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Title: An Egyptian Princess — Volume 05
Author: Ebers, Georg
Language: English
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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 "An Egyptian Princess — Volume 05" ***

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AN EGYPTIAN PRINCESS, Part 1.

By Georg Ebers

Volume 5.



CHAPTER XIV.

The next day Nitetis removed to the country-house in the hanging-gardens,
and began a monotonous, but happy and industrious life there, according
to the rules laid down by Croesus.  Every day she was carried to
Kassandane and Atossa in a closely shut-up litter.  Nitetis soon began to
look upon the blind queen as a beloved and loving mother, and the merry,
spirited Atossa nearly made up to her for the loss of her sister Tachot,
so far away on the distant Nile.  She could not have desired a better
companion than this gay, cheerful girl, whose wit and merriment
effectually prevented homesickness or discontent from settling in her
friend's heart.  The gravity and earnestness of Nitetis' character were
brightened by Atossa's gaiety, and Atossa's exuberant spirits calmed and
regulated by the thoughtful nature of Nitetis.

Both Croesus and Kassandane were pleased and satisfied with their new
daughter and pupil, and Oropastes extolled her talents and industry daily
to Cambyses.  She learnt the Persian language unusually well and quickly;
Cambyses only visited his mother when he hoped to find Nitetis there, and
presented her continually with rich dresses and costly jewels.  But the
highest proof of his favor consisted in his abstaining from visiting her
at her house in the hanging-gardens, a line of conduct which proved that
he meant to include Nitetis in the small number of his real and lawful
wives, a privilege of which many a princess in his harem could not boast.

The grave, beautiful girl threw a strange spell over this strong,
turbulent man.  Her presence alone seemed enough to soften his stubborn
will, and he would watch their games for hours, his eyes fixed on her
graceful movements.  Once, when the ball had fallen into the water, the
king sprang in after it, regardless of his costly apparel.  Nitetis
screamed on seeing his intention, but Cambyses handed her the dripping
toy with the words: "Take care or I shall be obliged to frighten you
again."  At the same time he drew from his neck a gold chain set with
jewels and gave it to the blushing girl, who thanked him with a look
which fully revealed her feelings for her future husband.

Croesus, Kassandane and Atossa soon noticed that Nitetis loved the king.
Her former fear of this proud and powerful being had indeed changed into
a passionate admiration.  She felt as if she must die if deprived of his
presence.  He seemed to her like a, glorious and omnipotent divinity, and
her wish to possess him presumptuous and sacrilegious; but its fulfilment
shone before her as an idea more beautiful even than return to her native
land and reunion with those who, till now, had been her only loved ones.

Nitetis herself was hardly conscious of the strength of her feelings,
and believed that when she trembled before the king's arrival it was from
fear, and not from her longing to behold him once more.  Croesus,
however, had soon discovered the truth, and brought a deep blush to his
favorite's cheek by singing to her, old as he was, Anacreon's newest
song, which he had learnt at Sais from Ibykus

              "We read the flying courser's name
               Upon his side in marks of flame;
               And by their turban'd brows alone
               The warriors of the East are known.
               But in the lover's glowing eyes,
               The inlet to his bosom lies;
               Through them we see the tiny mark,
               Where Love has dropp'd his burning spark"
                                   --Paegnion 15

And thus, in work and amusement, jest, earnest, and mutual love, the
weeks and months passed with Nitetis.  Cambyses' command that she was to
be happy in his land had fulfilled itself, and by the time the
Mesopotamian spring-tide (January, February and March), which succeeds
the rainy month of December, was over, and the principal festival of the
Asiatics, the New Year, had been solemnized at the equinox, and the May
sun had begun to glow in the heavens, Nitetis felt quite at home in
Babylon, and all the Persians knew that the young Egyptian princess had
quite displaced Phaedime, the daughter of Otanes, in the king's favor,
and would certainly become his first and favorite wife.

Boges sank considerably in public estimation, for it was known that
Cambyses had ceased to visit the harem, and the chief of the eunuchs had
owed all his importance to the women, who were compelled to coax from
Cambyses whatever Boges desired for himself or others.  Not a day passed
on which the mortified official did not consult with the supplanted
favorite Phaedime, as to the best means of ruining Nitetis, but their
most finely spun intrigues and artifices were baffled by the strength of
king's love and the blameless life of his royal bride.

Phaedime, impatient, mortified, and thirsting for vengeance, was
perpetually urging Boges to some decided act; he, on the contrary,
advised patience.

At last, however, after many weeks, he came to her full of joy,
exclaiming: "I have devised a little plan which must ruin the Egyptian
woman as surely as my name is Boges.  When Bartja comes back, my
treasure, our hour will have arrived."

While saying this the creature rubbed his fat, soft hands, and, with his
perpetual fulsome smile, looked as if he were feasting on some good deed
performed.  He did not, however, give Phaedime the faintest idea of the
nature of his "little plan," and only answered her pressing questions
with the words: "Better lay your head in a lion's jaws, than your secret
in the ears of a woman.  I fully acknowledge your courage, but at the
same time advise you to remember that, though a man proves his courage
in action, a woman's is shown in obedience.  Obey my words and await the
issue in patience."  Nebenchari, the oculist, continued to attend the
queen, but so carefully abstained from all intercourse with the Persians,
that he became a proverb among them for his gloomy, silent ways.  During
the day he was to be found in the queen's apartments, silently examining
large rolls of papyri, which he called the book of Athotes and the sacred
Ambres; at night, by permission of the king and the satraps of Babylon,
he often ascended one of the high towers on the walls, called
Tritantaechmes, in order to observe the stars.

The Chaldaean priests, the earliest astronomers, would have allowed him
to take his observations from the summit of the great temple of Bel,
their own observatory, but he refused this offer decidedly, and persisted
in his haughty reserve.  When Oropastes attempted to explain to him the
celebrated Babylonian sun-dial, introduced by Anaximander of Miletus into
Greece, he turned from the Magian with a scornful laugh, saying: "We knew
all this, before you knew the meaning of an hour."

Nitetis had shown Nebenchari much kindness, yet he took no interest in
her, seemed indeed to avoid her purposely, and on her asking whether she
had displeased or offended him, answered: "For me you are a stranger.
How can I reckon those my friends, who can so gladly and so quickly
forget those they loved best, their gods, and the customs of their native
land?"

Boges quickly discovered this state of feeling on the part of Nebenchari,
and took much pains to secure him as an ally, but the physician rejected
the eunuch's flatteries, gifts, and attentions with dignity.

No sooner did an Angare appear in the court of the palace with despatches
for the king, than Boges hastened to enquire whether news from the Tapuri
had arrived.

At length the desired messenger appeared, bringing word that the rebels
were subdued, and Bartja on the point of returning.

Three weeks passed--fresh messengers arrived from day to day announcing
the approach of the victorious prince; the streets glittered once more in
festal array, the army entered the gates of Babylon, Bartja thanked the
rejoicing multitude, and a short time after was in the arms of his blind
mother.

Cambyses received his brother with undisguised warmth, and took him to
the queen's apartments, when he knew that Nitetis would be there.

For he was sure the Egyptian girl loved him; his previous jealousy seemed
a silly fancy now, and he wished to give Bartja an opportunity of seeing
how entirely he trusted his bride.

Cambyses' love had made him mild and gentle, unwearied in giving and in
doing good.  His wrath slumbered for a season, and around the spot where
the heads of those who had suffered capital punishment were exhibited as
a warning to their fellow-men, the hungry, screeching crows now wheeled,
in vain.

The influence of the insinuating eunuchs (a race who had never been seen
within the gates of Cyrus until the incorporation of Media, Lydia and
Babylon, in which countries they had filled many of the highest offices
at court and in the state), was now waning, and the importance of the
noble Achaemenidae increasing in proportion; for Cambyses applied oftener
to the latter than to the former for advice in matters relating to the
welfare of the country.

The aged Hystaspes, father of Darius, governor of Persia proper and
cousin to the king; Pharnaspes, Cambyses' grandfather on the mother's
side; Otanes, his uncle and father-in-law.  Intaphernes, Aspathines,
Gobryas, Hydarnes, the general Megabyzus, father of Zopyrus, the envoy
Prexaspes, the noble Croesus, and the old warrior Araspes; in short, the
flower of the ancient Persian aristocracy, were now at the court of
Cambyses.

To this must be added that the entire nobility of the realm, the satraps
or governors of the provinces, and the chief priests from every town were
also assembled at Babylon to celebrate the king's birthday.

     [The king's birthday was the principal feast among the Persians, and
     called "the perfect feast."  Herod. I. 133.  Birthdays were held in
     much honor by the ancients, and more especially those of their
     kings.  Both the great bilingual Egyptian tablets, which we possess
     (the Rosetta stone, line 10 of hieroglyphic text; Gr. text, line 46.
     and the edict of Canopus ed. Lepsius, hieroglyphic text 1. 3.  Gr.
     text 1. 5.) mention the celebration of the birthday of one of the
     Ptolemies; and even of Rameses II., so early as the 14th century B.
     C.  we read: "There was joy in heaven on his birthday."]

The entire body of officials and deputies streamed from the provinces up
to the royal city, bringing presents to their ruler and good wishes; they
came also to take part in the great sacrifices at which horses, stags,
bulls and asses were slaughtered in thousands as offerings to the gods.

At this festival all the Persians received gifts, every man was allowed
to ask a petition of the king, which seldom remained unfulfilled, and in
every city the people were feasted at the royal expense.  Cambyses had
commanded that his marriage with Nitetis should be celebrated eight days
after the birthday, and all the magnates of the realms should be invited
to the ceremony.

The streets of Babylon swarmed with strangers, the colossal palaces on
both shores of the Euphrates were overfilled, and all the houses stood
adorned in festal brightness.

The zeal thus displayed by his people, this vast throng of human beings,
--representing and bringing around him, as it were, his entire kingdom,
contributed not a little to raise the king's spirits.

His pride was gratified; and the only longing left in his heart had been
stilled by Nitetis' love.  For the first time in his life he believed
himself completely happy, and bestowed his gifts, not only from a sense
of his duty as king of Persia, but because the act of giving was in
itself a pleasure.

Megabyzus could not extol the deeds of Bartja and his friends too highly.
Cambyses embraced the young warriors, gave them horses and gold chains,
called them "brothers" and reminded Bartja, that he had promised to grant
him a petition if he returned victorious.

At this Bartja cast down his eyes, not knowing at first in what form to
begin his request, and the king answered laughing: "Look, my friends; our
young hero is blushing like a girl!  It seems I shall have to grant
something important; so he had better wait until my birthday, and then,
at supper, when the wine has given him courage, he shall whisper in my
ear what he is now afraid to utter.  Ask much, Bartja, I am happy myself,
and wish all my friends to be happy too."  Bartja only smiled in answer
and went to his mother; for he had not yet opened his heart to her on the
matter which lay so near it.

He was afraid of meeting with decided opposition; but Croesus had cleared
the way far him by telling Kassandane so much in praise of Sappho, her
virtues and her graces, her talents and skill, that Nitetis and Atossa
maintained she must have given the old man a magic potion, and
Kassandane, after a short resistance, yielded to her darling's
entreaties.

"A Greek woman the lawful wife of a Persian prince of the blood!"  cried
the blind woman.  "Unheard of! What will Cambyses say?  How can we gain
his consent?"

"On that matter you may be at ease, my mother," answered Bartja, "I am as
certain that my brother will give his consent, as I am that Sappho will
prove an ornament and honor to our house."

"Croesus has already told me much in favor of this maiden," answered
Kassandane," and it pleases me that thou hast at last resolved to marry;
but never-the-less this alliance does not seem suitable for a son of
Cyrus.  And have you forgotten that the Achaemenidae; will probably
refuse to recognize the child of a Greek mother as their future king,
if Cambyses should remain childless?"

"Mother, I fear nothing; for my heart is not set upon the crown.  And
indeed many a king of Persia has had a mother of far lower parentage than
my Sappho."  I feel persuaded that when my relations see the precious
jewel I have won on the Nile, not one of them will chide me."

"The gods grant that Sappho may be equal to our Nitetis!"  answered
Kassandane, "I love her as if she were my own child, and bless the day
which brought her to Persia.  The warm light of her eyes has melted your
brother's hard heart; her kindness and gentleness bring beauty into the
night of my blind old age, and her sweet earnestness and gravity have
changed your sister Atossa from an unruly child into a gentle maiden.
But now call them, (they are playing in the garden), and we will tell
them of the new friend they are to gain through you."

"Pardon me, my mother," answered Bartja, "but I must beg you not to tell
my sister until we are sure of the king's consent."

"You are right, my son.  We must conceal your wish, to save Nitetis and
Atossa from a possible disappointment.  A bright hope unfulfilled is
harder to bear than an unexpected sorrow.  So let us wait for your
brother's consent, and may the gods give their blessing!"  Early in the
morning of the king's birthday the Persians offered their sacrifices on
the shores of the Euphrates.  A huge altar of silver had been raised on
an artificial hill.  On this a mighty fire had been kindled,  from which
flames and sweet odors rose towards heaven.  White-robed magi fed the
fire with pieces of daintily-cut sandal-wood, and stirred it with bundles
of rods.

A cloth, the Paiti-dhana, was bound round the  heads of the priests, the
ends of which covered the mouth, and thus preserved the pure fire from
pollution by human breath.

     [The Persians were ordered to hold this little square piece of cloth
     before their mouths when they prayed.  It was from 2 to 7 fingers
     broad.  Anquetil gives a drawing of it in his Zend-Avesia.  Strabo
     speaks of the Paiti-dhana p. 733.  He says the ends of the cloth
     used as a covering for the head hung down over the mouth.]

The victims had been slaughtered in a meadow near the river, the flesh
cut into pieces, sprinkled with salt, and laid out on tender grasses,
sprouts of clover, myrtle-blossoms, and laurel-leaves, that the beautiful
daughter of Ormuzd, the patient, sacred Earth, might not be touched by
aught that was dead or bleeding.

Oropastes, the chief Destur,--[Priest]--now drew near the fire and cast
fresh butter into it.  The flames leapt up into the air and all the
Persians fell on their knees and hid their faces, in the belief that the
fire was now ascending to their great god and father.  The Magian then
took a mortar, laid some leaves and stalks of the sacred herb Haomas
within it, crushed them and poured the ruddy juice, the food of the gods,
into the flames.

After this he raised his hands to heaven, and, while the other priests
continually fed the flames into a wilder blaze by casting in fresh
butter, sang a long prayer out of the sacred books.  In this prayer the
blessing of the gods was called down on everything pure and good, but
principally on the king and his entire realm.  The good spirits of light,
life and truth; of all noble deeds; of the Earth, the universal giver; of
the refreshing waters, the shining metals, the pastures, trees and
innocent creatures, were praised: the evil spirits of darkness; of lying,
the deceiver of mankind; of disease, death and sin; of the rigid cold;
the desolating heat; of all odious dirt and vermin, were cursed, together
with their father the malignant Ahriman.  At the end all present joined
in singing the festival prayer: "Purity and glory are sown for them that
are pure and upright in heart."

The sacrificial ceremony was concluded with the king's prayer, and then
Cambyses, arrayed in his richest robes, ascended a splendid chariot drawn
by four snow-white Nicoean horses, and studded with topazes, cornelian
and amber, and was conveyed to the great reception-hall, where the
deputies and officers from the provinces awaited him.

As soon as the king and his retinue had departed, the priests selected,
for themselves, the best pieces of the flesh which had been offered in
sacrifice, and allowed the thronging crowd to take the rest.

The Persian divinities disdained sacrifices in the light of food,
requiring only the souls of the slaughtered animals, and many a poor man,
especially among the priests, subsisted on the flesh of the abundant
royal sacrifices.

The prayer offered up by the Magian was a model for those of the Persian
people.  No man was allowed to ask anything of the gods for himself
alone.  Every pious soul was rather to implore blessings for his nation;
for was not each only a part of the whole? and did not each man share in
the blessings granted to the whole kingdom?  But especially they were
commanded to pray for the king, in whom the realm was embodied and
shadowed forth.  It was this beautiful surrender of self for the public
weal, that had made the Persians great.  The doctrines of the Egyptian
priesthood represented the Pharaohs as actual divinities, while the
Persian monarchs were only called "sons of the gods;" yet the power of
the latter was far more absolute and unfettered than that of the former;
the reason for this being that the Persians had been wise enough to free
themselves from priestly domination, while the Pharaohs, as we have seen,
if not entirely under the dominion of the priestly caste, were yet under
its influence in the most important matters.

The Egyptian intolerance of all strange religions was unknown in Asia.
The conquered Babylonians were allowed by Cyrus to retain their own gods,
after their incorporation in the great Asiatic kingdom.  The Jews,
Ionians and inhabitants of Asia Minor, in short, the entire mass of
nations subject to Cambyses remained unmolested in possession of their
hereditary religions and customs.

Beside the great altar, therefore, might be seen many a smaller
sacrificial flame, kindled in honor of their own divinities, by the
envoys from the conquered provinces to this great birthday feast.

Viewed from a distance, the immense city looked like a gigantic furnace.
Thick clouds of smoke hovered over its towers, obscuring the light of the
burning May sun.

By the time the king had reached the palace, the multitude who had come
to take part in the festival had formed themselves into a procession of
interminable length, which wandered on through the straight streets of
Babylon towards the royal palace.

Their road was strewn with myrtle and palm-branches, roses, poppy and
oleander-blossoms, and with leaves of the silver poplar, palm and laurel;
the air perfumed with incense, myrrh, and a thousand other sweet odors.
Carpets and flags waved and fluttered from the houses.

Music too was there; the shrill peal of the Median trumpet, and soft tone
of the Phrygian flute; the Jewish cymbal and harp, Paphlagonian
tambourines and the stringed instruments of Ionia; Syrian kettle-drums
and cymbals, the shells and drums of the Arians from the mouth of the
Indus, and the loud notes of the Bactrian battle-trumpets.  But above all
these resounded the rejoicing shouts of the Babylonian multitude,
subjugated by the Persians only a few short years before, and yet, like
all Asiatics, wearing their fetters with an air of gladness so long as
the fear of their tyrant was before their eyes.

The fragrant odors, the blaze of color and sparkling of gold and jewels,
the neighing of the horses, and shouts and songs of human beings, all
united to produce a whole, at once bewildering and intoxicating to the
senses and the feelings.

The messengers had not been sent up to Babylon empty-handed.  Beautiful
horses, huge elephants and comical monkeys; rhinoceroses and buffaloes
adorned with housings and tassels; double-humped Bactrian camels with
gold collars on their shaggy necks; waggon-loads of rare woods and ivory,
woven goods of exquisite texture, casks of ingots and gold-dust, gold and
silver vessels, rare plants for the royal gardens, and foreign animals
for the preserves, the most remarkable of which were antelopes, zebras,
and rare monkeys and birds, these last being tethered to a tree in full
leaf and fluttering among the branches.  Such were the offerings sent to
the great king of Persia.

They were the tribute of the conquered nations and, after having been
shown to the king, were weighed and tested by treasurers and secretaries,
either declared satisfactory, or found wanting and returned, in which
case the niggardly givers were condemned to bring a double tribute later.

     [At the time of which we are writing, the kings of Persia taxed
     their kingdom at whatever time and to whatever extent seemed good in
     their own eyes.  Cambyses' successor, Darius, was the first to
     introduce a regular system of taxation, in consequence of which he
     was nicknamed "the shopkeeper."  Up to a much later period it still
     remained the duty of certain districts to send natural products to
     the court  Herod. I.  192.  Xenoph.  Anab. IV. 5.]

The palace-gates were reached without hindrance, the way being kept clear
by lines of soldiers and whipbearers stationed on either side of the
street.

If the royal progress to the place of sacrifice, when five hundred
richly-caprisoned horses had been led behind the king's chariot, could be
called magnificent, and the march of the envoys a brilliant spectacle,
the great throne-room presented a vision of dazzling and magic beauty.

In the background, raised on six steps, each of which was guarded, as it
were, by two golden clogs, stood the throne of gold; above it, supported
by four golden pillars studded with precious stones, was a purple canopy,
on which appeared two winged discs, the king's Feruer.

     [The Feruer or Ferwer is the spiritual part of every man-his soul
     and reason.  It was in existence before the man was horn, joins him
     at his birth and departs at his death.  The Ferwer keeps up a war
     with the Diws or evil spirits, and is the element of man's
     preservation in life.  The moment he departs, the body returns to
     its original elements.  After death he becomes immortal if he has
     done well, but if his deeds have been evil he is cast into hell.  It
     is right to call upon the Ferwer and entreat his help.  He will
     bring the prayer before God and on this account is represented as a
     winged disc.]

Fan-bearers, high in office at the court, stood behind the throne, and,
on either side, those who sat at the king's table, his relations and
friends, and the most important among the officers of state, the priestly
caste and the eunuchs.

The walls and ceiling of the entire hall were covered with plates of
burnished gold, and the floor with purple carpets.

Before the silver gates lay winged bulls, and the king's body-guard-their
dress consisting of a gold cuirass under a purple overcoat, and the high
Persian cap, their swords in golden scabbards glittering with jewels, and
their lances ornamented with gold and silver apples, were stationed in
the court of the palace.  Among them the band of the "Immortals" was
easily to be distinguished by their stately forms and dauntless bearing.

Officers, whose duty consisted in announcing and presenting strangers,
and who carried short ivory staves, led the deputies into the hall, and
up to the throne, where they cast themselves on the ground as though they
would kiss the earth, concealing their hands in the sleeves of their
robes.  A cloth was bound over the mouth of every man before he was
allowed to answer the king's questions, lest the pure person of the king
should be polluted by the breath of common men.

Cambyses' severity or mildness towards the deputations with whose chiefs
he spoke, was proportioned to the obedience of their province and the
munificence of their tribute-offerings.  Near the end of the train
appeared an embassy from the Jews, led by two grave men with sharply-cut
features and long beards.  Cambyses called on them in a friendly tone to
stop.

The first of these men was dressed in the fashion of the Babylonian
aristocracy.  The other wore a purple robe woven without seam, trimmed
with bells and tassels, and held in at the waist by a girdle of blue, red
and white.  A blue garment was thrown over his shoulders and a little bag
suspended around his neck containing the sacred lots, the Urim and
Thummin, adorned with twelve precious stones set in gold, and bearing the
names of the tribes of Israel.  The high-priest's brow was grave and
thoughtful.  A white cloth was wound round his head, the ends of which
hung down to the shoulders.

"I rejoice to behold you once more, Belteshazzar," exclaimed the king to
the former of the two men.  "Since the death of my father you have not
been seen at my gate."

The man thus addressed bowed humbly and answered: "The favor of the king
rejoices his servant!  If it seem good unto thee, to cause the sun of thy
favor to shine on me, thine unworthy servant, so hearken unto my petition
for my nation, which thy great father caused to return unto the land of
their fathers' sepulchres.  This old man at my side, Joshua, the high-
priest of our God, hath not feared the long journey to Babylon, that he
might bring his request before thy face.  Let his speech be pleasing in
thine ears and his words bring forth fruit in thine heart."

"I foresee what ye desire of me," cried the king.  "Am I wrong, priest,
in supposing that your petition refers to the building of the temple in
your native land?"

"Nothing can be hidden from the eyes of my lord," answered the priest,
bowing low.  "Thy servants in Jerusalem desire to behold the face of
their ruler, and beseech thee by my mouth to visit the land of their
fathers, and to grant them permission to set forward the work of the
temple, concerning which thine illustrious father (the favor of our God
rest upon him), made a decree."

The king answered with a smile: "You have the craft of your nation, and
understand how to choose the right time and words for your petition.  On
my birthday it is difficult for me to refuse my faithful people even one
request.  I promise you, therefore, so soon as possible to visit
Jerusalem and the land of your fathers."

"By so doing thou wilt make glad the hearts of thy servants," answered
the priest; "our vines and olives will bear more fruit at thine approach,
our gates will lift up their heads to receive thee, and Israel rejoice
with shouts to meet his lord doubly blessed if as lord of the building--"

"Enough, priest, enough!"  cried Cambyses.  "Your first petition, I have
said it, shall not remain unfulfilled; for I have long desired to visit
the wealthy city of Tyre, the golden Sidon, and Jerusalem with its
strange superstitions; but were I to give permission for the building
now, what would remain for me to grant you in the coming year?"

"Thy servants will no more molest thee by their petitions, if thou grant
unto them this one, to finish the temple of the Lord their God," answered
the priest.

"Strange beings, these men of Palestine!"  exclaimed Cambyses.  "I have
heard it said that ye believe in one God alone, who can be represented by
no likeness, and is a spirit.  Think ye then that this omnipresent Being
requires a house?  Verily, your great spirit can be but a weak and
miserable creature, if he need a covering from the wind and rain, and a
shelter from the heat which he himself has created.  If your God be like
ours, omnipresent, fall down before him and worship as we do, in every
place, and feel certain that everywhere ye will be heard of him!"

"The God of Israel hears his people in every place," exclaimed the high-
priest.  "He heard us when we pined in captivity under the Pharaohs far
from our land; he heard us weeping by the rivers of Babylon.  He chose
thy father to be the instrument of our deliverance, and will hear my
prayer this day and soften thine heart like wise.  O mighty king, grant
unto thy servants a common place of sacrifice, whither our twelve tribes
may repair, an altar on the steps of which they can pray together,
a house in which to keep their holy feasts!  For this permission we will
call down the blessing of God upon thine head and his curse upon thine
enemies."

"Grant unto my brethren the permission to build their temple!"  added
Belteshazzar, who was the richest and most honorable and respected of the
Jews yet remaining in Babylon; a man whom Cyrus had treated with much
consideration, and of whom he had even taken counsel from time to time.

"Will ye then be peaceable, if I grant your petition?"  asked the king.
"My father allowed you to begin the work and granted the means for its
completion.  Of one mind, happy and content, ye returned to your native
land, but while pursuing your work strife and contention entered among
you.  Cyrus was assailed by repeated letters, signed by the chief men of
Syria, entreating him to forbid the work, and I also have been lately
besought to do the same.  Worship your God when and where ye will, but
just because I desire your welfare, I cannot consent to the prosecution
of a work which kindles discord among you."

"And is it then thy pleasure on this day to take back a favor, which thy
father made sure unto us by a written decree?"  asked Belteshazzar.

"A written decree?"

"Which will surely be found even to this day laid up in the archives of
thy kingdom."

"Find this decree and show it me, and I will not only allow the building
to be continued, but will promote the same," answered the king; "for my
father's will is as sacred to me as the commands of the gods."

"Wilt thou allow search to be made in the house of the rolls at
Ecbatana?"  asked Belteshazzar.  "The decree will surely be found there."

"I consent, but I fear ye will find none.  Tell thy nation, priest, that
I am content with the equipment of the men of war they have sent to take
the field against the Massagetae.  My general Megabyzus commends their
looks and bearing.  May thy people prove as valiant now as in the wars of
my father!  You, Belteshazzar, I bid to my marriage feast, and charge you
to tell your fellows, Meshach and Abednego, next unto you the highest in
the city of Babylon, that I expect them this evening at my table."

"The God of my people Israel grant thee blessing and happiness," answered
Belteshazzar bowing low before the king.

"A wish which I accept!"  answered the king, "for I do not despise the
power of your wonder-working great Spirit.  But one word more,
Belteshazzar.  Many Jews have lately been punished for reviling the gods
of the Babylonians.  Warn your people!  They bring down hatred on
themselves by their stiff-necked superstition, and the pride with which
they declare their own great spirit to be the only true God.  Take
example by us; we are content with our own faith and leave others to
enjoy theirs in peace.  Cease to look upon yourselves as better than the
rest of the world.  I wish you well, for a pride founded on self-respect
is pleasing in mine eyes; but take heed lest pride degenerate into
vainglory.  Farewell!  rest assured of my favor."

The Jews then departed.  They were disappointed, but not hopeless; for
Belteshazzar knew well that the decree, relative to the building of the
temple, must be in the archives at Ecbatana.

They were followed by a deputation from Syria, and by the Greeks of
Ionia; and then, winding up the long train, appeared a band of wild-
looking men, dressed in the skins of animals, whose features bespoke them
foreigners in Babylon.  They wore girdles and shoulderbands of solid,
unwrought gold; and of the same precious metal were their bow-cases,
axes, lance-points, and the ornaments on their high fur caps.  They were
preceded by a man in Persian dress, whose features proved him, however,
to be of the same race as his followers.

The king gazed at first on these envoys with wonder; then his brow
darkened, and beckoning the officer whose duty it was to present
strangers, he exclaimed "What can these men have to crave of me?  If I
mistake not they belong to the Massagetae, to that people who are so soon
to tremble before my vengeance.  Tell them, Gobryas, that an armed host
is standing on the Median plains ready to answer their demands with the
sword."

Gobryas answered, bowing low: "These men arrived this morning during the
sacrifice bringing huge burdens of the purest gold to purchase your
forbearance.  When they heard that a great festival was being celebrated
in your honor, they urgently besought to be admitted into your presence,
that they might declare the message entrusted to them by their country."

The king's brow cleared and, after sharply scrutinizing the tall, bearded
Massageta:, he said: "Let them come nearer.  I am curious to know what
proposals my father's murderers are about to make me."

Gobryas made a sign, and the tallest and eldest of the Massagetae came up
close to the throne and began to speak loudly in his native tongue.  He
was accompanied by the man in a Persian dress, who, as one of Cyrus'
prisoners of war, had learnt the Persian language, and now interpreted
one by one the sentences uttered by the spokesman of this wandering
tribe.

"We know," began the latter, "that thou, great king, art wroth with the
Massagetae because thy father fell in war with our tribe--a war which he
alone had provoked with a people who had done naught to offend him."

"My father was justified in punishing your nation," interrupted the king.
"Your Queen Tomyris had dared to refuse him her hand in marriage."

"Be not wroth, O King," answered the Massagetan, "when I tell thee that
our entire nation approved of that act.  Even a child could see that the
great Cyrus only desired to add our queen to the number of his wives,
hoping, in his insatiable thirst for more territories, to gain our land
with her."

Cambyses was silent and the envoy went on.  "Cyrus caused a bridge to be
made over our boundary river, the Araxes.  We were not dismayed at this,
and Tomyris sent word that he might save himself this trouble, for that
the Massagetae were willing either to await him quietly in their own
land, leaving the passage of the river free, or to meet him in his.
Cyrus decided, by the advice of the dethroned king of Lydia, (as we
learnt afterwards, through some prisoners of war) on meeting us in our
own land and defeating us by a stratagem.  With this intention he sent
at first only a small body of troops, which could be easily dispersed and
destroyed by our arrows and lances, and allowed us to seize his camp
without striking a blow.  Believing we had defeated this insatiable
conqueror, we feasted on his abundant stores, and, poisoned by the sweet
unknown drink which you call wine, fell into a stupefied slumber, during
which his soldiers fell upon us, murdered the greater number of our
warriors and took many captives.  Among the latter was the brave, young
Spargapises, our queen's son.

"Hearing in his captivity, that his mother was willing to conclude peace
with your nation as the price of his liberty, he asked to have his chains
taken off.  The request was granted, and on obtaining the use of his
hands he seized a sword and stabbed himself, exclaiming: 'I sacrifice my
life for the freedom of my nation.'"

"No sooner did we hear the news that the young prince we loved so well
had died thus, than we assembled all the forces yet left to us from your
swords and fetters.  Even old men and boys flew to arms to revenge our
noble Spargapises, and sacrifice themselves, after his example, for
Massagetaen freedom.  Our armies met; ye were worsted and Cyrus fell.
When Tomyris found his body lying in a pool of human blood, she cried:
'Methinks, insatiable conqueror, thou art at last sated with blood!'
The troop, composed of the flower of your nobility, which you call the
Immortals, drove us back and carried your father's dead body forth from
our closest ranks.  You led them on, fighting like a lion.  I know you
well, and that wound across your manly face, which adorns it like a
purple badge of honor, was made by the sword now hanging at my side."

A movement passed through the listening crowd; they trembled for the bold
speaker's life.  Cambyses, however, looked pleased, nodded approvingly to
the man and answered: "Yes, I recognize you too now; you rode a red horse
with golden trappings.  You shall see that the Persians know how to honor
courage.  Bow down before this man, my friends, for never did I see a
sharper sword nor a more unwearied arm than his; and such heroic courage
deserves honor from the brave, whether shown by friend or foe.  As for
you, Massagetae, I would advise you to go home quickly and prepare for
war; the mere recollection of your strength and courage increases my
longing to test it once more.  A brave foe, by Mithras, is far better
than a feeble friend.  You shall be allowed to return home in peace; but
beware of remaining too long within my reach, lest the thought of the
vengeance I owe my father's soul should rouse my anger, and your end draw
suddenly nigh."

A bitter smile played round the bearded mouth of the warrior as he made
answer to this speech.  "The Massagetae deem your father's soul too well
avenged already.  The only son of our queen, his people's pride, and in
no way inferior to Cyrus, has bled for him.  The shores of the Araxes
have been fertilized by the bodies of fifty thousand of my countrymen,
slain as offerings for your dead king, while only thirty thousand fell
there on your own side.  We fought as bravely as you, but your armor is
better able to resist the arrows which pierce our clothing of skins.  And
lastly, as the most cruel blow of all, ye slew our queen."

"Tomyris is dead?"  exclaimed Cambyses interrupting him.  "You mean to
tell me that the Persians have killed a woman?  Answer at once, what has
happened to your queen?"

"Tomyris died ten months ago of grief for the loss of her only son, and I
have therefore a right to say that she too fell a sacrifice to the war
with Persia and to your father's spirit."

"She was a great woman," murmured Cambyses, his voice unsteady from
emotion.  "Verily, I begin to think that the gods themselves have
undertaken to revenge my father's blood on your nation.  Yet I tell you
that, heavy as your losses may seem, Spargapises, Tomyris and fifty
thousand Massagetae can never outweigh the spirit of one king of Persia,
least of all of a Cyrus."

"In our country," answered the envoy, "death makes all men equal.  The
spirits of the king and the slave are of equal worth.  Your father was a
great man, but we have undergone awful sufferings for his sake.  My tale
is not yet ended.  After the death of Tomyris discord broke out among the
Massagetae.  Two claimants for the crown appeared; half our nation fought
for the one, half for the other, and our hosts were thinned, first by
this fearful civil war and then by the pestilence which followed in its
track.  We can no longer resist your power, and therefore come with heavy
loads of pure gold as the price of peace."

"Ye submit then without striking a blow?"  asked Cambyses.  "Verily, I
had expected something else from such heroes; the numbers of my host,
which waits assembled on the plains of Media, will prove that.  We cannot
go to battle without an enemy.  I will dismiss my troops and send a
satrap.  Be welcome as new subjects of my realm."

The red blood mounted into the cheeks of the Massagetan warrior on
hearing these words, and he answered in a voice trembling with
excitement: "You err, O King, if you imagine that we have lost our old
courage, or learnt to long for slavery.  But we know your strength; we
know that the small remnant of our nation, which war and pestilence have
spared, cannot resist your vast and well-armed hosts.  This we admit,
freely and honestly as is the manner of the Massagetae, declaring however
at the same time, that we are determined to govern ourselves as of yore,
and will never receive laws or ordinances from a Persian satrap.  You are
wroth, but I can bear your angry gaze and yet repeat my declaration."

"And my answer," cried Cambyses, "is this: Ye have but one choice: either
to submit to my sceptre, become united to the kingdom of Persia under the
name of the Massagetan province, and receive a satrap as my
representative with due reverence, or to look upon yourselves as my
enemies, in which case you will be forced by arms to conform to those
conditions which I now offer you in good part.  To-day you could secure
a ruler well-affected to your cause, later you will find in me only a
conqueror and avenger.  Consider well before you answer."

"We have already weighed and considered all," answered the warrior, "and,
as free sons of the desert, prefer death to bondage.  Hear what the
council of our old men has sent me to declare to you:--The Massageta;
have become too weak to oppose the Persians, not through their own fault,
but through the heavy visitation of our god, the sun.  We know that you
have armed a vast host against us, and we are ready to buy peace and
liberty by a yearly tribute.  But if you persist in compelling us to
submit by force of arms, you can only bring great damage on yourselves.
The moment your army nears the Araxes, we shall depart with our wives and
children and seek another home, for we have no fixed dwellings like
yours, but are accustomed to rove at will on our swift horses, and to
rest in tents.  Our gold we shall take with us, and shall fill up,
destroy, and conceal the pits in which you could find new treasures.  We
know every spot where gold is to be found, and can give it in abundance,
if you grant us peace and leave us our liberty; but, if you venture to
invade our territory, you win nothing but an empty desert and an enemy
always beyond your reach,--an enemy who may become formidable, when he
has had time to recover from the heavy losses which have thinned his
ranks.  Leave us in peace and freedom and we are ready to give every year
five thousand swift horses of the desert, besides the yearly tribute of
gold; we will also come to the help of the Persian nation when threatened
by any serious danger."

The envoy ceased speaking.  Cambyses did not answer at once; his eyes
were fixed on the ground in deep thought.  At last he said, rising at the
same time from his throne: "We will take counsel on this matter over the
wine to-night, and to-morrow you shall hear what answer you can bring to
your people.  Gobryas, see that these men are well cared for, and send
the Massagetan, who wounded me in battle, a portion of the best dishes
from my own table."



CHAPTER XV.

During these events Nitetis had been sitting alone in her house on the
hanging-gardens, absorbed in the saddest thoughts.  To-day, for the first
time, she had taken part in the general sacrifice made by the king's
wives, and had tried to pray to her new gods in the open air, before the
fire-altars and amidst the sound of religious songs strange to her ears.

Most of the inhabitants of the harem saw her to-day for the first time,
and instead of raising their eyes to heaven, had fixed them on her during
the ceremony.  The inquisitive, malevolent gaze of her rivals, and the
loud music resounding from the city, disquieted and distracted her mind.
Her thoughts reverted painfully to the solemn, sultry stillness of the
gigantic temples in her native land where she had worshipped the gods of
her childhood so earnestly at the side of her mother and sister; and much
as she longed, just on this day, to pray for blessings on her beloved
king, all her efforts were in vain; she could arouse no devotional
feeling.  Kassandane and Atossa knelt at her side, joining heartily in
the very hymns which to Nitetis were an empty sound.

It cannot be denied, that many parts of these hymns contain true poetry;
but they become wearisome through the constant repetition and invocation
of the names of good and bad spirits.  The Persian women had been taught
from childhood, to look upon these religious songs as higher and holier
than any other poetry.  Their earliest prayers had been accompanied by
such hymns, and, like everything else which has come down to us from our
fathers, and which we have been told in the impressionable time of
childhood is divine and worthy of our reverence, they were still sacred
and dear to them and stirred their most devotional feelings.

But for Nitetis, who had been spoilt for such things by an intimate
acquaintance with the best Greek poets, they could have but little charm.
What she had lately been learning in Persia with difficulty had not yet
become a part of herself, and so, while Kassandane and Atossa went
through all the outward rites as things of course and perfectly natural
to them, Nitetis could only prevent herself from forgetting the
prescribed ceremonials by a great mental effort, and dreaded lest she
should expose her ignorance to the jealous, watchful gaze of her rivals.

And then, too, only a few minutes before the sacrifice, she had received
her first letter from Egypt.  It lay unread on her dressing-table, and
came into her mind whenever she attempted to pray.  She could not help
wondering what news it might bring her.  How were her parents?  and how
had Tachot borne the parting from herself, and from the prince she loved
so well?

The ceremony over, Nitetis embraced Kassandane and Atossa, and drew a
long, deep breath, as if delivered from some threatening danger.  Then
ordering her litter, she was carried back to her dwelling, and hastened
eagerly to the table where her letter lay.  Her principal attendant, the
young girl who on the journey had dressed her in her first Persian robes,
received her with a smile full of meaning and promise, which changed
however, into a look of astonishment, on seeing her mistress seize the
letter, without even glancing at the articles of dress and jewelery which
lay on the table.

Nitetis broke the seal quickly and was sitting down, in order to begin
the difficult work of reading her letter, when the girl came up, and with
clasped hands, exclaimed: "By Mithras, my mistress, I cannot understand
you.  Either you are ill, or that ugly bit of grey stuff must contain
some magic which makes you blind to everything else.  Put that roll away
and look at the splendid presents that the great king (Auramazda grant
him victory!) has sent while you were at the sacrifice.  Look at this
wonderful purple robe with the white stripe and the rich silver
embroidery; and then the tiara with the royal diamonds!  Do not you know
the high meaning of these gifts?  Cambyses begs, (the messenger said
'begs,' not 'commands') you to wear these splendid ornaments at the
banquet to-day.  How angry Phaedime will be! and how the others will
look, for they have never received such presents.  Till now only
Kassandane has had a right to wear the purple and diamonds; so by sending
you these gifts, Cambyses places you on a level with his mother, and
chooses you to be his favorite wife before the whole world.'  O pray
allow me to dress you in these new and beautiful things.  How lovely you
will look!  How angry and envious the others will feel!  If I could only
be there when you enter the hall!  Come, my mistress, let me take off
your simple dress, and array you, (only as a trial you know,) in the
robes that as the new queen you ought to wear."

Nitetis listened in silence to the chattering girl, and admired the gifts
with a quiet smile.  She was woman enough to rejoice at the sight, for
he, whom she loved better than life itself, had sent them; and they were
a proof that she was more to the king than all his other wives;--that
Cambyses really loved her.  The long wished-for letter fell unread to the
ground, the girl's wish to dress her was granted without a word, and in a
short time the splendid toilette was completed.  The royal purple added
to her beauty, the high flashing tiara made her slender, perfect figure
seem taller than it really was, and when, in the metal mirror which lay
on her dressing table, she beheld herself for the first time in the
glorious likeness of a queen, a new expression dawned on her features.
It seemed as if a portion of her lord's pride were reflected there.  The
frivolous waiting-woman sank involuntarily on her knees, as her eyes,
full of smiling admiration, met the radiant glance of Nitetis,--of the
woman who was beloved by the most powerful of men.

For a few moments Nitetis gazed on the girl, lying in the dust at her
feet; but soon shook her beautiful head, and blushing for shame, raised
her kindly, kissed her forehead, gave her a gold bracelet, and then,
perceiving her letter on the ground, told her she wished to be alone.
Mandane ran, rather than walked, out of the room in her eagerness to show
the splendid present she had just received to the inferior attendants and
slaves; and Nitetis, her eyes glistening and her heart beating with
excess of happiness, threw herself on to the ivory chair which stood
before her dressing-table, uttered a short prayer of thanksgiving to her
favorite Egyptian goddess, the beautiful Hathor, kissed the gold chain
which Cambyses had given her after plunging into the water for her ball,
then her letter from home, and rendered almost over-confident by her
great happiness, began to unroll it, slowly sinking back into the purple
cushions as she did so and murmuring: "How very, very happy I am!  Poor
letter, I am sure your writer never thought Nitetis would leave you a
quarter of an hour on the ground unread."

In this happy mood she began to read, but her face soon grew serious and
when she had finished, the letter fell once more to the ground.

Her eyes, whose proud glance had brought the waiting-maid to her feet,
were dimmed by tears; her head, carried so proudly but a few minutes
before, now lay on the jewels which covered the table.  Tears rolled down
among the pearls and diamonds, as strange a contrast as the proud tiara
and its unhappy, fainting wearer.

The letter read as follows:

"Ladice the wife of Amasis and Queen of Upper and Lower Egypt, to her
daughter Nitetis, consort of the great King of Persia.

"It has not been our fault, my beloved daughter, that you have remained
so long without news from home.  The trireme by which we sent our letters
for you to AEgae was detained by Samian ships of war, or rather pirate
vessels, and towed into the harbor of Astypalaea.

"Polykrates' presumption increases with the continual success of his
undertakings, and since his victory over the Lesbians and Milesians, who
endeavored to put a stop to his depredations, not a ship is safe from the
attacks of his pirate vessels.

"Pisistratus is dead," but his sons are friendly to Polykrates.  Lygdamis
is under obligations to him, and cannot hold his own in Naxos without
Samian help.  He has won over the Amphiktyonic council to his side by
presenting the Apollo of Delos with the neighboring island of Rhenea.
His fifty-oared vessels, requiring to be manned by twenty-thousand men,
do immense damage to all the seafaring nations; yet not one dares to
attack him, as the fortifications of his citadel and his splendid harbor
are almost impregnable, and he himself always surrounded by a well-
drilled body-guard.

"Through the traders, who followed the fortunate Kolxus to the far west,
and these pirate ships, Samos will become the richest of islands and
Polykrates the most powerful of men, unless, as your father says, the
gods become envious of such unchanging good fortune and prepare him a
sudden and speedy downfall.

"In this fear Amasis advised Polykrates as his old friend, to put away
from him the thing he held dearest, and in such a manner that he might be
sure of never receiving it again.  Polykrates adopted this advice and
threw into the sea, from the top of the round tower on his citadel, his
most valuable signet-ring, an unusually large sardonyx held by two
dolphins.  This ring was the work of Theodorus, and a lyre, the symbol of
the ruler, was exquisitely engraved on the stone."

"Six days later, however, the ring was found by Polykrates' cooks in the
body of a fish.  He sent us news at once of this strange occurrence, but
instead of rejoicing your father shook his grey head sadly, saying: 'he
saw now it was impossible for any one to avoid his destiny!'  On the same
day he renounced the friendship of Polykrates and wrote him word, that he
should endeavor to forget him in order to avoid the grief of seeing his
friend in misfortune.

"Polykrates laughed at this message and returned the letters his pirates
had taken from our trireme, with a derisive greeting.  For the future all
your letters will be sent by Syria.

"You will ask me perhaps, why I have told you this long story, which has
so much less interest for you than any other home news.  I answer: to
prepare you for your father's state.  Would you have recognized the
cheerful, happy, careless Amasis in that gloomy answer to his Samian
friend?

"Alas, my husband has good reason to be sad, and since you left us, my
own eyes have seldom been free from tears.  My time is passed either at
the sick-bed of your sister or in comforting your father and guiding his
steps; and though much in need of sleep I am now taking advantage of
night to write these lines.

"Here I was interrupted by the nurses, calling me to your sister Tachot,
your own true friend.

"How often the dear child has called you in her feverish delirium; and
how carefully she treasures your likeness in wax, that wonderful portrait
which bears evidence not only of the height to which Greek art has risen,
but of the master hand of the great Theodorus.  To-morrow it will be sent
to AEgina, to be copied in gold, as the soft wax becomes injured from
frequent contact with your sister's burning hands and lips.

"And now, my daughter, you must summon all your courage to hear what I
need all my strength of mind to tell-the sad story of the fate which the
gods have decreed for our house.

"For three days after you left us Tachot wept incessantly.  Neither our
comforting words nor your father's good advice--neither offerings nor
prayers--could avail to lessen her grief or divert her mind.  At last on
the fourth day she ceased to weep and would answer our questions in a low
voice, as if resigned; but spent the greater part of every day sitting
silently at her wheel.  Her fingers, however, which used to be so
skilful, either broke the threads they tried to spin, or lay for hours
idle in her lap, while she was lost in dreams.  Your father's jokes, at
which she used to laugh so heartily, made no impression on her, and when
I endeavored to reason with her she listened in anxious suspense.

"If I kissed her forehead and begged her to control herself, she would
spring up, blushing deeply, and throw herself into my arms, then sit down
again to her wheel and begin to pull at the threads with almost frantic
eagerness; but in half an hour her hands would be lying idle in her lap
again and her eyes dreamily fixed, either on the ground, or on some spot
in the air.  If we forced her to take part in any entertainment, she
would wander among the guests totally uninterested in everything that was
passing.

"We took her with us on the great pilgrimage to Bubastis, during which
the Egyptians forget their usual gravity, and the shores of the Nile look
like a great stage where the wild games of the satyrs are being performed
by choruses, hurried on in the unrestrained wantonness of intoxication.
When she saw thus for the first time an entire people given up to the
wildest and most unfettered mirth and enjoyment, she woke up from her
silent brooding thoughts and began to weep again, as in the first days
after you went away.

"Sad and perplexed, we brought our poor child back to Sais.

"Her looks were not those of a common mortal.  She grew thinner, and we
all fancied, taller; her complexion was white, and almost transparent,
with a tender bloom on her cheek, which I can only liken to a young rose-
leaf or the first faint blush of sunrise.  Her eyes are still wonderfully
clear and bright.  It always seems to me as if they looked beyond the
heaven and earth which we see.

"As she continued to suffer more and more from heat in the head and
hands, while her tender limbs often shivered with a slight chill, we sent
to Thebes for Thutmes, the most celebrated physician for inward
complaints.

"The experienced priest shook his head on seeing your sister and foretold
a serious illness.  He forbade her to spin or to speak much.  Potions of
all kinds were given her to drink, her illness was discussed and
exorcised, the stars and oracles consulted, rich presents and sacrifices
made to the gods.  The priest of Hathor from the island of Philae sent us
a consecrated amulet, the priest of Osiris in Abydos a lock of hair from
the god himself set in gold, and Neithotep, the high-priest of our own
guardian goddess, set on foot a great sacrifice, which was to restore
your sister to health.

"But neither physicians nor charms were of any avail, and at last
Neithotep confessed that Tachot's stars gave but little ground for hope.
Just then, too, the sacred bull at Memphis died and the priests could
discover no heart in his entrails, which they interpreted as
prognosticating evil to our country.  They have not yet succeeded in
finding a new Apis, and believe that the gods are wroth with your
father's kingdom.  Indeed the oracle of Buto has declared that the
Immortals will show no favor to Egypt, until all the temples that have
been built in the black land for the worship of false gods are destroyed
and their worshippers banished.

     [Egypt was called by its ancient inhabitants Cham, the black,
     or black-earthed.]

"These evil omens have proved, alas, only too true.  Tachot fell ill of a
dreadful fever and lay for nine days hovering between life and death; she
is still so weak that she must be carried, and can move neither hand nor
foot.

"During the journey to Bubastis, Amasis' eyes, as so often happens here,
became inflamed.  Instead of sparing them, he continued to work as usual
from sunrise until mid-day, and while your sister was so ill he never
left her bed, notwithstanding all our entreaties.  But I will not enter
into particulars, my child.  His eyes grew worse, and on the very day
which brought us the news of your safe arrival in Babylon, Amasis became
totally blind.

"The cheerful, active man has become old, gloomy and decrepit since that
day.  The death of Apis, and the unfavorable constellations and oracles
weigh on his mind; his happy temper is clouded by the unbroken night in
which he lives; and the consciousness that he cannot stir a step alone
causes indecision and uncertainty.  The daring and independent ruler will
soon become a mere tool, by means of which the priests can work their
will.

"He spends hours in the temple of Neith, praying and offering sacrifices;
a number of workmen are employed there in building a tomb for his mummy,
and the same number at Memphis in levelling the temple which the Greeks
have begun building to Apollo.  He speaks of his own and Tachot's
misfortunes as a just punishment from the Immortals.

"His visits to Tachot's sick-bed are not the least comfort to her, for
instead of encouraging her kindly, he endeavors to convince her that she
too deserves punishinent from the gods.  He spends all his remarkable
eloquence in trying to persuade her, that she must forget this world
entirely and only try to gain the favor of Osiris and the judges of the
nether world by ceaseless prayers and sacrifices.  In this manner he only
tortures our poor sick child, for she has not lost her love of life.
Perhaps I have still too much of the Greek left in me for a queen of
Egypt; but really, death is so long and life so short, that I cannot help
calling even wise men foolish, when they devote the half of even this
short term to a perpetual meditation on the gloomy Hades.

"I have just been interrupted again.  Our great physician, Thutmes, came
to enquire after his patient.  He gives very little hope, and seems
surprised that her delicate frame has been able to resist death so long.
He said yesterday: 'She would have sunk long ago if not kept up by her
determined will, and a longing which gives her no rest.  If she ceased to
care for life, she could allow death to take her, just as we dream
ourselves asleep.  If, on the other hand, her wish could be gratified,
she might, (though this is hardly probable) live some years yet, but if
it remain but a short time longer unfulfilled, it will certainly wear her
to death.

"Have you any idea for whom she longs so eagerly?  Our Tachot has allowed
herself to be fascinated by the beautiful Bartja, the brother of your
future husband.  I do not mean to say by this that he has employed magic,
as the priest Ameneman believes, to gain her love; for a youth might be
far less handsome and agreeable than Bartja, and yet take the heart of an
innocent girl, still half a child.  But her passionate feeling is so
strong, and the change in her whole being so great, that sometimes I too
am tempted to believe in the use of supernatural influence.  A short time
before you left I noticed that Tachot was fond of Bartja.  Her distress
at first we thought could only be for you, but when she sank into that
dreamy state, Ibykus, who was still at our court, said she must have been
seized by some strong passion.

"Once when she was sitting dreaming at her wheel, I heard him singing
softly Sappho's little love-song to her:

                   "I cannot, my sweet mother,
                    Throw shuttle any more;
                    My heart is full of longing,
                    My spirit troubled sore,
                    All for a love of yesterday
                    A boy not seen before."

               [Sappho ed. Neue XXXII.  Translation from Edwin Arnold's
               Poets of Greece.]

"She turned pale and asked him: 'Is that your own song?'

"'No,' said he, 'Sappho wrote it fifty years ago.'

"'Fifty years ago,' echoed Tachot musingly.

"'Love is always the same,' interrupted the poet; 'women loved centuries
ago, and will love thousands of years to come, just as Sappho loved fifty
years back.'

"The sick girl smiled in assent, and from that time I often heard her
humming the little song as she sat at her wheel.  But we carefully
avoided every question, that could remind her of him she loved.  In the
delirium of fever, however, Bartja's name was always on her burning lips.
When she recovered consciousness we told her what she had said in her
delirium; then she opened her heart to me, and raising her eyes to heaven
like a prophetess, exclaimed solemnly: 'I know, that I shall not die till
I have seen him again.'

"A short time ago we had her carried into the temple, as she longed to
worship there again.  When the service was over and we were crossing the
temple-court, we passed some children at play, and Tachot noticed a
little girl telling something very eagerly to her companions.  She told
the bearers to put down the litter and call the child to her.

"'What were you saying?' she asked the little one.

"I was telling the others something about my eldest sister.'

"'May I hear it too?' said Tachot so kindly, that the little girl began
at once without fear: "Batau, who is betrothed to my sister, came back
from Thebes quite unexpectedly yesterday evening.  Just as the Isis-star
was rising, he came suddenly on to our roof where Kerimama was playing at
draughts with my father; and he brought her such a beutiful goldeng
bridal wreath.'

     [Among the Egyptians the planet Venus bore the name of the goddess
     Isis.  Pliny II. 6.  Arist  De mundo II. 7.  Early monuments prove
     that they were acquainted with the identity of the morning and
     evening star.  Lepsius, Chronologie p. 94.]

"Tachot kissed the child and gave her her own costly fan.  When we were
at home again she smiled archly at me and said: 'You know, mother dear,
that the words children say in the temple-courts are believed to be
oracles.'  So, if the little one spoke the truth, he must come; and did
not you hear that he is to bring the bridal-wreath?  O mother, I am sure,
quite sure, that I shall see him again.'

"I asked her yesterday if she had any message for you, and she begged me
to say that she sent you thousands of kisses, and messages of love, and
that when she was stronger she meant to write, as she had a great deal to
tell you.  She has just brought me the little note which I enclose; it is
for you alone, and has cost her much fatigue to write.

"But now I must finish my letter, as the messenger has been waiting for
it some time.

"I wish I could give you some joyful news, but sadness and sorrow meet me
whichever way I turn.  Your brother yields more and more to the priests'
tyranny, and manages the affairs of state for your poor blind father
under Neithotep's guidance.

"Amasis does not interfere, and says it matters little whether his place
be filled a few days sooner or later by his successor.

"He did not attempt to prevent Psamtik from seizing the children of
Phanes in Rhodopis' house, and actually allowed his son to enter into a
negotiation with the descendants of those two hundred thousand soldiers,
who emigrated to Ethiopia in the reign of Psamtik I. on account of the
preference shown to the Greek mercenaries.  In case they declared
themselves willing to return to their native land, the Greek mercenaries
were to have been dismissed.  The negotiation failed entirely, but
Psamtik's treatment of the children of Phanes has given bitter offence to
the Greeks.  Aristomachus threatened to leave Egypt, taking with him ten
thousand of his best troops, and on hearing that Phanes' son had been
murdered at Psamtik's command applied for his discharge.  From that time
the Spartan disappeared, no one knows whither; but the Greek troops
allowed themselves to be bribed by immense sums and are still in Egypt.

"Amasis said nothing to all this, and looked on silently from the midst
of his prayers and sacrifices, while your brother was either offending
every class of his subjects or attempting to pacify them by means beneath
the dignity of a ruler.  The commanders of the Egyptian and Greek troops,
and the governors of different provinces have all alike assured me that
the present state of things is intolerable.  No one knows what to expect
from this new ruler; he commands today the very thing, which he angrily
forbade the day before.  Such a government must soon snap the beautiful
bond, which has hitherto united the Fgyptian people to their king.

"Farewell, my child, think of your poor friend, your mother; and forgive
your parents when you hear what they have so long kept secret from you.
Pray for Tachot, and remember us to Croesus and the young Persians whom
we know.  Give a special message too from Tachot to Bartja; I beg him to
think of it as the last legacy of one very near death.  If you could only
send her some proof, that he has not forgotten her!  Farewell, once more
farewell and be happy in your new and blooming home."



CHAPTER XVI.

Sad realities follow bright anticipations nearly as surely as a rainy day
succeeds a golden sunrise.  Nitetis had been so happy in the thought of
reading the very letter, which poured such bitter drops of wormwood into
her cup of happiness.

One beautiful element in her life, the remembrance of her dear home and
the companions of her happy childhood, had been destroyed in one moment,
as if by the touch of a magician's wand.

She sat there in her royal purple, weeping, forgetful of everything but
her mother's grief, her father's misfortunes and her sister's illness.
The joyful future, full of love, joy, and happiness, which had been
beckoning her forward only a few minutes before, had vanished.  Cambyses'
chosen bride forgot her waiting, longing lover, and the future queen of
Persia could think of nothing but the sorrows of Egypt's royal house.

It was long past mid-day, when the attendant Mandane came to put a last
touch to Nitetis' dress and ornaments.

"She is asleep," thought the girl.  "I can let her rest another quarter
of an hour; the sacrifice this morning has tired her, and we must have
her fresh and beautiful for the evening banquet; then she will outshine
the others as the moon does the stars."

Unnoticed by her mistress she slipped out of the room, the windows of
which commanded a splendid view over the hanging-gardens, the immense
city beneath, the river, and the rich and fruitful Babylonian plain, and
went into the garden.

Without looking round she ran to a flower-bed, to pluck some roses.  Her
eyes were fixed on her new bracelet, the stones of which sparkled in the
sun, and she did not notice a richly-dressed man peering in at one of the
windows of the room where Nitetis lay weeping.  On being disturbed in his
watching and listening, he turned at once to the girl and greeted her in
a high treble voice.

She started, and on recognizing the eunuch Boges, answered: "It is not
polite, sir, to frighten a poor girl in this way.  By Mithras, if I had
seen you before I heard you, I think I should have fainted.  A woman's
voice does not take me by surprise, but to see a man here is as rare as
to find a swan in the desert."

Boges laughed good-humoredly, though he well understood her saucy
allusion to his high voice, and answered, rubbing his fat hands: "Yes,
it is very hard for a young and pretty bird like you, to have to live in
such a lonely corner, but be patient, sweetheart.  Your mistress will
soon be queen, and then she will look out a handsome young husband for
you.  Ah, ha!  you will find it pleasanter to live here alone with him,
than with your beautiful Egyptian."

"My mistress is too beautiful for some people's fancy, and I have never
asked any one to look out a husband for me," she answered pertly.  "I can
find one without your help either."

"Who could doubt it?  Such a pretty face is as good a bait for a man, as
a worm for a fish."

"But I am not trying to catch a husband, and least of all one like you."

"That I can easily believe," he answered laughing.  But tell me, my
treasure, why are you so hard on me?  Have I done anything to vex you?
Wasn't it through me, that you obtained this good appointment, and are
not we both Medes?"

"You might just as well say that we are both human beings, and have five
fingers on each hand and a nose in the middle of our faces.  Half the
people here are Medes, and if I had as many friends as I have countrymen,
I might be queen to-morrow.  And as to my situation here, it was not you,
but the high-priest Oropastes who recommended me to the great queen
Kassandane.  Your will is not law here,"

"What are you talking about, my sweet one?  don't you know, that not a
single waiting-woman can be engaged without my consent?"

"Oh, yes, I know that as well as you do, but .  .  ."

"But you women are an unthankful race, and don't deserve our kindness."

"Please not to forget, that you are speaking to a girl of good family."

"I know that very well, my little one.  I know that your father was a
Magian and your mother a Magian's daughter; that they both died early and
you were placed under the care of the Destur Ixabates, the father of
Oropastes, and grew up with his children.  I know too that when you had
received the ear-rings, Oropastes' brother Gaumata, (you need not blush,
Gaumata is a pretty name) fell in love with your rosy face, and wanted to
marry you, though he was only nineteen.  Gaumata and Mandane, how well
the two names sound together!  Mandane and Gaumata!  If I were a poet I
should call my hero Gaumata and his lady-love Mandane."

"I insist on your ceasing to jest in this way," cried Mandane, blushing
deeply and stamping her foot.

"What, are you angry because I say the names sound well together?  You
ought rather to be angry with the proud Oropastes, who sent his younger
brother to Rhagar and you to the court, that you might forget one
another."

"That is a slander on my benefactor."

"Let my tongue wither away, if I am not speaking the truth and nothing
but the truth!  Oropastes separated you and his brother because he had
higher intentions for the handsome Gaumata, than a marriage with the
orphan daughter of an inferior Magian.  He would have been satisfied with
Amytis or Menische for a sister-in-law, but a poor girl like you, who
owed everything to his bounty, would only have stood in the way of his
ambitious plans.  Between ourselves, he would like to be appointed regent
of Persia while the king is away at the Massagetan war, and would
therefore give a great deal to connect himself by marriage in some way
or other with the Archemenidae.  At his age a new wife is not to be
thought of; but his brother is young and handsome, indeed people go so
far as to say, that he is like the Prince Bartja."

"That is true," exclaimed the girl.  "Only think, when we went out to
meet my mistress, and I saw Bartja for the first time from the window of
the station-house, I thought he was Gaumata.  They are so like one
another that they might be twins, and they are the handsomest men in the
kingdom."

"How you are blushing, my pretty rose-bud!  But the likeness between them
is not quite so great as all that.  When I spoke to the high-priest's
brother this morning .  .  ."

"Gaumata is here?"  interrupted the girl passionately.  "Have you really
seen him or are you trying to draw me out and make fun of me?"

"By Mithras!  my sweet one, I kissed his forehead this very morning, and
he made me tell him a great deal about his darling.  Indeed his blue
eyes, his golden curls and his lovely complexion, like the bloom on a
peach, were so irresistible that I felt inclined to try and work
impossibilities for him.  Spare your blushes, my little pomegranate-
blossom, till I have told you all; and then perhaps in future you will
not be so hard upon poor Boges; you will see that he has a good heart,
full of kindness for his beautiful, saucy little countrywoman."

"I do not trust you," she answered, interrupting these assurances.
"I have been warned against your smooth tongue, and I do not know what I
have done to deserve this kind interest."

"Do you know this?"  he asked, showing her a white ribbon embroidered all
over with little golden flames.

"It is the last present I worked for him," exclaimed Mandane.

"I asked him for this token, because I knew you would not trust me.  Who
ever heard of a prisoner loving his jailer?"

"But tell me at once, quickly--what does my old playfellow want me to do?
Look, the-western sky is beginning to glow.  Evening is coming on, and I
must arrange my mistress's dress and ornaments for the banquet."

"Well, I will not keep you long," said the eunuch, becoming so serious
that Mandane was frightened.  "If you do not choose to believe that I
would run into any risk out of friendship to you, then fancy that I
forward your love affair to humble the pride of Oropastes.  He threatens
to supplant me in the king's favor, and I am determined, let him plot and
intrigue as he likes, that you shall marry Gaumata.  To-morrow evening,
after the Tistar-star has risen, your lover shall come to see you.  I
will see that all the guards are away, so that he can come without
danger, stay one hour and talk over the future with you; but remember,
only one hour.  I see clearly that your mistress will be Cambyses'
favorite wife, and will then forward your marriage, for she is very fond
of you, and thinks no praise too high for your fidelity and skill.  So
to-morrow evening," he continued, falling back into the jesting tone
peculiar to him, "when the Tistar-star rises, fortune will begin to shine
on you.  Why do you look down?  Why don't you answer?  Gratitude stops
your pretty little mouth, eh? is that the reason?  Well, my little bird,
I hope you won't be quite so silent, if you should ever have a chance of
praising poor Boges to your powerful mistress.  And what message shall I
bring to the handsome Gaumata?  May I say that you have not forgotten him
and will be delighted to see him again?  You hesitate?  Well, I am very
sorry, but it is getting dark and I must go.  I have to inspect the
women's dresses for the birthday banquet.  Ah! one thing I forgot to
mention.  Gaumata must leave Babylon to-morrow.  Oropastes is afraid,
that he may chance to see you, and told him to return to Rhage directly
the festival was over.  What! still silent?  Well then, I really cannot
help you or that poor fellow either.  But I shall gain my ends quite as
well without you, and perhaps after all it is better that you should
forget one another.  Good-bye."

It was a hard struggle for the girl.  She felt nearly sure that Boges was
deceiving her, and a voice within warned her that it would be better to
refuse her lover this meeting.  Duty and prudence gained the upper hand,
and she was just going to exclaim: "Tell him I cannot see him," when her
eye caught the ribbon she had once embroidered for her handsome
playfellow.  Bright pictures from her childhood flashed through her mind,
short moments of intoxicating happiness; love, recklessness and longing
gained the day in their turn over her sense of right, her misgivings and
her prudence, and before Boges could finish his farewell, she called out,
almost in spite of herself and flying towards the house like a frightened
fawn: "I shall expect him."

Boges passed quickly through the flowery paths of the hanging-gardens.
He stopped at the parapet end cautiously opened a hidden trap-door,
admitting to a secret staircase which wound down through one of the huge
pillars supporting the hanging-gardens, and which had probably been
intended by their original designer as a means of reaching his wife's
apartments unobserved from the shores of the river.  The door moved
easily on its hinges, and when Boges had shut it again and strewed a few
of the river-shells from the garden walks over it, it would have been
difficult to find, even for any one who had come with that purpose.  The
eunuch rubbed his jeweled hands, smiling the while as was his custom, and
murmured: "It can't fail to succeed now; the girl is caught, her lover is
at my beck and call, the old secret flight of steps is in good order,
Nitetis has been weeping bitterly on a day of universal rejoicing, and
the blue lily opens to-morrow night.  Ah, ha! my little plan can't
possibly fail now.  And to-morrow, my pretty Egyptian kitten, your little
velvet paw will be fast in a trap set by the poor despised eunuch, who
was not allowed, forsooth, to give you any orders."

His eyes gleamed maliciously as he said these words and hurried from the
garden.

At the great flight of steps he met another eunuch, named Neriglissar,
who held the office of head-gardener, and lived at the hanging-gardens.

"How is the blue lily going on?"  asked Boges.

"It is unfolding magnificently!"  cried the gardener, in enthusiasm at
the mere mention of his cherished flower.  "To-morrow, as I promised,
when the Tistar-star rises, it will be in all its beauty.  My Egyptian
mistress will be delighted, for she is very fond of flowers, and may I
ask you to tell the king and the Achaemenidae, that under my care this
rare plant has at last flowered?  It is to be seen in full beauty only
once in every ten years.  Tell the noble Achaemenidae; this, and bring
them here."

"Your wish shall be granted," said Boges smiling, "but I think you must
not reckon on the king, as I do not expect he will visit the hanging-
gardens before his marriage with the Egyptian.  Some of the Archimenidae,
however, will be sure to come; they are such lovers of horticulture that
they would not like to miss this rare sight.  Perhaps, too, I may succeed
in bringing Croesus.  It is true that he does not understand flowers or
doat on them as the Persians do, but he makes amends for this by his
thorough appreciation of everything beautiful."

"Yes, yes, bring him too," exclaimed the gardener.  "He will really be
grateful to you, for my queen of the night is the most beautiful flower,
that has ever bloomed in a royal garden.  You saw the bud in the clear
waters of the reservoir surrounded by its green leaves; that bud will
open into a gigantic rose, blue as the sky.  My flower .  .  ."

The enthusiastic gardener would have said much more in praise of his
flower, but Boges left him with a friendly nod, and went down the flight
of steps.  A two-wheeled wooden carriage was waiting for him there; he
took his seat by the driver, the horses, decked out with bells and
tassels, were urged into a sharp trot and quickly brought him to the gate
of the harem-garden.

That day was a busy, stirring one in Cambyses' harem.  In order that the
women might look their very best, Boges had commanded that they should
all be taken to the bath before the banquet.  He therefore went at once
to that wing of the palace, which contained the baths for the women.

While he was still at some distance a confused noise of screaming,
laughing, chattering and tittering reached his ears.  In the broad porch
of the large bathing-room, which had been almost overheated, more than
three hundred women were moving about in a dense cloud of steam.

     [We read in Diodorus XVII. 77. that the king of Persia had as many
     wives as there are days in the year.  At the battle of Issus,
     Alexander the Great took 329 concubines, of the last Darius,
     captive.]

The half-naked forms floated over the warm pavement like a motley crowd
of phantoms.  Their thin silken garments were wet through and clung to
their delicate figures, and a warm rain descended upon them from the roof
of the bath, rising up again in vapor when it reached the floor.

Groups of handsome women, ten or twenty together, lay gossiping saucily
in one part of the room; in another two king's wives were quarrelling
like naughty children.  One beauty was screaming at the top of her voice
because she had received a blow from her neighbor's dainty little
slipper, while another was lying in lazy contemplation, still as death,
on the damp, warm floor.  Six Armenians were standing together, singing a
saucy love-song in their native language with clear-toned voices, and a
little knot of fair-haired Persians were slandering Nitetis so fearfully,
that a by-stander would have fancied our beautiful Egyptian was some
awful monster, like those nurses used to frighten children.

Naked female slaves moved about through the crowd, carrying on their
heads well-warmed cloths to throw over their mistresses.  The cries of
the eunuchs, who held the office of door-keepers, and were continually
urging the women to greater haste,--the screeching calls of those whose
slaves had not yet arrived,--the penetrating perfumes and the warm vapor
combined to produce a motley, strange and stupefying scene.

A quarter of an hour later, however, the king's wives presented a very
different spectacle.

They lay like roses steeped in dew, not asleep, but quite still and
dreaming, on soft cushions placed along the walls of an immense room.
The wet perfumes still lay on their undried and flowing hair, and nimble
female slaves were busied in carefully wiping away, with little bags made
of soft camels' hair, the slightest outward trace of the moisture which
penetrated deep into the pores of the skin.

Silken coverlets were spread over their weary, beautiful limbs, and a
troop of eunuchs took good care that the dreamy repose of the entire body
should not be disturbed by quarrelsome or petulant individuals.  Their
efforts, however, were seldom so successful as to-day, when every one
knew that a disturbance of the peace would be punished by exclusion from
the banquet.  They had probably been lying a full hour in this dreamy
silence, when the sound of a gong produced another transformation.

The reposing figures sprang from their cushions, a troop of female slaves
pressed into the hall, the beauties were annointed and perfumed, their
luxuriant hair ingeniously braided, plaited, and adorned with precious
stones.  Costly ornaments and silken and woolen robes in all the colors
of the rainbow were brought in, shoes stiff with rich embroidery of
pearls and jewels were tied on to their tender feet, and golden girdles
fastened round their waists.

     [Some kings gave their wives the revenues of entire cities as
     "girdle-money" (pin-money).]

By the time Boges came in, the greater number of the women were already
fully adorned in their costly jewelry, which would have represented
probably, when taken together, the riches of a large kingdom.

He was greeted by a shrill cry of joy from many voices.  Twenty of the
women joined hands and danced round their smiling keeper, singing a
simple song which had been composed in the harem in praise of his
virtues.  On this day it was customary for the king to grant each of his
wives one reasonable petition.  So when the ring of dancers had loosed
hands, a troop of petitioners rushed in upon Boges, kissing his hands,
stroking his cheeks, whispering in his ear all kinds of requests, and
trying by flattery to gain his intercession with the king.  The woman's
tyrant smiled at it all, stopped his ears and pushed them all back with
jests and laughter, promising Amytis the Median that Esther the
Phoenician should be punished, and Esther the same of Amytis,--that
Parmys should have a handsomer set of jewels than Parisatys, and
Parisatys a more costly one than Parmys, but finding it impossible to get
rid of these importunate petitioners, he blew a little golden whistle.
Its shrill tones acted like magic on the eager crowd; the raised hands
fell in a moment, the little tripping feet stood still, the opening lips
closed and the eager tumult was turned into a dead silence.

Whoever disobeyed the sound of this little whistle, was certain of
punishment.  It was as important as the words "Silence, in the king's
name!" or the reading of the riot-act.  To-day it worked even more
effectually than usual.  Boges' self-satisfied smile showed that he had
noticed this; he then favored the assembly with a look expressive of his
contentment with their conduct, promised in a flowery speech to exert all
his influence with the king in behalf of his dear little white doves, and
wound up by telling them to arrange themselves in two long rows.

The women obeyed and submitted to his scrutiny like soldiers on drill, or
slaves being examined by their buyer.

With the dress and ornaments of most he was satisfied, ordering, however,
to one a little more rouge, to another a little white powder to subdue a
too healthy color, here a different arrangement of the hair--there a
deeper tinge to the eyebrows, or more pains to be taken in anointing the
lips.

When this was over he left the hall and went to Phaedime, who as one of
the king's lawful wives, had a private room, separated from those
allotted to the concubines.

This former favorite,--this humbled daughter of the Achaemenidae, had
been expecting him already some time.

She was magnificently dressed, and almost overloaded with jewels.  A
thick veil of gauze inwrought with gold hung from her little tiara, and
interlaced with this was the blue and white band of the Achaemenidae.
There could be no question that she was beautiful, but her figure was
already too strongly developed, a frequent result of the lazy harem life
among Eastern women.  Fair golden hair, interwoven with little silver
chains and gold pieces, welled out almost too abundantly from beneath her
tiara, and was smoothed over her white temples.

She sprang forward to meet Boges, trembling with eagerness, caught a
hasty glance at herself in the looking-glass, and then, fixing her eyes
on the eunuch, asked impetuously: "Are you pleased with me?  Will he
admire me?"

Boges smiled his old, eternal smile and answered: "You always please me,
my golden peacock, and the king would admire you too if he could see you
as you were a moment ago.  You were really beautiful when you called out,
'Will he admire me?' for passion had turned your blue eyes black as
night, and your lip was curled with hatred so as to show two rows of
teeth white as the snow on the Demawend!"

Phaedime was flattered and forced her face once more into the admired
expression, saying: "Then take us at once to the banquet, for I know my
eyes will be darker and more brilliant, and my teeth will gleam more
brightly, when I see that Egyptian girl sitting where I ought to sit."

"She will not be allowed to sit there long."

"What! is your plan likely to succeed then?  Oh, Boges, do not hide it
any longer from me--I will be as silent as the grave--I will help you--I
will--"

"No, I cannot, I dare not tell you about it, but this much I will say in
order to sweeten this bitter evening: we have dug the pit for our enemy,
and if my golden Phaedime will only do what I tell her, I hope to give
her back her old place, and not only that, but even a higher one."

"Tell me what I am to do; I am ready for anything and everything."

"That was well and bravely spoken; like a true lioness.  If you obey me
we must succeed; and the harder the task, the higher the reward.  Don't
dispute what I am going to say, for we have not a minute to lose.  Take
off all your useless ornaments and only wear the chain the king gave you
on your marriage.  Put on a dark simple dress instead of this bright one;
and when you have prostrated yourself before Kassandane, bow down humbly
before the Egyptian Princess too."

"Impossible!"

"I will not be contradicted.  Take off those ornaments at once, I entreat
you.  There, that is right.  We cannot succeed unless you obey me.  How
white your neck is!  The fair Peri would look dark by your side."

"But--"

"When your turn comes to ask a favor of the king, tell him you have no
wishes, now that the sun of your life has withdrawn his light."

"Yes, that I will do."

"When your father asks after your welfare, you must weep."

"I will do that too."

"And so that all the Achaemenidae can see that you are weeping."

"That will be a fearful humiliation!"

"Not at all; only a means by which to rise the more surely.  Wash the red
color from your cheeks and put on white powder.  Make yourself pale--
paler still."

"Yes, I shall need that to hide my blushes.  Boges, you are asking
something fearful of me, but I will obey you if you will only give me a
reason."

"Girl, bring your mistress's new dark green robe."

"I shall look like a slave."

"True grace is lovely even in rags."

"The Egyptian will completely eclipse me."

"Yes, every one must see that you have not the slightest intention of
comparing yourself with her.  Then people will say: 'Would not Phaedime
be as beautiful as this proud woman, if she had taken the same pains to
make herself so?"'

"But I cannot bow down to her."

"You must."

"You only want to humble and ruin me."

"Short-sighted fool! listen to my reasons and obey.  I want especially to
excite the Achaemenidae against our enemy.  How it will enrage your
grandfather Intaphernes, and your father Otanes to see you in the dust
before a stranger!  Their wounded pride will bring them over to our side,
and if they are too 'noble,' as they call it, to undertake anything
themselves against a woman, still they will be more likely to help than
to hinder us, if I should need their assistance.  Then, when the Egyptian
is ruined, if you have done as I wish, the king will remember your sad
pale face, your humility and forgetfulness of self.  The Achaemenidae,
and even the Magi, will beg him to take a queen from his own family; and
where in all Persia is there a woman who can boast of better birth than
you?  Who else can wear the royal purple but my bright bird of Paradise,
my beautiful rose Phaedime?  With such a prize in prospect we must no
more fear a little humiliation than a man who is learning to ride fears a
fall from his horse."

And she, princess as she was, answered: "I will obey you."

"Then we are certain of victory," said the eunuch.  "There, now your eyes
are flashing darkly again as I like to see them, my queen.  And so
Cambyses shall see you when the tender flesh of the Egyptian shall have
become food for dogs and the birds of the air, and when for the first
time after long months of absence, I bring him once more to the door of
your apartments.  Here, Armorges!  tell the rest of the women to get
ready and enter their litters.  I will go on and be there to show them
their places."

                    ..........................

The great banqueting-hall was bright as day--even brighter, from the
light of thousands of candles whose rays were reflected in the gold
plates forming the panelling of the walls.  A table of interminable
length stood in the middle of the hall, overloaded with gold and silver
cups, plates, dishes, bowls, jugs, goblets, ornaments and incense-altars,
and looked like a splendid scene from fairy-land.

"The king will soon be here," called out the head-steward of the table,
of the great court-lords, to the king's cup-bearer, who was a member of
the royal family.  "Are all the wine-jugs full, has the wine been tasted,
are the goblets ranged in order, and the skins sent by Polykrates, have
they been emptied?"

"Yes," answered the cup-bearer,  "everything is ready, and that Chian
wine is better than any I ever tasted; indeed, in my opinion, even the
Syrian is not to be compared to it.  Only taste it."

So saying he took a graceful little golden goblet from the table in one
hand, raised a wine-pitcher of the same costly metal with the other,
swung the latter high into the air and poured the wine so cleverly into
the narrow neck of the little vessel that not a drop was lost, though the
liquid formed a wide curve in its descent.  He then presented the goblet
to the head-steward with the tips of his fingers, bowing gracefully as he
did so.

The latter sipped the delicious wine, testing its flavor with great
deliberation, and said, on returning the cup: "I agree with you, it is
indeed a noble wine, and tastes twice as well when presented with such
inimitable grace.  Strangers are quite right in saying that there are no
cupbearers like the Persian."

"Thanks for this praise," replied the other, kissing his friend's
forehead.  "Yes, I am proud of my office, and it is one which the king
only gives to his friends.  Still it is a great plague to have to stay so
long in this hot, suffocating Babylon.  Shall we ever be off for the
summer, to Ecbatana or Pasargada?"

"I was talking to the king about it to-day.  He had intended not to leave
before the Massagetan war, and to go straight from Babylon into the
field, but to-day's embassy has changed matters; it is probable that
there may be no war, and then we shall go to Susa three days after the
king's marriage--that is, in one week from the present time."

"To Susa?"  cried the cup-bearer.  "It's very little cooler there than
here, and besides, the old Memnon's castle is being rebuilt."

"The satrap of Susa has just brought word that the new palace is
finished, and that nothing so brilliant has ever been seen.  Directly
Cambyses heard, it he said: Then we will start for Susa three days after
our marriage.  I should like to show the Egyptian Princess that we
understand the art of building as well as her own ancestors.  She is
accustomed to hot weather on the Nile, and will not find our beautiful
Susa too warm.'  The king seems wonderfully fond of this woman."

"He does indeed!  All other women have become perfectly indifferent to
him, and he means soon to make her his queen."

"That is unjust; Phaedime, as daughter of the Achaemenidae, has an older
and better right."

"No doubt, but whatever the king wishes, must be right."

"The ruler's will is the will of God."

"Well said!  A true Persian will kiss his king's hand, even when dripping
with the blood of his own child."

"Cambyses ordered my brother's execution, but I bear him no more ill-will
for it than I should the gods for depriving me of my parents.  Here, you
fellows! draw the curtains back; the guests are coming.  Look sharp, you
dogs, and do your duty! Farewell, Artabazos, we shall have warm work
to-night."



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Death is so long and life so short
No man was allowed to ask anything of the gods for himself
Take heed lest pride degenerate into vainglory





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