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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 8. - 4/11 -
"On my return from Cyprus to Sais as a conqueror, a great entertainment was given at court. Amasis distinguished me in every way, as having won a rich province for him, and even, to the dismay of his own countrymen, embraced me. His affection increased with his intoxication, and at last, as Psamtik and I were leading him to his private apartments, he stopped at the door of his daughter's room, and said: 'The girls sleep there. If you will put away your own wife, Athenian, I will give you Nitetis. I should like to have you for a son-in-law. There's a secret about that girl, Phanes; she's not my own child.' Before his drunken father could say more, Psamtik laid his hand before his mouth, and sent me roughly away to my lodging, where I thought the matter over and conjectured what I now, from reliable sources, know to be the truth. I entreat you, command this old man to translate those parts of the physician Sonnophre's journal, which allude to this story."
Cambyses nodded his consent, and the old man began to read in a voice far louder than any one could have supposed possible from his infirm appearance "On the fifth day of the month Thoth, I was sent for by the king. I had expected this, as the queen was near her confinement. With my assistance she was easily and safely delivered of a child--a weakly girl. As soon as the nurse had taken charge of this child, Amasis led me behind a curtain which ran across his wife's sleeping-apartment. There lay another infant, which I recognized as the child of Hophra's widow, who herself had died under my hands on the third day of the same month. The king then said, pointing to this strong child, 'This little creature has no parents, but, as it is written in the law that we are to show mercy to the desolate orphans, Ladice and I have determined to bring her up as our own daughter. We do not, however, wish that this deed should be made known, either to the world or to the child herself, and I ask you to keep the secret and spread a report that Ladice has given birth to twins. If you accomplish this according to our wish, you shall receive to-day five thousand rings of gold, and the fifth part of this sum yearly, during your life. I made my obeisance in silence, ordered every one to leave the sick room, and, when I again called them in, announced that Ladice had given birth to a second girl. Amasis' real child received the name of Tachot, the spurious one was called Nitetis."
At these words Cambyses rose from his seat, and strode through the hall; but Onuphis continued, without allowing himself to be disturbed: "Sixth day of the month Thoth. This morning I had just lain down to rest after the fatigues of the night, when a servant appeared with the promised gold and a letter from the king, asking me to procure a dead child, to be buried with great ceremony as the deceased daughter of King Hophra. After a great deal of trouble I succeeded, an hour ago, in obtaining one from a poor girl who had given birth to a child secretly in the house of the old woman, who lives at the entrance to the City of the Dead. The little one had caused her shame and sorrow enough, but she would not be persuaded to give up the body of her darling, until I promised that it should be embalmed and buried in the most splendid manner. We put the little corpse into my large medicine-chest, my son Nebenchari carried it this time instead of my servant Hib, and so it was introduced into the room where Hophra's widow had died. The poor girl's baby will receive a magnificent funeral. I wish I might venture to tell her, what a glorious lot awaits her darling after death. Nebenchari has just been sent for by the king."
At the second mention of this name, Cambyses stopped in his walk, and said: "Is our oculist Nebenchari the man whose name is mentioned in this manuscript?"
"Nebenchari," returned Phanes, "is the son of this very Sonnophre who changed the children."
The physician did not raise his eyes; his face was gloomy and sullen.
Cambyses took the roll of papyrus out of Onuphis' band, looked at the characters with which it was covered, shook his head, went up to Nebenchari and said:
"Look at these characters and tell me if it is your father's writing."
Nebenchari fell on his knees and raised his hands.
"I ask, did your father paint these signs?"
"I do not know-whether . . . Indeed . . ."
"I will know the truth. Yes or no?"
"Yes, my King; but . . ."
"Rise, and be assured of my favor. Faithfulness to his ruler is the ornament of a subject; but do not forget that I am your king now. Kassandane tells me, that you are going to undertake a delicate operation to-morrow in order to restore her sight. Are you not venturing too much?"
"I can depend on my own skill, my Sovereign."
"One more question. Did you know of this fraud?"
"And you allowed me to remain in error?"
"I had been compelled to swear secrecy and an oath . . ."
"An oath is sacred. Gobryas, see that both these Egyptians receive a portion from my table. Old man, you seem to require better food."
"I need nothing beyond air to breathe, a morsel of bread and a draught of water to preserve me from dying of hunger and thirst, a clean robe, that I may be pleasing in the eyes of the gods and in my own, and a small chamber for myself, that I may be a hindrance to no man. I have never been richer than to-day."
"I am about to give away a kingdom."
"You speak in enigmas."
"By my translation of to-day I have proved, that your deceased consort was the child of Hophra. Now, our law allows the daughter of a king to succeed to the throne, when there is neither son nor brother living; if she should die childless, her husband becomes her legitimate successor. Amasis is a usurper, but the throne of Egypt is the lawful birthright of Hophra and his descendants. Psamtik forfeits every right to the crown the moment that a brother, son, daughter or son-in-law of Hophra appears. I can, therefore, salute my present sovereign as the future monarch of my own beautiful native land."
Cambyses smiled self-complacently, and Onuphis went on: "I have read in the stars too, that Psamtik's ruin and your own accession to the throne of Egypt have been fore-ordained."
"We'll show that the stars were right," cried the king, "and as for you, you liberal old fellow, I command you to ask me any wish you like."
"Give me a conveyance, and let me follow your army to Egypt. I long to close my eyes on the Nile."
"Your wish is granted. Now, my friends, leave me, and see that all those who usually eat at my table are present at this evening's revel. We will hold a council of war over the luscious wine. Methinks a campaign in Egypt will pay better than a contest with the Massagetae."
He was answered by a joyful shout of "Victory to the king!" They all then left the hall, and Cambyses, summoning his dressers, proceeded for the first time to exchange his mourning garments for the splendid royal robes.
Croesus and Phanes went into the green and pleasant garden lying on the eastern side of the royal palace, which abounded in groves of trees, shrubberies, fountains and flower-beds. Phanes was radiant with delight; Croesus full of care and thought.
"Have you duly reflected," said the latter, "on the burning brand that you have just flung out into the world?"
"It is only children and fools that act without reflection," was the answer.
"You forget those who are deluded by passion."
"I do not belong to that number."
"And yet revenge is the most fearful of all the passions."
"Only when it is practised in the heat of feeling. My revenge is as cool as this piece of iron; but I know my duty."
"The highest duty of a good man, is to subordinate his own welfare to that of his country."
"That I know."
"You seem to forget, however, that with Egypt you are delivering your own country over to the Persians."
"I do not agree with you there."
"Do you believe, that when all the rest of the Mediterranean coasts belong to Persia, she will leave your beautiful Greece untouched?"
"Certainly not, but I know my own countrymen; I believe them fully capable of a victorious resistance to the hosts of the barbarians, and am confident that their courage and greatness will rise with the nearness of the danger. It will unite our divided tribes into one great nation, and be the ruin of the tyrants."
"I cannot argue with you, for I am no longer acquainted with the state of things in your native country, and besides, I believe you to be a wise man--not one who would plunge a nation into ruin merely for the gratification of his own ambition. It is a fearful thing that entire nations should have to suffer for the guilt of one man, if that man be one who wears a crown. And now, if my opinion is of any importance to you, tell me what the deed was which has roused your desire of vengeance."
"Listen then, and never try again to turn me from my purpose. You know the heir to the Egyptian throne, and you know Rhodopis too. The former was, for many reasons, my mortal enemy, the latter the friend of every Greek, but mine especially. When I was obliged to leave Egypt, Psamtik threatened me with his vengeance; your son Gyges saved my life. A few weeks later my two children came to Naukratis, in order to follow me out to Sigeum. Rhodopis took them kindly under her protection, but some wretch had discovered the secret and betrayed it to the prince. The very next night her house was surrounded and searched,--my children found and
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