the dancer. But,
to Bit-Shumukin's vast amazement, he perceived that, for the first time
in all his life, Belshazzar was fighting fiercely with himself. The
animal in him was a very lion in strength, but the opposing force was
this time stronger. What this force was Ribâta had yet to learn.
Belshazzar, tight-lipped, lay back again upon the cushions, his two
fists hard-clenched. Ribâta bent over him and laid a hand upon his

"What is this, Belshazzar?" he asked, softly.

Belshazzar looked into his face with an inscrutable smile. "It is Istar,
Ribâta, Istar my goddess." Then, with a long-drawn cry, all the strange,
warped, blasphemous emotion in him burst forth: "Istar! Istar! Istar!
Beloved! Lift me up! Make me divine, or cause my mind to lose the
thought of thee! Istar! The iron sears my soul!"

"Belshazzar!" exclaimed Ribâta, in horror. And then, in an undertone, he
muttered: "By Nebo and Bel, our sins overtake us! He is going mad!"



On that July afternoon Amraphel, the high-priest, left the presence of
the king, bearing with him not only the discomfiture of a defeat at the
hands of Belshazzar. He had lost much that it had been his hope to
obtain, but he had also gained something that might prove more valuable
than what he had lost. Even if this something were a mere suspicion,
unfounded, not to be proved, yet it was what might, by adroit
management, be built up into a successful rumor which, spread through
the city, would form the first step in the long flight from the top of
which Istar, now the greatest menace to Amraphel's power, might some day
be hurled, in broken radiance, to her doom.

Up to this time, for hundreds, perhaps thousands--nay, as the naïve
Berossus has it, hundreds of thousands--of years, the Babylonians had
worshipped, nominally, their gods and spirits: virtually, they had bowed
before the priesthood and its orders. The priests themselves, knowing no
gods, had, from all time, held in their hands unlimited power. For many
centuries the king himself had been a patêsi of Anû--high-priest of the
sky-god. Then, when the temporal ruler became a man apart, when the
office was secular, and when Babylon had writhed under the lash of
Nineveh, the people had always their religion. The high-priest and his
seers became more than ever absolute; ruling king and slave by means of
unreasoning superstition; while in the houses of the priesthood the gods
were regarded as an amusing myth. But now--_now_--for two years past,
all Babylonia, from Agâdé to the gulf, had been in a state of feverish
religiosity, for the reason that there was a goddess in Babylon: a
goddess--a living, baffling, radiant presence, whose origin none knew.
Amraphel was baffled by her at every point; but, trained from his birth
up to a creed of absolute materialism, he still refused to believe in
her divinity, because he had lost the power to rise to a conception of

To-day, as his carriage rolled slowly across the great bridge to the
east side of the city, the high-priest pondered again over this problem
of problems, though now less than ever seemed there any way of solving
it. Down the Mutâqutû, the second boulevard of Babylon, and from there
to the great temple of Marduk, the largest building in the city, but
second in size to that of Bel in Borsip, he went. By now the sacrifice
and heave-offerings for the afternoon would be ended, but it was
Amraphel's self-appointed task daily to inspect the temple, the shrine,
and the priests' rooms, before he retired to the college of Zicarû for
the evening meal and a talk with his under-priests.

The monster temple and the great square of Marduk were aglow with the
sunset as Amraphel's chariot drew rein at the platform steps. The old
man alighted with his customary assurance. He had not reached the
platform itself when his eye was caught by a figure in front of him
moving slowly towards the temple door. It was a lean and sorry figure,
ill-clothed, and hardly clean: that of a man hook-nosed and hawk-eyed,
who leaned wearily on his staff and muttered to himself as he went. Him
Amraphel overtook and familiarly accosted.

"Surely, Daniel, thou goest not into the house of a 'false god'?"

The Jew turned on him with a sour smile. "Yea, I go for my haunch of the
day's heave-offering. God pardons a poor man the acceptance of
unsanctified food."

"A _poor_ man--ay, verily. But since when art thou poor, Jew?"

Daniel turned an ugly look upon the high-priest, who, having motives for
policy, suddenly changed his tone and said, in a low voice:

"Come thou and talk with me. The heave-offering, or something better,
shall be sent to thine abode. There is a near matter that waits

The Jew consented silently to the proposal and followed the high-priest
into the temple, across its vast hall, and back into one of the small
rooms used only by priests. The little place was empty, and Amraphel
seated himself in it with an affectation of feebleness. His back was to
the light, and he motioned his companion to a seat whereon the last
gleams of dying sunlight would fall direct from the small window behind
the priest. Daniel sat down, drew his garments together, laid his staff
across his knees, and caused his face to fall into an expression of
vacancy that betokened the utmost alertness of mind. Amraphel had,
however, not the least intention of trying deceit with his companion.
Rather, he was about to risk a very daring piece of frankness upon this
ruler of captive Judea.

"Daniel," said the old man, speaking in Hebrew, "you have told me that
your people worship one only God. In your holy scriptures is there any
word of another--a goddess--that is divine?"

"No!" was the quick answer.

"Hast thou--" Amraphel bent towards him--"hast thou beheld, closely, her
whom they call Istar?"


"Hast thou spoken with her?"


"Nay, be not cautious with me, Jew. I speak from my heart. I ask as one
that knows nothing, what is the idea of thy mind concerning the woman
that dwells in the holy temple of the goddess? Is she divine?"

"Divine! Say rather that she is the incarnation of Satan! Her heart is
full of evil."

"Yet you see in her a supernatural power?"

Amraphel asked the question with unmistakable anxiety; and Daniel,
raising his eyes, glanced for an instant into those of the priest. It
was the only answer that he gave, yet it was the one that Amraphel had
most feared. So, then, Daniel himself did not know the secret of Istar's
existence. It was well enough to call her an incarnation of evil. That,
according to Amraphel's way of thinking, did not at all lessen her
power. It was a rather discouraging silence that fell between the two; a
silence that Daniel finally broke.

"Why, O Amraphel, dost thou question me about the woman of Babylon? What
would you with her?"

The high-priest hesitated for a bare second. Then he answered, openly:
"I would have her driven from Babylon! Driven hence, because--because
she menaces the state. Because she takes our power from us. Because with
her the Elamite may find himself powerless against the city."

Daniel drew a sharp breath. "Cyrus, too!"

"Sh! Be silent! That name spells death. But consider what I have said.
The people of the city worship their 'goddess' as they no longer worship
the great gods of the silver sky. Should there come a time when Bel and
Marduk commanded the surrender of the city to the Elamite, if Istar held
not to us, if she raised her voice in behalf of the old dynasty, in
behalf of the tyrant, then indeed our lives might well be forfeited. For
when she commands, the people obey. And hark you, Daniel, I fear that
Istar of Babylon will not have the blood of Belshazzar redden the
streets of the Great City."

"Nay; for she _loves_ the tyrant Belshazzar!"

"Ah! You say it!" Amraphel, in high excitement, half rose from his
place. Here were his suspicions most unexpectedly confirmed.

Daniel, the imprudent words having escaped him, sank apathetically back
in his place, giving the high-priest to understand by his attitude that
nothing further was to be expected from him on that subject. And
Amraphel had the tact to waive the point. He felt it to be too broad for
discussion; for, in spite of himself, Istar roused in him unmistakable
feelings of awe. But now there was at least a strong bond of sympathy
between himself and Daniel. Amraphel realized that, and began at last
upon the real object of his conversation--a description of the proposed
festival at Erech, the three days that Istar was to spend in that holy

"And why," queried Daniel, quietly, "should she not remain in Erech, the
seat of her ancient worship? Surely that were well for all Chaldea?"

"Ang!--all Chaldea--not for Belshazzar, the king's son," was the reply.

Daniel looked at his companion with a twinkle in his eye. "If they were
but married!" he muttered to himself, not quite daring to speak the
words. But aloud he said, softly, with stress on every syllable: "Yet,
Amraphel, if Istar of Babylon leaves the Great City, who is there to say
that she shall enter it again?"

"None! As I am priest of Babylon, there is none that may say it!
Yet--yet--I do not perhaps understand thy words."

The Jew relapsed. "I said nothing!" he replied.

"Yea, thou saidst. Say again, Jew, _how_ shall Istar not return again
into the Great City?"

Daniel would not speak; but Amraphel, perceiving that much lay behind
the obstinacy, tried every means in his power to open the mind of his
companion. Finally the high-priest, driven to bay, took the risk, and,
bending over the Jew, said, softly: "There is no deed that could be
called by the name of just execution that I would not see performed--for
the sake of Babylon and that captive race of thine that longs for
liberty again."

Thereupon Daniel, straightening, answered and said: "God is not flesh,
but spirit. I, with mine eyes, have perceived that Istar of Babylon is
of the flesh. Therefore, priest, she must be mortal, and subject, as all
of us, to death. There be points of bronze and of iron which, piercing
the body, free the soul. So Istar--"

"Thou hast said it! It shall be! When? Where?"

"It should be--thus." Daniel paused for a moment, his keen face working
with his thoughts as he arranged the plan. "Belit Istar, the king, and
the priests, descending Euphrates in boats, will come to Erech on the
evening of the second day. Let the woman, on that night, go to rest in
the sacred precincts of the temple, but not then penetrate to the sacred
shrine. On the morning of the third day from Babylon all the people
shall be assembled in the great hall of the temple that they may behold
their goddess ascend into the shrine. Let her enter there alone for
purification and for communion with the great gods her brothers. And
look you, Amraphel, if she come not forth alive from that place it shall
be for a sign that she was not divine, but an evil thing, that had
indulged in unholy mockery, and had angered the great goddess Istar that
dwells on high in the silver sky."

Not till after he had spoken did the narrow eyes of the Jew meet those
of his companion; and he found Amraphel regarding him with grave
stolidity. Such things as this that they were planning were in no way
unheard-of among the holy orders; for the goat-skin, had it taken its
true color, would, long years ago, have been dyed crimson with the blood
of those slain under cover of its power. To be sure, Daniel did not wear
this badge of office, and he proffered worship only to the God of Judea.
But his was a captive race; and just at present his position was
gallingly unimportant. Therefore he believed that there were no means
actually unjustifiable for him to use to free himself and his people
from their nominal captivity. Amraphel's next question, however, brought
up a new train of thought.

"And who is to perform this deed? Thou, Daniel?"

"Nay! Nay, verily!" Daniel spoke in haste. "Is it not written in the
laws of Moses, 'Thou shalt not kill'? It must be a man of Babylon, not
of Judea, that does this thing."

"Then shall some younger member of the priesthood be instructed to the
deed: Vul-Ramân, of the temple of Nebo; Siatû-Sin, of the temple of Sin;
Gûla-Zir, of Bel at Borsip--"

"Rather, Amraphel, than that one alone should be trusted to fulfil the
difficult command, let there be three concealed within the shrine. So
shall they gain courage, each from his fellow. Then there could be
little danger of cowardice or of impiety."

"Truly, truly, that is well spoken. There shall be the three of them.
Now, Istar hath not yet been told of the approaching journey. I, on the
morrow, bear the word of it to her. It cannot be possible, Beltishazzar,
that from any source she could hear anything of this plan? Surely there
is no danger that the dagger will fail to pierce her flesh?"

Daniel grinned evilly. "Ho, Amraphel! Thou that believest in nothing! Is
it divinity now that you attribute to the woman? And where is divinity?
Where is a god? Where a goddess? Those words are foolish."

"Time runs away. I must depart," observed the high-priest, rising
hastily. "I go for the evening meal to the house of Zicarû. There also
will be Vul-Ramân, and probably the others. Will you come with me?"

Daniel assented eagerly. It was not his idea ever to refuse a meal which
would cost him nothing. Moreover, he was well known to the members of
most religious houses, in which he was more or less respected as
representing the great colony of Jews in Babylon, whose co-operation in
the coming revolution was a very necessary thing. However little, then,
the ex-prophet might be personally liked, his presence commanded a
respect that was born of fear; and this, for him, in whose secret heart
was implanted an implacable hatred for the race that held him and his
people in so-called bondage, was enough.

The house of Zicarû was a kind of monastic institution in which
unordained members of the priesthood received an education, and where
all the various under-priests and attendants of the various temples
might lodge and eat. One of these houses was supported by nearly every
temple of Babylon, and the luxurious rooms of the house of the temple of
Marduk were the resort of high-priests and elders from every temple in
the city. As institutions of learning, the monasteries were celebrated;
and there were schools attached to them for the instruction of the laity
in such courses of study as were not taught in the market-place.
Astronomy, algebra, geometry, astrology, augury, and many languages--old
Accadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Sanscrit could be learned there from the
most efficient instructors in Chaldea. Without doubt the priesthood of
Babylon was a highly intellectual order, and the people whom they ruled
were ruled intelligently.

As Amraphel and the Jew reached their destination, daylight sank, at a
breath, out of the sky. They found the world within at supper. The
high-priest was greeted by a general rising, and the chief place at the
head of the table was vacated for him by Vul-Ramân, of the house of
Yakin, priest of Nebo and Nergal, next in rank to Amraphel. Vul-Ramân
was a far younger man than his immediate superior, and his face was
pleasantly expressive and unusually animated for a Babylonian, who, of
all peoples, were the most impassive.

Amraphel took the place at the head of the table with accustomed
dignity, while Daniel found a seat farther down, among the elders, and
his yellow face lighted with pleasure as he smelled the savory odor of
roasted meats taken from the day's sacrifices. No table in the city,
barring the king's own, was furnished so lavishly or so richly as this;
for the rarest offerings made each day to Father Marduk were sent to
this larder at sunset. That which was not eaten was afterwards given
away to the poor, who nightly clustered about the gates of the house,
giving thanks to the gods for their generosity.

Amraphel was a small eater, and never eager for food. To-night his beef
remained before him untasted. His bread was unbroken, and the barley
paste grew stiff and cold as he sat drinking cup after cup of the wine
of Lebanon, talking with those around him, using eyes and brain keenly
as he watched the right moment at which to speak. Vul-Ramân and
Siatû-Sin were side by side upon his left; while, as fortune arranged
it, Gûla-Zir was next but one upon his right, having come in from
Borsippa for the night.

Amraphel knew that every man at that table was at his command,
unquestioningly, day or night. None would dare dispute his word; none
dare even to ask his motive for a deed. Nevertheless he carefully bided
his time, waiting till the moment when that that he had to propose might
seem not only possible to do, but, in the interest of their creed, the
most desirable of all deeds. The time arrived. Vul-Ramân had happily
made reference to a somewhat similar affair of many months before, the
results of which had been beyond question beneficial--from the priestly
point of view. Amraphel took the last words out of the other's mouth,
turned them to unique account, and in less than five minutes had laid
bare to his companions the skeleton of his design. It was done so
deftly, so lucidly, and withal so delicately, that Vul-Ramân could not
but regard his superior with envious admiration. The whole arrangement
of the murder was planned by suggestion. Not once was an imperative
used. Yet the man of simplest mind could not have failed to see what was
to be done, how, and by whom. Amraphel concluded more boldly with a
phantasy of the deed:

"I can see the great and holy temple, and the many hundreds that stand
within, waiting the coming of Belit Istar. I see the steps ascending to
the holy shrine all carpeted with stiff gold. At last I behold her
coming radiantly into the dusky temple-room. Her tresses float lightly
behind her; her tresses, like spun silk, hang as a veil about her
shoulders. Falsely now she moves between the rows of kneeling men and
women. Falsely she glides up the holy steps, and, profaning all
holiness, draws aside the curtain of the sanctuary and enters alone into
the little room. The curtain falls again, concealing her from the
watching eyes. Silently and swiftly do the faithful of the great gods
steal behind, seizing her about the throat, with firm hands stifling her
cries of terror. Before her stands her judge. The instrument of his
justice is in his hand. Well he wields it. Three times it strikes
swiftly to the heart of the woman. The silent body is left in the
shrine. Only the false soul wails its way into the dismal land of
Ninkigal. The judges, high in favor with the gods, depart even as they
came, by the statue-door in the back of the shrine. In high heaven the
true Istar sings for joy. Crowns and much wealth she gives to those that
have served her. And now, down the golden carpet that covers the steps
leading up to the high place, flows a long thread of crawling crimson,
which, with its brightness, shall speak to the people of the mortality
of her whom falsely they worshipped. Belit Istar shall be discovered to
them as a woman."

These artistic and well-chosen words of the high-priest were greeted by
all those around him with mental applause. The three men detailed for
the work eagerly accepted their task, and were enviously regarded by
their companions; for would not the true Istar, doubtless in the person
of Amraphel himself, reward them with "crowns and much gold"? Ah! In the
days of the great gods how might a prince have envied his priest!

At the end of the meal, details of the forthcoming murder were discussed
by Amraphel and the three priests in a room apart. After everything was
properly understood Amraphel quietly left the house, and, once more
mounting his chariot, made his way homeward through the long, dark
streets. His mind was at peace. The defeat at Belshazzar's hands of the
early afternoon, had merely necessitated another battle, in which, this
time, victory to the other side was an assured thing. There would be
little fighting about it. The disposition of forces was the simplest in
the world. There remained only two things to do. A vast celebration must
be decreed, through Nabu-Nahid, for all Babylonia; and, more delicate
task, Istar herself must be persuaded into taking an interested part in
the festival. This last thing could best be done by himself. And in
order to prepare himself as adequately as possible for the coming
interview with the goddess in her own temple, Amraphel betook himself at
this early hour to his couch, and shortly after lying down, mind and
body alike being at rest, the aged and reverent man sank serenely to

       *       *       *       *       *

Unique as was Istar's outer life, splendid as were her surroundings,
awful and holy the places in which her time was passed, yet to an
ordinary person her existence would have been intolerable. Her absolute
isolation was something that those who regarded her from the outside
never considered. To them she was above all ordinary things. She was
part of many a pageant, a dazzling vision to be looked upon, stared at,
frequently prayed to in various affected ways, but in the end treated as
something inhuman, some one far from real life, the real world, real
feelings of joy and of sorrow. Gradually she had grown accustomed to her
vast solitude. Her loneliness was uncomplaining; but her days were
interminably, cruelly long. This was one reason why, when Lord Amraphel
asked audience of her on the morning after the breaking of Charmides'
lyre, she joyfully granted the request.

Istar lay upon a pile of rugs in the prettiest interior court of her
dwelling behind the temple, listening to the distant droning of a
flageolet that came from a narrow street behind the temple platform. The
rays of her aureole had been very faint; but, as Amraphel was announced
to her, her veil of light quickened into new life, and the vibrations
pulsated rapidly, as if to protect her from close contact with some
dangerous force. The high-priest was ushered into the divine presence
preceded by four eunuchs and followed by two black pages. Three times he
prostrated himself before her, with every mark of humility and
reverence. After the third obeisance Istar commanded a chair to be
brought for the old man, and bade him be seated in her presence.
Amraphel, however, with a sudden, inexplicable qualm, refused the honor.

"Belit Istar," he began, after a prolonged silence which Istar had not
thought of breaking, "for two years now, ever since the miracle of the
incarnation, you have dwelt secluded in the Great City. Here all men
have worshipped you in awe and in love. But now, from that city in which
your first earth-life was lived, where, in the early dawn of Chaldean
history, you and your bright Tammuz and the mighty Izdubar dwelt
together, your people cry aloud to you again. By the benevolent
generosity of Nabu-Nahid, their king, the men of Erech have raised a new
and mighty temple in your honor, have called it by your name, and they
pray, through my mouth, that you will go down into Erech and will with
your divine presence consecrate the far-famed holy house in which
henceforth, in all honor and glory, you will dwell. This, to-day, is my
mission to you, Lady of Heaven. May my words find favor in your ears!"

While he spoke to her Istar had watched the man with troubled eyes.
Something in his way of speaking moved her to distrust and to
unhappiness. When he had finished the trouble lay in her heart, and she
rebelled inwardly against him. But when she spoke, it was but to ask,

"The people of Erech pray me to go down among them. When would they have
me come, and how?"

"Eight days hence they wish to consecrate to you their new temple. You,
the king, the king's son, the priests, your own attendants, and many
lords and slaves of the royal houses, will journey in barges down the
great river. It will be two days before Erech can be reached; but
entertainment will be provided by the way for you and for the king and
the king's son. Musicians, dancers, and singers shall show their skill
before you. Canopies will shade you from the fierce fires of Shamash.
Cool wines and fruits and grains, with the flesh of cows, will be
provided for your sustenance. Through the journey, Lady of Heaven, you
shall know no want."

"And at the journey's end I shall behold the temple?"

"Not on the first night. At sunset of the second day's journey the
sacred city will rise up before you; and all night there will be
feasting and rejoicing. You will be housed as fittingly as mortal men
can make your lodging, in the long rooms behind the temple. Far more
spacious are they than these. Here, in communion with the gods your
brothers, the night will quickly pass away; and when the morning dawns,
and many people fill the temple, then you shall enter among them, and
shall pass up the steps of the sacred shrine and shall enter into the
high place, where purifying water will be placed in the deep. When this
water is blessed at your hands it will be carried down among those in
the temple and sprinkled over them, and thereby great miracles will be
performed. Then, when you sit in the mercy-seat and receive the holy
prayers of the people, giving them leave to address you and worship your
holy name, all lower Babylonia will fall upon its knees before you, will
proffer sacrifice, and hold in highest honor you that are come to dwell
among them. Yea, and the city of Erech shall be forever holy among
cities. O goddess, may my words find favor in your ears!"

Istar listened to these words as to the others, quietly, but with a
distrust that she would have been unable to explain. When the
high-priest ceased to speak she let the silence remain unbroken for some
minutes. Finally, rising up before him, she replied, more dogmatically
than she had ever spoken to any one:

"I, O Amraphel, will go down into Erech, and there will I consecrate, as
much as in my power it lies, this newly erected temple. I will listen
there to the prayers of the people, and will answer them if I may. Yea,
for three days I will take up my abode in the city of Erech. But longer
than that I will not tarry. Babylon is the seat of my dwelling; and in
Babylon I will fulfil my time. Moreover, let not the festival be ordered
till two more Sabbatû be passed. Then shall the barges at the great
bridge be made ready, and the king, and the king's son, and the priests,
and lords, and slaves may assemble there on the twentieth day of this
month of Ab. Lo, I have spoken."

Amraphel made no protest. Once again he prostrated himself before her,
in token of obedience to her will. Then, for a moment, he made an effort
to scan her face. But the light flowed round about it so that he could
perceive nothing. Presently there came over him a sudden rush of dread
lest she should read the thoughts in his heart. Yet as his hands touched
the hem of her garment she did not shrink from him; and, as he turned to
leave her, she looked upon him with kindly eyes. He left her presence
with perplexity and doubt in his mind; though how it had entered in he
could not have told. _Was_ Istar human? _Could_ she be divine? As the
old man drove rapidly away down the Â-Ibur-Sabû, it seemed to him that
the firm, material beliefs of fifty years were swept from his mind, and
he was left again as a child before whom the world and its inscrutable
mysteries are opening for the first time.

When the high-priest was gone, Istar rose from the rugs upon which she
had sunk back for the moment, and began to move slowly up and down the
sunlit court. As she went the rays of her aureole grew dim, till the
embroidery of her purple robe could be distinguished, and her hair
glistened only under the beams of the sun. And Istar's thoughts, like
her steps, were slow. She would neither define nor analyze them. Only,
being as ever alone, she murmured them aloud to herself; and it was as
well, perhaps, that no one was at hand to hear her, as she said, softly:

"The king will go--and the king's son! Twelve days--and then--Belshazzar,



Early on the morning of July 20th, half Babylon assembled at the great
bridge that connected the king's road with the Mutâqutû. Floating on the
water, beneath the bridge and along the west bank, were the twenty
magnificent barges destined to bear a divine and royal company down the
well-flowing river to the ancient city of Erech. It was not many hours
after dawn that the start was to be made. Istar, driven in her flaming
car, arrived in good time, but too late to see the parting between
Amraphel, who could not leave Babylon, and his three trusty priests,
Vul-Ramân of Bit-Yakin, Siatû-Sin and Gûla-Zir, priest of Father Bel in
Borsip. Their barge had been placed farthest from that of Istar, for the
purpose of attracting as little notice as possible. Their words with
their master were not many, but they were well chosen. Vul-Ramân was
smiling grimly as he moved to his place. The other two were serious, a
little pale, perhaps; but in neither heart was there any thought of
drawing back from the purpose.

Istar was in her place before the royal party arrived: Nabu-Nahid in one
chariot, Belshazzar with Ribâta in another, and behind them a long line
of lords, councillors, judges, and members of their households. As the
prince stepped from his vehicle to the embankment, Istar caught sight of
him. At the same instant his eyes, moving hurriedly over the scene as if
in search of something, encountered hers. A quiver passed through each
of them, and which was most affected it would be difficult to say.

In the general mêlée of embarkation that followed, Belshazzar and his
party managed to obtain the barge to the right of that on which Istar
lay. Nabonidus and his officials were on the left; and after them formed
the lines of other boats, three abreast. When every one was safely in
his appointed place, and the fastenings had been cut, Istar's boatmen
raised a long, quavering cry, that resolved into the first notes of a
song. In this the men of every boat joined; and by the time the first
phrase was at an end, the long, thick-bladed oars were moving regularly
through the water, and the brilliant pageant was moving down the ancient

To Istar the hours of this, her first day's journey, were long dreams of
pleasure. She had known nothing of the course of this river after it
left the confining banks of the city, through which it flowed darkly,
rapidly, unbeautifully. Now the freedom of its winding course, the
native life, and the richness of verdure along its banks, the mighty
palm-forests, the long stretches of grain-fields, the picturesque
irrigators at which men were continually at work, the droves of cattle
and water-buffalo on the banks, the troops of cranes, pelicans, and
flamingos in the water itself, the very warmth, the singing of the
hurrying river, and the mournful answers of the boatmen, brought to her
such a novel sense of joy and content as she had never before known. If
men loved life as she did for this moment--then she had already
discovered the secret of the Great Master. It was freedom--freedom to
roam at will through the fair world, with no tie to bind one to any
spot--the whole world one's home, one's delight.

This day, with all its varied beauty, ended at last--melted away through
the short, purple twilight into a starry night. The songs of the rowers
died. The river was very still. Those in the boats dropped away to
sleep, one by one. Only Istar lay through the velvet hours open-eyed,
trying to fathom the depths of this delight of hers--the delight that in
some way had not all to do with the day and the scenery. She seemed now
to have entered into life. Till to-day she had been so protected, so
hedged about with ceremonial and form, so hindered by her supposed
divinity, that now, in this first flush of her freedom, there rose again
from her heart that deep cry for mortality that should bring her true
knowledge as to the falseness or truth of the new-found joy. She had
hoped for Allaraine to come to her that night; but the hours wore away,
and when false dawn foreshadowed the morning he had failed her for the
first time since her incarnation. There was a little sadness over this;
but it was forgotten, presently, in the general stir of waking, of
eating, and of greeting the exquisite first moments of the day.

Just as the barges started at full speed again after the long night of
drifting, there came an incident that changed the aspect of the second
day from dreamy content to uneasy, troublous delight. One of
Istar's fan-slaves, whose duty it was to waft before her one of the
long-handled, peacock-feather fans, had disappeared in the night, no one
knew whither or why. Nothing was said to Istar about it. Some one had
taken the slave's place. Her fans were waving as usual. It was an hour
before some slight awkwardness in the manipulation of the implement
caused her to glance up at the wielder of it. Instantly a sharp cry
escaped her lips. It was Belshazzar who was playing the slave. Instantly
she bade him cease the work and return to his barge. This, stubbornly
enough, he refused to do; and the matter was finally ended by a eunuch
taking his place, while he lay down at the prow of Istar's boat, with
his face turned towards the goddess, who reclined uneasily on her
cushions, seeking to avoid his glance, but returning to it again and yet
again, perhaps not wholly against her will.

As Amraphel had foretold, the city of Erech appeared to them like a
shadow through the twilight of the second day, rising, many-towered,
from the east bank of the river. Darkness had come on before a landing
was made. Great bonfires had been lighted all along the banks of the
river; and thousands of people stood thronged together in their flaring
light, waiting to welcome their goddess and their king. Lusû-ana-Nuri,
the governor of the city, with his lords and judges, stood at the
landing-stage. Istar, supported on the one side by Vul-Ramân, on the
other by Siatû-Sin, waited till the prostrations of the governor were at
an end, and then mounted the magnificent car prepared for her, on which
she was drawn slowly between endless lines of kneeling and awe-struck
citizens to her new abode, the vast temple of Istar of Erech, rebuilt by
Nabonidus on the site of that ancient one that her prototype was said to
have inhabited thousands of years before.

On the temple platform, back of the great ziggurat, was the third
building--the dwelling-house of the living goddess; a palace of a
hundred rooms, pricelessly furnished and decorated. Hither, alone in her
car, Istar was driven. It had been arranged that the king and all of his
accompanying suite, together with Prince Belshazzar, should proceed with
the governor to his palace, where a huge feast had been prepared. The
goddess herself, it had been thought, would prefer to pass this night in
communion with her heavenly brothers, in preparation for the ceremony of
the morrow. At the entrance of her new abode she was received by a large
company of eunuch priests, and of female Ukhatû and Kharimatû, together
with veiled nuns, prophetesses, and dancing-women. By these she was
surrounded, and reverently conveyed to an inner room, where was spread a
savory repast. Of this she partook in solitude, to the mournful sounds
of flutes, lyres, and cymbals playing a slow, rhythmical dance, to which
two maidens postured before her. It was a lonely and a dreary meal--one
such as she had been long accustomed to, but which these two short days
on the river, where there had been many people, and laughter and gay
singing, had rendered more distasteful than ever before. Having eaten a
little, Istar requested that she be conveyed to her sleeping-room and
there left alone; for the strange faces and awed behavior of those about
her rendered her more forlorn than she would have been in entire

The sleeping-chamber was a long, narrow hall--the usual shape of
Babylonian and Assyrian rooms. At one end of it, on a raised daïs, was a
couch of ivory and beaten silver, piled high with rugs and cushions of
the most costly materials. The walls and the narrow door-way were hung
with rich embroideries of a deep, purplish-blue color. The tiled floor
was strewn with rugs and skins, and the whole room was dimly lighted
with swinging-lamps of wrought bronze. Chairs of ebony, teak-wood, and
ivory, with tables of the same materials, were placed about the
apartment. High in the wall at the lower end was a little, square window
through which might be seen a single brilliant star.

Istar looked around her with pleasure. Two attendants remained at her
side till a eunuch slave had brought in a silver tray containing a jar
of rare wine with a golden drinking-cup. This he placed on a table near
the couch. Then all three of them, obedient to her command, departed,
after a series of the tiresome prostrations that were a continual
weariness to her.

And now, at last, she was quite alone again--alone with the night, with
the great silence, with the dimly burning lamps, and with the
awe-inspiring hush that had settled over her. She seated herself upon a
low chair and folded her hands upon her knees. The presence of God was
distinguishable in the room. All thought of the day that had just passed
was gone from Istar now. She felt a sense of the vastness of time, and
of the immateriality of all things. She seemed to be alone in a great
void, a void filled by the incomprehensible power of the universal
master. Her own thoughts frightened her. Her breath came more slowly.
For a little time it seemed to her that to-night she was to return into
her former state. Whether she welcomed the end with joy or with sorrow
she could not have told. But the end was not yet come. How long it was
before she was restored to herself by the appearance of the rosy cloud
of Allaraine she did not know. The strains of music from his lyre came
faintly to her ears, as from an immense distance. The mist and its
well-known nucleus were there with her. Yet now, and for the second
time, that nucleus did not take on its proper shape; was not formulated.
Allaraine was striving vainly to come to her. Considering the great
spirituality of her mood, this was doubly strange. Istar looked into the
cloud with eyes that spoke her fear. The music itself melted--slowly
died away. The cloud grew paler and more mistlike. Quietly Istar rose,
and, with mental insistence, held out her arms. There was one last burst
of chords--chords that fell as from a great height in organ-tones as dim
and beautiful as the evening wind. The single phrase struck home to her
heart; it was a phrase of sorrow, of warning, of preparation for coming
evil; a phrase that spoke, as a voice speaks, of suffering. Then, once
again, there was silence; a silence as oppressive as heat. The window
was clear again, and through it the star could be seen. The odor of
sandal-wood was strong in the room.

Istar lay back in her broad chair. The memory of her old life grew
faint. Babylon lay leagues to the north, and she was no longer part of
it. The history of the ancient and sacred city in which this, her
temple-dwelling, stood, the shadowy legends that clung about its
crumbling and honored walls, presented themselves vividly to her mental
vision. She seemed now to be a part of the spirit of that other Istar,
the Love-goddess, who, in her great incarnation, had loved and married
the warm and exquisite Spring, the Tammuz of present-day festivals, who
had appeared in human form then, when the world was younger and more
fair. And she knew also with what vehemence that Istar had loved the
great hero, the slayer of lions, the man of wisdom and strength,
Izdubar, who had sought her out for aid in battle when the power of his
good genius, Êa-Bani, failed him. And that Istar of old had not failed.
As she thought of the two, and how Istar the Love-goddess had become the
woman of war, the lady of Arbela, the mind of this other of divine race
was filled indiscriminately with the soft murmurings of spring and the
martial clang of arms. Happy, indeed, had been that Istar of old; for
she had loved, and had protected whom she loved, fearing none, obeying
no power higher than herself. But now--if the people of the city were
seeking such another as she had been, they must wail at last in their
disappointment. Neither Tammuz nor Izdubar--neither beauty nor
strength--had come to her to love her; nor could she have given all that
her predecessor knew so well how to give. Love! What was it? Vague
imaginings flitted through the Narahmouna's mind. She paused, in
thinking, to hearken to the silence. A city of sleep lay about her on
every hand. Stirred any creature there through the night? Her head
drooped upon her knee. She listened to the throbbing of the stillness.
Yea, some one besides herself was awake with the darkness. She could
distinguish soft footsteps near her door. Some slave, no doubt, was
going to a vigil in the temple. Silence again. The steps had not died
away, but seemed suddenly to stop near by her very portal. Istar
listened again, but still did not lift her head. She knew that the
curtain overhanging the door-way was being pushed aside. There was some
one else in the room with her. She felt the presence, and her heart
ceased to beat. Yet it was not fear that sent the blood to her heart.
Only when the some one was very near, when the fold of a flowing mantle
touched her shoulder, did she finally lift her bowed head and look. At
the same instant, before she could rise up, half in terror, half in joy,
the man sank abjectly at her feet. A white, fearful, half-daring face
was lifted up to her. A pair of haunted storm-eyes caught and held her
look. A moving, nerveless hand clutched the hem of her garment.

Istar hardly breathed. It was all too vague, too dreamlike, too
impossible, for her to realize what had happened. She was without fear,
yet she shook like an aspen. She let her eyes answer that other look.
Then, from the gaze, something was born within her. Something choked
her. She gasped for breath. Finally, with a sudden cry of terror, she
covered her face with her hands and rose unsteadily to her feet.

Belshazzar did not stir; neither did he take his eyes from her as she
moved across the room. His heart was pounding furiously against his
side, and his head swam with the power of the emotion that had driven
him in this way to her presence. A wonderful thing passed before his
eyes. That veil of light, that had held the goddess safe in its
protective depths since her incarnation, was almost gone. It had been
rent and torn from her by the force of the change within her; and now it
hung around her form in thin, glittering shreds that melted away like
hoar-frost in the sunlight. At last he saw unconcealed what that had so
long unbearably tantalized him: that which, hitherto, had only revealed
itself to him by accident, a line, a single curve accentuated by a
gesture, at a time. Now, all at once, it was before him quite
visible--the delicate, fragile form of a perfect woman, clad in clinging
draperies of purple embroidered in silver, sandalled in silver, the head
uncrowned, the waves of silken, black hair falling unbound behind her.

She had stood at the far end of the room, statue-like, for a long time,
before he came back to himself, before he realized how he lay. Then, in
some way, he got to his feet and went to her; carefully by instinct;
repressing himself at every step. She knew that he came, yet did not
seem to shrink. Before he reached her side, however, he broke the
silence between them, saying, huskily:

"Istar--do you bid me go?"

She did not at once reply, though he did not know whether or not she
meditated over her answer. While she still paused, the eyes of the
prince dilated with anxiety. Finally came the reply in a whisper so low
that it was a miracle he heard it: "Not Istar of Arbela; Istar of Erech,
I. Go--if thou wilt--"

In another instant Belshazzar was upon her, had taken her into his
heroic arms, was drowning her cries of amazement in the passionate
torrent of his emotion; and for a little she was still, while wonder
took full possession of her. Then there came from her lips one cry that
would not be silenced--a cry that rang through the room and passed out
of the window, winging its way upward to high heaven: a cry of momentary
anguish, of something forever lost, of something also gained. It was no
more the voice of the Being Divine. It was that of a woman.

Hearing it, involuntarily, Belshazzar drew back from her, smitten with a
kind of terror at what he must have done. She was there, wide-eyed and
shivering, before him. The last shred of her aureole was gone. She
sobbed. Her eyes had become blindly bright, and presently overflowed. In
that first moment of humanity she wept. It was her destiny. Something
more she did also. In her weakness, in her great solitude, she did what
women will. All alone in a strange world, unsheltered, unprotected,
amazed and confused by the great tumult raging within her, she turned to
him who stood before her, the embodiment of human strength and beauty,
and to him she held out her arms.

Belshazzar went to her, not fiercely now, but reverently, almost as much
amazed as she herself at this more than fulfilment of the dream that he
had so long and so blasphemously cherished. Holding her again close in
his arms, his senses reeled under the human warmth of her body. Bending
his dark head over hers he whispered to her, in such a tone as he had
never used before, those words that make the world immortal:

"Istar! Oh, my beloved! I love thee!"

One of her arms crept fearfully round his neck, and the tears from her
eyes fell upon his cheeks, and he understood that she answered him.
Knowing not what else was left for her, she clung to him the more
closely as he lifted her slender body and carried her up to the daïs at
the far end of the room. And so through the night, while the lamps
burned low, and the white star sank from sight, for those two, through
the wisdom of God, time ceased, and their souls were mingled with
eternity. And over them, though neither of them saw, in answer to the
mortal cry of their one-time sister, archetype on archetype descended
from the height to watch over the place where Istar had become a woman.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night, the enchanted night, the twenty-second of the burning midsummer
month, hung heavily through the great spaces of the temple of Istar.
Silence, far-reaching and luminous, spread within from the open portals,
past the altar and the deep and the sacred recording-stone, to the foot
of the first of the steps that led up to the curtained door of the
sanctuary, within which the sanctification of the temple was to take
place in the morning. The east was still black when the first dim
figures, forerunners of the vast crowds that by sunrise would fill the
temple to overflowing, passed the bronze gates and took their places at
the foot of the sanctuary steps.

White dawn entered, mistlike, through the portals of the high house, and
the myriad temple lights that had pierced the night with their tiny
points of flame grew very dim; and when at last the sun sent his first
scarlet and golden messengers up the eastern sky to announce his coming,
these lights came to resemble mere reflections of the burnished brass
and beaten gold that covered the temple walls. By now there was an
immense throng inside, and moment by moment it was augmented; for all
Erech, and all the country-side for miles around, was making its way to
this place. Finally the long-awaited Shamash leaped into the sky,
holding before him his shield of glory, sending a great shaft of light
into this dwelling-place of his sister Istar. A murmur of prayers for
the morning rose up through the lofty spaces of the temple-roof, and the
silence that followed these was intense with expectation; for now, at
any moment, their goddess might come to them.

Within the sanctuary everything had long since been prepared. During the
night several priestesses of Istar had kept a vigil there, offering up
continuous prayers before the stone pedestal on which, in any other
temple, the statue of the goddess would have stood. Water, over which
one hundred charms and incantations had been said, filled the purifying
basin. The place was sweet with the odor of spices, and its air hung
hazy with incense. Beside the broad basin, upon a table plated with
gold, stood a flask of perfumed oil, treasured for many years for use
upon some such holy occasion as this. The little, windowless room was
lighted by a swinging-lamp of exquisite workmanship, kept burning night
and day in the perpetual gloom. In this place the consecrated hierodules
had held their prayerful watch through the long night of the passion;
and at dawn they left it empty, to await the coming of its divine
occupant. Five minutes after the departure of the veiled women, however,
the sanctuary was invaded by three persons who bore no resemblance to
gods. Vul-Ramân and his two companions, their priests' dresses covered
with long cloaks of sombre hue, glided in through the concealed door
behind the pedestal. The three of them were pale and rather anxious-eyed
as they took up the positions suggested by Amraphel. Vul-Ramân, only,
carried a weapon: the same thin-bladed, delicate knife that he had used
on more than one occasion similar to this. Twice he ran his finger
carefully along the edge of the blade, and the last time his skin was
neatly slit by the metal. Satisfied with the trial, he slipped the
little instrument under his cloak again, and then the long, nervous
vigil of the murderers began.

By the time the sun was half an hour high, the crowd outside the temple
had become restless, and the close-packed rows of men and women were as
impatient as they dared to be. No one of any importance had yet made an
appearance. Surely the king, the prince, the governor, and their
attendant lords should be here by this time. Would Istar come if they
still delayed? Would that she might! And then, the mention of Istar
again bringing up the most absorbing of all topics, every man and his
neighbor fell to talking of how he had seen her on the previous evening
on her way from the river to her temple; and on every hand were heard
descriptions of her wonderful and unearthly presence. That baffling
radiance that flowed about her was the veil of Sin, her father. It
proclaimed her divinity as nothing else could have proclaimed it.
Heretofore there had been not a little scepticism over the exaggerated
reports brought down from Babylon during the two past years; but there
was no scepticism in Erech to-day. Goddess she assuredly was; and as a
goddess she should dwell in the heavenly house they had built for her,
on ground consecrated to her many thousands of years ago.

At last, from the street leading up to the temple, came a blare of
trumpets and a clangor of cymbals, and a shiver of excitement overran
the people when they realized the approach of the king and his royal
train. Four ushers with lily-topped wands forced a passage through the
crowd, and finally entered the temple itself, where the making of an
aisle was no easy task.

Amid tumultuous shouts the lordly company left their chariots, and
passed in processional line, between the people, clear to the foot of
the sanctuary steps. Gentle-faced Nabonidus, arm-in-arm with the
governor of the city, came first; and the throng made reverent way for
them. Belshazzar, pale-faced and utterly overwrought, physically
exhausted, mentally apprehensive, followed his father, walking alone.
The people looked after him curiously as he passed, and many were the
whispers to the effect that the prince-royal was a wild and dissolute
fellow. After these three notables came the lords, judges, and
councillors, Ribâta among them, more puzzled than he would have
acknowledged at his friend's too apparent state of mind. This entire
company found places immediately at the foot of the sanctuary steps.
Nabonidus and his son faced each other, standing the one on the left,
the other on the right hand of the spot where Istar must pause ere she
went up into the high place. Both king and prince were in priest's
dress--white muslin, goat-skin, and golden girdles, with anklets and
bracelets of gold, and feather tiaras set in wrought gold. Seeing this
garb, a few among the people chanced to remember the three Babylonish
priests that had come down the river with the king. But there was no one
that knew where they might be, and none cared enough to press an

Now, certainly, Istar was late. The people were tired and impatient, and
there were not a few who, having waited here since dawn, complained
bitterly of the divine tardiness. But there was only one person in that
throng that suffered both physically and mentally with suspense. This
was he who, one hour before, had left Istar's side; he who now stood,
ghastly pale, heavy-eyed, and nerveless with anxiety, at the sanctuary
steps. Could she come here this morning? Would she come? And how would
the ordeal affect her? It seemed almost impossible that she could go
through with it, overwrought as she was. Yet what would be the result
with the people did she fail them?

Ah! What was that? The minor cadences of the chant of priestesses were
to be heard outside the temple. She was coming then. She was here!

At the door of the temple stood a large company of yellow-robed women,
half of them veiled, half of them with their faces bare. In their midst,
as yet invisible to the people, was Istar. Still, they recognized her
presence, and there was a sudden, vast rustling, as all that immense
throng, with one impulse, sank to their knees there in the sacred hall.
After a momentary pause on the threshold the ranks of the women parted,
and Istar came forth alone.

Clothed like the sun she was, in tissue upon tissue of woven gold, that
shimmered with a thousand rays. Her hair was crowned with gold,
incrusted with deep-hued beryls, and from the back of the diadem floated
a gold-wrought veil, beneath which lay her lustrous hair, a dark, silken
mass. Dazzled at first by her shimmering garments, it was not till the
second moment that the ten thousand eyes sought her face. Then--it
seemed to Belshazzar that he could _feel_ the change in the multitude.
_Goddess?_--That?--That pale-faced, wide-eyed woman? Nay! And yet--she
was beautiful. She was so beautiful in her unveiled pallor that she
might well have been looked on as something more than human. There was
no radiant aureole of divinity around her now. Perhaps that had been a
twilight dream. And, the first shock of disappointment over, most of the
people would have worshipped her still. Men's eyes followed her with
inexpressible wonderment as, inch by inch, she moved up the aisle. What
agony that passage was to her even Belshazzar could not know. She was
barely conscious as she neared the steps; for it was the first time that
she had ever really walked.

To Istar's eyes the temple was dim. The murmur of whispers reached her
as from a great distance. She realized vaguely what she was expected to
do, while her eyes were riveted on one thing, and her soul was striving
to leave her body that it might reach the sooner that which she loved.
In the first instant of her mortality Belshazzar's image had been
stamped indelibly upon her heart and in her brain. And now that he
himself was there before her, she felt only that she must get to him.
She cared to go no further.

The long distance was traversed at last. She stood at the foot of the
sanctuary steps, Belshazzar close upon her right hand, the king upon her
left, all the mass of people behind her. She must go up, she must mount
up into the space that for a moment seemed to stretch out before her
like the spaces of heaven--vast, limitless, infinite. She placed her
foot upon the first step, hesitated for an instant, shivered with cold,
then, with a mighty effort, lifted herself up and stopped. Perhaps it
was well that at this moment neither Vul-Ramân above nor the crowd below
could see her face. It bore an expression of fear, of horror, such as
cannot be pictured by human imagination. Still she ascended one more
step, and none could have realized the heroism that carried her there.
Could she go on? Must she? Suddenly a great cry burst from her. Her face
became livid. Her teeth chattered, and her hands worked nervelessly. She
was forbidden to progress. There, towering above her in menacing wrath,
was a throng of shadowy things, of huge wings, of heavenly forms, just
discernible to her eyes, invisible to all others. The archetypes of
heaven were before her, barring her way, crying her fall to her, driving
her back from the high place to which no mortal might attain. One
gesture she made--lifted both arms to them in pitiable pleading. Then,
with a fainter cry, she reeled and fell, backward and down, and, while
the mighty vision faded from her mortal eyes, Belshazzar caught her
lifeless body in his arms. As he did so there came an uproar from every
side of the temple: vague, indeterminate, angry murmurs, presently
silent before one trumpet-voice, bolder than the rest, that voiced the
feeling of the men of Erech. This cry was taken up and repeated, and
cried again, till the temple-roof quivered with it, and the stoutest of
hearts quailed before its wrath:

"This is a woman! A woman! It is a woman!"

Belshazzar, with lion mien, and storm-eyes blazing with fury, faced them
all with his burden in his arms; and, angry and disgusted as they were
at the great deceit, not a hand was lifted against this prince of their
blood who espoused the cause of the false woman, the pretender. As he
bore her from them out of the temple, there was none to notice the
parting of the sanctuary curtains; none to perceive the pale, peering
face of Vul-Ramân of Bit-Yakin, whose glittering knife was cold with
desire for human blood. The priest stared fearfully upon the general
tumult; for of all that company he was now the only one that believed in
the divinity of Istar of Babylon. For how but by divinity had she that
morning escaped her death?



Istar did not keep her word about Charmides' Greek lyre. It was not
returned to him at all, whole or broken. So, after a little waiting, the
Greek, hungry for an instrument, was obliged to replace his old one with
one of the awkwardly fashioned Babylonian lyres, on which his skill was
admirable, but which did not by any means produce the music of the Greek
instrument. He felt the circumstance in two ways: one of disappointment
with his goddess, the other as an omen--that the last tie that had bound
him to Sicily was forever broken. Henceforth, in everything but
complexion and religion, he was of Babylon. The Great City held every
interest of his life. Everything that belonged to it was dear to him;
and he wished nothing better than to have no distinction made, even in
thought, between him and the natives of Chaldea. Only Apollo and the
memory of his mother lived in his heart to remind him that his childhood
had been something far away. And more than once, by night, thinking of
the mother's loneliness, he sent her, by Castor and Pollux, fervent
messages of affection. Perhaps Heraia received these and was content;
for a mother-heart is quick to feel even a thought, though it be
generated ten thousand miles away, and a mother can rise to any
sacrifice for the happiness of the child of her flesh.

By the middle of July Charmides began to know Babylon, its ways and
byways, very thoroughly. At first he had lost himself almost every time
that he ventured from Ramûa's side; but, by much wandering to find his
way back again, he learned the streets and their crooked twistings as
not all of the old inhabitants knew them. He was likewise in a fair way
to overcome his greatest and most uncomfortable difficulty--the
language. His necessarily constant intercourse with those that knew no
word of any tongue but their own, very shortly familiarized him with the
commonest phrases of every-day life. Beyond this, his greatest help came
from the temple in which he worked. During the long hours that he spent
behind the high place, listening to the plaints and confessions of
devout ones, and while he chanted the replies put into his mouth by the
attendant priest, he had, perforce, to occupy his mind in some way; and
the way most obvious was by trying to comprehend what he was saying, and
what the people before him were talking about. With the assistance of
the words that he had acquired, and his very slight natural aptitude,
supplemented by an ardent desire to learn, he made quite astonishing
progress. By the end of July it would have disturbed the priest not a
little to know the thoughts that were in Charmides' head as, little by
little, the gigantic system of deceit unfolded itself before him. But
Charmides was discreet. Never by word or look did he betray the least
knowledge of the Babylonish tongue, but performed his required duties
regularly, and appeared satisfied with the position, while becoming
gradually more and more disgusted with the realities of this new

Some days before it was generally known in the city, Charmides learned
from the temple-priests about Istar's journey to Erech. That her
departure was to be for good was generally understood among the
priesthood, though of the intended murder not a single member of the
lower orders dreamed. The Greek, however, was sorrowful enough over her
going; and it was the desire of his heart to be one of the musicians of
the voyage. Of this, however, there was no hope; for Charmides had
become too valuable an adjunct of the temple of Sin to be spared even
for a week to the service of Sin's daughter. He, however, with Ramûa and
Baba, went down to the water-front by the great bridge, and looked, for
what the Greek in his heart thought to be the last time, on the form of
her for whom he had come to Babylon. For the next few days he was very
unhappy. It seemed to him that he had in some way been untrue to his
vow. Babylon was his Babylon no more; and were it not for Ramûa, he
would have set out instantly for Erech. But Ramûa had become even more
necessary to his happiness than the great Istar. To leave her would mean
undying regret. Either way, apparently, his existence would be
incomplete, and what to do to remedy it was a cause of speculation that
was happily ended by Istar's return to Babylon. She came unheralded, in
a covered barge, and went back to her temple in a close-fastened litter,
surrounded by a troop of Belshazzar's cavalry. To all the strange tales
and sinister rumors circulated through the city about this unexpected
return, Charmides turned a deaf ear. She, his goddess, was again in her
abode. It was enough.

During this time the affairs of the Greek's non-professional life had
become very absorbing. When his peace of mind was restored by the
home-coming of Istar, he discovered that he was utterly and hopelessly
in love with Ramûa. That Ramûa returned some part of his affection he
sometimes, for a wild moment or so, permitted himself to hope; more
often doubted so entirely that his misery seemed to be complete. She
could not care for him, of course. Yet, barring the two or three hours a
day that he spent in the temple, the two of them were never apart while
the sun was above the horizon; and no one ever heard Ramûa object to the
arrangement, or appear to be wearied by it. Eyes, ears, mind, and soul
of each were all for the other, though as yet neither could believe that
the other cared. And neither of them, in their joyous selfishness,
perceived the little creature who stood apart from them both, watching
in silence that which was bringing heart-break into her eyes. Poor Baba!
Many a time by day, and more often still by night, Zor's silken coat was
wet with her mistress' tears. Beltani had caught more than one stifled
sob coming from the hard pallet in the dark hours; but Ramûa, wide
awake, perhaps, yet dreaming of sunshine and bright hair, never heard at
all, or else put it down to that most unpoetic of all sounds--a snore.

One evening, some time after Istar's return from Erech, when Charmides
had become more proficient in the Chaldean tongue, and when he also felt
quite at home with Beltani and the two girls, he asked a question of
which the effect on the family was something entirely unlooked for. It
was simply as to how Ramûa obtained her daily supply of fresh flowers.

A silence, complete and strained, followed his words. Ramûa flushed.
Baba hid her face on Zor's back; and even Beltani looked uncomfortable.
Charmides, puzzled, and wholly ignorant of any reason for the silence,
instantly feared some embarrassing mistake in his language, and quickly
repeated the question in different words, wishing to remedy any possible
impropriety that might have crept into his former speech. Ramûa now
looked at him imploringly; but Baba, turning to her mother, said, in a
low voice:

"Let us tell him. Then Bazuzu will no longer have to wait till so late.
Now he loses his sleep."

Beltani considered for a moment or two.

"Let us trust him. He will be silent," said Baba again.

"No! No, indeed!" cried Ramûa, unhappily.

Baba regarded her sister with the slightest hint of scorn. "Will you
always deceive him?" she said, bitterly.

Then Charmides, not a little disturbed by these unpleasantly suggestive
words, looked at Ramûa to find her lips quivering and her eyes ominously

"Tell me of this thing! Let me hear, that I may know all!" he demanded,
stumbling more than usual, in his new-born anxiety.

Then Beltani, perceiving that matters were being made to look worse than
they actually were, took the affair into her own hands, and proceeded to
answer at great length, with the assistance of many gestures and much
tautology, Charmides' unfortunate question.

The tenement of Ut, in which Beltani and her family dwelt, was, as of
course Charmides knew, separated from the palace and the extensive
gardens of Lord Ribâta Bit-Shumukin only by the canal of the New Year,
and by two or three hundred feet of waste ground on the other side of
the stream. And in these gardens behind the palatial residence, bloomed,
all the year round, flowers of every kind known to Babylonia and the
West, in such countless numbers that a hundred blossoms taken daily from
the wilderness of fragrance, could never be missed. Moreover, neither my
Lord Ribâta nor any member of his household, ever, so far as Beltani
knew, appeared in these grounds. Therefore, if, every night, black
Bazuzu went, unseen and unheard, into the gardens, and very carefully
selected enough flowers for Ramûa's basket next morning, could either
the gods or Ribâta be very angry? Nay, indeed, had not my lord himself
on more than one occasion actually purchased a rose of his own from the
flower-girl on the steps of the temple of Istar? And was not this a sign
from heaven that the great gods winked at the whole proceeding? Ramûa
might weep if she would. She had countenanced the arrangement for two
years, and it was not exactly honest to be smitten now with repentance.

Beltani finished her explanation a little defiantly and looked up, not
without apprehension, to find Charmides' face filled with relief, and as
cheerful as possible. Ramûa refused to look at him, though he was
smiling at her broadly; and it was only when he said, "Let us together
go and seek thy flowers for to-night," that she flashed at him a look of
happy acquiescence.

Charmides' eyes grew brighter yet. Evidently that fateful garden was
going to prove a little paradise for him. He had a quick and delicious
vision of himself and of her shut far away from everything sordid and
unbeautiful, wandering together through fragrant, flowery paths in the
moonlight, whispering words meant only for the stars and for themselves.
Moreover, this was a dream that might be repeated many times; for, while
Ramûa must sell flowers for her livelihood, and Bazuzu deserved a night
of unbroken rest, it--

Here this pleasing reverie came to a halting finish. Charmides suddenly
felt that Baba's mournful, owl-like eyes were reading his thoughts as he
would have read a Greek tablet. Beltani, too, was by no means blind; and
she, at any rate, had not the slightest intention of permitting Ramûa
and the hare-brained Greek to go alone together into Ribâta's garden.
The good woman's mind was of a purely Babylonish turn, and the ideas
attendant on a fine sense of honor had never occurred to her. Charmides,
therefore, was not of high enough birth, nor possessed of sufficient
wealth, to admit of any dangerous philandering. This fact Beltani made
known to him in terms as terse and to the point as only she was capable
of using. It was nothing that Charmides should clench his fists and grow
purple with rage at the insult; or that Ramûa was ready to dissolve in
tears of shame. To these things the good housewife closed her eyes
pleasantly. What did they signify? She was mistress of the situation,
and, as such, the feelings of others had no effect on her.

The sunset hour was over at last, and the small household descended from
the roof and entered their rooms, where the regular incantation was made
and the prayers to Marduk and to Sin were said. Then Beltani and her
daughters passed into the inner room, and Charmides was left alone for
the night with Bazuzu.

In spite of his ill-humor, the Greek could not lay him down for the
night without his address to his patron, Father Apollo. Bazuzu watched
him as he knelt, his face turned towards the west, and saw his fretful
expression gradually soften to one of reverence and love as the
melodious words left his lips. Charmides did not guess how often and how
closely Bazuzu followed his devotions, nor realize that, in the heart of
the deformed black man, a very deep affection for himself had been
growing throughout the summer. His prayers finished, he gave Bazuzu
good-night and a smile, as he lay back upon his pallet. But sleep was
not very ready to his eyes. Now that the explanation had been made, now
that Ramûa's tearful face was no longer pleading with him, the matter of
the flowers took on rather a different aspect in his mind. In the year
539 B.C. the Greek notions of justice were strict and well defined, and
the laws were enforced far more stringently than in later times. The
word theft was a synonym for dishonor. And Charmides was thoroughly
imbued with the traditions of his race. Therefore, now that he had begun
to consider the affair impartially, it had not a pleasant look. Twist it
as he would, he could not but see that Ribâta was being wronged, and
that--much worse!--the maiden who was dearer to him than anything else
in the world, had been for two years an open party to this wrong. To be
sure, Beltani was the originator of the scheme, and Beltani was the
girl's mother. Implicit obedience to one's parents was also another law
of Greek social life. Was Ramûa, after all, so much to blame? Then, as
Charmides thought of his own mother, her honor, her goodness, her
sympathy, there came to him the wish that he might be to Ramûa all that
and more than his own mother had been to him. He determined that Ribâta
should some day be made aware of this whole matter, and should be repaid
for his loss by Charmides himself, who would have the right to do so
when Ramûa was his wife.

This thought came to him together with the first touch of drowsiness;
and so comforting was the idea, and so heavy were his eyelids, that,
five minutes later, the Greek was dead to the world. Thus he did not
know when Bazuzu, basket in hand, slipped quietly away into the night.
It was much earlier than the slave had been accustomed to depart; but,
now that Charmides knew the household secret, Beltani's slave might as
of old choose his hour of departure on the unlawful errand.

It was very dark to-night as he crept down the alley to the bank of the
canal. The moon had passed the full, and its red rim had just peered
over the horizon, as the slave, having crossed the little bridge over
the stream and traversed the intervening distance between it and the
garden, stood before the high hedge and the concealed opening in the
wall through which he was accustomed to enter Ribâta's domain.

Bazuzu could have come to this place blindfolded and have entered with
perfect accuracy. Now, for the thousandth time, he crawled in on his
hands and knees, drew the basket after him, straightened up, and,
looking neither to the right nor to the left, hurried over to the long
bed of flaming red lilies, now in their prime, and, in consequence,
Ramûa's chief stock in trade till the paler flowers of early autumn
should come into bloom. Here, with by no means ungentle fingers, the
black man began to pluck the shapely flowers, selecting them with such
care that no one, casually overlooking the bed, could have perceived how
many had been taken. Bazuzu was in no hurry. Perhaps, once here, he
enjoyed being in the garden. Any one might, indeed, have enjoyed it, for
the place was rarely beautiful. The newly risen moon, showing now above
the shadowy, distant towers of the various temples, flooded the dreamy
recesses of tropical verdure with a soft, bluish light that drew forth
perfumes from every blossom, and caused the new-fallen dew in the
flower-cups to glisten like opals. Occasionally Bazuzu paused in his
work, and lifted up his head to look about him in the luxuriant
stillness. Dimly he realized that even sleep rested and refreshed him no
more than this. He did not now regret that Ramûa and Charmides had not
been allowed to come here together. To what raptures of love their souls
would have been drawn by the beauty of this scene, the black man did not
know. In the midst of his small, untutored ecstasy, he passed
from the lilies to a clump of rose-trees that overhung a pond where
lotus-blossoms floated. It was here, while bending over the perfect
specimens of the fair flower of Persia, that his quick ear caught the
sound of steps--footsteps--coming measuredly towards him.

Bazuzu's heart gave a throb of terror as he looked up the path leading
to the palace. Yes, it was true. Two figures--men--were approaching.
Clasping the basket close to his breast, Bazuzu knelt and drew himself
as far back as possible in the shadow of the rose thicket. He was no
more than hidden when the men passed him, so closely that the rich
mantle of one of them dragged over the slave's hand. Down to the hedge
and then back by the same beaten path, always slowly, always earnestly
conversing together, moved the twain; and as they passed him again,
Bazuzu had recovered himself sufficiently to recognize both. One was
Ribâta himself, lord of the house, whom Bazuzu knew, as a matter of
course, to be Beltani's landlord. The other was a figure familiar to
every one in Babylon: Bel-Shar-Uzzur, governor of the city and
heir-apparent to the throne. It was he who talked most. Bazuzu watched
him interestedly, for it was no small thing to sit listening to the
conversation of royal princes. Hitherto, when he had chanced to see the
prince, or when he had heard others tell of seeing him, Belshazzar had
worn an air of over-confident and joyous pride, of haughtiness, even,
for which he was none too well loved by his people. Perhaps now it was
only the whiteness of the moonlight that changed him so; but to-night
there was neither pride nor joy in that imperious face. A great pallor
was on him and his look was troubled. From the fragments of speech that
he caught, the slave could not determine what difficulty Belshazzar
might be in. He spoke often of temples and of priests, and there was
some one whom he never called by name, but spoke of as "she," or
sometimes, extravagantly, as "Belit"--"goddess."

In his interest in the scene before him, Bazuzu gradually forgot the
danger of his position. A dozen times the two lords had brushed him as
they passed, but never chanced to see the shadowy figure huddled at
their very feet. Presently, however, in his eagerness to catch the end
of a sentence, Bazuzu crept an inch or two forward, and did not draw
back when the two turned towards him once more from the end of the path.
They drew near, and Belshazzar's eyes were fixed on the ground. Ribâta
was speaking, when, three feet from the thicket, Belshazzar suddenly
seized his comrade's arm and stopped short.

"Dost thou, fearing danger, keep about thee concealed guards,
Bit-Shumukin?" he cried, roughly.

"What sayest thou, Belshazzar?"

For answer, the prince strode forward, stooped, seized Bazuzu by the
collar, and dragged him to his feet.

There was a silence. The slave, cold with fear, stood open-mouthed, his
eyes wildly rolling, the basket still clasped tightly in his arms.
Ribâta, who had grown white with astonishment and anger, stood staring
at him. Belshazzar, lips compressed and brows drawn together, moved

"Are you of my house, knave? And for whom art thou here? Speak! Answer
me!" And Ribâta stamped upon the ground.

Bazuzu, remembering, even in his terror, the helplessness of Ramûa,
answered, shiveringly: "Yea, of thy house, O lord!"

"He lies, Bit-Shumukin," interrupted the prince, sharply. "His collar is
of leather. Those of thy house--"

"Yes, yes!" cried Ribâta, still more angrily. "Speak the truth, thou
villain, or--there is death in my garden. Who art thou?"

With thickening tongue and reluctant heart, Bazuzu made reply: "I am the
slave of the Lady Beltani."

"And who is the Lady Beltani?"

"She dwells across the canal, in the tenement Ut of my lord."

"Ho! _Lady_ Beltani! A dweller in Ut! And why, then, art thou here and
not in thy lady's own spacious gardens?"

Bazuzu helplessly held out his flower-basket.

Ribâta seized it by the handle, and examined it and its contents. "These
flowers--they go to beautify, no doubt, the person of the Lady Beltani?"

"My lord, they are sold by the Lady Ramûa, her daughter, who sitteth
daily on the steps of the platform at the temple of Istar, that she may
obtain bread-money for her mother. My lord knoweth well that the
dwellers in the tenement of Ut know not gold."

"Ah! Ramûa, the flower-seller, is thy mistress' daughter?" demanded
Belshazzar, stepping forward a little.

Bazuzu inclined his head.

"Then, Bit-Shumukin, unless the knave lies again, the gods favor thee
well. Have her brought to thee, the Lady Ramûa. She is as fair a maid as
any in Babylon; and as she has sold thy flowers--let her now pay for

Ribâta turned to his friend with interest in his face. "Do you laugh at
me, Bit-Shamash, or is this thing so?"

"It is so, Ribâta. Send only for the maid, and see if Bel is not kindly
disposed to thee."

"Send for her here? Now? Nay--the knave no doubt lies."

"By my father's throne, I think he does not! The maiden Ramûa is known
to me. Have I not passed her daily for months, sitting on the temple
steps? Have I not oftentimes worn a handful of flowers bought from her
for a _se_, to win a smile from her maiden lips? Br-r! Ribâta! Thou hast
the blood of Oannes[9] in thy veins. Send for her to be brought before
thee. She will teach thee the beauty of Sin's bright beams better than
I. Buy her, Ribâta, and keep her for thine own. 'Tis those that cannot
be bought that make men miserable. Send for this maiden, I tell thee.
Brother, I go home."

Finishing this rather cynical advice, Belshazzar turned on his heel and
started for the palace. Bit-Shumukin, catching him by the arm, tried all
his eloquence to make his friend remain. The prince was obdurate, in his
light, self-willed way, and finally concluded the argument by saying:

"Now I will send a slave to thee from the court-yard, who shall go with
this man to bring the lady to thee from her dwelling. Quarrel not with
thy fate, O son of ingratitude! May Marduk bless the meeting!"

And thereupon Belshazzar departed and went his way, leaving Ribâta alone
with the still trembling slave. By this time Bazuzu was utterly
wretched, bitterly angry with himself for speaking Ramûa's name, vaguely
hating Belshazzar for his mockery, thoroughly apprehensive of the power
of the man who stood at his elbow tentatively regarding him.
Fortunately, Belshazzar lost no time in carrying out his own suggestion,
and presently a slave of Ribâta's household appeared, coming rapidly
down the path from the mansion. Reaching the spot where his master
stood, he inclined himself profoundly, and waited his lord's will. After
a little hesitation Bit-Shumukin, seeing nothing else to be done, said,
in a tone of quiet command:

"Thou, Baniya, must go, in company with this slave here, to the tenement
of Ut, across the canal, and bring to me, from her abode, the Lady
Ramûa--her, and none other. See that none but you attends or follows her
hither. In this place I shall wait for your return. Behold, I have
spoken. Hasten to obey."

The slave inclined himself again, and then, driving Bazuzu peremptorily
before him, left the garden by a gate that was always fastened on the
inside. Once without, the two started together across the bare field
leading to the foot-bridge that crossed the canal. Baniya knew the way
as well as Bazuzu himself, for the tenement of Ut was one of Ribâta's
largest buildings, and any one familiar with the poor quarter of the New
Year was sure to know where this house was. Therefore there was no hope
of Bazuzu's leading the man astray. There was but one thing that he
could do now for Ramûa, and this he tried.

In spite of his ungainliness, which amounted to actual deformity, Bazuzu
was a powerful, and, in a way, an agile man. He had come victorious out
of more than one brawl, and physical pain meant very little to him. Now,
as the two of them came to the edge of the bridge, the black man fell a
step behind his companion, and after a second or two darted quickly upon
Baniya, seized him about the body, and lifted him high in the air with
the intention of flinging him into the canal and then taking to his
heels in an opposite direction. But Bazuzu had reckoned on Baniya's
losing his head at the crucial instant; and this Baniya did not do. The
moment that he was seized, the sinewy little slave twisted one arm from
the other's grasp, drew something from his girdle, and struck twice at
Bazuzu's brawny shoulder. The black slave uttered a quick cry and
dropped his burden. His right arm fell helpless at his side, and the two
red streams that had gushed forth from different points in his shoulder,
met on the upper arm and flowed in a thick flood down to his hand.

"Let the slave of the Lady Ramûa guide me quickly to her," observed
Baniya, with a grin at the distant moon.

And Bazuzu, thoroughly cowed, made no answer, but started in advance of
his companion across the bridge.

The door to the general room of Beltani's _ménage_ was open, as Bazuzu
had left it an hour before. Across the threshold lay Zor, quietly
asleep. From within came the faint, regular sound of Charmides'
breathing. Everything was perfectly still. As Bazuzu started to enter
the first room, however, Baniya pulled him back, and, once more drawing
his knife, breathed softly:

"I will enter that room first, slave, and my knife is in my hand. Thou
shalt rouse the Lady Ramûa from her sleep and bring her to me alone. But
if any man or any other living thing in this house wakes, know that thou
shalt not escape death at my hands. Now heed me!"

Bazuzu signified his acquiescence by a nod, and presently Baniya was
left alone beside Charmides' pallet, while the black man crept on his
hands and knees into the other room. Ramûa's bed was near the door.
Beltani lay in the far corner, Baba on the other side of the room.
Beside Ramûa Bazuzu stopped and knelt down. All three women were asleep.
Beltani's light snores brought reassurance to the slave's heart, though
the task of waking one of the sleepers in this room without rousing
either of the other two seemed, on the face of it, impossible.
Nevertheless, Bazuzu must try for his life. Therefore, with the most
delicate of touches he laid a finger on Ramûa's forehead. She quivered a
little. Her eyes flew open. Then, seeing the strange shadow beside her,
she asked, softly:

"What is it? Thou, my Baba?"

Bazuzu, speaking between his teeth in a tone scarcely audible, answered:
"It is I, Bazuzu, Lady Ramûa. Rise thou without noise and creep into the
outer room. There we may more safely speak."

Forthwith he set the example by starting upon his hands and knees back
into the other room, where Baniya waited and the Greek slept.

Ramûa, instinctively dreading her mother, and fearing also the unguessed
errand of Bazuzu, implicitly obeyed the words of the slave and
made her way skilfully, without the faintest sound, out of her dark
sleeping-place into the moonlit living-room. Seeing her, Baniya stepped
swiftly forth, causing an exclamation to rise to her lips. Bazuzu stood
one side, his head bowed, till Ribâta's slave had insolently examined
her, from the pretty head with its loosened hair, down the ragged tunic
to her delicately arched feet. Then a slight smile broke over the face
of my lord's servant, and he bowed as he whispered:

"Will the Lady Ramûa deign to follow me?"

Ramûa, who had been regarding the man in mute amazement, now turned
quickly round and looked to Bazuzu for some explanation of this
astonishing request. Bazuzu, weary, suffering from his wounds, and
utterly despairing over Ramûa's impending fate, lowered his head still

"Lord Ribâta waits," he muttered.

"Ribâta!" In her terror, Ramûa scarcely whispered the words. She looked
wildly from Bazuzu, who had lost all hope, to Baniya, uneasy with
impatience. Then, slowly, she turned her eyes to the spot where
Charmides lay. He slept. The Greek slept tranquilly on while she passed
through this great peril! It was the sight of him there, sunk in
oblivion, that suddenly decided Ramûa. That he _could_ sleep through
this time was an omen that he was not for her. A sudden anger against
him rose up in her breast. With her heart full to bursting of tears, of
terror, of misery, she started forward into the moonlight, following the
footsteps of the swiftly moving slave.

In the mean time my lord, kept up later than he had expected to-night,
was trying to amuse himself with the beauties of his unfrequented
garden. While he wandered up and down the deserted paths, he could not
but muse on the rather curious and entertaining incident of the night.
Ribâta was not by nature an ungenerous man; and now, as he looked about
him on the extreme beauty of his surroundings, it seemed rather well
than otherwise that some one should have had so much benefit from his
unheeded flowers. Certainly the plants seemed to have suffered no harm
at Bazuzu's hands. Instead, the gardeners had, in all probability, been
saved a daily hour or so of labor of the same kind. Then Ribâta pondered
for a little on the code of laws that might put a slave to death for
just such a deed--something that did no harm to any one, and on the
other hand helped a poor family to live. Certainly, for a judge of the
royal court, Ribâta was not narrow; neither was he harsh. Presently, as
he continued his walk, he came upon the basket still containing a
handful of red lilies, lying, as he himself had finally dropped it,
beside the rose thicket. Ribâta picked it up, and, as he moved on again,
began, half absently, to pluck flowers--such flowers as Bazuzu had never
dared take--and to put them into the light receptacle. My lord confessed
to himself that his work was not artistically done. Great clumps of
jasmine from their carefully trained vines, thick bunches of heliotrope,
heavy lotus-blossoms with their rubber-like stalks, golden roses and
waxen camellias, the rarest of his garden's lustrous treasures, he
pulled and dragged about with his unpractised hands, and threw in a
fragrant, tangled heap into Ramûa's basket.

It was soon filled to overflowing, and then Ribâta went back to the gate
through which Baniya must return. Near this was an arbor overgrown with
sweet, white flowers, and here he seated himself to wait. He was not
impatient. The beauty of this unvisited part of his own domain had made
a strong impression on him, and he leaned back comfortably to gaze out
upon the moonlight and to dream unwonted dreams. Around and above him
the heavy jasmine exhaled its overpowering sweetness into the limpid
moonlight. Near him row upon row of brilliant lilies lay like scarlet
butterflies asleep. Presently, from a distant thicket, a nightingale
began to pour forth its full-throated song; and then, as Ribâta in a
quiet ecstasy raised his head to listen, the gate opened, and Ramûa,
bare-footed, with flowing hair, came into the garden.

She could not, from where she stopped, see Ribâta; and he, wishing to
know her first, did not immediately rise. Baniya, however, broke in upon
him by running forward, performing his obeisance, and demanding to know
if he had done well. My lord peremptorily dismissed him, and then,
rising reluctantly, went to the maiden.

"Ramûa is made welcome to Ribâta's dwelling-place," he said, quietly,
looking at but not offering to touch her.

Ramûa's reply was to cover her face with her hair, and to fold both
hands across her breast, in token of the deepest woe.

Somewhat against his will, Ribâta changed his tactics. Assuming a tone
of severity that did not in the least accord with his mood, he said:
"And it was you, then, that despatched your slave into my garden, that
he might steal my blossoms for your gain?"

The girl fell upon her knees and touched her forehead to the earth.
"Alas, my lord! Alas, it is true! My lord, be merciful to me! May my
lord grant a little time and he shall be repaid--shall be repaid for
all. I will repay him. By day and by night shall my hands labor. I will
earn a maneh of silver wherewith to buy new plants for his garden, if he
will let me now depart from him. May the great gods put mercy into the
heart of my lord!"

Ribâta looked down at her with a smile that she could not see. An honest
maid, apparently, yet too pretty to give back to toil and poverty. The
solitude, the song of the nightingale, and the intoxicating odors of the
jasmine, had put Ribâta into a sentimental mood. He lifted Ramûa in his
arms, carried her inside the arbor, and placed her tenderly upon the
seat that he had occupied. Then, while she vainly struggled to free
herself from his touch, he continued his scrutiny of her face and form.

Ramûa was choking with terror at her position. It seemed to her now
that, rather than have come hither, she should have killed herself. Yet
Charmides had slept through her trial! Charmides! Doubtless he was
sleeping yet. And, unreasonable as it was, that thought angered her
anew. Ah! When he did finally awake he would find his world changed for

These bitter thoughts, that occupied her mind even as she strove to hold
off from the man at her side, were broken in upon by Ribâta, who
plaintively addressed her:

"Lady Ramûa, I have no need for manehs of silver. They are mine in
plenty. At the thought that you labored for my sake my heart would be
cut with each hour of your work. Nay, maiden, rather than that, I offer
you or your mother as many golden manehs as you desire if you, fair one,
will become a flower of my garden that shall bloom near me forever. This
that is around you now, and my palace yonder, and slaves and silks and
perfumes, sandal-wood and frankincense, wines of Helbon and spices from
the East, soft couches and embroidered garments, shall be all your own.
Come, then, Ramûa! Let us out of the sweet night into my house! And
to-morrow shall thy mother be made glad with wealth. Say that thou wilt
follow me, my beautiful one!"

Now this offer was a very fair and more than generous one--for the day.
There was no insult in it. So much Ramûa knew. And she knew also that it
was something that Beltani would have heard with unbounded delight. It
was a chance that any girl of her station might regard as a gift from
the silver sky. For this reason Ramûa could show neither scorn nor
anger. She had no refuge but tears. Weep, however, she certainly did,
and to much purpose; for, before the deluge, Ribâta was perfectly
helpless. He was also not a little amazed, for he knew no man who had
ever been refused such an offer. It was not a little mortifying to his
vanity; and as he thought the matter over while still she wept, his
temper began to rise. Poor man! He was unaware that he was pitted
against a youth with a halo of shining hair, eyes like the summer sky,
the physique of a Tammuz, and a voice like the notes of an ivory flute.
Even he would scarcely have expected to compete with these things,
added, as they were, to the hope, faint though it might be, of an honest
marriage with such masculine beauty. But in his ignorance the good man
began to regard his rebellious prize with no little impatience.

"Well, maid," he observed at length, "are these silly tears all thine
answer? Hast thou no other word? If so, thou shalt be carried in!"

Then Ramûa, terrified in earnest, repeated, tremulously: "My lord! Have
pity! I will work! I will repay the debt! Only, in the name of the great
Sin, be merciful!"

"Now is this girl surely a fool!" muttered Bit-Shumukin to himself.
"Listen thou, Ramûa! I will take no money from thee."

"Then let my lord take my life," she answered, wearily.

"Gladly!" was the eager reply.

Misunderstanding her entirely, he would have seized her in his arms
again, but that the girl, shuddering a little, drew the knife from his
belt and pressed it into his hand.

"Ramûa is ready!" she gasped, faintly.

Ribâta uttered an exclamation. "Child! Would I kill thee, thinkest

She looked up at him stupidly. "Thou hast said it."

Now Ribâta was amazed. Fool she might be, indeed, but she was no coward.
He had not thought any woman possessed of such ready courage. Stepping
back a little, while she still sat there before him, drooping and
silent, he considered the situation. He was not brutal at heart,
Bit-Shumukin; and he was too experienced to lose his head through that
mad intoxication known only to youth in its first freedom. Besides this,
no woman in all Babylon could have said that he had not been perfectly
fair with her. This present matter being, in his wide knowledge, unique,
demanded a unique finale. Presently he took up the basket with its rare
and fragrant burden, and put it into Ramûa's passive hand.

"There, my maid, are thy morrow's flowers. Go thy way with them, and
sell them as is thy wont. But may it be thy last day upon the steps of
the temple of Istar. To-morrow, at sunset, I and my slaves will come to
thee in thy dwelling. By then thy heart must be softened towards me.
For, as Sin sheds his light from above, I swear that I will have thee
for mine own! Go thy way in peace to thy home, and the great gods bring
sleep to thine eyelids."

He made way for her to pass; and Ramûa, panting with anxiety to escape,
still clinging to her basket, rose and ran from him, swiftly as a deer,
to the unfastened gate. Ribâta watched her go, and heard the little sob
of relief that she gave as she found Bazuzu, weak from loss of blood and
bitter anxiety, awaiting her outside.

So Ribâta, pondering philosophically upon the mysteries of woman-nature,
and looking forward with no little interest to the sunset of the morrow,
wended his way slowly towards his palace.



Next morning, just as the sun rose over the city, Charmides opened his
eyes. If ever Charmides could be said to be lighter of heart, brighter
of face, and cheerier of spirit at one time than another, it was in the
very early day. The smell of the dawn, its peculiar, charming freshness,
that penetrates to the very heart of the most crowded city, was as life
to his soul. To-day, when he went forth for his solitary stroll by the
edge of the canal, the air, unbreathed and dewy as it was, brought him
as usual a sense of undimmed delight.

As he walked, scarcely heeding the rows of ungainly flat-boats drawn up
along the edge of the canal, or the small army of scavenger-dogs that
slept the sleep of the hungry near them, Charmides dreamed. This,
indeed, was a matter of course. The morning and the sunlight would have
lost half their beauty had not the thought of Ramûa been in his heart.
To-day his pure pleasure in her was a little tainted by the impression
that last night's revelation had made upon him, in the not very clear
sense of right and wrong that it betrayed in her whom he loved. Yet he
had absolute confidence in his influence over her; and, as he returned
to the house, no premonition of the new trouble disturbed his happy

Upon recrossing the threshold of the outer room an unwonted sight met
his eyes. It was still early: so early that neither the girls nor
Beltani would, ordinarily, have been about. Yet here was Bazuzu, sitting
near the door-way, bare-shouldered, while Baba bent over him, deftly
applying a paste of bruised onions and sesame to the two blood-incrusted
wounds in the slave's back. Bazuzu sat dumb and patient beneath the
gentle hands; but Baba's face was drawn, and the tears rained from her
eyes as she worked. Beholding them, Charmides uttered an exclamation:

"Apollo! What is it, Bazuzu? What has happened?"

There was no answer. Bazuzu did not even look up. Baba gave the Greek a
wretched little glance, compressed her lips, and bent over her task
again with a stifled sob.

"Baba! Bazuzu! Tell me!"

Still they were silent. But as the rhapsode, more and more bewildered,
was about to question them more intelligently, the slave, lifting his
eyes for an instant, muttered, indistinctly:

"To him that sleeps too well by night Nebo grants little knowledge."

"Stop, Bazuzu! I will not have thee speak so!" cried Baba, instantly
resenting the suggestion.

"What is this that you say?" And Charmides, who had but half caught the
slave's words, moved closer to him. Then, suddenly, a new idea struck
the rhapsode. His heart shot downward for one sickening instant.
Speaking very slowly, out of his dread, he asked: "Ramûa--where is she?"

Baba sobbed again; and Charmides, with a great cry, sprang to her side
and laid a fierce hand on the child's shoulder. "Ramûa!--Ramûa! Where is

Baba raised her eyes and made a sidelong gesture towards the door of the
other room. Charmides followed the look, and he almost laughed with
relief to see Ramûa standing there in the door-way, looking at him. She
was just as usual: her hair smoothly coiled and bound about her head
with strips of bright cloth; her feet shod with wooden sandals; her
ragged tunic fitting her slender figure closely. But Ramûa's eyes were
red--far more red than Baba's. She was not, however, weeping now.
Charmides thought her tears for Bazuzu, and he went to her with
sympathetic phrases on his tongue and comforting tenderness in his
heart. It was a shock, then, when she shrank from his approach and
turned her head away. Baba, watching them both, read both their hearts;
but her tightened lips let no sound escape them.

By the time that Bazuzu's shoulder was bandaged and bound up, and
Charmides, stung to silence, had seated himself on his bed and bowed his
head, Beltani bustled forth from her chamber, her face beaming, her
whole manner breathing busy cheerfulness. As she called a loud greeting
to Charmides, the youth started up in hopeful astonishment. Beltani was
on her way up-stairs to the roof, however, to begin preparations for
breakfast; and no one spoke as she left the room. Ramûa seated herself
listlessly on Bazuzu's bed, and Baba presently went to her and sat down
at her side. Bazuzu, after moving vaguely about for a few minutes,
crossed suddenly to the far corner and drew out the basket of flowers,
now arranged in small nosegays, and sprinkled, as usual, with fresh
water. At sight of them Ramûa gave a faint groan, and Charmides, hearing
it, jumped suddenly to his feet, strode across the floor, and confronted
the two girls in a manner that showed his temper:

"Baba--Ramûa--I know not my fault. Before I leave you, then, you shall
tell me what it has been. Speak to me!"

Ramûa's only reply was to droop her head a little lower; but Baba
answered and said: "There is no fault in you, Charmides. Our trouble is
not yours."

"What, then, is your trouble? Why is it not mine? Your mother smiles
to-day. Is it Bazuzu, then?"


"Then what? What? Will you never tell me?"

"If thou wouldst know--Ramûa is to be sold to-day--at a goodly price.
Therefore our mother smiles."

Baba spoke in a stupid, matter-of-fact tone, and Charmides heard her
stupidly. "Ramûa to be sold!" he repeated. "Ramûa to--be----RAMÛA!" he
shouted. "RAMÛA! Speak to me! Apollo! My lord! Tell me what this thing
is! Tell me that this woman speaks lies to me! Apollo!"

As understanding finally came home to him, he broke into his own tongue.
Ramûa's gentle, dog-like eyes were lifted for an instant only to his. In
her glance Baba's words were corroborated. Charmides knew from her look
that the thing was true. Then he suddenly went forward and took her into
his arms.

"Ramûa," he said, brightly, "I love thee. Thou shalt be my wife."

Then at last her resignation was broken through, and she caught him
wildly about the neck. Clinging to him, she gave forth a long, wailing
sob that seemed to have no end. Baba, white and choked, moved from her
place and aimlessly crossed the room to where Bazuzu crouched, nervously
twisting a rosebud in his hand. Tight and yet more tightly Charmides
held her whom he loved; and in that close embrace peace came upon them
both. It would take more strength than my Lord Ribâta had to part these
two now.

At this juncture some one came upon the scene--not Ribâta, but Beltani.
At the sight that met her eyes her harsh face lost its light, and
Charmides was made aware of her presence by a stinging blow on the back
of the neck. With the strength of a strong man she tore him away from
Ramûa's close embrace, thrust the girl back upon Bazuzu's pallet, and
lifted her hand again to strike the Greek in the face. Charmides caught
her by the wrist. Then they confronted each other, the wide, blue eyes
blazing into the small, glittering, black ones. The woman's look did not
falter. She seemed to have in her no sense of shame. Then Charmides,
suddenly flinging her off from him, spoke two words in such a tone as he
never again used towards a woman:

"Thou fiend!"

For a second Beltani cringed; but she recovered herself. With an
unconcern that to the rhapsode was incomprehensible, she presently said,
addressing the room generally:

"The food is ready. If any would eat, let him come up-stairs." Then,
turning on her heel again, she retreated to the roof.

Not a single one of the four left behind her, disregarded the summons.
Such was Beltani's peculiar power. Baba, Bazuzu, and Ramûa, went from
fear. Charmides followed them, out of a sense of prudence--the prudence
which told him that Ramûa could only be protected if he were permitted
to remain in the household. He knew also that her one chance of escape
was through him; as perhaps her single desire to escape was on his
account. Therefore, with a superhuman effort, he forced himself to bland
attention to Beltani throughout the meal, during which the entire story
of the adventures of the past night was recounted at length. Charmides'
horror at what Ramûa had been through was equalled by his shame and
self-reproach at having slept while she, with Bazuzu and Baniya, had
stood almost at his side. He made no comments on the tale. Only, when
Beltani concluded her recital with the information that at sunset on
this very day Ribâta would come in person to bring the gold and to take
Ramûa away, Charmides, seeing the girl's shiver of dread, met her look
with a smile that sent the first glow of hope back to her heart. The
Greek had made a very simple and feasible plan, as it seemed to him.
Ramûa would go forth that morning as usual with her flowers, while he
would set out towards the temple of Sin. But at nightfall, when Ribâta
arrived at the tenement Ut, with his manehs of gold to exchange for a
soul, Ramûa, for the first evening of her life, would not be under her
mother's roof. Rather he, Charmides, her husband, would keep her out in
the city, wherever he chose to lodge, rightfully and lawfully, and with
her full consent; for there was no doubt that the priest of Sin would be
quite willing to tie the marriage-cord about their wrists for such a sum
as the Greek could afford to pay out of the still unemptied bag of his

Truly it was a pretty scheme, and an easy--so obviously easy, indeed,
that it happened to occur to Beltani also, and she so arranged matters
that Baba was detailed to sell the flowers on the steps of the temple of
Istar, while Ramûa remained at home under her mother's eye. When, at the
usual hour for the departure of the workers, this forethought was
displayed, Charmides began to realize his helplessness. There seemed
nothing to do but to go forth as usual to the temple, to do his work
there, to fill out the day as he might, and to trust to the love of
Apollo to preserve her whom he loved from the fate that hung over her.
Between now and sunset were ten round hours. Cities had been taken in
less time than that, did one but know how to set about it. But there was
the rub. The only thing that seemed left to do--go to Ribâta himself
with an appeal--was a manifest absurdity. Charmides knew enough of
Babylonish character for that. And even had Ribâta's reputation as a
roué and a roisterer not been what it was, still, the notion that he
could be prevented by a mere nobody from acquiring a beautiful slave in
such a simple manner, was something that a man of Charmides' own race
would never have thought of. Ramûa knew this as well as Charmides. She
said good-bye to him in the door-way of the tenement Ut, her mother
beside her, and Baba just behind. There was no more than a long look and
his miserable whisper:

"At sunset I will be here."

He knew that she quivered at the mere mention of that hour. Then he
turned abruptly away, and she could only watch him go.

Charmides went straight from the bank of the canal to the temple of Sin,
by a much shorter way than that that held so many happy memories for
him. He must accustom himself now to take his walk in solitude. Never
before, however, had he realized what a dreary distance it was. The city
lay about him, spread out in all its filth, ill-kept, teeming with
naked, half-starved children, noisy with mongrel dogs, rattling with
buffalo-carts. He saw to-day only the wretchedest and ugliest sights.
His own heart responded to the wails of every child throughout the
endless walk; but he reached the temple a half-hour before his usual

The mercy-hour had not yet come. A sacrifice, however, was in progress,
and the officiating priest called to him to play while the augurs began
their work. He saw the goat quartered and its flesh cooked, while the
entrails, which had been removed, were carefully examined for any
special omen of good or of evil for him who offered the sacrifice. When
this was over the Greek retired alone to the sanctuary, where, from the
sacred image, he was to listen to the plaints of those that came to seek
aid in trouble. How vain that quest was he knew too well. Yet, because
this was a consecrated place, the Greek knelt to his own fair god, and
prayed as a man prays once in his life, for Ramûa, her honor, and his

When finally a priest came to him and opened the door in the back of the
statue, Charmides' heart was a little lighter. He ascended quickly into
his place, where he could look through the eyes of the god and speak
through its mouth to those who knelt before it. Presently came a woman
with a sick child in her arms. No conjurer had been able to help her, no
god would take pity on her. Charmides told her a charm that could not
fail, mentioned the price of the information, and sent her away. Then
followed in rapid succession a stream of men and women, each with a tale
of misery. By this time the Greek knew the types by heart, and, while he
pitied, he was wearied by them. Which of them all had a heart as sore as
his to-day? Alas! Could they have known that their god himself stood in
the shadow of despair's black wings, would they have departed from him
serene in faith, and so confident in their new-found wisdom?

However, when half the allotted mercy-time was over, there came one
suppliant who, for a moment, took the Greek's thought from himself. A
man, entirely muffled in a dark mantle, his head covered with such a
cloth as desert-travellers wear, entered the secluded place before the
statue, prostrated himself thrice before it, finally lifted his head,
and, throwing the embroidered cloth back from his face, clasped his
hands in the attitude of abject supplication. Charmides started to find
himself gazing into the deep-blue eyes of Belshazzar, the prince royal.

"May Sin look mercifully upon me from the high place," began the
suppliant, according to the ritual.

"Mercifully looks Sin upon them that approach him with humble hearts."

"Father Sin, bring peace to my heart!"

"Child of Sin, peace is to thee."

"Hear thou the woe of my spirit. Heal me, and guard me from pain."

"I hear thee. Speak."

Here the suppliant began in his own words, and Charmides listened
eagerly to him; for Belshazzar, priest as he was by birthright, was not
often to be found at the mercy-seat of a god in whom, in his own heart,
he could have no faith. How far he had been initiated into the monstrous
deceits of the church, however, the Greek could not tell. And he now
spoke with a humility of which Charmides had not deemed him capable.

"Great Sin, lord of men, father of Ishtar the divine, hear and pity me!
Tell me, I beseech, wherein I have angered the great gods? I have
offended my goddess. With me my goddess is exceeding wroth. I kneel down
before the gate-way of the temple of Istar, and am not admitted to her.
I am become unholy in her eyes. I may no more pass over the threshold of
Ê-Âna. The Lady Istar knows me not. O god, her father, hear my prayer,
that I may learn how I shall placate the great goddess thy child! How
may I again in peace behold her? Bring answer, O god, to my prayer!"

Once more Belshazzar touched his brow to the floor, while Charmides
watched him in amazement. For the moment he forgot to listen to the
prompting words of the priest at his elbow. But when, after half a
phrase, the fellow stopped and was silent, Charmides turned to look at
him, and remained fixed in astonishment. The under-priest was in the
throes of a frenzy such as the Greek had never seen before. Belshazzar,
kneeling below, waited anxiously for his answer, while the oracle could
only stand there, helplessly, looking at the priest who trembled and
shook so violently that his joints were threatened with dislocation.
Presently, after a long stillness, when the suppliant had become not a
little impatient, there came from the mouth of the Zicarî words that
were not of his making, spoken in a deep and sonorous voice with which
Charmides was quite unfamiliar:

"Belshazzar, be not disturbed. The heart of Istar undergoeth change.
Thine hath she been; thine will be. In time, of her own will, she will
seek thine aid. Then, by the might of thine arm, shalt thou protect her;
and cherish her unto the end. Yet a little while and that end cometh for
both. Therefore go forth in peace, and wait her will."

Silence followed these words, and Belshazzar, trembling with strange
emotion, touched his brow to the floor, and rose, and went his way.
Charmides turned from him back to the priest, who stood beside him in a
normal attitude, and said, presently:

"Reply thus to the suppliant: 'Thou must sacrifice to the Lady Istar, in
her temple, fifty fat oxen and one hundred goodly lambs. By this shalt
thou be brought back into the favor of Istar, the child of my heart. Sin
hath spoken. Arise. Go thy way.'"

And Charmides, wondering more and more, repeated the words, as he was
bidden, to the empty air. The temple of Istar had lost a hecatomb; but
Belshazzar had, perhaps, been won to faith in his native gods.

At the end of the mercy-hour the Greek left the temple as usual, and
went forth into the streets. He did not turn to the square of Istar. It
were too miserably empty for him to-day. Rather he set off in another
direction, wandering drearily along. And how the long hours of noon and
the afternoon slipped away, he hardly knew. His unhappiness took no heed
of time; for, all of a sudden, time had become worthless to him. It was
just one hour to sunset when he turned his steps southward towards the
canal of the New Year.

Meantime, while the Greek had wandered through unfamiliar quarters of
the city, Baba had sat all day on the steps of the temple of Istar, with
Ramûa's flowers in her lap. Of the three young people who passed those
unhappy hours in brooding over the general misfortune, it was the
youngest that endured most, and had suffered most acutely. Baba had to
review the situation of her family always hopelessly for herself,
sometimes not without hope for the cause of her sister and Charmides.
Child as she was, Baba loved Charmides with a love to the heights of
which Ramûa could not have risen. For, for the happiness of him whom she
loved, the woman-child was willing to renounce him, to give him up to
another, though by that act her own life was spoiled forever. From the
first moment of seeing Ramûa and Charmides together, she, with the quick
perception of one who loves unloved, had foreseen the end. Never once,
after the night of their first meal on the roof of the tenement, had she
rebelled at this fact. Her resignation was absolute. It had even been a
little comfort to her to dream of her sister's happiness, of the wedded
home in which she, Baba, might hold a definite place. That she might
continue to see Charmides, and to hear his voice day by day, was all
that she had asked. But now it seemed that this, too, might be taken
from her. She saw Ramûa, a slave, secluded deep in the labyrinth of
Ribâta's inaccessible palace; Charmides departed, in his grief, back to
his dim, distant home; herself and her mother left alone, to toil
through the endless days, living only on the memories of a doubtful
happiness that was hopelessly gone.

It was at this juncture in her imaginings that Baba began to rebel.
Ribâta should not have her sister, though he perished by her own hand
there in the tenement of Ut. This resolve she made at a little past
noon; and she looked up from the vow to find my Lord Ribâta about three
feet away, regarding her.

"By Nebo, maid," said he, "thou art not she who came last night into my

"Nay, verily, lord."

"Yet these be the flowers that my hands plucked for her who becomes mine
to-day. Who art thou, girl?"

"Baba, I," was the answer, as the child lifted her elfin face and
dog-like eyes to the man.

"Baba! And she--the pretty one--is Ramûa. What is she to thee?"

"A sister."

"Ah! And you sell her flowers while she waits at home for me! Then give
me of my roses, Baba, and I will pay for them."

As he spoke, he picked two crimson-petalled blossoms from the tray,
tossed a shekel into the girl's lap, and passed on, laughing, while Baba
stared after him, just realizing the opportunity that had come--and
gone. Had she only killed him as he stood before her there, with the
little weapon that she carried always in her girdle, who, in the
excitement of the moment, would have thought of her family? She would
have been carried off at once before the royal judges, have been
speedily condemned, and probably taken straight from the court to her
death. But to kill Ribâta in the tenement was a different matter. It
would implicate every member of her family: Charmides, as well as Ramûa
and her mother. Undoubtedly some desperate chance must be run to-day,
but how or when Baba did not know. It would probably be left for the
exigencies of the sunset hour.

That hour was approaching. Baba watched it come, dreading it as much as
did Charmides, and more than Ramûa. Ramûa, indeed, had been singularly
dull all day. The grief that she suffered was not poignant. It was as
heavy and as lustreless as only despair can be. The fact that this was
her last day of youth, of freedom, of love, of maidenhood, her last day
in her home, the last day, in fine, of the life she had been born to,
was something that overwhelmed her completely, and made sharp
realization impossible. She followed her mother obediently about the
house. She bathed the wounds of Bazuzu, who hid his face from her touch.
And the only tears that she shed were over Zor, Baba's goat, which had
stayed at home to-day, and had eaten its noon meal from her hand. At the
touch of the creature's tongue Ramûa gave way for a few seconds. But she
recovered herself quickly, and presented an impassive face when, a few
minutes later, her mother came down from the roof.

Ramûa also watched the sun; but in her case it was more to know when she
might be expecting Charmides than anything else. Baba and the Greek
arrived somewhat before the time, within five minutes of each other.
Baba had a scolding because four of the flower bouquets remained in her
basket unsold. She made her peace by producing Ribâta's silver shekel,
forbearing, however, to tell who had bestowed it upon her. After this
little, indecisive skirmish, there was stillness in the lower room of
the tenement of Ut. All the family, Zor included, were gathered there
together. Ramûa sat at Baba's side on one of the beds. Beltani knelt
near the door-way, grinding sesame in a mortar. The slave Bazuzu wove on
at his baskets; while Zor lay comfortably at the feet of Charmides, who,
very pale and silent, sat on his pallet on the darkest side of the room.

The sun reached the horizon line--and passed it. The evening flung out
her victorious banners of purple, crimson, and gold. Still no Ribâta.
Ramûa lifted her head at short intervals, to look across the empty space
that stretched out from the open door. Charmides' heart palpitated so
that breathing became difficult. There seemed to be a hope on which he
had not calculated. Ribâta might have repented of his bargain and not
come for the girl. This idea occurred to Beltani also, perhaps, for
presently she rose from her labor, set the grain-jar aside, and hurried
out of the door to look down the lane towards the canal. When she
re-entered the room the look of smug satisfaction on her face was easy
to read. Charmides' heart ceased to beat as she bustled over to Ramûa,
stood her up, examined her with the greatest care from head to heels,
fastened in a flying lock, saw that her poor tunic was straight, and
that the garland on her head contained no withered leaf--for this might
be considered a most unfortunate omen. She was still fingering her
daughter when there was a clatter of yellow wheels outside, a prancing
of glossy steeds on the hard pavement, and Ribâta, in his most
resplendent chariot, drew rein at the door of the tenement of Ut.

Beltani's pride knew no bounds. She saw in her heart how every soul in
the neighborhood was eagerly peering out from its corner to look at her
door, where, this time, no mere steward-collector of rent had stopped,
but my lord of them all, in golden attire, was come to pay them a visit.
As he dismounted from the vehicle and entered the room, Beltani was
nearly on her knees to him, though Ramûa, from her dark and shadowy
corner, shrank back as far as she could. Charmides, scowling bitterly,
and so pale that his face made a white spot in the gloom where he sat,
clenched his two fists, but made no sound. Bazuzu's fingers dropped from
his work, while he craned his neck to examine the enemy.

Ribâta saluted his hostess in his most elegant manner, asked carefully
after her welfare, wished her health and fortune in the name of
Bel-Marduk, and then casually, without too much interest, inquired for
the object of his quest.

"The fair one, the Lady Ramûa, the flower of my heart, let mine eyes
behold her, O mother of lilies!" said he, with a manner that matched his

"Ramûa!" called Beltani, gently--"Ramûa, greet thy lord!"

The girl, trembling like a frightened rabbit, the fire of despair
burning in her large eyes, rose from her place and came haltingly down
the room. Never, perhaps, had she been more beautiful than in this
wretched hour. Charmides knew it. Ribâta, who watched her every move,
gave perceptible signs of pleasure. Bowing before her as he might have
bowed to the queen of Babylon, he lifted one of her cold and unresisting
hands to his lips. It had scarcely reached them when, with a suddenness
that startled Ribâta, Ramûa's hand was snatched away. She was pushed
violently backward, and my Lord Bit-Shumukin found himself eye to eye
with Charmides of Doric Selinous.

The Greek was choking with rage, with excitement, with biting jealousy.
For a moment after his act he could not speak. Ribâta regarded him with
frowning amazement. He said nothing, however, till Charmides, with a
convulsive breath, opened his lips and began, very quietly:

"My Lord Ribâta--"

"Knave!" thundered my lord, finding his voice. "Out of my way!" He
lifted his hand to strike, but Charmides rather nonplussed him by
awaiting the blow without a movement. He merely stood, white-faced and
unflinching, looking Ribâta in the eyes.

"My Lord Ribâta," he repeated, still more gently, "I beg you as a man,
as one of the judges of the Great City, to hear me. This lady whom you
would purchase for gold to be your slave is my promised wife."

"Are you wedded?" asked Ribâta, quickly.

"No, no, no!" screamed Beltani, shrilly, hurrying forward.

"No," admitted Charmides, with that extreme of calm that held Ribâta's
attention in spite of himself. "No. She is but my promised wife."

"He lies, my lord!"

"But can I see her whom I love taken from me without one word? Nay,
verily, it must be over a lifeless body that Ramûa goes to you."

It was all the plea that Charmides could make; yet perhaps it had stood
him in good stead if Beltani had not been there. She, flashing-eyed and
furiously angry, cried loudly:

"My lord! My lord! This man lies! He is no suitor to my daughter. She
shall not call him lord though you cast her away. I say it, and I am her
mother. Behold, he came a stranger into my house, and I sheltered and
fed him. Thus does he repay the charity. My lord, wilt thou take Ramûa?"

Ribâta listened to her quite as attentively as to Charmides. The
situation puzzled him not a little. Many and varied as his experiences
had been, he had never met with one like this. His official nature, as
one of the judges of the royal court, came up and stood him in good
stead now. Having heard both sides of the case, he turned, for
corroboration of the one or the other, to the principal factor in the
whole matter--Ramûa herself.

"Maid, what sayest thou to all this? Wilt thou come to me in peace, and
willingly?" he asked.

Ramûa's answer was not encouraging to his hopes. She moved forward a
little, still trembling, the sudden hope of release lighting up her gray
pallor. She did not reply to the question in words, but sank to her
knees on the floor at Ribâta's feet, her hands upraised and clasped, the
pleading in her face too easy to read. Not Beltani's daughter, this.

Ribâta gazed at her in pronounced admiration. Suddenly he coughed,
turned on his heel, and began to pace up and down the narrow space
before the door, head bent, brows contracted. Charmides knew well enough
all that was in his heart, but he mightily feared the outcome of the
debate. Nevertheless, the very fact that there could be a debate
considerably raised Ribâta in his estimation. Even as he thought,
Charmides prepared himself for a further and greater struggle. If Ribâta
decided against him, if Ramûa went forth with the man, it should be, as
he himself had said, over his, Charmides', dead body. Therefore he
quietly loosened from its place the short, broad knife that had
travelled with him from home, and with this in his right hand, lying
along the under-side of his wrist, he stood leaning against the door,
watching the death of the bright sunset in the west, the gay chariot
with its rearing horses in front of the door, and, finally, the group in
the room with him. No one spoke. Ribâta alone moved.

At length my lord's head gave a quick jerk, and he turned briskly
towards Beltani:

"Mother of fair women, is thy daughter Ramûa ready to follow me? There
lie in my chariot certain bags of golden coin that I have brought for
thee; not that these could be any payment for a thing so priceless as
thy child; but they shall go to show the love that I bear thee for her

Beltani grew radiant. Here, certainly, was no indetermination. "Ramûa!"
she cried. "Go thou instantly to my lord! He will take thee into the
land of happiness."

Ramûa obeyed her mother's words by moving swiftly to Charmides' side,
laying one light hand on his arm, and saying, quietly: "Behold my lord!
Him will I follow forever, into Mulge and Ninkigal, or up to the silver
sky, as Marduk decrees."

Charmides, looking into her face, smiled at her with his soul in his
eyes. Then he turned again to Ribâta. "My lord," he said, "thou hearest.
Thou wilt not take her from her heart; and her heart is with me."

"By Nebo and Bel, I will take her!" cried Ribâta, furious at last. "Do I
not buy her? She is my chattel. You, foreigner, can, at my word, be
slain like a dog!" With a heavy stride, and a mien that had more than
menace in it, he strode over to where Ramûa stood cowering at Charmides'

He had put out his arm to grasp her, and the knife became visible in
Charmides' hand, when suddenly there was a faint exclamation from the
other end of the room, and a little figure came running forward, and
projected itself in a heap at Ribâta's feet.

My lord paused and looked down into an elflike face, with a pair of
wide-open, black eyes, and a little mouth of rosy hue, parted just so as
to show a row of snowy teeth. Masses of unbound hair hung loosely around
her head and neck. Beneath her tattered vestment the lines of a
remarkably graceful little body could be discerned. Ribâta, looking at
her steadfastly for a moment, found something in her face that caused
his own to relax its unpleasant expression.

"Thou art--Baba--!" he said, with a recognizable imitation of her way of
speaking, and an ensuing grin at his success.

"My lord remembers!" said Baba, with every appearance of coquettish

Ribâta laughed as he touched a scarlet rose on his embroidered tunic. "I
remember--sprite," he said.

"My lord, I am Baba, the sister of Ramûa. I have no lover nor husband.
Behold, were my lord to ask it, I am my lord's. Let him take me in
Ramûa's place for half the gold that he offers for her!"

Ribâta, Beltani, Ramûa, most of all Charmides, stared at Baba in open
amazement at her shameless suggestion. All of them judged her exactly
according to her words. Only one in the room guessed at the real reason
for this unparalleled act, and he, knowing that reason, wept and loved
her. Bazuzu, who had long ago realized the great, concealed sorrow in
her life, was capable now of appreciating her unbounded devotion, and in
his secret heart he hated Ramûa for the innocent part that she played in
this pitiable drama.

Ribâta, his thoughts quite turned out of their angry channel, looked for
a long time down into the lively, witchlike face, and finally a smile
parted his severe lips.

"Good Beltani, hearest thou thy daughter?"

"My lord, I have heard her," returned the woman, in a subdued fashion,
not sure that Baba had not found the real solution of their difficult

"And thy words, woman?"

"May my lord accomplish his will," she replied, disclaiming all further

My lord, who by this time began to find himself not absolutely certain
of his will, bit his lip and looked thoughtfully from Baba to Ramûa, and
back again. The goat-girl sat at his feet, curled up like a kitten, her
eyes staring unwinkingly into his face, her lips pressed together in
apparent anxiety. Her whole _ensemble_ struck Ribâta as peculiarly
pleasing. Ramûa was hiding her face from his gaze, and certainly her
figure was not so graceful as that of her sister. Baba was not pretty,
in the correct sense of the word; but Baba, he felt, would not weep for
another in his presence.

"Straighten thy garments, bold one, and rise up. Thou shalt come with
me," he said, suddenly, with a half shrug of the shoulders.

Ramûa quivered, whether with delight or displeasure she scarcely knew.
At any rate, it was not to Baba that she turned. Baba was strange to
her, all of a sudden; was some one to pity, perhaps, but also to be
ashamed for. Her good-bye to her sister was reluctant and very gentle,
but not warm. Beltani, satisfied, now that one daughter had found wealth
and the other a husband, kissed her little one light-heartedly. Black
Bazuzu pressed his lips to each of her bare feet, feeling her quite as
worthy of the homage as his sovereign could be. Last of all, on her way
out of the house of her childhood, Baba passed Charmides. His blue eyes
looked into hers for an instant with an expression of puzzled distaste.
She had won for him his life's happiness. This was all his thanks. Baba
knew his mind, and a dull, half-human smile crept over her face--a smile
that Ribâta would not have thought pretty had he been watching her just
then. On the threshold of the door, however, Zor was standing; and as
she perceived her goat, which she had always loved better than she loved
herself, she suddenly seized the creature by its silken hair and gave it
a wrench that drew from Zor a long bleat of indignation. Ribâta,
catching this proceeding on the part of his new possession, laughed
deeply. Here, at last, was something original.

Day had crept in upon Baba in her new home before, at last, she could
turn her face to the wall of her luxurious prison-house, and wail out
her little agony alone, in the pale, golden light of the new dawn.



Baba's departure into her new life left an unexpectedly large gap in the
household of the tenement. The child's personality had been very strong;
and though she had been little heard, little seen even, she had been
much felt. Charmides especially found this true. He had always believed,
when he played and sang for himself at home, that Ramûa's presence had
given him the support of understanding and sympathy. He was scarcely
willing to admit, even to himself, that, in the absence of Baba, the
pleasure of improvisation had materially lessened. Baba's action in
going to Ribâta he still misunderstood. But as time passed and the want
of her was as strong as ever, she came gradually to assume in his mind a
place that she had dreamed of filling but had never hoped to attain.

Though Baba was at liberty to visit her home, if she chose, during the
four or five hours at mid-day, when her lord would never demand her
presence, she had the strength to withstand the temptation, knowing that
by such visits her unhappiness would be greater than ever. Her
homesickness was pitiable enough. She managed to conceal it from the
eyes of the curious very well. Her tears would never flow when any one
was near. But by day and by night the iron entered into her soul; and as
day followed day, the weight of the hours past, and yet more the presage
of those to come, crushed her spirit with a merciless slowness. Baba was
too young to realize the healing power of time, how it bears
forgetfulness on its kindly wings, how its shadow becomes finally a
shield by which the keen daggers of remembrance are blunted and turned
aside. She did not know that the human soul can suffer only so far. Her
capacity seemed infinite. She appeared to have entered into an eternally
dreary land, the boundless valley of shadow. She wept till tears were
gone. Day renewed the misery that night confirmed. Finally, when she had
come to dream wildly of death as the one desirable thing, the limit of
her unhappiness was reached and the tide turned. The beginning of the
change for the better was made by the appearance of Zor, her beloved
goat, who had mourned for her mistress so continually that life in the
neighborhood with her became impossible, and finally Bazuzu carried the
creature to the gates of Ribâta's palace, and commanded the magnificent
slaves of the portal to carry it instantly to the Lady Baba. The Lady
Baba being, at the moment, an unconscious but none the less real power
in my lord's household, Bazuzu was obeyed with alacrity, and the eunuch
that led the animal into the court-yard, where Baba lay alone upon her
cushions, could only stand in open-mouthed astonishment to see that lady
run forward, screaming with delight, throw her arms about the animal's
neck, and clasp it to her heart with a warmth that my lord had never
discovered in her.

Zor herself baaed with joy; and, having completely forgotten the
anything but affectionate parting of two weeks before, put her nose to
her mistress' cheek and loudly sounded her pleasure.

Baba always remembered this meeting as the first ray of light in her
gloomy existence. Little by little, now, the luxury of her new home
began to grow more worthy in her eyes, when she contrasted it with the
squalor of her childhood's home. Little by little, as the feeling of
silken garments became more familiar, she lost the craving for her rags,
and the hair that could fall in unrebuked tangles round her face. The
courts, the halls, and the rooms of Ribâta's beautiful abode, no longer
looked vast, barren, and tomblike to her eyes. Ribâta himself was not an
object of terror now. He had always been gentle, always kind, with her.
This, long ago, she had begun to realize. And now, at length, a visit to
the tenement began to seem possible--desirable. Bazuzu, indeed, had come
to see her more than once, to bring her her mother's love, and to say
that she and Ramûa would see her as soon as she could come. Ramûa was
very busy and very happy. Her wedding with Charmides was to be
celebrated before the first rains of Tasritû (September), and it was now
well along in Ulûlu, the last of summer. Baba heard the news without
surprise, but determined to wait till the knot was tied before she went
back to see her home.

The time came soon enough. It was not quite three months after the
Greek's first sight of the Great City that he took up that city as his
abode for life, bound to it by every tie that can bind a man to his
home. Throughout his wedding-day, with its quaint ceremonies and its
high feasting, Charmides' mind was upon his mother and her distant land.
Could she only know his wife, see her for an hour, behold her pretty
gentleness, and read her great love for him, Charmides felt that Heraia
would rejoice with him. But, as it was, through this, the most important
day of his life, the youth was rather silent and grave, save when Ramûa
looked at him with her shy, inquiring smile.

The wedding ceremony was long and fatiguing. It meant prayer and
purification in the morning before the assembled images of the gods.
Then there was the procession to the nearest temple, the signing of
contracts, the giving of Ramûa's hard-won dower by Beltani, and
Charmides' reverent pledge to support, protect, and cherish his wife so
long as she should remain faithful to him. Then his wrist and hers were
bound together with a woollen cord, a prayer was chanted, there was a
great blare of trumpets and clashing of cymbals, a public proclamation
that Charmides had taken unto himself Ramûa, the daughter of Beltani of
the tenement of Ut, and then, at last, the sacrifice. The chief portion
of the animals slaughtered was carried to the house of the bride for the
wedding feast, which lasted as long as the food held out.

Not till early evening did Charmides find himself alone. The guests had
departed, and Ramûa and her mother were up-stairs in the little room
that Charmides had taken for Ramûa and himself on the top floor of the
tenement. The Greek seated himself on a stool in the door-way of the
living-room, watching the sunset, that poured, a river of living gold,
over the lane and square before him. The thought of Sicily and his
family there was with him still; and he tried, for a little while, to be
alone by the sea with his parents and his brother. With all his soul he
prayed to Apollo for happiness in the new life, for forgiveness of any
past wrong, for a blessing for his wife, and a continuous renewal of
their love for each other. Then between him and Ramûa came the thought
of little Baba. Her life was dishonorable, despicable, in his eyes; yet
it was she that had saved him either from a great crime or the loss of
that that was dearest to him. Did she know of her sister's wedding? If
she knew, why had she not come to it? There was no telling. But, in any
case, he thought of her very kindly to-night, as he sat alone with the
gathering dusk.

Charmides' head was bent with abstraction and he was no longer looking
at the square before him. Presently a four-footed creature ran against
his knee and laid its head there. He looked up quickly, to find Zor at
his side and Baba in the square. She came towards him through the
twilight like a wraith, in her trailing, silken garments, with her hair
piled up on her small head in a crown of black braids fastened with
wrought golden pins. Beneath the dark hair her face looked very pale and
pointed. It was infinitely different from the face he had known. There
was no longer anything of the child in it. The elf-look was gone. In its
place was an expression of gentle weariness, of patience, of
long-suffering that affected the Greek strangely. As she came closer he
looked her full in the eyes, and, with one of his old, shining smiles,
held out both hands to her.

Baba had steeled herself to meet any greeting, but this was the one that
came nearest to breaking down her self-control. She managed to answer
the look steadily; and no one, least of all Charmides, could have
dreamed how her heart was bleeding. She gave him her hands, and he saw
what she carried in one of them.

"For Ramûa's bridal," she said, placing on his knee a long, golden chain
of Phœnician workmanship. It was far more valuable than anything Ramûa
had dreamed of possessing; and Charmides, examining the fine work on the
metal links, said so to her.

Baba dropped her eyes. "It was from my lord to me," she said. "But it is
my hand that brings it to Ramûa. Thou wilt let her wear it--for
me--Charmides?" The tone was doubtful.

Much as he might not have desired it, the Greek could not refuse her.
"Ramûa is above. Go thou and make thy costly gift to her thyself, Baba."

Baba bent her head, accepting the dismissal with the unquestioning
obedience that she had had instilled into her all her life through.
While she mounted to her sister, to hear the tale of that sister's
perfect happiness, Charmides sat him down again, the current of his
thoughts quite changed; his dreams all of the new life, no longer of the

One week and then another passed away. The rains had come upon the land,
and all Babylon rejoiced that the fiery summer was over. Wonderful and
terrifying were these rains. Sometimes, for six hours at a stretch, the
skies would open wide, and all the waters of the upper air descend upon
the earth in such floods that, by the time they had passed away, and
Ramân and his demons ceased to scourge the souls in Ninkigal, Babylon
would lie quivering in mud, her brick huts melted into shapeless
puddles, her drains overflowing with water and refuse, her river tearing
along through its high-bricked banks, threatening to inundate all
Chaldea, from Cutha to the gulf. And yet--one short day of sunshine and
the Â-Ibur and all the squares were dry again; the canals flowed soberly
between their banks; the troops of beggars, children, and dogs came out
from their lurking-places, and homeless ones gathered their scant
furniture out of the muddy ruins and began the yearly task of rebuilding
their unstable homes.

The days were growing short, and Charmides, whose work at the temple
occupied more time than formerly, while his salary had correspondingly
increased, frequently walked home at the very end of twilight. One
evening, during the first days of Arah-Samma (October), the young Greek,
who had been detained by a special sacrifice in honor of the full moon,
was wending his way homeward by its light. His steps were slower than
usual and betrayed the reluctance that he felt. His mood was arbitrary.
For the first time since his marriage, for the first time in his life,
perhaps, Charmides felt a great craving for masculine society. The idea
of the eternal supper with Ramûa and her mother, the evening spent in
hearing his wife discourse upon effeminate matters, or in poetry of his
own making, palled upon him. Were there a single man in all this city
whom he could call comrade, Ramûa might have waited for him in vain
to-night. So at least thought Charmides, as he loitered along in
childish ill-humor; and either Sin or Apollo must have read his heart.
Presently, as he came to a turn in the way, he espied, just emerging
from a door on the left, a whilom familiar figure, bandy-legged,
crook-shouldered, with spotless white cap and tunic, and a walk by which
he would have been recognized at the end of the world. Without
perceiving Charmides, he turned towards the south. But the Greek, his
heart leaping with pleasure, darted forward and grasped the little
fellow by the shoulder.

"Hodo!" he cried, in Phœnician. "Hodo! Dost thou forget me?"

"By Nebo, my little Greek!" shouted Hodo, blinking violently once or
twice, and then opening his eyes wide with delight. "Well, my Greek!
Still in Babylon? And how? And where? I will turn my steps in the way of
thy going."

"They go in mine already. Come you home with me, Hodo, and greet my

"Wife--_wife_! Horns of Bel! Why, Greek, thou art the wonder of my
heart! 'Home'--to thy 'wife'! Who may she be? Thou hast not won the
goddess over?"

Charmides flushed, but did not lose his temper. "Come you home and eat
of my bread, and behold the light of Ramûa's eyes."

"Oh, ay. Give you thanks. I will in happiness break bread with you.
Then, later, come you out with me where I am going--to the temple of the
false Istar. Let us behold the witches who wander abroad; the vultures
that snatch at the bodies of the fallen in the pale beams of Sin; and
the vampires and ghouls that haunt the Great City by night. The Lady
Ramûa will sleep soundly enough for this only time."

Charmides laughed blithely. "Verily, 'tis what I would do, Hodo. Babylon
by day I know all too well. But Babylon by night--often have I heard of
the Îgigî and the bat companions of Mulge. Together we shall behold
them. Now yonder is the tenement of Ut, wherein I dwell."

"Aha! Near to Ribâta's palace. Is thy wife awaiting thee?"

"It is Ramûa in the door-way there, with the jar upon her head."

"By Nebo and Bel, a slender lass!"

As the two men arrived at the door Charmides introduced his wife to his
friend; and Ramûa, for Charmides' sake, greeted the grotesque little
creature with cordial if modest hospitality. Beltani hurried forth to
purchase a river-fish from the nearest vender, and this was hastily
cooked for supper, along with the usual sesame. These things, and the
milk, figs, and dates, they ate in-doors; for, though the moon still
shone brightly, none could say that in fifteen minutes a hurricane might
not be raging. Ramân was fickle, and, in the rainy season, he was the
supreme god of the skies.

Hodo seated himself delightedly at Charmides' table. Here, indeed,
thought he, was a miracle: that a fellow scarcely attained to manhood,
ignorant of every detail of the life and the language of a people also
new to him, should have entered the gates of the greatest city in the
world, and in four months find himself master of a household, earning a
creditable income, and should at the same time have won for a wife one
of the most delightful young women that the little Borsipite had ever
seen. Ramûa, in fact, with one long-lashed glance, had completely
conquered him. The crooked little man forgot his food in the interest of
observing what went on around him; and only by the noble efforts of
Beltani was the conversational ball kept moving, however fitfully and
unevenly. Ramûa, shy and a little nervous at this first tax on her young
matronhood, said almost nothing, but managed that Bazuzu should keep
every plate and cup filled without putting too severe a strain on the
diminutive larder. It never occurred to Charmides to watch the food, nor
to be in the least ashamed of their open poverty. His Greek nature was
too primitive for that. He was decidedly sorry when the meal came to an
end, and Ramûa, making the proper salutations, followed her mother into
the inner room, leaving Charmides and the guest to divert themselves as
best they might.

"Thy wife--does she dance?" inquired Hodo, hopefully, when they were

Charmides shook his head. "No. Had she the aptitude, I should forbid it.
A dancing-woman is not for a man's wife."

Hodo sighed, nodded, and seated himself resignedly, while Charmides
moved over to the door and looked out upon the night. Presently he
darted out and up the stairs, to return a moment later wrapped in a
voluminous cloak of dark stuff: an article never unacceptable at this
time of year. Re-entering the room, he turned eagerly to his friend.

"Come, Hodo! Now let us go forth into the city, up to the temple of the
false Istar. For I am ignorant of all that happens within it at night.
Demons and witches I have never beheld. Come you and show them to me.
Rise up and come!"

The trader obeyed these suggestions with alacrity, there being no
further prospect of seeing Ramûa that night. Before leaving the house,
however, Charmides went to her to explain whither he was going, lest she
might lie awake for him. Like a dutiful wife, she made no protest;
though had he chosen, Charmides might have read in her eyes her little
sense of disappointment and depression. However, Charmides did not
choose. Hurrying quickly out of the house, he and Hodo crossed the
silent square and reached the bank of the canal, across which, at a
little distance, rose, like a huge shadow, the great palace of
Bit-Shumukin, where the tiny windows set high in the bright-colored
walls were marked in blotches of pale light.

Down in this quarter of the city the streets were deserted. Stillness
lay over everything. The moonlight made a fairy day, that hid all the
blemishes, the filth, the ruinous rubbish-heaps, and so beautified the
things that were shapely that one might have been walking through a city
of the silver sky. But the heavens were not perfectly clear. As the two
walkers finally arrived upon the Â-Ibur-Sabû a heavy cloud suddenly hid
Sin from their sight, and a faint growl of thunder rolled out of the
mists, coming to their ears as from a great distance. Charmides
straightened up, muffled himself a little closer in his cloak, and
turned to Hodo.

"Where find we the second Istar?" he asked, crisply.

Hodo looked at him with a little smile. "Charmides is changed since that
day that he took part in the rites of Ashtoreth," he observed, turning
towards the north.

In the darkness the Greek frowned. It was the one incident in his life
of which he could not bear to be reminded. And this--was this to put him
back into that day? It was only with an effort that he shook off a
sudden reluctance; but it passed as the moon suddenly shot a stream of
light forth from the cloud, and he looked about him. They were well
along the Â-Ibur, just opposite the royal granaries. So much the Greek
realized. But otherwise the street had a most unfamiliar appearance.
Many, many people were abroad in it: shadowy, dark-flitting forms,
whether of men or of women it would have been hard to say. Cries, vague
and incomprehensible to Charmides, yet each with its peculiar
significance among frequenters of the streets by night, came weirdly out
of the shadowy darkness. At short intervals on each side of the broad
street a string of lamps stretching above a door-way would mark the
entrance to some drinking or gambling den unknown to daylight. Into
these places muffled figures were continually passing; but few emerged.
It was yet too early for that. Charmides would have paused to look into
one or two of them, but Hodo hurried along, glancing neither to the
right nor left. Every few yards, now, the younger man was accosted by
some creature of the night, a devotee of false Istar, or a priestess of
Lil the ghost, the queen of Lilât, who was lord of darkness. Not once
did Charmides make reply to the women; but, had it not been for Hodo, he
would have liked very well to halt at some dark corner to watch more
carefully all that was going on around him.

The Borsipite knew Babylon too well to stop on so transitory and
uninteresting a site as the Â-Ibur-Sabû. Far to the north, almost under
the shadows of Imgur-Bel, near the gates of Sin and the Setting Sun, in
the square of the temple of the false Istar, all the viciousness of all
humanity was visible to every man, and was permitted, in the name of
religion, to go on between the hour of the first darkness and the gray
of dawn.

On the right side of the square, on the usual platform, but without any
ziggurat or tower near it, was the low, broad building miscalled
"temple," dedicated to the worship of the goddess of night. This
building by day was gray, silent, deserted, shut as to doors and
windows, open to no one. By night one would not have known it for the
same thing. Its unguarded gates were wide to any that chose to
enter--and these were never few. The hundreds of miniature apartments
that composed the interior of the place, glowed with light. In the first
of these rooms the eager or the new-comers were waylaid, while the idle
or the fastidious penetrated as near as possible to the central shrine,
where she who represented the goddess, the living substitute elected
every year on the first of Nisân, reposed in a dimly lighted grotto of
unsurpassed splendor. To her many were summoned; and one out of every
twenty, perhaps, remained. But the Chaldean visitor in Babylon that
passed five nights in the city and saw not the queen of the temple of
false Istar, was, indeed, an old and ugly man.

On the opposite side of the square stood a little row of houses, also
quiet but not utterly deserted by day. In them dwelt the orders of
witches, sorceresses, hierodules, priestesses, and vampires attached to
the far-famed and infamous temple across the square. These, like their
queen, lived by night and slept by day. Into their houses none but
members of their orders were admitted. The greatest precision was
observed in their rules of life; and the great public knew nothing at
all of the real and rather pitiable existence of these dwellers in
silent places.

These buildings were the only ones upon the square. To the north and to
the south it was enclosed by high walls pierced by as many gates as
there were streets leading into it; for no one ever had any difficulty
in getting into the place if he cared to enter it.

Finally, what was the square itself? By day it was the quietest spot in
the city. By night it was the most crowded and the most wonderful. Great
throngs of people always assembled here during the first hour of
darkness--men of every station and age; priest and lord, bondsman and
official, tradesman, shopkeeper, farmer, laborer, and soldier. All of
them were solemnly clad, and they mingled together in an inextricable
mass about the myriad bonfires that served to light the performances of
the jugglers, snake-charmers, and wizards who earned their living here.
Fanatical priestesses of Lil flitted among the people; and these women
were a very real danger, for they menaced life in a peculiar way. They
were professional vampires, whose habit it was to slip a delicate,
poisoned dagger into the vital spot below the heart of a victim, throw
themselves upon the body as it fell, and rob it, under the horrid
pretence of sucking the blood. Incredible as it is, these women were
held in superstitious reverence. No one dared resist the attack of a
vampire, through fear of becoming one of them after death. Vigilance and
flight were the only means of safety; and certainly what violence was
done did not seem enough to deter all Babylon from congregating at this

As Hodo and Charmides at length ended their weary walk and entered the
square, the trader gave his companion a quick warning of the dangers
there to be encountered; and the Greek, feeling nothing but a
pleasurable thrill of excitement, placed his left hand on his not
too-well-filled money-bag, and eagerly followed his companion towards
the bonfire nearest the door of the temple. It was not easy to force a
passage through the close-packed crowd that stood here about the
performer. But with some expostulation, a good deal of elbowing, and not
a little Babylonish profanity, the two finally reached a vantage-point
whence they could watch the performance of the wonder-worker. The man
was a Hindu outcast from the Sindh, come hither only he knew how. But
from some one, somehow, perhaps by aid of his own mystical religion, he
had learned a profession that could not but win him a living, wherever
he might be. Charmides, who had never before heard of an exhibition like
this, looked on wide-eyed, in great delight. He was utterly absorbed in
watching a parrot come slowly forth out of a ferret's throat, when a
lithe arm slid gently around his neck. He started backward in terror.
Hodo was upon him instantly and the white arm was withdrawn, its owner
melting so quickly into the throng that Charmides could not even
recognize her. Trembling a little, with a combination of outraged
dignity and fright, the youth drew away from the scene that had now lost
its interest. Once in the more open spaces of the square, Hodo went to
one of the liquor venders who passed continually to and fro, carrying on
their backs skins of the heady liquid made from the cabbage of the
date-palm, together with various other cheap and highly intoxicating

"Come hither, my Charmides, and drink with me!" called his guide, as he
bought a double cupful of red liquor from a little, shrivelled man with
newly filled pig-skin.

The Greek bravely accepted the invitation and lifted the cup to his
lips. He took a single mouthful of the stuff, and then poured the rest
of it quietly out upon the ground. Hodo saw nothing. He had taken his
beverage, with no joy in its flavor but with every confidence in its
happy result. Charmides was not to be outdone in good-fellowship.
Straightway he made for another vender, Hodo, grinning approval, close
at his heels; and the first performance was repeated, save for the fact
that this time the Greek paid for both drinks. Hodo was now bent upon
having too much. Charmides watched him quaff for the third time, himself
offered a fourth cup; and after that, having wasted thirty _se_ to very
good purpose, took his companion by the shoulder and remonstrated.

"Hodo, I shall leave you if you do not cease."

"Spirit of Lil, my wonder, we have but begun! The n-night is young.
Behold, Sin and his little brother ride still low in the sky.
Well--w-well! If thou wilt be foolishly wroth we will wait your most
reverent pleasure. Come now into the temple. It is time. By the battle
of Bel and Tiâmat, thou wilt win in to Istar herself, with your golden
curls and pale eyes. Come on, little Greek! By all the gods, come on!"

Once again Hodo took the lead; this time rather more crookedly than
usual, and Charmides followed at his heels, through the roaring throng,
up to the wide gates of the many-roomed house of the false Istar.
Together they ascended the platform steps, reached the threshold of the
temple itself, wavered there for an instant, like birds ready for
flight, and then plunged together into the first torch-lit passage.

Four hours later Charmides emerged alone. His cloak and his money-bag
were both gone. His tunic was rent in more than one place. His face was
whiter than Zor's milk; and his hair was in wild disorder. Heeding
little how he went, he passed down the steps again into the square. It
was nearly empty now. Jugglers and magicians were gone. The fifty fires
burned low, or were on the verge of extinction. The moon hung in the
west, and the sky was heavy with storm-clouds. The Greek staggered as
the cool darkness stole over him. In the house he had left the revelry
was at its maddest pitch. Hodo was lost in it, his companion knew not
where. Charmides himself had learned the highest form of worship of the
false goddess, for he had attained to the inmost shrine. He was young;
the flame of his fire had burned too fiercely while it burned at all;
and now the reaction had set in. Exhausted, apathetic, half fainting
from weariness, he longed for the liquor that he had refused earlier in
the night. But drink was impossible now. His money was gone. All that he
had with him he had flung into the open coffers of the great courtesan.
Now--now there stretched before him the endlessly weary homeward way,
that must be traversed on foot. At the prospect he shivered with misery.

Pausing for a moment or two to gather a little warmth for his chilled
body from the dying embers of the nearest fire, preparatory to setting
forth into the city, he saw, coming towards him out of the gloom of the
opposite side of the square, two well-robed men, one of whom he
recognized as an under-priest in the temple of Sin. They were going in
his direction, and as they passed he moved after them, that he might
keep himself awake by listening to snatches of their conversation. Both
of them were oblivious of his presence, wholly absorbed in themselves.
They did not talk at first; but a sensitive person would have realized
that they were indulging in that species of mental intercourse that
exists only for those whose hearts are bare to each other. Charmides,
even in his irresponsible condition, recognized the sympathy, but could
not, of course, partake of it. At the first spoken word, however, he
pricked up his ears and listened with all his mind. Oddly enough, he
found their topic one of peculiar interest to himself. It was the priest
of Charmides' temple who spoke.

"From Siatû-Sin I heard all the tale--all that any one knows. It is
incredible, thrice incredible, that she was cried 'mortal' by the

"The people! The cattle, rather!" rejoined his companion, scornfully.

"Howbeit--howbeit--there is something strange in the story. Divine, she
knew that death was intended. _Human_, she feared it. That we know."

Kaiya shook his head impatiently. "Since Babylon knew her again, neither
Amraphel nor Beltishazzar has dared go to her."

"Amraphel, nor Daniel--nor any man. Her very priestesses, we are told,
do not see her face. The silver glory is gone from around her, they say.
Now walks she veiled in black and gold from Babylonish looms. Veiled she
sits in the mercy-seat. Veiled she receives her food. Veiled she ascends
to the ziggurat, and there passes whole days alone in meditation."

"And it is said that one standing on the ziggurat, by the door of the
sanctuary, may hear the sound of human weeping in that room."

"Istar weeping! Ho, Kaiya--thou laughest!"

"No. I say what I am told," repeated the other, seriously.

"A goddess--does not weep."

There was a little pause. The conversation had reached a point whence it
could not proceed. Neither man would make the inference implied. It was
preposterous--also unnecessary.

Presently, however, when the reverence had been strained a little,
Bel-Dur, the priest of Sin, broke into a laugh. "Love we the woman,
Kaiya?" he asked, in amusement.

Kaiya was no laggard. He whipped off his religious mood like a garment,
and went a step further than his companion. "Let us love her!" said he.

Bel-Dur turned his head to stare at his companion, and once more began
to laugh. "Why not? Is it forbidden? Let us carry comfort to the weeping
one. Let us banish her loneliness. Let us--"

"Nay, be silent, Bel-Dur, and listen to me. If she be proved a woman,
and hath thus deceived all in the Great City, let her--let her, for
punishment or reward, be removed--from one temple of Istar into the

Kaiya looked swiftly over his companion's face, and then let his eyes
move farther afield. Charmides, behind the two men, listening intently,
but slow, from weariness, to understand, waited stupidly for the next
speech. Kaiya continued:

"Too long we have worshipped her as Istar to banish her now from Istar's
place. Let her be carried to the greater temple, and placed there in the
inner shrine on the golden couch of the false goddess. Eh? Say you that
I speak well?"

At these ruthless words, spoken in jest though they were, Charmides
halted. The blood poured into his brain. He clenched his hands. There
was a moment of wild impulse to rush forward and throw himself bodily on
the Zicarî that spoke. But the two figures moved on through the
darkness, and he lost the next words. Much as the priests had shocked
him, Charmides felt the greatest anxiety to hear more of their talk. He
stumbled forward again as fast as he could, and presently caught up with
them, realizing their nearness by the distinctness of their voices; for
the moon was now under a cloud, and the night was black and thick. When
he was again able to distinguish words, Bel-Dur was speaking; and the
topic had evidently shifted a long way from its previous point.
Charmides was puzzled at the first sentences.

"I do not know. Amraphel only admits the Patêsû, Sangû, and Enû
to their councils; these, and, of course, the three Jewish leaders:
Daniel and the sons of Êgibi. The men of Judea--captives, they call
themselves--will be a strong force in the uprising."

"Will this come in winter?"

"I do not know. Nothing is commonly known. Yet, in the rainy season, the
army of the Elamite could not move northward without great difficulty.
It is whispered through the temple that there are to be two armies--one
that of Kurush himself; another that of Gobryas, the governor of Gutium.
Have you heard it?"

"Whispered, yes. But nothing is sure. If this uprising were to be a
matter of three months hence, surely more would be known of it than is
known now. Everything is rumored; nothing is definite--"

"Save that Amraphel covets Nabonidus' high place--and will have it.
Belshazzar, look you, will never sit upon the golden throne of his

"Istar being no woman--maybe Belshazzar will be proved no man."

"Then is he a demon. Nabonidus, indeed, may be a woman in man's garb, O
Kaiya. But thou wilt find Belshazzar no sluggard in war."

"Verily I believe it. Here is my house. Wilt come in to us, Bel-Dur?"

"Nay, I keep my way to the temple. There is but a short time for
purification before the auguries of dawn."

"Farewell. Amraphel be with you!"

Bel-Dur laughed at the bold sacrilege and departed towards the temple of
Sin, while the Zicarî entered into the little house of which he was a
member. Charmides was left alone in the narrow street, too weary to go
as far as the tenement, undecided as to where to turn his lagging steps
for a sorely needed shelter.

Even while he stood, fagged and drooping with sleep, at the door of the
monastery, the dawn broke. Night melted and swam before his eyes in
rivulets of misty gray. Shadowy buildings reared out of the dim light.
From the far-away came the faint howls of waking dogs. There was the gay
crow of a cock from some distant field. Then the world was still again.
The sky grew eerily clear. Charmides saw the white stars and the fallen
moon sink away into the bright heavens. Still the morning was not one of
sunlight. It was only a luminous fog that poured down from the sky in
swirls. In the midst of it the Greek shuddered with cold, and longed for
his lost cloak. Somewhere--somewhere he must go, and quickly. Somewhere
he must find shelter from the coming rain. His head throbbed. He was
wretchedly nauseated. The night that was past stretched behind him
hideously, like the tail of a loathsome reptile. All things were
distorted in his mind. He cursed Hodo for making possible for him the
night that he had secretly desired. Finally, he put away every thought
save that of physical distress, and moved forward at a crawling pace
down the narrow street, till he came to the square of the true Istar,
whose temple loomed up before him like a cloud-shadow.

The temple gates were open. As Charmides entered the grateful refuge he
found more than one wanderer asleep in the silent twilight of the holy
house, where sacrificial lights burned by day and by night. Here
Charmides also should have laid him down; but, for some inexplicable
reason, he was not satisfied with the place. His mind groped for
something else. Istar was not here; and he wished to be near her, to
feel her presence closer than it was. Following his instinct, he hurried
out of the temple and crossed the platform to the foot of the ziggurat,
on top of which, in her shrine, Istar had begun to pass her nights;
though of this fact the Greek, in his right mind, was quite unaware. He
made his way upward, round and round the thick tower, along the inclined
plane, till he had reached the top. There was the door to the sanctuary.
Across it the leathern curtain was closely pulled. Charmides went to
stand beside it, listening intently for the sound of weeping. Had not
Bel-Dur said that she wept? No sound came from within. Still, Charmides
was quite sure that his goddess was there. With a long, shivering sigh
he laid himself down protectively across the door-way, pillowed his bare
head upon the bricks, and then, all numb and drowsy with fatigue and
cold, he sank into a heavy sleep.



Charmides was roused by an exclamation. His eyes fell open, and he found
himself gazing up into a face that for months had baffled alike his
dreams and his actual vision, and that now stood out clearly above him.
He sat hastily up, and immediately a pair of gentle hands were laid upon
his shoulders, and the most wonderful of voices said to him, sorrowfully
and in amazement:

"Rhapsode! Rhapsode! How came you here? Rise quickly from that place!"

The Greek obediently tried to scramble to his feet, but relinquishing
the attempt, he put his hands to his burning head and dizzily closed his

"'Tis the cold!" he gasped, wretchedly.

Istar looked around her. Far below, in the square, many people moved.
But the things that took place on the ziggurat were invisible to them.

"Come thou within--into the shrine. Here wilt thou find warmth," she
said, drawing him with her own strength to his feet, and pushing back
the curtain before the door.

Charmides went with her blindly, and blindly obeyed her whispered
behests. He lay down upon her own couch, was covered over with the
costly rugs that she herself had used, and felt the human warmth of the
little place with a sense of peace and comfort.

"Oh, goddess--forgive--this profanation--of--thy--high--pla--" The
murmur ceased, and before the last word had been completed he had sunk
away to sleep, this time in a manner to recuperate his strength.

Istar of Babylon drew a stool to the side of the couch and seated
herself thereon, almost without moving her look from the face of the
youth before her. Again and again her great eyes traversed his features,
the delicate, straight brows, the white eyelids, the long, golden-brown
lashes, the short, straight nose, and that perfect mouth which, on a
woman, might well have caused another Trojan war. A face as beautiful as
ever man possessed was this, and as she watched it a great sigh, that
was like a sob, broke from her lips.

"Thou, too--thou, too, perhaps, hast been immortal!" she whispered over

Charmides did not hear her. He lay like a statue, his sleep made
dreamless and perfect by the presence of her whom he worshipped. And the
face of the Greek bore the marks of a peace and content that were not on
hers. Istar the goddess, the superb, the omniscient, was no more.
Instead--Ah! There was a question that lay eternally at Istar's heart,
that she could not answer, that burned her with its insistence. Now she
bent closely and more close over her charge, seeking to forget herself
in contemplation of his beauty. The eager suppression of herself was
pitiable, for the power of her self-control showed how great was its
necessity. It was while her lashes almost touched the cheek of the
Sicilian that from beyond the curtain came the voice of a ministering
eunuch, raised in his regular morning formula:

"Belit Istar, the sacrifice is made: the meats have known the fire. A
sweet savor ascends from the consecrated flesh, inviting the goddess to
her morning repast. Let Belit Istar command her slave."

"Bring to me goat's flesh, and milk, and cakes of sesame. Let these
things be placed outside my sanctuary door. Let no one enter my shrine
this day, on penalty of my wrath."

"Belit Istar is obeyed."

Istar sat up, straight and stiff, for full five minutes after this
dialogue had taken place. She was pale with the momentary danger, the
remote possibility that the slave, contrary to custom, might have lifted
the curtain of the shrine, and, looking in, have beheld Charmides there.
And now that the eunuch had safely gone, a trembling seized her, and she
leaned forward, burying her face in her hands. The rumors that had
spread through the city concerning her were in so much true, that she
was in a state of great suffering. The world had become her wilderness.
It enclosed her now as a prison from which she could not escape, yet in
which her liberty was appalling. Her sense of omniscience, of
companionship with the infinite, was quite gone. Nothing was left
except--except what she feared as a woman, except what, as a goddess,
she cried aloud to the high God and his archetypes mercifully to spare
her. Things to which she would give no definite place in her thoughts
crushed her by day and by night with their indeterminate weight. That
the worst had not come, that a great and terrifying cataclysm, which
would rend her spirit in twain, drew day by day nearer to her, she knew
too well. And as these days, these miserable, pain-filled days, crawled
one by one away, she would fain have held them to her forever; for,
wretched as they were, they were almost happy in comparison to that that
must finally come upon her. At this moment as she leaned again over the
young rhapsode, Istar scanned his face carefully, minutely, to find a
trace of human unhappiness. And, finding none, a great envy of him and
of the life that he had found in Babylon came over her. Was it possible
that so much of joy might belong to any of God's creatures? And was she,
then, utterly forgotten? She pulled herself up with a start. _This_ was
human, this question of hers. For a moment or two she saw truly what she
had become, and a fresh wave of fear swept over her. It passed, however.
The supernatural perception was rarely with her now, and then only in
quick, reminiscent flashes. She was indeed one of those whom she had so
profoundly pitied from her dim abode; for whom she had broken the law of
her order; in whose name God had driven her forth from the realm of high
indifference into the sentient world, the world of pain.

This vague and unhappy reverie was broken in upon by the return of the
eunuch with food, which he set down outside her door. The proceeding was
unusual, and after the man's departure Istar was seized with a new fear.
What would the slave think, that she had bidden him not enter the
shrine? Would he suspect? Of all things now, she dreaded suspicion; she
dreaded being watched; she dreaded beyond measure the exposure that must
inevitably come--but not yet! Not yet for a little while! Stealthily now
she drew aside the curtain and looked out upon the narrow platform of
the ziggurat. No one was there. Upon the door-sill were two dishes of
chased gold, the one filled with steaming goat's flesh and roasted
pigeons, the other heaped with barley cakes; and the two of them were
flanked by a tall silver jar of warm goat's milk. These Istar lifted one
by one, carried them into the shrine, and set them upon the table where
her shew-bread was usually placed. Then, when the meal was safe within
and ready, she went over to where Charmides still lay motionless, and
laid her hand gently upon his forehead.

"Rise thou, Charmides," she said.

"Ramûa!" muttered the Greek. He stirred slightly. His eyes opened. Then,
suddenly realizing where he was, he leaped to his feet, stared about him
irresponsibly for an instant, and finally threw himself on his face
before Istar.

"Forgive me, my goddess! I knew not what I did!" he whispered,

Istar smiled mournfully. "You ask forgiveness for that that I bade you
do. Rise, my Greek. Eat of the food that is here. I command it."

Charmides looked quickly up. He could not deny that he was ravenously
hungry. The smell of the meats caused his nostrils to quiver, and the
sight of them did away with his reverent wish to refuse. Istar watched
him closely as he sat down to her morning meal. She herself could have
taken not one mouthful of food, but she had already had a draught of
milk; and now, urging the Greek to eat his fill, she turned aside and
sat down near the door-way, waiting in silence till the young fellow,
after a final cup of the mild beverage, wiped his dagger on his tunic,
muttered a line of grace to the gods of Greece, and rose a little

"Thou hast eaten and art filled, Charmides?" Istar asked, turning to him
quietly, with the shadow of a smile.

For answer the Greek bent his knee and bowed his head.

"And now thou goest forth again into the city?"

Charmides looked at her to read the answer that she wished him to make.
But the words on his lips were never spoken.

Istar was standing before him a little to the left of the door-way, from
which the curtain was half pulled aside. The daylight fell relentlessly
over her face and her form. It was upon her face that the Greek's eyes
rested: rested in wonder, in amazement, finally with something more than
either of those things. Was this last expression one of horror? Istar
saw the look and read it; and before its piercing inquiry she quivered.
Involuntarily she began to shrink away from him, but escape him now she
could not. Knowledge was his. There was no concealment. Then, at length,
she accepted the situation, as it was necessary that she should.

"I am a woman," she said, with a gentleness and an unconscious dignity
that nonplussed him anew. "Thou mayst not kneel to a woman, Greek. Rise

"I kneel to thee, O Istar!" was his reply.

Then, indeed, her lips quivered, but with a little effort she regained
her self-control. "Go then, Charmides. Thou knowest me--now."

Charmides got to his feet, but he made no move towards departure.
Instead, after an instant's hesitation, he went a little closer to her,
and spoke as he might have spoken to Baba--Baba as she was now.

"Istar--art thou indeed the Istar whom first I beheld in Babylon?"

"Yea, Charmides. I am that Istar; yet I am not the same. Then was I more
than human. Now--less."

"Who decreed it? Who defiled thee?" he asked, as much of the air around
him as of her.

"That thou must not ask. It is what none shall ever know. Depart from me
and go thy way. Tell whom thou wilt what I am become. Not long--Ah! It
is not long when all the world must know me--as I am."

"Not from the words of my mouth, Belit," Charmides said, sadly. Then,
for a little, silence fell between them. He knew that she waited for him
to go, and yet, before he went, he felt that he must warn her of the
danger that she ran--that danger that he had learned by night. Twist it
as he might, the facts were too brutal to be made plain to her. He
flushed as he connected, even in thought, the scene of the past night
with the grave and grandly beautiful creature before him. Woman she
might be, but the mark of her godhead was on her still, could never
leave her; for no living woman, of his race or of any other, was
comparable to her. And while he thought these things she also stood
regarding him, and finally, having read half his mind, opened her mouth
and spake:

"Charmides, tell me thy thoughts. I will bear with them."

He grasped the opportunity eagerly: "O Belit, I must warn thee--warn
thee against all the priesthood, those of every temple and house in the
city. They threaten thee with untellable disaster. Watch them, lady, and
take heed to thyself. Beware whither thy steps lead thee, what things
thou turnest thy hands unto. They watch thee with numberless and unholy
eyes. They mean great wrong."

"If they will bring me death, I welcome it gladly."

He shot a glance at her that caused her suddenly to drop her eyes. Then
he said, quietly: "It is not death. Ah, Istar, do not ask its horror. I
myself would deal thee death with my right hand to save thee from it."

Istar shuddered.

"Belit, know this. When comes the day of thy trial, if thou wouldst seek
shelter from the pursuers, ask to be taken to the palace of Lord Ribâta
Bit-Shumukin, on the canal of the New Year. There, at the gate, demand
the presence of the Lady Baba. Baba will conduct thee to the home I live
in. It is very lowly, but in it thou shalt find safety. Thou wilt
remember this?"

"Truly, Charmides, thou deservest all happiness!" she said, impulsively,
coming nearer to him.

He bowed his head. "For thee I came to Babylon. Through thee my heart
has found its home. Therefore, when thou shalt ask it of me, my life it
is thine."

With this, then, and a last puzzled look at her, he went forth to his
much-belated temple duties.

Istar, once more left alone, turned slowly back into her shrine. The
little interlude that had broken in upon her loneliness made her shrink
from the pall that waited to overwhelm her again. Thereafter the one
hour of Charmides' presence remained like a little golden disk in the
memory of her solitary months. But now the momentary sense of
companionship was too terribly contrasted with the melancholy of her
solitude. Hurriedly covering herself with a great, silver-woven,
heavy-meshed veil, she left her retreat in the upper morning and left
the ziggurat for her dwelling-place behind the temple.

She did not see her sanctuary again for seven months. It was not that
she felt any reluctance about entering it. Simply, her apathy had become
such that she was incapable of the physical effort necessary for the
ascent of the tower. Once a day she took her place in the mercy-seat in
the temple. All the remaining time she spent in the inmost court of her
particular suite of rooms, or in the miniature apartment where she was
accustomed to sleep. She reclined generally at full length, doing no
work of any kind, her eyes shut, the heavy veil shrouding her figure but
thrown back from her face, her body perfectly motionless, her very
thoughts apparently at rest. Her attendants watched her, wondering at
the great change that was working upon that formerly magnificent
personality. And through these same temple-slaves, eunuchs, and
hierodules, strange rumors concerning the once universally worshipped
goddess continued to fly abroad through the city. Certainly there
appeared to be little enough of the divine about this weak, ill woman;
though why the change had come none of those connected with her had the
faintest idea.

These were the days of Istar's wandering in the wilderness. Pain, mental
and physical, she learned in every stage, from slight discomfort to
nerveless agony. Each morning she woke with the prayer in her heart that
night might bring the end of it all, yet knowing well that her end was
far away. Her old, archetypal world became gradually more and more
indistinct to her memory, till she had all but forgotten it. Her one
wish, that she dared not utter, was for annihilation. Yet this would
involve a sin that she could not but recognize as unpardonable; for
Istar of Babylon bore within her another life, a life that was, as yet,
part of her, that by natural law was hers to cherish, that she could not
love, that she dared not hate. And it was the day when this new life
should take unto itself individuality that she lay dreading through all
those dreary months, from the death of summer to Airû, when the new
spring came to Babylon.

The fall of Istar was accomplished. This, by day and by night, she cried
to herself, in her agony of self-mortification. It seemed to her that
the wheel of the law was the most merciless of all ordained things. The
former dead-alive existence of her godhead seemed holy, now that she
could know it no more. The very present, indeed, unendurable as it was,
was infinitely better than what was to come. As a matter of fact, her
extreme dread of the future was very near to turning her brain, for at
every hour she lived the moment of discovery, till, at times, she was
like to go mad with it, and to disclose it all, then and there, and so
have done with it.

There were two or three of her priestesses who realized, through many of
her symptoms, her mortal state; and these were very tender to her in
this time of her trial. From their lips no word of her condition reached
the outside world. The underlings, only, talked; and it was from
underling to Zicarî, Zicarî to Pasîsû, Pasîsû to Sângî, and so to the
Patêsi at last, that distorted accounts of Istar's life and suffering
passed rapidly in the late autumn. And these rumors quickly reached the
ears of the three people who had the strongest personal interest in
Istar of Babylon. Two of them were her enemies, bitter, unscrupulous,
and powerful. These two were also closely connected. But, while one knew
perfectly the mind of the other, and each knew that the greatest desire
of the other's political life was Istar's ruin, yet, while matters
slowly ripened and daily grew more absorbing, the subject of the
approaching disgrace of the whilom goddess was never once opened between
them. Amraphel of Bel, from his palace on the Â-Ibur-Sabû, and Daniel of
Judea, from his humble house south of the canal of the Prophet, in the
Jews' quarter, watched, planned, listened, read each other's hearts, and
bided their time, in the way peculiar to those that know well their
world. The time for action would come, and without any planning on the
part of either of them. But when it did arrive there must be no bungling
of the affair.

Only one little thing in the case, as these two considered it, failed to
assume its proper proportion in the perspective of their reasoning. The
cause of Istar's undoing was as much a mystery to them as it was to the
lowliest kalî in Istar's temple. Both Amraphel and Daniel had long ago
ceased to reckon Belshazzar as a factor in this affair. The old
suspicion had been a mistake--an incomprehensible mistake. The prince
royal went no more to the temple of the goddess, never spoke of or to
her, gave rather all his time to affairs of state; which at this moment
sorely needed the firm will and the strong hand that he alone, of all
his house, possessed.

It was well enough that Amraphel could not read Belshazzar's heart.
There was indelibly written what would have startled that reverent man
out of all his omniscient composure. For if Istar mourned unceasingly
the loss of her godhead, Belshazzar, of the house of the Sun, mourned
the loss of her to his life as he would hardly have mourned the fall of
that kingdom that was dearer to him than his life. After the strange
return from Erech, he had gone daily for two months to Istar's temple,
and had sought by entreaty, threat, prayer, and imprecation, to be
admitted to her. And again and again, and yet again, had he been
refused, till finally he turned his thoughts to the life of his city.
But by this means she was not taken from his heart. By night he dreamed
of her, and by day, when she was as far from him as the sun, as near as
his children, as unapproachable as the silver sky, she was forever a
sub-consciousness in his thoughts.

Thus passed, unhappily and uneventfully, the long winter months of the
last year of Nebuchadrezzar's Babylon. In the first week of Airû
(April), Belshazzar determined finally to reach Istar's presence. The
stories of her condition had of late become alarming, and in the depths
of his heart he had begun to dread what had never occurred to him
before--the possibility of her death. The mere thought left him
agonized, and he felt himself unable to keep away from her longer.

It was late in the morning--a glowing morning in Babylon's fairest
month--when he left the palace on foot, clad in a dark mantle that
completely covered his head and his figure, rendering him unrecognizable
to any but his closest companions. He chose this hour for going because
he knew that now Istar's vitality would be strongest, and he dared not
give her the shock of seeing him at a time when she would be especially
weak. The matter of his admission to her dwelling had been arranged by
Ribâta the week before, through hirelings whom he had kept in the temple
precincts for some months past. Unnoticed by any one, then, the prince
arrived at the bronze door of the building behind the temple. It was
instantly opened, wide enough to permit of his passing through; and
inside stood a veiled woman, who, after a silent acknowledgment of his
rank, led the way through the succession of courts and passages to a
closely curtained door-way.

"Belit Istar is within," she whispered. Then on the instant she turned
and glided swiftly away.

For the moment Belshazzar stood trembling upon the threshold. His dread
was evenly matched with his fever. The throbbing of his heart sent the
blood pounding through all his arteries. His hands grew cold and
useless. The effect on him of the mere thought of beholding this woman
again was something that he did not pretend to understand. Women,
ordinarily, were little enough to him. But _this_ woman--she who was
hidden from him by the single fold of an embroidered curtain--this woman
made his earth and his heaven, his soul, his brain, his body, and his
blood. Go to her it seemed he could not, for very desire. Once his hand
moved forth to lift the curtain, but it fell again to his side. His head
whirled. Long as it was since he had seen Istar, yet the picture of her
as she had lain unconscious in his arms on the morning of the fall at
Erech, came again before him to the smallest detail--perfect, finished,
immutable. He felt her weight, he beheld the living pallor of her flesh,
he saw the heavy-fringed eyelids close over the eyes that lighted his
world. She would live so in his mind forever. Now--he was about to turn
away, to leave her alone in peace.

So far there had been no sound in the room beyond. But just as he was
about to depart there came to his ears some words spoken in her
voice--her low, exquisite voice, now so weary and so much weaker than it
had been of old. The words reached him distinctly; and instantly they
caught his attention. The spell of his reluctance was broken, and all
the fire of his eagerness blazed up at the first syllable spoken by her.
Quickly he lifted the curtain and stepped out of the sun-flooded court
over the threshold of the dimly lighted room. Istar was on her knees
before him, her back turned to the door, her head bowed, her long, black
veil trailing on the floor around her. Her voice was lifted in prayer,
the first words of which had caught his attention, and held him
spellbound by means of the sweet, forlorn monotony of her tone, the ring
of yearning, of pathos, of utter hopelessness indescribably felt through
all the rhythmical cadences, till Belshazzar bent his head in helpless
pity over her incomprehensible plight.

Thus, in the unmusical Babylonish syllables, ran her psalm:

"_God of all gods, of men and of ages, of time and of tears: Creator of
rivers, Divider of seas, accept of the homage I proffer at noon._

"_The winds Thou hast hushed for my peace have obeyed Thee. The sun's
golden glory of mid-day is Thine._

"_Father of lowliness, High-priest of sorrow, mighty and powerful; Lover
of children, in mercy merciless, piteous in justice; raise me from
flesh, above wrong, to communion with spirits of heaven._

"_My body before Thee is bended. My face is uplifted in prayer that is

"_Love all unholy by night I admitted. Yea, I have loved love for Sin's
sake, rejoicing in earth-begot passion. Godhead I lost; and desire for
goodness departed. Now in the hour of trial, homeward I come to my
Father at noon; no more in fear to approach Him, believing His mercy
omniscient. Home come I, washed in my tears._

"_Lord of the noon, my Begetter, absolve me!_

"_Lord of the sun, of the well-flowing river, receive me that offer Thee

"_Lord of the world and of children and angels, bequeath me forgiveness
of sin._

"_Lord of all lords, from Thy home grant me peace everlasting. O Amanû,
Thou on High._"

"Amanû," came the soft echo of a masculine voice from behind her.

With a gasp that resembled a sob, Istar faced about, still on her knees.
In turning, she drew the heavy veil that had hung around her close over
her face, so that, to any one but him who looked at her, she would have
been unrecognizable. Belshazzar, indeed, confronted by the black mask,
felt his speech suddenly suppressed within him. His cloak had fallen to
his feet, and he stood revealed in all the splendor of his strength and
royal beauty. But before her he was powerless to act. He left the
situation helplessly to her.

Istar herself, for the moment, was stunned. In that first minute that
she looked upon him again, the world around her grew gray and
indistinct. Her cold body trembled. In her dry throat a sob struggled to
come forth. But in her heart--ah, who would have believed it!--was
rising a great, overweening joy. God had heard her! God sent the answer
to her prayer--such an answer as she had not dreamed of. Yet she knew
that the Comforter was come. In this thought Istar loosened the veil
again and took it from her head, so that her face, white, thin,
great-eyed, mournful, and still divinely perfect, was revealed to him.

"Istar!" he cried, half in sudden woe at her too apparent illness, half
still in passionate admiration. He had seen her before with the silver
aureole gone, but now her very face, in its shining purity, was of
refined silver. "Istar!" He spoke the word tenderly, and went a little
nearer to her.

She had fixed her eyes upon his, and the painfully strained look in her
face showed him that she strove to read his mind: his purpose in coming
to her. As he approached nearer still she rose suddenly to her feet, for
one instant held the protecting veil close around her figure, and then,
still without taking her fear-stricken eyes from his face, let it drop,
and stood there revealed before him, clothed from head to heel in a
scant, straight tunic of white wool.

For an instant Belshazzar saw her stupidly. His eyes travelled over her
and suddenly he saw, and his self-control broke down. With a great,
hoarse cry of pity and of love, he rushed to her and caught her close in
both of his strong, protecting arms.

"Istar! Istar! Thou untrusting one! My beloved! Thou hast suffered alone
and told me nothing! Where was thy faith? Hast thou for an hour doubted
my love? Know you not how, in my heart, I have mourned thee, have
yearned for thee, day by day? Yea, the anger of Bel alone has kept us
apart one from the other. The very gods are jealous that I should have
thee, thou lotus-flower of the world! Speak to me, O my beloved!"

"Belshazzar! Belshazzar!" she whispered, once, twice, thrice. Then,
seeming to gain courage from the syllables of his name, she went on,
half fearfully still: "I have hardly loved thee until now. God hath
heard me, I think. But, oh! the long, rainy months! The endless days!
The eternal nights! How have I prayed to die in them, prayed with my
heart and with my lips to die."

He caught her the more convulsively in his arms. "And now?" he asked.

"Ah, now! Now is my strength restored within me! I have new courage. I
shall bear my trial now. Thou needst not fear. Suffering will be sweet,
for I no longer dread the anger of Bel--of the one God."

"Istar, are we not now as God? Together shall we not defy all? The
eleven great gods, and--high Istar herself?"

Istar of Babylon looked dazedly into his eyes. "Do you not believe on
me?" she asked, faintly.

"I believe in thy love. That is all my belief."

"But the divinity that was mine?"

He caught her a little closer. "Istar, art thou not a woman?" he asked,
gently, but inexorably.

There was a silence. Istar was making her last struggle against fate. At
the defeat her head fell heavily forward upon his breast. "Yea, I am a
woman," she muttered, faintly.

Belshazzar's lips were pressed upon her forehead. Then suddenly he
lifted her in his arms and carried her over to the couch that stood at
one end of the room. On this he laid her, and covered her over with one
of the heavy, silken shawls used for that purpose. Then he stood off and
inspected her, to see that she was comfortable.

"Lie thou there," he said, "till I return within the hour with a litter
borne by my household slaves. In thy trial I will be beside thee; thou
shalt be in my house, protected by my name, lodged as my princess. But
one hour more, and then, for all time, we shall be together!"

He spoke with perfect confidence, and, having finished his explanation,
would have departed had not Istar risen quickly from her couch and moved
towards him again.

"Gratitude be to my lord!" she said, with a faint smile. "Yet I may not
leave this temple till the hour comes. There will be a day when Bel
shall cast me forth alone into the city. But, of myself, I may not leave
the house to which the All-Father intrusted me. Nor shall mine eyes
again behold thee here. Go forth in peace, Belshazzar. My great love is
thine; and before many days I think that I must come to thee. But we
must patiently abide apart until the time. Now must thou leave me.

"Istar! What is this folly that you speak! You are mine--mine to care
for, to cherish. Your suffering is also mine. I go now, but to return
again for you. Or shall I despatch one of your eunuchs to the palace
with my message? Yea, that will I do, and remain at your side till the
litter comes."

The impatient tone was such as he might have used to one of his wives,
to Khamma, to any woman who by law belonged to him. Istar heard him, but
felt no anger at the words. Her manner showed only dispassionate

"Belshazzar, I have spoken. Shall I say the words again? Go thou forth
in peace. When my hour comes I will turn to thee. But we must wait that
hour, for it is the will of the great Bel."

The prince royal was taken aback. This was not a woman's way, yet
neither was it after the manner of men. He tried her again, this time
more gently, with reason, with persuasion, finally with undisguised
entreaty. She did not change. The dependent Istar, Istar the
supplicator, the woman, was gone. In her place was come the oracle of
the mercy-seat. Belshazzar dared not be angered by her unchanging
assurance. In the end he acknowledged himself defeated. He could only
kneel and implore that the hour of her home-coming be soon. Then, having
held her for one moment more in his arms, he left her, wrapping the
mantle closely about him as he stepped forth again into the hot sunshine
of his new and mysterious world.

As for Istar, with the answering of her prayer she entered the land of
heart's peace. God in high heaven had not forgotten her. Belshazzar, on
earth below, waited her coming. She could feel that the day of her
suffering was close at hand, and she was fortifying herself to endure
it. Thus ten days--ten days of the fair spring--passed by. Istar's
black-veiled form was seen morning and evening on the temple platform,
and she sat in the temple regularly at the mercy-hour, but did not
ascend the ziggurat. During this time she knew but ten uneasy moments.
These were when, once each day, always, as it were, by chance, she
encountered the lean and bent figure of Daniel the Jew, who lurked,
morning and evening, about this spot. His thin, vulture-like face, with
its scrawny, gray-streaked beard, and his small, beady, piercing eyes,
haunted Istar's thoughts, and remained with her as an omen of evil; and
she shrank from him even less for herself than for some unreasonable ill
that he seemed to promise to Belshazzar, her earth-lover. Daniel never
addressed her, never failed profoundly to salute her, never remained
longer than a bare second within her sight. And she strove to put him
from her mind, and to give all of her days and nights to careful
preparation for the approaching hours of her trial.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of April 21st her attendants found her lying in a swoon
on her bed. She was quickly revived, and awoke to the world with a look
of such happiness in her face that her women wondered silently, and went
back to their duties rejoicing. Istar attended the morning sacrifice--a
thing that she had not done for three months past. She drank a cupful of
milk, watched the goat's flesh roasted on the altar, heard the prayers
for the morning, and extended the mercy-hour far into the afternoon. The
sun hung just above the horizon when she re-entered the court-yard of
her dwelling and called for her evening meal. With unquestioning
surprise it was brought her, and she ate of it. Then, in the mellow
evening, she said her farewell to the consecrated home where she had
dwelt so long.

As Istar left her dwelling and walked slowly towards the foot of the
ziggurat, she saw that the whole city lay in a flood of gold. Her steps
were slow and fraught with pain. As she halted at the foot of the high
tower to look upward, wondering how she should reach its top, a voice
from another sphere spoke to her and bade her hasten her steps. It was
almost seven months ago that her feet had last touched this pavement.
Then she had not been physically weak, but mentally--! She sighed as she
remembered her terror of herself and of all her surroundings. At last,
with a deep breath, she began her ascent. Up, up, and up, step by step,
while the glorified light of day's death swam before her vision and the
evening wind fanned her cheeks, while the sweet scent of the flowers
that covered the desert was borne to her by the breeze, she went, a
prayer in her heart, a resolute determination to endure bravely holding
her thoughts. Up and up she mounted, till at last the empty summit of
the tower was gained, and she stood again at the door of the room that
had seen her incarnation.

Here, on the height, Istar stopped to look out over Babylon. It
stretched around and below her like a mirage, like the vision of a
holier city, wrapped all in clouds of blinding fire. A little to the
east, near enough so that the white designs on the shining turquoise
ground-work were fairly distinct, rose, from the tufty green of the
surrounding park, the new palace built by Nabonidus, in which Belshazzar
lived. Along the east side of this building ran the bright Euphrates,
passing here the most imposing point in all its mighty course. Opposite
the new palace, on the other bank, were the two huge structures once
inhabited by Nabopollassar and his son, that greatest of Babylonish
rulers. Across from Nebuchadrezzar's former home, connected with
it by the great bridge, itself a triumph of engineering, was the
palace-crowned mound of the great one's Median queen, called by
subsequent generations "the hanging gardens." This alone of all the
unused royal dwellings was kept in repair by the present ruler. And now,
at the time of the day's highest glory, Istar's eyes eagerly sought its
fresh verdure, the tier on tier of leafy foliage that hid such
fragrances and such blossoms as she rarely saw. And while she gazed upon
the monument of a king's devotion, the lonely woman found it in her
heart to wish that she might have been that queen whose sorrows and
whose earthly joys were now so comfortably ended, whose mortality had
come to dust, whose soul enjoyed its just rewards.

Istar's eyes moved on down the river to the lower part of the city,
which consisted of acre upon acre of low, brick buildings, hardly
relieved by a single tower or raised roof, stretching in gray monotony
off to where Imgur-Bel suddenly reared its gigantic height skyward. Over
this wall and the top of its still loftier brother, Nimitti-Bel, Istar,
high as she stood, could not see. Her brick-weary eyes yearned for some
glimpse of the quiet palm-groves that lined the river-bank beyond
Babylon. Indeed, their fragrant freshness was borne up to her by the
evening wind. Closing her eyes, she saw them as, nine months before, she
had watched them from her barge on the way to Erech. And thus, while she
contemplated many things, the sunset light began to fade, the shadows
mingled together over the gray roofs and bright towers of the city.
Twilight deepened; and the moon was not yet risen. So at last Istar
turned from the far-stretching scene and lifted up the curtain of her
long-unused shrine.

She was greeted by darkness. Evidently it was many weeks since any one
had entered the little room. A fine, white dust lay sifted over the
rugs, the table, the golden chair, the couch where Charmides last had
lain. Istar looked round with a sob in her heart--a sob of pitiable
weakness and pain. It was impossible now for her to summon any
attendant. Neither had she strength to descend the ziggurat again.
Leaving the curtain pulled wide open, that she might feel some
communication with the world beyond, she went to the couch, removed the
top rug with all its dust, then let fall her veil, and offered up one
last prayer for pity and for strength before she lay down resignedly in
the night.

Twilight slowly passed across the earth and trailed away into the
beyond. Thereupon came terror of the dark, together with the first stabs
of sharp pain. She had one swift, torturing moment, and a low cry at the
strangeness of it escaped her. Then calmness returned. She was prepared,
she thought, for the rest. One moment, two, three, passed, in strained
expectation. The darkness hung around her like a covering, but the
suffering did not return. Her lips moved continually, but her brain
refused to work. It seemed to her that the night must be passing. Soon,
perhaps, she might sleep. Her eyes were closed; her mind was slipping
away into freedom, when--she started up again. It was once more upon
her, this dreaded thing; and now she knew that there was no escape. When
it had passed this time she waited, stiff and strong, hands clenched,
breath coming and going rapidly, for the return.

It came once again, and yet again, more and more swiftly, more and more
terribly. She made no sound now. Her eyes stared straight into the
blackness with the gaze of one that does not see. Here was something
that, with all her months of preparation, she was not prepared for. No
imagination could have painted this; and her loneliness but added to her
terror. From the night a thousand malignant eyes seemed fixed upon her
with the look of Daniel the Jew. Yet presently she discovered that these
eyes were stars--fair, silver stars that shone, far away, through the
open door-way. A little later the night grew luminous, and the hideous
darkness was softened and smoothed away. Pale, yellow rays shot up the
sky, dimming the stars' white radiance, banishing their gaze. It was the
moon, the blessed moon, Istar's father, who, entering the heavens, put
her tormentors to flight. The woman's thoughts were growing incoherent.
She was a little delirious. Her body was racked and torn and bruised.
The agony, too great to be realized and endured, drove her into numb
unconsciousness--an unconsciousness that was hideous with subconscious
understanding. The one thought to which she clung through all the hours
of anguish was of the morning--the merciless daylight, when the
searching sun, the discerning, prying sun, must come upon her here, must
see, must know--must disclose all to the wondering world.

The fair moonlight sickened her now. Her eyes swam and her head reeled
with its bluish light. She prayed for clouds--and rain. Rain! Water! The
thought reached her suddenly, out of the aching void. If there were only
some one--one only creature, to put water to her dying lips! She burned,
she parched, she scorched with thirst. Ah, if some one were at hand! She
tried to think of a name to call. And presently one recurred to her. She
did not stop to think over it. The syllables hung ready on her
lips--were said in a voice so faint and weak that one standing in the
door-way could not have heard them. It was a liquid word, one easy to
hear, and the only one that her mind, in its strange plight, retained.

"Allaraine!" she whispered.

A breath of cool air poured into the little room, and borne upon it was
a rosy beam that gradually suffused the bed in a delicate radiance. With
the first shedding of this light, Istar's pain suddenly ceased. Her
spirit was uplifted with the mighty relief. Her fast-shut eyes opened
again. Above and about her was open space. The roof of the shrine was
gone, and its walls also. All around there floated a vast concourse of
dimly outlined forms--millions of archetypes, borne on their outspread
wings. A chord of distant music rang down the shaft of light, and Istar
knew from whom it came. Gravely the goddess greeted her companions; yet
none returned the greeting, or seemed to recognize her presence. She
tried to go to them, but the bed remained beneath her. She was still a
prisoner. After some moments of waiting in the midst of this familiar
scene, the rainbow path into her room palpitated with fresh, living
light. The bells rang louder in her ears. One form had separated itself
from the confused mass, and became distinct to her eyes. Allaraine
dropped out of the high space, and was presently standing at her
bedside. The room closed in again. The pink light disappeared. Once more
the moonlight stole upon her. The night was sweet with the perfume of
the lotus, and Istar wept with delight. She was there alone with
Allaraine, her brother of the skies.

Through the long hours he ministered to her, holding the cup of water to
her lips, plaiting up the heavy masses of hair that swept the floor at
her side. And when the last agony came upon her, his voice held her fast
to the thread of her strange existence. Finally, at the night's end, it
was he who put into her arms the living one whom she had brought into
the world.

Bending over them both, the god blessed the child and kissed the
mother's brows before he went his way out into space, leaving behind him
a trail of song that was sweeter than the perfume of the jasmine. There,
from the spot into which he flew, the day broke, and the moon fainted on
the western horizon. Istar's heart throbbed with a great, new peace and
a human love. Life was no longer strange to her. The bringing of it
forth brought her understanding of its richness. And, as the child on
her breast lay sleeping, so at last her own eyes closed, until, while
the light brightened and the great city woke again, the soul of Istar
was at peace.

At sunrise a flood of yellow beams poured into the little room,
illuminating everything in it, throwing a halo over the motionless
figures of the mother and child on their well-ordered couch. Suddenly
the smooth light was broken by a shadow that darkened the door-way. A
man stood there on the threshold, peering into the room. His bright,
black eyes travelled swiftly over the scene, resting last on the bed. He
gave then a sudden, swift start. Glancing quickly behind him to make
sure that he was alone, he took a single noiseless step inside, and,
inch by inch, moved to the couch, bending over it till the end of his
grizzled beard all but touched the cheek of Istar.

As if the glance of the intruder could be felt through the unconsciousness
of sleep, Istar stirred restlessly. The infant on her breast
 gave forth a faint cry and opened its deep eyes upon the morning
world. Thereat the Jew, in timely fright, turned and scurried hastily
from the room, escaping Istar's glance by no more than three seconds.
And as Istar, deeply disturbed, looked out upon the world, she suddenly
caught her little one close to her in her protecting arms, murmuring

"O God! O God! I give Thee praise! Spare me this inestimable gift! Leave
me for my joy this little life of mine--and take all that Thou hast
given else, great Father!"



When Daniel was far beyond the range of Istar's vision he did not lessen
the rapidity of his gait. Rather, he increased it, till the last five
yards of his descent of the ziggurat were done in a quick run; and the
few people already abroad in the square of Istar looked up in amazement
to see the unkempt figure of the slinking Jew advancing at an eager trot
across the open space and into the Â-Ibur-Sabû.

Beltishazzar, however, had at that time little thought for the opinions
of the people whom he passed. The one thing that he desired above
all others, the thing that had assumed a place paramount to his
disinterested historical desires--the downfall of Babylon and the
freeing of his race--had come to pass. Moreover, the accomplishment of
it was, apparently, by the will of God alone. Surely no man earnestly
wishful of attaining to a certain end ever arrived at it by simpler or
more thorough process. It was a miracle. It required no explanation, no
twisting of facts, no blustering denunciations. Who would ask stronger
proof of the mortality of this impostor than the sight of her child, and
her own weakness? Reverence for the mother-love, for its beauty, for
heart's peace, did not occur to the prophet. He felt that Istar's great
sin, her tremendous fraud, her immense daring, were things that a
statesman might secretly marvel at, possibly admire, in a way. But
naturally these feelings would never be expressed.

In such a course wound Daniel's triumphant thoughts as he hurried with
them down the wide street towards the palace of the high-priest of Bel.
It was unusually early in the day for an interview with Amraphel; and of
this the Jew had scarcely stopped to think when he halted before the
outer gate of the ecclesiastical dwelling. The night-guards had not yet
made way for the more gorgeously attired eunuchs of the day; but the Jew
was too familiar a figure to all Amraphel's household to be denied
admittance by any of his servants. There was some little doubt expressed
as to their lord's having risen. But the doubts were couched in reverent
terms, and shortly the lean and ill-kempt Jew was ushered through the
vast, empty courts and halls, to the little dining-room of the
high-priest's private suite.

Only two slaves, servitors, were in this room when the visitor entered
it; and these were busy preparing for the arrival of the master. The
wrought ivory and ebony couch had already been drawn up before the table
on which various fruits were laid out. And shortly after Daniel made his
appearance; a place was added to the table and an arm-chair drawn to it,
evidently for him. He would have seated himself, when there came
a sound of steps in the passage-way, and Amraphel, white-robed and
whiter-bearded, came in, followed by two cringing slaves bearing the
long-handled feather fans in use even at this early season. Beltishazzar
read the priestly mood at sight. It bore small relation to that benign
and fatherly manner assumed for the morning sacrifice, and coming on
naturally of an evening, after the long day of adulation and worship.
Daniel almost prostrated himself on the old man's entrance, and got in
return a slight acknowledgment of his presence, and the words:

"Is your visit early, Jew, or the last of your night?"

"The last.--May it please you, lord of Bel, to see me alone. My news is
not such as should grow cold. Over it, all Babylon will laugh for joy."

Amraphel looked at this companion of many schemes a little sourly as he
sank back on his couch, and took up an orange from its dish of gold.
"What is the nature of this laughing news that you should impart it by

Suddenly Daniel lost his patience--a thing not usual with him. "My lord
receives it thus"--he snapped his fingers--"and behold, I take it to
Vul-Ramân of Bit-Yakin, who, hearing it, will not scoff." And the Jew
actually made as if to get up from his chair.

"Stop!" cried the high-priest, sharply. "There is no cause for anger.
Sit you, and we will speak of it."

Daniel shrugged his indifference, but slipped into his chair again,
without, however, offering to touch food.

My lord looked round upon his slaves, indicating each of them with a
little glance, and designating those that fanned him with a gesture.
"Depart and leave us," he said, shortly.

His command was obeyed with decided alacrity, and when the bare feet had
patted their noiseless way far down the adjoining corridor, Daniel
straightened up in his chair with a little rustle and said, in a low
tone: "My news, Amraphel, is, shortly, this: Istar of Babylon, whom we
have feared, is a woman--a woman, weak, powerless, full of sin."

Daniel paused, and Amraphel looked at him with a little curl of the lip.
"Is that all?" he said, after a pause. "Is that all? Art thou drunk,

Daniel did not lose his temper now. He smiled, contemplatively, and went
on: "Nay, I am not drunk, lord high-priest, neither is that all my
news--yet, in a way, it is all told. If all Babylon knew too well that
Istar were a woman--and weak--and sinful? _Hein?_ Would it not be

"If the _people_ knew--the people--yea, it might be."

Thereupon Daniel told without more ado all that he had seen, and how
Istar lay at this moment in her sanctuary with the infant in her arms.

Then, indeed, Amraphel was touched to the quick. Verily, here was news!
Here was such news as caused the most unemotional man in the Great City
to start up from his couch and pace the floor with hurried and uneven
steps, his eyes alight, his pale face tinged with red excitement, his
hands busily twisting his robe. It was some moments before he spoke,
but, once begun, Daniel sat silent and amazed.

"Ah, Beltishazzar, wisely mayst thou rejoice now. Babylon--Babylon, the
city of Nabopolassar, my father, shall at last stand free before me!
Listen, listen, all ye people! Istar of Babylon is fallen. She is fallen
who reigned as a goddess--over me. Mark me, Jew, time was when Istar of
Babylon was divine. The glory of the unknown God flowed around her. Her
lips spoke truth. In her heart was hidden all knowledge. The life that
she lived was unapproachable by mortal man. And while she remained thus,
I dared not try my full power in the city.

"But now--now! Ah, Beltishazzar, now the fear is gone! The goddess has
tasted the bitterness of human love and is become mortal. Her sin has
found her out. To-day, even to-day, she shall be driven from that temple
that her presence defiles. Her downfall shall be cried aloud to them
that have worshipped her. Her disgrace shall be proclaimed throughout
the kingdom. Let her invoke what aid she may, human or divine! I defy
her now to deny me omnipotence in Babylon.

"And thou, Daniel--thou that broughtest this word--have no fear that thy
people shall lack favor in my sight, and in the sight of the mighty lord
of Elam. Let us henceforth work together for that end which, in the name
of our gods and of the God of Judah, shall be accomplished within the

He paused in his speech and in his walk, and his head fell upon
his breast. He descended quickly, did Amraphel, from heroics to
practicality; and this, perhaps, was one reason of his great success in
life. Daniel eyed him in silence till the echoes of the tirade had died
away and there had been time for thought. Then he said, shortly:

"You will drive her from the temple, Amraphel? How?"

"By Nebo, with an ox-goad, that is used for cattle!"

Daniel shrugged incredulously. "And whither drive you her?"

"She may go, if she will, to her proper abode--the temple of false
Istar, near the gate of the setting sun."

Daniel drew a sharp breath. "Father Abraham!" he muttered, himself
amazed at Amraphel's pitiless joy in triumph. Then, a moment later, he
added: "It is a just ending. Well, my lord, I take my departure now."

"Thy departure! By Marduk, thou shalt come with me to the temple! Thou
must be at my side when I enter her shrine."

Daniel cringed quickly, and proffered a swift excuse. Keen he might be;
bold in his way; master of diplomacy, of deceit, and cunning; but
discreet, cautious, nay, cowardly, when it came to his personal safety,
he was always. It was true that Istar was no more and no less than a
weak and unfortunate woman; but enough of divinity still clung to the
thought of her to keep the Jew far from any desire to stand before the
people as her accuser. Amraphel might be angry, might persuade or
command. In the present matter Beltishazzar was immovable. Amraphel
recognized it presently, and saw that nothing was to be done but to
summon Vul-Ramân, with all possible speed, from the neighboring temple,
and to command a chariot to be prepared at once and brought into the
outer court of the palace.

These things were quickly done; and Daniel had been gone for many
minutes by the time Vul-Ramân answered the peremptory summons and stood
before his superior. The priest of Nebo was in a temper, and greeted
Amraphel in an undisguisedly irritable tone.

"My lord, it is the hour for sacrifice. My place was at the altar. By
your message hath Nebo lost his morning savor, and the temple the flesh
of three goats. What is needed of me here?"

"And has the freeing of Babylon cost the price of three goats, O
Bit-Yakin? Pray thou for strength to endure the loss!"

Vul-Ramân looked at him in displeasure. "Are thy words oracles?" he
said, sourly.

"Within the hour their light will illume thy understanding. Now thou art
to drive with me up to the temple of Istar. They bring my cloak."

Vul-Ramân looked on with sudden interest as two slaves entered the room
where he stood. One of them carried a long, woollen garment of Tyrian
weave, heavily embroidered in golden threads in a pattern containing the
various symbols of the different gods. It was a mantle worn only upon
the greatest occasions. This being fastened upon Amraphel's shoulders
with well-wrought pins of gold, the second slave crowned the high-priest
with his golden-feathered tiara, sandalled him with sandals embroidered
in the same rich metal, and finally put into his hand something that
caused Vul-Ramân to exclaim:

"What, in the name of Nergal's holiness, do you with the bullock's goad,

"Come you with me, Vul-Ramân. Our way lies to the north, to the temple
of Istar. From it I shall drive forth the false woman that dwells there
receiving worship. For--"

"Amraphel!" Vul-Ramân stopped short. "Art thou raving? What canst thou
do against Istar? Because by her mercy we are spared punishment for our
last sin against her, darest thou again attempt her downfall? Attempt it
by such means as this? If thy mind has not left thy body, then thine
arrogance leads thee to death!"

The high-priest waited till the other had finished his protest. Then he
said, calmly: "Istar of Babylon is a woman with child. Her divinity is
gone. I go to drive her from the heavenly house."

In silence the two men proceeded to the court-yard, where, surrounded by
a group of slaves, stood the golden chariot with its white horses and
flashing harness. The driver stood holding the reins in his hands. On
the arrival of the two priests there was a general obeisance. Amraphel
entered the vehicle first. Vul-Ramân, not without a perceptible
hesitation, followed him. The master raised his hand, the driver shouted
to his steeds, and the powerful animals, with one spring, shot forward,
drawing the whirring chariot after them through the bronze gate way, out
into the Â-Ibur-Sabû.

"The temple of Istar!" said Amraphel.

The flashing wheels turned to the north, and in brave silence they
proceeded towards the square at the end of the broad street. Not a word
was spoken during the drive. The two priests, one on either side of the
driver, stood like statues--Vul-Ramân with a face as white as a summer
cloud, Amraphel in immovable calm. The right hand of the high-priest
rested on the rim of the chariot in front of him. His left, the one with
which he clasped the short, black goad, with its two cruel leathern
thongs, hung at his side. As they went along, the people in the street
stopped to stare in curiosity as to the wherefore of Amraphel's state
magnificence, and Vul-Ramân's appearance so far from his temple at the
hour of morning sacrifice. When finally they entered the square of
Istar, it was wholly deserted; for service was going on in the temple,
and a respectable throng was assembled to witness the weekly slaughter
of doves and the broiling of their flesh over the cone-fire on the

"Istar will be there at the sacrifice, doubtless," whispered Vul-Ramân,
hurriedly, as they alighted together at the steps of the platform.

"Let us seek her," was all the reply he got. Amraphel exhibited not a
trace of uneasiness, and yet, to a certain extent, the fear of the
priest of Nebo had its effect on him. Mentally he cursed the prudent
cowardice of Daniel, who, having arranged this situation, had left him
to run the chance of disgrace and defeat alone.

As they came to the door of the temple the two priests found themselves
confronting the throng of men and women who were just emerging into
daylight. The sacrifice was over. But as Amraphel, in all his
magnificence halted before them in the door-way, the people also came to
a stand-still, lowered their heads, and waited silently to learn if
there was a reason for his coming. For some seconds, however, Amraphel
stood passive. He perceived the officiating priestess coming towards him
from the altar, and he waited for her to reach his side. Then she, and
Bit-Yakin, and finally the high-priest, performed the ceremonious
greetings of the religious code; and only after these were over did
Amraphel say:

"We seek the lady--Istar of Babylon. Is she in the temple, O servant of
the great goddess?"

"The spirit of the goddess hath attended on the sacrifice. So spake the
omens, most high lord," was the disturbed reply.

"Belit Istar, then, is not here?"

"Nay, Lord Amraphel. She is in her shrine at the top of the ziggurat, to
which she retired at sunset yesterday."

"We will ascend into her presence."

The priestess started. "Nay--nay! Let my lord remain here below. The
goddess is alone with her brothers. She commands that none shall ascend
to her to-day."

"Begone, woman!" shouted Amraphel, suddenly breaking out into a very
well-arranged burst of anger. "Begone, thou deceived and deceiving
servant of a false goddess! Hear ye, ye people!" And he turned to the
astonished multitude. "Hear ye who, for many months--nay, years--have
worshipped at an altar of evil! Istar of Babylon, whom, unknowing, ye
have called Belit, spouse of the great Bel, is no goddess. As the great
gods have revealed to me by night, she is but a woman, sacrilegiously
dwelling in the house of heaven, accepting the homage of the multitude,
delivering oracles from the mercy-seat, receiving offerings and the
sacrifice day by day throughout the months, deceiving you and them that
dwell with you. Now I come to expose her and to deliver her up to you to
do with as ye will. Come ye forth and assemble about the foot of the
ziggurat while I ascend, that ye may behold her when she comes forth
from the holy shrine of the outraged goddess that dwells afar from us in
the silver sky."

Amraphel made this speech with such an air of mingled sorrow and
outraged dignity that Vul-Ramân, for all his amazement, could not but
applaud it. The crowd showed less indignation than bewilderment and
curiosity. But as the old man turned from them to cross the platform,
the people followed him like sheep, leaving only the wailing hierodules
behind them in the temple.

Bit-Yakin and the high-priest arrived at the foot of the ziggurat side
by side, with the foremost of the company ten feet behind. Here, once
more, Amraphel turned to them, raising his right hand majestically as he
spoke: "Wait here for her whom I shall drive unto you; but see that, on
penalty of the wrath of the gods, ye ascend not to the shrine."

Then, hearing the low murmur that told the acquiescence of the obedient
flock, Amraphel and his shadow began their ascent. From below, the
people watched them in growing wonder, in growing uneasiness. They had
seen the ox-goad in the high-priest's hand, and they were thrilled with
strange terrors as they considered what its use might be. Istar--their
Istar--Istar, the great goddess--flogged! Impossible! Yet--yet--the
curiosity was upon them, and they waited to see.

And now the two priests stood at the door-way of the shrine. The
leathern curtain was closed before them. Nothing could be seen. There
was a little pause, and, for the shadow of an instant, Amraphel wavered.
Vul-Ramân, closely watching him, felt his heart sink.

"Shall I lift the curtain?" he whispered, devoutly hoping for a negative

But Amraphel had gone too far now to falter. He nodded.

The heart of the priest of Nebo gave a throb of fear. He made no move to
obey the command. Amraphel glanced at him sharply, took one step
forward, and dragged the curtain from the door.

There was a low, frightened cry, supplemented by a weak wail from a
faint and tender voice. The high-priest shaded his eyes with his hand
till he could see into the interior of the room; and then, indeed, his
heart beat high.

In that room, sitting now upon the great golden chair, was Istar of
Babylon. She was clothed in the long, white, woollen tunic, that was
scarcely so pale as her face. She was unveiled, and her silken hair,
unbound and tangled, fell over her whole form and down to the floor on
either side. Upon her knees, wrapped in a square of sacrificial muslin,
its little form bathed in a dim, effulgent light that radiated from its
body, lay the babe--her child.

Upon the entrance of the two priests, after the one startled cry, Istar
sat perfectly quiet, her drawn face no whiter than before, her great,
dark eyes staring wonderingly at the intruders, her breath coming and
going rapidly between her parted lips.

Amraphel, whose self-composure had returned to him doubled in strength
now that he was sure of his position, stood surveying her leisurely,
with undisguised triumph. Vul-Ramân, on the other side, had also lost
his fear. His delight at the turn of affairs was hardly less than his
amazement; for, since the morning at Erech, Istar had had, in all
Babylonia, no firmer believer in her divinity than Vul-Ramân of
Bit-Yakin. Yet now, human, mortal, weak, she certainly was. Fitting,
indeed, was it that she should leave the temple of the great goddess.
And as he thought upon the manner of her expulsion, his lips curled in
an involuntary smile.

At that moment Istar's eyes were resting on his face. She saw his
expression, and she read all the cruelty of it; for suddenly, raising
the infant in her arms, she rose to her feet.

"Why have you come hither?" she whispered, hoarsely, her eyes moving
from one to the other.

"Thou deceiver! Thou blasphemer! Thou thing of evil, of unholiness! We
are come in the name of her whose abode thou hast so long profaned, to
drive thee forth from Ê-Âna to thy true dwelling--the temple of the
false Istar!"

Istar's nostrils quivered with scorn. She lifted her head in a final
proud defiance of the words of the high-priest. At the same instant
Amraphel's left hand was raised. The goad whirred through the air, and
the thongs came stinging across the face of the woman.

A sharp scream, that could be heard by the multitude below, rang out
from the shrine on the ziggurat. The woman caught her baby close to her
breast, shielding it as well as she could with both arms. The cut of the
whip had left a bright crimson weal across both cheeks and just over her
mouth. The goad was lifted over her again, and this time she shrank
backward from it.

"Get you forth, false creature, from the heavenly house!" cried
Vul-Ramân, in raucous tones.

Amraphel moved out of her path, and Istar, blind and dumb with terror
and amazement, started towards the door. As she went the whip fell
again, this time on her shoulders, and again the scream followed it.
Hugging the babe yet closer to her breast, she ran out upon the ziggurat
platform in the blaze of the sunlight, and, with Amraphel and Vul-Ramân
close at her heels, began an ever-hastening descent, round and round the
tower, towards the square below. Up to her ears, from that square, came
a long-drawn, minor groan. The people below were waiting for her,
waiting for her as vultures wait. Behind her, driving her on to them,
were their priests. She herself, helpless, bewildered, numb with the
pain of exertion, beside herself with a desperate, fierce sense of
mother-protection, knew scarcely what she did, was unmindful of what
must come to her.

Since the priests had left them, the numbers of the crowd were
considerably swelled. Istar's temple-servants, eunuchs and women both,
had come pouring from the temple and the dwelling to witness the issue
of this undreamed-of struggle. Also every one that entered the square of
Istar, whether on foot or in chariot, had either been directly summoned
by the mob or had joined it voluntarily from curiosity. These people, by
now two hundred strong, were awaiting the development of the affair in
an undecisive humor. More of them believed in the divinity of Istar than
in the word of Amraphel, powerful as he was. But now, suddenly, there
was to be seen, circling towards them from above, a woman's figure,
utterly dishevelled, with long hair flying about her and straight
woollen tunic impeding her progress, clasping in both arms a tiny
bundle, and fleeing, in very evident terror, from those that followed
her, one of whom held the goad uplifted in his hand. And as her
weakness, her mortality, her too evident confusion, became apparent, the
people felt all the old, inherent savagery of their race rise over the
lately acquired civilization, and they watched with delight the approach
of their helpless prey.

Istar, as she came nearer the ground, could see the crowd there close up
its ranks and draw nearer the foot of the tower. She realized its
attitude instantly, and her heart palpitated fast with excitement. Go
back she could not. Keep on she must. And soon she reached the last few
feet of the inclined plane, and felt the very breath, hot and hostile,
of her one-time worshippers rise about her. She stopped, faltering. Her
shoulders quivered in expectation of a blow; for Amraphel was close upon
her. The blow was struck--fiercely--and it cut through her garment like
a knife, blackening the white skin beneath it. At the same time
Amraphel's voice thundered out to all the crowd:

"I bring ye the false witch out of the holy temple of Istar. Do with her
as ye think fitting and meet, in reverence to the outraged goddess."

There was a deep, universal cry, a cry of hatred, of triumph, of the
purest brutality, from the throng. Istar, looking down upon the massed
faces before her, reeled slightly. Then, for her child's sake, with a
mighty effort she straightened up again. Knowing not what else to do,
she stepped forward to the crowd. A great hand was quickly thrust into
her face. Another struck her on the shoulder--but not so cruelly as the
whip could strike. A dozen men seized her about the body. Then she lost
every feeling save only one, that was more an instinct than a definite
idea. She must protect her child. She must save it, while she lived,
from the hands of her assailants. She was in the very midst of the mob.
Heads, arms, hands, all struggled around and towards her, striking,
bumping, pushing her. Her hair and her tunic were torn. No one as yet
had threatened her with a weapon; but this, she felt, was only a matter
of time; and then vaguely she commended herself to the God whose will
had been hers also.

All at once, however, she felt more room around her. She was in the
middle of a small, empty space, about which her own eunuchs stood in a
circle, their backs to her, fighting with the men of the mob that sought
to reach her. With a gleam of hope, she saw that all were not hostile.
Her head swam and the world grew misty around her, yet still she clung
to her shred of consciousness, that she might keep the baby safe. And,
while she still controlled herself, some one appeared out of the tangle
of struggling forms. Some one came close to her side, saying to her, in
a once familiar voice:

"Belit Istar, keep to my side, and I will make a way for you through
these men."

Istar turned her half-blinded eyes upon the defender, and smiled at
him--the golden-haired, the silver-voiced, whom long ago she had
sheltered in her shrine.

"I will keep to thy side--Char-mides. Or--I die here. Yet I fear not
death. Life--only--is--terrible," she muttered, faintly.

The Greek did not answer her. Seeing an opening in the throng, he threw
one arm around her, and, holding his right hand out in front of them
both, hurried quickly forward. Istar never remembered how it happened.
She saw her eunuchs all around her. She knew little of the angry people
beyond. Presently she and her rescuer stood together beyond the mob on
the edge of the platform steps.

"Thy eunuchs, I think, will keep the crowd from pursuit. They have been
bravely true to thee. Now, canst reach my dwelling, lady? The way is

"To thy dwelling I cannot go. May the Almighty God make thee forever
happy! Leave me now. I follow my path alone."

Charmides regarded her as slightly crazy. As she started quickly forward
he kept close at her side. "Come with me--a little to the right," he
suggested, gently.

She shook her head. "Nay, Charmides, I know the way. It is to the house
of my lord that I go. Haste! Haste! They follow me!"

She started forward as she spoke, running in terror down the steps into
the square, and turning unhesitatingly into the Â-Ibur-Sabû. Charmides
kept to her and supported her as she went, knowing not what else to do,
not daring to take the child, to which she clung with such a
mother-clasp that none could have presumed to ask her to relinquish it.
And in this wise they proceeded together up the great road, finally
turning into the street of Palaces leading towards the river. As they
passed, no man or woman failed to turn and stare at the couple, for
surely such a sight as this had never before been seen in Babylon. How
long the walk lasted, minutes, hours, or days, or how it was that Istar
kept from losing consciousness after the terrible hour she had been
through, Charmides never knew. Some of the agony, mental and physical,
that the woman was enduring he could read in her face. The greater part
of it no mortal could have known or borne, for it was the death of her
immortal existence and the beginning of her real earth-life, her life as
a human being, a woman without power, without strength, without
knowledge of what was to come.

Noon glared over the city as the two of them reached the border of the
hunting-park that surrounded Nabu-Nahid's palace. A little farther along
was the palace gate-way, with its group of guards in their magnificent
liveries. Charmides looked at them in despair, for surely the poor woman
at his side would meet with no courtesy here. Such fears did not trouble
Istar. Advancing to the first soldier, she said at once:

"Admit me, now, to"--she faltered over the name--"to my Lord

For a moment the man stared into her haggard and colorless face, crossed
with the red weal of the whip, looked into the wild eyes, saw the burden
that she bore, and laughed.

Istar heard him, saw him, was still and silent for a moment, and then
turned dully to Charmides. The Greek's eyes brimmed with tears--tears of
rage at his helplessness and unutterable pity for Istar.

"Belit, come away with me. I will keep you till my lord receives you
here," he whispered to her imploringly.

Istar shook her head and turned hurriedly to the second man. "I will be
taken to my Lord Belshazzar! Admit me to him!" she cried, querulously.

"There is he, then, if you would speak to him," was the jeering answer,
as the man, with a grin, swept his thumb in the direction of the first
court, just inside the gate.

Istar darted forward to look.

"Thou fool! Now she will scream!" said the first soldier to his comrade.

Truly enough, Belshazzar was in the court, walking slowly towards the
gate of his wing of the palace. Istar's eyes fell on him instantly. She
smiled a little. Then--she called:

"Belshazzar! Belshazzar--my lord!"

At the first syllable Belshazzar stopped, lifted his bowed head, and
listened. At the repetition of the cry he turned towards the gate and
came running--running as never before, towards it. The guards, watching
him in something like consternation, opened the gate at his approach.

"Istar! Istar! Thou--here!" came in a great cry of love, of anger, of
ineffable pity, from the lips of the prince royal.

Istar tremulously smiled, and held out her infant to her husband.
"I--have--come," she whispered, vaguely. Then, as Belshazzar took the
child from her, she gave a gasping sob, and fell forward upon the hot
bricks at his feet.



By noon that day Babylon was ringing with the story of Istar's fall and
her miraculous escape from the hands of the mob of priests and the
people. The tale, from the first appearance of Amraphel and Vul-Ramân in
their chariot on the Â-Ibur-Sabû at so early an hour, down to the
arrival of Charmides and Istar at the edge of the royal park on the
street of Palaces, was in the mouth of every man. But, strangely enough,
the beginning and the end of it all, Beltishazzar the Jew and Belshazzar
the prince, were never once mentioned by any one. Amraphel in the temple
and Daniel in the street listened, each with his own ears, in his own
way, to learn how much was known; and possibly both were relieved that
the beginning was unguessed; but certainly both were annoyed to find
that they could learn no more of the close of the drama than any one.
Istar had simply disappeared. Her Greek guide was known, had even been
seen in the afternoon walking from the temple of Sin towards the canal
of the New Year. But no move was made towards his apprehension, for he
was highly valued by the priesthood of his temple, and no amount of
questioning on the part of any one drew from him a single satisfactory
reply as to the final disposal of Istar and her child.

Nevertheless, Charmides' mind and heart were full. Not until the
afternoon had he an opportunity, or, indeed, the wish, to review the
great event in which he had played so important a part that morning. All
the circumstances had been shoved into the background and forced to lie
still in his subconsciousness throughout the morning, while he performed
his regular duties at the temple. And only now was he free to let them
come once more to the surface and quietly consider them in his homeward
walk. First, there was the errand that had taken him to the temple of
Istar at that hour of the morning--a message concerning two oracles that
must be identical, to be delivered at the same hour at two temples.
Charmides had been more likely than any of the priests to win Istar's
consent to the arrangement and to the deceit that it involved. And it
was thus that he arrived at the temple of the goddess at the hour of the
close of sacrifice, to find an unusual and excited throng assembled
round the foot of the ziggurat, upon which, Charmides learned, Istar had
slept on the previous night. Entirely ignorant of the portent of this
mob, the Greek had joined them--hearing only that Istar was still above.
From there, in such wise, he watched her expulsion from the sanctuary;
saw her struck by the whip of the high-priest; perceived the burden that
she bore; and, finally, knew that she was swallowed up in the mob that
had been threatening her life. Then, at last, a furious desire for
action came over the Greek. He looked around eagerly. On his right hand
stood a company of men that were taking no part in the turmoil,
regarding it rather with an expression of anxiety in their faces. These
were the eunuchs of Istar's household, wearing her livery: servitors
that had been willing slaves. Charmides saw that in them lay his
goddess' only chance. He rallied them and brought them together by means
of a few sharp words of encouragement and explanation; and with them
close-pressed around him, he made an onslaught on the disordered throng.

It was thus that Istar's rescue had been effected. There was little in
it that was remarkable; but Istar's endurance in the long walk that
followed was certainly little less than miraculous. It was, however, the
scene at the end of this walk that had affected Charmides most
powerfully. In Belshazzar's reception of her, Charmides had not failed
to read something of the history that had made that reception possible.
Love for her, this wonderfully fallen woman, helpless, weary, and
persecuted as she was, the prince unquestionably bore. She had come to
him in her hour of sorest need, and he had not failed her. Could she
then, always, in her former glory, have rejected him? It seemed
impossible. And at this thought Charmides grew troubled. He could not
bear that Istar should be tainted by contact with any mortal. Yet now,
alas! he knew that she must be so tainted. With this thought the world
grew human again, and Charmides turned his mind to Ramûa, his wife, her
who had first made Babylon beautiful to him. In another two or three
minutes now he would be with her, for he had nearly finished his
homeward walk. Directly opposite him were the palace and gardens of Lord
Ribâta, behind whose walls dwelt Baba, that other being whose life had
for a moment touched his, and had then flown off again at a tangent that
could not but separate them more and more as time went on. For Baba,
Charmides felt a lurking tenderness, that had developed since he won his
happiness through her; and as he rounded the corner of the tenement of
Ut and hastened his pace towards his own door-way, he was not sorry to
find three women watching for him in that space--Ramûa, Beltani, and,
lastly, Baba herself.

It was evident that news of the great happening of the morning had
already reached this remote corner of the city; for the instant that he
was within speaking distance of his family, the Greek was assailed with
such a volley of questions as only women could have marshalled under a
single breath. It must be confessed that Charmides heard them with
something like despair. Yet he knew also that he would do best to submit
to the inevitable without protest. Therefore, seating himself upon a new
stool in the living-room, he proceeded to utilize the moments unoccupied
by women's voices in explaining as lucidly as possible the morning's
adventure. Baba alone was silent during his recital. She stood perfectly
still, her hands folded in front of her, her large eyes fixed solemnly
on his face, listening, with an eagerness that he could not but
perceive, to his every syllable. Immediately upon the end she turned,
with a rustle of silk and a jingle of golden chains, towards the door.
Then, beckoning Charmides to come with her, she led him along for a few
yards, and, fixing her gaze upon him, said, seriously:

"Charmides, you must know that you have incurred danger by this act. The
eyes of all the priesthood, of Amraphel, of Vul-Ramân, of Beltishazzar
the Jew, will from this time forth be upon you. Take care that, though
you have won the love of every woman in Babylon by your act, you do not
also receive some mortal injury from these others. I warn you as one
that loves you. Remember it."

And with these words, and a nod to her sister behind, Baba let Charmides
go, and went on alone towards her pleasant prison-house.

There was no reluctance in Baba's gait as she approached the palace of
Ribâta; for the unhappiness of the first months of her new life was
gone. In its place had come a contentment that was as near akin to
happiness as anything she had ever known. By her own tact and wisdom she
had made for herself an enviable place in Lord Ribâta's household. Every
one in it, from the first wife to the newest dancing-girl and the
humblest slave, liked her. She had never been known to do one of them an
unkindness; and none of them had ever borne a complaint of her to their
lord. For this, if for nothing else, Bit-Shumukin would have regarded
her as a paragon. But my lord had other cause for keeping a close
companionship with her after her novelty had worn off. Baba was no fool;
and, young as she was, began, under Ribâta's experimental tuition, to
develop no mean abilities in the way of politics and political
diplomacy. She had begun by having explained to her the unimportant
things--dark secrets known to everybody in the state world, and to
anybody else that cared to go into them. Finding from these that she
possessed that unheard-of thing in woman, a bridled tongue, Ribâta
trusted her further, began to make some little use of her in a
statesman's way, and found that she had unusual talent in that unusual
line. Finally, she had ended by becoming an unfailing necessity to him
in his broad outer life. Baba went to houses, knew people, heard things
repeated, received confidences that no other woman in Babylon dreamed
of. In many cases she was able to save her lord's dignity in a pleasant
way. She formed friendships with certain people whom he suggested to
her, and obtained from them a world of amusement for herself, and an
unfathomable fund of information for her master. She found Babylon to be
a seething mass of plots and counterplots, little and great, honorable,
ignoble, loyal and traitorous. The government was fighting its enemies
with their own weapons, and intrigued vigorously, sometimes in the light
of knowledge, far more often in hopeless darkness. Ribâta, as
Belshazzar's closest friend, dwelt in the very midst of this world of
craft, and how valuable to him and to his prince so versatile and so
truthful an agent as Baba was, none but Ribâta himself knew. But it was
in this way that life had grown interesting again to the little
creature; and it was in this way that she gained a satisfaction in her
existence, knowing that she was worthy, that she was serving a great
cause well. Indeed, from her heart, in the light of all her knowledge,
Baba was body and soul loyal to the king and to the prince-governor of
the city. Autocratic as they were and wished to be, it took little
understanding to perceive how infinitely more selfish, how infinitely
more tyrannical would be the other side, that great opposing element of
which Amraphel was the recognized head, and Daniel the Jew the
unrecognized but not less important right hand.

Knowing this religious body as she did, Baba's warning to Charmides had
been no idle one; and on her way home she was occupied in reviewing the
position of the man whom she revered as well as loved. It caused her no
little anxiety, this plight of his; for, though no definite result of
his generous action could be foretold, that there would be some result
the little diplomatist was very sure. It was her intention, on reaching
the palace, to demand audience of Ribâta at once. But when she came to
the outer gate of the zenana she found a eunuch watching for her coming,
and he hurried forward to her with the command that she repair instantly
to the presence of her lord.

Ribâta was alone at table when Baba came to him. He greeted her arrival
with extreme satisfaction, and, before dismissing the slaves, had a
place made for her beside him, and food and wine brought for her
refreshment. Baba watched the arrangements placidly. She was accustomed
to such consideration, though no other woman of Ribâta's household had
ever been treated in this way. And when the two of them were finally
left alone, she began quietly to eat, asking no questions, forbearing to
introduce the topic near her own heart, waiting, without the least
appearance of curiosity, for Ribâta to begin the conversation.

On the instant of their being left alone, Ribâta's face lost its
expression of cheerful nonchalance and took on the look of one that
labors wearily in a hopeless cause. He ceased to eat and drink, and lay
back on his couch with a deep sigh. It was many minutes before he spoke,
and during that time Baba played steadily at eating, never once noticing
his languor or commenting on his mood; for she knew her lord, and she
took the only possible method of pleasing him.

"Baba," he said at last, "we have lost what should be reckoned as an
army this day."

Baba slowly lifted her eyes to his. "Istar?" she said, quietly.

Ribâta nodded. There was a little pause, and then he asked again: "You
know, do you not, the man that saved her from the mob?"

"Why--thou knowest, my lord, he is--"

"Charmides, thy Greek. Say it, Baba."

"He is the husband of my sister."

"But once beloved of thee?"

Baba looked at him.

"Warn thy Greek, then, that Amraphel and the Jew will not again let any
act of his pass unnoticed. His life is endangered, I think."

Still Baba was silent. At Ribâta's words she merely bowed her head.

"And now, my Baba, now hear the rest of the day's happenings. The Great
City is coming into the evening of her day. That thing that was
Nabu-Nahid's greatest safeguard, because it alone was feared by the
priesthood, is taken from us. In the days when Istar of Babylon shone
like Shamash in her temple, Amraphel himself laid his face in the dust
before her. But now, for many months, yea, since that journey to Erech,
her glory has departed from her. I have looked on her long and
despairingly of late weeks. This is the end that from the first I have
feared. She is become no more than any woman; and with her going our
power fails. Yet, Baba, this Istar is wonderfully beloved. This day, in
the palace of the king, she was united in marriage with Belshazzar by
word of the priest of Sin, who thereby, to all Babylonia, proclaimed her
a woman."

"Wife of Belshazzar!" gasped Baba.

"Yes, verily. And I have not marvelled less than thou. Yet Belshazzar
loves her with a love that is beyond approach: holding her dearer than
half the kingdom--nay, then, than the whole, I think. I spake out before
him of the danger of her fall to our cause, and his answer frightened
me; and after that, through the whole day, he spoke to me no more.

"But by the blood of my father that flows in my veins, neither for Istar
nor for any other shall Belshazzar lose his kingdom to Amraphel,
Beltishazzar, and Kurush the Elamite, till my spirit is fled to
Ninkigal, and my blood waters the streets of the city. And till the time
when the madness of the prince my brother shall be ended, I alone will
uphold the state against her enemies."

He came to an abrupt and thoughtful pause, which Baba softly filled.

"My lord knows that his will is also mine."

Ribâta drew a quick sigh and then smiled at her words. Afterwards he
rose from his couch and seated himself on the great pile of rugs and
cushions in a corner, at the same time motioning Baba to join him. She
went, obediently, and seated herself at his feet, her eyes resting
inquiringly on his face, her chin on her hands. Before he began to
speak, he placed one hand caressingly on her hair, much as one would
have patted the head of a little child, for, in spite of her precocious
discretion and level-headedness, Baba always impressed one first with
her childlike personality.

"Now, Baba, there is something for thee to do, whereby we may gain much
for our king. Thou knowest the woman Bunanitû, and the great house of
Êgibi, of which she is mistress?"

Baba smiled. "Hast thou not many times bidden me go to her? And hath she
not come here to visit me? Ugh! My lord knows that I do not love her and
her race."

Ribâta smiled. "My Baba, the king's treasury has never in its richest
time held half the wealth of the house of Êgibi. With them is that power
of gold without which Amraphel himself would soon be helpless. There,
Baba, in that house of Jews, is where more than half the secret meetings
of the traitors are held. It is from there, and from the house of
Zicarû, near the temple of Marduk, that Babylon may look for its doom to
come forth. Listen, then, to me. If any meeting ever hath been held by
our enemies--and, by thy goat, there have been a hundred of them!--there
will be one to-morrow, either in the monastery or in this house of
Êgibi: and I think 'twill be in the last. Their best time is noon, after
sacrifice and before mercy, when business ceases and the city dines.
Now, there will be a eunuch temple servant that is in my pay in the
house of Zicarû, waiting, at the same hour that I would have you go to
the house of Êgibi. You must enter it, Baba, as a female visitor to
Bunanitû, veiled and on foot, carrying embroidery, or a lute, or
something that womankind fancies, creating no suspicion that you come
from me or my house. Only greet Bunanitû, and tell her you are come to
pay a visit and to gossip with her for an hour. Then, being in that
house, keep thou watch. Tell me the men that are to be seen about the
place, or, if there is none to see, look for any chance event that may
befall to give a clew to the traitors' workings. If you be shut away
from the men's rooms, cry out for faintness or with heat, and so run out
into the shop where moneys are changed. Or make you any excuse to look
and learn--I care not what it may be, or what you do. But, my Baba, for
every fact you bring me, there shall be a golden hairpin for your hair
on your return."

Baba looked up at him quickly. "My lord will learn in time that I love
not gold. I do my lord's bidding for love of his work. Let him not pay
me like a servant."

Ribâta smiled and took up her two hands. "Baba is good, and also wise.
Let her bear always in mind that the Achæmenian threatens the Great
City; and that before him, if there works treachery inside the walls, I
and thou, Belshazzar and the king, Istar of Babylon and thy pale-eyed
Greek, must surely fall. I shall not see thee again ere thou go; but the
household is at thy command, to do with as thou wilt in preparation for
thy adventure."

Then Ribâta tapped her forehead in token of dismissal, and watched her
as she jumped to her feet, made her reverence, and went away with her
hands folded on her breast.

Though the evening was young, Baba retired straightway, but without any
intention of sleeping. Once in her bed she was not liable to
interruptions of women or children, who clamored lustily round her in
her waking hours. Now she was eager to think out her plans for the
morrow, and how best to accomplish the most important mission ever
intrusted to her. It was full three hours, and the whole zenana had
grown sleepy-still, before at last she turned upon her side and closed
her eyes in the satisfaction of knowing that, of all the plans she could
think of, the one she had finally decided on held out the greatest
chance of success.

Next morning, the twenty-second of the fair month, found the city still
wrought up over the strange happenings of the day before. Istar's fall
was not a matter of rejoicing to Babylon in general. Many a woman had
wept, and many a workman turned silent and solemn on hearing of her
expulsion from the temple. In one quarter of the city only was there a
universal sense of delight. This was in the extreme southwest, south of
the canal of the Prophet, and accessible from the outside only by the
gate of the Maskim. This little spot was a settlement of an alien race,
and its inhabitants enjoyed a mode of life peculiarly their own. It was
the quarter that had been assigned, fifty years before, to the Jewish
people, when Nebuchadrezzar had brought them, ten thousand strong, from
their far, barren country, to be a menace and a curse unto his

So entirely distinctive a life did these captives live, that their
quarter was not greatly frequented by Babylonians. But there was one
house, standing near the traders' square, covering a large plot of
ground, and much more richly tiled than any of its neighbors, that had
been and was frequented by the greatest men in Babylon--prince and
priest, judge and minister--and the business of which was on a greater
scale than that of any similar native house, and which was in the end
destined to become famous in the annals of Babylonish history. This was
the great banking-firm of Êgibi & Sons; and it was managed at the
present time by three generations of the family: Bunanitû, a remarkable
old woman of more than sixty years of age; Kalnea, her son, a man
something over forty; and Kabtiya, her grandson, a youth in his
twentieth year and still unmarried. The establishment that was run by
these three to tremendous advantage to themselves, and not a little to
that of some others, had become, through the influence of Daniel, the
rendezvous for the priestly traitors of the city. Both Kalnea and his
son were dangerously implicated in the schemes of Amraphel; and, though
Bunanitû had always shrunk a little from the councils held within her
walls, her racial prejudices against the reigning family were too strong
for her not to be wholly in sympathy with their enemies.

An hour after its accomplishment the news of the fall of Istar had
reached this household, through a message from Amraphel himself, who
commanded them to prepare for a meeting at noon on the following
day--the very obvious consequence that Ribâta had foreseen. The message
made no difference in the usual business of the morning; and at noon, as
a matter of course, trade was relaxed for the dinner-hour. Few people
were in the streets, and no customers haunted the various small shops in
the quarter. The house of Êgibi, however, was more fortunate than its
neighbors. Between twelve and half-past no fewer than seven men passed
in the door of the bank; and, more unusual still, when the last one of
them went in, the first had not yet come out. A little peculiar,
certainly; but to the single person who witnessed the arrivals from a
safe retreat behind a great pile of porous water-jars displayed for sale
in the street near by, the event appeared to have less of the strange
than of the satisfactory in it. This watcher was a small, half-robed
letter-carrier, who had loitered about the neighborhood for half an
hour, unseen by a single soul. He waited for five or ten minutes after
the entrance of the last of the seven, made his way round the corner
behind the house, and was presently to be seen dashing round it at
break-neck speed, up to the open door of the establishment.

Bunanitû was alone in the large room, and she came to the door, looking
out with some anxiety at the small, black creature that stood panting
before her.

"Thy business, boy?" she demanded, sharply.

The boy peered up at her, giving her eye for eye suspiciously. "Who are
you?" he croaked.

"Bunanitûm Bit-Êgibi."

"Mother of Kalnea?"


"Oho! Then I give thee this, to be"--the boy put a mysterious finger to
one side of his nose and whispered so softly that the woman bent over to
catch his words--"to be delivered to Amraphel, my lord, in council--if
thou knowest the place." And he held up a neat little brick, covered
with exquisitely minute writing and elaborately sealed.

Bunanitûm, growing rather large over the affair, took the epistle with a
nod. "I know," she whispered, in return, and the boy, with an answering
look, turned as if to go away.

The woman, hasty with her new importance, did not stay to watch his
departure. She turned about and started for the back part of the house,
leaving the outer room quite empty for the space of three minutes. And
during that three minutes Baba brought her plan to a successful issue.

No one saw the little letter-carrier enter the shop. Still less did any
one know when he darted out of it and back into the maze of corridors
and rooms behind. Here, in a well-chosen corner, very dimly lighted,
Baba huddled herself up, to await the return of Bunanitû to her post of
duty, which would leave the whole rear of the house open to inspection.
Shortly the Jewess could be seen passing quickly along an adjoining
hall-way, on her way back to the shop, whither she had been hastily sent
by her son. And when she was gone, Baba, with a long breath, left her
hiding-place. The most uncertain and perhaps the most dangerous part of
her work was over; but the important half of it remained still to be
done. She was confident of the efficacy of her disguise; and she was
free to move rapidly in her scant tunic with her black-stained, bare
limbs, and her flowing hair crammed under a woolly, black wig.
Nevertheless her heart beat violently as she left her corner and began
to search for the room where the secret council would sit, or for some
hiding-place where the sound of voices would come to her ears. She had
proceeded nearly to the back wall of the house, and was beginning to
fear that the council-room was too well concealed for discovery, when a
faint murmur of talking reached her ears. It came, apparently, from
somewhere below, and, with the first murmurous sound, Baba stopped short
to look about.

The room where she stood was large, almost dark, and scantily furnished.
Its walls, however, were hung with elaborate draperies, and its floors
covered with costly rugs. Save for two or three inlaid chairs, with
embroidered cushions and carven feet, the room was empty of furniture.
But from somewhere, and somewhere below, came that unceasing murmur of
conversation. The intruder examined her surroundings from floor to
ceiling. Then she looked all round the walls, and finally back again to
the floor. Here, on a certain spot, her eyes stopped. It was where the
corner of a great crimson rug was turned up, as if it had been hastily
laid. And by this upturned corner was a black spot that was not shadow.
In the dim light Baba could distinguish nothing very clearly; but she
moved noiselessly across to this place, and found when she came to it
that the voices had become definite, and she could hear what was being
said. There was a square opening in the floor, all but four or five
inches of which was quite concealed by the rug.

Without any hesitation Baba threw herself flat down, and then, realizing
to the full the risk that she ran, pushed the rug yet farther away from
the opening, put her face close to it, and looked down.

Below was a good-sized vault, made, probably, in the brick platform on
which the house stood. It was well lighted with torches and lamps, hung
with richly embroidered tapestry, and ceiled with glazed bricks of
bright colors. Its furniture consisted of piles of rugs and cushions on
which, seated in an orderly circle, sat, not nine, but fourteen men, all
but four of whom wore the goat-skin. Baba did not know them all, even by
sight; but half were familiar figures, and the other half--well, Ribâta
should tell her their names to-night, after her description. Those that
she knew were Amraphel, Vul-Ramân of Nebo and Nergal, Larissib-Sin of
Marduk, Zir-Iddin of Shamash at Sippar, Siatû-Sin, Itti-Bel, and
Gûla-Zir, together with Beltishazzar the Jew and his fellows Kalnea and
young Kabtiya of the house of Êgibi; and the rest were one more
hawk-eyed fellow of the tribe of Judah, and five priests, none of them
above the rank of elder.

In her first downward glance Baba perceived that Amraphel had in his
hand the brick letter that she herself had sent him; and evidently its
contents had been surprising enough to displace the former topic of
discussion and to raise a storm of talk. Amraphel and Beltishazzar were
silent, waiting, with more or less patience, for a chance of being
heard. After a little time this opportunity came, for the majority of
those present were too ignorant of their subject to be particularly
instructive; and at last they quieted, one by one, and turned to the
place where their leaders sat.

Amraphel spoke the first words that Baba was able to catch definitely,
and from that time on there was nothing that she did not hear and

"Now that ye take council with silence, men of emptiness, learn of me
that there is little enough danger in the fact, even if it be true, that
Belshazzar has taken the woman of Babylon to wife. Answer me severally
one by one, if there has been in any of your temples a rumor of such a
marriage made by any of its priests. Siatû-Sin--dost thou remember?"

"Nay, Lord Amraphel."

This answer was repeated by every priest present. Then, in the little
pause that followed before Amraphel went on, Daniel, with a faint smile,

"Yesterday, at four hours after noon, Kasmani, second sacrificial priest
of the temple of Sin, entered the gates of Nabu-Nahid's palace, and
drove away again in an hour in the golden chariot of Prince Belshazzar."

Every one looked to Amraphel for his idea of this information. The
high-priest only smiled, in slow indifference, and continued: "The woman
of Babylon desires, then, to be queen in the Great City. A queen is not
a goddess; and yet I say unto you that she shall never be queen. She
whom I drove forth yesterday from the temple is fallen ill under her
disgrace. This morning at dawn came to me Nergal-Yukin, rab-mag of the
king's household, for a charm to ward off a fever from a divine lady."

Here Amraphel hesitated for the fraction of a second, while a thin smile
spread over Daniel's keen face. "That charm--" he urged.

"That charm," said Amraphel, carefully, "was what the great Elamite
would have desired."

"The sword?" demanded Vul-Ramân, bluntly.

"Ten drops of the liquor from an adder's fang, to be rubbed upon a prick
in the left wrist at sunset to-day."

Baba gasped; but from the men assembled below there was only a quick
round of applause.

"By dawn to-morrow there will be no more of 'Istar of Babylon,'"
observed Daniel, satisfaction oiling his tone.

"And the Great City is open to its savior," concluded Siatû-Sin.

Now Baba was in a sudden agony to escape, for she felt that the life of
Istar rested in her hands. Yet sunset was still many hours away, and the
talk that was beginning gave signs of proving exactly what Ribâta had
told her to hear. Therefore from minute to minute she lingered on in her
place, while the story of treachery and blood-guiltiness was made clear
to her, and it seemed as if, with the evidence in her hands, it must
soon be possible to have these men put to death without imprisonment and
with a mere form of trial. And had it been two centuries earlier this
might perhaps have been arranged. But Babylon was not Nineveh, and the
power of Nabonidus was not that of the old monarchs of Chaldea; neither
was the king by nature a tyrant, or even a strict ruler. And possibly
because of these things, and only because of them, these councils were
ventured at all.

"What is the last word from Kurush?" demanded Salathiel the Jew, of

There was a general little murmur of interest, and a settling down upon
the cushions as if for a lengthy talk.

"Kurush," said Amraphel, with all the authority of Cyrus himself, "is
now in the marsh country south of Teredou, and from there he despatches
a letter to us. Ye shall hear it."

Amraphel drew from the pocket of his broad girdle a clay tablet,
slightly larger than those in general use for letters, and covered with
neatly pressed cuneiform characters. This, with the aid of a small,
round magnifying-glass, always used in correspondence, he read aloud to
those assembled--and to Baba above:

"'Unto Amraphel, high servant of the ancient gods of Babylon, and to
those that are with him, thus saith Kurush the Achæmenian: With me it is
well. With thee and thy houses may it be exceeding well. Now I, the
king, lie secretly in the country to the south of the city of Teredou,
not far from the gulf of the setting sun. And here, from the east and
from the north, the army will assemble about me. The people in the land
are poor and ill-content. Little grain have they to eat, and short
measure of milk to drink. The king their lord knows them not. To me they
turn, in their extremity. Soon shall ye learn of revolts among the
dwellers in the lowlands: know, then, that it will be by my hand. After
this we will march northward, towards the gates of the Great City.

"'Gobryas, my general, the governor of Gutium, is in the north. Before
him, in the month of Duzu (June), Sippar and its works shall fall.

"'Look to it only that ye hold Babylon estranged from its king. She whom
we have feared--doth she bear herself yet divinely? The captive Jews
that are in the city, greet them well for me. Tell them that, after my
coming, those that open to me the Great City shall know again the land
of their fathers and their fathers' fathers. And those of the
Babylonians that shall acclaim me master, to each of these shall be
given out of the public moneys thirty shekels of silver; but to the
great that bow before shall be given high offices, honor, and much
wealth. And in the month of Ab, Queen of the Bow, shall Babylon know

The seal of Cyrus was affixed to the end of the epistle; and the brick
was passed round the circle, that each man present might be sure that it
was genuine.

Now began a discussion that proved tedious and scarcely comprehensible
to Baba. It was about numbers and divisions of men, and was accompanied
by the reading of endless lists of names, and the checking of each as
true or untrue to the cause of rebellion. And after listening to this
talk until she found that it would be utterly hopeless for her to
attempt to remember anything valuable in it, Baba rose, pulled the rug
carefully back to its original place, listened for a moment to make sure
that she was undiscovered, and then, with the utmost caution, made her
way to the rear door of the house, which she unfastened, and through
which she safely passed. Once outside, in the glare of day, her heart
afire with anxiety for Istar, she started away, in a light-running pace,
up through the city that she knew so well. Through the Traders' square,
across the canal of the Prophet, along the river-bank for an endless
distance she ran, till she came to the great bridge, across which loomed
the high, blue walls of the new palace.

The sun was swinging down towards the horizon now, and the life of Istar
swung with it in its balance, when the dishevelled figure of Ribâta's
slave halted at the palace gates and demanded the admission that her
disguise gained for her.



Through the whole of the day following her expulsion from the temple,
Istar, wife of Belshazzar the prince royal, lay in her newly assigned
bedroom in the far wing of the palace, in a profound stupor. She was
unconscious, apparently, of everything around her--of Belshazzar,
sitting at her bedside; of the child that lay wailing on her arm; of the
peace and the orderly quiet of this new home. The spell of her mighty
shame and woe was over her. She had broken under it like the reed in the
storm. Everything that had passed since she was driven by the blows of
the ox-goad out into the day-glare on top of the ziggurat, had been but
a dim vision to her. Physically, she was very ill. This was not
wonderful. But Belshazzar, mad with rage at the whole of the priesthood,
and overwhelmed with pity for the woman he loved as only he would have
dared to love, was beside himself with anxiety. All night the rab-mag of
his father's household, the most renowned charm-doctor in Babylonia, had
watched beside him in her room; had repeated prayers and formulæ
without number; and had burned beans, leeks, barley, cakes, butter,
frankincense, and liquor, till the room smelled indescribably, and
Belshazzar himself, resorting to common-sense, ordered a dozen slaves to
clear the atmosphere with fans and with pungent strong-waters. In the
new air Istar seemed to breathe more easily, and had even moved her
lips, though no sound issued from them. Then Belshazzar commanded the
rab-mag to depart until daylight, when he should return with new wisdom.

Thereupon Nergal-Yukin, half angry, half ashamed, wholly chagrined, went
forth through the silent streets to the house of Amraphel. Here he was
made to undergo a change of feeling. The priest recognized an
opportunity in the first three sentences that the doctor spoke, and
instantly took advantage of it. He set to work to play upon the
alchemist's feelings, and such was his success that presently, by means
of sympathy for the insults he had endured and promises of dazzling
wealth, coupled with righteous denunciations of Istar as the queen of
darkness, of wickedness, of all the vices, the learned man found his
price, bent the knee before his preceptor, and hied him back to his den
of charms, where, kept in a convenient cage, was an adder, dwelling
effectively among the other insignia of this awe-inspiring profession.

Nergal-Yukin did not re-enter Belshazzar's presence that morning; but he
sent a slave to say that he was preparing a new and infallible charm,
that could not, to be most efficacious, be applied before the hour of
sunset. Belshazzar was pleased with the message; perhaps not less
pleased because it gave him the chance of being alone at Istar's side
all through the day. Not for one moment did he leave or even turn his
thoughts from her. Councillors and courtiers, officials and judges,
tax-collectors, officers of his regiment, treasurer and usurers, were
kept from his presence by peremptory command. He refused food for
himself; but he made an effort to force something between Istar's pallid
lips--and in the attempt succeeded in rousing her for a moment from her
stupor. As he knelt by her side, supporting her head upon his arm, his
hand, unsteady with an emotion that none would have believed possible to
him, holding the cup of warm milk to her mouth, Istar's great eyes
opened and she looked at him. There was a fulness in Belshazzar's throat
that presently broke into a sob. Blindly he groped in the realm of
prayer for some words into which he could put his heart. And his will
rose up in him, till he would have pitted himself against all the powers
of hell for the sake of saving the life of this woman who was lawfully
and spiritually his own.

"You shall not die--you shall not die--not die!" he muttered, over and
over again.

Then Istar sank back upon her many pillows. The heavy lids once more
shut off her wonderful eyes from his sight. Her face was colorless and
drawn. He could trace with ease the course of each tiny blue vein in her
fair temples. He looked at her hands--so white, so transparent, so
frailly beautiful; and over them he bent his head, touching them with
his lips. As he kissed them there came a wail from the baby.
Instinctively, half conscious as she was, Istar gathered the child to
her side, while he, the man, looked on, wondering and helpless.

Noon, with its breathless, stifling heat, came and went again. An hour
after it a slave tiptoed into the room and whispered a name to
Belshazzar. The prince's expression brightened a little. "Let him come
in to me," he said, softly.

A moment or two afterwards Ribâta noiselessly entered the room.

Belshazzar held out both hands, greeting his friend with such an air of
weary helplessness that Ribâta stared at him uncomfortably.

"Name of the great Marduk, Belshazzar, what is come to thee?" he asked,
holding his friend at arm's-length and looking into his face with a
mixture of sympathy and perplexity.

"Hush! Curb thy voice! She will be disturbed."

Ribâta looked about him with intense curiosity. "Belshazzar, art thou
gone mad? What is this thing that absents thee from thy duties? Thou art
needed to-day--in council--at the review--"

"Nay--let others look to these things; let my father look to his own,"
whispered Belshazzar, in reply, drawing his friend down on the cushions
beside him.

Ribâta found no answer to the words. Here was a Belshazzar whom he did
not know. He ventured no further remarks, but remained sitting quietly
beside his friend--waiting. By degrees, as the silence continued without
much prospect of abating, Bit-Shumukin's eyes began to study the passive
face of Istar. The nobleman had never before been so near her; and never
before, even in the old days when he had seen her, towering in a cloud
of silver above the multitude in her triumphal car, had he been so
impressed with her divine purity. There was that in her face, marked and
mortalized by suffering as it was, that put mortal things far away from
her. His wonder at Belshazzar's boldness grew greater. The spirit which
could have moved any man to look upon that face with a feeling of
equality, daring the hope of making her his own, was enough, in Ribâta's
eyes, to raise that man above the level of humanity. He turned to look
upon the prince. Belshazzar lay back on the divan, lost in some
unfathomable reverie. Ribâta hesitated to bring him back into the
present, yet felt a kind of discomfort in the presence of these two
strange beings. Unable to contain himself, he suddenly started up, with
the idea of leaving the apartment. Belshazzar, however, was instantly
roused by his move.

"Ribâta," he said, quietly, "do not go from us."

The friend turned to him, answering: "My lord knows there is much to be
done. I go to thy work."

Belshazzar rose and laid both hands tenderly on the shoulders of his
friend. "My brother," he said, "for my father, and for the sake of the
crown that will one day be mine, I have labored long; and for them I
will labor again, even unto the end. But now, for a little while, I
tarry here, beside the bed of my beloved, for whose coming I have waited
many weary months. Then wilt thou not watch here with me through one
little hour? I ask it for the love I bear thee, Bit-Shumukin; and be
sure that there is no other in Babylon, nay, or in all the world, that
could hold thy place in my heart."

A wave of emotion that was half wonder swept over Ribâta. Never before
had Belshazzar spoken like this to him--never before like it to any man
or to any woman. Bit-Shumukin made no reply in words, but he yielded
instantly to the gentle pressure of the prince's hand and sank back
again on the cushions. Once more he turned his gaze upon the white,
passive features of Istar, and, without looking away from her, he asked:

"Dost thou leave her like this, with neither medicines nor prayers?
Where is the rab-mag, that he attends not on her sickness?"

"All through the night he has worked over her with charms and
incantations. At sunset to-day he will come again, bringing with him a
new charm more powerful than any ever used before. The hour of sunset is
not far away. Then if she--"

The speech was interrupted by the appearance of a eunuch, who, making
his prostration in the door-way, stood silently waiting permission to

"What is thy business? Say it softly," whispered the prince, with a

"May the ears of my lord incline themselves kindly! There is at the gate
a letter-carrier that bears a message for the Lady Istar. He bade me
seek thee, saying: 'For divine Istar my word bears life. If she heed me
not, death seizes her in his arms.'"

"Bring the fellow here, guarded by two eunuchs and bound about the arms
that he may make no dangerous move."

The slave bowed and disappeared. When he was gone, Ribâta observed,
thoughtfully: "It is well that he be bound. Day by day thy life is
growing more precious to Babylon, more desired by the priesthood. By day
and night, if thou wert mine to care for, I would have thee guarded."

Belshazzar smiled a little, shaking his head; and they spoke no more
till Baba, fast bound and also gagged, was thrust into the room by two
soldiers that moved behind her. The little creature was dizzy with the
heat, covered from head to foot with dust, and half fainting from
weariness. At sight of Ribâta she gave a gurgling, choked cry behind her
gag, and, twisting herself suddenly from the soldiers' grasp, fell in a
little heap at the feet of her lord.

"Baba!" he cried, gazing in bewilderment at the unrecognizable figure,
but knowing her posture and her smothered voice.

"Thou knowest this fellow, Ribâta?" queried Belshazzar, curiously.

"'Tis a woman, lord prince, though her name is a man's. I will answer
with my life for her fidelity to thee and to the Lady Istar. Let thy
soldiers depart--then she will speak," he said, imperatively, beginning
to unloose the rope that bound her arms.

Belshazzar, as always, accepted his friend's word, dismissed the
guardsmen with a nod, and turned to examine, with some interest, the
panting heap of humanity at Ribâta's feet. Bit-Shumukin had removed the
gag, and was still struggling with the stiff knots in the cactus-rope.
Belshazzar finally cut them with his knife and set Baba free. She rose
uncertainly to her feet, stretching her arms above her head. Then,
suddenly, she grasped her hair, gave a great tug, and pulled the wig
from her head, leaving her own long, black locks to float freely around
her shoulders.

"Where didst thou get the stain for thy skin? Thou'rt black as a
Nubian," said her lord, smiling at her uncouth appearance. Then he
added, hastily: "Nay, child, let us not play. What hast thou learned in
the house of Êgibi; and what is thy matter of life or death with the
divine Istar?"

Before she had uttered the first word of her answer, Baba's eyes fell on
the form that lay stretched out on the bed. She gave a little cry of
astonishment and reverent admiration. Then she cast herself on her knees
before Belshazzar.

"May it please the prince my lord to heed my words, for I speak those
that fell an hour agone from the lips of Amraphel of Bel. At sunset of
this day will come Nergal-Yukin, rab-mag of the great king, to the side
of the Lady Istar. He will bring with him a new charm that shall purport
to be for Istar to make her well, and that will bring her to her death.
Amraphel hath promised the man honor and riches when he shall make a cut
upon the Lady Istar's wrist, rubbing into it ten drops of the poison
drawn from an adder's fangs."

"By all the gods--!" Belshazzar leaped to his feet. "Nergal-Yukin dies
this day!"

"Where hast thou heard this story, Baba?"

"At the council of priests, in the house of Êgibi."

"Say on--all thou hast heard!" commanded Belshazzar, sharply.

Thereupon Baba, seating herself on the floor, recounted to the two men
her adventure of the afternoon. The whole council, as she had overheard
it, the names or the faces of the men that took part in it, and the
letter from Cyrus the Elamite, word for word, she unravelled from the
warp and woof of her memory. Her auditors listened in silence, staring
into each other's faces, neither of them wholly amazed, yet both
strongly moved by this confirmation of their worst suspicions--the
suspicions that Nabonidus would not entertain. Baba gave the story in
detail, and took some time over it. She had barely finished, and there
had been no time for question or comment, when the attendant eunuch
reappeared at the door, saying:

"It is the hour of sunset. Nergal-Yukin craves admittance to my lord and
to the divine Lady Istar."

"Come thou hither," said Belshazzar, beckoning the eunuch to his side.
"Let Nergal-Yukin come hither to this room," he said, softly, "and as
soon as he shall be within, summon thou six soldiers of the guard and
command them to wait my call outside in the hall. Let them bring ropes
of stout cactus and a gag of wood, and cause them to keep silence there
without until I shall summon them. Now, behold, I have spoken. Go thy
way and obey my word."

The eunuch departed obediently, and a moment later Nergal-Yukin entered
the bedchamber of the lady of Babylon. He was a tall fellow, this
rab-mag of the king; lean and withered in body, black-robed, and wearing
the peaked hat that belonged to the livery of the royal household.
Around his waist was a golden cord, at the end of which dangled a
narrow-bladed knife of Indian steel, its handle inlaid with lapis-lazuli
and gold. In his hand he bore a golden phial of rare workmanship. His
salute to the prince was markedly obsequious, but he regarded the two
others in the room with great disfavor.

"Let the prince my lord command every one to be dismissed from his
presence. Otherwise my spell must lose its potency."

"These are my friends. Let them remain here," returned Belshazzar,

"Then let my lord give me leave to depart out of his presence. The work
will be useless," said the old man, with something like a sneer,
beginning to back towards the door.

But Belshazzar was master of himself and of the situation. He lifted his
hand, and the physician halted. "Nergal-Yukin, on pain of death, get
thee to thy work. Pronounce the spell; and may the gods take heed of

The words were spoken quietly enough; and yet there could be no
disobeying that tone. Nergal-Yukin's face darkened; but, however
unwillingly, he advanced to Istar's side. Lifting over her both his
long, withered hands, he began to pray in the Accadian tongue to Nergal,
the god of health. Belshazzar, Ribâta, and Baba stood listening
stolidly, while the high-pitched voice went on and on, from prayers to
exorcisms, and finally into mystic exclamations and phrases. Here the
man's manner changed, and he gave symptoms of a working into religious
frenzy. His auditors, however, remained painfully unresponsive, and the
final "Amanû" was succeeded by a biting silence. It was then, with a
resentful satisfaction, that the rab-mag began the consummation of his
work. He commanded a basin of water and a fine towel. These provided, he
lifted Istar's right hand from the coverlet, and proceeded to wash and
dry it during the repetition of further prayers. Then he turned to

"May it please the prince my lord to learn that this remedy which I am
about to apply to the lady of Babylon is the most powerful and the most
dangerous of any known to mankind, or to the gods above. To them that
are pure in heart it cannot fail to restore perfect health. By it,
indeed, the very dead may sometimes be lifted up from Ninkigal and given
once more to the light of Shamash. But if the person to whom the magic
liquid be applied is guilty of great sin, then is it true that death may
perhaps come upon that one. Now wills the prince my lord that I finish
the spell?"

"How shall it be finished?" inquired Belshazzar, phlegmatically.

Nergal-Yukin grinned with displeasure and disappointment at having
failed to arouse any feeling by his words. "O high and powerful one,
with this knife that hangs at my girdle I cut the flesh of the right
wrist till a drop of red blood flows therefrom. Then into the wound I
pour the dazzling stream from this precious phial; and when they have
mingled well with the blood of the lady, you shall behold her rise up
and call thee to her arms." He concluded this explanatory speech with an
obeisance, and had already turned to the couch again when Belshazzar
gave a low call.

Instantly there was an influx of armed men into the apartment.
Nergal-Yukin turned in time to see the entrance of the last one. The
next instant he was violently seized by two stalwart men. His cries of
amazement were stifled with a gag; he was bound about from head to foot
with the unbreakable cactus-rope, and then, at a nod from Belshazzar,
borne out of the unconscious presence of Istar into the hall beyond.
Thither Belshazzar and Ribâta followed him; but Baba, at a sign from her
lord, remained where she was.

Belshazzar's face was a thing to fear as he bade the guardsmen stand the
rab-mag up before him. Nergal-Yukin could speak only with his eyes, but
these were eloquent indeed. Terror and agonized pleading were the
dominant expressions on the face of the wretched creature. Belshazzar
heeded neither one. In three words he commanded his men to free the
right arm of the magician. Then, while Ribâta and the soldiers were
clustered round, watching the scene in silent fascination, and a scream
of terror was about to break through the gag, Belshazzar took the
doctor's right hand in his own, holding it in an iron grasp; and with
the other he seized the knife that still hung at Nergal-Yukin's side.
The eyes of the doomed man were starting from their sockets. Ribâta came
forward a little, that he might obtain a better view of the affair. The
soldiers crowded close around. Belshazzar lifted the knife and made a
long, delicate slit in the back of the physician's wrist. Then, when the
blood had begun to flow thinly forth, Ribâta handed his master the
golden bottle that had been left on the foot of Istar's couch.
Belshazzar nodded his thanks, and, without a second's hesitation, opened
it. The liquid that rolled out was thick and rather brown in color. The
prince did his work deftly. With one finger he rubbed the stuff all
about and around the wound, mixing it with the fresh blood, and allowing
none of it to drip off the wrist. With the other hand he helped two of
his soldiers to hold the rab-mag still; for the fellow was now
struggling so violently that this was not a task for a single arm. There
was no escape, however. When the poison had been made to enter the wound
thoroughly, Belshazzar tore a strip of embroidered linen from the bottom
of his tunic and bound it round the arm, fastening it with a pin from
Ribâta's apparel. Then he stood back from his victim.

"Take this man away, and bring me only the message of his death."

Obediently the soldiers lifted their burden, now rigid and stiff with
terror, and bore him like a log of wood out of the presence of the
prince and across the court-yard, back into some little-known rooms used
only for the most obscure servants of the palace.

Belshazzar drew a long breath of relief. His rage had passed. Only, as
he turned to smile at Ribâta, he was slightly pale. Ribâta nodded at him
in approval.

"That was well done," he said. "Those that live like dogs, like dogs let
them die."

"And now, Ribâta--"

"Now, O prince, I return with Baba to my house. Thou hast heard all that
my slave learned of the treachery lurking in the Great City. It is to
you that Babylon looks for her defence. Her people are yours. Do with us
all as you will. We are in your hands." Ribâta made the lowest
obeisance, something not due from his rank to any one except a god; and
Belshazzar hastily raised him up.

"It is to thy loyalty, O faithful one, that Babylon will owe her
freedom. Baba likewise shall receive her reward. She hath saved Istar's
life--that is more to me than Babylon, than myself, than all the earth.
Command a litter for her now, and take thou my chariot for thy return.
The council of lords sits to-morrow after sacrifice. Then we will speak
of the invader. Till then--Bel keep you safely!"

Smiling, Ribâta turned back into the other apartment. He found Baba on
her knees, beside Istar's couch, gazing in ecstasy into Istar's open
eyes. On the other side the baby, haloed round with a soft and luminous
light, slept quietly. Ribâta was reluctant to draw Baba from the scene;
but the child was faint with fatigue, and so, leading her gently away,
he lifted her, when they were outside the door, in both his arms, and
carried her, all black and dishevelled as she was, out to the gate,
where, in the face of a dozen astonished men, he placed her in a litter,
himself mounted Belshazzar's chariot, and drove away in it in the
direction of the canal of the Four Seasons.

If Baba's day of labor had just ended, that of Belshazzar only now
began. The affair of the rab-mag had left him intensely uneasy, and
this, coupled with his great anxiety over the sedition in the city,
promised a sleepless night. Still, till further news of Nergal-Yukin's
state should be brought him, he was powerless to act, and therefore he
returned to Istar's room and seated himself there, with his head resting
on his hands. The minutes passed unheeded, for his mind was full. He
knew that his wife lay near him, and, though her eyes had been open when
he entered the room, he believed her still incapable of sight or
hearing. Presently, when his head had sunk lower still, he felt the
lightest touch on his arm, and he started to his feet, to cry out in
amazement as he beheld Istar, tall and white, swaying beside him.

"_Thou!_" he said, gasping.

"The heart of Belshazzar is troubled. From far away come I to bring thee
consolation in thine hours of woe," she said, quietly, as one speaking
from a great distance. "Be comforted, O my lord! That that is ordained
for the Great City must come to pass. Neither thou nor any other can
prevent it. But be not troubled in thy heart, my prince. In the end this
world shall grow dim before thine eyes, for there will be opened before
them another kingdom where there shall be no time, neither any
evil-doing. Until the coming of that day, my lord, be comforted--take
heart--and be comforted!"

In that one moment Istar shone forth in all her radiant glory, like some
spirit from a divine sunset. And the prince fell down before her on his
knees, worshipping silently. But after she ceased to speak the radiance
went, and she fainted before him in her weakness of the flesh. So he
caught her in his arms and brought her once more to her couch. When she
woke again, only Belshazzar remembered the words that she had spoken to
him. Yet he knew that the message had come from out of the silver sky,
and with this knowledge peace came to him, and he went and lay down upon
the divan in the room.

He had lain there for some minutes, his mind filled less with foreboding
than with wonder, when, for the third time, the eunuch appeared at the
door, this time wearing on his carefully trained face an untoward
expression of interest.

"Speak, Âpla," whispered Belshazzar, anxiously.

"May it please my lord--Nergal-Yukin is dead."

"How? How?"

"In great anguish. Being ungagged, he cried mightily, and screamed aloud
to the gods and demons, uttering curses on Amraphel the priest of Bel,
and upon Belshazzar my lord, and upon the king Nabu-Nahid. Thus is
Nergal-Yukin dead."

"It is well that all dogs should die. Listen, then, Âpla, and do my
bidding. Let forty of my runners, attired in their liveries, go forth
into the city with trumpets and cymbals, and let them cry aloud through
all Babylon the story of the rab-mag's treachery and his end. The name
of Amraphel must not be spoken; but the criers shall so word their story
that no man can be ignorant of the fact that Amraphel himself prompted
this deed out of hatred to me. Listen, then, while I tell thee the story
of the sin of the rab-mag, and thou must repeat it as I say it to you,
to all my criers."

Then Belshazzar proceeded to recount, tersely and truthfully, the tale
of the attempted assassination of Istar. When he had finished, and Âpla,
big-eyed and eager, had repeated the words after him, he dismissed the
eunuch to assemble the runners, and then the prince, his work beginning
to assume definite proportions in his mind, summoned two women to watch
over the goddess, and, leaving them with her, went his way to the
apartments of the king his father.

Nabonidus sat in his coolest room, comfortably partaking of his supper.
A dancing-girl had just finished her postures before him, and he had
dismissed her, while his favorite poet was summoned to take her place.
Nabonidus' gentle, sheep-like face wore an air of benign content as his
hand moved regularly from mouth to plate, and his head swayed to the
rhythm of the tune that had been played. The poet was just mounting his
daïs and unrolling his strip of Egyptian papyrus when the prince reached
the door of his father's apartment. It was really pitiable that all this
pleasant twilight delight should be so roughly disturbed. But disturbed
it was, as a lake's calm by the east wind, as soon as Belshazzar entered
his father's presence and made his obeisance. Nabonidus' expression was
more that of resignation than of displeasure as he said, courteously:

"Let there be a couch brought in for thee, Bel-shar-utsur, and partake
with me of this flesh of the whirring-bird, and barley, while Kibâ
recites to us the tale of Izdubar and Êa-bani full of wisdom." Nabonidus
made his suggestion with an air of hopefulness that belied his real
feeling; and he was not surprised, however much disappointed, when
Belshazzar replied:

"May it please the king my lord to grant me a private audience. There
are matters of great import to be laid before him. I beg that my lord be
moved to grant this wish."

These words, couched as they were in the form of supplication, were
spoken in such a tone of command as Nabu-Nahid dared not refuse. But in
justice to the son be it said that this manner only ever gained for any
one, save poets and architects, a moment's consideration with the king.
By this method, however, Belshazzar succeeded; and presently he and his
father were alone.

Nabu-Nahid had ceased to eat, and sat regarding his son with an air of
petulant displeasure. "Now speak to me quickly," he said, in his mildly
injured fashion. "The season is too late for lion-hunting; your command
over the treasury equals mine; I have at present not one dancer that
would please you; and for the matter of soldiers--go to Nânâ-Babilû at
Sippar. I am not the commanding general. What, then, seeing these
things, canst thou ask of me?"

Belshazzar snapped his fingers and frowned mightily. The fears in his
mind might be vague and ill-defined as yet; but when he did consider, in
some presentient fashion, the scenes of terror that were soon to be
enacted in the Great City, and when he imagined his father, weak,
gentle, yielding as he was, swept into that furious vortex of blood and
of death, what could there be but pity for the old man and dread for his
inevitable end? Now, for a moment, indeed, Belshazzar wondered how it
was that his father had held his throne even one little twelvemonth,
after the strife that had preceded his coronation. Yet for seventeen
prosperous years this one ruler had held city and state together
peaceably; and there were few Chaldean kings that had done as much.

"My father," said Bit-Shamash at last, "it is for no matter of pleasure
or mine own affluence that I seek thee to-night. It is for thee, for thy
throne, for the sake of thy kingdom, of ancient Babylonia, that I would
take council with thee here."

Hearing these words, Nabu-Nahid's face assumed an expression that was
unexpectedly complex--a little inscrutable, indeed. "Since what time, O
my son, have thy thoughts turned towards the welfare of the throne?
Since when hath thy mind been more engaged with affairs of the state
than with wines and with feasting, dancing-girls and hunters--thou and
thy companion, Ribâta of Shumukin?"

Belshazzar flushed slightly. "My father hath judged me," was his only

Nabu-Nahid merely nodded his head a trifle, and then sat looking at his
son with a stupid expression, waiting for him to depart, as at this
stage he usually did. In point of fact, Belshazzar had a strong impulse
to turn on the instant and leave his father to his supper and his
poetry. But for once his anxiety was stronger than his pride, and he
fought back the angry taunt that had risen to his lips, and asked,

"Know you, O king, that letters of invitation pass from our city to
Kurush, king of Elam, to come and take his place on the throne of

"Letters from the hands of Amraphel of Bel and Beltishazzar the Jew? Ay,
Bit-Shamash. Think you I do not know my city?"

Belshazzar was first astonished, then inexpressibly relieved. Was it
possible that he had so long misjudged his father? Was it possible that
this shambling and vacant manner concealed a sound mind and a great
understanding? Had he for so long kept his own best self from the king
to find out his grave mistake when it was almost too late? He bent his
head more humbly than he had ever bent it before to any man. "I crave
pardon of my lord," he said. "Behold, I go my way."

But Belshazzar had not all the magnanimity of the family. Nabu-Nahid
suddenly straightened up, and commanded a couch to be moved to the
table. Wines of Lebanon and Helbon were brought from the cellars, and
Belshazzar was waved into his place with a gesture that admitted of no
refusal. The prince obeyed the invitation rather reluctantly. He dreaded
the return of the poet, and had no desire now to discuss affairs of
state with his father. However, Nabonidus opened such a discussion in a
very tactful way.

"Tell me, Belshazzar, how many days is it since this conspiracy of the
priests hath been known to you?"

"For more than three months I have suspected it. It is but to-day that
it hath become a certainty."

"And the matter frightens thee?"

"Yea, truly, my father. When I came to thee to-night my heart was sick
with the thought of Babylon's great danger. But since thou, the king,
knowest all and fearest naught, my fears are also laid at rest. The king
my father is very great. May he live forever!" and Belshazzar smiled
filially into his father's eyes.

"You do me honor to trust in me, Belshazzar," said the king, gently.
"Yet do you well, also; for to whom save their king can a people look
for their safety? I will tell you how the Great City is to be protected
against the plots of her enemies. Priest and lord alike may prove false,
and men and soldiers turn against me. I have put my strength and my
trust in those that are above princes. Hark you, Belshazzar. When, a
month past, I learned from certain watchers whom I employ, of the great
plot against the crown, I bethought me long and earnestly of my course.
Finally I sent out secret messengers to every temple-city in Babylonia,
and from every heavenly house that my hand hath restored from ancient
decay I caused to be sent hither to me the oldest and holiest god-image.
These, to the number of twenty-one, are now in a little temple by the
river-bank, where I daily visit them and perform sacrifice before them
till the time when they shall move in procession through the city, and
go each to his special shrine. And that day approaches; for the city
grows uneasy under the seditions of the priests and their oracles. But
when my new gods are set up in their golden houses to be worshipped by
the multitude in the city, think you not that the first care of these
heavenly ones will be the safety and preservation of me and of my line?"

Belshazzar said nothing for some time. It seemed impossible for him to
speak. This sudden revelation of his father's incomprehensible
childishness, following, as it did, the equally unexpected evidence of
his understanding of the situation of the state, had completely overcome
him. It was well that the dim, bluish lamp-light made all faces look
pale; for at this moment the prince's skin was destitute of color. All
his first fears came back to him, added to a new one, that increased the
horror of the first a thousandfold. With what frightful disaster was
Babylon not threatened? And what hope had she of fighting against
devastation under the leadership of a half-crazy old man that had placed
an unalterable and inhuman faith in the power of certain blocks of gray
and crumbling stone, shaped into images that a child would hardly
believe in? Faugh! Belshazzar turned sick with disgust.

"Speak, Belshazzar! What think you of this hope of mine?"

"The king is great. May he live forever!" was the response, given in a
tone of soothing calmness. With the words the prince royal also rose
from his couch. "Now, father, I go. I must depart from thee," he said,
hurriedly. "There is a matter to be attended to. Give me leave to quit
thy presence."

"As you entered it of your own will, so depart," returned his father, in
a subdued and disappointed manner.

But Belshazzar, whose feeling was more of grief and pity than anything
else, went to his father, took his hand, and laid it upon his brow in
token of devotion and obedience.

"Thy head is hot," observed the king.

Belshazzar smiled faintly. "Grant me leave to depart," he urged again.

"Yea, in peace depart!"

Somewhat relieved at the old man's tone, a little quieted by the silence
and the dim light around him, the prince moved to the door and was all
but gone when the king turned and spoke to him again in a way that
revealed another phase of his curious character. "Belshazzar," he said,
"look well to this Jew, Daniel. He was a member of the court of the
mighty Nebuchadrezzar, thy grandfather. A traitor and a dangerous man is
he; but he is a prophet also; and gold will buy him. If, after my death,
the city should be threatened with destruction, look to him, if it is
possible, for help."

Belshazzar, dully amazed again, yet too weary of the changes of his
father's moods to pay very much attention to him, answered this advice
with an obeisance only, and then went his way towards his own rooms.
But, even as he went, his father's last words rang again through his
ears. "A traitor and a dangerous man, but a prophet also; and gold will
buy him--gold will buy him!" Thus Belshazzar pondered still.

In his private room the prince found his evening meal laid out and
waiting his coming. Food, however, was not his desire; and, letting it
remain where it stood, he began slowly to pace his room, up and down, up
and down the cool, tiled floor. His fan-slaves watched him curiously.
They had never seen quite such an expression on their lord's face. In
truth, Belshazzar's brain throbbed when he thought of what a way lay
before him to be traversed. Babylon tottered before his weary mental
vision; and finally, inexpressibly heavy-hearted with it all, he sat
down to eat his chilled supper, at the same time despatching a slave for

The dancing-girl, with her gauze draperies and tinkling ankle-bells,
came in to him, followed by her fellow-slaves with drum and lute. The
maid had lost neither her grace of movement nor her love for her Lord,
and therefore Belshazzar, successfully diverted for the moment, finished
his meal more pleasantly than he had begun it. When finally he rose from
his couch it was late. The moon hung in the heavens, and the court-yard
was flooded with silver light. A group of guardsmen, clustering round a
fire, sat chanting charms in chorus. Belshazzar heard their voices with
a vague longing for shouts of men, for the shrill neighs of horses, for
the rattle of chariot wheels, the clash of arms, the thunderous murmur
of battle as he had known it in his youth. If only war, open and
honorable, lay between him and Kurush of Elam--well enough. In that he
stood his fair chance of winning; and if he lost, it was death at his
own hands. The game that he feared and that he hated was the one of
underhandedness, of lies, of treachery, of bribery. When a man could be
bought for gold there was none to trust, none to feel sure of. And upon
these things the prince wearily pondered as he gazed out into the night,
wondering, half consciously, whether to go to Ribâta or to seek rest
from his mental burden in sleep.

While he debated this point with himself there came a commotion at the
palace gate, the arrival of a fast chariot, a peremptory call for
admittance, and his own name spoken in a familiar voice. An instant
later a slave ran to him with the word:

"May it be pleasing to the prince my lord, Lord Amraphel, the
high-priest of Bel, asks conduct to the presence of the Prince

"Bring him here to my side," was the quick reply.

The slave left him obediently, and Belshazzar prepared to receive his
visitor. Retreating a little towards the centre of his dining-room, he
stood with the torch-light at his back and the glow of the lamp too far
in front to shine upon his face. Here he awaited the coming of his
father's enemy.

Amraphel entered the presence of the prince royal with his usual
unruffled dignity. He was followed by two slaves, who stood behind him
during the performance of the elaborate salutations. Then they were
dismissed, and bidden to await the return of their master to his

Belshazzar was unattended. Thus the departure of these slaves left the
two men quite alone, out of the sight and out of the hearing of the rest
of the world. However much the prince was on his guard, his manner
betrayed nothing but cold courtesy. This sudden incident had come as a
relief to him. Action of any sort was welcome. He was perfectly at his
ease, barely polite, little respectful of the age and station of the

With Amraphel it was different. The instant that his attendants departed
his air of unbending dignity dropped off him like a cloak, and into his
face there came so marked an expression of hatred and of suppressed fury
that Belshazzar's eyes, meeting by chance those of his adversary, forgot
their course, and remained fascinated and fixed on that other gaze.
Simultaneously both stepped forward.

"My lord Amraphel honors me unexpectedly," said the prince, giving the
other a free opening.

"It is not to thy honor, but rather on account of thy infamy, that I
come," was the reply.

Belshazzar's lips straightened themselves out haughtily. "Let me summon
a seer to interpret thy words," he said.

"My words shall interpret themselves to you. What answer make you to the
charge of murdering Nergal-Yukin?"

For a moment Belshazzar was silent. Then he laughed--a clear, ringing

Instantly Amraphel lost his self-control. Reaching Belshazzar's side in
two strides, he lifted his right hand in the face of the prince. Before
the blow fell Belshazzar had seized the priest's arm fast in his grip,
and with all his giant strength thrust from him the figure of the old

"Beware, Amraphel," he said, so softly that the priest just caught the

"Hark you, son of the sheep-king, hark you! If within the hour your
slaves, the criers of Nergal-Yukin's death, be not recalled from the
city streets, not one of them shall be left alive by morning."

"If that is thy thought, Amraphel of Bel, at daybreak to-morrow not a
priest in the city shall dare openly to wear the goat-skin and still

"You defy the gods?"

"I defy their ministers."

"Then, by all that is holy in heaven and earth, be thou and thine foully
cursed forevermore!"

Belshazzar's lips curled again; and again, desecrating all the
traditions of his race, he laughed--loud, and long, but not mirthfully.

Amraphel, as he gathered his scarlet robe close about his meagre frame,
grew white--very white. His head was held high, and his eyes flashed
with a fire that age could not quell, as he spoke his final word: "Be
_thou_ ware, Belshazzar of Babylon, lest the curse of the gods be given
for fulfilment into the hands of men!"

As he turned on his heel Belshazzar's answer came, and by it the priest
learned how surely the governor of the city was of his mother's loins,
and not of his father's blood. "Thy hand and that of Daniel the Jew,
yea, and of him ye call the Achæmenian, will find space enough on my
body whereon to strike and strike again, O Amraphel. But see that ye
fight as men, and not as dogs. Else, by my faith, as dogs ye shall
surely die!"

Belshazzar hurled the last word after the priest into the court-yard,
for Amraphel was now well on his way back to his chariot. The echo of
the prince's voice rolled off into silence; and after a little time
Belshazzar found himself still standing beside the table, his head bent,
his eyes moving vacantly over the floor, while his thoughts were as
empty as he felt his words to have been. A little after the interview he
sought his rest. And when morning dawned again and he called his slaves
to his side, the criers of Nergal-Yukin's death had not been slain;
though perhaps in the end that consummation had been better for the
royal house of Babylon.



Nergal-Yukin's death, the circumstances of it, and the blatant
proclamation of these things by Belshazzar's slaves, facts skilfully
manipulated by Amraphel and his order, threw all Babylon into an uproar.
Naturally, the city was divided into factions. The priests and their
satellites formed a sufficiently attractive nucleus to draw around it a
great body of the common people whose lives at best were only a round of
prayers and exorcisms; while all the army, that feared and followed
Belshazzar as it feared and followed no god, drew to itself the other
faction of citizens loyal to the crown. From the first, however, the
priests, who counted also the Jews to a man in their party, were
stronger than their opponents. And Amraphel, moved as he was by the two
great forces of hate and overweening ambition, worked early and late to
increase his majority. He seized every slightest advantage, manipulated
it dauntlessly, and expanded it incredibly. His final interview with the
prince was regarded by both sides as a declaration of open hostility;
and while the royal party was now apparently quiescent, the things that
Amraphel would not do to win over to his side a single man, were scarce
worth considering.

While Cyrus and Gobryas with their invading armies were still far away
in the south and in the north of the country, nothing that would
precipitate matters could be done in Babylon. Indeed, a premature
rebellion was the one thing that could save the Great City to her lawful
rulers; and no one in the city knew this better than its high-priest. It
was for this reason only that Amraphel had failed to carry out his
threat with regard to Belshazzar's criers. And it was also for this
reason that Belshazzar had so openly and so recklessly defied his enemy
at their last meeting. Could Amraphel have been irritated past his
self-control and so forced into some rash act that would precipitate the
rebellion before Cyrus was at hand, the contest would at least be an
equal one. But with Beltishazzar at his elbow, and the funds of the
house of Êgibi at Daniel's command and Daniel's command only, there was
no chance of matters coming to a crisis before their appointed time. For
Daniel's whole soul and mind were in this plot; and, whatever doubt
there might be about the soul, it was quite certain that his mind was no
ordinary one.

Amraphel's most telling means of influencing the common people was by
temple harangues. Every day, after the early sacrifice, a priest would
come before the throng of assembled people and talk to them, not of
their duty towards the gods and the priests of the gods, but of the
falseness and the iniquity of the royal house. These preachments began
almost immediately after the death of the rab-mag, the tale of which,
with its accompanying moral, was worn threadbare in order that
Belshazzar's brutal instincts might be made sufficiently plain to the
dense minds of the listening commoners. The fact that Belshazzar held
priestly office and a priestly title was of no consequence. Indeed, it
became a subject for further revilings. Certainly it could not be denied
that the heir-apparent was extremely lax in his religious duties.
Scarcely one day out of ten did he appear in the precincts of the
temple, much less officiate at sacrifice. Without doubt, the gods were
angry with him. How could it be otherwise?

It was not long before Belshazzar began to feel the breath of
unpopularity. When he drove forth into the city few people took notice
of him, none did him reverence, a few eyed him askance, and once or
twice he was assailed by some opprobrious phrase. He felt rather keenly
the disfavor of the people, but made no attempt to remedy the matter. He
knew very well the direction that affairs were taking; but he could do
nothing but bide his time, and at night keep his eyes from the future,
since sleeplessness brings back to no man his wealth. One thing,
however, the prince, as governor of the city, could do, under the
general directorship of Nânâ-Babilû at Sippar. He could keep the guards
of the city in form, and this he did well. There were at this time about
ten thousand of the regular army in Babylon, and of these the finest
were Belshazzar's own regiment, under command of Shâpik-Zeri, all of
them men of Gutium--the province of which Gobryas had once been
governor. These, the best-trained soldiers in Babylonia, were loyal to
their last drop of blood to their lord. Belshazzar was a fine soldier,
iron-clad in his rules, and known to be himself fearless on the field.
His men worshipped his physique, feared his strength, and delighted in
paying him the honor and obedience that he would otherwise have exacted
by force of arms. Thus Belshazzar was seen no longer in the goat-skin,
but he made up for the deficiency by appearing at every hour of the day
in helmet and shield, on his way either to or from the great
parade-ground where the daily reviews of the various regiments were

It was about this time, the middle of the month of May, that Charmides
the Greek experienced a sudden disgust for his position in the temple
and left it, pleading that the illness of his wife demanded his
continued presence at her side. Unworldly, improvident, sentimental as
his move was, he nevertheless experienced a great relief when he turned
his back for an indefinite period on the great House of Lies. For things
had been done there that the young Greek could not think of without
furious gusts of anger and rebellion. Besides this, Ramûa was ill,
wretchedly ill, as the result of a fall that had caused a series of
complications over which both Charmides and Beltani were exceedingly
anxious. Still, she was in no real danger, and in spite of his
statement, Charmides did not spend all of his hours at her side.

About ten days after his leaving the temple, Charmides had cause of
rather a curious nature for regretting that he was no longer in a
situation to know the inner aspects of certain things. A proclamation
had gone through the city striking astonishment to every heart, and to
none more than those of the priesthood. It was to the effect that, on
the first day of the month of Duzu, twenty new gods would take up their
residence in the Great City.

Poor Nabu-Nahid, reading aright the threatening signs of his own and his
son's unpopularity, believed that the time had come for his great act.
As a priest of the highest order he was empowered to command the
high-priest of every temple, with the exception of Amraphel alone, that
he, together with two Enû, two Asipû, and two Barû, should form part of
the great procession of strange gods when these entered the city.
Moreover, each temple was to be especially purified and prepared for the
reception of a new statue, and henceforth double services must take
place in each temple, that both the old god and the new one might be
properly honored. The date for the procession was set for the last of
Sivân. A document explanatory of the whole matter, and signed and sealed
by the house of Shamash, was sent to each of the priests, and to every
monastery of Zicarû; and these were also read aloud in the temples by
eunuchs, till all Babylon was informed of the king's act, and all
Babylon prepared for the holy day.

That morning dawned like every other morning of the season, in a flush
of fierce crimson, gradually melting into the living gold that flooded
the sky with a furnace heat and poured a shower of burning light upon
the river with its clinging city, and over the yellow desert far beyond.
Holiday had been proclaimed, and at an early hour every street leading
to a temple was packed on either side with gayly dressed men and women
and their children. Charmides went alone. Ramûa could not walk, and
Beltani had preferred remaining with her to standing for hours in the
glare of the sun, waiting for the procession. Both women, however, had
begged Charmides to go and see it, that he might describe it to them on
his return. Therefore the Greek took up his position on the edge of the
square of Istar, into the deserted temple of which the old and sacred
statue of the goddess of Erech was to be carried first of all.

The crowd here was especially thick. Only by vigorous pushing and
squeezing, and some very rapid talking, could Charmides find a place for
himself. Having reached a vantage-point, however, he proceeded to fall
into a reverie--a reverie of a year ago, when he had stood waiting for a
pageant, an utter stranger to the city, hungry, friendless, and
homesick. He could recall every trivial incident of the day with ease,
from Baba and the goat's milk she gave him, to the long afternoon with
Ramûa, now for nine months his wife. He had got to a philosophical stage
in his dreams when a light hand was laid on his arm, and he looked up to
find Baba at his elbow. He was glad to see her, glad of a companion to
talk to; and so they two watched the procession together, bent to the
dust before the little black images dotting the line in twenty places,
and borne each on its golden platform on the shoulders of six eunuchs.

Nabu-Nahid, in white, drove first of all. Behind him, frowning and
stiff, and in anything but a pleasant frame of mind, was Vul-Ramân in
his car. Belshazzar came farther along the line, standing unconcernedly
in his place, his white muslin robe falling to his feet, the goat-skin
fastened over his left shoulder. Everywhere he was greeted with murmurs
of disapproval; but though he could hardly have failed to hear some of
them, his face gave no sign of it. Quiet, immovable, slightly scornful
in his expression, he endured the mental and physical discomforts of the
day with a nonchalance that would have deceived Amraphel himself.

The procession left the little temple by the river-bank at ten o'clock
in the morning and broke ranks in the square of the temple of Marduk
just at sunset, with the last ceremony concluded--Nabonidus' last card
played. Twenty new gods would watch over the city that night, and twenty
extra sacrifices would take place in their honor on the morrow. Perhaps
it was as well that Nabonidus, in his pathetic faith, should not have
heard the comments of the tired temple-servants as they worked through
the night, preparing for the next day's services. Twenty new gods asleep
in Babylon--twice twenty demons at work in the minds of men. Could the
outcome of the fast-approaching struggle still look doubtful to any
reasonable thinker whose heart was on neither side?

Belshazzar and his father drove home together from the square of Marduk.
Weary as he was, Nabu-Nahid was in a joyous frame of mind. He talked
incessantly about the success of his great experiment. Secure in the
favor of Heaven, he could easily cast aside all fears of earthly
disfavor, and his whole person so radiated delight that Belshazzar's
mood passed unnoticed, his expression of unhappiness was transfigured by
the sunset glare into one as rapt and as joyous as his father's own.

When at last they two dismounted together before the palace gates,
Belshazzar's heart gave a great throb of relief. He had that day felt
against him all the hostility of that Great City, and though they were
his own, and he should be called upon some day perhaps to die for them,
yet he felt a sensation akin to hatred for all the people whose
superstitious and pitifully cringing hearts could be moved by the
priesthood to moods and beliefs inimical in every particular to the
hopes and plans of their temporal lords.

Belshazzar made his way straight to his private apartments and there
doffed his priest's dress, commanding it to be carried out of his sight,
and vowing that never again would he put it on. Then he donned a tunic
of gray cotton cloth and took his way to the seraglio, into the presence
of Istar. He found her sitting on the broad pile of rugs and cushions
that filled half her living-room, holding the child in her arms,
crooning over it as only a mother can. She welcomed her husband with
eagerness, however, showing by the light in her face her delight in his

"And do these new gods hold not their high places in Babylon, my lord?"
she asked, when, having called for food and wine, he threw himself down
beside her.

Belshazzar's answer was a bitter little smile.

"And they were received in silence? Tell me of the image that was put up
into the shrine of Istar. Did the people honor it--did they praise it
and bow down before it?"

"More than any other they showed it honor. Ah, my beloved, for my sake
the people hate thee! Knowest thou how they hate me? My name is taught
to be reviled in every temple. I am an enemy of the priests, therefore
am I mocked in the high places. Istar--Istar--I sometimes dream that not
much longer shall I and my father dwell in our Great City." He spoke the
words lingeringly, with his eyes fixed on her face.

Istar answered the look well. Not a suggestion of fear, not a hint of
dread was to be found in her smile. And while her hand caressed the tiny
palm of the sleeping child, she said, quietly: "Whither thou goest, dear
lord, there I will go. Unto the ends of the earth--and beyond--I will
follow thee."

"Istar! Thou art happy in me?" he cried, impulsively, leaning over and
putting his hand to her lips.

The smile still lingered as she kissed the hand; and then, taking it
gently away, she answered and said: "Happy--Yea, Belshazzar, so happy
that I, too, believe that our earth-time nears its end. I believe that I
have found what I sought. It is the love for his fellows lying in the
heart of every man that binds him to the greater love of the All-Father.
The love of one for another sanctifies every life. Thee and this--my
little child--I love."

Belshazzar looked wistfully upon his wife. There were times when she was
too far above him for his own content. Yet in her words there was always
something that, vaguely understood, stirred his brain to a painful
effort to follow her to her height. Now, as if he would hold her back
with him, he took both her hands, leaving the child to lie in her lap
unheeded, and asked, with a change of tone: "Hast thou been alone
through all the weary day, beloved?"

"Nay, Baba of Ribâta's house and Charmides the Greek came here together
to me, after noon. Thou knowest the Greek--him whose lyre once you broke
before me."

"Ay. He is a temple-servant."

"He serves no longer in the temple. Out of loyalty to us--to thee and to
me--he works no more in the statue of oracles, nor does he play at

"Loyalty to me!" Belshazzar laughed slightly.

Istar gave him a quiet look, and her half-open lips closed again.

"Art thou angered with me, O my beloved, for being forever jealous?
Istar! Couldst thou but know half of my love! If thou couldst read the
terror in my heart--the terror of losing thee and thy love--"

He broke off quickly as the eunuchs brought in a table covered with meat
and wine. It was placed before the prince, and Belshazzar, faint with
his long fast, applied himself to the food and drink, and the intimate
little passage with his wife was finished.

The following twelve days passed quietly in the palace. Belshazzar
withdrew himself absolutely from city affairs, and, beyond going daily
to the reviews and drills of his regiment of Guti and the city guards,
he never passed the palace gates. Nabu-Nahid, on the other hand, worked
feverishly. The state of public affairs was beginning to trouble him.
Five days after the procession of his gods he was obliged to acknowledge
to himself that his great hopes for their intercession were not to be
fulfilled. Just how far Nabonidus' blind faith went, no one, not even
himself, really knew. That which was artistic in his nature--and he was
no mean artist at heart--had led him into the pursuit of architecture
for the love of it. A passion for things of antiquity had caused him to
explore the deserted ruins of many a crumbling temple, with results that
made the soul of the seeker after knowledge tremble with delight. Many a
long-buried library had been brought by his efforts into the light of
day; and the religion of Accad of old, with its heroic tales, its
prayer-poems, its chronicles of war and the chase, had been opened to
his eyes and to those of the scholars that worked with him. The gods of
other days had been brought forth from their ruinous shrines and placed
in newer, brighter homes. And after these things, it somehow seemed to
him that a reward should be forthcoming from his country.

But when Nabonidus came to know that, at the instigation of Amraphel,
the new gods were left unworshipped in their shrines, that sacrifices
were no longer offered up in the temples, that people were turned away
out of the holy places with the word that the great gods were angered by
the intrusion of these others, that none of them would heed prayers and
burnt-offerings till the strangers were removed from the Sun-built
House, then the heart of the king grew sick within him, and suddenly he
came to a realizing sense of the power of the priesthood. Councils were
held in the palace. Lords, chancellors, judges, and officers from every
department, together with deputies from the provinces, met in the palace
and were presided over by the king. Plans were brought up, discussed,
and discarded. There was only one thing, apparently, to be done; yet the
doing of it would involve such political cataclysms that, dangerous as
was the position of the crown, Nabu-Nahid still hesitated to force
Amraphel from his place.

At this time, when Adar's month was a third gone, came news of a great
battle fought in the south country around Larsam, between the troops of
Cyrus and the defending army, resulting in the victory of the invader
and the utter rout and defeat of the Chaldees. Before the news of this
could have reached the north country, another army--the Persian, in
command of the traitor-governor Gobryas of Gutium, Cyrus' ablest
general--had gathered about Hit to begin a rapid southward march towards
Sippar, by way of Agade. The meaning of this movement was only too
plain. Cyrus and Gobryas, between them sweeping Babylonia from south to
north, would come together for their final siege before the walls of the
Great City.

This plan unfolded itself slowly before the eyes of the king and his
council, and Gobryas was within two days' march of Sippar before
Nabonidus was fully aware of the danger. Well might Amraphel and Daniel
the Jew laugh together and rejoice at the success of their allies. At a
time like this, what reproof for neglect of the gods could be given them
by a king threatened with such certain disaster? A month now, at the
outside, and Cyrus would be at the gates of Babylon. By then the long
labor of plotting and of treachery would be over. There remained only
the final stroke, now preparing, and then the swift, clean end.

During this time, while Nabu-Nahid seemed to be aging a year a day under
the pressure of difficulties that he was too weak to avert or to
overcome, Belshazzar was living a life of careless idleness with Istar
and his child. The two of them knew that the time of their joy of love
was nearly over. Both were unwilling that anything should come between
them before the inevitable end. How it was that Belshazzar could put
away all trouble, all apprehension of the future from his mind, he
himself did not know. Perhaps he had been under the spell of
apprehension for so long that now, when the dread of it had reached his
father, he was empowered to straighten up and put down his load, till he
must pick it up again increased in weight a thousandfold. But during the
days that followed he could remember his first two weeks of summer as a
foretaste of the peace eternal of the silver sky. From dawn to dawn,
barring those two noon hours when Istar slept and he rode out to the
parade, Belshazzar was at his wife's side. Their thoughts, their dreams,
their desires, were alike. There was no need to talk one to the other.
The mind of each was to the other as a written tablet; and they read in
silence, clasped each in the other's arms. Istar had become very tender,
very clinging, very feminine now. Those periods of divinity when her
personality became elusive and her mind attained to unfathomable heights
were gone. She was of earth, human in her beauty and in her frailty of
physique, radiant only with an earthly love. It was Belshazzar that was
becoming transfigured--transfigured through his love for her; for his
passion had broadened into a power of renunciation; and he showed the
woman a glorified reverence, which, beyond her to conceive, had been
beyond her to command.

It was in this wise that their twelve days passed; and on the night of
the twelfth of June Nabu-Nahid entered unannounced into the presence of
his son, with the decree that ended Belshazzar's dream lying written in
his face.

Istar, dressed in robes of deep crimson silk, girdled and sandalled with
gold, lay back upon her divan, softly singing to a lute that she played
herself. The light from a hanging-lamp fell over her figure and left the
rest of the room in shadow. In this shadow, seated upon an ivory chair,
was the prince, holding the murmuring child fast in his gentle arms.
They had been thus for an hour when the interruption came and Nabu-Nahid
entered, bringing with him the atmosphere in which he had been living of
doubts and fears, hates and quarrels, intrigues and treacheries, and
dispelling instantly the love-dreams of youth.

Nabonidus was not yet an old man in years; but few would have been able
to make out whether it had taken fourscore years, or five, to produce
his peculiar appearance. He was a vision of white. Hair, skin, hands,
robes, sandals, all were white; and which the whitest one could not have
told. His face was bloodless, and resembled a piece of bleached papyrus
which, having lain in a damp place, had curled up into a thousand minute
wrinkles, from the midst of which a pair of dark, dull eyes looked
wearily forth. These eyes were the only feature that one much regarded.
The others sloped insignificantly into the pallid plain of the cheeks.
And Nabonidus' whole mood was apparent in his walk. So dragging, so
weary, so despondent was every step, that, as he entered Istar's room,
Belshazzar shrank back from his presence in involuntary despair.

Just inside the door-way the king stopped and looked about him. Istar
laid down her lute and rose, regarding the intruder with quiet
apprehension. Seeing her, Belshazzar, too, came forward out of the
gloom, holding the child still in his arms. And his voice first broke
the silence.

"Enter thou, my father, and sit down with us!"

Istar supplemented the words with a little gesture.

Nabu-Nahid listened, looked closely at his son and the burden in his
arms, and then turned slowly to the woman, gazing at her for a long time
before he spoke. "And thou art she--whom we worshipped," he murmured,

Istar drew back a little, and Belshazzar took two rapid strides forward.
"Dost thou desire speech with me, my father? Let us then retire to my
apartments. There we will talk."

"Twelve days hast thou been sought in thy apartment; twelve days hath
this been thy abode. Let it then be mine for an hour. After that I will
go forth again--alone." There was a kind of strength in this last word
that sounded strange from the lips of the king, and to which neither
Belshazzar nor Istar could find any reply.

Istar went to her husband and took the child from him, saying, softly:
"I will leave thee here and go into another room. Cause thy father to
sit and talk with thee. And--if there is need of thee, I pray that my
lord will come to bid me farewell before he goes." Her voice trembled
slightly, and as she lifted her eyes to Belshazzar's he found them
shining with tears.

Her husband gave her the child and would have let her go; but Nabonidus
raised his hand.

"Let her take the child, Belshazzar, for it is not meet that thou
shouldst sit as a nurse of infants. But as Istar is thy wife and beloved
of thee, let her remain here, that ye may both hear my last words
concerning Babylon."

"_Thy last words!_" cried the prince, quickly.

"Yea, for I am come to bid ye both farewell. To-morrow I go up to
Sippar, which is threatened with destruction."

"Gobryas is there?"

"To-night he lies six kasbi[11] north of the city."

"But Nânâ-Babilû and all the army are there. There will be a siege. We
will send reinforcements from Babylon. Sippar cannot fall."

For the first time in many years Nabonidus regarded his son with
something akin to scorn. "In the twelve days that thou hast lain hidden
here many things have come to pass. Sippar is in revolt. The priests of
the sun-college have incited the people to rebel against my rule; and
they threaten to open the gates to Gobryas. Nânâ-Babilû sends me
messengers to say that half his army will fail him when it comes to the
battle. It is for this reason that I go to Sippar."

Belshazzar rose, his face alight with eagerness. "Not thou, O king, not
thou, but I, will go up to-morrow into the city of the north. My
regiment of Gutium shall follow me. There, with those men alone, I will
hold Sippar against Gobryas--ay, and Kurush, too, if--"

"Many things I have known thee do, Bel-shar-utsur; yet boaster wert thou
never before. If thou know it not, my son, then I tell thee now, for it
is well that thou shouldst learn it from my lips, Babylonia hates
thee--for thy arrogance, for thy strength, for thy will, for sacrilege
committed often against the gods; above all, for thy tyranny over the
priests. If thou shouldst set forth to Sippar, thy life would not endure
a single day. And the regiment of Gutium must stay in Babylon. It is in
them that the Great City puts her trust. Thou, also, as governor of the
city, must be here to lead them. I came not to thy presence to be
taught, but rather to talk with thee upon thy position here."

Belshazzar stood silent, flushed with chagrin, yet in his heart
acknowledging the truth of his father's words. Moreover, there was in
his father's manner something that had not been there before. Beset as
he was on every side, Nabu-Nahid had suddenly become a king. Istar
perceived it and marvelled; and, though she did not speak, the old man
found sympathy in her presence. Belshazzar forced himself at last to
ask, in a subdued tone:

"Where wilt thou go in Sippar, O my father? Into the household of Nânâ,
or to the river-palace?"

"Neither of these places. I shall go to the priests' college. It was
there that my youth was spent. Five years ago I dwelt there through the
summer. When Nitocris died, I went there after the month of wailing. It
hath long been a refuge to me. I will seek it again. If I have yet any
power in the world, it is there that I shall find it."

Belshazzar nodded thoughtfully. He recognized the truth of his father's
words; yet he was only beginning to realize the danger of this desperate
journey. It came over him again, in a vast wave, how great were the
straits in which his city lay. There seemed to be nothing for him to
say, so completely was his father master of the situation. And presently
Nabonidus, with a faint sigh, lifted up his voice again:

"Belshazzar, thou seest surely the danger that all are in. Of my own
free will I go forth to Sippar; yet I have little thought that I shall
return thence again. All things are in the hands of the great gods. If
it is decreed that I perish at the hands of my enemies, I pray only that
Ânû will hold for me a place in the silver sky. Through seventeen years
I have ruled over the Great City, and in that time I have never
willingly wronged any man. Why it should be that men wrong me, I know
not; and I ask not.

"Thou, my son, art trained to the thought of ruling over the mighty
kingdom of the Chaldees. I charge thee only that if word of my death
reach thine ears, rule over thy people and mine as a brave king and not
a cruel one. In the years to come let thy people look to thee
confidently and in love. Be just with all; and let none know thee in

"Thou, Istar of the skies, who hast dwelt as a goddess in the holy
temple of Ê-Âna, and art now become a princess of the king's house, if
in time thou art made queen of Babylon, let not thy heart beat with
pride. Love thy king. Bear his children and rear them in temperance and
peace. Open thy lips to no words of folly. Unveil thy face before no
man. Be the faithful servant and companion of him who holds thee dearer
than all others. And, having heard my bidding, hold also my memory in

"Behold, I have said my say, and I go forth. On the morrow, Belshazzar,
thou wilt be master in the palace. Take up thy duties, and leave the
child to its mother's arms. Now Ânû, Ea, and Bel, the three lords of the
gods, keep our fortunes, our lives, and our hearts in safety evermore!"

Nabu-Nahid held out a thin, white hand to each of them, Belshazzar and
Istar, his children, and each of them pressed it reverently to brow and
breast. Then the old man threw the corner of his white mantle once more
over his shoulder, and, with a stateliness born of his newly royal
spirit, departed from the room.

Istar and Belshazzar saw him go in silence. Their own days of happiness
were at an end; but he who had ended them had given them both the desire
to meet the veiled future in a manner worthy of their God and of the
king that went before.



Sippar, the northernmost city of Babylonia, lay a day's journey from the
capital. Although five Sippars could have been placed within the
towering circuit of Nimitti-Bel, and room have been left for Ur besides,
still, thirty thousand people, besides Shamash the sun-god, made it
their home. Nebuchadrezzar, the great king, had thought it a town of no
little importance; for he had expended upon it as much money as the
treasury held and his conquered nations would give for tribute, in
making those vast reservoirs and the machinery by means of which the
course of the river Euphrates could be turned out of its channel and
into Sippar, and thence sent forth into a thousand cross-country canals,
leaving the river-bed, for the rest of its southward course, as dry as a
brick. On account of these vast works of primitive engineers, the little
place had for the past fifty years been famous from Agade to Terredou,
from Kutha to the desert; till, from being a dilapidated mud-village,
its pilgrim visitors had turned it, with their yearly wealth, into a
well-built and well-kept city clustered round three celebrated
buildings--the astronomical ziggurat, the temple of the sun, and the
college of the Chaldees.

These last could be grouped under one head, since all three of them were
ruled by one master--not Shamash, but the high-priest of Shamash, the
first astronomer of the kingdom and the president of this college of
sciences, and these combined dignities caused him to be known as the
first priest in the kingdom. As a matter of fact, the religious house
and its attachments were as old as--a little older than--the city of
Sippar. Sun-worship had been instituted here as long ago as tradition
knew; just as moon-worship began in Ur, according to Berossus, about
thirty thousand years before the day of the Mighty Hunter! The house
attached to the temple for the purpose of training its priests had
gradually, through three or four centuries, come to be the great school
of education for the priests of all Babylonia. It was the home of
tradition and of sedition; the breeder of anti-monarchical ideas, the
advocate of a hierarchical government. Nabonidus' father, a member of
this college and high-priest of a Babylonian temple, having married the
daughter of Nebuchadrezzar, made double claim to the throne of Chaldea;
and, though he never came into the place of his mighty father-in-law,
yet his son, the young Nabu-Nahid, educated in his father's college and
early admitted to the priesthood, was brought up in the full belief that
he was king by right of Heaven. Five years on the throne had changed him
in many respects. Amraphel had come down from Sippar to administer to
Bel-Marduk, and to keep watch over the general priesthood and the ruler
of the Great City; and Nabu-Nahid had grown more accustomed to the crown
than to the goat-skin. Moreover, the education of the prince royal was
continued along very unpriestly lines. Therefore, though the king had
never entirely severed his connection with the great institution where
he had spent his youth, his attitude towards it was indeterminate, and
its feeling for him one of well-disguised but none the less bitter

At this time of the middle of June in the seventeenth year of the king's
reign, Sippar was in a frenzy of excitement. The town was filled to
overflowing with troops assembled a month ago from every city and
village within a radius of sixty miles. Nânâ-Babilû, commander-in-chief
of the army, was lodged with Sharrukin, governor of the city; and these
two men were loyal, heart and soul, to the king. As a consequence, they
were also bitterly inimical to the priesthood. The college, on the
contrary, bristling as it was with full-fledged priests and half-fledged
students, waited to give Cyrus himself, or Gobryas by proxy, a royal
welcome. The men of the army were divided into factions. As for the rest
of the city, it was a little Babylon in its general uneasiness and

Three weeks after the home army occupied Sippar, came word of the rapid
advancement of Gobryas from the northeast; and the town was hurriedly
prepared for a siege. Finally, on the night of the thirteenth, the
arrival of two despatches, one from the north, the other from the south,
brought consternation to the far-seeing mind of Nânâ-Babilû, and a
dramatic sense of triumph to the members of the college. As the news
became known in the city, the town quickly took on an air of festivity.
The night was lighted by bonfires. The streets were alive with people. A
great clamor of singing, of shouting, of drinking, and general riot rang
through the twisting streets. And men, women, and children, soldiers and
citizens, were still up and dressed in holiday garments, when, at dawn
on the morning of the fourteenth of the month, Nabu-Nahid drove in at
the southern gate of the city.

Sharrukin the governor, Nânâ-Babilû, and Ludar Bit-Shamash, the
sun-priest, each in his state chariot, each the acme of stiff courtesy,
came together at the gate to greet the king their lord. The governor and
the general regarded the arrival of the high-priest with no little
surprise and some resentment. Sharrukin's palace had been carefully
prepared for the reception of the royal master; and his chagrin at the
idea of Nabonidus' going to lodge at the college of the Chaldees,
overcame his appreciation of the policy and the daring of that act.

Nabonidus came attended by a very small suite. He had travelled from
Babylon with no more pretension than any petty nobleman. A charioteer
drove him, but he himself held his umbrella over his head. He was
dressed in the same simple white robes in which he had bidden his son
farewell. His retinue consisted of two chariots, containing his
secretaries and his favorite slave, while a group of six horsemen
followed. His manner, on arriving, was as simple as his dress. Seeing
Sharrukin and Nânâ-Babilû, his mild eyes lighted with pleasure; but it
was to Ludar that he gave his first greeting. The little party proceeded
slowly through the principal streets of Sippar on its way to the
college, Nabonidus and Ludar first, side by side in their chariots, the
governor and general just behind. Nabonidus' manner was unemotional,
rather matter-of-fact. Ludar himself never dreamed how closely the king
was watching the effect of his coming on the people, and the nature of
his reception by them. Certainly his path was thronged--and by townsmen
only. The soldiers had been ordered to their barracks and were not to
appear till the afternoon's review. As they proceeded, however, Nânâ
began bitterly to regret that at least one loyal regiment had not been
scattered among the people with the command to force their neighbors
into giving the customary loyal greeting to the king. Silence, utter,
unbreakable, significant, reigned over the crowd. A thousand black eyes
were every moment fixed unwinkingly on Nabonidus, but not a mouth was
opened to speak a welcome to him. Here and there, indeed, was the
suggestion of a muttered threat that came quickly to the ears of Ludar.
But whether the king heard, or, hearing, understood these expressions,
no one could tell.

Shamash was scarcely an hour up the sky when the four chariots and the
little guard drew rein before the gate of the great college, and
Nabonidus entered the institution between two long lines of white-robed
priests, who gave the salute to Patêsi when he passed.

Nânâ and the governor left their lord at the gate, with the understanding
that they should return to escort him to the review of troops
early in the afternoon. Ludar alone accompanied the king to the
room assigned to him--the room in which he had passed his youth--a
small, oblong, white-tiled place, with a high image of Shamash at one
end of it, and two tiny, square windows high in the opposite wall. A
narrow bed, two stools, an ivory chair, and an immovable table,
furnished the little place; and the king, seeing it again after some
years, looked about him with a faint smile of pleasure.

"Is it pleasing to the king that he should be thus humbly lodged?"
inquired Ludar, behind him. "Or will he choose to occupy the royal
apartments that are at his command?"

"The king, Ludar, is no less a king because he lives humbly. Let this
pleasant place be my abode while I am here."

Ludar wondered for a moment whether the king had intended the double
meaning in his words; and, not knowing, he yet resented the possibility.
His voice, however, was no less smooth and quiet when he said again: "It
is near the hour of sacrifice in the great temple, father king. Will you
attend it, or is it fitting that you sleep after the journey?"

Nabonidus sighed inaudibly, but his eyes never strayed to the couch. "I
come to the sacrifice, Ludar. Yet first bid them bring me milk from the
goat to be offered for sacrifice, for I need refreshment after the weary
night. Then let my slave bring to me two jars of water, that I may make
my ablutions, removing from my body the dust of the way and the sand
blown up from the desert. Then I will come to the sacrifice."

Ludar, unsuccessful in his scheme of petty torment, left the room,
smarting under the indignity of being asked to carry orders to a
slave--orders that, for reasons of policy, he could not disobey. His
only method of revenge was to prolong the sacrifice for two weary hours,
while Nabonidus, faint for food and dropping with weariness, was obliged
to stand over the sacrificial altar, chanting Sumerian prayers and
feeding the flames with oil, while the savory goat's flesh slowly
broiled before him.

At ten o'clock, however, he was able to make a dignified retreat from
his religious duties; and then, reaching his own room, and putting his
faithful eunuch on guard at the door, he left an order that he should be
awakened only on the arrival of Nânâ-Babilû, when that dignitary came to
escort him to the review of troops. This would be about two hours after
midday; and until that time Nabonidus threw himself down upon his couch.
The tired eyelids closed over the tired eyes. For a little time
earth-troubles faded from him, while in his dreams the beloved dead were
restored to him again.

When he awoke, Nânâ was at his side, looking down at him solemnly, his
arms folded across his breast. The king started up, annoyed at having
been left undisturbed for so long. The room was wrapped in twilight, and
the face of the visitor was in shadow. Something in his general's
manner, or perhaps in his attitude, caught Nabonidus' attention, and
presently, having risen from his couch, he said, tentatively:

"You are late--very late, Nânâ. Evening is upon us. Surely the review--"

"There was no review, Nabu-Nahid, my lord. I bade thy servant not
disturb thy rest. There was no need. I came to quiet thy fears--if,
indeed, there is fear in thee. Yet Chaldea knows thy race for a brave

"Speak, Nânâ--speak! These words of thine come strangely to me. Or do I

Nânâ smiled grimly. "There is no dream in this, O king, that Gobryas and
his army of Medes and Persians are encamped before the city, and that
half my troops refuse to obey my commands."

Nabonidus went back to his couch and seated himself on the edge of it.
"At what hour did the enemy come?" he asked, quietly.

"At four hours after sunrise, about the time for the close of the
sacrifice, they were observed by the men in the north watch-towers. They
marched around the city, out of the reach of arrows, and are now
encamped before the south gate."

"And there has been no move to draw them into battle? There has been no
sortie? The old form of war--"

Nânâ-Babilû bent his head upon his breast, and all of a sudden Nabonidus
came to himself and realized their situation. Before the slow, orderly
procession of thoughts that passed through his mind he did not lower his
head nor take his eyes from the form of his general. After a little
while he rose again, without any appearance of agitation, crossed the
room, pushed aside the curtain of the door, and gave certain orders to
the statue-like eunuch who waited before it. Then, returning, he sat
down in the ivory chair to wait, while, in obedience to a gesture, Nânâ
took one of the tabourets at a little distance from the bed. Then the
two men sat together, waiting silently. Presently a slave entered the
room bearing two lighted lamps, which he hung upon their accustomed
hooks in the wall. In the new light the king turned to his officer.

"When have you eaten?" he said, kindly.

"A little before dawn to-day, lord," was the reply.

"Bring thou food and wine for both, then," commanded the king; and the
eunuch, bowing, left the room.

When they were alone Nânâ's figure drooped back into its place; but the
king, with a sudden nervous spasm, got up and began jerkily to pace the
room. The general's eyes followed his movements questioningly, but for
some moments Nabonidus did not speak. Then, very suddenly, so that his
companion started, he burst out:

"Thou, too, Nânâ! Thou, too, Nânâ-Babilû! Dost thou also betray me?"

"My lord!" The commander sprang to his feet. "My lord!" he said again.

"Tell me truly, tell me plainly," went on the king, tumultuously, "is
there left in my kingdom one man that I dare trust? Is there still one
that I know to be true?"

Nânâ-Babilû looked at his king straightforwardly, grimly, honestly. "My
life belongs to the kingdom, to thy house," he said. "And in my ranks of
men there are many to be trusted. But there are also those that have
taken the bribes of Ludar and the college. Therefore the true from the
false among my own I cannot tell. How many there are of the one, how
many of the other, I do not know. When it is necessary we will strive
with our lives to defend the city; but how it will go with us, only the
great gods know."

Nabonidus heard him and sighed. He could not but believe this man, this
friend, this faithful servant of his; and his moment of passion was
over. As he came back to his chair three slaves entered the room,
bringing with them trays of food and a jar of wine. These were placed on
the fixed table, and a light couch was brought in and set before it for
the king. Nânâ was supposed to sit in his lord's presence. When at
length the slaves had been dismissed, Nabonidus lay down at table with
an air of mild pleasure at which Nânâ stared a little. Nabonidus had,
indeed, a reputation for courage principally because of the apathetic
manner that invariably came to him in times of real stress. And yet
Nabonidus realized to the full the gravity of his position.

"Nânâ," and there was the shadow of a smile in the king's face--"Nânâ,
if it comes that the city should fall, how wilt thou defend me from the
blood-thirsty Gobryas?"

"O King, I would have spoken with thee on this matter, for thou, like
all those in Babylonia, art in great danger. If Gobryas knows that thou
art in Sippar the city will surely be assaulted, and will as surely
fall. Therefore it is Sharrukin's wish, and mine, that, for thine own
sake, thou shouldst leave Sippar secretly as soon as possible--to-night,
if thou wilt. A disguise may be sent here to thee. Thine own guard shall
follow thee; and I think thou canst still take the road to Babylon
without undue risk. But if thou wait--wait till Gobryas learns thy
presence here--thou and Sippar, ay, and thus Babylonia, are lost."

"I and Sippar, but not Babylonia, Nânâ. Bel-shar-uzzur rules over the
Great City now, and he is stronger than I. He will make a good king for
this troubled land. For me--éhu! I am full of years, and weary--weary
for the silver sky. Matters it greatly how soon I go? Nay! Speak no more
of it. I forbid it, and I am the king. Tell Sharrukin that I remain in
Sippar--until the end."

Nânâ, daring to say no more, looked regretfully into the faded eyes of
the old man before him. Of every one that he had ever known, Nabonidus
was the last whom he would have expected to take this attitude. But
eddying shallows sometimes hide treasures as rare and as beautiful as
those that lie in the deep, smooth-flowing waters of greater streams.
This little pearl of courage, then, was not less admirable because it
was the treasure of a brook rather than of deep river or the sea. And
Nânâ tried no more to persuade the king to leave Sippar, though, indeed,
he felt what the end must be.

The conversation, when it revived between them, strayed away into
winding paths, through Nabonidus' fads of poetry, archæology, and
architecture, to the inevitable highway of priestcraft. With this road
Nânâ was as familiar as the king, knowing more of its detail in this
part of the land than his master.

"Let it be forgiven that I ask of thee a question, O king! Hast thou
faith in thy safety in this house? Dost thou believe that Ludar may be
trusted to keep thy person from harm?"

Nabonidus looked at his companion thoughtfully. "To this house I came,"
he said, "because I would have defied its dwellers. Now, indeed, that
Gobryas is before the city, my safety is not assured. Yet here I will

"Ludar--knows he that I am here?"

"I do not know. Let us call Ludar hither, Nânâ, and speak with him of

"Thou wilt never read Ludar's mind by his words, O king. Yet--let him be

"Kudashû!" shouted the king, accordingly, and at the cry the waiting
eunuch came quickly in. "Kudashû, bear word to the priest Ludar that I
would talk with him. Let him return with thee here."

There was a prostration and an exit, and then silence. Neither the king
nor Nânâ said anything till, ten minutes later, the slave returned

"Ludar follows thee?" asked Nabonidus, quickly.

"May the king regard me with favor--Ludar is not in the college. He is
gone forth into the city, none knows why."

The man was dismissed with a nod, and the two were left alone again.
Presently Nânâ rose and made his obeisance.

"Lord king, I must go forth. The hour is late, and I have not yet
numbered the night-guards. Before I go--let it please thee to take up
thy abode from to-morrow in the palace of Sharrukin. Everything there
was prepared for thee. Here, with Ludar, thou art not safe. If thou wilt
not escape from Sippar, come thou and take up thy dwelling with those
that regard thee with loyalty and devotion." Nânâ was not an emotional
man, but the feeling in these words was genuine, and Nabonidus was

"The gods send thee peace of heart," he said, gently.

"My lord king will not come?" persisted the soldier.

Nabonidus shook his head with a faint, stubborn smile, and, a moment
later, he was alone. For some time after his general's departure the
king sat looking vaguely into space, his lips straightening more and
more and the lines round his mouth growing stern. Presently the eunuch
glided quietly into the room and took up his position by the door,
standing there as he was trained to do when the king was alone.
Nabu-Nahid regarded him reflectively for a moment and then said:

"Kudashû, Ludar and Nânâ are gone into the city. I also will go. Bring
to me my mantle, and come thou behind me. I will behold Sippar by

Kudashû obeyed promptly, but a few seconds later, as the king was
donning his white coronet and cloak, he ventured to say: "O king, live
forever! Let me summon for thee some of the soldiers of thy guard, that
they may follow thee on thy way."

"Is thy body weary, Kudashû?"

"Nay, lord my king; but my arms are weak to strike for thee."

"By Ninip! is the whole world waiting to slay me? Stay thou here, then,
with thy arm, weak one! I will go alone."

"Nay, nay, father of Babylon! I go gladly. Yet, fearing for thy safety,

"Be silent, foolish one. I go alone. Behold, I have spoken. It is my

And in the face of plea, protest, and remonstrance, go forth alone
Nabonidus did, into the city of Sippar.

The streets were quiet. Early though it was, lacking yet two hours to
midnight, few towns-people were moving about. A general weariness had
followed the merry-making of the past night, and this, added to
the feeling of solemnity attendant on the actual arrival of the
long-expected invading army, had closed the doors of many a house at an
unwonted hour, and caused citizens of an ordinarily convivial
temperament to betake themselves to an early couch. Most of those abroad
in the streets were soldiers, on their way to or from the watch-towers.
It was a curious condition for the first night of a siege, and Nabonidus
could not but wonder, as he proceeded, at the extraordinary calm of the
people; for he had known many a beleaguered city, but never one that
presented a spectacle of such quiet on its first night of defence.

The night was fair, and with the coming of darkness there had sprung up
a faint breeze that came from the east, across two rivers, bearing with
it a breath of cooling fragrance. The moon was just past its second
quarter and hung suspended, in a soft, golden aureole, over the western
walls of the city. By its light the houses and towers of the town stood
out in wavering outlines against the grayish, star-strewn sky. The
stillness that wrapped the city trembled, when, occasionally, it was
pierced by a distant shout of laughter or a command called out by one of
the guards on the walls.

Nabonidus went on and on, unheeding the distance that he traversed,
allowing himself to be permeated with the night. The spotless white of
his robes caused him to be taken for a priest by the few whom he passed.
None offered to molest him. None gave him more than a fleeting glance as
he went along. After what he could hardly realize had been an hour of
walking, he found himself standing before the great south gate of the
city, through which he had come that morning. It was closed now, and
guarded with soldiers, some of whom stood or lay on the ground before
it, while others could be seen on top of the wall, walking to and from
the watch-tower, whence the confused camp of Gobryas' army could be made
out across the plain. No hostility had as yet passed between besieged
and besiegers. Not an arrow had been shot, not a javelin hurled.

The king stood off at a little distance from the gate, reflecting on the
scene before him. Presently there came a shout from some one outside the
gate, a word that was heard and answered from inside. There was a
question from the captain of the watch, to which an answer, inaudible to
Nabonidus, was returned. Then the small door in the gate opened. A
figure appeared from outside, and at sight of it Nabonidus moved swiftly
back into the shadow of the wall. The door was closed and barred again.
He who had come in paused to place something in the hand of one of the
soldiers. Then, without a word, he moved rapidly off in the direction
from which, a little while before, the king had come. Nabonidus stared
after him for a moment. His thoughts were in a whirl. Considering all
that he had known before, this incident had an unnecessarily strong
effect on him. It was only by means of a physical effort that he finally
pulled himself together and started on his return, a hundred paces back
of that other. In this fashion the two traversed the length of the city,
arriving at the college of the Chaldees in the same relative positions
as those in which they had started.

When, a few minutes after midnight, the king re-entered the building and
turned up the passage leading to his room, he found Ludar, wrapped in a
gray cloak, standing in the door-way talking with Kudashû. He hailed
Nabu-Nahid's appearance rather effusively.

"O king, live forever. What imprudence does he commit that wanders
abroad at night in the city streets!"

"And thou--wast thou guarded on thy way?" inquired the king, rather

"Nay, truly. But for me there is no danger. I am--"

"You say well, Ludar. For you, indeed, there is no danger! Shamash guard
your sleep!" And with this curt good-night, Nabonidus brushed past the
priest, closed the curtain of his room, flung off his mantle and
coronet, and threw himself down upon the chair that still stood
before the brick table. He was in a state of tremulous anger, of
discouragement, of heart-sickness, and his head drooped lower and lower,
and his hands clasped themselves on the table before him in the
tightness of mental pain. The light from the still burning lamp above
his head fell over his white figure, and a ray of it glinted off a jewel
that hung on a thin, golden chain from his neck. A refracted ray of this
presently shone in his eye and caused him to look down upon the gem that
he was accustomed to wear inside his tunic, next his skin. It was a
charm--a holy charm, blessed and consecrated to be a sure protection
against all bodily disease or danger. In some way, the fact that it came
to his sight now, unexpectedly, seemed an omen of good-fortune; and with
a brow less clouded, the old man rose, took the jewel in his hands, and,
falling on his knees before the image of the sun-god in his room, poured
forth a piteous prayer for rest and peace. And the sun-god heard him
doubly well.

It was not till early dawn began to peer from the east that the great
king, seeking his narrow couch, dropped into an untroubled sleep.

The following day, the fourteenth of the month, was a busy one.
Nabonidus again conducted the sacrifice. Then he returned to the college
and spent two or three long hours with a class of acolytes of the
highest order of embryonic priesthood. The noon meal he partook with
Ludar, and immediately afterwards was driven in his chariot to the house
of Sharrukin, where the afternoon passed quickly in a council over
military affairs.

It was half an hour to sunset when the king returned to his room in the
college and commanded his evening meal. He was drooping with fatigue, as
the result of his short night and his crowded day. Kudashû, therefore,
was ordered to refuse admittance to any one that should seek audience
with the king that night. After a change of garments, a bath, and more
prayers to Shamash, the king lay down on his couch, much refreshed in
body and mind, and eager for the food that was presently brought him. He
ate in the twilight, for that hour of the day always brought calm to his
spirit, and even at the close of the meal, when the room was nearly
dark, he still refused lights, but lay, immovable and alone, with the
ghost of the dead day whose golden bier had been borne across the
shadowy threshold of the night.

Gradually the king sank into a profound and vividly imaged reverie. His
thoughts went back into many long-past scenes of his youth and young
manhood; and, as he afterwards remembered, the last of these was
something apart from his own life. In the twilight there rose before him
clearly and distinctly the room in which he had said farewell to his
son. Here, under the glow of the hanging-lamp, clad in her crimson and
gold, with the veil of black hair drawn back from her face, was Istar of
Babylon, Belshazzar's wife. Beside her, transformed by the new power of
his life and love, was the storm-eyed prince, holding Istar's infant in
his arms. Nabonidus' eyes looked again into those of his son, and found
there something that now only he understood. A smile stole over the
childlike face of the old man. Belshazzar had found a heart-home.
Belshazzar was a king in spirit. What mattered it how soon in truth? The
vision grew brighter still, till the three figures were aureoled with a
divine light. Istar spoke to her husband, held out her arms for the
child. Then suddenly there came, from the passage outside the door, a
low murmur of voices and a quick cry. The vision crumbled. Nabonidus
started up. His ears were pierced by the sound of a shrill scream, and
the words spoken by Kudashû: "My lord! My king! Save thys--" Then came a
heavy thud as of a body fallen, and Nabu-Nahid leaped to his feet as
three men burst into the room.

Two of them were soldiers in armor. The third, who carried a lighted
torch, was in the garb of a priest. It was Ludar, the president of the

"How do ye thus enter my presence?" demanded Nabonidus, glaring about
him wrathfully.

Ludar shot a sharp glance at him, and the hands of the soldiers
tightened on their dripping pikes.

Nabonidus' question was fully answered, and he asked no more; but his
manner did not change. Perhaps he drew himself up a little, became a
little more royal, a little more angry, a little brighter of eye, a
little whiter of face. The soldiers stood mute and motionless, waiting
evidently for their next move to be ordered by Ludar, their leader. He,
after a moment or two, nodded to them.

"Do what is commanded to be done," he said.

In a breath Nabonidus of Babylon lay on his back on the floor, while the
two soldiers worked to bind him about with heavy thongs till he was
unable to move so much as a finger alone. Lastly the gag was put upon
him; but there was no need of it. During the whole business the old man
remained perfectly passive, perfectly still, gazing steadily up into the
face of Ludar, who presently refused to meet his glance, though he could
not, in that small room, get out of range of the pale, fixed eyes.

When their captive was perfectly secure, the soldiers lifted him in
their arms and carried him roughly out of the room, past the bloody body
of Kudashû, along the silent passage and out into the night, where,
before the door of the college, waited a cart, one of the rude vehicles
of the common people, drawn by a water-buffalo. Into this lowliest of
all conveyances the king was lifted and laid down. There was a word of
command from the soldier that clambered in beside him. The driver gave a
long shout, and the cart clattered away from the door of the college in
which, with his still burning torch, stood white-robed Ludar, left alone
with his triumph.

As they went along, the king, his gaze turned upward to the sky, could
see nothing of what was happening in the streets around him. But that
something unusual had occurred was only too apparent, and what that
something was, was not difficult to surmise. The city was filled with
soldiers, half of them in the uniform of the Babylonish guards, and half
of them in the dress of those that had entered the presence of the king.
Yet there was very evidently no hostility between them. Men, women, and
children were also in the streets, the last making an especial clamor
over this unexpected holiday night. Here and there bonfires burned in
the heat. In every direction torches flitted through the moonlight. And
still to the strained ears of the king came not one sound of combat, no
single clash of swords or whistling of stones from the sling. No. Sippar
had fallen, had fallen to Elam, without blood, without a suggestion of
defence, without one blow for this, Nabu-Nahid's, country, the country
over which he had ruled as justly and as gently as he could for
seventeen proud years. No. He had been left alone, utterly alone,
without a single hand to hold him back when others pushed him ruthlessly
forward to face the rainbow gates of the silver sky.

Through the city and out of the gate of Babylon and over the shadowy
plain for half a mile or more, the slow cart passed till it came to a
halt in the camp of the invader, in front of a great, crimson tent that
stood in the midst of a host of smaller ones, and on top of which, from
the head of a spear fastened to the central pole, hung suspended the
Persian sun-standard. Nabonidus saw this, rising against the shadowy
sky; and seeing it, he realized where they were.

There were two soldiers guarding the door of this tent; and, as the cart
halted before it, a short colloquy passed between them and Nabonidus'
captors. Then one of the soldiers disappeared inside, to come forth
again an instant later with an order. Nabonidus was lifted from the
vehicle and carried inside the temporary domicile of the general. He was
greeted by a glare of light so bright that, involuntarily, his weak eyes
closed before it. When he opened them again to look about, he had been
placed on his feet, and found himself facing a tall, heavily armored,
black-bearded fellow, with piercing eyes and an air of undeniable
dignity, who performed an obeisance due from a nobleman of rank to a

"Lord Nabonidus of Babylon, I bid you welcome to my tent in the name of
Bel, your god. I am Gobryas, general of the army of Kurush of Elam."

Nabonidus slowly bent his head. "I am your prisoner. Do your will with
me," he said, faintly.

"It is my wish, O king, that you sleep here to-night in peace. By rule
of war you are my prisoner. Yet know that I and all that is mine to
give, save only freedom, are at the king's command."

Again Nabonidus bowed his head; and then, lifting it slowly, he gazed at
Gobryas with a question in his eyes.

"I ask of you to speak, lord king!" said the general, with all courtesy
in his tone.

Nabonidus drew a quick breath. Then, with an effort, he said:
"Sippar--is fallen--to you?"

Gobryas bowed, with regret in his attitude.

"And my servants--Nânâ-Babilû, and Sharrukin, the former governor of the
city, where are they?"

"O king, they have suffered the fate of the conquered. They alone, out
of all Sippar, were killed in defending their palaces."

"They alone," whispered the king to himself, wearily. "They alone? Nay,
there was one other--one other faithful servant had I in my kingdom. I
pray that Bel--re--ceive--" The old man reeled where he stood. Gobryas
sprang quickly forward, catching him before he fell. And as he gazed
upon the helpless, innocent face of the fallen king, Gobryas was
constrained to wonder a little whether the part he had played in this
game of unwarlike war were quite worth the suffering it inflicted upon



Eight days after the fall of Sippar, the army of the Elamite king lay
encamped before Babylon. Not so vast an army, after all, this that had
come out of lower Chaldea, after a series of astounding victories, to
take the Great City from her king. Less than half a mile from where the
gigantic height of Nimitti-Bel shut off the northeast horizon, the tents
of Cyrus' army lay scattered over the parched plain. The largest of
these, over which hung the royal standard, stood in the centre of the
first line of the encampment, where it was most prominent to the eye
from the city walls, and in the place of greatest danger in case of a
sortie from the city.

Inside of Cyrus' tent, on this third day of the inactive siege, sat the
royal commander himself, hard at work. The weather, even to a Babylonian
born and bred, was nearly unendurable. To one who had been reared in the
hills and had ruled over mountain-built Susa, with her fresh northerly
winds and cold torrent streams, the temperature of a Chaldean summer was
something to be marvelled at. To-day the conqueror half sat, half lay
upon the couch in his tent, dictating letters to three scribes, who bent
over their bricks in a steaming row in the door of the tent. Both the
manner and the voice of the Achæmenian betrayed his intense fatigue.
Nevertheless he kept steadily on, formulating various curious plans for
the prosecution of his siege.

A short, rather stocky man, this Cyrus, with thick, curling hair, a
beard more golden-brown than black, and eyes so piercingly brilliant
that it was difficult to determine their shade. His face had been tanned
to a leathery brown by years of exposure in various climes; but his
hands were smooth, shapely, and well-kept. In dress, there was no hint
of either soldier or ruler. His head was bound round with a red fillet
embroidered in black and gold. His body was clothed in the lightest and
simplest of yellowish cotton tunics, narrowly bordered with red. On his
feet he wore sandals, and his ankles and calves were bare. Only by his
eyes and by the quick decisiveness of his manner could one have guessed
that his station was high. And yet, with these two things to go by, few
would have failed to select this man out of a hundred others as being
indeed Kurush, the king.

Besides the king and his three scribes, there was one other person in
the royal tent on this blazing afternoon of the twenty-second of the
month Duzu. This was a young man, tall and meagre in body, with a
peculiarly long head, a face not wholly devoid of beauty, but with an
expression lurking about the lips and eyes that one who loved him would
not have cared to analyze. Richly dressed was this youth, much belted,
chained, and braceleted with silver and gold, his tunic elaborately
embroidered, the very thongs of his sandals wrought with lapis-lazuli
and crystals. It was Cambyses, eldest son and heir of the great Cyrus,
who thus lay in the presence of his father, sighing out his weariness
with the heat, with the campaign, with the lack of fighting, with the
length of days--with anything and everything that it came into his head
to say, and with that everything twisted into a complaint.

Cyrus, long accustomed to this monotone as an accompaniment to his
afternoons of labor, listened to it abstractedly as he continued his
letters. The train of thought that could not be disturbed by words,
however, was presently broken by a shadow passing the door-way of the
tent; and he suddenly looked up, staring at the second scribe, trying to
return to his sentence, but able to think of nothing but the last
imprecation uttered by his son.

"In the name of Ahura the blessed, Cambyses, get you from my presence
till these labors are at an end! Follow Bardiya into the camp, go where
you will, but leave me to the letters that must be despatched to-night
if there be no word from Gobryas this afternoon."

"May he soon come!" muttered the first scribe; and the second and third,
hearing, sighed in unison and wiped the sweat from their dripping brows.

Cambyses had risen and was doubtfully contemplating the prospect of the
camp. Cyrus had come back to the subject of his epistle, and the scribe
sat with his cuneiform iron poised in the air, when the scene was broken
up. A horse, carrying a rider who clung to its bare back like a monkey,
one hand twisted in the mane for guidance, came dashing up over the
plain from the northwest and stopped at the tent door. The rider leaped
to the ground, bending his head slightly before the king, and shouting,
in a clear, fresh voice:

"News, my father! News at last! Gobryas with his army is three miles
away. He will reach us by nightfall!"

Cyrus sprang to his feet. "How know you this, Bardiya?"

"I have seen them all, spoken with the general, and return to thee as
his messenger."

Cyrus quickly waved his hand to the scribes. "Get you to your tents. Do
not return to me till I shall command."

He waited while the three men picked up their stools in sober joy, and,
saluting the royal master with a single accord, departed in an orderly
file. When they were out of hearing, and Cyrus and his two sons were
quite alone, the king let fall the crimson flap over the tent door, and
then turned to Bardiya with his face very eager. "The king, Bar--"

"Gobryas brings with him Nabu-Nahid, the king of Babylon, a prisoner, to
deliver him up to you."

Cyrus nodded, with less satisfaction than the boy had expected, and then
thoughtfully bent his head. There was a short silence, which neither of
the sons dared break. They saw an expression of trouble creep into their
father's face. They saw him frown, and they heard him sigh. Then
suddenly he crossed to a small coffer in the lent, and drew from it a
long, white streamer.

"Bardiya, fasten this to the head of the spear on top of the tent. Put
it there thyself, and at once."

The boy, in extreme surprise, received the pennant from his father's
hand and went outside with it. Fifteen minutes later it was floating in
the hot afternoon wind from the top of the royal tent; and ten minutes
after that a white-robed acolyte had left the summit of Nimitti-Bel and
was speeding through the fields on his way to a certain house in the
centre of the city.

The afternoon passed. It came to be the hour of day's death, and in that
hour the final junction of the two invading armies was to be effected.
Seven months before, in the hills of Elam, they had separated, Gobryas
marching to the north, Cyrus to the south. And now, each of them having
fulfilled to the letter his plan of campaign, there remained only one
thing more to do, the taking of that city which, six years ago, Cyrus
had found impregnable to arms, and which he was now to assault in a less
honorable and surer way.

The lamps in the royal tent were already swinging from their chains in a
glow of fire, and the full moon was rising from the east over the city,
though the sky was still too white for stars, when Cyrus, with Cambyses
on his right hand and Bardiya on his left, stood in the door-way of his
tent, waiting. Over the plain, at no great distance, could be seen a
slow-moving line of horses and men. In front of this line, advancing at
full gallop, came a single chariot, drawn by three white horses
harnessed abreast, and carrying three men--the driver and two others.
This vehicle hurried along straight in the direction of the royal tent,
until presently Cyrus stepped eagerly forward, while his sons cried in
one voice, "Gobryas!"

The chariot came to a halt, and from it leaped a tall, bearded fellow,
whom Cyrus seized in his arms and clasped delightedly. "Welcome, lord of
Sippar. Welcome, O conqueror!" he cried, in the Aramaic language,
generally used in his camp, and understood by Babylonian, Jew, and
Elamite alike.

Having been embraced, Gobryas saw fit to bend the knee before his
master, saying: "I bring the king my lord his royal prisoner. He is full
of years and weary with the length of day. Let him, I pray, be removed
to some tent that befits his rank, where refreshment may be given him."

Three pairs of eyes looked quickly up to the chariot, but Nabonidus'
back was turned to them. He stood there alone, his chained arms at his
sides, looking off upon the walls of Babylon. His face was invisible;
but Cyrus, seeing it, would not have known the expression. As it was,
when the conqueror stepped up to the chariot and spoke a word of
courteous greeting, the old man turned to him a dull and gentle

"O king, Nabu-Nahid of the Great City, let thy body find rest and
refreshment here in my frail dwelling-place! In the name of the blessed
Ahura-Mazda, I, Kurush, bid thee welcome. Descend from the hot chariot
and enter my tent."

Nabonidus acknowledged the courtesy with old-accustomed graciousness. In
alighting from the vehicle he stumbled a little in his great exhaustion.
Instantly Bardiya and Gobryas started to his side, and, each taking an
arm, assisted the fallen king gently inside the tent, prepared for him
the couch on which Cambyses had spent the afternoon, and made him
comfortable upon it while Cyrus called to a slave to bring food and wine
to all.

The five of them partook together of the evening meal, while
conversation ran upon general topics. Nabonidus did not speak; nor,
though the others did not guess it, did he listen to what was said.
Cyrus and his general might have discussed their most secret plans
without risk of being overheard or understood, for Nabonidus' heart was
beyond them, in Babylon, and his thoughts were of his world, not of

After the meal was over, however, Gobryas leaned across to the king and
whispered, just audibly: "I must go forth now, for a time, to oversee
the encampment that you have commanded. While I am gone, were it not
well that Nabonidus be put in a tent of his own, under guard, that when
I return we may talk freely of many things?"

"Nabu-Nahid--" Cyrus hesitated a little in his reply. "Nabu-Nahid will,
I think, not sleep in this camp to-night. He is to be delivered into
other hands, to which, many weeks ago, I promised to intrust him."

"Whose are they?" demanded Gobryas, roughly, without any of the respect
due to his lord.

Cyrus failed to resent the breach. His expression betokened regret as he
opened his lips to reply. But before a word left his mouth two figures
appeared suddenly in the door-way--two white-robed figures, only one of
whom wore the goat-skin on his shoulder. Before Cyrus could turn to
them, the prisoner on the couch sprang suddenly to his feet, and a cry
rang out into the night:

"Amraphel--thou dog!"

Then silence ensued. Gobryas, whose back had turned to the door, moved
slowly round. Catching sight of the new-comers, he suddenly realized
what Cyrus had meant: suddenly knew why Nabonidus would not sleep that
night safely guarded in the camp. The high-priest of Babylon, and the
leader of the Jews, in response to a prearranged signal, had come to
claim their own--part of their payment for the betrayal of the city.

As he looked and understood yet more, Gobryas' face darkened with
disgust. He could imagine well enough what was to follow, and his spirit
revolted against taking any part in it.

"Let my lord give me permission to retire!" he demanded gruffly of

The king nodded to him, and the general forthwith, with a curl of the
lip and a flash of disdain at the Babylonians, brushed his way by them
and hurriedly left the tent. His departure removed the single
disinterested element in the scene--and those that remained to enact it
drew mental breath. For a moment or two no one moved. Priest and Jew
stood facing the conqueror, the three of them eying one another in full
understanding of this consummation of their plot. The conqueror's sons,
more than half cognizant of the whole significance of the affair,
shifted their glances from one figure to another with a vague sense of
foreboding. Lastly, Nabonidus, the central figure in the scene, stiff
and faint in his unutterable desertion, hair and face far whiter than
his stained garments, confronted, with an air of supreme accusation, the
two betrayers of his people. The silence was long, and nearly
unendurable. Amraphel would not speak; Cyrus could not; the young men
did not dare. It remained for Belti-shar-uzzur, evading that burning
glance of Nabu-Nahid's, to address himself to the conqueror:

"We have seen the signal, Kurush, and have answered it. We are come to
receive our own."

For the shadow of an instant Cyrus dropped his eyes. He said, anxiously:
"Leave the prisoner here. I swear to his safety. He shall come to no

Amraphel stepped forward with menace in his eyes. "The promise! Remember
the promise! Remember, or we fail you. Babylon to thee--Nabu-Nahid to

At these words two cries rang out through the tent. The one was from
Nabu-Nahid, the other from Cyrus' youngest son. The boy stepped forward
quickly, his feeling plainly written in his young face. "My father!" was
all he said; but before the words, and the unutterable things they told,
the head of the great warrior fell and his heart smote him.

"Give us our tribute, Kurush!" sneered the Jew, scorning the scene.

"Take what was promised you," answered the conqueror, slowly.

Belti-shar-uzzur stepped forward exultantly and would have put out his
hand to touch Nabonidus' arm, when the old man quickly turned from him
and cast himself at Cyrus' feet.

"Thou wearest, there at thy waist, a knife, O conqueror! Let it by thy
hand rest in my heart!" he cried out. "Send me not forth, great king, in
the power of these two, or I die terribly! I die alone, in the night,
with none to close my eyes!"

Cyrus turned his head away. "Take the prisoner from my sight, ye dogs,
or I will hold ye both here also! Take him from me!"

At this Daniel, starting forward, threw himself on the kneeling king,
caught him about the meagre body, swung him up to shoulder, and would
have started out of the tent when Amraphel stopped him.

"The gag," he muttered, sharply.

Bardiya started forward, his hand on his sword; but his father, catching
him by the girdle, held him in a grasp of iron till the operation was
over and the piece of wood lay in Nabu-Nahid's mouth, fastened there
with a white bandage. His hands and feet were also bound with leathern
thongs, and after this the body, now as helpless as a log, was borne out
into the night in the arms of the Jew. Then Cyrus and his sons were left
alone, nor, during the remainder of that unhappy night, did they speak
one to another.

In the mean time Daniel had carried the king to where, some yards from
the entrance of the royal tent, there stood a closed litter, such as was
used by women of rank. Beside it, as it rested on the ground, were its
four bearers, stalwart men, muffled from head to foot in white--slaves
of the house of Amraphel. None of these mute, dark-faced creatures
stirred as their master returned to them with his companion and his
companion's burden. Only, as they came close, the foremost fellow
silently threw back the curtain from one side of the basket-like couch.
Daniel stooped and laid the body of the king on his back on the cushions
inside. The king closed his eyes. The curtain was lowered and Amraphel
gave the signal. The four slaves seized the poles and, softly singing
their working-chorus, raised their burden waist-high and began their
walk back to the gate of Sand.

It was a twenty-minute walk, and was accomplished without adventure.
When they came to a halt outside the gate, Nabonidus, anxiously
listening, could hear nothing but a suggestion of whispering between
Amraphel and some one whom he believed to be the captain of the gate.
Presently their way was resumed, and the company passed into the city. A
little distance inside, the litter stopped again and was set down on the
ground. The curtains were thrown back, Daniel bent again over the king,
took him about the body, and, lifting him, laid him in one of two
chariots that stood waiting. In his single fleeting glance Nabonidus
recognized both of these as belonging to Amraphel's house. The king lay
in the one that Daniel entered. From the other, where Amraphel stood,
came presently the long, peculiar cry for the starting of the horses.
Daniel's driver echoed it. The animals sprang forward, and the long
drive through the city began.

In spite of the jolting misery of that ride, Nabonidus preferred it to
the litter. Air came freely to his lips, and now he could see a little
of what they passed. The moon was well up in the unclouded sky, lighting
the fields and streets of the Great City for the last passage of her
last native king. Nabonidus' heart was full, but he did not weep. The
end to which he was going was unknown. Yet this, for him, was, as he
knew well, the last sight of his beloved city. Still, even as he went,
the moonlight fell athwart the sapphire charm that hung upon his neck,
and sent forth a thin gleam of the blue light of hope--a hope that could
not be brought to fulfilment by anything short of a miracle.

The horses on both the chariots were swift, and it took scarcely a
half-hour to reach the second gate of Sand in Imgur-Bel. Through this
they passed without parley, and the journey across the inner city was
begun. They had entered Babylon at the extreme west, a little to the
north of the canal of the New Year, which, as they drove, could be seen
in the distance, shining clear as silver frost in the moonlight,
reflecting in its placid surface the shadowy black buildings near it on
either side. Ribâta's house was too far distant to be seen; and the
tenement of Ut rose tall and gaunt a long way to the south. Ten minutes
later the hurrying vehicles clattered into the Â-Ibur-Sabû. They
continued along the famous way for little more than a quarter of a mile,
and then turned to the east again, till, at something near eleven
o'clock, they came to a halt beside a small, neglected building on the
bank of the river Euphrates: mighty Euphrates whose Chaldaic waves were
of tears to-night. Here, evidently, was their destination. Nabonidus,
aching in every joint, groaning wretchedly in his heart, was lifted
again in Daniel's arms. He had one glance at the river and the group of
royal buildings clustered thereon but a little distance away. For one
instant the three famous palaces and the mound of the hanging gardens
met his eyes. Then they were lost to him, for the world swam and grew
black, and he fainted.

Two minutes later, when he returned into a dim consciousness, he was in
a place that he soon came to recognize. It was the temporary abode of
his strange gods. The interior, lighted by two torches, that burned blue
and ghostlike on the bare brick walls, was utterly forlorn. The walls,
floors, and ceiling were of crumbling gray brick, unrelieved by a single
color or attempt at ornament; and the usually open door-way was now
closed by a black curtain. So much he saw in the first moment of
arrival. In the next he realized that the gag had been taken from his
mouth and that his arms were being unbound. In the third the voice of
Amraphel was heard, bidding him rise. Obediently he made the attempt,
got, with much effort, to his feet, reeled blindly, and was saved from
falling again by Daniel. Amraphel's lip curled. Nevertheless he helped
the old man to sit down with his back to the wall. Then, when Nabonidus
had blinked a little and grown steadier as to his head, the high-priest
stood over him and spoke:

"Thou, O weak one, hast been king of the Great City. King of her shalt
thou be nevermore. Here thou art, alone, unheard, unseen, in my power
and the power of the captive Jew. Death hangs over thy head; yet by one
means thou mayst save thyself. Wilt thou hear?"

Nabonidus, looking at him steadily, nodded.

Amraphel continued: "No man, Nabonidus, either fears or loves thee. Thy
power over the people of the Great City does not by one-twentieth equal
mine. But at thy passing there are two--two whom I hate--and, I say it,
fear--that will struggle for the crown thou hast borne. One of these
thou hast seen to-night--the Achæmenian. The other is the child of thy
flesh, not of thy spirit--Belshazzar the prince. Nabu-Nahid, if thou
to-night wilt swear, on penalty of the curse of all the gods, to remove
thy son and thy son's wives, and thyself and thy wives, and all thy
household, from the royal palace, and wilt swear that thou and he will
go forth in peace out of the Great City, to return no more to it
forever, if thou wilt do this--"

"Thou fool!"

Amraphel faced round. "What sayest thou, Jew?"

"Thou fool! Wilt thou put faith in the word of a man in the death fear?
Wilt thou play me false? There was to be no choice here to-night. Mine
eyes were to behold the blood of the enemy of my race. He shall find no
mercy--or, if he finds it, then thou shalt not!"

Amraphel grew white with anger; but, before he spoke again, Nabonidus
had struggled to his feet and stood supporting himself against the wall,
gazing with fiery eyes at his enemy.

"I also say it:--thou fool!" he said. "Think you, indeed, that because I
am old and feeble, and in the power of traitors, I would sell the
birthright of my son? Thou fool!"

At these words Daniel turned to the old man and looked thoughtfully at
him. But Amraphel, with a sneer, advanced a step or two, and said, in a
soft and menacing voice: "The hour is come, Nabu-Nahid. Prepare

"O Bel! Receive my spirit into the silver sky!"

Slowly Daniel drew his knife, but Amraphel was before him. Nabonidus saw
the weapon of his enemy flash in the torch-light. The gleam of it passed
over his deathly face. Just at the moment of the blow, a faint cry left
his lips. Then a long spurt of heart's blood shot from the body. There
was a sickening gasp--a fall--and the flesh only was there with the
murderers. Nabu-Nahid had gone. Belshazzar was king in Babylon.

The Jew had gone rather sick, and Amraphel himself was white to the
lips. "Let us go forth," he muttered, unsteadily.

"Fool!" said Daniel, for the second time. "Wilt thou leave here the body
of the king, that all Babylon may look on it at dawn? Shall thy
charioteer and mine say who it was that brought Nabonidus here? Thou
hast struck the blow. Hast thou lost strength to finish the work?"

Amraphel caught at his nerves and said: "What is there to be done?"

Daniel's lip curled, but he did not reply in words. Passing into a far
corner of the temple, he took up two fallen bricks that lay there and
brought them over to the body. At the sight Amraphel came to his senses.

"I will make fast this one to his feet if thou takest the hands," he
said, quietly.

Accordingly Daniel drew from his girdle two more leathern thongs, and
with them the weights were bound upon the body. Then the two stood back
and looked at their work. Amraphel was satisfied. Not so the Jew. One
more brick he fetched from the little heap in the corner and fastened it
on Nabonidus' neck, never noticing that in the operation he loosened and
dislodged something that had been around the throat of the king. The
last task finished, he stood back once more, carefully examining the
bloody corpse.

"Take out thy dagger," he said, finally, to his companion.

Amraphel shrank back. "I cannot!" he whispered.

Beltishazzar bent over and drew it from the wound. Blood followed it in
a thick stream. The Jew wiped the weapon off on the skirt of Nabonidus'
robe and silently handed it to his companion. "Now--take thou the feet,"
he commanded, himself lifting the shoulders of the light body.

Revolting as it all was, Amraphel could not but obey the word of the
Jew. Together they bore the body out of the temple, into the still
moonlight, down to the edge of the quietly flowing river. For an instant
they held it over the brink. Then, at a whisper from the Jew, they let
go together. There was a splash, an eddy in the water, a little red
stain on the clear stream, and then only a widening circle of ripples
remained to mark the resting-place of Babylon's last king.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late on the afternoon of the next day, Belitsum, the low-born second
wife of Nabonidus, sat, as usual, in the court-yard of her part of the
seraglio, in her usual canopied idleness. Morning prayers and exorcisms
had been said; the daily omens looked to; all the endless details of
superstition finished; and now the queen of Babylon was free to dream
away the rest of the day in comparative quiet. Beside her lay a piece of
unfinished embroidery, badly done; for her plebeian fingers had never
taken kindly to this work of the gentle-born. Two eunuchs waved over her
huge feather fans, of which the extreme size denoted her rank. Beside
her sat a pretty slave with a lute in her hand, though Belitsum was
paying no attention to the sweet monotony of the tune she played. The
queen was lost in one of those vacant reveries in which long years of
idleness and neglect had taught her to remain for hours.

Suddenly there came an interruption upon this quiet scene. A eunuch of
the outer palace hurriedly entered the court, and, prostrating himself
profoundly before Belitsum, asked permission to speak.

The queen was a moment or two coming out of her dreams, but she
presently recovered enough to find her curiosity, and to say with some
eagerness: "Speak, slave! Deliver thy message. Is it from the king?"

"May it be pleasing to the queen my lady! No word hath come from
Nabu-Nahid. It is a soothsayer that comes in royal state, beseeching the
ears of the queen to incline to him."

"A soothsayer?" Belitsum relapsed into tranquillity. "Let him be taken
into the shrine. But also cause him to know that for this day the gods
have been propitiated."

As the eunuch departed, Belitsum, who had long since lost claim to youth
and the slenderness thereof, rose with an effort to her feet. "Kudûa,"
she said to the slave, who had also scrambled up, "wait thou my return.
I am going to the shrine."

Kudûa fell back willingly enough, while the queen, followed by her
fan-bearers, waddled slowly across the court-yard towards the specially
consecrated room in which any member of the royal harem might hold
conference with men of the outer world. In spite of her slow pace, the
queen reached the dimly lighted apartment in advance of the soothsayer;
and she occupied her time till his arrival in offering up a quick prayer
to Nindar, her especial deity. The Amanû had hardly been reached when
two figures appeared in the door-way, one the attendant eunuch, the
other a magnificently robed and coroneted man, in whom one accustomed to
his usual slovenly appearance would have had great difficulty in
recognizing Beltishazzar the Jew.

Belitsum, entirely ignorant of his race and station, judging him only by
his dress and bearing, came forward with hasty respect, leaving her
fan-bearers on either side of the small altar. At the same time Daniel,
accustomed of old to the rigorous etiquette of the court, made a proper
and graceful obeisance.

"Art thou indeed but a soothsayer?" inquired Belitsum, admiringly.

"No soothsayer I, lady queen of Babylon, but a prophet and a dreamer of
dreams. And it is by reason of a dream sent me by the Lord of my race
that I come to you, seeking audience. Open my lips, O queen, that I may
tell this dream!"

"Wilt thou have gold? Wilt thou have gems and silver? How shall I open
thy lips?"

"Bid me only to speak. Grant me the favor. Let me tell the dream, and
restrain thy tears till its truth be known."

At these last words Belitsum nervously clasped and unclasped her hands.
"Speak!" she said, quickly. "Tell thy dream! Speak!"

"In the evening of yesterday I lay down and slept. And in my sleep the
Lord appeared to me in a vision, saying: 'Go thou down to the temple of
strange gods by the side of the river, and there shalt thou find him who
was king in Babylon.' And thereat, in my dream, I arose and went down
through the city to the river-bank and the deserted temple thereon. And
there I beheld Nabu-Nahid, the king, in mortal combat with two men that
sought to kill him. And in my sleep I was withheld from giving him aid.
I saw him fall by the blow from a golden dagger, and when he was dead
the assassins, whose faces remained black to me, lifted him in their
arms and cast him into the river, and he sank from my sight. Then said
the Lord unto me again: 'Having beheld this thing, hasten to her who was
the wife of him that is dead and relate it to her.' And behold, when I
awoke I obeyed the word of the Lord; and, obeying, I now go forth from
thy presence." Whereupon Daniel, with a delightfully dramatic effect,
turned short on his heel, leaving the shrine, and in three minutes was
outside the palace gates.

Through his recital Belitsum and her eunuchs had remained open-mouthed,
rooted where they stood. It was not till the Jew had actually
disappeared from her sight that the queen's amazement was overcome by
her dismay, and, with a long-drawn, preliminary howl, she fell flat upon
the floor in an agony of despair. Nabonidus, her husband, was dead.
Never for one instant did her devout soul doubt the word of the prophet.
Nabonidus was dead, and she was a widow. The shrine echoed to the sounds
of shrieks, of groans, of wailing, finally of hysterical laughter. Now
and then an attendant, drawn thither by the sounds of woe, appeared in
the door-way, looked at her, at the bewildered eunuchs behind her, and
scurried away again in empty-headed wonder. Finally one, wiser than the
rest, went to the room where Belshazzar sat in council, and informed him
that his step-mother was dying in the harem shrine. The prince was
forced to believe the frightened and excited manner of the slave, and,
hastily excusing himself to his lords, he strode through the palace to
the shrine. In the door-way he halted. Belitsum was kneeling on the
floor, beating her breast and wailing out prayers for the dead. She did
not even notice the appearance of the prince.

"Belitsum--lady--what is thy grief?" he asked, gently.

No response. Ejaculations and redoubled wails.

Then Belshazzar, perceiving that she was bordering on frenzy, went
forward and took her by the shoulders. "Art thou stricken with a
sickness?" he demanded, loudly.

"Thy father--Nabu-Nahid--the king!" was all the answer he could get.

Belshazzar grew a shade paler. "My father!" He looked about him, and
caught the eye of one of the eunuchs in the corner. This man he
addressed. "What is the cause of this weeping? Knowest thou wherefore
she cries?"

The man nodded solemnly.

"Speak, then!"

Forthwith the slave began an intelligent recital of the occurrences of
the last half-hour, including a repetition of the dream in Daniel's own
words. Belitsum quieted enough during this speech to listen again to the
dream; but, after it was finished, the look on Belshazzar's face somehow
withheld her from recommencing her lamentations.

"Who was this man? Didst thou know him?" demanded the prince of the

"O prince, live forever! He was a strange prophet. Never before have
mine eyes beheld him."

Belshazzar bit his lip. His face was very grave. After a short pause he
took Belitsum by the arm and lifted her up. Then, turning again to the
eunuch, he said, quietly:

"Go thou and command my chariot to be brought, and let the driver be
alone in it."

Then, having almost tenderly returned Belitsum to the harem, and bidding
her restrain her weeping till his return, Belshazzar went forth to
dismiss his council for the morning, retaining Ribâta alone out of all
the councillors. Fifteen minutes later he and Bit-Shumukin together
mounted the chariot and set forth for the little temple of strange gods
on the bank of the Euphrates. During the drive Belshazzar related to
Ribâta the substance of what he knew; and, like himself, Ribâta's first
question was as to the identity of the prophet.

"There is one whom it might be," suggested the nobleman, when Belshazzar
had confessed himself at fault. "It may, perhaps, be Daniel the Jew."

"So at first I thought. Yet when has any man ever beheld Daniel in such
raiment as this prophet wore? The Jew is poor."

Ribâta demurred a little, yet could not but admit that Belshazzar had
all the evidence on his side. Then, as they neared the temple, silence
fell between them.

The little building stood before them utterly deserted. Not a human
being was in sight. It was a lonely spot--too far south of the bridge
and too far north of the ferry to be frequented by any one. The prince
dismounted from the chariot first, but in the curtained door-way of the
temple he paused.

"Ribâta," said he, softly, "I am afraid."

Bit-Shumukin's reply was to lay a brother's hand on his shoulder. Then
Belshazzar lifted back the curtain and entered the room. There came a
great cry from his lips, and the hideous sight was once more veiled in

"There is blood, Ribâta! It is blood!" whispered the prince, hoarsely.

"I saw it, Belshazzar. Yet it may be the blood of an animal, or of some
other man. I cannot think that thy father was yester-night in Babylon.
Come, let us look, my prince. Within we may find some trace--some
evidence of what has happened."

The prince shrank. "Wilt thou do it, Ribâta?" he asked.

Accordingly, while Belshazzar held aside the curtain that some light
might enter by the door-way, Ribâta, sick at heart, hunted over the
blood-splashed floor for some clew to the identity of what it was that
had died here. Belshazzar presently turned his back and stood staring
into the street, refusing to look, yet listening with every sense for a
dreaded exclamation from his friend. It came. As Bit-Shumukin bent over
the corner where Nabonidus had fallen, he found something that wrung
from him a low cry.

Belshazzar turned deathly white. "What is it?" he said, quietly.

Ribâta came to him with something in his hand. It was a small, shining,
blue stone, that showed itself in the sunshine to be an Egyptian-cut
sapphire of great value, attached to a wire of twisted gold.

Belshazzar took it dully from his hand. "My father wore it always on his
neck. Let us return to the palace," he said.

"But the body--it may surely be found!"

"The river hath it. Let her keep her own."

And so the two remounted the vehicle and started on their way back
through the city of which Belshazzar was king.



On that fateful morning Belshazzar was away from the palace less than
one hour; yet when he re-entered it he was aged ten years at heart, and
one, at least, in appearance. He neither saw nor heard any one as he
hurried through the great court-yard to his own room, whither Ribâta
accompanied him and remained with him till late afternoon, while they
two took council together. Belshazzar was unnaturally calm. Through all
their talk neither he nor Ribâta once hinted that either knew or cared
to know the identity of the murderers. For, whatever they suspected,
whatever was all but a certainty, both of them were too painfully aware
of Babylon's present situation not to know that any accusation they
might make of those whose power was now supreme, would do infinitely
more harm than good: would merely precipitate that frightful climax that
both of them dreaded and neither spoke of. Therefore, after a careful
debate, it was decided to keep the murder of Nabonidus a profound secret
until such time as the disclosure might be safely made.

"I charge thee as my brother, Ribâta," were Belshazzar's parting words
to his friend that day, "that thou let no man or woman, of whatever
station, know from thy lips who is king of Babylon. And save for Istar,
who is as myself, none shall know it from my lips. But also, as I live
and reign, there shall come a day, not too distant, when justice shall
be done--when this foul crime shall be avenged, as never crime before,
on them that have accomplished it."

Ribâta gave his promise in all devotion, and, embracing his king, bade
him farewell and set off to his own abode, his mind unstrung by the
fearful discovery of the morning.

Long hours before, Belshazzar had sent a message of reassurance to
Belitsum; and now, with a weary sigh of relief, he turned his steps
towards the distant apartments of his wife and child. With Istar, as he
knew, was peace and sympathy. Never yet had she failed to understand
him, and to offer him in his trials the comfort that he needed. His
mind, like his heart, was absolutely hers. Arrived at the threshold of
the room where, at this hour, she was always to be found, he stopped,
his hand upon the curtain. Some one within had been singing. Now,
noiseless as was his approach, the voice was silent. The curtain was
pushed aside. Istar stood before him with a smile in her eyes.

"I felt thy presence, lord," she said, in such a tone that his face
kindled with love-light. "Thou--Belshazzar! Art thou ill?"

"Yea, at heart," he answered. "Not in body. Be not afraid. Let me come
in to thee, that I may tell thee Babylon's new woe."

Istar took him gently by the hand and led him into the apartment. Inside
stood Baba, holding the baby to her breast. It was she whose voice
Belshazzar had heard. Belshazzar greeted the little slave, and then
Istar, knowing how he wished to be alone with her, whispered a word to
Baba, who a moment later went quietly away.

When they were alone Belshazzar sank back on the divan in the corner,
and Istar, laying her baby upon the bed, seated herself at her lord's
feet, laid her hands in his, and anxiously scanned his care-worn face.

"Kurush hath stormed the walls, Belshazzar? The city is taken?" she

"Nay, my beloved. My father hath been murdered in the city--in the
temple of the strange gods, by the river-bank."

"Thy father!" Istar gasped with horror. "Thy father! Oh, my lord--my
lord--save thyself! If they should do this with--" Istar's head sank
forward. She brought both Belshazzar's hands to her lips and held them
there in an agony of love and terror. So they remained for a long time,
sorrowing together silently: Istar for her lord, Belshazzar for the
city. But Istar's presence brought comfort to the heart of the king, and
her touch filled him with that high sense of protectiveness that
generates the truest courage. In this woman life had given him enough.
He had neither desire nor need for further blessings. His father had not
been to him all that a stronger man might have been. It was the horror
of that father's lonely death that now so completely overwhelmed him.
But Istar, feminine, weak even, as she had come to be, brought him his
full meed of consolation. The two of them wore the night away in council
for Babylon; for Istar's fears for her king had now become abnormal.
Belshazzar listened in surprise to her desperate prayers that he
surround himself with every protection, that he beware against venturing
out at night, that he wear armor under his tunic, and that he carry
weapons of defence always around with him.

"They that sought thy father's life seek also thine," she insisted, till
in the end Belshazzar left her with the promise that he would care for
himself as he would have cared for her.

If this promise were not to the letter kept, it was hardly to be laid at
Belshazzar's door as a fault. For at such a time as this, when the city
was in such peril, an example of cowardly fear from its ruler would have
resulted badly. After the death of Nânâ-Babilû at Sippar, and in the
face of the continued absence of Nabonidus, Belshazzar had taken on
himself the duties of absolute monarch--lord of the people and general
of the army. And certainly it never could be charged to him that he
neglected these duties. Early and late, sometimes from dawn until dawn
again, he worked on those endless details of civil and military life
that he alone could attend to. The city was in a state of siege. All the
gates in Nimitti-Bel were closed, and those in Imgur-Bel doubly guarded.
Also, in consideration of the fact that the food supplies coming from
the country were cut off, the great fields between the outer and inner
walls were under cultivation. A census was taken of every soul in the
city, and preparations made for the regular daily grain allotments to
come now from the granaries, and later from the new crops when they
should be ready for harvest. For, by careful management, no one in
Babylon need ever suffer from hunger, no matter how long a siege should
last. This Cyrus had learned once before, six years ago; and the
question now in the mind of every man was: Could he be made to cover it

Certainly the siege was conducted on an extraordinary plan. For ten days
the besieging army had lain in camp before the walls of the city, yet
not an arrow had as yet been shot on either side, not a javelin hurled
nor a stone slung. The handful of soldiers inside the walls were hardly
more than enough to man the watch-towers and guard the gates; and they
were under orders from Belshazzar to await developments passively.
Meantime they were kept in excellent form. Every day Belshazzar reviewed
them in the great field between the walls, and daily he examined a
certain number of men from his own regiment of Guti as to their
intelligence and ability. Also, late in the afternoon, it had become his
custom to drive on top of Nimitti-Bel in his chariot, showing himself to
the enemy and to the city also. There was little danger in this drive,
since the range from Cyrus' camp was too long for any known weapon, and
the height of the wall was an excellent safeguard against shots from
nearer at hand. At this time quite an extensive stable was maintained on
the giant wall. Chariots had been wheeled up the inclined plane that led
to the top of it, and orders were carried from gate to gate on horseback
along the top. Belshazzar's wild drives on that dizzy height became one
of the favorite sights of the citizens; and it grew to be the fashion
for numbers of people of all classes to drive out to Nimitti-Bel in the
afternoon, to witness the spectacle of the storm-prince in his golden
chariot lashing his four white horses madly along that smooth way, two
hundred and fifty feet above the ground.

On the afternoon of the twelfth day of the siege, one of the last days
in the month of Duzu, Charmides walked out beyond Imgur-Bel to see this
much-talked-of sight. At this time the Greek presented rather a
different appearance from that of six months ago. His resignation from
the temple of Sin had proved disastrous; and there were now times when
the meanest of food was not to be found in the house of Beltani.
Charmides had no work to do, would not beg, hated the thought of the
temple, grew gaunt and big-eyed, went unkempt as to dress, and mourned
over Ramûa, who in turn wept over him, both of them, and Beltani, too,
concealing their state from Baba with the utmost care. To-day, after a
troubled hour at home, where Ramûa's efforts at cheerfulness were like
blows to him, the Greek went out, in the face of a prostrating heat, to
seek by rapid walking an escape from the thoughts that pursued him, and
to evade the admission to himself of the inevitable end: that he must go
back to the profession of lies and of deceit; of treachery, of crimes,
of death. He made his way quickly across the city and out beyond the
first wall to a spot where green, well-watered fields stretched before
his eyes, putting him suddenly back into his youth. He halted in his
walk at a distance of thirty yards from the great wall, just behind a
group of people come evidently for the same purpose as his--that of
watching Belshazzar's drive. Rather absent-mindedly the Greek noticed
the man immediately in front of him, who had been in a measure connected
with his old life of the temple; and he watched the movements of that
lean, ill-kempt figure with the same keen sub-consciousness that one
sometimes exercises when the thoughts are very intent on something else.
It was in this way that he noted the sling in the right hand of the Jew.

There was not long to wait for the coming of Belshazzar. At a little
murmur from the men in front, Charmides turned his head and saw, far
down the wall, a black speck that gradually increased in size, and
finally resolved itself into four flying horses, harness and crests
flashing in the light of approaching sunset, that raced neck and neck
under the long, black lash wielded by him who stood alone in the
rattling vehicle--a figure the poise of which was beyond question royal.
Charmides looked on it with undisguised admiration--the superb head with
its golden coronet, the broad shoulders, to which was fastened a
fluttering, crimson cloak, and the hands flashing with jewels the least
of which would have kept the Greek's stricken household well fed for

Absorbed as were Charmides' eyes in the sight of the approaching figure,
he nevertheless felt his gaze suddenly withdrawn to the man in front of
him, who was now busily fumbling with the weapon in his right hand.
Suddenly a stone had been fitted into the sling and aim taken, and at
the same time Charmides' slow thoughts resolved themselves. Leaning
forward, he twitched the sleeve on the Jew's right arm at the moment in
which the stone flew forth, wide of its mark, while the chariot passed
safely by. Beltishazzar, with a Hebrew exclamation, wheeled sharply
about. Charmides faced him in silence. A look only passed between them,
but it was enough. In that little time they knew each other. Charmides
had made an enemy, and the all-powerful Jew felt a twinge of fear.

An hour after this incident Charmides and the king met, face to face, in
the middle of the Â-Ibur-Sabû. Belshazzar was in his ordinary chariot,
slowly returning from the walls. Charmides was on foot, going his weary
way back to the tenement of Ut. It occurred to the Greek to speak to the
lord of the city on the subject of his personal safety. He therefore
stopped in the road, directly in front of the royal horses. With a sharp
exclamation Belshazzar drew up his reins. Catching sight of the Greek's
face, however, and recognizing it, he paused to listen when Charmides

"Lord prince of the Great City--live forever!" he began, formally.
"There was to-day an attempt upon the most royal life of the prince my

Belshazzar stared a little. "How, Greek?"

"As the royal chariot drove along the top of Nimitti-Bel, a man, one of
the subjects of my lord, made endeavor to fell him by a shot from a
sling. I, pulling his sleeve at the moment, caused the stone to fly wide
of the mark. When next my lord drives it may be that I shall not be at

Belshazzar looked quizzically into the face of him who spoke these
laconic words. But he found no guile in the emaciated face. Instead,
there was something there that roused his interest. "Mount beside me,
Greek. I have not forgotten thee. Thou shalt return with me to the

Charmides refused. He had no desire for a cross-examination on the
subject that he had detailed as fully as he intended to the prince. All
efforts on Belshazzar's part to induce him to come were in vain.
Therefore, seeing that Charmides would have his way, Belshazzar did what
he could for the very apparent signs of pecuniary distress in the
youth's appearance. Detaching from his neck a golden chain wrought with
well-cut gems, he silently held it out to the Greek.

Charmides was much displeased. It was the first time that he had ever
needed a gift, and therefore the thought of taking this one shamed him.
"My words, O prince, were not a suit for gifts."

"Thy wife," suggested Belshazzar, inconsequently.

A flicker passed through the Greek's eyes, but he did not waver. "My
lord, I shall probably re-enter the priesthood."

"I think thee no such enemy to me. Come into my regiment of Gutium."

"Nay. I cannot fight. I will have no blood on my hands. I follow music
alone; and music forbids murder."

Belshazzar laughed slightly at the fellow's incomprehensible attitude.
"Go back, then, to temple service. I will trust thee there," he said,
good-naturedly. "And now, the name of him that would have had my life?"

Charmides opened his lips to speak, and then closed them again. "Ask me
not. Only beware and guard thyself."

The king bent his brows. "Greek, hast thou lied to me?"

"No, lord prince."

Belshazzar shrugged. "Out of my way, then!" he cried. And Charmides
stepped quickly out of the road while the king brought his whip over the
haunches of his steeds and started forward, tossing, as he went, the
chain of gold at the feet of the Greek. Nor was he ungenerous enough to
cast a single backward glance to see whether or no the hungry fellow
picked it up.

So Belshazzar proceeded on his way back to the palace, musing rather on
the incident of his little talk with Charmides than upon its
subject--the attempt on his life. More than this one time, and in more
dangerous ways than a sling-shot at a hundred yards, he had been
threatened with death. Those very drives round the walls carried with
them the possibility of a far more frightful end. But Belshazzar's was
an adventurous nature. And danger was his life, a life that the city's
state of quiescence had once led him to seek by other than reputable

On his arrival at the palace he went immediately to Istar's rooms,
determined to tell her nothing of the event of the afternoon, for her
fears for his personal safety would be thereby enormously increased. But
when he came to her he found another subject ready to occupy all his
thoughts. Istar was not watching for him at the door, as was her
invariable custom. Instead, he found her hanging over the bed on which
her baby lay ill--so ill that Belshazzar, on first seeing it, turned
pale for Istar's sake. And the look that he found in her face, when,
with a glad cry that he had come, she turned it to him, sent a pang to
his heart.

Istar's child, the fruit of her earth-love, had cost her her godhead,
but had returned her joy a thousandfold dearer than divinity had been.
Only now, as she stood bending over the helpless little form, racked as
it was with mortal pain, did the greatest world-horror, the horror of
death, first lay its hold upon her. The thought that this little being
whom she had brought into the world--whom, day and night since its
coming she had cherished with an all-powerful love and joy--_could_ die,
could cease to live for her forever, rushed over her as the waters close
over the head of a drowning woman.

Until an hour before the coming of Belshazzar, Istar had been alone with
the child, believing it to be suffering from some infantine ailment. But
finally the little creature's fever was so manifestly high, and its
distress so great, that she had commanded the attendance of the new
rab-mag, a man widely celebrated for the potency of his charms. He came
at once, examined the baby from head to foot, and noted certain things
that caused him to turn to the mother with a look of deep anxiety.

"Great lady," he said to her, "thou wilt do well to leave this child
alone, though before dawn it die. I, Kidish-Nindar, say it. Accept my
words, and put the child from thee for the sake of the Great City over
which thy husband rules!"

Then Istar, in fear and amazement--quickly and sharply dismissed the man
from her presence and turned again to the infant, that lay now in a
quiet stupor. It was so that Belshazzar found her, wetting the child's
forehead with her tears, pouring forth mingled prayers and the
incoherent, birdlike talk of a mother, while her own face took on the
color of chalk, and her eyes were bright with a dread to which she would
not, even to herself, give form.

The king, for a moment, took her place over the infant, and stood
regarding him while Istar told the story of the rab-mag's desertion.
Belshazzar would have commanded his return had not the mother forbidden
it. But when his displeasure had cooled a little, the king began to
ponder over the evident fear of Kidish-Nindar; and finally, bidding
Istar remain where she was, he took the child in his arms, carried it
across the room, and seated himself with it upon his knees directly
under a light. His back was turned to the divan, and Istar did not see
what he did. When he had finished his examination and carried the
faintly moaning child back to its place, he went over to her, and she
could not but start with dismay at the ghastly pallor that had come upon
him. Rising, she laid both hands upon his arm, looking silently,
wistfully, into his sad eyes.

"My lord!" she whispered, fear unlocking her lips.

Belshazzar, knowing the ineffable tenderness of her motherhood, could
not tell her what he knew. He said only: "Beloved, we will watch
together through the night."

But before that watch began Belshazzar left Istar's rooms for the space
of half an hour while he sought the apartment of Kidish-Nindar. The
rab-mag was frantically purifying his body and repeating mingled prayers
and exorcisms, in the hope of warding off that which he so unspeakably
dreaded. The king, by means of threats and bribes adroitly alternated,
extorted from the man an oath of silence, and then left him grovelling
on his knees before an image of Sin, while he, the king of Babylon,
returned to the vigil of his child.

Through the long night they sat together, man and wife, by the bedside
of the child. Together they watched the progress of that terrible
disease of which Istar was so happily ignorant. Together they saw the
flame of life struggle with the suffocating darkness in which it burned.
And they saw the little light grow feebler, and the flame flutter in the
wind that came across the dark valley of the beyond. Istar's brain
reeled and her heart grew sick. Still, as she sat with her gaze fixed on
the drawn face of the child, unconscious that Belshazzar's eyes were
always upon her, she refused to believe what was too apparent.

And there came a time in the early dawn when the mother could hold away
no longer. Lifting the baby from its place, she clasped it close to her
breast, carried it across to the soft divan, and lay down with the
little, fever-flushed body pressed warm over her heart. In this position
her eyes, weary with the long vigil, closed; and while she slept the day
broke. Belshazzar remained close at her side to watch the end alone. He
could not have told what it was that caused him to lift up his hands
there in the faint light, groping for something to which to cling, for
some higher power that should ease the terrible aching of his heart.
Suddenly the world had become a vast waste, and he was in it alone,
helpless and unutterably weary. And it was still without the hand of God
to help him that he saw the end come--the death of Istar's happiness and
of his own. It was while Istar still quietly slept that the white shadow
passed into space. And the woman awoke to find Belshazzar's hand in
hers, and the little body lying stiff and rigid across her bosom.

When Istar realized what had happened she made no outcry. She sat
clasping the lifeless form tighter to her own. Tearless, speechless,
motionless, she sat alone with that unbearable thing that mortals know
as the death-sorrow. Pitilessly it ate its way into her vitals. She
forgot everything that had been in her heart before. She was unconscious
of any living presence. She was bereft--bereft--and of her offspring. It
was in her mind to curse the God that had conceived such suffering and
put it upon man. And then there came a touch upon her arm that stilled
all her rebellion. Belshazzar's tears fell hot upon her cheek. Without a
word she lifted up to him the baby that was also his: and, when he took
it in his arms, she crept again over to the pillows, and as she laid her
face among them, the blessed tears came forth, and she could weep.

How long she lay there no one knew. Belshazzar had carried away the
body--the little body that had been hers; and when he returned to her he
brought a cup of wine. The child was gone. As he lifted her up in his
arms she asked a mute question with her eyes, and he answered her

"The baby, most beloved, is gone. Our eyes may not again behold him.
Some day--some day--" he got no further. For an instant Istar had looked
at him in a dull, meaningless sort of way. Then, no longer knowing what
she did, her nerves suddenly giving way, she threw herself upon him in
blind anger, struggling like one gone mad, crying that he had stolen her
child from her, screaming till her voice was gone and her strength gave
way, and she fell into his arms a helpless, lifeless form.

Later in the day, when, with invincible patience and tenderness, he had
soothed her into quietude and had gone forth to his inevitable duties,
Baba came--Baba, who, since her day in the house of Êgibi, had been
Istar's constant companion.

Baba had come to love Istar's child almost as Istar herself loved it.
When, therefore, the little slave first came to the mother, she could
speak no words of comfort. Her tears flowed faster than Istar's own, and
she could only grieve beside the queen. Yet in some way this human woe
brought to Istar's lonely heart its first breath of comfort and of hope.
In the evening she began to speak to Baba of many half-forgotten
things--of her own mysterious birth, of her dim remembrances of a great
preceding existence, of those beings that had sometimes come to her on
earth from space. In the last few weeks Istar had become almost utterly
oblivious of her one-time divinity. Natural life and natural love had so
blunted her former faculties of perception that the past remained only
as a misty background to her life. Yet as her mind struggled to pierce
the mists that hid from her the glory of bygone days, a longing was born
within her heart--a longing ill-defined, yet so strong that she made,
perforce, painful efforts to formulate it.

"I have beheld the glory of the setting sun--the pale light of the newly
risen moon. The murmur of waters came to me as I slept. I beheld great
lakes and white palaces, and high towers shining in the morning light.
The scent of the lotus filled the air, and the rustle of the wind was in
the palm-trees. Tell me, my Baba--tell me that for which I thirst! Tell
me the great desire of my heart! Tell me, oh my Baba, where, in the same
hour, have I known all these perfect things?"

Baba, gazing at her with the big, wondering eyes that had never in all
her little life shone with the light of complete happiness, understood
the words of her golden lady. "I will bring the great comfort to thee,"
she said. "Wait till I come again." And, rising, she left the palace.

Through two still hours Istar waited there with her heart-sorrow,
trusting in Baba to bring that for which she thirsted. And at last, when
she had grown weary with waiting, Baba came again, and with her some one
else--Charmides, with his burnished hair and his pale, gaunt face,
carrying his lyre in his hand. With a silent obeisance to Istar, he
stood off at a little distance, and, opening his lips, began to sing.

Then, indeed, came the glory of the setting sun, the pale light of the
newly risen moon, with the whisper of waters and the shining gold of
great lakes. And around fair white towers and palaces hung the scent of
lotus flowers, and the murmur of the evening wind was in the palm-trees.
All things far and beautiful came home in the same hour to Istar's
senses. And as he sang again, the tears of mingled joy and woe flowed
from her eyes. Once more, and music, which is divine, opened divinity
again before her vision, and she rose up transfigured, crying:

"Allaraine! Allaraine! Mine eyes behold thee once again!"

Then the moment of fire faded, and she was alone with only Charmides and
his careworn, ethereal face, singing on in the fragrant accents of his
Sicilian land, till Istar's passion faded gently away, and she smiled a
little, and her eyelids grew heavy with sleep. Presently her flower-like
head drooped forward. The frail, white hands fell from where they had
been clasped upon her breast. Baba drew her down upon the divan, and
when Charmides' voice died at length away, a great silence was in the
room. Baba and the Greek were alone together. Charmides stood
transfixed, his eyes fastened upon the sleeping figure of her whom he
had once worshipped. He was roused from the look by a touch on his hand.
Baba was kneeling at his side, and her lips were pressed to the fingers
that had touched the magic lyre-strings, bringing peace to the soul of
Istar of Babylon.

       *       *       *       *       *

And thereafter ten days passed away, and it was the time of the great
yearly feast of Tammuz, the beautiful god of spring.



The midsummer month, Abû, dedicated to the "Queen of the Bow," was
ushered in with heat intense, suffocating, and unendurable. The second
day of the month was the sixteenth of the siege--so-called. The camp of
the Elamite remained perfectly passive. No preparations for fighting had
been made, neither battering-ram nor catapult constructed, not an arrow
let fly from the bow, not a pebble from the sling. The great body of
stout warriors from the vigorous north remained in demoralizing
idleness, broiling in their tents, sleeping by day, living and suffering
at night, while the city they coveted lay quiet, half lifeless, on the
plain before them.

The time had come for the great religious festival celebrated each year
in the Babylonian temples by priest, king, and people, in honor of
Istar's murdered spouse, Tammuz, the young god of spring, slain by the
fierce bolts of high-riding Shamash. This feast was of three days'
duration, and began at the hour of the first sacrifice on the morning of
the second of the month. It was the most important festival in the
calendar, and never yet in the history of the city had its celebration,
for any reason whatsoever, been neglected. And this year the royal
decree concerning it was issued as usual.

In the week that preceded the prospective holiday, however, the lord of
Babylon was subject to some unaccountable forebodings with regard to
this feast. Outwardly, as any one could see, the city was quiet enough.
Inwardly it seethed. This, of course, Belshazzar knew. But of the extent
or the trend of the plot, neither he nor any of his partisans was aware.
His ears could not hear what was talked of at noon in the houses of
Zicarû. His eyes could not see the well-hidden rooms in which priests
and people met to talk over wrongs that the citizens had never thought
of before, but which their indefatigable preceptors skilfully pointed
out to them. Nor did Belshazzar much heed the harangues that daily
followed morning sacrifice in every temple. He hardly noticed how
immense were the crowds in attendance at sacrifice now; and those of the
lords and the soldiers that did notice, refused to think lucidly, but
put it all down to anxiety over the siege and a wish to propitiate the
gods. Still, blind, deaf, utterly insensible as were the king and all
his councillors to the only open evidences of treachery in the city,
there was no one of them that did not, however vaguely, feel treachery
in the air, and dread accordingly.

In the days between the fall of Sippar and the feast, Nabonidus had not
once, so far as his son knew, been inquired for by man, woman, or priest
in the Great City. If anything were said in the palace it was in
whispers too careful to reach the royal ears. Belitsum, still overcome
by the prophet's dream, had gone into an uncertain retirement; but the
remainder of the harem went thoughtlessly and light-heartedly about
their occupations, adding to their usual aimless lives the pleasure of
preparing for the great holiday, now so near at hand.

The demi-god Tammuz, beloved of the love-goddess (as Spring and Love
have been forever wedded in myth and song) had no proper place of
worship in Babylon. His romantic death, however, was celebrated in every
temple of the city and the suburbs on the same days. From time
immemorial it had been the custom for the royal household--men, women,
children, slaves, officers, and servants--to remove into the great hall
of the temple of Bel-Marduk, where the high-priest was accustomed to
officiate.[12] Here for three days they remained, engaged in mingled
prayer and revelry, the one forbidden refreshment being that only one
which could betoken forgetfulness of the gods and the purposes of the

In consequence of this, for a week after the festival of the death of
Spring, the Great City was wont to wear the aspect of a city of the
dead; for every one in it moved out from the temple in which he had
celebrated the great event, straight to his bed, and there remained till
his vitality was restored to him.

According to custom, then, on the night of the first of July Babylon was
in a ferment of activity. Houses were preparing for temporary desertion,
stripped of costly hangings and furniture, which were stowed where they
might be out of reach of sacrilegious marauders, while holiday garments
and ornaments, the costliest that each household could afford, were
making ready for wear on the morrow. In every garden garlands were
woven. In the temples, priests and eunuchs were at work setting up
tables and divans, hanging flower-ropes and wreaths over the images of
Tammuz that were placed in each house of worship. All night chariots
rattled through the streets, and men shouted to each other from house to
house. Great droves of bullocks and goats, and immense numbers of fowls
and doves, were conveyed to the temporary sheds erected on each
temple-platform, in anticipation of the needs of the sacrifices. To the
casual observer everything might have appeared exactly as usual. There
was none to know how many secret weapons were slipped into the broad
girdles of the citizens' holiday dresses. There was none to wonder why,
at some time between midnight and dawn, a Zicarî, or some member of the
priesthood, stopped at almost every house in the common quarters to
whisper certain final instructions in the ear of the householder. And
from the great height of Nimitti-Bel, the members of the city guard
failed, in the darkness, to perceive that the black camp of the invader
was not at rest.

There were two men in Babylon aware of all these things, and these two
sat together, like spiders in the great web of their spinning, watching
throughout that fervid night. They were in the house of the high-priest
of Bel, on the east side of the Â-Ibur-Sabû; and one of them was
Amraphel, the master of the house, while the other was Beltishazzar the
Jew. They did not talk, for there was little to speak of. Their plan had
been long in the making and was perfect at last. Every detail was at the
finger-tips of both of them. And it had been only a consciousness of the
gigantic consequence of their plan, and the probable monstrous results
of it, that made its originators instinctively draw together on the eve
of its fulfilment. Neither of them was nervous in the presence of the
other, for one of these men perfectly complemented his companion. The
great intellect and the talent for broad strokes of policy that had made
Amraphel's position what it was, was completed by the abnormal
characteristics of craft and foresight possessed by the Jew. Amraphel's
courage was the outcome of his great pride. Daniel's bravery was that of
the enthusiast, the fanatic, the leader of men--tempered always with a
species of cowardice, the cowardice that was to give Babylon over to
other hands than his for government.

Thus here, in the silent interior of Amraphel's vast palace, sat the two
traitors, inwardly communing, outwardly silent, throughout the long
night of the first of July, while Babylon raged within, and Belshazzar
dreamed feverishly in the house of his dead father.

Morning--the morning of the second of Ab--dawned over the city. On the
lips of every man was the name of Tammuz. In the heart of every man were
the mingled emotions of excitement, of dread, of vague desire. The
palace of the king was, early in the day, the scene of confused
preparation. Only one person in it experienced no sensation of
pleasurable excitement at the prospect of the coming feast; Istar, still
mourning her unspeakable loss, had spent the night in accustomed grief,
to which this time something was added--a vague sense of dread, of
undefined foreboding. At early dawn, before the palace was awake,
Belshazzar came in to her, and his eyes were dark with trouble. Istar
looked searchingly into his face before she spoke.

"What is the woe of my lord? Thou hast not slept, Belshazzar?"

"Yea, beloved, I have slept--and dreamed: dreamed till my head is on
fire. Let thy hands cool the burning of mine eyes. Let thy words still
the fears that are rising in my heart. Istar, I have spoken this night
with the spirit of my father, who bade me welcome--home."

Istar gave a sharp cry, and the color fled from her face.

"It was a vision, a wandering dream; and yet it has brought foreboding
in its train. Bring me comfort, Istar, my beloved."

"Comfort, lord of my heart! Comfort! Ah! I have none of it. Since my
baby is taken from me, my heart weeps. O Belshazzar, thou king, let us
not ask for comfort. Let us rather mingle our tears before the seat of
God; and from our grief shall spring the blessing of the divine comfort.
My heart weeps. Why, then, should my lips smile? Thou, dear lord,
remainest to me. If thou wert gone I should not weep, for with thee my
life, too, would go. My lord--my lord--I love thee so!"

Quickly Belshazzar caught her in his arms, crushing her to him in an
embrace wherein all their earthly and spiritual love mingled together in
one supreme moment of ecstasy. When his arms unclosed, both were faint.
Istar lay back upon her couch, her eyes shut, her breath coming with
difficulty; while Belshazzar stood over her, looking down at her beauty
with a sudden feeling of sweet, ineffable peace.

Now the day had fully broken, and the whole palace was alive. Belshazzar
took tender leave of his wife, for the two of them were to go different
ways to the temple: Istar in her litter with the members of the harem,
Belshazzar in his golden chariot, by the side of the high-priest.

"My lord shall see me clothed all in black and silver; nor, through the
three days, will I uncover my face before the eyes of those assembled,"
whispered Istar, as he knelt for the last instant beside her.

"On the evening of the third day, beloved, thou must unveil. Tammuz,
like our child, is dead; yet in their grief the women disclose their
features. So also shalt thou. Now, fare thee well--till once again we
are alone together here."

Istar started nervously, and then rose to her feet with a sudden
impulse. "Belshazzar, wilt thou guard thyself in the temple? Wilt thou
not have thy men of Gutium at thy side?"

"How had you known that, Istar? Such a thought never came to me before;
yet now--this year--I have commanded that my whole regiment, with their
arms, be gathered together in the temple with my regular household. Why
I have done this thing I myself know not. And yet--and yet--"

Istar put her arms about his neck. "Let the great God be thanked!" she
whispered, earnestly. "And I also--I also will be with thee. If harm
comes, we shall be together to the end."

Finally Belshazzar left her and went to his own rooms to see that all
preparations for the great feast were made. Istar, in the mean time,
covered herself with the long, black, silver-shot veil that she had worn
in the days of her loneliness; and, robed only in this and her white
tunic, without jewel or ornament of any kind, she sat alone in her room
till it came to be the time of setting forth. A eunuch announced that
her litter waited; and, attended by two slaves with fans, she walked out
to the great court-yard of the palace.

Here, indeed, was a scene of the liveliest confusion. Men, women,
children, and eunuchs of every type, all in holiday dress, all noisily
talking and laughing, moved about among groups of chariots, litters,
richly caparisoned donkeys, and two or three camels; for, on the way to
and from the feast, the meanest slave was never asked to walk. Istar was
the first of the royal party to appear in the court-yard, and her
mourning costume created much comment of a disappointed character. Her
veiled face and melancholy gait cast a shadow over the general merriment
of the lower class, among whom, indeed, Istar was not popular. Her
litter, however, was quickly brought to her, and just as she lay down in
it, happy to be out of sight, Belitsum, the dowager, appeared. Her mood
was quite different from that of her quasi daughter-in-law. She had cast
aside her widow's weeds, as was her privilege, for the three feast-days;
and her stout person was gorgeously arrayed. A band of flashing jewels
held her head-cloth in place above her eyebrows, and she waddled along
to a jingling accompaniment of bells that were fastened on her ankles
and strings of dangling beads that hung from her waist. Her laughter
sounded high and shrill as she tossed some light-hearted jest to the
line of attendants that followed her; and the whole court-yard responded
to her wit with mighty roars of laughter. Now, indeed, Belitsum was in
her element. It took her full fifteen minutes to settle herself in her
litter, and she was only then finally fixed because the appearance of
Belshazzar put an end to any further by-play for the benefit of the

Belshazzar hastily mounted his chariot, and, the signal for the start
being immediately given, there was a mad scramble for vehicles, donkeys,
and camels, and the royal procession passed through the gate of the

The temple of Marduk, in which the king kept the feast of Tammuz, was
the largest temple in Babylon, and the only important one on the east
bank of the Euphrates. At the other end of the great bridge, Amraphel,
clad in the fullest insignia of his office, joined the king at the head
of the line of the royal household. Their way led along the Mûtaqutû,
the smaller of Nebuchadrezzar's two boulevards; and it was lined with
people that risked the possibility of being late at the opening
sacrifice in their temples in order to see this imposing spectacle. For
the first time in a year Belshazzar was cheered along his way. And there
was something in the voices of the people that went home to the heart of
the uncrowned king; so that, for the first time in his life, his eyes
were wet with the tears of love that royalty should feel for its

One incident only disturbed the dignity of the march. Belitsum, the
irrepressible, had barely managed to contain herself in solitude when
the curtain of her litter finally shut her away from the eyes of the
admiring throng. But now she was consoled by the fact that, though she
was herself unseen, she could comfortably watch the crowd that lined the
streets through which she passed. The procession was more than half-way
to the temple when her sharp eyes suddenly caught sight of a man that
stood watching the procession from the left side of the street. Meanly
dressed and dull-eyed as he was, she nevertheless recognized in him her
new prophet, the man of dreams.

Quickly thrusting her head from her slow-moving equipage, she cried to
one of her bearers, pointing at the same time to the object of her

"Shusu-Sin! Shusu-Sin! Who is that man there--he of the brown tunic and
the rose-topped cane? Speak!"

The bearer glanced round in an embarrassed fashion as the crowd craned
forward to look at the queen. He had no difficulty in recognizing the
man she designated. Then, leaning backward, towards the waiting ear of
the dowager, he whispered, discreetly:

"He on whom the eyes of the queen have deigned to rest is Beltishazzar
the Jew, called of his people Daniel."

"A Jew!" cried Belitsum, in amazement. Then, catching the innumerable
eyes fixed upon her in wonder or in amusement, she dove hastily back
into her litter, carrying with her the long-desired knowledge.

Meantime, at the head of the procession drove Belshazzar and Amraphel,
side by side, in their golden chariots. Beyond the requisite first
salutation, neither of them had spoken on the whole way, till, at a
quarter of an hour before the time set for the first sacrifice, the
royal vehicles halted in the great square of Marduk. Here was something
at sight of which Amraphel started anxiously. In that square, south of
the main entrance of the temple, drawn rank on rank in matchless array,
spear, helmet, and sword flashing in the sun, was Belshazzar's guard,
the famous regiment of Gutium. They had been waiting here all the
morning, under command of their lieutenant, at the orders of their
commander. And now, as the king drew near, they made the royal salute,
and quietly closed ranks in preparation for marching. Belshazzar, giving
them a long, sweeping salute, suddenly halted his chariot. The
high-priest, in extreme anxiety, did the same. Then the king shouted
three orders, all of them barely comprehensible to a civilian. But
Amraphel's ears were sharp; his wits sharper. At the last command his
face grew crimson with anger.

"What means this?" he asked, hoarsely, turning on the king. "Think you
these dogs shall be admitted to the holy temple?"

Belshazzar barely turned his head towards the speaker. "What sayest
thou?" he asked, coolly.

"It is against the laws of the gods that armed men should enter into
their places of worship."

"I had not heard it," returned the king. "And it is my will that this,
my regiment, follow me into the temple. How"--suddenly he turned full on
the priest--"how wilt thou gainsay me?"

Amraphel drew back into himself. What had Belshazzar heard? How much did
he know? Could he indeed, with this handful of soldiers, hold that
temple of Marduk against the army of Cyrus and the Babylonish mob? It
was a question that was not easy to answer. Do what he would, Amraphel
was for the moment sorely nonplussed. He could see nothing for it but to
submit. It was thorough defeat; for, fifteen minutes later, fifty
members of the priesthood, the whole of the royal household, and the
regiment of Gutium, five hundred strong, had entered the temple of

Almost incredibly vast was the great hall of this, the greatest temple
of the first of Babylon's twelve great gods. In it the seven hundred
people that entered found plenty of room--more than enough room to
spread themselves about at will. The vast walls, which towered up to a
tremendous height, were richly adorned in the lower half with
bas-reliefs illustrating various religious myths: the council of the
gods; Bel-Marduk's combat with Tiamât the dragon; and Oannes the
fish-god, giver of wisdom, expounding religion to the throngs of people
that came down to hear him on the shores of the gulf of the setting sun.
Above these sculptures ran bands of history, in the immaculate
cuneiform, giving the story of Babylon from the time of her founding
down to to-day. Still over this, on the enamelled tiles that carried the
walls on up to the dim and shadowy roof, were the decorations for the
feast. Great cloths of silk and muslin, elaborately and beautifully
embroidered, fell, softly luminous, in the glowing light. Ropes of
flowers were everywhere festooned; and their fragrance alone would have
rendered the air rich. Their breath, however, vied with streams of
incense, with showered perfumes, with fragrance of the sweet myrrh and
Indian spices that burned along the walls in braziers of beaten brass.
Finally, the light from the scene itself furnished sweetness to the
room; for, from a thousand well-wrought hanging-lamps came flickering,
golden flames, fed with the rarest perfumed oil.

The preparations for the feast and for the innumerable sacrifices, with
which the feasting was to be varied, had been carefully made. The back
rooms of the temple had been converted indiscriminately into kitchens,
larders, and stables for the animals to be used for the sacrifice. Here
an army of slaves was already at work, and there were half a hundred
temple eunuchs, clad in spotless white, with collars of gold and caps of
Tyrian purple, to minister to the wants of the feasters.

The great hall had been prepared with infinite care for the reception of
the worshippers. In the back of the room, facing the entrance, and
raised ten feet above the floor, was the platform on which stood the
shrine of Tammuz. On the broad space before the holy of holies, carpeted
with rugs, lighted by jewel-crusted lamps, were the divan and table of
the king, who was to keep this place during the three days of the feast.
At the foot of the steps leading up into this high place was the
sacrificial altar, on which a fire was kept burning continuously; and to
the right and to the left of this stood other images of Tammuz. Here,
for six hours by day and six by night, was the place of the high-priest.
During the rest of the time he lay above, on a couch beside that of the
king, or, if he chose, moved from place to place at the long tables that
lined the walls and filled the central spaces of the hall. At these
tables rank was not observed, and the lord of the treasury and the
meanest slave of the harem might be found side by side. These matters,
however, adjusted themselves. Men sat with their chosen friends, or
moved about from hour to hour as they wished, while the women generally
remained in groups at the upper end of the hall.

To-day Ribâta, in company with the lords of the palace, took his place
immediately below Belshazzar's platform, while his slaves were just
beyond them, to the right. The soldiers of Gutium were in a body at the
end of the hall, lying awkwardly enough on their silken couches, and
dreaming grimly of nights in the watch-towers on the walls when they
feasted according to their taste. On the right hand of the great hall,
quite alone, at a solitary table under the figure of Bel on the wall,
sat the one being to whom this festival was not a thing of joy. Istar,
veiled from head to foot, uncrowned, unadorned, unattended, sat alone on
her couch, gazing straight before her, wrapped in grief and foreboding,
hearing nothing of what went on about her. Belshazzar from his place,
and Baba from where she mingled with the slaves, watched her when they
could; and for many hours that day it seemed to them that she did not
move; and their bodies grew weary with the thought of how she stayed
there, rigid and untiring.

As soon as the great company was assembled and each had found a place,
the first sacrifice of the day was made. Two under-priests led in a
snow-white bullock with gilded horns, his body twined with lotus flowers
and his feet bound with golden chains.

This animal was led once round the room, while every one rose,
prostrated himself before it, and remained standing through the whole
sacrificial ceremony. Amraphel performed the slaughter in the name of
Tammuz. Then a short incantation was made. The blood of the dead
creature was poured out upon the altar, and the carcass was then carried
away to be flayed, dressed, and cooked. This ceremony formally opened
the festival, and it was followed by a loud chant led by the priests, in
which the praises of Tammuz and Istar were set forth. In the midst of
this singing the first wine was brought. Flagon after flagon of the
purple juice of Helbon, of Lebanon, of Izalla, of Tuhimme, of Zimini,
and of Opis in Armenia was emptied down the eager throats of both men
and women. Very shortly the scene took on a different aspect. Laughter
came freely. Voices rose clearer and higher, and snatches of song echoed
under the high roof. The music of the lutes and cymbals caused more than
one woman to rise and fall into that slow, sinuous, dreamy posturing,
called, in the East, dancing. Many sacrifices followed. Goats and lambs
were slaughtered by tens and twenties. Doves, fastened neck to neck with
fine, silver chains, were killed off by the hundreds: timid, fluttering
things, reared for this sacred end in the temple towers, but unable, in
their folly, to realize the worthiness of their holy martyrdom. Amraphel
and his under-priests admirably performed their tasks. Indeed, Amraphel
seemed doubly impressive to-day. His men were exalted with their wine,
and everything but the affairs of the hour had slipped from their

Only Istar, of them all, looked on unmoved and sad. To-day she saw her
lord as never before, crowning the feast in all the splendor of his
royalty. Never had the faultless beauty of his physique impressed her
so. He stood at the top of the ten steps, directly in front of the
arched door-way of the shrine, three golden-robed slaves crouching on
either side of him, lifting in his hands a yellow cup of wine that he
drank to the men of his guard, to the regiment of Guti. His purple
cloak, wrought with long scrolls of burning gold, flowed back from his
shoulders. His superb head, its black locks bound about with a twisted
fillet in which flashed fifty purple amethysts, was held like that of a
conqueror on the day of his greatest victory. Istar caught the flashing
of the storm-eyes, saw the lips curve with his deep laughter, watched
the gleaming of the jewels on his breast, and then, as he raised the cup
to his mouth, she sank back in her place, dizzy and sick at heart. He
had forgotten as she could not forget. He thought no more of the little
creature he had watched with her, that had lain in his arms so many
times warm and breathing with life, and that had been so lately taken
from him in death. And at that thought of death a terrible shudder
passed over her, and she became still and cold, and intensely weary of
the scene of revelry. Slowly she sank back into a reclining position on
her couch. She had refused every proffered dish of food, every kind of
wine. Her eyelids closed and there came over her a kind of stupor, in
which she lay for many hours. It was not sleep, for through it she could
hear the sounds in the room, could distinguish Belshazzar's voice
whenever he spoke, and always answered the slaves that came reverently
to waken her, telling them that she knew all that passed as well as they
themselves. And yet Istar was not actually in that room. Nay, she could
feel herself alone, at an infinite distance. When, after a long period
she opened her eyes again, she saw the scene more than ever full of
life. The lamps glowed brighter than before, but through the opening far
in the roof no daylight came. The day was over. Night had come. Istar
was faint for food, yet she rebelled at the idea of the heavy,
half-cooked flesh served in this room; and she thought that possibly, in
the rear of the temple, there might be some quiet place where she could
break bread and taste of fruit and wine alone and undisturbed. With this
thought she rose quietly and moved across to the foot of the shrine, on
the platform of which Amraphel and Belshazzar now sat side by side.
Here, moved by an irresistible impulse, Istar of Babylon turned to look
back on the scene she was leaving. But her eyes, first raised, did not
return to the floor. Instead, she stood transfixed, the heart in her
wildly throbbing, her head swimming with the overpowering wonder of the
sight that met her eyes. Unconscious of what she did, her two hands drew
the enshrouding veil from her face, and then there rushed upon her
vision such a sight as she had never thought to see again.

In the air, above the vast, closed doors, hung Allaraine, in a dazzling
cloud of glory, his form all but indistinguishable in the palpitating
rays of his aureole. He was without his lyre. In his right hand he held
a wand of molten gold, with which he wrote upon the broad space over the
doors. He, and that that he wrote, were clearly intelligible to Istar,
who gazed on him unnoticed in her place. For Allaraine had come for her,
and for her alone was writing his message there upon the wall. This she
knew from the first.

But how was it with those others that thronged the hall? Before their
blinded spiritual eyes all that was distinguishable were three fingers
of the archetype's hand, and the unreadable words of fire that he wrote.
Yet these were enough: infinitely more than enough. Amraphel and
Belshazzar together, from the high place, first saw the miracle; and
from the lips of the king broke forth a cry, a cry that stilled every
voice in the temple. All eyes were turned to the shrine, and beheld the
dread staring of Amraphel, whose gaze was fixed in dumb terror on the
opposite wall. With universal accord every glance followed his, and
every eye beheld the gradual fading of the hand and the blazing
brilliance of the writing that was left upon the wall. There was no cry
from the assemblage. A silence, infinitely more impressive than any
sound, fell upon them. For five long minutes none moved or spoke. Istar
remained unperceived in her place. Trembling and dazed, her lips moved
noiselessly, repeating over and over the words that were written before

"Hast thou found man's relation to God? The silver sky waits for thy

Again and yet again she repeated those two phrases to herself, till, out
of the depths of the long-past, their meaning came home to her. Then a
faint sigh broke from her lips, a sigh of ineffable weariness, of
ineffable relief. She replaced the veil over her face, and, gliding
noiselessly back to her couch, lay down upon it with her new knowledge,
giving little heed to all that followed.

The voice of Belshazzar broke the spell hanging over the room. His tones
startled the company like the clarion blast of a trumpet, as he cried:
"Alchîa! Balatû! Ubar! Umarîa! Ye prophets of the great gods, arise and
come before me!"

From out of the throng of feasters rose four white-robed men,
bare-headed and bare-footed, prophets of Nabonidus' household.
Mechanically obeying the words of their lord, they came forth and stood
in a row before the steps of the high place.

"Ye that are professed to know the wishes of the gods, interpret now to
us that which is written upon the wall."

One by one the four men turned and scanned the wall with its flaming
text. And one by one each turned back to the king again, saying,
helplessly: "O prince, live forever! I cannot read it!"

Then Belshazzar's pale face became tinged with red and his eyes blazed
with anger. "Look ye again! I say that honor and riches and great power
shall be his that interprets these words upon the wall. Look ye again!"

And again they looked. But had the reward for the reading been the
kingdom of Babylonia, not one of the four possessed the wit or the
courage to interpret to the master that which was unreadable to mortal

When it was seen in the room how the prophets had failed in their task,
the murmurs of many tongues began to be heard against them. The whole
throng was tremulous with awe and with fear. Amraphel himself felt it.
He gazed helplessly at Belshazzar, never realizing this tremendous
opportunity, never perceiving that no situation could possibly have been
more desirable than this. It was from a wholly unexpected source that
help came to his cause. In the midst of the dread silence that had
gradually overpowered the people, Belitsum sprang from her place, and,
hurrying as well as she could to the foot of the steps leading up to the
shrine, cried out to Belshazzar:

"O king, live forever! Let not thy thoughts trouble thee nor thy
countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom in whom is the
spirit of the great gods; in whom was found light and understanding and
wisdom in the days of thy father's father. What hath he not shown thee
and me in the miracle of his dream? Forasmuch as great knowledge and
understanding, interpreting of dreams and showing of hard sentences and
dissolving of doubts, were found in Daniel, called Beltishazzar, let
then that Daniel be called, and he will show the interpreting of the
letters of the fiery hand."

Belshazzar heard his step-mother with no little amazement, for he had
hardly credited her with either sense or knowledge. But her words
recalled to him something that Nabonidus had once said to him regarding
this same man, and he made a sudden determination to try him with this
difficult feat.

"Ina-shu-sin!" he shouted to the officer of his house that stood on
guard at the door. "Let the door of the temple be opened. Go thou forth
into the city and find him that is called Beltishazzar the Jew, bringing
him back to the temple. Haste thee!"

The man had not time to acknowledge the command when Amraphel turned
quickly to Belshazzar: "Lord prince," said he, softly, "the man Daniel
being well known to the priesthood, send thou rather a temple steward to
find him. He will appear before thee very shortly."

Belshazzar looked searchingly into the face of the high-priest, but he
failed to find there more than a warrantable anxiety. Therefore he
replied: "As thou wilt, Amraphel. Inâ-shu-Îbni, let rather Baza of the
temple go to search for the prophet; and watch thou for them from the
door, that Daniel, coming, may quickly enter."

The priest Baza, of the third house of Zicarû, put away the cups that he
bore, and, catching Amraphel's sign, made his obeisance to the king and
hurried from the temple. Just before his disappearance Istar, who had
watched the whole scene in silence, half rose from the couch to which
she had returned, as if she would have prevented the man's departure.
For a second she stood quite still in her upright position, glancing
from the letters on the wall to Belshazzar's face. Then she sank back on
her couch again without speaking; and as her head once more touched the
cushions, Baza disappeared into the night, and Inâ-shu-Îbni shut, but
did not fasten after him, the great temple door.

Fifteen minutes passed, and still the dazed throng neither spoke nor
moved. They waited for him who could make plain to them the mystery or
the miracle that had come upon the feast. At the end of this time the
temple door once again softly opened, and a man, dark-robed,
bare-footed, gaunt, and sharp-eyed, walked into the room, and straight
to the foot of the steps of the shrine. Seeing Belshazzar and Amraphel
together above him, he made obeisance to each, and Belshazzar, rising,
came to the top of the first step, asking:

"Art thou that Daniel which art of the captivity of Judah, whom the
great king my father's father brought out of Jewry?"

Daniel bent his head.

"It is said of thee that the spirit of the gods, light, wisdom, and
understanding, are to be found in thee. Look then, thou leader of Jews,
at the wall yonder. Behold what is written on it in letters of fire. If
thou canst interpret those strange words, honor and great riches shall
be to thee. Look thou, and read."

Obediently, while the gaze of every eye in the room of the feast was
fixed upon him, Daniel turned and looked over the door, that had been
left ajar, and saw the signs that glowed more faintly now upon the
bricks above. For many seconds he stood passive, his black brows knit
under the stress of thought. Amraphel grew cold with nervousness. His
lips twitched to give the signal that should drown this incident in the
flood of something infinitely greater; and he was on the very verge of
crying out when the prophet turned and faced the king, a fire of emotion
burning in his eyes and in his cheeks. When he opened his lips the room
grew breathless, and Istar, shivering in irrepressible fear, hung upon
his words:

"O king, the most high God gave Nebuchadrezzar thy forefather a kingdom,
and majesty and glory and honor. And for the majesty that he gave him
all people, nations, languages, trembled and feared before him. Whom he
would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set
up; and whom he would he put down. But when his mind was lift up and his
heart was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne and
they took his glory from him. And he was driven forth from the sons of
men. His heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was made with
wild asses. They fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with
the dew of heaven, till he knew that the most high God ruled in the
kingdom of men, and that He appointeth over it whomsoever He will.

"And thou his descendant, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart,
though thou knewest all this. Thou hast lifted thyself up against the
Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before
thee, thou and thy lords, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine
in them. Thou hast worshipped the gods of silver and of gold, and of
brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear nor know. And the
God in whose hands thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou
not glorified. Then was the part of the hand sent from Him, and this
writing was given.

"This is the writing that was written: 'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.'

"This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene: God hath numbered thy
kingdom and finished it. Tekel: thou art weighed in the balances and
found wanting. Peres: Thy kingdom is divided--_and given to the Medes
and Persians_!"

The last words were spoken not to Belshazzar nor to any one in the
temple. They rose to a shout that was heard outside the half-open temple
door. In the moments that followed, Istar, her eyes blazing with wrath
and scorn, sprang to her feet and came forth to confront the man of
lies. But her lips never showed him false. Even as she lifted up her
voice there came from without the sound of a mighty roar of fury. The
two doors of the temple were burst apart, and those within found
themselves face to face with the army of Cyrus and a vast Babylonish



The terrible spell of silence that had spread over the feasters at the
temple was broken by a woman's scream. That scream brought men and women
alike back to life. With a loud shout Belshazzar the king leaped down
the steps of the shrine and ran forward, crying lustily to his guard to
form into line. Old as he was, Amraphel, Cyrus' tool, was an instant
before the king; and he, with Daniel the prophet close beside him, made
his way through the band of soldiers that had gathered near the door, to
the ranks of the enemy, in the vast throng of whom priest and Jew were
presently lost to sight.

Meantime Belshazzar hurriedly rallied his men around him, had them
quickly in order, and lined them before the opening, from which by this
time doors and gates had been entirely torn away. The men of Guti were
armored and armed. The scent of battle came to their nostrils. They were
at home with it. Their blood tingled with joy, and Belshazzar saw how
they would fight for him, every man to the end.

Now came the first sharp volley of arrows and sling-stones from the
multitude at the doors. Two or three of the guards fell. The ranks were
quickly closed up and the volley answered. Then the range became too
short for bows. Men of Elam and Babylonish traitors were hand-to-hand
with the defenders of the temple. In the semi-darkness it was hard to
distinguish between friend and foe; and the struggle became as man to
man. Shouts and cries ascended from the indivisible mass. In the midst
of everything rose the trumpet tones of Belshazzar, crying encouragement
to his men. But the rich and mellow voice of Cyrus was not to be heard
giving commands to the other side. Cyrus was not here to-night. Only the
open field and honorable combat were his. And he had left the dishonor
of such a victory to Amraphel the high-priest, and Cambyses, his own
son, who had asked for it.

In the temple, behind the ranks of the regiment of Guti, the royal
eunuchs, creatures of silent courage and loyalty, had gathered together
all the women into one group, round which, for protection, they and the
lords of the council were piling the temple furniture into a barricade.
Istar alone was not here. Since the first battle-cry no one had seen
her; and now, in the excitement of the moment, she, being unseen, was
also forgotten.

Baba, in her silks and chains, was with the women of Ribâta's household,
all of whom their lord had placed carefully in one corner of the
protecting barricade, behind a pile of divans and stone tables laid
beside the sacrificial altar. In the rush of the moment Ribâta had but a
word with his favorite slave. For an instant, however, he bent over her,
to see that she was well protected, and in that time he pressed his lips
as a seal against her forehead, muttering hurriedly, at the same time:
"Courage, little one! Be not afraid. Our lives are in the hands of the
great Bel. Pray to him, but do not weep."

And Baba answered readily, without any sign of fear: "My lord is my
lord. I obey his word."

Then, as he left her side, the young girl lay back on the floor close
against a couch that had been tipped beside her, and stayed there,
silent and open-eyed, listening to the tumult of the battle round the
door. The chorus of shouts and yells was deafening. Babylonish
battle-cries mingled with Median phrases of triumph. And closer at hand,
all around her, in fact, the women of high station lay wailing out their
fright. Ribâta's two wives were near, crazed with terror for themselves,
for their lord, for Babylon, for the king. Now and then, high above the
general tumult, came the shrill, fierce voice of Belitsum, crying her
anguish. Nabonidus was the name that continually left her lips, till
Belshazzar himself, from the thickest of the fight, caught the
syllables, and fought the more fiercely for the memory of his father.

While the men of Gutium held the door, there appeared to be nothing to
fear for the women in the temple. Ribâta, before joining in the
conflict, passed among his friends of the council, bidding them hold
back a little from the thick of the fight, that, should it prove
necessary, they might be unhurt to defend the women. The holders of the
temple were in bad enough straits, to be sure, yet there was no
immediate danger. Belshazzar's men, flanked by two bands of eunuchs and
noblemen, who fought with sacrificial knives and axes, were for the
moment holding all Babylon and the army of Cyrus at bay. Baba knew this,
as she lay, quiet and silent, gazing up into the shadowy spaces of the
roof. Presently, while all that terrible din sounded in her ears, with
that throng of writhing, struggling, bleeding men twenty yards away, a
little smile stretched itself over her lips, and her eyes fell shut. She
lay wrapped in a vision of her own: a vision of fair fields and broad,
blue water, where, on the shore, stood a man; a man whose hair shone
like the sun, and who bore in his hands a five-stringed lyre. And
presently, from out of the racket, she could hear the pure tones of
Charmides' voice, singing, as he had always sung throughout his life,
for love.

Baba was lying unconscious of her surroundings in this little ecstasy,
when suddenly the low wailing of the women was heightened into loud
cries of well-warranted horror. The little slave felt a new presence at
hand. She lifted up her eyes, and saw something that caused her heart to
rise into her throat. The barricade was breaking down before a band of
armed temple-servants that were advancing to the murder of the women. A
cold stream poured round Baba's heart, and for the first time to-night
she screamed aloud. Her cry was answered by Ribâta, who was trying
desperately to gather the lords out of the conflict at the door. But the
fight there was going badly. More than half the defenders of the temple
had fallen, and each of those that remained was pressed by half a dozen
of the enemy. Many of the guards had been drawn out into the square and
were keeping up the battle there while they lived. But it seemed all at
once that the defence could not last many minutes more. Not a man could
come to the rescue of the women caught in so terrible a trap. And in the
faces of the inhuman creatures that threatened them, there was no hope
for their lives. The murderers were nearly all of them Zicarû from the
third college, which was Amraphel's own; and into their hearts hatred
for the upper classes had been instilled for years. Now, as they looked
upon their helpless prey, all the animal savagery of their race rose up
in them, and their eyes sparkled and their lips twitched in the lust for
blood. The wife of Nabû-Mashetic-Urrâ, one of the old councillors of
Nabonidus, received the first blow. The knife of a seer struck her to
the heart; and with that first gush of blood the general carnage began.
Defenceless as they were, the women were roused to action. With their
hands, their limbs, their teeth, the pins that fastened their hair, they
fought uselessly for life. From the place where she lay half concealed,
Baba watched the scenes of murder around her. The woman next her had
been dodging the knife that continually pursued her, till, stabbed in a
dozen places, hair and body dripping with her blood, she proffered her
heart to the assassin, who mercifully plunged his dripping blade up to
its hilt in her breast.

Baba gave a hoarse shriek, threw up her hands, and fell, face down, upon
the floor. A second after a streak of fire ran deep into her right
shoulder. Then, immediately, all the noise died away. The world reeled
with her and became black; and for her this scene of incredible
brutality was at an end.

Not so Belshazzar's desperate task. At the moment when the Zicarû,
appearing from the back rooms of the temple, had set about the slaughter
of the women, the king, in the midst of a little band of five soldiers,
had pressed through the front ranks of the enemy, out into the temple
square. This was packed with the city mob that had gathered from the
feast in the temples of Nebo, Nergal, Istar, and Sin, and come hither
under the leadership of their officiating priests. In the darkness it
was impossible to tell friend from foe. Belshazzar's self-constituted
body-guard fought madly to preserve his life; but, fifteen minutes after
they had passed the temple doors, the last of them, wounded in twenty
places, had fallen at the feet of his king, and Belshazzar of Babylon
was alone with the darkness and with besetting death. Many set upon him
where he stood on the eastern edge of the square; but perhaps none of
his assailants knew him. He was armed only with a short sword taken from
the hand of a dying Elamite; but with this weapon his execution was
terrible. As man after man went down before his tigerish strength, the
attention of many was drawn to him, and presently he found himself
backing down a narrow and crooked street running out of the square,
engaged with three men, variously armed, that vainly strove to fell him.
An arrow stuck in the flesh of his right forearm, and there was a great
gash upon one of his knees. He left behind him a trail of blood; but, in
the heat of contest, he felt not a twinge of pain. The noise of the
battle perceptibly diminished. He heard it vaguely, caring at this time
very little how the fight was going. His adversaries pressed him hard;
yet he smiled, as continually he beat them back. The brute, the tiger in
him, was uppermost now. He had not a thought for anything but fighting.
In his slow and certain way he had retreated perhaps two hundred yards,
and was approaching the house of one of the under-priests of Bel. From
its open door-way a flood of light poured into the street, and as
Belshazzar moved into the luminous spot a cry of recognition broke from
the lips of his oppressors. At the same moment a white-robed figure came
quickly out of the house, and, unseen by him, moved behind Belshazzar.
In the moment that followed, a knife gleamed in the light behind the
king. The blow fell. With a great cry Belshazzar reeled, sank to his
knee, straightened up again with a superhuman effort, thrust weakly in
the direction of the men in front, and sank back on the ground with a
faint moan. At the same time his assassin, motioning the three soldiers
to go back, stepped in front of his victim and bent over him.

"Amraphel!" muttered the king.

"Ay, Amraphel, thou dog! Amraphel, thou tyrant of the city! Amraphel,
thou last ruler of a hated line! Amraphel, that stands at last alone in
the land of his desire! Hear thou, then, the name of Amraphel. Know his
everlasting hatred for thee and thine, and knowing--die!" Then, with his
sandalled foot, the old man spurned the face of him that was fallen,
hoping to bring some craven word to the lips of the king.

But Belshazzar was himself in death as in life. Gazing steadily into the
face of the high-priest, he permitted himself to smile--a slight,
scornful smile, such as he had sometimes worn during the sacrifice.
Seeing it, the high-priest was goaded into a hot fury. With what
strength he had he kicked the face of the dying man. Then, drawing his
bloody skirts about him, he turned and passed once more into the house
of the priest, out of Belshazzar's sight forever.

So at last the king lay alone, unmolested, with the night and with his
thoughts. Babylon was fallen--was fallen the Great City, before the hand
of no invader, but by treachery and stealth, by means of murder and of
outrage. All this the king knew; yet no regret for the inevitable
disturbed these final moments. Rather he turned his mind to that that
was his alone, to that which constituted his true, his inner life, that
made his great happiness, that had redeemed him from all mental
pain--his supreme love for Istar the woman.

In that dim dream into which all surrounding things were fading, her
name floated to his lips. Once, twice, thrice he repeated it to himself,
lingeringly, adoringly, loving each syllable as he spoke it. He had no
thought, no hope of seeing her again. She was somewhere, far away, in
the midst of those direful scenes beyond him. He commended her to his
gods as best he could. Then he thought of himself as at her side, the
mist of her hair hiding the world from his eyes, the perfume of her
breath causing his head to swim. He thought of her as she had been to
him in the last months. And then--suddenly--she was with him.

Out of the gloom of the narrow street she came, searching after him,
calling his name. The veil had fallen back from her pallid face. Her
eyes were staring wide with fear and with the horror of blood. Her
movement was slow, indeterminate, vague. Not till after he had watched
her for a full minute did she come upon his figure in its pools of
blood. Then, with a faint, fluttering cry she ran to him, only
half-believing her poor vision. Their meeting was ineffable. She lay
upon his body, eye on eye, lip on lip to him, her cries stifled by his
gasping breath, her wandering hands caressing his hair, his brow, his
neck, his bloody vestment. Not knowing what she did, she pulled the
broken arrow from his arm, and then screamed to think of where it had
been. Of the two, Belshazzar's state of mind was infinitely clearer,
infinitely stronger than hers. It was with a supreme effort that he took
his lips from hers that he might speak, might try to make her understand
what this moment must be to them.

"Oh, thou art wounded, my king, my beloved! Look--here upon thee is
blood--blood on the white of thy robe. Why art thou red?" she repeated,
once and again, anxiously examining the wet, dark stains that flowed
ever freshly from his body.

Belshazzar saw that her brain was turned, and his anguish became
terrible. Was she to bid him good-bye like this? Must he leave her
forever with the infinite unsaid? How could he bring her mind back to
him, if but for one moment? He could not think. All that he could do was
to say, thickly, with the blood in his mouth:

"Istar, beloved, I die! Dost thou hear?"

"Yea, Belshazzar, and I also. Allaraine hath written it upon the wall.
Didst thou not see? 'Hast thou found man's relation to God? The silver
sky waits for thy soul.' I also die."

"Thou!" he murmured, quickly. "Art thou wounded, Istar?" His feeble
hands searched over her body, but felt no sign of blood. She had been
untouched by any weapon. And now his eyes grew dull with suffering, and
he said, faintly, and with reluctance: "Fare thee far and well, my
Istar--Istar of my city. I go."


What it had been, tone or word of his, that roused her at last, the
dying man could not tell. But that name rang through the night in a
scream of living agony. Now she knew what it meant--that her Babylon was
fallen around her--that the world was empty--that the lord of her life
was passing--that henceforward her way lay through the valley of
loneliness. What mattered now the writing on the wall, hopeless prophecy
of her own death? Belshazzar was here, beneath her, dying; while
she--Istar--his wife--had received no wound.

She raised him in her arms and their eyes met for the last time. How
much passed in the look cannot be told, for it was a final mingling of
souls. All their love, their infinite happiness, their sorrow, their
tears unshed, the humanity of their two lives, was embodied in that
look. Grief of parting was not there, for the two were striving to make
parting endurable, each to each, by the look. It was finished at last,
with Belshazzar's whispered words:

"In the silver sky, O my glorious one, I wait for thee!"

"O my beloved, wait for me! Wait for me!"

Then the body dropped inert in her arms. Belshazzar was gone. Istar was
left alone in the world.

How long afterwards she rose from that place she did not know. Many
people--soldiers of the invading army and men of the mob, with
blood-dripping swords--had passed her as she lay along the ground, face
down, beside the body. And none of these offered to molest her, for they
thought that two dead lay there in the semi-darkness. The light in the
house of the priest of Bel had gone out, and the shouts of conflict had
long since been hushed. Still, through all the city, there was the
murmur of uneasiness, of many men awake and stirring. The night was
filled with stars, and with that curious white glow that comes in
midsummer to the Orient. But it seemed strange that the skies did not
turn from the hideous spectacle of Babylon that night.

Forth into the city, from the body that she loved, Istar went. Guided
and protected by some divine spirit, she passed unhurt among groups of
strange, uncouth warriors that laughed and talked in an unknown tongue.
She crossed streets where dead lay piled together. For those that were
loyal to the city had not been spared by the men of Amraphel. She passed
houses in which sat women wailing out their terror through the long
hours before the dawn; and came finally to the open doors of a small
temple in which the feast of Tammuz had been celebrated through the day.
Before this Istar paused. Inside she could see the glowing of the
sacrificial lights and the disorderly desertion of the room--the long,
empty tables covered with half-filled cups and plates, and the altar
whence, from the smouldering fire, a thin stream of blue incense still
poured upward. The woman's weary eyes saw these long, soft divans with a
sense of desire and of relief. She entered the room and went quickly
towards the nearest resting-place. She was about to lay herself down.
Her eyes were all but closed under their weight of weariness, when
suddenly, from the shadowy spaces beyond her, came a sound that caused
her to start back from the couch, and hasten in nervous terror towards
the door. It had been only the bleating of a little group of hungry
sheep in their pen near the temple kitchen; yet the unexpected noise had
shattered Istar's nerves, and she fared forth again out of the holy
house into the long, winding streets of the city.

Whither she went, how far, with what purpose, no one knew, no one cared.
She saw the river winding its tranquil way between well-stoned banks,
with the shadows of vast buildings mirrored in its depths, while the
glittering stars from their high dome shone like pale, white eyes in the
glassy, lazily moving stream. Wandering Euphrates! Took it any heed of
the deeds of good or evil performed upon its banks? God had bequeathed
to it eternal calm, had made the sight of it an eternal balm for weary
eyes. This night it brought peace on its waves and a promise of rest to
the soul of the woman. As she stood gazing down into its baffling green,
there came to her again the message from the kingdom, written in golden
letters on the surface of the water. Again Istar read and again she
wondered, yet in her soul understood the words:

"Hast thou found man's relation to God? The silver sky waits for thy

Istar, in her great woe, stood looking upon the fiery words, that seemed
to have burned themselves into her brain; and her whole heart rebelled
against them. Those that she loved had been taken from her. With
Belshazzar, the light of her life was extinguished. Man was bound to God
only by great suffering, by grief, by heart-sorrow! A sob came into her
throat, and there was anger in her mind as she would have turned away
from the mystical words. But at that instant they flashed out into
darkness, and the gleam was gone. For a moment the night grew thickly
black, and Istar reeled where she stood. Afterwards she found herself
walking on the bank of the river, only a little distance west of the
spot where the huge temple of Marduk reared its bulk into the air. It
was now in Istar's mind to go back to the place where Belshazzar's body
lay, and to remain there at his side till dawn should banish the horrors
of the night. But just as she would have left the river for the second
time, there came out upon the path that ran along its bank a group of
white-robed men, whom Istar knew for priests, bearing with them a heavy
burden covered over with a purple cloth. At sight of them Istar turned
suddenly dizzy and crouched on the bricks of the pavement.

Arrived at the edge of the river, the five priests of Amraphel's temple
laid their burden on the ground and removed the cloth that covered it.
Belshazzar's body was exposed to view. Istar, with a little moan,
pressed both hands tightly across her breast. But neither sound nor
movement attracted any attention from the priests. These now indulged in
a short parley, that ended in their taking from the corpse the royal
ornaments that covered it and dividing them evenly among the five.

"Now, Bel-shar-utsur, tyrant of the city, go down by river to plead with
the Lady Mulge in Ninkigal for a drink from the spring of life; for thou
shalt drink no more, in the Great City, of the wines of Helbon and

With this only farewell, three of them lifted the body up, swung it
thrice in the air by the feet and by the head, and at the third swing
let it fly out into the waters of the river that had so short a time
before received the worn frame of the dead man's father.

As the body left their hands the priests were startled to hear a long,
low cry that came from a few yards to the right. Looking, they saw a
woman's figure run to the river-bank and peer into the waters below,
where the body of the king, as on a funeral barge, went floating down
towards the city of the dead that lay south of Babylon.

Without any attempt at accosting her who mourned, the men of Amraphel
presently turned away and began their return to the temple, carrying
with them the new wealth of jewels. Istar also rose, half consciously,
and knowing neither any abiding-place where to lay her head, nor any one
to seek who could give her help, she moved away aimlessly down the bank
of the stream. A few yards to the south there was a great ferry station,
where, by day, a dozen boats were wont to ply back and forth across the
stream. By night only one barge went its way backward and forward; and
as Istar came down to the little quay the broad scow was just ready to
start to the western shore with its load of men and soldiers. She ran
quickly down the steps and on to this moving bridge. The west bank of
the river was home to her. She knew its streets and its people. There,
to the north, was the palace of Belshazzar, and the temple in which she
had once dwelt. There, somewhere, she would find shelter.

When the barge finally touched the landing at the western shore and
Istar, last of any one, was about to leave it, she was stopped by one of
the ferrymen.

"Lady, it is two _se_ for the passage."

"Two _se_! Money? I have none," said Istar, slowly.

"Thou shalt not leave the barge till the price is paid," retorted the
boatman, angrily.

But vaguely understanding what he meant, Istar pulled the veil from her
face and fixed her great eyes upon him, the better to comprehend what it
was he told her. The man gave a great start, for in the semi-darkness
her marvellous beauty shone like a star. Then the rough fellow bent his
head before her.

"It is the lady of Babylon! Great Istar, forgive our fault! Let it
please thee to leave the barge!" he exclaimed, reverently.

Istar did not pause to wonder that he knew her. She saw that her way was
open, and she went forth, up the steps, across the path at the top, and
into the lower city. Too weary, too stricken for either rest or sleep,
she felt her brain burn and her limbs grow cold as she walked. Now there
was a fire in her veins; now they grew chill as the snows of Elam. In
the pale gray of the dawn she trembled with sickness. The coming of day
was not beautiful to her eyes. In the first pink flush from the east she
found herself standing before a miserable hut on the border of a canal,
and from the dark door-way came a voice crying in great fear:

"The plague! The plague! It is come upon us! Behold the gods visit their
wrath upon men! Woe, woe to them that see light in Babylon to-day!"

Istar shuddered at the cry. From another place farther to the north the
words of horror and grief were repeated. The reign of death was thus
proclaimed in the city. Now there was a great ringing in Istar's ears.
Lights shot up before her eyes. It seemed to her that over all the city,
from the five millions of human tongues, rose that cry of woe: "The
plague! The plague!"

The memory of her dead child was with her. A few more paces she
staggered through, half consciously. Then, of a sudden, some one
appeared beside her--some one whom she knew and had forgotten. At sight
of the well-known face the woman's brain gave way. With a long,
heart-broken sob, she fell helpless, lifeless, into the reverent arms of
Charmides, her bard.



It was thus that, on the night of July 3d, in the year 538 B.C., Persian
rule began in Babylon, and native rule in the Great City was ended

Historically this was true. In actual fact, on the morning of July
4th--ay, and for many weeks thereafter--no man knew the real ruler of
the city, and no man greatly cared to know him. Every soul within the
walls was occupied with a far more terrible and more engrossing matter,
and officer and priest alike obeyed orders of Cyrus that passed through
the lips of Amraphel, without caring whence they were issued or why.
Cyrus the king, his sons, and the most of his army remained encamped
without the walls. Gobryas had returned to the governorship of Sippar.
Amraphel, unable to find any loop-hole for escape, remained shut up in
his palace, miserably afraid, not even venturing to sacrifice in the
temple for dread of the curse that hung over the city. Every place of
worship, indeed, was deserted. In the middle of the temple of Bel-Marduk
the hideous pile of dead still lay behind their barricade, just as they
had fallen on the night of the massacre. Men not cowards at other times
fled that building and the square and all the neighborhood, as a place
of the damned. The air around was thick with the stench of death; and no
command of Cyrus could force one of his men near enough to the spot to
wall up the open space between the shattered doors.

Plague reigned supreme in Babylon. The black death, that horror of
horrors that occasionally swept upon the great nations of the East, like
the scourge of God smiting every man in its path, leaving behind it a
wake of dead, dying, and miserable bereft, had entered into the
beleaguered city. It was for this that Amraphel stopped ears and eyes
and remained a prisoner behind the thick, white walls of his palace,
where the chorus of woe could not penetrate to him. And day by day
Daniel the Jew interpreted, to those that would hear, the meaning of
this further wrath of God against them that had so long allowed
themselves to be governed by such a one as Nabonidus, descendant of
Nebuchadrezzar. Indefatigably Daniel, plague-marked and immune long
years ago, preached the wrathful word of his death-bearing Lord; and
such was his success among these pagans that it became a not uncommon
thing to behold some woman, swollen and spotted, inexpressibly repulsive
and pitiable to look at, with the final frenzy upon her, kneeling in
street or hovel before the wooden image of a demon, and frantically
calling upon the god of the Jews to remove from her both the curse of
life and the after-terrors of hell, and to plunge her into the
longed-for peace of utter annihilation.

By the middle of the month bodies could not be buried, but lay piled in
streets and houses, till Babylon became the true city of Mulge, Queen of
the Dead. Those that knew, those that had gone through the visitation of
thirty years before, felt their hearts fail them as they thought of what
was still to come. Many, indeed, tried to leave the city; but Cyrus'
soldiers patrolled every gate, and any having about them the mark of
death were not allowed to pass.

Charmides the Greek was not among those that attempted an escape. By
every tie that he held sacred he was bound to his adopted city, and it
was his one desire to do what little he might to help the sufferers of
the plague.

At dawn on the fourth of Ab, the morning after the fall of the city,
Ramûa and Beltani sat together in their tenement, waiting, watching,
more than all wondering at the strange sounds that had come to them as
faint echoes of the great happenings of the night. Neither of them had
gone to celebrate the feast in any temple. Plead or storm as Beltani
would, she found Charmides fixed in his wishes on this point, and in
tears and bitterness of spirit she found it necessary to move forward
for an entire year all her dreams of three days of unlimited wine and
meat. The Greek, who had gone back to temple-service almost immediately
after his meeting with Belshazzar on the day of Daniel's attempted
assassination of the king, knew enough of what was likely to happen in
the first night of the feast to forbid his family to participate in it.
And while Beltani had raged, and even Ramûa had shed a few submissive
tears when Charmides departed for the temple of Sin, the two of them
watched quietly through the night and eagerly awaited the promised early
return of the master of the household.

Very early in the evening came vague mutterings of distant, gathering
mobs. Much later were the still more indeterminate but more ominous
sounds of battle, shouts and cries, with the underlying murmur grown
more fierce. Afterwards fell the great silence--a silence in which no
man could sleep, something more terrible than sound, something that
foreboded direful things--carnage, murder, merciless death. At this time
the name of Baba first passed the lips of the waiting women. Baba was in
Ribâta's train at the temple of Bel-Marduk. Baba, a slave, stood no
chance of salvation if any were to be lost. Had she lived or had she
died that night? Through the silence that lasted till dawn this unspoken
question lay in the hearts of the watchers. And then, with the first
streaks of day, their thoughts were turned again by something else,
another cry more awful than any battle-shout, that rose like a mist from
every hovel in the tenement quarter.

"The plague--the plague! Woe unto us! It is the plague!"

It was as if every soul in the city was become a leper, and each was
crying his disease. At the first sound of it Ramûa's heart turned sick
within her, and Beltani became as white as the dawn. For Beltani could
remember the last plague in Babylon.

"Charmides! Why does he stay?" whispered Ramûa to her mother, over and
over again; and it was the only word that passed between them till, with
the first beams of the sun, the Greek was seen coming into the square in
front of the tenement. At sight of him Ramûa gave a little cry:

"He is not alone!"

"It is not Baba," added Beltani, quickly.

Then the two of them watched in silence while Charmides advanced with
his companion, a tall, slender woman covered with the silver-woven veil,
who faltered as she moved, till Charmides was nearly carrying her. At
the first glance Ramûa perceived that the Greek was weary, so weary that
every step was an effort to him. Thus, when he finally reached the door
of the dwelling, she ran quickly forward to give him aid.

"The night has been very long. Thou must rest," she whispered,
disregarding the stranger, who drooped as they halted at the door.

"Nay, Ramûa. Nay. I am not weary," returned the Greek, monotonously.
"Behold, I bring home to you Istar, the great lady of Babylon. In this
night she, and all in the Great City, have terribly suffered. Babylon is
fallen to Kurush the king, and Belshazzar, the mighty prince, and all
that were with him in the temple of Bel, are slain."

Istar gave a quick, convulsive shudder, but Ramûa hardly noticed her.
"Baba!" she cried, in terror. "Baba was in the temple of Bel!"

Charmides turned very white, and Istar suddenly threw back the veil from
her face. "And Baba--Baba, too!" she said, mournfully, her voice ringing
like a knell.

But seeing the woman, Ramûa and her mother forgot what they said. The
two of them stood transfixed by her undreamed-of, supernatural beauty.
Her pallor was something incredible, and the unearthly purity of it, the
light in the great eyes, the bluish shadows that lay on the skin, were
enough for the moment to make one forget death itself. As she looked,
Beltani perceived something that caused her to start. She took an
impulsive step forward, and then halted again as Istar's eyes came
slowly to the level of hers.

"What seest thou?" asked the woman.

Beltani went forward again and laid a finger upon Istar's neck, and as
she draw it away Istar shuddered convulsively.

"What is it?" demanded Charmides, in a thick voice.

"The plague."

There was a momentary silence as the four that stood there gave the
words time to penetrate. Then Istar, quivering again, started suddenly
towards the door. Charmides barred her way.

"Where goest thou?" he asked, gently.

"Out! Out into the Great City! Let me go, Charmides! Let me go!"

With what little strength she had Istar threw herself upon the Greek,
that he might give way and let her escape from his house. But Charmides
was firm, and his strength infinitely greater than hers. After a
struggle of a few seconds Istar gave way and would have fallen upon the
floor had not the young man caught her about the body, lifted her in his
arms, and carried her, lifeless and unresisting, into the little-used
inner room where, at this moment, Bazuzu lay asleep. The black slave was
quickly roused and Istar was placed upon a hurriedly arranged bed. Then
Charmides returned again to his wife and sternly commanded her to retire
to her room up-stairs, forbidding her to enter the lower rooms of their
dwelling while Istar should be there. Both Bazuzu and Beltani had had
the plague, and were in no danger from it. But Charmides himself, like
Ramûa, was relegated to the upper rooms and to the roof.

The moment that her body rested upon a bed, poor as it was, Istar fell
asleep, and there, in the great weight of her sickness and her grief,
lay for many hours insensible to all things. As the heat of the day came
on, and the atmosphere of the small and ill-ventilated room became more
and more stifling, Bazuzu took his place at her side, and minute by
minute, hour by hour, fanned to her lips what air there was, while his
own face streamed with perspiration and his breath came in gasps. His
eyes, the eyes that had so tenderly watched the childlike slumbers of
Ramûa and Baba, now looked upon her whose face had been the wonder of
the East, whom he himself once had seen clothed in blinding radiance,
seated upon her golden car in a procession of the great gods and who now
lay here, alone and friendless, shorn of her divinity, stricken with
disease, to die a pauper's death or to live on to a hideous old age.

Istar suffered in her sleep. Whether it was the memory of the horror of
the past night or the pain of disease racking her body could not be
told. But Bazuzu heard her moans with heartfelt pity. Over and over
again she spoke two names, one of which the slave could scarcely
understand, the other that of the dead prince of Babylon. They were the
names of her baby and of her husband, all that world of happiness that
had gone, and that was calling to her out of the shadowy past.

Like every one in the clutch of the dread sickness, Istar thirsted
continually, yet shrank, nauseated, at the mere sight of water or milk.
Continually Beltani brought and held to her lips the refreshment that
she craved, as often to have it thrust away with a gesture of pitiable
repulsion. At length, seeing there was no other way, Bazuzu held the
sick woman fast pinioned on the ground, while Beltani poured down her
throat a pint of freshly cooled water. Over the first swallow Istar's
struggles were convulsive, but after that she drank eagerly all that was
given her, and when the last in the cup was gone she opened her burning
eyes in a mute appeal for more. This was refused, of necessity; but, in
pity for the heat of her fever and the closeness of the room, Beltani
had her carried out and laid down near the door-way of the living-room,
where presently she sank into a sleep that changed gradually to a heavy

Noon passed and left the city streets quivering with heat. From the
burning desert in the west came a faint breath of wind, that twinkled
blue and white in the air till the eyes were blinded and the brain
reeled under its intensity. Charmides and Ramûa were sitting together on
the gallery outside their room in an upper story of the tenement,
looking off to the shining strip of canal beyond which rose the patch of
shrivelled green where, two months before, Ribâta's garden had blossomed
with many a fragrant rose and fragile lily. Charmides was mentally
preparing himself for another journey across the desolate city to the
temple of Bel, that vast tomb in which so many tangled bodies lay. He
had not yet voiced his intention to Ramûa, though he knew that she would
not oppose it.

Suddenly round the corner of the tenement, into the open square, came a
strange thing: a human being, crawling upon hands and knees along the
brick pavement, halting now and then in visible exhaustion, but
displaying also a nervous eagerness in its movements; and all the way
behind it as it came was left a deep, red trail. A mere heap of bloody
rags at first it seemed; but presently, as he watched, Charmides could
see a mop of long, black hair that fell to the ground upon one side.

"That is a woman, Ramûa," he whispered.

Ramûa, white to the lips, grasped his arm. "Go! Go to her, Charmides!"
she responded, a breathless fear coming on her.

"What is it, Ramûa? What is thy thought?" questioned the Greek.

"I do not know. Go thou, Charmides! Haste! Haste! She falls!"

Thereupon Charmides went, slowly at first, still staring in a
half-puzzled way at the little heap of bruised flesh that now lay inert
upon the bricks below. Then his pace quickened, for he realized the
woman's need. Along the gallery and down the stairs he ran, and then, at
breakneck pace, crossed the space between the wounded creature and the
door-way of the tenement. Ramûa, straining her eyes after him, saw him
bend over the fallen one, and then thought that a cry came from his

Hardly a cry, more a groan of utter horror it was. Charmides' heart was
in his throat. For a second the blue eyes closed to shut out the
pitiable sight, and then opened again upon Baba. It was Baba that lay
there before him: Baba who, mangled as she was, had, in the gray dawn,
crawled out from the bodies among which she lay in the temple, and since
then had come upon her hands and knees, inch by inch, foot by foot, all
across the Great City, to her old home, to him that stood over her now.
She had allowed herself the untold luxury of unconsciousness only when
the journey's end was reached, when at last she was at the door-way of
the place of her early poverty, her great happiness, her life-sorrow.

Charmides knelt beside her, and, with a little quiver in which pity and
fear for her were evenly mingled, lifted her in his arms. She stained
his tunic with blood; but presently he perceived that this blood was not
all Baba's own. It was caked in clots upon her torn garments; it smeared
her rich sandals; it matted her hair. Yet on her body there was, so far
as he could yet determine, only one wound--a deep stab in the back of
her left shoulder. From this the blood had almost ceased to flow, coming
only in a little trickle when she drew a longer breath than usual.

Charmides bore the light form, face downward, towards the stairs of the
tenement, thinking rapidly as he went. A horrible sight, truly, to lay
before Ramûa. Yet Ramûa must see it. Carry her into those rooms where
Istar lay in the delirium of the plague, he dared not. Nowhere
else--yes, there was one other place. There was the home of Baba's
master. Should he take her there before Ramûa guessed her identity?
Ribâta's house would be open to her. And yet--and yet--it was here that
Baba herself had chosen to come, as she might well believe, in death.
That mute appeal could not be withstood. Here, because she had asked it,
she must remain.

Step by step up the stairs to the gallery he bore the pathetic burden.
At the top of the flight stood Ramûa, face colorless, eyes wide with a
fear that she would not admit to herself. Charmides, looking up, met the
look, answered it, and saw his wife's hands go up to her head.

"Charmides! It is not--" she stopped.

"It is Baba, my beloved. Baba is alive. She has come home to us, Ramûa,
to be cared for. Be thou brave, then. Go down and bring water wherewith
to wash her, and a clean tunic of thine own to put upon her; and then
together we will bind her wound."

A little while and the sunset came, and Babylon was aureoled again in
crimson. Not till then did Ribâta's slave come back to consciousness in
her sister's arms. The horror of the past night had stamped itself as
indelibly upon her mind as on her body. Between fits of trembling she
poured out to Ramûa the story of the fight in the temple and the
massacre of the women. Charmides, standing outside the door on the
gallery, listened to the tale as he looked off across the quiet city.

"And Istar, Istar, our divine lady, I did not behold at the side of
Belitsum the queen, nor with the women of the royal house who lie
together now in the centre of the dead. May the great gods grant that
she and her lord, Belshazzar, together escaped death and are
free--somewhere--in the city."

"Baba, the Lady Istar is here--below--sick of the plague; and our mother
and Bazuzu are at her side."

"The Lady Istar! Here!" Baba struggled to sit up, but Ramûa kept her
firmly down while she told her the story of Istar's coming; how
Charmides brought her to them crazed with her grief and with her long

Baba listened closely, and at the end of the recital her tears flowed
fast. "Belshazzar, then, is dead!" she whispered more than once. "The
mighty prince is dead, and Istar is alone--alone--even as I."

But now, while Ramûa wiped her tears away, Charmides came in to them,
saying: "Across the square from the canal come two men in the livery of
the house of Ribâta. I go forth to meet them. If it is for thee they
come, Baba, what word shall I give to them?"

Baba gave a long sigh, and her eyes closed. "I am here. Seeks my lord
for me? I am my lord's. I will return to him when I may."

And with this reply Charmides went forth to meet the messengers.

Ribâta's men halted at the foot of the steps, waiting his descent; and
the Greek found that he had guessed aright when he surmised the object
of their coming. My Lord Ribâta, terribly wounded, stricken with great
grief at the downfall of the city and the massacre of all his women, had
despatched messengers to the only place where news of his favorite slave
could be had, if mayhap she had by a miracle escaped the general
carnage. Charmides dutifully gave them Baba's message, saw their faces
light up with amazement and pleasure, and bade them, if they would carry
Baba to their lord, go fetch the easiest of litters, that she might not
suffer more than necessary on the way.

This was done. In less than an hour two litters halted in front of the
tenement of Ut, and in one of them was Ribâta himself, his head, breast,
arms, and one limb wrapped in heavy bandages, so weak that his voice was
but a whisper, yet a whisper of joy that one little creature out of all
the multitude had escaped death in the temple. Baba was carried down to
him, and their meeting had in it much of pathos. Ribâta's career was
ruined, his position gone, his lord dead, his house in disorder; yet one
thing was left to him, and her, in great joy, he took to his heart.
Charmides and Ramûa, side by side, stood listening as Ribâta whispered
to his slave the two words that changed the lives of them all.

"Baba--my wife," said he. And then presently, together, they were
carried away into the evening.

While Charmides and Ramûa went back to their room to talk over the great
thing that had come to Baba, Beltani, below, was preparing for the
doleful night. She had kindled a little fire, cooked food for herself
and Bazuzu, and was now on her knees offering up incantations to Namtar,
the demon of the plague. Bazuzu, from his place beside Istar, joined at
intervals in the prayers, which the sick woman, now in the violent
delirium of fever, broke in upon continually with appeals for help and
wails of grief over Belshazzar, who never left her thoughts.

In many a house and hovel in the Great City a similar scene was enacted
to-night. Yet there could not be one more deplorable than this. She who
raved upon the bed of straw in the heart of the most poverty-stricken
quarter of Babylon--from what things was she descended? One by one she
had lost everything that had made her life wonderful. Now the last, that
attribute that she had left uncounted because it seemed to her
indestructible, was going from her. In the next five days of this
horrible sickness her beauty fled away, and she was left a thing
dreadful for mankind to look upon.

By the second day of her attack, the mental disturbance had increased
till the intervals of her sanity entirely disappeared. On the morning of
the third day began those violent constrictions of the heart that caused
unspeakable agony and brought her to the brink of the black abyss. By
this time, also, the enlargement of glands, or buboes, the dominating
symptom of the plague, had become frightful to see. Her eyes were
suffused with a thick, white matter. Upon her body came forth great
carbuncles. On the fourth day dark spots, patches like black bruises,
and long, livid stripes, appeared upon her fair skin. The fever, now at
its height, burned itself out in a day, and Istar fell into a cold and
quiet stupor, the first stage of death. Her lips were black. Her eyes
had closed. Her body had become something from which Beltani shrank at
sight, and old Bazuzu touched only because of his great pity for the
woman. Also at this time Istar's veil of hair, which had been wont to
conceal her under its silken meshes, fell out in great masses and was
burned by Beltani as a sacrifice before the demon of the plague.

Beltani's prayers to Namtar, however, had lost their sincerity, for the
old woman could not in her heart wish Istar to live in her terrible
disfigurement. Istar herself did not yet know what she had become. But
unless, as seemed most probable, she died, there must soon come a time
when she would discover, when she would see people shrink away from
contact with her, yet turn to stare after in that fascination that a
dreadful sight draws forth. Out of pure reverence for what Istar had
been, Beltani attended her faithfully. Every herb and medicine and charm
within her means and known to her she used to mitigate the sores, and to
make the after-scars less terrible. Yet she, and Bazuzu also, felt that
death were now the greatest boon for the woman.

Death did not come. In spite of her stupor and her low temperature, the
fatal eighth day passed, and on the morning of the ninth Istar lived and
was better. She regained a dim consciousness, and the strength to ask
for food, which was given her in minute quantities, as also milk and
wine. For forty-eight hours she hovered on the brink of reawakening; and
then, finally, she found herself.

On the morning of the fifteenth of the month Istar opened her eyes in
the early dawn. She was alone. On the other side of the room, upon her
pallet, Beltani lay in a heavy sleep. Bazuzu was outside in the square.
Istar moved her hand and sighed. She felt life coursing through her
veins, and remembered the past week with only a vague, nightmarish sense
of oppression. The air of the morning, hot as it was, had in it the
gathered sweetness of the long, starry hours. She breathed it with joy;
and for a moment forgot the sorrow that must be hers perpetually.
Presently, with an old and habitual gesture, she lifted her hand to her
head to push away her hair. And her hand touched the head. There was no
hair upon it. Rather, two or three thin strands hung about her ears.
Otherwise she was bald.

The heart of Istar gave a peculiar throb. She held up both hands before
her eyes; and, as she saw them, she herself shrank. The hands, those
fragile hands, the fair, white wrists, the arms, were spotted and
streaked and swollen and hideously scabbed. She touched her cheek and
found raw flesh upon it. She tore the covering from her neck. It was the
same. Everywhere--everywhere, from head to foot, over her whole
body--she was accursed. It was the plague--the plague! Istar tottered to
her feet and uplifted her eyes. Poor, weak eyes! Yea, she was all but
blind. With one low, wailing cry the afflicted one let herself slowly
down, till she lay prone upon the kindly floor that did not hesitate to
receive her. And there, through time and the day-dawn, she wept out the
burden of her soul. But of the future and its inevitable suffering she
could not think. As yet the way was too dark, too incomprehensible to

There upon the floor, motionless, Bazuzu found her two hours later. For
long minutes he stood over her, helpless, pitying, knowing that there
was no comfort to bring. But his heart was full as he felt the abandon
of her attitude. Presently, kneeling at her side, he laid a horny hand
gently upon one of her shoulders. And from his fingers a message of mute
sympathy went forth to her. When she could bear that he should look upon
her she lifted her head and opened her half-closed eyes to him. Then she
spake, quietly, but with authority:

"Let my veil be brought, that I may put it upon me."

From the corner where it had lain, carefully folded by Beltani, Bazuzu
brought it to her--the soft, black, silver-shot covering of her
happiness. In silence he watched the woman put it on, wrapping it about
her so that her head, her face, her arms, her form, were completely
shrouded. Then, from behind the veil, she spoke:

"Let no man evermore seek to behold me in my disfigurement. Behold, no
longer am I Istar, but a wanderer over the face of the earth. I go forth
from this house of friendliness. The voice of the great God bids me
follow out my life in desert places, in the lands of my enemies."

Bazuzu, from her words still believing her more than mortal, bent his
head in silent acceptance of her desires. She took two or three quiet
steps to the door, and then, when he had thought her gone, turned again,
and softly said:

"Thou, Bazuzu, and thy mistress, and the young Greek whose house this
is, take what thanks I have to give thee, and the blessing of All-Father
for thy mercy to me, an outcast. Gold have I none, nor riches of any
sort in payment for your labor. But from my heart I bless thee for thy

Then, like a shadow, she glided out at the door, across the deserted
square, down to the canal of the New Year, and along its bank, out into
the city. Through the long morning she moved through the streets,
accosting no one, stared at by the multitude, but unaddressed. Her
miserable body burned and ached. The sun poured down its blue-hot rays
upon her head. Muffled as she was in the veil, she was like to suffocate
for air to breathe, yet she would not expose herself to the gaze of
human beings. It was noon when she entered the square of the great gods
and passed the door of the temple of Nergal, looking with weary eyes
into its vast and cool interior. At some distance within was a group of
priests, Sangû, Enû, and Barû, men of importance in their several
stations. These the plague-stricken eyes of the woman failed in the dim
light to see. But she was startled suddenly by the appearance in the
door-way of one of them, who, catching a sight of her, had run quickly
forward, and now stood eagerly staring at her form. She did not draw
back from the look, and presently the priest spoke:

"Thou that standest shadow-like before me--art thou she whom they called
Istar of Babylon?"

"I was Istar of Babylon," came the gentle voice.

"_Was!_ Comest thou from Ninkigal?" The priest started back from her,
turning a little pale.

"Nay. Still I live; yet now am nameless."

"Thou hast dwelt as a goddess in the temple of Istar? Thou hast lived in
the palace of the king as the wife of Belshazzar?"

Istar bent her head.

"Enter, then, into the temple, that I may speak with the others here
before you." He motioned her to pass into the building, and, obediently,
Istar entered it. She stood at a little distance, while he that had
accosted her returned to the group of his companions and spoke with
them. In a few moments they summoned Istar to their midst. She came
quite close, and they eyed her in silence for a little while. Then one

"Ay. It is Istar of Babylon. I saw her thus from afar on the night of
the feast of Tammuz."

"She is well found. Istar, for eight days hast thou been sought
throughout the Great City. Kurush, the conqueror, demands thy presence
before him. He has heard of thee and thy beauty, and the strange things
thou art said to know; and he would have beheld thee on the day after
the taking of the city. But we have searched for thee in vain. Where
hast thou hidden?"

"I fulfilled my days. I will go now, if he wills, before the great
conqueror. Haste were best, for the time to the end is not now long."

The priests looked at each other uncertainly. Her words had in them a
ring of prophecy. They consulted for a little among themselves, till
Istar herself made all things easy for them:

"Let a swift runner be sent to the camp of Cyrus, and let the great king
be told that, one hour after the departure of the messenger, I come to
him. In that hour I will rest here in the temple, for I am weak in body.
Then ye may lead me out by the gate of Bel to the camp of the conqueror,
and there shall ye leave me. From that camp let no man follow me forth.
Now have I spoken."

And the priests heard the words of Istar and found them to be good; and
that which she had commanded was done.



The camp of the invading army lay spread over the sun-burned plain like
a camp of the dead. There was hardly a sign of life round any of the
many-colored tents. The very horses and pack-mules, tethered in a herd
in the midst of the desert of dry grass, lay for the most part panting
with heat, pining, no doubt, for the distant, breezy hills of fair Iran
and the snowy highlands of Media, where they had been born and bred.
Those of the soldiers not quartered inside the city lay under the shadow
of their tents, hardly caring to exert themselves to speak, sleeping if
they could, drinking as much as was to be had if they could not. Almost
the only person abroad in the noontide was the commander himself, who,
with one companion, was going through the camp, making one of his
impromptu examinations of his men and their armament. Hardened as he was
by years of campaigning in strange countries, Cyrus to-day found Babylon
as unbearable as any one. His body was damp with sweat, and his
breathing, as he walked, was audible. The blue quiver of heat that came
from the great desert near by made his eyes bloodshot, and caused him to
see with no little difficulty. Still, remonstrate as he would, the
white-robed man that walked with him succeeded only in making Cyrus more
thorough and more lingering at his task.

The commander's two sons, however, had not the energy of their father.
They lay on divans in the royal tent, Bardiya, the younger and more
favored of the two, strumming idly on a musical instrument; Cambyses,
content to be still, drinking bowl after bowl of a concoction supplied
by a slave, pausing occasionally in the bibulous process to curse at the
flies and winged insects that swarmed about him. Presently, looking over
at his brother, who for the moment had ceased to play, he asked,

"In thy pilgrimage of yesterday, Bardiya, didst discover any cool spot
in the city yonder?"

Bardiya drew himself together with a little gesture of disgust, and his
brother's features broadened with a grin. "Babylon is city of filth, of
disease, of death. Thousands within it die of the plague. Those that
sicken and those that are dead lie alike in the open streets. There is
no relief. The very river runs like molten metal. On the pavement bricks
the flesh of a slain animal could be roasted to a turn. I go no more to

Cambyses laughed. "And her whom you sought, Bardiya--she loved you not?"

Bardiya, highly displeased at the tone, replied: "She is not in the
city; or, if she is, no man knows where she lies hid. Some say that she
ascended to the silver sky with the spirit of Bel-shar-utsur, who was
her husband. Again they tell me she was murdered with the other women in
the temple of Bel-Marduk, on the night we took the city. Howbeit, no man
really knows whether or not Istar of Babylon still lives."

Cambyses laughed again. "Istar of Babylon! A myth! She lives no more
than any other god. Think you the great Ahura comes down among men, a

But Bardiya's faith would not be shaken, and he had begun an elaborate
protestation, when the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of
Cyrus, returning from his round with Amraphel of Bel at his side. At the
entrance of their father the young men rose and saluted him with a
respect that was the more marked because both of them utterly ignored
the presence of the high-priest.

Amraphel's bearing was a curious contrast to that of the conqueror. It
was replete with affectation and bombastic dignity, and whatever
mortification he felt at the want of recognition shown him by Cyrus'
sons, was manifested only by an increased loftiness of carriage.

The king seated himself in an ivory chair before a little stone table
that stood in the centre of the tent, and he motioned Amraphel at the
same time to a stool at his side. No sooner was he seated than the
priest began to speak upon what was evidently a continued subject,
already much discussed. And though his tone was in itself sufficiently
self-satisfied, the terms in which he spoke were exceedingly unlike
those that he had been accustomed to use to the whilom king of Babylon.
Where once had been unutterable arrogance and supercilious disdain of
everything, was now eager flattery, cajolements, toadyism, and unceasing
assurances of devotion. In the Elamite of plebeian parentage, Amraphel
had found a none too complacent master.

"And does my lord the king think his city ill-governed, that he is not
content to remain in safety outside its unhealthy walls? Nay, great
Kurush, thine every command, to the least of them, is given there by me,
and strictly obeyed by those in office under me. As I have said, the
city is loyal to you, through my teachings."

Cyrus bit his beard impatiently. "It is not that I fear lest my commands
be disregarded. You I hold responsible for their fulfilment. It is that
I would better know what commands to give. Here am I, native of another
land, ignorant of Babylonish ways, of Babylonish needs, knowing no one
street, no temple in all the city, striving to govern it from this camp
outside the walls. It is folly, priest!"

"Nay, most mighty king. What the people need, I know. What they want
shall be given. Fear not--"

"_Fear not!_" Cyrus turned on him with such a look that the high-priest
started in confusion and shrank away a little, while from his corner
Cambyses laughed harshly; but Bardiya scowled at the presumption of the
priest. At sound of the laugh Amraphel flushed with anger; and Cyrus,
controlling himself again, observed, in a gentler tone:

"Yesterday Bardiya, my son, went into the city yonder; and his story of
those that perish of the plague is grievous."

"The young prince, the son of my lord, came into the city!" exclaimed
Amraphel, in chagrin. "Why, then, sought he me not in my house?"

"For the reason that he sought another and a fairer than thou, good
Amraphel," replied Cambyses, in a highly impertinent tone.

"Whom didst thou seek, prince?" asked the priest, turning to Bardiya.

"Her whom they call Istar of Babylon."

"Ah! Where didst thou learn that name?"

"It is to be heard through all the east--and west--and north. No man but
knows of the living goddess of Babylon. Yet within the walls of her city
I found her not, nor any that could tell me where she dwelt. _Is_ there
such an one, Amraphel?"

"Now is it seven days since I sent asking that she be brought to me, or
that I may have permission to go before her," observed Cyrus,
thoughtfully. "Yet hath she not come, nor have I had any word from her."

"There was indeed an Istar of Babylon, who was wedded to Belshazzar, the
dead tyrant. And her beauty, were it famed at all, were rightly famed
over all the world. Yet was she no goddess: rather a sorceress, a witch,
a demon, most wicked, most impure. Since the night of the taking of the
city she hath been seen by no man. She it was, no doubt, that murdered
Belshazzar the king, whom my lord commanded to be saved from death and
to be brought before him. Now, doubtless, she hath taken his spirit with
her down to her kingdom, down to Mulge, where she and he feast by day
upon the dust of the dead, and by night upon the blood of living beings;
for they are vampires. Yea, verily, Istar of Babylon is no more, O

There was a little silence. Amraphel's words had been spoken with every
appearance of sincerity; and the idea that he presented was sufficiently
weird to appeal to the lively imaginations of the Elamites. Bardiya gave
a little sigh, and Cambyses and his father were for a moment lost in
thought, when the party was broken in upon by a man that appeared
suddenly in the door-way of the tent, and, seeing Cyrus and the
high-priest together, bent the knee before them and asked permission to
speak. He was a runner, or messenger, from the city, and as such his
unceremonious entrance was pardonable--nay, customary.

"What wouldst thou, swift one?" demanded the king, good-humoredly.

"May the lord king of the city live forever! I am come with word from
her that is called Istar of Babylon, whose presence before thee thou
hast desired. Behold she follows me hither in one hour; and she sends
her greeting to the great conqueror."

Cyrus, with a mixture of surprise and amusement, glanced at the priest,
who was a fair picture of uneasiness.

"Say, runner," asked the king, teasingly, "the Lady Istar, did she rise
before thee out of the ground from the land of Ninkigal? Came she forth
before thine eyes? Or art even thou, perchance, a ghost?"

The man looked his bewilderment at the king, and this time Bardiya
himself roared with laughter.

"The Lady Istar is living. The message was given me by a priest of
Nergal, who comes to conduct the lady before thee. I know no more, O

"Then take thy leave, fellow," cried Cyrus, tossing him a shekel from
his girdle, and smiling as the man prostrated with lightning-like
rapidity and was up and gone from the tent like an arrow from the bow,
ere Amraphel had time to speak.

Now the high-priest rose, and, with an air of angry dignity, demanded
permission to retire. Cyrus gave it willingly enough, for the man
wearied him, and continually angered him by his presumption. Thus, then,
a moment later, the high-priest was mounting his chariot at the edge of
the camp, and might presently have been seen rolling swiftly away in the
direction of the gate of Bel.

Cyrus and his sons were left alone till the coming of her whose name had
so long been familiar to them. At the end of half an hour Bardiya rose
from his place, straightened his tunic, and went over to the door of the
tent to look out upon the plain in the direction of the city. Cyrus and
Cambyses were eating their delayed noon meal; but the younger man, whose
vein of romance was marked, refused food, and stood here alone, looking
out over the parched fields. From time to time his father asked if
anything were to be seen of their promised visitor; and always came the

"Neither chariot nor litter do I see."

Then finally, as all three of them grew impatient at the delay, the
youth added: "But there are, near at hand, a company of priests on foot,
and in their midst is some one clad in black. They come towards our
tent. Perhaps--"

Cyrus came over and stood at his shoulder. "I think it is the woman," he
said. And he was right.

The three of them, the great king in the centre, Cambyses on the right
hand, Bardiya on the left, stood in the door-way of the tent as the
little band of white-robed priests came up to them. There was a slow,
sinking reverence on the part of the attendants, and from their midst
came forth a tall, slight figure muffled in the silver-shining veil.
Seeing her, the conqueror and his sons all three inclined their bodies,
and then Cyrus stretched out his hand.

"Istar of Babylon, we give you greeting in the name of Elam and Media,
and we bid you welcome to this tent of the plain."

Istar bent her head, acknowledging the courtesy, but denied her hand to
him that mutely asked it. Turning slightly, she dismissed the priests,
who, remembering her commands, accepted the gesture and departed from
her reluctantly.

Then Istar entered the tent and took the chair that Cambyses hastened to
place for her. Cyrus also seated himself, but the young men stood. Now
that speech seemed demanded of him, the great king looked a little
uncertain of himself. He glanced at the concealing veil which the woman
still kept close around her, and he longed greatly to ask for a sight of
the far-famed face. Yet that was a request that he dared not make.
Istar, however, read his mind without difficulty, and let her head sink
sorrowfully upon her breast. It seemed to her at last that her cup of
bitterness was full; and she whispered a little prayer into the silence.
Cyrus caught three or four of her low words, and these gave him an
opening for speech.

"You speak to the gods. Is it with the gods of Babylon that you hold
communion, lady?"

"There is no god but God, great king; and Him, in their hearts, all men
must worship."

Cyrus looked slightly puzzled, and his curiosity was stronger than ever.
Yielding to an impulse, he leaned over, asking: "Istar of Babylon, who
art thou?"

Istar glanced round her. "Let thy sons depart, that we may be alone,"
she said, in a quiet command.

Cyrus made a gesture that the young men dared not disobey, and, however
much against their wills, they quickly left the tent. In departing,
Bardiya let fall the curtain at the door, so that the king and the
king's visitor were alone in the pleasant half-light. Then Istar spoke:
"Thou hast asked what I am, O king. Tell me first who art thou, and
thereafter I will answer thee."

"I am Kurush, an Achæmenian."

"And I am Istar, a woman, sent of God to be punished on earth."

"Unveil thyself, woman. Let me behold that face that the world has

Istar rose. She was trembling slightly in her great shame. Yet there was
no hesitation in her movements. With a dexterous twist she flung off her
veil and stood revealed before the conqueror in all her unspeakable

Cyrus let a cry escape him. "Thou! Thou art not Istar of Babylon!"

She folded both hands across her breast and her dim eyes closed. "I am
Istar of Babylon," she said, softly.

After the shock of first seeing her, the king had looked away. Now, as
she stood there before him, mute and motionless, he struggled with
himself to let his eyes return to her without outward betrayal of his
feeling. When finally he looked again his brown orbs were clear and
calm, and he showed no sign of repulsion. For one, two, three minutes he
looked upon her face till, in spite of the frightful complexion, he
began to perceive its fundamental beauty. Of her eyes, only, he could
not judge. They were swollen, red, matterated, nearly closed. Otherwise
he knew from what he saw that she had once been rarely beautiful.
Only--always--she was hideous now--hideous beyond belief.

Knowing well his mind, how she revolted him, how strong was his desire
to leave her presence, Istar still stood before the great king. It was
her final mortification, and even her going forth from the temple of Bel
under Amraphel's lash had not been so terrible to her as this. Yet now,
by degrees, as if a magnetic current passed between them, some
understanding of what she underwent came home to the warrior. Compassion
and pity took the place of horror. His face grew very gentle, and,
moving to Istar's side, he laid one hand on her cotton-clad shoulder.

"Istar, thou hast greatly suffered. Is it not so?"

She shrank back from his touch as if she knew all that the move had cost
him. But the question she answered freely, without hesitation.

"I have suffered, yea, by day and by night, for many months. I doubted
the wisdom of the Lord, and I am punished. I became mortal. I loved; and
that that I loved more than myself death hath taken from me. Fame,
honor, riches, purity, love, and beauty are gone. Nothing now remains.
The end draws near. From afar I hear the voice of my beloved calling me.

"Thou, O king, great king, lord of the gate of God, art at the zenith of
thy glory. Thy greatest victory is won. Thy time here is not much
longer. After thee come two that shall dispute the throne, and they
shall fare forth from the world in the bloodshed of murder and
self-murder. After them cometh one greater than either, that shall enter
Babylon from another country. For him the sun grows golden. He shall put
down usurpers from his seat; and for a little while shall hold and rule
the kingdom with a strong and mighty hand. And then--I see the city
slowly sink--under the weight of time. One more conqueror she shall
know: a youth of iron from a land of gold. And he shall set the world
aghast with his conquests; but he shall find his tomb there within the
Great City of his conquering. After him the East grows black. The rose
shall wither unseen upon her tree. Even to the banks of the great river
blow thick the desert sands. Walls and palaces shall crumble away. And
upon the broken stairs of the tower of Bel a jewel of great price lies
for many centuries unheeded in the universal desolation. And for
centuries, Achæmenian, thou shalt sleep, ere thou art known again as
king of Babylon--the city of my lord."

With the ending of her vision Istar smiled slowly upon him that watched
her with troubled eyes. As the spell passed she trembled, and, stooping,
picked up the veil that lay about her feet. Cyrus moved forward as if he
would have stopped her.

"Speak on! Let me hear again that that thou hast foretold. Such prophecy
as this no seer of my court hath ever made."

But Istar's fire was gone. The light in her face died away, and in its
death Cyrus read her answer to his plea. Then she wrapped herself again
in the covering that hid her plight, and from it, as from behind a mask,
she spoke again:

"Thou, O Cyrus, who hast beheld me in mine ugliness, must carry with
thee the memory of it forever. Yet know that Istar of Babylon hath
humbled herself before thee as before no living man. My king is dead. In
his place, by reason of thy gentleness and justice, I hail thee lord of
Chaldea and of Babylon." And thereupon, before Cyrus understood what she
did or could prevent the act, Istar knelt at his feet and touched them,
the right and the left, with her forehead, in the manner of the day.

With a quick exclamation Cyrus lifted her up; but she spoke gently to
him, saying:

"That that was written have I done. Censure me not. I but obeyed my law.
Now fare thee well, O king. The end cometh, and I go forth to meet it."

"Nay, Istar--hold! One question more! Thou, his wife, art accused of the
murder of the king of Babylon, whom I commanded to be brought before me
living and unhurt from the feast in the temple. How dost thou answer
this accusation?"

"Who hath accused me of the deed?"

"The priest of Bel."



"Then I ask thee only why I should have killed him that my soul loves as
it loved not God?"

"Knowest thou, then, the murderer?"

"He that accused me shall, in God's time, answer to that charge. But
thou, Cyrus, see that thou punish him not. Thy hands are red with the
blood of many slain in battle; and shall the slayer accuse the slayer?
Now speak no more to me. I return again to the city."

In spite of her last bidding, Cyrus, slightly angered by her perfect
assurance, would have spoken again, had he not found it to be a physical
impossibility. It was in his heart to accuse her of his own accord of
the death of Belshazzar. Yet he could not voice the thought. As she left
the tent he moved after her to the door-way, whence he could look over
the plain to the walls of the city. He saw the black-robed figure glide
unaccosted through the camp and beyond it, in the direction that
Amraphel had taken more than an hour before. And as he watched her Cyrus
felt a great reverence spring up in his heart, and in the after-wonder
at her bearing and her words he forgot how she had looked. And
presently, as he stood there lost in thought, Bardiya came to his
shoulder, asking, softly:

"My father, is she all that men have said?"

Cyrus hesitated in his reply. Finally, after a long pause, he answered
of his own will: "More wonderful than any have said. She is a woman sent
of God."



Istar went quietly over the plain towards the gate of Bel, by which she
purposed re-entering Babylon, intending to pass the night in some one of
the temples, those refuges for all the outcast paupers of the Great
City. As she went, she thought upon Cyrus the king and her talk with
him, and also of the prophecy that had been put into her mouth.

When she left the conqueror's tent her mind had been at rest. She had
neither fear nor desire. But now, as she drew near the city gate, and
could hear, as from a great distance, sounds of life coming from the
rébit, or market, held outside Nimitti-Bel, she quickened with
uneasiness and excitement. Coming nearer, she perceived that there was a
great gathering in the mart, and it seemed to her that, over the general
murmur of buyers and venders, one single voice was speaking. She did not
recognize the tall, white-robed figure standing in the very centre of
the throng, gesticulating as he spoke; nor could her ears distinguish
any of his words. Quietly enough she came along her way, instinctively
knowing that danger threatened her; while, in the square, Amraphel of
Bel spoke to the gathering crowd of Babylonians and Jews, some of whom
he himself had brought, some of whom had been here in any case, all of
whom were now waiting for the inevitable return of Istar to the city.

It was in this wise that Amraphel addressed them:

"Hear ye, men and women! Listen, and heed the word!" He paused, while
the noise in the market-place grew gradually less. "Listen and heed, and
obey my word!

"Now comes there among you one from the camp of Kurush the conqueror,
who, in shame of guilt, hath not been equalled in the Great City. The
woman of Babylon, the witch, the disciple of Namtar the plague-demon;
she by whose hand Nabonidus and Belshazzar both have fallen; she who for
so long polluted the holy sanctuary of Istar; she who, in her nameless
wrath, visits the city with the great death; she who hath lain for days
in the camp of the conqueror, vainly weaving her spells about his
dauntless heart; she who hath, in sacrilege, been called Istar of
Babylon, would now come once more among ye.

"My people, will ye let her in among your dead in the city? Will ye
again receive her that hath wrought this infinite woe? Will ye not,
rather, in the names of the great gods, drive her forth from the city
gates with stones and scourges, as from your hearths by night you
exorcise Namtar her companion?

"Behold, there comes she among you, even now, black-veiled. In the name
of Bel, our god, I bid ye drive her from your presence here in Babilû!"

Hardly comprehending at first the violent words of the high-priest, the
people had listened open-mouthed. When, however, they understood that
she whom he had designated as the incarnation of all evil was coming
among them from the camp of the Elamite, there was a quick struggle to
reach the front rank of the crowd. As yet the Babylonians were moved by
curiosity rather than by wrath, for they were a slow people and not
unreasonable. The Jews, however, as many as were there, were of a
different temperament, and it was they that began, little by little, to
raise that ominous, angry murmur that will quicken a mob to violence
sooner than any speech of a professional anarch.

Among the throng was Charmides the Greek, come out an hour before to buy
barley for his house, and remaining to chat for a time with the cheery
countrymen that were unaffected by the depression of the city. Charmides
had heard the words of Amraphel with a natural sense of horror, and now
turned to look incredulously over the plain. There, fifty yards away,
was she for whom he and Bazuzu had vainly sought since morning. There
indeed was she, the tall, slight, black-clothed figure, advancing slowly
towards the gate. In obedience to a quick impulse, Charmides ran hastily
forth from the square and placed himself before her in her path. The
ominous shouts of the mob behind him came clearly to his ears, but he
paid no heed to them. He was within five feet of her before Istar
recognized him from behind her heavy veil. Then immediately she spoke to
him, in the poor, cracked voice that contained not a trace of its former

"Comest thou from the city to meet me, O Greek? Among so many, yet I
shall not lose my way."

"Lady Istar, turn thou back. Turn away from the gate! Amraphel there
incites the mob to take thy life. Therefore be warned. Come thou with
me. I will support you. We will enter the city later by another way."

Istar stopped and hesitated a little. She lifted her eyes to look at the
great throng in the rébit, and she could read their intent from the
attitude they took. Then she turned again to Charmides, who would have
taken her about the body to help her on in her weakness.

"Nay, Greek!" She started back from him. "Lay not thy hand upon me! My
very flesh is accursed! Thou givest timely warning, yet I go up to meet
them that hate me. Have I not said the end is near? Seek not to hold the
blessed freedom from me. Let us go up to meet them at the gate."

Startled by the calm determination of her manner, Charmides could find
no fitting remonstrance for her. Indeed, he knew at once that it were
useless to attempt to combat her will. More, he felt it to be
irreverent. Keeping, then, close at her side, hoping to shield her with
his own body from those in the market-place, he walked with her up the
gradual ascent to the gate. At first their approach was watched with
murmurs of disapproval. The angry prejudice of the Jews was beginning to
extend to the Babylonians also, and momentarily Charmides expected the
first stone. But as she approached something in the bearing of the
veiled woman stilled the voice of the mob. She was coming among them
apparently without either fear or hesitation. It was perhaps her
fearlessness that sent the little tremor of shame into the minds of most
of the company. Amraphel saw this almost instantly, and quickly set to
work. There was a slight movement along the face of the mob, and when
Istar stood within fifteen feet of them she found herself confronted by
a solid line of Jews that looked upon her with a cold impassivity that
foreboded an evil ending to this strange hour.

Seeing that her way was barred, and by what immovable men, Istar finally
halted. She looked about her from side to side, betraying for the first
time a little uncertainty of manner. It was as if the guiding spirit
that had so far led her was suddenly gone; as if at last she was alone,
unprotected, mentally and physically, before an inimical world. With a
little gesture of bewilderment she turned to the Greek at her side.

"Charmides," she said, faintly, "what do they here? Why do they oppose
my coming?"

"Men of Babylon," shouted Charmides, commandingly, "open your ranks! Let
the Lady Istar pass through to the gate of Bel!"

A low, sullen murmur of refusal rose from the men in the front line. Not
one of them moved. There was not so much as a glance of encouragement
for Charmides in his hopeless championship of the woman. Nevertheless
the Greek cried again:

"What right have ye to forbid that she enter the city?"

Then came a voice from the midst of the throng, a strident voice, and
one harsh with age, known too well both to Istar and to her protector.
"The witch of the plague shall enter no more into the city. Long enough,
creature of Namtar, hast thou worked destruction among us. Let the demon
thy master save thee from our wrath!" And with the last words a piece of
broken brick was hurled from out of the throng, striking Istar upon the

Instantly Charmides sprang in front of her, but, violently trembling,
she pushed him back. Quite alone, quite unprotected, she faced the mob,
even advanced to them a step or two, while she asked, faintly:

"What is this that ye call me? Servant of Namtar? Witch of the plague?"

"Yea verily, wicked one!"




With the last word two or three more stones came towards her, one of
them striking her upon the knee, another passing just over her head.

Istar drew a long sigh, and for an instant she closed her world-weary
eyes. Thereafter, with a slighter movement than she had used before
Cyrus, she caused the veil to fall from her form, and stood exposed in
all her pitiable plight before the pitiless mob that had gathered
against her.

Instantly there came a chorus of wonderment and of repulsion, with which
a weak note of compassion was mingled. Charmides, who now saw her face
for the first time since the morning after the massacre, started with

"Behold, the mark of the plague is upon me. How then do ye call me
servant of Namtar?" she said.

"Sorceress! Beneath the veil thou hast transformed thyself! Take thy
true form!" cried Amraphel from the throng.

At this accusation a howl of anger suddenly rolled over the childish
multitude. At last, almost by accident, they had been successfully
roused to fury against the helpless creature before them.

"Thy true shape, witch!"

"Thy true shape!"

"Fly, if thou canst, from our wrath!"

"Pray Namtar to save thee now!"

And then, dropping articulate speech, the mob prepared themselves for
their revenge against the demon's minion.

Drops of sweat rolled down Istar's face. Faint for food and greatly
suffering from weariness, she swayed where she stood. Charmides,
overcoming his repulsion, remembering her as she had once been in the
days of her great glory, threw his arm about her and supported her.

"Dogs!" he cried, angrily, "the woman is weak and sick of the plague.
Will ye still keep her from the city wherein she must rest?"

"Shall we admit a murderess among us?" shouted one of the Jews,

"Murderess? What creature have I slain?"

"Dost thou deny the murder of thy husband, Belshazzar, on the night of
the feast?" demanded Amraphel from the midst of the throng.

"Belshazzar! My beloved!--_I?_" A great sob burst from the lips of the
woman. For a moment she could feel again about her the dying arms of him
whom she had loved more dearly than godhead. The tears flowed fast down
her scarred cheeks. Before the wave of grief she bent her head low.

"Behold, she confesses! She dares not deny! Murderess! Murderess!"

The voice of the mob grew deafening; and now bricks and stones came
forth upon her in a shower. They struck her in many places, bruising her
head, her breast, her scantily clothed arms, her broken body. Under the
blows she cowered like a wounded animal, uttering no sound.

"Istar, Istar, come away with me! Fly! Here is death if we remain.

Charmides seized hold of her while the missiles were striking them both
in great numbers. Then, taking her up bodily, the Greek turned and fled
rapidly down the hill-slope in the direction of the nearest shelter, a
broad palm-grove upon the river-bank. For a few moments Istar was
helpless; but he found, to his immense relief, that they were not
pursued. When at last they were beyond danger Istar shuddered and cried
to be put down. He set her anxiously upon her feet and found that she
could walk.

"If I had but wine to give thee!" he exclaimed, as he saw her weakness.

"Nay, Charmides, thou hast saved and greatly helped me. I give thee
blessing from the heart. And now thou must leave me, that I may go alone
down to the river. Fear not. None will accost me. I am well."

The Greek would have protested against letting her go, but that he had
an unaccountable feeling that a higher force than hers was dominating
both of them. Therefore, after a glance into her uplifted face, he fell
upon his knees before her, and bent his head before the will of the
Almighty that was over them. And there, while the sunset shed its light
around them like a halo, Istar turned away and went forth alone in the
sunset light, to the grove of palms upon the bank of the quietly flowing



Never, in all the days of Babylon, had there been an evening more fair
than this. At sunset the burning day melted and flowed away, down the
western sky, in a flood of liquid gold. A faint breath of air came over
the river from across the distant Tigris, out of the cool hills of Elam,
the conqueror's land. On the river-bank rose the palm-trees, casting
their shadows into the softly slipping water; and the turf beneath them
was all strewn with sunset gold. To the north lay Babylon, huge and
black and silent, her dying thousands shut away behind the vastly
towering walls. To the west and south stretched great irrigated fields
of ripening grain, in the midst of which were many shadufs, with their
patient buffaloes at the interminable work of drawing water from the
clay wells. Still farther back were the crumbling brick huts of the
tillers of the soil. On the edge of the river two long-legged cranes
stood quietly meditating. Overhead a flock of pelicans wound their slow
way southward towards the marshes where they dwelt. From the far
distance was heard the loud cry of the bittern. Otherwise the land was
silent--wrapped in evening prayer.

Along the river-bank, under the shadowy palms, with the golden light
glowing about her, walked Istar, musing gently upon many things. Voices
from the infinite addressed her. The iron was leaving her soul. Her mind
was transfused with quietude. She ceased to notice or to feel the aching
of her bruised body. She was holding communion with deeper things, and
she moved with her head bent forward and her eyes upon the ground.
Presently she paused at the brink of the river--the fair, well-flowing
river, that held in its pure depths the body of the storm-eyed, her
beloved. Its flashing waters encompassed her with glory. Her mortal eyes
grew blind with light. Presently, out of the glowing depth, there came
to her, as once before, a voice--but now a voice most familiar, most
dear to her ears, most longed-for since its silence. Belshazzar spoke
from the beyond, in the words that Allaraine had written on the temple
wall, and that had appeared to her again from the river, on the night of

"Hast thou found man's relation to God? The silver sky waits for thy

And now in the heart of the woman was no bitterness, no rebellion, only
knowledge of the truth. And, answering the question of the Lord, spoken
in the voice of her dead, she whispered, softly:

"Man and man, as man and God, are bound by those ties of eternal love
that made the covenant of Creation. Consciously or unconsciously, all
living things must live with this as their law, for they are God's
children, God's brothers, God Himself sent forth to wander for a while
in time, but in the end returning to their eternal source, which is God.

"All the sin, all the sorrow of the world, I have known, have suffered.
Yet no loss nor grief can take away the great joy of love, its purity,
its perfection.

"I acknowledge the wisdom of the All-Father displayed in His creation.
Let Him do with me as He will."

As she ceased to speak a blinding, silver stillness wrapped her about
and held her immovable. From its depths in the far-off heavens there
came to her ears sounds such as she had known in the long-ago: the song
of the infinite, the infinite, unceasing chorus, the wind-choir that
sings the Creator's hymn.

Still she could see the green fields and the water, and the ferny palms
above her head. Still she beheld the broad river running full of pink
and molten gold. Still the breath of the evening wind came to her lips.
The world was all about her; but she was no longer of it all.

High over her head, in the unclouded sky, a vast web of shimmering
silver was spreading out and out, like a broad, firmly woven veil. It
scintillated with dazzling light into Istar's upraised and half-blind
eyes, yet it struck them with no pain. It was the silver sky of
Babylonish dreams opening above her, while the celestial voices sang
ever more softly, but ever more beautifully, the pure, swaying harmonies
of the great hymn of freedom. God's presence lived in the beauty of the
earthly evening scarcely less than in the splendor of that heavenly one.
In the midst of the scene of supernatural wonder, Istar sank to her
knees, and there remained transfixed before the miracle that came to be
enacted before her.

From out of the silver-spun cloud two figures, at first merely dense,
opaque bodies of mist, began to descend from the heights, growing
gradually more and more distinct in form as they came, leaving behind
them a silver trail that moved and swayed, fine and threadlike, in the
air, above them. As they approached her, Istar, in her ecstasy, quickly
recognized them both; the one, his floating locks of deepest auburn
star-crowned, his trailing garments of changing blue, carrying in his
hand the sunset lyre, was Allaraine, the archetype of song. The second
was more spiritual still, a storm-eyed being with thick, black locks
uncrowned, clothed in misty white, girdled in silver, bearing in his
hand a palm-branch of the same shimmering white metal, his face, hands,
and feet showing transparently pure, while in his back, upon the left
side, was a mark of brilliant light, glowing with ruby fire, and
resembling a hallowed wound--the releasing dagger-stroke that had freed
Belshazzar from Babylon--Belshazzar, beloved of the woman to whom he
came again.

Slowly, slowly, to that infinite, sweet chorus, these two descended till
their celestial feet touched earth, and Istar, with joyful greeting,
rose up and went to meet them. As she held forth both maimed, mortal
hands, the eyes of Allaraine glowed with sorrow, but Belshazzar's face
was alight with the fulness of great joy.

"We come to thee, O woman honored of God; and thou shalt choose between

"I, Allaraine, thy brother, would lead thee back among thy fellows in
thy great purification to the perfection of rest, of insensibility to
all creation except God and His word."

"Istar, beloved, through suffering a soul, an immortal soul, hath been
born in thee; and thou mayst come forth now to rest a little on the long
pilgrimage that will lead thee finally back into the God whence all
souls are sprung."

"Choose, Istar. Choose."

Istar turned her eyes to Allaraine and looked upon him long and
earnestly, and her face grew radiant. Then, most slowly, she moved her
gaze till it met with that of the great storm-orbs of Belshazzar. And in
that look the worn-out body dropped from off her soul, which, clothed in
garments of translucent light, began its ascent between the two
messengers that had come for her. They passed, all three, above the
shadowy turf, above the line of waving palms, above the glowing river
which ran its threadlike course from distant Karchemish into the sunset
gulf; above, finally, the towering black walls of the Great City, and so
into the clouds of the silver sky, to which no mortal eye may follow

       *       *       *       *       *

Through this last hour and the period of her transfiguration, Charmides,
still standing at the edge of the grove of palms, had watched the figure
of Istar upon the river-bank. Rejoicing in the great beauty of the
evening, he waited peacefully, believing her wrapped in prayer. Nothing
saw he of the celestial world that had opened to her, nothing knew of
the heavenly messengers that had come. But when her body fell back upon
the earth, he, thinking that she had fainted from exhaustion, ran
quickly to the spot where his eyes had last beheld her. When he came to
the place there was nothing there--no trace of the plague-marked form of
her that had dwelt in the temple of Istar in the Great City. Long he
searched there alone in the evening, till, out of the far, blue space a
voice, the voice of the woman he had so worshipped, spoke to him:

"Thou faithful and true, seek for me no more; for that of me which was
not is not now. But my spirit shalt thou know to be watching near thee
always. Behold, I am returned unto our Father."

So, knowing all things dumbly in his heart, the young Greek obeyed her
voice, and, turning slowly away, went forth from the grove of palms, and
returned that night alone to his young wife in Babylon.



[1] Jowett's translation of Plato's _Statesman_, vol. iii., pp. 562,

[2] Jowett's translation of Plato's _Phaedo_, vol. i., pp. 407, 408.

[3] 541 B.C.

[4] Herodotus gives it as higher than this, a few writers less, the
greatest estimate being three hundred and seventy-five feet, the least

[5] "_Bit_"--tribe, or family. A general prefix to the surname.

[6] The worship of the goddess Istar began originally in the city of

[7] Her archetypal name, Istar being only a cognomen, the name given
her by the people.

[8] According to the calculations of Babylonish historians.

[9] The fish-god.

[10] The incident of Nabu-Nahid's strange gods is an historical fact.

[11] Fourteen miles.

[12] An historical fact.

    Transcriber's Note:

    The following is a list of variations in the spelling of personal
    and place names which have been retained:

    Agâdé / Agade
    Êa-bani / Êa-Bani
    Lillât / Lilât
    Nabu-Nahîd / Nabû-Nahid / Nabu-Nahid
    Nabopolassar / Nabopollassar
    Tiamât / Tiâmat
    Vul-ramân / Vul-Ramân

    The Incantation in the Prologue uses the spelling "archtype".

    The following is a list of changes made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

    KABIR: _A Poenician trader, shipwrecked off the harbor of Selinous,
    KABIR: _A Phœnician trader, shipwrecked off the harbor of Selinous,

    Nabonidus: Or "Nabu-Nahîd, last native king
    Nabonidus: Or "Nabu-Nahîd", last native king

    right side, oars-shattered, sides still uncrushed, while
    right side, oars shattered, sides still uncrushed, while

    heave-offerings of oxen and of doves.
    heave-offerings of oxen and of doves."

    Our voyage had been too long already.
    Our voyage had been too long already."

    her out.
    her out."

    Up to this point Theron and his son stoood beside
    Up to this point Theron and his son stood beside

    "Y face and form, my Charmides, are beautiful--more
    "Your face and form, my Charmides, are beautiful--more

    is never his feeling for any other of her sex. Woman
    is never his feeling for any other of her sex. Woman's

    "Dishonor--in the rites of Ashtoreth! Nay. you
    "Dishonor--in the rites of Ashtoreth! Nay, you

    it was his home, But it was night before they entered
    it was his home. But it was night before they entered

    The great mutitude hardly caught his attention. He
    The great multitude hardly caught his attention. He

    that from the first I have feared She is become no
    that from the first I have feared. She is become no

    "Bunantitûm Bit-Êgibi."
    "Bunanitûm Bit-Êgibi."

    thy companion, Ribâta of Skumukin?"
    thy companion, Ribâta of Shumukin?"

    the bed She gave a little cry of astonishment and
    the bed. She gave a little cry of astonishment and

    Chaldean kings that had done as much
    Chaldean kings that had done as much.

    "Belitsum--lady--what is thy grief?" He asked,
    "Belitsum--lady--what is thy grief?" he asked,

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