Infomotions, Inc.— Volume 07 / Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898

Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
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Date: 2002-05-14
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Title: An Egyptian Princess, Volume 7.

Author: Georg Ebers

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AN EGYPTIAN PRINCESS, Part 2.

By Georg Ebers

Volume 7.



CHAPTER V.

Before the sun had reached his mid-day height, the news of what had
happened and of what was still to happen had filled all Babylon.  The
streets swarmed with people, waiting impatiently to see the strange
spectacle which the punishment of one of the king's wives, who had proved
false and faithless, promised to afford.  The whip-bearers were forced to
use all their authority to keep this gaping crowd in order.  Later on in
the day the news that Bartja and his friends were soon to be executed
arrived among the crowd; they were under the influence of the palm-wine,
which was liberally distributed on the king's birthday and the following
days, and could not control their excited feelings; but these now took
quite another form.

Bands of drunken men paraded the streets, crying: "Bartja, the good son
of Cyrus, is to be executed!"  The women heard these words in their quiet
apartments, eluded their keepers, forgot their veils, and rushing forth
into the streets, followed the excited and indignant men with cries and
yells.  Their pleasure in the thought of seeing a more fortunate sister
humbled, vanished at the painful news that their beloved prince was
condemned to death.  Men, women and children raged, stormed and cursed,
exciting one another to louder and louder bursts of indignation.  The
workshops were emptied, the merchants closed their warehouses, and the
school-boys and servants, who had a week's holiday on occasion of the
king's birthday, used their freedom to scream louder than any one else,
and often to groan and yell without in the least knowing why.

At last the tumult was so great that the whip-bearers were insufficient
to cope with it, and a detachment of the body-guard was sent to patrol
the streets.  At the sight of their shining armor and long lances, the
crowd retired into the side streets, only, however, to reassemble in
fresh numbers when the troops were out of sight.

At the gate, called the Bel gate, which led to the great western high-
road, the throng was thicker than at any other point, for it was said
that through this gate, the one by which she had entered Babylon, the
Egyptian Princess was to be led out of the city in shame and disgrace.
For this reason a larger number of whipbearers were stationed here, in
order to make way for travellers entering the city.  Very few people
indeed left the city at all on this day, for curiosity was stronger than
either business or pleasure; those, on the other hand, who arrived from
the country, took up their stations near the gate on hearing what had
drawn the crowd thither.

It was nearly mid-day, and only wanted a few hours to the time fixed for
Nitetis' disgrace, when a caravan approached the gate with great speed.
The first carriage was a so-called harmamaxa, drawn by four horses decked
out with bells and tassels; a two-wheeled cart followed, and last in the
train was a baggage-wagon drawn by mules.  A fine, handsome man of about
fifty, dressed as a Persian courtier, and another, much older, in long
white robes, occupied the first carriage.  The cart was filled by a
number of slaves in simple blouses, and broad-brimmed felt hats, wearing
the hair cut close to the head.  An old man, dressed as a Persian
servant, rode by the side of the cart.  The driver of the first carriage
had great difficulty in making way for his gaily-ornamented horses
through the crowd; he was obliged to come to a halt before the gate and
call some whip-bearers to his assistance.  "Make way for us!"  he cried
to the captain of the police who came up with some of his men; "the royal
post has no time to lose, and I am driving some one, who will make you
repent every minute's delay."

"Softly, my son," answered the official.  "Don't you see that it's easier
to-day to get out of Babylon, than to come in?  Whom are you driving?"

"A nobleman, with a passport from the king.  Come, be quick and make way
for us."

"I don't know about that; your caravan does not look much like royalty."

"What have you to do with that?  The pass...."
"I must see it, before I let you into the city."  These words were halfmeant for the
traveller, whom he was scrutinizing very suspiciously.

While the man in the Persian dress was feeling in his sleeve for the
passport, the whip-bearer turned to some comrades who had just come up,
and pointed out the scanty retinue of the travellers, saying: "Did you
ever see such a queer cavalcade?  There's something odd about these
strangers, as sure as my name's Giv.  Why, the lowest of the king's
carpet-bearers travels with four times as many people, and yet this man
has a royal pass and is dressed like one of those who sit at the royal
table."

At this moment the suspected traveller handed him a little silken roll
scented with musk, sealed with the royal seal, and containing the king's
own handwriting.

The whip-bearer took it and examined the seal.  "It is all in order," he
murmured, and then began to study the characters.  But no sooner had he
deciphered the first letters than be looked even more sharply than before
at the traveller, and seized the horses' bridles, crying out: "Here, men,
form a guard round the carriage! this is an impostor."

When he had convinced himself that escape was impossible, he went up to
the stranger again and said: "You are using a pass which does not belong
to you.  Gyges, the son of Croesus, the man you give yourself out for, is
in prison and is to be executed to-day.  You are not in the least like
him, and you will have reason to repent leaving tried to pass for him.
Get out of your carriage and follow me."

The traveller, however, instead of obeying, began to speak in broken
Persian, and begged the officer rather to take a seat by him in the
carriage, for that he had very important news to communicate.  The man
hesitated a moment; but on seeing a fresh band of whip-bearers come up,
he nodded to them to stand before the impatient, chafing horses, and got
into the carriage.

The stranger looked at him with a smile and said: "Now, do I look like an
impostor?"

"No; your language proves that you are not a Persian, but yet you look
like a nobleman."

"I am a Greek, and have come hither to render Cambyses an important
service.  Gyges is my friend, and lent me his passport when he was in
Egypt, in case I should ever come to Persia.  I am prepared to vindicate
my conduct before the king, and have no reason for fear.  On the
contrary, the news I bring gives me reason to expect much from his favor.
Let me be taken to Croesus, if this is your duty; he will be surety for
me, and will send back your men, of whom you seem to stand in great need
to-day.  Distribute these gold pieces among them, and tell me without
further delay what my poor friend Gyges has done to deserve death, and
what is the reason of all this crowd and confusion."

The stranger said this in bad Persian, but there lay so much dignity and
confidence in his tone, and his gifts were on such a large scale, that
the cringing and creeping servant of despotism felt sure he must be
sitting opposite to a prince, crossed his arms reverentially, and,
excusing himself from his many pressing affairs, began to relate rapidly.
He had been on duty in the great hall during the examination of the
prisoners the night before, and could therefore tell all that had
happened with tolerable accuracy.  The Greek followed his tale eagerly,
with many an incredulous shake of his handsome head, however, when the
daughter of Amasis and the son of Cyrus were spoken of as having been
disloyal and false, that sentence of death had been pronounced,
especially on Croesus, distressed him visibly, but the sadness soon
vanished from his quickly-changing features, and gave place to thought;
this in its turn was quickly followed by a joyful look, which could only
betoken that the thinker had arrived at a satisfactory result.  His
dignified gravity vanished in a moment; he laughed aloud, struck his
forehead merrily, seized the hand of the astonished captain, and said:

"Should you be glad, if Bartja could be saved?"

"More than I can say."

"Very well, then I will vouch for it, that you shall receive at least two
talents, if you can procure me an interview with the king before the
first execution has taken place."

"How can you ask such a thing of me, a poor captain?  .  .  ."

"Yes, you must, you must!"

"I cannot."

"I know well that it is very difficult, almost impossible, for a stranger
to obtain an audience of your king; but my errand brooks no delay, for I
can prove that Bartja and his friends are not guilty.  Do you hear?  I
can prove it.  Do you think now, you can procure me admittance?"

"How is it possible?"

"Don't ask, but act.  Didn't you say Darius was one of the condemned?"

"Yes."

"I have heard, that his father is a man of very high rank."

"He is the first in the kingdom, after the sons of Cyrus."

"Then take me to him at once.  He will welcome me when he hears I am able
to save his son."

"Stranger, you are a wonderful being.  You speak with so much confidence
that .  .  ."

"That you feel you may believe me.  Make haste then, and call some of
your men to make way for us, and escort us to the palace."

There is nothing, except a doubt, which runs more quickly from mind to
mind, than a hope that some cherished wish may be fulfilled, especially
when this hope has been suggested to us by some one we can trust.

The officer believed this strange traveller, jumped out of the carriage,
flourishing his scourge and calling to his men: "This nobleman has come
on purpose to prove Bartja's innocence, and must be taken to the king at
once.  Follow me, my friends, and make way for him!"

Just at that moment a troop of the guards appeared in sight.  The captain
of the whip-bearers went up to their commander, and, seconded by the
shouts of the crowd, begged him to escort the stranger to the palace.

During this colloquy the traveller had mounted his servant's horse, and
now followed in the wake of the Persians.

The good news flew like wind through the huge city.  As the riders
proceeded, the crowd fell back more willingly, and loader and fuller grew
the shouts of joy until at last their march was like a triumphal
procession.

In a few minutes they drew up before the palace; but before the brazen
gates had opened to admit them, another train came slowly into sight.  At
the head rode a grey-headed old man; his robes were brown, and rent, in
token of mourning, the mane and tail of his horse had been shorn off and
the creature colored blue.--It was Hystaspes, coming to entreat mercy for
his son.

The whip-bearer, delighted at this sight, threw himself down before the
old man with a cry of joy, and with crossed arms told him what confidence
the traveller had inspired him with.

Hystaspes beckoned to the stranger; he rode up, bowed gracefully and
courteously to the old man, without dismounting, and confirmed the words
of the whip bearer.  Hystaspes seemed to feel fresh confidence too after
hearing the stranger, for he begged him to follow him into the palace and
to wait outside the door of the royal apartment, while he himself,
conducted by the head chamberlain, went in to the king.

When his old kinsman entered, Cambyses was lying on his purple couch,
pale as death.  A cup-bearer was kneeling on the ground at his feet,
trying to collect the broken fragments of a costly Egyptian drinking-cup
which the king had thrown down impatiently because its contents had not
pleased his taste.  At some distance stood a circle of court-officials,
in whose faces it was easy to read that they were afraid of their ruler's
wrath, and preferred keeping as far from him as possible.  The dazzling
light and oppressive heat of a Babylonian May day came in through the
open windows, and not a sound was to be heard in the great room, except
the whining of a large dog of the Epirote breed, which had just received
a tremendous kick from Cambyses for venturing to fawn on his master, and
was the only being that ventured to disturb the solemn stillness.  Just
before Hystaspes was led in by the chamberlain, Cambyses had sprung up
from his couch.  This idle repose had become unendurable, he felt
suffocated with pain and anger.  The dog's howl suggested a new idea to
his poor tortured brain, thirsting for forgetfulness.

"We will go out hunting!"  he shouted to the poor startled courtiers.
The master of the hounds, the equerries, and huntsmen hastened to obey
his orders.  He called after them, "I shall ride the unbroken horse
Reksch; get the falcons ready, let all the dogs out and order every one
to come, who can throw a spear.  We'll clear the preserves!"

He then threw himself down on his divan again, as if these words had
quite exhausted his powerful frame, and did not see that Hystaspes had
entered, for his sullen gaze was fixed on the motes playing in the
sunbeams that glanced through the window.

Hystaspes did not dare to address him; but he stationed himself in the
window so as to break the stream of motes and thus draw attention to
himself.

At first Cambyses looked angrily at him and his rent garments, and then
asked with a bitter smile; "What do you want?"

"Victory to the king!  Your poor servant and uncle has come to entreat
his ruler's mercy."

"Then rise and go!  You know that I have no mercy for perjurers and false
swearers.  'Tis better to have a dead son than a dishonorable one."

"But if Bartja should not be guilty, and Darius .  .  ."

"You dare to question the justice of my sentence?"

"That be far from me.  Whatever the king does is good, and cannot be
gainsaid; but still .  .  ."

"Be silent!  I will not hear the subject mentioned again.  You are to be
pitied as a father; but have these last few hours brought me any joy?
Old man, I grieve for you, but I have as little power to rescind his
punishment as you to recall his crime."

"But if Bartja really should not be guilty--if the gods .  .  ."

"Do you think the gods will come to the help of perjurers and deceivers?"

"No, my King; but a fresh witness has appeared."

"A fresh witness?  Verily, I would gladly give half my kingdom, to be
convinced of the innocence of men so nearly related to me."

"Victory to my lord, the eye of the realm!  A Greek is waiting outside,
who seems, to judge by his figure and bearing, one of the noblest of his
race."

The king laughed bitterly: "A Greek!  Ah, ha!  perhaps some relation to
Bartja's faithful fair one!  What can this stranger know of my family
affairs?  I know these beggarly Ionians well.  They are impudent enough
to meddle in everything, and think they can cheat us with their sly
tricks.  How much have you had to pay for this new witness, uncle?  A
Greek is as ready with a lie as a Magian with his spells, and I know
they'll do anything for gold.  I'm really curious to see your witness.
Call him in.  But if he wants to deceive me, he had better remember that
where the head of a son of Cyrus is about to fall, a Greek head has but
very little chance."  And the king's eyes flashed with anger as he said
these words.  Hystaspes, however, sent for the Greek.

Before he entered, the chamberlains fastened the usual cloth before his
mouth, and commanded him to cast himself on the ground before the king.
The Greek's bearing, as he approached, under the king's penetrating
glance, was calm and noble; he fell on his face, and, according to the
Persian custom, kissed the ground.

His agreeable and handsome appearance, and the calm and modest manner in
which he bore the king's gaze, seemed to make a favorable impression on
the latter; he did not allow him to remain long on the earth, and asked
him in a by no means unfriendly tone: "Who are you?"

"I am a Greek nobleman.  My name is Phanes, and Athens is my home.  I
have served ten years as commander of the Greek mercenaries in Egypt, and
not ingloriously."

"Are you the man, to whose clever generalship the Egyptians were indebted
for their victories in Cyprus?"

"I am."

"What has brought you to Persia?"

"The glory of your name, Cambyses, and the wish to devote my arms and
experience to your service."

"Nothing else?  Be sincere, and remember that one single lie may cost
your life.  We Persians have different ideas of truth from the Greeks."

"Lying is hateful to me too, if only, because, as a distortion and
corruption of what is noblest, it seems unsightly in my eyes."

"Then speak."

"There was certainly a third reason for my coming hither, which I should
like to tell you later.  It has reference to matters of the greatest
importance, which it will require a longer time to discuss; but to-day--"

"Just to-day I should like to hear something new.  Accompany me to the
chase.  You come exactly at the right time, for I never had more need of
diversion than now."

"I will accompany you with pleasure, if.  .  ."

"No conditions to the king!  Have you had much practice in hunting?"

"In the Libyan desert I have killed many a lion."

"Then come, follow me."

In the thought of the chase the king seemed to have thrown off all his
weakness and roused himself to action; he was just leaving the hall, when
Hystaspes once more threw himself at his feet, crying with up-raised
hands: "Is my son--is your brother, to die innocent?  By the soul of your
father, who used to call me his truest friend, I conjure you to listen to
this noble stranger."

Cambyses stood still.  The frown gathered on his brow again, his voice
sounded like a menace and his eyes flashed as he raised his hand and said
to the Greek: "Tell me what you know; but remember that in every untrue
word, you utter your own sentence of death."

Phanes heard this threat with the greatest calmness, and answered, bowing
gracefully as he spoke: "From the sun and from my lord the king, nothing
can be hid.  What power has a poor mortal to conceal the truth from one
so mighty?  The noble Hystaspes has said, that I am able to prove your
brother innocent.  I will only say, that I wish and hope I may succeed in
accomplishing anything so great and beautiful.  The gods have at least
allowed me to discover a trace which seems calculated to throw light on
the events of yesterday; but you yourself must decide whether my hopes
have been presumptuous and my suspicions too easily aroused.  Remember,
however, that throughout, my wish to serve you has been sincere, and
that if I have been deceived, my error is pardonable; that nothing is
perfectly certain in this world, and every man believes that to be
infallible which seems to him the most probable."

"You speak well, and remind me of .  .  .  curse her! there, speak and
have done with it!  I hear the dogs already in the court."

"I was still in Egypt when your embassy came to fetch Nitetis.  At the
house of Rhodopis, my delightful, clever and celebrated countrywoman, I
made the acquaintance of Croesus and his son; I only saw your brother and
his friends once or twice, casually; still I remembered the young
prince's handsome face so well, that some time later, when I was in the
workshop of the great sculptor Theodorus at Samos, I recognized his
features at once."

"Did you meet him at Samos?"

"No, but his features had made such a deep and faithful impression on
Theodorus' memory, that he used them to beautify the head of an Apollo,
which the Achaemenidae had ordered for the new temple of Delphi."

"Your tale begins, at least, incredibly enough.  How is it possible to
copy features so exactly, when you have not got them before you?"

"I can only answer that Theodorus has really completed this master-piece,
and if you wish for a proof of his skill would gladly send you a second
likeness of .  .  ."

"I have no desire for it.  Go on with your story."

"On my journey hither, which, thanks to your father's excellent
arrangements, I performed in an incredibly short time, changing horses
every sixteen or seventeen miles .  .  ."

"Who allowed you, a foreigner, to use the posthorses?"

"The pass drawn out for the son of Croesus, which came by chance into my
hands, when once, in order to save my life, he forced me to change
clothes with him."

"A Lydian can outwit a fox, and a Syrian a Lydian, but an Ionian is a
match for both," muttered the king, smiling for the first time; "Croesus
told me this story--poor Croesus!"  and then the old gloomy expression
came over his face and he passed his hand across his forehead, as if
trying to smooth the lines of care away.  The Athenian went on: "I met
with no hindrances on my journey till this morning at the first hour
after midnight, when I was detained by a strange occurrence."

The king began to listen more attentively, and reminded the Athenian, who
spoke Persian with difficulty, that there was no time to lose.

"We had reached the last station but one," continued he, "and hoped to be
in Babylon by sunrise.  I was thinking over my past stirring life, and
was so haunted by the remembrance of evil deeds unrevenged that I could
not sleep; the old Egyptian at my side, however, slept and dreamt
peacefully enough, lulled by the monotonous tones of the harness bells,
the sound of the horses' hoofs and the murmur of the Euphrates.  It was a
wonderfully still, beautiful night; the moon and stars were so brilliant,
that our road and the landscape were lighted up almost with the
brightness of day.  For the last hour we had not seen a single vehicle,
foot-passenger, or horseman; we had heard that all the neighboring
population had assembled in Babylon to celebrate your birthday, gaze with
wonder at the splendor of your court, and enjoy your liberality.  At last
the irregular beat of horses' hoofs, and the sound of bells struck my
ear, and a few minutes later I distinctly heard cries of distress.  My
resolve was taken at once; I made my Persian servant dismount, sprang
into his saddle, told the driver of the cart in which my slaves were
sitting not to spare his mules, loosened my dagger and sword in their
scabbards, and spurred my horse towards the place from whence the cries
came.  They grew louder and louder.  I had not ridden a minute, when I
came on a fearful scene.  Three wild-looking fellows had just pulled a
youth, dressed in the white robes of a Magian, from his horse, stunned
him with heavy blows, and, just as I reached them, were on the point of
throwing him into the Euphrates, which at that place washes the roots
of the palms and fig-trees bordering the high-road.  I uttered my Greek
war-cry, which has made many an enemy tremble before now, and rushed on
the murderers.  Such fellows are always cowards; the moment they saw one
of their accomplices mortally wounded, they fled.  I did not pursue them,
but stooped down to examine the poor boy, who was severely wounded.  How
can I describe my horror at seeing, as I believed, your brother Bartja?
Yes, they were the very same features that I had seen, first at Naukratis
and then in Theodorus' workshop, they were .  .  ."

"Marvellous!"  interrupted Hystaspes.

"Perhaps a little too much so to be credible," added the king.  "Take
care, Hellene! remember my arm reaches far.  I shall have the truth of
your story put to the proof."

"I am accustomed," answered Phanes bowing low, "to follow the advice of
our wise philosopher Pythagoras, whose fame may perhaps have reached your
ears, and always, before speaking, to consider whether what I am going to
say may not cause me sorrow in the future."

"That sounds well; but, by Mithras, I knew some one who often spoke of
that great teacher, and yet in her deeds turned out to be a most faithful
disciple of Angramainjus.  You know the traitress, whom we are going to
extirpate from the earth like a poisonous viper to-day."

"Will you forgive me," answered Phanes, seeing the anguish expressed in
the king's features, "if I quote another of the great master's maxims?"

"Speak."

"Blessings go as quickly as they come.  Therefore bear thy lot patiently.
Murmur not, and remember that the gods never lay a heavier weight on any
man than he can bear.  Hast thou a wounded heart? touch it as seldom as
thou wouldst a sore eye.  There are only two remedies for heart-
sickness:--hope and patience."

Cambyses listened to this sentence, borrowed from the golden maxims of
Pythagoras, and smiled bitterly at the word "patience."  Still the
Athenian's way of speaking pleased him, and he told him to go on with his
story.

Phanes made another deep obeisance, and continued: "We carried the
unconscious youth to my carriage, and brought him to the nearest station.
There he opened his eyes, looked anxiously at me, and asked who I was and
what had happened to him?  The master of the station was standing by, so
I was obliged to give the name of Gyges in order not to excite his
suspicions by belying my pass, as it was only through this that I could
obtain fresh horses.

"This wounded young man seemed to know Gyges, for he shook his head and
murmured: 'You are not the man you give yourself out for.' Then he closed
his eyes again, and a violent attack of fever came on.

"We undressed, bled him and bound up his wounds.  My Persian servant, who
had served as overlooker in Amasis' stables and had seen Bartja there,
assisted by the old Egyptian who accompanied me, was very helpful, and
asserted untiringly that the wounded man could be no other than your
brother.  When we had cleansed the blood from his face, the master of the
station too swore that there could be no doubt of his being the younger
son of your great father Cyrus.  Meanwhile my Egyptian companion had
fetched a potion from the travelling medicine-chest, without which an
Egyptian does not care to leave his native country.

     [A similar travelling medicine-chest is to be seen in the Egyptian
     Museum at Berlin.  It is prettily and compendiously fitted up, and
     must be very ancient, for the inscription on the chest, which
     contained it stated that it was made in the 11th dynasty (end of the
     third century B. C.) in the reign of King Mentuhotep.]

The drops worked wonders; in a few hours the fever was quieted, and at
sunrise the patient opened his eyes once more.  We bowed down before him,
believing him to be your brother, and asked if he would like to be taken
to the palace in Babylon.  This he refused vehemently, and asseverated
that he was not the man we took him for, but, .  .  ."

"Who can be so like Bartja? tell me quickly," interrupted the king, "I am
very curious to know this."

"He declared that he was the brother of your high-priest, that his name
was Gaumata, and that this would be proved by the pass which we should
find in the sleeve of his Magian's robe.  The landlord found this
document and, being able to read, confirmed the statement of the sick
youth; he was, however, soon seized by a fresh attack of fever, and began
to speak incoherently."

"Could you understand him?"

"Yes, for his talk always ran on the same subject.  The hanging-gardens
seemed to fill his thoughts.  He must have just escaped some great
danger, and probably had had a lover's meeting there with a woman called
Mandane."

"Mandane, Mandane," said Cambyses in a low voice; "if I do not mistake,
that is the name of the highest attendant on Amasis' daughter."

These words did not escape the sharp ears of the Greek.  He thought a
moment and then exclaimed with a smile; "Set the prisoners free, my King;
I will answer for it with my own head, that Bartja was not in the
hanging-gardens."

The king was surprised at this speech but not angry.  The free,
unrestrained, graceful manner of this Athenian towards himself produced
the same impression, that a fresh sea-breeze makes when felt for the
first time.  The nobles of his own court, even his nearest relations,
approached him bowing and cringing, but this Greek stood erect in his
presence; the Persians never ventured to address their ruler without a
thousand flowery and flattering phrases, but the Athenian was simple,
open and straightforward.  Yet his words were accompanied by such a charm
of action and expression, that the king could understand them,
notwithstanding the defective Persian in which they were clothed, better
than the allegorical speeches of his own subjects.  Nitetis and Phanes
were the only human beings, who had ever made him forget that he was a
king.  With them he was a man speaking to his fellow-man, instead of a
despot speaking with creatures whose very existence was the plaything of
his own caprice.  Such is the effect produced by real manly dignity,
superior culture and the consciousness of a right to freedom, on the mind
even of a tyrant.  But there was something beside all this, that had
helped to win Cambyses' favor for the Athenian.  This man's coming seemed
as if it might possibly give him back the treasure he had believed was
lost and more than lost.  But how could the life of such a foreign
adventurer be accepted as surety for the sons of the highest Persians in
the realm?  The proposal, however, did not make him angry.  On the
contrary, he could not help smiling at the boldness of this Greek, who in
his eagerness had freed himself from the cloth which hung over his mouth
and beard, and exclaimed: "By Mithras, Greek, it really seems as if you
were to prove a messenger of good for us!  I accept your offer.  If the
prisoners, notwithstanding your supposition, should still prove guilty
you are bound to pass your whole life at my court and in my service, but
if, on the contrary, you are able to prove what I so ardently long for,
I will make you richer than any of your countrymen."

Phanes answered by a smile which seemed to decline this munificent offer,
and asked: "Is it permitted me to put a few questions to yourself and to
the officers of your court?"

"You are allowed to say and ask whatever you wish."

At this moment the master of the huntsmen, one of those who daily ate at
the king's table, entered, out of breath from his endeavors to hasten the
preparations, and announced that all was ready.

"They must wait," was the king's imperious answer.  "I am not sure, that
we shall hunt at all to-day.  Where is Bischen, the captain of police?"

Datis, the so-called "eye of the king,"  who held the office filled in
modern days by a minister of police, hurried from the room, returning in
a few minutes with the desired officer.  These moments Phanes made use of
for putting various questions on important points to the nobles who were
present.

"What news can you bring of the prisoners?"  asked the king, as the man
lay prostrate before him.  "Victory to the king!  They await death with
calmness, for it is sweet to die by thy will."

"Have you heard anything of their conversation?"

"Yes, my Ruler."

"Do they acknowledge their guilt, when speaking to each other?"

"Mithras alone knows the heart; but you, my prince, if you could hear
them speak, would believe in their innocence, even as I the humblest of
your servants."

The captain looked up timidly at the king, fearing lest these words
should have excited his anger; Cambyses, however, smiled kindly instead
of rebuking him.  But a sudden thought darkened his brow again directly,
and in a low voice he asked: "When was Croesus executed?"

The man trembled at this question; the perspiration stood on his
forehead, and he could scarcely stammer the words: "He is.... he has....
we thought...."

"What did you think?"  interrupted Cambyses, and a new light of hope
seemed to dawn in his mind.  "Is it possible, that you did not carry out
my orders at once?  Can Croesus still be alive?  Speak at once, I must
know the whole truth."

The captain writhed like a worm at his lord's feet, and at last stammered
out, raising his hands imploringly towards the king: "Have mercy, have
mercy, my Lord the king!  I am a poor man, and have thirty children,
fifteen of whom .  .  ."

"I wish to know if Croesus is living or dead."

"He is alive!  He has done so much for me, and I did not think I was
doing wrong in allowing him to live a few hours longer, that he might..."

"That is enough," said the king breathing freely.  "This once your
disobedience shall go unpunished, and the treasurer may give you two
talents, as you have so many children.--Now go to the prisoners,--tell
Croesus to come hither, and the others to be of good courage, if they are
innocent."

"My King is the light of the world, and an ocean of mercy."

"Bartja and his friends need not remain any longer in confinement; they
can walk in the court of the palace, and you will keep guard over them.
You, Datis, go at once to the hanging-gardens and order Boges to defer
the execution of the sentence on the Egyptian Princess; and further, I
wish messengers sent to the post-station mentioned by the Athenian, and
the wounded man brought hither under safe escort."

The " king's eye " was on the point of departure, but Phanes detained
him, saying: "Does my King allow me to make one remark?"

"Speak."

"It appears to me, that the chief of the eunuchs could give the most
accurate information.  During his delirium the youth often mentioned his
name in connection with that of the girl he seemed to be in love with."

"Go at once, Datis, and bring him quickly."

"The high-priest  Oropastes, Gaumata's  brother, ought to appear too; and
Mandane, whom I have just been assured on the most positive authority, is
the principal attendant of the Egyptian Princess."

"Fetch her, Datis."

"If Nitetis herself could .  .  ."

At this the king turned pale and a cold shiver ran through his limbs.
How he longed to see his darling again!  But the strong man was afraid of
this woman's reproachful looks; he knew the captivating power that lay in
her eyes.  So he pointed to the door, saying "Fetch Boges and Mandane;
the Egyptian Princess is to remain in the hanging-gardens, under strict
custody."

The Athenian bowed deferentially; as if he would say: "Here no one has a
right to command but the king."

Cambyses looked well pleased, seated himself again on the purple divan,
and resting his forehead on his hand, bent his eyes on the ground and
sank into deep thought.  The picture of the woman he loved so dearly
refused to be banished; it came again and again, more and more vividly,
and the thought that these features could not have deceived him--that
Nitetis must be innocent--took a firmer root in his mind; he had already
begun to hope.  If Bartja could be cleared, there was no error that might
not be conceivable; in that case he would go to the hanging-gardens, take
her hand and listen to her defence.  When love has once taken firm hold
of a man in riper years, it runs and winds through his whole nature like
one of his veins, and can only be destroyed with his life.

The entrance of Croesus roused Cambyses from his dream; he raised the old
man kindly from the prostrate position at his feet, into which he had
thrown himself on entering, and said: "You offended me, but I will be
merciful; I have not forgotten that my father, on his dying bed, told me
to make you my friend and adviser.  Take your life back as a gift from
me, and forget my anger as I wish to forget your want of reverence.  This
man says he knows you; I should like to hear your opinion of his
conjectures."

Croesus turned away much affected, and after having heartily welcomed the
Athenian, asked him to relate his suppositions and the grounds on which
they were founded.

The old man grew more and more attentive as the Greek went on, and when
he had finished raised his hands to heaven, crying: "Pardon me, oh ye
eternal gods, if I have ever questioned the justice of your decrees.  Is
not this marvellous, Cambyses?  My son once placed himself in great
danger to save the life of this noble Athenian, whom the gods have
brought hither to repay the deed tenfold.  Had Phanes been murdered in
Egypt, this hour might have seen our sons executed."

And as he said this he embraced Hystaspes; both shared one feeling; their
sons had been as dead and were now alive.

The king, Phanes, and all the Persian dignitaries watched the old men
with deep sympathy, and though the proofs of Bartja's innocence were as
yet only founded on conjecture, not one of those present doubted it one
moment longer.  Wherever the belief in a man's guilt is but slight, his
defender finds willing listeners.




CHAPTER VI.

THE sharp-witted Athenian saw clearly how matters lay in this sad story;
nor did it escape him that malice had had a hand in the affair.  How
could Bartja's dagger have come into the hanging-gardens except through
treachery?

While he was telling the king his suspicions, Oropastes was led into the
hall.

The king looked angrily at him and without one preliminary word, asked:
"Have you a brother?"

"Yes, my King.  He and I are the only two left out of a family of six.
My parents .  .  ."

"Is your brother younger or older than yourself?"

"I was the eldest of the family; my brother, the youngest, was the joy of
my father's old age."

"Did you ever notice a remarkable likeness between him and one of my
relations?"

"Yes, my King.  Gaumata is so like your brother Bartja, that in the
school for priests at Rhagae, where he still is, he was always called
"the prince."

"Has he been at Babylon very lately?"

"He was here for the last time at the New Year's festival."

"Are you speaking the truth?"

"The sin of lying would be doubly punishable in one who wears my robes,
and holds my office."

The king's face flushed with anger at this answer and he exclaimed:
"Nevertheless  you  are lying; Gaumata was here yesterday evening.  You
may well tremble."

"My life belongs to the king, whose are all things; nevertheless I swear
--the high-priest-by the most high God, whom I have served faithfully for
thirty years, that I know nothing of my brother's presence in Babylon
yesterday."

"Your face looks as if you were speaking the truth."

"You know that I was not absent from your side the whole of that high
holiday."

"I know it."

Again the doors opened; this time they admitted the trembling Mandane.
The high-priest cast such a look of astonishment and enquiry on her, that
the king saw she must be in some way connected with him, and therefore,
taking no notice of the trembling girl who lay  at his  feet,  he asked:
"Do  you  know  this woman?"

"Yes, my King.  I obtained for her the situation of upper attendant to
the--may Auramazda forgive her!--King of Egypt's daughter."

"What led you,--a priest,--to do a favor to this girl?"

"Her parents died of the same pestilence, which carried off my brothers.
Her father was a priest, respected, and a friend of our family; so we
adopted the little girl, remembering the words: 'If thou withhold help
from the man who is pure in heart and from his widow and orphans, then
shall the pure, subject earth cast thee out unto the stinging-nettles,
to painful sufferings and to the most fearful regions!'  Thus I became
her foster-father, and had her brought up with my youngest brother until
he was obliged to enter the school for priests."

The king exchanged a look of intelligence with Phanes, and asked: "Why
did not you keep the girl longer with you?"

"When she had received the ear-rings I, as priest, thought it more
suitable to send such a young girl away from my house, and to put her in
a position to earn her own living."

"Has she seen your brother since she has been grown up?"

"Yes, my King.  Whenever Gaumata came to see me I allowed him to be with
her as with a sister; but on discovering later that the passionate love
of youth had begun to mingle with the childish friendship of former days,
I felt strengthened in my resolution to send her away."

"Now we know enough," said the king, commanding the high-priest by a nod
to retire.  He then looked down on the prostrate girl, and said
imperiously: "Rise!"

Mandane rose, trembling with fear.  Her fresh young face was pale as
death, and her red lips were blue from terror.

"Tell all you know about yesterday evening; but remember, a lie and your
death are one and the same."

The girl's knees trembled so violently that she could hardly stand, and
her fear entirely took away the power of speaking.

"I have not much patience," exclaimed Cambyses.  Mandane started, grew
paler still, but could not speak.  Then Phanes came forward and asked the
angry king to allow him to examine the girl, as he felt sure that fear
alone had closed her lips and that a kind word would open them.

Cambyses allowed this, and the Athenian's words proved true; no sooner
had he assured Mandane of the good-will of all present, laid his hand on
her head and spoken kindly to her, than the source of her tears was
unlocked, she wept freely, the spell which had seemed to chain her
tongue, vanished, and she began to tell her story, interrupted only by
low sobs.  She hid nothing, confessed that Boges had given her his
sanction and assistance to the meeting with Gaumata, and ended by saying:
"I know that I have forfeited my life, and am the worst and most
ungrateful creature in the world; but none of all this would have
happened, if Oropastes had allowed his brother to marry me."

The serious audience, even the king himself, could not resist a smile at
the longing tone in which these words were spoken and the fresh burst of
sobs which succeeded them.

And this smile saved her life.  But Cambyses would not have smiled, after
hearing such a story, if Mandane, with that instinct which always seems
to stand at a woman's command in the hour of her greatest danger, had not
known how to seize his weak side, and use it for her own interests, by
dwelling much longer than was necessary, on the delight which Nitetis had
manifested at the king's gifts.

"A thousand times" cried she, "did my mistress kiss the presents which
were brought from you, O King; but oftenest of all did she press her lips
to the nosegay which you plucked with your own hands for her, some days
ago.  And when it began to fade, she took every flower separately, spread
out the petals with care, laid them between woollen cloths, and, with her
own hands, placed her heavy, golden ointment-box upon them, that they
might dry and so she might keep them always as a remembrance of your
kindness."

Seeing Cambyses' awful features grow a little milder at these words, the
girl took fresh courage, and at last began to put loving words into her
mistress's mouth which the latter had never uttered; professing that she
herself had heard Nitetis a hundred times murmur the word "Cambyses" in
her sleep with indescribable tenderness.  She ended her confession by
sobbing and praying for mercy.

The king looked down at her with infinite contempt, though without anger,
and pushing her away with his foot said: "Out of my sight, you dog of a
woman!  Blood like yours would soil the executioner's axe.  Out of my
sight!"

Mandane needed no second command to depart.  The words "out of my sight"
sounded like sweet music in her ears.  She rushed through the courts of
the palace, and out into the streets, crying like a mad woman "I am free!
I am free!"

She, had scarcely left the hall, when Datis, the "king's eye" reappeared
with the news that the chief of the eunuchs was nowhere to be found.  He
had vanished from the hanging-gardens in an unaccountable manner; but he,
Datis, had left word with his subordinates that he was to be searched for
and brought, dead or alive.

The king went off into another violent fit of passion at this news, and
threatened the officer of police, who prudently concealed the excitement
of the crowd from his lord, with a severe punishment, if Boges were not
in their hands by the next morning.

As he finished speaking, a eunuch was brought into the hall, sent by the
king's mother to ask an interview for herself with her son.

Cambyses prepared at once to comply with his mother's wish, at the same
time giving Phanes his hand to kiss, a rare honor, only shown to those
that ate at the king's table, and saying: "All the prisoners are to be
set at liberty.  Go to your sons, you anxious, troubled fathers, and
assure them of my mercy and favor.  I think we shall be able to find a
satrapy a-piece for them, as compensation for to-night's undeserved
imprisonment.  To you, my Greek friend, I am deeply indebted.  In
discharge of this debt, and as a means of retaining you at my court,
I beg you to accept one hundred talents from my treasury."

"I shall scarcely be able to use so large a sum," said Phanes, bowing
low.

"Then abuse it," said the king with a friendly smile, and calling out to
him, "We shall meet again at supper," he left the hall accompanied by his
court.

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

In the meantime there had been sadness and mourning in the apartments of
the queen-mother.  Judging from the contents of the letter to Bartja,
Kassandane had made up her mind that Nitetis was faithless, and her own
beloved son innocent.  But in whom could she ever place confidence again,
now that this girl, whom she had looked upon as the very embodiment of
every womanly virtue, had proved reprobate and faithless--now that the
noblest youths in the realm had proved perjurers?

Nitetis was more than dead for her; Bartja, Croesus, Darius, Gyges,
Araspes, all so closely allied to her by relationship and friendship, as
good as dead.  And yet she durst not indulge her sorrow; she had to
restrain the despairing outbursts of grief of her impetuous child.

Atossa behaved like one deprived of her senses when she heard of the
sentences of death.  The self-control which she had learnt from Nitetis
gave way, and her old impetuosity burst forth again with double
vehemence.

Nitetis, her only friend,--Bartja, the brother whom she loved with her
whole heart,--Darius, whom she felt now she not only looked up to as her
deliverer, but loved with all the warmth of a first affection--Croesus to
whom she clung like a father,--she was to lose every one she loved in one
day.

She tore her dress and her hair, called Cambyses a monster, and every one
who could possibly believe in the guilt of such people, infatuated or
insane.  Then her tears would burst out afresh, she would utter imploring
supplications to the gods for mercy, and a few minutes later, begin
conjuring her mother to take her to the hanging-gardens, that they might
hear Nitetis' defence of her own conduct.

Kassandane tried to soothe the violent girl, and assured her every
attempt to visit the hanging-gardens would be in vain.  Then Atossa began
to rage again, until at last her mother was forced to command silence,
and as morning had already began to dawn, sent her to her sleeping-room.

The girl obeyed, but instead of going to bed, seated herself at a tall
window looking towards the hanging-gardens.  Her eyes filled with tears
again, as she thought of her friend--her sister-sitting in that palace
alone, forsaken, banished, and looking forward to an ignominious death.
Suddenly her tearful, weary eyes lighted up as if from some strong
purpose, and instead of gazing into the distance, she fixed them on a
black speck which flew towards her in a straight line from Nitetis'
house, becoming larger and more distinct every moment; and finally
settling on a cypress before her window.  The sorrow vanished at once
from her lovely face and with a deep sigh of relief she sprang up,
exclaiming:

"Oh, there is the Homai, the bird of good fortune!  Now everything will
turn out well."

It was the same bird of paradise which had brought so much comfort to
Nitetis that now gave poor Atossa fresh confidence.

She bent forward to see whether any one was in the garden; and finding
that she would be seen by no one but the old gardener, she jumped out,
trembling like a fawn, plucked a few roses and cypress twigs and took
them to the old man, who had been watching her performances with a
doubtful shake of the head.

She stroked his cheeks coaxingly, put her flowers in his brown hand, and
said: "Do you love me, Sabaces?"

"O, my mistress!"  was the only answer the old man could utter, as he
pressed the hem of her robe to his lips.

"I believe you, my old friend, and I will show you how I trust my
faithful, old Sabaces.  Hide these flowers carefully and go quickly to
the king's palace.  Say that you had to bring fruit for the table.  My
poor brother Bartja, and Darius, the son of the noble Hystaspes, are in
prison, near the guard-house of the Immortals.  You must manage that
these flowers reach them, with a warm greeting from me, but mind, the
message must be given with the flowers."

"But the guards will not allow me to see the prisoners."

"Take these rings, and slip them into their hands."

"I will do my best."

"I knew you loved me, my good Sabaces.  Now make haste, and come back
soon."

The old man went off as fast as he could.  Atossa looked thoughtfully
after him, murmuring to herself: "Now they will both know, that I loved
them to the last.  The rose means, 'I love you,' and the evergreen
cypress, 'true and steadfast.'"  The old man came back in an hour;
bringing her Bartja's favorite ring, and from Darius an Indian
handkerchief dipped in blood.

Atossa ran to meet him; her eyes filled with tears as she took the
tokens, and seating herself under a spreading plane-tree, she pressed
them by turns to her lips, murmuring: "Bartja's ring means that he thinks
of me; the blood-stained handkerchief that Darius is ready to shed his
heart's blood for me."

Atossa smiled as she said this, and her tears, when she thought of her
friends and their sad fate, were quieter, if not less bitter, than
before.

A few hours later a messenger arrived from Croesus with news that the
innocence of Bartja and his friends had been proved, and that Nitetis
was, to all intents and purposes, cleared also.

Kassandane sent at once to the hanging-gardens, with a request that
Nitetis would come to her apartments.  Atossa, as unbridled in her joy as
in her grief, ran to meet her friend's litter and flew from one of her
attendants to the other crying: "They are all innocent; we shall not lose
one of them--not one!"

When at last the litter appeared and her loved one, pale as death, within
it, she burst into loud sobs, threw her arms round Nitetis as she
descended, and covered her with kisses and caresses till she perceived
that her friend's strength was failing, that her knees gave way, and she
required a stronger support than Atossa's girlish strength could give.

The Egyptian girl was carried insensible into the queen-mother's
apartments.  When she opened her eyes, her head-more like a marble piece
of sculpture than a living head--was resting on the blind queen's lap,
she felt Atossa's warm kisses on her forehead, and Cambyses, who had
obeyed his mother's call, was standing at her side.

She gazed on this circle, including all she loved best, with anxious,
perplexed looks, and at last, recognizing them one by one, passed her
hand across her pale fore head as if to remove a veil, smiled at each,
and closed her eyes once more.  She fancied Isis had sent her a beautiful
vision, and wished to hold it fast with all the powers of her mind.

Then Atossa called her by her name, impetuously and lovingly.  She opened
her eyes again, and again she saw those loving looks that she fancied had
only been sent her in a dream.  Yes, that was her own Atossa--this her
motherly friend, and there stood, not the angry king, but the man she
loved.  And now his lips opened too, his stern, severe eyes rested on her
so beseechingly, and he said: "O Nitetis, awake!  you must not--you
cannot possibly be guilty!"  She moved her head gently with a look of
cheerful denial and a happy smile stole across her features, like a
breeze of early spring over fresh young roses.

"She is innocent! by Mithras, it is impossible that she can be guilty,"
cried the king again, and forgetful of the presence of others, he sank on
his knees.

A Persian physician came up and rubbed her forehead with a sweet-scented
oil, and Nebenchari approached, muttering spells, felt her pulse, shook
his head, and administered a potion from his portable medicine-chest.
This restored her to perfect consciousness; she raised herself with
difficulty into a sitting posture, returned the loving caresses of her
two friends, and then turning to Cambyses, asked: "How could you believe
such a thing of me, my King?"  There was no reproach in her tone, but
deep sadness, and Cambyses answered softly, "Forgive me."

Kassandane's blind eyes expressed her gratitude for this self-
renunciation on the part of her son, and she said: "My daughter, I need
your forgiveness too."

"But I never once doubted you,"  cried Atossa, proudly and joyfully
kissing her friend's lips.

"Your letter to Bartja shook my faith in your innocence," added
Kassandane.

"And yet it was all so simple and natural," answered Nitetis.  "Here, my
mother, take this letter from Egypt.  Croesus will translate it for you.
It will explain all.  Perhaps I was imprudent.  Ask your mother to tell
you what you would wish to know, my King.  Pray do not scorn my poor, ill
sister.  When an Egyptian girl once loves, she cannot forget.  But I feel
so frightened.  The end must be near.  The last hours have been so very,
very terrible.  That horrible man, Boges, read me the fearful sentence of
death, and it was that which forced the poison into my hand.  Ah, my
heart!"

And with these words she fell back into the arms of Kassandane.

Nebenchari rushed forward, and gave her some more drops, exclaiming: "I
thought so!  She has taken poison and her life cannot be saved, though
this antidote may possibly prolong it for a few days."  Cambyses stood
by, pale and rigid, following the physician's slightest movements, and
Atossa bathed her friend's forehead with her tears.

"Let some milk be brought,"  cried Nebenchari, "and my large medicine-
chest; and let attendants be called to carry her away, for quiet is
necessary, above all things."

Atossa hastened into the adjoining room; and Cambyses said to the
physician, but without looking into his face: "Is there no hope?"

"The poison which she has taken results in certain death."

On hearing this the king pushed Nebenchari away from the sick girl,
exclaiming: "She shall live.  It is my will.  Here, eunuch! summon all
the physicians in Babylon--assemble the priests and Alobeds!  She is not
to die; do you hear?  she must live, I am the king, and I command it."

Nitetis opened her eyes as if endeavoring to obey her lord.  Her face was
turned towards the window, and the bird of paradise with the gold chain
on its foot, was still there, perched on the cypress-tree.  Her eyes fell
first on her lover, who had sunk down at her side and was pressing his
burning lips to her right hand.  She murmured with a smile:  "O, this
great happiness!"  Then she saw the bird, and pointed to it with tier
left hand, crying: "Look, look, there is the Phoenix, the bird of Ra!"

After saying this she closed her eyes and was soon seized by a violent
attack of fever.




CHAPTER VII.

Prexaspes, the king's messenger, and one of the highest officials at
court, had brought Gaumata, Mandane's lover, whose likeness to Bartja was
really most wonderful, to Babylon, sick and wounded as he was.  He was
now awaiting his sentence in a dungeon, while Boges, the man who had led
him into crime, was nowhere to be found, notwithstanding all the efforts
of the police.  His escape had been rendered possible by the trap-door in
the hanging-gardens, and greatly assisted by the enormous crowds
assembled in the streets.

Immense treasures were found in his house.  Chests of gold and jewels,
which his position had enabled him to obtain with great ease, were
restored to the royal treasury.  Cambyses, however, would gladly have
given ten times as much treasure to secure possession of the traitor.

To Phaedime's despair the king ordered all the inhabitants of the harem,
except his mother, Atossa and the dying Nitetis, to be removed to Susa,
two days after the accused had been declared innocent.  Several eunuchs
of rank were deposed from their offices.  The entire caste was to suffer
for the sins of him who had escaped punishment.

Oropastes, who had already entered on his duties as regent of the
kingdom, and had clearly proved his non-participation in the crime of
which his brother had been proved guilty, bestowed the vacant places
exclusively on the Magi.  The demonstration made by the people in favor
of Bartja did not come to the king's ears until the crowd had long
dispersed.  Still, occupied as he was, almost entirely, by his anxiety
for Nitetis, he caused exact information of this illegal manifestation to
be furnished him, and ordered the ringleaders to be severely punished.
He fancied it was a proof that Bartja had been trying to gain favor with
the people, and Cambyses would perhaps have shown his displeasure by some
open act, if a better impulse had not told him that he, not Bartja, was
the brother who stood in need of forgiveness.  In spite of this, however,
he could not get rid of the feeling that Bartja, had been, though
innocent, the cause of the sad events which had just happened, nor of his
wish to get him out of the way as far as might be; and he therefore gave
a ready consent to his brother's wish to start at once for Naukratis.

Bartja took a tender farewell of his mother and sister, and started two
days after his liberation.  He was accompanied by Gyges, Zopyrus, and a
numerous retinue charged with splendid presents from Cambyses for Sappho.
Darius remained behind, kept back by his love for Atossa.  The day too
was not far distant, when, by his father's wish, he was to marry
Artystone, the daughter of Gobryas.

Bartja parted from his friend with a heavy heart, advising him to be very
prudent with regard to Atossa.  The secret had been confided to
Kassandane, and she had promised to take Darius' part with the king.

If any one might venture to raise his eyes to the daughter of Cyrus,
assuredly it was the son of Hystaspes; he was closely connected by
marriage with the royal family, belonged like Cambyses to the Pasargadae,
and his family was a younger branch of the reigning dynasty.  His father
called himself the highest noble in the realm, and as such, governed the
province of Persia proper, the mother-country, to which this enormous
world-empire and its ruler owed their origin.  Should the family of Cyrus
become extinct, the descendants of Hystaspes would have a well-grounded
right to the Persian throne.  Darius therefore, apart from his personal
advantages, was a fitting claimant for Atossa's hand.  And yet no one
dared to ask the king's consent.  In the gloomy state of mind into which
he had been brought by the late events, it was likely that he might
refuse it, and such an answer would have to be regarded as irrevocable.
So Bartja was obliged to leave Persia in anxiety about the future of
these two who were very dear to him.

Croesus promised to act as mediator in this case also, and before Bartja
left, made him acquainted with Phanes.

The youth had heard such a pleasant account of the Athenian from Sappho,
that he met him with great cordiality, and soon won the fancy of the
older and more experienced man, who gave him many a useful hint, and a
letter to Theopompus, the Milesian, at Naukratis.  Phanes concluded by
asking for a private interview.

Bartja returned to his friends looking grave and thoughtful; soon,
however, he forgot his cause of anxiety and joked merrily with them over
a farewell cup.  Before he mounted his horse the next morning, Nebenchari
asked to be allowed an audience.  He was admitted, and begged Bartja to
take the charge of a large written roll for king Amasis.  It contained a
detailed account of Nitetis' sufferings, ending with these words: "Thus
the unhappy victim of your ambitious plans will end her life in a few
hours by poison, to the use of which she was driven by despair.  The
arbitrary caprices of the mighty can efface all happiness from the life
of a human creature, just as we wipe a picture from the tablet with a
sponge.  Your servant Nebenchari is pining in a foreign land, deprived of
home and property, and the wretched daughter of a king of Egypt dies a
miserable and lingering death by her own hand.  Her body will be torn to
pieces by dogs and vultures, after the manner of the Persians.  Woe unto
them who rob the innocent of happiness here and of rest beyond the
grave!"

Bartja had not been told the contents of this letter, but promised to
take it with him; he then, amid the joyful shouts of the people, set up
outside the city-gate the stones which, according to a Persian
superstition, were to secure him a prosperous journey, and left Babylon.

Nebenchari, meanwhile, prepared to return to his post by Nitetis' dying-
bed.

Just as he reached the brazen gates between the harem-gardens and the
courts of the large palace, an old man in white robes came up to him.
The sight seemed to fill Nebenchari with terror; he started as if the
gaunt old man had been a ghost.  Seeing, however, a friendly and familiar
smile on the face of the other, he quickened his steps, and, holding out
his hand with a heartiness for which none of his Persian acquaintances
would have given him credit, exclaimed in Egyptian: "Can I believe my
eyes?  You in Persia, old Hib?  I should as soon have expected the sky to
fall as to have the pleasure of seeing you on the Euphrates.  But now, in
the name of Osiris, tell me what can have induced you, you old ibis, to
leave your warm nest on the Nile and set out on such a long journey
eastward."

While Nebenchari was speaking, the old man listened in a bowing posture,
with his arms hanging down by his side, and when he had finished, looked
up into his face with indescribable joy, touched his breast with
trembling fingers, and then, falling on the right knee, laying one hand
on his heart and raising the other to heaven, cried: "Thanks be unto
thee, great Isis, for protecting the wanderer and permitting him to see
his master once more in health and safety.  Ah, child, how anxious I have
been!  I expected to find you as wasted and thin as a convict from the
quarries; I thought you would have been grieving and unhappy, and here
you are as well, and handsome and portly as ever.  If poor old Hib had
been in your place he would have been dead long ago."

"Yes, I don't doubt that, old fellow.  I did not leave home of my own
will either, nor without many a heartache.  These foreigners are all the
children of Seth.  The good and gracious gods are only to be found in
Egypt on the shores of the sacred, blessed Nile."

"I don't know much about its being so blessed," muttered the old man.

"You frighten me, father Hib.  What has happened then?"

"Happened!  Things have come to a pretty pass there, and you'll hear of
it soon enough.  Do you think I should have left house and grandchildren
at my age,--going on for eighty,--like any Greek or Phoenician vagabond,
and come out among these godless foreigners (the gods blast and destroy
them!), if I could possibly have staid on in Egypt?"

"But tell me what it's all about."

"Some other time, some other time.  Now you must take me to your own
house, and I won't stir out of it as long as we are in this land of
Typhon."

The old man said this with so much emphasis, that Nebenchiari could not
help smiling and saying: "Have they treated you so very badly then, old
man?"

"Pestilence and Khamsin!" blustered the old man.

     [The south-west wind, which does so much injury to the crops in the
     Nile valley.  It is known to us as the Simoom, the wind so perilous
     to travellers in the desert.]

"There's not a more good-for-nothing Typhon's brood on the face of the
earth than these Persians.  I only wonder they're not all red-haired and
leprous.  Ah, child, two whole days I have been in this hell already, and
all that time I was obliged to live among these blasphemers.  They said
no one could see you; you were never allowed to leave Nitetis' sick-bed.
Poor child!  I always said this marriage with a foreigner would come to
no good, and it serves Amasis right if his children give him trouble.
His conduct to you alone deserves that."

"For shame, old man!"

"Nonsense, one must speak one's mind sometimes.  I hate a king, who comes
from nobody knows where.  Why, when he was a poor boy he used to steal
your father's nuts, and wrench the name-plates off the house-doors.  I
saw he was a good-for-nothing fellow then.  It's a shame that such people
should be allowed to..."

"Gently, gently, old man.  We are not all made of the same stuff, and if
there was such a little difference between you and Amasis as boys, it, is
your own fault that, now you are old men, he has outstripped you so far.

"My father and grandfather were both servants in the temple, and of
course I followed in their footsteps."

"Quite right; it is the law of caste, and by that rule, Amasis ought
never to have become anything higher than a poor army-captain at most."

"It is not every one who's got such an easy conscience as this upstart
fellow."

"There you are again!  For shame, Hib!  As long as I can remember, and
that is nearly half a century, every other word with you has been an
abusive one.  When I was a child your ill-temper was vented on me, and
now the king has the benefit of it."

"Serves him right!  All, if you only knew all!  It's now seven months
since .  .  ."

"I can't stop to listen to you now.  At the rising of the seven stars I
will send a slave to take you to my rooms.  Till then you must stay in
your present lodging, for I must go to my patient."

"You must?--Very well,--then go and leave poor old Hib here to die.
I can't possibly live another hour among these creatures."

"What would you have me do then?"

"Let me live with you as long as we are in Persia."

"Have they treated you so very roughly?"

"I should think they had indeed.  It is loathsome to think of.  They
forced me to eat out of the same pot with them and cut my bread with the
same knife.  An infamous Persian, who had lived many years in Egypt, and
travelled here with us, had given them a list of all the things and
actions, which we consider unclean.  They took away my knife when I was
going to shave myself.  A good-for-nothing wench kissed me on the
forehead, before I could prevent it.  There, you needn't laugh; it will
be a month at least before I can get purified from all these pollutions.
I took an emetic, and when that at last began to take effect, they all
mocked and sneered at me.  But that was not all.  A cursed cook-boy
nearly beat a sacred kitten to death before my very eyes.  Then an
ointment-mixer, who had heard that I was your servant, made that godless
Bubares ask me whether I could cure diseases of the eye too.  I said yes,
because you know in sixty years it's rather hard if one can't pick up
something from one's master.  Bubares was interpreter between us, and the
shameful fellow told him to say that he was very much disturbed about a
dreadful disease in his eyes.  I asked what it was, and received for
answer that he could not tell one thing from another in the dark!"

"You should have told him that the best remedy for that was to light a
candle."

"Oh, I hate the rascals!  Another hour among them will be the death of
me!"

"I am sure you behaved oddly enough among these foreigners," said
Nebenchiari smiling, "you must have made them laugh at you, for the
Persians are generally very polite, well-behaved people.  Try them again,
only once.  I shall be very glad to take you in this evening, but I can't
possibly do it before."

"It is as I thought!  He's altered too, like everybody else!  Osiris is
dead and Seth rules the world again."

"Farewell!  When the seven stars rise, our old Ethiopian slave, Nebununf,
will wait for you here."

"Nebununf, that old rogue?  I never want to see him again."

"Yes, the very same."

"Him--well it's a good thing, when people stay as they were.  To be sure
I know some people who can't say so much of themselves, and who instead
of minding their own business, pretend to heal inward diseases, and when
a faithful old servant .  .  ."

"Hold your tongue, and wait patiently till evening."  These last words
were spoken seriously, and produced the desired impression.  The old man
made another obeisance, and before his master left him, said: "I came
here under the protection of Phanes, the former commander of the Greek
mercenaries.  He wishes very much to speak with you."

"That is his concern.  He can come to me."

"You never leave that sick girl, whose eyes are as sound as .  .  ."

"Hib!"

"For all I care she may have a cataract in both.  May Phanes come to you
this evening?"

"I wished to be alone with you."

"So did I; but the Greek seems to be in a great hurry, and he knows
nearly everything that I have to tell you."

"Have you been gossiping then?"

"No--not exactly--but .  .  ."

"I always thought you were a man to be trusted."

"So I was.  But this Greek knows already a great deal of what I know, and
the rest .  .  ."

"Well?"

"The rest he got out of me, I hardly know how myself.  If I did not wear
this amulet against an evil eye, I should have been obliged .  .  ."

"Yes, yes, I know the Athenian--I can forgive you.  I should like him to
come with you this evening.  But I see the sun is already high in the
heavens.  I have no time to lose.  Tell me in a few words what has
happened."

"I thought this evening .  .  ."

"No, I must have at least a general idea of what has happened before I
see the Athenian.  Be brief."

"You have been robbed!"

"Is that all?"

"Is not that enough?"

"Answer me.  Is that all?"

"Yes!"

"Then farewell."

"But Nebenchari!"

The physician did not even hear this exclamation; the gates of the harem
had already closed behind him.

When the Pleiades had risen, Nebenchari was to be found seated alone in
one of the magnificent rooms assigned to his use on the eastern side of
the palace, near to Kassandane's apartments.  The friendly manner in
which he had welcomed his old servant had given place to the serious
expression which his face usually wore, and which had led the cheerful
Persians to call him a morose and gloomy man.

Nebenchari was an Egyptian priest through and through; a member of that
caste which never indulged in a jest, and never for a moment forgot to be
dignified and solemn before the public; but when among their relations
and their colleagues completely threw off this self-imposed restraint,
and gave way at times even to exuberant mirth.

Though he had known Phanes in Sais, he received him with cold politeness,
and, after the first greeting was ended, told Hib to leave them alone.

"I have come to you," said the Athenian, "to speak about some very
important affairs."

"With which I am already acquainted," was the Egyptian's curt reply.

"I am inclined to doubt that," said Phanes with an incredulous smile.

"You have been driven out of Egypt, persecuted and insulted by Psamtik,
and you have come to Persia to enlist Cambyses as an instrument of
revenge against my country."

"You are mistaken.  I have nothing against your country, but all the more
against Amasis and his house.  In Egypt the state and the king are one,
as you very well know."

"On the contrary, my own observations have led me to think that the
priests considered themselves one with the state."

"In that case you are better informed than I, who have always looked on
the kings of Egypt as absolute.  So they are; but only in proportion as
they know how to emancipate themselves from the influence of your caste.
--Amasis himself submits to the priests now."

"Strange intelligence!"

"With which, however, you have already long been made acquainted."

"Is that your opinion?"

"Certainly it is.  And I know with still greater certainty that once--you
hear me--once, he succeeded in bending the will of these rulers of his to
his own."

"I very seldom hear news from home, and do not understand what you are
speaking of."

"There I believe you, for if you knew what I meant and could stand there
quietly without clenching your fist, you would be no better than a dog
who only whimpers when he's kicked and licks the hand that torments him."

The physician turned pale.  "I know that Amasis has injured and insulted
me," he said, "but at the same time I must tell you that revenge is far
too sweet a morsel to be shared with a stranger."

"Well said!  As to my own revenge, however, I can only compare it to a
vineyard where the grapes are so plentiful, that I am not able to gather
them all myself."

"And you have come hither to hire good laborers."

"Quite right, and I do not even yet give up the hope of securing you to
take a share in my vintage."

"You are mistaken.  My work is already done.  The gods themselves have
taken it in hand.  Amasis has been severely enough punished for banishing
me from country, friends and pupils into this unclean land."

"You mean by his blindness perhaps?"

"Possibly."

"Then you have not heard that Petammon, one of your colleagues, has
succeeded in cutting the skin, which covered the pupil of the eye and so
restoring Amasis' sight?"

The Egyptian started and ground his teeth; recovered his presence of
mind, however, in a moment, and answered: "Then the gods have punished
the father through the children."

"In what way?  Psamtik suits his father's present mood very well.  It is
true that Tachot is ill, but she prays and sacrifices with her father all
the more for that; and as to Nitetis, you and I both know that her death
will not touch him very closely."

"I really do not understand you."

"Of course not, so long as you fancy that I believe your beautiful
patient to be Amasis' daughter."

The Egyptian started again, but Phanes went on without appearing to
notice his emotion: "I know more than you suppose.  Nitetis is the
daughter of Hophra, Amasis' dethroned predecessor.  Amasis brought her
up as his own child-first, in order to make the Egyptians believe that
Hophra had died childless; secondly, in order to deprive her of her
rights to the throne; for you know women are allowed to govern on the
Nile."

"These are mere suppositions."

"For which, however, I can bring irrefragable proofs.  Among the papers
which your old servant Hib brought with him in a small box, there must be
some letters from a certain Sonnophre, a celebrated accoucheur, your own
father, which .  .  ."

     [To judge from the pictures on the monuments and from the 1st Chap.
     of Exodus, it would seem that in ancient, as in modern Egypt,
     midwives were usually called in to assist at the birth of children;
     but it is also certain, that in difficult cases physicians were
     employed also.  In the hieratic medical papyrus in Berlin, women are
     often spoken of as assisting at such times.  In the medical Papyrus
     Ebers certain portions are devoted to diseases peculiar to women.
     "There were special rooms set aside in private houses for the birth
     of children, as symbolical ones were reserved in the temples.  These
     chambers were called meschen, and from them was derived the name
     given to midwives, to meschennu.]

"If that be the case, those letters are my property, and I have not the
slightest intention of giving them up; besides which you might search
Persia from one end to the other without finding any one who could
decipher my father's writing."

"Pardon me, if I point out one or two errors into which you have fallen.
First, this box is at present in my hands, and though I am generally
accustomed to respect the rights of property, I must assure you that, in
the present instance, I shall not return the box until its contents have
served my purpose.  Secondly, the gods have so ordained, that just at
this moment there is a man in Babylon who can read every kind of writing
known to the Egyptian priests.  Do you perhaps happen to know the name of
Onuphis?"

For the third time the Egyptian turned pale.  "Are you certain," he said,
"that this man is still among the living?"

"I spoke to him myself yesterday.  He was formerly, you know, high-priest
at Heliopolis, and was initiated into all your mysteries there.  My wise
countryman, Pythagoras of Samos, came to Egypt, and after submitting to
some of your ceremonies, was allowed to attend the lessons given in the
schools for priests.  His remarkable talents won the love of the great
Onuphis and he taught him all the Egyptian mysteries, which Pythagoras
afterwards turned to account for the benefit of mankind.  My delightful
friend Rhodopis and I are proud of having been his pupils.  When the rest
of your caste heard that Onuphis had betrayed the sacred mysteries, the
ecclesiastical judges determined on his death.  This was to be caused by
a poison extracted from peach-kernels.  The condemned man, however, heard
of their machinations, and fled to Naukratis, where he found a safe
asylum in the house of Rhodopis, whom he had heard highly praised by
Pythagoras, and whose dwelling was rendered inviolable by the king's
letter.  Here he met Antimenidas the brother of the poet Alcarus of
Lesbos, who, having been banished by Pittakus, the wise ruler of
Mitylene, had gone to Babylon, and there taken service in the army of
Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Assyria.  Antimenidas gave him letters to the
Chaldians.  Onuphis travelled to the Euphrates, settled there, and was
obliged to seek for some means of earning his daily bread, as he had left
Egypt a poor man.  He is now supporting himself in his old age, by the
assistance which his superior knowledge enables him to render the
Chaldoeans in their astronomical observations from the tower of Bel.
Onuphis is nearly eighty, but his mind is as clear as ever, and when I
saw him yesterday and asked him to help me, his eyes brightened as he
promised to do so.  Your father was one of his judges, but he bears you
no malice and sends you a greeting."

Nebenchari's eyes were fixed thoughtfully on the ground during this tale.
When Phanes had finished, he gave him a penetrating look and said: "Where
are my papers?"

They are in Onuphis' hands.  He is looking among them for the document I
want."

"I expected to hear that.  Be so good as to tell me what the box is like,
which Hib thought proper to bring over to Persia?"

"It is a small ebony trunk, with an exquisitely-carved lid.  In the
centre is a winged beetle, and on the four corners .  .  ."

"That contains nothing but a few of my father's notices and memorandums,"
said Nebenchari, drawing a deep breath of relief.

"They will very likely be sufficient for my purpose.  I do not know
whether you have heard, that I stand as high as possible in Cambyses'
favor."

"So much the better for you.  I can assure you, however, that the paper.
which would have been most useful to you have all been left behind in
Egypt."

"They were in a large chest made of sycamore-wood and painted in colors."

"How do you know that?"

"Because--now listen well to what I am going to say, Nebenchari--because
I can tell you (I do not swear, for our great master Pythagoras forbade
oaths), that this very chest, with all it contained, was burnt in the
grove of the temple of Neith, in Sais, by order of the king "

Phanes spoke slowly, emphasizing every syllable, and the words seemed to
strike the Egyptian like so many flashes of lightning.  His quiet
coolness and deliberation gave way to violent emotion; his cheeks glowed
and his eyes flashed.  But only for one single minute; then the strong
emotion seemed to freeze, his burning cheeks grew pale.  "You are trying
to make me hate my friends, in order to gain me as your ally," he said,
coldly and calmly.  "I know you Greeks very well.  You are so intriguing
and artful, that there is no lie, no fraud, too base, if it will only
help to gain your purpose."

"You judge me and my countrymen in true Egyptian fashion; that is, they
are foreigners, and therefore must be bad men.  But this time your
suspicions happen to be misplaced.  Send for old Hib; he will tell you
whether I am right or not."

Nebenchari's face darkened, as Hib came into the room.

"Come nearer," said he in a commanding tone to the old man.

Hib obeyed with a shrug of the shoulders.

"Tell me, have you taken a bribe from this man?  Yes or no?  I must know
the truth; it can influence my future for good or evil.  You are an old
and faithful servant, to whom I owe a great deal, and so I will forgive
you if you were taken in by his artifices, but I must know the truth.
I conjure you to tell me by the souls of your fathers gone to Osiris!"

The old man's sallow face turned ashy pale as he heard these words.  He
gulped and wheezed some time before he could find an answer, and at last,
after choking down the tears which had forced their way to his eyes,
said, in a half-angry, half-whining tone: "Didn't I say so? they've
bewitched him, they've ruined him in this wicked land.  Whatever a man
would do himself, he thinks others are capable of.  Aye, you may look as
angry as you like; it matters but little to me.  What can it matter
indeed to an old man, who has served the same family faithfully and
honestly for sixty years, if they call him at last a rogue, a knave, a
traitor, nay even a murderer, if it should take their fancy."

And the scalding tears flowed down over the old man's cheeks, sorely
against his will.

The easily-moved Phanes clapped him on the shoulder and said, turning to
Nebenchari:  "Hib is a faithful fellow.  I give you leave to call me a
rascal, if he has taken one single obolus from me."

The physician did not need Phanes' assurance; he had known his old
servant too well and too long not to be able to read his simple, open
features, on which his innocence was written as clearly as in the pages
of an open book.  "I did not mean to reproach you, old Hib," he said
kindly, coming up to him.  "How can any one be so angry at a simple
question?"

"Perhaps you expect me to be pleased at such a shameful suspicion?"

"No, not that; but at all events now you can tell me what has happened at
our house since I left."

"A pretty story that is!  Why only to think of it makes my mouth as
bitter, as if I were chewing wormwood."

"You said I had been robbed."

"Yes indeed: no one was ever so robbed before.  There would have been
some comfort if the knaves had belonged to the thieves' caste, for then
we should have got the best part of our property back again, and should
not after all have been worse off than many another; but when .  .  ."

     [The cunning son of the architect, who robbed the treasure-house of
     Rhampsinitus was, according to Herodotus, (II. 120), severely
     punished; but in Diod. I. 80. we see that when thieves acknowledged
     themselves to the authorities to be such, they were not punished,
     though a strict watch was set over them.  According to Diodorus,
     there was a president of the thieves' caste, from whom the stolen
     goods could be reclaimed on relinquishment of a fourth part of the
     same.  This strange rule possibly owed its rise to the law, which
     compelled every Egyptian to appear once in each year before the
     authorities of his district and give an account of his means of
     subsistence.  Those who made false statements were punished with
     death.  Diod. I. 77.  Thus no one who valued his life could escape
     the watchful eye of the police, and the thief sacrificed the best
     part of his gains in order to save his life.]

"Keep to the point, for my time is limited."

"You need not tell me that; I see old Hib can't do anything right here in
Persia.  Well, be it so, you're master; you must give orders; I am only
the servant, I must obey.  I won't forget it.  Well, as I was saying, it
was just at the time when the great Persian embassy came over to Sais to
fetch Nitetis, and made everybody stare at them as if they were monsters
or prodigies, that this shameful thing happened.  I was sitting on the
mosquito-tower just as the sun was setting, playing with my little
grandson, my Baner's eldest boy--he's a fine strapping little lad now,
wonderfully sharp and strong for his age.  The rogue was just telling me
how his father, the Egyptians do that when their wives leave the children
too much alone--had hidden his mother's shoes, and I was laughing
heartily, because my Baner won't let any of the little ones live with me,
she always says I spoil them, and so I was glad she should have the trick
played her--when all of a sudden there was such a loud knocking at the
house-door, that I thought there must be a fire and let the child drop
off my lap.  Down the stairs I ran, three steps at a time, as fast as my
long legs would carry me, and unbarred the door.  Before I had time to
ask them what they wanted, a whole crowd of temple-servants and
policemen--there must have been at least fifteen of them--forced their
way into the house.  Pichi,--you know, that impudent fellow from the
temple of Neith,--pushed me back, barred the door inside and told the
police to put me in fetters if I refused to obey him.  Of course I got
angry and did not use very civil words to them--you know that's my way
when I'm put out--and what does that bit of a fellow do--by our god
Thoth, the protector of knowledge who must know all, I'm speaking the
truth--but order them to bind my hands, forbid me--me, old Hib--to speak,
and then tell me that he had been told by the high-priest to order me
five-and-twenty strokes, if I refused to do his bidding.  He showed me
the high-priest's ring, and so I knew there was nothing for it but to
obey the villain, whether I would or no.  And what was his modest demand?
Why, nothing less than to give him all the written papers you had left
behind.  But old Hib is not quite so stupid as to let himself be caught
in that way, though some people, who ought to know better, do fancy he
can be bribed and is no better than the son of an ass.  What did I do
then?  I pretended to be quite crushed into submission by the sight of
the signet-ring, begged Pichi as politely as I could to unfasten my
hands, and told him I would fetch the keys.  They loosened the cords, I
flew up the stairs five steps at a time, burst open the door of your
sleeping-room, pushed my little grandson, who was standing by it, into
the room and barred it within.  Thanks to my long legs, the others were
so far behind that I had time to get hold of the black box which you had
told me to take so much care of, put it into the child's arms, lift him
through the window on to the balcony which runs round the house towards
the inner court, and tell him to put it at once into the pigeon-house.
Then I opened the door as if nothing had happened, told Pichi the child
had had a knife in his mouth, and that that was the reason I had run
upstairs in such a hurry, and had put him out on the balcony to punish
him.  That brother of a hippopotamus was easily taken in, and then he
made me show him over the house.  First they found the great sycamore-
chest which you had told me to take great care of too, then the papyrus-
rolls on your writing-table, and so by degrees every written paper in the
house.  They made no distinction, but put all together into the great
chest and carried it downstairs; the little black box, however, lay safe
enough in the pigeon-house.  My grandchild is the sharpest boy in all
Sais!

"When I saw them really carrying the chest downstairs, all the anger I'd
been trying so hard to keep down burst out again.  I told the impudent
fellows I would accuse them before the magistrates, nay, even before the
king if necessary, and if those confounded Persians, who were having the
city shown them, had not come up just then and made everybody stare at
them, I could have roused the crowd to take my side.  The same evening I
went to my son-in-law-he is employed in the temple of Neith too, you
know,--and begged him to make every effort to find out what had become of
the papers.  The good fellow has never forgotten the handsome dowry you
gave my Baner when he married her, and in three days he came and told me
he had seen your beautiful chest and all the rolls it contained burnt to
ashes.  I was so angry that I fell ill of the jaundice, but that did not
hinder me from sending in a written accusation to the magistrates.  The
wretches,--I suppose only because they were priests too,--refused to take
any notice of me or my complaint.  Then I sent in a petition to the king,
and was turned away there too with the shameful threat, that I should be
considered guilty of high treason if I mentioned the papers again.  I
valued my tongue too much to take any further steps, but the ground burnt
under my feet; I could not stay in Egypt, I wanted to see you, tell you
what they had done to you, and call on you, who are more powerful than
your poor servant, to revenge yourself.  And besides, I wanted to see the
black box safe in your hands, lest they should take that from me too.
And so, old man as I am, with a sad heart I left my home and my
grandchildren to go forth into this foreign Typhon's land.  Ah, the
little lad was too sharp!  As I was kissing him, he said: 'Stay with us,
grandfather.  If the foreigners make you unclean, they won't let me kiss
you any more.'  Baner sends you a hearty greeting, and my son-in-law told
me to say he had found out that Psamtik, the crown-prince, and your
rival, Petammon, had been the sole causes of this execrable deed.  I
could not make up my mind to trust myself on that Typhon's sea, so I
travelled with an Arabian trading caravan as far as Tadmor,--[Palmyra]--
the Phoenician palm-tree station in the wilderness," and then on to
Carchemish, on the Euphrates, with merchants from Sidon.  The roads from
Sardis and from Phoenicia meet there, and, as I was sitting very weary in
the little wood before the station, a traveller arrived with the royal
post-horses, and I saw at once that it was the former commander of the
Greek mercenaries."

"And I," interrupted Phanes, "recognized just as soon in you, the longest
and most quarrelsome old fellow that had ever come across my path.  Oh,
how often I've laughed to see you scolding the children, as they ran
after you in the street whenever you appeared behind your master with the
medicine-chest.  The minute I saw you too I remembered a joke which the
king once made in his own way, as you were both passing by.  'The old
man,' he said, reminds me of a fierce old owl followed by a flight of
small teazing birds, and Nebenchari looks as if he had a scolding wife,
who will some day or other reward him for healing other people's eyes by
scratching out his own!'"

"Shameful!"  said the old man, and burst into a flood of execrations.

Nebenchari had been listening to his servant's tale in silence and
thought.  He had changed color from time to time and on hearing that the
papers which had cost him so many nights of hard work had been burnt, his
fists clenched and he shivered as if seized by biting frost.  Not one of
his movements escaped the Athenian.  He understood human nature; he knew
that a jest is often much harder to bear than a grave affront, and
therefore seized this opportunity to repeat the inconsiderate joke which
Amasis had, it is true, allowed himself to make in one of his merry
moods.  Phanes had calculated rightly, and had the pleasure of seeing,
that as he uttered the last words Nebenchari pressed his hand on a rose
which lay on the table before him, and crushed it to pieces.  The Greek
suppressed a smile of satisfaction, and did not even raise his eyes from
the ground, but continued speaking: "Well, now we must bring the
travelling adventures of good old Hib to a close.  I invited him to share
my carriage.  At first he refused to sit on the same cushion with such a
godless foreigner, as I am, gave in, however, at last, had a good
opportunity at the last station of showing the world how many clever
processes of manipulation he had learnt from you and your father, in his
treatment of Oropastes' wounded brother; he reached Babylon at last safe
and sound, and there, as we could not get sight of you, owing to the
melancholy poisoning of your country-woman, I succeeded in obtaining him
a lodging in the royal palace itself.  The rest you knew already."

Nebenchari bowed assent and gave Hib a sign to leave the room, which the
old man obeyed, grumbling and scolding in a low tone as he departed.
When the door had closed on him, Nebenchari, the man whose calling was to
heal, drew nearer to the soldier Phanes, and said: "I am afraid we
cannot be allies after all, Greek."

"Why not?"

"Because I fear, that your revenge will prove far too mild when compared
with that which I feel bound to inflict."

"On that head there is no need for solicitude," answered the Athenian.
"May I call you my ally then?"

"Yes," answered the other; "but only on one condition."

"And that is--?"

"That you will procure me an opportunity of seeing our vengeance with my
own eyes."

"That is as much as to say you are willing to accompany Cambyses' army to
Egypt?"

"Certainly I am; and when I see my enemies pining in disgrace and misery
I will cry unto them, 'Ah ha, ye cowards, the poor despised and exiled
physician, Nebenchari, has brought this wretchedness upon you!'  Oh, my
books, my books!  They made up to me for my lost wife and child.
Hundreds were to have learnt from them how to deliver the blind from the
dark night in which he lives, and to preserve to the seeing the sweetest
gift of the gods, the greatest beauty of the human countenance, the
receptacle of light, the seeing eye.  Now that my books are burnt I have
lived in vain; the wretches have burnt me in burning my works.  O my
books, my books!"  And he sobbed aloud in his agony.  Phanes came up and
took his band, saying: "The Egyptians have struck you, my friend, but me
they have maltreated and abused--thieves have broken into your granaries,
but my hearth and home have been burnt to ashes by incendiaries.  Do you
know, man, what I have had to suffer at their hands?  In persecuting me,
and driving me out of Egypt, they only did what they had a right to do;
by their law I was a condemned man; and I could have forgiven all they
did to me personally, for I loved Amasis, as a man loves his friend.  The
wretch knew that, and yet he suffered them to commit a monstrous, an
incredible act--an act that a man's brain refuses to take in.  They stole
like wolves by night into a helpless woman's house--they seized my
children, a girl and boy, the pride, the joy and comfort of my homeless,
wandering life.  And how think you, did they treat them?  The girl they
kept in confinement, on the pretext that by so doing they should prevent
me from betraying Egypt to Cambyses.  But the boy--my beautiful, gentle
boy--my only son--has been murdered by Psamtik's orders, and possibly
with the knowledge of Amasis.  My heart was withered and shrunk with
exile and sorrow, but I feel that it expands--it beats more joyfully now
that there is a hope of vengeance."

Nebenchari's sullen but burning glance met the flashing eye of the
Athenian as he finished his tale; he gave him his hand and said: "We are
allies."

The Greek clasped the offered hand and answered: "Our first point now is
to make sure of the king's favor."

"I will restore Kassandane's sight."

"Is that in your power?"

"The operation which removed Amasis' blindness was my own discovery.
Petammon stole it from my burnt papers."

"Why did you not exert your skill earlier?"

"Because I am not accustomed to bestow presents on my enemies."

Phanes shuddered slightly at these words, recovered himself, however, in
a moment, and said: "And I am certain of the king's favor too.  The
Massagetan envoys have gone home to-day; peace has been granted them
and..."

While he was speaking the door was burst open and one of Kassandane's
eunuchs rushed into the room crying: "The Princess Nitetis is dying!
Follow me at once, there is not a moment to lose."

The physician made a parting sign to his confederate, and followed the
eunuch to the dying-bed of the royal bride.




ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Blessings go as quickly as they come
Hast thou a wounded heart? touch it seldom
Nothing is perfectly certain in this world
Only two remedies for heart-sickness:--hope and patience
Remember, a lie and your death are one and the same
Scarcely be able to use so large a sum--Then abuse it
Whatever a man would do himself, he thinks others are capable of
When love has once taken firm hold of a man in riper years





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