Three days before the time fixed for the departure of Nitetis, Rhodopis had invited a large number of guests to her house at Naukratis, amongst whom Croesus and Gyges were included.
The two lovers had agreed to meet in the garden, protected by the darkness and the old slave, while the guests were occupied at the banquet. Melitta, therefore, having convinced herself that the guests were thoroughly absorbed in conversation, opened the garden-gate, admitted the prince, brought Sappho to him, and then retired, promising to warn them of any intruder by clapping her hands.
“I shall only have you near me three days longer,” whispered Sappho. “Do you know, sometimes it seems to me as if I had only seen you yesterday for the first time; but generally I feel as if you had belonged to me for a whole eternity, and I had loved you all my life.”
“To me too it seems as if you had always been mine, for I cannot imagine how I could ever have existed without you. If only the parting were over and we were together again!”
“Oh, believe me, that will pass more quickly than you fancy. Of course it will seem long to wait—very long; but when it is over, and we are together again, I think it will seem as if we had never been parted. So it has been with me every day. How I have longed for the morning to come and bring you with it! but when it came and you were sitting by my side, I felt as if I had had you all the time and your hand had never left my head.”
“And yet a strange feeling of fear comes over me, when I think of our parting hour.”
“I do not fear it so very much. I know my heart will bleed when you say farewell, but I am sure you will come back and will not have forgotten me. Melitta wanted to enquire of the Oracle whether you would remain faithful; and to question an old woman who has just come from Phrygia and can conjure by night from drawn cords, with incense, styrax, moon-shaped cakes, and wild-briar leaves; but I would have none of this, for my heart knows better than the Pythia, the cords, or the smoke of sacrifice, that you will be true to me, and love me always.”
“And your heart speaks the truth.”
“But I have sometimes been afraid; and have blown into a poppy-leaf, and struck it, as the young girls here do. If it broke with a loud crack I was very happy, and cried, ‘Ah! he will not forget!’ but if the leaf tore without a sound I felt sad. I dare say I did this a hundred times, but generally the leaf gave the wished-for sound, and I had much oftener reason to be joyful than sad.”
“May it be ever thus!”
“It must be! but dearest, do not speak so loudly; I see Knakias going down to the Nile for water and he will hear us.”
“Well, I will speak low. There, I will stroke back your silky hair and whisper in your ear ‘I love you.’ Could you understand?”