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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 4. - 6/11 -
king, "and I can believe that she will quickly understand and receive into her soul the religious instructions of our Magi."
Nitetis dropped her earnest gaze. Her fears were being realized. She would be compelled to serve strange gods.
But her emotion passed unnoticed by Cambyses, who went on speaking: "My mother Kassandane will tell you the duties expected from my wives. To- morrow I myself will lead you to her. The words, which you innocently chanced to hear, I now repeat; you please me well. Do nothing to alienate my affection. We will try to make our country agreeable, and, as your friend, I counsel you to treat Boges whom I sent as my forerunner, in a kind and friendly manner. As head over the house of the women, you will have to conform to his will in many things."
"Though he be head over the house of the women," answered Nitetis, "surely your wife is bound to obey no other earthly will than yours. Your slightest look shall be for me a command; but remember that I am a king's daughter, that in my native land the weaker and the stronger sex have equal rights, and that the same pride reigns in my breast, which I see kindling in your eyes, my lord and king! My obedience to you, my husband and my ruler, shall be that of a slave, but I can never stoop to sue for the favor, or obey the orders of a venal servant, the most unmanly of his kind!"
Cambyses' wonder and satisfaction increased. He had never heard any woman speak in this way before, except his mother; the clever way in which Nitetis acknowledged, and laid stress on, his right to command her every act, was very flattering to his self-love, and her pride found an echo in his own haughty disposition. He nodded approvingly and answered: "You have spoken well. A separate dwelling shall be appointed you. I, and no one else, will prescribe your rules of life and conduct. This day the pleasant palace on the hanging-gardens shall be prepared for your reception."
"A thousand, thousand thanks," cried Nitetis. "You little know the blessing you are bestowing in this permission. Again and again I have begged your brother Bartja to repeat the story of these gardens, and the love of the king who raised that verdant and blooming hill, pleased us better than all the other glories of your vast domains."
"To-morrow," answered the king, "you can enter your new abode. But tell me now how my messengers pleased you and your countrymen."
"How can you ask? Who could know the noble Croesus without loving him? Who could fail to admire the beauty of the young heroes, your friends? They have all become dear to us, but your handsome brother Bartja especially, won all hearts. The Egyptians have no love for strangers, and yet the gaping crowd would burst into a murmur of admiration, when his beautiful face appeared among them."
At these words the king's brow darkened; he struck his horse so sharply that the creature reared, and then turning it quickly round he gallopped to the front and soon reached the walls of Babylon.
Though Nitetis had been brought up among the huge temples and palaces of Egypt, she was still astonished at the size and grandeur of this gigantic city.
Its walls seemed impregnable; they measured more than seventy-five feet --[Fifty ells. The Greek ell is equal to one foot and a half English.]-- in height and their breadth was so great, that two chariots could conveniently drive abreast upon them. These mighty defences were crowned and strengthened by two hundred and fifty high towers, and even these would have been insufficient, if Babylon had not been protected on one side by impassable morasses. The gigantic city lay on both shores of the Euphrates. It was more than forty miles in circumference, and its walls enclosed buildings surpassing in size and grandeur even the Pyramids and the temples of Thebes.
[These numbers and measurements are taken partly from Herodotus, partly from Diodorus, Strabo and Arrian. And even the ruins of this giant city, writes Lavard, are such as to allow a very fair conclusion of its enormous size. Aristotle (Polit. III. I.) says Babylon's dimensions were not those of a city, but of a nation.]
The mighty gates of brass, through which the royal train entered the city, had opened wide to receive this noble company. This entrance was defended on each side by a strong tower, and before each of these towers lay, as warder, a gigantic winged bull carved in stone, with a human head, bearded and solemn. Nitetis gazed at these gates in astonishment, and then a joyful smile lighted up her face, as she looked up the long broad street so brightly and beautifully decorated to welcome her.
The moment they beheld the king and the gilded carriage, the multitude burst into loud shouts of joy, but when Bartja, the people's darling, came in sight, the shouts rose to thunder-peals and shrieks of delight, which seemed as if they would never end. It was long since the populace had seen Cambyses, for in accordance with Median customs the king seldom appeared in public. Like the Deity, he was to govern invisibly, and his occasional appearance before the nation to be looked upon as a festival and occasion of rejoicing. Thus all Babylon had come out to-day to look upon their awful ruler and to welcome their favorite Bartja on his return. The windows were crowded with eager, curious women, who threw flowers before the approaching train, or poured sweet perfumes from above as they passed by. The pavement was thickly strewn with myrtle and palm branches, trees of different kinds had been placed before the house- doors, carpets and gay cloths hung from the windows, garlands of flowers were wreathed from house to house, fragrant odors of incense and sandal- wood perfumed the air, and the way was lined with thousands of gaping Babylonians dressed in white linen shirts, gaily-colored woollen petticoats and short cloaks, and carrying long staves headed with pomegranates, birds, or roses, of gold or silver.
The streets through which the procession moved were broad and straight, the houses on either side, built of brick, tall and handsome. Towering above every thing else, and visible from all points, rose the gigantic temple of Bel. Its colossal staircase, like a huge serpent, wound round and round the ever-diminishing series of stories composing the tower, until it reached the summit crowned by the sanctuary itself.
[This temple of Bel, which many consider may have been the tower of Babel of Genesis XI., is mentioned by Herodotus I. 181. 182. 183. Diodorus II. 8. 9. (Ktesias), Strabo 738 and many other ancient writers. The people living in its neighborhood now call the ruins Birs Nimrod, the castle of Nimrod. In the text we have reconstructed it as far as possible from the accounts of classical writers. The first story, which is still standing, in the midst of a heap of ruins, is 260 feet high. The walls surrounding the tower are said to be still clearly recognizable, and were 4000 feet long and 3000 broad. ]
The procession approached the royal palace. This corresponded in its enormous size to the rest of the vast city. The walls surrounding it were covered with gaily-colored and glazed representations of strange figures made up of human beings, birds, quadrupeds and fishes; hunting- scenes, battles and solemn processions. By the side of the river towards the north, rose the hanging-gardens, and the smaller palace lay toward the east on the other bank of the Euphrates, connected with the larger one by the wondrous erection, a firm bridge of stone.
Our train passed on through the brazen gates of three of the walls surrounding the palace, and then halted. Nitetis was lifted from her carriage by bearers; she was at last in her new home, and soon after in the apartments of the women's house assigned to her temporary use.
Cambyses, Bartja and their friends already known to us, were still standing in the gaily-carpeted court of the palace, surrounded by at least a hundred splendid dignitaries in magnificent dresses, when suddenly a sound of loud female voices was heard, and a lovely Persian girl richly dressed, her thick fair hair profusely wreathed with pearls, rushed into the court, pursued by several women older than herself. She ran up to the group of men; Cambyses with a smile placed himself in her path, but the impetuous girl slipped adroitly past him, and in another moment was hanging on Bartja's neck, crying and laughing by turns.
The attendants in pursuit prostrated themselves at a respectful distance, but Cambyses, on seeing the caresses lavished by the young girl on her newly-returned brother, cried: "For shame, Atossa! remember that since you began to wear ear-rings you have ceased to be a child!
[Ear-rings were given to the Persian girls in their fifteenth year, the marriageable age. Vendid. Farlard XIV. 66. At this age too boys as well as girls were obliged to wear the sacred cord, Kuctl or Kosti as a girdle; and were only allowed to unloose it in the night. The making of this cord is attended with many ceremonies, even among the Persians of our own day. Seventy-two threads must be employed, but black wool is prohibited.]
It is right that you should rejoice to see your brother again, but a king's daughter must never forget what is due to her rank, even in her greatest joy. Go back to your mother directly. I see your attendants waiting yonder. Go and tell them, that as this is a day of rejoicing I will allow your heedless conduct to pass unpunished, but the next time you appear unbidden in these apartments, which none may enter without permission, I shall tell Boges to keep you twelve days in confinement. Remember this, thoughtless child, and tell our mother, Bartja and I are coming to visit her. Now give me a kiss. You will not? We shall see, capricious little one!" And so saying the king sprang towards his refractory little sister, and seizing both her hands in one of his own, bent back her charming head with the other and kissed her in spite of her resistance. She screamed from the violence of his grasp, and ran away crying to her attendants, who took her back to her apartments.
When Atossa had disappeared, Bartja said; "You were too rough with the little one, Cambyses. She screamed with pain!"
Once more the king's face clouded, but suppressing the harsh words which trembled on his lips, he only answered, turning towards the house: "Let us come to our mother now; she begged me to bring you as soon as you arrived. The women, as usual, are all impatience. Nitetis told me your rosy cheeks and fair curls had bewitched the Egyptian women too. I would advise you to pray betimes to Mithras for eternal youth, and for his protection against the wrinkles of age!"
"Do you mean to imply by these words that I have no virtues which could make an old age beautiful?" asked Bartja.
"I explain my words to no one. Come."
"But I ask for an opportunity of proving, that I am inferior to none of my nation in manly qualities."
"For that matter, the shouts of the Babylonians today will have been proof enough, that deeds are not wanted from you, in order to win their admiration."
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