“Enough of this folly; I am not here to juggle with words, or to listen to such play. Whether the lady Elissa spoke of the gods she serves or of a man is one to me. I care not of whom she spoke, but for her words I do care. Now hearken, you city of traders: If this is to be thy answer, then I break down that bridge which I have built, and it is war between you and my Tribes, war to the end. But let her change her words, and whether she loves me or loves me not, come to be my wife, and, for my day, the bridge shall stand; for once that we are wed I can surely teach her love, or if I cannot, at least it is she I seek with or without her love. Reflect then, lady, and reply again, remembering how much hangs upon your lips.”
“Do you think, king Ithobal,” Elissa answered, looking at him with angry eyes, “that a woman such as I am can be won by threats? I have spoken, king Ithobal.”
“I know not,” he replied; “but I do know that she can be won by force, and then surely, lady, your pride shall pay the price, for you shall be mine, but not my queen.”
Now one of the council rose and said:—
“It seems, Sakon, that there is more in this matter than whether or no the king Ithobal pleases your daughter. Is the city then to be plunged into a great war, of which none can see the end, because one woman looks askance upon a man? Better that a thousand girls should be wedded where they would not than that such a thing should happen. Sakon, according to our ancient law you have the right to give your daughter in marriage where and when you will. We demand, therefore, that for the good of the commonwealth, you should exercise this right, and hand over the lady Elissa to king Ithobal.”
This speech was received with loud and general shouts of approval, for no Phoenician audience would have been willing to sacrifice its interests for a thing so trivial as the happiness of a woman.
“Between the desire of a beloved daughter to whom I have pledged my word and my duty to the great city over which I rule, my strait is hard indeed,” answered Sakon. “Hearken, king Ithobal, I must have time. Give me eight days from now in which to answer you, for if you will not, I deny your suit.”
Ithobal seemed about to refuse the demand of Sakon. Then once more his counsellors plucked him by the sleeve, pointing out to him that if he did this, it was likely that none of them would leave the city alive. At some sign from the governor, they whispered, the captains of the guard were already hastening from the hall.
“So be it, Sakon,” he said. “To-night I camp without your walls, which are no longer safe for one who has threatened war against them, and on the eighth day from this see to it that your heralds being me the Lady Elissa and peace—or I make good my threat. Till then, farewell.” And placing himself in the midst of his company king Ithobal left the hall.