“Certainly not,” cried Darius.
“It is impossible to say,” murmured Bubares. “In this country one can never know what may happen.”
“How long does it take for a good horse to reach Naukratis?”
“Three hours, if he can go so long, and the Nile has not overflowed the road too much.”
“I will be there in two.”
“I shall ride with you,” said Darius.
“No, you must remain here with Zopyrus for Bartja’s protection. Tell the servants to get ready.”
“Yes, you will stay here and excuse me to Amasis. Say I could not come to the evening revel on account of headache, toothache, sickness, anything you like.”
“I shall ride Bartja’s Nicaean horse; and you, Bubares, will follow me on Darius’s. You will lend him, my brother?”
“If I had ten thousand, you should have them all.”
“Do you know the way to Naukratis, Bubares?”
“Then go, Darius, and tell them to get your horse and Bartja’s ready! To linger would be sin. Farewell Darius, perhaps forever! Protect Bartja! Once more, farewell!”
It wanted two hours of midnight. Bright light was streaming through the open windows of Rhodopis’ house, and sounds of mirth and gaiety fell on the ear. Her table had been adorned with special care in Croesus’ honor.
On the cushions around it lay the guests with whom we are already acquainted: Theodorus, Ibykus, Phanes, Aristomachus, the merchant Theopompus of Miletus, Croesus and others, crowned with chaplets of poplar and roses.
Theodorus the sculptor was speaking: “Egypt seems to me,” he said, “like a girl who persists in wearing a tight and painful shoe only because it is of gold, while within her reach he beautiful and well-fitting slippers in which she could move at ease, if she only would.”
“You refer to the Egyptians’ pertinacity in retaining traditional forms and customs?” asked Croesus.
“Certainly I do,” answered the sculptor. “Two centuries ago Egypt was unquestionably the first of the nations. In Art and Science she far excelled us; but we learnt their methods of working, improved on them, held firm to no prescribed proportions, but to the natural types alone, gave freedom and beauty to their unbending outlines, and now have left our masters far behind us. But how was this possible? simply because the Egyptians, bound by unalterable laws, could make no progress; we, on the contrary, were free to pursue our course in the wide arena of art as far as will and power would allow.”
“But how can an artist be compelled to fashion statues alike, which are meant to differ from each other in what they represent?”