“On that thou may’st with fullest confidence rely,” replied Croesus with warmth, returning the pressure of Amasis’ hand. “I will protect thy Nitetis as if I were her father; and she will need my help, for the apartments of the women in the Persian palaces are dangerous ground. But she will meet with great consideration. Cambyses may be contented with his choice, and will be highly gratified that thou hast entrusted him with thy fairest child. Nebenchari had only spoken of Tachot, thy second daughter.”
“Nevertheless I will send my beautiful Nitetis. Tachot is so tender, that she could scarcely endure the fatigues of the journey and the pain of separation. Indeed were I to follow the dictates of my own heart, Nitetis should never leave us for Persia. But Egypt stands in need of peace, and I was a king before I became a father!”
The other members of the Persian embassy had returned to Sais from their excursion up the Nile to the pyramids. Prexaspes alone, the ambassador from Cambyses, had already set out for Persia, in order to inform the king of the successful issue of his suit.
The palace of Amasis was full of life and stir. The huge building was filled in all parts by the followers of the embassy, nearly three hundred in number, and by the high guests themselves, to whom every possible attention was paid. The courts of the palace swarmed with guards and officials, with young priests and slaves, all in splendid festal raiment.
On this day it was the king’s intention to make an especial display of the wealth and splendor of his court, at a festival arranged in honor of his daughter’s betrothal.
The lofty reception-hall opening on to the gardens, with its ceiling sown with thousands of golden stars and supported by gaily-painted columns, presented a magic appearance. Lamps of colored papyrus hung against the walls and threw a strange light on the scene, something like that when the sun’s rays strike through colored glass. The space between the columns and the walls was filled with choice plants, palms, oleanders, pomegranates, oranges and roses, behind which an invisible band of harp and flute-players was stationed, who received the guests with strains of monotonous, solemn music.
The floor of this hall was paved in black and white, and in the middle stood elegant tables covered with dishes of all kinds, cold roast meats, sweets, well-arranged baskets of fruit and cake, golden jugs of wine, glass drinking-cups and artistic flower-vases.