They disembarked at a remote part of the town and walked across the quarter appropriated to the artisans. The workmen were busy at their calling, notwithstanding the intense noonday heat. The baker’s men were at work in the open court of the bakehouse, kneading bread—the coarser kind of dough with the feet, the finer with the hands. Loaves of various shapes were being drawn out of the ovens-round and oval cakes, and rolls in the form of sheep, snails and hearts. These were laid in baskets, and the nimble baker’s boys would put three, four, or even five such baskets on their heads at once, and carry them off quickly and safely to the customers living in other quarters of the city. A butcher was slaughtering an ox before his house, the creature’s legs having been pinioned; and his men were busy sharpening their knives to cut up a wild goat. Merry cobblers were calling out to the passers-by from their stalls; carpenters, tailors, joiners and weavers—were all there, busy at their various callings. The wives of the work-people were going out marketing, leading their naked children by the hand, and some soldiers were loitering near a man who was offering beer and wine for sale.
But our friends took very little notice of what was going on in the streets through which they passed; they followed Syloson in silence.
At the Greek guard-house he asked them to wait for him. Syloson, happening to know the Taxiarch who was on duty that day, went in and asked him if he had heard anything of a man accused of murder having been brought from Naukratis to Sais that morning.
“Of course,” said the Greek. “It’s not more than half an hour since he arrived. As they found a purse full of money in his girdle, they think he must be a Persian spy. I suppose you know that Cambyses is preparing for war with Egypt.”
“No, no, it’s a fact. The prince-regent has already received information. A caravan of Arabian merchants arrived yesterday at Pelusium, and brought the news.”
“It will prove as false as their suspicions about this poor young Lydian. I know him well, and am very sorry for the poor fellow. He belongs to one of the richest families in Sardis, and only ran away for fear of the powerful satrap Oroetes, with whom he had had a quarrel. I’ll tell you the particulars when you come to see me next in Naukratis. Of course you’ll stay a few days and bring some friends. My brother has sent me some wine which beats everything I ever tasted. It’s perfect nectar, and I confess I grudge offering it to any one who’s not, like you, a perfect judge in such matters.” The Taxiarch’s face brightened up at these words, and grasping Syloson’s hand, he exclaimed. “By the dog, my friend, we shall not wait to be asked twice; we’ll come soon enough and take a good pull at your wine-skins. How would it be if you were to ask Archidice, the three flower-sisters, and a few flute-playing-girls to supper?”