Belânu and Iltani - Part 10

Iltani, to Sikku my dearest friend: Sikku, he has come. He has gone. Sikku, he ate and drank, though not much. I could neither eat nor drink. Tell me, Sikku, when Etiatim, your husband, came to see you for the first time, did he eat and drink? Did you do so? I shook under my garments. My teeth wished to knock together, but I would not allow them to. When he drank the red wine of Eridu, his beard glistened. He smiled at my mother, and wiped it delicately on the napkin of purple linen which she handed him. His mouth was red from the wine and his teeth were white within it. I did not know that men could have beautiful mouths. My uncle's mouth is not beautiful. But then he has few teeth and they are brown. Bel├ónu's teeth are white as almonds when Damka peels them in heated water to make almond paste. My little Egyptian cat came and jumped up on his knee. This astonished me. It is a shy little cat. But it was not shy with Bel├ónu. He wore a wondrous garment, like a peacock's neck, with threads of gold curling through it. Yet he let my cat jump upon it and stroked her kindly, though she ran her claws in and out through it. He said to me: " A little cat like this is a very pretty beast, lady Iltani. " And I said a foolish thing in answer. Is it not strange, O Sikku, how the words that come out of the mouth, can be different from the words that are in the heart? I was thinking: " He is more beautiful than the images of the hero Gilgamesh. The gods must have long hands like Bel├ónu. " But, Sikku, what I said was: " If there were little lions as small as cats, they would be prettier. I have often wished for a little lion. " Tell me, Sikku, can you think of any reason why I should have spoken thus? For it was also a lie about the little lion. Never, never have I wished for a little lion. Sikku, I will now say what is really important. Baal Bel├ónu has asked for me in marriage. My kind mother, and my considerate uncle will not force me to say yes. But they have told me plainly that I will be a wicked girl and a temptress of the gods' wrath if I do not say yes. I will now tell you the strangest part of all. I wish to marry Bel├ónu and I do not wish to marry Bel├ónu. Did you ever hear of another one who felt in this way? Did you ever feel thus about Etiatim? Write me a message of advice very quickly, or by Ishtar! I may have to decide for myself. Sikku! He has sent me a little lion. He has sent me a baby lion. How could he find a baby lion and send it to me so quickly? It is no longer a lie that I wish a little lion. Never was there anything so charming. It's head is round like a bowl, and downy as apples of Persia. It's clumsy paws make soft my heart. When it licks my fingers, its tongue is pinker than the core of conch-shells and rough like sand. It has a collar of lapis-lazuli and green jasper. It has eyes like yellow jasper and black onyx. It would be hard to say " no " to Baal Bel├ónu, for then I should have to return to him the little lion! Do you think I am perhaps hiding my true feelings from you, Sikku? So be it. Think that it is my little lion who writes to you. See — I have made him set here the print of his paw as a seal to this letter. Greetings to Sikku from the little lion that Bel├ónu gave to Iltani.
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