“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.
[The Persian gardens were celebrated throughout the old world, and seem to have been laid out much less stiffly than the Egyptian. Even the kings of Persia did not consider horticulture beneath their notice, and the highest among the Achaemenidae took an especial pleasure in laying out parks, called in Persian Paradises. Their admiration for well-grown trees went so far, that Xerxes, finding on his way to Greece a singularly beautiful tree, hung ornaments of gold upon its branches. Firdusi, the great Persian epic poet, compares human beauty to the growth of the cypress, as the highest praise he can give. Indeed some trees were worshipped by the Persians; and as the tree of life in the Hebrew and Egyptian, so we find sacred trees in their Paradise.]
No sound was to be heard except the one which had alarmed her, and this too died away at last on the morning breeze. After a few minutes she heard cries and noise in the distance, then the great city awaking to its daily work, which soon settled down into a deep, dull murmur like the roaring of the sea.
Nitetis was by this time so thoroughly awakened from the effect of the fresh morning air, that she did not care to lie down again. She went once more to the window and perceived two figures coming out of the house. One she recognized as the eunuch Boges; he was talking to a beautiful Persian woman carelessly dressed. They approached her window. Nitetis hid herself behind the half-opened shutter and listened, for she fancied she heard her own name.