And she, princess as she was, answered: “I will obey you.”
“Then we are certain of victory,” said the eunuch. “There, now your eyes are flashing darkly again as I like to see them, my queen. And so Cambyses shall see you when the tender flesh of the Egyptian shall have become food for dogs and the birds of the air, and when for the first time after long months of absence, I bring him once more to the door of your apartments. Here, Armorges! tell the rest of the women to get ready and enter their litters. I will go on and be there to show them their places.”
The great banqueting-hall was bright as day—even brighter, from the light of thousands of candles whose rays were reflected in the gold plates forming the panelling of the walls. A table of interminable length stood in the middle of the hall, overloaded with gold and silver cups, plates, dishes, bowls, jugs, goblets, ornaments and incense-altars, and looked like a splendid scene from fairy-land.
“The king will soon be here,” called out the head-steward of the table, of the great court-lords, to the king’s cup-bearer, who was a member of the royal family. “Are all the wine-jugs full, has the wine been tasted, are the goblets ranged in order, and the skins sent by Polykrates, have they been emptied?”
“Yes,” answered the cup-bearer, “everything is ready, and that Chian wine is better than any I ever tasted; indeed, in my opinion, even the Syrian is not to be compared to it. Only taste it.”
So saying he took a graceful little golden goblet from the table in one hand, raised a wine-pitcher of the same costly metal with the other, swung the latter high into the air and poured the wine so cleverly into the narrow neck of the little vessel that not a drop was lost, though the liquid formed a wide curve in its descent. He then presented the goblet to the head-steward with the tips of his fingers, bowing gracefully as he did so.
The latter sipped the delicious wine, testing its flavor with great deliberation, and said, on returning the cup: “I agree with you, it is indeed a noble wine, and tastes twice as well when presented with such inimitable grace. Strangers are quite right in saying that there are no cupbearers like the Persian.”
“Thanks for this praise,” replied the other, kissing his friend’s forehead. “Yes, I am proud of my office, and it is one which the king only gives to his friends. Still it is a great plague to have to stay so long in this hot, suffocating Babylon. Shall we ever be off for the summer, to Ecbatana or Pasargada?”