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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 6. - 4/12 -
found in the immense preserves near Babylon, and was to be started from its lair by more than a thousand dogs.
[The same immense trains of followers of course accompanied the kings on their hunting expeditions, as on their journeys. As the Persian nobility were very fond of hunting, their boys were taught this sport at an early age. According to Strabo, kings themselves boasted of having been mighty hunters in the inscriptions on their tombs. A relief has been found m the ruins of Persepolis, on which the king is strangling a lion with his right arm, but this is supposed to have a historical, not a symbolical meaning. Similar representations occur on Assyrian monuments. Izdubar strangling a lion and fighting with a lion (relief at Khorsabad) is admirably copied in Delitzsch's edition of G. Smith's Chaldean Genesis. Layard discovered some representations of hunting-scenes during his excavations; as, for instance, stags and wild boars among the reeds; and the Greeks often mention the immense troops of followers on horse and foot who attended the kings of Persia when they went hunting. According to Xenophon, Cyrop. I. 2. II. 4. every hunter was obliged to be armed with a bow and arrows, two lances, sword and shield. In Firdusi's Book of Kings we read that the lasso was also a favorite weapon. Hawking was well known to the Persians more than 900 years ago. Book of Kabus XVIII. p. 495. The boomerang was used in catching birds as well by the Persians as by the ancient Egyptians and the present savage tribes of New Holland.]
The hunt was over. Waggons full of game, amongst which were several enormous wild boars killed by the king's own hand, were driven home behind the sports men. At the palace-gates the latter dispersed to their several abodes, in order to exchange the simple Persian leather hunting- costume for the splendid Median court-dress.
In the course of the day's sport Cambyses had (with difficulty restraining his agitation) given his brother the seemingly kind order to start the next day for Egypt in order to fetch Sappho and accompany her to Persia. At the same time he assigned him the revenues of Bactra, Rhagae and Sinope for the maintenance of his new household, and to his young wife, all the duties levied from her native town Phocaea, as pin- money.
Bartja thanked his generous brother with undisguised warmth, but Cambyses remained cold as ice, uttered a few farewell words, and then, riding off in pursuit of a wild ass, turned his back upon him.
On the way home from the chase the prince invited his bosom-friends Croesus, Darius, Zopyrus and Gyges to drink a parting-cup with him.
Croesus promised to join them later, as he had promised to visit the blue lily at the rising of the Tistarstar.
He had been to the hanging-gardens that morning early to visit Nitetis, but had been refused entrance by the guards, and the blue lily seemed now to offer him another chance of seeing and speaking to his beloved pupil. He wished for this very much, as he could not thoroughly understand her behavior the day before, and was uneasy at the strict watch set over her.
The young Achaemenidae sat cheerfully talking together in the twilight in a shady bower in the royal gardens, cool fountains plashing round them. Araspes, a Persian of high rank, who had been one of Cyrus's friends, had joined them, and did full justice to the prince's excellent wine.
"Fortunate Bartja!" cried the old bachelor, "going out to a golden country to fetch the woman you love; while I, miserable old fellow, am blamed by everybody, and totter to my grave without wife or children to weep for me and pray the gods to be merciful to my poor soul."
"Why think of such things?" cried Zopyrus, flourishing the wine-cup. "There's no woman so perfect that her husband does not, at least once a day, repent that he ever took a wife. Be merry, old friend, and remember that it's all your own fault. If you thought a wife would make you happy, why did not you do as I have done? I am only twenty-two years old and have five stately wives and a troop of the most beautiful slaves in my house."
Araspes smiled bitterly.
"And what hinders you from marrying now?" said Gyges. "You are a match for many a younger man in appearance, strength, courage and perseverance. You are one of the king's nearest relations too--I tell you, Araspes, you might have twenty young and beautiful wives."
"Look after your own affairs," answered Araspes. "In your place, I certainly should not have waited to marry till I was thirty."
"An oracle has forbidden my marrying."
"Folly? how can a sensible man care for what an oracle says? It is only by dreams, that the gods announce the future to men. I should have thought that your own father was example enough of the shameful way in which those lying priests deceive their best friends."
"That is a matter which you do not understand, Araspes."
"And never wish to, boy, for you only believe in oracles because you don't understand them, and in your short-sightedness call everything that is beyond your comprehension a miracle. And you place more confidence in anything that seems to you miraculous, than in the plain simple truth that lies before your face. An oracle deceived your father and plunged him into ruin, but the oracle is miraculous, and so you too, in perfect confidence, allow it to rob you of happiness!"
"That is blasphemy, Araspes. Are the gods to be blamed because we misunderstand their words?"
"Certainly: for if they wished to benefit us they would give us, with the words, the necessary penetration for discovering their meaning. What good does a beautiful speech do me, if it is in a foreign language that I do not understand?"
"Leave off this useless discussion," said Darius, "and tell us instead, Araspes, how it is that, though you congratulate every man on becoming a bridegroom, you yourself have so long submitted to be blamed by the priests, slighted at all entertainments and festivals, and abused by the women, only because you choose to live and die a bachelor?"
Araspes looked down thoughtfully, then shook himself, took a long draught from the wine-cup, and said, "I have my reasons, friends, but I cannot tell them now."
"Tell them, tell them," was the answer.
"No, children, I cannot, indeed I cannot. This cup I drain to the health of the charming Sappho, and this second to your good fortune, my favorite, Darius."
"Thanks, Araspes!" exclaimed Bartja, joyfully raising his goblet to his lips.
"You mean well, I know," muttered Darius, looking down gloomily.
"What's this, you son of Hystaspes?" cried the old man, looking more narrowly at the serious face of the youth. "Dark looks like these don't sit well on a betrothed lover, who is to drink to the health of his dearest one. Is not Gobryas' little daughter the noblest of all the young Persian girls after Atossa? and isn't she beautiful?"
"Artystone has every talent and quality that a daughter of the Achaemenidae ought to possess," was Darius's answer, but his brow did not clear as he said the words.
"Well, if you want more than that, you must be very hard to please."
Darius raised his goblet and looked down into the wine.
"The boy is in love, as sure as my name is Araspes!" exclaimed the elder man.
"What a set of foolish fellows you are," broke in Zopyrus at this exclamation. "One of you has remained a bachelor in defiance of all Persian customs; another has been frightened out of marrying by an oracle; Bartja has determined to be content with only one wife; and Darius looks like a Destur chanting the funeral-service, because his father has told him to make himself happy with the most beautiful and aristocratic girl in Persia!"
"Zopyrus is right," cried Araspes. "Darius is ungrateful to fortune."
Bartja meanwhile kept his eyes fixed on the friend, who was thus blamed by the others. He saw that their jests annoyed him, and feeling his own great happiness doubly in that moment, pressed Darius's hand, saying: "I am so sorry that I cannot be present at your wedding. By the time I come back, I hope you will be reconciled to your father's choice."
"Perhaps," said Darius, "I may be able to show a second and even a third wife by that time."
"Anahita" grant it!" exclaimed Zopyrus. "The Achaemenidae would soon become extinct, if every one were to follow such examples as Gyges and Araspes have set us. And your one wife, Bartja, is really not worth talking about. It is your duty to marry three wives at once, in order to keep up your father's family--the race of Cyrus."
"I hate our custom of marrying many wives," answered Bartja. "Through doing this, we make ourselves inferior to the women, for we expect them to remain faithful to us all our lives, and we, who are bound to respect truth and faithfulness above every thing else, swear inviolable love to one woman to-day, and to another to-morrow."
"Nonsense!" cried Zopyrus. "I'd rather lose my tongue than tell a he to a man, but our wives are so awfully deceitful, that one has no choice but to pay them back in their own coin."
"The Greek women are different," said Bartja, "because they are differently treated. Sappho told me of one, I think her name was Penelope, who waited twenty years faithfully and lovingly for her husband, though every one believed he was dead, and she had fifty lovers a day at her house."
"My wives would not wait so long for me," said Zopyrus laughing. "To tell the truth, I don't think I should be sorry to find an empty house, if I came back after twenty years. For then I could take some new wives into my harem, young and beautiful, instead of the unfaithful ones, who, besides, would have grown old. But alas! every woman does not find some one to run away with her, and our women would rather have an absent husband than none at all."
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