Belânu and Iltani - Part 8

Iltani to Sikku, my dear friend; It is the day of his coming. But it is only the eleventh hour. There is this hour to wait. I am already adorned for the occasion. My mother has left me to see that the cakes of sesame and cinnamon, and the clarified honey, and the frothed cream, and the wine and conserves of citron are set forth in fit order. Damka also has gone to assist her. I feel that I must speak to some one. I will speak to you, O Sikku, my kind friend. I would wish you to put your arms about me. I would wish you to put your necklace of blue and green stones about my neck. I am sure that you would lend it to me for this occasion. I would wish you to tell me that I look charming. Damka says that I look charming, but Damka always speaks thus, no matter what I put on. My mother smiled at me kindly, but she is a woman of fixed words. She said only what she always says when I am dressed:
" It is well, Iltani. Be careful not to rumple the pleats when you seat yourself. It is so difficult to smooth out pleats. " I will tell you how I am dressed, Sikku. Then you can write to me about it. I have done my hair on the top close to my head, turning out the edges like flower petals. I have made it shine with oil of white roses. It smells very sweet. I have taken the longest strands and braided them to fall over my shoulders as in the image of Ninsun which we admire. It is hard at times to be poor and well-born. I wish to-day for blue and green stones. It is a wish like being hungry and no food. If only you were here, Sikku, to lend me your necklace. I have no green stones. I have no blue stones, neither turquoise nor sapphire nor even any bits of uknu. I wish much for precious stones the colour of the enamelled dragons on the gate of Ishtar. I have them not. So this is what I have done, Sikku. I went this morning at dawn and gathered many buds of Ishtar's flower. They are hard and blue like turquoise. I ravelled out threads of silk, knotting them together. Upon these I strung the blue buds. When I braided my long hair I twisted among it these strings. It seems to me that they look like turquoise. But I have no necklace, Sikku. My mother would not lend me her wedding necklace. " When you marry is time enough, " is what she said. And I have no perfume except for my hair. When I asked her for two drops of spikenard from the carnelian box my father gave her at my birth, — only two drops, one for each breast, she said, " Nay. " What do you think of that, Sikku? And on such an occasion? When I implored, she answered: " Young girls should not smell of spikenard. It is only for married women. " Did she jest, or is this true, Sikku? Do not forget to answer, and also to tell me why it is, if it be so. My dress is of thin Persian linen, in little rows of pleats one above the other, but the pleats are too fine, like the under side of mushrooms. This year in Babylon the women are wearing the pleats broader. How is it in Hish? Perhaps in small towns like Hish, the fashions do not change so often as in Babylon. It is hard to be poor and also in the fashion. My dress would set badly if Damka pressed the pleats broader. I have on very pretty shoes, Sikku. They are made of snake-skin studded with silver. My uncle gave them to me on the great festival of Marduk. It was also the day of my birth. I have put a rose between my breasts, a little rose of Babylon. I have stained my fingers with paste of red rose leaves. I wish you were here to see me before Baal Bel├ónu comes, Sikku. I am sure there is something wrong which no one has noticed. You would notice it because you are young, and have not forgotten about love, like my mother and Damka. There is one thing I wish you to tell me. Do not fail by any means to tell me in your next letter. It is this. Do husbands come first, and love after? or does love come first and husbands after? My mother and Damka say that husbands come first. I do not wish to believe this. But I am ignorant. You are not ignorant, Sikku, — so tell me by the life of the Gods. Do not fail to tell me, as you have failed to tell me other things. Certain things that you promised on your heart to tell me after you were married. You have not told them. I grow angry a little with you, Sikku, when I think of it. But this you must tell me — If you ... I hear voices ...
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