“Who knows what the future may bring?” answered Croesus giving his hand to the Spartan.
The sun of a new day had risen over Egypt, but was still low in the east; the copious dew, which, on the Nile, supplies the place of rain, lay sparkling like jewels on the leaves and blossoms, and the morning air, freshened by a north-west wind, invited those to enjoy it who could not bear the heat of mid-day.
Through the door of the country-house, now so well known to us, two female figures have just passed; Melitta, the old slave, and Sappho, the grandchild of Rhodopis.
The latter is not less lovely now, than when we saw her last, asleep. She moves through the garden with a light quick step, her white morning robe with its wide sleeves falling in graceful drapery over her lithe limbs, the thick brown hair straying from beneath the purple kerchief over her head, and a merry, roguish smile lurking round her rosy mouth and in the dimples of her cheeks and chin.
She stooped to pick a rose, dashed the dew from it into the face of her old nurse, laughing at her naughty trick till the clear bell-like tones rang through the garden; fixed the flower in her dress and began to sing in a wonderfully rich and sweet voice—
once upon a bed
Of roses laid his weary head;
Luckless urchin! not to see
Within the leaves a slumbering bee.
The bee awak’d—with anger wild
The bee awak’d, and stung the child.
Loud and piteous are his cries;
To Venus quick he runs, he flies;
“Oh mother! I am wounded through—
“I die with pain—in sooth I do!
“Stung by some little angry thing.
“Some serpent on a tiny wing,
“A bee it was—for once, I know,
“I heard a rustic call it so.”
“Isn’t that a very pretty song?” asked the laughing girl. “How stupid of little Eros to mistake a bee for a winged snake! Grandmother says that the great poet Anacreon wrote another verse to this song, but she will not teach it me. Tell me, Melitta, what can there be in that verse? There, you are smiling; dear, darling Melitta, do sing me that one verse. Perhaps though, you don’t know it yourself? No? then certainly you can’t teach it me.”
“That is a new song,” answered the old woman, evading her darling’s question, “I only know the songs of the good old times. But hark! did not you hear a knock at the gate?”
[The last lines which contain the point of this song are:
he spoke, and she, the while,
Heard him with a soothing smile;
Then said, “My infant, if so much
“Thou feel the little wild bee’s touch,
“How must the heart, ah! Cupid be,
“The hapless heart that’s stung by thee?”