The entrance of Croesus roused Cambyses from his dream; he raised the old man kindly from the prostrate position at his feet, into which he had thrown himself on entering, and said: “You offended me, but I will be merciful; I have not forgotten that my father, on his dying bed, told me to make you my friend and adviser. Take your life back as a gift from me, and forget my anger as I wish to forget your want of reverence. This man says he knows you; I should like to hear your opinion of his conjectures.”
Croesus turned away much affected, and after having heartily welcomed the Athenian, asked him to relate his suppositions and the grounds on which they were founded.
The old man grew more and more attentive as the Greek went on, and when he had finished raised his hands to heaven, crying: “Pardon me, oh ye eternal gods, if I have ever questioned the justice of your decrees. Is not this marvellous, Cambyses? My son once placed himself in great danger to save the life of this noble Athenian, whom the gods have brought hither to repay the deed tenfold. Had Phanes been murdered in Egypt, this hour might have seen our sons executed.”
And as he said this he embraced Hystaspes; both shared one feeling; their sons had been as dead and were now alive.
The king, Phanes, and all the Persian dignitaries watched the old men with deep sympathy, and though the proofs of Bartja’s innocence were as yet only founded on conjecture, not one of those present doubted it one moment longer. Wherever the belief in a man’s guilt is but slight, his defender finds willing listeners.
The sharp-witted Athenian saw clearly how matters lay in this sad story; nor did it escape him that malice had had a hand in the affair. How could Bartja’s dagger have come into the hanging-gardens except through treachery?
While he was telling the king his suspicions, Oropastes was led into the hall.
The king looked angrily at him and without one preliminary word, asked: “Have you a brother?”
“Yes, my King. He and I are the only two left out of a family of six. My parents . . .”
“Is your brother younger or older than yourself?”
“I was the eldest of the family; my brother, the youngest, was the joy of my father’s old age.”
“Did you ever notice a remarkable likeness between him and one of my relations?”
“Yes, my King. Gaumata is so like your brother Bartja, that in the school for priests at Rhagae, where he still is, he was always called ’the prince.’”
“Has he been at Babylon very lately?”
“He was here for the last time at the New Year’s festival.”
“Are you speaking the truth?”
“The sin of lying would be doubly punishable in one who wears my robes, and holds my office.”
The king’s face flushed with anger at this answer and he exclaimed: “Nevertheless you are lying; Gaumata was here yesterday evening. You may well tremble.”