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Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
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Title: Cleopatra, Volume 4.

Author: Georg Ebers

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CLEOPATRA

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER IX.

Gorgias went to his work without delay.  When the twin statues were only
waiting to be erected in front of the Theatre of Dionysus, Dion sought
him.  Some impulse urged him to talk to his old friend before leaving the
city with his betrothed bride.  Since they parted the latter had
accomplished the impossible; for the building of the wall on the Choma,
ordered by Antony, was commenced, the restoration of the little palace at
the point, and many other things connected with the decoration of the
triumphal arches, were arranged.  His able and alert foreman found it
difficult to follow him as he dictated order after order in his writing-
tablet.

The conversation with his friend was not a long one, for Dion had
promised Barine and her mother to accompany them to the country.
Notwithstanding the betrothal, they were to start that very day;
for Caesarion had called upon Barine twice that morning.  She had not
received him, but the unfortunate youth's conduct induced her to hasten
the preparations for her departure.

To avoid attracting attention, they were to use Archibius's large
travelling chariot and Nile boat, although Dion's were no less
comfortable.

The marriage was to take place in the "abode of peace."  The young
Alexandrian's own ship, which was to convey the newly wedded pair to
Alexandria, bore the name of Peitho, the goddess of persuasion, for Dion
liked to be reminded of his oratorical powers in the council.
Henceforward it would be called the Barine, and was to receive many an
embellishment.

Dion confided to his friend what he had learned in relation to the fate
of the Queen and the fleet, and, notwithstanding the urgency of the
claims upon Gorgias's time, he lingered to discuss the future destiny of
the city and her threatened liberty; for these things lay nearest to his
heart.

"Fortunately," cried Dion, "I followed my inclination; now it seems to me
that duty commands every true man to make his own house a nursery for the
cultivation of the sentiments which he inherited from his forefathers and
which must not die, so long as there are Macedonian citizens in
Alexandria.  We must submit if the superior might of Rome renders Egypt a
province of the republic, but we can preserve to our city and her council
the lion's share of their freedom.  Whatever may be the development of
affairs, we are and shall remain the source whence Rome draws the largest
share of the knowledge which enriches her brain."

"And the art which adorns her rude life," replied Gorgias.  "If she is
free to crush us without pity, she will fare, I think, like the maiden
who raises her foot to trample on a beautiful, rare flower, and then
withdraws it because it would be a crime to destroy so exquisite a work
of the Creator."

"And what  does  the  flower owe to your maiden," cried Dion, "or our
city to Rome?  Let us meet her claims with dignified resolution, then I
think we shall not have the worst evils to fear."

"Let us hope so.  But, my friend, keep your eyes open for other than
Roman foes.  Now that it will become known that you do not love her,
beware of Iras.  There is something about her which reminds me of the
jackal.  Jealousy!--I believe she would be capable of the worst--"

"Yet," Dion interrupted, "Charmian will soften whatever injury Iras plans
to do me, and, though I cannot rely much upon my uncle, Archibius is
above both and favours us and our marriage."

Gorgias uttered a sigh of relief, and exclaimed, "Then on to happiness!"

"And you must also begin to provide for yours," replied Dion warmly.
"Forbid your heart to continue this wandering, nomad life.  The tent
which the wind blows down is not fit for the architect's permanent
residence.  Build yourself a fine house, which will defy storms, as you
built my palace.  I shall not grudge it, and have already said, the times
demand it."

"I will remember the advice," replied Gorgias.  "But six eyes are again
bent upon me for direction.  There are so many important things to be
done while we waste the hours in building triumphal arches for the
defeated--trophies for an overthrow.  But your uncle has just issued
orders to complete the work in the most magnificent style.  The ways of
destiny and the great are dark; may the brightest sunshine illumine
yours!  A prosperous journey!  We shall hear, of course, when you
celebrate the wedding, and if I can I shall join you in the Hymenaeus.
Lucky fellow that you are!  Now I'm summoned from over yonder!  May
Castor and Pollux, and all the gods favourable to travel, Aphrodite, and
all the Loves attend your trip to Irenia, and protect you in the realm of
Eros and Hymen!"

With these words the warm-hearted man clasped his friend to his breast
for the first time.  Dion cordially responded, and at last shook his hard
right hand with the exclamation:

"Farewell, then, till we meet in Irenia on the wedding day, you dear,
faithful fellow."

Then he entered the chariot which stood waiting, and Gorgias gazed after
him thoughtfully.  The hyacinthine purple cloak which Dion wore that day
had not vanished from his sight when a loud crashing, rattling, and
roaring arose behind him.  A hastily erected scaffold, which was to
support the pulleys for raising the statues, had collapsed.  The damage
could be easily repaired, but the accident aroused a troubled feeling in
the architect's mind.  He was a child of his time, a period when duty
commanded the prudent man to heed omens.  Experience also taught him that
when such a thing happened in his work something unpleasant was apt to
occur within the circle of his friends.  The veil of the future concealed
what might be in store for the beloved couple; but he resolved to keep
his eyes open on Dion's behalf and to request Archibius to do the same.

The pressure of work, however, soon silenced the sense of uneasiness.
The damage was speedily repaired, and later Gorgias, sometimes with one,
sometimes with another tablet or roll of MS. in his hand, issued the most
varied orders.

Gradually the light of this dismal day faded.  Ere the night, which
threatened to bring rain and storm, closed in, he again rode on his mule
to the Bruchium to overlook the progress of the work in the various
buildings and give additional directions, for the labour was to be
continued during the night.

The north wind was now blowing so violently from the sea that it was
difficult to keep the torches and lamps lighted.  The gale drove the
drops of rain into his face, and a glance northward showed him masses of
black clouds beyond the harbour and the lighthouse.  This indicated a bad
night, and again the boding sense of coming misfortune stole over him.
Yet he set to work swiftly and prudently, helping with his own hands when
occasion required.

Night closed in.  Not a star was visible in the sky, and the air, chilled
by the north wind, grew so cold that Gorgias at last permitted his body
slave to wrap his cloak around him.  While drawing the hood over his
head, he gazed at a procession of litters and men moving towards Lochias.

Perhaps the Queen's children were returning home from some expedition.
But probably they were rather private citizens on their way to some
festival celebrating the victory; for every one now believed in a great
battle and a successful issue of the war.  This was proved by the shouts
and cheers of the people, who, spite of the storm, were still moving to
and fro near the harbour.

The last of the torch-bearers had just passed Gorgias, and he had told
himself that a train of litters belonging to the royal family would not
move through the darkness so faintly lighted, when a single man, bearing
in his hand a lantern, whose flickering rays shone on his wrinkled face,
approached rapidly from the opposite direction.  It was old Phryx,
Didymus's house slave, with whom the architect had become acquainted,
while the aged scholar was composing the inscription for the Odeum which
Gorgias had erected.  The aged servant had brought him many alterations
of his master's first sketch, and Gorgias had reminded him of it the
previous day.

The workmen by whom the statues had been raised to the pedestal, amid the
bright glare of torches, to the accompaniment of a regular chant, had
just dropped the ropes, windlasses, and levers, when the architect
recognized the slave.

What did the old man want at so late an hour on this dark night?  The
fall of the scaffold again returned to his mind.

Was the slave seeking for a member of the family?  Did Helena need
assistance?  He stopped the gray-haired man, who answered his question
with a heavy sigh, followed by the maxim, "Misfortunes come in pairs,
like oxen."  Then he continued: "Yesterday there was great anxiety.
Today, when there was so much rejoicing on account of Barine, I thought
directly, 'Sorrow follows joy, and the second misfortune won't be spared
us.'  And so it proved."

Gorgias anxiously begged him to relate what had happened, and the old
man, drawing nearer, whispered that the pupil and assistant of Didymus--
young Philotas of Amphissa, a student, and, moreover, a courteous young
man of excellent family--had gone to a banquet to which Antyllus, the son
of Antony, had invited several of his classmates.  This had already
happened several times, and he, Phryx, had warned him, for, when the
lowly associate with the lofty, the lowly rarely escape kicks and blows.
The young fellow, who usually had behaved no worse than the other Ephebi,
had always returned from such festivities with a flushed face and
unsteady steps, but to-night he had not even reached his room in the
upper story.  He had darted into the house as though pursued by the
watch, and, while trying to rush up the stairs--it was really only a
ladder-he had made a misstep and fell.  He, Phryx, did not believe that
he was hurt, for none of his limbs ached, even when they were pulled and
stretched, and Dionysus kindly protected drunkards; but some demon must
have taken possession of him, for he howled and groaned continually, and
would answer no questions.  True, he was aware, from the festivals of
Dionysus, that the young man was one of those who, when intoxicated, weep
and lament; but this time something unusual must have occurred, for in
the first place his handsome face was coloured black and looked hideous,
since his tears had washed away the soot in many places, and then he
talked nothing but a confused jargon.  It was a pity.

When an attempt was made, with the help of the garden slave, to carry him
to his room, he dealt blows and kicks like a lunatic.  Didymus now also
believed that he was possessed by demons, as often happens to those who,
in falling, strike their heads against the ground, and thus wake the
demons in the earth.  Well, yes, they might be demons, but only those of
wine.  The student was just "crazy drunk," as people say.  But the old
gentleman was very fond of his pupil, and had ordered him, Pliryx, to go
to Olympus, who, ever since he could remember, had been the family
physician.

"The Queen's leech?" asked Gorgias, disapprovingly, and when the slave
assented, the architect exclaimed in a positive tone: "It is not right to
force the old man out of doors in such a north wind.  Age is not
specially considerate to age.  Now that the statues stand yonder, I can
leave my post for half an hour and will go with you.  I don't think a
leech is needed to drive out these demons."

"True, my lord, true!" cried the slave, "but Olympus is our friend.  He
visits few patients, but he will come to our house in any weather.  He
has litters, chariots, and splendid mules.  The Queen gives him whatever
is best and most comfortable.  He is skilful, and perhaps can render
speedy help.  People must use what they have."

"Only where it is necessary," replied the architect.  "There are my two
mules; follow me on the second.  If I don't drive out the demons, you
will have plenty of time to trot after Olympus."

This proposal pleased the old slave, and a short time after Gorgias
entered the venerable philosopher's tablinum.

Helena welcomed him like an intimate friend.  Whenever he appeared she
thought the peril was half over.  Didymus, too, greeted him warmly, and
conducted him to the little room where the youth possessed by demons lay
on a divan.

He was still groaning and whimpering.  Tears were streaming down his
cheeks, and, whenever any member of the household approached, he pushed
him away.

When Gorgias held his hands and sternly ordered him to confess what wrong
he had done, he sobbed out that he was the most ungrateful wretch on
earth.  His baseness would ruin his kind parents, himself, and all his
friends.

Then he accused himself of having caused the destruction of Didymus's
granddaughter.  He would not have gone to Antyllus again had not his
recent generosity bound him to him, but now he must atone-ay, atone.
Then, as if completely crushed, he continued to mumble the word, "atone!"
and for a time nothing more could be won from him.

Didymus, however, had the key to the last sentence.  A few weeks before,
Philotas and several other pupils of the rhetorician whose lectures in
the museum he attended had been invited to breakfast with Antyllus.  When
the young student loudly admired the beautiful gold and silver beakers in
which the wine was served, the reckless host cried: "They are yours; take
them with you."  When the guests departed the cup-bearer asked Philotas,
who had been far from taking the gift seriously, to receive his property.
Antyllus had intended to bestow the goblets; but he advised the youth to
let him pay their value in money, for among them were several ancient
pieces of most artistic workmanship, which Antony, the extravagant young
fellow's father, might perhaps be unwilling to lose.

Thereupon several rolls of gold solidi were paid to the astonished
student--and they had been of little real benefit, since they had made it
possible for him to keep pace with his wealthy and aristocratic
classmates and share many of their extravagances.  Yet he had not ceased
to fulfil his duty to Didymus.

Though he sometimes turned night into day, he gave no serious cause for
reproof.  Small youthful errors were willingly pardoned; for he was a
good-looking, merry young fellow, who knew how to make himself agreeable
to the entire household, even to the women.

What had befallen the poor youth that day?  Didymus was filled with
compassion for him, and, though he gladly welcomed Gorgias, he gave him
to understand that the leech's absence vexed him.

But, during a long bachelor career in Alexandria, a city ever gracious to
the gifts of Bacchus, Gorgias had become familiar with attacks like those
of Philotas and their treatment, and after several jars of water had been
brought and he had been left alone a short time with the sufferer, the
philosopher secretly rejoiced that he had not summoned the grey-haired
leech into the stormy night for Gorgias led forth his pupil with dripping
hair, it is true, but in a state of rapid convalescence.

The youth's handsome face was freed from soot, but his eyes were bent in
confusion on the ground, and he sometimes pressed his hand upon his
aching brow.  It needed all the old philosopher's skill in persuasion to
induce him to speak, and Philotas, before he began, begged Helena to
leave the room.

He intended to adhere strictly to the truth, though he feared that the
reckless deed into which he had suffered himself to be drawn might have a
fatal effect upon his future life.

Besides, he hoped to obtain wise counsel from the architect, to whom he
owed his speedy recovery, and whose grave, kindly manner inspired him
with confidence; and, moreover, he was so greatly indebted to Didymus
that duty required him to make a frank confession--yet he dared not
acknowledge one of the principal motives of his foolish act.

The plot into which he had been led was directed against Barine, whom he
had long imagined he loved with all the fervour of his twenty years.
But, just before he went to the fatal banquet, he had heard that the
young beauty was betrothed to Dion.  This had wounded him deeply; for in
many a quiet hour it had seemed possible to win her for himself and lead
her as his wife to his home in Amphissa.  He was very little younger than
she, and if his parents once saw her, they could not fail to approve his
choice.  And the people in Amphissa!  They would have gazed at Barine as
if she were a goddess.

And now this fine gentleman had come to crush his fairest hopes.  No word
of love had ever been exchanged between him and Barine, but how kindly
she had always looked at him, how willingly she had accepted trivial
services!  Now she was lost.  At first this had merely saddened him, but
after he had drunk the wine, and Antyllus, Antony's son, in the presence
of the revellers, over whom Caesarion presided as "symposiarch"--
[Director of a banquet.]--had accused Barine of capturing hearts by magic
spells, he had arrived at the conviction that he, too, had been
shamefully allured and betrayed.

He had served for a toy, he said to himself, unless she had really loved
him and merely preferred Dion on account of his wealth.  In any case, he
felt justified in cherishing resentment against Barine, and with the
number of goblets which he drained his jealous rage increased.

When urged to join in the escapade which now burdened his conscience he
consented with a burning brain in order to punish her for the wrong
which, in his heated imagination, she had done him.

All this he withheld from the older men and merely briefly described the
splendid banquet which Caesarion, pallid and listless as ever, had
directed, and Antyllus especially had enlivened with the most reckless
mirth.

The "King of kings" and Antony's son had escaped from their tutors on the
pretext of a hunting excursion, and the chief huntsman had not grudged
them the pleasure--only they were obliged to promise him that they would
be ready to set out for the desert early the next morning.

When, after the banquet, the mixing-vessels were brought out and the
beakers were filled more rapidly, Antyllus whispered several times to
Caesarion and then turned the conversation upon Barine, the fairest of
the fair, destined by the immortals for the greatest and highest of
mankind.  This was the "King of kings," Caesarion, and he also claimed
the favour of the gods for himself.  But everybody knew that Aphrodite
deemed herself greater than the highest of kings, and therefore Barine
ventured to close her doors upon their august symposiarch in a manner
which could not fail to be unendurable, not only to him but to all the
youth of Alexandria.  Whoever boasted of being one of the Ephebi might
well clench his fist with indignation, when he heard that the insolent
beauty kept young men at a distance because she considered only the older
ones worthy of her notice.  This must not be!  The Ephebi of Alexandria
must make her feel the power of youth.  This was the more urgently
demanded, because Caesarion would thereby be led to the goal of his
wishes.

Barine was going into the country that very evening.  Insulted Eros
himself was smoothing their way.  He commanded them to attack the
arrogant fair one's carriage and lead her to him who sought her in the
name of youth, in order to show her that the hearts of the Ephebi, whom
she disdainfully rejected, glowed more ardently than those of the older
men on whom she bestowed her favours.

Here Gorgias interrupted the speaker with a loud cry of indignation, but
old Didymus's eyes seemed to be fairly starting from their sockets as he
hoarsely shouted an impatient:

"Go on!"

And Philotas, now completely sobered, described with increasing animation
the wonderful change that had taken place in the quiet Caesarion, as if
some magic spell had been at work; for scarcely had the revellers greeted
Antyllus's words with shouts of joy, declaring themselves ready to avenge
insulted youth upon Barine, than the "King of kings" suddenly sprang from
the cushions on which he had listlessly reclined, and with flashing eyes
shouted that whoever called himself his friend must aid him in the
attack.

Here he was urged to still greater haste by another impatient "Go on!"
from his master, and hurriedly continued his story, describing how they
had blackened their faces and armed themselves with Antyllus's swords and
lances.  As the sun was setting they went in a covered boat through the
Agathodamon Canal to Lake Mareotis.  Everything must have been arranged
in advance; for they landed precisely at the right hour.

As, during the trip, they had kept up their courage by swallowing the
most fiery wine, Philotas had staggered on shore with difficulty and then
been dragged forward by the others.  After this he knew nothing more,
except that he had rushed with the rest upon a large harmamaxa,--[A
closed Asiatic travelling-carriage with four wheels]--and in so doing
fell.  When he rose from the earth all was over.

As if in a dream he saw Scythians and other guardians of the peace seize
Antyllus, while Caesarion was struggling on the ground with another man.
If he was not mistaken it was Dion, Barine's betrothed husband.

These communications were interrupted by many exclamations of impatience
and wrath; but now Didymus, fairly frantic with alarm, cried:

"And the child--Barine?"

But when Philotas's sole reply to this question was a silent shake of the
head, indignation conquered the old philosopher, and clutching his
pupil's chiton with both hands, he shook him violently, exclaiming
furiously:

"You don't know, scoundrel?  Instead of defending her who should be dear
to you as a child of this household, you joined the rascally scorners of
morality and law as the accomplice of this waylayer in purple!"

Here the architect soothed the enraged old man with expostulations,
and the assertion that everything must now yield to the necessity of
searching for Barine and Dion.  He did not know which way to turn, in the
amount of labour pressing upon him, but he would have a hasty talk with
the foreman and then try to find his friend.

"And I," cried the old man, "must go at once to the unfortunate child.-My
cloak, Phryx, my sandals!"

In spite of Gorgias's counsel to remember his age and the inclement
weather, he cried angrily:

"I am going, I say!  If the tempest hurls me to the earth, and the bolts
of Zeus strike me, so be it.  One misfortune more or less matters little
in a life which has been a chain of heavy blows of Fate.  I buried three
sons in the prime of manhood, and two have been slain in battle.  Barine,
the joy of my heart, I myself, fool that I was, bound to the scoundrel
who blasted her joyous existence; and now that I believed she would be
protected from trouble and misconstruction by the side of a worthy
husband, these infamous rascals, whose birth protects them from
vengeance, have wounded, perhaps killed her betrothed lover.  They
trample in the dust her fair name and my white hair!--Phryx, my hat and
staff."

The storm had long been raging around the house, which stood close by the
sea, and the sailcloth awning which was stretched over the impluvium
noisily rattled the metal rings that confined it.  Now so violent a gust
swept from room to room that two of the flames in the three-branched lamp
went out.  The door of the house had been opened, and drenched with rain,
a hood drawn over his black head, Barine's Nubian doorkeeper crossed the
threshold.

He presented a pitiable spectacle and at first could find no answer to
the greetings and questions of the men, who had been joined by Helena,
her grandmother leaning on her arm; his rapid walk against the fury of
the storm had fairly taken away his breath.

He had little, however, to tell.  Barine merely sent a message to her
relatives that, no matter what tales rumour might bring, she and her
mother were unhurt.  Dion had received a wound in the shoulder, but it
was not serious.  Her grandparents need have no anxiety; the attack had
completely failed.

Doris, who was deaf, had listened vainly, holding her hand to her ear, to
catch this report; and Didymus now told his granddaughter as much as he
deemed it advisable for her to know, that she might communicate it to her
grandmother, who understood the movements of her lips.

The old man was rejoiced to learn that his granddaughter had escaped so
great a peril uninjured, yet he was still burdened by sore anxiety.  The
architect, too, feared the worst, but by dint of assuring him that he
would return at once with full details when he had ascertained the fate
of Dion and his betrothed bride, he finally persuaded the old man to give
up the night walk through the tempest.

Philotas, with tears in his eyes, begged them to accept his services as
messenger or for any other purpose; but Didymus ordered him to go to bed.
An opportunity would be found to enable him to atone for the offence so
recklessly committed.

The scholar's peaceful home was deprived of its nocturnal repose, and
when Gorgias had gone and Didymus had refused Helena's request to have
the aged porter take her to her sister, the old man remained alone with
his wife in the tablinum.

She had been told nothing except that thieves had attacked her
granddaughter, Barine, and slightly wounded her lover; but her own heart
and the manner of the husband, at whose side she had grown grey, showed
that many things were being concealed.  She longed to know the story more
fully, but it was difficult for Didymus to talk a long time in a loud
tone, so she silenced her desire to learn the whole truth.  But, in order
to await the architect's report, they did not go to rest.

Didymus had sunk into an armchair, and Doris sat near at her spindle, but
without drawing any threads from her distaff.  When she heard her husband
sigh and saw him bury his face in his hands, she limped nearer to him,
difficult as it was for her to move, and stroked his head, now nearly
bald, with her hand.  Then she uttered soothing words, and, as the
anxious, troubled expression did not yet pass from his wrinkled face,
she reminded him in faltering yet tender tones how often they had thought
they must despair, and yet everything had resulted well.

"Ah! husband," she added, "I know full well that the clouds hanging over
us are very black, and I cannot even see them clearly, because you show
them at such a distance.  Yet I feel that they threaten us with sore
tribulation.  But, after all, what harm can they do us, if we only keep
close together, we two old people and the children of the children whom
Hades rent from us?  We need only to grow old to perceive that life has a
head with many faces.  The ugly one of to-day can last no longer than you
can keep that deeply furrowed brow.  But you need not coerce yourself for
my sake, husband.  Let it be so.  I need merely close my eyes to see how
smooth and beautiful it was in youth, and how pleasant it will look when
better days say, 'Here we are!'"

Didymus, with a mournful smile, kissed her grey hair and shouted into her
left ear, which was a little less deaf than the other:

"How young you are still, wife!"




CHAPTER X.

The tempest swept howling from the north across the island of Pharos, and
the shallows of Diabathra in the great harbour of Alexandria.  The water,
usually so placid, rose in high waves, and the beacon on the lighthouse
of Sastratus sent the rent abundance of its flames with hostile
impetuosity towards the city.  The fires in the pitch-pans and the
torches on the shore sometimes seemed on the point of being extinguished,
at others burst with a doubly brilliant blaze through the smoke which
obscured them.

The royal harbour, a fine basin which surrounded in the form of a
semicircle the southern part of the Lochias and a portion of the northern
shore of the Bruchium, was brightly illuminated every night; but this
evening there seemed to be an unusual movement among the lights on its
western shore, the private anchorage of the royal fleet.

Was it the storm that stirred them?  No.  How could the wind have set
one torch in the place of another, and moved lights or lanterns in a
direction opposite to its violent course?  Only a few persons, however,
perceived this; for, though joyous anticipation or anxious fears urged
many thither, who would venture upon the quay on such a tempestuous
night?  Besides, no one would have found admittance to the royal port,
which was closed on all sides.  Even the mole which, towards the west,
served as the string to the bow of land surrounding it, had but a single
opening and--as every one knew--that was closed by a chain in the same
way as the main entrance to the harbour between the Pharos and Alveus
Steganus.

About two hours before midnight, spite of the increasing fury of the
tempest, the singular movement of the lights diminished, but rarely had
the hearts of those for whom they burned throbbed so anxiously.  These
were the dignitaries and court officials who stood nearest to Cleopatra
--about twenty men and a single woman, Iras.  Mardion and she had
summoned them because the Queen's letter permitted those to whom she had
given authority to offer her a quiet reception.  After a long
consultation they had not invited the commanders of the little Roman
garrison left behind.  It was doubtful whether those whom they expected
would return that night, and the Roman soldiers who were loyal to Antony
had gone with him to the war.

The hall in the centre of the private roadstead of the royal harbour,
where they had assembled, was furnished with regal magnificence; for it
was a favourite resort of the Queen.  The spacious apartment lacked no
requisite of comfort, and most of those who were waiting used the well-
cushioned couches, while others, harassed by mental anxiety, paced to and
fro.

As the room had remained unused for months, bats had made nests there,
and now that it was lighted, dazzled by the glare of the lamps and
candles, they darted to and fro above the heads of the assembly.  Iras
had ordered the commander of the Mellakes, or youths, a body-guard
composed of the sons of aristocratic Macedonian families, to expel the
troublesome creatures, and it diverted the thoughts of these devoted
soldiers of the Queen to strike at them with their swords.

Others preferred to watch this futile battle rather than give themselves
up to the anxiety which filled their minds.  The Regent was gazing mutely
at the ground; Iras, pale and absent-minded, was listening to Zeno's
statements; and Archibius had gone out of doors, and, unheeding the
storm, was looking across the tossing waves of the harbour for the
expected ships.

In a wooden shed, whose roof was supported by gaily painted pillars,
through which the wind whistled, the servants, from the porters to the
litter-bearers, had gathered in groups under the flickering light of the
lanterns.  The Greeks sat on wooden stools, the Egyptians upon mats on
the floor.  The largest circle contained the parties who attended to the
Queen's luggage and the upper servants, among whom were several maids.

They had been told that the Queen was expected that night, because it was
possible that the strong north wind would bear her ship home with
unexpected speed after the victory.  But they were better informed:
palaces have chinks in doors and curtains, and are pervaded by a very
peculiar echo which bears even a whisper distinctly from ear to ear.

The body-slave of the commander-in-chief Seleukus was the principal
spokesman.  His master had reached Alexandria but a few hours ago from
the frontier fortress of Pelusium, which he commanded.  A mysterious
order from Lucilius, Antony's most faithful friend, brought from Taenarum
by a swift galley, had summoned him hither.

The freedman Beryllus, a loquacious Sicilian, who, as an actor, had seen
better days ere pirates robbed him of his liberty, had heard many new
things, and his hearers listened eagerly; for ships coming from the
north, which touched at Pelusium, had confirmed and completed the evil
tidings that had penetrated the Sebasteum.

According to his story, he was as well informed as if he had been an eye-
witness of the naval battle; for he had been present during his master's
conversation with many ship-captains and messengers from Greece.  He even
assumed the air of a loyal, strictly silent servant, who would only
venture to confirm and deny what the Alexandrians had already learned.
Yet his knowledge consisted merely of a confused medley of false and true
occurrences.  While the Egyptian fleet had been defeated at Actium, and
Antony, flying with Cleopatra, had gone first to Taenarum at the end of
the Peloponnesian coast, he asserted that the army and fleet had met on
the Peloponnesian coast and Octavianus was pursuing Antony, who had
turned towards Athens, while Cleopatra was on her way to Alexandria.

His  "trustworthy  intelligence"  had  been patched together from a few
words caught from Seleukus at table, or while receiving and dismissing
messengers.  In other matters his information was more accurate.

While for several days the harbour of Alexandria had been closed, vessels
were permitted to enter Pelusium, and all captains of newly arrived ships
and caravans were compelled to report to Beryllus's master, the
commandant of the important frontier fortress.

He had quitted Pelusium the night before.  The strong wind had driven the
trireme before it so swiftly that it was difficult for even the sea gulls
to follow.  It was easy for the listeners to believe this; for the storm
outside howled louder and louder, whistling through the open hall where
the servants had gathered.  Most of the lamps and torches had been blown
out, the pitch-pans only sent forth still blacker clouds of smoke, lit by
red and yellow flames, and the closed lanterns alone continued to diffuse
a flickering light.  So the wide space, dim with smoke, was illumined
only by a dull, varying glimmer.

One of the porters had furnished wine to shorten the hours of waiting;
but it could only be drunk in secret, so there were no goblets.  The jars
wandered from mouth to mouth, and every sip was welcome, for the wind
blew keenly, and besides, the smoke irritated their throats.

The freedman, Beryllus, was often interrupted by paroxysms of coughing,
especially from the women, while relating the evil omens which were told
to his master in Pelusium.  Each was well authenticated and surpassed its
predecessor in significance.

Here one of Iras's maids interrupted him to tell the story of the
swallows on the "Antonius," Cleopatra's admiral galley.  He could
scarcely report from Pelusium an omen of darker presage.

But Beryllus gazed at her with a pitying smile, which so roused the
expectations of the others that the overseer of the litter and baggage
porters, who were talking loudly together, hoarsely shouted, "Silence!"

Soon no sound was heard in the open space save the shrill whistling of
the wind, a word of command to the harbour-guards, and the freedman's
voice, which he lowered to increase the charm of the mysterious events he
was describing.

He began with the most fulsome praise of Cleopatra and Antony, reminding
his hearers that the Imperator was a descendant of Herakles.  The
Alexandrians especially were aware that their Queen and Antony claimed
and desired to be called "The new Isis" and "The new Dionysus."  But
every one who beheld the Roman must admit that in face and figure he
resembled a god far more than a man.

The Imperator had appeared as Dionysus, especially to the Athenians.  In
the proscenium of the theatre in that city was a huge bas-relief of the
Battle of the Giants, the famous work of an ancient sculptor--he,
Beryllus, had seen it--and from amid the numerous figures in this piece
of sculpture the tempest had torn but a single one--which?  Dionysus, the
god as whose mortal image Antony had once caroused in a vine-clad arbour
in the presence of the Athenians.  The storm to-night was at the utmost
like the breath of a child, compared with the hurricane which could wrest
from the hard marble the form of Dionysus.  But Nature gathers all her
forces when she desires to announce to short-sighted mortals the approach
of events which are to shake the world.

The last words were quoted from his master who had studied in Athens.
They had escaped from his burdened soul when he heard of another portent,
of which a ship from Ostia had brought tidings.  The flourishing city
Pisaura--

Here, however, he was interrupted, for several of those present had
learned, weeks before, that this place had sunk in the sea, but merely
pitied the unfortunate inhabitants.

Beryllus quietly permitted them to free themselves from the suspicion
that people in Alexandria had had tidings of so remarkable an event later
than those in Pelusium, and at first answered their query what this had
to do with the war merely by a shrug of the shoulders; but when the
overseer of the porters also put the question, he went on "The omen made
a specially deep impression upon our minds, for we know what Pisaura is,
or rather how it came into existence.  The hapless city which dark Hades
ingulfed really belonged to Antony, for in the days of its prosperity he
was its founder."

He measured the group with a defiant glance, and there was no lack of
evidences of horror; nay, one of the maid-servants shrieked aloud, for
the storm had just snatched a torch from the iron rings in the wall and
hurled it on the floor close beside the listener.

Suspense seemed to have reached its height.  Yet it was evident that
Beryllus had not yet drawn his last arrow from the quiver.

The maid-servant, whose scream had startled the others, had regained her
composure and seemed eager to hear some other new and terrible omen, for,
with a beseeching glance, she begged the freedman not to withhold the
knew.

He pointed to the drops of perspiration which, spite of the wind sweeping
through the hall, covered her brow: "You must use your handkerchief.
Merely listening to my tale will dampen your skin.  Stone statues are
made of harder material, but a soul dwells within them too.  Their
natures may be harsher or more gentle; they bring us woe or heal heavy
sorrows, according to their mood.  Every one learns this who raises his
hands to them in prayer.  One of these statues stands in Alba.  It
represents Mark Antony, in whose honour it was erected by the city.  And
it foresaw what menaced the man whose stone double it is.  Ay, open your
ears!  About four days ago a ship's captain came to my master and in my
presence this man reported--he grew as pale as ashes while he spoke--what
he himself had witnessed.  Drops of perspiration had oozed from the
statue of Antony in Alba.  Horror seized all the citizens; men and women
came to wipe the brow and cheeks of the statue, but the drops of
perspiration did not cease to drip, and this continued several days and
nights.  The stone image had felt what was impending over the living Mark
Antony.  It was a horrible spectacle, the man said."

Here the speaker paused, and the group of listeners started, for the
clang of a gong was heard outside, and the next instant all were on their
feet hastening to their posts.

The officials in the magnificent hall had also risen.  Here the silence
had been interrupted only by low whispers.  The colour had faded from
most of the grave, anxious faces, and their timid glances shunned one
another.

Archibius had first perceived, by the flames of the Pharos, the red
glimmer which announced the approach of the royal galley.  It had not
been expected so early, but was already passing the islands into the
great harbour.  It was probably the Antonius, the ship on which the old
swallows had pecked the young ones to death.

Though the waves were running high, even in the sheltered harbour, they
scarcely rocked the massive vessel.  An experienced pilot must have
steered it past the shallows and cliffs on the eastern side of the
roadstead, for instead of passing around the island of Antirrhodus as
usual, it kept between the island and the Lochias, steering straight
towards the entrance into the little royal harbour.  The pitch-pans on
both sides had been filled with fresh resin and tow to light the way.
The watchers on the shore could now see its outlines distinctly.

It was the Antonius, and yet it was not.

Zeno, the Keeper of the Seal, who was standing beside Iras, wrapped his
cloak closer around his shivering limbs, pointed to it, and whispered,

"Like a woman who leaves her parents' house in the rich array of a bride,
and returns to it an impoverished widow."

Iras drew herself up, and with cutting harshness replied, "Like the sun
veiled by mists, but which will soon shine forth again more radiantly
than ever."

"Spoken from the depths of my soul," said the old courtier eagerly, "so
far as the Queen is concerned.  Of course, I did not allude to her
Majesty, but to the ship.  You were ill when it left the harbour,
garlanded with flowers and adorned with purple sails.  And now!  Even
this flickering light shows the wounds and rents.  I am the last person
whom you need tell that our sun Cleopatra will soon regain its old
radiance, but at present it is very chilly and cold here by the
water's edge in this stormy air; and when I think of our first
moment of meeting--

"Would it were over!"  murmured Iras, wrapping herself closer in her
cloak.  Then she drew back shivering, for the rattle of the heavy chain,
which was drawn aside from the opening of the harbour, echoed with an
uncanny sound through the silence of the night.  A mountain seemed to
weigh upon the watchers' breasts, for the wooden monster which now
entered the little harbour moved forward as slowly and silently as a
spectral ship.  It seemed as if life were extinct on the huge galley
usually swarming with a numerous crew; as if a vessel were about to cast
anchor whose sailors had fallen victims to the plague.  Nothing was heard
save an occasional word of command, and the signal whistles of the
fluteplayer who directed the rowers.  A few lanterns burned with a
wavering light on the vast length of her decks.  The brilliant
illumination which usually shone through the darkness would have
attracted the attention of the Alexandrians.

Now it was close to the landing.  The group on shore watched every inch
of its majestic progress with breathless suspense, but when the first
rope was flung to the slaves on shore several men in Greek robes pressed
forward hurriedly among the courtiers.

They had come with a message, whose importance would permit no delay, to
the Regent Mardion, who stood between Zeno and Iras, gazing gloomily at
the ground with a frowning brow.  He was pondering over the words in
which to address the Queen, and within a few minutes the ship would have
made her landing, and Cleopatra might cross the bridge.  To disturb him
at that moment was an undertaking few who knew the irritable, uncertain
temper of the eunuch would care to risk.  But the tall Macedonian, who
for a short time attracted the eyes of most of the spectators from the
galley, ventured to do so.  It was the captain of the nightwatch, the
aristocratic commander of the police force of the city.

"Only a word, my lord," he whispered to the Regent, "though the time may
be inopportune."

"As inopportune as possible," replied the eunuch with repellent
harshness.

"We will say as inopportune as the degree of haste necessary for its
decision.  The King Caesarion, with Antyllus and several companions,
attacked a woman.  Blackened faces.  A fight.  Caesarion and the woman's
companion--an aristocrat, member of the Council--slightly wounded.
Lictors interfered just in time.  The young gentlemen were arrested.
At first they refused to give their names--"

"Caesarion slightly, really only slightly wounded?" asked the eunuch with
eager haste.

"Really and positively.  Olympus was summoned at once.  A knock on the
head.  The man who was attacked flung him on the pavement in the
struggle."

"Dion, the son of Eumenes, is the man," interrupted Iras, whose quick ear
had caught the officer's report.  "The woman is Barine, the daughter of
the artist Leonax."

"Then you know already?" asked the Macedonian in surprise.

"So it seems," answered Mardion, gazing into the girl's face with a
significant glance.  Then, turning to her rather than to the Macedonian,
he added, "I think we will have the young rascals set free and brought to
Lochias with as little publicity as possible."

"To the palace?" asked the Macedonian.

"Of course," replied Iras firmly.  "Each to his own apartments, where
they must remain until further orders."

"Everything else must be deferred until after the reception," added the
eunuch, and the Macedonian, with a slight, haughty nod, drew back.

"Another misfortune," sighed the eunuch.

"A boyish prank," Iras answered quickly, "but even a still greater
misfortune is less than nothing so long as we are not conscious of it.
This unpleasant occurrence must be concealed for the present from the
Queen.  Up to this time it is a vexation, nothing more--and it can and
must remain so; for we have it in our power to uproot the poisonous tree
whence it emanates."

"You look as if no one could better perform the task," the Regent
interrupted, with a side glance at the galley, "so you shall have the
commission.  It is the last one I shall give, during the Queen's absence,
in her name."

"I shall not fail," she answered firmly.

When Iras again looked towards the landing-place she saw Archibius
standing alone, with his eyes fixed upon the ground.  Impulse prompted
her to tell her uncle what had happened; but at the first step she
paused, and her thin lips uttered a firm "No."

Her friend had become a stone in her path.  If necessary, she would find
means to thrust him also aside, spite of his sister Charmian and the old
tie which united him to Cleopatra.  He had grown weak, Charmian had
always been so.

She would have had time enough now to consider what step to take first,
had not her heart ached so sorely.

After the huge galley lay moored, several minutes elapsed ere two
pastophori of the goddess Isis, who guarded the goblet of Nektanebus,
taken from the temple treasures and borne along in a painted chest,
stepped upon the bridge, followed by Cleopatra's first chamberlain, who
in a low tone announced the approach of the Queen and commanded the
waiting groups to make way.  A double line of torch-bearers had been
stationed from the landing to the gate leading into the Bruchium, and the
other on the north, which was the entrance to the palaces on the Lochias,
since it was not known where Cleopatra would desire to go.  The
chamberlain, however, said that she would spend the night at Lochias,
where the children lived, and ordered all the flickering, smoking
torches, save a few, to be extinguished.

Mardion, the Keeper of the Seal, Archibius, and Iras were standing by the
bridge a little in advance of the others, when voices were heard on the
ship, and the Queen appeared, preceded by several lantern-bearers and
followed by a numerous train of court officials, pages, maids, and female
slaves.  Cleopatra's little hand rested on Charmian's arm, as, with a
haughty carriage of the head, she moved towards the shore.  A thick veil
covered her face, and a large, dark cloak concealed her figure.  How
elastic her step was still! how proud yet graceful was the gesture with
which she waved a greeting to Mardion and Zeno.

Extending her hand to raise Iras, who had sunk prostrate before her, she
kissed her on the forehead, whispering, "The children?"

"All is well with them," replied the girl.

Then the returning sovereign greeted the others with a gracious gesture,
but vouchsafed a word to no one until the eunuch stepped before her to
deliver his address of welcome.  She motioned him aside with a curt
"Later"; and when Zeno held open the door of the litter, she said in a
stifled tone: "I will walk.  After the rocking of the galley in this
tempest, I feel reluctant to enter the litter.  There are many things to
be considered to-day.  An idea carne to me on the way home.  Summon the
captain of the harbour and his chief counsellors, the heads of the war
office, the superintendent of the fortifications on land and water,
especially the Aristarch and Gorgias--I want to see them.  Time presses.
They must be here in two hours-no, in an hour and a half.  I wish to
examine all their plans and charts of the eastern frontier, especially
the river channels and canals in the Delta."

Then she turned to Archibius, who had approached the litter, laid her
hand upon his arm, and though her veil prevented him from seeing her
sparkling eyes, he felt them shining deep into his heart, as the voice
whose melody had often enthralled his soul cried, "We will take it as a
favourable omen that it is again you who lead me to this palace in a time
of trouble."

His overflowing heart found expression in the warm reply, "Whenever it
may be, forever and ever this arm and this life are yours!"  And the
Queen answered in a tone of earnest belief, "I know it."

Then, with her hand still resting on his arm, she moved forward; but when
he began to ask whether she really had cause to speak of a time of
trouble, she cut him short with the entreaty "Not now.  Let us say
nothing.  It is worse than bad--as evil as possible.  Yet no.  Few are
permitted, in an hour of trouble, to lean on the arm of a faithful
friend."

The words were accompanied with a light pressure of her little hand, and
it seemed as if his old heart was growing young.

He dared not speak, for her wish was law; but while moving silently at
her side, first along the shore, then through the gate, and finally over
the marble flagstones which led to the palace portal, it seemed as if he
beheld, instead of the veiled head of the hapless Queen, the soft, light-
brown locks which floated around the face of a happy child.  Before his
mental vision rose the little mistress of the garden of Epicurus.  He saw
the sparkle of her large blue eyes, which never ceased to question, yet
appeared to contain the mystery of the world.  He fancied he heard once
more the silvery cadence of her voice and the bewitching magic of her
pure, childlike laughter, and it was hard to remember what she had
become.

Snatched away from the present, yet conscious that Fate had granted him
a great boon in this sorrowful hour, he moved on at her side and led her
through the main entrance, the spacious inner court-yard of the palace.
At the rear was the great door opening into the Queen's apartments,
before which Mardion, Iras, and their companions had already stationed
themselves.  At the left was a smaller one leading into the wing occupied
by the children.

Archibius was about to conduct Cleopatra across the lighted court-yard,
but she motioned towards the children's rooms, and he understood her.

At the threshold her hand fell from his arm, and when he bowed as if to
retire, she said kindly: "There is Charmian.  You both deserve to
accompany me to the spot where childhood is dreaming and peace of mind
and painlessness have their abode.  But respect for the Queen has
prevented the brother and sister from greeting each other after so
long a separation.  Do so now!  Then, follow me."

While speaking, she hastened with the swift step of youth into the atrium
and up the staircase which led to the sleeping-rooms of the princes and
princesses.

Archibius and Charmian obeyed her bidding; the brother clasped his sister
affectionately in his arms, and in hurried tones, with tears streaming
from her eyes, she informed him that to her all seemed lost.

Antony had behaved in a manner for which no words of condemnation or
regret were adequate.  Probably he would follow Cleopatra; the fleet, and
perhaps the army also, were destroyed.  Her fate lay in the hands of
Octavianus.

Then she preceded him towards the staircase, where Iras was standing with
a tall Syrian, who bore a striking resemblance to Philostratus, Barine's
former husband.  It was his brother Alexas, the trusted favourite of Mark
Antony.  His place should now have been with him, and Archibius asked his
sister with a hasty look how this man chanced to be in the Queen's train.

"His skill in reading the stars," was the reply.  "His flattering tongue.
He is a parasite of the worst kind, but he tells her many things,
he diverts her, and she tolerates him near her person."

As soon as Iras saw the direction in which Cleopatra had turned, she had
hastened after her to accompany her to the children.  The Syrian Alexas
had stopped her to express his joy in meeting her again.  Even before the
outbreak of the war he had devoted himself zealously to her, and he now
plainly showed that during the long period of separation his feelings had
by no means cooled.  Like his brother, he had a head too small for his
body, but his well-formed features were animated by a pair of eyes
sparkling with a keen, covetous expression.

Iras, too, seemed glad to welcome the favourite, but ere the brother and
sister reached the staircase she left him to embrace Charmian, her aunt
and companion, with the affection of a daughter.

They found the Queen in the anteroom of the children's apartments.
Euphronion, their tutor, had awaited her there, and hurriedly gave, in
the most rapturous terms, his report of them and the wonderful gifts
which became more and more apparent in each, now as a heritage from their
mother, now from their father.

Cleopatra had interrupted the torrent of his enthusiastic speech with
many a question, meanwhile endeavouring to loose the veil wound about her
head; but the little hands, unaccustomed to the task, failed.  Iras
noticed it from the stairs and, hastening up the last steps, skilfully
released her from the long web of lace.

The Queen acknowledged the service by a gracious nod, but when the chief
eunuch opened the door leading into the children's rooms, she called
joyously to the brother and sister, "Come!"  The tutor, who was obliged
to leave the charge of his pupils' sleeping apartments to the eunuchs and
nurses, drew back, but Iras felt it a bitter affront to be excluded from
this visit.  Her cheeks flushed and paled; her thin lips were more firmly
compressed, and she gazed intently at the basket of fruit in the mosaic
floor at her feet as if she were counting the cherries that filled it.
But she suddenly pushed the little curls back from her forehead, darted
swiftly down the stairs, and called to Alexas just as he was about to
leave the atrium.

The Syrian hastened towards her, extolling the good fortune that made his
sun rise for him a second time that night, but she cut him short with the
words; "Cease this foolish love-making.  It would be far better for us
both to become allies in serious, bitter earnest.  I am ready."

"So am I!" cried the Syrian rapturously, pressing his hand upon his
heart.

Meanwhile Cleopatra had entered the chamber where the children lay
sleeping.  Deep silence pervaded the lofty hall hung with bright-hued
carpets, and softly lighted by three lamps with rose-colored globes.  An
arch, supported by pillars of Libyan marble, divided the wide space.  In
the first, near a window closely muffled with draperies, stood two
ivory beds, surmounted with crowns of gold and silver set with pearls and
turquoises.  Around the edge, carved by the hands of a great artist, ran
a line of happy children dancing to the songs of birds in blossoming
bushes.

The couches were separated by a heavy curtain which the eunuchs had
raised at the approach of the Queen.  Cleopatra could now see them all at
a single glance, and the picture was indeed one of exquisite charm; for
on these beautiful couches slept the twins, the ten-year-old children of
Cleopatra and Antony--Antonius Helios and Cleopatra Selene.  The girl was
pink and white, fair and wonderfully lovely; the boy no less beautiful,
but with ebon-black hair, like his father.  Both curly heads were turned
towards the side, and rested on a dimpled hand pressed upon the silken
pillow.

Upon a third bed, beyond the arch, was Alexander, the youngest prince, a
lovely boy of six, the Queen's darling.

After gazing a long while at the twins, and pressing a light kiss upon
cheeks flushed with slumber, she turned to the youngest child and sank
beside his couch as if forced to bend the knee before some apparition
which Heaven had vouchsafed to her.  Tears streamed from her eyes as,
drawing the child carefully towards her, she kissed his mouth, eyes, and
cheeks, and then laid him gently back upon the pillows.  The boy,
however, did not instantly relapse into slumber, but threw his little
plump arms around his mother's neck, murmuring incomprehensible words.
She joyously submitted to his caresses, till sleep again overpowered him,
and his little hands fell back upon the bed.

She lingered a short time longer, with her brow resting on the ivory of
the couch, praying for this child and his brother and sister.  When she
rose again her cheeks were wet with tears, and she pressed her hand upon
her breast.  Then, beckoning to Charmian and Archibius, she motioned
towards Alexander and the twins, saying, as she saw tears glittering in
the eyes of both: "I know you have lost this happiness for my sake.  For
each one of these children a great empire would not be too high a price;
for them all----What does earth contain that I would not bestow?  Yet
what can I still call my own?"

Her smiling face clouded as she asked the question.  The vision of the
lost battle again rose before her mind.  Her own power was lost,
forfeited, and with it the independence of the native land which she
loved.  Rome was already stretching out her hand to add it to the others
as a new province.  But this should not be!  Her twin children yonder,
sleeping beneath crowns, must wear them!  And the boy slumbering on the
pillows?  How many kingdoms Antony had bestowed!  What remained for her
to give?

Again she bent to the child.  A beautiful dream must have hovered over
him, for he was smiling in his sleep.  A flood of maternal love welled up
in her agitated heart, and, as she saw the companions of her childhood
also gazing tenderly at the little steeper, she remembered the days of
her own youth, and the quiet happiness which she had enjoyed in her
garden of Epicurus.

Power and splendour had begun for her beyond its confines, but the
greater the heights of worldly grandeur she attained, the more distant,
the more irrecoverable became the consciousness of the happiness which
she had once gratefully enjoyed, and for which she had never ceased to
long.  And as she now gazed once more at the peaceful, smiling face,
whence all pain and anxiety seemed worlds away, and all the love which
her heart contained appeared to be pouring towards him, the question
arose in her mind whether this boy, for whom she possessed no crown,
might not be the only happy mortal of them all-happy in the sense of the
master.  Deeply moved by this thought, she turned to Archibius and
Charmian, exclaiming in a subdued tone, in order not to rouse the
sleeper: "Whatever destiny may await us, I commend this child to your
special love and care.  If Fate denies him the lustre of the crown and
the elation of power, teach him to enjoy that other happiness, which--
how long ago it is!--your father unfolded to his mother."

Archibius kissed her robe, and Charmian her hands; but Cleopatra, drawing
a long breath, said: "The mother has already taken too much time from the
Queen.  I have ordered the news of my arrival to be kept from Caesarion.
This was well.  The most important matters will be settled before our
meeting.  Everything relating to me and to the state must be decided
within an hour.  But, first, I am something more than mother and Queen.
The woman also asserts her claim.  I will find time for you, my friend,
to-morrow!-To my chamber first, Charmian.  But you need rest still more
than I.  Go with your brother.  Send Iras to me.  She will be glad to use
her skilful fingers again in her mistress's service."




CHAPTER XI.

The Queen had left her bath.  Iras had arranged the still abundant waves
of her hair, now dark-brown in hue, and robed her magnificently to
receive the dignitaries whom, spite of the late hour of the night, she
expected.

How wonderfully she had retained her beauty!  It seemed as if Time had
not ventured to touch this masterpiece of feminine loveliness; yet the
Greek's keen eye detected here and there some token of the vanishing
spell of youth.  She loved her mistress, yet her inmost soul rejoiced
whenever  she detected in her the same changes which began to appear in
herself, the woman of seven-and-twenty, so many years her sovereign's
junior.  She would  gladly have given Cleopatra everything at her
command, yet she felt as if she must praise Nature for an act of justice,
when she perceived that even her royal favourite was not wholly relieved
from the law which applied to all.

"Cease your flattery," said Cleopatra, smiling mournfully.
"They say that the works of the Pharaohs here on the Nile flout Time.
The inexorable destroyer is less willing to permit this from the Queen
of Egypt.  These are grey hairs, and they came from this head, however
eagerly you may deny it.  Whose save my own are these lines around the
corners of the eyes and on the brow?  What say you to the tooth which my
lips do not hide so kindly as you assert?  It was injured the night
before the luckless battle.  My dear, faithful, skilful Olympus, the
prince of leeches, is the only one who can conceal such things.  But it
would not do to take the old man to the war, and Glaucus is far less
adroit.  How I missed Olympus during those fatal hours!  I seemed a
monster even to myself, and he--Antony's eye is only too keen for such
matters.  What is the love of men?  A blackened tooth may prove its
destruction.  An aspect obnoxious to the gaze will pour water on the
fiercest fire.  What hours I experienced, Iras!  Many a glance from him
seemed an insult, and, besides, my heart was filled with torturing
anxiety.

"Something had evidently come between us!  I felt it.  The trouble began
soon after he left Alexandria.  It gnawed my soul like a worm, and now
that I am here again I must see clearly.  He will follow me in a few
days, I know.  Pinarius Scarpus, with his untouched legions, is in
Paraetonium, whither he went.  At Taenarum he resolved to retire from the
world which he, on whom it had bestowed so much that is great, hates
because he has given it cause for many a shake of the head.  But the old
spirit woke again, and if Fortune, usually so faithful, still aids him,
a large force will soon join the new African army.  The Asiatic princes--
But the ruler of the state must be silent.  I entered this room to give
the woman her just rights, and the woman shall have them.  He will soon
be here.  He cannot live without me.  It is not alone the beaker of
Nektanebus which draws him after me!"

"When the greatest of the great, Julius Caesar, sued for your love in
Alexandria, and Antony on the Cydnus, you did not possess the goblet,"
observed Iras.  "It is two years since Anubis permitted you to borrow the
masterpiece from the temple treasures, and within a few days you will be
obliged to restore it.  That a mysterious spell emanates from the cup is
certain, but one still more powerful dwells in the magic of your own
nature."

"Would that it might assert itself to-day!" cried the Queen.  "At any
rate the power of the beaker impelled Antony to do many things.  I am not
vain enough to believe that it was love, that it was solely the spell of
my own personality which drew him to me in that disastrous hour.  That
battle, that incomprehensible, disgraceful battle!  You were ill, and
could not see our fleet when it set sail; but even experienced spectators
said that handsomer, larger vessels were never beheld.  I was right in
insisting that the decision of the conflict should be left to them.  I
was entitled to call them mine.  Had we conquered, what a proud delight
it would have been to say, 'The weapons which you gave to the man you
loved gained him the sovereignty of the world!'  Besides, the stars had
assured me that good fortune would attend us on the sea.  They had given
the same message to Anubis here and to Alexas upon Antony's galley.  I
also trusted the spell of the goblet, which had already compelled Antony
to do many things he opposed.  So I succeeded in having the decision of
the conflict left to the fleet, but the prediction was false, false,
false!--how utterly, was to be proved only too soon.

"If I had only been told in time what I learned later!  After the defeat
people were more loquacious.  That one remark of a veteran commander of
the foot-soldiers would probably have sufficed to open my eyes.  He had
asked Mark Antony why he fixed his hopes on miserable wood, exclaiming,
'Let the Phoenician's and Egyptians war on the water, but leave us the
land where we are accustomed, with our feet firmly set upon the earth, to
fight, conquer, or die!'  This alone, I am sure, would have changed my
resolve in a happy hour.  But it was kept from me.

"The conflict began.  Our troops had lost patience.  The left wing of the
fleet advanced.  At first I watched the battle eagerly, with a throbbing
heart.  How proudly the huge galleys moved forward!  Everything was going
admirably.  Antony had made an address, assuring the warriors that, even
without soldiers, our ships would destroy the foe by their mere height
and size.  What orator can so carry his hearers with him!  I, too, was
still fearless.  Who cherishes anxiety when confidently expecting
victory?  When he went on board his own ship, after bidding me farewell
far less cordially than usual, I became more troubled.  I thought it was
evident that his love was waning.  What had I become since we left
Alexandria, and Olympus no longer attended me!  Matters could not
continue in this way.  I would leave the direction of the war to him, and
vanish from his eyes.  After he had looked into the beaker of Nektanebus,
he yielded to my will, but often with indignation.  The unconcealed,
ineffaceable lines, and the years, the cruel years!"

"What thoughts are these?" cried Iras.  "Let me take oath, my sovereign
mistress, that as you stand before me--"

"Thanks to this toilet-table and the new compounds of Olympus in these
boxes!  At that time, I tell you, I was fairly startled at the sight of
my own face.  Trouble does not enhance beauty, and what condemnation the
Romans had heaped on the woman who meddled with war, the craft of man!
I had answers for them, but I would not endure it longer.  I had
previously determined to hold aloof from the battle on land; but even
at the commencement of the conflict, spite of its favourable promise,
I longed to leave Antony and return to the children.  They do not heed
the colour of their mother's hair, nor her wrinkles; and he, when he had
looked for and called me in vain, would feel for the first time what he
possessed in me, would miss me, and with the longing the old love would
awaken with fresh ardour.  As soon as the fleet had gained the victory
I would have the prow of my galley turned southward and, without a
farewell, exclaiming only, 'We will meet in Alexandria!' set sail for
Egypt.

"I summoned Alexas, who had remained with me, and ordered him to give me
a signal as soon as the battle was decided in our favour.  I remained on
deck.  Then I saw the ships of the foe describing a wide circle.  The
nauarch told me that Agrippa was trying to surround us.  This roused a
feeling of discomfort.  I began to repent having meddled with men's work.

"Antony looked across at me from his galley.  I waved my hand to point
out the peril, but instead of eagerly and lovingly answering the
greeting, as of yore, he turned his back, and in a short time after the
wildest uproar arose around me.  One ship became entangled with another,
planks and poles shattered with a loud crash.  Shouts, the cries  and
moans of the combatants and the wounded, mingled with the thunder of the
stones hurled by the catapults, and the sharp notes of the signals which
sounded like calls for help.  Two soldiers, stricken by arrows, fell
beside me.  It was horrible!  Yet my courage remained steadfast, even
when a squadron--it was commanded by Aruntius--pressed upon the fleet.
I saw another line of galleys steering directly towards us, and a Roman
vessel assailed by one of mine--I had named her the Selene--turn on her
side and sink.  This pleased me and seemed like the first presage of
victory.  I again ordered Alexas to have the ship's prow turned as soon
as the result of the battle was decided.  Ere I had ceased speaking,
Jason, the steward--you know him--appeared with refreshments.  I took the
beaker, but, ere I could raise it to my lips, he fell to the deck with a
cloven skull, mingling his blood with the spilled juice of the grape.
My blood seemed fairly to freeze in my veins, and Alexas, trembling and
deadly pale, asked, 'Do you command us to quit the battle?'

"Every fibre of my being urged me to give the order, but I controlled
myself, and asked the nauarch, who was standing on the bridge before me,
'Are we gaining the advantage?'  The reply was a positive 'Yes.'  I
thought the fitting time had come, and called to him to steer the galley
southward.  But the man did not seem to understand.  Meanwhile the noise
of the conflict had grown louder and louder.  So, in spite of Charmian,
who besought me not to interfere in the battle, I sent Alexas to the
commander on the bridge, and while he talked with the grey-bearded
seaman, who wrathfully answered I know not what, I glanced at the nearest
ship--I no longer knew whether it was friend or foe--and as I saw the
rows of restless oars moving in countless numbers to and fro, it seemed
as if every ship had become a huge spider, and the long wooden handles of
the oars were its legs and feet.  Each of these monsters appeared to be
seeking to snare me in a horrible net, and when the nauarch came to
beseech me to wait, I imperiously commanded him to obey my orders.

"The luckless man bowed, and performed his Queen's behest.  The giant was
turned, and forced a passage through the maze.

"I breathed more freely.

"What had threatened me like the legs of huge spiders became oars once
more.  Alexas led me under a roof, where no missiles could reach me.  My
desire was fulfilled.  I had escaped Antony's eyes, and we were going
towards Alexandria and my children.  When I at last looked around I saw
that my other ships were following.  I had not given this order, and was
terribly startled.  When I sought Alexas, he had vanished.  The centurion
whom I sent to order the nauarch to give the signal to the other ships to
return to the battle, reported that the captain's dead body has just been
borne away, but that the command should be given.  How this was done I do
not know, but it produced no effect, and no one noticed the anxious
waving of my handkerchief.

"We had left Antony's galley--he was standing on the bridge--far behind.

"I had waved my hand as we passed close by, and he hurried down to bend
far over the bulwark and shout to me.  I can still see his hands raised
to his bearded lips.  I did not understand what he said, and only pointed
southward and in spirit wished him victory and that this separation might
tend to the welfare of our love.  But he shook his head, pressed his hand
despairingly to his brow, and waved his arms as though to give me a sign,
but the Antonias swept far ahead of his ship and steered straight towards
the south.

"I breathed more freely, in the pleasant consciousness of escaping a two-
fold danger.  Had I remained long before Antony's eyes, looking as I did
then, it might--

"Wretched blunder of a wretched woman, I say now.  But at that time I
could not suspect what a terrible doom I had brought down in that hour
upon ourselves, my children, perhaps the whole world; so I remained under
the thrall of these petty fears and thoughts until wounded men were
carried past me.  The sight distressed me; you know how sensitive I am,
and with what difficulty I endure and witness suffering.

"Charmian led me to the cabin.  There I first realized what I had done.
I had hoped to aid in crushing the hated foe, and now perhaps it was I
who had built for him the bridge to victory, to sovereignty, to our
destruction.  Pursued by such thoughts, as if by the Furies, I paced
restlessly to and fro.

"Suddenly I heard a loud noise on deck.  A crashing blow seemed to shake
the huge ship.  We were pursued!  A Roman galley had boarded mine!  This
was my thought as I grasped the dagger Antony had given me.

"But Charmian came back with tidings which seemed scarcely less terrible
than the baseless fear.  I had angrily commanded her to leave me because
she had urged me to revoke the command to turn back.  Now, deadly pale,
she announced that Mark Antony had left his galley, followed me in a
little five-oared boat, and come on board our ship.

"My blood froze in my veins.

"He had come, I imagined, to force me to return to the battle and,
drawing a long breath, my defiant pride urged me to show him that I was
the Queen and would obey only my own will, while my heart impelled me to
sink at his feet and beseech him, without heeding me, to issue any order
which promised to secure a victory.

"But he did not come.

"I sent Charmian up again.  Antony had been unable to continue the
conflict when parted from me.  Now he sat in front of the cabin with his
head resting on his hands, staring at the planks of the deck like one
distraught.  He, he--Antony!  The bravest horseman, the terror of the
foe, let his arms fall like a shepherd-boy whose sheep are stolen by the
wolves.  Mark Antony, the hero who had braved a thousand dangers, had
flung down his sword.  Why, why?  Because a woman had yielded to idle
fears, obeyed the yearning of a mother's heart, and fled?  Of all human
weaknesses, not one had been more alien than cowardice to the man whose
recklessness had led him to many an unprecedented venture.  And now?  No,
a thousand times no!  Fire and water would unite sooner than Mark Antony
and cowardice!  He had been under the coercive power of a demon; a
mysterious spell had forced him--"

"The mightiest power, love," interrupted Iras with enthusiastic warmth--
"a love as great and overmastering as ever subjugated the soul of man."

"Ay, love," repeated  Cleopatra, in a hollow tone.  Then her lips curled
with a faint tinge of derision, and her voice expressed the very
bitterness of doubt, as she continued: "Had it been merely the love which
makes two mortals one, transfers the heart of one to the other, it might
perchance have borne my timorous soul into the hero's breast!  But no.
Violent tempests had raged before the battle.  It had not been possible
always to appear before him in the guise in which we would fain be seen
by those whom we love.

"Even now, when your skilful hands have served me--there is the mirror--
the image it reflects--seems to me like a carefully preserved wreck--"

"O my royal mistress," cried Iras, raising her hands beseechingly, "must
I again declare that neither the grey hairs which are again brown, nor
the few lines which Olympus will soon render invisible, nor whatever else
perhaps disturbs you in the image you behold reflected, impairs your
beauty?  Unclouded and secure of victory, the spell of your godlike
nature--"

"Cease, cease!" interrupted  Cleopatra.  "I know what I know.  No mortal
can escape the great eternal laws of Nature.  As surely as birth
commences life, everything that exists moves onward to destruction
and decay."

"Yet the gods," Iras persisted, "give to their works different degrees of
existence.  The waterlily blooms but a single day, yet how full of vigour
is the sycamore in the garden of the Paneum, which has flourished a
thousand years!  Not a petal in the blossoms of your youth has faded, and
is it conceivable that there is even the slightest diminution in the love
of him who cast away all that man holds dearest because he could not
endure to part, even for days or weeks, from the woman whom he
worshipped?"

"Would that he had done so!" cried Cleopatra mournfully.  "But are you so
sure that it was love which made him follow me?  I am of a different
opinion.  True love does not paralyze, but doubles the high qualities of
man.  I learned this when Caesar was prisoned by a greatly superior force
within this very palace, his ships burned, his supply of water cut off.
In him also, in Antony, I was permitted to witness this magnificent
spectacle twenty--what do I say?-a hundred times, so long as he loved me
with all the ardour of his fiery soul.  But what happened at Actium?
That shameful flight of the cooing dove after his mate, at which
generations yet unborn will point in mockery!  He who does not see more
deeply will attribute to the foolish madness of love this wretched
forgetfulness of duty, honour, fame, the present and the future; but I,
Iras--and this is the thought which whitens one hair after another, which
will speedily destroy the remnant of your mistress's former beauty by the
exhaustion of sleepless nights--I know better.  It was not love which
drew Antony after me, not love that trampled in the dust the radiant
image of reckless courage, not love that constrained the demigod to
follow the pitiful track of a fugitive woman."

Here her voice fell, and seizing the girl's wrist with a painful
pressure, she drew her closer to her side and whispered:

"The goblet of Nektanebus is connected with it.  Ay, tremble!  The powers
that emanate from the glittering wonder are as terrible as they are
unnatural.  The magic spell exerted by the beaker has transformed the
heroic son of Herakles, the more than mortal, into the whimpering coward,
the crushed, broken nonentity I found upon the galley's deck.  You are
silent?  Your nimble tongue finds no reply.  How could you have forgotten
that you aided me to win the wager which forced Antony to gaze into the
beaker before I filled it for him?  How grateful I was to Anubis when
he finally consented to trust to my care this marvel of the temple
treasures, when the first trial succeeded, and Antony, at my bidding,
placed the magnificent wreath which he wore upon the bald brow of that
crabbed old follower of Aristoteles, Diomedes, whom he detested in his
inmost soul!  It was scarcely a year ago, and you know how rarely at
first I used the power of the terrible vessel.  The man whom I loved
obeyed my slightest glance, without its aid.  But later--before the
battle--I felt how gladly he would have sent me, who might ruin all, back
to Egypt.  Besides, I felt--I have already said so--that something had
come between us.  Yet, often as he was on the point of sacrificing me to
the importunate Romans, I need only bid him gaze into the beaker, and
exclaim 'You will not send me hence.  We belong together.  Whither one
goes, the other will follow!' and he besought me not to leave him.  The
very morning before the battle I gave him the drinking cup, urging him,
whatever might happen, never, never to leave me.  And he obeyed this time
also, though the person to whom a magic spell bound him was a fleeing
woman.  It is terrible.  And yet, have I a right to execrate the thrall
of  the beaker?  Scarcely!  For without the Magian's glittering vessel--
a secret voice in my soul has whispered the warning a thousand times
during the sleepless nights--he would have taken another on the galley.
And I believe I know this other--I mean the woman whose singing
enthralled my heart too at the Adonis festival just before our departure.
I noticed the look with which his eyes sought hers.  Now I know that it
was not merely my old deceitful foe, jealousy, which warned me against
her.  Alexas, the most faithful of his friends, also confirmed what I
merely feared--ah! and he told me other things which the stars had
revealed to him.  Besides, he knows the siren, for she was the wife of
his own brother.  To protect his honour, he cast off the coquettish
Circe."

"Barine!" fell in resolute tones from the lips of Iras.

"So you know her?" asked Cleopatra, eagerly.  The girl raised her clasped
hands beseechingly to the Queen, exclaiming:

"I know this woman only too well, and how my heart rages against her!
O my mistress, that I, too, should aid in darkening this hour!  Yet
it must be said.  That Antony visited the singer, and even took his son
there more than once, is known throughout the city.  Yet that is not the
worst.  A Barine entering into rivalry with you! It would be too
ridiculous.  But what bounds can be set to the insatiate greed of these
women?  No rank, no age is sacred.  It was dull in the absence of the
court and the army.  There were no men who seemed worth the trouble of
catching, so she cast her net for boys, and the one most closely snared
was the King Caesarion."

"Caesarion!" exclaimed  Cleopatra, her pale cheeks flushing.  "And his
tutor Rhodon?  My strict commands?"

"Antyllus secretly presented him to her," replied Iras.  "But I kept my
eyes open.  The boy clung to the singer with insensate passion.  The only
expedient was to remove her from the city.  Archibius aided me."

"Then I shall be spared sending her away."

"Nay, that must still be done; for, on the journey to the country
Caesarion, with several comrades, attacked her."

"And the reckless deed was successful?"

"No, my royal mistress.  I wish it had been.  A love-sick fool who
accompanied her drew his sword in her defence, raised his hand against
the son of Caesar, and wounded him.  Calm yourself, I beseech you, I
conjure you--the wound is slight.  The boy's mad passion makes me far
more anxious."

The Queen's pouting scarlet lips closed so firmly that her mouth lost the
winning charm which was peculiar to it, and she answered in a firm,
resolute tone: "It is the mother's place to protect the son against the
temptress.  Alexas is right.  Her star stands in the path of mine.  A
woman like this casts a deep shadow on her Queen's course.  I will defend
myself.  It is she who has placed herself between us; she has won Antony.
But no!  Why should I blind myself?  Time and the charms he steals from
women are far more powerful than twenty such little temptresses.  Then,
there are the circumstances which prevented my concealing the defects
that wounded the eyes of this most spoiled of all spoiled mortals.  All
these things aided the singer.  I feel it.  In her pursuit of men she had
at her command all the means which aid us women to conceal what is
unlovely and enhance what is beautiful in a lover's eyes, while I was at
a disadvantage, lacking your aid and the long-tested skill of Olympus.
The divinity on the ship, amid the raging of the storm, was forced more
than once to appear before the worshipper ungarlanded, without ornament
for the head, or incense."

"But though she used all the combined arts of Aphrodite and Isis, she
could not vie with you, my royal mistress!" cried Iras.  "How little is
required to delude the senses of one scarcely more than a child!"

"Poor boy!" sighed the Queen, gently.  "Had he not been wounded, and were
it not so hard to resign what we love, I should rejoice that he, too,
understands how to plan and act.  Perhaps--O Iras, would that it might be
so!--now that the gate is burst open, the brain and energy of the great
Caesar will enter his living image.  As the Egyptians call Horus 'the
avenger of his father,' perhaps he may become his mother's defender and
avenger.  If Caesar's spirit wakes within him, he will wrest from the
dissembler Octavianus the heritage of which the nephew robbed the son.
You swear that the wound is but a slight one?"

"The physicians have said so."

"Well, then we will hope so.  Let him enter the conflict of life.  We
will afford him ample opportunity to test his powers.  No foolish passion
shall prevent the convalescent youth from following his father upward
along the pathway of fame.  But send for the woman who ensnared him,
the audacious charmer whose aspirations mount to those I hold dearest.
We will see how she appears beside me!"

"These are grievous times," said Iras, who saw in amazement the Queen's
eyes sparkle with the confident light of victory.  "Grant your foot its
right.  Let it crush her!  Monsters enough, on whom you cannot set your
foot, throng your path.  Hence to Hades, in these days of conflict, with
all who can be quickly removed!"

"Murder?" asked Cleopatra, her noble brow contracting in a frown.

"If it must be, ay," replied Iras, sharply.  "If possible, banishment
to an island, an oasis.  If necessity requires, to the mines with the
siren!"

"If necessity requires?" repeated the Queen.  "I think that means, if it
proves that she has deserved the harshest punishment."

"She has brought it upon herself by every hour of my sovereign's life
clouded through her wiles.  In the mines the desire to set snares for
husbands and sons soon vanishes."

"And people languish in the most terrible torture till death ends their
suffering," added Cleopatra, in a tone of grave reproof.  "No, girl, this
victory is too easy.  I will not send even my foe to death without a
hearing, especially at this time, which teaches me what it is to await
the verdict of one who is more powerful.  This woman who, as it were,
summons me to battle, shall have her wish.  I am curious to see the
singer again, and to learn the means by which she has succeeded in
chaining to her triumphal car so many captives, from boys up to the
most exacting men."

"What do you intend, my royal  mistress?" cried Iras in horror.

"I intend," said Cleopatra imperiously, "to see the daughter of Leonax,
the granddaughter of Didymus, two men whom I hold in high esteem, ere I
decide her destiny.  I wish to behold, test, and judge my rival, heart
and mind, ere I condemn her.  I will engage in the conflict to which she
challenged the loving wife and mother!  But--this is my right--I will
compel her to show herself to me as Antony so often saw me during the
past few weeks, unaided and unimproved by the arts which we both have at
command."

Then, without paying any further heed to her attendant, she went to a
window, and, after a swift glance at the sky, added quietly: "The first
hour after midnight is drawing to a close.  The council will begin
immediately.  The matter to be under discussion is a venture which might
save much from the wreck.  The council will last two hours, perchance
only one.  The singer can wait.  "Where does she live?"

"In the house which belonged to her father, the artist Leonax, in the
garden of the Paneum," replied Iras hoarsely.  "But, O my Queen, if ever
my opinion had the slightest weight with you--"

"I desire no counsel now, but demand the fulfilment of my orders!" cried
Cleopatra resolutely.  "As soon as those whom I expect are here--"

The Queen was interrupted by a chamberlain, who announced the arrival of
the men whom she had summoned, and Cleopatra bade him tell them that she
was on her way to the council chamber.  Then she turned again to Iras and
in rapid words commanded her to go at once in a closed carriage,
accompanied by a reliable person, to Barine's house.  She must be brought
to the palace without the least delay--Iras would understand--even if it
should be necessary to rouse her from her sleep.  "I wish to see her as
if a storm had forced her suddenly upon the deck of a ship," she said in
conclusion.

Then snatching a small tablet from the dressing-table, she scrawled upon
the wax with a rapid hand: "Cleopatra, the Queen, desires to see Barine,
the daughter of Leonax, without delay.  She must obey any command of
Iras, Cleopatra's messenger, and her companion."

Then, closing the diptychon, she handed it to her attendant, asking:

"Whom will you take?"

She answered without hesitation, "Alexas."

"Very well," answered Cleopatra.  "Do not allow her a moment for
preparations, whatever they may be.  But do not forget--I command you--
that she is a woman."

With these words she turned to follow the chamberlain, but Iras hurried
after her to adjust the diadem upon her head and arrange some of the
folds of her robe.

Cleopatra submitted, saying kindly, "Something else, I see, is weighing
on your heart."

"O my mistress!" cried the girl.  "After these tempests of the soul,
these harassing months, you are turning night into day and assuming fresh
labours and anxieties.  If the leech Olympus--"

"It must be," interrupted Cleopatra kindly.  "The last two weeks seemed
like a single long and gloomy night, during which I sometimes left my
couch for a few hours.  One who seeks to drag what is dearest from the
river does not consider whether the cold bath is agreeable.  If we
succumb, it does not matter whether we are well or ill; if, on the
contrary, we succeed in gathering another army and saving Egypt, let it
cost health and life.  The minutes I intend to grant to the woman will be
thrown into the bargain.  Whatever may come, I shall be ready to meet my
fate.  I am at one of life's great turning points.  At such a time we
fulfil our obligations and demands, both great and small."

A few minutes later Cleopatra entered the throne-room and saluted the men
whom she had roused from their slumber in order to lay before them a bold
plan which, in the lowest depths of misfortune, her yearning to offer
fresh resistance to the victorious foe had caused her vigorous, restless
mind to evoke.

When, many years before, the boy with whom, according to her father's
will, she shared the throne, and his guardian Pothinus, had compelled her
to fly from Alexandria, she had found in the eastern frontier of the
Delta, on the isthmus which united Egypt to Asia, the remains of the
canal which the energetic Pharaohs of former times had constructed to
connect the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.

Even at that period she had deemed this ruinous work worthy of notice,
had questioned the AEnites who dwelt there about the remains, and even
visited some of them herself during the leisure hours of waiting.

From this survey it had seemed possible, by a great expenditure of
labour, to again render navigable the canal which the Pharaohs had used
to reach both seas in the same galleys, and by which, less than five
hundred years before, Darius, the founder of the Persian Empire, had
brought his fleet to his support.

With the tireless desire for knowledge characteristic of her, Cleopatra
had sought information concerning all these matters, and in quiet hours
had more than once pondered over plans for again uniting the Grecian and
Arabian seas.

Clearly, plainly, fully, with more thorough knowledge of many details
than even the superintendent of the water works, she explained her design
to the assembled professionals.  If it proved practicable, the rescued
ships of the fleet, with others lying in the roadstead of Alexandria,
could be conveyed across the isthmus into the Red Sea, and thus saved to
Egypt and withdrawn from the foe.  Supported by this force, many things
might be attempted, resistance might be considerably prolonged, and the
time thus gained used in gathering fresh aid and allies.

If the opportunity to make an attack arrived, a powerful fleet would be
at her disposal, for which smaller ships also should now be built at
Klysma, on the basis of the experience gained at Actium.  The men who had
been robbed of their night's rest listened in amazement to the melodious
words of this woman who, in the deepest disaster, had devised a plan of
escape so daring in its grandeur, and understood how to explain it better
than any one of their number could have done.  They followed every
sentence with the keenest attention, and Cleopatra's language grew more
impassioned, gained greater power and depth, the more plainly she
perceived the unfeigned, enthusiastic admiration paid her by her
listeners.

Even the oldest and most experienced men did not consider the surprising
proposal utterly impossible and impracticable.  Some, among them Gorgias,
who during the restoration of the Serapeum had helped his father on the
eastern frontier of the Delta, and thus became familiar with the
neighbourhood of Heroonopolis, feared the difficulties which an elevation
of the earth in the centre of the isthmus would place in the way of the
enterprise.  Yet, why should an undertaking which was successful in the
days of Sesostris appear unattainable?

The shortness of the time at their disposal was a still greater source of
anxiety, and to this was added the information that one hundred and
twenty thousand workmen had perished during the restoration of the canal
which Pharaoh Necho nearly completed.  The water way was not finished at
that period, because an oracle had asserted that it would benefit only
the foreigners, the Phoenicians.

All these points were duly considered, but could not shake the opinion
that, under specially favourable conditions, the Queen's plan would be
practicable; though, to execute it, obstacles mountain-high were to be
conquered.  All the labourers in the fields, who had not been pressed
into the army, must be summoned to the work.

Not an hour's delay was permitted.  Where there was no water to bear the
ships, an attempt must be made to convey them across the land.  There was
no lack of means.  The mechanics who had understood how to move the
obelisks and colossi from the cataract to Alexandria, could here again
find opportunity to test their brains and former skill.

Never had Cleopatra's kindling spirit roused more eager, nay, more
passionate sympathy, in any counsellors gathered around her than during
this nocturnal meeting, and when at last she paused, the loud
acclamations of excited men greeted her.  The Queen's return, and the
tidings of the lost battle which she had communicated, were to be kept
secret.

Gorgias had been appointed one of the directors of the enterprise, and
the intellect, voice, and winning charm of Cleopatra had so enraptured
him that he already fancied he saw the commencement of a new love which
would be fatal to his regard for Helena.

It was foolish to raise his wishes so high, but he told himself that he
had never beheld a woman more to be desired.  Yet he cherished a very
warm memory of the philosopher's grand-daughter, and lamented that he
would scarcely find it possible to bid her farewell.

Zeno, the Keeper of the Seal, Dion's uncle, had questioned him about his
nephew in a very mysterious manner as soon as he entered the council
chamber, and received the reply that the wound in the shoulder, which
Caesarion had dealt with a short Roman sword, though severe, was--so the
physicians assured them-not fatal.

This seemed to satisfy Zeno, and ere Gorgias could urge him to extend a
protecting hand over his nephew, he excused himself and, with a message
to the wounded man, turned his back upon him.

The courtier had not yet learned what view the Queen would take of this
unfortunate affair, and besides, he was overloaded with business.  The
new enterprise required the issue of a large number of documents
conferring authority, which all passed through his hands.

Cleopatra addressed a few kind, encouraging words to each one of the
experts who had been entrusted with the execution of her plan.  Gorgias,
too, was permitted to kiss her robe, which stirred his blood afresh.  He
would fain have flung himself at the feet of this marvellous woman and,
with his services, place his life at her disposal.  And Cleopatra noticed
the enthusiastic ardour of his glance.

He, too, had been mentioned in the list of Barine's admirers.  There must
be something unusual about this woman!  But could she have fired a body
of grave men in behalf of a great, almost impossible deed, roused them to
such enthusiastic admiration as she, the vanquished, menaced Queen?
Certainly not.

She felt in the right mood to confront Barine as judge and rival.

In the midst of the deepest misery she had spent one happy hour.  She had
again felt, with joyous pride, that her intellect, fresh and unclouded,
would be capable of outstripping the best powers, and in truth she needed
no magic goblet to win hearts.




ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Aspect obnoxious to the gaze will pour water on the fire
Everything that exists moves onward to destruction  and decay
Trouble does not enhance beauty





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