Here the king stamped so furiously, that the boy was frightened and could only stammer: “Before the banquet the prince was walking with you, so I could not speak to him, and now I am waiting for him here, for Mandane promised to give me a piece of gold if I did what she told me cleverly.”
“And that you have not done,” thundered the king, fancying himself shamefully deceived. “No, indeed you have not. Here, guards, seize this fellow!”
The boy begged and prayed, but all in vain; the whip-bearers seized him quick as thought, and Cambyses, who went off at once to his own apartments, was soon out of reach of his whining entreaties for mercy.
Boges followed his master, rubbing his fat hands, and laughing quietly to himself.
The king’s attendants began their work of disrobing him, but he told them angrily to leave him at once. As soon as they were gone, he called Boges and said in a low voice: “From this time forward the hanging-gardens and the Egyptian are under your control. Watch her carefully! If a single human being or a message reaches her without my knowledge, your life will be the forfeit.”
“But if Kassandane or Atossa should send to her?”
“Turn the messengers away, and send word that every attempt to see or communicate with Nitetis will be regarded by me as a personal offence.”
“May I ask a favor for myself, O King?”
“The time is not well chosen for asking favors.”
“I feel ill. Permit some one else to take charge of the hanging-gardens for to-morrow only.”
“No!—now leave me.”
“I am in a burning fever and have lost consciousness three times during the day—if when I am in that state any one should . . .”
But who could take your place?”
“The Lydian captain of the eunuchs, Kandaules. He is true as gold, and inflexibly severe. One day of rest would restore me to health. Have mercy, O King!”
“No one is so badly served as the king himself. Kandaules may take your place to-morrow, but give hum the strictest orders, and say that the slightest neglect will put his life in danger.—Now depart.”
“Yet one word, my King: to-morrow night the rare blue lily in the hanging-gardens will open. Hystaspes, Intaphernes, Gobyras, Croesus and Oropastes, the greatest horticulturists at your court, would very much like to see it. May they be allowed to visit the gardens for a few minutes? Kandaules shall see that they enter into no communication with the Egyptian.”
“Kandaules must keep his eyes open, if he cares for his own life.—Go!”
Boges made a deep obeisance and left the king’s apartment. He threw a few gold pieces to the slaves who bore the torches before him. He was so very happy. Every thing had succeeded beyond his expectations:—the fate of Nitetis was as good as decided, and he held the life of Kandaules, his hated colleague, in his own hands.