Kassandane’s blind eyes expressed her gratitude for this self-renunciation on the part of her son, and she said: “My daughter, I need your forgiveness too.”
“But I never once doubted you,” cried Atossa, proudly and joyfully kissing her friend’s lips.
“Your letter to Bartja shook my faith in your innocence,” added Kassandane.
“And yet it was all so simple and natural,” answered Nitetis. “Here, my mother, take this letter from Egypt. Croesus will translate it for you. It will explain all. Perhaps I was imprudent. Ask your mother to tell you what you would wish to know, my King. Pray do not scorn my poor, ill sister. When an Egyptian girl once loves, she cannot forget. But I feel so frightened. The end must be near. The last hours have been so very, very terrible. That horrible man, Boges, read me the fearful sentence of death, and it was that which forced the poison into my hand. Ah, my heart!”
And with these words she fell back into the arms of Kassandane.
Nebenchari rushed forward, and gave her some more drops, exclaiming: “I thought so! She has taken poison and her life cannot be saved, though this antidote may possibly prolong it for a few days.” Cambyses stood by, pale and rigid, following the physician’s slightest movements, and Atossa bathed her friend’s forehead with her tears.
“Let some milk be brought,” cried Nebenchari, “and my large medicine-chest; and let attendants be called to carry her away, for quiet is necessary, above all things.”
Atossa hastened into the adjoining room; and Cambyses said to the physician, but without looking into his face: “Is there no hope?”
“The poison which she has taken results in certain death.”
On hearing this the king pushed Nebenchari away from the sick girl, exclaiming: “She shall live. It is my will. Here, eunuch! summon all the physicians in Babylon—assemble the priests and Alobeds! She is not to die; do you hear? she must live, I am the king, and I command it.”
Nitetis opened her eyes as if endeavoring to obey her lord. Her face was turned towards the window, and the bird of paradise with the gold chain on its foot, was still there, perched on the cypress-tree. Her eyes fell first on her lover, who had sunk down at her side and was pressing his burning lips to her right hand. She murmured with a smile: “O, this great happiness!” Then she saw the bird, and pointed to it with tier left hand, crying: “Look, look, there is the Phoenix, the bird of Ra!”
After saying this she closed her eyes and was soon seized by a violent attack of fever.
Prexaspes, the king’s messenger, and one of the highest officials at court, had brought Gaumata, Mandane’s lover, whose likeness to Bartja was really most wonderful, to Babylon, sick and wounded as he was. He was now awaiting his sentence in a dungeon, while Boges, the man who had led him into crime, was nowhere to be found, notwithstanding all the efforts of the police. His escape had been rendered possible by the trap-door in the hanging-gardens, and greatly assisted by the enormous crowds assembled in the streets.