“Thanks, thanks, my friend,” said Bartja, giving him his hand; “but I cannot accept your offer, because I am innocent, and I know that though Cambyses is hasty, he is not unjust. Come friends, I think the king will give us a hearing to-day, late as it is.”
Two hours later Bartja and his friends were standing before the king. The gigantic man was seated on his golden throne; he was pale and his eyes looked sunken; two physicians stood waiting behind him with all kinds of instruments and vessels in their hands. Cambyses had, only a few minutes before, recovered consciousness, after lying for more than an hour in one of those awful fits, so destructive both to mind and body, which we call epileptic.
[The dangerous disease to which
Herodotus says Cambyses had been
subject from his birth, and which was called “sacred” by some, can
scarcely be other than epilepsy. See Herod, III. 33.]
Since Nitetis’ arrival he had been free from this illness; but it had seized him to-day with fearful violence, owing to the overpowering mental excitement he had gone through.
If he had met Bartja a few hours before, he would have killed him with his own hand; but though the epileptic fit had not subdued his anger it had at least so far quieted it, that he was in a condition to hear what was to be said on both sides.
At the right hand of the throne stood Hystaspes, Darius’s grey-haired father, Gobryas, his future father-in-law, the aged Intaphernes, the grandfather of that Phaedime whose place in the king’s favor had been given to Nitetis, Oropastes the high-priest, Croesus, and behind them Boges, the chief of the eunuchs. At its left Bartja, whose hands were heavily fettered, Araspes, Darius, Zopyrus and Gyges. In the background stood some hundred officials and grandees.
After a long silence Cambyses raised his eyes, fixed a withering look on his fettered brother, and said in a dull hollow voice: “High-priest, tell us what awaits the man who deceives his brother, dishonors and offends his king, and darkens his own heart by black lies.”
Oropastes came forward and answered: “As soon as such a one is proved guilty, a death full of torment awaits him in this world, and an awful sentence on the bridge Chinvat; for he has transgressed the highest commands, and, by committing three crimes, has forfeited the mercy of our law, which commands that his life shall be granted to the man who has sinned but once, even though he be only a slave.”
[On the third day after death, at the rising of the bright sun, the souls are conducted by the Divs to the bridge Chinvat, where they are questioned as to their past lives and conduct. Vendid. Fargard. XIX. 93. On that spot the two supernatural powers fight for the soul.]
“Then Bartja has deserved death. Lead him away, guards, and strangle him! Take him away! Be silent, wretch! never will I listen to that smooth, hypocritical tongue again, or look at those treacherous eyes. They come from the Divs and delude every one with their wanton glances. Off with him, guards!”