The long procession was opened by Nitetis and Atossa, and the two princesses were immediately followed by Phaedime and another beauty. The latter was magnificently dressed and had been paired with Phaedime by Boges, in order to make the almost poverty-stricken simplicity of the fallen favorite more apparent.
Intaphernes and Otanes looked as annoyed as Boges had expected, on seeing their grandchild and daughter so pale, and in such miserable array, in the midst of all this splendor and magnificence.
Cambyses had had experience of Phaedime’s former extravagance in matters of dress, and, when he saw her standing before him so plainly dressed and so pale, looked both angry and astonished. His brow darkened, and as she bent low before him, he asked her in an angry and tyrannical tone: “What is the meaning of this beggarly dress at my table, on the day set apart in my honor? Have you forgotten, that in our country it is the custom never to appear unadorned before the king? Verily, if it were not my birthday, and if I did not owe you some consideration as the daughter of our dearest kinsman, I should order the eunuchs to take you back to the harem, that you might have time to think over your conduct in solitude.”
These words rendered the mortified woman’s task much easier.... She began to weep loud and bitterly, raising her hands and eyes to her angry lord in such a beseeching manner that his anger was changed into compassion, and he raised her from the ground with the question: “Have you a petition to ask of me?”
“What can I find to wish for, now that the sun of my life has withdrawn his light?” was her faltering answer, hindered by sobs.
Cambyses shrugged his shoulders, and asked again “Is there nothing then that you wish for? I used to be able to dry your tears with presents; ask me for some golden comfort to-day.”
“Phaedime has nothing left to wish for now. For whom can she put on jewels when her king, her husband, withdraws the light of his countenance?”
“Then I can do nothing for you,” exclaimed Cambyses, turning away angrily from the kneeling woman. Boges had been quite right in advising Phaedime to paint herself with white, for underneath the pale color her cheeks were burning with shame and anger. But, in spite of all, she controlled her passionate feelings, made the same deep obeisance to Nitetis as to the queen-mother, and allowed her tears to flow fast and freely in sight of all the Achaemenidae.
Otanes and Intaphernes could scarcely suppress their indignation at seeing their daughter and grandchild thus humbled, and many an Achaemenidae looked on, feeling deep sympathy with the unhappy Phaedime and a hidden grudge against the favored, beautiful stranger.
The formalities were at last at an end and the feast began. Just before the king, in a golden basket, and gracefully bordered round with other fruits, lay a gigantic pomegranate, as large as a child’s head.