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BEbSMAZZAR 




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STEARNS D 




BOSTON 
PUBLIC 
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BELSHAZZAR 





"The poet sang a marvellous song, full of all the flowery flatteries of the 

East, praising the princess." 



BELSHAZZAR 

A TALE OF THE 
FALL OF BABYLON 




BV 

WILLIAM STEARNS DAVIS 




WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BT 

LEE WOODWARD ZIGLER 

DECORATIONS W 

J.E.WUB. 



NEW YORK 

DOUBLEDAY. PAGE & CO. 

1902 





COPYRIGHT, 1901, 1902, 
BY JOHN WANAMAKER. 

COPYRIGHT, 1902, 
BY DOUBLKDAY, PAGE & COMPANY. 

PUBLISHED JUNE, X903. 



P^3 
P30B 



^ NORWOOD PRESS "Jf 

J. S. CUSHING <fe CO, — BERWICK 4 SMITH 
^ NORWOOD MASS. U.S.A. ^ 




CONTENTS 




CHAPTER 

I. Babylon the Great 

II. Belshazzar the King . 

III. The Yoke of the Chaldees 

IV. Ruth . .... 
V. The Temple of Nabu . 

VI. The Glory of the Chaldees 

VII. The Spell of the Maskim 

Vni. The Harem of the King 

IX. The King op the Bow . 

X. Bel accuses 

XT. Nabu defies the King . 

Xn. The Wise Gudea prospers 

XIII. Gudea fares on a Journey 

XrV. Belshazzar chooses his Path 

XV. Daniel delivers a Message 

XVI. The Procession of Bel 



PAGE 
1 

14 
31 

48 

60 

75 

97 

117 

131 

154 

167 

181 

196 

212 

229 

245 




B EL3HAZZA 



CHAPTER I 



BABYLON THE GREAT 



ON a certain day in the month Airu, by men of 
after days styled April, a bireme was speeding 
down the river Euphrates. Her swarthy Phoenician 
crew were bending to the double tier of oars that 
rose flashing from the tawny current; while the flute- 
player, perched upon the upcurved prow, was piping 
ever quicker, hastening the stroke, and at times 
stopping the music to cry lustily, " Faster, and faster 
yet ! Thirty furlongs to Babylon now, and cool Hel- 
bon wine in the king's cellars ! " Whereupon all 
would answer with a loud, "Ha ! "; and make the 
bireme leap on like a very sea-horse. Under the 
purple awning above the poop, others were scanning 

the flying waves, and counting the little mud villages 

1 



2 BELSHAZZAE 

dotting the river -banks. A monotonous landscape ; — 
the stream, the sky, and between only a broad green 
ribbon, broken by clumps of tassel-like date palms 
and the brown thatched hamlets. Four persons were 
on the poop, not counting as many ebony-skinned 
eunuchs who squatted silently behind their masters. 
Just as the flute-player blew his quickest, a young 
man of five and twenty rose from the scarlet cush- 
ions of his cedar couch, yawned, and stretched his 
muscular arms. 

" So we approach Babylon ? " he remarked in Chal- 
dee, though with a marked Persian accent. And 
Hanno the ship-captain, a wiry, intelligent Phoenician 
in Babylonian service, answered: — 

" It is true, my Lord Darius ; in another ' double- 
hour' we are inside the water-gate of Nimitti-Bel." 

The first speaker tossed his head petulantly: 
" Praised be Ahura the Great, this river voyage 
closes ! I am utterly weary of this hill-less coun- 
try. Surely the Chaldees have forgotten that God 
created green mountain slopes, and ravines, and 
cloud-loved summits." 

Hanno shrugged his shoulders. 

" True; yet this valley is the garden of the earth. 
The Nile boasts no fairer vineyards nor greater 
yield of corn-land. He who possesses here a farm 
has a treasure better than a king's. Gold is scat- 
tered ; the river yields eternal riches. Four thou- 
sand years, the tablets tell, has the river been a 
mine of things more precious than gems. And we 



BABYLON THE GREAT 3 

approach Babylon, rarest casket in all this vast 
treasure-house." 

" All men praise Babylon ! " quoth the Persian 
lightly, yet frowning downward. 

" Yes, by Astarte ! I have seen India and the Tin 
Isles, the chief wonders of the world. Yet my heart 
beats quicker now. A hundred strokes brings us to 
the first view of the mistress of cities." 

But Darius did not answer — only scowled in 
silence at the foam-eddy under the flying stern. As 
he stood, a stranger could have noted that his tight 
leathern dress set off a figure short, but supple 
as a roe's, with the muscles of a leopard. Fire 
sparkled in his steel-blue eyes ; the smile on his lips, 
from under his curling, fair beard, was frank and 
winsome. His crisp blond hair and high forehead 
were pressed by a gray felt cap, and upon his un- 
tanned jacket hung his sole ornament, a belt of gold 
chains, whence dangled a short sword in an agate 
sheath. Here was a man of power, the first glance 
told. 

After no short silence the young man turned to 
his companions. Upon one of the couches lounged 
a handsome elderly nobleman, dressed in a flowing 
white and purple robe, and with a felt cap like 
Darius's; on the next a lady, clad also in the loose 
" Median " mantle, beneath which peeped low boots 
of crimson leather. But her face and shoulders were 
quite hidden by an Indian muslin veil. Without 
speaking, Darius stood beside her for so long a time 



4 BELSHAZZAK 

that she broke the silence in their own musical 
Persian : — 

*' My prince, you grow dumb as a mute. Does 
this piping desert breeze waft all your thoughts after 
it? By Mithra! Pharnaces" — with a nod to the 
old nobleman — " has been a wittier travelling com- 
panion." 

And, as if to gain a better view, the lady lowered 
the veil, showing a face very white, save as the blood 
of health crimsoned behind it, and deep-blue eyes, 
and hair bound by a gold circlet, though not more 
golden than the unruly tresses it confined. The 
lines of her face were soft; but despite the banter on 
her lips none was in her eyes. Upon her breast 
burned a single great topaz, such as only kings' 
daughters wear. 

There was no levity in Darius's voice when he 
answered : — 

" Princess Atossa, you do well to mock me. Let 
Ahura grant forgetfulness of that night in the 
gardens at Ecbatana, when we stood together, and 
heard the thrushes sing and the fountains tinkle, 
and said that which He alone may hear. And 
now we near Babylon, where Belshazzar will hail 
you as his bride. In Babylon they will pro- 
claim you ' Lady of the Chaldees,' and I Darius, 
son of Hystaspes, must obey Cyrus, your father — 
must deliver you up, as pledge of peace be- 
twixt Persia and Babylon ; must sit at your 
marriage feast " — with a pause — " must return 



BABYLON THE GREAT 5 

to Susa, and forget Atossa, daughter of the Great 
King." 

The lady drew back the veil and answered softly : 
" Cyrus is King ; his word is law and is right. Is 
he not called * the father of his people ' ? " 

"Yes, verily, more a father to his people than 
to his friends," was the bitter reply. " In my 
despair when you were promised to the Baby- 
lonian I went to him, and he professed great sor- 
row for us both. But ' he were unworthy to rule if 
he set the joy of a daughter and a friend above 
the peace of his kingdom.' Then he bade me ask 
any boon I wished, saving your hand ; I should 
have it, though it be ten satrapies. And I asked 
this — 'to go as the envoy that should deliver 
you to Belshazzar.' He resisted long, saying I 
made the parting more bitter ; but I was steadfast. 
And now " — hesitating again — " we are close to 
Babylon." 

Atossa only looked away, and repeated, " Better 
to have parted in Susa ! We should be learning a 
little how to forget." 

Darius had no answer, but Hanno, who could not 
hear her, cried from the steering oar, " Look, my 
lords and my lady ! Babylon ! " He was pointing 
southward. 

The river bent sharply. Just above the topmost 
plumes of the palms on the promontory thus formed 
hung a glitter as of fire, pendent against the cloud- 
less blue. 



6 BELSHAZZAR 

" Flame ! " exclaimed Darius, shaken out of his 
black mood. 

" Gold ! " answered Hanno, smiling ; " the crest of 
the queen of ziggurats^ the uppermost shrine of Bel- 
Marduk, the greatest temple-tower of the twenty in 
Babylon.'* And Darius, fresh from the splendours of 
Susa, marvelled, for he knew the wondrous shining 
was still a great way off. 

But even without this bright day-beacon they 
would have known they approached the city. The 
shores were still level as the stream, but the palm- 
groves grew denser. They saw great cedars and 
tamarisks, blossoming shrubs, strange exotic trees in 
pleasant gardens, and the splendour of wide beds of 
flowers. Tiny canals drained away inland. The 
villages were larger, and beyond them scattered 
white-walled, rambling farm-houses. They saw 
dirty-fleeced sheep and long-horned kine ; and pres- 
ently Hanno pointed out a file of brown camels 
swaying along the river road — a Syrian caravan, 
doubtless, just safe across the great desert. 

But never in her mountain home had Atossa seen 
a sight like that upon the river. For the Euphrates 
seemed turned to life. Clumsy barges loaded with 
cattle were working with long sweeps against the 
current ; skiffs loaded with kitchen produce were 
drifting southward ; and especially huge rafts, planks 
upborne by inflated skins, and carrying building- 
stone and brick, were creeping down-stream towards 
Babylon. In and out sculled little wicker boats, 



BABYLON THE GREAT 7 

mere baskets, water-tight, which bore a goodly cargo. 
And, as the bireme swept onward, the boatman gave 
many a hail of good omen. " Marduk favour you ! 
Samas shine on you ! " While others, who guessed 
the royal passenger, shouted, " Istar shed gladness 
on the great lady Atossa ! " 

So for the moment the young Persians forgot all 
cares, admiring river and land. All the time the 
tower of Bel shone with growing radiance. They 
could see its lower terraces. Around it other zig- 
gurats, nearly as high, seemed springing into being, 
their cone-shaped piles of terraces glowing with the 
glazed brickwork, — gold, silver, scarlet, blue, — and 
about them rose masses of walls and buildings, 
stretching along the southern horizon almost as far 
as the eye could traverse. 

Hanno stood smiling again at the wonderment of 
the Persians. 

" Babylon the Great ! " he would cry. " Babylon 
that endures forever ! " 

And truly Darius and Atossa thought his praise 
too faint, as they saw those ramparts springing up to 
heaven, worthy to be accounted the handiwork of 
the gods. 

" Do you say now," asked Hanno, " that the Chal- 
dees have forgotten the hills ? Elsewhere the gods 
make the mountains ; in Babylonia men vie with the 
lords of heaven ! You can see yonder the green 
feathers of the trees in the Hanging Gardens. The 
great Nebuchadnezzar once wedded Amytis the 



8 BELSHAZZAR 

Mede, who wept for her native uplands. In fifteen 
days, such was her husband's love and might, he 
reared for her this mountain upon arches, and cov- 
ered it with ever}^ fruit and tree. And this paradise 
shall be yours, O Lady Atossa ! " 

"Verily," cried Darius, half bitterly, "on this 
earth you will enjoy the delights of Ahura's G-aro- 
nmana, 'the Abode of Song.' " 

But Atossa, shuddering, answered, "Not so; in 
G-aro-nmana there is no such word as 'farewell.'" 
And for a moment her eyes went back to the river. 
But now Hanno was thundering to his men to back 
water. A crimson pennant was being dipped on the 
staff before an ample country house by the river 
bank, and as the Phoenicians stroked slowly back- 
ward, a six-oared barge shot out towards the bireme. 
Behind the white liveries of the rowers one could see 
two figures sitting in the stern, and Hanno, with his 
hawk's eyes, cried again, " I am not deceived. The 
' civil-minister ' Daniel and the chief of the eunuchs, 
Mermaza, are coming aboard, as escort of honour, 
before we reach the city." 

Darius appeared puzzled. " Daniel ? " he asked. 
" That is not a Babylonian name." 

" You are right. His official name is Belteshazzar, 
but he is by birth a Jew ; one from the petty king- 
dom Nebuchadnezzar destroyed. He has held very 
high office in these parts. All men honour him, for 
he is justice and faithfulness itself. The priests hate 
him because he clings to the worship of his native 



BABYLON THE GREAT 9 

god Jehovah; but the government continues him, 
old as he is, as '• Rahsaris^' the 'civil-minister.' His 
popularity strengthens the dynasty." 

" And the eunuch with him ? " 

The captain laughed significantly. " There must 
be like pretty serpents at Cyrus's court. He was 
born a Greek. Men say he is soft- voiced and soft- 
mannered, yet with a brain sharp enough to outwit 
Ea, god of wisdom. But he is nothing to dread; 
never will dog run more obediently at your heels 
than will he." 

The boat was near. The two figures in the stern 
rose, and the elder hailed, " God favour you, Hanno ! 
Is the Lady Atossa aboard ? " 

" May Baal multiply your years ! She is here and 
the Lords Darius and Pharnaces." 

Then, while the boat drew alongside, the younger 
of the strangers, who was beringed and coiffured 
in half-feminine fashion, burst into a flowery ora- 
tion, praising every god and goddess for the safety 
of the princess, for the sight of whose face the King 
Belshazzar waited impatient as the hungering lion. 
The need of clambering upon the bireme cut short 
the flow of his eloquence. Darius had only good- 
natured indifference for the eunuch, who was, as 
Hanno said, quite one of his kind — handsome, 
according to a vulgar mould, rouged, pomaded, 
and dressed in a close-fitting robe of blue, skilfully 
embroidered with red rosettes; gold in his ears, 
gold chains about his neck, gold on his white san- 



10 BELSHAZZAR 

dais ; the whole adorned with a smile of such imper- 
turbable sweetness that Darius wondered if he 
were a god, and so removed above mortal hate 
and grief. 

But the Jew was far otherwise. The Persians 
saw a man of quite seventy, yet still unbowed by his 
years, his hair and beard white as the wave-spray ; 
in his dark eyes a fire ; strength, candour, and wis- 
dom written on his sharp Semitic features. His 
dress was the plainest — a white woollen robe that 
fell with hardly a fold, a simple leathern girdle, 
around the feet a fringe of green tassels. He was 
barefoot, his hair was neatly dressed, but he wore no 
fillet. Upon his breast hung his badge of office, a 
cylinder seal of carved jasper, bored through the 
centre for the scarlet neck-cord. 

Daniel had salaamed respectfully ; Mermaza brushed 
his purple fillet on the very deck. The salutations 
once over, Darius began with a question : — 

" And is it true, the report we heard at Sippar, 
that my Lord Nabonidus, the father of my Lord 
Belshazzar, has been so grievously stricken with 
madness that he can never hope to be made whole, 
and that his son must rule for him, as though he 
were dead ? " 

Daniel's answer came slowly, as if he were tread- 
ing on delicate ground. " The rumour is too true. 
So it has pleased the All-Powerful. Nabonidus is 
hopelessly mad, the chiefs of the Chaldeans declare. 
He lies in his palace at Tema. Belshazzar has, seven 



BABYLON THE GREAT 11 

days since, as the saying is, ' taken the hands of Bel,' 
and become sole Lord of Babylon." 

"And I trust, with Ahura's grace," replied the 
prince formally, "soon to stand before him, and in 
my master's name wish his reign all manner of pros- 
perity." 

Then, when the ceremonies of greeting were 
ended, formality fled, and the talk drifted to the 
wonders of the approaching city. 

" And was it your own villa that your boat left ? " 
asked Darius ; to which the minister answered affa- 
bly : " My own. As Hanno may have told, I am by 
birth a Jew ; yet our God has blessed me in this 
land of captivity. I possess a passing estate ; it will 
be a fair marriage portion to my daughter." 

" Your daughter ? Does God refuse a son ? " A 
shiver and sigh seemed to sweep over Daniel at the 
question. 

" I had three sons. All perished in the conspiracy 
when the young king Labashi-Marduk fell. They 
are in Abraham's bosom. Now, in my evening, 
Jehovah sends me one ewe lamb, Ruth, who now 
waits for me in Babylon. But alas ! her mother is 
dead." 

" Ahura pity you, good father," protested the 
Persian, thrilling in sympathy ; " in Persia there is 
no greater woe than to lack a son. You have much 
to mourn." 

But the other answered steadily, "And much to 
rejoice over." Then, raising his head, he pointed for- 



12 BELSHAZZAR 

ward. " See I We are before the great water-gate 
of the outer wall. The king waits in his yacht inside 
the barrier. We are sighted from the walls ; they 
raise flags and parade the garrison in honour of the 
daughter of Cyrus." 

Darius gazed not forward, but upward ; for though 
not yet within the fortifications, the walls of brown 
brick lowered above his head like beetling mountains. 
The mast of the bireme was dwarfed as it stood 
against the bulwark. Steep and sheer reared the 
wall; a precipice, so high that Darius could well 
believe Hanno's tale that the city folk boasted its 
height two hundred cubits. At intervals square 
flanking towers jutted and rose yet higher, faced with 
tiles of bright blue and vermilion ; and behind this 
" rampart of the gods " rose a second, even loftier ; 
while Daniel professed that inside of this ran still a 
third, not so high, yet nigh impregnable. As the 
current swept them nearer they saw the water-gates, 
ponderous cages of bronze, hung from the towers by 
ingenious chainwork, ready to drop in a twinkling, 
and seal all ingress to the " Lady of Kingdoms." 

Then, while Darius looked, suddenly the sun 
flashed on the armour of many soldiers pacing the 
airy parapets. He heard the bray of trumpets, the 
clangor of kettle-drums, the tinkling of harps, and 
soft flutes breathing ; while, as the vessel sped 
between the guardian towers, a great shower of 
blossoms rained upon her deck, of rose, lily, scarlet 
pomegranate ; and a cheer out-thundered " Hail, 



BABYLON THE GREAT 13 

Atossa ! Hail, Queen of Akkad ! Hail, Lady of 
Babylon ! " 

Daniel knelt at the princess's feet. "My sover- 
eign," said he, with courtly grace, " behold your city 
and your slaves. We have passed the water-gate of 
Nimitti-Bel ; before us lies the inner barrier of 
Imgur-Bel. Except Belshazzar order otherwise, 
your wish is law to all Babylon and Chaldea." 

And at sight of this might and glory, Atossa for- 
got for a moment her father and the love of Darius. 
" Yes, by Mithra I " cried she in awe, " this city is 
built, not by man, but by God Most High." 

But Daniel, while he rose, answered softly, as if to 
himself, " No, not by God. Blood and violence have 
builded it. And Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel shall be 
helpless guardians when Jehovah's will is otherwise." 

Another shout from Hanno, and Daniel cut short 
his soliloquy. 

"My lady," said the Jew, in a changed tone, "the 
royal galley comes to greet us. Prepare to meet 
Belshazzar." 




CHAPTER II 



WHILE Hanno's bireme glided betwixt the 
portals of Nimitti-Bel, a yet more magnificent 
galley had been flying up-stream to meet her. On 
the poop, where the polished teak and ivory glittered, 
stood a group of officers, in array glorious as the orb 
of Samas. Here stood Sirusur, the Tartan^ com- 
mander of the host; here Bilsandan, the Hahsaki, 
grand vizier; here, proudest of all, Avil-Marduk, 
whose gray goat-skin across his shoulders proclaimed 
him chief priest of Bel,^ highest pontiff of the king- 
dom. Tall, handsome men were they all, worthy 
rulers of the city of cities. But at their centre was 
no less a person than Belshazzar himself, sovereign 
lord of " Sumer and Akkad," as myriads hailed him. 
The monarch sat while his ministers stood round 
him; yet even on his gold-plated chair Belshazzar 
seemed nearly as tall as they. The royal dress 
differed from that of the nobles' only as the embroi- 
deries on the close-fitting robes blazed with more 
than common splendour, and the gems on the necklet 

1 The chief god of Babylon, properly named Bel-Marduk, was 
often called indifferently simply Bel or Marduk. 

U 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 15 

would have drained the revenues of a petty kingdom. 
Upon the carefully curled hair perched the royal tiara, 
white and blue, threaded with gold, cone-shaped, but 
the top slightly flattened. There was majesty and 
force stamped upon his aquiline features; force — 
and it might be passion — glittered in his dark eye, and 
shone from the white teeth half hid by the thick 
black beard. In brief, no diadem was needed to 
proclaim Belshazzar lord. 

Avil-Marduk, a gaunt, haughty man, with a stri- 
dent voice, was speaking to Sirusur, while the 
eunuchs behind the king flapped their ostrich fans to 
keep the flies away from majesty. 

" I would give much," quoth he, " to know how 
long Cyrus will remain blind. We must dissemble 
to the envoys ; chatter peace. By Istar ! I wish 
the Egyptian treaty were signed ! Pharaoh's envoy 
is timorous as a wild deer." 

Sirusur laughed dryly. " I have less fear. There 
are two envoys — Pharnaces, an old nobleman, but 
the chief is the young Prince Darius. They say his 
eyes are only for hunts and arrow-heads, after these 
Persian barbarians' fashion. We will give him a 
great fete, and show all courtesy. He will return 
to Susa dazzled, and tell Cyrus that Belshazzar is 
friendly as his own son." 

" Nevertheless," answered Avil, cautiously, " be 
guarded. The Persians forgive twelve murders 
sooner than one lie. If Darius dreams we ask the 
marriage treaty but to gain time for an Egyptian 



16 BELSHAZZAR 

alliance and war — " he broke off — "then, my gal- 
lant Tartan^ you may have chance to prove your 
valour." 

Sirusur shrugged his shoulder. "The power of 
Cyrus is great. Media and Lydia were both swal- 
lowed by him; but Babylon, Bel grant, shall prove 
over large in his maw ! " 

" The ship of the princess approaches," announced 
Bilsandan. And even Belshazzar arose as the vessel 
of Hanno swept alongside. The king stepped to the 
bulwarks, the purple parasol of royalty held above 
his head by a ready nobleman. The nimble Phoeni- 
cians lashed the two vessels together, and laid a railed 
gangway between. Of the Persians Atossa crossed 
first, followed by her eunuchs ; and as she knelt at 
the king's feet, she unveiled. Her face was very 
pale, but marvellously fair in the eyes of the Chal- 
deans, accustomed to the darker beauty of their own 
race. 

Belshazzar spoke to her, his voice deep, melodious, 
penetrating. " Rise, daughter of Cyrus. Istar grant 
that the white rose of Persia shall bud with new 
beauty in the gardens of Chaldea ! " 

Atossa stood with downcast eyes. " I am content 
to find grace in the sight of my lord," was all she 
said. Then Darius followed, bowed himself before 
the king, and delivered the good wishes of his master, 
to which Belshazzar made friendly reply. After 
these compliments were ended, and the Babylonians 
had salaamed before Atossa, Belshazzar commanded 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 17 

the Persians to sit beside him, and affably pointed 
out each new building as they entered the city. 

" Before us, on the left, rises the citadel of Nebu- 
chadnezzar ; yonder flashes the brass of the great 
Gate of Istar ; beside the mighty ziggurat of Bel 
rises that, scarce smaller, of his consort Beltis. 
These brick quays on either bank extend ten fur- 
longs, yet do not suffice for the shipping. The high 
walls to the right are of the royal palace, a city in 
itself, and the forest of the Hanging Gardens is close 
by. Though all the rest of Babylon were taken," 
Belshazzar spoke proudly, " a host might rage against 
the palace in vain." 

Darius could only wonder and gaze. The quays 
were a forest of masts. The houses that crowded 
the water-front rose three and four stories high, and 
were flat-roofed, walled with plastered wicker brightly 
painted. The windows were very small, and all the 
buildings were closely thrust together. 

" By Ahura ! " cried the Persian, " do your people 
forget the smell of pure air ? " 

To which Belshazzar answered, laughing: "If one 
would live in Babylon, one must pay his price. Happy 
the man so rich as to possess a little garden in the 
midst of the city. As you go south, you find vine- 
yards and country houses inside the walls." 

*' Verily," declared Darius, " better a reed hut in 
the forest, and good hunting, than a thousand talents 
and life in Babylon ! " 

The frankness and good nature of the Per- 



18 BELSHAZZAK, 

sian seemed contagious. Belshazzar laughed again, 
heartily. 

" Now, by Marduk ! you will never covet my king- 
dom. Tell me, do you love to follow the lion ? " 

The prince's eyes flashed fire. "What are the 
joys of Ahura's paradise without a lion hunt before 
the feasting ? Understand, O king, that the name 
men call me by in Persia is the ' King of the Bow,' 
for I boast that I have no peer in archery." 

" Then, by Nergal, lord of the hunting," swore the 
monarch, " you shall face the fiercest lions and wild 
bulls in my preserves in the marshes I And I will 
learn if a Persian can conquer a king of Babylon in 
the chase." 

" Excellent," exclaimed the Persian. " Babylon and 
Persia are at peace; they shall test their might on 
the lord of beasts. And if I am not Cyrus's self, next 
to him there is none other of my nation that calls me 
vassal." 

But now the water-gate of Imgur-Bel was passed, 
and while on the left the cone of Bel-Marduk lifted 
its series of diminishing terraces to a dizzy height, 
on the right spread the royal palace, a vast structure, 
surrounded by a dense park, and all girded by a wall. 
On the river side the buildings closely abutted the 
shores, rising from a lofty brick-faced embankment, 
themselves of brick, but splendid with the gilding on 
the battlements, with the sculptured winged bulls that 
flanked the many portals, and the bright enamel upon 
the brickwork. Out of the masses of walls sprang 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 19 

castellated towers crowned with gaudy flags, and tow- 
ard the centre reared a ziggurat, the private temple 
of the king. 

For an instant Darius was at Atossa's side as she 
gazed, and no one watched them. 

" This is the dwelling of Belshazzar," said he softly, 
"a great king. Joy to be his wife." But the lady 
shivered behind her veil. 

" He is a great king, but they will never call him, 
like Cyrus, * the father of his people.' " 

" You will soon forget Persia, happy as mistress in 
this wondrous city." 

"When I have lived ten thousand years I shall 
forget — perhaps." Then she added very softly, "I 
am afraid of Belshazzar ; his lips drop praise, his 
heart is cold and hard as the northern ice. I shall 
always dread him." 

"You wrong the king," Darius vainly strove to 
speak lightly ; " the ways of Babylon are not those 
of Persia. But there will come a day when you will 
feel that the Chaldees are your own people. Bel- 
shazzar is a splendid man ; he will delight to honour 
you." 

But Atossa only held down her head, and answered 
in a whisper Darius might not hear. 

They had no time for more. A vast multitude was 
upon the embankment before the palace — white- 
robed priests, garlanded priestesses, the glittering 
body-guard, all manner of city folk. A shout of 
welcome drifted over the river. 



20 BELSHAZZAB 

" Hail, King Belshazzar ! Hail, Lady Atossa ! 
May your years exceed those of Khasisadra the 
Ancient ! " Then, amid tinkling harps, many voices 
raised the hymn of praise to Marduk, the conductor 
of the royal bride : — 

" O merciful one among the gods, 
Marduk, king of heaven and earth, 
Mankind, the black-headed race. 
All creatures, and the spirits of the sky, 
Bow down before thee ! " 

The royal galley headed toward the landing. 
The great orchestra of eunuchs and playing-girls 
raised a prodigious din ; yet all their music was 
drowned by the shoutings of the people. The staid 
citizens brandished their long walking-staffs, and 
cheered till the heavens seemed near cracking. But 
a large corps of the body-guard had cleared a portion 
of the royal quay, and the party disembarked be- 
tween two files of soldiers. Close to the landing 
waited the chariots — the six-spoked wheels all 
glistening with the gilding, more gilding on the 
panels of the body, the pole, and the harness, and 
jewels and silver bells braided into the manes of the 
prancing bay Elamites. For Atossa was ready a 
four-wheeled coach, adorned as richly as the chariots, 
drawn by two sleek gray mules, and with a closed 
body, that the daughter of Cyrus might rest on her 
cushions within, undisturbed by the vulgar ken. 
Belshazzar ceremoniously waited upon the princess, 
till Mermaza closed the door upon her. Then the 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 21 

king beckoned to Darius to mount one of the chari- 
ots, while he leaped himself into another. "To 
the palace," was the royal command; but just as 
the charioteers upraised their lashes, the steeds com- 
menced to plunge and rear almost beyond control. 

Along the brick-paved terrace tugged several 
lumbering wains, for which great and small made 
way. As the wagons approached, a low rumble pro- 
ceeded from them, which set all the chariot horses 
prancing, and the women and timid burghers uttered 
low cries and began to mutter incantations. The 
eyes of Darius commenced to sparkle. The meaning 
of that rumble he knew right well. 

" Lions ? " demanded he of his chariot-driver. 

" Yes, lord," the man answered, scarce reining the 
horses, " twelve bull-lions just taken, being sent to 
Kutha for the king's preserves." 

The Persian's nostrils dilated like a charger scent- 
ing battle. And as if in answer to his half -breathed 
prayer, lo ! one of the oxen, stung by the goad and 
fretted by the roarings, commenced to shake his 
yoke, halting obstinately, and lifting a full-voiced 
bellow. Instantly his mates answered ; the lions' 
thunders doubled ; the wagon-train was halted. 

Belshazzar called fiercely to the chief wagoner, 
" Quiet instantly, or fifty stripes ! " 

His voice was drowned in the roar. The teams 
were so near now that one could look into the cages, 
and see the great beasts pent up behind the stout 
wooden bars ; bars that seemed all too frail at this 



22 BELSHAZZAR 

moment, as lion after lion, frightened and enraged by 
the din of the oxen, the multitude, and his own 
fellows, began to claw at the bars, digging out huge 
splinters with tooth and talon, and roaring louder, 
ever louder. 

Belshazzar's voice sounded now above all the 
noise. " Clear away this rabble ! " he was ordering 
Sirusur, " Master of the Host." " The man who 
sent the lion-train this way shall face me to-night. 
Silence the beasts, and get off with them ! '* 

But not the lord of Babylon and all his guards 
could still those oxen and their maddened freight. 

Sirusur did as bidden. His men pushed on the 
crowd with their sword-scabbards, but truth to 
tell the press was so close, and the exits from the 
quay so cramped, the soldiers could accomplish little. 
The panic was spreading swiftly enough, however. 
The goads on the oxen had only driven them into 
deeper obstinacy. 

" Look ! In Nergal's name, look ! " cried Darius's 
charioteer ; and before the prince's half-terrified, 
half -exulting eyes he saw the lion within the nearest 
cage leaping to and fro, trebly maddened now by all 
the growing tumult. The wagon swayed on its 
wheels. The wooden bars gave a crash every 
instant. 

" Three more leaps and he is free ! " the prince was 
shouting, transported by his excitement. 

" Danger ! The wagon topples ! " was the howl of 
the people, and at last they began to give way indeed. 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 23 

Sirusur, having abandoned his hopeless effort to 
restore order and silence, hurried men to form before 
the chariots, while others ran to aid the despairing 
drivers. Late — the unruly oxen strained their 
chains. Darius saw the heavy cage totter, fall — a 
crash, a murk of dust, a noise that thrilled the stout- 
est, hard wood giving way under harder talons and 
teeth, then a roar of triumph. Out of the dust he 
saw a kingly lion bounding, in all his panoply of 
tawny mane. As the beast leaped, drivers and sol- 
diers sped back like leaves before a gale. The mul- 
titude was shrinking, trampling. 

" The lion ! The lion ! Loose ! Escape ! " 

Belshazzar's curse was heard above all else. " Take 
him alive, or, by Marduk, you are all flayed ! " 
Some guardsmen sprang forward, but the lion, crafty 
brute, did not fling himself against those breasts of 
steel. There were bowmen present, but the king 
stayed their arrows. " Not a shaft. Better ten 
killed than have him butchered ! " The soldiers 
stood impotent, while the lion ran with low bounds 
straight into the helpless crowd, that recoiled as at 
the touch of fire. Belshazzar was in a towering rage. 
" Nets and hot irons from the palace ! " he thundered. 
" Impalement to all if he escapes ! " 

The people were screaming, panic-struck ; priests 
were trampling down women ; the noise grew inde- 
scribable. The other lions dashed against their 
cages. The brute ran like a great cat down the 
lane opened through the multitude. A moment, and 



24 BELSHAZZAR 

he would have broken clear and ranged the streets. 
But from his own side Darius heard a cry of mortal 
fear. 

" Jehovah, have mercy ! Ruth ! My daughter ! " 

In the next chariot stood Daniel, covering his face 
with his hands. The Persian glanced toward the 
lion. In the centre of the lane, before the escaping 
monster, stood a white-clad girl, terrified, shivering, 
her eyes upon the lion, fascinated by his gaze, held 
helpless as a dove before the snake. How she came 
there, what fate ordained that she alone of those 
thousands should be left to confront the monster, that 
was no time to know. But present she was, and 
before her the lion. The whole scene passed in less 
time than the telling. The beast had instantly for- 
gotten his own perils. Keepers, soldiers, multitude, 
all ignored. He seemed again in his forest — fair 
prey ! That was all he knew ! 

The lion sank low upon the earth, and crept by 
little leaps nearer, nearer. The charming fire in the 
eyeballs Darius saw not, but he saw the red, lolling 
tongue, the bristling mane, the great tail undulating 
at the tip, the paws fit to crush an ox. Daniel was 
turning away his face. 

" Arrows, O king ! Shoot ! My only one ! " 
pleaded he ; but Belshazzar flung back, " What is a 
maid beside a royal lion ! ^Too far — no bow can 
carry ! " 

Many an archer's fingers tightened around his 
bow, but the king's eye was on them. Not a shaft 




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x: 

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x: 
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BELSHAZZAR THE KING 25 

flew. There was a moment's silence, lions and oxen 
hushed. A low moan seemed rising from the 
people. The lion had covered twenty of the thirty 
paces betwixt him and his prey. The maid was 
quaking, yet her feet seemed turned to stone. 
Belshazzar stood in his car, no god more splendid, 
more merciless. 

" Pity me, O king ! " was Daniel's last appeal. 
He had leaped down, and grovelled as a worm before 
the royal car. 

" Too late," came the answer, " only Bel's bolt 
now can save ! " What joy to the king to see 
those lithe limbs in the monster's clutch ! But a 
great cry had broken from Darius. 

" No, in the name of Ahura the merciful I " 
Few saw him, bounding from his chariot, pluck bow 
and quiver from a soldier. The lion coiled his 
limbs for the final leap ; men saw his body spring 
as a stone from a catapult ; heard a twitter of a bow, 
and right at the bound the shaft entered the shoulder, 
cunningly sped. A roar of dying agony, the body 
dashed upon the pavement at the girl's feet. No sec- 
ond shaft needed — a twitch, a great bestial groan. 
Darius had proved his title, " King of the Bow." 

But Belshazzar, who had seen the shot but not the 
archer, blazed out in blind fury, " As Marduk rules, 
who shot ? Impale him ! " 

Darius stepped beside the royal chariot ; his pose 
was very haughty. "My lord," said he, "I give 
proof we Persians are fair huntsmen." 



26 BELSHAZZAK 

Belshazzar's hand went to his sword-hilt, but 
Darius met the flame in his eyes unflinchingly. 
By a great effort the king controlled himself, but 
did not risk speech. The drivers had mastered the 
oxen, the lions grew still. The people were shout- 
ing in delight, " Glory to Nergal ! The Persian is 
peer to the hero Gilgamesh ! " 

Daniel was kissing Darius's shoes, his voice too 
choked for thanks. But a young man with a force- 
ful, frank face, a manly form, dressed like Daniel, 
very simply, came and kissed, not the shoes, but the 
dust at Darius's feet. 

" For life I am your slave, O prince ! You have 
saved me my betrothed ! " Then he ran among 
the people to lead away the girl. Belshazzar ven- 
tured to speak. 

" How now, Daniel ? " ignoring Darius. " By 
Nergal, your wench has been the death of an Afri- 
can lion ! Why here ? You keep her locked at 
home, safe as a gold talent. I have never seen her." 

" She was with Isaiah, her betrothed. In the 
crowd they were swept asunder. The king saw the 
rest." 

Belshazzar was still raging. 

" Yes, verily. A rare bull-lion sacrificed for a 
slip of a wench like her ! " Then to the eunuchs : 
*' Run, bring the lass to me. Rare treasure she 
must prove to make her more precious than the 
lion." 

Darius saw a fresh cloud on the old Jew's face. 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 27 

In a moment Isaiah and the maid were before the 
king. Very young and fragile seemed the Jewess. 
The blood had not returned to the smooth brown 
cheeks. Her black hair was scattered in little curls, 
for veil and fillet had been torn away. She looked 
about with great, scared eyes, and all could see her 
tremble. She started to kneel before the king, but 
Belshazzar, regarding her, gave a mighty laugh. 

" Good, by Istar ! So this is your treasure, 
Daniel ? Not the Egibi bankers possess a greater, 
you doubtless swear. Stand up, my maid. Bel 
never made those eyes to stare upon that dusty road. 
Closer. Look at me, and I vow I will forgive you 
the lion. There are more in the marshes, but only 
one daughter of Daniel ! " 

" Look up, child ; his Majesty bids you," the old 
Hebrew was saying, but his face was very grave. 
Ruth raised her great eyes ; her lips moved, as if in 
some answer, but no sound came. Belshazzar smiled 
down upon her from his car. Atossa was to be his 
queen, but when was a king of Babylon denied a 
maid that was pleasant to his eyes ? He turned to 
Darius. 

" Now, by every god, I thank you, Persian. I 
was about to curse, but your archery saved one 
beside whom Istar's self must flush in shame. Well 
are you named ' King of the Bow.' " 

Then he gazed again upon the maid. " Mermaza," 
he commanded, " put the girl in a chariot, and take 
her to the palace harem. Give her dresses and 



28 BELSHAZZAR 

jewels like the sun. Do you, Daniel, draw five 
talents from the treasury. Not enough ? Ten 
then. Fair payment for a daughter — ha ! " 

Daniel was on his knees before the king. 
"Mercy ! Hear me, my lord. If ever, by faithful- 
ness serving you and your fathers, I gather some 
store of gratitude — " 

Belshazzar cut him short. " Now does Anu, lord 
of the air, topple down heaven ? What father says 
to a king, ' Mercy. Give back my daughter ' ? 
Oh, presumption ! No more, or you forfeit the 
money." 

"The money," groaned Daniel, "the price of 
my daughter ? Kiss the earth, Ruth ; and you, 
Isaiah, entreat the king to forbear ! " 

Belshazzar turned his back. " Fool," he cried, 
" the money is truly forfeit ! Away with her, Mer- 
maza. Great mercy I leave the Jew his life." 

But Darius deliberately thrust himself before the 
king, and looked him in the face. " My lord," he 
said soberly, " if to any, the girl belongs to me. I 
saved her and restore her to her father." 

" You beard me thus, Persian, barbarian ! " broke 
forth Belshazzar, again in his wrath. The prince 
answered him very slowly : — 

" Your Majesty, in me you see the ' eyes and ears ' 
of Cyrus, lord of the Aryans. What if I report in 
Susa, ' On the day I delivered Atossa to Belshazzar, 
he, before her own eyes, showed his esteem for her 
by haling to his harem a maid chance sent him on 



BELSHAZZAR THE KING 29 

the streets ' ? Would such a tale knit the alliance 
firmer ? " 

Avil-Marduk was beside the king in the chariot, 
and he whispered in the royal ear, " Risk nothing. 
Dismiss the maid ; the eunuchs can watch for her and 
secure her quietly." 

Belshazzar was again calm. His passion was 
swift; he subdued it more swiftly. " Son of 
Hystaspes," said he, with easy candour, " I am a 
man of sudden moods. The maid pleased me ; 
but, by Istar, I did not think to insult the prin- 
cess. Let the Jews go in peace, and to heal their 
hurts let the treasurer weigh to each a talent. 
The Jewess shall sleep safe as a goddess's image in 
the temple. I swear it, on the word of a king of 
Babylon. Enough, and now to the palace." 

Darius was received with stately hospitality at 
the palace. He was told the arrangements made 
for Belshazzar's bride. The king would give her 
a great betrothal feast at the Hanging Gardens, 
but could not wed her for one year ; for before 
marriage she must be taught the religious duties 
of a queen of Babylon. Darius paced the open 
terrace of the palace that evening. Below him 
and all about lay the city of the Chaldees, fair as 
a vision of heaven, with the white moon riding 
above the tower of Bel. But the beauty of the 
city brought no joy. Into the hands of what 
manner of man had Atossa fallen ? The desire of 



30 BELSHAZZAR 

Belshazzar to sacrifice the maiden for the beast, 
followed by the outburst of carnal passion — how 
unlike this king to Cyrus, whom the meanest Per- 
sian loved ! At last, when it had grown very dark, 
Darius looked about him. No one was near. He 
lifted his hands toward the starry sky. 

" Verily this Babylon is a city of wickedness, and 
most evil of all is its cruel king. But I am young. 
I am strong. Belshazzar shall not possess Atossa 
for one year. And in that year a brave man may 
do much — much. Help Thou me, Ahura-Mazda, 
Lord God of my fathers ! " 



TME YOKE OFTHECHALDEES 





CHAPTER III 



NEAR the meeting of the great Nana-Sakipat 
Street with Ai-Bur-Schabu Street stood the 
banking-house of the "Sons of Egibi." The long 
bridge of floats across the river was close by, and 
in and out the portals of the wide river-gate poured 
a constant stream of veiled ladies, with their guar- 
dian eunuchs, intent on shopping, of donkey boys, 
carters, pedlers, and priests. Under the shade of 
the great stone bull guarding one side of the en- 
trance, the district judge was sitting on his stool, 
listening to noisy litigants ; from the brass founder's 
shop opposite rose the clang of hammers ; and under 
his open booth descended a stairway to Nur-Samas's 
beer-house, by which many went down and few 
ascended, for it was hard to recollect one's cares 
while over the drinking-pots. 

The Egibis' office, like all the other shops, was a 
room open to all comers, nearly level with the way, 
without door or window, but made cool by the green 
awning stretched across the street in front, and 
the shadow cast by the high houses opposite. In 
the office many young clerks were on their stools, 

31 



32 BELSHAZZAR 

each busily writing on the frames of damp clay in 
their laps with a wedge-headed stylus. Itti-Marduk, 
present head of this the greatest banking-house of 
Babylon, was a plainly dressed, quiet-speaking man ; 
and only the great rubies in his earrings and the 
rare Arabian pomade on his hair told that he could 
hold up his head before any lord of Chaldea saving 
Belshazzar himself. At this moment he was enter- 
taining no less a client than Avil-Marduk, the chief 
priest, who came in company with his boon com- 
panion, the priest Neriglissor, as did all the city at 
one or another time, to ask an advance from the 
omnipotent broker. As for Itti, he was angling 
his fish after his manner, keeping up a constant 
stream of polite small talk, sending out a lad to 
bring perfumed water to bathe his noble guests' 
feet, and yet making it plain all the while that 
current rates of interest were exceedingly heavy. 

" Alas ! " the worthy banker was bewailing, " that 
I must speak of shekels and manehs before friends, 
but what with heavy remittances I must send to 
agents in Erech, with the farmers all calling for 
funds to pay their help for the coming season, and 
a heavy loan to be placed by his Majesty to complete 
the fortifications of Borsippa, I have been put to 
straits to raise so much as a talent; and were you 
any other than yourself, my dear high priest, I fear 
I could do nothing for you." 

" Yet I swear by Samas," protested the pontiff, 
with a wry face at the loan-contract before him, 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 33 

" you have enough in your caskets to build us poor 
priests of Bel a new ziggurat.'"' 

"A WQ^ ziggurat r' protested the banker; "am I 
like Ea, able to see all hidden riches? I declare to 
you that what with the rumour that the tribes in the 
southern marshes around Teredon are restless, money 
becomes as scarce as snow in midsummer. Ramman 
forbid that anything come of the report! It will 
wither all credit I " So at last, with many protests 
from Avil, the contract was signed, and stored away 
in a stout earthen jar, in the strong room of the 
cellar, where lay countless jugs of account books. 
And Itti, to make his guest forget that he had just 
bargained to pay "twelve shekels on the maneh," ^ 
inquired genially if the recent taking of the omens 
had chanced to be fortunate. He was met by blank 
faces both from Avil and his chariot comrade, the 
toothless old " anointer of Bel," Neriglissor. 

"The omens are direful," began the latter, in a 
horrified whisper. 

" Hush ! " admonished the chief priest, " a state 
secret. To breathe it on the streets would send corn 
to a famine price." 

The banker had pricked up his ears. " I am not 
curious in matters of state ; Marduk forbid ! Yet 
if in confidence I were told anything — " 

Neriglissor was only too ready to begin. "The 
Persians," he whispered, " the Persians ! Barbarous 
dogs ! Faugh ! I sicken thinking of the strong 

1 Twenty per cent annually. 



34 BELSHAZZAE 

Median nard the daughter of Cyrus smeared on her 
hair ! " 

Itti smiled benevolently. "What Persian can 
have the delicate taste of a Babylonian? Yet you 
have not told the omen." 

Neriglissor's voice sank yet lower. "These Per- 
sians are friends to the Jews, that race of blas- 
phemers. Each nation worships the same demon, 
though the Jews style him Jehovah, the Persians 
Ahura-Mazda. Long have the pious foreseen that 
unless these unbelievers were kept out of Babylon 
the gods would be angry. Yesterday this Atossa 
comes to Babylon to be his Majesty's queen. Thus 
we are about to strike hands with the foes of the 
gods, as if it were not enough to continue the old 
scoffer Daniel in office. And this morning follows 
the omen." 

Itti was bending over that not a word might 
escape. Neriglissor continued, "As Iln-ciya, the 
chief prophet, and I stood by the temple gate, a 
band of street dogs, all unawares, strayed past, and 
entered the enclosure." 

Itti started as he sat, forgot his manehs, and 
began to mutter an invocation to Ramman, while 
his lips twitched. *' Impossible ! " was all he could 
gasp. 

" Too true," put in Avil, solemnly. " You know 
the ancient oracle," and he rolled out the formula : — 

" * When dogs in a court of a temple meet, 
The hosts of the city face swift defeat.' 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 36 

We brought the news to the king. He is all anxiety. 
There will be a special council and consulting of the 
oracles. We trust, by laying extra burdens on these 
stubborn Jews, we can in some measure avert the 
wrath of heaven. Yet this is a fearful portent, just 
as his Majesty is about to marry a Persian." 

Itti was still shaking his head, when an increased 
din rising from the street warned Avil that there 
would be no passing at present for his chariot. 

" Way ! way ! " a squad of spearmen were bawl- 
ing, forcing back the traffickers to either side. The 
banker and his guests stared forth curiously. 

" Way ! way ! " the shout grew louder, and behind 
sounded a creaking and a rumbling. The chief priest 
glanced toward the gate. 

" The new stone bull," commented he, " comes 
from Karkhemish. They landed it above the 
bridge ; now they drag it to the old palace of 
Nabupolassar, which the king is repairing." 

" Then the Jews," remarked Itti shrewdly, " are 
already being rewarded for their impiety. Has 
not the labour gang been taken from their nation ? " 

" You are right," said Avil, " they will fast learn 
that to keep clear of forced labour they must go to 
the ziggurat and the grove of Istar." 

" Strange people," declared Itti, " so steadfast 
to their helpless god ! " 

" If Marduk gives me life," swore Avil, " I will 
bend their stiff necks. His Majesty promises the 
indulgence of former reigns shall end forever." 



36 BELSHAZZAR 

The rumbling in the streets drowned further 
words. Long before the bull came in sight appeared 
four long lines of panting men, naked save for loin- 
cloths, dusty, sullen. Each man tugged at a short 
cord, made fast in turn to one of the four heavy- 
cables stretching far behind them. At times the 
march would come to dead halt; then every back 
would bend, and at a shout from the rear the hun- 
dreds would pull as one, and start forward with a 
jerk. The laggards were spurred on by the prick 
of the lances of the spearmen outside the lines, or 
felt the staffs of the overseers who walked between 
the cables. Young boys ran in and out with water 
jars, and now and then a weary wretch would drop 
from the line to gulp down a draught, and run back 
to his toil. So the long snake wound down the street, 
groaning, panting, cursing. Behind this thundered 
the bull. The stone monster was upon a boat-shaped 
sledge, itself the height of a man. Busy hands laid 
rollers before it. To steady its mass, men ran be- 
side, holding taut the cords fixed to the tips of the 
huge wings. On the front of the sledge stood the 
guard's captain, bellowing orders through a speaking 
trumpet. The bull reared above him to thrice his 
height. Last of all came many toiling from behind, 
with heavy wooden levers. 

"Ah, noble Avil," called the guard's captain, 
familiarly, "who would say the chief priest makes 
way for Igas-Ramman, captain of a fifty ? " 

And Avil, recognizing a friend, called back, 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 37 

" Beware, or I beg your head of the king ! Make 
the Jews give full service." 

" They shall, by Nabu ! " And Igas trumpeted, 
" Faster now ! Wings of eagles ! Feet of hares, 
or your backs smart ! " 

The overseers' blows doubled, the bull swayed 
as it leaped forward, but suddenly Igas cursed. 
" Now, by the Maskim, foul genii of the deep, what 
is this ? Down again, worthless ox ! " 

An old man had fallen from line. Overcome by 
weariness he lay on the stone slabs while the strokes 
of the overseers' staffs made him writhe. Rise he 
could not. Neriglissor recognized him. 

"A Jew named Abiathar, a great blasphemer of 
Marduk. Ha ! Smite again, again ! " 

Igas leaped into the throng, waving a terrific 
Ethiopian whip of rhinoceros hide. At the second 
blow blood reddened the flags. The Hebrew 
groaned, tried vainly to rise. 

" Beast," raged Igas, swinging again, " you shall 
indeed be taught not to lag ! " 

The great whip whisked on high, but just as it 
fell, a heavy hand sent the captain sprawling. 
Young Isaiah stood above the prostrate Igas, his 
eyes burning with righteous wrath, his form erect. 

" Coward ! You will not strike twice a man of 
your own age ! " 

The spearmen stood blinking at Isaiah in sheer 
astonishment. Igas crawled to his feet ; rage choked 
the curses in his throat, then flowed forth a torrent 



38 BELSHAZZAR 

of imprecations. In his wrath he forgot even to 
call for help. 

" Beetle ! " howled he, bounding on Isaiah. But 
the Jew had caught the whip, lashed it across the 
guards captain's shoulders, and raised a smarting 
welt. Then at last all leaped on the intruder, but 
he laid about as seven, till a stroke of a cudgel 
dashed the whip from his grasp ; he was carried 
off his feet, overpowered, and gripped fast. Around 
the motionless bull a tumultuous crowd was swell- 
ing, when a squad of red-robed " street- wardens " 
hastened up to arrest the peace-breakers. 

" High treason against the king ! " Igas was 
screeching. " His head off before sunset ! " But 
the police rescued Isaiah from the spearmen, and 
their chief urged : — 

" Softly, excellent captain, he must be tried be- 
fore the judge." 

" A Jew ! A Jew ! " shouted many. " Away 
with him ! Strike f Kill ! " 

The multitude seemed growing riotous, and ready 
to attack the police, when a new band of runners 
commenced forcing a passage. 

" Way ! way ! for the noble Persian Darius and 
the Vizier Bilsandan ! " was the cry ; but to the 
astonishment of those in the banking-house, they 
saw the young envoy leap from his chariot and 
plunge before his escort into the crowd. Dashing 
back the mob with sturdy blows from his scabbard, 
he was in an instant beside the Jew. For a moment 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 39 

few recognized him. Igas thrust at him with a 
lance, a quick thrust, yet more quickly had Darius 
unsheathed, and struck off the spearhead. "Trea- 
son ! Rebellion ! A plot ! " shouted a hundred. The 
police endeavoured to arrest the new offender. 

" Death to the Jews ! " rang the yell, as many 
hands were outstretched. But the Persian had 
released Isaiah, and thrust a cudgel in his hands. 
His own sword shone very bright. 

" Guard my back ! " commanded he, and braced 
himself. The crowd cut him off from his escort. 

Avil cried vainly across the deafening tumult. 

" Hold, on your lives 1 Will you murder the 
Persian envoy?" 

There was a rush, a struggle ; those thrust against 
Darius shrank back howling, all save two, who had 
tasted his short sword. 

In the respite following, Bilsandan had forced 
himself to the envoy's side. Mere sight of the 
vizier was enough to enforce quiet. 

" Peace, dogs ! " thundered Bilsandan. " Why 
this tumult? " 

Darius had sheathed his sword, but looked about 
smiling. Joy to show these city folk the edge of 
Aryan steel ! 

"I struck only in self-defence," quoth he to the 
vizier. " You saw the cruelty of this scorpion. 
Isaiah deserves reward for avenging the old man. 
I will mention the evil deed of this captain to 
the king. We Persians hold that he who reveres 



40 BELSHAZZAR 

not the gray head will still less reverence the 
crown." 

Igas was falling on his knees before Darius. 
Well he knew Belshazzar would snuff out his life 
so cheaply to humour the envoy of Cyrus, if only 
Darius asked it. But the Persian laughed good- 
naturedly, forced him to swear he would pay old 
Abiathar two raanehs, for salve to his stripes, and 
the king should hear nothing about it. As for 
Isaiah, spearmen and police were glad to leave him 
at liberty. They bore the two wounded away. 
Darius was about to return to the chariot in which 
Bilsandan had been driving him about the city, but 
gave Isaiah a last word. " By Mithra, I love you, 
Jew ! You are like myself, swift as a thunderbolt, 
striking first and taking counsel later." 

" Jehovah bless you again, my prince ! " cried the 
other. "How may I repay? They would have 
taken my life." 

So Darius was gone. The bull lumbered on its 
way. Isaiah alone remained to help home the 
wretched Abiathar. As he bargained with a carter 
to take the old man to his home on the Arachtu 
Canal, Avil-Marduk called from the banking-house : 
" Praise Bel, Hebrew, you are not on the way to 
execution ! Be advised. I love men of your spirit. 
Enter our service at the ziggurat^ and, by Istar, 
you may wear the goatskin in my place some 
day ! " 

Isaiah held up his head haughtily. "I would 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 41 

indeed enter the service of a god — not of Bel- 
Marduk, but of Jehovah. I am a Jew, my lord." 

Avil smiled patronizingly. " Excellent youth, 
you are too wise to think I do not set your wish 
at true value. No offence, but where does Jehovah 
rule to-day ? Fifty years long we have used the 
dishes from His temple at your village of Jerusalem, 
in our own worship of Bel-Marduk. Your god is 
helpless or forsakes you ; no shame to forsake Him." 

Isaiah bowed respectfully. "Your lordship, we 
gain little by debate," replied he. 

" Nevertheless," quoth Avil, blandly, " I am grieved 
to see a young man of your fair parts throw his 
opportunities away. Be led by me ; what do you 
owe Jehovah? Bel-Marduk will prove a more lib- 
eral patron. You are Jew only in name, your birth 
and breeding have been in this Babylon. To her 
gods you should owe your fealty. Believe me, I 
speak as a friend — " 

Isaiah straightened himself haughtily. 

"My Lord Avil, do not think Jehovah is like 
your Bel, the god of one city, of one nation. For 
from the east to the gates of the sun in the west is 
His government. And all the peoples are subject 
unto Him, though the most part know it not." 

The high priest's lip curled a little scornfully. 
" Truly," flew his answer, " Jehovah displays His 
omnipotence in strange ways, — to let the one 
nation that affects to serve Him languish in 
captivity." 



42 BELSHAZZAR 

" I fear many words of mine will not make your 
lordship understand," replied Isaiah ; and he bowed 
again and was gone. Those in the banking-house 
looked at one another. 

" Sad that so promising a youth must cast himself 
away in fanatical devotion to his helpless god," com- 
mented Itti the banker. " Yet he only imitates 
his father, Shadrach, the late royal minister." 

" Young as he is," responded Avil, " he is already 
a power amongst his countrymen. He has the repu- 
tation of being a prophet of their Jehovah, and many 
treat him with high respect. Nevertheless, if he is 
not better counselled soon, he will find his head 
in danger, unless the king stops his ears to my 
warnings." 

Isaiah walked beside Abiathar as the cart rumbled 
homeward. The old Jew was all groans and moans. 

" Ah, woe ! " he was bewailing, " is this to be the 
reward of the Lord God for remembering Him, and 
keeping away from the ziggurat ! Stripes and forced 
labour and insult ! Speak as you will, good Isaiah, 
you who have the civil-minister to protect you from 
all harm ; it is easy for you to toss out brave words. 
You are passing rich; we are poor, and all the 
stripes crack over our shoulders ! " 

" Hush ! " admonished the younger Jew, severely ; 
"my perils are great as yours, did you but know 
them. It is for our sins this trouble is visited upon 
us. Our fathers have forgotten Jehovah, and is He 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 43 

not now visiting their sins upon us, unto the third 
and fourth generation, even as says His Law ? " 

" I do not know," replied the other, moodily ; " I 
only know that a little oil and fruit offered now and 
then to Sin or Samas would cure many aching 
backs ! " 

Isaiah did not answer him. In truth, there was 
very little to reply. He walked beside the wagon 
until Abiathar was safe at his little house by the 
Western Canal. Then he left him, and went in the 
bitterness of his spirit to the palace of Daniel, near 
the Gate of Beltis in the inner city. 

Like all Babylonian gentlemen, the civil-minister 
had an extensive establishment, though the exterior 
was gloomy and windowless. When Isaiah had 
entered the narrow gate he found himself in a spa- 
cious court, surrounded by a two-story veranda, 
upborne on palm trunks. In the court were ferns, 
flowers, and a little fountain ; an awning covered 
the opening toward the sky. In a farther corner 
maid-servants were pounding grain and sitting over 
their embroidery. 

Isaiah entered unceremoniously; but just at the 
inner door of the farther side of the court he came 
on Daniel himself, dressed in his whitest robe, and 
surrounded by several servants, as if about to set 
forth in his chariot. 

" My father ! " And the younger Hebrew fell on 
his knees while the other's hand outstretched in 
blessing. 



44 BELSHAZZAR 

"The peace of Jehovah cover jon, my son," 
declared the old man. Yet when Isaiah had risen, 
he was startled at the anxiety written on the other's 
face. He knew it was no light thing that could 
shake the civil-minister out of his wonted calm. 

"As Jehovah lives," adjured the younger Jew, 
" what has befallen ? Where are you going ? You 
do not commonly ride abroad in the heat of the 
day." 

" I have urgent need of going to Borsippa to see 
my good friend Imbi-Ilu, high priest of Nabu, on a 
private matter." The effort to speak lightly was 
so evident that Isaiah's fears were only doubled. 

The minister turned to the others. 

"Tell Absalom to hasten with harnessing the 
chariots," commanded Daniel. The servants took 
the hint and withdrew. Their master cast a search- 
ing glance about the courtyard, to make sure that 
no others were in easy earshot. 

" Listen." His speech sank to a whisper. " I am 
in sore anxiety concerning the safety of Ruth." 

" Of Ruth ! " Isaiah's grave face grew dark as 
the thunder-cloud. " How ? Who threatens ? " 

Daniel spoke yet lower. " This day I have re- 
ceived a message from friends in the palace, that the 
king still remembers her beauty, and desires her. 
His promise to Darius was a lie, to appease the 
envoy for the moment. I dare not doubt that some 
attempt will be made by Mermaza, or by others of 
his spawn, to carry away the girl at the first con- 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 46 

venient opportunity. She must uot sally abroad, 
however much she may desire it. I do not know 
how great is the immediate danger, but there is 
nought to be risked. On this account I am going 
to Borsippa without delay." 

" Then as our God rewardeth evil for evil, so will 
I reward the king ! " Isaiah had turned livid with 
his wrath. "I will slay Belshazzar with my own 
hand, and then let them kill me with slow tortures." 

Daniel smiled despite his heavy heart. 

" Small gain would that be to our people. The 
fury of the Babylonians would grow sixfold. If 
the yoke is hard to bear now, what then ? " 

" Yet will Belshazzar truly break his promise ? " 
demanded Isaiah, plucking at the last straw of hope. 

" Promise ? " Daniel laughed grimly. " He will 
break ten thousand oaths, when they stand betwixt 
him and a passion. Avil-Marduk urges him each 
day to ruin me and mine, as a lesson to the rest of 
our people. The Jews are to be driven like sheep 
to the ziggurat^ and forced to blaspheme Jehovah. 
Alas ! When I think of the plight of our nation, 
the dangers of a few of us seem but as the first 
whisperings of a mighty storm ! If no succour 
comes, Ruth and you and I are utterly undone ; 
and our people will forget its God, as He in His 
just wrath seems to have forgotten them." 

" And is there no hope ? " groaned Isaiah in his 
despair. 

Before Daniel could answer, a sweet girlish voice 



46 BELSHAZZAE. 

sounded, singing from the upper casement, over the 
court. The two men stood in silence. 

" My beloved spake and said unto me, 
' Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone : 
The flowers appear on the earth ; 
The time of the singing of birds is come. 
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land ! ' " 

" It is the song of Ruth," said Daniel, as in dreamy 
melancholy. " She has waited you for long. Blessed 
is she ; to her Jehovah thus far is kind. She does 
not know her danger. The ' Song of Songs ' is ever 
in her mouth, in these days of her love. You must 
go to her." 

" Let all Belshazzar's sword-hands take her from 
me ! " was Isaiah's rash boast. But then he asked 
more calmly; "And why do you, my father, go to 
Borsippa ? You have not told." 

" To ask Imbi-Ilu if he will give sanctuary in the 
temple of Nabu to Ruth, if worst comes to worst. 
Bitter expedient ! — a daughter of Judah sheltered in 
the house of idols ! Such is the only shift." 

"But Imbi could not guard her always, if the 
king's mind is fixed. And what of our nation, of 
the peril of great apostasy ? Ah ! " Isaiah lifted his 
hand toward heaven. " I am not wrong. I must 
kill Belshazzar; then if we die, we die not un- 
avenged ! " 

Daniel quieted him with a touch. 

" Do not anger God with unholy rashness. All is 



THE YOKE OF THE CHALDEES 47 

not yet lost. I have still my position as 'civil- 
minister,' and though the Babylonians may rage 
against our people, they reverence me still. My 
word and name are yet a power in Babylon. Even 
the king will hesitate to strike me too openly. And 
if the worst does come, let them know I have yet a 
weapon that may shake Belshazzar on his throne." 

*' What mean you ? For Jehovah's sake, declare ! " 

Daniel smiled sadly at the impetuosity of the 
younger man. 

"No, not now. Fifty years long have I served 
the kings of the Chaldees, and betrayed none of 
their secrets. I keep fealty as long as I may ; yet 
the time for casting it off may be near at hand. The 
Lord grant I may not be driven thus to bay — " 

"The chariot waits, my lord," interrupted a ser- 
vant. And Daniel gathered his robe about him, to 
depart. 

"Remain with Ruth until I return," was his last 
injunction ; " the king will hardly wax so bold as 
to go to extremities to-day. But till Belshazzar lies 
dead, or Jehovah creates in him a new heart, we 
must not cease to guard her." 



RUTH 




CHAPTER IV 



THE chariot of the "civil-minister" clattered 
away, and Isaiah stood for a long time in 
gloomy revery. Ever since Nabonidus had been 
thrust from power, the condition of the Hebrews had 
been growing steadily more miserable. Belshazzar 
was in all things guided by Avil-Marduk, and the 
high pontiff's rage against the Jehovah worship of 
the exiles was nothing new. Shadrach, Isaiah's 
father, had been a fellow-minister with Daniel, but 
the liberal sway of Nebuchadnezzar was long since 
past. Isaiah saw himself shut out of every office, so 
long as he clung to the God of his people. Amongst 
his fellow-Hebrews Isaiah had passed as a prophet; 
in moments of ecstasy he had poured forth burn- 
ing words, — of encouragement to the faithful, of 
threatenings to the oppressor, of promised restoration 
to that dear Jerusalem he had seen only in his 
dreams. But at this moment the dreams seemed 
shadowy indeed. The events of the day had 
darkened him utterly ; and, crowding upon Avil's 
scarce veiled threat, came the tidings of the king's 
unholy lusting after Ruth ! The young man's heart 

48 



KUTH 49 

was sickened. How could he sit with smiling face, 
and listen to his love, and her merry nothings ? The 
task was seemingly impossible, when the sweet voice 
sounded again from the casement. " Ah ! my wander- 
ing swallow, why linger ? Up quickly ! Say some- 
thing to make me glad. I am exceeding vexed with 
my father." 

Merry or sad, the young man waited no second 
bidding. He sped up the narrow stairway by the 
side of the court, and reached the upper veranda. 
Here a sort of balcony, overhanging the yard, had 
been walled with curtains of blue Egyptian stuffs, 
and behind had been set a tall loom, its frame half 
filled with a web of bright wools, where a brilliant 
rug was unfolding under skilful fingers. Two dark- 
eyed Arabian girls were aiding their mistress ; but 
at sight of Isaiah, the red thread shook from her lap, 
and she flew twittering into his arms. Then like 
two birds they cooed together, their eyes talking 
faster than their lips ; and at last — for all things 
lovely must find end — Isaiah was in his accustomed 
seat, a cushioned foot-stool beside the loom, and there 
he could sit and chatter while the broad web grew. 

But Ruth was in no mood for small talk. Her 
little lips were wrinkled in a pout, the cast of her 
eye was sulky. And while she wrought over the 
loom, her fountain of wrath was emptied. 

"Were I not an obedient daughter of Israel, I 
should say unholy things of my good father. Surely 
Jehovah forsakes us and suffers him to wax mad ! " 



50 BELSHAZZAR 

" Daniel mad ? He has the sagest head in all 
Babylon. Fie, little owlet ! " 

" Either he is mad or worse. There ! " the red- 
thonged sandals over the small feet stamped 
angrily, " I will tell all, though it be a sin to 
revile a parent." 

" Verily, for you to be wroth with your father 
must spring from no slight cause ! " protested Isaiah, 
feebly attempting to smile. 

"Is it not sufficient that I must be kept precious 
as a finch in his cage ? — never suffered to go forth 
to any of the fetes at the palace, veiled always, 
when I sally abroad, and guarded as if I were a 
prisoner about to make escape ? " 

" Old tales, Ruth," — Isaiah strove to speak 
lightly ; then more gravely, " Was the last time 
we sallied forth, and met the lion and the king, 
so joyous that you wish it repeated daily ? " 

He saw her shudder, and her mouth twitched, as 
he recalled that scene ; but she was too thoroughly 
filled with wrath even to let that memory turn her. 

" Not so — let my father send fifty servants about 
me, and wrap my face in twoscore veils ! But now 
I am made utter prisoner. Yesterday I visited the 
bazaars with Gedeliah, our body-servant ; and in the 
jeweller's shop of Binzurbasna by the Gate of Istar I 
saw an armlet that fitted my eye as water its cup. I 
had no money, but last night my father gave me more 
than the price. To-day Gedeliah starts at dawn with 
a letter to Kisch. Later I say, ' Father, I will take 



RUTH 51 

another servant and go and buy the armlet.' He 
makes all manner of objections to my going. ' Let 
the serving-man go ; do you remain.' ' No,' answered 
I, ' only Gedeliah and I can tell which is the armlet ; 
if I wait, it is sold.' I beseech exceedingly, where- 
upon he says, after his firm manner : * Peace, Ruth ; 
I know what is well for you. You shall not go to- 
day.' Then he summons his chariot, and departs to 
Borsippa. Have I no cause for anger ? " 

Isaiah did not reply immediately ; and she re- 
turned to the charge. " Speak, — are you so jealous 
that no man may set eyes on the hem of my mantle ? 
Speak ! " And she snapped her bright eyes before 
his. 

" Your father is a wise man," began Isaiah, cau- 
tiously ; "assuredly he had reasons." 

"Which clearly you agree in?" pressed she, 
sharply. 

" I said not that ; though, were he to tell, no doubt 
they would seem sufficient." 

"He has not told them? What passed then so 
slyly, when you stood together ? " 

Isaiah had boasted that in a city where the clever 
liar was deemed the sage, he had been wont to speak 
truly ; but he found himself close to equivocation. 

" We spoke of the increasing power of Avil. Your 
father grows anxious." 

" And was not my name mentioned once, twice ? " 

Ruth had turned from the loom, and was looking 
Isaiah in the face. 



52 BELSHAZZAR 

" You did wrong to eavesdrop," he faltered, nigh 
desperately, for falsehood tripped hardest off his 
tongue when those soft eyes were on him. 

" No answer," she challenged, lowering her head 
till her curls almost brushed his cheek. " Speak ! 
Why did you use my name ? " 

" You must have confidence in us," began Isaiah, 
putting on manly austerity, " to believe that what- 
ever we said was only for your good." 

A tart retort was tingling on her tongue, when a 
voice from the court interrupted. " Ho ! Is the 
young master Isaiah above ? " 

It was the old porter's call ; the other responded 
instantly. 

" Since my Lord Daniel is away," went on the 
porter, " will my young master come down at once ? 
His friend, the guardsman Zerubbabel, is here, and 
demands instant speech of weighty matters." 

Isaiah was down the stairs by leaps. In the court 
he met a young man of about his own age, comely 
and erect, dressed in the short mantle of a soldier 
off duty. 

" Where is my Lord Daniel ? " was his quick 
demand ; he was breathless with running. 

" Has none told ? Gone to Borsippa." 

" Jehovah God have mercy ! " 

Isaiah caught his friend by the arm. 

" Hold, Zerubbabel ; gain breath, and speak to 
the point. Your wits are all scattered on the road 
behind I " 



RUTH 63 

The guardsman took a deep breath. 

'•' Be a man, Isaiah," he admonished, as if speaking 
sorely against his will ; " I have a heavy piece of 
news for you." 

" Touching Ruth ? " 

Zerubbabel nodded. "You have heard that the 
king had designs on her. Did you know Mermaza 
was to make an attempt on her this very night ? " 

His voice had risen, despite Isaiah's warning 
" Hush ! " They heard a little cry on the balcony 
above — a louder scream. Isaiah clapped his hands 
to his face. " The Lord spare her now I — she has 
heard it ! " 

The next instant Ruth was beside them. She was 
trembling ; her hand quivered in her lover's while he 
held it, yet it seemed as much in anger as in 
dread, though her face had blanched to the white- 
ness of a summer's cloud. 

" Tell me all ! All ! Do you think me too weak 
to bear ? " was her plea, turning her great eyes from 
the soldier to Isaiah and back again. " What danger 
waits ? " 

The young prophet's voice grew very calm. 

" Beloved, blessing and bane come from the Lord 
God alike. He can do nothing ill. Let us listen to 
Zerubbabel." 

The guardsman's speech came falteringly, — no joy 
to chase the gladness from those bright eyes. 

"Daughter of Daniel, I know that your father 
reproaches me for having conformed to the Babylon- 



54 BELSHAZZAR 

ish worship, and taken service on the royal guard ; 
but, believe me, my heart is still faithful to Jehovah. 
At no small peril have I come here, to warn you. 
You, O Isaiah, have not been without an inkling ; 
but did you know that Belshazzar has given his 
royal signet to Mermaza, chief of the eunuchs, com- 
manding him— " 

Before he could utter another word, a bitter cry 
had burst from Ruth : " Would God I had been un- 
born, or died while yet a speechless child, than win 
the love of Belshazzar. For the love of the king is 
tenfold more cruel than his hate. Slay me; slay 
now, rather than let the eunuchs lay hands on me! " 
So she cried in her sudden agony ; and what might 
Isaiah say to comfort her? She could only feel the 
muscles of his arms grow hard as iron, as she leaned 
against his breast. 

" Fear not," he answered, with that confidence 
born of a touch and a thrill that can make the weak- 
ling giant strong; "were Belshazzar seven times the 
king he is, he shall never do you harm." 

" So be it ! " quoth Zerubbabel, gravely, " yet the 
proof is close at hand. It is as I said. Mermaza 
has received an order, signed by the royal signet, 
authorizing him to take Ruth, the daughter of 
Daniel, when there may be ' convenient opportunity ' 
— which is to say, when no disturbance will arise 
likely to hamper Avil-Marduk and his plots." 

" How know you this ? " demanded Isaiah, almost 
fiercely. 



RUTH 55 

" One of the eunuchs, whose life Daniel had once 
begged of Nabonidus, told me. I more than fear that 
my visit to this house has been observed, and will be 
laid up against me." 

"And what hinders the 'profoundly-to-be-rever- 
enced ' chief eunuch from coming this moment, with 
his Majesty's ring and order, and carrying away the 
maid perforce? Does not Belshazzar command all 
the sword-hands in Babylon ? " pressed Isaiah, in 
cutting irony. 

Zerubbabel smiled bitterly. " Even a king must 
know some restraints. He has passed his word to 
Darius, the Persian envoy, that the maid shall not be 
touched. What if Darius heard of the kidnapping ! 
Would he trust Belshazzar's professions of friendship 
longer ? And Daniel is popular with the city folk. 
Enter his house at mid-day, and let some outcry rise, 
— behold ! there is a riot in the streets." 

" Therefore the attempt will be made this evening, 
when all is quiet ? " 

Zerubbabel bowed gloomily. "You have said." 

Isaiah shot one glance at the shadow cast by the 
tall " time-staff " set in the centre of the courtyard. 

" It lacks three hours of sundown. There is yet 
time ! " he cried. 

But Ruth had suddenly steadied herself, and looked 
from one young man to the other. Her voice was 
very shrill. 

'' Who am I to make you rush into peril for my 
poor sake ? If you hide me from the king, his fury 



56 BELSHAZZAR 

will turn against you, and against my father. How 
can you save me? Go to Mermaza. Tell him he 
may take me when he wills. I can endure all rather 
than ruin those I love." 

She stood before her lover with head erect, eyes 
flashing. The glory of a great sacrifice had sent the 
colour crimsoning through her cheeks. If beautiful 
before, how much more beautiful now, in the sight of 
her betrothed ! Had she counted the cost of her 
word ? No, doubtless ; but for the moment she was 
the girl no more, but the strong woman ready to dare 
and to do all. 

But Isaiah answered her with a sternness never 
shown by him to her till now : *' Peace ! You know 
not what you say. What profit is my life, with you 
sent to a living death in Belshazzar's impure clutch ? 
There is but one thing left." 

" Away ! Leave me ! " she implored, new agony 
chasing across her face. " Is it not enough that I 
should be victim? Those who cross Belshazzar's 
path are seekers for death." 

" Peace ! " repeated Isaiah, and not ungently he 
thrust his hand across her mouth. " Must the whole 
house hear us? You, Zerubbabel, indeed, begone. 
You can only add to your peril, not aid." 

The guardsman hesitated. " If I can do aught — " 
he began. 

" Avoid suspicion," commanded Isaiah ; " if you 
learn of anything new plotted, forewarn. In so do- 
ing you prove truest friend." 



RUTH 67 

"The Lord God keep you, dear lady," protested 
the guardsman, kissing her robe ; " believe me, I am 
your and your father's friend, though men say I 
bow down to Bel-Marduk." 

He had vanished; and Isaiah looked upon Ruth, 
and Ruth back to Isaiah. The peril had broken 
upon her so suddenly that she was yet numbed. She 
had not realized all she had to fear, and the ordeal 
awaiting. But if her lover realized, he proved his 
anguish by act, not word. 

" Ruth," spoke he, " your father knew the king 
had not forgotten you, though that the deed was 
planned so soon was hid. He has ridden to Borsippa 
to see if Imbi-Ilu will shelter you at the temple of 
Nabu. If we await his return, it will be too late. 
The shadows are falling already. You must quit 
this house without delay." 

" I am ready," she answered, but she spoke me- 
chanically, not knowing what she said. 

Old Simeon, the porter, had approached, his honest 
face all anxiety for his betters. " My mistress is in 
trouble? Zerubbabel brought ill news?" he ven- 
tured, not presuming more. But Isaiah ordered 
sharply : — 

"Let the closed carriage be made ready at once." 

"The closed carriage? For the mistress? My 
Lord Daniel commanded — " hesitated the worthy ; 
but Isaiah's tone grew peremptory. " Daniel's com- 
mands weigh nothing now. Were he here, he would 
order the same. No questions ; hasten." 



58 BELSHAZZAR 

The stern ring in the young man's voice ended all 
parley. Simeon shuffled away to rouse the stable 
grooms, and Isaiah turned once more to Ruth. 

" Beloved, we must drive to Borsippa at once. 
Take what clothes you need, nothing else. No tarry- 
ing. Each instant is worth a talent." 

"And this house? The room of my mother? 
The thousand things of my glad life — all left be- 
hind ? " 

The tears would come again. Ruth was weeping 
now — bitterly, but not from dread of Belshazzar. 
Events had raced too fast these last few moments to 
leave room for the greatest griefs or fears. 

" Trust that Jehovah will send you back to them, 
in the fulness of His mercy. He is more pitiful 
than even Daniel your father." 

She did as bidden ; in the turmoil of emotions, at 
least some sorrows were spared her. The maid- 
servants stared at their mistress, as she flew about 
her well-loved chambers. The little bundle was soon 
ready, — so little ! And so many girlish delights and 
trinkets all left behind. Isaiah's voice was summon- 
ing her. The carriage was waiting in the yard. 
Daniel had not taken his swift pair of black 
Arabs in the chariot, and for these Isaiah thanked 
his God! 

Ruth darted one glance about the court — the well- 
known balcony, the drapery hiding the loom, the 
swallows flitting in and out of the eaves, a thousand 
dear and homely things, so familiar she had forgot- 



EUTH 59 

ten how much she loved them — one last sight; when 
could she see them again ? 

"The servants, — my friends, — I must say fare- 
well," she pleaded ; but Isaiah shook his head. 

" You must leave with as little commotion as pos- 
sible. The Most High grant we have not tarried too 
long ! " He lifted her almost perforce, and thrust 
her upon the soft cushions inside the carriage. She 
heard him tying the door to the wicker body, to 
secure against sudden and unfriendly opening. The 
only light that came to her was from the little lat- 
ticed window in the roof, through which she could 
see only sky. She heard Isaiah leap upon the driver's 
platform, in front, beside Abner, one of the stoutest 
and trustiest of her father's serving-men. The 
courtyard gate creaked open. The carriage rum- 
bled forth. "Abner," sounded Isaiah's voice, "if 
ever you drove with speed, drive now. To Bor- 
sippa, to the temple of Nabu ! " 

The lash cracked ; the restless horses shot away 
eagerly, the heavy carriage lumbering behind. Soon 
all around them buzzed the traffic of the streets. 
Onward, onward they drove, till Ruth ceased count- 
ing the time. Then at last the truth and her 
wretchedness fully dawned on her. She felt a weak- 
ness, a misery words may not express. She laid her 
head on the cushions and wept, as might a little girl. 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 




CHAPTER V 



IF Bel-Marduk, "father of the gods," reigned 
supreme in his temple opposite the royal palace, 
he was not without rival. Older than the " Lofty 
House " of Bel rose the venerable ziggurat " U-Zida,'^ 
the " Eternal House " of Nabu of Borsippa, " god of 
wisdom." Time was when Nabu had been the guar- 
dian god of all Babylonia, and his priests still re- 
fused to yield to the supplanting Bel more than a 
nominal concession of supremacy. Unlike the 
great city sanctuary, this temple in the quiet south- 
ern suburb sprang out of a great grove of nodding 
shade trees, girded about with pleasant gardens. 
A sluggish canal crept under the shadow of the 
terraces of the sacred tower, and mirrored the ram- 
bling brick buildings and leaf-hung walks of the 
temple college. For here at Borsippa was the most 
famous, as well as the oldest, university in all the 
fair land of the Chaldees. From time immemo- 
rial students had listened here to lectures on 
astrology, the science of omens, and the interpreta- 
tion of dreams. Vainly had Avil-Marduk striven 
to raise his own temple-school to an equality with 

60 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 61 

that of Borsippa. Were not these paths beside the 
canal hallowed by three thousand years of academic 
tradition ? Had not every famous demon-caster, for 
more generations than could be told, learned his art 
under the shadow of this ziggurat ? Then again, while 
Bel was fanatical, Nabu was tolerant. Avil moved 
heaven and earth to ruin the Hebrews, while Imbi- 
Ilu, pontiff of Borsippa, was Daniel's bosom friend, 
and his under priests openly declared that they 
hated Bel-Marduk quite as much as they did Je- 
hovah. Of late the coldness between the two pon- 
tiffs had almost turned to open hostility ; the king 
and court paid homage to Marduk, the city at 
large sent most of their gifts to Nabu. And within 
recent days Imbi-Ilu had more than once given 
offence even to the king by harbouring inside the tem- 
ple precinct persons whose arrest had been urgently 
commanded ; Belshazzar had fumed, and muttered 
threats, but Imbi was obdurate. There was the 
law, — graven on two stone tablets, by King Sargon 
I., a potentate three thousand years departed, — 
denouncing curses upon the body, goods, kinsfolk, 
and soul of the man or king who should dare to mo- 
lest a suppliant that had once passed the boundary 
stones, which were set one furlong on every side of 
the enclosure of Nabu. The king had raged, but 
was helpless ; not even the " son of Bel-Marduk," as 
he boasted himself, could abolish a privilege like 
that. 

But on the afternoon in question, none would 



62 BELSHAZZAE 

have dreamed that aught save studious repose 
brooded over quiet Borsippa. The lectures were 
ended. The boys in the lower school had flung 
away the tablets on which they had been copying 
the old dead language of the Akkadian classics.^ 
Teachers and pupils had wandered forth to enjoy 
the cool of the evening. From the crest of the 
great temple-tower drifted the chant of the litany to 
Nabu : — 

" Lord of Borsippa, 
Thy command is unchangeable like the firmanent. 
In the high heavens thy commandment is supreme ! " 

So the chant had risen for four thousand years, each 
evening ; so it would be repeated, unless all omens 
were profitless, for as many more. Dynasties 
might come and go, — the worship of Nabu endured 
forever ! 

Upon the housetop of one of the larger buildings, 
close by the gate of the wall enclosing the sacred 
precinct, two men in deep discussion were seated. 
The roof-tiles were covered with soft carpet, a 
yellow canopy stretched overhead, there were cush- 
ioned stools and divans — a cool and pleasant spot to 
lounge and rest. 

But the two were not lounging ; their talk had 
lasted long. The one, Daniel, had drawn his stool 
close beside the couch of the other, and was speak- 
ing earnestly. 

1 Such copy-books have been actually preserved to us. 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 63 

" We have debated before, we debate again, — to 
little profit. You have been a true friend, Imbi-Ilu ; 
the difference in our faith has never stood betwixt 
us. You have done what you could to abate the 
persecution of my unfortunate people, — in vain, 
but I thank you." 

The high priest looked concernedly upon his 
friend. He was an eagle- visaged, majestic man, who 
bore his years lightly, and whose white locks sprang 
out all around his forehead, like the mane of a lion. 

"It is as you say," he answered soberly, "yet I 
deserve no praise. Avil-Marduk urges on Bel- 
shazzar against the servants of Jehovah, as being 
the weakest of the gods opposed to the supremacy 
of Marduk. Soon he will try to crush Nabu him- 
self. I have acted in self-protection. But this is 
old chaff; all the wheat was long since winnowed 
out of it." 

" Well do I know that," replied the Hebrew, 
bitterly ; " we are being pushed to bay, you Babylon- 
ians as well as I. Avil-Marduk has made the king 
entirely his tool ; almost I think he seeks the throne 
himself, nought less." 

Imbi nodded gloomily. " I believe you ; " then, 
a shade more lightly, " but you, O Daniel, are under 
some greater constraint than distant anxiety for 
your people. By your own god, whom I much 
reverence, tell me truly, what brings you now to 
Borsippa? Since you saved my life, with those of 
the other wise men, because we could not reveal to 



64 BELSHAZZAR 

Nebuchadnezzar his dream, have we not been sworn 
comrades, in good and in ill ? Speak freely. Your 
wish ? " 

" Your friendship may be indeed tested," quoth 
the other, still soberly ; " the king is none too much 
your friend to-day. If you grant my wish, he will 
neglect no occasion against you." 

" By Nabu ! " cried the pontiff, affecting careless- 
ness he did not feel, "you interest me. Tell it out. 
But not yet." He snapped his fingers loudly ; a 
white-robed servitor appeared. " This way, boy ! 
Bring my Lord Daniel the oldest and coolest of the 
wine that came yesterday from Larsam, and a 
platter of honey cakes. He has driven far, and is 
weary." Then to Daniel, "No excuses. No sor- 
row is doubled by a cup from my own vineyard." 

''Another time," remonstrated the minister. "I 
have not come hither to make merry ; I must be 
back to Babylon with all haste." 

" Not sleep in Borsippa ? Your little goddess 
Ruth will not weep her sight away in your absence ? " 

" Ruth ! " Daniel had started at the name ; 
but, as if there were an omen in the word, there 
sounded a sudden rumbling and jarring in the brick- 
paved road outside the temple precinct, the noise of 
a heavy carriage at a headlong speed, the cracking 
of a whip, shoutings and cursings, all rising to- 
gether. When before had a like din roused the 
peaceful suburb ? Imbi sprang to the parapet and 
stared across in wonder. 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 65 

*' God of Borsippa," he swore, " have we a chariot 
charge ! " 

The clamour swept nearer, broken now by a yell 
of keenest pain, followed by a great shout from the 
younger priests and students watching from below. 

" Nabu save him ! The wheel has crossed his 
body ! " 

" Eunuchs ! The king's eunuchs I They violate 
the sanctuary ! " bawled many more, with a scamper 
of feet through the gateway. 

" In Jehovah's name, what is this ! " cried Daniel, 
leaping up beside Imbi ; but the pontiff had just time 
to clutch at his friend, as he tottered almost in a 
swoon. The noise below grew sevenfold. 

" Down ! He has smiten Mermaza ! " 

Imbi was again at his post. A closed carriage 
had lumbered in at the gateway, the horses panting 
and steaming. The pontiff started in turn, when he 
saw a young man leaping from the driver's platform, 
still clutching tightly his long whip. 

" Isaiah the son of Shadrach, and lifting Ruth the 
Jewess from the carriage ! Why this tumult ? 
Some fearful deed ! " 

The minister had recovered and stood at the pon- 
tiff's side. He was again self-possessed. " Let me 
know with what the Lord God has visited me," 
was all he said, and waited silently, as a breathless 
young priest rushed up to his superior, never so 
much as salaaming. 

" Master ! a frightful outrage. The royal eunuchs 



66 BELSHAZZAR 

have pursued these fugitives past the boundary 
stones to our very gates. They attempted violence, 
and now clamour without, demanding their prey ! " 

Imbi turned very deliberately, took his white 
peaked tiara from the divan, and set it on his head. 

" Gross sacrilege, indeed, Merdovah ; impossible 
that his Majesty should authorize such violence ! " 

More priests and students were howling in the 
yard below: "Away with the eunuchs! To the 
canal with them ! Avenge the insult ! " 

" Master," remonstrated the messenger, " except 
you quiet the temple folk, expect a riot. They are 
maddened and furious." 

Imbi leaped upon the divan beside the balcony. 
" Below there, silence I What is this tumult ? " 
The voice of the superior produced instant stillness. 

"You there, Hasba, speak for all. Why is this 
carriage here, and these eunuchs ? " 

The priest addressed, a gaunt, athletic man, 
stepped forth from the crowd of fellows clustered 
around the gate. 

" Why it is here, I know not, but I saw this, — 
the carriage approaching at topmost speed from 
Babylon, and many of the royal eunuchs pursuing 
on foot, crying loudly and calling to passers-by to 
aid. When they passed the boundary stone, the 
carriage slackened, as being in safety; and we 
looked to see the eunuchs halt. Not so, — they 
impiously followed after, and two snatched at the 
heads of the horses. Isaiah the Jew flogged them 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 67 

with his whip. The wheel passed over one; nor did 
my Lord Mermaza escape the mire. They are with- 
out the gate and still threatening." 

" They may well threaten," spoke Daniel, hoarsely, 
at the pontiff's side, "for the king seeks Ruth for 
his harem. I came to Borsippa to ask sanctuary in 
her behalf. Be your god Jehovah or Nabu, fail not 
now ! " 

The civil-minister was very pale, but Imbi-Ilu 
flashed back proudly, " If I yield to Mermaza and 
his vermin, let the ' Eternal House ' find other 
master." Then he turned again to those below. 
" This is no common sacrilege. Who is this crying 
so shrilly, ' Entrance ' ? " 

"The master of the eunuchs himself. Shall we 
not buffet him to death ? " 

" Not so ; admit him, but none other. Bring him 
here upon the housetop, with Ruth the Jewess, and 
Isaiah. Let them answer face to face before me." 

In a moment a bevy of priests had ushered three 
persons before their superior : Isaiah, with flushed 
face and eyes that still darted fire, Ruth, whose cheeks 
were scarce less white than her dress, and the " very 
supreme " chief eunuch. The last was sadly lacking 
in dignity, for his purple-embroidered robe was rent 
and mud-splashed, and across his forehead spread the 
long stripe where the lash had marked him. As Ruth 
and he confronted one another, she shrank in dread 
behind her betrothed; but the scowls and muttered 
menaces of the priests about made even the venture- 



68 BELSHAZZAR 

some eunuch cautious. There was an awkward 
silence before Imbi spoke. 

"Well, my Lord Mermaza, has it slipped your 
mind that there is a certain law, old as the ziggurat, 
concerning the rights of sanctuary of the precinct of 
Nabu ? " 

Mermaza's perpetual smile had become a very 
forced grin indeed; he looked downward, without 
replying. 

" And is it not also true," went on the other, 
haughtily, " that whosoever transgresses the right of 
the god incurs the wrath of all the host of heaven ? 
He is ' devoted,' given to Namtar the plague-demon, 
and her fiends ; his life forfeit, his soul cast into 
Sheol. Is it not thus, my lord ? " 

Mermaza had recovered enough wits to attempt an 
answer. 

" Right, most reverend pontiff. But I seek no 
fugitive criminal. In performance of my duties I 
pursue one of his Majesty's runaway slaves, who 
can claim no right of sanctuary." 

" A slave of the king ? Where ? We will never 
shelter such ! " And Imbi stared about in well- 
affected astonishment. 

Mermaza fumbled in his bosom, and produced a 
small clay cylinder, which he handed to Imbi, be- 
stowing at the same moment a gleeful leer upon 
Ruth. 

"His Majesty's own seal — read." 

The pontiff read aloud deliberately : — 



THE TEIMPLE OF NABU 69 

" Belshazzar, ' King of Sumer and Akkad,^ to Mermaza, 
^Master of the Eunuchs ' : You are conimauded at the first con- 
venient season to seize, and take to the royal harem, a certain 
maid, one Ruth, the daughter of Daniel the Hebrew. And 
hereof do not fail, on peril of your head." 

Imbi examined the document the second time, and 
handed it back to the eunuch with a salaam of ironi- 
cal reverence. 

"Noble friend," quoth he, with mock politeness, 
" explain, I pray you. In what part of this warrant 
does his Majesty command you to set at naught the 
right of sanctuary, and commit gross sacrilege ? " 

But Mermaza, beneath whose veneer of urbanity 
lay a hasty and arrogant temper, answered with rising 
gorge : — 

" This is no answer, priest ; obey the king ! Do 
you refuse to surrender the wench ? Think well 
before you reply — the king's wrath — " 

" Daniel," remarked Imbi, turning his back on the 
eunuch, " is it your desire that your daughter go to 
the palace ? " 

" By all you revere, by our bonds of friendship, 
no ! " The Jew started to fall on his knees, implor- 
ing. But Imbi faced Mermaza, with a lordly gesture. 

" Go back to the palace, and say that I will send 
Ruth the daughter of Daniel hence, only on her fa- 
ther's personal or written command. Low indeed is 
Nabu sunken if at barking of hounds of your litter 
he were to turn suppliants away ! " 

" The slave of the king — keep her at your peril ! " 



70 BELSHAZZAE 

threatened Mermaza, growing desperate, for his posi- 
tion was anything but enviable. 

" A slave ? When before in the royal harem ? 
Where is the bill of sale from her father ? Is she 
not freeborn ? " 

" She is a Jewess, — despiser of Nabu ! " cried the 
eunuch, launching his last shaft. A yell of derision 
from all the priests answered him. 

" Friend," answered Imbi, smoothly, " you are so 
dear a companion to Avil-Marduk and he reverences 
Nabu so exceedingly, that these words drop indeed 
fitly from your lips." 

Mermaza swung about and faced Daniel and 
Isaiah. 

" I see the pontiff is mad," he shouted, his thick 
cheeks reddening. " Do you Jews hear reason. For 
this resistance to the royal decree jou shall both 
rot in the palace dungeons unless the girl is yielded, 
and that instantly." 

Ruth had started forward, outstretching her hands. 

" Not that, not that, O my father ! Say you are 
willing. I will go." 

But Imbi-Ilu sprang between the eunuch and the 
Hebrews. 

" And I, high priest of Nabu of the ' Eternal 
House,' declare that only as you take oath with all 
the gods to witness, that Daniel and Isaiah shall be 
in nowise molested in this matter, will I consent to 
withhold a criminal charge against you of extreme 
impiety and deliberate sacrilege. The crime is no- 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 71 

torious — twenty witnesses. Let Belsliazzar himself 
save you, if I sow this tale of the outrage done the 
god, through Babylon." 

There was a stern menace in the pontiff's voice 
that sent all Mermaza's bravado trickling out 
through his finger-tips. The unfriendly ring of 
faces about added nothing to his courage. Twice 
he faltered, while speech choked in his throat. His 
face was swollen with mortification at his blun- 
der. " Will you swear, toad ? " croaked Hasba, 
at his side ; and Mermaza gasped out thickly, " I 
will swear." 

" Good, then," was Imbi's dry comment ; " but let 
us go down to the ' holy room 'of the temple. 
There you shall lay your hands on the ark of the 
god, and take your oath. I spare no precaution, in 
taking a pledge of such as you." 

The priests swept their victim down the stairs. 
The three Hebrews were left alone on the house- 
top, looking one upon another — at first in silence; 
then a great and grievous cry arose from Daniel : — 

" Ah ! Lord God of my fathers — must I, who 
have served Thee so long, see my one child brought 
to this ! " 

He opened his arms wide; and Ruth fled into 
them, there to be locked fast. It was a moment 
when Isaiah knew he might do and say nothing. 
He stared vacantly across the parapet, counting 
the herd of dun-brown sheep a countryman was driv- 
ing past the temple gate. The sheep would be butch- 



72 BELSHAZZAE 

ered to-morrow, but tliey shambled on with never 
a thought save for the little patches of grass that 
thrust through the chinks in the pavement. The 
sheep were happy, but he, Isaiah, the young man, 
whose heart was thrilled with high and holy things, 
with visions of the Great King and of His awful 
throne, — he was beyond words miserable ! Darker, 
darker grew his thoughts; but the voice of Daniel 
recalled him. 

" Isaiah, my weakness is passed. The Lord who 
saved your father and Meshach and Abed-nego from 
the flame of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, — He is our 
refuge still. We must trust and bear. And not 
bear only. There is a deed for you to do this night. 
You have risked much to-day : will you face peril 
yet again?" 

"You know I will walk through death at your 
least bidding, O my father!" 

Daniel put Ruth gently away, and taking Isaiah 
by the arm, led him beyond her hearing. 

" I told you before, I had one last weapon against 
Belshazzar ; but scruples of loyalty restrained me. 
After iMs," with a weary smile, "all fealty truly 
ends. Hearken now to each word. You must be 
all resources to-night. You know the king gives 
a betrothal feast in the Hanging Gardens, in honour 
of the Persian princess. All the ministers and cap- 
tains are invited saving myself — sure sign of the 
royal disfavour. You must contrive to enter the 
Gardens after the drinking has made the guards neg- 



THE TEMPLE OF NABU 73 

ligent, when you can shun discovery. After the wine 
has set the feast in confusion, seek out Darius the 
Persian envoy. God must aid you to have words 
with him alone. You must act to-night ; for though 
Mermaza's oath may delay his revenge a little, none 
can tell when the stroke may fall, and we be helpless 
in prison or as fugitives. Tell Darius that I, Daniel, 
who know all the king's secrets, though they think 
it not, say that the treaty he makes with Belshazzar 
is a snare for the feet of Cyrus. The hand of Atossa 
was asked to lull him into security. Belshazzar 
negotiates with Amasis the Egyptian for a league 
against Persia, and Babylonish agents scatter sedi- 
tion in Media and Carmania. Belshazzar is collect- 
ing troops and munitions. His bolt will fall as 
lightning from a smiling sky." 

The younger Jew was startled indeed. " Jehovah 
Omnipotent ! I did not dream this, that Belshaz- 
zar's and Avil's perfidy could sink so deep ! " 

Daniel laughed aloud at his simplicity. 

"When you have my years, O Isaiah, you will 
have sounded the depths of many seas of guile, and 
never marvel. You are young and trustful. Alas, 
that you must grow wise ! But go now, before 
Mermaza returns to the palace. Our persons are 
safe for the moment : and Ruth can find shelter so 
long as Imbi-Hu is our friend. But for true deliver- 
ance, Cyrus's gratitude and the Persians' might, — 
the Persians who worship the one God like ourselves, 
— these are the only hopes." 



74 BELSHAZZAR 

Isaiah drove away from the temple that evening 
in a strange mingling of terror, yet of hopefulness. 
The warm touch of Ruth upon his cheek was still 
thrilling him, the sweetness of her kiss was on his 
lips. Was all lost while he was strong and free ? 
And with the fate of his people and of those he 
loved resting upon him, where was the moment in 
which to dare to dream of failure? Darius had 
declared himself his friend ; Darius, he felt, he 
scarce knew why, was already Belshazzar's foe. 
Why might not Jehovah raise up this prince as a 
second Moses, to lead His people out of their new 
and more grievous bondage? 



1 GLORY OF CHALDEES 




CHAPTER VI 



"TVriGHTFALL — the light of a thousand flam- 
J- 1 beaux shivered over the great winged bulls 
guarding the palace gateways. The bulls formed 
the base of towers faced with brightly enamelled 
brick, and crowned with masts whence trailed the 
royal banners. In and out streamed the palace 
servants — eunuchs of the harem, cooks, grooms, 
chamberlains, guardsmen ; sometimes a chariot thun- 
dered through at a gallop, bearing a nobleman to 
Belshazzar's banquet. As one peered inward from 
the gate, he could see the whole broad court of the 
king's house lit bright as day by cressets and bon- 
fires. The pictured tiles on the inner walls displayed 
their lion-hunts, battles, processions, and sieges, so 
that he who regarded them closely could learn all the 
history of Babylon for a hundred years by a mere 
circuit of the court. But Khatin, the royal execu- 
tioner, and two cronies, who sat drinking wine 
between the feet of a winged bull, had little heed to 
give to departed glories. Khatin was a stout muscu- 
lar giant, with thick, black hair and beard shining 
with strong pomade and butter. His speech was 

76 



76 BELSHAZZAE, 

gruff as the bay of a hound ; and the two eunuchs, 
Nabua and Khanni, who divided with him the tank- 
ard of Armenian white wine, regarded him with awe, 
as being the person who might be the last to con- 
verse with them, in case his Majesty found them 
disagreeable. 

" I tell you," declared the headsman, dipping his 
cup for the fifth time, " that Persian Darius is a 
pretty fellow. I dearly love a man of his spirit. You 
heard the story ? The worthy Igas came near to 
scraping my close acquaintance. By Marduk ! why 
was the envoy so tender-hearted as not to ask for his 
head ? " 

" Surely," ventured Nabua, " you have nothing 
against the captain. He only flogged a dirty Jew, 
and a second Jew interfered. But for Darius, this 
last, Isaiah they call him, would have been the one 
to speak with you." 

^, Khatin gave a hoarse laugh. " Jews ? They are 
mice. Small glory in beheading vermin. Give me 
men of spirit, my dear eunuch, men of parts, like 
Igas-Ramman. Ah ! You cannot know the satis- 
faction of feeling the sword go through a stout, stiff 
neck." 

-'" Ugh ! " grunted the others, feeling their own 
heads none too firm on their shoulders ; and Khanni 
began soothingly, " Now, by Istar, you would never 
do the last offices for a friend — for us, by ex- 
ample ? " 

The executioner burst into a braying chuckle. 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 77 

" Ah ! my swallows, my lambs, the more I love a 
man, the more I love to be by at the end. My 
father-in-law, Sadu-Rabu, dear man, must needs turn 
robber ; to this day I pride myself on my neatness. 
* Beloved Sadu,' said I, ' be content ; you have my 
best art for a smoother journey to the " Mountain of 
the World " than the late vizier.' " 

" Ugh ! " grunted the two again, very unhappy : 
and to turn the drift Khanni interposed, " But you 
began by praising the Persian ? " 

" Yes, a man of fine spirit — a very pretty neck — 
by Samas, an exceeding pretty neck ! I wish I were 
in Susa, as Cyrus's executioner, just for the hope of 
testing it ; there is small chance of Belshazzar need- 
ing me to attend to an envoy." 

" They say," answered Nabua, " Cyrus has little 
use for his headsmen. The Persians all love him ; 
they keep the laws, and there are no executions for 
days together." 

" Then, by AUat, queen of Hades," cried Khatin, 
in disgust, " Cyrus is no king ! Hark you ! Some 
day I will plot treason and wear the royal cap myself. 
Then how many ministers will I have ? Just one — 
an honest headsman. A king and an executioner — 
the one to begin, the other to finish — these are gov- 
ernors enough for the wide world." 

But as Khatin was running on with more wisdom, 
scarlet-robed torch-bearers began pouring through 
the gate, with the cry, "The knee ! the knee ! The 
king, the daughter of Cyrus, and the Persian envoy ! " 



78 BELSHAZZAK 

The executioner and the eunuchs fell on their 
knees, to make obeisance. A vast host of guardsmen, 
priests, and pages came first ; and Khatin asked 
Khanni, " They go to the Hanging Gardens ? " 

" Yes ; the betrothal feast for Atossa will be held 
there. But they are late. Something has delayed 
the chief eunuch, and all has waited for him." 

" Yet they come at last. See his Majesty and 
the Persians." 

The royal party advanced, hidden by a moving 
hedge of steel-clad guardsmen and the shadows of 
fifty torches. Belshazzar was in his state, the 
jewelled embroideries on his robes worth the plun- 
der of six cities. At his side in the chariot stood 
Darius, no longer in native dress, but in the splen- 
did Median blue caftan. Men whispered that the 
Persian looked none too merry, though he seemed 
to be laughing at some jest from the king. Di- 
rectly behind the car came a litter — all gold relief 
work and ivory — borne by eight of the Chaldee 
nobles, wherein rode Atossa and Mermaza, chief 
eunuch. When the torchlight flashed on her fair 
hair and the rose and white of her face, there was a 
loud shout of admiration from great and small, " A 
goddess ! Istar come to earth ! The ' Great Lady ' 
is amongst us ! " 

Whereupon Atossa leaned from the litter, crying 
in her sweet, foreign Chaldee, "The Most High 
bless you, good people, for your praise ! " At 
which there were more cheerings. But Atossa had 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 79 

sunk back on the muslin pillows, and closed her 
eyes to the torch-glare. 

They passed down the inclined plane leading from 
the palace terrace ; all about, outside of the red 
circle of the flambeaux, stretched the dim masses of 
the foliage of the " paradise," — the wide park 
around the king's house. Then the company came 
again to a rising way, and a word from Mermaz£\ 
shook Atossa from her revery. 

" Look ! " Atossa saw before her, in the faint 
gloaming, the columned halls of a far-reaching 
temple, as it were — massive pillars curiously carved 
and banded, which stretched away along long colon- 
nades, yoked together by heavy vaulting and arches. 
Marvel enough this would have been, even in Baby- 
lon, city of marvels, for these galleries covered a 
prodigious area ; but they were only the beginning 
of the wonder. Above them, springing from their 
roof, was a second system of like columns, and 
arched above this, a third ; and above this, so high 
that the eye grew weary of staring upward, rare 
Indian palms and stately cedars of Lebanon were 
spread against a sky dyed red by a hundred great 
bonfires. 

" Do we mount to heaven ? " cried the princess. 

And Mermaza answered, smiling, " Ah, my lady, 
I think the ' Mansion of Ea ' will be scarce fairer 
than the Hanging Gardens." 

The king had left his chariot, to ascend on foot ; 
but the litter went straight up an easy stairway— ' 



80 BELSHAZZAR 

higher, higher, till it seemed the climbing would 
never end. Mermaza told how luxurious chambers 
were hid in the masses of the lower colonnades ; and 
how a hydraulic engine was pumping unceasingly, 
raising water from the Euphrates. Then, when at 
last the crest was reached, suddenly the stars were 
blotted out by the flaring of innumerable fresh cres- 
sets, till the avenues of trees and the almost virgin 
laurel bowers and fern-brakes glowed as if touched 
by the dawning. 

They had arrived, it seemed to Atossa, upon a 
broad mountain summit, thickly overgrown with 
trees, but with here and there a clearing. In and 
out the trees were flitting white-robed figures, ghost 
fashion. Scattered about where the torches glim- 
mered brightest, she could see the guests of the 
king, the nobles of the Chaldees, the chiefs of the 
priesthoods, their wives, and harem women, all in 
their gayest robes, crowned with flowers and myrtle 
wreaths. Out of the shadows of the groves drifted 
music, now soft and sensuous, now swift and mar- 
tial, and delicate voices lifted up their song. 

But the litter moved onward, through all these 
leafy ways, until it halted in the open air, at a space 
on the side of the gardens overlooking the river. 
On north, south, and west the woods closed in, dense 
as the primeval forest : but here all the ground was 
carpeted with sweet grasses, and there was a clear 
view eastward over the wide stretch of the city, 
where the shimmer of its lights answered the twin- 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES Si 

kling stars on high. There were bowers of wreathed 
blossoms, ivy, and tamarisk ; under these were spread 
many small tables loaded with food and drink ; and 
behind each table waited a eunuch, dark, silent, 
statue-like, in gaudy livery. 

The king had gone on foot before the litter ; now 
he halted in the centre of this sky-canopied hall at 
the tallest of the bowers, and they set Atossa down 
beside him. 

" Behold," spoke Belshazzar ; " look on these gar- 
dens, the like of which is nowhere else in the world. 
They are given to you. This shall be your feast. 
These eunuchs are your slaves. We shall all eat of 
your bounty." 

'* The king is kind," said the Persian, meekly. 
" What have I done that he vouchsafes such favour? " 

Belshazzar laughed before them all. 

" Done ? Who demands of Istar anything save 
the brightness from her eyes and honey from her 
lips ? " 

" True," cried fifty at once; " there is no lady like 
Atossa, like Atossa, daughter of Cyrus." 

Then Mermaza ceremoniously handed his mistress 
to the high seat beside the two couches prepared for 
the king and Darius. 

Now, in the feast that followed, Belshazzar bore 
himself as if all the world's joy were summed up in 
that one night ; he drank, laughed, jested, and went 
to no small lengths to make Darius as merry as he. 
But though the prince paid laughter for laughter, 



82 BELSHAZZAH 

and played his part in the game' of repartee, he 
never forgot that close by sat one for whose sake he 
would have braved the might of Belshazzar and all 
the host of the Chaldees. And Atossa laughed with 
her lips, but could not with her eyes. The Persians 
dared not glance at one another. How much better 
if Darius had never come on the embassy ! It 
would now take so long to forget ! 

During the feast the court poet came before 
Atossa, with a great orchestra of harpers and dulci- 
mer players. The poet sang a marvellous song, 
full of all the flowery flatteries of the East, praising 
the princess : — 

" O light of heaven who hast come down to dwell among men, 
Thou art exalted in strength ! 

Mighty art thou as a hyena hunting the young lamb ! 
Mighty art thou as a restless lion ! 
Thou art Istar, maiden of the sky ! 
Thou art Istar, consort of the very Sun ! " 

So the stately poem ran, and Atossa gave its 
author her thanks and a bracelet unclasped from 
her own white wrist. But Mermaza, who served 
her, noticed that she ate little of all the venison 
and fresh-caught barbel, of the pomegranates and 
grapes. And he shrewdly observed that Darius did 
scarcely better. At last the viands were borne 
away. Belshazzar turned to Mermaza. " Let them 
bring the drinking bowls," he commanded. 

" Yes, my king," was the answer ; " and shall the 
sacred vessels of the gods of the nations conquered 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 83 

by my lord's predecessors be filled, that we may 
drink to the health of the princess and the glory of 
Bel-Marduk ? " 

" Bring, then, those from the sack of Nineveh, the 
spoils from the victory over Pharaoh Necho, and 
from the temple at Jerusalem." 

But Atossa touched the king's hand. " May my 
lord's handmaid speak ? " 

" Yes," swore he, " though you ask the head of 
the chief prince of Babylon." 

" Then do not bring the vessels sacred to the Jew- 
ish Jehovah. For though under different names, 
Persians and Jews alike worship one God." 

Avil-Marduk, close by, was frowning ; but Bel- 
shazzar answered graciously : " Is this not your own 
feast? Let Jehovah's vessels lie in their coffers." 

So the eunuchs set on the tables huge bowls of 
chased silver, and into these emptied many wine- 
jars. A sweet odour was wafted by the night breeze 
from the perfumed paste dissolving in the liquor. 
Soon the cups began to go about, and the Baby- 
lonian nobles roared their pledges, — to Belshazzar ; 
to his betrothed ; to Cyrus, their new ally ; above 
all, to Bel-Marduk, guardian of Babylon, "god of 
gods, and lord of lords, through whose might their 
city had waxed great for a thousand years." Bel- 
shazzar drank deeply ; Darius only touched his gob- 
let; Atossa did not touch it at all. 

" Ha, son of Hystaspes ! " cried the king, his 
spirits rising with the wine that was flushing his 



84 BELSHAZZAR 

temples. "You Persians have a custom to take 
counsel when drunken. Strong wine is a gift from 
your god, yet they wait to fill your second goblet." 

Darius drained his cup, and handed it to the 
eunuch behind him. 

*' True, your Majesty ; but the spirit of the wine 
is not to be invoked lightly. On what take coun- 
sel? War? We sealed the treaty of peace to-day." 

** Yet wine is a gift from Nabu, lord of the wise. 
Woe to the despiser ! Come, evening wanes ; they 
call the third hour of the night from Bel's ziggurat. 
One thing is left." 

Belshazzar rose from his couch. There was a 
great crash of music. The drinkers were silent 
instantly. The king stepped beside Atossa. 

" Look, lords of the Chaldees ! " rang his voice. 
"This hour I proclaim Atossa, the daughter of 
Cyrus, my affianced wife. One year from this hour 
shall be my bridal feast. Behold the sovereign 
lady of the land of Akkad ! " 

He lifted the blue and white mitre from his head 
and placed it on the Persian's golden hair. A great 
shout reechoed, making the dying torches shimmer. 

" The queen ! The queen ! Hail, all hail, Atossa ! " 

Darius rose also. No Babylonian knew what the 
words cost him. He raised his goblet : — 

"To Belshazzar, son of Cyrus. May Ahura grant 
him and his house prosperity for ten thousand years ! " 

Another shout. Avil-Marduk, leading the rest, 
leaped to his feet, crying : — 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALBEES 85 

" To the favour of Sin, of Samas, of Marduk upon 
the house of Cyrus, and upon the noble Prince 
Darius ! " 

The pledge was drunk amid furious cheering and 
the clatter of wine-cups ; and the king shouted, last 
of all ; — 

" To the peace betwixt Persia and Babylon, may 
it be firm forever ! " 

More applause. Mermaza was bowing before 
Atossa : — 

"Dread lady, the feast is at an end. All the 
women will return now to the palace; but, after 
our custom, the king's nobles will sit over their 
wine as long as they desire." 

Darius had not spoken to Atossa during the 
entire evening. But he knew that the end had 
come, and could not see her go without one word. 
, "My lord," said he to Belshazzar, "I must say 
farewell to the Queen of the Chaldees. Hence- 
forth she is Babylonian, not Persian. Into your 
hands I commit her. Yet, with your permission, I 
will speak with her — for the last time, before she 
enters your harem." 

" Say what you will," came the careless answer. 

Darius stood beside the princess's chair. It was 
only for an instant. Why did his voice sound so 
harsh and metallic? Why did Atossa seem to fear 
to look him in the face ? 

" My lady," said he, " I am at the end of my 
commission concerning you. I shall be in Baby- 



86 BELSHAZZAR 

Ion for some time upon your father's business. 
But we shall see each other no more. Farewell; 
may Ahura the All-merciful grant you peace and 
every joy. And before all, may you learn to forget 
the name 'Darius.'" 

It was not what he had intended to say ; he had 
thought on these words of parting since the feast 
began. Why was it his tongue would not move 
obedient to his will ? 

Atossa raised her head, gave him one look out of 
those blue Persian eyes — so blue ! Was Mithra's 
light-robed azure fairer sight than they ? 

"And may you forget there was a maid named 
Atossa, who found all Paradise in sight of you. 
You are right. Time will be kind. Farewell." 

That was all she said. They had spoken in their 
own native Persian, which the rest could not un- 
derstand. And if the sly Mermaza had thoughts in 
secret, while he watched them, what did Darius care ? 

Then they took her away in the litter, after 
Darius had knelt and kissed the hem of her dress. 
He found himself beside the king, but ceremony 
was at an end. Noblemen were wandering from 
table to table, bawling to the yawning eunuchs for 
more wine. Avil-Marduk came to the king and 
entered into a familiar conversation on some mat- 
ter of repairing the temple at Uruk. Seeing that 
nothing more was expected of him, Darius craved 
the royal permission, readily granted, to wander 
about the gardens. 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 87 

Only a few steps carried him under the shadow 
of the woods. The cries of the revellers drifted 
through the thickets ; a pale moon was hanging in 
the sky ; there was an uncertain light on the carpet 
of moss and turf under the great trees. He almost 
thought himself, except for the shouting, in the 
heart of an untrodden wood. He wandered on 
aimlessly, half in a dream. How beautiful Atossa 
had been that night ! He knew that the pain in 
her heart was as great as that in his — and his, 
how great ! Would Belshazzar treat her honour- 
ably, cherish her as "first queen" in his harem, 
after the immediate need for propitiating the all- 
powerful Cyrus had passed? The king had im- 
pressed him more favourably that night than ever 
before; he had shown himself affable and generous. 
Doubtless his flaring passion for the Jewish Ruth 
had long since vanished ; but what if his desires and 
impulses always mastered him thus easily? 

Darius wandered onward, looking within, not 
without, until he was roused by stumbling against 
a brick parapet that marked the outer wall of the 
gardens. He sank upon the trunk of a fallen tree 
— for this strange forest had been suffered to grow 
nigh wild since its creation. The noise of the 
drinkers seemed to come to him from a great way 
off. Despite the fact that he had touched little 
wine, he felt his head becoming heavy. Bred as he 
was to the life of a Persian cavalryman, able to 
pillow upon the hardest steppe, the prince was close 



88 BELSHAZZAK 

to falling asleep and slumbering soundly. He was 
drifting into semiconsciousness ; the shouts, the 
torchlights, were alike fading away. A moment 
more and he might have slept till daybreak, if not 
searched for, when a sound of crackling underbrush 
startled him. 

" A deer ! " his first thought, the hunter's in- 
stinct foremost, and his hand felt mechanically for 
an absent sword. In an instant he recognized 
human voices — three forms approaching through 
the darkness. " Drinkers," he argued ; " they leave 
the rest to enjoy a bowl in secret." And he arose 
noiselessly, as one of his training could, not desiring 
to interrupt such a party. Suddenly a familiar voice 
sounded — Belshazzar's. 

" Darius ? Where is he ? " 

And the voice of Mermaza replied, " Almost I can 
swear he was in the party that went to the chariots 
for the palace." 

" More likely asleep under the tables," came from 
a third, clearly Avil-Marduk. 

" Not there," commented the eunuch ; " he was 
barely civil in his drinking." 

" No matter if he is not here," answered Bel- 
shazzar. " Faugh ! How much longer must I 
juggle with this marvellous envoy ? By Nergal ! 
his only sane talk is of hunting. I grant that he is 
a fair archer." 

" Not comparable with my lord," flattered Mermaza. 

" Most headlong and unprincely," added Avil. 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 89 

" Could the king have but seen him this morning 
rush into strife as a dog after a carcass." 

" Hist ! " cautioned the king ; " what stirs in the 
thicket? '* 

Mermaza peered into the dark. As Darius stood, 
he could have touched the eunuch ; but he remained 
motionless, and Avil-Marduk reassured : " Only a 
harmless snake. We are more alone here than in 
the palace, where every wall has ears." 

Belshazzar groped his way to the log Darius had 
just quitted and seated himself. The others duti- 
fully remained standing. 

" By Samas ! " began the king, as if rejoiced to 
feel himself free to speak, " we have thus far played 
the game out well. Marduk grant the sky may 
remain calm ! What do they say in the city con- 
cerning Nabonidus, my father ? " 

Avil laughed softly. "Let the king's heart be 
enlarged. My underlings tell me the people say, 
'Though the public records still run in the good 
Nabonidus's name, he is grievously stricken by the 
" madness-demon " ; and praised be Istar who sends 
the noble Belshazzar to replace him ! ' " 

"If the tale spreads that Nabonidus is in sound 
health, shut up in Tema, what then ? " 

" Many things, my lord, — revolt, mutiny in the 
army ; but nothing shall leak. In a year you will 
be firmly set upon the throne and can mock at all 
rumours. Only I fear the two men we have looked 
askance at for so long, Imbi-Ilu and Daniel." 



90 BELSHAZZAR 

" Daniel ! " exclaimed the king, as if struck by a 
sudden suggestion. " I had forgotten about his 
wench. She is at the harem, of course, Mermaza, — 
you shall bring her to me in the morning." 

There was a long and very awkward interval be- 
fore the eunuch found courage to stammer : — 

"Pardon, River of Compassion, — I, the least of 
your slaves — " 

" She is not at the harem ? " demanded the king, 
threateningly. 

What followed, Darius did not well comprehend, 
thanks to the darkness, and the mingling of Mer- 
maza's snifflings with Belshazzar's curses and oaths. 
The Persian imagined the eunuch had fallen upon 
his knees, and was almost pleading for his head. It 
sufficed that substantially the full story of the fruit- 
less pursuit of the Jewess, and the defiance of Imbi- 
Ilu, was gasped out at last. When it was finished, 
Belshazzar swore madly. 

" Now as Marduk lives, I will have the life of 
Daniel by another day, and pluck his daughter — " 

" Peace, your Majesty," interposed Avil, abruptly. 
*' Will you raise all Babylon in an uproar ? Believe 
me, Daniel is a power, even as against you, my king. 
Men may think him old, honest, unsuspecting ; but 
I know better. He is rich, like all his accursed race. 
The city folk worship him. Imbi-Ilu can rally half 
the priesthoods, as many as are jealous of Bel-Mar- 
duk, in his behalf. And again beware ; for raise a 
wind that will blow into the Persian envoy's ears 



THE GLOKY OF THE CHALDEES 91 

that you are seeking the maid, and when will he 
trust oath of yours again ? I pray all the gods he 
hear nothing of Mermaza's rash blunder this day." 

" The envoy ! " grunted Belshazzar. " What does 
he see and know while in Babylon ? No bat is 
blinder to all save his sport." 

"The king is mistaken," admonished Avil, 
smoothly, "if he thinks Darius utterly witless. I 
have watched him, and I boast to be a judge of 
men. When not in liquor, he is deep and crafty 
beyond appearance. Do nothing to offend him till 
the proper time ; and as for the Jew's daughter, let 
the king wait. Mermaza can find many another as 
likely maid, sold in the market for twenty shekels." 

" No, by Samas ! " asserted Belshazzar, testily. 
"I wish for no fowls out of that flock. Whatso- 
ever I once set my heart on, that will I possess, 
though all the plague-demon's sprites rage round 
me. I have sworn to gain the girl, and were she 
ten times less comely than she is, no power of man 
shall say to the king of Babylon ' nay.' " 

Avil coughed, it seemed derisively, and spoke in 
an authoritative tone wondrously disrespectful to a 
crowned monarch : — 

"Lord, we have many things to think of before 
wasting time or sleep on a slip of a girl. When the 
father is snug in the palace prison, we can give 
thought to the child. Yet give me time, your 
IMajesty, and I will weave a net for Daniel, and 
his daughter, too ; but make no new attempt on her 



92 BELSHAZZAR 

for tlie present. Again I repeat, nothing to offend 
the Persian." 

" Now, by Allat's fiends ! " cursed Belshazzar, 
" must it be the Persian, always the Persian ? I 
grow weary dissembling ; yet I do it well ? " 

"Excellently well," soothed Avil, who felt he 
might be stepping too far. "But consider once 
more : touch Daniel before there is proper occasion, 
or outrage the envoy, and abroad we have war with 
Cyrus, and at home all Babylon buzzing about the 
palace in revolt. Gently, my king, gently! Re- 
member that your government is not two months 
old." 

" Daniel the Jew ! " repeated Belshazzar ; " the 
Jew ! I do not know why I hate that race so 
utterly. They are a stiff-necked people, sticking to 
their Jehovah-worship like flies at the mouth of a 
wine-jar. And the Persians are like them. Oh, 
that they all had one neck, that Khatin might 
cut it ! " 

"Let the king's liver be at peace," began Mer- 
maza, comforting; but he took a step backward. 
Darius, behind a shrub, had been unable to stir hand 
or foot from the beginning of the conversation, for 
the least sound would have betrayed. His cheeks 
had flushed hot when he heard his own name spoken ; 
he had swelled with utter wrath when he knew that 
the pledge touching Ruth had been given only to be 
conveniently broken. Mermaza's arm swung at a 
careless gesture, and brushed the Persian's face. A 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 93 

shout, and Avil and Belshazzar had leaped upon the 
eavesdropper before he could escape in the dark. 

" Conspirators I Assassins ! " Avil-Marduk was 
howling. " Help, guards ! The king is beset ! " 

But the royal wine had laid half the attendants 
low with unseen arrows, and the wits of the rest 
moved very slowly. There were answering cries 
from the distance, torches tossing, commands thun- 
dered ; but it was nothing easy to find one's way in 
the wood. Avil had gripped the Persian round the 
throat, so that for an instant he gave not one gurgle ; 
but when Darius once put forth his strength, the 
three found they had bayed a lion indeed. With 
his left fist he smote over Mermaza, so that the 
eunuch went down with a groan. The chief priest 
nipped fast, but the Persian tore away his fingers, 
plucked him round the girdle, and flung him sprawl- 
ing. The king remained. Darius's first impulse 
was to cry aloud, but thoughts raced fast at that 
moment. To betray his identity might mean ruin 
for kingdoms. For an instant prince and monarch 
grappled. Belshazzar's fingers closed like talons of 
steel, but Darius had not been vainly trained to 
wrestle. Twice he lifted Belshazzar, and the king 
clung to the ground; the third time, just as Avil- 
Marduk was staggering to his feet, Belshazzar's 
foothold spun from beneath him, and he fell heavily 
upon the greensward. There were shouts now, 
torches coming nearer. 

Darius could see them flashing on bright steel 



94 BELSHAZZAR 

" Murderers ! " bawled Avil. " The king is 
slain ! " 

Darius took a great bound into the thicket, a 
second, a third ; then ran swiftly as a cat, and as 
silently, onward in the dark. His long Median 
cloak caught on a thorn bush and was whisked from 
his shoulders before he realized it. To recover it 
in the gloom and danger was impossible. "Ahura 
grant," ran his prayer, " none may find it and recog- 
nize ! " Many of the drinkers had staggered from 
their wine and were wandering about, shouting, 
" Murder ! Save the king ! " but their pursuit was 
aimless. Yet he saw men staring at him as he ran 
back toward the banqueting area. Who was this 
at the royal feast without a courtly garment? None 
recognized him as yet, but he knew that his con- 
dition, if he remained, must excite speedy comment. 
He was a stranger to the place, and wandered vainly 
about, seeking the exit, and only running on new 
groups of frightened eunuchs and tipsy guardsmen. 
His position was becoming serious, when of a sudden 
he was startled by a hand plucking at his elbow. 

As he started, a familiar voice sounded in his 
ear : — 

" My lord, do you not know me ? Your servant, 
Isaiah the Jew. My lord is in trouble. What may 
I do for you?" 

The prince wasted no words. "In Ahura's name, 
lead me down from these gardens and away from all 
these people before I am recognized." 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 95 

" Willingly," came the answer. " I know this 
place as well by starlight as at noonday. We are 
near the private staircase by the northern wall of 
the gardens." And Isaiah led away into a winding 
path between dark shrubbery. In a moment they 
were at the head of a long, narrow stairway that 
wound downward and was lost in the gloom below. 
There were two spearmen on guard at the upper 
landing, but both had long since invoked the wine- 
god over-piously, and were stretched prone and help- 
less. Isaiah gave them only a sniff of contempt. 
He plucked a flickering flambeau from the wall, 
and guided the Persian downward — a weird and 
uncanny descent. Above there were shouts and 
commands ; and before they had put twenty stairs 
betwixt them and the landing, there came a cry 
from over their heads. 

" Guard this exit ! These swine are drunken ; 
the assassins may have fled this way ! " 

"Speed, my lord," admonished Isaiah in a whis- 
per. The sound of many feet following made them 
descend by bounds. Well it was that their pursuers 
were deep in their cups, and they themselves were 
sober. At the foot of the stairs there were two 
more guards, each as prone and senseless as their 
fellows on high. 

"The danger is at an end, my prince," declared 
Isaiah; "they can suspect nothing now." 

He led the Persian by a second dark circuit under 
the colonnades of the lowest stage of the gardens 



96 BELSHAZZAR 

to where they had left the carriages at the begin- 
ning of the feast. Here none met them, though 
there was still much din from the gardens. Darius 
told himself that if the king of Babylon and his 
lords often feasted thus, not fifty sword-hands 
would be found sober if an enemy attacked the 
palace on such a night. They found no chariots 
waiting to bear the royal guests back to the palace. 
And Isaiah remarked, with a shrug of the shoul- 
ders : — 

" None expect them, my lord. Good Babylonians 
drink all night." 

" All the better. Guide me back to the palace in 
secret." 

So the two walked back together, and a man need 
not be wise to imagine what the Persian told the 
Jew, and the Jew told the Persian. 

At the great gate of the palace they met more 
drunken guards, and Isaiah conducted Darius to his 
own chambers, where at last they found the Persians 
of the prince's suite moderately sober. 

"Let us pray the one God, my friend," were 
Darius's words at parting, "the one God we both 
fear, for strength and wisdom beyond that of man. 
A great work lies before us, and by His help we 
will bring low the * Lie ' whose seat is this great 
Babylon I " 



SPELL OF THE MASKIM 




CHAPTER VII 



AS the afternoon waned, Nur-Samas's beer-house 
buzzed louder and louder, until a stranger 
might have deemed it one vast beehive. The 
jolly liquor and the bouncing serving-maids about 
Sadasu, the hostess, were twin lures that stole the 
stamped silver out of the pouches of the most wary. 
The room was large, cool, and dark. Stools were 
scattered about in little groups, every seat occupied 
with its toper. In the hands of each was a sizable 
earthen jug that was replenished by the girls as 
often as its holder snapped his fingers or clapped his 
hands. Everybody was talking at once, with little 
heed whether his neighbour was also talking or listen- 
ing. All were trying to barter broad jests or roar- 
ing at them, though scarce a man or woman there 
but was too tipsy to tell a straight story or under- 
stand the point of what was told them. 

When Khatin, the executioner, went down the stair- 
way to enjoy his afternoon tankard, he found Gudea, 
the lean "demon-ejector," and Binit, his angular 
wife, who acted as hired waller at funerals, both with 
their noses deep in their cups, and they only lifted 

97 



98 BELSHAZZAE. 

them when Khatin drew his stool close by theirs, and 
began to tell of the mysterious attack that had been 
made on the king's own person at the great feast. 

"A fearful atrocity I " the headsman was bewail- 
ing ; " and the worst of it all is that no one has yet 
been laid by the heels and brought to me for it. 
Only two heads sheared to-day — wretched eunuchs 
who fell out with the queen-mother Tavat-Hasina. 
I grow sluggish for lack of work." 

" Poor Khatin ! " commiserated Binit. " Yet 
sympathize with Gudea ; for two days he has not 
cast out a single ' sickness-demon,' and I have only 
wailed at one funeral, that of the rich old goat Isnil, 
who died of sheer age. The city grows impious and 
healthy. Men give up calling in an honest wizard 
when sick, and trust to roots and herbs and those 
horrible Egyptian doctors. The gods must grow 
dreadfully angry. The Jews still refuse to worship 
Bel and Nabu, despite the forced labour, and this 
makes heaven yet more furious. Alas ! Such evil 
times ! " 

Khatin raised his head, with a chuckle. 

" Now by all the host of heaven ! " professed he, 
" I think the gods must get on excellently well, even 
if a few less shekels are wasted on such worthy ser- 
vants as you, my dear Binit and Gudea. They do say 
that even if the gods grow furious, when one really 
longs to be rid of a sickness, it is safer to trust the 
Egyptian doctors than the most noted wizard in all 
Babylon." 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 99 

" Khatin," admonished Gudea, rising in his dignity, 
" you call yourself my friend ; understand that if you 
call down the wrath of the gods by your blasphemies, 
you need expect no help from me to avert their rage." 

"No offence, brother," responded the headsman, 
as soothingly as he knew how. " Here, girl, fill the 
noble exorcist's jug again, and put it on my reckon- 
ing. A long pull now, — to the confusion of every 
Jew and traducer of the gods ! Ha ! What a happy 
life this would be, if it were all one round of quaffing 
palm-wine." 

"You are very generous," remarked Gudea, 
appeased. " I swear these last skins Nur-Samas had 
sent up from Sirgulla are delightfully heady. My 
crown already begins to go round like a chariot 
wheel. You are an excellent man, my lovely Khatin, 
a most excellent man ! By Marduk, I love you ! " 
He had pulled his stool beside that of Khatin, put 
his arm around the executioner, and rocked to and 
fro, displaying his affection. 

Khatin likewise, feeling the liquor loosening his 
tongue, began to grow confidential. 

" Hist ! " admonished he, " I am in a great way to 
be consoled. Do you know there is a rumour around 
the palace, about Daniel — " 

"Daniel the 'civil-minister,' the great Jew?" 
demanded Binit, jerking her nose out of her jug. 

"The very same," grunted Khatin, chuckling 
again ; " it is reported that Avil-Marduk — " 

Before he could finish the sentence, which all 



100 BELSHAZZAR 

around had stopped drinking and talking that they 
might hear, a call came down the stairway from the 
street entrance. 

" Where is Gudea the exorcist ? " The wizard 
rose, not too tipsy to answer : — 

" I am he. Who are you ? What do you wish ? " 

" I am Joram, son of Saruch, the rope merchant," 
came the reply. " My father is again torn by con- 
vulsions. Terrible demons are rending him. Hasten ! 
Come and cast them out." 

Gudea put on a professional tone at once. 

" Take comfort, excellent youth ; you command 
my best skill. Yet my time is valuable ; in justice 
to my wife I must ask five shekels." 

"Say ten, if only the demons never return." 

" Will you come also, my Khatin ? " said Gudea, 
adjusting his long robes. " You shall see my spells 
accomplish that of which no Egyptian dreams. And 
you, wife, hasten home, bring the incense pots, 
aromatic herbs, cloves, garlic, the wool of a young 
sheep, and some raw serpent's flesh. We shall 
need a powerful exorcism." And with that Binit 
went her way, while Khatin followed his friend into 
the yet busy street. 

The young man who had summoned them bore 
indeed a Jewish name ; but, as Gudea explained, he 
and his father Saruch were men of true worldly wis- 
dom. If they still prayed to Jehovah, they had long 
since cast off their native bigotry ; they brought 
offerings to the temples, and knew that in times of 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 101 

illness one must run for the wizard. As idlers recog- 
nized Gudea, and the whisper spread that he was 
headed for Saruch's house, a great crowd followed, for 
there were few better sights than a skilful incanta- 
tion. So, with a long train of pedlers, donkey-boys, 
guardsmen off duty, and their kind, the exorcist came 
to the dwelling of the rich Jew, beside the quays. 
The courtyard was open, and soon thronging, but 
Gudea ostentatiously bade the servants to clear a 
space and bring forth their master. The convul- 
sions were over for the moment. They laid Saruch, 
ghastly pale, and scarce conscious, on the cushions 
in the sunlight of the court. Gudea knelt, blew in 
his nostrils and ears, and rose with a long face. To 
the anxious wife and son he announced solemnly : — 

" Good people, you have indeed done well to sum- 
mon me. Nothing less than the ' Maskim,' the 
'seven arch-fiends of the deep,' have entered into 
the worthy Saruch." Whereupon all the jostling 
crowd began to shrink and shiver, though none 
cried aloud lest the demons quit Saruch and slip 
down their gaping mouths. But Gudea reassured 
them pompously. " Be not afraid, excellent friends. 
The demons are still in Saruch, but I have muttered 
an infallible spell to control them as they pass out. 
They will enter no other." The crowd pressed 
again nearer. 

" Alas, noble wizard," began the wife, weeping, " can 
even your skill eject the ' Maskim' ? " Gudea drew 
himself up, offended. 



102 BELSHAZZAK, 

" Were I another exorcist, perchance you might 
doubt rightly. But am I not the most notable 
conjurer in Babylon? Fear nothing; you shall yet 
see Saruch walking before you, well and happy." 

" Nevertheless," muttered Khatin, impiously, " it 
were no harm to call an Egyptian." But Binit had 
bustled in with divers bundles, on which all cast 
awesome glances. Gudea unpacked ; took sundry 
earthen pots, filled them with spices, struck fire, 
and presently from them drifted a thick aromatic 
smoke, that blew in Saruch's face and set him 
coughing. 

" Back, all of you. Adore the gods ! " com- 
manded the wizard. " I will now commence the 
never failing exorcism of the Maskim." 

There was not a whisper, while the conjurer 
began casting bits of wool, hair, dried flowers, and 
beans into the fire, each time repeating loudly: — 

" Even as the bean is cast in the fire, 
Even as the fire consumes the bean ; 
So may Marduk, chieftain of the gods, 
Drive the demons and their spell from Saruch ! " 

At first Gudea stood still ; then, laying off his 
shoes and rubbing his hands, — token of purification, 
— he commenced the sacred dance about the sufferer. 
In the first rounds he moved slowly, his white gar- 
ments swelling and falling as he turned, while his 
watchful wife fed the fire with scraps of dry flesh, 
spices, and splinters of magic woods. Gudea recited 
incantation after incantation, calling on Marduk, 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 103 

Istar, Ea, and every other god to aid in driving the 
" seven fiends " out of Saruch's throat. He con- 
tinued, until suddenly the sick man began to quiver 
and foam at the mouth. 

" The convulsion again ! " moaned the sufferer's 
wife, starting forward. " Alas ! my Saruch I " 

" Peace, woman ! " thundered Gudea, " will you 
break the spell? No danger, the fiends are risen in 
his neck. They struggle against coming forth, but 
I compel them." The sufferer almost rose from 
his cushions ; his face was black, his eyes blood- 
shot. 

" Glory to Marduk ! " howled Gudea, " the spell 
works. The Maskim depart. Now, wife." Binit 
leaped to her feet with a screech that sent all the 
sparrows scurrying from the eaves. Seven times 
she screamed, until every ear was tingling, and all 
the time Gudea danced faster, faster, in a narrow 
circle about Saruch. 

" Come out of him ! Come out of him ! Away, 
away ! " he yelled at each interval in the screeching. 
The sick man was tottering to his feet. 

" Glory to Marduk ! " bawled Gudea again, " the 
fiends are mastered. The final spell now, the in- 
fallible incantation." 

And every breath was bated while he chanted, still 
dancing, the age-honoured song of the " Maskim '* : — 

" Seven are they, they are seven ! 
In the deeps below they are seven ; 
In the crest of heaven they are seven ; 



104 BELSHAZZAR 

In the low abyss were reared the seven ; 
Man or woman are none of the seven ; 
Whirl whids baneful are all the seven ; 
Wife or child have none of the seven ; 
Mercy or kindness have none of the seven ; 
Prayers and tears hear none of the seven ; 
Eager for mischief are all the seven ; 
Sky-spirit conjure away the seven ! 
Earth-spirit conjure away the seven ! " 

A final howl from Binit. Saruch's answer was a 
groan of mortal pain; he reeled, fell. 

But the wife and son had rushed to the old Jew, 
and a fearful cry burst from the woman : — 

" Dead ! dead ! " When she lifted the head, it 
fell back lifeless. Almost at the same moment the 
crowd was thrust aside by a heavy hand, and all saw 
the stalwart form of Isaiah striding toward Gudea, 
and at the Hebrew's heels a dignified, dark-skinned 
man, in a spotless white robe. 

" Urtasen, the great Egyptian doctor," whispered 
one fellow to another. 

Gudea was standing panting, gazing upon the dead, 
the widow, and Joram. His jaw was dropped, his 
eye vacant. Even his own effrontery had failed him. 
Isaiah plucked him roughly by the robe. 

" Make your feet wings, or I will aid you," he 
commanded. " You have truly raised the ' Maskim ' 
now." 

The wizard recovered his tongue. 

" Dead ? " cried he, incredulously ; " he is but in 
a trance. He sleeps ; he will awake in quiet. The 





' #' 




ds^ w 



:J 



"Isaiah plucked him roughly by the robe. 
"'Make your feet wings, or 1 will aid you.'" 



i 



i 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 105 

demons tore him grievously in departing, but he is 
not dead." 

Urtasen had knelt by the body, examining. Now 
he looked upward. 

"Saruch had an incurable disease. Thoth, the 
wisest god, could have scarce saved him in the end. 
But this smoke and bellowing brought on a last con- 
vulsion. With treatment he could have lived many 
years. Now he will wake only at the call of Osiris." 

The widow and Joram had leaped upon Gudea. 

" Imposter ! Juggler ! " screamed the Jewess ; 
" you boast to cure ? Call my husband's spirit back 
from Sheol, if you may." 

In their rage they would have wrung the wizard's 
neck. Isaiah interposed. " You alone are to blame, 
Joram — you, false Jew, who have forsaken the faith 
of your fathers ! Jehovah justly requites you. How 
long have you forgotten our law forbidding dealings 
with wizards and necromancers ? I heard the rumour 
of Saruch's state, and hastened hither with Urtasen 
to forestall this viper," — with a glance toward 
Gudea, — " but the Most High ordained that I should 
come late, and you all be dealt with after your sins." 

" No more ! On my father's soul, no more ! " 
Joram was moaning, while his tears came fast. 

" You do well to weep," was the stern retort ; 
" but I have said enough. Now let these servants 
of the very fiends depart." 

Gudea had recovered his composure, 

" Luckless people," began he, " it was none other 



106 BELSHAZZAR 

than the counter spells muttered by this Isaiah which 
ruined my incantation and gave victory to the de- 
mons. I accuse him of black magic and murder." 

But Gudea had lost all favour with the crowd. A 
guffaw answered him. 

" Ha, scoundrel ! " yelled twenty, " do not cover 
your mummery ! " And Khatin added, " Verily, 
friend, if any murderer needs speech with me, his 
name is Gudea." 

" Out with him ! " roared all the onlookers, putting 
forth rough hands on Binit and her husband. 

" No tumult ; respect the dead ! " implored Isaiah. 

" And my ten shekels ? " howled Gudea, struggling 
in the clutch of ten men. 

" Let the crows weigh them out to you," groaned 
Joram, in his agony. 

" And may I not engage to wail at the funeral ? " 
pleaded Binit, never setting safety before business. 

" Screech at your own," admonished many at 
once. 

Khatin joined the rest in thrusting the necroman- 
cers very ungently into the street. 

" Good people," said Isaiah to those yet in the 
court, " this is the house of death. Let all who are 
needless here go their ways." 

" You shall repent this ! " belched Gudea, as they 
haled him away, but none heeded him. 

The servants drove the rabble from the court. 
The portals clanged ; the household was left to its 
grief. Khatin was laughing like a jackass. 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 107 

" Ah, my wise raven ! Ah, my sweetly chirping 
sparrow ! How amiably the demons obey you ! 
Pity they took Saruch's soul with them when they 
flitted forth." 

" The Jew ! the Jew and his sorceries ! " groaned 
the wizard. 

The roar of the bystanders drowned his protest. 
Since most had with them a heavy freight of palm- 
wine, they might have dipped him in the Euphrates ; 
but at this moment a squad of police charged down 
the street and dispersed them. Gudea, Binit, and 
Khatin found themselves thrust into a side alley. 

" By Nergal ! my pot at Nur-Samas's turns sour," 
cried the headsman, " yet not so sour as your smile 
just now, dearest brother. That Isaiah is a pretty 
fellow also, if he is a Jew ! A fine neck ! Pity I 
missed him the other day." He turned on his heel. 
For a moment Binit' s tongue flew so fast that she 
soon stopped for want of breath. 

" Our conjuring vessels, the herbs, spices, charms, 
amulets — all lost. Sheerest theft ! Go to the 
magistrate. Seize Joram, Isaiah, the widow, the — " 

" Silence ! " commanded her husband. " All this 
talked in a crowded court ? Bel f oref end ! I could 
never exorcise another demon for a year. You are 
a fool ! " 

" But did I not screech beautifully ? " 

*' Sweetly as the king's musicians, my dear one. 
But how shall we be avenged on this Isaiah ? All 
Babylon will hear of this. Woe, woe! " 



108 BELSHAZZAE 

" Avil-Marduk?" suggested she. 

" I do not understand you, wife," quoth the wizard, 
his wits still shaken by the rude events of the hour. 

" Are you become senseless as a sick sheep ? " cried 
she, scornfully. " What was Khatin about to say at 
the beer-house? You know the chief priest would 
love nothing so much as some ground for new accu- 
sations against the Jews, Go to him boldly. Accuse 
Isaiah of murder by means of sorceries. Say he 
hated Saruch because he adored our gods of Babylon. 
The moment your spell begins to work, the sick man 
falls dead. Isaiah appears the next instant. Clearest 
proof ! If Avil-Marduk can be persuaded to make 
your cause his own, an accusation supported by him 
will be true as an oracle ; though all the city might 
mock if you brought the charge alone." 

The wizard's eyes were shining with relief and 
glee, as the inspiration came to him. 

"Ah I my Binit," cried he, merrily, "happy the 
day when Istar made you my wife ! Not Ea himself 
could counsel more craftily." 

So it befell that the wizard wended his way in the 
cool of the evening northward to the precinct of Bel- 
Marduk, guardian god of Babylon. 

The temple of Bel was far more than a shrine 
perched on the crest of a ziggurat. Its walls, out- 
buildings, and priests' houses covered many "large 
acres." It occupied a site with the river on the 
west, the great " Eastern Canal " to north, and on 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 109 

south and east there was ready entrance through the 
towering gateways, guarded, like the king's palace, 
by stone lions and winged bulls. Here sleepy priests 
on watch gave not a glance to the exorcist as he 
entered. Once past, he found himself in a broad 
court girdled by a fagade of lofty pillars glittering 
with silver plating and brilliant enamel, and behind 
the columns all the walls shone with brightly glazed 
bricks. Burnished bronze glistered on the doors of 
the many rooms, and Gudea could just see the sheen 
of jewels inside the " dark room," the great sanctu- 
ary at the end of the court, where was guarded the 
ark of Bel, of which the portal chanced to be open. 

Through a noisy crowd of priests, priests' wives, 
children, and visitors, Gudea wormed his way to the 
west side of the court, till almost under the shadow 
of the towering ziggurat. Here he was halted by a 
serving-man guarding a private doorway. 

"Hold, friend ! Your business." 

Gudea made a lowly salaam. 

" Excellent sir, be so gracious as to tell whether 
the high priest, Avil-Marduk, my lord never-to-be- 
too-much-praised, is willing to listen to one of his 
slaves who craves his compassion." 

The sentinel put his hands on his hips. 

"Now, by Bel himself, are you a peasant just from 
the country ? Does Avil have evenings to squander 
on fish of your spawn? Shall I call the dogs ? " 

But Gudea knew his game. Down went his hand 
into a little bag. Up came a silver quarter shekel. 



110 BELSHAZZAR 

" Not so roughly. I am an honest citizen, as expert 
a wizard as you will find from Sippar to Erech. If 
at any time you have need of exorcising a demon — " 
here the silver changed hands, and the other replied, 
three shades more affably: — 

" Assuredly the chief priest's time is not for all. 
Still, I will endeavour — " 

" Tell him Gudea, the exorcist, desires speech as 
to certain plottings of one Isaiah, betrothed to the 
daughter of the civil-minister, Daniel." 

The other vanished and returned speedily. " The 
high priest will speak with you," he announced. 

Gudea was led down many darkened hallways, 
until he entered a small, cool room, where a few 
lamps already twinkled, where the footfalls fell dead 
on heavy carpets, and all the walls were bright with 
blue and white tiles picturing the long-famed combat 
of Bel and the Dragon. There was very little fur- 
niture in the room — a few armless stools, a low 
table covered with writing tablets. At the extreme 
end stood a high arm-chair, whereon sat Avil-Mar- 
duk himself, for the moment idling over a cup of 
wine. Old Neriglissor, who had been invited to 
keep his superior company, sat at the right, on a 
chair much lower; at the left squatted a negro boy, 
watching the moment to rise and refill the cups. 

Avil-Marduk vouched no sign of recognition until 
Gudea had come and knelt before the high seat. 
Then the pontiff raised his eyes. 

" You say you are Gudea the exorcist ? " 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 111 

" Yes, noble lord," and the wizard still knelt. 

" Stand up, then. State your errand. You have 
something against Isaiah the Jew ? " 

Gudea bowed; it was not well to risk long speeches 
with the great. Avil demanded again: — 

"Well, do not waste any time. What is the 
complaint ? " 

"Lord," came the reply, "he commits murder." 

" Murder ? " Avil raised his eyebrows. Neri- 
glissor laid down his well-beloved wine-cup. " But 
why come to me ? Am I the judge ? Who is dead ? " 

" Saruch, the rich rope merchant, by birth a Jew, 
a most pious servant of the gods, especially of Bel- 
Marduk." 

"Ah, woe!" began Neriglissor; "he gave five 
skins to us at the last feast. Excellent wine! Cruel 
murder ! " 

"And how has this worthy servant of Bel been 
butchered by Isaiah?" quoth Avil, sternly. "Is 
justice denied ? Where is the magistrate ? Can 
assassins stalk scatheless in our very streets ? " 

"Alas, lord ! Isaiah is worse than those who slay 
with dagger. What armour can repel the evil eye, 
the secret incantation ? " 

" Ah ! " Avil dropped his jaw. Gudea felt un- 
easily that the high priest was very close to a smile. 
" Well, how did Saruch die ? " 

Whereupon Gudea launched into a long and tear- 
ful narrative of his unlucky exorcism, and how, just 
as the " Maskim " were mounted to Saruch's throat, 



112 BELSHAZZAR 

Isaiah appeared, and behold ! the sufferer was dead. 
Gudea had seldom seen or heard of a crueller taking 
off; and, what was worse, it would be vast encourage- 
ment to those stubborn Jews to continue to worship 
their foul demon, Jehovah. 

"You bring a sad tale, my friend," patronized 
Avil, when the wizard was ended. " It is too true 
that in these days, when faith in the gods is failing 
and so many noble ziggurats are sinking in ruins, 
your noble art is threatened by these pestilential 
Egyptians. Your tale is but too common. But this 
Isaiah is no ordinary scoffer. His connection with 
the civil-minister makes him trebly dangerous." 

" True, lord ; and if a blasphemer like him is seen 
to go harmless, where will be any piety in Babylon ? 
Men serve the gods through fear only. They say, 
'If we do not, trouble hastens.' When one mocks, 
yet prospers, the rest all follow after. The very 
priests of Bel will starve." 

" Oh, such days of impiety I " groaned Neriglissor. 
" Religion withers like an unwatered palm. When 
I was a lad, no man dared buy a kid on an ' unfortu- 
nate day' ; now — " 

Avil cut him short. 

" You do well to be anxious for the gods, my 
Gudea ; but I have other reasons for wishing the 
end of these Jews. Not of Isaiah so much as of the 
civil-minister." 

Avil turned to the squatting cup-bearer, and at a 
motion toward the door the servant salaamed and 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 113 

vanished. The chief priest's eye suddenly fixed 
itself on Gudea, and seemed to go through him like 
a sharp sword. 

"Now, fellow," and Avil's tone was low, but 
piercing as his gaze, " are you a rascal of discretion ? 
Can you lie piously ? Can you lift your hands, bid- 
ding Marduk and Samas strike dead if you are per- 
juring ? Have you the nose of a dog, the teeth of a 
cat, and the stealth of an adder ? " 

The wizard hung down his head. The priest, 
with a single blow, crushed a fly that lit on his palm 
and snapped : — 

" Understand, you are clay in my fingers. At my 
will I dash you out as this fly. Silence now, or your 
wagging tongue wags your head off also." 

"Ah, lord," answered Gudea, "Bel forbid I 
should whisper one secret — " 

Avil sprang to his feet and paced the room. 

" Hark, you knave ! I see through you as 
through Phoenician glass. You will mortgage your 
soul for ten shekels, — say five rather. If I take oath 
from you, it will bind while your interest holds, no 
longer." 

" Alas, your Excellency, enemies blast my char- 
acter." 

Neriglissor raised a great laugh, crying : — 

" An exorcist of honesty ! Hear, Heavens ! 
Behold, Earth ! Wonder of wonders ! " 

But Avil-Marduk ceased pacing. 

" My dear wizard," said he, in his oiliest manner, 



114 BELSHAZZAK 

" I am infinitely delighted to have a man of your 
liver seek me to-night." His voice fell to a confi- 
dential pitch. " Great things are afoot. If certain 
events befall," — he hesitated, — " Daniel will be- 
come a most undesirable man to remain in high 
office." 

'^ Ah ! " Gudea dropped his jaw in turn. Avil 
ran on : — 

" If Daniel were found to have resorted to 
magic to work harm to Saruch, whom he hated for 
leaving Jehovah ; if many witnesses were found who 
could swear 'thus and thus the civil-minister slew 
Saruch with sorceries ' ; I say, if such testimony 
were brought against Daniel, it would be most ruin- 
ous to his popularity. He might even be brought 
to pass words with Khatin." 

"To suborn witnesses is costly," hinted Gudea, 
rising to the bait. 

" Suborn ? " cried Avil. " I did not speak the 
word. I say, 'Zf the evidence were found.' " And 
then, turning suddenly, his tone lost all smoothness. 
" I will give you three manehs this night. If one 
month from to-day Daniel (Isaiah matters nothing) 
lies in the palace dungeon, I will weigh you two 
talents. If not — " The exorcist was very uneasy, 
while Avil's eyes burned through him. " If not, if 
you play me false, if you fail, I will blow you out as 
a lamp ! A nod from me to the vizier suffices." 

Two talents were life riches, but the wizard's 
heart was thumping when he answered, "Lord, 



THE SPELL OF THE MASKIM 115 

lord, I am a poor man, my skill is small. Some 
other — " 

Avil cut him short again : — 

" No grunting now, pig ! After telling you this, 
did you expect me to say : ' Go in peace. Teil the 
story to all Nana Street ' ? You shall do as bidden. 
When the evidence is ready, silent as a tomb you 
come to me, and I use you and your witnesses in my 
own time and way." 

" And if I fail? " began Gudea. 

" Then, by the king's life, you fail only once ! No 
goad to a man's wits like saying, ' Do this, or visit 
Allat, Queen of the Dead.' " 

Avil-Marduk recalled his servant, and had the 
three manehs wrapped in a napkin given to Gudea. 
With many protestations and excuses the wizard 
took his farewell. 

" You risk all on this juggler," declared Neriglis- 
sor when the fellow was gone. But the chief priest 
shook his head. 

" I know him by rumour to be one of the cleverest 
rats in Babylon. He will have enough real bricks 
to build his tale with and make it credible. I have 
him utterly in my power. Should he confess all to 
Daniel, who would believe him against my denial? 
He will not fail." 

The "anointer" cast a shrewd glance at his su- 
perior. 

" You are a man of many devices. When did it 
enter your head to make use of this exorcist ? " 



116 



BELSHAZZAE 



" The moment he opened his business. I had been 
easting about for many days for a chance like this 
against Daniel, and was at my wit's end." 

" Therefore, if we were not priests, we should say, 
' Bel has wondrously favoured us ' ; but since we 
are priests, we will preserve our thanksgivings — " 

" To ourselves," interposed Avil, dryly ; " and 
now to the other part of my business. You must 
ride with me to the palace. The king will hold 
council again." 

Neriglissor grew even more insinuating. 

" My dear lord, was that cloak, found in the shrub- 
bery after the assault on his Majesty, the garment 
of the Persian envoy ? " 

But Avil only gave a great shrug with his shoul- 
ders. " My very good friend," answered he, " there 
are some things which if whispered to a gnat would 
put even my throat in peril. But I can tell you 
this : the subject of our debate this day might prove 
wondrously entertaining, if overheard by the 'ex- 
ceedingly noble' Prince Darius." 



THE PiAREM OF THE KING 




CHAPTER VIII 



A TOSS A awoke the morning after the feast with 
the same aching heart she had carried for 
more than one weary night and day. She had prob- 
ably spoken with Darius for the last time. He had 
sat beside Belshazzar, and all through the feast she 
had been arraying the two men against each other, 
— and the All-Seeing knew who found favour in her 
partial eyes ! But the deed was done, and no human 
chance promised to mend it. Already Pharnaces, 
the subordinate envoy, had started for Susa to inform 
Cyrus of the splendour of his prospective son-in-law. 
For one year Belshazzar could not actually take 
Atossa as his bride, but she was none the less the 
inmate of his harem. Life had hitherto been very 
lovely to the Persian ; the turn of destiny that sent 
her to this gilded bondage had darkened her life 
utterly. Love lost, kindred lost, home lost, — - and 
only half -known pains before I Small need to say 
further ; enough that, as Atossa looked forth upon 
the city that day, she saw not one friendly object 
that made her sense of loss less keen. 

Early had come Avil-Marduk to instruct in the 

117 



118 BELSHAZZAR 

mysteries of the Babylonish religion. The high 
priest, from whose tongue smooth words flowed as 
readily as oil from the oil- jar, exerted himself to 
entertain her by recitations of the ancient poems, — 
how the hero Gilgamesh was sought in love by 
Istar, and having dared to repulse her, was smitten 
with leprosy ; and how he journeyed to Khasisadra, 
the Old Man of the Sea, and by him was healed. Avil 
flattered himself that he declaimed uncommonly well, 
and had amused his pupil not a little. He did not 
hear the ill wishes sped after him, when he salaamed 
himself out of her presence. 

Later Atossa was taken to a wing of the palace, 
where in solitary state ruled Ta vat-Hasina, daughter 
of Nebuchadnezzar, and queen of the deposed Na- 
bonidus. There could be little friendship between 
the royal ladies. Tavat's political power as queen- 
mother was still considerable ; but she saw in Atossa 
the rival who would in time strip her of the vestiges 
of authority, and greeted the other with studied 
coldness. And Atossa saw merely an elderly woman, 
tricked out with wig and Egyptian rouges, fleshy 
through her inactive life, supercilious and querulous 
because of ennui. Their interview was as brief as 
the punctilious chamberlains would allow. 

The rest of the day was Atossa's own ; the king 
had promised to visit her, but she had small grief 
when affairs of council prevented. As the first cool 
airs of the afternoon began to creep over the place, 
she was pacing the roof of the harem, thoroughly out 



THE HAREM OF THE KING 119 

of temper with herself and all the world. And truth 
to tell, the Babylonish maids and eunuchs set to wait 
on her whispered to themselves that the new queen 
was no more gently disposed than her kingly con- 
sort, and it would be only the favour of the gods that 
could keep them out of Khatin's clutch, if she was 
always so unreasonable. 

Therefore Atossa without difficulty scared them 
from her presence, and had the harem roof to her- 
self. A delightful place, she would have said in 
otlier moods : lifted up above all the earth, — only 
the ziggurats higher. The city lay spread below ; 
she could trace the great Euphrates north and south, 
until it faded to a darkling thread upon the horizon. 
The roof tiles had been strewn with white sand and 
gravel ; there were seats, divans, flowering shrubs, 
and tropical plants in huge earthen vases, — a second 
hanging garden, scarcely less. 

Atossa had thrice paced the length of the long 
walk, when her eye caught a face timidly upraised 
from the entrance. She spoke at once, 

" Come up, Masistes ; I did not command you to 
stay away." 

A gray old eunuch shuffled up the stairs, and 
knelt and fawned around her feet. The face of 
Atossa had softened as she smiled down on him, 
though her smile was still bitter. 

" Ah ! Dear old playfellow, rise up ! Have I not 
been your fosterling since first I could walk ? When 
at Susa or Ecbatana have I passed one day without 



120 BELSHAZZAR 

you close by to scold and grumble over me ? And 
now that all other friends are gone, you alone are 
left ; and I have learned to love none too many new 
faces here, to wish to keep you quite afar." 

The honest fellow thrust his arm within hers, — a 
familiarity born of lifelong comradeship. 

" Ah ! Little mistress, you do not right in cry- 
ing down this wondrous city. Surely, there is 
naught else like it under heaven ! " 

" Masistes," said Atossa, looking upon him half 
playfully, half in anger, " I must have you whipped. 
Since coming hitiier you have learned to lie." 

" I lie ? " he lifted his hands in dismay. " Ahura,' 
Lord of Truth, forefend ! " 

" Nevertheless," she answered, laughing now, " you 
speak falsely, praising Babylon. From the bottom 
of your soul you hate it. How do I learn this? 
Because I know when you are indifferent to a thing, 
you are silent ; you like it, when you begin to mutter 
against it under breath ; but if you love it exceeding 
well, — there is nothing you may say of it too ill ! 
But I am open, and I say to you, — and to any 
who wills to hear, — this city is the abode of dcevas : 
dcevas are all its lords, its priests, its people; and 
Angra-Mainyu, arch-fiend, is little fiercer than its 
king." 

"Alas ! lady, such speeches make no winds pipe 
sweeter ! " 

" Not sweeter ? I only know that except I empty 
my heart to some one, it will burst ; and I think no 



THE HAREM OF THE KING 121 

Egyptian doctor could heal that with all his cor- 
dials ! " 

" Come, little mistress, in five years Babylon will 
have become dearer to you than Susa. What is 
strange, we hate." 

" So has said Darius ; but I would answer this : 
When Belshazzar can love a maid above a lion, I will 
try to think otherwise." 

" But at the Gardens last night was he not all 
courtesy and compliment ? Doubtless his manners 
are not those of your august father — " 

" Silence ! " she commanded, truly wrathful now, 
" speak not of Belshazzar and of Cyrus in one breath ! 
Where is the king worthy to sit beside my father ? 
I say nothing of his power, — but of his tenderness, 
his mercy. And ^Belshazzar," — some force seemed 
tugging the name across her teeth, — " no doubt he 
can speak glozing words; but his heart is dark, and 
under the softest of his speeches you can hear the 
muzzled roarings of the lion." 

The good eunuch began to whimper in sympathy, 
a great tear on each cheek. 

" Alas ! lady, all is as you say. Yet you will not 
curse Cyrus who sent you ? " 

Atossa's eyes were dry ; she held her head up 
proudly. 

"No, I may not curse. I am born a king's 
daughter, — and therefore a slave, — a slave to the 
welfare of my people. Better that I should dash 
my wings and beat out my little life against the* 



122 belshazza:r 

bars of this cage, than that thousands of our Aryan 
sword-hands pour out their blood in war with 
Babylon. I am but a maid ; but I am wise enough 
to know this, — king's child and peasant have alike 
one heart, and in it the same pains. Happy for the 
world, if the grief of the first may spare grief to the 
thousand others ! " 

" The world says, * Let the thousand suffer, that 
the one may laugh.' " 

Atossa threw back her head again. "Yes — so 
Belshazzar would say, but not Cyrus ; therefore, my 
father is a great king, and Ahura prospers him." 

" Peace, little mistress," exhorted the faithful 
fellow, tenderly ; " let us say no more. Verily, your 
heart is emptied now ! " 

They paced side by side, measuring the ample 
circuit of the harem roof, each striving desperately 
to talk on indifferent matters. Presently they 
were both startled by a slight scuffling as of feet, 
in one of the small courts at the farther extremity 
of the walk. They leaned across the parapet, but 
the court seemed unoccupied save for a dozen white 
doves who were plashing in a little fountain, prink- 
ing their feathers, and admiring themselves in the 
rippling water. Atossa tossed a bit of loose mortar 
downward into the fountain. There was one whir 
of wings, and the doves returned to their stations. 
She was turning away, when, as if in answer to her 
missile, a tiny brick was flung upon the parapet 
. beside her. She looked across — the court was still 



THE HAREM OF THE KING 123 

empty, but the brick was covered with writing. She 
read these words : — 

" If the Lady Atossa is alone upon the roof of the harem, 
or with those she may trust to the uttermost, let her throw 
back this letter, as sign that I may mount to her. Some dan- 
ger must be faced, for the danger of Prince Darius is yet 
greater." 

Atossa knew perfectly well that the stranger who 
penetrated the harem of the king ran the risk of 
being sawn asunder. The consequences to herself of 
a stolen interview might be more than disagreeable. 
But the princess was in no mood for prudent coun- 
sels. Masistes had naught but fears. " What danger 
could lurk for the sacred person of the envoy ? An 
insolent interloper ! Summon help, and give alarm 
at once." 

She would have nothing of his caution. None 
could overlook the harem roof. The others had been 
bidden to keep below stairs ; a shout could bring 
aid if there was the least need. " Danger to Darius " 
whispered by a flitting breeze would have made her 
open to far more desperate recourses. With a heavy 
heart Masistes saw her fling the brick down beside 
the fountain. 

A moment of waiting, and forth from the shadow 
of the wall, directly under Atossa's station, appeared 
a young man, with a companion in the armour of a 
guardsman. The first stranger, without word or 
hesitancy, swung himself upon the thick-stemmed 
vine that twisted upward to the parapet from the 



124 BELSHAZZAR 

court below, — no easy feat ; but he clambered upward 
with an agility worthy of Darius himself, and landed 
beside the lady almost before she realized he had 
commenced ascending. Once mounted, he shot 
about a single glance in search of some unfriendly 
eye, then stared abruptly upon Masistes. 

" Is this eunuch trustworthy ? " he demanded, with 
no courtlier greeting. 

" He will die for me ; is that sufficient ? " an- 
swered Atossa, still wondering, and almost off her 
guard. 

" So the Lord God grant! " The newcomer glided 
behind a wide tamarisk bush that cut off view from 
any mounting the stairs. " And the others below are 
quiet ? " he pressed. 

"They will only come when I summon them." 

He leaned across the parapet, saying something 
softly to his companion. Atossa did not know the 
language, but imagined it Hebrew. When he 
turned to her again, she saw he was a powerful, 
handsome young man, with a manner of speech not 
unlike that of Darius. 

" Lady," said he in Chaldee, "doubtless you know 
me not. You were in the closed carriage when his 
Highness the prince saved Ruth, my betrothed, 
from the king's lion. Prince Darius deigns to call 
himself my friend ; last night in some slight measure 
I repaid the debt I owe. To-day I strive to pay 
more, but I need your aid." 

" Good sir," spoke Atossa, her dignity rising. 



THE HAREM OF THE KING 125 

and cautious at last, "he who is Prince Darius's 
friend is mine ; but I know neither your name 
nor race. At best your errand here is a strange 
one." 

The young man took one step nearer Atossa. 

" Lady, are you so fond, concerning Belshazzar, 
that you seek many tokens to vouch for him who 
declares himself the foe of the king and the well- 
wisher of Darius ? " 

Atossa became yet haughtier. " Belshazzar is my 
betrothed husband. Will you revile him to my 
face ? Am I not mistress in this palace ? " 

A nod from her would have sent Masistes to sum- 
mon help ; but without premonition the newcomer 
held out his finger, showing a ring — on the beryl 
seal a swordsman was stabbing a lioness. 

" When last did your Highness see this ? " he de- 
manded, very quietly. 

" It was on Darius's finger at the feast last night." 
And even Masistes, as he looked, stifled the cry that 
was on his tongue. 

" Know, O Lady Atossa," went on the stranger, 
" that Darius, son of Hystaspes, gave me this ring, 
after the feast, in token of sure and abiding friend- 
ship. Will you hear me now, wherefore I would 
speak with you ? " 

"I will hear," answered she, almost faintly, and 
there was no colour in her cheek. But as she spoke 
a voice sounded from the hall below, and the young 
man shrank behind his tamarisk. 



126 BELSHAZZAR 

"Gracious princess, condescend to honour your 
slaves by coming down to the luncheon, which is 
ready." 

Atossa sprang to the stairway. 

" Have I not bidden you magpies keep silence ? 
Do I not know when I hunger ? Begone, or — " 

Retreating footsteps told that the menials had not 
waited for her threat. She turned to the stranger, 
and faced him fairly. 

"Sir," she said directly, "I will believe you are 
Darius's friend. Say on." 

Now what Isaiah told of the adventure of Darius 
with the king in the Hanging Gardens we will not 
here repeat. When he had finished, when Atossa 
knew the height and the depth of the Babylonians' 
guile, the Jew looked for a scene of terrible agony. 
He did not know the royal strength of the daughter 
of Cyrus. Her white cheeks grew yet whiter, but 
her only answer was, " Yet though I know all this, 
what profit ? Am I not prisoner here ? I shall see 
Darius again, at a time only Ahura the Merciful 
knoweth. By your own mouth the prince is safe 
and free." 

" He is free, but not safe." 

" Not safe ? Belshazzar will put forth his hands 
against the sacred person of an envoy ? I cannot 
believe this guile, — I will not ! " Atossa flushed as in 
the anger of despair. " The king may swear a thou- 
sand oaths, as you say, and keep none ; but to murder 
an ambassador were a deed which Marduk and 



THE HAREM OF THE K^G 127 

Ramman, his own foul gods, would reward with swift 
vengeance ! " 

^'Lady/' said the Hebrew, gently, "whether Mar- 
duk and Ramman may requite or not, Avil-Marduk 
is the physician who can mingle drugs to soothe 
the king's conscience. Since morning those who 
brought me the earlier warnings have borne me this : 
The king and his council have pondered long over 
the ownership of the Median cloak torn from the 
shoulders of the wrestler in the gardens. They have 
suspicions, — suspicions only ; but if they seem well 
grounded, Avil and Belshazzar are not prone to stickle 
at trifles with such a stake." 

" Jew," Atossa spoke slowly and calmly, " tell me, 
in what way is the prince to be attacked ? Answer 
truly, as we Persians and your people call on one 
truth-loving God." 

Isaiah's answer was given in so low a tone that 
Masistes heard none of it. When he finished, Atossa 
asked aloud. 

" And why do you not go to the prince yourself ? 
Why bring all this to me ? " 

Isaiah smiled bitterly. " Already a net of spies is 
spread around Darius. This morning I found I was 
more than suspected. An attempt to meet the prince 
would have been the signal for my arrest. But 
Zerubbabel, my good friend, stood sentry at the h^rem 
gate, and suffered me to pass. He guards below. 
The harem is accounted so inviolable, that in mere 
security it is less watched. Though you may not see 



128 BELSHAZZAR 

Darius, have you no Persian servant who can be 
trusted to warn ? Who dreams that you are to be 
guarded against ? " 

"Behold the messenger ! " interposed Atossa, turn- 
ing half playfully to Masistes. 

Before Isaiah could answer there were steps again 
on the staircase, and there thrust itself into view of 
the fulsome smile of Mermaza. 

" Samas pity me ! " smirked that notable, " the 
* supereminently admirable ' lady alone on the 
harem roof with only two under-eunuchs for com- 
pany ! Verily, she may well cry out against the 
palace that supplies no more agreeable companion- 
ship ! " 

" Two eunuchs ? " answered she, facing him with 
cold dignity, and moving directly before the tama- 
risk, — " two ? I trust I grow blind, for by all gods, 
Persian and Babylonish, if there is another of that 
breed here, saving Masistes, he comes against my 
express command. And I will teach these well-fed 
underlings of yours that Cyrus's daughter may fall 
in love with their heads ! " 

Mermaza cast his eyes about, winked, and replied 
suavely, that " he had thought he saw the forms of 
two persons near her, but was deceived. Only 
Masistes was present. The 'blindness-demon' had 
begun to plague his sight. Only he fell at his lady's 
incomparably beautiful feet, and besought that she 
would not forbid him her presence." 

Atossa moved slowly away from the tamarisk, 



THE HAREM OF THE KING 129 

keeping herself carefully betwixt it and Mermaza. 
" My excellent sir," quoth she, taking care never to 
lose the chamberlain's eye, " I am most delighted to 
have you here. Masistes has been telling a wondrous 
tale. This morning he was crossing a court, when 
behold ! his hair rose in cold fright, for a groom was 
leading a great lion past him, by no stouter tether 
than a hound's leash ; yet the beast seemed gentle as 
a little dog. Surely, the cowardly rascal was merely 
affrighted by some monstrous mastiff ? " 

Atossa saw the worthy dart one sidling glance of 
keenest scrutiny upon her, but she endured it. 

"My sweet mistress," said Mermaza, speaking 
more halting than was his wont, " Masistes brings 
only truth. You have not seen, then, the king's tame 
lions ? " 

" Assuredly not." Atossa led the chamberlain to 
the opposite parapet, and gazed across, seemingly 
enraptured by the panorama of the city. In his 
anxiety to seem interested he never looked behind, 
where her keener ears detected the crackling branches 
as of one descending. 

"Then," smiled he, "we have a new wonder to 
show you. As soon as the king returns from the 
hunt we will bring the lions into the harem ; you 
will find them harmless as cats, and vastly more 
entertaining." 

" Why not to-morrow ? Does the king use them for 
hunting ? " 

"They are better than hounds. To-morrow his 



130 BELSHAZZAR 

Majesty takes our dear friend the ' worshipful ' envoy 
to his game preserves. The gods grant," he con- 
tinued piously, " that no wild beast harm the prince ! 
' Prudence,' I fear, is not a Persian word. He is all 
rashness." 

Atossa deliberately led him back to the other end 
of the walk. The refuge behind the tamarisk was 
empty, and so was the little court below. 

" I have strolled here long," asserted she suddenly ; 
" even the view of the city grows wearisome. Let 
me go down to the luncheon." 

Mermaza was not pleased to have her end the 
promenade, yet perforce consented. But when 
Atossa's petulance had chased the frightened maids 
from her chamber, it was to have a moment alone 
with Masistes, and to put in his hand a written slip 
of papyrus. 

Later in the evening he was back, and a nod told 
her that the message had been safely delivered. But 
Atossa slept little that night. Once the eunuch who 
kept her door thought he heard some one within 
speaking, and entered unbidden lest there be an 
intruder. His mistress did not see him, for she was 
kneeling beside her bed, and praying softly in her 
Persian tongue. Before the fellow tiptoed away he 
noticed that ever and anon she would shake with 
sobbing. 

"Marvel," he grunted to himself, "the 'Lady of 
Sumer and Akkad ' is weeping ! What can such 
as she have to move to tears ? " 



^ THE KING OF THE BOW 




CHAPTER IX 



DARIUS the envoy had been assigned a spacious 
suite of rooms in the old palace of Nebuchad- 
nezzar ; he had his own guards, his own retinue of 
Persian body-servants. The prince's private cham- 
ber was a high vaulted room, elegantly tiled, with 
little windows pierced in the arching roof. During 
the heat of the day the serving lads sprinkled the 
brick floor with water, and, as this evaporated, there 
arose a cool and refreshing vapour. All that after- 
noon the prince had kept to his chamber, and ap- 
peared to be in even less of a merry mood than had 
been his wont lately. Boges, who kept the door, 
was whispering to Ariaeus the chamberlain that their 
master must have been mightily disturbed over the 
murderous attack on the king during the feast in the 
jrardens. 

" As Ahura lives ! " protested the worthy, " there 
is somewhat on his lordship's mind. He has kept 
company with his writing tablets all day." 

And it was indeed so ; for though the scribe's art 
was not commonly among the accomplishments of an 
Aryan nobleman, Darius had long since mastered it, 

131 



132 BELSHAZZAR 

and now for a long time he had sat with his clay 
frame in his lap and his stylus in hand. Boges had 
ventured once the question : — 

"And does my prince require me to send Arta- 
banus to copy down the despatches to Susa? " 

" I do not," came the answer, so curt that Boges 
risked nothing more. 

Presently Darius rose from his stool, and turned 
to the doorkeeper. 

" The time grows late," said he ; " the city gates 
will soon be shut. Yet no messenger has come from 
Cyrus? from Susa? " 

" None, master ; we have heard that the Elamite 
mountain tribes are restless and stop couriers." 

"Couriers of Cyrus? Do they so desire to be 
made jackal's meat that they must stop the Great 
King's despatches? No, no, Boges — the Elamites 
are not the delayers." 

"Whoif not they, lord?" 

" I do not know," was the answer, in a tone that 
made the servant sure his superior had lively sus- 
picions. 

" And will my lord dress for the supper Bilsandan 
the vizier gives to-night ? " asked Arise us the cham- 
berlain, smoothly. 

" Another feast ! Angra-Mainyu, arch fiend, con- 
found them ! " fumed Darius ; " these Babylonians 
boast many gods. In truth they have but two — the 
mouth and the belly. Praised be Mithra, the king goes 
hunting to-morrow, which will give some respite I " 



THE KING OF THE BOW 133 

But just as the prince was about to let Ariaeus 
lead him away to the bath, his eye lit on a new- 
comer among the knot of attendants by the door. 
His tone changed to that of good-natured banter, for 
he saw his favourite body-servant, a sharp-tongued, 
keen-witted Persian of about his own age. 

" Ha, Ariathes ! So you have been roaming about 
the city once more. Tell me, is there one beer- 
house in all Babylon you left unvisited? Where did 
you find the most heady liquor ? " 

"My lord wrongs his slave," quoth the fellow, 
demurely. "See! I am quite sober." 

"By Ahura, that is true. Surely the throne of 
Cyrus must totter, now a marvel like this can 
befall ! " 

" My prince," answered Ariathes, very respect- 
fully, "I have heard something that made me in 
no mood for palm-wine. And I think my lord 
should hear it also." There was something in the 
rascal's eye that made Darius bid all the others 
stand back, while he led Ariathes to the upper 
end of the chamber, after drawing close the door- 
curtain. 

" Well, fellow," began he lightly, " your tales are 
commonly of witching black eyes and the bottoms of 
deep wine pots. What now — a strapping lass slapped 
you ? " But Ariathes did not smile at the sally. 

" My lord," he said, " I have quite another story. 
Does the prince remember Igas-Ramman, the captain 
who flogged the old Jew? " 



134 BELSHAZZAR 

" Assuredly. I curse myself I did not require his 
head." 

"I have hatched a great friendship with him. 
He has been taking me about the city. To-day we 
went to the temple and grove of Istar, and the girls 
who serve the goddess brought wine enough to make 
us stagger till the great day. But it was too sweet 
for me, and I took little ; though Igas would never 
cease pulling at his beaker. At last, when he seemed 
well filled, he led me to the summit of the great 
temple tower to have a sight of the wide city. 
The tower stands by the northern wall, where Ai- 
bur-shabou Street passes through the Gate of Istar, 
close by the canal. There is a marvellous view 
to all sides ; but what made me wonder most was the 
sight of many squadrons of horsemen drilling in the 
open country before the Gate of Bel — ten thousand 
lances, to my thinking." 

" Ha ! " and Darius's jaw dropped involuntarily. 

" My lord is interested ? Shall I go on ? " 

" Yes, by every archangel ! " 

" I said to Igas, ' Brother, what are all these horse- 
men ? Your king is at peace. To maintain so many 
cavalry will make his treasury as empty as a leaky 
water-skin.' Thereupon he began to laugh, then, 
clapping his hand across my eyes, he cried, ' Ah, 
my dear Persian, your sight is too keen ! Ask 
no troublesome questions, for friendship's sake. 
Come, let us go back to the maids and the 



Wine. 



THE KING OF THE BOW 135 

" And you followed him ? " asked Darius. 

" Yes, lord ; but not until I had counted the num- 
ber of the squadrons and seen that chariot brigades 
were drilling with them." 

"But why should Igas try to conceal this from 
you? Belshazzar is a great king. We all know 
Babylon has a powerful garrison ever on duty." 

"True; but let my lord take what my bucket 
drew up from Igas-Ramman's well. He began by 
vowing he would peril his head if he chirped once 
about the army of his master ; then straightway all 
this comes out — the garrison of Babylon is being 
increased, extra chariots are being built, and war 
horses collected. The troops in Eridhu and Larsam 
are being sent north to strengthen the frontier posts 
of Sippar and Kutha. There is a great gang of la- 
bourers at work enclosing Borsippa within the outer 
defences of Babylon. Finally, the militia of the 
country districts are being armed." 

" For what enemy ? " 

" My lord can guess better than I. When I pressed 
Igas on this point, he only laughed and brayed ten- 
fold louder than common ; but he had become 
very drunken, and before long fell over upon the 
bricks." 

The prince was frowning darkly. 

"Ariathes," said he, "you are a man of nimble 
wit. Do you think Belshazzar is sincere in seeking 
peace with Cyrus ? " 

The other smiled grimly. 



136 BELSHAZZAE 

" I am only my lord's slave. Who am I to meddle 
in the affairs of princes ? " 

" Well, you have a throat that will cut as quickly 
as any man's ; and know this well, if you walk in 
the steps of Igas-Ramman and chatter loud enough, 
you will forswear palm- wine forever." 

Ariathes grinned and was about to salaam before 
withdrawing, but the prince spoke again. " Look 
you ; we have been for days in Babylon, yet no 
courier comes from Susa with despatches. What 
does it mean ? " 

" Have I not said I am blind to affairs of state ? " 

" Then receive sight ; for, as you love me and as 
you love Cyrus, you need two wide-open eyes, as 
well as a ruly tongue. Cast about and find some 
means of sending a letter from Babylon without 
Belshazzar or Avil-Marduk smelling it. My last 
messenger travelled openly. Do you understand ? " 

Ariathes replied with a low bow. Darius returned 
to his seat, took his writing tablet, and deliberately 
mutilated the letter just completed. In its stead he 
stamped a very brief message, which he did not 
place in the chest by the wall, but wrapped in linen 
and hid in his own bosom ; for an uneasy suspicion 
was beginning to haunt him that the very pictures 
enamelled on the bricks could see all that befell in 
this palace of Belshazzar. 

" It grows late, my lord," admonished the cham- 
berlain, after a discreet interval; "will you go to 
the vizier's feast ? " 



THE KING OF THE BOW 137 

" I will go," replied the master, testily, and he suf- 
fered the servants to dress him. 

As he went to the palace court to take chariot, the 
inevitable multitude of palace servants and guards- 
men crowded around, bowing and scraping. The 
press was so dense that the staff-bearers had no little 
ado before clearing the way. Suddenly, out of the 
crowd, Darius recognized a familiar face — the old 
eunuch, Masistes. The two were side by side only 
for an instant. 

" Your lady is well ? " demanded Darius, eagerly. 

"She is well," was the cautious answer, "but do 
not seem to speak to me. Read this in secret. It 
is from her." 

Masistes was swallowed in the throng before 
Darius had time to startle. 

"The chariots are ready, my lord," Boges was 
shouting. 

The prince felt something like a tiny roll of 
papyrus thrust up his sleeve ; but he curbed his 
curiosity and guarded it carefully until he was back 
at his own chamber that night. Then with all pre- 
caution he read this note, written in Atossa's own 
hand, in their native Persian : — 



" Atossa, consort of Belshazzar, to the great prince Darius. 
Many things hid to the world without are revealed in the king's 
harem. Do not seek to know how I learn this thing, but wait 
Ahura's good time. Beware of the royal hunt on the morrow. 
Of all things beware of the king's tame lions. For you they 
may not be so tame. As you love me, return to Susa when you 



138 BELSHAZZAR 

may, and forget my name, as T pray Ahura I may forget yours. 
I dare write no more. Masistes' craft will bring you this. 
Farewell." 

Darius sat a long time over this letter, though it 
was past midnight and he must be up with the 
dawn. Ariathes had just reported that he had 
intrusted his master's second despatch to an obscure 
Jewish caravan merchant, who swore by his God that 
he would deliver it to the commandant of Cyrus's 
nearest garrison. If the messenger proved faithful, 
and eluded the watch, the king of the Aryans and 
his council would be soon learning wisdom. But 
what part was left to be played by Darius ? Clearly 
the plot was thickening. For some reason, mani- 
festly, Belshazzar desired him anywhere but in 
Babylon. Was he suspected of being the eaves- 
dropper upon the king? Should he plead some 
excuse and refuse to go on the hunting ? Should 
he humour Belshazzar's wishes by hardly disguised 
flight ? The prince was a proud man — proud of his 
race, his king, his own prowess. The battle spirit 
was rising in him. Was he not " King of the Bow" ? 
Should he desert Atossa and leave her in the harem 
of Belshazzar without one friend in all Babylon, sav- 
ing the eunuch Masistes ? The prince, we repeat, 
loved to dare first, and count the cost thereof after- 
ward. And that night he vowed afresh, " I will 
brave all danger. With Ahura's help I will not 
turn back the width of one hair before the guile of 
these 'lovers of the lie.' " 



THE KING OF THE BOW 139 

Long before dawn, Idina-aha, master of the 
hounds, had emptied his kennels of the fifty black 
mastiffs who were to accompany the royal hunt ; 
and at gray dawn itself Darius met Belshazzar in 
the central palace court. A score of trained game 
beaters were mounted and ready; and what with 
the escort of dog boys, guardsmen, and eunuchs, the 
chariots, the lead horses, and the long mule train 
with the baggage, Belshazzar drove forth with no 
little army. The monarch had appeared in the best 
of spirits ; had looked Darius fairly in the eye when 
he told the Persian that they intended to hunt the 
auroch — the wild bull — whom no dog could face ; 
and that on this account he had with him his pride 
— his three hunting lions, to whom even the wild 
bull could have no terrors. When Darius saw the 
brutes, huge as the beast that he had slain so mem- 
orably, he had indeed marvelled, though not after 
the manner Belshazzar imagined ; and the king 
laughingly vowed to him, that if the Persian should 
be so fortunate as to slay an auroch, he should have 
his choice of which of the lions he should take back 
to Susa, excepting always " Nergal," the royal favour- 
ite, whom his master could not spare. 

So they set forth, Belshazzar with seemingly one 
end in the world — to make his fellow-huntsman 
merry. They passed the great Western Gate, and 
sped through the pleasant suburbs, past luxuriant 
gardens, prosperous farmhouses, and innumerable 
canals fringed with long arbours of trees. Now and 



140 BELSHAZZAU 

then they saw countrymen dragging their hand-carts 
of kitchen procjuce to early market, two or three 
tugging together. As they halted to water beside 
a little village of dome-roofed huts Darius saw the 
peasants ploughing in the fields, with the usual team 
— a mule and a cow — and heard the ploughing 
song, already thousands of years old ; — 

" A heifer am I, 
To the mule I am yoked. 
Where, where is the cart? 
Go look in the grass ; 
It is high, it is high ! " 

Fields of wheat, barley, and millet waved far and 
near. Darius grew weary counting the prosperous 
landed estates and thriving villages. Truly Hanno 
the Phoenician spoke well, the wealth of the country 
of Babylon was beyond that of the mine. The corn 
lands and the thrifty peasants had made possible 
Imgur-Bel and Belshazzar's kingly glory. 

But at last the farms were falling wider apart. 
The canals were dwindling. The land where un- 
tilled was brilliant with spring flowers, and the wind 
crossing the plain came to the travellers sweet with 
all the fragrance of the unscorched verdure. The 
company kept on until, beside the last of the narrow- 
ing canals, the king cried, " Halt ! " and the weary 
footmen were glad to drop by the roadside, beside 
the panting dogs. Then the panniers on the carrier 
mules were unloaded, wine was passed about, and 



THE KING OF THE BOW ' 141 

food. The noon hours were spent in rest and 
chatter. 

Darius had gazed about him curiously. 

" So far, and no signs of jungle ? Only the open 
plain." 

Belshazzar gave his usual answer — a laugh. 
" This is not your mountainous Iran. Other gods 
created Chaldea. Years ago there lay a broad stag- 
nant lake beyond yonder rising, nestled in a deep 
hollow in the plain. The kings drained and enclosed 
it, planted trees, and stocked it with game. Here 
are still found the wild bulls — the aurochs — left 
nowhere in all Babylonia saving here. To kill one 
was the glory of the kings of old. The preserve is 
many furlongs on each side. The beasts run wild, 
and are fierce as in the virgin forest." 

" Ahura grant we meet them ! " 

The prince had spoken so naturally that Belshaz- 
zar darted one glance at him — arrow-swift. But it 
sped quickly as it came, and Darius added : — 

" Yet must you hunt the bull with lions ? " 

" After you have once faced an auroch you will 
not marvel that only the king of beasts dare bay 
him." 

When Belshazzar had remounted the chariot, the 
whole company were away ; and once past the hil- 
lock, Darius wondered as he saw a sweep of wood- 
land, trees and thickets, stretching north and south 
far as the eye might reach, the whole enclosed by a 
brick rampart too high for the bound of the hardiest 



142 BELSHAZZAR 

lion. Merely to enclose so huge an area was a task 
nigh equal to building the temple-tower of Bel. At 
a ponderous gate they found a company of soldiers, 
who opened and saluted. Instantly the forest 
closed round them. Meadow lands and farms were 
lost from view. It was like traversing one furlong, 
yet in that journey entering another world. The 
paths were leaf -strewn and scarcely trodden. The 
cypresses and cedars bowed in canopy overhead, and 
with them rarer trees, native doubtless of India or 
Ethiopia, but here long grown wild. There were 
acacias beside the meandering streams, and tamarisk 
thickets. The woods grew wilder the deeper they 
penetrated. 

" And how old is this strange forest ? " demanded 
the Persian of his Babylonish charioteer, at which 
the fellow answered : — 

"Esarhaddon drained and fenced it more than a 
hundred and twenty years ago. Since then it grows 
wild. Except for the guards and gamekeepers no 
man enters the preserve on peril of his head, unless 
the roving lions get before the executioner." 

The words were broken short by the rush of a 
frighted creature. " Whir ! " quicker than the tell- 
ing a wild ass had sped across their path : one sight 
of his shining gray coat — the leaves closed after 
him. Belshazzar forbade the eager grooms to un- 
leash the dogs. 

" No hound can run down an ass, and the game 
we seek is fiercer." 



THE KING OF THE BOW 143 

So they fared onward till, in a clearing, they came 
to the huts of two old foresters, who, after thanking 
the gods for suffering his Majesty and his noble 
guest to deign to visit their forest, reported that 
they had just discovered an auroch of most marvel- 
lous size. 

" Marduk grants," ran their tales, " that the beast 
should be a monster terrible as the ' divine bull Alu ' 
slain by the hero Gilgamesh. To-night he is deep 
in the jungle ; but if the gods favour, his Majesty 
shall find him in the morning." 

Thus the camp was pitched for the night. Busy 
hands brought bales of linen and tent poles from 
the pack train. The royal tent — a huge ten-sided 
structure — was soon ready, its dome-shaped roof 
stretched above, and within was arranged a complete 
set of portable furniture, including the ivory throne 
mounted on wheels, which a mule had tugged all the 
way from Babylon. Scarce smaller was the pavilion 
set for Darius, who had brought his own Persian 
servants with him. Around them the tents for men 
and horses spread like a little village. At night 
the king set abundant cheer and fare before his 
guest, but there was no deep drinking, for sober 
heads were needed in the morning. Darius bade 
Boges discover how and where the tame lions were 
kept, and the good fellow reported that they were 
safely chained and guarded in a distant tent. The 
prince contrived that no Babylonian should sleep 
inside his own pavilion. He kept his bow strung 



144 BELSHAZZAR 

and his naked sword beside him, but nothing dis- 
turbed till he woke in the morning. 

The foresters had been out very early. They had 
tracked the auroch and laid a hound on him, but he 
had distanced them and had hidden in the inner- 
most jungle. Already half of the huntsmen had set 
forth to make circuit, rout the monster from his lair, 
and drive him nearer the encampment. After the 
king had poured libations to Marduk and Istar he 
mounted horseback and thundered away, the prince 
and the remaining huntsmen flying behind him. 

"And where are the tamed lions?" demanded 
Darius of a Babylonian riding at his side. 

"They were taken away before dawn to aid in 
baying the auroch. Doubtless they are on him now. 
Hark ! By Nabu, they have found him ! " 

Through the mazes of the wood reechoed some- 
thing deep as thunder, though seemingly very far off. 

" Ha I " Belshazzar was crying, "the ox is bellow- 
ing. They are driving him from his covert.'* 

"Will they force him this way?" was Darius's 
question. 

" So Bel grant ! But you will need no bow, son 
of Hystaspes," for the Persian was putting on a new 
string. " The auroch's hide is arrow-proof. Trust 
to your short sword." 

" I do not love the sword. It is the bow of Iran 
that has made us Persians a great people. It will 
not fail I " 



THE KING OF THE BOW 145 

" I have warned you. You will slay no auroch 
and win no lion." 

The prince answered with silence. Riding side 
by side with Belshazzar, he had not suffered a word 
or an act of the king to escape him ; but he had not 
noted how their escort in the rear had gradually 
dwindled, two falling off here and three there. 

" This is the spot. Let us rein and wait the au- 
roch," declared Belshazzar. Darius glanced about, 
barely in time to see the last of the retinue vanish- 
ing behind the trees. He realized, suddenly as a 
trap locks round its victim, that he was alone with 
Belshazzar ; not one telltale presence to carry report 
of any strange deed that might befall. He had bid- 
den Boges to keep near him. Gone — diverted by 
what means, Ahura the Wise alone knew. The 
prince had many times looked " the Lord of Death " 
in the face upon the battle-field — what soldier of 
Cyrus had not ? But for all that his breath came 
quickly, his muscles grew rigid. Here at last was 
the moment that should prove whether Atossa 
warned truly, whether the king suspected who it 
was that had wrestled with him in the garden. Had 
the letter Ariathes had sent passed through Belshaz- 
zar's spies and guards in safety? The Persian 
needed none to tell him the details of the plot to 
take his life. Somehow, in the next few moments 
he was to be murdered. His rashness as a hunter 
was known in Susa. What could Cyrus say if 
the Babylonian wrote, " Your envoy was reckless 



146 BELSHAZZAR 

and an auroch killed him " ? But Darius's thoughts 
were not of himself only — the weal of Daniel, of 
Atossa, of Cyrus and all his realms, hung on his own 
life, perchance. Oh, the headstrong pride and folly 
that had rushed him into this hazard ! 

But these thoughts came and went in less time 
than the telling. Belshazzar was beside him, — Bel- 
shazzar, splendid, arrogant, — and Darius knew the 
king's heart was harder than hardest marble, while 
he waited the outcome of his guile. The Persian 
had his bow in his hand, and his bow was his good 
friend, part of himself as much as hand or eye. He 
would not be slain like a snared hare while there 
were so many keen shafts in his quiver. The silence 
seemed growing long. Belshazzar, as if intent on 
waiting the chase, said nothing. Not even a breeze 
was rustling the tree-tops. The prince sat and 
waited. 

Presently the auroch lowed again, nearer this 
time, and they could hear the distant shouts of men 
and the deep baying of the mastiffs. The scene was 
no strange one to Darius, but when before had he 
himself been one of the hunted ? A thought flashed 
across him — to point his arrow at Belshazzar, bid 
the king swear to send him home scatheless, or take 
the shaft in his breast. But that were madness. 
Belshazzar had sworn once and cast his oath to the 
winds; would he remember it now, if wrung from 
him by force ? The Babylonian must be the first to 
strike. 



THE KING OF THE BOW 147 

A new thunder through the wood shook Darius 
from his despair. The bolt had not fallen. Ahura 
grant it should not until he had taught these Baby- 
lonian " fiend- worshippers " somewhat. He turned 
to Belshazzar. 

'"'■ Why do you wait here ? Is not the hunt leaving 
us?" 

" What do you fear ? " was the reply, with a smile 
none too reassuring. " The sport is for us alone. 
The rest will bring the game to us. Fie on you, 
Persian, if you fear to be overmatched ! " 

" Not overmatched by ten aurochs ! " cried the 
Persian, looking fairly in the king's eye. "But 
will not the chase pass some other way ? " 

" The game I seek,^^ flew the answer, " will pass 
nowhere else." 

Darius's fingers itched to send one arrow through 
that royal mantle then, and let all Babylon do its 
worst. Suddenly it dawned on him that if he were 
tensely strung, the king was likewise. While he 
ever questioned, " How will the bolt fall ? " Bel- 
shazzar's one thought was, " How much does the 
envoy suspect ? " They each would have given a 
hundred talents for one peep into the heart of the 
other. The thought appeared so comical to the 
prince that, to Belshazzar's wonderment, he began to 
laugh; and that laugh refreshed him and strength- 
ened him like a draught of new wine. 

" Crash ! " A vast lumbering object was dashing 
through the trees. They heard thickets shivering ; 



148 BELSHAZZAR 

birds flew screaming from their nests. The noise 
neared rapidly. Again the thunderous bellow — 
close now, and deep. The ground shook with the 
thunder, and an answering quiver ran through the 
Persian. Peril or no peril, he had never before 
faced an auroch, and his hunter's instinct was strong 
within him. 

Belshazzar's horse pricked his ears, snorted, and 
began to rear and plunge. The king barely con- 
trolled him. The Persian's beast started to do like- 
wise, but felt the touch and press of an iron hand 
and iron knees so powerful that all the spirit was 
crushed out of him. Not so with Belshazzar. 

" Marduk blast me," rang his curse, " if I do not 
flay Rabit for giving me this beast ! " But the horse 
only plunged more wildly. 

One last thunder ! Darius saw the saplings bow- 
ing, the leaves shook down as a falling cloud ; out 
from betwixt the trees shot a beast the like of which 
the prince had never beheld before. A bull, but a 
bull of monster size — his horns the span of a bow, 
his hide mud-brown ; out of his mouth, and with 
the lolling red tongue, one almost saw the live 
flames breathing, with more flame in the huge balls 
of his eyes. To see this took one instant. The 
auroch crashed on until face to face with the two 
riders, then halted in his shambling run not twenty 
paces from them, dropped his horns, and lashed his 
flanks with his tail. Darius wondered no more that 
mastiffs did not love to bring him to bay. 



THE KING OF THE BOW 149 

The Persian's arrow lay on the bowstring, but he 
did not shoot. All the trembling had gone out of 
him. As if by a new sense, he knew that there was 
something stirring, creeping, in the thicket behind 
him. Did his ears fail when they heard a human 
whisper, low, but distinct — a whisper as of a man 
urging on his hound — " Now ! " 

Darius did not turn his head. His horse, subdued 
by his master touch, stood stock still, while the bull 
glared at them. But Belshazzar was in deadly 
straits. Try as he might, his beast would not 
stand steady, and, with the horse plunging under- 
neath him, what chance to strike the bull with the 
short sword? The king's face turned livid as he 
struggled. 

" Shoot ! " he cried, between his teeth ; " shoot ! " 

Darius's hand drew the arrow to its head. The 
auroch shook his horns, bellowed for the last time, 
and looked from Darius to Belshazzar, from Belshaz- 
zar to Darius. Which should feel his charge ? The 
bull fixed his eyes on the king, gave a snort, a 
bound. 

" Shoot ! " cried Belshazzar again. As if in echo 
came a voice out of the thicket, " Back, Nergal ! 
Woe ! The king ! Do not leap ! Too late ! 
Woe ! " 

And Darius swung himself in the saddle just in 
time to see the tawny body of Nergal, the royal 
lion, launching itself — not on the auroch, but on 
him. The arrow flew to meet the lion. It was 



150 BELSHAZZAR 

Ahura the Great who shed on Darius the power that 
sent the startled charger with a wide bound to one 
side by the mighty press of a knee. The lion 
leaped. His flying claws tore the leather on the 
Persian's sleeve. A mighty snarl — the beast dashed 
upon the turf. The saving of Ruth had been no 
shot like this. The deed v/as done too swiftly for 
thought or fear, while all around the woods were 
ringing with a fiercer conflict. The auroch had 
sought his prey the moment Nergal had leaped on 
his. The king had striven desperately to master his 
steed, but vainly. The monster caught the horse 
under his horns and tossed mount and rider in the 
air. Halting in full charge, he shook his great 
head and looked about. The horse was disembow- 
elled — dying. The king, cast upon the green- 
sward, was struggling to rise. He had lost his 
sword. The auroch lowered his head again. Still 
a foe ? He would trample it out instantly ! 

" Help, in Marduk's name, help ! " the king was 
calling. 

Out from the thicket whence sprang the lion sped 
a man, Idina, master of the hounds, and leaped be- 
side Belshazzar. A brave deed, but foolish. In his 
hand was only his whip of office. 

" Help ! the king is in peril ! " was his shout to 
the distant beaters. But Belshazzar might have 
fared to the " World-Mountain " that day had it not 
been for another. Right at the raging bull rode 
the Persian, and a second shaft flew, not at the 



THE KING OF THE BOW 151 

arrow-proof hide, but into one flaming eye. The 
loudest bellow of all shook the forest when the mon- 
ster charged Darius. All the Persian's skill could 
not save his horse. One horn hooked in the belly 
— the scream of a dying charger, that was all. But 
Darius was on foot before the bull could turn from 
his triumph. His short sword was in his hand. 
He met the charge of the bull on the side where 
the shaft had blinded. Belshazzar saw him shun 
the sweep of the terrible horns, and the onrush 
of the bull drove the steel clean to the hilt in the 
shoulder. Another snort, a bellow that made the 
high boughs quiver, and the auroch tore away. 
They heard him dash down a small tree in his 
charge, a second, a third ; then there was a crashing 
fall, and silence. 

Darius stood staring about and leaning on his 
bow. Nergal, pierced to the heart, lay twitching, 
though life was fled. The horses were struggling 
in their last agony. Belshazzar was trying to stag- 
ger to his feet. How long it had seemed since the 
bull burst upon them ! 

King and envoy looked upon one another. Darius 
saw Belshazzar strive twice to speak, but the words 
thickened in his throat. Then the king's eye lit on 
Idina, and the royal wrath blew out on him : — 

"Verily, as I am lord of Babylon, you shall be 
impaled ! Why not rescue sooner ? " 

" Lord," replied the other, losing his wits as he 
trembled, " it was as you ordered. When the prince 



152 BELSHAZZAR 

was confronting the auroch, I was to unleash 
Nergal — " 

The words were like fire upon dry straw ; for 
the king had forgotten all else in the thought of his 
own danger. 

" Nergal ? By the Maskim, what is lying there on 
the ground ? A lion ? " 

"Yes, your Majesty," said Darius, very coldly. 
" When Idina unleashed him, while they stood be- 
hind me in the thicket, he forgot the auroch to 
spring at me. His claws have torn my dress. I 
prefer the auroch, my king. He^ at least, charges 
fairly and face to face." 

The king did not risk himself to reply to Darius, 
but, turning to Idina, declared icily : " Fellow, for 
your cursed folly this day, I swear by every god of 
Babylon, you shall be beaten to death." Then to 
Darius, in a tone equally icy : " Persian, you have 
saved my life. Ask what reward you will." 

" I ask nothing," replied the other, haughtily, 
" nothing but this — to meet no more of the king's 
tamed lions." 

Before Belshazzar could answer, the foresters and 
beaters were all around them. The king and envoy 
spoke not a word to each other, while the gaping 
hunters cried out at the hugeness of the slain 
auroch, and loudly lamented their master's mis- 
fortune. There were more wailings over the dead 
lion. 

"The king's trust in these beasts is misplaced," 



THE KING OF THE BOW 153 

commented Darius, dryly ; " Nergal was no less dan- 
gerous than the auroch." 

The Babylonians who were wise looked at one 
another slyly. The Persians following Darius soon 
arrived at a tearing gallop, cursing a forester who 
had said he was leading them close behind the 
prince, but only brought them to a halt in a matted 
jungle. 

Belshazzar had to be lifted, and carried back to 
the tents. His ankle was hurt, not dangerously, 
but for the while he could enjoy no more hunting. 
He seemed in no slight pain, and his body-servants 
were rejoiced when he contented himself with order- 
ing Idina's tongue to be cut out, before the luckless 
"master of the hounds" was flogged to death, and 
did not command the execution of any others. 

Between Belshazzar and Darius there did not 
pass one syllable for a very long time. A messen- 
ger had come post-haste from Babylon. " Urgent 
despatches," he announced, "from the chief priest 
to his Majesty." That afternoon, accordingly, after 
Idina had passed beyond the reach of the royal 
wrath, the whole company returned with speed to 
the capital. 



g] BEL ACCUSES 




CHAPTER X 



DANIEL the civil-minister had been arrested 
on the charge of committing murder by sor- 
cery. All Babylon had rung with the news. Even 
though the accusers were vouched for by Avil- 
Marduk himself, the city had received the tale with 
indignant incredulity. When Sirusur went with a 
" hundred " of lancers to make the arrest, the 
burghers would have rescued the prisoner by sheer 
force, had not Daniel leaned from the chariot in 
which they were bearing him to the palace, and 
entreated the citizens to shed no blood. Even those 
closest to the king shook their heads, and expressed 
the hope that no ill would brew from the high priest's 
doings. 

But Daniel had spent the night in the palace 
guard-house, and the rage of the city folk had in 
a measure subsided. Nevertheless, when the doors 
were thrown open to the " Hall of Judgment," the 
wand-bearers had no slight ado to control the multi- 
tudes that pressed for entrance. There on the ivory 
throne sat Belshazzar, in the robes of state, splendid 
as on the night of the feast in the Hanging Gardens ; 

154 



BEL ACCUSES 155 

behind the king stood the parasol bearer and the fan 
bearers ; at his right hand, in his white mantle of 
office, was the high justiciar of the realm ; on his left, 
in resplendent scarlet livery, was Khatin, statuesque, 
impassive, save as at rare intervals he stole a sly 
glance at the ponderous naked sword at his side. 
On the three broad steps of the throne were arrayed 
the royal officials, each in due order of precedence, 
they likewise in glittering array ; down the walls the 
sunlight flashed on the enamelled pictures, the great 
cedar beams of the ceiling shone with their gilding. 
The pathway to the foot of the throne was marked 
by a costly rug. If Daniel was to be tried, it was 
not to be without due state ! 

As the old Jew entered, escorted by Bilsandan 
the vizier, there had occurred something that made 
Avil-Marduk, as he stood at the accuser's station 
before the king's right hand, swell with hidden 
rage. Of all the huge company that thronged 
the lower hall, scarce a head failed to bow in 
salutation to Daniel ; and not a few were bold 
enough to shout a " Heaven prosper you ! " after 
him. " Silence ! or I clear the hall ! " Belshazzar 
ordered angrily, and the noise ceased; but there 
was no need to tell on which side was arrayed 
the people. 

Unmoved ' by all, Daniel, ushered by the vizier, 
advanced to the foot of the throne, and there, as 
etiquette demanded, remained kneeling, until, after 
long silence, a barely perceptible nod from Bel- 



156 BELSHAZZAK, 

shazzar told him to rise. Bilsandan salaamed, and 
stepped beside the justiciar, at the right of the king, 
leaving Daniel confronting the monarch. 

More silence, and then Belshazzar began abruptly : 

" Daniel, otherwise named Belteshazzar, answer : 
Did you, or did you not, commit murder of late, by 
spells and witchcraft? " 

The Jew, who seemed as composed as the king 
himself, in the face of that peering company, 
answered mildly, but without the least hesitation, 
"that if his Majesty pleased, he would not plead 
until his accusers had stated their charges." 

" And if I do not please ? " demanded the king, 
ominously. 

"Then, jout Majesty, I shall be constrained to 
recite to you the law, honoured by all your royal 
predecessors since its decreeing by Khammurabi, 
two thousand years ago, ' Let no man be condemned, 
except he be first accused, and his guilt proven out 
of the mouths of two unperjured witnesses.' " 

" Have a care, Jew ! have a care ! " warned Bel- 
shazzar ; " it ill becomes a leopard of your spots to 
teach the law to the king of Babylon." 

" I ask only justice, your Majesty." 

" And, by Bel, you shall have it ! " swore the king. 
" Advance, Avil, and produce your witnesses ! " 

The high priest appeared before the throne, at his 
back three men and a woman, who bowed them- 
selves most awkwardly in the presence of royalty. 

"The wise Gudea," muttered Khatin in his beard. 



BEL ACCUSES 157 

" and Binit his dear wife have scarcely learned 
courtly graces at the beer-house of Nur-Samas." 

But, leaving his myrmidons to gape around the 
hall, Avil commenced a fiery invective. If his 
arguments were faulty, his epithets were strong. 
Daniel, the most impudent blasphemer of Bel in 
all Babylon, had, he explained, at last carried his 
impiety so far as to accomplish the death of the most 
excellent Saruch, simply because the latter forsook 
his impotent Jewish demon, Jehovah. If the king 
failed to punish the murderer, the outraged gods 
would haste to blast Babylon with fire and brim- 
stone. 

"Do you still deny the accusation?" questioned 
Belshazzar, when Avil concluded, and the Jew, all 
unmoved by the fierce harangue, answered steadily, 
" Utterly, my lord ; my whole life lived in this city 
denies it." 

" Present, then, your witnesses," commanded Bel- 
shazzar of Avil, who proceeded to hale Gudea to the 
front, with a muttered injunction in his ear to " tell 
a well-welded story, or the ' Earth-Fiends ' would 
have him by night I " 

Therefore the exorcist, with smooth countenance 
and glib tongue, rattled off the tale of the death of 
Saruch, adding that if the man did not meet hi§ end 
by foul enchantment, he was willing to bare his back 
for a thousand stripes. 

Khatin had rolled his eyes more than once during 
this recital, and did so again when Binit was thrust 



158 BELSHAZZAR 

forward after her husband. The good woman's 
examination was the more brief because the lardy- 
ointment she had smeared on her hair was so 
pungent that even the king could hardly regard 
her steadily. She avowed that early on the day 
of the alleged murder she had sold a quantity of 
magic wood and magic wax to two men whom she 
identified as the remaining pair of witnesses. There 
was an audible titter when she ended. 

"Will you cross-examine these witnesses?" asked 
the justiciar of Daniel. 

" My lord," the prisoner smiled quietly, " I can 
ask these worthy people many things, but since 
neither have connected me in the least with the 
death of Saruch, I will only reserve my right to 
examine them later." 

" Come forward, then, Tabni," commanded Avil, 
confidently; "tell the king the rest of the story^, 
that he may see how the testimony of the most pious 
Gudea tends to convict the accused." 

A more partial judge than Belshazzar, even, might 
well have looked askance at the personage who now 
faced Daniel. A squalid dress, an unkempt beard, 
and a single eye with a most snakelike twinkle, made 
it difficult for Khatin to swallow his guffaw. Avil 
examined his witness sharply, and Tabni answ^ered 
with the readiness of a well-drilled pupil. He was 
a " charmer," of a profession akin to Gudea's, only he 
made the spells which the other counteracted. He 
would supply good crops, profitable investments, or 



BEL ACCUSES 159 

successful love-making as promptly and cheaply as 
any in the city. On the day of Saruch's death, 
Daniel had summoned him very early, and told him 
he needed his services to " wither " a mortal enemy. 
Tabni had hesitated, and Daniel raised the fee. 
Therefore, as the witness put it, since it seemed a 
mere " overcasting," with no impiety involved, he 
consented, for business had been slack of late, and 
one must live. He had gone with Daniel's servant 
Shaphat to buy the needful conjuring material of 
Binit. Then Daniel took him, in company with 
Shaphat, into a secret chamber. They made a 
waxen image ; named it Saruch ; thrust three red- 
hot needles through it ; and Tabni had pronounced 
the infallible spell over it, — 

" We entwine you with ropes, 
We catch you in a cage, 
We twist you in a sling, 
We drown you in filthy water, 
We fling you down from a high wall." 

That afternoon Tabni heard that Saruch was dead. 
He had reflected, and became convinced that he had 
been privy to a fearful deed. His conscience had 
troubled him, and he had conferred with Gudea, who 
advised him to make a public confession. 

" And will you examine this man also ? " asked the 
justiciar again, to which Daniel, still composedly, 
made answer, " May your lordship first deign to 
hear the other witness." 

"It is your right," responded the justiciar; to 



160 BELSHAZZAR 

which Belshazzar added viciously, " I have sworn it, 
you shall have full justice, Jew; but take notice, 
your guilt is established out of the mouth of one 
witness. Let a second swear to his tale, and the 
case is proved. I give you this opportunity. Con- 
fess now, and I will see if I can relax the just 
penalty of the law." 

" I demand the other accuser," answered Daniel, 
almost haughtily ; and Belshazzar nodded to Avil. 

" Shaphat, former servant of Daniel, advance ! " 
commanded Avil, peremptorily. 

And now there was a rustle and a flutter in the 
hall indeed. " One of the minister's servants will 
betray him, — and one who is a Jew, at that ! " ran 
the whisper, while an ill-favoured young man was 
thrust before the king. But all men noticed that 
the fellow hung down his head, and would not look 
the prisoner in the eye. Avil's voice was very 
stern. 

" Now, Shaphat, you have heard all that the pious 
* charmer ' Tabni has said. Tell the king : Were 
you not a Jewish servant in the house of Daniel, 
and did you not quit his service because you grew 
to love the gods of Babylon, while he worshipped 
his demon Jehovah and gave himself over to vile 
sorceries? " 

The witness nodded, very faintly. 

" You were with Tabni when he bought the magi- 
cian's material from Binit ? " 

"Yes," — the word barely audible. 



BEL ACCUSES 161 

" You were with him at the making of the waxen 
image? " 

" Yes," — the word came still fainter. 

" Now is it not your oath, taken in the name both 
of the gods of Babylon and of Judea, that Daniel 
pronounced the name of Saruch above the waxen 
image ? " 

But at this instant the witness raised his head, 
and Daniel looked him in the face. They saw 
Shaphat's countenance working in agony ; the 
words were choking in his throat : " I cannot ! I 
cannot I " That was all they could understand. 

*' Cannot what, knave ? " demanded the king, 
fiercely. But the wretched fellow had cast himself 
before Daniel, and embraced his knees. 

" O master ! master ! " he groaned, " I cannot lie 
before your face. I was dismissed justly for my 
thieving, and only in your mercy did you spare me 
prison. You are guiltless; Tabni's tale is all per- 
jury : I never saw him ; never saw Binit ; you never 
had the ' charmer ' in your house. Alas ! that I 
listened to Gudea, and took his money — " 

" Silence, hound ! " shouted Avil, flinging dignity 
to every wind, and catching the luckless witness by 
the scruff ; " would you be cut into sandal-leather ? " 

But a fearful din was rising from the company. 
Not only the city folk, but the courtiers, were thun- 
dering : " Innocent ! Innocent ! Away with the false 
witnesses ! " 

" Silence ! " commanded the king, his countenance 



162 BELSHAZZAR 

darkening. " What is this, Avil ? What is this wit- 
ness saying ? " 

"Your Majesty," answered Avil, barely heard in 
the tumult, "you see with your own eyes that 
Daniel is a sorcerer. While Shaphat came forward, 
he muttered magic spells to force him to utter false- 
hood ! " 

The efforts of the wand-bearers had restored still- 
ness. Belshazzar's frown was still very black when 
he addressed the prisoner. 

" That the accused has dealing with demons, who 
come to his aid, should be manifest to all men. 
Speak, Daniel ; even now I give you chance to show 
wherefore you should not die the death." 

" I stand upon the law, your Majesty." The Jew 
seemed the soberest mortal in all that excited com- 
pany. " My past life should be a defence against 
the slanders of this Tabni ; and the king has heard 
Shaphat and his confession. Even receiving the oath 
of Tabni, only one witness swears to my guilt." 

"And let your Majesty observe," interrupted Avil, 
angrily, " that the civil-minister, being a Jew, can- 
not claim the protection of the law of Babylon." 

But at this Bilsandan the vizier leaped from his 
station. 

" Are you mad, priest ? " he cried. " Deny for- 
eigners our law, and all the great Egyptian and 
Syrian merchants quit Babylon ; our trade is 
blasted ! " 

" And will you presume to teach me my duty to 



BEL ACCUSES 163 

the king?" retorted Avil, still more wrathfully. 
But before the tumult could rise higher, the justiciar 
stepped out before the throne. 

" Live forever, O king ! " spoke he, salaaming. 
"Before your Majesty passes judgment, hear this 
concerning the witness Tabni. Daniel has not yet 
asked him, but I do ask, whether he was not the 
* charmer ' who was brought before the ' Tribunal of 
the Five Judges,' in the past year, when Daniel sat 
with me among the members ? He is silent ; he 
dares deny nothing. No ; nor dare he deny that he 
was convicted first of embezzlement, then of perjury ; 
and that all the judges save Daniel voted ' death,' 
but the civil-minister persuaded us to mercy. We 
imposed three hundred stripes. Behold the grati- 
tude I " 

The uproar was doubled now, the exertions of 
the wand-bearers utterly futile. The luckless Tabni 
cowered behind the chief priest, who still clamoured, 
" Execute the blasphemer ! No mercy to the sor- 
cerer ! " While Bilsandan as loudly bade the priest 
" make an end to his patter ! " and to remember the 
precept in the *'Book of Maxims," "Let the king 
avenge according to the law, or swiftest destruction 
waiteth upon his city." 

Yet, through all the clamour and turbulence, Bel- 
shazzar sat upon the ivory throne, impassive, im- 
placable. The very sympathies of the company had 
made his stony heart still harder. Was he not 
king? Should any ancient law, from men of ages 



164 BELSHAZZAR 

forgotten, stand betwixt him and his own royal 
will ? At the first instant of silence his voice rang 
clear : — 

" Hear my judgment. Daniel is a Jew, and the 
law does not cover him. His guilt is sufficiently 
proved. Advance, Khatin ; seize the prisoner ! " 

But it was not merely shoutings now that drowned 
the king's voice. Right before the monarch sprang 
Sirusur, " Master of the Host." 

" Lord," cried he, hotly, " if your Majesty desires 
to put crown ministers to death on the word of such 
as Tabni, let the king find another general ! " And 
he cast his baton of office at the royal feet ; so did 
the justiciar, so the " Master of the Granaries," the 
" Master of the Treasury," and a dozen great officials 
more. Khatin, the boldest of the bold, had shrunk 
from fulfilling the kingly order. But while Bel- 
shazzar sat lowering and unbending in the face of 
every protest, Mermaza had thrust his way through 
the angry officers, and salaamed before his master. 

" Your Majesty," spoke he, and his ever present 
smile had become dimmed in truth, "I am com- 
manded by the queen-mother, Tavat-Hasina, to say 
that she has heard with no pleasure of the accusation 
against that dear servant of her father Nebuchad- 
nezzar, the civil-minister Daniel ; that she entreats 
the king her son to listen to no perjured evidence, 
and she warns the minister's accusers of her most 
high displeasure." The colour was leaving Avil's 
cheek, for Tavat was still a power to be reckoned 



BEL ACCUSES 165 

with. " And I am also commanded," went on Mer- 
maza, more haltingly, " to say in behalf of the wor- 
shipful Persian envoy, the Prince Darius, that Daniel 
the Jew has become most dear to him, and he trusts 
the king will do nothing hastily, if he desires to 
retain the ambassador's good will." 

They saw Belshazzar's face grow even darker, saw 
him lift the gold-tipped sceptre, as if to dash it in 
the eunuch's face. But fewer saw Avil's signal to 
his lord, as the priest stood close beside the dais, and 
the muttered whisper, ''Yield for the moment." The 
staff-bearers enforced silence at last. In profound 
stillness the king announced his decision : — 

" In mine own eyes the guilt of Daniel is clear as 
the moon on a cloudless night; but I perceive that 
many faithful servants are minded otherwise, and 
that a question has arisen as to the veracity of the 
witness Tabni. Let therefore the accused be re- 
manded to prison until his case can be more care- 
fully examined into. And since nothing else is 
brought to my judgment seat, let the hall be 
cleared.'* 

The assemblage dispersed. Daniel was led to the 
palace prison. The king vanished in the harem. 
Khatin stole away to Nur-Samas's beer-house with 
very dejected countenance, — he had not taken 
Daniel's head. Only Avil and Gudea conversed 
together, but not amiably. 

" Scorpion," raged the priest, " what mean you by 
playing with me thus ? To pin half your tale on 



166 BELSHAZZAR 

a creature like Tabni, and then to have the other 
witness fail ! " 

" Compassion ! my lord," whined Gudea. "Hardly 
a man would do an ill turn by Daniel, he is so 
beloved. Even Tabni and Shaphat set their prices 
high." 

"And Shaphat has vanished, after having made 
sport of me before all Babylon ! " fumed Avil. 
" Better to have Daniel at large, than in prison with 
so many revilings flung after me as there were 
to-day ! You have failed me utterly, you and 
your cursed wife. May you never darken my sight 
again! " 

"But your lordship recalls a small matter," sniffed 
Gudea, as unable as Binit to forget the money-bags, 
— "a promise, of two talents ; merely of two talents. 
A trifle amongst friends — " 

" And I will pay them," swore Avil, " when Allat 
has requited you in the 'House of Torment.' There- 
fore, get you gone ! " 

When Gudea returned to his home that night, he 
had occasion to meditate long on the ingratitude of 
the mighty. 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 




CHAPTER XI 



IF Gudea's heart was sorrowful that night, so 
were those of greater men than he. Avil had 
never before found Belshazzar so irascible, as when 
they conferred in a quiet chamber of the palace, 
about sundown. 

" The Jew is obstinate as an old camel ! " cursed 
the king. " He knows no more fear than a mad 
auroch. I can do nothing with him! " 

" And the king threatened ? " insinuated Avil. 

" Torture, impaling, flaying alive, hot furnaces, — 
and all else ; yet he will not give me an order on 
Imbi-Ilu for his daughter." 

" Let the king's liver find peace," comforted Avil, 
sweetly. " Daniel will not torment him long. The 
feast of Bel is near, when I as chief priest may crave, 
in the god's name, one boon which you may not 
refuse. If I ask then the life of Daniel, can the 
queen-mother complain? You are powerless to deny 
such a request." 

"Ah, well, that will end him!'' snapped the king. 
" I seek the daughter." 

Patience, your Majesty." 

167 



(( 



168 BELSHAZZAR 

" No patience, I have waited long. At dawn I 
will go in person to Borsippa, and demand her sur- 
render. If not — I will find if Nabu can make the 
hides of his priests too thick for sword-blades ! " 

Avil shook his head. " Nothing rashly, lord. 
All the people revere Nabu." 

" Let them learn the greatest god in Babylon is 
its king," Belshazzar threw up his head; "there is 
too much priestly rule here for my liking," He 
looked hard at Avil, who bit his lips at the open 
hint. " You failed miserably in the accusation," con- 
tinued Belshazzar. 

"I did not know Shaphat had so sore a con- 
science," confessed the pontiff, ruefully; " but once 
in prison, Daniel shall find it nothing easy to learn 
the way out of it." 

" And the Persian Darius grows more intolerable 
every day. He has saved my life now. Would that 
any other had done it ! " 

" And wherefore should that be an offence to my 
lord. I never was sanguine the lion would succeed. 
There are many ways of speeding even so great an 
archer as Darius out of the world." 

" Avil," spoke Belshazzar, eying his minister, " I 
believe that the gods have set in your breast no 
heart, but a block of iron ; you may persuade me to 
many things, but not to slay Darius until I stand in 
sorer need than I stand to-day." 

"Ah! well," answered the pontiff, smiling some- 
what uneasily, "it is all one whether he lives or 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 169 

dies. My watchers are everywhere ; not a letter to 
or from Susa fails of interception. He is harmless 
in Babylon. Let us delay the envoy as long as we 
may peaceably. If he demands to be sent home and 
seems to know too much, there is but one thing left." 

" To clap into prison and prepare for speedy war 
with Cyrus ? " 

" The king has said! " bowed Avil. 

"Very good," answered Belshazzar, not without 
bitterness. " I follow your wisdom ; but woe to 
Babylon, and woe to you, if your wisdom prove but 
folly!" 

The king had come to Borsippa with a " fifty " of 
war chariots, and five hundred mounted lancers. 
So a frightened underling reported to Imbi-Ilu, 
just as that pontiff was sprinkling himself with 
purifying water, before going to the great altar, to 
proffer the morning "fruit-offering." 

" He demands instant entrance," continued the 
messenger, in no steady voice, "both for himself 
and the soldiers who follow him." 

" Armed men in Nabu's temple precinct ! " cried 
the high priest, dropping the palm branch with 
which he had been sprinkling his garments. " Never 
has warrior planted sandal inside our gates since 
the founding of the ziggurat! Surely, your wits are 
wandering." 

" Would to Nabu they were ! " groaned the other ; 
" but hearken ! " 



170 BELSHAZZAR 

And Imbi heard the clattering of spear-butts 
against the portals. 

" This is an important hour for the dignity of 
Nabu," announced he, regaining composure. " We 
must at once reverence the king and defend the 
honour of our god. Go, tell his Majesty that we 
will admit him, as soon as I can array the corps of 
priests and temple ministers in due order to receive 
him with proper state." 

Then the great gong that hung by the steps to the 
tower began to clang furiously. The school boys 
joyously flung away their clay tablets, while their 
professors hastened to don their whitest robes. The 
sluggish temple servants ceased dozing on the sunny 
bricks of the court, and shuffled toward the gate- 
way, where the long lines of priests and other 
servitors of Nabu were forming. 

When the entrance was at last thrown wide, and 
Belshazzar's chariot entered, the king confronted ex- 
tended files of "Necromancers," "Libation-Pourers," 
"Dirge-Singers," and many more sacred colleges, each 
drawn up in proper order, every man in his snowy 
garment and peaked tiara, with Imbi-Ilu in his pon- 
tiff's goatskin at their head. And at a signal from 
their chief every knee was bent in salutation, while 
the temple choir intoned the chant of welcome. 

" Grant prosperous life, 
Innumerable years, 
And children uncounted, 
O Nabu, most wise ! 
To Belshazzar our king ! '* 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 171 

The chariot had halted in the courtyard, but the 
swarms of soldiery without the gate had not begun 
to enter when Imbi-Ilu stepped before the sovereign, 
and salaamed almost to the bricks. 

"A fortunate day, O Nabu, a fortunate day that 
brings Belshazzar the heaven-loving sovereign to the 
'Eternal House'! Let the king deign to make 
known his will to his servants ; he knows," the 
pontiff rubbed his hands craftily, " that Nabu is poor, 
his priests lack corn. Strange and young gods be- 
witch the pious of Babylon." 

Belshazzar leaped from the chariot without wait- 
ing for the grooms to set the footstool. He was 
clearly striving to appear conciliatory. 

" I greet you well, you, and all these other vener- 
able priests," nodding to the company. " I have not 
forgotten that the revenues of Nabu have diminished. 
I have commanded that the treasurer deliver upon 
your request a hundred gurs ^ of barley and as many 
of millet, also I deed to you an estate of the crown 
near Erech of fifty ' great acres ' of corn land." 

" Blessing to the ever bountiful son of the gods ! " 
chorussed the company, every head bowing again. 

" But I have come to make a request," went on 
Belshazzar. 

"The king's wishes are law," smiled Imbi-Ilu. 
" He desires the supplications of his servants for the 
continuance of peace ; be assured — " 

Belshazzar raised his hand. "I crave a smaller 

1 The gur was about eight bushels. 



172 BELSHAZZAR 

boon, that will not take these reverend men from 
their studies. There is in this temple a damsel — " 

Imbi-Ilu bowed yet again. " The king has spoken, 
— the Jewess Ruth." 

" Be so good as to bring her forth immediately. 
I take her back to Babylon." 

Imbi-Ilu repeated his salaam. " The king's word 
is good. We are all obedience. Where is the letter 
from Daniel her father ? " 

" The letter ? " there was a dangerous flush on Bel- 
shazzar's bronzed cheek ; " I do not understand you, 
priest." 

" Let not the king take anger," returned the pon- 
tiff, calmly. " Who am I so bold as to remind him 
that only on command of the father can we give up 
a maid entrusted to us for asylum ? " 

"Well," affirmed Belshazzar, tossing his lordly 
head, "your learning, of a truth, teaches that the 
king is greater than the father ; and it is the king 
who orders now." 

There was a dead hush for a moment, every eye 
fixed on Imbi. His was the next move. 

"Your Majesty," began he, firmly, "/am but the 
meanest of your slaves; but as a priest it is not I that 
answer you, but Nabu the Wise, making use of my 
poor tongue." And he met the haughty glance of 
the king with one as haughty. " Nabu cannot suffer 
you to take the maiden." 

Belshazzar tugged at the sword upon his thigh. 
"No insolence," he threatened; "I give you one 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 173 

moment to consider. Give up the wench peaceably, 
or my guardsmen drag her forth by force, and you 
away to prison, to answer charges of gross rebellion 
against my will." 

Imbi turned to Hasba, the subaltern at his side, 
" Haste ! " was the muttered command, " put the 
Jewess in the shrine behind the god's own image.'* 
Then, still boldly, he confronted Belshazzar. " Live 
forever, O king ! This is my answer. If the king 
is bent on wickedness, let him proceed in person with 
one attendant, and search our precinct. If he find 
the Jewess, let him take her hence with his own hand. 
Let the soldiers remain without. So shall we be 
guiltless of resistance to your Majesty, and on your 
own head shall be all the anger of the god for this 
insult to his right of sanctuary." 

Belshazzar had unsheathed his weapon. 

" I will see who is monarch in Borsippa, you, 
Imbi-Ilu, or I ! " sounded his menace. " Forward, 
soldiers; brush these priests aside ! Search the place 
from pinnacle to cellar; and woe to you," with a scowl 
at the temple folk, "if you withstand." 

But Imbi-Ilu stepped before the gate, where the 
escort was thronging, and the lances tossing threat- 
eningly. 

" Hear, ye! Hear, ye! soldiers of Babylon! " rang 
the pontiff's voice ; " ere you obey the command 
of Belshazzar, hearken to the divine law, revealed 
to Sargon I. in a dream sent him from Nabu, and 
confirmed by the kings Sin-iddina and Sennacherib, 



174 BELSHAZZAR 

'Let him who enters the precinct of the "Eternal 
House " be devoted to the Maskim forever. Let his 
sons perish, his daughters remain unmarried, his cat- 
tle starve, his enemies prosper, his soul eat mud in 
the "Abode of Torment."' You have heard the 
ordinance of the god and of the king ; obey you 
which you list — Nabu or Belshazzar ! " 

And as he spoke, the lines of priests moved steadily 
forward, until they formed a solid rank across the 
entrance way, denying all ingress. 

" Advance, men ! " thundered the king ; " out 
swords ; hew these rebels down, and make a path- 
way over them, if such is their mad wish ! " 

But not a soldier advanced. The priests confronted 
Belshazzar stolidly. Again the king commanded ; 
again mute disobedience. Presently Igas-Ramman 
the captain took a cautious step forward and 
saluted. 

" Let the king's heart find peace ; in other things 
the soldiers do his least bidding, but they cannot 
massacre these holy priests in the god's own 
house." 

" Well, then," cried Belshazzar, sending a glance 
of burning anger through the captain, " be it so. I 
think the 'king of Sumer and Akkad' has might 
enough to hale forth a simpering Jewess. As for 
you, Imbi, in due time I will teach you how foul was 
the day when you made a foe of me. Who is there 
who will go with me, and seek out the maiden ? " 

Not a captain advanced, but into the gate strode a 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 175 

towering giant, Khatin. "Here am I, your Majesty," 
he announced pompously ; " we go together, the 
headsman and the king! " 

"Good, then. Let us find this wench without 
delay." 

The array of priests opened for the twain. Imbi 
ceremoniously walked beside the monarch, offering 
no suggestions, but courteously leading wherever the 
king desired. They searched the college buildings, 
the quarters of the hali^ the eunuch priests, of the 
zikari^ the '' female-recluses," the houses of the married 
priests, and the great storerooms. Their quest ended 
in nothing but mortification for Belshazzar. Vainly 
he threatened and commanded Imbi-Ilu. The pontiff 
only protested that his lips were sealed — the guilt 
of outraging the asylum must rest on Belshazzar 
alone. The king was nigh to returning to the gate- 
way discomfited, when a whisper by Khatin made 
him turn to Imbi-Ilu. 

*' One thing more," he ordered. " Lead me to the 
sanctuary on the crest of the tower. We have not 
yet searched through that.''' 

" The shrine of the god ! " cried the pontiff, throw- 
ing up his hands in surprised dismay. " What is the 
king saying ? Do my ears deceive ? " 

"In no way, priest," repeated Belshazzar, sternly; 
" the sanctuary, and nowhere else." 

" Oh, my lord, my lord," Imbi began to groan, 
falling on his knees, " at least spare our temple this 
outrage. Forbear — " 



176 BELSHAZZAR 

"Nip him close, my king," exhorted Khatin, 
gruffly. " I swear by his own god we shall find the 
damsel hid under the very image." 

" No delaying, Imbi," repeated the king, fiercely. 
" Your moaning tells too well where the girl is con- 
cealed. To the shrine immediately." 

"But my lord knows the story," protested the 
pontiff, leading to the foot of the temple stairs, with 
all seeming reluctance, "how when King Ourina, 
twelve hundred 3^ears since, sought to drag a sup- 
pliant from this very sanctuary, the god smote him 
with leprosy, and he went out of the temple white as 



snow." 



"A beldame's tale," grunted Khatin; "lead on- 
ward." 

" Or how King Samas-Nin, for merely saying in his 
bedchamber that Nabu had no power to defend his 
servants from the royal will, fell down speechless, 
and died in three days torn by demons." 

" That was many years ago," growled the heads- 
man, " and the estimable god has begun to show old 
age. Up, priest, up ! " 

Imbi said no more. He led the two along the 
lofty flights of stairs toward the upper shrine, de- 
liberately and slowly. As they mounted from terrace 
to terrace, and the lower world began to drop away 
below them, an unnatural hush seemed spreading all 
about, that made even Khatin's river of strange jests 
and oaths flow sluggishly, and finally cease alto- 
gether. Suddenly, when one terrace below the shrine, 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 177 

Imbi halted, and pointed to a black stone, set in the 
bricks of the parapet. 

" Look, your Majesty ! " he spoke, in a bated 
whisper, and pointed. 

" Well ? " questioned Belshazzar, his own voice 
husky. 

" This stone marks the spot where the impious 
General Naram-Sin fell down dead when by command 
of King Esarhaddon he went up to arrest a fugitive 
in the sanctuary." 

The king stared at the stone fixedly, saying 
nothing ; but Khatin gave a loud bray, — too loud, in 
fact, to be unforced. 

" An hundred years ago I As I said, the good Nabu 
has grown many gray hairs since then. Come, your 
Majesty, let others quake and gibber. The execu- 
tioner and the king are of too tough stuff to be thus 
frighted." 

" Silence, impudent villain ! " commanded Imbi ; 
"reverence the king, even if you must blaspheme the 
great Nabu. Shall 1 lead on ? " 

" Lead on," ordered Belshazzar, doggedly, but 
Imbi saw that he was stealing glances out of the 
corners of his eyes at Khatin, and the headsman 
seemed anything but at ease. Belshazzar might be 
"son of Marduk," but it required something better 
than loud-mouthed boastings to make him advance 
to a deed like this without a tremor. 

They had reached the topmost terrace. Below 
them lay Borsippa and Babylon, spread like a fair 



178 BELSHAZZAR 

broidered garment. Directly at their feet was the 
wide courtyard, packed with the gazing priests, and 
the soldiers before the gate, all staring upward ; and 
Belshazzar knew that not a man of them envied him 
and his deed. 

Imbi halted at the silver-plated door of the sanc- 
tuary. His voice was even lower. " At least, let the 
king put off his sandals before entering the god's 
dread presence." 

Belshazzar and Khatin complied without a word. 
Even before Imbi thrust in the door, the air they 
breathed seemed weighted to the would-be violators. 
Why did the swallows twitter so shrill ? Why did 
their own hearts beat so loudly ? 

The door creaked on its pivots. Imbi stepped to 
one side. " Let the king enter," he whispered, "but 
suffer his slave to remain away from this fearful 
deed." 

The two peered within. The sanctuary was abso- 
lutely dark, save for a single bar of yellow light that 
shot through an unseen opening in the vaulted roof, 
and did not diffuse the gloom in the slightest. A few 
jewels on the garments of the idol twinkled faintly. 
Barely could they see the outline of the great image, 
looming to monstrous size at the opposite extremity 
of the chamber. Two steps within, their feet echoed 
and reechoed, while the darkness seemed pressing 
all about them. After the brightness just quitted, no 
dungeon could have been blacker. Khatin uplifted 
his voice, throwing into it his last grains of courage. 



NABU DEFIES THE KING 179 

" Boldly, lord. We have her instantly ! " And 
he took a third step, but no farther. His voice 
was doubled by countless echoes, and scarcely had 
they died ere a rumbling and muttering as of distant 
thunder reverberated from end to end of the sanc- 
tuary. Khatin felt an icy touch run down his spine 
in a twinkling : his teeth rattled in his head. There 
was a quivering at the roots of his hair, as if it were 
rising. 

A second muttering, and to their straining gaze the 
tall idol seemed rocking on its pedestal. The whole 
shrine jarred. A pale flicker of light touched the 
hideous features of the image, illumining the grin- 
ning mouth. Then the light vanished, and all the 
dark seemed alive with writhing demons uncounted, 
right, left, before, behind, — thronging and threaten- 
ing. Khatin's feet were frozen under him. He 
would have given his all for strength to flee away. 
Suddenly out of the rumbling thunder came a voice, 
slow, muffled, sepulchral. 

" Woe, woe, unto Belshazzar, the impious king ; 
woe, woe unto Khatin, the ungodly servant. For ten 
thousand years let them eat of fire ; for ten thousand 
years let them drink of wormwood ; for ten thousand 
years — " 

But king and headsman had awaited no more. 
Power of flight returned to each simultaneously. 
They were outside the doorway in a trice ; and 
Belshazzar had dashed to the portal and bolted it 
before Imbi might speak a word. 



180 BELSHAZZAR 

" Away ! " gasped the king, all the while shaking 
as with ague ; " away, lest the god pursue us ! 
Back to Babylon with all haste ! " He was running 
down the ziggurat with leaps and bounds, Khatin 
after him. 

" Your Majesty leaves his sandals," Imbi shouted, 
but Belshazzar never so much as heard. 

When he reached the courtyard, Belshazzar stum- 
bled. The chariot servants saw that his face was 
ghastly white, and, fearing leprosy, dreaded at first 
to help him into the car. With no explanation to 
any, Belshazzar ordered that they drive at headlong 
speed to the palace. 

It was three days before the king showed himself 
again in public, and even then all saw that his 
features were haggard. Khatin had recovered more 
swiftly. Amongst his cronies, and when well in 
liquor, he was wont to boast that he had been all 
courage, only the king commanded him to retire 
just as he was dragging Ruth from behind the 
image. Be that as it may, on the evening following 
the attempted sacrilege, Imbi privately commended 
his faithful Hasba for having done his duty so man- 
fully in the sanctuary during the morning. 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 





CHAPTER XII 



IV'TOW after the king for the third time had re- 
_1-\| fused the prayer of all the great merchants 
of Babylon, to accept their security and release 
Daniel from his prison, Ruth the Jewess declined 
more and more. Zabini, the motherly wife of Imbi- 
Ilu, went one day to her husband with no little con- 
cern, and told him how the girl was daily becoming 
pale and languid, her appetite was failing, she took 
no interest in the songs and dances of the temple 
women, and how every time a mule-cart rumbled in 
the streets outside the gates, she would start and 
shiver, fearing lest it was a new visit from the king 
to drag her from sanctuary. 

Imbi was a kind-hearted man. He directed Bel- 
Nuri, the oldest and wisest of the temple doctors, to 
examine the Jewess, and prescribe. The physician 
did his duty carefully, and announced that the girl 
suffered from " the wasting sickness," perhaps 
aggravated by an attack of formidable demons. 
Ruth accordingly was duly medicined with a paste 
of "white dogs' brains," supplemented by a most 
powerful spell, which was chanted over her one 

181 



182 BELSHAZZAK 

whole afternoon by Zabini and six other priests' 
wives. Privately, however, Bel-Nuri had a long con- 
ference with Imbi-Ilu. 

" Nought ails the girl," declared the doctor, " ex- 
cept anxiety for her father, now mewed up in ' The 
House of Walls,' for her betrothed, who you know 
is now in hiding, and whose arrest has been ordered, 
and for herself. She trembles every moment lest 
the king lay hand on her ; besides, as a Jewess, our 
temple rites are most displeasing. She fears the 
anger of her god if she continues to witness them. 
We cannot change his Majesty's purpose to imprison 
Daniel, although, now that Gudea and the other 
accusers have utterly vanished from sight, it is gross 
persecution to hold him without cause. But as- 
suredly we may rid her of the last evil influence. 
Send her away from Babylon and Borsippa ; beyond 
doubt there are some safe and pleasant hiding spots 
in the country, where she will be happier." 

Imbi meditated long on this advice, and consulted 
Zabini ; they both agreed it were best for Ruth 
that she should be sent quietly away. 

Day passed into day, however, with no opportu- 
nity presenting, and Ruth drooped yet more. All 
the bloom had vanished from her cheeks. She spoke 
little, slept long, yet wakened unrefreshed : there- 
fore it was with a very glad heart that one after- 
noon Imbi-Ilu went up upon his house roof, where 
the Jewess was languidly aiding Zabini at her weav- 
ing. 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 183 

" Beloved child," he announced, *' I have to tell 
you that Nabu's house will shelter you no longer. 
Isaiah your betrothed has communicated with me, 
and desires to take you out of Borsippa this very 
night." 

" Away from Babylon and Borsippa ? Oh, joy ! " 
And it did Zabini's heart good to see the colour 
return to the Jewess's wan face. 

" But how is it to be managed ? " questioned the 
wife. 

" I scarce know myself," confessed Imbi ; " a 
strange slave lad left this sealed tablet at the temple 
gate. You see it is Isaiah's own signet, and cannot 
be doubted." 

Zabini surveyed the tablet critically. " The king 
may have secured the seal, or it may have been 
forged by his orders," she objected. 

Imbi shook his head. " Between ourselves, I 
dare not deny that his Majesty is capable of many 
strange things ; but his strokes are those of a lion, 
not of a fox. I do not believe he would descend to 
theft or forgery, especially in a matter where Avil- 
Marduk does not thrust him on. For this pursuit 
of the girl is against Avil's express advice, as I am 
surely informed." 

Zabini accordingly handed the tablet to Ruth, 
who read : — 

" Isaiah writing secretly to Imbi-Ilu by the hands of a trusty 
messenger. I have heard how Ruth my betrothed is unhappy 
in the temple of Nabu, and am resolved to take her to a safe, 



184 BELSHAZZAR 

agreeable hiding spot at a distance from Babylon. Deliver her 
to-night, at the first ' double-hour ' after sunset, to the three 
persons who shall meet her by the clump of five palm trees 
before the gate of your temple. They are to be trusted in all 
things, and will show my signet as voucher. I will be at hand 
with a closed carriage, to take her away. Farewell." 

" Isaiah's seal ! " exclaimed Ruth, joyously, recog- 
nizing the likeness of the hero Eabani, " and the 
characters are like those from his hand." 

" I have consulted with Hasba," added Imbi, " and 
we have decided it is best for you to go. Doubtless 
these persons are faithful servants of your father, 
though Isaiah would not mention them by name, lest 
the letter should fall into unfriendly hands." 

Accordingly, the rest of the day Ruth passed in 
delightful impatience. She was to be taken from 
Babylon. She was to see her betrothed. She was 
to be put beyond the power of the hated king. 
Zabini had to urge her that this one time, at least, 
she should eat heartily ; for doubtless she would 
have to journey the night long, and would need all 
her strength. When twilight fell, Ruth had gath- 
ered her little bundle, said farewell to Zabini and 
the friendly priests' wives, and restlessly counted the 
stars as they twinkled forth one by one above the 
great tower. The time seemed endless before Imbi 
and Hasba conducted her stealthily through the 
silently opened gate, and she quitted the refuge 
that had sheltered so long and well. The five 
palm trees were just visible in the thickening gloom. 
Fifty paces brought her to them, and there, as prom- 



THE WISE GUDEA PHOSPERS 185 

ised, were waiting three "figures, the capes of their 
long mantles drawn so completely across their faces 
that in the starlight no features were visible. Imbi 
peered about to see that there were no unfriendly- 
watchers. 

" Your business ? " he demanded of the three ; 
and one answered, in a husky voice that Ruth did 
not in the slightest recognize : — 

" We are the servants of the good Lord Daniel, and 
act for his excellent friend Isaiah. Jehovah grant," 
the wish sounded exceedingly fervent, "that you 
have brought our adorable young mistress with 
you." 

" You answer well," replied Imbi, " but I must see 
your token." 

The speaker drew back his mantle far enough to 
uncover a faint rushlight that he concealed, burning 
in a small earthen jar. 

" See this, then," he answered, and held up some- 
thing in the glimmer. 

" It is Isaiah's seal," admitted Imbi ; " you are 
vouched for. Take the girl and guard her well." He 
was turning to go, when some monitor prompted 
him to add sharply, " And beware of faithlessness ; 
or, as Nabu liveth, I will make your fate no merry 
one, though the king himself befriend you ! " 

"The Lord God of Israel forbid that we should 
fail even to lay down our lives for our dear mistress ! " 
protested the other. 

" Go with these people, Ruth," commanded the 



186 BELSHAZZAR 

pontiff ; " and when next we meet, may it be in hap- 
pier days for your father. And let Nabu and Jeho- 
vah, my god and yours, protect and prosper you." 

The Jewess murmured a low farewell. The two 
priests hurriedly returned to the temple gate. She 
heard it closed and bolted. One of her new com- 
panions caught her by the hand. 

" Come, little lady ; Isaiah is near by with the 
carriage." 

But at that touch, instinct, surer than knowledge, 
flashed a warning. The Jewess did not follow. 

" Who are you ? " she demanded, for the first time 
wavering, " which of my father's servants ? Your 
voices are strange." 

" Merciful Jehovah ! " protested the other, tight- 
ening his grasp at the word, " do you not know the 
voice of your dear Simeon ? " 

"You are not Simeon," cried the girl, startled 
now in truth. "I do not understand. I will not 
go with you." 

But a woman's cracked voice piped at her elbow. 
" Come, pretty gosling ; the carriage is ready. No 
fears ; your friends provide everything ! " 

It needed no more to make Ruth's lips open in 
a piercing scream, a second, a third, before three 
pairs of rude hands plucked her round the throat 
and almost throttled her. 

" Curses on you, Binit," the first speaker was mut- 
tering, " for croaking so soon ! Off with her ; the 
priests are rousing ! " 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 187 

Force irresistible swept Ruth from her feet. She 
was carried away by main strength, still struggling 
feebly, and gasping out little shrieks whenever the 
grip on her throat relaxed the slightest. There 
was indeed need of haste, for the gate was opening, 
while Imbi's voice sounded, " Torches ! After the 
kidnappers ! " and a great clamour was rising from the 
temple compound. 

The weakest animal is terrible at bay, and so was 
the Jewess. Once she almost writhed out of the 
arms that gripped so fast ; but long before the be- 
wildered priests could do more than rush blindly 
hither and thither in the dark, her captors had hur- 
ried her to a closed carriage that awaited under the 
shadow of the long wall of a granary. The three 
flung her inside, and two leaped in after, while 
the first speaker, whom the woman had addressed 
as Gudea, bounded upon the driver's stand and 
lashed the horses furiously. 

It was some moments before Ruth lay back on the 
cushions, silent, helpless, too stricken and terrified 
to shed one tear, but quaking with dry sobs of im- 
potent agony. The carriage flew through the night 
at a terrific pace, Gudea never sparing the horses. 
For a time the abductors were content to let their 
prize lie quiet ; then, when the distance from the zig- 
gurat seemed great enough to defy all pursuit, and 
speech became audible, the cracked voice of Binit 
sounded again. 

"Now, my little lady, be reasonable. Harm you? 



188 BELSHAZZAR 

Binit and Gudea and their dear friend Tabni harm a 
pretty dove like you ? We would not ruffle a feather 
for a talent of gold. Cease crying, then ; listen." 

Ruth's spasms of sobbing ended ; not because she 
was in the least comforted, but through utter 
exhaustion. 

" You are driving me to the palace, are you not ? " 
was her trembling question. " Are you servants of 
Mermaza ? " 

Even in the dark she could see Binit throw up her 
nose in a crackling laugh. 

" Servants of Mermaza ? The last person in Baby- 
lon we wish to see at present is the ' Master of the 
Eunuchs.' Eh, Tabni?" 

"You are right, by Nergal ! " snickered the 
charmer. 

" Where, then, are you taking me ? " moaned Ruth, 
in nowise reassured. 

" To a river boat that waits us." 

Ruth made a desperate effort to speak calmly. 
"You imagine I am handsome, and will fetch a great 
price as a slave. My father is in prison, but he has 
rich friends. -They will pay any ransom you can 
ask within reason." 

" You a slave ? " howled Binit ; " Istar forefend 
the thought ! Do you think us as heartless as 
Ninkigal ? " 

" By any god or demon you fear, if indeed you fear 
any," implored the Jewess, " tell me, then, for what 
you have seized me ? " 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 189 

Binit laughed and screamed again. " Verily, you 
are affrighted. Why have we taken you ? Because 
his Majesty loves you, to be sure." 

Ruth was smitten dumb by her agony. Binit 
merely grinned through the gloom, and continued : 
" You are asking why we make for the river boat. 
Hearken, then. From the time my pious Gudea 
parted with Avil-Marduk, after most surly threats 
on the high priest's part, somewhat has seemed need- 
ful to restore us to the king's good graces ; for since 
the examination of your most noble father — " A 
faint groan from the Jewess induced even Binit to 
forbear, and she changed her thread of narration. 

"Now, if we were to drive you straight to the 
palace, what would happen ? Out would bustle my 
lord Mermaza, and take you from us, and away 
you would vanish in the king's harem, — while we 
would be left with cold thanks and perchance a 
poor gift of five shekels. But my Gudea is rightly 
called 'The Wise.' His design is this : Tabni and 
I put you on a river barge, and embark, professing 
that you are my slave-maid. We take you up- 
stream to a quiet village near Sippar, where Tabni 
has a brother-in-law who will be hospitable. When 
we are well on our way, Gudea, who remains in 
Babylon, goes straight to the king. ' Lord,' he will 
say, ' I can get you your Jewess. She is no longer 
at Borsippa.' His Majesty questions, and Gudea will 
answer, ' Lord, I cannot tell you where the maid 
is hidden, but pay me ten talents and I swear I 



190 BELSHAZZAR 

can produce her.' The king rejoices to get you 
thus cheaply ; you will too rejoice, as soon as you 
learn the sweets of being his favourite; and we re- 
joice, dividing the riches. Surely, Gudea is a most 
wise man ! " 

If a second groan from Ruth meant assent to 
this assertion, Binit was rewarded. Not iron, but 
ice, had entered into the young girl's soul. She sat 
on the cushions, in helpless misery, while Gudea 
lashed and cursed at the horses. 

" But the seal — the letter from Isaiah ? " Ruth 
at last plucked up courage to ask. 

" Ah ! " chirruped Binit, " for that we must 
thank the excellent Tabni. Luck sent him a letter 
from Isaiah his way; and even you must confess 
that he imitated the hand cleverly, and cut a new 
seal that would pass in the faint light when we 
showed it to Imbi-Ilu." 

A third groan, and for a long time Ruth gave 
not another sound. It was a long drive across 
the breadth of Babylon, from the Borsippa suburb 
on the extreme southwest, to the river. Ruth hoped 
against hope that there might be a rescue. Imbi- 
Ilu was not a man to sit down helpless before a fraud 
like this. But as the carriage sped onward, this 
tiny gleam of hope sank to a faint spark indeed. 

Once, in fact, as the horses' hoofs beat hollow 
upon the bridge crossing a canal, they were sud- 
denly halted. It was the guard-house marking 
the octroi limit to the inner city. Voices sounded 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 191 

and a lantern light flashed through the wicker 
body of the carriage. 

" You are late," a gruff soldier's voice was 
grumbling. " Few honest people drive at such an 
hour. I must search your carriage, lest you bring 
in something liable to 'gate money.' " 

Ruth started from her lethargy, opened her 
lips for a scream, when, before a sound could escape, 
Binit's fingers squeezed her neck. 

" Not a twitter ! " murmured the waller, hoarsely, 
"though you strangle." 

" Friend," spoke Gudea, naught abashed, " I 
have nothing taxable and am in great haste." 

They heard the chink of a bit of silver, an appeased 
grunt from the official, the lash whistled, and the 
horses went forward with a bound. Ruth was 
gasping before Binit relaxed her hold. 

"Fool," snapped the latter, "had the guard 
taken you, what profit to you ? Would he not have 
sent you straight to the king ? " 

So they hastened onward, Ruth seeing nothing 
of all the silent streets and market squares they 
threaded. Presently they rattled over brick pave- 
ments, and she knew they were on the quays. 
Then the carriage halted with a jerk, voices sounded 
again, and Gudea thrust open the door. 

"Out with you," he ordered, "the boat has 
waited long, and the captain is cursing and impa- 
tient ! " 

" But the girl must be painted," objected Binit. 



192 BELSHAZZAE, 

" Haste, then. Ea knows what will befall if Imbi 
raises the alarm." 

They were in the muddy courtyard of a ware- 
house, the thatched lofts and storerooms rising in 
the blackness on every side ; two or three swarthy 
boatmen were standing by in the light of a pair of 
flickering torches. Binit drew her prisoner's mantle 
until it covered the face. 

" Now, my gosling," squeaked she in an ear, " one 
little cry, and you feel this tingle I " And she 
followed up her word by pricking the Jewess's 
neck with the tip of a very keen knife. 

Ruth was silent while Binit hurried her up a 
dark stairway to an upper loft, full of straw. And 
there, by an uncertain rushlight, she tore off the 
girl's white dress, not neglecting to appropriate 
two valuable rings on Ruth's fingers, smeared the 
Jewess's body with a red cosmetic that gave her 
the hue of a sun-tanned peasant ; and finally, to 
complete a transformation, which she accomplished 
with a dexterity worthy of a loftier cause, threw 
over her the soiled and sombre garments suitable to 
a slave-girl. 

" A proper serving-maid in truth, by Istar ! " 
asserted Binit, surveying her work, while Gudea 
summoned from below, " Haste ! The boat is de- 
parting." 

Binit let the cold edge of the knife touch Ruth's 
throat yet a second time. " Remember," was her 
warning, " to the boatmen you are my maid. Chatter 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 193 

otherwise — " but she did not complete the promise ; 
the dumb, scared expression on Ruth's face was 
token that the threat had gone home. 

From the warehouse Tabni and Gudea accom- 
panied them to the quay, where, amid a score of 
dark masts and hulks, they sought a low-lying, 
clumsy river barge. The exorcist aided the others 
aboard, while the six boatmen were loosing the 
tackling. 

" We have waited two ' double hours,' " swore the 
master, "for your wife and her accursed wench. 
Another half shekel, or I thrust you all ashore ! " 

'^ With gladness, good captain," quoth Gudea, 
complying, and feeling very generous with so much 
of the king's silver prospectively his own. 

" And you will not promise to give the king our 
treasure," enjoined Binit, in a whisper, " for less 
than ten talents, not though he rage, and talk of 
calling for Khatin." 

" By Nergal, surely not I I will begin by demand- 
ing twenty — " 

His words ended with a cry. There was a splash 
over the low gunwale into the sluggish water that 
crept around the quay, and a wide ripple spread out 
under the starlight. In a trice the three friends 
began to tear their hair and howl piteously. 

" Overboard ! " groaned Tabni, rending his man- 
tle. " Lost ! " 

" No, madness," exhorted the captain, coolly, " it 
was only your maid that missed her balance. She 



194 BELSHAZZAR 

will drift beneath the quay and drown. But another 
as good is only ten shekels in the market ! " 

" Ten talents ! " shrieked Binit ; and she would 
have leaped in after, but the boatman dragged her 
back fiercely. 

" Do not rave," he commanded ; " none of you can 
swim. She rises yonder a second time. Well, I 
will save her for five shekels." 

" Yours ! Yours ! Only save ! " came from the 
three in a breath ; while Binit threw her mantle 
over her head, and screamed and moaned. 

The boatman flung off his garment, plunged over- 
board, and presently, — though it taxed all his art, — 
he was seen plashing alongside, upbearing the Jew- 
ess. She was unconscious when they laid her on 
the deck, and it was no easy matter to revive her. 
At the first gasps of returning life, Binit hastened 
her down into the little stern cabin, rejoicing all the 
while that, thanks to the excellence of the cosmetic, 
it had not yielded to the water, and the boatman 
could have discovered nothing. 

" She is safe ? " demanded Gudea, anxiously, when 
his wife reappeared, leaving Tabni down below. 

" Safe, praised be Istar ; but she must hate the 
king terribly to prefer suicide to his harem. How 
we must watch her ! And remember the price, — 
ten talents, nothing less." 

" Nothing less," assented Gudea ; then he gave the 
master his promised bounty, and leaped ashore. 

The hawsers were cast loose ; the six sturdy boat- 



THE WISE GUDEA PROSPERS 195 

men thrust out their long sweeps, and worked the 
barge slowly into the current, where the soft night 
wind, puffing from the distant southern gulf, bellied 
out the huge square sail, and the barge began crawl- 
ing northward over the black water. Soon it would 
be past the river gates, and furlongs away from 
Babylon. The exorcist stood watching the receding 
boat for a long time, from the deserted quay. 

" Ten talents," he repeated, " are ours as surely as 
Samas will rise with his sun to-morrow. Verily, 
O Gudea, the gods have planted in you a most 
clever heart ! " 

And then, being a very pious man, he vowed three 
white heifers to iMarduk out of gratitude for this 
high favour. 



i Al^>^A/WAAAl 



^ 



^ GUDEA FARES ON A JQURNEYr^^^^wa^ 




CHAPTER XIII 



LONG after the easy heaving of the boat on the 
choppy waves told that they were well on 
their journey, Ruth continued to struggle and 
moan. 

" I swear to you," she would cry again and again 
to Binit, " I swear by the awful name of my father's 
God, that if the chance come again, I will fling my- 
self in the river. Death is sweet beside passing into 
Belshazzar's cruel clutch. Before the throne of the 
Most High God, whose ear is open to the cry of the 
innocent, I will stand and curse you ! " 

" Hush ! " vainly exhorted Binit ; " think of being 
his Majesty's favourite, — the jewels, the dresses, the 
eunuchs to serve you ! " 

" Away with them ! " groaned the Jewess ; " if 
indeed Belshazzar shall love me so well as to grant 
me one boon, it shall be this, to ask the heads of you 
two, and of Gudea." 

" Be still ! " warned the waller, producing her 
knife; "the boatmen will hear you." 

But, helpless as Ruth seemed, she was not utterly 
devoid of understanding. " You dare not ! " she 

196 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOURNEY 197 

challenged defiantly, " dare not ! Will the king 
give a shekel for my dead body ? " 

Tabni produced from his girdle a little flask of 
blue Phoenician vitrium. " We must quiet her," he 
remarked grimly to Binit, " or there is trouble yet. 
She must sleep." 

The captive resisted, but her guards forced down 
the liquor by thrusting a blade betwixt her teeth. 
The draught burned like fire on Ruth's tongue, but, 
once swallowed, she felt a fearful languor creeping 
over her. Vain to resist it : her eyelids became 
heavy as lead, and even the pain in her heart ceased 
galling. It was not long before her heavy breath- 
ing told that she slumbered. 

" What has ailed your maid ? " demanded a surly 
boatman from above. "You made wondrous ado 
over such a slattern ! " 

" Alas," whimpered Binit, " the poor thing is tor- 
mented by most horrible ' sickness-fiends ' ; I feel 
for her as for my own daughter." 

Then the good woman, having arranged with 
Tabni to take turns watching their precious charge 
through the night, composed herself also for slumber. 

But Ruth, as she slept, had all the fair and lovely 
things that had hitherto made up the gladsome 
world of her guileless life, return to her. Her father, 
her mother, who had become only a memory while 
she was yet a little child, and Isaiah, — all were 
there. Then she dreamed that some one spoke to 
her, " Belshazzar the sinful lies with the dead ; his 



198 BELSHAZZAE, 

power is vanished forever." And she walked in a 
strange city, not Babylon ; and Isaiah was at her 
side, while all around were fair and lofty mountains. 
Isaiah's hand was in hers, she knew she was his wife, 
and he said to her, " Behold Jerusalem ! the city 
which God gives back to us ! Here is our home, 
and let us be glad together ! " Before them was 
a stately temple, but not that of Nabu or Marduk. 
Whereupon Isaiah said : " Let us enter in and give 
thanks to the good Lord God/' But just as she 
was passing within the gates, her whole being 
quivering with rapturous joy, the sweet dream 
ended ; and she was lying on a rude straw pallet, 
and awakening — where ? . . . 

A sudden rasping of tackling plucked her down 
from paradise to the nethermost abyss. There was 
a thin streak of twilight stealing through the open 
hatch. Near her was stretched Tabni, snoring a 
little louder than a bull. Her misery returned to 
the Jewess in one awful surge ; she pressed her 
hands to her face. " Lord God, if indeed Thou hast 
any power at all, have pity," was her murmured 
prayer, " and let me die ! " But a rustle at her side 
proclaimed the presence of Binit. " The little mis- 
tress," purred the woman, "is awaking refreshed 
and happy ? " 

Ruth did not answer. " Be comforted," continued 
the wailer ; " we shall reach our destination by noon, 
and there we shall all delight to serve you. Here, 
Tabni," rousing the " charmer " with a kick, " go on 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOURNEY 199 

deck, bring the lady some sweet wine and the cakes 
of fine barley I provided. She is faint." 

Grumbling, and rubbing his eyes, the other was 
about to comply, when a frightful howl from the 
deck above made captors and captive startle together. 
A second howl was followed by a distant shout and 
yell, then in turn by a furious clatter of the oars 
upon their thole-pins. 

" Marduk defend us ! " cried Binit, the most 
frightened of the three, "what happens? Up, 
Tabni — " more words were drowned by the simul- 
taneous bellows of the six boatmen, " Save, O Nergal, 
save ! " all the time they were working their sweeps 
like madmen, while the great sail came down with 
a crash that made the barge quiver from stem to 
stern. 

Tabni thrust his head from the hatchway, cast 
his single eye about in the morning half-light, then 
added his voice to the yell of terror. 

" Will you destroy me ? " implored Binit. " What 
has befallen ? " But Ruth lay perfectly still ; at 
that moment she was thinking that no human ill 
could make her condition worse. 

Tabni dropped from his station, his face the colour 
of a whited tile. His jaws twitched so that he could 
scarce utter a syllable ; then came two words, " River 
thieves ! " 

" River thieves ? " groaned Binit, leaping up as 
if she had sat on an adder. 

" Their boats are hard after us. Two skiffs, ten 



200 BELSHAZZAR 

men in each. The bargemen are straining to make 
for shore. Then they will only lose the boat. 
Woe ! woe ! If we are taken — " 

A prolonged screech from Binit, who practised 
her art in very earnest now, drowned out Tabni's 
own noise. In the first instant of silence the voice 
of the barge captain thundered: "Up, all of you, 
if you would save liberty. Fling these wine-jars 
overboard, as quickly as if the Maskim were fol- 
lowing ! " 

With feverish haste Binit led or rather carried the 
Jewess to the deck. A glance told the whole story. 
Out from the bank of gray morning mist that clung 
over a stagnant lagoon near the eastern bank 
were shooting two long reed boats, full of armed 
men, who came straight on toward the luckless 
barge. The boatmen had dropped the sail, as useless 
in the morning calm, and were pulling with de- 
spairing energy toward the western shore, in hopes 
of escaping to land, where they could save their 
freedom, though the barge was doomed as plunder. 

"Every plague-fiend pounce on you, woman," 
was the captain's greeting to Binit, while he sweated 
over his oar ; " it was waiting for you that delayed 
us and gave these scorpions their chance." And 
even while he spoke, a whoop of triumph pealed 
across the glassy river, and two arrows splashed 
under the barge's stern. 

Yet, despite all the master's cursings and rage, 
Binit would not aid Tabni in thrusting the cargo 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOUKNEY 201 

overboard, but simply sat on a bale, clutching tight 
hold of Ruth. 

"Ten talents," the waller was repeating, even 
while her knees beat together, " ten talents, if only 
I can hold you fast ! " 

A third arrow dug into the deck, and the boat- 
men put forth their last strength. But the two 
skiffs were flying three cubits to their two. Already 
they could see the white teeth and wolfish bright 
eyes of the bandits. 

" Yield, yield as you love your lives ! " bawled 
many shrill voices. A new flight of arrows smote 
down a rower, but at this instant the barge thumped 
on a mud-bank close to the western shore, and stuck 
fast. 

" Save yourselves ! " was the last shout of the 
captain, and he with his remaining men dashed 
through the shallow water, and, scrambling up the 
low bank, were soon on shore, flying inland at full 
speed, leaving their passengers to the mercy of fate. 

" Come, little lady ! " Binit commanded ; but 
Ruth hung perfectly limp on her arms, and Tabni 
and the woman lifted her and tugged her to the shore. 

" Run ! " exhorted they, setting the Jewess on 
her feet. 

There was no time to be lost. The bandits, 
leaving the barge to plunder later, paddled straight 
up to the embankment, and were in pursuit in a 
twinkling. " Three prizes ! After them ! " was the 
2^eneral yell. 



202 BELSHAZZAR 

" Run ! " commanded Binit again, when Ruth 
still dragged helplessly. And at the word she 
relaxed for a trifle her grasp. In an instant the 
Jewess had glided out of it, and wheeled, as if in 
bewildered terror, straight toward the robbers. 

" Ten talents lost ! " And Binit gave the loudest 
screech of all her noisy life. 

By instinct she and Tabni turned to recover their 
prisoner, but arrows flew out to greet them, and in a 
moment Binit was moaning in a heap, as a shaft 
grazed her shoulder, while ten rough hands were 
securing the charmer, and as many more were hold- 
ing Ruth. Then twenty tongues wagged all to- 
gether, shouting, cursing, laughing, questioning ; 
until, the breath of the robbers having failed, they 
dragged their three captives back to the barge, 
which they speedily rifled with a thoroughness born 
of long experience. 

Only when the first flush of victory had spent 
itself did some order become apparent, and the late 
kidnappers, with their victims, were ranged before an 
enormous Amorite, rings in nose and ears, jewels all 
over his tawdry dress, a tremendous spiked mace 
flourishing in his fingers. 

Binit was so frightened that she had ceased howl- 
ing ; Tabni held down his head as if avoiding scru- 
tiny ; while Ruth remained in perfect silence, as if 
dumbness were her last refuge. 

"Well, my brothers," commented the leader, 
surveying the three, and pulling reflectively at his 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOURNEY 203 

nose ring, "the gods reward us for the morning's 
toil. These good folk seem to be worth little for 
ransoms, but, praised be Moloch ! there are Ara- 
bian caravan merchants in the next village ahead, 
who, if they have not started for Egypt, will give 
silver shekels for three such likely slaves." 

The announcement drew forth a new spasm of 
screams from Binit, who cast herself at the Amo- 
rite's feet. 

" Oh, kind, handsome, generous lord ! " she en- 
treated, "do not sell to Egypt. See, I am wounded; 
I cannot work ; I shall die under the whip ! " 

*' Now, by the Maskim," swore the giant, " this is 
the first time for long I have been ' kind or hand- 
some ' to man or maid ! " And he with his fellows 
brayed together with laughter. 

" Pity us," thrust in Tabni, stretching forth his 
hands beseechingly. " I cannot labour. Alas ! I am 
old ; soon I must make my peace with Ea, and pre- 
pare to die." 

But as he spoke, a bandit leaped forth before the 
rest. " Do you not know me, Tabni, you half -blind 
coney? — Eri-Aku the Elamite, whom you drove 
into this life by your false accusations of murder. 
Great mercy if I do not commit murder in truth ! 
Give me leave, comrades — " 

He brandished his sword over the quivering 
charmer's head, but his companions plucked him 
back, while the leader set eyes on Ruth. 

'* Comely for a swart peasant maiden," he re- 



204 BELSHAZZAR 

marked, " but her limbs are frail as lily stems. She 
cannot work." 

" Deliver her to me, noble captain," suggested 
Eri-Aku ; " my hut in the marshes needs . a likely 
wench like her." 

The blood came tingling into the Jewess's face, 
and crimsoned almost under her reddened skin, as 
the Elamite's words and leer smote her. But the 
captain shook his head. 

"All captives must be sold for the good of the 
band. She goes to the Arabians like the rest." 

Binit commenced to bawl out something to the 
effect that this was no ordinary serving-maid, and 
that the king would give for her riches untold. But 
alas for the waller's craftiness, Ruth looked any- 
thing but the favourite of Belshazzar, thanks to the 
cosmetic ; while to Binit's signs and grimaces to her 
to declare herself, she answered not one word. 

" The woman raves ! " declared the Amorite, and 
he ordered his men to gag Binit and Tabni, and 
haste away, for there was no telling how soon a 
king's bireme might be up the river, and their situ- 
ation become awkward. 

Therefore three captives spent the morning very 
disconsolately, paddling northward by hidden ca- 
nals and watercourses in the bandits' skiffs. The 
sun was broiling them at noon when the robbers 
landed at a squalid mud village, where the Arab 
caravan train was halting. Fifty odd grumbling, 
dirty-brown camels were kneeling on the slough of 



GUDEA FAEES ON A JOURNEY 205 

the little square, while their drivers adjusted the 
last bales of Babylonish carpets and Indian mus- 
lins that had just come up from the gulf. The 
Amorite marched his prisoners before the master of 
the troop, and the bargain was not long in making. 

" These people were come by honestly ? " quoth 
the merchant, with one eye in his head, for he knew 
his man. 

" Honestly, by Moloch ! " and the Amorite swore 
an oath loud enough to make up for all its other 
shortcomings. 

" But these two," objected the Arab, jerking a 
thumb towards Binit and Tabni, "are too old for 
hard toil. The risk on the desert is great. I can 
spare little water. Of the three, one is sure to die." 

" Consider how cheaply you get them. The three, 
and only forty shekels ! " 

" Not unreasonable, but they look most sluggish 
for field work." 

" 'Much scourging, much labour !' " answered the 
chief, "so runs the old proverb." 

" The Egyptian taskmasters remember that, by 
Baal ! " cried the Arab, gleefully, while he counted 
out the sum ; then, with a sudden glance at one of his 
subordinates, a low-browed young fellow : "Verily, 
what ails you, Shaphat ? Have these creatures the 
evil eye, that you gape at them so ? " 

The man addressed only shuffled away, remarking 
" that he had known something about the prisoners 
in Babylon, and would tell the leader later." 



206 BELSHAZZAR 

The Amorite and his following went their ways, 
rejoicing in the good fortune the god of gain had 
sent them. The Arabs tied their new passengers 
upon the backs of camels, and the caravan started ; 
but it did not move rapidly. First a camel went 
lame, then a girth broke and let a heavy load tumble, 
then a donkey brofce loose and was captured with 
difficulty. Night caught the caravan at a second 
little village only a few furlongs above the first. 

The master of the Arabs was a discerning man, 
and he presently called Shaphat aside, and pointed 
to the youngest prisoner, 

"You act strangely, fellow," declared the mer- 
chant ; " did you know this girl in Babylon ? When 
I engaged you, I understood you were a Jew, once 
servant of the imprisoned minister, Daniel. To my 
mind, this maid is of your own race." 

" You are right," was the seemingly frank answer. 
" She is a Jewess, and at some time I have met her 
in the city ; but I forget at whose house she may 
have been servant. As you see, she is comely. 
Treat her well, and she will bring twice the price 
of the two others. And do not bind her. Who 
dreams that a frail thing such as she can run away?" 

" You speak well ; she shall not be bound ; but 
cease making eyes at her. Her good looks are not 
for such as you." Whereupon Shaphat professed 
himself all obedience. 

That night Ruth lay alone upon a dirty truss of 
straw in a village hut, while without great camels 



GUDEA FARES OX A JOUENEY 207 

grunted, dogs bayed the moon, and watchmen trolled 
coarse ditties. First one calamity had thronged upon 
her, then another, from the moment Isaiah took her 
from her father's house, only an hour ago it seemed. 
She had long since passed beyond the solace of tears. 
She had striven to pray. Her whispered words 
seemed only to awaken echoes of mockery. Either 
Jehovah was Himself a fiend, or He was helpless, 
Bel-Marduk His master. Once a terrible thought 
crossed her mind. She would curse Jehovah, she 
would cry to Marduk, to Istar, and to Ramman ; the 
Babylonians called on them and prospered, why 
might not she ? — what good thing had Jehovah 
granted, that she should love Him ? But at the 
suggestion all the strong forces of the Jewess's 
nature rose in rebellion within her. Should she, 
the daughter of Daniel, the betrothed of Isaiah, 
near and dear to two men who were perilling their 
lives for the sake of Jehovah, be the one to doubt ? 
No, though the present ills waxed tenfold worse, if 
such a thing might be ! And presently, it seemed 
as if out of the night a voice was speaking, and she 
heard it, while an awful stillness was reigning in 
her heart, — the words of the psalm of her people, 
the song of David when God delivered him from 
the murderous hand of Saul. 

" The Lord is my rock, and my fortress and my deliverer : 
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust, 
My buckler and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, 



208 BELSHAZZAR 

So shall I be saved from mine enemies. 
He bowed down the heavens also, and came down : 
And darkness was under his feet. 

He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that 
hated me." 

The voice was gone. The camp had become very 
still. A wondrous peace and hope seemed to have 
stolen over Ruth. She was about to let herself 
drift away into the arms of sleep, knowing by her 
pure, unreasoning woman's faith, that One stronger 
than father or lover was at her side to shield from 
all real harm, when she heard a guarded footfall on 
the earthen floor. A figure of a man darkened the 
little patch of black violet that marked the door ; 
then he spoke : — 

" Lady Ruth, dearest mistress, do you not know 
me?" 

It was the voice of Shaphat. 



The next morning the master of the caravan and 
his fellow merchants and camel drivers were scour- 
ing all the country round about. They began at 
last to give some ear to the frenzied protestations of 
Binit, that the youngest captive was indeed a prize 
for the king. The Jewish servant, who had hired 
himself to them at Babylon, had vanished from all 
sight, taking wdth him his fellow countrywoman and 
a round little bag of money. But the merchants 
could not push their search too far, for the village 
bailiffs might ask them to explain how it was the 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOURNEY 209 

maid had passed into their possession ; and if they 
admitted the Amorites' share in the matter, there 
might be more disagreeable questions to answer. 
Accordingly, after a bootless search through another 
day, they set off across the desert, and in due time 
Binit and Tabni found employers in the Sais slave- 
market, who taught them the inconveniences of sloth 
in Egyptian field labour. 

But long before these twain had reached the end 
of their wanderings, their confederate Gudea had 
been started on a yet longer journey, with even 
scantier prospects of return. Promptly on the 
morning after the kidnapping, he had bribed his 
way through the chamberlains to a private audience 
with Belshazzar himself. As expected, the king 
had been stormy at first, but ended by paying the 
exorcist two talents as earnest money, with promise 
of eight more when the girl Ruth was delivered. 
Gudea promptly sent a letter up river, bidding 
Tabni and Binit return with their booty in all 
haste. No answer ; and a second letter had no better 
reply. When a third message brought nothing, 
Gudea began to realize that his associates had mis- 
carried in some unknown manner ; while the king 
waxed impatient, and hinted that the earnest money 
was best back in the treasury. Then Gudea, being at 
his wit's end, let all wisdom forsake him. He turned 
the two talents into gold, and strove to steal out of 
the city by night, hoping to save at least this fraction 
of the expected booty. But the crafty gods that had 



210 BELSHAZZAK 

thus far prospered him, at this moment abandoned 
him. He was arrested at the Gate of the Chaldees, 
by command of Avil-Marduk, who had not forgotten 
the affair of the trial, and was not slow in informing 
Belshazzar that the exorcist had tried to cheat the 
monarch himself. The case before the high justi- 
ciar was brought to a speedy issue, for the defence 
was the lamest. 

" Let Gudea, the exorcist," sounded the sentence, 
" die the death by the iron sword. Let his head be 
set above the Gate of Ilu, and let his body be flung 
to the hyenas and ravens ; so shall all men fear to 
extort money deceitfully from our lord the king." 

"Hearken," the despairing exorcist had howled, 
while Khatin and two assistants pinioned him, before 
haling him from the tribunal : " Am I not the most 
pious wizard in Babylon ? Shall I sacrifice to all the 
gods for nought ? " 

"Off, off ! " commanded the justiciar, quitting his 
seat ; " silence this babble ! " 

Gudea turned to Khatin, struggling vainly to free 
his hands. 

" Ah, dearest Khatin, surely you will not let me 
die. Remember all the pleasant pots we have 
drained together at Nur-Samas's ; remember our 
pledges of friendship, and how often I have pro- 
fessed that I love you ! " 

" And do I not love you^ my precious jackal ? " 
said the headsman, with a snort. " Have I not 
many a time said, ' The more love I bear a man, the 



GUDEA FARES ON A JOURNEY 211 

more joy to see him safely ended.' Bethink you, 
sweet friend, is it not pleasanter to slip out of the 
world with the delightful whir of my sword singing 
in your ears, than to depart as did the lamented 
Saruch, with Binit and yourself howling above 
him ? " 

" Ah," whimpered the exorcist, so limp now that 
the others had to keep him on his legs, " it is not 
the dying only, though that is most fearful ; but 
woe ! alas ! despite all my sacrifices, what will not 
the gods do to me ? How may I justify myself to 
Ea ? Allat will torture me eternally ! " 

"Fie, my lovely Gudea," belched the headsman, 
" what expectations for a man of your piety ! Yet 
be consoled ; Ea sends every soul to its proper 
place, and even Allat can be little less handsome 
than your dearest wife, especially when Binit's palm- 
wine was heady." 

" Cursed be you ! cursed with a dying man's last 
curse ! " howled Gudea, all hope vanishing now, as 
they dragged him away. But Khatin only answered 
with his mildest chuckle : " I have heard that music 
whistled by stouter asses than you, comrade. But 
no grudge ; I must drink a double pot to-night at 
the beer-house, — one for you, one for me, — as 
token of how I shall miss you." 

But Gudea's only answers came in wordless chat- 
terings. And how it prospered him on the rest of his 
long journey is not written, even in the wisest book. 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 




CHAPTER XIV 



ON the same night that Ruth lay down to sleep 
in the mud cottage, Atossa, betrothed of Bel- 
shazzar, " queen designate of Sumer and Akkad " not 
to add titles more, was pacing the leafy avenues of 
the Hanging Gardens. As the summer advanced 
she had been removed to the chambers beneath this 
mountain forest, from the sultrier rooms of the palace. 
Here, with the cool mould and the ocean of tossing 
green interposed betwixt her and the parching sun, 
one could almost forget that out in the dusty world 
the wretched Jews of the labour gang were panting 
and groaning, that all the fields about the city were 
searing brown with the pitiless heat, and the canals 
were creeping riverward through beds half empty. 
No sensuous delight was wanting to lull the Persian 
into forgetfulness of the past. Belshazzar had 
spared nothing. The maids, the young eunuchs, that 
served her were the handsomest, the most soft-footed 
and skilful-handed that could be found in all the 
slave-markets betwixt Carthage and India ; the 
waters that sprayed from the fountains breathed rare 
essences and Sabsean nard. There were fresh flowers 

212 



BELSHAZZAE CHOOSES HIS PATH 213 

sprinkled each morn in lieu of carpets, and a cool 
wreath always ready ; the fragrance of the petals 
wafted on every wind. Each day they brought the 
mistress some new dance, or some new music. And 
in the evening, after the sun's copper ball had sunk 
behind the long shadows of Imgur-Bel, and the broad 
Euphrates flashed in ever darkening ripples, then it 
was joy to quit the lower chambers and roam over 
the wondrous garden domain. There the fireflies 
would flit out with their beacons from behind fern 
and thicket, and the nightingale would throb and 
the thrushes whistle from their safe coverts in the 
trees, till the night seemed one enchantment, and 
the Hanging Gardens indeed the Chaldee's " Garden 
of the Blest." 

But on this night Atossa was not watching the 
stars creep out of the feathery palm trees, nor knew 
she the silence when the last tired bird ceased trill- 
ing, and hid his head behind a wing. She was 
waiting for Darius. 

Masistes had brought her the message, and said he 
had it from Ariathes. The prince would meet her 
in the Gardens at this hour, for there was something 
of weight that he must tell. The dangers, said 
Ariathes, had all been foreseen and provided for ; 
there could come no peril. As for Atossa, she 
thought very little of the dangers or of anything else, 
save this one fact, that speedily she would be face to 
face with the man she loved. 

Atossa was alone in the Gardens. To secure the 



214 BELSHAZZAR 

solitude had been easy. Long since her servants had 
learned that the Persian desired nothing better than 
to be left alone of an evening, with only the unseen 
birds, the whispering trees, and the friendly stars for 
her company. None wondered when she did the like 
this evening. The Gardens were safe as the harem, 
every ingress and exit guarded below by soldiers. 
What danger to let her roam at will ? 

She sat upon a moss-bank, and felt for the little 
cool weeds at her feet, pulling them one by one. 
There was a sweet northeast wind crooning over the 
Gardens, and setting all the groves to whispering. 
" The breeze is from my own Iran," she spoke aloud, 
while the hidden crickets answered her ; " it has 
blown over Ecbatana and Susa ; it has kissed the 
mouth of my mother, my father ; it bears their kisses 
to me." She shook her coronal of golden hair, and 
let the soft breeze caress her neck. The Gardens 
were growing very still. Once or twice arose a dis- 
tant chant from the river boatmen, singing as they 
plied their oars. Save for that, she might have 
dreamed herself a thousand furlongs removed from 
human kind. As the silent night crept onward there 
spread an earthy smell about, the smell of green 
things growing, and the very odour made the breeze 
a delight. The great trees above her head contin- 
ued their murmur, — the cadence just varied enough 
by the puffing wind to make music sweeter than that 
of harp or flute. She was letting the dreamy mood 
possess her, when her ear caught the snap of a twig 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 215 

under gentle stepping sandals. Some one had 
mounted the privy staircase ; a form was approach- 
ing through the soft darkness. 

Atossa sprang to her feet ; she gave one little cry. 
The stranger bounded toward her ; and she heard 
the voice and felt the touch of Darius, son of 
Hystaspes. . . . 

They sat and talked together upon the cool moss, 
for a long while, in tones so low that the sage old 
thrush who had stirred on his bough over their two 
heads gathered nothing, though he listened long. 
But at last, when their minds passed down from 
heaven to earth, their voices grew stronger, for their 
lips were no longer so near. 

" Lady mine," spoke Darius, his strong arm still 
holding fast, " do you know what Isaiah the Jew has 
told me ? Do you know for what end Belshazzar 
brought you here ? " 

" Have I not heard from Isaiah's own lips the story 
of what befell in these same Gardens and of the king's 
unholy guile ? " 

" You know all and are yet so calm ? " 

She looked into his face almost defiantly. 

" Because Ahura grants to you the fame of being 
' King of the Bow ' and of swinging the stoutest 
sword in wide Iran, has he denied that I also should 
be strong to bear ? Am I not Cyrus's own child, 
and must I show these ' lie-loving ' Chaldees only 
tears and pain ? " 

" By Mithra, Lord of Light, I think it is I that 



216 BELSHAZZAR 

must gain the courage out of you, for when I hear of 
your state, and the treachery with which Belshazzar 
had ensnared you, I was close to weeping like a 
maid, and doing deeds of madness ! " 

A faint sound, as of something moving, startled 
her. 

" What is this ? " she cried, leaping from the moss- 
bank. " There is danger I " 

The sound, be it what it might, had vanished. 
Darius peered into the gloom ; black shadows, the 
dim tracery of leafage, the distant sheen of the star 
mist — that seemed all. 

" No peril," he protested, drawing her back to the 
soft cool carpet. " Boges is on watch below ; the 
eunuchs proved exceeding corruptible. Naught will 
be suspected." 

" So Ahura grant," she murmured, pressing closer, 
" yet I hear that spies are all about you. You are 
in danger, grievous danger. Would that you were 
back in Susa, were anywhere, save here, — in the 
chief est place of peril." 

Darius laughed softly. " Are you so glad to have 
me vanish ? I declare to you by all the host of the 
holy * Yazatas,' the just spirits who ever wait on God, 
that where you are, were it in the foulest prison, or 
parching desert, or in remotest star, there would 
be my G-aro-nmana, my ' Abode of Song ' ! " 

" Folly ! " she replied, but her laugh was sweet as 
the dying winds. " What am I ? — a voice and a 
blooming flower ; to-day I am joy to you, or to 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 217 

another, because my face is fair to see. To-morrow 
all is past ; faded like every blossom, I lie down and 
die, and the world knows of me no more. But 
you," and there was pride in the light of her 
smile, " there will be other tales to tell of Darius, son 
of Hystaspes, long after the day when your tongue 
is cold and still. And that should be your task, 
doing fair deeds in the sight of men, not wasting 
griefs or tears on such as me." 

But his answer was a hand upon her lips, and 
he answered her : " I will not give wisdom for your 
foolishness, the barter is unfair. But this I know, 
concerning the Great Day when every soul must cross 
the Chinvat Bridge to enter into the world here- 
after (for you have heard our Aryan tale as chanted 
by the Magi), then to every man there shall come 
a maiden, in beauty or foulness after his own right- 
eousness or guile. And she shall say to him, ' See, 
I am thine own conscience, come to meet thee, and 
to dwell with thee through unending time.' And my 
prayer to Ahura the Merciful is but this, that when 
my own dread ordeal comes, and my maiden looks 
me in the face, her eyes and her smile may be that of 
Atossa, the daughter of my king." 

" Folly ! " cried she again, and again her laugh 
was sweet. But then her mood grew grave. " It is 
night," she said, " the stars are circling onward ; soon 
they will wonder why I linger here so late, and some 
will come to see if all is well. Alas ! that we have 
tasted of this bliss ; the morsel truly is most sweet. 



218 BELSHAZZAR 

but it is supped and gone. Am I not Belshazzar's 
betrothed, full soon his bride? And you, what is 
left save but to speed back to Susa, and tell my 
father all, and how he robbed me of my joy and all 
for naught ? " 

But Darius's voice grew low, he tightened the 
grasp upon her hand. " You speak but ill. You 
shall never be Belshazzar's bride. I, son of Hys- 
taspes, have so sworn, though all the Chaldees rise 
to say me ' nay ' ! " 

" Never ? " He felt Atossa thrill. " What is this 
you say? " 

His head was again close to hers when he answered. 
" Listen, then ; for as you say, I must tell all quickly. 
Belshazzar asked your hand as a pledge of eternal 
peace betwixt Persian and Chaldee ; but to make a 
pledge there must be no oath broken, and he has 
broken his. You are his betrothed, but not his 
bride. No law of man or God binds you to him, 
nor, as the Most High gives me wit and might, 
shall it ever bind ! My position since returning 
from the lion hunt, whereof you must have heard 
the palace rumours, has been intolerable ! There 
is never a moment when I do not tremble for 
my life. I fear every messenger of mine to Susa 
is waylaid and halted. Cyrus must not be suffered 
to remain blind forever. My soul loathes flight 
from a foe, but what is left me ? " 

*'And have they refused you convoy back to 
Susa ? " pressed Atossa. 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 219 

" Not once, but many times," — the prince's voice 
was very bitter, — "I have been to Bilsandan the 
vizier, and only met smooth excuses and scarcely 
veiled lies. Now the Elamite mountain tribes make 
all travel dangerous ; now there is such restlessness 
in the gulf cities that not a soldier can be spared for 
escort. And yet, to cast the vizier's words back in 
his teeth, the garrison of Babylon grows stronger 
day by day, and the walls mount higher." 

" You must go back to Cyrus," spoke she, with 
beating heart; "you must tell all to my father. 
But, oh ! " and her woman's voice nigh faltered, 
" his wrath and the war will be most terrible. 
Aryan blood and Chaldee blood, each poured out 
in rivers, and my sacrifice will all be in vain. I had 
one joy left me, that through my own grief I was 
giving peace to my people, but now at last even this 
is taken away ! " 

" Not so," cried the prince, almost sternly, " for 
out of Belshazzar's cruelty and falsehood shall spring 
my joy and yours also. For now jon are free, and 
I am free to bear you away in my flight. All is 
provided, horses fleet as the desert winds, and my 
Persian followers are with us to the death. Seven 
days from this night you shall look on your father's 
face at Susa, Ahura prospering us — my own ! Gaze 
long, gaze hard, upon this city," he pointed over 
the slumbering vista of ziggurats, palaces, and the 
dark river ; " to-morrow at this hour you shall see 
its accursed beauty no more, — except, indeed, as you 



220 BELSHAZZAR 

ride under its gates at the side of your father when 
he enters it to conquer." 

" Ah ! " she cried, his own bright hopes kindling 
before her eyes, " and how may you persuade him to 
give me to you? " — she broke short — " Am I wrong? 
Do I not hear a noise? " 

The prince rose once more; again eyes and ears 
brought him nothing. " There is naught beholding us 
save God's bright stars; and are not the stars best 
friends to man and maid in love? How shall I per- 
suade Cyrus? Did you not see how he tossed in his 
mind, and how his heart was torn almost as yours or 
mine, when he resolved to send you to Belshazzar ? 
Let him hear the tale we have to tell, the tale that 
will make every ear in Iran from ]\Iedia to Bactria 
to tingle with hot wrath, and I know little of men, 
if Cyrus prove hard of heart. Let Babylon fall, as 
fall it will, and in these same Hanging Gardens — 
not then your prison, but your joy — shall they 
kindle the torch for our marriage feast." 

But Atossa glided out of his clasp. 

" Ah ! " said she, outstretching her arms in the 
starlight, " your words are but as words spoken in 
a vision ; I feel such sweetness cannot be. You 
wake dear phantoms, but they are phantoms still. I 
know not why ; but there is a voice that tells me 
now, as it has told me long, that I must not look for 
any sudden joy. I must learn to be yet stronger, 
and learn to bear not only these, but new ills also. 
And Susa and my father are very far away." 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 221 

" And do you doubt my boast? " he flashed, nigh 
wrathfuUy, at her failing to warm to his own san- 
guine joy. 

"I doubt you? " she cried, as if scarce understand- 
ing his words, — "you? For your least wish, how 
glad a thing to die ! But the power of Angra-Mainyu 
is strong, and he and his fiends put forth their might 
against us. Ahura will conquer, but the triumph is 
delayed. Fly alone; that will be safer — and let 
the sword of Cyrus be the key to my golden 
prison." 

"Not save youf'' reechoed the prince, all the 
might of his strong nature rising up in refusal at 
her command. 

" Hush ! Not so loud ! " warned she, and again 
she started ; " surely in the thicket — " 

" There may be other eavesdroppers ! " spoke a 
voice from the covert directly behind them, and 
the words were the words of Avil-Marduk. 

A shout from Darius, a cry from Atossa, an- 
swered him in the same instant. 

The sword shot from the prince's scabbard and 
flashed in the starlight ; one stroke, and Avil would 
have uttered no more fell counsellings, but the 
priest stepped deliberately forward and caught the 
upraised hand before Darius could gather wits 
enough to smite. 

" Nothing rashly, your Highness," was his admoni- 
tion, he himself perfectly calm. " Your life is in no 
danger, and I make bold to presume that any hurt 



222 BELSHAZZAR 

that might befall your humble slave would meet 
with no slow requital." 

And even as he spoke there emerged from his 
hiding-place, or out of the ground of the garden 
rather, for aught Darius could see in the gloom, 
the figures of six men, a trembling torch in the 
hands of one, naked swords borne by the others. 

Darius stood facing them, his head thrown back 
haughtily, his weapon still raised high. 

" Do not think to slay me without dear payment ! " 
rang his despairing boast. 

But Atossa had fallen on her knees, crying to the 
Babylonians, " Spare him ! Spare ! " for her only 
thought was of Darius. 

"And has not Avil already told you your lives 
are safe ? " added a newcomer, who needed no 
torch-glimmer on his eagle features to proclaim him 
the king himself. "Put away your sword, son 
of Hystaspes ; it avails you nothing. The Lady 
Atossa trembles at sight of bare steel, and well she 
may ! " 

In the faint light they saw Darius break his 
sword across his knee and dash the hilt away. 

"You are right, O king," he cried, shrill with 
anger, " for her sake I must bow my neck in peace. 
Only wreak the vengeance all on me. It was I 
who sought this meeting, who plotted all ; she had 
no part, and is guiltless." 

" The noble Persian wrongs himself," spoke Avil, 
as sweetly as when he commented on his dinner ; 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 223 

" neither he nor the Lady Atossa arranged this 
meeting in these delightful gardens. The author 
is your most obedient slave." Whereupon he 
salaamed. 

" You ? " burst forth the prince. " What snake's 
part is this of yours ? By the aid of what dceva 
came you here with the king ? My plans were well 
laid, my servants trusty." 

" Excellently laid, and exceedingly trusty," quoth 
Avil, still perfectly cool ; " alas ! that Wisdom is 
not ever the bedfellow of Faithfulness. It did not 
need the knowledge of Ea to discover that your 
Highness would love nothing fairer than an even- 
ing's talk with her ladyship. That being the case, 
and we being greatly desirous to discover your noble 
plans and the reports you were anxious to transmit 
to the king's illustrious ally, Cyrus the Persian, I 
took it upon myself to make this interview in every 
way most easy. It was I that arranged that the 
eunuchs and guards should prove conveniently 
corruptible, that nothing should hinder your easy 
access to these Gardens, or interrupt your agreeable 
conversation until you had unbosomed your hearts 
one to another. I must confess myself deeply pained 
to have to disarrange the least of your Highness's 
projects.'* 

" You have overheard ? " questioned the prince, 
controlling himself by an effort. "Be so gracious, 
then, as to inform a barbarous Persian like myself 
by what wings you flitted up into these Gardens."' 



224 BELSHAZZAR 

" By the wings of the same privy staircase soon 
after your Highness ascended. You may deign to 
recollect you left your Boges on watch below. It 
was no grievous matter to overpower and gag with- 
out a cry escaping. Afterward I conducted his 
Majesty and these worthy guardsmen to this thicket, 
whence we could hear all that passed. As Marduk 
liveth ! I believe we could have made more commo- 
tion than we did, and to little harm ; you two had 
ears only for each other." 

" And you understand Persian, priest ? '* asked 
Darius. 

" Indifferently well," answered Avil, modestly, — 
" at least, very little that was said escaped me ! " 

" Then escape not this ! " shouted Darius, and with 
the word he flung himself bodily toward Avil-Marduk. 

The pontiff gave one leap backward, and in the 
darkness his foe just missed him, but fell with all 
his might upon an unlucky soldier who interposed. 
The man went down upon the greensward with a 
rattle in his throat, as Darius smote him. But the 
others instantly piled upon him, and after a desper- 
ate and aimless struggle the Persian was plucked 
from his prey. He faced Belshazzar while two 
guardsmen clung tight to his terrible arms. 

" Well, your Majesty," rang his demand, " how 
long is left to me to live ? " 

" You are safe," answered Belshazzar, from a 
distance ; " you saved my life from the auroch. I 
will not take yours at present." 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 225 

" So I am a prisoner, envoy of Cyrus though I 
be ? You refuse my demand for instant return to 
Susa ? " 

"After what has passed here and now," retorted 
Belshazzar, grimly, " I think you will not marvel if 
I dare to delay you." 

" Better the executioner, and have done ! " cried 
the prince, almost struggling out of his captors' 
hold. 

a ^^Q gr^ijj little by bartering high words, Persian," 
thundered the king, in unconcealed triumph ; " you 
are a prisoner. They shall give you the liberty of 
your rooms, until you prove yourself disobedient to 
my will." 

" Am I then a hostage ? " 

" You shall see. In dealing with Cyrus — " 

But the king said no more, for Atossa deliberately 
placed herself betwixt the two in their anger. 

"Will the king hear me ? " 

All her courage had returned the instant she 
knew Darius's life was for the moment safe. She 
was the great king's daughter still, and she stood 
before Belshazzar, fair and strong. He told himself 
he had never seen man or woman more calm, more 
beautiful. 

" I will hearken," was his sole answer, and Atossa 
continued her speech, that came very slowly. 

" Lord of the Chaldees, when my father sent me to 
Babylon, I loved this man," her eyes were on Darius, 
" beyond all the Indian's pearls, — yes, beyond 



226 BELSHAZZAR 

very life ; but I was content to be the price paid for 
the peace of my people. I was resolved to be your 
true and faithful wife. But I come to find the price 
paid all in vain, — to find treachery blacker than 
blackest night, to learn that oaths are only to be 
blown out as a rushlight, at the first convenient 
season. My love gone, my joy all blasted, for 
naught, the prospering of the sapient Avil's serpent 
guile, and that of his cringing master." Avil had 
winced under the flash of her eye, but now she looked 
on Belshazzar. "King of Babylon, thus far have 
falsehoods borne you ; count up well the cost. Do 
not think oath-breaking can prosper man or king 
forever. Let the walls of Babylon mount yet 
higher ; higher still are God's heavens whence He 
looks downward, and beholds us all, and all the 
secrets locked up in the heart. You can still repent. 
You can send Darius to his own land, and I will yet 
be to you an obedient wife. You can still regard 
the oaths taken to Cyrus as sacred, and as such keep 
them fast. Thus far you have done naught that 
may not be undone ; go no farther. But let the 
prince, the inviolable envoy, guarded alike by Per- 
sian and Chaldee gods, endure one hour of prison, 
and only heaven shall judge the war. Do not think 
my father is all blind. The moon cannot fall from 
the sky, and no man marvel. This is the moment, 
and the last when you may choose, — the moment 
which we Persians say to every man is granted, — 
to make choice of the Right Mind or the Wrong 



BELSHAZZAR CHOOSES HIS PATH 227 

Mind, the great spirits ever at strife. I do not pray 
this for myself, nor for the son of Hystaspes, but 
for you, O king of the Chaldees, whom I would 
honour as husband if I might. To you is this word, 
— choose the path, of righteousness or guile, of 
peace or war, — choose ! " 

The king gazed on her, and she returned his 
glance fearlessly. Her beauty seemed doubled in 
that shimmering torchlight, her presence seemed 
self-illumined, glorious. For an instant, before the 
eyes of Belshazzar's mind there passed a vision of 
peace ; he saw himself like the great Nebuchadnez- 
zar, fighting as he must, but glorying in peace and 
not in war. He saw his kingdom prosperous and 
glad, and Atossa beside him on the throne, his 
counsellor and guide in all fair enterprise. And on 
the monuments in the after days, men should grave 
these words, " In the reign of Belshazzar the land 
was blessed ; no war raged ; no mouth lacked corn." 
Fair vision ! And this was truly the moment of 
choice — to dismiss Darius or to imprison ; should 
he thrust this vision by ? But at that instant some 
demon or god put speech in the mouth of Avil- 
Marduk. 

" Verily by Bel himself," and the pontiff gave a 
low and mocking laugh, "the Lady Atossa will 
almost persuade his Majesty to burn his war chariots 
and set his sword-hands to digging ditches ! " 

One laugh; did Avil know that the fate of the 
"Beauty of the Chaldees" hung on that single 



228 BELSHAZZAR 

breath ? But Belshazzar spoke now, the spell of 
Atossa all broken : "Surely as Samas and Sin bear 
rule in the heavens, so surely have I chosen. I 
know the path. And who shall teach another way 
to me P " 

He made a menacing gesture in Atossa's face. 
She never quailed. 

"You have indeed chosen," said she, in icy tone ; 
"hereafter there is war: betwixt darkness and 
light, dceva and angel, Angra-Mainyu and Ahura- 
Mazda, implacable, truceless, — till the abasing of 
the ' Lie M " 

Belshazzar motioned impatiently to the soldiers. 
" Let the prince be taken to his chambers as com- 
manded, and let the Lady Atossa go below to her 
eunuchs." 

The two Persians sped one glance upon each 
other — but neither spoke farewell. 



CHAPTER XV 



ISAIAH the Jew, whose arrest had been urgently 
commanded by the king, continued to defy all 
the zeal of the royal officers. Truth to tell, that was 
not great. More than one captain of the " Street 
Wardens " had been beholden to Daniel or his late 
colleague, Shadrach, for one service or another, and 
were loath to bring the young Hebrew within 
Khatin's gentle mercies. Likewise, not a Jew in 
Babylon, barring a few recreants, would have be- 
trayed the youth, who passed amongst them as a 
veritable prophet of Jehovah, hardly less inspired 
than Daniel himself. When a new levy of forced 
labour was proclaimed, and scarce a Hebrew but had 
to choose betwixt toilsome days in a broiling sun 
and the offering of a little corn to Marduk, Isaiah 
had gone up and down by night among their little 
cottages along the Street of Kisch, exhorting, warn- 
ing, encouraging. " Endure a little longer," was his 
message, " a few more trials to prove their devotion, 
and God would recall them to His mercy." 

Such was the burden of Isaiah, and to Avil-Mar- 
duk's discomfiture scarcely a Hebrew chose apostasy, 

229 



230 BELSHAZZAR 

though the " whip-masters " had been ordered to be 
trebly harsh. The pontiff gnashed his teeth and 
swore by all the Anunnaki that he would yet break 
this Jewish stubbornness. 

" Arrest Isaiah, living or dead," fulmined the man- 
date again from the palace, but the royal thunders 
spent themselves in noise. Isaiah had found a safe 
refuge, the house of Dagan-Milki, a Babylonish 
schoolmaster, and confessedly one of the most de- 
voted servants of the gods in Babylon. Once upon 
a day Isaiah had saved the goodman's only son from 
the Euphrates, and now Dagan repaid the debt of 
gratitude. He conducted a little day school by the 
Borsippa Canal, where fifty boys and girls buzzed 
from morning till night, learning their lists of sylla- 
bles, and the " Book of Fables " and the " Book of 
Countries and Rivers " ; for there were few parents 
in Babylon that let even a daughter grow up so 
ignorant that she could not sign a letter, and had to 
content herself with her "nail-mark." Dagan 
announced that his scholars had grown so numerous 
that he needed an assistant, to aid him to correct 
their tablets. The young man he took into his family 
seldom showed himself to the pupils ; if he had, who 
would have thought of connecting him with the 
fugitive Hebrew? Dagan was such a pious man ! 
But a terrible day came to Isaiah when a secret mes- 
senger of Imbi-Ilu contrived to search him out, and 
he heard the story of the abduction of Ruth. Imbi 
had done what he could, but to have pushed the 



DANIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 231 

inquiries about lier far would have brought the case 
to the ears of the king, and that were sheerest mad- 
ness. Friendly eunuchs reported that no such maid 
as the Jewess had been introduced into the royal 
harem. Neither Isaiah nor Imbi knew what to hope 
or to fear. Isaiah said little of his grief, but he went 
about with a face seven years older than his wont ; 
and Dagan-Milki, worthy soul, was troubled for him 
and had wordy comfort. 

" Surely, the daughter of Daniel cannot be dead ? " 

"Would God I knew she had perished, spotless 
and unsullied ; I could then have peace ! But into 
the hands of what human ' Maskim ' may she not 
have fallen ! " was the bitter answer. 

" But be not reckless in exposing yourself," urged 
Dagan; "you will not save her by stalking about 
the streets so boldly. The last time you went to 
search for her, in the warehouses in the lower city 
by the temple of Samas, I trembled for your head. 
The stoutest wine- jar cracks at last, if carried too 
often. Daniel's plight is miserable, but yours would 
be worse, if Avil-Marduk once puts the gyves on 
your wrists. No Tartan or vizier will interpose him- 
self betwixt you and Khatin." 

" I am in the Lord God's keeping," retorted the 
young Jew, with a swelling voice ; " it is all one 
whether I live or perish ! " 

Dagan stifled a cynical sniffle. He did not love 
Jehovah more than any other Babylonian, but he 
did not wish to offend his guest. 



232 BELSHAZZAR 

" My dear Hebrew," he suggested, " at least put 
by your prejudices enough to accept the aid the 
gods will send you. Consult a necromancer. I 
know Kwabta, a ' wise woman ' by the temple of 
Nergal, who keeps a familiar spirit. She can reveal 
everything that has befallen your unfortunate be- 
trothed." 

" Dagan," warned Isaiah, sternly, " speak not of 
this again, if you would be my friend. Sooner 
shall the king slay me with tortures than I wilfully 
break the ordinance of my God." 

Dagan said no more. Nevertheless, he went him- 
self privately to the witch, paid her half a shekel, 
and stated the facts of the case, concealing only the 
Jewess's name. Kwabta left him in an outer room, 
bidding him cover his head and mutter certain power- 
ful spells, while in an inner chamber she conferred 
with her demon. She came back, reporting that 
the question was a difficult one, but that in ten 
days Dagan should have a dream, which she could 
interpret for a second half-shekel, and this dream 
would reveal all he desired to know. The school- 
master accordingly had few hopes to bring back 
to Isaiah, whose mood grew blacker than ever. 
Another day passed, and Dagan saw that the young 
Hebrew was unwontedly preoccupied. 

" I have been to Borsippa," he explained at 
length, " and talked with Imbi-Ilu. Daniel's life 
is in grievous danger. Avil-Marduk is preparing 
to demand his execution on the day of the feast 



DANIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 233 

of Bel, and the king will only rejoice to comply. 
Nevertheless, Daniel shall be saved." 

" From the power of the king himself ? " quoth 
Dagan, pricking up his ears. 

" From Belshazzar's own power," assented the 
Jew, " but the manner is hid. I have another 
task, however, to-night. I must see Daniel him- 
self. He has asked to see me." 

"Daniel himself? Daniel in prison? Are you 
mad?" almost shrieked the schoolmaster. 

" I was never in sounder mind. Zerubbabel, my 
friend who brought the message, keeps the prison 
watch to-night. The eyes of the other warders can 
be closed with a little silver." 

Dagan argued and besought in vain. Away went 
Isaiah soon after nightfall, and Jehovah, or some 
other power who loves the bold, protected him. 
He had his hour alone with Daniel. 

The dungeon of the palace prison was fetid, the 
straw damp, the only light that of a single shivering 
candle. At sight of his friend and all but father 
in chains and amid these squalid surroundings, the 
younger Jew burst into tears. 

" Alas I my father," was his cry, while he knelt 
for Daniel's blessing, " what is this I see? What 
does the Lord God suffer? He who has served Him 
beyond all others, whose life has been naught but 
holiness, in the state of the vilest felon ! " 

*' Peace ! " commanded the old man, never more 
calm and majestic than now; "what is there to fear? 



234 BELSHAZZAK 

Did God simply go with me when I was ' civil- 
minister ' of Babylon, and cannot His goodness fol- 
low within this prison ? " 

" Ah ! father," protested Isaiah, " I do not doubt 
God's power, yet how can I trust His mercy ? First 
you, then Ruth, the guileless of the guileless, have 
been brought to bitter grief, — and lo ! the wicked 
wax fat and prosper ! " 

" I know it well," answered Daniel, his voice 
unfaltering ; " but all is not yet ended. I have 
heard of the abduction of Ruth, of the malice 
of Belshazzar and Avil-Marduk against me ; yet 
neither for myself nor for her have I any fear." 

" Would God you could teach me your own 
trust ! " 

The old Jew smiled gently. " You are yet young, 
and I an ancient river, close upon the sea. The 
wisdom that you ask is not written in all the books 
of Imbi-Ilu at Borsippa, nor can a treasure-house of 
silver buy. But as you fare onward with obedient 
will and open mind, you shall yet see the vision, and 
shall hear the message from on high, and know that 
all is well. The Chaldee's power passes not beyond 
the grave, and there are no griefs in Abraham's 
bosom." 

Isaiah lifted his head, and shook the unmanly tears 
from his eyes. 

" I have put by my faintness," spake he, as if in 
anger with himself ; " who am I to stand as prophet 
to our people, when my own faith in God grows 



DANIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 235 

pale ? You have sent for me, my father, on some 
weighty errand, for I know you never summon 
me to needless peril. Declare ; I am all obe- 
dience." 

Daniel spoke with bated breath. " Dearest son, 
Jehovah is speaking again to me in visions, as in 
the former time. Again His command has come 
upon me, and with a message which your mouth 
must give." 

"I am unworthy to be the mouthpiece of God 
Most High." 

Daniel smiled again. "Who of living men is 
worthy ? But be confident and strong ; fear noth- 
ing, and He will lead you out of all perils. Is the 
Persian Darius still in prison ? " 

" Closely guarded, and they watch all persons that 
pass out of Babylon, lest they be secret bearers of 
news to Cyrus. But there is a report — " 

" Of what ? " asked Daniel, as eagerly as ever was 
his wont. 

"That Ariathes, the favourite servant of Darius, 
was not arrested with the other Persians of the 
prince's suite, and there is a chance that he has fled to 
Susa, bearing tidings of the outrage done the envoy." 

"Jehovah's name be blessed, your task is made 
easy ! " 

" My task," cried Isaiah. 

" Yours," again Daniel's voice sank low. " This is 
what is commanded you of God : On the day of 
the feast of Bel cast all fear from you. Trust in the 



236 BELSHAZZAR 

guardianship of Jehovah. During the festival the 
customary watch will be relaxed. You know the great 
tunnel beneath the Euphrates, from the palace to the 
Eastern City ? " 

" I have been through it twice. It is treading 
amongst the dead to traverse it, but I do not fear." 

" By means of it you can pass unnoticed to the 
very temple of Marduk. Take your stand upon the 
terrace of the ziggurat^ before all the thousands when 
they approach with the ark of the idol. Cry aloud 
against Belshazzar, against Avil-Marduk, against the 
sinful city and its evil gods. For Jehovah commands 
that they shall not be cut off unwarned. Bid them 
repent, and to cease the persecution of the Lord God's 
people. Nevertheless they will not hear, for they are 
to be cut short in their sins. But though they rage 
against you, they shall not harm you. You shall 
escape. You shall go to Susa, and stand before Cyrus 
the righteous king, and give him the mandate of 
Jehovah, for God has summoned him to bring low 
this Babylon. The words which you shall speak to 
him, God will put in your mouth in due season ; for 
He has chosen you out of all the sons of Judah for 
this high honour — the freeing of His people." 

" My father ! my father ! " again Isaiah fell upon 
his knees, " who of all am I to do this deed ? Again 
I cry, 'unworthy.' " 

" And again I say to you, not righteousness, but 
obedience, is demanded. Go forward with all bold- 



ness." 



DANIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 237 

" Hist ! " warned Isaiah, " Zerubbabel approaches 
to warn us that we must part. When shaU I see you 
again ? " 

" In His own good time," answered the old man, 
sweetly ; then he laid his fettered hand on Isaiah's 
head, " the God of our fathers keep you, my son, in 
His service, and teach you that nothing truly evil 
may befall." 

The door opened. "The guard changes," an- 
nounced Zerubbabel ; " away, quickly, or all is 
danger." 

Isaiah embraced the prisoner once, and followed 
the friendly guardsman out of the palace precinct. 
Then he wended his way alone back to the house of 
Dagan-Milki, through the silent streets of the capital. 

At the schoolmaster's door the good man himself 
confronted Isaiah with a beaming face and a voice 
that trembled with agitation. 

" Glory, glory to every god ! Praised be Nabu 
and Nergal ! Compose yourself, my dear Isaiah, be 
collected ; do not grow excited ; bless your god with 
calmness — " but here the exhortations ended in a 
new shout of " Praised be the name of Bel-Marduk! " 
and Isaiah stared at Dagan, wondering if his kind 
host had been blighted in his wits. 

" I would fain rejoice ! " remonstrated he, coldly, 
for in his heart he was telling himself that he must 
have no other joy now save the labour for his 
people. 



238 BELSHAZZAR 

Dagan almost dragged him across the threshold, 
and led through the courtyard of the little house. 

" Rejoice ! " he was commanding, almost angrily, 
" rejoice ! Do you not wish to be glad ? " tugging 
Isaiah behind him, as he strode feverishly forward. 

" Now, as Jehovah liveth ! " protested the Jew, be- 
ginning to wax furious in turn, " shall I make merry 
against my will ? Wherefore this cry, ' rejoice,' 
save for one dear thing the good God will not 
grant ? " 

"And will He not grant it?" fumed the school- 
master, forcing on his unwilling companion. But 
while he spoke he felt Isaiah totter on his feet. By 
the light of the copper lamp he carried, Dagan saw 
the Jew's face turn very pale. 

" Friend," Isaiah spoke hoarsely, " do not mock 
me if you wish to live." 

" By Ramman ! " swore the Babylonian, not a little 
fearful, " I think you are in earnest." He pushed in 
the door of a little sleeping chamber, and waved the 
lamp, sending a wan flicker around, that now hid, 
now revealed, all the room. 

" Behold ! " 

Dagan pointed downward, where a mattress was 
spread upon the floor and on it the form of one sleep 
ing. And as they looked, there was a rustle upon the 
pallet, two little hands unclasped across the breast, 
while Dagan saw that again the Hebrew was trem- 
bling. 

" Dagan," commanded Isaiah, still hoarsely, " set 



DAKIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 239 

the light upon the floor and get you hence." Which 
injunction, the schoolmaster, being a wise as well as 
a kindly man, hastened to obey. 

" Shaphat," said Isaiah, later that same night, in 
another chamber of the house, " tell me the story of 
your flight with the Lady Ruth, for I would not suffer 
her to speak long, but bade her go back to rest." 

Whereupon a young man, who had been dozing 
in a dark corner, shuffled to his feet ; but he would 
not look Isaiah in the eye. 

" Ah, lord," stammered the fellow, " who I am to 
tell my master, — I on whose head rests untold guilt ? 
Who will believe, though I swear by every god? 
Even these Babylonians, if they know me, will cry 
'bricks for the perjurer,' and will pelt me in their 
streets." 

" And well you say," muttered Dagan, who stood 
by, — " the servant who robbed so kind a lord as 
Daniel, then conspired with that viper Gudea to 
work his death. By Marduk ! " and he turned to 
Isaiah, *' I will not trust him ; no, not till cockcrow ! 
If he has saved the Lady Ruth, it is but to serve 
some dark and hidden end. He knows your secret. 
Let him never quit this house alive ! " 

The renegado cowered at Isaiah's feet. " Woe ! " 
he groaned, " I am undone utterly ; accursed on 
earth, and accursed in heaven ! If such is the wrath 
of man, what is not God and His just and holy 
anger?" 



240 BELSHAZZAR 

But Isaiah deliberately stooped and raised the 
wretched man by the hand. "Peace, Dagan," he 
commanded, and then he looked sadly but calmly 
upon the apostate. " Shaphat," his voice was very 
gentle, " I have but just stood beside Daniel, the 
most righteous man in all Babylon. He is in chains 
in a noisome dungeon. If God suffers him to un- 
dergo this, what punishment is left for such as 
you to endure, were we all rewarded after our ill- 
doings? But were He to remember all the foul 
deeds in even the most righteous, who of us shall 
stand ? Rise up, and speak with boldness. You 
are rewarded, not of man, but of God. I will hear 
and believe your story." 

" Master," cried the penitent, the big drops on his 
cheeks, " your words are precious beyond seven tal- 
ents of gold. Yet have I not sinned beyond the 
Lord God's mercy?" 

" You have not if by your future deeds you atone 
as in you lies. And now I am hearkening." 

Whereupon, with many groans and protests of sor- 
row, Shaphat told how, after the trial, and his almost 
forced exposure of Gudea's infamy, he had rushed 
away and hid himself in the vilest quarters of the 
city, amongst the bargemen and sailors. Often he 
meditated slaying himself, but the fear of the angry 
Jehovah passed his fear even of his stinging con- 
science. Daniel lay in his prison, and Shaphat knew 
that up to the last moment he had been consent- 
ing to the " civil-minister's " misfortune. His own 



DANIEL DELIVERS A MESSAGE 241 

scanty means were soon ended. Avil-Marduk was 
his enemy, and desired his arrest. As a last re- 
course, Shaphat hired himself to a band of nonde- 
script Arab caravan merchants, who were about to 
set forth for Egypt. Perchance, he vainly argued, 
he would find that the goad of memory might not 
follow to the strange Nile country, and he could 
commence life there afresh. But on the day after 
setting forth, while the caravan halted in a village, 
lo ! after the manner already told, the Amorite 
bandit came with his three captives, nor was 
Shaphat long in recognizing. 

And then began his new agony. Well he knew 
that Ruth was all Binit protested, — worth her 
weight in silver to any who might deliver her to 
the king. And first he resolved to tell his employers 
that Binit's ragings were indeed truth, and they had 
great prize. But the serpent of guile brought him 
yet darker thoughts. Why should he not flee away 
with the Jewess herself, deliver her to Belshazzar, 
claim the royal reward, and drown his remorse in 
the delights of riches? It was with this thought 
uppermost that he suffered himself to drift into new 
falsehoods when the leader of the caravan questioned 
him as to their youngest captive. All that day he 
adhered to his black purpose, and the delays which 
prevented the advance of the caravan were largely 
of his contriving. In the evening, as soon as the 
camp grew still, he filched a bag of money from an 
Arab and prepared to make off. The flight was not 



242 BELSHxYZZAR 

difficult. Ruth obeyed him implicitly when he prom- 
ised he would conduct her back to safety. They 
wandered onward toward the city until the Jewess's 
feet were so weary she could trudge no more, and 
she slumbered out the remainder of the night in a 
farmer's stack, while Shaphat remained on guard to 
beat off the wild dogs and jackals. In the morn- 
ing he contrived to purchase some millet bread in a 
village, and they plodded southward. 

" But now," continued Shaphat, while his voice 
once more was near to breaking, " I found all the 
demons of the Chaldees rising up within me ; for it 
seemed impossible that I should refuse life riches, 
and yet a voice spoke ever goading, warning, tortur- 
ing, ' Better a life of beggary and rags, than do this 
deed which will cry out to God.' But then I 
answered myself, saying : ' God is already angered 
past all atoning. He can never forgive. Let me 
make joy to-day, for to-morrow is only endless 
gloom.' And so I continued debating long and 
bitterly, while we measured the long road. But 
when we drew near to Babylon, the Lady Ruth 
spoke to me, after her gentle way, ' Good Shaphat, 
what are you fearing, and why does your face be- 
come so sad ? ' Whereupon I answered her : ' You 
know I have promised to deliver you to some friend 
who will keep you safely. Do you put trust in me, 
seeing that I have done great wrong to my lord, 
your father ? ' And she looked up at me, and said, 
in her innocency, little knowing all the evil that was 



DANIEL DELIVEES A MESSAGE 243 

passing in my breast, 'You have truly done great 
ill, and on this account I will put trust in you yet 
more, for I know you will not wish to anger the good 
Lord God for yet a second time.' — ' Alas ! ' cried I, 
'have I not so angered Him that I can never be 
forgiven, though I had all the riches of the Egibi 
bankers, and spent them in alms-deeds on the poor ? ' 
But she said, and her voice was like a cool hand laid 
upon my brow, ' And wherefore should the good God 
not forgive ? for I know that I, since I see you truly 
sorry, have forgiven, and so, surely, has my father ; 
and have we more of pity than Jehovah the All- 
Merciful ? ' Then," but here the apostate must 
needs stop and weep hot tears indeed, " as I looked 
down upon her, and saw how fair she was, how her 
face was pure as a summer's cloud, and her heart 
guileless as a bursting flower, and when I told my- 
self how selling her to Belshazzar would be selling 
her to worse than death, I said within my soul, ' I 
cannot do this evil deed in sight of God ; no, though 
I die this hour, and descend to Sheol forever, I shall 
yet have this to comfort me, that I am free from this 
great sin.' For I felt as if ten thousand talents 
from the king would turn to fire in my hands. All 
the rest of the way to Babylon the fiends pressed 
close to tempt me, but they had lost their power. 
I fought them all away. I scarce knew where to 
take the Lady Ruth, but I remembered that Dagan- 
Milki was your friend, and unsuspected among the 
Babylonians. I little thought to place her in your 



244 BELSHAZZAR 

keeping. When I gave her to Dagan, for a moment 
my soul had peace. Nevertheless, when I saw how 
even he, a Chaldee, turned the back on me, and I 
thought on my great sins, my sorrows all returned, 
and I have been fearfully tormented. But as 
Jehovah is my judge, I have told all truly." 

He was weeping once more, but Isaiah stepped 
beside him, and took him by the hand. 

" The Lady Ruth is right," he said simply ; " God 
is more merciful than man. You are forgiven in 
His pure sight. I believe all your story." 

" Blessings upon you for the word ! " cried the 
penitent; " you make me your slave forever. How 
may I serve you, even unto death ? " 

But Isaiah only smiled. " Fear not that through 
me God will not find you ample chance for service. 
But the present duty is rest. Sleep to-night, and 
wait His commands for the morrow." 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 




CHAPTER XVI 



UPON Ai-Bur-Shabou Street, not far from the 
Northern Gate, called the Gate of Ilu, stood 
the barber's shop of Mulis-Assur. A shop, we say, 
though in truth it was only an open booth, thrust 
in betwixt two houses, and its sole furnishings were 
two low stools, a reed carpet, a little chest for the 
razors and silvered mirrors, and a brass brazier, 
over which at this moment curling irons were heat- 
ing above the smouldering charcoal. Mulis-Assur 
was neither the first nor the last of his kind whose 
principal staple of sale v/as gossip. At this moment, 
as the worthy man stood patting the lump of melted 
butter upon the black locks of Gabarruru, the corn 
merchant, who occupied one stool, his head was 
turned to reply to Itti-Marduk, the banker, who was 
lolling on the other stool. It was a great festival 
day — the day of the procession of the patron god of 
Babylon, of the "going forth of Bel-Marduk," and 
for once the broker had forgotten his jars of account 
books. 

"Well," Mulis was declaring, while he lifted the 
irons from the brazier, "I am the last to chatter 

245 



246 BELSHAZZAK 

treason, but may the gods ward off from his Majesty 
the consequences of listening to that frog Gudea's 
croakings, and casting the civil-minister into prison ! 
Not one man can say a fair word for the deed." 

" The more particularly," thrust in the merchant, 
" because Gudea himself has died the death not long 
since. I saw the croAVS around his skull the last 
time I passed under the gate. Jew or Chaldee, no 
man ought to suffer bonds on such evidence. The 
minister is no more guilty of slaying by sorcery 
than you or I. A trick of Avil-Marduk, I say; 
there is too much priestcraft loose in Babylon. 
My head already sits overlightly on its shoulders." 

" Peace ! " conjured Itti, " never will I, a loyal 
and pious citizen, suffer such treason to be prated 
against my betters ! " 

"No alarm," answered Gabarruru, feeling that per- 
haps he had gone too far, "we are all loyal and 
obedient men. Daniel, at least, has been saved for 
the present by the queen-mother." 

" The queen-mother saved the Jew for the mo- 
ment," replied the barber, " but I think his neck 
will last through to-day, and no longer. You know 
the custom. When the ship of Bel reaches the foot 
of the ziggurat^ the chief priest can demand of the 
king one boon, and the king cannot refuse it. You 
may imagine what that boon will be." 

" The life of Daniel ? " 

" Nothing else, by Marduk ! But I imagine there 
is likely to be another part to the tale. Imbi-Ilu, 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 247 

the chief priest of Nabu, is Daniel's good friend. 
Mark my words, the priests of Nabu and of Samas 
and Nergal of Kisch hate Avil, and his designs to 
make all their temples subordinate to his own, 
more than they do the harmless Jehovah worship 
of the minister. I look for a spark on the firewood 
in Babylon, and strange sights this very day." 

" Ramman protect us ! " muttered the banker, 
uneasily. " I have put down fresh loans only last 
night. I shall lose all." 

"Yes," continued Mulis, who was happiest when 
peddling bad news that did not touch himself, " we 
must prepare for grievous times. Now that the 
king has clapped the Persian envoy in durance, and 
keeps him prisoner in his chambers at the palace, 
I think we may see a war the like of which was not 
since the brave days of Nebuchadnezzar. Ea, the 
God of Wisdom, alone knows what it was that befell 
during the royal hunt. Forth goes his Majesty and 
Darius, boon companions as Gilgamesh and Eabani ; 
they come back eying each other like two cocks 
in the farmer's yard. The next thing we hear, the 
Persian is a state prisoner. Woe, what wretched 
times ! " 

A groan cut the barber short, for a hot curling 
iron had tingled on Gabarruru's neck. 

" Nergal blast you, chattering sparrow ! " was his 
curse. "Must I be roasted like a stalled ox every 
time I seek your shop ? " 

" Mercy, gentle sir," soothed Mulis ; " I was but 



248 -BELSHAZZAR 

saying to the noble Itti, that the evil omens 
which have plagued the city of late, seem too nigh 
fulfilment. Piety declines, the gods are neglected — " 

" Small loss ! " growled the corn merchant, who 
was a very impious man ; " the gods are of little 
use. They may be all-wise, and know each secret 
we would give everything to learn, but they are 
most inconveniently silent when they might serve 
us. My brother spent half his estate on priests and 
exorcists ; much favour heaven gave him — he died 
childless and poor ! While I, who have not given 
one of Avil's cattle two shekels in ten years, wax 
prosperous and fat ! " 

" Hush," exhorted Itti, horrified, " do not blaspheme 
before me ! Doubtless heaven will, with one clap, 
smite you down for your wickedness — " 

A second touch of the iron and renewed curses 
interrupted the broker. And before the conversation 
resumed, into the shop came Hasba, the tall, gaunt 
priest of Nabu, his costume very threadbare, and his 
eyes glittering as if with ill-concealed excitement. 

" Well, Hasba," cried Mulis, pausing in his curl- 
ing for the twentieth time, " you are in a strange 
robe for a festival day. Is Nabu so poor a god he 
can give his priests nothing better ? " 

"Nabu is very poor and hungry — to-day," re- 
sponded Hasba, with a significant cough, which 
made Itti look at him very hard. 

" But not yesterday or to-morrow ? " pressed 
Mulis, pricking his ears. 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 249 

"Quietly." Hasba's voice sank very low. "You 
are all good friends, and will leak nothing. See ! " 
He showed a short sword girded under his mantle. 

" Istar help us ! " cried the broker. " What will 
happen ? " 

"Patience, worthy Itti. Avil-Marduk is likely 
to learn strange things before nightfall. We have 
sworn loyalty to Belshazzar, but not to Avil. His 
Majesty loves the priest of Bel-Marduk too well. 
Why is Daniel in the palace prison ? Not because 
he ' kills by sorcery,' as that scorpion Gudea charged, 
nor because he is a Jew. He stands betwixt Avil 
and his design to make Belshazzar his tool, to 
make all the priesthoods of Babylon slaves of Bel- 
Marduk. Imbi-Ilu is not a man to see the deed 
done in silence. To-day we of Nabu appear in 
tattered mantles that the people may see how the 
king is starving us. And as for Avil, if he seeks 
Daniel's life, let both him and the king beware ! " 

" Ramman protect us ! " muttered Itti again. 
" When was ever such strife in Babylon ? " 

" A strange case that of Daniel's," commented 
Mulis. " I hear that the king was very desirous 
of laying his hands on his would-be son-in-law 
Isaiah, who was so loud in denouncing the gods, and 
more than desirous of getting the minister's daughter 
(the maid was called Ruth) for his own harem. 
Yet both have escaped him, though their arrest was 
ordered." 

" Vanished utterly," replied the priest, gathering 



250 BELSHAZZAR 

his robe tightly, to guard against an unfriendly eye 
upon the sword ; but his tone and wink made 
the others stare at him, then exchange knowing 
glances. 

"As for the young Jew," continued Hasba, with 
the air of a person who knows far more than he is 
likely to tell, " he is a man of great resources, and 
knows the city as a bird the way to its nest. All 
the Jews reverence him as a prophet of their Jehovah, 
and protect him when they can. My own master, 
Imbi-Ilu, esteems him highly, notwithstanding his 
absurd devotion to his native god. But the Jewess," 
Hasba's lips curled in a very bitter smile, "she is 
safe also, and Nabu grant shall remain so long, for 
the man who prompted his Majesty to try to take 
her by force from our temple is devoted to the 
' Maskim ' if the gods keep any power to punish sac- 
rilege. Better worship a thousand Jehovahs, than 
do one deed like that." 

" You of Borsippa do not hate this Jewish god 
so very fiercely ? " remarked Mulis, shrewdly. 

" He is a harmless demon. We of the temple of 
Nabu only know this, — that we have no hate to 
squander on any, saving Avil-Marduk and his under- 
lings." 

" Be that as it may," was Mulis's answer, " Isaiah 
and the maid have been in marvellously safe hiding. 
The king threatens Mermaza's head if she is not 
found." 

"Then may the chief eunuch's pate topple off 



THE PKOCESSION OF BEL 251 

quickly ! " swore Hasba. " Next to Avil we love 
him the least." 

Gabarruru's tortures were at an end at last, but 
just as he was about to quit the barber's shop, the 
sudden rush of people to the street from all the 
adjoining alleys, and the din of distant horns and 
kettle-drums, told that the long-waited procession 
was at hand. Hasba excused himself and was off, 
leaving the others to meditate on his warnings and 
await the issue in what peace they might. The 
clangour of cymbals grew louder continually. The 
street was becoming one sea of heads. By standing 
on the little raised platform of the barber's shop, it 
was possible to gain a fair view up the avenue, where 
one could see standards tossing, and the shimmer of 
steel. 

" Way ! way ! " rang the familiar cry at length, 
and a squad of scarlet-robed wand-bearers began 
forcing the people backward toward the house walls. 
After this advance corps streamed the priestesses 
of Istar, tall, comely women, their heads and necks 
wreathed with flowers, their dresses of tinted Egyp- 
tian gauze floating around them in bright clouds, 
the transparent web falling in folds none the most 
prudish. The older priestesses walked in well- 
drilled files, bearing gay banners, and keeping up 
an incessant clatter upon their tambourines ; but 
their younger sisters would break ranks, time and 
again, and whirl in voluptuous dances, joining hands, 
shaking out their streaming black locks, tearing off 



252 BELSHAZZAE, 

their coronals to cast amid the admiring crowd, or 
even when they saw a handsome youth, would pluck 
him from the multitude by sheer force, and whirl 
him with them ; then, at a change in the music, all 
released their captives, and marched demurely until 
the spirits moved them to new madness. 

So the " Maids of the Grove," to the number of 
many hundreds, passed. But when the soldiers of 
the palace guard followed, each in his gayest mantle 
and brightest helmet, Mulis whispered in the banker's 
ear : — 

" A costly blunder, unless there is no fire under 
much smoke. Look at the guard ! " 

" What is amiss ? " demanded Itti, rubbing his 
eyes. 

" The troops have neither shields nor spears with 
them, only their parade arms, sword, and helmet. 
His Majesty may have cause to rue this blunder." 

" Ramman protect us ! " implored Itti yet another 
time. But now fifty squeaking pipors headed the 
files of the priests of Samas from the southern city, 
a notable array of handsome men, white robes, and 
nodding banners. After them marched their breth- 
ren of Sin, the moon-god ; then those of Nergal 
from the Kisch suburb ; then the priestesses of 
Nana, consort of Nabu. 

Suddenly a great shout began running down the 
street in advance of the next contingent. 

"Hail, Nabu! Hail, son of Marduk ! Hail, 
Imbi-Ilu, holy priest of the god ! " 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 253 

" Nabu, they say, is the son of Marduk," com- 
mented Gabarruru, dryly. " He bears dutiful love 
for his parent, if what Hasba says is true." 

" Do not blaspheme him," implored the broker ; 
"he is a great god, the peer of Marduk almost. The 
son has the place of honour in the father's procession. 
Pity the two must quarrel." 

" Bow down ! The knee ! The knee ! " rang the 
shout, and the multitude (all that had room) knelt 
on the stone pavement, while from a distance sounded 
a mighty rumbling as of clumsy wheels. Soon there 
lumbered into view an enormous wain, dragged by 
long cables like those for a stone bull, but no sullen 
labour gang was tugging now. Many leaped from 
their knees and contended with the priests who were 
toiling at the ropes, for the honour of drawing the 
god. Upon the wain rode Nabu's " Ship of the 
Deep," a goodly-sized galley, fitted with a towering 
mast and tackle. Upon her decks swarmed a score 
of priests in lieu of crew, and perched upon the up- 
curved stern was the idol of the god, a block of black 
stone, human size, but with features of such ugliness 
that the very fiends beholding might well have trem- 
bled. Yet at sight of that image even Gabarruru 
bowed his head, for it had been the guardian genius 
of Babylon and Borsippa for more generations than 
the wisest could tell. 

Yet a great wail of wrath and disappointment 
seemed rising from the people. " Nabu's priests are 
threadbare ! Where are their robes of honour ? 



254 BELSHAZZAR 

Where are the jewels once on the gunwales of the 
ship ? Where are the golden dresses of the image ? " 
The three in the barber's shop rubbed their eyes. 
In the crowd they saw Hasba and others, doubtless 
fellow-priests, bustling about, whispering in the ear 
of this burgher and of that. 

Imbi-Ilu, second pontiff of the realm, the friend 
of Daniel and the arch-foe of Avil, stood handsome 
and erect beside the image of his god ; but there was 
no tiara on his head, his robe was torn and sombre. 

" Marduk is robbing Nabu ! " some bold spirit in 
the crowd was shouting. " The priests of Bel-Mar- 
duk grow fat ; those of Nabu starve ! Down with 
Avil ! " 

But the servants of the Borsippa god marched on 
in silence, each man smiling grimly when he saw 
how their pitiful display was working on the crowd, 
and pressing his mantle around his hidden sword. 
And there were other cries at times : — 

" Release Daniel ! Release the good minister ! 
Release ! Down with Avil ! " 

"Evil times ! " muttered Itti. "While Nabonidus 
was king the processions were suspended ; now they 
become mere occasion for tumult." 

"Well," protested the cheerful barber, "here 
comes his Majesty and the car of Bel-Marduk. We 
shall soon see now." 

A new corps of musicians, new guards. A second 
boat creaked past on its many wheels. High above 
the noise of the crowd sounded the hvmn chanted 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 255 

by the choir of chosen priests and priestesses in 
praise of Bel-Marduk, smiter of the great dragon. 

" Look favourably upon thy dwelling-place, 
Look favourably upon thy city, O Lord of quietness ! 
May Babylon salute thee, and thy temple, 
May the city find safety under thee ! '* 

After this choir moved the car, and, unlike 
Nabu's^ it was a single blaze of colour. The four 
snow-white "sacred horses" who aided to drag the 
ship tossed their bridles of silver chains, and 
champed on bits of pure gold. The sail and pen- 
nons were covered with the rarest embroideries, the 
gunwale glittered with precious stones — agate, onyx, 
lapis-lazuli. The idol on the stern wore a robe that 
was one sheen of golden lace. But Belshazzar the 
king, who sat under his purple umbrella upon the 
prow, scowled at Avil, his prime counsellor, who 
stood beside him. 

" The people give thrice as many cheers for Nabu 
as for Bel. The gods reward me if I do not make 
Imbi-Ilu pay the price for his mummery ! To appear 
with his priests in tatters, and his car all stripped of 
decoration, at the moment when the procession was 
about to start ! He knew well I would never have 
suffered his company to march, had it not meant a 
riot to leave behind the car of Nabu! " 

Avil deliberately cast his eyes down over the 
swelling crowd, and readjusted the horn-set tiara 
that crowned his head. 

'* The more reason for striking down Daniel, my 



256 BELSHAZZAE, 

king. His fate will be a mighty warning to Imbi- 
Ilu." 

" Once you advised me to move gently with him, 
yet you are bold now." 

" True ; but I have set my feet on the path, and 
see no danger to-day." 

" Release Daniel ! Release ! Release ! Down with 
Avil ! " broke in the bolder spirits in the crowd, as 
if to give the lie to the hardy pontiff. 

Avil spat at them in contempt. " Stingless 
drones ! " commented he. " They will forget the 
Jew by another Sabbath."^ 

" I am led in all things by you," replied Belshazzar, 
in a tone that showed he nigh felt himself overper- 
suaded. Avil only salaamed, and turned to pay his 
respects to the Princess Atossa, whose chair was 
upon the prow, close beside that of her royal lord. 

" My princess sees a sight that must be rare in her 
native Persia," began he, blandly. " If my informa- 
tion does not fail, the worship of the Persian Ahura 
and his archangels does not demand such elaborate 
processions as these." 

Atossa turned upon him haughtily, and from 
under her veil shot through him a glance such as 
can dart only from the eyes of a great king's 
daughter. 

"Assuredly, worthy priest," and Avil winced be- 
fore her disdainful patronage, " it is true our prophet 

1 The Babylonians observed a seventh day as sacred, much after 
the Jewish fashion. It was likewise called " The Sabbath." 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 257 

Zarathushtra ^ enjoins no processions where the pop- 
ulace heap personal revilings on the chief of our 
Magian pontiffs." 

" Down with Avil ! Release Daniel ! Nabu is 
outraged ! " buzzed from the crowd. 

"Ah, my princess," said Avil, smiling, "the king 
is overkindly disposed. Could I persuade him, 
these seditious fellows would soon shout other- 
Wise. 

" His Majesty is too kindly disposed ? " replied 
she, removing her veil that Avil might see the un- 
concealed sneer on her lips. 

" His heart is a mountain of compassion," asserted 
the priest, who felt that he was being made sorry 
sport of, yet would not retire from the encounter. 

" But not so merciful as my Lord Avil," interposed 
Mermaza, the oily chief eunuch, glad to prod his 
comrade, '' for his heart is one sponge soaked with 
magnanimity." 

" Marduk blast you, Mermaza ! " muttered Avil 
under breath. 

" I trust not," replied the smirking eunuch, *' the 
excellent god, my dear Avil, will need all his 
powers for weightier things to-day. Hear the 
people — " 

" Avil conspires against Nabu ! . Rescue for the 
good minister ! Release Daniel ! " 

To reenforce the shouts, a brick flung by some mad 
rascal in the crowd dashed against the car. 

1 Often, though incorrectly, written " Zoroaster.'* 



258 BELSHAZZAE 

" Be persuaded, Avil," urged Mermaza ; " make 
no demand for Daniel's life." 

" Spare the Jew ? Never will I yield a ' finger 
breadth.' Having gone thus far, it is self-destruction 
to turn back." 

'^Nevertheless, I wish we had brought more sol- 
diers from the palace." 

Belshazzar was beckoning to the priest, and he 
turned away, whereupon Atossa addressed Mermaza 
wearily : — 

" Is it far now to the temple of Marduk ? " 

" Not far ; yet why is my mistress so tired ? The 
under eunuchs tell me she did not sleep. The king's 
Egyptian doctor must prepare a night draught." 

" Alas ! that can profit little when I consider that 
Prince Darius's life is in danger while he is a 
prisoner." 

" Danger ? " Mermaza's smile was radiant as the 
moon. " Has not his Majesty pledged that he is 
perfectly safe ? His life is more precious than the 
gems in the royal treasure chamber." 

Atossa fixed her clear eyes straight upon the eu- 
nuch, and even he glanced away from her uneasily. 

" Mermaza," said she, very coldly, " I think it will 
be better for both of us if we hide fewer black 
thoughts under smooth protestations. You know 
as well as I that Darius is held as a hostage, to tie 
the hands of my father in requiting Belshazzar for 
his dark intrigue." 

"I am only your ladyship's slave," the eunuch 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 259 

bowed obsequiously. " Who am I to say my mis- 
tress * nay ' ? " 

"And for once you speak well in very truth," 
answered she, the hot colour of anger rising at last ; 
" for to a man I would bow as to one mightier than 
I, and to a woman I would answer wrath with wrath. 
But to you, who are neither man nor maid, but only 
creature, I will vouchsafe not one curse ; one does 
not bend the bow to slaughter gnats ! '* 

Mermaza's smile had become sickly indeed; but 
she deliberately turned her back upon him, and kept 
company with her own gloomy meditations. 

She had not seen Darius since that evening hour 
when they were surprised in the Hanging Gardens. 
Report in the harem had it that the prince was 
under close ward in his own chambers, and that all 
the Persians of his suite had been arrested. All save 
one : Ariathes, the crafty and the nimble, had passed 
from sight as completely as if he had never been 
born. Was he escaped to Susa, and had the truth 
come to the mighty Cyrus's ears? It was a faint 
hope, but all that was left in the princess's despairing 
breast. The seizure of Darius, just at the instant 
when the future seemed bursting fair before her, 
and escape so close at hand, had almost blotted out 
the sun for Atossa. It had taken all her womanly 
strength and royal pride to bear up in the presence 
of her oppressors. Yet at that moment she had be- 
come possessed with one deep desire, — to see that 
Babylonian mob rise and take vengeance on Avil- 



260 BELSHAZZAH 

Marduk and his grim master ; and the howls of the 
multitude sounded sweeter in her ears than all the 
harping. 

The great ziggurat at last ! They had passed up 
the " Procession Street," the broad avenue that led 
past the temple of "Istar the Foe-smiter." There 
had been howls, ever increasing^ from the multi- 
tude. Once the soldiers had charged with drawn 
blades to clear the way for Bel-Marduk's car, but 
there had been no bloodshed. Avil, Mermaza, and 
their royal lord breathed easier. Before them was 
rising '•'' U-Sagila,^^ "The Lofty House," queen of the 
temple-towers of Babylon. The seven terraces of 
the great cone were all decked with flowers and 
streaming banners, the parapets of the different 
stages were swarming with the people, flowers were 
festooned over every pinnacle and battlement. 

There it uprose against the azure, a vast moun- 
tain of brick, its lowest terrace painted white, the 
second black, the third purple, the fourth blue, the 
fifth vermilion, the sixth plated with silver, the sev- 
enth — the day-beacon first hailed by the Persians 
— was glittering with its sheen of gold. The bull- 
guarded gates had opened wide for the ship of Mar- 
duk. Inside the vast courtyard at the foot of the 
tower had arrayed themselves all the priests and 
soldiery that had preceded the car of the god. All 
but those from Borsippa stood on the left of the 
gateway ; but the servants of Nabu, with their ship, 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 261 

were arra3^ed silent and sombre on the right. Imbi- 
Ilu's company thus kept an ominous peace, but there 
was no lack of cheering for Bel-Marduk now. Even 
the disaffected multitude that had tried to attack 
the procession grew hushed and quiet when it passed 
within the sacred gates. 

Loudly rose the well-drilled acclamations from 
the thousands of gentlefolk and temple servants 
perched upon the heights of the terraces above. 

" Hail, Marduk ! Hail, Dragon-smiter ! Hail, 
Belshazzar, beloved of the gods I Hail, Avil, ser- 
vant of the Guardian of Babylon ! " There were 
more cheers for Atossa, for the vizier, for the " com- 
mander of the host." Then, just as the ship of Bel- 
Marduk reached the foot of the great stairway 
leading to the first stage of the tower, the corps of 
priests marching before the god suddenly raised a 
shout that had not been heard before that day : — 

" Death to the Jew ! Death to Daniel the mur- 
derer ! Death ! Death ! " 

Instantly the crowds of Avil's underlings upon 
the tower caught up the cry. But though the noise 
swelled to a deafening clamour, and all the files of the 
soldiers joined, Atossa heard no priest of Samas or 
Sin or Nergal open his lips. They were every man 
silent, like their fellows from Borsippa. And the 
great multitude that had trailed into the gate at 
the tail of the procession was silent also. Yet from 
Avil-Marduk's supporters, and from the throng of 
courtiers about the king, the outcry continually in- 



262 BELSHAZZAR 

creased. Belshazzar, she divined, must be able 
to say he sacrificed Daniel to quell the general 
clamour. 

Louder, ever louder, " Death to Daniel ! Death to 
the murderer ! Extirpate the Jews ! " 

Atossa saw men with speaking trumpets stationed 
at advantageous points to roar across the sea of 
heads, and make one voice pass for twenty. 

" Death to Daniel ! Death to the civil-minister ! " 

The heads of the sacred colleges of the temple, 
the chief " libation-pourer," the chief " demon-re- 
strainer," and their peers, had come to lift the idol 
from its station in the car, and bear it to the sum- 
mit of the ziggurat; the king had descended from 
the ship to follow them. Their feet were on the 
first stair, when across their path stood Avil-Marduk, 
in his hand the long white staff of his office, and 
obedient to his gesture the clamorous underlings 
and soldiers were silent instantly. 

" Hearken, O Belshazzar, lord of Babylon and Ak- 
kad. On the day of the great feast of Bel, when the 
image of Bel is borne to the crest of the Lofty House, 
is it not the right of the god — a right, and not a 
boon — to demand of the king of Babylon one thing 
whatsoever the god, even Bel-Marduk, may desire ? " 

It was so still that the thousands could hear Bel- 
shazzar's answer : — 

" It is so, O Avil, mouthpiece of the ' Lord of the 
Lofty House.'" 

*' Therefore I, O Belshazzar, do demand, as a thing 



THE PROCESSION OF BEL 263 

not to be denied, the life of that enemy of the god, 
that guilty murderer, that impious blasphemer — " 

But the high priest said no more. Every eye had 
turned, his own also. Directly above him, at the 
head of the steps to the first terrace, had stepped 
forth a young man, who beckoned to the people. 
And a hundred whispered to their neighbours : — 

*' Isaiah ! Isaiah the Jew, who prophesies for his 
God, Jehovah ! " 



CHAPTER XVII 



ISAIAH was robed in spotless white. His station 
at the head of the broad stairway to the lower 
terrace of the temple-tower raised him full thirty 
cubits above the multitude. With the myriads 
packing the area below, the glittering array of the 
procession at his feet, the shining crest of the zig- 
gurat towering above, no marvel he was the one 
figure on which a thousand eyes were fastened. 
And as they gazed on him, the crowds grew still. 
Who was this that stayed the hands of Bel-Marduk's 
own priest, in the god's own dwelling ? Men felt 
their hearts beating loudly, their breath was bated ; 
and each passed to each the whisper, " Either the 
Jew is mad, or the spirit of some mighty god pos- 
sesses him. Let us listen." 

The king was silent, Avil-Marduk was silent, and 
the chiefs of the sacred colleges, the captains of the 
army. Only the spell of power passing human — 
every heart was confessing — could make the high 
priest's words die on his lips, his eyes hang captive 
on the compelling power sped from the eyes of the 
youthful Jew. 

264 



BEL TOTTERS 265 

In the profound silence Isaiah spoke. Clear and 
strong his words sounded across the packed en- 
closure. 

" Woe, woe, woe unto Babylon ! Unto the great 
cit}^, the cry of whose sins is gone up to heaven ! 
Whose evil deeds are uncounted ! Woe unto Baby- 
lon, and woe to her base priests and baser king ! " 

Was it not a god that dared to revile the lord of 
the Chaldees before his face ? The silence was not 
broken. Isaiah spoke again. 

" Woe unto Belshazzar and Avil-Marduk, who 
seek the blood of the innocent for their own dark 
ends ! Whose power is born of treachery and lies I 
Who spare neither the hoary head, nor the guileless 
maid ! Woe unto king and priest and to all who 
walk after them ! " 

Men saw Avil-Marduk turn away his gaze as from 
a sight of ill-omen. Those near by heard him mut- 
ter to Sirusur, commander of the host : — 

" This is a madman ! Pluck him down, and end 
his ravings ! " 

But Sirusur only stood and stared dumbly, and 
Avil was impotent. 

" Hear ye, hear ye, men of Babylon ! " thundered 
the prophet. "Hitherto the spirit of Jehovah, the 
Lord God, has sent me to my own people. This day 
His message is to you and to your sinful king. 

" Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin 
daughter of Babylon ! There is no throne left to 
you, O daughter of the Chaldees. No more shall 



266 BELSHAZZAH 

you be called tender and delicate ; therefore take 
the millstones and grind the meal in hard labour. 
Your vileness and shame shall be revealed ; for I, 
Jehovah, will take vengeance. I will bring the 
strong races that serve me, and the king that wor- 
ships me, against you. I will abase your pride. 
Therefore sit you in silence, and get you into dark- 
ness, O daughter of the Chaldees, for never again 
shall they declare you ' Lady of Kingdoms ' ! " 

By this time the most hardened scoffer felt his 
knees beating together in dread. The rumour of evil 
omens that had shaken the city of late, the sup- 
pressed excitement of the morning, which all now 
expected to end in a tumult, the sudden apparition 
of this Jew, whose arrest had been diligently sought 
— what more was needed to spread a trembling 
among the thousands ? And when Isaiah paused, 
there came in answer many gasps and cries : " No 
more I Woe, woe ! Heaven is wroth with us, and 
with our children !" But the Hebrew had not 
finished. 

" You have trusted in your strong walls, men of 
Chaldea ; in Imgur-Bel, in Nimitti-Bel ; in the 
breadth of your rivers. You have filled your gran- 
aries, you have numbered your chariots, you have 
gathered your captains. But I say unto you, except 
you put away the oppression from your midst, except 
your king spares the innocent, and turns back his 
lust from the helpless, and makes end to the captiv- 
ity of the people of Jehovah — I, even the God of 



BEL TOTTERS 267 

gods, will mock your rage ; will bring low your 
pride ; will make a way for your enemies through 
the deep waters ; will go before them ; will prevail 
with them, and give the empire unto another who 
shall be my servant, who shall execute righteous- 
ness toward my people, and judgment toward their 
oppressor. Thus, thus is the word of Jehovah, 
before whom Marduk is less than dust, and Istar 
than hoarfrost beneath the sun at the noonday." 

Isaiah had ended. He swept his robe about him, 
and stood silent, steadfast, neither advancing nor 
trying to flee away. Whence he had come, Ea the 
Wise alone might tell. There was stillness one 
instant, till the first magic of his spell had passed. 
Then, following the impulse already strong in their 
hearts, and trebly strengthened by the Jew's inspired 
warning, most of the multitude broke into the howl- 
ing cry : — 

" The gods are angry on account of Daniel ! 
Spare Daniel I Spare ! Spare ! " 

The yell was the signal for the loosing of pande- 
monium. Instantly, with a din redoubled by the 
strange interruption, the priests of Avil resumed 
their opposing clamour. 

" Death to both Jews ! Death ! Death ! Mar- 
duk is enraged ! Away with Daniel ! " 

The two shouts rose in one deafening babel. But 
in the midst of the din the chief pontiff had made 
himself heard by the king, and a "ten" of guards- 
men sped up the stairs, seized Isaiah, who had waited 



268 BELSHAZZAE. 

them in perfect passiveness, and hurried him down 
to their royal lord, Belshazzar was standing be- 
neath his purple parasol at the foot of the steps, 
close by the car of Bel. Ramman, spreading the 
hurricane clouds, was never blacker than the king's 
face when they dragged the Hebrew before him. 

" Kill ! kill ! " that was all they could hear him 
shout, striving to be heard above the increasing 
din. 

" In what manner ? " demanded Sirusur, barely 
heard, salaaming respectfully. " I wait my lord's 
command." 

" Hew off his head ; let the dogs fight over his 
body ! " came from the king in one breath. 

" Ah, Jew ! " sneered Avil, during a lull ; " it 
would have been better to have been led by me, to 
have forgotten Jehovah for Bel-Marduk. Will your 
god save you now f " 

" If it be His will He can indeed save me ! " 
flashed back Isaiah, unflinching. " When my father 
Shadrach would not bow to Nebuchadnezzar's great 
statue of Bel in the plain of Dura, did he come from 
the king's furnace living or dead ? " 

" Fairly smitten on the very thigh," grunted Bil- 
sandan, who took small pains to conceal his enmity 
toward the pontiff. But Avil's flushed face only 
turned the darker, as he threatened the prisoner. 

" By every god of Babylon you shall nevertheless 
die a jackal's own death ! " he shouted, while Bel- 
shazzar still thundered, " Kill ! Kill ! " But Sirusur 



BEL TOTTERS 269 

stood hesitant ; for if his lord had cast off the Jew's 
spell, the general was still under it. 

In his fury Belshazzar tugged at the short sword 
at his side that he might become himself executioner, 
when a new shout of the people* finally drowned his 
commands. 

" Spare Daniel ! Spare the good minister ! Do 
not anger heaven ! " 

Avil's underlings were fairly howled down at last. 

" Except the king promise to spare Daniel, I look 
for a riot instantly," remonstrated Bilsandan, the 
vizier, in the first instant of silence. 

" Better let Babylon flow with blood, be he ten 
times innocent," blazed the wrathful king, '' than I 
give way to these hissing geese. Khatin ends him 
to-night." 

Avil-Marduk sped to the terrace where Isaiah had 
taken station, and beckoned in vain for silence. 

" AAvay with him ! " roared the crowd, led on by 
Hasba, the bold priest of Nabu. "Away with the 
king's evil councillor ! " 

Belshazzar had mounted to his friend's side. 

" Well," cried he, in Avil's ear, " Allat has loosed 
all her fiends ! Let sword and spear quiet them ! " 

" So be it, my king," answered Avil, putting on a 
bold face, though quaking within. 

Belshazzar turned to Sirusur, the " Master of the 
Host," "Hark you, general," stormed the king, "this 
is more than half your own doing ; it was you and 
Bilsandan who favoured that accursed Daniel, gained 



(( 
(( 



270 BELSHAZZAK 

his reprieve, and left these geese chance to hiss so 
loudly. Chase them outside the temple grounds, 
and that quickly, or I call you my enemy as well as 
Avil's." 

" I am your Majesty's slave," retorted the general, 
colouring angrily, " not this man's," with a menacing 
scowl toward Avil. " I have been Imbi-Ilu's friend, 
but while he raises hand against the king I become 
his enemy." 

" Prove it, then," enjoined Belshazzar, fiercely ; 
" form your men ! Charge ! " 

And Isaiah ? " the general asked. 
Spare now. We must torture him to learn where 
that wench Ruth is hidden, for she is no more at 
Borsippa. Now silence this hubbub." 

A hubbub, indeed. The people were flinging dust 
in the air and calling ominously for " bricks." Just 
as Sirusur had formed his men in a solid body by 
the stairway, a priest of Nabu drew forth a short 
sword, and the rest, with their brethren of Sin and 
Samas, imitated him instantly. 

" Down with Avil I Away with Avil, the king's 
evil councillor ! " swelled the shout. 

" Charge ! Drown out this yell in blood ! " com- 
manded Belshazzar. And with this command wing- 
ing them, the guardsmen hurled themselves on the 
mob. But Mulis, the barber, had warned truly, that 
the king would repent that the soldiers had marched 
with only their parade swords. Charging in a solid 
body upon the disorderly array opposed to them, 



BEL TOTTEKS 271 

they had small difficulty in beating down the first 
rioters they encountered ; slew some, arrested others, 
and drove the whole multitude — rebellious priests 
and lawless city folk — backward toward the tem- 
ple gates. Flushed with their triumph, Sirusur's 
men even surrounded the ship of Nabu, and dragged 
from his high car Imbi-Ilu, author of the outbreak. 

" Ha, good pontiff ! " the general laughed, cover- 
ing his real sympathy with Imbi-Ilu's cause under a 
mighty show of zeal, " you are not likely to find this 
day's sport cheaply bought ! " And he called to two 
under officers to hale the arch-malcontent before the 
king. 

But even as Belshazzar was foaming and threaten- 
ing over his captive, the tide of conflict turned ; for, 
led by Hasba, the priests of Nabu rallied to a man for 
the rescue of tlieir chief. The ranks of the soldiers 
had been broken as they followed up their victory. 
And once their solid array shattered, their advantage 
was gone. The priests and rioters were all around 
them, almost crushing them with incessant volleys 
of bricks, and guardsmen as well as the mob were 
now falling fast. The rioters tore down the copings 
of the enclosure walls, securing an exhaustless sup- 
ply of missiles. The troops were brave. They 
charged this way and that, but every time their 
companies were shivered into smaller fragments, 
around which the multitude rolled like the billows 
of an angry sea. Sirusur was in the act of re-form- 
ing his men to attempt a second charge, when a 



272 BELSHAZZAR 

brick smote his helmet, and with a great yell of tri- 
umph the priests of Nabu leaped on him, plucked 
him out of the midst of his men, and dragged him 
away safe prisoner. The soldiers made one last 
effort to rally, but with their leader taken, and out- 
numbered ten to one, they were swept back to the 
stairs of the ziggurat ; and in a moment the exult- 
ing priests of Nabu were charging after them, forc- 
ing them upward step by step, and making straight 
for the lower terrace of the tower, where the royal 
party was stationed. Only when they saw Sirusur 
taken had their own peril dawned fully on Belshazzar 
and his suite. The riot was taking alarming pro- 
portions. A new king might be proclaimed ere 
sunset — who could say ? 

" Glory, glory to Nabu ! to Samas ! to Nergal ! " 
a thousand throats were yelling. " Rescue for Imbi- 
Ilu ! Death to Avil ! " 

The troops, desperate now, turned at bay halfway 
up the wide staircase, and for an instant their close 
array of swinging swords made the rioters recoil ; but 
what with the bricks' constant pelting, no men with- 
out armour could hold such a position long. 

Avil had turned to the king. The haughty pon- 
tiff fell on his knees, his face ashen with terror. 

" Protection, lord ! Save me ! Save ! They will 
pluck me in pieces ! " And he caught at the hem 
of his master's robe. But if any had reckoned on 
Belshazzar's quailing at that dread moment, they did 
not know the lion spirit within the king, that made 




They did not know the lion spirit within the king, that made him as 
steeled against fear as against mercy." 



I 

I 



BEL TOTTERS 273 

him as steeled against fear as against mercy. Atossa 
had never seen him more kingly, more truly the in- 
carnation of his arrogant, indomitable race, than 
now, when he leaped upon the parapet of the terrace, 
and faced that screeching, raging mob. 

Three bricks brushed past him in a twinkling, 
a fourth smote the purple and white tiara from his 
head, but he would have heeded snowflakes more. 
And at sight of him, the king, "lord of Sumer 
and Akkad, who had taken the hands of Bel,*' 
even this foaming multitude gave back, and grew 
quiet. The king spoke to them as to crouching 
hounds. 

" Back, imps ! Do you so love AUat that you 
seek quick voyaging to her? Get you gone, or by 
the Anunnaki, the dread spirits, I swear the kites 
shall eat you all by morning ! " 

A moment of hesitation and silence. " And you, 
spawn of Nabu," thundered the king, " advance 
one step farther, and the head of Imbi-Ilu, your 
chief demon, is flung down to you ! " 

Untimely boast, for Hasba instantly howled 
back : " Be it so, and we of Nabu swear that Sirusur, 
the general, dies when Imbi-Ilu dies. Life for life, 
and death for death ! " And to this all the priests 
answered ; " It is so ! We hold Sirusur hostage 
for Imbi-Ilu ! " 

The king gave a fearful curse. " So be it ! " cried 
he, in his passion, " but if the general loses an hair, 
he shall be terribly avenged. Execute Imbi-Ilu 



274 BELSHAZZAR 

this instant ! " He had leaped down from the para- 
pet. The bricks were flying again. He repeated 
his command to Igas-Ramman, the captain now 
heading the troops, but Igas had salaamed before 
his lord, saying : — 

" Live forever, my king ! Your slaves, the guards, 
will die for you ; but they will throw their swords 
away rather than see Sirusur, their leader, sacrificed. 
We dare not touch the high priest of Borsippa." 

" Have you, too, the hearts of conies ? " warned 
Belshazzar. And they saw his hand go to his 
sword, as if to smite Imbi with his own arm. But 
the instant he had sprung from the parapet the 
attack had been renewed. The troops, cowed and 
ill-led, broke under the pressure, and the volleys 
gave way ; and in a twinkling the rioters were on 
the first terrace. It was a moment of uttermost 
danger for king and courtiers. The mob swept 
up upon the platform in a single human wave. 
" Back, my lord ! back ! " exhorted Igas-Ramman, 
thrusting himself with a handful of men betwixt 
the rioters and Belshazzar; but the king brushed 
him aside. 

" Where is Isaiah ? " shouted the monarch, cast- 
ing about one glance. " Though I perish, let not him 
escape ! " 

But while the words quitted his lips, a young man 
in the foremost of the assailants, had bounded past 
the demoralized soldiers, and in an instant loosed 
the Hebrew's bands. 



BEL TOTTERS 275 

" Shaphat ! Shaphat the accuser of Daniel ! " 
howled many voices together ; but rescuer and res- 
cued were already swallowed in the sea of writhing, 
fighting forms. A moment later, the victorious 
priests of Nabu had plucked their leader out of the 
liands of the panic-struck guardsmen, and Imbi-Ilu 
once more headed his cheering followers. 

" Away with Avil-Marduk ! " rang the shout, never 
louder. " Fling him over the ziggurat ! " 

The pontiff barely saved himself by most head- 
long flight up the next stairway to the second stage 
of the tower. After him fled Mermaza, and many 
a dignitary followed them. But there was one who 
did not fly, and that was the king. Marduk, guar- 
dian of his house, cast his shield indeed before him, 
and saved him, for he was foremost in the press of 
death ; and more than one stout priest of Nabu and 
riotous burgher howled no more after the royal 
sword smote them. 

Atossa had watched the first moments of the 
battle with keen delight. The hated Avil and the 
scarce less hated king were the assailed ; their enemies 
were her friends. But now that the strife was all 
about her, she was whirled from her place by a 
sudden rush of the rioters ; an instant more and 
she was in rough hands, the veil rudely torn from 
her face, with ten brutal voices crying in her 
ear : — 

" Praise Istar ! A prize ! A prize ! Off with 
her ! " 



276 BELSHAZZAR 

They should have guessed from her dress who she 
might be ; and she declared herself haughtily, but 
her voice was drowned in the babel. Atossa was 
feeling herself hurried down the stairway to the 
temple enclosure, the whole rude scene enacted so 
swiftly that she scarce knew what had befallen, 
when suddenly a strong arm was thrusting aside 
her excited captors. 

"Fools ! " a loud voice was crying, "are you bat- 
blind ? Release ! she is no spoil for you. Wrong 
her, and you bring Cyrus down on Babylon ! " 

The hands upon Atossa relaxed, as her captors 
stared into the face of the young man who had 
awed them so shortly before — Isaiah the Jew. 

" She is ours," commented the leader of the band, 
little liking to let so fair a bit of spoil slip through 
his fingers. " Who are you. Master Hebrew, to 
give the law unto us ? " 

He flourished a cudgel in air, when a second 
cudgel, wielded by the same young man who had 
released Isaiah, smote the weapon out of his hand, 
and left him disarmed and cowed. The brutish 
weavers who had taken Atossa blinked at one another 
in confusion. 

" This way, lady," commanded the Hebrew, taking 
Atossa by the hand, "and those who lay finger on 
you shall pay right dear." 

The weavers stared at him, but Shaphat's cudgel 
was waving very close to their heads. One fellow, 
bolder than the rest, stretched forth a hand to seize 



BEL TOTTERS 277 

the Persian again, but he only earned from Isaiah a 
buffet behind the ear that laid him prone on the 
pavement. 

" Be warned," exhorted the Hebrew. " I am your 
friend, and the king's enemy ; but as Jehovah my 
God liveth, you shall not do violence to this 
woman ! " 

" We meant no harm," protested the leader of the 
band, cowed and sullen. 

" Good, then ; she is safe in my hands. Go again 
to the struggle, for by the Lord of Hosts, Belshazzar 
is far from mastered." 

They were gone, rushed back to the conflict now 
raging at the foot of the stairs to the second temple 
stage, whither the king had retreated with the sol- 
diers. Isaiah caught a dusty robe from the bricks, 
where it had lain since being rent from its owner's 
back, and threw it over Atossa. 

" Cover your gay dress and your face, my lady," 
commanded he, " so none will recognize, and I will 
conduct you back to the palace. This is truly 
proving a day of deeds fierce and terrible." 

Many rioters stared at them, but as soon as they 
recognized the prophet, they made way rapidly, 
and Isaiah led on unhindered, Shaphat following 
silently after, and guarding their rear. 

Thanks to this half -reverence, half -dread, the two 
were soon clear of the tumult within the temple 
enclosure and were threading the city streets. 
Here everything was nigh quiet as the grave. Sober 



278 BELSHAZZAR 

burghers and shopkeepers had long since barricaded 
their houses and closed their booths, lest the mal- 
contents turn speedily from sedition to pillage. 
Once Isaiah led into an alley while a chariot corps 
from the Northern Citadel thundered past at head- 
long speed, bearing belated succour to the hard- 
pressed king. 

Isaiah guided the princess westward, past the 
temple of Nana, and down the great street until 
they reached the river, the bridge of boats ; and that 
once crossed, Atossa saw before them the stately 
gates of the palace, within which was her safety. 

" Declare yourself fearlessly to the sentries, my 
lady," said the young prophet, " and your danger is 
at an end." 

"And you?" said she, while he turned to leave 
her; "where is your safety? "What may I do in 
reward for this peril run for me ? " 

The Hebrew smiled gently. " I shall be scantily 
welcome in the king's house, I fear. And in serving 
you I have but repaid in part the debt I owe Prince 
Darius." 

" Yet you must not go without one token. What 
may I give? " 

" Some talisman, then, that shall be known to all 
Persians to vouch for my truth, if I say I bring word 
from Babylon of you and of Darius." 

Atossa tore a gold locket from her neck. " Take 
this, then," and she held it out ; " it was given me by 
my father on my last birthday. It is marked with 



BEL TOTTERS 279 

the winged likeness of Almra the Great. Cyrus and 
all his lords will recognize." 

Isaiah and Shaphat were salaaming again to make 
farewell, but Atossa had one more appeal. 

" Ah ! brave Jew," spoke she, " if the one God 
leads you — and He must — to let you do the deed 
you have done this day, do not forget my wretched- 
ness, or the peril of Darius. Do you verily purpose 
to stand before Cyrus my father ? " 

" As speedily as the Lord God shows me the way," 
assented Isaiah. 

" Oh ! " she cried impulsively, " am I not for the 
instant free? Can I not trust you in all things? 
Why may I not flee with you to the city of my 
father, and see this wicked Babylon no more ? " 

The young Jew smiled. "Spoken like a king's 
own child, in very truth ! But such things cannot 
be. You cannot go where I may go, or endure what 
is as naught to me ; that were not trusting, but 
rather tempting, God." 

"But you vtdll tell all to Cyrus, — of myself, of 
Darius, of Belshazzar and his guile. You swear 
that you will conceal nothing, that my father may 
dash from power this evil king of the Chaldees." 

There was a strange light on Isaiah's face when 
he answered : " Fear not, lady, Cyrus shall hear. 
And think not that the one God will forget the 
wickedness of these servants of stone and brass ; for 
I say to you, He shall turn all their guile against 
themselves, and shall humble them utterly." 



280 BELSHAZZAK 

" Alas ! brave Jew," Atossa cried, at parting, 
"would to Ahura your faith were mine. My own 
faith in Him grows weak, but my faith in you, who 
can dare so much, is very strong." 

" Put no trust in me," Isaiah replied, kissing her 
mantle ; " but trust much in the Spirit that moves in 
me, and in every soul whose love is light and truth." 

How Belshazzar made good the tower of Bel- 
Marduk that day against half of Babylon, how 
soldiers came at last from the garrison cantonments 
to the aid of the hard-pressed royal guard, how the 
king slew his tens and surpassed all his captains in 
valour — of this there is no place to tell. Save for 
Belshazzar himself, the priests of Nabu and the 
rioters would have stormed the ziggurat to its top- 
most stage, and flung monarch and chief pontiff 
upon the pavement below. But Nergal, or some 
other divinity of the bold, watched over the king, 
and saved him from mortal wound. The malcon- 
tents gained the second stage of the tower after 
a bitter struggle, so that the steps of the ziggurat 
flowed with blood. But here their progress was 
stopped. Companies of soldiers, arriving outside the 
temple enclosure, threatened to cut off the retreat of 
those rioters who had entered, and the troops within 
turned at bay, and held their own at last. Then, 
finally, the tide seemed to have turned. The valour 
commenced to ooze out of the undisciplined priests 
and burghers. Only one thing prevented Belshazzar 



BEL TOTTERS 281 

from making good all his threats, and causing the 
brethren of Nabu to curse the day they had lifted 
their heads against his power and the supremacy of 
Bel-Marduk. Sirusur, the general, was still captive 
in the malcontents' hands. Let them be pressed too 
hard, and his life was not worth a shekel. The king 
raged at his captains, but they were obdurate. 

"Rather than sacrifice Sirusur," declared Bilsandan, 
the vizier, bluntly, when his lord gave orders for a 
final charge, "the soldiers will declare for Imbi-Ilu. 
The rebels are desperate. We can ill afford a victory 
that will plunge half Babylon in mourning. It will 
sow ill feeling to blossom into twenty new revolts. 
We dare not do it, your Majesty." 

And so the king had been persuaded. The criers 
had made proclamation, and the decree had been 
promptly published, that his Majesty, out of the 
goodness and benevolence of his heart toward his 
subjects, would proclaim amnesty to all who had 
taken part in the day's riot, from Imbi-Ilu down- 
ward. As for Daniel, the king gave his royal word 
that he should be kept in honourable custody, and 
no attempt made against his life. This concession 
ended the tumult. The rioters dispersed. The 
priests of Nabu returned — as many as were yet 
alive — to Borsippa. They were not completely 
satisfied, for Avil-Marduk was still living and in 
power; but a great blow had been struck at his 
prestige. The lower temple of Bel had been 
thoroughly sacked. Avil would have to mortgage 



282 BELSHAZZAK 

all the lands of his god to make good the damage, 
unless the king was generous out of the treasury. 
Daniel had been saved from death. Belshazzar had 
been taught a lesson, likely to be remembered, that 
Bel was not the only god worth conciliating. So on 
the next day peace reigned in Babylon. 

There had been one exception to the amnesty, 
however. Whatever the secret thoughts of many, 
none dared openly to express sympathy for the mad 
Jewish prophet. Belshazzar had desired to make 
a notable example. 

The next night, as the boatmen warped their 
barges into the current to drop down the river to 
Erech, they heard the criers upon the quays shouting 
across the water ; — 

"Two manehs of silver! Two manehs from the 
king for the body of Isaiah the Jew, alive or dead ! 
Two manehs for Isaiah the Jew ! " 

Yet, though the silver was coveted by a host, the 
gods strangely suffered their blasphemer to remain 
at large, and the money to -lie safe in the royal 
coffers. 




AVIL-MARDUK GIVES COUNSELR 




CHAPTER XVIII 



THE seventh day of the month, sacred to the 
dread goddess Sapanitum, and by every calen- 
dar pronounced an unfortunate day. The king had 
been forbidden by divine law to eat cooked food, 
change his dress, mount his chariot, or approach an 
altar for sacrifice. As for his subjects, they dared 
not, however sick, call in a physician or conjurer lest 
the wrathful goddess turn the remedies into poison. 
Nor had they ventured to breathe a curse against 
the bitterest enemy, lest the malediction be visited 
upon their own heads. It was a day of gloom and 
anxiety in all Babylon. 

Graver things than the calendar were troubling 
Belshazzar and his ministers. Yet Khatin, the 
headsman, who waited beside Neriglissor, at the 
door of the king's council-chamber, while their 
betters deliberated within, seemed in an unwontedly 
merry mood for so black a day. 

" I profess, dear priest," chuckled he, " his 
Majesty's humour has most happily changed since 
the riot. He orders beheadings by the score, not 
of whining bandits, but of stout guardsmen and fat 

283 



284 BELSHAZZAR 

temple folk like yourself. By Samas ! I shall need 
an assistant to aid me." 

The old "anointer" looked at him out of the 
corners of his eyes, and sidled away, fearful of too 
close company. 

" Yes," he assented, " since the riot the king cries 
' kill ! ' every time a fly hums past his ears. The 
eunuchs who serve him every morning vow a goat 
to Sin if they are kept safely through the day." 

Khatin was just beginning some impious remark 
to the effect that " the worthy god was being over- 
fed with goats' flesh," when Igas-Ramman the cap- 
tain burst in upon them on the run, and flew up 
to the sentry guarding the council-chamber door, 
almost before the two others knew his presence. 

*' Hold, friend ! " shouted Khatin, a ponderous 
hand clapping on Igas's shoulders ; " your business ? 
The headsman is better than the king. Give him 
the news first ! " 

" Allat wither you ! " growled Igas, writhing out 
of his clutch. '' Do not stop me ! Such tidings for 
his Majesty ! " 

" Speak, rascal I " Khatin was thundering, when 
the door suddenly opened, and Bilsandan, the vizier, 
admitted the messenger instantly, then slammed it 
in the others' faces. Those without stared at one 
another for many minutes, until the door reopened 
suddenly as before, and Bilsandan called for Khatin 
by name. 

"Your slave waits my lord's orders," began the 



AVIL-MAKDUK GIVES COUNSEL 285 

executioner, gleefully expecting the vizier was going 
to ask for a head. 

" Go with Igas to the chambers of Darius the Per- 
sian. There is no time to summon a regular guard ; 
but on your life do not let the prince escape you. 
He is active and daring. Watch him well." 

" Be he strong as Tiamat the dragon," laughed 
Khatin, gruffly, "he shall find me almighty as Bel." 
Then he strode away after Igas, wondering vainly 
what this strange summons of the Persian might mean. 

Since his arrest Darius had been confined in easy 
captivity in the tower of the northeast angle of the 
palace. The king's eunuchs had supplied every 
physical want ; but he had been separated from his 
suite, and allowed no communication with the out- 
side world. At sight of the royal signet borne by 
Igas, the subaltern commanding the squad of troops 
guarding the tower promptly led forth his prisoner. 
Darius appeared little the worse for his imprison- 
ment. He bore himself haughtily, and was silent 
when Khatin croaked in his ear, " that, in his opin- 
ion, the king was about to have the envoy's throat 
sundered." In fact, the Persian carried himself so 
arrogantly, and showed his guards such supreme 
contempt, that they in turn had come to feel some 
little awe of a man who dared treat them thus ; and 
they were glad when they had marched their captive 
into the council-chamber, where Khatin, to his great 
delight, was bidden to remain and witness the scene 
to follow. 



286 BELSHAZZAR 

Neither the room nor its company was large. 
Belshazzar occupied an ivory chair on a low dais. 
At his right hand two white-robed scribes were 
ready with clay tablet and stylus to take down all 
that passed. On other stools facing the dais were 
seated the coterie of magnates who made up the 
privy council — Avil-Marduk, Bilsandan, Mermaza, 
Sirusur the general, and a few colleagues. Behind 
the king stood the inevitable pair of eunuchs with 
their fly-flappers. As for Darius, he had been placed 
directly facing the king ; and to the surprise of all 
he remained standing with folded arms, without any 
obeisance, during a silence that soon became awk- 
ward. 

Belshazzar had heavy rings beneath his eyes, as if 
he had drunk overdeeply the night before ; and when 
he turned to motion to Bilsandan, his hand was seen 
to tremble. Seemingly, he was deeply moved. Then, 
while the vizier was feeling around for words, Darius 
broke forth rudely : — 

" Well, your Majesty, this bullock here " — with 
a nod toward Khatin — " says you desire my head. 
By Mithra ! I wonder that, after imprisoning Cyrus's 
envoy, you hesitate to kill him also." 

Belshazzar, by an effort, ignored the taunt, and 
with uncommon smoothness answered : " Noble 
prince, few have deplored more than I your nomi- 
nal imprisonment. I have summoned you here to 
declare that you are shortly to be set free." 

Darius looked gravely into the king's eyes. 



AVIL-MARDUK GIVES COUNSEL 287 

" I rejoice to hear it, my lord," said he, sternl}^ ; 
"yet more would I rejoice to know how your 
Majesty will account to Cyrus for this outrage 
upon the person of his ambassador. A strange story, 
surely, to send to Susa ! " 

"If the noble prince," commenced Avil in turn, 
speaking gently, as if treading on slippery ground, 
" will deign to listen to his slave — " 

" Ugh ! " grunted the Persian, turning his back on 
the pontiff, " what foul dceva told you how I was to 
serve the king of the Aryans ? " 

"Do you speak for us all," Belshazzar nervously 
commanded Bilsandan. 

" May it please the preeminently noble son of 
Hystaspes," began the vizier, also timidly, " there 
has just come to Babylon a courier saying a second 
embassy from Cyrus is close to Babylon, and has 
sent so unfriendly a letter on before it, that we are 
fain to ask my lord to explain it to us." 

" Ha ! " They saw the prince's lips curl in half- 
suppressed triumph ; but he demanded, " And what 
proof, wretched oath-breakers, have you to lay before 
me, a prisoner, that you are telling me one morsel of 
the truth ? " 

Bilsandan flushed, but tried to keep his temper. 

" Believe me, my prince, we have nothing to gain 
by concealing anything. We had expected no new 
embassy from Persia so quickly. Now, all unwarned, 
comes Igas with tidings that Gobryas, the general of 
Cyrus, is within a hundred furlongs of the city. 



288 BELSHAZZAK, 

And doubtless if he is not persuaded to alter his 
mood, as shown in his letter, we fear Cyrus, your 
master — " 

" Will take swiftest vengeance on Belshazzar, lord 
of Babylon, and all his guileful race ! " shouted the 
Persian, triumphing at last. Then, with a step 
straight toward the king, for he had not been fet- 
tered, he shook a knotted fist in the royal face. 
" Give me the letter, the letter," he commanded, " or, 
as Ahura reigns on high — " 

So fierce was his passion that for the moment king 
and council quaked before him. It was Belshazzar him- 
self who commanded, "Bilsandan, give him the tablet." 
So Darius was suffered to take it, and read : — 

" Gohryas^ servant of Cyrus, king of Persia and of the Aryans, to 

Belshazzar sends greeting : — 

" Know, O king, my master has sent me to inquire into the 
strange tales that have come to his ears touching his former 
envoys, and their treatment. Why have their couriers been 
halted when bound for Susa ? Why does Belshazzar negotiate 
with Pharaoh Amasis, Cyrus's foe, and gather soldiers in time 
of peace? Why does he speak ' peace ' with his lips and in his 
heart weave war? I have come to demand an answer of you, O 
Belshazzar ; do not think to hinder my return. For if in twelve 
days I come not back to Susa denying the tales of treachery, 
the hosts of the Aryans are in arms. Farewell." 

Darius turned again to Belshazzar. His smile be- 
came yet haughtier. " Your Majesty," declared he, 
" the meaning of this letter is plain as the moon on 
a cloudless night. Cyrus has caught scent of your 
plottings, ere their completion. Instead of Persia 
being in danger, the peril confronts Babylon. Yet 



AVIL-MARDUK GIVES COUNSEL 289 

doubtless the worthy Avil is ready with his serpent's 
craft. Look to him, Belshazzar, for escape from a 
net of his own making ! " 

But the king in turn had put on his arrogancy, 
and spoke back in wrath : — 

" Have a care, bold Persian. You are utterly in 
my power. I did not send for you to have you revile 
me to my face." 

The prince only stood more proudly than before. 

" Well said, my king ; I am summoned here to aid 
these wise Chaldeans in devising an escape through 
the blasting of their own plots. I am to yield myself 
a tool to Avil-Marduk and his fellow-crows. I am to 
excuse my own letters of warning, and the tidings 
borne by Ariathes, who it is plain escaped your spies 
and guards, and reached Susa safely. I am to pro- 
fess to Gobryas and Cyrus, ' I was mistaken. The 
stories are false. Trust Belshazzar in all things ! ' " 

It was as if he had taken the words out of the 
king's own mouth. All the council stared at him. 
" And if not ? " he demanded, suddenly stopping. 

" If you will not," threatened Belshazzar, blackly, 
" prepare to die. We know a Persian's word can be 
trusted. Once give your pledge, you will explain 
away everything — " 

Darius almost shouted his reply : — 

" And I know that it would be better to groan in 
' The Land of the North ' ^ for years uncounted, than 

iThe Persian "hell," conceived of as in the extreme north ; a 
land of pitiless cold. 



290 BELSHAZZAR 

to put trust in your word. From your own mouth I 
know how your oaths are sworn only to be broken, 
how you have prated ' friendship ' in my ear, and all 
the while plotted death. Therefore take my life. I 
do not fear to cross the Chinvat Bridge, and stand 
before the throne of Ahura. But rest assured, 
Cyrus will wreak full vengeance ! " 

When Darius ended there was silence in the coun- 
cil, for every man knew they had laid hands on a 
monster, equally dangerous to release or to retain. 

" And what, then, would my lord have us do to 
preserve the peace ? " faltered at length Sirusur the 
commander. 

" Let your king send an embassy in sackcloth to 
Susa to confess his fault and declare his penitence. 
Let him send to Cyrus the head of Avil-Marduk, 
chief begetter of these falsehoods. Let him send me 
back safely with the Princess Atossa, and present my 
king with a great treasure. Finally, let him throw 
down two furlongs of the city walls of Babylon, to 
show he meditates no war. Do thus, and you pre- 
serve the peace ; and thus only." 

Belshazzar had risen on his throne. 

" Let us have an end to this," cried he, darkly. " I 
see the prince's wits have been blasted, or else he has 
fallen in love with death. I have spared his life, be- 
cause he saved me from the auroch ; but my for- 
bearance is near its end. Yet he shall have chance 
to reflect on his madness. Hale him away, clap him 
in the lower dungeon, beside that of Daniel, double- 



AVIL-MARDUK GIVES COUNSEL 291 

fetter, and let him prepare to die ! " Darius neither 
salaamed nor gave other sign when his guards 
stepped beside him to lead him away. Having de- 
livered himself to the council, he became silent as a 
stone idol. 

When the prisoner and his escort were gone, there 
was yet again stillness in the council. When pres- 
ently the storm broke out, it was upon Avil. 

" Cursed are we, priest," growled Bilsandan in his 
beard, " for listening to your counsels. It is you who 
poured the oil on this fire. It is you that advised 
the sham treaty, then browbeat the king into arrest- 
ing the envoy. Whither are we come, indeed ? 
The Pharaoh still holds back. Cyrus knows all, 
and it will take more than smooth words to stop the 
charge of his lancers ! " 

" We have the prince as hostage," retorted Avil, 
trying to retain his composure. 

" Pliable hostage, indeed ! " snarled the vizier ; 
" catch the lion cub, as hostage for the friendliness 
of the lioness. We may cut off the prince's head, 
but such a deed is little suited to make Cyrus more 
friendly. You temple folk, Avil, will be the first to 
whimper when your crafty deeds return one and all 
to nest on your own heads. I love wisdom, but not 
the wisdom that is like to ruin all ' Sumer and 
Akkad.'" 

Avil kept his temper by a manifest effort. It had 
not escaped him that Belshazzar was staring at him 
very fixedly, a most ominous sign of royal displeasure. 



292 BELSHAZZAR 

" Noble Sirusur," spoke the priest, turning to the 
general, " surely you and all the king's sword-hands 
have not waxed so unvalorous that you dread the war. 
Has his Majesty only harem girls for an army ? " 

"The sword-hands of the Chaldees," retorted Si- 
rusur, testily, " are able to fight for their king, and, if 
needs be, die ; but I say only truth when I tell you, 
the host is in no condition to meet the Persians in 
pitched battle. Madness to risk it." 

" I congratulate our lord," flashed back Avil, " on 
the heroic spirit of his gallant Tartan.'''' 

"Aye ! " shouted the " Master of the Host," "the 
taunt comes right well from such as you, — you who 
have lit the blaze, and fain would see others quench 
it now. I know your prowess. While I was risking 
my life in that mob, all say the valiant high priest was 
cowering like a cornered hare." 

But it was the king who terrified the pontiff most ; 
for, though Belshazzar spoke not, Avii-Marduk saw 
his eye fixed on him, full of that cold menace which, 
he knew well, had often preceded a curt command to 
Khatin. 

"You may speak, Avil," remarked Belshazzar at 
length, his tones icy as a blast of the north. 

But the courage of Avil-Marduk, if not that which 
might carry unblenching through the ragings of a 
hostile multitude, was yet courage after its kind. 
He had turned pale in the face of the furious rioters, 
but he was steadfast before the hostile council and 
angered king. 



AVIL-MAEDUK GIVES COUNSEL 293 

He rose and addressed Belshazzar almost as 
haughtily as had the Persian. 

"Do you well, my Lords Bilsandan and Sirusur, 
to revile me ? " retorted he, hotly. " Am I not a 
man of peace ? Is it my business to see that the 
royal guard does not fly like sparrows at the yells 
of an unarmed rabble? As for this coming of the 
second embassy, who save Anu and Ea could know 
that a letter of Darius could pass through our 
watchers — so many were they — even had some 
foul demon whispered the truth in the Persian's ear ? 
I am not a god, your Majesty ; but what human wit 
has done, I have done also." 

" But human wit," quoth Belshazzar, grimly, " has 
not sufficed to avert an issue with Cyrus. What are 
we to do now, my dear pontiff ? " 

When the king became affectionate, men said he 
was not far from ordering an execution. Avil knew 
his danger, but he only let his voice rise higher. 

" O King Belshazzar," cried he, " Bel-Marduk, 
the sovereign and guardian god of Babylon, even he 
and none other it is that has set you upon your throne 
of Sumer and Akkad. Did he not clothe you with 
power that he might bring all nations in subjection 
unto you? That the gods of the Persians and of 
the Medes should be brought low before the power 
of his servants ? Is Cyrus the first king who has 
raised his head against Babylon ? Where is Sin- 
shar-ishkun the Assyrian ? or Zedekiah the Jew ? or 
Necho the Egyptian ? Gone, all of them. Their 



294 BELSHAZZAK 

gods have brought them no help, but Bel has fought 
for his servants. And will you now, King of Baby- 
lon, distrust the god that has protected you so long ? 
Will you cringe to this Ahura of the Persians, that 
we may be taunted before every nation, ' Bel of 
Babylon is subject to the god of Cyrus the barba- 
rian ' ? The gods one and all forbid that Belshazzar 
should do this thing ! Let him be strong. The 
guardians of Babylon shall yet show how much 
mightier they are than the weakling spirits of the 
Persians, before whom also the spiritless Jews shall 
whine in vain." 

The priest paused a moment. The swift rush of 
his speech had borne away all the hesitancy that had 
risen in the heart of his lord. Avil knew he had 
saved himself and had triumphed. He went on 
boldly : — 

" Trust the strong walls of Babylon, my king. 
They can mock all Cyrus's thousands. There is 
yet time to assemble a great host. The warriors of 
Chaldea have not all waxed cowards. Meet the 
Persian fairly in the field, and if fortune there fail, 
Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel will not fail. There is pro- 
vision inside the walls for a siege years long. Before 
many months the Aryan hosts will be dissolved for 
lack of forage. Revolt will kindle in Cyrus's prov- 
inces. The Pharaoh will take arms. Be bold and 
the gods will bless you. I speak not of myself, for 
is the king of Babylon a dog that he should submit 
to the commands of Cyrus or his envoys ? Take my 



AVIL-:\IARDUK GIVES COUNSEL 295 

life, if so your Majesty will, but bow the knee to the 
Persian ? — never ! " 

The king's eyes were flashing. He had risen again 
on his throne. 

" And the high priest counsels well ! " cried Bel- 
shazzar, doubting no more. " We will put the 
misfht of Bel-Marduk to the test I Bel-Marduk 
against the puny god of the Persians and the Jews ! 
Bel-Marduk, who rules forever, against the god who 
misrht not save Jerusalem to his servants, who shall 
not now save them Susa. In Darius we have a host- 
age that will make Cyrus hesitate long before tak- 
ing the field against us. Away with all fears, my 
lords. I, the king, have spoken, and my word is 
' war ' ! " 

That same day there went a letter to Gobryas, the 
new Persian envoy, who had just arrived outside the 
city, bidding him return to his land with all speed. 
" Belshazzar," wrote the Babylonian ministers haugh- 
tily, " would not receive any embassy sent on so un- 
friendly an errand as this. The king would make 
due explanation to Cyrus for the detention of Darius; 
but if Cyrus would not accept it, let him be warned 
that the first hostile move on his part would be fol- 
lowed by the execution of the son of Hystaspes. 
And in the war that might ensue Belshazzar shunned 



no issue." 



That night also an order went forth for the arrest 
of Imbi-Ilu, chief priest of Nabu, on the ground that 



296 BELSHAZZAK 

he had violated the terms of the amnesty, and was 
conspiring against the king ; but the next morning 
found all Babylon astir with the news that the 
threatened pontiff had already escaped to the Per- 
sian envoy outside the walls. Gobryas had taken 
no risks of detention. The instant the letter of 
Belshazzar reached him he had started straight 
homeward, outstripping any chance of pursuit. 

A second fugitive likewise fled with Gobryas. In 
the second Persian embassy Isaiah had beheld the 
opportunity divinely promised through Daniel ; he 
should stand face to face with Cyrus the Aryan, and 
deliver the message of Jehovah. There was no 
longer any refuge at Borsippa for Ruth, but he 
counted her safe at the humble house of Dagan- 
Milki. Shaphat would be her guardian, and if needs 
be die, to save her from the hand of Belshazzar. 
Very beautiful and strong had been the smile on the 
Jewess's face when she kissed Isaiah farewell. 

" Go, beloved, go," were the last words the young 
prophet carried on his journey ; " who am I to give 
you care, when God has called you to His service ? " 

" Ah ! " thought Isaiah, many times while on the 
way, " if the prayers of the pure and good avail any- 
thing with the great Lord God, I have already per- 
suaded the king of the Aryans." 



,CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 




CHAPTER XIX 

ANOTHER king, another council, another pal- 
ace. The twilight was creeping over Susa, 
the city of Cyrus, over the blue Choaspes winding 
southward, over the rambling town, with its shops 
and bazaars, which stretched away to eastward, and 
over the great mound betwixt river and city. High 
above dwelling and street loomed the ramparts of 
the palace fortress of the king. Complacent Baby- 
lonian envoys might sneer under breath at the bar- 
barism of the decorations, but under the failing light 
the palace wore a glory all its own, the like of which 
was nowhere else save at its prototype in Ecbatana, 
city of the Medes. The citadel was natural, but 
strengthened by human art. Twenty furlongs and 
more was its circuit ; its sheer height rose for fifty 
cubits. On its summit spread the Aryan palace. 
Original in nothing save truth-speaking, the Persian 
had been a borrower from many lands. A stranger 
would have declared the house of Cyrus like that of 
Belshazzar, yet in manner unlike it. Endless colon- 
nades ; huge courts, unroofed save for the Tyrian 
purple tapestries on great feast days ; giant-winged 

297 



298 BELSHAZZAK 

bulls; walls brilliant with innumerable processions 
of huntsmen and spearmen, wrought in blue and 
green enamel, — all these from Babylon. But Greek 
chisels had given delicacy and grace to the sculp- 
tures; the conceit of India had set the four heads 
of griffins on the corners of each stately capital ; 
Median ostentation had plated the ceilings of man}^ 
of the chambers, as well as the cornice and parapet 
without, with the pale lustre of silver, or even with 
garish gold. 

He who entered would have lost himself in court 
after court, hall after hall, each a-swarm with its 
hordes of guardsmen, eunuchs, and courtiers. His 
feet would have trodden priceless Bactrian carpets ; 
over his head would have twinkled a thousand silver 
lamps and red resinous torches. Yet had he kept 
onward, he would have at last come to a door 
guarded by a score of watchful " eyes of the king," 
and then, if some talisman suffered him to pass them, 
have stood face to face with the lord of the Aryans. 

The king was taking counsel with his peers. The 
Tartar on the chillest steppe, the Brahmin by the 
hoary Indus, might quake at the name of Cyrus, son 
of Cambyses ; but the six princes of the tribes of 
Persia and of Media were suffered at all times to 
speak their word to the monarch, and he must hear 
them. 

There was no throne in this chamber. The king 
sat in a ponderous arm-chair, at the head of a long 
table, his fellow-councillors ranged on lower seats 



CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 299 

at either side. They had long since cast off cere- 
mony. Cyrus's cone-shaped tiara was taller than 
that of the others, the embroideries on his flowing 
Median robe richer ; these alone distinguished him. 
There was no scribe present, nor other attendant. 
After a long silence the king was again speaking. 

" My friends," Cyrus smote a fist on the table 
with a buffet weighty enough to fell an ox, "you 
seem to have suffered Apaosha the 'Drought-fiend' 
to dry up all your thoughts. I called you for coun- 
sel ; I meet silence and black frowns. Have you 
nothing to say ? " The king looked from face to 
face ; his own was troubled. There was care spread 
upon his high, bronzed forehead, care was in the 
lines of his mouth under the flowing gray beard, 
care was dimming the genial lustre of his keen blue 
eyes. 

A man at the king's right hand made answer, and 
all heard respectfully, for he was bowed with age 
and its wisdom. 

" Live forever. King of the Aryans ! Do not 
blame us if Ahura denies us the presence of 
Vohu-Mano, angel of good counsel. What is left 
to say ? Yet let the king know this — determine 
the fate of Darius, my son, without thought for my 
own private loss or grief. The honour of Persia and 
of Persia's king is more than the safety of forty sons 
of mine." 

But Cyrus shook his head, replying sombrely : 
" You are a true friend, Hystaspes ; but understand 



300 BELSHAZZAR 

that the honour of Persia and of Cyrus demands to- 
day that Darius should come harmless from that 
snare to which I, in folly, sent him. The blame is 
mine. Belshazzar has deceived me. Would to 
Ahura that I alone might bear the calamity, and 
not the noblest of our youth ! " 

But the dark-eyed Median prince, Harpagus, who 
sat at the king's left hand, broke forth hotly ; "Now 
as Mithra rains light from the heavens, I protest the 
Babylonian will never dare to make a hair of our 
prince to fall. Belshazzar and his pack of snivelling 
priests and paltering corn-merchants put to death a 
prince of our blood royal ? The Chaldeans will love 
well to see our Aryan cavalrymen eating up all their 
dear farmlands like locusts ! Belshazzar's was a 
coward's threat. He will make it good — never ! " 

" Peace," commanded the king. " You do even 
that doeva wrong. We have Gobr3^as's letter and 
cannot doubt. Belshazzar has a city nigh impregna- 
ble. His army, if not so large as our Aryan hordes, 
is well drilled, valorous. His capital is provisioned 
for a siege of years. Only a man who had resolved 
to follow his path to the end would dare to utter this 
threat." 

"True," Hystaspes looked down, grievously tor- 
mented ; " yet for the honour of our people and 
our god, there is but one answer to make to this 
defiance." 

Cyrus was standing erect and confronting his 
council. 



CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 301 

" Do you, princes of Persia and Media, bid me to 
sacrifice Darius, son of Hystaspes, proclaim instant 
war, and send our forces over the Tigris to strike 
Belshazzar ! An answer," — the king's voice grew 
hard, — " peace or war ? " 

Stillness for a moment, and then Harpagus was 
thundering : — 

" War, in the name of every archangel ! Tell Bel- 
shazzar that if Darius dies Ave will beat down Baby- 
lon till she be a city for wolves and jackals." 

" And you, Hystaspes ? " demanded the king. 

" I have spoken," replied the old prince, wearily. 
" Not to save my own child can we cringe to Bel- 
shazzar, that 'Son of the Lie.' There is no other 
way." 

Cyrus was looking wistfully from one to another. 

" And is there no word for peace ? " he was ask- 
ing, almost eagerly. "The power of Babylon is 
great. If we fail, the empire will depart from us. 
On such a war we stake our all." 

"And our all truly is lost," Harpagus replied, 
nigh fiercely, " if the king of Persia crouches trem- 
bling under a threat like this ! " 

" Your voices then are all for war ? " was Cyrus's 
last appeal. 

" For war," was the sullen answer of many, none 
looking upward. But Cyrus smote again upon the 
table, making the firm oak quiver. 

"But I, Cyrus, son of Cambyses, king of Persia 
and all Iran, am very ill content with your counsel. 



302 BELSHAZZAR 

We all will be partners in Darius's blood, if he is left 
to die. I, the king, have chief blame in sending him 
to Babylon, but you all were consenting. Would to 
Ahura I had followed my own heart, and given him 
Atossa ! Of her fate in the clutch of Belshazzar I 
say nothing." It was the first time he had men- 
tioned his own child that day. The princes saw a 
tear on the iron cheek of the conqueror of Mede and 
Lydian. None answered him. The king ran on : 
'^ Our debate ends as it began — in darkness. I will 
not act on your advice to-night. Orasmasdes, the 
chief Magian, shall pour libation to the great star 
Tishtrya^ and all the other heavenly powers, that 
they may incline the Lord God to favour with his 
wisdom. I am no ' Father of the People,' if, to spare 
my own dignity, I suffer the bravest and choicest of 
our Aryan youths to die miserably." 

The king had thrust back his chair, and motioned 
to the others to rise also. They were obeying, in 
moody silence, when the door was flung open, and 
Phraortes, the high chamberlain, was kneeling before 
Cyrus. 

" Live forever, O Bulwark of the Nations ! May 
your slave speak ? " 

The monarch good-humouredly motioned to him to 
say on. Phraortes arose, and punctiliously hid his 
hands in his flowing sleeves — token that he medi- 
tated no attack on the royal person. 

" Your Majesty, the General Gobryas sends in 

1 Sirius. 



CYEUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 303 

advance a young man wlio demands instant speech 
with my lord." 

" Does he come from Babylon ? Who is he ? " 

" He brings a letter from the general, that he is in 
all things to be believed. He also bears a token from 
the ever-to-be-reverenced Lady Atossa." 

"From Atossa?" They saw the king's grip on 
the arm of his chair grow hard as a vise. " Bring 
him in instantly." 

Cyrus had reseated himself ; the rest imitated 
perforce. 

A moment later Phraortes ushered before them a 
young man in Babylonish dress, handsome-visaged, 
but now dusty, unkempt, travel-stained. The stran- 
ger did not cover his hands, Persian fashion, but fell 
on his face and kissed the rugs at Cyrus's feet, nor 
did he arise until Cyrus bade him to fear nothing. 

"Your Majesty understands Chaldee?" began the 
stranger, his eyes still on the carpet. 

" I understand and speak it," was the answer. 
" Do not tremble. We Persians forgive all else so 
long as men speak the truth. Who are you ? Not 
a Babylonian ? " 

While the king spoke he had sped a glance keen 
as a spear through the newcomer, as if searching 
every recess of his soul. But the other, uncon- 
founded, lifted his own gaze and met Cyrus boldly 
eye to eye, a glance in turn so penetrating, yet so 
winsome, that half the suspicions of monarch and 
princes were disarmed. 



304 BELSHAZZAR 

*' I am no Babylonian, O king ! " The young 
man tossed his head proudly. " My people are the 
Hebrews, whom it pleases the Omnipotent God should 
suffer oppression at the hands of these servants of 
speechless brass and graven marble, but who would 
not exchange the Lord God of their fathers for a 
thousand Belshazzars and his kingdoms. Know, 
your Majesty, that my name is Isaiah, son of Sha- 
drach, the Jew, though born and bred in Babylon, 
city of darkness. And in proof of what I may tell 
vou, receive this." 

He was extending something which Cyrus caught 
eagerly. 

" Beware," admonished Hystaspes, in the king's 
ear, "this may be but a spy of Belshazzar." But 
the young man overheard and answered boldly : — 

"la spy of Belshazzar ? May Jehovah the All- 
Seeing smite me as I stand, if I speak one jot or one 
tittle more or less than truth ! " 

Cyrus had raised his head, and looked on the 
Hebrew again. 

" And I believe you," swore the king ; " for as 
Ahura reigns, I do not deem he could set deceit 
behind so frank a face and eye. This, my lords " — 
he held up the trinket — "is the locket I hung on my 
daughter's neck before you all. And now, Jew, say 
on. 

And long the council sat and listened while Isaiah 
unwound to them the tangled web of Belshazzar's 
and Avil's intrigues and ill-doings — the sham mar- 



CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 305 

riage treaty, the attempt on Darius's life, the plot- 
tings with Egypt, the preparations for war. 

They had gathered much from the tale of the 
fugitive Ariathes, and the hasty despatch from Go- 
bryas ; they saw all clearly now. But when Isaiah 
had finished, Cyrus asked simply : — 

*' One question : By what means did you gain this 
locket from the Lady Atossa ? Can you enter Bel- 
shazzar's own harem ? " 

Whereupon Isaiah told very modestly the manner 
in which he had saved the princess during the riot ; 
and despite his slackness in self-praise, as he ended, 
the king demanded of his lords : — 

" Men of Persia, do you now believe this man ? " 

'' Every word," came from Harpagus, and he spoke 
for all. 

" How, then, shall the great king reward him ? " 

" Let the Jew take three talents of gold," answered 
the councillor, and Cyrus nodded approval. 

'' So be it. Son of Shadrach, you shall have as 
Prince Harpagus has said." 

" The king jests with his servant," and again the 
Hebrew looked downward. 

" Not so, on the inviolable pledge of a king of the 
Aryans ! " 

" Your Majesty," Isaiah spoke very rapidly, as if 
to escape repentance for his boldness, "if I rescue 
Prince Darius from his dungeon — what reward 
then ? " 

The eyes of the Jew were very bright. They 



306 BELSHAZZAR 

could see he was hanging on the king's every word. 
Cyrus had lifted his hand in an oath. 

" The man who saves Darius shall enter my treas- 
ure-house in Ecbatana, where are stored the jewels 
taken from the Assyrian by Cynaxares the Mede, 
and bear thence his own weight in precious stones, 
though he take rubies and diamonds only ! " 

They who watched Isaiah saw him sweep his hand, 
as if in high disdain. 

" Keep the jewels, O Cyrus ! " cried he, nigh pas- 
sionately. " I have not come to sell m}^ service like 
a huckster, to bargain for gems or gold. Yet would 
you truly see Darius free ? " 

His voice had risen almost to a menace, but the 
king was not angry. 

" Good, Hebrew ! " Cyrus was smiling. " I did 
not think riches would tempt such as you. You seek 
something nobler — and by Ahura's great name, I 
declare that if you may save Darius, you may ask 
anything in reason, and it is yours." 

Isaiah's eyes glittered even brighter than before, 
but his voice grew calm. 

"King of the Aryans, the one God, whom you 
worship under the name of Ahura-Mazda, and we as 
Jehovah, has given my people now for fifty years 
into the power of the idol-worshipping Chaldeans. 
Fifty years long have we bowed beneath this yoke, 
and besought our God that he would forget our sins, 
would restore us to His mercy. Now at last the 
hour comes when it shall be proved before all nations 



CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 307 

which is the greater, Him whom we serve, or Nabu 
and Marduk and Samas, the demons of the Chaldees. 
For the rage of Avil-Marduk, the chief pontiff, and 
of Belshazzar is gone out against my people, and the 
oppression they suffer is more than most may bear. 
Either my people must bow the neck, must forsake 
their God, must teach their children to serve the 
idols of Babylon, or you, O Cyrus, must hear 
the summons of the Lord Most High, and make 
the oppressed go free ! " 

" I ? What are you saying, Jew ? " The king had 
leaped from his seat. They faced one another, mon- 
arch and prophet for the instant equals. 

" Sovereign of Persia," — Isaiah bore himself as 
proudly as if he were the " King of kings," — " the 
God of nations has clothed you with power, the like 
of which he never shed on mortal man before, not 
on Assur-bani-pal, the great Assyrian. The tribes- 
men on countless plains are yours ; your horsemen 
He alone may number. Belshazzar, the Babylonian, 
casts defiance in your teeth. You hesitate, for you 
fear for Darius. Were he free, the perjurer would 
already see from his walls the sky lit with the villages 
blazing under the Persian torch. And it is I that 
may set Darius free. Jehovah has set in me a spirit 
of craft and wisdom that with His help shall not 
fail. Though they seek my life in Babylon, I know 
how to avoid them. Be this the reward for the 
rescue of Darius : you shall call forth your myriads 
and dash Belshazzar from his ill-gained throne, and 



308 BELSHAZZAR 

then " — brighter than ever were the Jew's eyes now 
— " you shall restore my people to their own land, 
that they may rebuild their desolate Jerusalem. 
This is my reward ! " 

Stillness, while many heard their heart-beats. 
The rest saw Cyrus approach three steps toward the 
Jew ; the two were yet looking eye to eye. 

" Hebrew," Cyrus was striving to speak quietly, 
" a great thing you propose, a great thing you ask. 
How long a time will you require to return to Babylon 
and do this deed ? " 

"In forty days I pledge my head to show you 
Darius safe and free, here or in your camp. In 
Babylon I have two fellow-countrymen who will 
peril all to aid me." And Isaiah thought of Zerub- 
babel and of Shaphat. 

" By Mithra ! you speak of return to Babylon as 
of returning to a feast ! " 

"Fairer than a feast, my lord. I return to the 
fulfilment of my heart's desire — the winning of 
freedom for my people." 

" Yet though you prosper, what if we fail ? We 
may drive Belshazzar from the field, but the ramparts 
of Babylon — " 

Isaiah took the words from the king's mouth. 

" Shall lie smooth as the plain to the feet of Cyrus, 
the called of Jehovah ! " 

Cyrus looked again, and very earnestly. " One 
thing more, Hebrew — my daughter, in Belshaz- 
zar's harem ? " His voice sank exceeding low. 



CYRUS, FATHER OF THE PEOPLE 309 

" What will be her treatment ? Answer me truly 
this." 

" Your Majesty," was the unfaltering reply, " even 
the Babylonian is not in all things a fiend. Bel- 
shazzar does not carry his villany so far, that if 
Darius escape, he would wreak vengeance on his own 
betrothed wife. I grieve for the Lady Atossa, but 
the swords of the Aryans are the only talismans that 
will make her lot less wretched." 

Cyrus moved another step nearer. He had raised 
his hand toward heaven. 

"Then in the name of Ahura, One God of All, 
and the Ameshaspentas, His archangels, I swear 
that if you save Darius, I will lay low Babylon and 
set your people free. And you, princes of the Persians, 
are my witnesses." 

When he looked downward, he saw Isaiah kneeling 
before him, kissing the hem of his mantle. 

" Do not fear, my king," he was declaring ; " Je- 
hovah, who has plucked me from so many perils, will 
not fail me now, when I speed upon His service." 

But Cyrus had turned to his council. 

" Men of Iran," said he, simply, " Ahura has not 
forsaken us. He has sent us Vohu-Mano, the spirit 
of wise council. We need linger no more here." 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 




CHAPTER XX 



AVIL-MARDUK had visited a strange place for 
the chief priest, — the nethermost dungeon in 
the palace guard-house, by the royal quay. Here one 
could hear the river brawling against the slimy walls. 
The black murk of the sunken galleries leading to 
the cells had been charged with a damp and sickening 
odour. The light from the slits against the ceiling 
was just enough to suffer one, with eyes accustomed 
to darkness, to grope his way. When the chief 
warden put his key in the ponderous wooden lock of 
a door, the pivots creaked and a whiff of air drifted 
from within, but so stifling that for an instant the 
priest recoiled. 

" Who is here," demanded he of the warden, " the 
Persian or Daniel ? My errand is to both." 

" The Persian, my lord. Your eyes may not see 
him, but he is crouched in the farther corner. He is 
dangerous. Seven men had to hold when we put on 
his fetters. Shall I stay by while you speak with 
him ? " 

" Wait within call, though I must talk alone." 
Then, raising his voice, he jeered boldly : " Ha ! 

310 



4 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 311 

noble prince, do you find the raw millet and canal 
water of this guard-house daintier than the fare on 
Cyrus's tables ? Be comforted ; twenty-seven years 
did Zedekiah, the Jewish king, languish in this very 
cell. You are not likely to enjoy its hospitality so 
long." 

Out of the dark came an ominous growl. 

" Take care, dceva ; come within reach, and 
chained though I be, I can kill you ! " 

" I will keep a safe distance from your Highness," 
was Avil's undisturbed reply. 

"And now, son of Hystaspes," he continued, 
dropping the catlike purring from his voice, "let 
us understand one another. You are utterly in our 
power. By this time, at least, you will begin to 
confess it." 

He heard the chains begin to rattle from the corner. 

" By this time, O Prince of Treachery, you begin 
to hear the roar of the Persian lion. Do you con- 
fess it ? Has the news that comes of late to Baby- 
lon been sweet as Assyrian honey ? " 

Avil let a moment pass before he answered : — 

"It is true that Cyrus is massing soldiers," he 
admitted. 

" It is true that Kutha has surrendered, and Siru- 
sur the Tartan suffered a defeat. Make your toads, 
these jailers, keep tighter mouths, if you would have 
them leak no news to me." 

" If those turnkeys chatter, the stakes are ready 
to impale them," cursed Avil, under breath. Then, 



312 BELSHAZZAR 

returning to the charge boldly : " Yes, it is true, war 
has blazed forth. No profit to deny. But nothing 
decisive has befallen. The king leads his host into 
the field in a few days. If Cyrus be the first to 
attack — " 

" I shall be put to death ? " 

" Unless you will serve our ends. Are you bent 
on destruction ? " 

" I am in Ahura's hands. It is His, not yours, to 
give life or death." 

Avil incautiously advanced a few steps into the 
darkness. 

" The ' suicide-demon ' possesses you, Persian," he 
was asserting, when with a clatter of chains the 
prince bounded from his corner and dashed the 
priest to the bricked floor. 

" At last, adder ! " snorted he, uplifting his man- 
acled hands, and smiting once and again. 

" Rescue ! Help ! Murder ! " bawled Avil, 
helpless on his back. 

Well that the jailers ran swiftly, or Bel would 
have lacked a pontiff. They plucked the prince 
from his victim by sheer force, and dragged Avil 
away, covered with bruises. He stood, invoking 
upper and nether powers to blast the Persian race 
forever. They put a shorter chain on the prisoner, 
but he still challenged out of his gloom. 

*' Closer, friend ! Closer ! I dearly love a fair 
wrestle ! " 

But the priest turned away, quaking, and bade 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 313 

the others open the door of the adjacent cell, for he 
desired speech with that second prisoner of state, 
the Hebrew Daniel. 

Darius was left in his dungeon ; the bolts clanked 
into place, the footsteps died away. At first he 
heard only the swash of the current against the ooz- 
ing bricks, and the shouts of bargemen forcing their 
craft up-river. But the prince did not rage in his 
fetters, as a month earlier, when first they cast him 
into this " death-in-life." Laying his ear against the 
partition, he could hear voices uplifted — Avil-Mar- 
duk in angry colloquy with Daniel, who, contrary to 
Belshazzar's pledge in the proclamation, had not 
been kept in light captivity, but in heaviest durance. 
Darius caught no word, but he guessed that the 
priest was ill satisfied with his errand when Daniel's 
door clashed to suddenly, and Avil's voice sounded 
in the gallery : — 

" Now, as Bel is lord of Babylon, we will find 
straiter quarters yet for this stiff -backed pair ! " 
Then there were more steps, and again silence ; but 
presently a soft rattle at Darius's own door, and the 
prince crept toward it, as far as his chains suffered. 
Some one spoke at the ample keyhole. 

"Listen well, my prince, the other wardens are 
all around us." 

Existence in such a prison had taught Darius to 
catch every whisper. 

"I hear you. You are Zerubbabel, the Jew. 
Where is Isaiah ? " 



314 BELSHAZZAR 

" He is more suspected than I ; and even my fidel- 
ity as turnkey is half in doubt. Isaiah is looking 
to the locks on the tunnel. The escape must be to- 
night or not at all. Shaphat is arranging to have 
horses waiting beyond the gates." Feet sounded 
once more in the gallery. The speaker moved noise- 
lessly away. Again silence and again the voice : — 

" The chief priest swears that longer parley with 
you is useless. He urges the king to cast your head 
into Cyrus's camp. That would bar the last door 
to peace, and spur on Babylon to resist to the 
uttermost." 

" And Daniel ? " 

" Avil would love to slay him with you, but dare 
not. News of his execution, were it to leak out, 
would still raise the city in riot. But we hope to 
save him with you.'* 

" Till when shall I wait to-night ? " The words 
came eagerly. 

" We cannot stir before the third ' double-hour ' ^ 
of the night. All is ready." 

Shouts sounded down the gallery ; Zerubbabel was 
gone, and Darius sat in his gloom. How many 
times since he had been thrust within that cell had 
he watched the bar of pale golden light, which 
drifted through that chink against the ceiling, creep, 
silent as the tread of a dream, across the floor ! It 
was his only sun-dial. Pictured in its brightness 
he had seen many a sight he had told himself he 

1 Ten P.M. 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 315 

would never see more with mortal eye, — his father, 
the hills of his native Iran, and Atossa, always 
Atossa, fair as on the night of their meeting in 
the Hanging Gardens, when for the last time he had 
looked into her dear eyes. 

Interminable waiting ! All the hard-learned les- 
sons in patience, in which Darius had schooled him- 
self since existing in that dungeon, forgotten in an 
hour ! But, nevertheless, the day did wane. The 
little bar of light crawled snail-like across the wet 
bricks of the floor, and began to climb the reeking 
wall. It mounted higher, higher, then began to 
fade, and for once the Persian's heart commanded 
"go quickly," though the ray had ofttimes been his 
dear friend. The chief warden entered with eight 
men, examined his captive's chains. Intact. He 
and his band with their blinding torches were gone. 
Once more stillness, and only the monotonous music 
of the great river fleeting seaward. 

The last daylight had long vanished before Darius 
heard again — how gladly ! — something stirring in 
the gallery without. There were a shout and a 
challenge when the guards were changing, the 
trample of heavy sandals, silence again, then Zerubba- 
bel's voice close to the door. 

" Quiet, my prince, my watch ends at midnight. 
We must be all haste." 

The bolt was withdrawing noiselessly; the door 
crept open; inside glided a man with a flickering 
lamp that shed a red, uncertain light, leaving half 



316 BELSHAZZAR 

the cell veiled in its shadows. Darius started, but a 
warning " Hist ! " fixed him. 

" Where is Isaiah? " 

" In the next dungeon, releasing Daniel. The 
sentries have been drugged. Now off with these 
chains." 

Babylonian fetters needed no key; the bronze 
circles, never locked, were simply hammered together 
around wrist or ankle. Happy mortal was he who, 
having felt them close upon him, could feel them 
also release. The turnkey set down his lamp, drew 
forth a stout iron bar. One twist of the lever freed 
the Persian's good right arm, and like an unchained 
lion Darius tore his other limbs free, almost with 
his empty hand. The Persian's heart gave a great 
bound as he sniffed a clear, sweet puff of night air, 
while ranging the gallery. A second lamp and two 
more figures came out of the gloom, but it was no 
place for stately greetings. 

" The noble Prince Darius I " exclaimed Isaiah, 
softly, advancing from the darkness. " Jehovah be 
praised ! " 

" And with you is my Lord Daniel ? " 

" Safe and free, Jehovah willing," answered the 
older Jew, stepping forward. 

" Good, then," replied the Persian. " Lead the 
way, for I am helpless here. Next to Ahura, I owe 
all to you, Isaiah, and to your friends ! " 

"Fear nothing." And Isaiah trod forward into 
the dark. " Few know the secrets of this city 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FOKSAKE HIM 317 

and palace as do I. We must haste to the 
tunnel." 

They advanced in silence. The prison seemed 
empty of all life. Their feet awoke loud echoes 
down shadow-veiled galleries, but nothing hostile 
started forth to greet them. Presently they began 
ascending stairways, and the foul stench of the dun- 
geons grew yet fainter. 

Then a door swung open before them, and a cold 
breath smote their faces. A strange form thrust 
itself across their path. 

"Who comes? Shaphat?" demanded Isaiah, never 
off his guard. 

The newcomer stared about him in the dark. 

" I am he ; the guards are quieted. There is no 
danger. But where is my Lord Daniel? Let me 
fall at his feet." 

And recognizing the older Jew, he cast himself 
then and there upon his knees. 

" O lord, gracious master, who was as a father to 
me and whom I have requited after the manner of 
demons, speak to me one word. Declare that you for- 
give, for the blackness of my sin is ever before me ! " 

Daniel beckoned him to rise. 

" You are forgiven long ago ; I have heard of the 
atonement made by saving Ruth, and by rescuing 
Isaiah in the riot. You have sinned and have 
repented. The Lord God requires nothing more." 

" Speed," interrupted Isaiah, " we must be all 
haste." 



318 BELSHAZZAR 

Then without another word he led the way over 
the threshold, past the ponderous prison gate, and 
Darius rejoiced yet again when he found himself 
beneath the glittering canopy of the stars. No 
moon. Under the starlight he could see the vague 
white tracery of the great palace to his left ; to his 
right the outlines of the ziggurats beyond the river, 
trebly tall in the darkness, and before the temples 
the opalescent twinkle of some wavelet of the 
mighty Euphrates, where a constellation was mir- 
rored. Isaiah hastened northward. They saw, far 
off, a form pacing the embankment above the stream. 
The starlight touched something that glittered — a 
soldier's helmet. Darius heard the chanted call 
pealing over the sleeping fortress: — 

" The Ninib-star ^ rises. Midnight approaches. 
Marduk prosper Belshazzar our lord ! " 

" They change sentries soon. Speed ! " urged 
Isaiah. And he led faster along the deserted quay. 
Soon before them rose a low, square building, and 
they halted. 

'• The entrance to the tunnel beneath the river," 
whispered Zerubbabel. " Now, if at all, let Jehovah 
show His mercy. All other exits from the palace 
fortress are too well watched." 

Isaiah, who had kept his lamp pricked down to a 
bare flicker under his mantle, boldly thrust in the 
door. They were in a small, bricked guard-room. 
Directly before them was a second door, small, 

1 Saturn. 



•«r.r^^ ''-.-J^ 




BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 319 

ponderous, and heavily barred. Across the thresh- 
old lay a man in armour, but snoring in the slumbers 
of the just. 

" This is the passage to the great tunnel of which 
I have heard so much ? " asked Darius, softl^^. " Is 
not the exit guarded?" 

Isaiah shook his head. "That, too, is provided 
for. The guard across the river is more lax than 
here. But now we must push away this dolt and 
force the door." 

Darius motioned with his hands, signifying that 
one twist of his fingers around the sentinel's neck 
would speed him past mortal outcry ; but when 
they rolled the rascal over, his guardian god favoured 
him. He grunted once, folded his hands, and fell 
again to snoring. The drug had done its work. 

Isaiah, Shaphat, and Zerubbabel applied themselves 
to the massive door. Its bolts and bars yielded one 
by one. They were about to put their strength 
against it and thrust inward, when the turnkey 
stepped to one side into a darkened corner. One 
step, but the mending or ending of five human lives 
was hanging on the planting of that foot. He trod 
on something soft, something living. In a twinkling 
there followed a howl, a yelp, a prodigious bark- 
ing. 

"Fiends of Sheol blast the cur ! " swore Zerubbabel, 
his iron bar clattering from palsied fingers. " All is 
lost ! " 

Darius leaped upon the dog, caught him, strove 



320 BELSHAZZAK 

to throttle ; but the mongrel brute writhed from 
his grip, bounded to the outer door, and lifted 
up his muzzle, howling. Instantly a second dog 
answered, a third, a fourth, and more, till they 
seemed encircled by dogs uncounted. Human voices 
were beginning to swell the din. 

" Alarm ! To arms ! Turn out the guard ! " 
The distant sentries were passing it one to the 
other. 

The five stood and stared in one another's faces. 
The hopes of the night had been utterly dashed. 
What was left save death? But Darius, ever the 
soldier and leader, tossed up his head, and demanded 
fiercely : " Why gape and gibber here ? Down the 
tunnel ! We can cross before they reach the exit by 
bridge or boat." 

" My lord," answered Isaiah, sadly, " below this 
door, on the staircase, is machinery to the sluice, 
whereby the tunnel can be flooded. We cannot 
bar this entrance from within. To descend means 
drowning beneath the river." 

The drunken sentinel stirred in his slumber, but 
did not waken ; yet the others heard the nearing 
shouting. The sleepy soldiers were tumbling from 
their barracks. The five heard the clangour of the 
great brass gong at the palace gate. The Lord God 
knew how soon a " ten " of infantry would be on the 
fugitives. Darius had possessed himself of the 
helpless watchman's sword. 

" By Ahura Most High ! " was his desperate oath, 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FORSAKE HIM 321 

" it is better to mount aloft with seven foes sped on 
before me, than to drown beneath the river. They 
shall not take me unresisting ! " 

Feet approached rapidly. A new cry was rising, 
" The state captives, the Persian and Daniel ! 
Escaped ! Pursue ! " 

Isaiah dashed to the door of the tunnel-house and 
bolted it. It would take a few moments to force. 
Darius had turned to the others. 

" I am a man of war, and know the look of death. 
If two men were to remain in the narrow entrance 
to this stairway, they could defend it long. Five 
must not perish where two suffice." He was 
stripping the drunkard of helm and shield. " I and 
one other will defend against pursuit, the rest flee ! " 

But Isaiah threw up his hands in dismay. " Folly, 
my prince. Your life is worth a thousand such 
as mine. I am no weakling. Shaphat shall guide 
you to safety. Leave the defence to Zerubbabel 
and to me I " 

A thunderous beating on the door, and Igas- 
Ramman, the captain, was clamouring, " Open ! 
Open ! In the king's name ! " 

Isaiah reached to pluck the sword from Darius's 
hands. " Haste ! " he exhorted, but another hand 
caught his. 

" Folly again." It was Daniel who cried it. 
" You are all young. Life is sweet. God will give 
you many days and power to do great deeds. / will 
defend the entrance." 



322 BELSHAZZAE 

" You ? " The others were staring now in truth. 

" Open ! Open, or you die the death ! " howled 
the soldiers without ; and Igas commanded fiercely: 
" Beat in the door ! Hew it asunder ! " 

The stout portal shook on its pivots, battered by 
spear-butts. It could not last long. 

" This shall never be ! " shouted Darius, while the 
deadly clamour increased. " Who will abide with 
you? You are the least fit of us all." 

But at this instant Shaphat spoke forth boldly; 
" If my Lord Daniel remain, he shall not remain 
alone, nor shall my betters be brought to death. 
Of us all, I am of least worth. I have but one life 
to proffer, as sacrifice for my sins, let it be offered 
now ! " 

" Dare you trust this man ? " cried the prince, 
nigh angrily, while the door leaped inward with 
every stroke — "a confessed perjurer ? " 

But Daniel answered, with his wonted calm 
majesty: "Yes, as the Lord God liveth, I can trust 
him. He and I shall cover your retreat as long as 
Jehovah grants us strength." 

But still the friendly rivalry went on, until 
Shaphat plucked away Zerubbabel's own sword, and 
set himself boldly across the doorway. Daniel 
turned to the others imploring. 

" Away ! away ! " he prayed ; " do you not see 
delay only ruins each and all ? " And with a mar- 
vellous strength that white-haired man had wrung 
the weapon from Darius's grasp, and was putting 



BELSHAZZAR'S GUESTS FOKSAKE HIM 323 

on the helmet. As he stood in the wan lamplight, 
liis form loomed erect, powerful. He seemed to 
have cast off the weight of twenty years. Woe to 
the first to meet him man to man ! 

" Bring a beam ! " raged Igas to the soldiers. 
" Shatter the door ! " 

" Off ! " urged the minister, tears now in his eyes. 
" Will you cast yourself away, Isaiah, and leave Ruth 
desolate when I am taken ? Will you leave the Lord 
God's purposes for you undone, my prince, by dying 
here in vain ? I am old. I have done His work. 
I live or die by His will. I do not fear." 

Crash ! Before the battering beam the door was 
splintering. 

" We will never leave you ! " came from the young 
men ; but Daniel answered with a gesture of com- 
mand. It was he who was prince, not Darius. 

" Go ! I command it ! " cried he, almost arro- 
gantly ; " or your own blood and God's wrath are 
on you." 

The tone, the majesty of his presence, these made 
his words as law. Darius's heart cried out in 
revolt, but he bowed his head and obeyed. They 
thrust open the inner entrance, and a dank stairway 
wound down into the darkness. They kept Zerub- 
babel's lamp. Isaiah left his for Daniel. No instant 
for long partings. Isaiah strode over beside Sha- 
phat — " You are a true son of Judah," said he sim- 
ply. But Shaphat only bowed his head. 

" The One God spare you, my father ! " came from 



324 BELSHAZZAK 

Darius's trembling lips, though the fear was not 
for self. 

" And you, my son " — like words between Daniel 
and Isaiah, and that was all. They saw the civil- 
minister standing, sword in hand, across the narrow 
entrance, hoary, but then, if never before, terrible. 
And at his side, steadfast and unflinching, was 
Shaphat, the one-time recreant. 

A last crash — the beam, swung by twenty arms, 
beat the outer door inward. It toppled on the 
bricks. Half a score of torches tossed together 
and flickered on bared blades and lance-heads. A 
great yell of triumph, followed by a howl of surprise. 
A last vision was branded on Darius's memory. 
He heard the clash of steel above him, the crash of 
conflict. Then the stairway turned, cutting off 
sight and sound, and all about was blackness. 



I 



^ ^ ^ r^r^ BELSHAZZAR PURSUES IN VAIN v^^^^ 




CHAPTER XXI 



THE last glimmer of light from above had van- 
ished. The darkness, deeper than that of 
deepest night, crowded about the three. The little 
lamp in Isaiah's hand shed only a tiny gleam that 
made the shadows behind and before tenfold the 
blacker. As they descended the air grew foul, so 
that the lamp sank to a poor spark, and all were 
gasping. It was like passing alive into Sheol, and 
threading the avenues of the dead. No word, save 
when Isaiah halted an instant and pointed to a 
ponderous bronze lever set in the brickwork. 

" This controls the sluice," quoth he, in a whisper ; 
" we pass beneath the river soon." 

Darius had caught the lever in a giant clutch, 
and twisted it in its socket ; it would play less 
easily now, and delay the flooding. Then the air 
around them grew yet more foul, so that they were 
fain to bow their heads and haste onward, catching 
the purer breaths that hung along the slimy bricks 
at their feet. And above him, and all around, the 
Persian heard what sounded as a rushing wind — 
yet not a wind, for it sang and sang, without gust 

325 



326 BELSHAZZAE, 

or crooning, one ceaseless, monotonous murmur, and 
he knew that it was the great Euphrates speeding 
above his head. No longer any stairs — their path 
led right onward. 

So narrow the way that they could have reached 
to each wall at once with outstretched hands. But 
they seldom did so, for all the bricks were slimy 
with an ooze that made the flesh creep to the touch. 
And Darius trod through a plashing mire, cold, 
fetid, unsunned for many a long year. What mon- 
sters lurked in the all-encircling dark ? Did not the 
dread " Scorpion-Men " of the Chaldees' tales here 
find dwelling ? Were they not near the gates of 
Ninkigal, " Lady of Torment," of the Anunnaki, the 
" Earth-Fiends " ? 

Once Zerubbabel, just ahead of Darius, had stum- 
bled ; they heard a splash and clatter of some object 
escaping into the dark — some vile, light-hating 
creature that loved this pathway of the dead. Yet 
there was no time for halting or even for trem- 
bling. Above them the rush of the river became a 
maddening torture. Every heart-beat seemed long, 
every breath of the death-laden air bought with a 
pang. And behind them at the mouth of the tunnel 
was the old man Daniel with Shaphat, — renegade 
once and hero now^ — sacrificing themselves for the 
fugitives. But how long might such as they hold 
back Igas-Ramman and his scores ? How long be- 
fore hostile hands would be wresting on that sluice 
lever and this thoroughfare of the dead become a 
tomb indeed ? 



BELSHAZZAE, PURSUES IN VAIN 327 

Darius knew that Isaiah was counting the brick 
piers bedded in the casement; but, though he stared 
into the blackness ahead until his eyes nigh throbbed 
with the pain, he met only darkness and ever more 
darkness. 

Once he cried aloud to Isaiah, " How many piers 
are yet to pass ? " 

His words seemed to have awakened all the 
ghosts and ghouls of this foul country. Echo pealed 
upon echo, his words were multiplied a score of 
times. Hidden voices flung back his question out 
of murky deeps. And he thought (for what were 
not his thoughts at such a moment ?) that these 
same tongues were answering for Isaiah : " For- 
ever I Forever ! You must run this course forever ! " 

Onward and ever onward, till senses reeled and 
ears were filled with a buzzing that dimmed the fear- 
ful music of the river. Almost was Darius ready 
to pray for death, if life were longer to be this. 
But still Isaiah's lamp went on before him, and still 
the Persian followed, his feet obeying his instinct, 
not his numbing will. The Jews wasted no breath 
on speech. The journey was seeming interminable, 
when Isaiah uttered a great cry of relief : " Praised 
be Jehovah. The last pier is passed; we soon mount 
upward! " But the words had just crossed his tongue 
when the three groaned together, " Hark ! " And 
blended with the steady rushing of the Euphrates 
swelled another rushing, as of water, splashing and 
swirling rapidly in the tunnel, but far behind. 



328 BELSHAZZAE. 

" They have opened the sluice at last," came from 
Isaiah, with awful calmness ; " we must haste, and 
may the Lord still speed us ! " 

And haste they did, human feet pacing against the 
tread of the waters. They stood erect despite the 
deadly air, and ran — ran, while the swirling behind 
them grew to a roaring ; and of a sudden the slimy 
pools at their feet, through which they stumbled, 
began to swell from their soles to their ankles ; and 
all the water, once chill, grew warm, rushing fresh 
from the sun-loved current. Then all around the 
air began to whistle past them in stifling blasts, 
heralds of the conquering river, blowing as swift as 
the waters chased them, and hurrying the fugitives 
onward. The roaring behind rose to reechoing 
thunder, cavern answering to cavern, till it seemed 
that all the demons of the deep were howling after 
as for their prey. 

The stream had risen from ankle to knee — now 
higher. Isaiah stumbled ; his lamp was quenched, 
and all was noise and utter darkness. Darius's 
voice sounded above the swirl, his firm spirit bent at 
last : " Let us make our peace with Ahura ! That 
only is left ! '* But the Jews caught him by the 
hand ; he saw nothing, but under foot he felt a 
stairway. They were rising, rising ; the waters 
raved after them, loath to quit their spoil. But the 
air — praised be the Merciful ! — was growing sweet. 
The crash of the element was dimming below. The 
Jews were halting on a platform, and groping about 



BELSHAZZAPv PURSUES IN VAIN 329 

for a kej^iole. A rattle of bolts, a creaking of the 
pivot — Isaiah was withdrawing the huge wooden 
key and relocking. The three trod the embank- 
ment on the eastern side of the river. The moon 
was creeping up above the tracery of the tower of 
Bel-Marduk, and spreading her mellow light over 
the sleeping city. For a moment it seemed still — 
still as the peace of the Most High. They saw no 
one, they feared no one ; but each fell on his knees, 
and after his own manner prayed. 

Yet they had scarce risen before Isaiah was pluck- 
ing the Persian's mantle, while Zerubbabel stretched 
a finger toward the river. Gliding from the royal 
quay, now hid in shadow, now clear in the glisten- 
ing moonlight, was something black, crawling, — a 
huge beetle as it were upon the glancing river — a 
boat and their pursuers. But Isaiah was calm as the 
heavens above him. 

" Fear nothing. We have by far the start. The 
gates are open. My friends are ready with the 
horses. Jehovah, who has saved us out of the clutch 
of the great Euphrates, shall He not much more 
save from the feebler wrath of man ? " 

" I fear nothing," answered Darius ; for after 
that journey what were swords and spears for him 
to dread ? 

" Come, then ; we go the Gate of Kisch." 

The boat had crept out into the current when the 
three sent a last glance across the river. A red 
beacon fire was flaming on a tower of the western 



330 BELSHAZZAR 

palace. Soon the guard in the " Old Palace " on 
the eastern bank would be stirring. But they did 
not tarry for the alarm. The three followed the 
length of Nana Street, silent and desolate, and for a 
time heard only the soughing of the kind night wind 
from the balmy west. The vision of the tower of 
Bel faded into the star-mist. They crossed the 
bridge of the East Canal, where no drowsy watch- 
man challenged them. As they passed the gates of 
the temple of Beltis, a dozing soldier cried, " Your 
business ! " from his guard-room ; but he was too 
fond of his warm mat to sally into the dark and pur- 
sue possible robbers. 

The Arachtu Canal was behind them, behind them 
the shops of the great merchants, the still bazaars. 
Once two men sprang out of the dark before them, 
— street thieves, perchance, lurking for the unwary ; 
but one sight in the moonlight of the stalwart shoul- 
ders of the three, and the others vanished without a 
cry. A faint light gleamed from the steps of a low 
beer-house ; they heard brutish laughter and more 
brutish jesting as they sped onward. The tall houses 
were beginning to lessen, the moonlit alleys to widen. 
Another canal and another bridge, and the houses were 
breaking away into vague masses of shadowy villas 
and gardens. Still forward ; and now behind, and 
far off, came a roar and a clattering, — the sound of 
horsemen at their speed, — and the sound lent wings 
to their going. But Isaiah, who paced even the 
prince as they ran, cried across his shoulder : — 



BELSHAZZAR PURSUES IN VAIN 331 

*' No peril ! Jehovah is with us ! See, the 
walls!" 

And lo ! as Darius gazed upward, above him was 
rising the naked height of Imgur-Bel, the black 
battlements clearly outlined against the roof of 
heaven. 

Far above their heads, as the voice of a sky- 
dweller, came once more the call of a sentry, 
" The morning star rises ! Sleep holds the city ! 
Marduk shed favour on Belshazzar the king ! " 

The loud noise of hoofs behind was ominous, but 
Isaiah led unfaltering toward the gate. There 
stood the portal, at either side a soldier in his armour, 
but here also prone on the ground in sleep ; and the 
great bronze-plated doors were unbarred, and opened 
wide enough to give passage to a man. They glided 
through them without a word. Twelve paces more 
and the drawbridge was cleared. Suddenly forms 
rose up out of the gloom before them — five horses, 
and at their heads as many men. 

" Who comes ? " cried a voice, and Isaiah halted. 

" This, my Lord Prince," he announced to Darius, 
"is that Abiathar in whose behalf I had attacked 
Igas-Ramman when you saved me. He is not un- 
grateful." Then to the others: "We are here, 
Abiathar, though late. You and your friends have 
not failed us ; Jehovah reward you and give His 
mercy ! " 

"And my Lord Daniel and Shaphat ? " answered the 
other, grieving to find three, not five. 



332 BELSHAZZAR 

" In the Lord God's keeping," was the solemn 
answer ; no time for more. " Save yourselves, for 
all Babylon will ring with this, and rigorous search 
be made." 

" Farewell I " The strange forms vanished in the 
darkness. A cry was rising from the gate : " Trea- 
son ! Escaped ! The guards are drugged ! Pur- 
sue I " Darius had leaped, and felt betwixt his 
knees a blooded Assyrian horse. The Jews had 
mounted. The three together felt the good steeds 
spring under them. Down the brick-paved way they 
flew, whirlwind- swift, the reins lying slack on the 
manes. The portal of Nimitti-Bel, closed and 
guarded only in actual siege, stood wide before 
them. They saw it come and saw it vanish. Shouts 
behind, and a raging gallop also ; but Darius knew 
a horse by a touch, and he knew the best in Bel- 
shazzar's stables might run long before breasting the 
Assyrian that was speeding beneath him. Before 
the three spread the Chaldean plain-country, lulled 
by the moon into that last hush before the bursting 
dawn. They heard the pursuers follow a little way, 
then deeper silence. The Babylonians had found 
their chase was vain. The three rode for a long 
time without speech. Once Darius glanced across 
his shoulder — walls, palaces, temple-towers, had sunk 
to a shapeless haze. He had left " The Lady of 
Kingdoms," "The Beauty of the Chaldees." Stars 
and moon above, a soft west wind, and the sleeping 
country — that was all. But a strange exhilaration 



BELSHAZZAR PURSUES IN VAIN 333 

possessed the prince. He was saved ; he was free ; 
he had still the might of his good right arm, the 
keenness of his unerring eye. 

" Hebrews ! " he cried, tossing his head proudly, 
*' behold the man you have plucked back from death 
unto life. Hereafter you shall learn how the son of 
Hystaspes can reward his preservers and their peo- 
ple. But now — " he flung his voice to the arching 
heavens — "to Cyrus ! to Cyrus, the avenger of all 
the wronged ! And then war — for the abasing of 
' The Lie,' and the love and the joy of Atossa ! " 
******* 
There had come a Tartar cavalryman into Baby- 
lon, a small wiry man on a bay horse fleet as Bel's 
lightning bolt. When he cantered up Ai-Bur-Schabu 
Street and turned the head of his Scythian toward 
the king's house, a great crowd had gaped at him. 
" This," ran the whisper, " was the bearer of the last 
message from Cyrus before the bursting of war ! " 
He had ridden straight up to the palace gate, and 
flung his lance against the bronze-faced doors, turned 
the head of his steed, and galloped headlong from 
the city, no man molesting. Thrust on the head 
of the lance was a leaf of papyrus, and they had 
brought the letter to Belshazzar, after which he and 
his ministers wagged their heads in long debate. 

*' Thus says Cyrus, King of ISTations, to Belshazzar his per- 
jured and unfaithful slave. Your guile and your plot is known 
unto me. Would you live and not die? Disband then your 
armies ; throw down your walls ; send rae your treasure, and 



334 BELSHAZZAR 

your choicest harem women*, likewise restore unharmed my 
daughter and the Prince Darius, my servant. But if you do 
otherwise, behold ! I will make Babylon as Nineveh, a dwelling 
for starving wolves ; and as for you, I will cut off your ears and 
nose, and chain you forty days at my palace door, that other 
perjurers may see and tremble, and after that you shall be 
crucified. Farewell." 

When this was read Avil cried out to burn the last 
bridge and cast Darius's head into the Persian camp. 
So would Babylon be goaded on to resistance to the 
end. But the king had shaken his head. " The 
prince was a hostage," — he repeated the word 
often, — " Cyrus would never dare to pass beyond 
threats." Therefore the ministers departed and 
Belshazzar sought to drown his fears in wine. He 
had called for Atossa to come and drink with him. 
He told her brutally, as if she had not heard 
it before, how the game stood betwixt him and 
her father. When the colour mounted her white 
cheek he brayed with laughter ; when it fled he had 
new jeers. To save the life of Darius, he asked her, 
would she not write in her own hand to Cyrus, and 
warn him to postpone the war? But Belshazzar, 
who had known only the simpering women of his 
seraglio, was cowed at the burst of womanly passion 
he had raised. Under his blows the sparks flew 
from the anvil, and that anvil was Atossa. 

" I am Persian, O ' Fiend-lover,' " and Atossa stood 
before him raised to queenly height ; " kings were 
my ancestors, men beloved and prospered of Ahura. 
When the Assyrian oppressed my people, he sank 



BELSHAZZAR PURSUES IN VAIN 335 

back smitten. Where now is Croesus the Lydian, 
or Astyages the Mede, who defied Cyrus my father ? 
Sooner let your lions growl above my bones, than 
a daughter of Cyrus make herself wax to such as 
you ! " 

" But you have loved Darius," the king protested, 
sorely abashed ; " I saw you in his arms in the 
Gardens." 

" Yes," — Atossa's anger was becoming terrible, — 
" I have loved him. But I do not love his poor body 
more than his Aryan honour. To us death and life 
may be a very little thing ; but outrage, insult, oath- 
breaking — Ahura may forgive such things, not 
we!" 

" Out of my sight, woman ! " thundered Bel- 
shazzar ; and he had spurned her. The eunuchs 
took her away. The king drank alone, draining 
goblet after goblet of the most heady " Elamite " ; 
but though he wished it, he could not grow drunken. 
His body eunuchs put him to bed. He tossed long 
on the India- web pillows and the Sidonian purple. 
They had bathed his feet in perfumed water at last, 
and very late he fell asleep. The little group of 
servants had gathered outside the door of the 
chamber, squatting in silence on the tiles, each 
inwardly blessing some god that he had been spared 
the royal wrath that day. . . . 

Midnight. The king turned once on his pillows, 
,and the eunuchs' hearts commenced quaking. 
[Anew he slept soundly, and they were again re- 



336 BELSHAZZAK 

joiced. . . . But what was this hasting of feet 
on the stairway, this thundering summons to the 
guard below not to hinder ? " The king ! The 
king ! " Sirusur the Tartan was before the eunuchs, 
sword drawn, fully armed. 

" Rouse his Majesty," commanded the general, 
halting his run. " Rouse instantly ! Darius the 
Persian is fled ! " 

A eunuch stood by the bedside, awoke the king, 
and told him. The fellow had vowed a sheep to 
Samas, but the god did not favour. The king caught 
the short sword, ever ready, and smote the messen- 
ger of ill tidings to the floor. Then he raged from 
the chamber, and even Sirusur fell on his knees, 
cowering, for the king's wrath passed that of 
bayed lions. 

" Not I — O awarder of life ! I was not guards- 
captain ; no blame is mine ! " The general's teeth 
chattered as he spoke. 

" Who commanded the watch ? " came from Bel- 
shazzar, in a voice betokening the bolt impending. 

" Zikha, ' captain of a thousand.' " 

" Go you," Belshazzar addressed Mermaza ; '' have 
a stake made ready. Let Zikha be impaled at 
dawn. And now, Sirusur, where is the fugitive ? 
By Istar, you deserve death likewise I Whither 
fled? Is pursuit made? Speak, as you love life ! " 

*' He fled by the tunnel, lord. The guards were 
drugged. Traitors aided. Daniel fled with them 
also, but he has been retaken." 



BELSHAZZAR PURSUES IN VAIN 337 

"Daniel? Namtar, the plague-fiend, destroy 
him ! Is the tunnel flooded ? " 

"Not so wrathful, lord." Sirusur was still 
trembling. " Your slaves did all in their power. 
The old man Daniel remained in the entrance to 
the tunnel with Shaphat, his one-time accuser ; they 
made desperate resistance." 

" Shaphat defend Daniel ? You are mad, Si- 
rusur." 

" Alas ! no. Shaphat slew with his own hand 
two men, and as Bel reigns his master fought val- 
iantly as Gilgamesh the hero. You will not believe 
there was such might in so old an arm. We killed 
Shaphat at last, and disarmed Daniel, after nearly 
every man in the squad had his wound. Then 
finally we were able to flood the tunnel, but I fear 
too late. The Persian had a long start. The exit 
is poorly guarded. The bridge is raised, so we 
sent soldiers across the river by boat. Nergal 
grant they nip Darius ere he pass the city gate ! " 

" Bring Daniel the Jew before me ! " and Bel- 
shazzar's teeth shone white, hateful. The men 
obeyed silently. The king stood in the palace 
gallery, the light of one red torch touching the 
blood of the slaughtered eunuch on his sword-blade. 
The anger on his face was fearful. The old Jew's 
dress had been torn to shreds, his white hair fouled 
by blood and mire, his left arm hung limp at his 
side. Two petty officers upbore him. They 
thought to hear Belshazzar cry " Slay " at first 



338 BELSHAZZAR 

sight ; but the king reined his passion enough to 
taunt bitterly : — 

" Ha ! is it custom to quit the king's house with so 
scant leave-taking ? " 

The old man shook back his blood v locks and 
looked straight into Belshazzar's rage-shot eyes. 
" As you have kept faith to me and mine, so have I 
to you, O king ! '' 

" Revile me now ! " Belshazzar's sword whistled 
as he brandished. Before a mere reed Daniel 
might have winced not less. 

" I do not revile. True servant have I been to 
you and your fathers. My reward is this ! " He 
held up his right arm, with the red ring marked 
by the fetter. 

" And this " — Belshazzar swung the sword higher 
— "one last mercy — death." 

But Daniel had shaken off the soldiers. He stood 
erect. Some power from his eyes stayed that up- 
raised hand as by a spell. " No, lord of the Chal- 
dees ! You cannot kill me, nor all your sword- 
hands, for I am mightier than they." 

They heard the king laugh, but — wonder of won- 
ders — the weapon sank at his side. 

" Sorcerer ! By what magic can you make your 
old neck proof ? " 

Belshazzar had moved two steps backward, turn- 
ing his head to escape the Hebrew's compelling 
gaze, but could not ; and he watched with a fasci- 
nated, uneasy smile. 



BELSHAZZAE, PURSUES IN VAIN 339 

" O king, as in former days the word of Jehovah, 
One and All-powerful God, spoke through my lips 
to Nebuchadnezzar the Great, so now again His 
spirit comes upon me, and puts these words into my 
mouth. And this is the word," — Belshazzar was 
uttering a formula against the evil eye, but he 
could not look away, — " There shall come a time 
when I, whom all your wrath cannot destroy, shall 
stand again before you, shall declare to you the 
mandate of Jehovah, and when you and with you 
all the world shall know that whom He wills He 
saves, whom He wills He lays low, and whoso blas- 
phemes Him He rewards utterly ; that all may 
fear the Lord God of Israel, before whom Bel-Mar- 
duk is less than the small grains of the threshing- 
floor ! " 

Then they saw a strange thing. They saw Bel- 
shazzar, that man of wrath, shrink back step by step 
before the blood-grimed, aged Jew, until from a 
long way off the king laughed again a shrill and 
direful laugh : " Away with him ! Back with him 
to his dungeon ! Keep him fast, till he longs for 
death, till he knows that his puny god is helpless 
before Bel-Marduk ! " 

But all the strength seemed passed out of Daniel. 
The soldiers caught him as he fell. The king was 
staring wildly from one servant to another ; he was 
as a man awakened from a frightful dream. 

" Wine ! " he demanded. " I cannot sleep. Do 
you, Sirusur, pursue the Persian. Hound him 



340 BELSHAZZAR 

down. But wine, more wine ! My head throbs ! " 
His gaze wandered ; he in turn was tottering. 

" The king is ill," declared Mermaza, just re- 
turned ; " bear him back to his bed." 

" Allat consume you, eunuch ! " Belshazzar 
buffeted him in the face. Then the royal gaze lit 
again on Daniel. 

" Off ! Off ! What hinders that I kill you ? 
All your babbling is folly. You shall cry to your 
Jehovah many times, and cry in vain ! " 

The aged prisoner shook off the soldiers ; once 
more he stood fast. "Remember the prophecy, 
King of Babylon ! Remember ! You shall with 
your own lips summon me ; with your own tongue 
pray to me ; with your own hands stretch forth im- 
ploring me to speak the mandate of the God you 
now blaspheme ! " 

*' Silence, dotard ! " Belshazzar smote the captive 
on the mouth. Then again the king reeled, and 
did not resist when Mermaza caught him. The 
eunuchs carried him to bed. A frightened page 
roused the Egyptian court physician. "Raging 
fever," quoth that wise man gravely, and ordered 
"poultices of lotus leaves, well soaked in lizards' 
blood and in the fat of sucking pigs' ears." Before 
long the king was in violent delirium ; his servants 
had to hold him on his bed, while he made the cham- 
ber ring as he cursed them. But one word was 
uppermost in the royal mind as he raved — " Jeho- 
vah, Jehovah ! " When he repeated the word he 



BELSHAZZAR PUESUES IN VAIN 341 

would foam in hate. " Let me master Cyrus ; let 
me conquer in the war, and I swear by every god 
and every fiend it shall be safer in Babylon to do 
murder by open day than to whisper the name of 
that foul spirit before me ! " 

Avil-Marduk smiled grimly when the next morn- 
ing they told him of the king's oath, taken in mad- 
ness. 

" Ah, well," declared the pontiff, " happy for pure 
religion if his Majesty keeps this pious frame of 
mind when heaven gives back health. Yet he did 
ill when he spared Daniel. The Jew will be harm- 
less in only one prison — the grave ! " 

But long since Daniel had been thrust back into 
a dungeon, scarcely less noisome than that which he 
had quitted. Ten armed men stood by when they 
replaced the fetters, all fearful of some withering 
spell; and the sentries pacing the galleries mum- 
bled incantations to Nineb and to Ilu, shuddering 
every time they caught a glitter from the terrible 
Hebrew's eye. 



THE KING AND THE FATHER |^ 




CHAPTER XXII 



THE Persian army lay in the plain before the 
captured Kutha. Far as the eye might reach, 
it touched only avenues of black camel's-hair tents, 
sprinkled with the gaudier red and blue of the 
princes' pavilions. The gloaming was at hand, the 
first stars budding ; all around myriad red sparks 
were twinkling forth — the camp-fires of the host of 
the Aryans. Over their drink the stout Median 
footmen and Scythian horse-archers were roaring 
out pledges — " Confusion to Belshazzar and destruc- 
tion to his city ! " For if there was one thing the 
hearts of the soldiers lusted after, it was to see the 
walls of Imgur and Nimitti-Bel. But the army had 
waited inactive for days, and save for petty skirmish- 
ings had scarcely sped an arrow. *' Negotiations," 
grumbled some wiseacres ; and others would answer, 
" The Father (meaning no one less than their 
august king) will not cast away all hopes of saving 
Prince Darius." Whereupon comrades would shake 
their heads gloomily, " We shall see the prince, in 
this world — never ! " Then the banter, even of 
veterans, would lag, for Darius was the darling 
of the army. 

342 



THE KING AND THE FATHER 343 

So throughout the black tents. And in that vil- 
lage of pavilions, of guardsmen and grooms and 
chamberlains, where the king found lodging, there 
was no common gloom that night. For Cyrus sat 
alone in the innermost tent, and refused all drink 
and food. This was the fortieth night, on which 
Isaiah had promised to return with Darius, and 
naught had been seen or heard of the Jew since he 
had quitted Susa. Atrobanes, "the bearer of the 
roval handkerchief," and the attendant with whom 
Cyrus was most familiar, had ventured once to enter 
the tent, and light the tall silver candelabra. There 
was the master on the high ivory throne, looking 
straight before him upon the rugs, combing his 
flowing beard with his right hand, while his left 
gripped hard on the jewelled hilt at his side. 

" Lord," Atrobanes had ventured, kneeling, " the 
feast in the banqueting tent is ready. The Princes 
Harpagus and Gobryas and the other captains have 
come, for you deigned to command that they should 
eat meat with you this evening." 

No answer. Cyrus was stiU looking straight 
before. 

" Live forever, O king," began Atrobanes again. 
An angry exclamation cut him short. For Cyrus to 
be in wrath was so unwonted that the attendant 
trembled. 

" Live forever ? Are you mad ? Is life so 
utterly sweet, that one may never long to lay it 
down ? " 



344 BELSHAZZAK 

" Mercy, lord of all goodness ; mercy ! " pro- 
tested the shivering servant. 

" By Mithra, you are frightened." Cyrus laughed 
softly ; it seemed more in melancholy than in mirth. 
" I meant nothing ; I scarce knew that you were 
here. What is your wish ? " 

" Will the king condescend to be present at the 
feast appointed for to-night to the captains of the 
army ? '* 

A weary sigh, and more silence. Then Cyrus 
replied, almost bitterly, " Would to Ahura I had not 
ordered it! How can I sit over wine this night? 
Yet I must not dishonour the princes. Go to the 
high steward and say that I can touch no food, 
though I thank him for his pains. Yet say that 
when the evening advances, and the wine is brought, 
I will come and sit with the captains." 

" And the king requires nothing for himself ? " 

" Only this — that you leave me." 

Atrobanes kissed the cushioned footstool at his 
master's feet, and vanished behind the heavy dra- 
peries. There was profound stillness, save for the 
vague hum of the busy camp and the clatter of plate 
and dishes many hands were bearing to the banquet- 
ing tent. The king sat for a long time motionless, 
the grip on the sword-hilt ever tightening. Then, 
letting the weapon rest, he fumbled in his bosom, 
drew forth a locket, and gazed on it as on treasure 
untold. " The locket of Atossa. It has been close 
against her own pure breast." He pressed it to his 



THE KING AND THE FATHER 345 

lips, once, twice, thrust it back in his mantle, slipped 
from the high seat, and began treading to and fro, 
his feet noiseless on the carpets. 

" Live forever, O king, O lord of all goodness ! 
Live forever ! " As he repeated the words he was 
smiling, but not with mirth. " Praised be the All- 
Merciful, these flatteries are but flatteries, nothing 
more I " 

Voices sounded at the tent door. 

"I come to report to the king from Artaphernes, 
commander of the skirmishers." 

"Unless you have definite news, his Majesty is 
not to be troubled." 

" Wait, then ; I have only to declare that our 
scouts bring in nothing." 

The pacings of the king grew swift and feverish. 

" Nothing, nothing ; well, it was to be expected. 
Are you waxed so old, Cyrus, son of Cambyses, that 
you will pin your faith on an open face and a ready 
tongue? The Jew spoke fair, but is like all men of 
every race saving our own — a liar. If he but come 
within my power after betraying thus — " 

There was a javelin standing against a tent-pole ; 
the king grasped and almost poised it. But the 
royal mood shifted ; Cyrus replaced the weapon, and 
ran on, communing with himself darkly : — 

" I am lord of a million sword-hands ; at my word 
nations sink down in ruin. Men worship me as being 
a god on earth. Holy Ahura, when Thou madest 
me king, why did I not cease to be a man ; why 



346 BELSHAZZAR 

could I not cease loving, losing, longing? The gar- 
ment of life is woven of the same stuff, whether for 
the vilest slave or the lord of the Aryans. I have 
godlike powers, but I am miserable ! " 

A noise without — the sentries passing the watch- 
word for the night, as they changed the guard, 
*' Vengeance for Darius ! " Again the king touched 
the javelin. 

" Of course the Jew failed, and that without play- 
ing falsely. His project was a mad one. Darius 
has long since died under Belshazzar's torments. 
Died; ay, and by Mithra the dceva-smitev, the 
watchword shall not prove vain I Men call me 
merciful; but to the son of Nabonidus and all his 
perjured brood, Angra-Mainyu, the arch-fiend, and 
his demons shall seem more compassionate than I. 
But ah! though I slay all Babylon, I may not 
breathe life into one form once stilled, nor woo back 
a loved spirit with all the rubies of Ecbatana ! " 

Again a voice at the tent door, and Cyrus, recog- 
nizing, commanded, "Enter." 

Hystaspes passed within. The prince was in his 
coat of shining scale armour, for years had not made 
him too feeble to keep the saddle. The short Per- 
sian spear was in his hand, the sword dangled at his 
thigh. The king attempted to brighten before his 
friend, and threw out boldly : — 

" Well, comrade, has not the country been scoured, 
and all the farms so well sacked, that a man of your 
hale years need ride with the skirmishers ? " 



THE KING AKD THE FATHER 347 

The other laughed, though none too heartily. 

" The young hotbloods who lead your Majesty's 
cavalry troops are all valour and no prudence. An 
older eye is needed to see that Sirusur with his Baby- 
lonish chariots does not dash down on us unawares, 
and fling us, man and beast, into the Tigris." 

" Caution, always caution," answered the king, 
with an impatient gesture, when the other attempted 
to salaam. " Come, you have no longing for the feast. 
Let tables be brought here. I have only promised 
to appear at the banquet when they serve the wine." 

" Your Majesty is thrice kind ; a thousand par- 
dons, but for some reason I cannot eat. Perhaps I 
have ridden too long ; as you say, I grow old." 

But the king plucked him nigh roughly by the 
shoulder. 

"No, you cannot eat, nor can I. Away with 
merry lips, when they speak from grieving hearts. 
Darius, your son, is not here. We were fools to 
trust the Jew, who has either failed or dealt falsely. 
Yet we must eat, must eat heartily — you and I — 
and all." 

" Does the king command that I feast against my 
will ? " 

" Yes ; for if Darius is dead, Belshazzar lives, and 
all the asps of his guilty kind. And we need all 
our strength for a vengeance, the fame whereof shall 
last as long as Mithra's car glows in the heavens." 

" Ah ! lord, not so bitterly. I am the father, yet 
I can bow to Ahura's will ! " 



348 BELSHAZZAR 

" But I, the king, who sent Darius forth, and sped 
him to his death, find like submission hard. For the 
king shall answer on the Great Day for the blood of 
all his people I " 

" I do not blame your Majesty." 

"Nor does any man." Cyrus smote his own 
breast. " The voice that blames is here." 

But as he spoke a strange sound was spreading in 
the camp, a roaring as of wind, though very far 
away. 

" An alarm ! " and Hystaspes started from the 
tent. 

" Alarm ? No such outcry ; the soldiers are at 
some sport." 

Yet still the sound was rising — was swelling 
nearer ; and now they caught, as it seemed, the 
clamour of countless voices. 

" Alarm surely I I must seek my post ! " Again 
Hystaspes started from the tent ; but the king 
gripped his arm with so tight a clutch that it 
brought almost pain. 

"Hystaspes," — Cyrus spoke in a hoarse whisper, 

— "this sound — comes it from men or from angels 

— is a shout of joy, not of fear ! " 

Then they stood side by side, those strong men, 
and listened ; for a mighty tumult was swelling 
through the camp, passing onward, nearer, nearer, 
rising and falling like the wind-driven billow bound- 
ing across the deep. Now the distant encampment 
of the Tartar Sacaeans was thundering, now the Bac- 




-4— • 



3 
O 









c 
o 

w 

X 



j 



i 



i 



THE KING AND THE FATHER 349 

trians and the MedevS ; closer now, it had reached 
the Persians, the core of the army, and the " Immor- 
tals," the royal life-guards, were tossing on the cry. 
Then through the cheering the two heard something 
else — riders galloping fiercely ; and words came at 
last, the shout of the captains and lords about the 
tent of the king. 

" The prince ! The prince ! Glory to Ahura ! " 

The high chamberlain had entered. When he 
salaamed he stumbled. His ready tongue spoke 
thickly. 

" Font of all goodness," he began; but Cyrus did 
not hear. Straight through the door strode the 
king, and into the throng of officers in the tent 
without. They parted to either hand at sight of 
him, like sand before the desert gale. Inside the 
pavilion itself a score of joyous hands were plucking 
from his steaming beast a young man, who started, 
tattered, dust-covered as he was, to kneel before the 
sovereign. Started : but Cyrus beckoned him on, 
and spoke before them all : — 

''''Here is only the king ; within your father waits.'^ 

So Darius was gone, with no man following him. 
Then two more newcomers were led forward, and 
bowed themselves to Cyrus, who saw that they were 
Isaiah and a stranger, though clearly a Jew also. 

" Lord," Isaiah was saying, " behold my pledge 
fulfilled. This is the fortieth night, and your eyes 
see Darius." 

But Cyrus would hear no more. 



350 BELSHAZZAK 

" Stand up, son of Shadrach, for the pledge is 
indeed made good. Look on this man, captains of 
the Aryans ; honour him as you would honour your 
king, for he has brought joy out of anguish, brought 
life out of death. Take him away, Hydarnes," — 
with a nod to the "master of the royal dresses," — 
"clothe him in a robe of state; give him the wine 
and dainties you would give to me ; in the morning 
put the kingly tiara upon his head, mount him upon 
my sacred Nissan charger, and lead him through the 
host, proclaiming to all men, ' This is the Jew who 
is honoured by Cyrus ! ' " 

" Hail ! all hail, Isaiah, justly honoured of the 
Great King ! " 

So thundered an hundred ; yet when there was 
stillness, Isaiah answered humbly, yet boldly, " Lord, 
I despise not your gifts and your honours ; but it was 
not for even this that Zerubbabel, my comrade, and I 
plucked the prince out of the dungeon and the clutch 
of Belshazzar." 

Cyrus shook his stately head and smiled. 

" Ah ! good Jew," spoke he, " do you think the 
promises of the Persians are pledges graven on 
water? Fear not that your people will find the 
king of the Aryans aught but a father and a friend. 
But enough — you have ridden hard and far ; rest 
for to-night shall be the first reward. Lead them 
away, Hydarnes, and give this other, Zerubbabel, ten 
talents also." 

But Isaiah did not follow the chamberlain. 



THE KING AND THE FATHER 351 

"Your Majesty," — he fell on one knee, — "I 
bring you not Prince Darius only. I bring you 
this." 

He drew from his girdle and proffered a tiny clay 
cylinder, scarce the thickness of two fingers. The 
king grasped it, eagerly as the drowning clutch 
after the float. They saw him read, and lo, a mar- 
vellous thing ! the eyes of the master of half the 
nations were bright with tears. Thus ran the 
letter ; — 

" Atossa in Babylon, to Cyrus, lord of the Aryans: 
" I know that you must be first the king and then the father. 
Yet when you sent me from Susa, did you send me to this — to 
loathsome bondage, to be queen in name only, to be the toy of 
a man of wrath and guile, and the pledge of a peace sworn only 
to be broken ? Come to me, my father, for I am of your own 
proud blood. Let other kings' daughters learn a master's yoke ; 
a child of yours must be the mistress, or must die. Heaven 
favouring, the noble Isaiah will save Darius, whom I love ; but 
I, who cannot fly, can only pray for the hour when the swords 
of my people shall flash within this accursed city. Yet save 
speedily ; for the time grows near when I shall be Belshazzar's 
bride in very deed. Farewell." 

" Did you penetrate the harem of Belshazzar ? " 
asked Cyrus, his voice unsteady. 

" Yes, your Majesty ; I have seen the most gra- 
cious princess. Belshazzar triumphs in holding the 
child of his arch-enemy captive. To force her to 
his bridal will be his joy. And in three months he 
will celebrate another feast — the wedding one year 
from the betrothal." 

" Then in three months Babylon is to be taken ? " 



352 BELSHAZZAE. 

" The king has said. Belshazzar will risk little in 
the field. He boasts his walls will mock your 
armies seven years, and yet be strong." 

" And you say that he boasts well ? " urged Cyrus, 
shrewdly. 

"Lord, I only know that speaking from human 
wisdom, there may be doors to Babylon Belshazzar 
little dreams of ; and speaking from the voice 
within " — Isaiah's own voice rose, and he swept his 
hand proudly — " the promise of Jehovah is yet 
strong, — ' I, who have prospered so far, and saved 
from so many perils, will still favour even to the 
end.' " 

"And favour He will ! " cried the king, as in a 
great gladness ; " three months for the might of the 
Aryans to master the ' fiend-servers ' and their mute 
brick and stone ! Let Ahura lay on us a harder 
task ! " 

Then the chamberlains took the Jews away, and 
forth from the inner tent returned Darius, who knelt 
now at Cyrus's feet. 

" Rise up," the king commanded ; " you also need 
food and sleep. And in the morning — " 

" What in the morning, lord ? " cried the prince, 
now standing. 

" In the morning you shall ride at the head of the 
van. But you have won the right to crave a boon 
— and ask it, whatsoever you will." 

" My king," — Darius's voice was trembling, — 
"you well know what I would ask." 



THE KING AND THE FATHER 353 

Whereupon Cyrus only smiled once more, and 
lifted his hand as in an oath. 

" By the light of Ahura I swear it, that when we 
have conquered Babylon and plucked Atossa from 
the dceva's clutch, you shall ask for her in marriage, 
and I will not say you nay." 

Three nights later the burghers of Babylon, when 
they mounted their house roofs, as was their wont in 
the cool of the evening, saw a light that stilled the 
bravest boasters. East, west, and north the horizon 
glowed with a redness which shone ever brighter, 
ever nearer, till it climbed the heavens. Rising 
smoke was blotting out the stars. Men spoke to- 
gether in whispers, as they stared and shuddered at 
the brightness : " The host of Cyrus. All the 
country villages are burning. Marduk be praised, 
the walls are yet strong ! " 

At next morn the city folk saw a sight yet more 
terrible. The plains were covered with innumera- 
ble black tents and pavilions, and horsemen more 
than the sands of the sea. The king of the Aryans 
was at hand, and with him all the might of the far 
East. Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel were put to proof 
at last. 



THE GLORY OF THE CHALDEES 




CHAPTER XXIII 



THREE months nearly had the host of the Per- 
sians lain under the walls of the capital. They 
had ravaged far and wide, had driven the country 
folk by thousands inside the defences ; the thriving 
villages were become one blackened waste. But still 
the great Euphrates brawled through the massy 
water gates ; still the battlements loomed unap- 
proachable above the besiegers' heads! What had 
Belshazzar and his city to fear ? The battering ram ? 
Let Cyrus first bridge the network of protecting 
canals, drain the moats, drive the archers from the 
walls, and establish his enginery, and then he might 
beat for months on those mountains of brick and 
accomplish nothing. Did he trust to starvation? 
There was corn enough, yes, and daintier fare, to let 
Babylon hold off famine three long years; and be- 
sides, the gardens and orchards within the long cir- 
cuit of the walls could in themselves supply a 
multitude. After the first fright was passed the 
Babylonians had ceased to tremble and gibber, when 
they thought of the foe without the gates. Trade 
was resumed in the bazaars ; the scholars returned 

354 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 355 

to their schools ; the rope-walks, the carpet factories, 
and the brass foundries were again busy. Merchants 
counted impatiently the days when the interrupted 
caravan trade with Egypt and Syria might recom- 
mence. Plentiful stories were afloat that Cyrus was 
having vast difficulty in feeding the myriad mouths 
in his army ; that the Persian generals were at strife 
amongst themselves ; that revolt in Media and Car- 
mania miofht send the invader home discomfited at 
any moment. Therefore the worthy city folk had 
advised one another " patience " ; and behold, to-day, 
their waiting was rewarded! A royal crier was 
parading the length of Nana Street, and his procla- 
mation was heard even above the plaudits of the 
crowds : — 

" Rejoice ! Rejoice, men of Babylon, city favoured 
by Marduk ! Last night the noble Sirusur, * Master 
of the host,' made a sortie from the Gate of Borsippa, 
and smote the Persian barbarians utterly, slaying 
hundreds, and taking many of their great princes 
captive. This morning Cyrus, the impious blas- 
phemer of our gods, being utterly discomfited by 
the valour of his Majesty's army, — his generals 
deserting him, and his kingdoms of Media and Bac- 
tria having rebelled against his tyranny, — is raising 
the siege in all haste. His power is destroyed forever. 
Glory, glory to Bel-Marduk, to Istar, to Samas, whose 
favour is over Babylon ! Rejoice ! Rejoice ! " 

" Glory to Marduk ! Glory to Belshazzar, favoured 
son of the almighty god ! " 



356 BELSHAZZAR 

So the thousands had hailed the glad tidings, and 
rushed with one accord to the walls, to make sure 
of the news. Even so ; the black tents of the be- 
siegers were disappearing. Already the pavilion of 
Cyrus had vanished behind the plains; the retreat 
bore almost evidence of a rout. 

" Follow after ! Destroy them utterly ! " advised 
the younger and bolder captains about the exultant 
king, while he surveyed the welcome scene from the 
Gate of the Chaldees. But Sirusur, the victor of 
the sortie, who next to Belshazzar's self had won 
most glory in the defence, only observed, with the 
prudent wisdom of the all-knowing Ea : — 

" Leave them alone, your Majesty ; the barbarians 
are at strife among themselves : they will soon turn 
their swords on one another, and so fight for us. 
Our army is weary with the siege, grant , it some 
reward before we take the field to conquer Cyrus's 
provinces. Proclaim a great feast of thanksgiving 
throughout Babylon." 

" And is it not one year to-morrow night," de- 
manded the king, nothing loath, " since I betrothed 
Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus ? " 

" Even so, your Majesty," quoth Bilsandan the 
vizier, at the other elbow. 

Belshazzar clapped his hands in right kingly glee. 

" Praised be every god ! Do you proclaim a feast 
over the city for to-morrow and to-morrow night. 
Let Babylon be one house of mirth, for it shall be 
her king's triumph and wedding-night together. Pre- 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 357 

pare the palace for a banquet such as no king before 
— no, not Nebuchadnezzar the Great — set for his 
lords and captains ; there I will drink wine before all 
Babylon, and show forth the daughter of Cyrus, 
whom I take to wife." 

Therefore for a second time the crier had fared 
through the streets, and all Babylon gave itself over 
to merriment. 

None did so with a gladder heart than Itti-Marduk 
the great banker. That evening, when he sat with 
Neriglissor on his house roof, the excellent man 
was in a state of enviable content. Two days before 
he had sold out a huge granary of corn at half a 
shekel on the homer ^ above the price it would now 
fetch, the siege being over; and when Neriglissor 
had examined the entrails of three white geese, to 
see if his friend ought to risk a very profitable loan, 
the omens had been most happy — the livers so white, 
the hearts so very large, that some great advantage 
was foretokened, unless all faith in augury was boot- 
less. Therefore from business they had passed to 
small talk. 

"Happy evening for Babylon," Neriglissor was 
saying; "I did not think Cyrus would give us the 
back so readily." 

" Or that Sirusur the general would prove so val- 
iant, if the flying rumours had been true." 

" Rumours ? " demanded the old priest ; " in Bel's 
name, what rumours ? " 

1 About three bushel. 



358 BELSHAZZAR 

" Are you so ignorant at the temple, as not to know 
the talk of the city ? " 

" Will you slaughter me, by not telling ? '* 

The banker grew confidential. 

" My dearest Neriglissor, surely you know that 
there have been many tales afoot lately that, since the 
day of the great riot, and that scene in his Majesty's 
council where Sirusur the general and your own lord, 
Avil-Marduk, passed such bitter words, the two have 
been as cold friends as a lamb and a desert hyena. I 
have heard no less than two tales, one of which is 
proved false, — the gods know concerning the other, 
not I." 

" Well, tell them : I am tortured by curiosity." 

" The first is that Sirusur the Tartan and Bil- 
sandan the vizier fear the hostility of Avil and his 
influence over Belshazzar so much, that, rather than 
see him wax in power, they prefer to open the gates 
to Cyrus." 

" A lie ! Sirusur's valour in the sortie proved it 



so. 



Itti let his head come yet closer to the priest's as 
they sat together ; his gaze was shrewd and penetrat- 
ing. 

"And is this a lie also ? — that Avil-Marduk, the 
worshipful priest of Bel, would not be greatly dis- 
pleased if some hap of fate were to set him on the 
throne of Nebuchadnezzar? By Samas, you are 
startled ! " 

Neriglissor was smiling uneasily. " Have you the 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 359 

eyes of Nergal, dear Itti? Well, you are a good 
friend, and know the meaning of that hard word 
'silence.' His Majesty is childless, thus far; he is 
the last of his line ; if by some dispensation of heaven, 
— which Ramman f orefend, — if Avil-Marduk were 
to be summoned to the throne — " 

The banker broke the other short with a dry 
chuckle. " Ah ! then I did not hear old-wives tales 
merely. Sirusur and Bilsandan would have good 
cause for quaking with Avil wearing the purple cap. 
But the king weds the Persian, — there may be an 
heir." 

Neriglissor rolled one eye in his head. " Many 
things can befall before an heir is born to his 
Majesty." 

" Ha ! " laughed the other, " so be it, if trade is not 
disturbed, and Avil-Marduk remembers that he yet 
owes me twelve talents, be he king or priest." 

So the gossip ran in the town, and in the palace 
there was one continuous carnival. Belshazzar sat 
on his throne in the great audience hall ; two tame 
lions crouched at right and left, but he, in his kingly 
majesty looked the noblest lion of them all. Before 
him had come the captains of thousands and of hun- 
dreds, to pay obeisance and listen to the royal words of 
praise, or even receive some crowning mark of good 
will — a chain of gold hung round their necks by the 
monarch's own hand. 

Then, next to Belshazzar, all paid court to Avil- 



360 BELSHAZZAR 

Marduk, who stood more modestly in a corner of the 
great hall, while the noblest of the princes salaamed 
to him, and wished him " a thousand sons and a thou- 
sand daughters ; " for it was hardly more an hour 
of triumph for the king than for Avil. His policy of 
mingled caution and boldness had been completely 
vindicated. His influence in the royal council would 
be supreme. Never had Babylon stood so clearly 
in the zenith of glory. And now that the power of 
Cyrus seemed broken, to what bounds might not 
the dominions of the Chaldee reach? And Avil- 
Marduk was saying Avithin his crafty heart, " The 
city may ascribe the triumph to Belshazzar if they 
will, the wise will confess it won by me." Only one 
thing marred the high priest's bliss. Sirusur the Tar- 
tan and Bilsandan the vizier gave no compliments, 
only dark frowns, when they passed him; and Avil 
spoke again within himself of a certain ambition that 
boded little good for general or minister, or even 
king. 

But the hopes and fears of his underlings had 
little place in the heart of Belshazzar that day, when 
he dismissed the levee, and his parasol and fan 
bearers followed him into the harem of the palace. 
Hardly had Igas-Ramman the guards-captain de- 
parted after reporting that the last of the Persian 
host had vanished in such haste as to leave much 
valuable armour and camp furniture, when Mermaza 
came before the king with a tale that made his 
smooth face beam with complacent mirth. 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 361 

'' Let the king's heart be enlarged, his liver exalted. 
Know, my lord, Marduk sends no fair thing singly. 
May your slave speak ? '* 

" Say on." The king was smiling, too, for he saw 
Mermaza had some wondrous good fortune to relate. 

"Lord," quoth Mermaza, smirking, ''have you for- 
gotten the daughter of Daniel ? " 

" Forgotten ? By Istar, am I like to forget those 
stars, her eyes ? or how her accursed father has hid- 
den her, despite all search ? " 

" Wrong, my king." Mermaza brushed his stiffly 
pomatumed curls on the leopard's skin at Belshazzar's 
feet. " I and my eunuchs have discovered. A shy 
partridge, but she is snared." 

" Nabu prosper you, fellow ! How did you secure 
her? When? Where?" 

Mermaza's smile grew yet more honeyed. " Lord, 
your slave can tell the story quickly. Daniel hid 
the maid with his friend Imbi-Ilu at Borsippa; but 
when that traitor fled to Cyrus, he gave the maid into 
the keeping of one Dagan-Milki, a schoolmaster who 
owed Daniel some debt of gratitude. To-day in the 
rejoicings one of the older scholars, well laden with 
palm-beer, chattered somewhat in the ears of Ili- 
Kamma, the slyest rat amongst all my eunuchs. Said 
the lad, ' Our master has a strange maid in his family, 
and her manner is thus and thus.' Hi comes to me ; 
together we go to the school and house of Dagan- 
Milki. And behold! Dagan lies in the inner 
prison, and Ruth, the daughter of Daniel, waits now 



362 BELSHAZZAR 

the good pleasure of Belshazzar, the ever victorious 
king ! " 

Belshazzar gave a laugh that almost set Mermaza 
to trembling ; for it was safer sometimes to hear the 
roar of uncaged lions, than such burst of royal mirth. 
But the eunuch had naught to fear. 

" I thank you, rascal ; by every god I thank you ! 
Truly, Marduk sends all things good at once ; let 
him keep back some now, that his later store may not 
be exhausted. Where is the maid ? " 

"Already here in the harem. I have commanded 
that she be dressed in a manner pleasing to your 
Majesty." 

"And she has lost none of her beauty — she is 
fair as on that day when Darius (curses light on the 
Persian !) beguiled me into letting her slip through 
my grasp ? " 

"She has lost nothing; nay, rather, in one year 
her bud has blown to full blossom; she is doubly 
fair." 

"Again I give you thanks. Lead me to her." 
But the king paused an instant : " One thing also, — 
command that Atossa be brought to me, when I am 
with the Jewess in the harem." 

Atossa had been on the palace roof that afternoon, 
where she had spent many a long hour during the 
siege, — gazing toward the lowering walls, and pray- 
ing for the moment so long delayed, when Aryan steel 
should be flashing on the summits of those ramparts. 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 363 

And now Mermaza had come to her, declaring: 
" Rejoice, my lady ! for all Babylon rejoices. Cyrus 
raises his siege ; his host melts away like snow in the 
springtime ! " 

Then Atossa had stared hard at the eunuch, wast- 
ing no tears on such as him. " Another lie, serpent! 
Earth will turn to fire ere the host of the Aryans 
turn the back from a war once begun." 

"Nevertheless," answered Mermaza, with an un- 
usually lowly salaam, "you will find your slave's 
words do not err." 

Full soon the shouts of gladness and the tidings 
that the under servants brought into the palace told 
the Persian that Mermaza had indeed spoken well ; 
and right on the heels of this great bitterness trod a 
summons from Belshazzar to appear before him with- 
out delay. A fearful outburst rewarded the eunuch 
who brought it. 

" Get you gone ! Tell Belshazzar that Atossa will 
love to see your Chaldean ' Maskim ' more gladly 
than him." 

" Lord," explained the myrmidon, who knew how 
to soften tart messages to the king, " the Lady Atossa 
is much indisposed; she prays to see you later." 

" Much indisposed ! " roared Belshazzar, clapping 
his thigh. "Yes, by Nergal, she and all her race 
need more than an Egyptian doctor's physic for their 
ills ! Bring her hither, by force if needs be ! " 

No disobeying this ; Atossa was brought to the 
king. She found Belshazzar in one of the cool, 



364 BELSHAZZAR 

softly lighted, high- vaulted chambers of the harem ; 
he was lolling on the crimson cushions of his couch, 
in one hand his constant companion of late — a wine- 
cup. But what Atossa was swiftest to see was a 
young girl seated on a footstool at his right elbow, — 
a slender, graceful thing, but shivering, and glancing 
furtively this way and that like some trapped crea- 
ture watching for escape. Only the flutter of the 
fans of the inevitable corps of attendants broke the 
silence, when Atossa was led before the king. She 
made no motion or sound ; only looked straight be- 
fore her, with stern, glassy eyes, as if seeing all, yet 
seeing nothing. 

Belshazzar raised himself and tilted the goblet to 
his lips. 

" Your health, my queen ; may it be happier than 
that of your valorous father." 

The hot colour in Atossa's cheeks was the king's 
sole answer ; he drained, and thrust back the cup into 
the ever watchful cup-bearer's hands. 

"Lady," began he again, a trifle more soberly, 
"you have fought against the bridle, but the Chal- 
dee's curb is too strong. To-morrow you become 
indeed my wife. One year in Babylon is time enough 
to forget Susa. You are of us now." 

"I Babylonish?" demanded Atossa, and in the 
last word there was a whole weight of scorn. But 
Belshazzar only let his eyes half close in easy good 
humour. 

"You are a comely maid, even though Cyrus be 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 365 

your father. I do not repent his sending you to 
Babylon ; for Istar's self might stand beside you, and 
flush with shame. Be you who you may, you shall 
become my ' first queen ' ; and if you are but reason- 
able, you will find your least wish a law to the 
Chaldees, no sorry thing even to a princess of the 
Aryans. Not so? " 

" So I am to be first queen ? " spoke Atossa, point- 
ing with a finger; "but this woman — who is shef'' 

Belshazzar pinched the smooth arm of the maid at 
his side. 

" Look up, my queen ! The lady does not remem- 
ber the day when her marvellous archer friend Darius 
saved you from the lion. Never since then have my 
soul's eyes lost sight of you, my flower, though your 
father hid so carefully ; and I have plucked you 
at last ! The Persian is the lily, and you shall be the 
rose in my sweet nosegay ! " 

Atossa caught the girl roughly under the chin, and 
looked into her face. "Excellent taste, my king," 
she taunted ; " so this is the maid who is to divide 
honours with me. Is her father the Pharaoh, or Nadab 
the boatman ? " 

The girl shuddered out of Atossa's grasp. 

" You forget," quoth Belshazzar, ogling from one 
woman to the other ; " her father is no boatman, by 
Nergal ! though, like your own, scarce now on good 
terms with the god of good fortune. He is Daniel, 
the one time civil-minister." 

All the anger vanished from Atossa's face instantly. 



366 BELSHAZZAR 

" Were you not Ruth, who was betrothed to Isaiah 
the Jew?" asked she of the girl, who only nodded 
dumbly, for fear had stolen her power of speech. 

" And what does the king require of her ? " spoke 
the Persian, almost haughtily ; " possessing me, does 
he not possess enough ? " 

'' Fie ! " answered he ; " because I keep the swiftest 
Elamite bay in my stables, must I own no other 
charger ? You need not fear her as a rival in power. 
You shall be queen, and she ? — " he lifted the dark 
curls on the Jewess's soft neck, " we shall find her 
place when some lucky god gives back to her her 
tongue." 

Ruth cringed and shivered under the touch ; more 
than ever she seemed the dumb, netted creature. 
But Atossa took her by the hand. 

" Your Majesty," said she, more mildly than before, 
but losing none of her lofty tone of command, 
" surely you have made merry enough with your two 
slaves for to-day. Let me take the daughter of 
Daniel with me, to my chambers." 

" Let the king so favour his handmaiden." It was 
the first word Ruth had spoken. And Belshazzar 
declared, with another great laugh : — 

"So be it. Go your ways. Teach this wench 
speech, Atossa, and I thank you. But one last com- 
mand, — let the Jewess be present at the feast of 
triumph ; for if you are to shine as Istar, the other 
great goddess, Beltis, must not fail." 

Once in the private chambers of Atossa, Ruth cast 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 367 

herself on the tiles at the princess's feet and burst 
into a flood of tears. 

"O lady! if you have any power indeed, give 
one favour, a speedy death, and end my pain ! Bet- 
ter black Sheol than to hear again the voice of 
Belshazzar ! " 

But the Persian, stronger and maturer, raised her 
up, and held her head against her own breast. 

" Peace, peace. Lamentation binds up no broken 
hearts, else would mine have ceased its grieving long 
ago." 

" Ah ! merciful mistress," cried the Jewess, falling 
again on her knees, " forgive your slave ; what 
freedom is this that I have shown before your face ? 
Forgive — " 

" I forgive nothing ; there is naught to be for- 
given, " answered Atossa, with a wan smile. " We 
are equals in the wretchedness of our lot. Whether 
your plight or mine is worse, Ahura knows, not we." 

" Ah ! God is weak," groaned the Jewess, " else 
why has Belshazzar thus been suffered to blaspheme 
Him and to prosper? The king has hounded my 
lover from the city, has flung my father into a dun- 
geon, and soon will take his life. Just before you 
came to us, Belshazzar said unto me, ' Forget your 
Jewish god, my pretty, for I will teach the nations 
how helpless is the demon the Hebrews and Persians 
serve.* Once I was strong, once I bade Isaiah risk 
all for our God, and count nothing for Him too dear. 
But now, — I am not of kingly blood, as you, O 



368 BELSHAZZAE 

lady, — I can only know that to all seeming Marduk 
has conquered Jehovah." 

Atossa pointed from the window, beyond the green 
foliage of the " paradise " about the palace, beyond 
the ziggurats and the towering walls. 

" How can these things be ? I do not know. 
Ahura-Mazda is all-wise and all-good. That should 
suffice, were we but perfect as His ' Ameshaspentas.' 
But this I know: beyond those walls are Cyrus and 
Darius and Isaiah ; and while those three live, let 
these Babylonish swine grunt their boastings, I know 
that hope is not ended." 

" But Cyrus departs. His princes disobey him, and 
turn against him." 

Atossa pointed again toward the window. " Cyrus 
departs ? Little you know my father, or the princes 
of the Persians, and our Aryan fealty. Other kings 
have cried 'victory' when they warred with Cyrus — 
but those kings, where are they?" 

" Then you still hope ? " almost implored the 
Jewess. 

" Yes, because Ahura still sends Mithra the ' fiend- 
smiter,' into the heavens, pledge of His favour; and 
because Cyrus, lord of the Aryans, is Cyrus still ; and 
Darius, son of Hystaspes, is Darius still." 

"Yes, lady," cried Ruth, still quivering, "hope 
is sweet ; but I have long hoped, and hoped in vain ; 
and it grows hard. To-morrow is the feast, and after 
the feast Belshazzar will possess us utterly." 

" The time truly is short " — Atossa's eyes, for the 



BELSHAZZAR SECURES HIS PREY 369 

first time that day shone with tears ; " yet if Ahura 
willeth, one last moment shall yet bring low this 
Babylon and its most evil king." 

" But we ? " 

Atossa shook her head impatiently. 

"We are only women, made to trust and bear. 
We can only wait his will." 




THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 




CHAPTER XXIV 



NIGHTFALL again ; and again a feast at the 
same hour when one year earlier Belshazzar had 
given a banquet to the daughter of Cyrus and pro- 
claimed her his prospective bride. At early dawn all 
Babylonians had awakened to eat, drink, and make 
merry. Every beer-house had reechoed with drunken 
revel. No business in the bazaars, no priests chant- 
ing their litanies on the temple-towers. The great 
merchants had thrown open their doors to the most 
distant friends, who were welcome to enter and quaff 
a deep-bellied flagon. By noon half Babylon was in 
drink: drunken sailors roaring along the quays, 
drunken priestesses at their orgies with tipsy youths 
in the groves of Istar, drunken soldiers splashing 
their liquor as they stood guard on walls and gates. 
Cyrus was gone. The siege was at an end. What 
need of watch and ward? One would have thought 
the city had forgotten Marduk and Samas, to adore 
the one god. Wine I 

As the first twilight spread, the multitudes com- 
menced to surge through the open gates of the palace. 
Long before the proper feast was prepared the royal 

370 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 371 

stewards had brought skins of the rarest vintage 
from the palace cellars, and emptied them into the 
great silver mixing-bowls which stood in every cor- 
ner of the vast courts, with a busy eunuch by each, 
handing forth goblets to great and small — for all 
Babylon could call itself Belshazzar's guest that 
night. The walls of the courts had been hung with 
gay stuffs curiously embroidered ; over each of the 
courts rippled a vast awning of Sidonian purple, hung 
by a clever system of pulleys, making the huge 
space one banqueting chamber. And under this 
canopy, as everywhere else in the king's house, — 
save the inner harem, — jostled the shouting, rioting 
multitude, maddened with drink: ass-drivers, gar- 
deners, artisans, women, children even, pressing 
around the eunuchs and stretching forth eager hands 
for the goblets, with only a single cry : " Wine ! 
Wine ! More ! More ! " 

In and out through this human whirlpool ploughed 
Khatin the giant headsman ; other pates might whirl 
with the cheer, not his, though none had seen the 
bottom of more cups that night than he. 

" One year to-night," the executioner was braying, 
"since the betrothal feast; you recall your dear 
friend Khanni was with us then. Pity his Majesty 
bade me end his services four months since ! " 

"Peace; speak not of it!" groaned the eunuch 
Nabua, who dragged, very tipsy, on Khatin's 
arm. 

"Silence, then, if you wish. Well, to-morrow I 



372 BELSHAZZAR 

trust to sav farewell to those Persian noblemen taken 
in the sally — stout lads, all of them ! " 

"But Darius has slid through your clutch," hic- 
coughed Nabua, snatching a honey-cake from a table, 
grasping and swallowing almost as one act. 

"Darius? Yes, all the gods have won a grudge 
from me by that. But I shall be repaid. Avil-Mar- 
duk will have a free course against the Jews now. 
I doubt not to chaffer with that surly oaf, old Daniel, 
before another Sabbath." 

" Sure of this ? " 

"So Mermaza whispered in my ear to-day. Imbi- 
Ilu is no longer in the city, to raise riots in the Jew's 
behalf. Avil has sworn Daniel's death. Not even 
his Majesty could save him, if he wished." 

" The procession ! The king I Way ! Way ! " 
bawled many. "To the great court!" Hardly did 
Khatin with all his might win an entrance to this 
huge enclosure, so vast was the crowd. Where save 
in Babylon was a like banqueting space! One hun- 
dred and fifty cubits long, one hundred broad ; walls 
to the height of five men ; the pictured walls of en- 
amelled brick, the castellated and gilded parapet above ; 
the great purple awning on high : the giant winged 
bulls at the many entrances, — this was the scene that 
glowed under the light of six score silver lamps hung 
from the awning, and as many resinous, red torches 
flaring in the sockets on the wall. 

Straight across the lower half of the court stretched 
a rope barrier, cutting off the vulgar herd. Above, a 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 373 

bevy of eunuchs were making the last arrangements 
for the feast, setting innumerable chairs and stools 
beside the low tables, or hanging a great bower of 
dark cypress above the high couch on the dais at the 
end, where Belshazzar would take his wine, view- 
ing and viewed by all. 

Suddenly the brawl even of drunken voices was 
hushed. 

" Hark ! The king and all his captains ! " 

Nearer and nearer was approaching the clangour of 
cymbals and of kettle-drums; then out of the din 
burst the wailing of flutes and the blare of the war- 
horns. A louder crash, — fifty harps and zithers were 
joining. Into the court came filing two long lines of 
spearmen in silvered armour, who swept the multitude 
to right and left, then halted, leaving a long lane for 
the royal procession. After the soldiers marched the 
musicians, handsome men, each wearing the tall, 
peaked mitre of his guild : and after these a company 
at sight whereof every onlooker craned his neck, and 
a loud " ah ! " arose. 

"The Persian prisoners," grunted Khatin in Na- 
bua's ear ; " to-night they shall see his Majesty's tri- 
umph. To-morrow they shall die. Hah! They 
strut haughtily enough ! " Then he howled aloud as 
the captives came nearer, " Fine plunder, my merry 
sirs, are you finding in Babylon ; sad your dear lord 
Cyrus is not near you now ! " 

But the pinioned Persians were led straight for- 
ward. Cords had been fastened to rings in their lips, 



374 BELSHAZZAR 

by which their guards could drag them. Around the 
necks of many dangled unsightly objects — the heads 
of comrades whose bodies had fallen into the Chal- 
dees' hands. A thousand jeers flew around them ; 
but no Persian repaid with so much as a shake of the 
head or a curse. Even the most drunken of all that 
throng felt a small mite of respect, if not of pity, for 
these men, who showed their foes that where an Aryan 
could not conquer, he at least knew how to die. 
Silently they were arrayed inside the barriers, to 
await the royal pleasure. And now all forgot them, 
as, with more musicians accompanying into the court, 
marched the priests of Bel-Marduk, bearing glaring 
flambeaux. The ruddy light flickered on the white 
dresses and sleek goatskins of the priests, and their 
mitres set with bullocks' horns. The company ranged 
itself before the soldiers, that the king might pass up 
a lighted way. Loudly now rose their triumph song 
— for was this not the night of Bel-Marduk's own 
victory ? 

" O Ruler eternal 1 O Lord of all being ! 
Smiter of the foes of Belshazzar thy servant : 
Who stillest the ragings of Cyrus the Persian : 
Hast broken his spear, hast shattered his quiver : 
Confounding his god and the vile Jewish demon : 
We praise thee, and with us all Babylon worships I " 

The chant ended with a terrific clap of cym- 
bals and thunder of drums. Then the wonted 
cry was spreading : " The knee ! the knee ! Hail ! 
Hail ! Belshazzar ! " Soldiers again : the chosen 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 375 

sword-hands of the guard, the golden scales of the 
armour flashing : scarlet pennons trailing from every 
spear-head. Behind them on a lofty litter rode Bel- 
shazzar the king, — never more kingly than now, 
never arrayed before in costlier robes and tiara. And 
at sight of him a great shout rose spontaneously from 
the multitude. 

"A god and not a man! Marduk appears on 
earth! Happy Babylon — your king was begotten 
in heaven ! " 

Belshazzar looked neither to one side nor the other, 
the faces of the stone bulls more mobile than his. 
" The king was indeed half god — what part had the 
son of Marduk with the life of vulgar men ! " so his 
thought ran. 

Under the firm steps of twelve great noblemen 
moved the litter. Right behind was a second, not 
so high, yet lofty also, and she that rode therein 
exposed to common sight. And now there was a 
titter here, a taunt there, and yonder silence. 

" The daughter of Cyrus ! " " Joyful day for her ! " 
" Away with the chalk-white Persian ! " 

White indeed was Atossa, but Belshazzar gave the 
multitude no less heed than she. Where better to 
show her Aryan pride and courage, than before these 
c?flBva-worshippers ! 

"Fie, Persian wench!" hissed the tipsy Nabua, 
" your eyes turn green as a cat's with rage ! " But 
a great hand clapped un gently upon his mouth. 

" Peace, fool," Khatin whispered hoarsely. " Per- 



376 BELSHAZZAR 

sian or Chaldee, I know a true man or a true maid. 
Where is the Babylonish hussy who could bear herself 
in Susa thus ? " 

Three more litters, bearing Tavat-Hasina, the 
stately queen-mother, Avil-Marduk, and the Jewess 
Ruth. Both women, like Atossa, shone with jewels 
that twinkled under every torch ; but Avil was clad 
in perfectly plain robes and fillet, — strange con- 
trast to the gay-robed company about. He met the 
gaze of the multitude with his wonted stare and 
smile, arrogant almost as his royal betters. But 
the Jewess was quaking like aspen behind her purple 
and crimson. She said nothing; but her great eyes 
were wandering all about, well telling the terror that 
had sunk too deep for tear or cry. 

Then behind the litters came the lords and captains 
of the Chaldees, two by two, and more gilded ar- 
mour, gem-crusted helmets, brilliant mantles and sur- 
coats; stately men all, who had anew given their 
Babylon the proud title of "Lady of Kingdoms," 
for they were the first warriors before whom Cyrus, 
the terrible Aryan, had turned away in defeat. 

Belshazzar had stretched himself on the high 
couch, the ladies and pontiff took the chairs set at 
his side, the captains were seating themselves below 
at the many small tables. Yet the king's eyes 
wandered about, inquiringly. "Where is Sirusur 
the general ? " 

Whereupon Bilsandan the vizier approached with 
a profound salaam. 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 377 

" River of Omnipotence ! the Tartan asks me to 
beseech that he be pardoned. He lies unwell in his 
own house; much service and the reopening of an 
old wound drive him to his bed." 

" Lord," quoth Avil, sotto voce, to his master, 
" Sirusur was anything but ill this noon. To my 
mind — " 

But Bilsandan interrupted nigh testily : " Priest, 
you sniff for treason as a hound for a hare ! Is it 
conspiracy for the king's generals to be stricken with 
the sickness-demon ? " 

" Nevertheless," objected the priest, " let a mes- 
senger be sent to Sirusur's palace — " 

But the vizier sneered boldly : " My dear pontiff, 
not one ' double-hour ' since I saw him on his bed, 
with five wizards from your own temple preparing 
incantations over him. Shall we not rather vow 
three steers that he come from their clutches 
safely ? " 

" Samas protect Sirusur from the ' five fiends,' " 
laughed the king. " I mourn his absence, but he is 
forgiven. Enough delay ! Let the feast begin." 

Instantly, as by magic, the tapestries upon the 
walls were brushed aside, revealing doorways, 
whence a long procession of eunuchs filed into the 
hall, each bearing a silver dish or basket ; and soon 
fish and flesh of every manner were piled upon the 
dishes of the king's guests. Nor were the throngs 
below the rope barriers forgotten ; here, too, food 
was served until man and child could take no more. 



378 BELSHAZZAR 

The music rose and fell in swaying rhythm and 

cadence ; and now and again the choir of Bel would 

burst into their song of praise to god and king, 

raising their psean louder, louder, until the canopies 

quivered ; — 

" Bel-Marduk, sovereign of archers, 
Bel-Marduk, spoiler of cities, 
Bel-Marduk, lord of all gods, 
Bel-Marduk, who rulest forever; 
Thee, thee we praise ! " 

After the carp and pigeons had vanished, lo! 
amid shout and creaking, four flower-wreathed cars 
were wheeled into the court, each groaning with the 
weight of a roasted ox. Then the company — as if 
they had starved before — fell to feasting with true 
glutton's zest. From time to time Belshazzar would 
deign to command Mermaza to bear to this or that 
captain a morsel of meat carved from the king's own 
plate, — a rare mark of favour to the happy soldier 
thus commended. 

So at first the feasters devoured in silence ; then 
when even the hunger of the mighty men of the 
Chaldees began abating, the talk ran swiftly. Vainly 
Belshazzar strove to force the Jewess into speech. 
The Persian answered the king only curtly. Then 
at last he stretched forth his mighty hands, plucked 
Ruth by the arm, and drew her close to his couch. 

" Hail, daughter of Cyrus ! do you not hate your 
rival ? " cried he. 

But Atossa only answered, though the flush on 
her cheek grew crimson : — 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 379 

" I pity the lord of the Chaldees." 

"Pity?" Belshazzar stared at the Persian. 

" Yes, verily ! What save pity for a king who uses 
his power more to torture helpless women than to 
perform right kingly deeds ? " 

Belshazzar thrust the Jewess away with a curse. 
" Allat possess you, girl ! Why is your touch so 
icy cold ? " Then fiercely to Atossa, " Speak out, 
Persian ; what mean you ? " 

" Mean ? " Atossa leaned forward from her own 
seat, and met his angry glare unflinchingly ; she 
spoke in a whisper, yet a whisper that could be 
heard for far around : " I say that if it were Cyrus 
who had won the victory you boast, he would not be 
lolling over a stalled ox and wine, but in the field, 
grinding to dust his fleeing enemies. But I speak as 
a Persian barbarian — the Chaldees are wiser. Their 
watchmen drink and sleep snug to-night, knowing 
that the Aryan's power is broken utterly." 

Belshazzar gave a laugh so loud that every feaster 
kept silence before the king. "Bravely sped are 
your arrows, lady ! I praise you ! Were your race 
as valiant with the sword as you with your tongue, 
scarce would we be feasting here. Yet look on those 
captives yonder, choicest princes of Cyrus's host. 
Where is his power if he suffer such to be taken ? " 

** Beware to boast ; the Persian memories are 
long. They will not forget revenge in a year or a 
generation." 

" Long truly if they would wait the crumbling of 



380 BELSHAZZAR 

Imgur-Bel and Nimitti-Bel ! " But here the king 
halted, for Bilsandan approached his couch once 
more. 

"May the king's liver increase, his heart find 
rest ! " saluted the vizier. " I crave his compassion. 
A messenger from my palace : my youngest daughter 
lies grievously ill — a sudden torment sent by the 
'Maskim.' Be gracious, and suffer me to quit the 
feast." 

Belshazzar frowned. " You and Sirusur both away ? 
I like it little. Yet go ; I can refuse no boon to- 
night." 

But the vizier had another request. " Lord, these 
Persian captives are a doleful sight at so gay a feast. 
Command that they be taken away." 

The king nodded carelessly. Bilsandan whispered 
to the prisoners' guards and was gone; a moment 
later the captives were removed also, followed by the 
hoots of many. Mermaza, who was serving the royal 
party, laid his head beside Avil's for ;in instant. 

" First the general and then the vizier. Strange ! 
I would stake five wine-skins these excuses are lies ! " 

"I believe you," was the guarded answer; "but 
what mischief can hatch to-night? Yet I mourn 
that the king dismissed Bilsandan so readily." 

" Ha ! " interrupted Belshazzar ; " enough of fowl 
and oxen ; bring on the wine. Wine, the true gift of 
the gods, is the crowning of the feast ! " 

The music crashed again. The nimble eunuchs 
cleared away the viands in a trice, and as quickly 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 381 

brought in the great mixing-bowls of chased gold 
and silver. One huge tankard of perfumed Damas- 
cus they set beside the king; and Avil, taking a 
jewelled cup, stood pouring libation and praying 
loudly: "Grant, O Istar, O Nabu, O Bel, mighty 
deities whose power is over Babylon, that Belshazzar 
your servant may reign ten thousand years. Let his 
foes stumble, their weapons break, their bodies grow 
fruit for his sword. And so will we offer you sacrifice 
forever ! '* 

Then on one knee Mermaza passed to Belshazzar 
another cup ; and the monarch raised it with the cry : 
" Away with the ' care-demon ' and his kind this 
night. This is the time appointed by Nabu for glee. 
When has Babylon shaken off a foe like Cyrus the 
Persian ? Drink, men of Babylon, drink to the 
present glory and the coming triumphs of your 
king ! " 

" Wine ! Wine I " from every captain and sword- 
hand; and the goblets went back to the waiting 
eunuchs in a twinkling. 

Atossa had never seen Belshazzar so riotous before. 
He seemed to have let the mad spirit of the hour 
gain utter possession of him. 

" Drink ! " he shouted again, " drink ! He is 
traitor who does not measure seven goblets." Then, 
turning to Atossa, he thrust his own cup into her 
hand. " I have been cruel, lady," — his voice sank 
into hoarse soothing, — " cruel, because hitherto you 
have been Persian. But to-night you are become 



382 BELSHAZZAR 

Babylonish by becoming my wife. We strike hands 
in a truce. Peace is better than war. Bel-Marduk 
is your god now, not Ahura the helpless. Are 
you not ' Queen of Sumer and Akkad ' ? Ask what- 
ever you will, if in reason, and I will not refuse. 
But drink you with the rest, — drink to the tri- 
umphs yet to be won by Belshazzar your husband, 
whose glories are all yours." 

Mechanically Atossa tasted ; put the goblet away. 
But Belshazzar still in his mood ran on : " Yes, you 
are a great king's daughter, and worthy to be my 
wife, though Persian born. As for this Jewess 
here," with a leer at Ruth, " she shall learn to love 
me, when her father and his cursed god are all 
forgot. The fiends blast me; why can I not drive 
the thought of that drivelling Hebrew from my 
mind? To-morrow Khatin ends him, or I am no 
king." 

But to the threat and curse neither Ruth nor 
Atossa answered, for the iron had long since entered 
deep into their souls. 

Already the first set of mixing-bowls were emp- 
tied ; the eunuchs bustled in with others. The 
rounded bottoms of the silver goblets, making it 
impossible to lay them down, forced rapid drinking. 
Avil sat and quaffed in silence ; but once or twice 
paused to cast sinister glances toward the vacant seat 
of Bilsandan. "A care, good vizier," spoke he to 
his own heart, " beware ; the time is not far when I 
will brush you and the general from my path, as 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 383 

I served Daniel and Imbi-Hu ; and then if aught 
of mortal fate befell the king — " 

But these forecastings were broken by the entrance 
of a great corps of harem girls, clothed in gauzy 
dresses of all the tints of the rainbow. While the 
harps tinkled softly they came before the king, to 
the space cleared at the foot of the dais, and sped 
about in sensuous dances, raven locks flying, smooth 
brown limbs twinkling, while they wove their figures. 
And again and again their delicate voices joined with 
the priests' in the great chorus to Bel, bestower of 
all Babylon's bright glory : — 

" Bel-Marduk, who rulest forever, 
Thee, thee we praise ! " 

The music throbbed faster and faster, the players 
breaking into ever madder melodies, as though their 
music was answering to the mounting and throbbing 
of the wine. Belshazzar had sunk back on his couch 
in contented re very, scarce watching the dancers. 
What king of the Chaldees before him had opened 
his reign with a fairer triumph? Already to Bel- 
shazzar's vision the artists were portraying upon 
the palace walls, in imperishable stone and enamel, 
the mighty deeds of the all-victorious son of Na- 
bonidus. Already before the king's mind Media, 
Armenia, Egypt, and farthest Tartary lay conquered. 
Nay, the barbarous tribes of the Greeks beside 
their distant sea should learn to pay tribute to the 
monarch of " Babylon the Great." But the king's 
dreaming ended when Avil touched his elbow and 



384 BELSHAZZAE, 

whispered in his ear. And at the next interval in 
the dances Belshazzar had a command for the chief 
of the eunuchs : — 

" Hasten. Bring us the captured vessels, sacred 
to the gods of the nations I and the great kings my 
fathers have put to shame. For we will drink from 
them to the deities whose favour is upon Babylon." 

An expected order, and quickly obeyed. The 
eunuchs put in the hands of the captains, the harem 
girls, and the musicians, innumerable fresh goblets 
of gold and silver, of many and curious patterns. 
But to Belshazzar Mermaza bore three golden drink- 
ing-cups, each huge and crusted with jewels. Then 
the kins: took the first and raised himself from the 
couch before the vast throng. What with his tiara, 
his own fair stature, and his lofty seat, he seemed 
a god indeed. 

" Again, lords of the Chaldees I " he commanded, 
"drink again! I hold the goblet used by Pharaoh 
Necho, in worship of Ammon-Ra, his god. Nebuchad- 
nezzar took it in the great battle of Karkhemish. 
Where is the power of Ammon against our Babylon- 
ish gods ? " Belshazzar held the glittering goblet on 
high. " Rise, Ammon, god of Egypt, rise ! Thou art 
mocked ! Display thy power ! " Perfect silence, 
and the king shouted again, " Drink then with me, 
since Ammon lies helpless, a pledge to our great 
Istar, ' the Lady of Battles ' ! " 

" Hail ! Hail to Istar ! " from a thousand, and 
they drank the pledge. 



THE WARNING OF JEHOVAH 385 

A second goblet was in Belshazzar*s hand; and 
again he called : " Look — a vessel taken from the 
temple of Assur in Nineveh, when our fathers sacked 
the city. Rise, Assur, — rise, god of Assyria ! Thou 
art mocked. — Helpless also — drink therefore again, 
a pledge to our Samas, ' the Glory of the Heavens ' ! " 

" Hail to Samas, the undying sun god ! " was the 
tumultuous answer. But the king had not ended. 

" Look, warriors and princes ! I hold the goblet 
taken from Jerusalem, from the temple of the 
impotent demon the shambling Jews and flying 
Persians fear. When did Jehovah save Zedekiah 
the Hebrew out of the Chaldee's power? And how 
now shall Cyrus, who cries to him under the name 
of Ahura, find deliverance from my hands? For 
Cyrus has turned away ashamed, his vassals fail 
him, his god is helpless, his power is broken ! 
Victorious war is before your king, and empire never 
won before ! " 

" Victory ! Victory to Belshazzar, the favoured of 
Marduk ! " so the vast company cried ; and the king 
yet a third time uplifted a goblet. 

"Rise, Jehovah, or Ahura, — whatever .be thy 
name, — rise ; thou art mocked ! " Again the pause 
and stillness, then the shout of the king: " Rise, rise ! 
thou who art boasted all-powerful. I defy thee, I 
laugh thee to scorn." The great cup was nearing his 
lips. " For the third and last pledge, men of Baby- 
lon — to Bel-Marduk, whose power waxeth forever ; 
who shall be praised a thousand ages after the Per- 



386 BELSHAZZAR 

sians' and Hebrews' god is forgotten! To Bel- 
Marduk, lord of lords, and god of gods, drink ! " 

But as every man lifted his own wine-cup, and the 
shout of the pledge was on his tongue, there was 
suddenly a silence. The goblet fell from the royal 
fingers. They saw terror flash across the king's 
face as he looked upward ; and each beheld some- 
thing moving against the plastered wall. . . . 




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NABU BETRAYS BEL-MARDUK 




CHAPTER XXV 



SINCE first dusk the army of Cyrus had been in 
motion : the horse-archers of Tartary, the Hin- 
doo infantry, the Persian lancers. The army marched 
in silence, no kettle-drums thundering, no war-horns 
blaring, the commands sent softly down the long 
line, from officer to officer. When the last bars of 
light had flickered out in the west, there had come a 
halt; bread and wine were passed among the men, 
the horses were watered in a canal : and Orasmasdes, 
chief of the Magians, shook incense into the portable 
altar carried beside the king, and offered prayer. 
Softly yet clearly rose the song in praise of Mithra, 
the great minister of Ahura-Mazda : — 

" His chariot is borne onward by Holiness. 
The law of Ahura shall open the way for him ; 
At his right hand speeds Obedience the holy, 
At his left hand flies powerful Justice, 
Behind him drives lie-smiting Fire ! " 

When the chant was finished the General Gobryas 
rode up beside the royal chariot. 

" Lord of the Aryans, what shall be the battle-cry 

to-night?" 

387 



388 BELSHAZZAR 

And Cyrus, leaning from the car, made answer, 
" Give this battle-cry to the host, as it shall enter 
Babylon, — ' For Ahura, for Atossa ! ' " 

The officer bowed, vanished in the deepening gloom. 
Cyrus turned to his charioteer. " Forward ! " he 
commanded softly. 

The reins shook over the white Nisaeans. As the 
chariot moved onward, the thousands made haste to 
follow. Once Atrobanes, the " handkerchief-bearer," 
who cantered beside his lord, ventured remonstrance. 

"Will not your Majesty take your litter? My 
lord is not so young as once. If he drive all night, 
he will grow weary." 

Cyrus stood erect upon the car, taller seemingly 
than ever. 

" Peace, good friend ; the king of the Aryans has s 

at least the strength to ride when his children are 
marching, and with such a prize before ! " 

" True," quoth the other, as he rode beside, " even 
your Majesty does not often stretch forth his hands 
to take a Babylon." 

"Do you think I ride for Babylon this night?" 
demanded the king, almost angrily. 

But Atrobanes did not reply ; he knew the guerdon 
of all the deeds that night would not be " The Lady 
of Kingdoms " but the Lady Atossa. 

So onward in the darkness, the trailing host 
keeping wondrously still. They had wound wisps 
of hay around shield and scabbard and over the 
horses' hoofs to deaden all noise. As the night 



NABU BETRAYS BEL-MARDUK 389 

advanced, the sense of awe sank deeper. Even the 
beasts gave no whinny ; only as one clapped an ear 
close to the earth would he have caught the jar and 
rhythm of many men marching. The sky along one 
horizon was just beginning to overcast and hide a 
few stars. Soldier muttered to soldier, " There will 
be a storm, — lightning and thunder." But for the 
hour all the elements kept silence, with no wind 
creeping across the plain or lifting the lifeless pen- 
nons. 

Cyrus had ridden long without speaking, when 
the muffled canter of two horsemen sounded, ap- 
proaching from ahead. A moment later Darius and 
Isaiah were reining beside the monarch's car. 

" You meet nothing ? no alarm ? no watchers ? " 
asked the king in a whisper. 

" None, lord," answered Darius ; " we rode to the 
shadow of the outer wall ; there was no sentry to 
challenge us." 

" The stillness may be ominous," remarked Cyrus, 
shrewdly — " a pretended carelessness to lure us under 
the walls, when Belshazzar can fling wide his sally- 
ports and dash on us with his thousands. And you 
did grievous wrong in perilling your lives so near." 

"Am I not a Persian too, your Majesty?" answered 
the prince in his pride ; " have I not learned to dare 
and to do from you and from none other ? " 

" True," they knew Cyrus was smiling, " but Bel- 
shazzar may nevertheless have set a trap." 

"Then the Babylonians' guile is deeper yet," re- 



390 BELSHAZZAE 

plied Darius ; " you do not see, my lord, in the dark- 
ness, who it is Isaiah has mounted behind him." 

" A deserter from Babylon ? " 

" Imbi-Ilu, the exiled pontiff of Borsippa, just come 
from the city. Let him speak for himself." 

The chariot halted, while a figure leaped to the 
ground from behind the Jew, and salaamed before 
the king. 

"May every god shine on your Majesty," Imbi 
reported; "at no small peril your slave disguised 
himself as commanded and entered Babylon. He 
has communicated with Bilsandan the vizier, and Siru- 
sur the Tartan. They accept your Majesty's promises, 
and rejoice to become your servants, — the more be- 
cause Avil-Marduk works hourly on Belshazzar to 
gain their ruin. The guards on the gates have been 
withdrawn by Sirusur, the rest of the garrison is nigh 
drunken to a man. My priests at Borsippa swear 
they will not fail." 

" The garrison drunken ? Is Belshazzar mad ; 
does he think my power shattered so utterly ? " asked 
Cyrus, marvelling. 

" Be that as it may, my king," interposed Isaiah, 
"while we awaited Imbi-Ilu under the walls, we 
heard from within nothing else than the sound of 
music and of revelling. The Chaldees are not Per- 
sians. Their god is the wine-cup, if the truth be 
told. Jehovah has caught them in their wickedness. 
He has led them into the net prepared by His ser- 
vants." 



NABU BETRAYS BEL-MARDUK 391 

" So be it," remarked Cyrus ; then to the priest 
he hinted sternly, " Your friends will do well to keep 
troth. Let there be treachery in this, and I swear 
by your gods and by mine, I will lift your head from 
your shoulders I " 

The Babylonian was not discomposed. " And I 
accept the warning; if I or my priests of Nabu 
play false, do to me as you will. But if Babylon is 
taken — " 

" You shall not fail in your reward," declared 
Cyrus, " on the word of a Persian king ; I renew my 
promise of the high priesthood of B el-Mar duk in 
Avil's stead." 

" Forward then," urged the Chaldee ; " let the king 
possess his city." 

The charioteer made the lash whistle, the car whirled 
forward. The shadow of the great walls was above 
them now ; speed, not silence, demanded ; the guards 
about the king pricked with the spur to keep beside. 
Darius spoke again to Cyrus : — 

" Lord, Imbi-Ilu tells us that at midnight Belshaz- 
zar quits his bridal feast." 

Cyrus shot a glance up at the heavens, where the 
advancing clouds had not yet quenched all the star- 
light. 

" By the movement of the stars, it lacks three hours 
of midnight," he answered. 

"We must therefore take all Babylon in three 
hours. Away with prudence ; haste, oh, haste ! " 
cried the prince. 



392 BELSHAZZAK 

But Cyrus spoke back to him, " If so Ahura will- 
eth, in three twinklings of an eye we could yet save 
Atossa ! " 

But, notwithstanding, they heard the king's great 
voice swell out in a shout that was music in the ears 
of all the army. 

" Forward, men of Iran ! " 

It was the word that let the hounds slip from the 
leash, that uncaged the lion. Directly above their 
heads was the beetling rampart ; they saw the glassy 
shimmer of the broad canal under the vanishing stars, 
and they heard — from within the vast bulwark, even 
as Isaiah had said — the sound of mirth and of harp- 
ing. The footmen burst into a run, every horseman 
pricked deeper, while one shout, though in many 
tongues, echoed against the fortress. 

" The Father ! The Father ! Let us die for Cyrus 
our king ! " 

Then the battlements surely quivered while a 
second shout smote them, " For Ahura, for Atossa ! " 

The echoes died; no battle-cry from behind the 
walls pealed in answer. The column was skirting 
the southern rampart, when yet another messenger 
flew up beside the king. 

"I come from the Princes Harpagus and Hystas- 
pes; their troopers are in station before the north- 
ern city. They attack as soon as the uproar proclaims 
that the king is assaulting." 

No answer from Cyrus, for the van was beside the 
water-gate of the great canal of Borsippa. The 



NABU BETRAYS BEL-MARDUK 393 

column perforce had halted. The last stars had fled. 
It was very dark. The walls above seemed barriers 
lifted to the very gates of heaven; undefended, might 
not Belshazzar's city mock its mightiest foe? The 
canal was creeping through the dark cage -work of 
the bronze water-gate. For an instant was stillness, 
while king and soldier waited ; and then, all vaguely, 
they saw the great fabric of metal rising, crawling 
like a sluggish monster from its slimy bed. Unseen 
chains and pulleys strained, grated; the gate rose 
higher; now the canal coursed freely under, now it 
was lifted to the height of a mounted man. Close 
under the wall lay a causeway, wide enough for a 
single cavalryman to enter. Nimitti-Bel was un- 
sealed ! 

Out of the darkness appeared figures and flickering 
torches. 

" Live forever, O king," spoke Sirusur the betrayer, 
" the city is sunken in mirth and drunkenness. For- 
ward boldly — you will dash the wine-cup from Bel- 
shazzar's own hand." 

Cyrus started to descend from the chariot. 

" A horse," he commanded abruptly ; " there is no 
space for the car to enter." 

But at his words one cry of protest arose from 
Darius and all the officers, " The king will not him- 
self enter the city ! " 

"Not enter?" Cyrus's voice became stern and 
high. "Am I not king? To whom may I give 
account?" 



394 BELSHAZZAE. 

None stirred to obey him. Moments were rubies ; 
the monarch was swelling with anger. 

" Have I not commanded ? I can yet be terrible 
to the disobedient. I am still the * Giver of Breath ' 
to all Iran ! " 

But the others stood mute and motionless. The 
preciousness of the hour made Cyrus blind to all save 
his desires. He bounded from the car, and snatched 
a mounted officer with a giant's clutch. 

" Down ! Your horse ! " he commanded thickly. 
The man was helpless in that grasp, but suddenly a 
dozen hands were put forth upon the king himself. 

" Lord," said Gobryas, the senior general present, 
" we cannot suffer this thing. Your Majesty must 
remain without the gates till your slaves have mas- 
tered the city." 

The king struggled to be free. 

" Must ? Not even you may use that word to me. 
As Ahura liveth, you shall die for this madness." 

But the others did not release him. 

"Lord," repeated Gobryas, "when your Majesty 
wills, I bow my neck to the stroke ; but till then, I 
love the ' Light of the Aryans ' too well to see it 
quenched, even at its wish." 

" But I implore you — " protested the king, for 
commands were useless. 

And Gobryas answered, "We love the king too 
well even to heed his prayers." 

Cyrus gave one bitter groan, but he remounted the 
chariot and said no more. 



NABU BETRAYS BEL-MARDUK 395 

" Advance," entreated Sirusur ; " every instant 
gives Belshazzar chance to take alarm, and my work 
is undone ! " 

"We will enter," spoke Darius; and in the faint 
torchlight they saw Cyrus bow his head. Then 
every officer bent low in the saddle, saluting the 
king. The host behind was fretting and wondering 
at the strange delay. But once more the king's com- 
mand rang out strong. " Forward, my children ! 
And swiftly — your father prays it ! " 

" For Ahura, for Atossa ! " 

So thundered Darius, and as all the rest rolled on 
the cry, he sent his steed at headlong gallop straight 
through the narrow portal ; after him Isaiah, after 
him the choicest of the Aryan cavalry. Within 
the gate the priests of Nabu met them with more 
horses and torches to guide them on their way ; for 
the Borsippa folk's hatred of Avil-Marduk passed 
their dread of the Persian. Darius glanced over his 
shoulder, — the gate had been forced wide open, 
the sword-hands and lancers of his people were 
pouring in by tens, by hundreds. The gate of 
Imgur-Bel opened wide for them. Let Belshazzar 
defend his inner barrier as he might, the strongest 
were lost him. The night was darker yet, the 
storm was rumbling nearer. But far away, down 
the long vista of Nana Street shone a dull redness 
against an inky sky — the torches and bonfires of 
the palace, where the Lord of the Chaldees sat at 
feast. 



396 BELSHAZZAR 

Darius pressed the spur until his good beast almost 
screamed with the pain. 

" The City of the Lie is ours ! " he cried to Isaiah, 
who flew beside him, while a thousand raged close 
behind. "Ours! And Belshazzar is ours! — and 
Atossa ! " 



'W 



CHAPTER XXVI 



THERE on the wall the letters glowed, right under 
the torch-holder ; glowed like ruddy fire, the 
whole dread inscription spreading in one long, terrible 
line under the eyes of king and nobles. While Bel- 
shazzar looked, his bronzed cheeks turned ashen. The 
awful hand had vanished the instant the sentence 
was written, — gone — whither ? The lord of the 
Chaldees gazed upon his servants, and they — back at 
their master, while none spoke. But the letters did 
not vanish; their steadfast light burned calmly on. 
Then came another fearful deed ; for Belshazzar 
caught the golden cup that had fallen from his hand, 
and dashed it against the wall. A great square of 
the plaster fell, but lo ! the letters were burning still. 
Then new silence, while every man heard the beatings 
of his heart and thought on his unholy deeds. 

But the stillness could not last forever. Belshazzar 
broke it. The pallor was still on his face, his knees 
smote together, his voice quivered; but he was 
kinglier than the rest, even in his fear, — he at 
least was brave enough for speech. 

"Ho ! captains of Babylon ! Why do we gape like 

397 



398 BELSHAZZAK 

purblind sheep ? A notable miracle from the gods ! 
Some new favour, no doubt, vouchsafed by Marduk ! " 

No one answered ; all strength had fled from the 
stoutest sword-hand. Belshazzar's voice rose to a 
sterner pitch, as he faced the array of priests. 

" What mean these letters ? They are not the 
characters of the Chaldee. Their meaning ? Here 
are learned men, wise in every tongue. Translate to 
us!" 

Still no answer ; and the king's wrath now mastered 
all his fears. 

" Fools ! " his hand was on his sword-hilt ; " Mar- 
duk has not added to the miracle by smiting all 
dumb." He confronted the " chief of the omen- 
revealers," who stood close to the dais. 

" Here, Gamilu, this falls within your duties. Look 
on the writing. Interpret without delay ; or, as 
Marduk is god, another has your office ! " 

Gamilu, a venerable pontiff, lifted his head, and 
stared at the inscription. He mumbled inaudibly, 
but the royal eye was on him. With vain show of 
confidence he commenced : — 

" Live forever, lord of the Chaldees ! A fortunate 
sign, on a doubly fortunate day ! This is the word 
which Bel, the sovereign god, has sent to his dearly 
loved son, the ever victorious king, Belshazzar — " 

But here he stopped, bravado failing. Thrice he 
muttered wildly, then grew still. The king's rage 
was terrible. " Juggler ! you shall learn to mock 
me. Nabu destroy me too, if you are living at dawn ! 



t >» 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 399 

The luckless man fell on his knees, tearing his 
beard : his one groan was, " Mercy." Belshazzar 
heeded little. "You other priests, — you the chief 
* demon-ejector,' — do you speak ! The meaning ? " 

A second wretch cast himself before the king. 
"Pity, Ocean of Generosity, pity! I do not 
know." 

The king wasted no curse. " You, Kalduin, ' master 
of the star-gazers,' who boast to be wisest astrologer 
in Babylon, — look on the writing. I declare that if 
you, or any other, can read these letters, and make 
known to me the interpretation, he shall be clothed 
in scarlet, and a chain of gold put about his neck, 
and he shall be third ruler of the kingdom, next to 
Avil and myself." 

But Kalduin also fell on his knees, groaning and 
moaning. Belshazzar turned to Avil-Marduk, who 
had not spoken since the apparition, and who was 
still exceeding pale. " Avil ! " the accent of the king 
was icy chill, "if you are truly the mouthpiece of 
your god, prove your power. Interpret ! " 

Then came a wondrous thing, even on that night 
of wonders. For the chief priest, to whom Babylon 
had cringed as almost to the king, cowered on the 
rugs by the royal couch. " Lord ! Lord ! " he 
moaned in fear, " I know not. I cannot tell. Mercy ! 
Spare ! " 

Belshazzar shook his kingly head as might a desert 
lion, he alone steadfast, while a thousand were 
trembling. 



400 BELSHAZZAR 

"And is there no man in all Babylon who can read 
this writing ? " was his thunder. 

There was a rustling beside him. From her chair 
the aged queen-mother, Tavat-Hasina, leaned forward. 
" Your Majesty," she whispered, from pale lips, " live 
forever. Let not your thoughts trouble you. There 
is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of 
the holy gods." 

" What man ? " demanded Belshazzar. Every eye 
was on the queen, who continued : — 

" In the days of your father, light and understand- 
ing like the wisdom of the gods were found in him ; 
and King Nebuchadnezzar made him master of 
the magicians and soothsayers, because an excellent 
knowledge and interpretation of dreams and dissolv- 
ing of doubts was found in him." 

" Ay ! The man ! His name I " The king snatched 
her wrist roughly. Many voices reechoed, " The 
man ! His name ! Send for him ! Send ! " 

The queen-mother looked steadily into Belshazzar's 
eyes. 

" The name of the man is Daniel, whom the king 
called Belteshazzar ; now let Daniel be called, and he 
will show the interpretation." 

But the words were like fire thrust into the king's 
face. He recoiled from her; the ashen gray came 
back to his cheeks. " Not Daniel ! I will never see 
him ! I have sworn it ! Not he I Not he ! " 

So cried the king. But from all the captains rose 
one clamour : — 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 401 

" Send for Daniel ! He is the only hope. He 
alone can reveal. Send ! Send ! " 

Avil found courage to rise and whisper in the 
royal ear, " Let all Babylon burn, ere the king craves 
one boon of this villanous Jew ! " 

" Never ! I will not send," cried Belshazzar. But 
as he saw again that burning line, he grew yet paler. 

" Daniel ! Daniel ! We are lost if the writing is 
longer hid ! Send for the Jew ! " 

The captains were waxing mutinous. Scabbards 
clattered. Would the feast end in rebellion ? Bel- 
shazzar addressed Mermaza. " Eunuch, go to the 
innermost prison and bring Daniel hither without 
delay." 

" Hold ! " cried Avil, at the top of his voice ; " what 
god can speak through his lips ? Is the king of 
Babylon sunk so low — " 

" Read and interpret yourself, priest," bawled an 
old officer ; and from fifty fellows rose the yell : 
"Away with Avil-Marduk. It is he who angers 
heaven ! " 

" Shall I go, lord ? " questioned Mermaza, and Bel- 
shazzar only nodded his head. 

Then there was silence once more, while monarch 
and servants watched those letters burning on the 
wall. Presently — after how long ! — there were 
feet heard in the outer court, the clanking of chains ; 
then right into the glare and glitter came Mermaza, 
followed by two soldiers ; and betwixt these an old 
man, squalid, unkempt, clothed in rags, the fetters 



402 BELSHAZZAR 

still on wrist and ankle. But at sight of him a hun- 
dred knelt to worship. 

" Help us, noble Jew ! Make known the writing, 
that we may obey heaven, and may not die ! " One 
and all cried it. But Daniel heeded nothing until 
he stood before the king. 

As Belshazzar rose from his couch to speak, a cry 
broke forth from Ruth. "My father! My father! 
Help me ! Save me ! " Almost she would have 
flown to his arms, but he outstretched a manacled 
hand, beckoning away. 

"Not now, daughter. On another errand have I 
come." Then to the king, "Your Majesty, I am 
here." 

Belshazzar tried vainly to meet the piercing eye 
of the Jew. His own voice was metallic, while he 
groped for words. 

"Are you that Daniel, of the captive Hebrews, 
whom Nebuchadnezzar brought out of Judea?" 
Where were the king's wits fled, that he asked this 
of the man so long known and hated? A stately nod 
was his reply. 

" I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you, 
and light and understanding and excellent wisdom. 
And now the wise men and astrologers have been 
brought to read this writing, and to interpret, but 
they could not. And I have heard that you can 
make interpretations and dissolve doubts." The 
king's voice faltered; he would have given a thou- 
sand talents not to be driven to speak the rest. 



i 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 403 

" Now, if 3^ou are able to read the writing, and make 
known the interpretation, you shall be clothed in 
scarlet, and have a chain of gold about your neck, 
and be the third ruler of the kingdom." 

No response : Daniel looked straight upon Bel- 
shazzar, and again Belshazzar strove to shun the 
captive's gaze. 

" Will you not speak ? " demanded the king. 
" Speak ! or you are beaten to death ! " 

Was it triumph or pity that lighted the old Jew's 
face ? " Death ? My times are in mightier hands 
than yours, O king. Answer truly — will you have 
me speak? For this is not the word of Bel." 

All saw Avil leap up, as if in creature fear; but 
Belshazzar at least faced Daniel steadily, with all 
save his eyes. 

" Answer me truly — be it good or ill. But 
answer ! " 

The king stretched forth his hands to the Jew, 
imploring. The prophecy was fulfilled; Belshazzar 
the king supplicated Daniel the captive ! The old 
man's form straightened; he swept his gaze around 
that company, every eye obedient to his. His voice 
was low, yet in that silence each whisper swelled to 
loudness. 

" Let your gifts be for another, O king ; give your 
rewards to another, but I will read the writing to the 
king, and make known the interpretation." 

Then he told the tale all Babylon knew so well, 
how when the mighty Nebuchadnezzar hardened his 



404 BELSHAZZAK 

heart in kingly pride, madness smote him, and made 
him no better than the beasts, till after living seven 
years thus humbled, he came to himself, and knew that 
the Most High was above all kings. And by the time 
the tale was ended the silence was so great, that even 
the sputtering torches were loud to hear. Daniel 
stood directly before the dais ; the chains rattled as he 
stretched forth a finger, and pointed into the king's 
face. 

"But you, O Belshazzar, have not humbled your 
heart, though you knew all this; but have lifted 
yourself up against the Lord of Heaven; and they 
have brought the vessels of His house before you, 
and you, and your lords, and your women have drunk 
wine in them ; and you have praised the gods of sil- 
ver, of gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see 
not, nor hear, nor know ; and the God in whose hand 
your breath is, and whose are all your ways, you 
have not glorified. Then was the hand sent from 
Him, and this writing was written." 

The finger pointed toward the glowing characters 
upon the wall. " And this is the writing that was 
written: ' Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.' And this is 
the interpretation : ' Mene ' — God has numbered your 
kingdom and finished it. ' Tehel ' — you are weighed 
in the balances and are found wanting. ' TJpharsin ' 
which is otherwise ' Peres ' — your kingdom is divided 
and given to the Medes and the Persians.". . . 

... A fearful cry was rising; captains were on 
their faces, groaning to Samas, to Istar, to Ramman ; 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 405 

" Save ! Save from the wrath of Jehovah ! " The 
workings of Belshazzar's features were terrible 
to behold. Thrice he strove to speak, — his lips 
moved dumbly. Then, as the king looked, lo ! 
another wonder. The fiery words were gone, and 
only the shattered plaster showed where they had 
burned. " Woe ! Woe ! " all were moaning ; but 
the vanishing of the letters gave back to Avil his 
courage. He leaned over, whispering to the king. 
In an instant Belshazzar uttered a hideous laugh. 

" Good ! By Istar, the Jew has me fairly on the 
hip ! Clever jugglery, I swear, to contrive a trick 
that could chase the blood from the cheeks of the 
stoutest captains of the Chaldees ! Show me the 
conjurer; I will pardon and reward. A clever jest, 
my princes, a clever jest." 

The shout died away in profound silence. The 
king grasped a goblet once more. "By Nabu, the 
jest is so well played, you still wander for wits. 
Daniel must have reward. Ho ! Mermaza ; the robe 
of honour and the chain of gold. Off with these rags 
and fetters. Behold in Daniel the third prince of 
the kingdom. Set a new seat on the dais. A health 
to his Highness ! " He drained the cup, then in a 
darker tone, directly at the Hebrew: "This is the 
promised reward. But when at midnight I quit the 
feast, if your prophecy is not fulfilled, you die the per- 
jurer's death, for mocking thus your king." 

Daniel answered nothing. The eunuchs pried off 
his fetters, put on him the robe and the golden chain. 



406 BELSHAZZAR 

They set him in a chair beside Belshazzar, offering 
a jewelled goblet. He took it, tasting only once. 
Avil had risen, in vain effort to fuse the company 
with the same mad merriment affected by himself and 
the king. 

"I congratulate Prince Daniel, my colleague in 
government ! Another health to him, and to our 
' ever-to-be-adored ' Queen Atossa. Strike up, harpers ; 
raise the triumph hymn to Bel once more." 

With reluctant fingers the musicians smote harp 
and zither, the choir of priests and maidens lifted 
quavering voices, — sang a few measures, — the weak 
notes died away into ghastly stillness. Every eye 
crept furtively up to the square of shattered plaster. 
Then, as if in desperation, and bound to hide his master- 
ing fears, a " captain of a hundred " motioned to a 
eunuch. 

"Wine, fellow, wine, heady enough to chase these 
black imps away ! Let us drink ourselves to sleep, 
and forget the portent by the morning." 

" Wine I " echoed all, " more wine ! Surely the 
Jew has lied. Forget him ! " 

The revels were resumed. The torches flared above 
the king of the Chaldees and all his lords draining 
their liquor, — beaker on beaker, — in one mad, vain 
hope — to drown out their own dark thoughts. 
The fiery apparition had vanished from the plaster 
only to glow before the uncertain vision of each and 
all. Soon rose drunken laughter, more fearful than 
any scream or moaning. 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 407 

Avil at least kept sober. Once he turned to Mer- 
maza. 

" What are these flashes ? The lamps cast shadow. 
And this rumbling? " 

" A storm approaches, though still far off." 

" Foul omen at this season ! " answered Avil, and 
under breath — scoffer that he was — he muttered a 
spell against the " rain-fiends." 

Atossa sat on her own high seat, watching, waiting, 
wondering. One can hardly say whether she had 
hopes or fears. She had not spoken since the mir- 
acle. What followed she remembered as she would 
recall a dim memory of long ago. Daniel was sit- 
ting by her side. Once she ventured, despite Bel- 
shazzar's frown, to speak to him. 

" My father, the spirit of the holy Ahura is on 
you. Tell me, shall we be saved, you, and Ruth 
and I, from the power of these ' Lovers of 
Night ' ? " 

And Daniel, calm, unblenching, sober, amid a 
hundred gibbering drunkards, answered with a confi- 
dence not of this world : " My child, we shall be 
saved. Doubt it not; but whether we be saved in 
this body, or depart to see Jehovah's face. He know- 
eth, not I. But His will is ever good." 

The king interrupted boisterously, with unveiled 
mockery : — 

" Give wisdom, noble Daniel. Shall I rebuild the 
walls of Uruk or spend the money on new canals at 
Sippar?" 



408 BELSHAZZAE 

The Hebrew made the king wince once more, as 
he looked on him, 

"Lord of Babylon, think no more on walls and 
cities. Think of your past deeds. Think of the Just 
Spirit before whom you must stand." 

" Verily, Jew," sneered Avil, " you will play your 
mad game to the end." 

" To the end," was all the answer ; but neither 
king nor pontiff made mock of Daniel again. 

Deeper the drinking, madder the revelling. From 
the outer palace rose the laughter of soldiers and 
the city folk. The priests of Bel at length gathered 
courage from their wine. They roared out their 
hymn, and the dancing girls caught up red torches, 
— brandishing, shrieking, dancing, one lurid whirl 
of uncaged demons. The officers put forth their 
hands time and again for the beakers which the 
eunuchs could not fill too fast. In the reaction after 
the portent, the scene became an orgy. The king's 
cheek was flushed, his voice was loud and high. 
Tavat, the queen-mother, quitted the feast; and 
Atossa would have given all she possessed — how 
little! — to be suffered to follow. She had hardly 
tasted the cups pressed on her. She was utterly 
weary. The gold and jewels on her head seemed an 
intolerable weight. Oh, to be away, — to have that 
scene blotted out, even by death's long slumber! 
Her head fell forward. Ahura was kind. Did 
she sleep? Suddenly Belshazzar's voice aroused 
her. 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 409 

" Midnight, the feast ends ; and you, O Jew, have 
lost ! " 

The king was standing. The lamps were smoking 

low ; the noise of the feasters failing, as the wine 

accomplished its work. The tipsy priests had 

quavered out their last triumph song : — 

" Bel-Marduk, who rulest forever, 
Thee, thee we praise ! " 

Belshazzar addressed Mermaza. "Eunuch, de- 
liver Daniel the Jew to Khatin for instant death. 
His mummery turns to his own ruin. Now truly let 
his weak god save ! " 

Even as he spoke there was a strange clamour ris- 
ing in the palace without : a headlong gallop, a shout- 
ing, not of mirth but of alarm. None yet heeded. 

"Your Majesty," Daniel was answering steadily, 
" suffer me only this : let me embrace my daughter 
Ruth." 

The king nodded. " Be brief, for you have vexed 
me long ! " Then, turning to Atossa : " Ah ! lady, 
Queen, — at last ! to the harem ! you are my wife ! " 

Atossa knew she was being taken by the hand; 
she saw all things dimly as through darkened glass. 
Nearer the gallop without, louder the shouting, and 
through it and behind a jar and a crashing, — not of 
the elements surely ! Daniel had clasped Ruth to 
his breast. His words were heard only by her 
and by Another. The king gestured impatiently. 
"Enough! Away! — " But no more; there was a 
panic cry at the portal, the howl of fifty voices in 



410 BELSHAZZAR 

dismay ; and right into the great hall, over the price- 
less carpets, through that revelling throng, spurred 
a rider in armour, two arrows sticking in target, blood 
on crest, blood streaming from the great wound in 
the horse's side. Up to the very dais he thundered; 
and there, in sight of all, the beast staggered, fell, 
while Igas-Ramman, the captain, struggled from be- 
neath and stood before the king. 

" All is lost, lord of the Chaldees ! " and then he 
gasped for breath. But already in the outer palace 
was a fearful shout. " Arms ! Rescue ! The foe ! " 

Belshazzar tottered as he stood, caught the arm of 
the throne. His face was not ashen, but black as the 
clouds on high. " What is this, fool ? " he called. 
And Igas answered, " O king, Sirusur and Bilsandan 
are traitors. The retreat of Cyrus was a ruse. By 
night his host has returned. Imbi-Ilu, the exile, 
has tampered with the priests of Nabu, and they 
have opened the Borsippa water-gate. Sirusur has 
withdrawn the garrisons from the chief defences ; 
Bilsandan has released the Persian prisoners and 
with them overpowered the guard at the Northern 
Citadel. Prince Darius is speeding to the palace." 

"And you, where did you fight?" demanded the 
king. 

" We made shift to defend an inner gate. Treach- 
ery is all about. We were attacked in the rear. I 
fled with the tidings. The Persians carry all before 
them, — hear ! " and hear they did ; " the foe will come 
and none to stay ! " 



THE FULFILMENT OF JEHOVAH 411 

" None shall stay ? Twenty thousand men of war 
in Babylon, and Belshazzar be snared as a bird in his 
own palace?" The king drew his sword, flinging 
far the scabbard. 

" Up, princes of the Chaldees, up ! " he trumpeted, 
above the shriekings all around. " All is not lost ! 
We will still prove the Jew the liar ! Whosoever 
dares, follow me ! All Babylon is not turned traitor. 
We will make our streets the Persian's grave ! " 

Yet while he cried it a second messenger panted 
into the great hall. 

" The outer defences of the palace are forced, O 
king ! The foe are everywhere ! " 

But Belshazzar leaped down from the dais, and 
sped about one lightning glance. 

" Here, Khatin, stand by these women and this 
Jew! See that they do not flee. I will yet live to 
teach them fear." 

A crash without made the casements shiver. Bel- 
shazzar sprang forward. " At them, men of Babylon ; 
all is not yet lost I " 

And, spurred by his example, the f casters rushed 
after. The cups lay on the tables, the lamps flick- 
ered overhead, the storm wind was shaking the 
broad canopy, but Atossa knew only one thing — 
the raging din that ever swelled louder. Then a 
second crash, mightier than the first ; and out of it 
a shout in her own tongue of Iran. 

" For Ahura, for Atossa ! " 

The battle-cry of the Persians — and Atossa knew 
that Darius, son of Hystaspes, was not far away. 



'^BEL IS DEAD^' 




CHAPTER XXVII 



OH, the terror, the blind terror, which possessed 
the guilty, lustful city that night ! the stupid 
guards staggering from their wine-pots ; the priests, 
crazed with the lees, shrieking to Istar, to Bel, to 
Ramman, their strengthless hands catching at use- 
less weapons. What drunken courage might do 
then was done. But of what avail ? For treachery 
was everywhere. The citadel was betrayed; Imgur- 
Bel and Nimitti-Bel betrayed. The giant-built walls 
frowned down, but the massy gates were wide open, 
— and through them streamed the foe. Right down 
the length of broad Nana Street, under the shadow 
of the ziggurats and the great warehouses, had charged 
the Persian cuirassiers, the finest cavalry in all the 
East. Through the Gate of Istar poured Harpagus 
and the Median chivalry ; through the Gate of the 
Chaldees swept Hystaspes with the " Immortals," 
Cyrus's own life-guard, the stoutest spearmen in 
wide Iran. They met files of tipsy sword-hands, 
men who fought without order, without commanders. 
The howls of the slaves and women were on every 
hand. The light of burning houses brightened the 

412 



"BEL IS DEAD" 413 

invaders' pathway ; and so the Aryan host fought 
onward, brushing resistance from its way as the 
torrent sweeps on the pebbles, all ranks strain- 
ing toward one point, the palace ; for the hour of 
reckoning had come to the " City of the Lie." 

Atossa sat upon the dais, looking upon the scene 
below. The great hall was still around her, — still 
the pictured walls, with the shadows darkening upon 
their enamels, as the lamps and torches burned lower. 
The tables were there, and the remnants of the feast ; 
the floor was strewn with torn garlands and trampled 
roses, — but the company, the wanton dancing women, 
the sleek eunuchs, the lordly priests, the yet more 
lordly captains, where were they ? Fled, — all save 
the last, — to the innermost palace, there to moan, 
while the noise of the avenger was nearing. 

Atossa arose, shook herself, stared once more about 
the hall. At the foot of the dais lay the dead 
charger. On a seat at her side sat Ruth, her head 
bowed on her hands, her lithe form quivering with 
fear. Beside his daughter was the old Hebrew, calm, 
steadfast, seemingly passionless, looking straight 
before, as if his sight could pass through wall and 
battlement, beholding the far-off peace of the upper 
heavens. But in the outer palace what was not 
befalling? Never before had Atossa heard the 
clangour of men at war ; but she was a great king's 
daughter. Should the child of Cyrus fear when her 
own people knocked at the gate thus loudly? The 



414 BELSHAZZAK 

awful roar grew louder each instant. Louder the 
Aryan war-cry, " For Ahura, for Atossa ! " And 
still the despairing shout was answering, "Save, O 
Marduk, save ! " For the Babylonish lion, though at 
his death, must die as a lion. 

As the din surged in and ouf like some raging 
sea, the princess heard her own name alone shouted. 
Dared she believe she knew the voice ? 

" Atossa ? Atossa ? " 

Then a new crash that drowned all else, and the 
whirl of a thousand feet. Men and women, cursing, 
howling, were rushing back into the hall. In an 
instant the empty scene became a chaos of forms, all 
the gibbering palace folk fleeing thither. 

"Lost! The gate is carried! The palace is 
taken ! " 

So cried those not frenzied past all speech. But 
Atossa heard with an awful gladness. This was the 
hour of her triumph ; the destroyers were the servants 
of her father, their leader the man she loved. Let, 
then, the Babylonian hounds whine and cringe at 
doom. What cared she ? 

But the end had not yet come. Another voice was 
thundering in the Chaldee, Belshazzar's voice : — 

" Rally again ! All is not yet lost. We will 
defend the palace room by room ! " 

" Forward, sons of Iran ! " sped back the answer ; 
and a shout followed it at the very entrance of the 
hall. 

" For Ahura, for Atossa I " 



"BEL IS DEAD" 415 

" Darius ! " cried Atossa, " Darius ! Here am I ! " 

Her scream was drowned in the chaos of battle. 
And then for the first time fear smote the princess. 
Outside those doors fought the son of Hystaspes, 
perilling himself in the press, — and for her sake. 
She could contain herself no more. 

"Darius," she shrieked again, " I come ! Save I " 

She leaped from the dais ; in her madness she 
would have plunged into the riot below, when a 
heavy hand fell on her ; she struggled, was helpless. 
Above her towered Khatin. 

"It is commanded, lady," quoth the headsman, 
gruffly, "that you abide here, till the king order 
otherwise." 

" Fool ! " she cried, shrinking at his impure touch, 
" do you seek death ? A moment more and your life 
is in my power. Release, and you shall live." 

" Ah, my bright-eyed rabbit," answered he, dryly, 
unmoved by all the terrors about, " I have sent too 
many better men than I to the ' world-mountain ' to 
dread myself the journey thither. All the Chaldees 
have not turned traitor, nor have I. Wait." 

He forced her back upon her seat, and stood guard 
beside her. Drunk or sober, the nobles of Babylon 
proved their lordly birth that night. Twice Atossa's 
heart sank when a triumphant cry rang through the 
palace : — 

" Glory to Marduk ! Drive them forth ! Victory ! " 

But each time the Persians swept back to the 
charge; and still the clamour rose. Well that all 



416 BELSHAZZAK 

the death was hid from Atossa, or, king's daughter 
though she was, her woman's heart would have 
broken. How long might this last ? The swarm of 
frenzied palace folk was growing denser. They 
sprang upon the dais, threatening Atossa, in their 
witless fear, but gave back at sight of Khatin's bared 
sword-blade. Then forth rushed a single man, Avil- 
Marduk, his face blanched, his teeth a-chatter, and 
cast himself at Daniel's feet. 

" Save, generous lord ! Save me from death ! 
For you are merciful, and the Persians will hear 
you ! Beseech your Jehovah that He may not let 
me die ! " 

Before the Jew could answer Khatin dragged the 
suppliant from his knees. " Peace, babbler ; if Mar- 
duk is a great god, let him save; if not, die like a 
man. But take not even life from one you have re- 
viled, like the God of Daniel ! " 

" But I am sinful, unfit to stand before Ea and his 
awful throne. I shall die in my iniquity ! " 

" I only know you are no fitter to live than to die," 
answered the implacable headsman ; and he cast the 
priest headlong from the dais. Ruth had lifted her 
head, and stared about vacantly, till her gaze lit on 
the Persian. Then she flung herself into the arms of 
Atossa. 

" Ah ! lady," she cried, the hot tears falling fast, 
" I see all as in a frightful dream ! When will this 
tumult end ? I can bear no more ! " 

But Atossa answered in her queenly pride : — 



"BEL IS DEAD" 417 

"Peace, Jewess, be strong. For this is the hour 
for which we cried to Ahura together. He is tram- 
pling down the 'People of the Lie,' and this sound 
arises from the men we love." 

But as she spoke the mob below swayed with new 
terror. For a third time the great palace quaked. 
The door was again darkened by many men — and in 
their midst they saw the king. . . . 

Belshazzar was covered with blood, whether his 
own or the foeman's, who might say? His mantle 
was in tatters, the tiara smitten from his head, on 
his arm a shivered shield. The king staggered, then 
the sight of Atossa upon the dais seemed to dart new 
power through his veins. He steadied, swept his 
weapon around in command to the officers who 
pressed by. 

" Rally again ! " cried the king ; " we have still 
thousands around the walls and throughout the city. 
Prolong the defence till dawn, and we may yet con- 
quer ! " His majesty and presence stayed the panic- 
stricken captains, who had been streaming past him 
into the wide hall. 

The king surveyed the room one instant. 

"We can defend this hall until the garrison may 
rally. There is still hope ; drive forth this rabble, 
and barricade the doors ! " 

The guardsmen swept the eunuchs and women 
from the hall. They fled, the thunders of the gale, 
now at its height, drowning their moanings. Ever 
and anon the dying torches cast shadow while the 



418 BELSHAZZAK 

lightnings glared. Then came the crash of the hail 
and rain, beating down the canopy, quenching half 
the lights, and adding gloom to terror. All this in 
less time than the telling. Belshazzar himself aided 
in piling the tables and couches in heaps against all 
the doors save one, through which the Chaldees were 
sullenly retreating, marking their pathway by the 
Persian dead. Once again Atossa leaped from her 
seat ; despite her brave words to Ruth, more of this 
chaos would strike her mad. She slipped from the 
grasp of Khatin, and flew toward the entrance. For 
the instant all were too intent on their fearful tasks 
to heed. 

" Darius ! I come ! " cried she, in her Persian, 
and a shout without was answering, when a clutch, 
mighty as Khatin's, halted her. She was in Belshaz- 
zar's own hands. 

" Back, girl ! I am still the king, and I command ! " 

But Atossa struggled desperately. " Away ! Take 
me away ! " rang her plea. " Slay this instant if you 
will, but I can bear no more I " 

" Take her to the dais," shouted the king to two 
guardsmen ; " watch her preciously ; her life is dearer 
to us now than gold." 

The two had need of their strength, but she was 
thrust again to her hated station. This time cords 
were knotted around her arms, and she was held fast. 
She looked to Daniel. There he sat, serene and 
silent, the only calm object in that scene of furies. 

"Father," she moaned, "pray to Khatin, to any, 



"BEL IS DEAD" 419 

that they strike once, and let me die ! All the dcevas 
are loose and drive me mad ! " 

" Peace, my child," he spoke mildly, yet amid all 
that storm she heard him ; " we shall fall soon know 
what is the will of God ! " 

But she had started despite the bands. The last 
Babylonians had been brushed from the portal, a rush 
of feet, a battle-cry the loudest of the night; and 
right in the entrance, sword in hand and looking 
upon Atossa, was the son of Hystaspes, at his side 
Isaiah, at his back the stoutest veterans of Cyrus the 
conqueror. 

There was silence for an instant, while the foes 
glared on one another. Then the Babylonish officers 
by sheer force drew their king behind them, and 
formed in close array before the dais. The last 
stand ! 

" Stand fast, Chaldees ! " rang the voice of Igas- 
Ramman ; " let them touch the king only across our 
bodies. While he lives Babylon is not truly lost." 

The Persians were entering slowly, grimly. Their 
prey was in their clutch ; they were too old in war to 
let him slip by untimely triumph. The rain beat 
down in one continuous roar, amid ceaseless peals of 
thunder. Yet despite the elements they heard the 
clamour of distant conflict ; at the temple of Bel, at the 
palace of Nabupolassar, the fight was still desperate. 

" While your Majesty lives," muttered Igas in the 
royal ear, " there may be yet rally and rescue. Let 
us fight to the end." 



420 BELSHAZZAR 

Darius had advanced from his company, halfway 
across the hall, as if he alone would walk upon 
the swords of the Chaldees. He addressed the 
king. 

^' Live forever. Lord of Babylon ! Live forever. 
I have bayed a fairer game, this night, than an aurochs 
or a lion ; but I have brought him to the net at last. 
Too noble, truly, to slay. Let him be wise ; he will 
find my master merciful." 

"Yield to Cyrus? Let the dogs eat first our 
bodies ! " so cried Igas, and all the Babylonians yelled 
like answer. 

Darius did not retire. " We Persians honour kings, 
though once our foes. Croesus the Lydian is Cyrus's 
friend. Be wise, — Bel your god may not save you. 
Craft and strength alike have failed. Yield on fair 
quarter. Do not sacrifice these gallant men — " 

But he ended swiftly, for the king had leaped 
upon the dais, and his voice sounded amid the 
thunder. " Look ! with all your eyes look, Persians ! 
Behold the daughter of Cyrus." Atossa had been 
upborne upon his strong arms and those of Khatin, 
and stood upon the royal couch before the gaze of all. 
And at sight of her a tremor thrilled through the 
Persians. 

" The princess in Belshazzar's clutch ! Woe ! 
Ahura deliver ! " groaned many a grizzled sword- 
hand, who had slain his man that night ; but the king 
swept on : "I say to you, that as the first arrow 
flies, or sword-stroke falls, the blade enters the breast 



"BEL IS DEAD" 421 

of the child of Cyrus. Get you gone, and that 
instantly, if you would not see her die ! '* 

They saw the steel glancing in Khatin's hand, no 
idle threat. And for a moment longer, Persian and 
Chaldee looked on one another, while the storm 
screamed its wild music. But now Atossa spoke, her 
voice clear as Belshazzar's : — 

" And I, daughter of your king, command that you 
hold back in nothing for my sake. For to an Aryan 
maid of pure heart death is no great thing, when 
she knows behind it speeds the vengeance." 

" Not so ! We may not ! " moaned Persian to Per- 
sian ; and Darius sprang back among his men. 

" Lord," cried a captain from the rear, " the gar- 
rison is rallying. A little longer, and many com- 
panies come to Belshazzar's aid. We may yet be 
undone ! " 

Darius had flung away his target ; his hands had 
snatched something — a quiver, a bow. He leaped 
before them all, while Belshazzar's voice again was 
rising : — 

" Back, Persians ; or as Bel is god of Babylon, the 
maid dies, and you are her murderers ! " He sprang 
down from beside her, leaving Khatin standing. 

But the prince drew the shaft to the head, and sent 
his eye along the arrow. Did he level at Atossa's 
own breast ? So thought she, with all the others, and 
her cry rang shrilly ; — 

" Shoot ! In Ahura's great name, shoot ! Death at 
your hands is sweet ! " 



422 BELSHAZZAR 

They saw her close her eyes, and strong men 
turned away their faces. One deed to slay a peer, 
in heat of battle ; another, to see a lover strike down 
his bride ! But Belshazzar, looking on his foe, was 
startled, — he had seen Mm shoot before. 

" Strike ! " he commanded Khatin, " swiftly I " 

They saw the long blade move, and heard the whiz 
of the arrow. Right through the headsman's wrist 
sped the shaft, just as the stroke fell. The sword 
turned in impotent fingers, and fell upon the floor. 
And still Atossa stood. 

She trembled, moved, made to spring from her 
station : but Darius's voice in turn was thunder : — 

" Move not ! There alone is safety, where I cover 
you ! And now — on them, men of Iran ! " 

There, lifted up above them all, remained Atossa, 
the arrow of the " King of the Bow " upon her, and 
no Chaldee so lustful after death as to leap beside 
her, and to strike. 

The Persians had sprung upon their prey and never 
relaxed their death grip ; but the Babylonians ringed 
round their king with a living wall, and fought in 
silence, for all was near the end. Then the rush of 
numbers forced the defenders away from the dais. 
Atossa saw the arrow of Darius sink, saw him bound- 
ing forward, but saw no more ; for in mercy sense 
forsook her, — she felt two strong arms, and then 
for long lay motionless as the dead. 

The prince laid her upon the royal couch at the 
extremity of the dais ; beside her he set Ruth, who 



"BEL IS DEAD" 423 

had long since ceased crying, through very weight 
of fear. Back to the combat then, and the last 
agony of the king, when from under the shivered 
tables crawled one who groaned, and kissed his feet 
— Avil-Marduk. Darius spurned him ; the next 
instant two tall Medians were hauling the wretch 
away — a noble spectacle he would be for triumph- 
ing Ecbatana, before they crucified. But a nobler 
spoil remained. Darius flung himself upon the 
Chaldee nobles. Igas-Ramman was down, and 
Khatin, whose left arm had smitten many a foe 
while his right hung helpless. The king still fought, 
ten swords seeking his life, and he parrying all, — 
none of his conqueror race more royal than he in this 
his hour of doom. Suddenly the desperate defenders 
turned at bay, and charged their foes with a mad 
fury that made even the stoutest Aryans give 
ground. One final lull, in which they heard the 
beating of the rain. Then right betwixt raging 
Persian and raging Chaldee sprang a figure, — an 
old man in hoary majesty, Daniel the Jew. 

" Peace ! " and for that instant every man heark- 
ened. "Your god is helpless, O Belshazzar, your 
idol mute. Your power is sped, but bow to the will 
of the Most High. He will still pity the penitent. 
Do not cast your life away." 

But at the word the king lifted his last javelin. 

" Be this my answer to your god ! " 

The missile brushed the white lock on the old 
man's forehead, and fell harmless. 



424 BELSHAZZAR 

• 

The Babylonians retreated sullenly to the wall, 
set their backs against it. Then, with death in the 
face of each, with the shattered plaster frowning 
down on them, those men who had fought so long 
and well to save their king and city, raised their 
song, — the psean of the vanquished, to the god 
whose power that night had passed : — 

" Bel-Marduk, sovereign of archers, 
Bel-Marduk, spoiler of cities, 
Bel-Marduk, lord of all gods, 
Bel-Marduk, who rulest forever, 
Thee, thee we praise ! " 

At the last note the Persians closed around them, 
and each Chaldee as he stood fought to the end, sell- 
ing his life full dear ; but about the king the strife 
raged fiercest, for Darius had commanded, " Slay not ! 
Take living ! " Long after the last of his servants 
had sped from the fury of man, Belshazzar beat back 
all who pressed him. The spirit of his fallen god 
seemed to possess the king; he fought with Bel's 
own power. But the sword was beaten from his 
grasp. Twenty hands stretched out to seize him ; 
he buffeted all away, leaped to one side, and, be- 
fore any could hinder, drew the dagger from his 
girdle and sheathed it in his own breast. He stag- 
gered. Isaiah upbore him. The king saw in whose 
arms he was, then his eyes went up to the shivered 
plaster. The Hebrew felt a spasm of agony pass 
through Belshazzar's frame. 

" Bel is dead ! " he cried, his voice never louder. 



"BEL IS DEAD" 425 

'•'• Bel is dead! Grod of the Jews^ Thou hast 
conquered ! " 

Then came a dazzling bolt. The wide canopy fell. 
The rush of rain drowned every torch, and all was 
blackness. 

Darius groped his way beside Belshazzar, and 
spread his mantle across the king's face to shield it 
from the rain. 

'' Cruel and ' Lover of the Lie,' " spoke the prince, 
" he was yet a brave man and a king ; therefore let 
us do the dead all honour ! " 

Soon the great court was empty, the victors gone, 
the vanquished cold and still. But till dawn the 
tempest held its carnival above the towers of the 
palace. And the winds had one cry, the beat of 
the rain one burden, to those who were wise to hear, 
a burden heavy with long yeai-s of wrong : — 

" Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, is fallen ! 
The Lady of Kingdoms is fallen, is fallen, is fallen ! 
She will oppress the weak no more, will slay the 
innocent no more, will blaspheme God no more ! 
Fallen is Babylon, the Chaldees' crown and glory." 

In a greater Book than this is written how Cyrus 
the Persian made good his vow to Isaiah, and restored 
the Hebrews to their own land, raising Jerusalem out 
of her dust and ashes. Elsewhere also is told how 
Darius and Atossa fared together onward until the 
son of Hystaspes sat on Cyrus's own throne and 
gave law to all the nations. And to Isaiah Jehovah 



426 BELSHAZZAK 

granted that he should become a mightj^ prophet 
among his people, and see rapt visions of the 
"King-who-was-to-be." But as for Babylon the 
Great, the traveller who wanders through the desert 
beside the brimming Euphrates looks upon the 
mounds of sand and of rubbish, then thinks on the 
word of the Hebrew poet and prophet of long ago : — 

" And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, 
Shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. 
It shall never be inhabited, 
Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there ; 
Neither shall shepherds make their fold there ; 
But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, 
And owls shall dwell there. 
And satyrs shall dance there, 
And wild beasts of the islands 
Shall cry in their desolate houses ; 
Her days shall not be prolonged." 



NOTE TO THE READER 

The author has not been unmindful that certain record 
tablets give a narrative of the capture of Babylon, in some 
points diifering from the Bible account in the Book of Daniel. 
The reasons for preferring the latter to the profane narrative 
are too many to be discussed here ; but it is not improper to 
point out that the " Chronicle Tablets " were written with a 
political end to serve, — to soothe the feelings of the conquered 
Babylonians, by representing that Babylon surrendered volun- 
tarily to Cyrus. This is hardly likely ; but it is very probable 
that the city was taken by treachery among the priests and not 
by assault. 

I have ventured to give the name of Isaiah to the great 
" Prophet of the Captivity," whose writings are found in the 
last half of our present " Book of Isaiah." It has been well 
conjectured that his name was also Isaiah, which resulted in 
the combining of the two independent prophecies into one 
book. 

Value of Money 

(according to Sayce) 

Shekel $0.75 

Maneh 4.5.00 

Talent (silver) 2700.00 

Gold was worth ten times as much as silver, weight for weight. 



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