The party, however, did not succeed in crossing the market-place without hindrance. They found it easy enough to evade the importunities of impudent fishsellers, and the friendly invitations of butchers, bakers, sausage and vegetable-sellers, and potters. But when they reached the part allotted to the flower-girls, Zopyrus was so enchanted with the scene, that he clapped his hands for joy.
[Separate portions of the market were set apart for the sale of different goods. The part appointed for the flower-sellers, who passed in general for no better than they should be, was called the “myrtle-market.” Aristoph. Thesmoph. 448.]
Three wonderfully-lovely girls, in white dresses of some half-transparent material, with colored borders, were seated together on low stools, binding roses, violets and orange-blossoms into one long wreath. Their charming heads were wreathed with flowers too, and looked very like the lovely rosebuds which one of them, on seeing the young men come up, held out to their notice.
“Buy my roses, my handsome gentlemen,” she said in a clear, melodious voice, “to put in your sweethearts’ hair.”
Zopyrus took the flowers, and holding the girl’s hand fast in his own, answered, “I come from a far country, my lovely child, and have no sweetheart in Naukratis yet; so let me put the roses in your own golden hair, and this piece of gold in your white little hand.”
The girl burst into a merry laugh, showed her sister the handsome present, and answered: “By Eros, such gentlemen as you cannot want for sweethearts. Are you brothers?”
“That’s a pity, for we are sisters.”
“And you thought we should make three pretty couples?”
“I may have thought it, but I did not say so.”
“And your sisters?”
[This passage was suggested by the following epigram of Dionysius “Roses are blooming on thy cheek, with roses thy basket is laden, Which dost thou sell? The flowers? Thyself? Or both, my pretty maiden?”]
The girls laughed, as if they were but little averse to such a connection, and offered Bartja and Darius rosebuds too.
The young men accepted them, gave each a gold piece in return, and were not allowed to leave these beauties until their helmets had been crowned with laurel.
Meanwhile the news of the strangers’ remarkable liberality had spread among the many girls, who were selling ribbons, wreaths and flowers close by. They all brought roses too and invited the strangers with looks and words to stay with them and buy their flowers.
Zopyrus, like many a young gentleman in Naukratis, would gladly have accepted their invitations, for most of these girls were beautiful, and their hearts were not difficult to win; but Darius urged him to come away, and begged Bartja to forbid the thoughtless fellow’s staying any longer. After passing the tables of the money-changers, and the stone seats on which the citizens sat in the open air and held their consultations, they arrived at the house of Theopompus.