Phaedime, the daughter of Otanes, and niece of his own mother Kassandane, had been Cambyses’ favorite wife hitherto, or at least the only one of whom it could be said that she was more to him than a purchased slave would have been. But even she, in his present sated and disgusted state of feeling, seemed vulgar and contemptible, especially when he thought of Nitetis.
The Egyptian seemed formed of nobler, better stuff than they all. They were flattering, coaxing girls; Nitetis was a queen. They humbled themselves in the dust at his feet; but when he thought of Nitetis, he beheld her erect, standing before him, on the same proud level as himself. He determined that from henceforth she should not only occupy Phaedime’s place, but should be to him what Kassandane had been to his father Cyrus.
She was the only one of his wives who could assist him by her knowledge and advice; the others were all like children, ignorant, and caring for nothing but dress and finery: living only for petty intrigues and useless trifles. This Egyptian girl would be obliged to love him, for he would be her protector, her lord, her father and brother in this foreign land.
“She must,” he said to himself, and to this despot to wish for a thing and to possess it seemed one and the same. “Bartja had better take care,” he murmured, “or he shall know what fate awaits the man who dares to cross my path.”
Nitetis too had passed a restless night.
The common apartment of the women was next to her own, and the noise and singing there had not ceased until nearly midnight. She could often distinguish the shrill voice of Boges joking and laughing with these women, who were under his charge. At last all was quiet in the wide palace halls and then her thoughts turned to her distant home and her poor sister Tachot, longing for her and for the beautiful Bartja, who, Croesus had told her, was going to-morrow to the war and possibly to death. At last she fell asleep, overcome by the fatigue of the journey and dreaming of her future husband. She saw him on his black charger. The foaming animal shied at Bartja who was lying in the road, threw his rider and dragged him into the Nile, whose waves became blood-red. In her terror she screamed for help; her cries were echoed back from the Pyramids in such loud and fearful tones that she awoke.
But hark! what could that be? That wailing, shrill cry which she had heard in her dream,—she could hear it still.
Hastily drawing aside the shutters from one of the openings which served as windows, she looked out. A large and beautiful garden, laid out with fountains and shady avenues, lay before her, glittering with the early dew.