But for Nitetis, who had been spoilt for such things by an intimate acquaintance with the best Greek poets, they could have but little charm. What she had lately been learning in Persia with difficulty had not yet become a part of herself, and so, while Kassandane and Atossa went through all the outward rites as things of course and perfectly natural to them, Nitetis could only prevent herself from forgetting the prescribed ceremonials by a great mental effort, and dreaded lest she should expose her ignorance to the jealous, watchful gaze of her rivals.
And then, too, only a few minutes before the sacrifice, she had received her first letter from Egypt. It lay unread on her dressing-table, and came into her mind whenever she attempted to pray. She could not help wondering what news it might bring her. How were her parents? and how had Tachot borne the parting from herself, and from the prince she loved so well?
The ceremony over, Nitetis embraced Kassandane and Atossa, and drew a long, deep breath, as if delivered from some threatening danger. Then ordering her litter, she was carried back to her dwelling, and hastened eagerly to the table where her letter lay. Her principal attendant, the young girl who on the journey had dressed her in her first Persian robes, received her with a smile full of meaning and promise, which changed however, into a look of astonishment, on seeing her mistress seize the letter, without even glancing at the articles of dress and jewelery which lay on the table.
Nitetis broke the seal quickly and was sitting down, in order to begin the difficult work of reading her letter, when the girl came up, and with clasped hands, exclaimed: “By Mithras, my mistress, I cannot understand you. Either you are ill, or that ugly bit of grey stuff must contain some magic which makes you blind to everything else. Put that roll away and look at the splendid presents that the great king (Auramazda grant him victory!) has sent while you were at the sacrifice. Look at this wonderful purple robe with the white stripe and the rich silver embroidery; and then the tiara with the royal diamonds! Do not you know the high meaning of these gifts? Cambyses begs, (the messenger said ‘begs,’ not ‘commands’) you to wear these splendid ornaments at the banquet to-day. How angry Phaedime will be! and how the others will look, for they have never received such presents. Till now only Kassandane has had a right to wear the purple and diamonds; so by sending you these gifts, Cambyses places you on a level with his mother, and chooses you to be his favorite wife before the whole world.’ O pray allow me to dress you in these new and beautiful things. How lovely you will look! How angry and envious the others will feel! If I could only be there when you enter the hall! Come, my mistress, let me take off your simple dress, and array you, (only as a trial you know,) in the robes that as the new queen you ought to wear.”