“Light alone is pure and good; darkness is unclean and evil. Yes, maiden, believe me, God is nearest to us on the mountains; they are his favorite resting-place. Have you never stood on the wooded summit of a high mountain, and felt, amid the solemn silence of nature, the still and soft, but awful breath of Divinity hovering around you? Have you prostrated yourself in the green forest, by a pure spring, or beneath the open sky, and listened for the voice of God speaking from among the leaves and waters? Have you beheld the flame leaping up to its parent the sun, and bearing with it, in the rising column of smoke, our prayers to the radiant Creator? You listen now in wonder, but I tell you, you would kneel and worship too with me, could I but take you to one of our mountain-altars.”
“Oh! if I only could go there with you! if I might only once look down from some high mountain over all the woods and meadows, rivers and valleys. I think, up there, where nothing could be hidden from my eyes, I should feel like an all-seeing Divinity myself. But hark, my grandmother is calling. I must go.”
“Oh, do not leave me yet!”
“Is not obedience one of the Persian virtues?”
“But my rose?”
“Here it is.”
“Shall you remember me?”
“Why should I not?”
“Sweet maiden, forgive me if I ask one more favor.”
“Yes, but ask it quickly, for my grandmother has just called again.”
“Take my diamond star as a remembrance of this hour.”
“No, I dare not.”
“Oh, do, do take it. My father gave it me as a reward, the first time that I killed a bear with my own hand, and it has been my dearest treasure till to-day, but now you shall have it, for you are dearer to me than anything else in the world.”
Saying this, he took the chain and star from his breast, and tried to hang it round Sappho’s neck. She resisted, but Bartja threw his arms round her, kissed her forehead, called her his only love, and looking down deep into the eyes of the trembling child, placed it round her neck by gentle force.
Rhodopis called a third time. Sappho broke from the young prince’s embrace, and was running away, but turned once more at his earnest entreaty and the question, “When may I see you again?” and answered softly, “To-morrow morning at this rose-bush.”
“Which held you fast to be my friend.”
Sappho sped towards the house. Rhodopis received Bartja, and communicated to him all she knew of his friend’s fate, after which the young Persian departed for Sais.
When Rhodopis visited her grandchild’s bed that evening, she did not find her sleeping peacefully as usual; her lips moved, and she sighed deeply, as if disturbed by vexing dreams.