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- An Egyptian Princess, Volume 8. - 6/11 -
all your actions. Take care; I tried that way myself once; it leads to fame or to disgrace, but very seldom to happiness. Fame to the ambitious is like salt water to the thirsty; the more he gets, the more he wants. I was once only a poor soldier, and am now Cambyses' ambassador. But you, what can you have to strive for? There is no man in the kingdom greater than yourself, after the sons of Cyrus . . . Do my eyes deceive me? Surely those two men riding to meet us with a troop of horsemen must be Gyges and Zopyrus. The Angare, who left the inn before us, must have told them of our coming."
"To be sure. Look at that fellow Zopyrus, how he's waving and beckoning with that palm-leaf."
"Here, you fellows, cut us a few twigs from those bushes-quick. We'll answer his green palm-leaf with a purple pomegranate-branch."
In a few minutes the friends had embraced one another, and the two bands were riding together into the populous town, through the gardens surrounding the lake Gygaeus, the Sardians' place of recreation. It was now near sunset, a cooler breeze was beginning to blow, and the citizens were pouring through the gates to enjoy themselves in the open air. Lydian and Persian warriors, the former wearing richly-ornamented helmets, the latter tiaras in the form of a cylinder, were following girls who were painted and wreathed. Children were being led to the lake by their nurses, to see the swans fed. An old blind man was seated under a plane-tree, singing sad ditties to a listening crowd and accompanying them on the Magadis, the twenty-stringed Lydian lute. Youths were enjoying themselves at games of ball, ninepins, and dice, and half-grown girls screaming with fright, when the ball hit one of their group or nearly fell into the water.
The travellers scarcely noticed this gay scene, though at another time it would have delighted them. They were too much interested in enquiring particulars of Bartja's illness and recovery.
At the brazen gates of the palace which had formerly belonged to Croesus, they were met by Oroetes, the satrap of Sardis, in a magnificent court- dress overloaded with ornaments. He was a stately man, whose small penetrating black eyes looked sharply out from beneath a bushy mass of eyebrow. His satrapy was one of the most important and profitable in the entire kingdom, and his household could bear a comparison with that of Cambyses in richness and splendor. Though he possessed fewer wives and attendants than the king, it was no inconsiderable troop of guards, slaves, eunuchs and gorgeously-dressed officials, which appeared at the palace-gates to receive the travellers.
The vice-regal palace, which was still kept up with great magnificence, had been, in the days when Croesus occupied it, the most splendid of royal residences; after the taking of Sardis, however, the greater part of the dethroned king's treasures and works of art had been sent to Cyrus's treasure-house in Pasargadae. When that time of terror had passed, the Lydians brought many a hidden treasure into the light of day once more, and, by their industry and skill in art during the peaceful years which they enjoyed under Cyrus and Cambyses, recovered their old position so far, that Sardis was again looked upon as one of the wealthiest cities of Asia Minor, and therefore, of the world.
Accustomed as Darius and Prexaspes were to royal splendor, they were still astonished at the beauty and brilliancy of the satrap's palace. The marble work, especially, made a great impression on them, as nothing of the kind was to be found in Babylon, Susa or Ecbatane, where burnt brick and cedar-wood supply the place of the polished marble.
[The palace of Persepolis did not exist at the date of our story. It was built partly of black stone from Mount Rachmed, and partly of white marble; it was probably begun by Darius. The palace of Susa was built of brick, (Strabo p. 728) that of Ecbatana of wood overlaid with plates of gold of immense value, and roofed with tiles made of the precious metals.]
They found Bartja lying on a couch in the great hall; he looked very pale, and stretched out his arms towards them.
The friends supped together at the satrap's table and then retired to Bartja's private room, in order to enjoy an undisturbed conversation.
"Well, Bartja, how did you come by this dangerous illness?" was Darius' first question after they were seated.
"I was thoroughly well, as you know," said Bartja, "when we left Babylon, and we reached Germa, a little town on the Sangarius, without the slightest hindrance. The ride was long and we were very tired, burnt too by the scorching May sun, and covered with dust; the river flows by the station, and its waves looked so clear and bright--so inviting for a bathe--that in a minute Zopyrus and I were off our horses, undressed, and in the water. Gyges told us we were very imprudent, but we felt confident that we were too much inured to such things to get any harm, and very much enjoyed our swim in the cool, green water. Gyges, perfectly calm as usual, let us have our own way, waited till our bath was over, and then plunged in himself.
"In two hours we were in our saddles again, pushing on as if for our very lives, changing horses at every station, and turning night into day.
"We were near Ipsus, when I began to feel violent pains in the head and limbs. I was ashamed to say anything about it and kept upright on my saddle, until we had to take fresh horses at Bagis. Just as I was in the very act of mounting, I lost my senses and strength, and fell down on the ground in a dead faint."
"Yes, a pretty fright you gave us," interrupted Zopyrus, "by dropping down in that fashion. It was fortunate that Gyges was there, for I lost my wits entirely; he, of course, kept his presence of mind, and after relieving his feelings in words not exactly flattering to us two, he behaved like a circumspect general.--A fool of a doctor came running up and protested that it was all over with poor Bart, for which I gave him a good thrashing."
"Which he didn't particularly object to," said the satrap, laughing, "seeing that you told them to lay a gold stater on every stripe."
"Yes, yes, my pugnacity costs me very dear sometimes. But to our story. As soon as Bartja had opened his eyes, Gyges sent me off to Sardis to fetch a good physician and an easy travelling-carriage. That ride won't so soon be imitated. An hour before I reached the gates my third horse knocked up under me, so I had to trust to my own legs, and began running as fast as I could. The people must all have thought me mad. At last I saw a man on horseback--a merchant from Kelaenze--dragged him from his horse, jumped into the saddle, and, before the next morning dawned, I was back again with our invalid, bringing the best physician in Sardis, and Oroetes' most commodious travelling-carriage. We brought him to this house at a slow footpace, and here a violent fever came on, he became delirious, talked all the nonsense that could possibly come into a human brain, and made us so awfully anxious, that the mere remembrance of that time brings the big drops of perspiration to my forehead."
Bartja took his friend's hand: "I owe my life to him and Gyges," said he, turning to Darius. "Till to-day, when they set out to meet you, they have never left me for a minute; a mother could not have nursed her sick child more carefully. And Oroetes, I am much obliged to you too; doubly so because your kindness subjected you to annoyance."
"How could that be?" asked Darius.
"That Polykrates of Samos, whose name we heard so often in Egypt, has the best physician that Greece has ever produced. While I was lying here ill, Oroetes wrote to this Democedes, making him immense promises, if he would only come to Sardis directly. The Sainian pirates, who infest the whole Ionian coast, took the messenger captive and brought Oroetes' letter to their master Polykrates. He opened it, and sent the messenger back with the answer, that Democedes was in his pay, and that if Oroetes needed his advice he must apply to Polykrates himself. Our generous friend submitted for my sake, and asked the Samian to send his physician to Sardis."
"Well," said Prexaspes, "and what followed?" The proud island-prince sent him at once. He cured me, as you see, and left us a few days ago loaded with presents."
"Well," interrupted Zopyrus, "I can quite understand, that Polykrates likes to keep his physician near him. I assure you, Darius, it would not be easy to find his equal. He's as handsome as Minutscher, as clever as Piran Wisa, as strong as Rustem, and as benevolent and helpful as the god Soma. I wish you could have seen how well he threw those round metal plates he calls discs. I am no weakling, but when we wrestled he soon threw me. And then he could tell such famous stories--stories that made a man's heart dance within him."
[This very Oroetes afterwards succeeded in enticing Polykrates to Sardis and there crucified him. Herod. III. 120-125. Valerius Maximus VI. 9. 5.]
"We know just such a fellow too," said Darius, smiling at his friend's enthusiasm. "That Athenian Phanes, who came to prove our innocence."
"The physician Democedes is from Crotona, a place which must he somewhere very near the setting sun."
"But is inhabited by Greeks, like Athens." added Oroetes. "Ah, my young friends, you must beware of those fellows; they're as cunning, deceitful, and selfish, as they are strong, clever, and handsome."
"Democedes is generous and sincere," cried Zopyrus.
"And Croesus himself thinks Phanes not only an able, but a virtuous man," added Darius.
"Sappho too has always, and only spoken well of the Athenian," said Bartja, in confirmation of Darius's remark. "But don't let us talk any more about these Greeks," he went on. "They give Oroetes so much trouble by their refractory and stubborn conduct, that he is not very fond of them."
"The gods know that," sighed the satrap. "It's more difficult to keep one Greek town in order, than all the countries between the Euphrates and the Tigris."
While Oroetes was speaking, Zopyrus had gone to the window. "The stars are already high in the heavens," he said, "and Bartja is tired; so make haste, Darius, and tell us something about home."
The son of Hystaspes agreed at once, and began by relating the events which we have heard already. Bartja, especially, was distressed at hearing of Nitetis' sad end, and the discovery of Amasis' fraud filled them all with astonishment. After a short pause, Darius went on:
"When once Nitetis' descent had been fully proved, Cambyses was like a changed man. He called a council of war, and appeared at table in the royal robes instead of his mourning garments. You can fancy what universal joy the idea of a war with Egypt excited. Even Croesus, who
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