—Translation from one of Anacreon’s songs]
“Yes, of course I did, and I think the sound of horses’ hoofs too. Go and see who seeks admission so early. Perhaps, after all, our kind Phanes did not go away yesterday, and has come to bid us farewell once more.”
“Phanes is gone,” said Melitta, becoming serious, “and Rhodopis has ordered me to send you in when visitors arrive. Go child, that I may open the gate. There, they have knocked again.”
Sappho pretended to run in, but instead of obeying her nurse’s orders, stopped and hid herself behind a rose-bush, hoping to catch sight of these early guests. In the fear of needlessly distressing her, she had not been told of the events of the previous evening, and at this early hour could only expect to see some very intimate friend of her grandmother’s.
Melitta opened the gate and admitted a youth splendidly apparelled, and with fair curling hair.
It was Bartja, and Sappho was so lost in wonder at his beauty, and the Persian dress, to her so strange, that she remained motionless in her hiding-place, her eyes fixed on his face. Just so she had pictured to herself Apollo with the beautiful locks, guiding the sun-chariot.
As Melitta and the stranger came nearer she thrust her little head through the roses to hear what the handsome youth was saying so kindly in his broken Greek.
She heard him ask hurriedly after Croesus and his son; and then, from Melitta’s answer, she gathered all that had passed the evening before, trembled for Phanes, felt so thankful to the generous Gyges, and again wondered who this youth in royal apparel could possibly be. Rhodopis had told her about Cyrus’s heroic deeds, the fall of Croesus and the power and wealth of the Persians, but still she had always fancied them a wild, uncultivated people. Now, however, her interest in Persia increased with every look at the handsome Bartja. At last Melitta went in to wake her grandmother and announce the guest, and Sappho tried to follow her, but Eros, the foolish boy whose ignorance she had been mocking a moment before, had other intentions. Her dress caught in the thorns, and before she could disengage it, the beautiful Bartja was standing before her, helping her to get free from the treacherous bush.
Sappho could not speak a word even of thanks; she blushed deeply, and stood smiling and ashamed, with downcast eyes.
Bartja, too, generally so full of fun and spirit, looked down at her without speaking, the color mounting to his cheeks.
The silence, however, did not last long, for Sappho, recovering from her fright, burst into a laugh of childish delight at the silent stranger and the odd scene, and fled towards the house like a timid fawn.
In a moment Bartja was himself again; in two strides he reached the young girl, quick as thought seized her hand and held it fast, notwithstanding all her struggles.