Infomotions, Inc.— Volume 09 / Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898

Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
Title: — Volume 09
Date: 2002-05-21
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Title: Cleopatra, Volume 9.

Author: Georg Ebers

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CLEOPATRA

By Georg Ebers

Volume 9.



CHAPTER XXIII.

After accompanying Dion to the harbour, the architect had gone to the
Forum to converse with the men he met there, and learn what they feared
and expected in regard to the future fate of the city.

All news reached this meeting-place first, and he found a large number of
Macedonian citizens who, like himself, wished to discuss passing events
in these decisive hours.

The scene was very animated, for the most contradictory messages were
constantly arriving from the fleet and the army.

At first they were very favourable; then came the news of the treason,
and soon after of the desertion of the cavalry and foot soldiers.

A distinguished citizen had seen Mark Antony, accompanied by several
friends, dashing down the quay.  The goal of their flight was the little
palace on the Choma.

Grave men, whose opinion met with little opposition, thought that it was
the duty of the Imperator--now that Fate had decided against him, and
nothing remained save a life sullied by disgrace--to put himself to death
with his own hand, like Brutus and so many other noble Romans.  Tidings
soon came that he had attempted to do what the best citizens expected.

Gorgias could not endure to remain longer in the Forum, but hastened to
the Choma, though it was difficult to force his way to the wall, where a
breach had been made.  He had found the portion of the shore from which
the promontory ran densely crowded with people--from whom he learned that
Antony was no longer in the palace--and the sea filled with boats.

A corpse was just being borne out of the little palace on the Street of
the King and, among those who followed, Gorgias recognized one of
Antony's slaves.  The man's eyes were red with weeping.  He readily
obeyed the architect's sign and, sobbing bitterly, told him that the
hapless general, after his army had betrayed him, fled hither.  When he
heard in the palace that Cleopatra had preceded him to Hades, he ordered
his body-slave Eros to put an end to his life also.  The worthy man drew
back, pierced his own breast with his sword, and sank dying at his
master's feet; but Antony, exclaiming that Eros's example had taught him
his duty, thrust the short sword into his breast with his own hand.  Yet
deep and severe as was the wound, it did not destroy the tremendous
vitality of the gigantic Roman.  With touching entreaties he implored the
bystanders to kill him, but no one could bring himself to commit the
deed.  Meanwhile Cleopatra's name, coupled with the wish to follow her,
was constantly on the lips of the Imperator.

At last Diomedes, the Queen's private secretary, appeared, to bring him,
by her orders, to the mausoleum where she had taken refuge.

Antony, as if animated with fresh vigour, assented, and while being
carried thither gave orders that Eros should have a worthy burial.  Even
though dying, it would have been impossible for the most generous of
masters to permit any kindness rendered to pass unrequited.

The slave again wept aloud as he uttered the words, but Gorgias hastened
at once to the tomb.  The nearest way, the Street of the King, had become
so crowded with people who had been forced back by Roman soldiers,
between the Theatre of Dionysus and the Corner of the Muses, that he had
been compelled to reach the building through a side street.

The quay was already unrecognizable, and even in the other streets the
populace showed a foreign aspect.  Instead of peaceful citizens, Roman
soldiers in full armour were met everywhere.  Instead of Greek, Egyptian,
and Syrian faces, fair and dark visages of alien appearance were seen.

The city seemed transformed into a camp.  Here he met a cohort of fair-
haired Germans; yonder another with locks of red whose home he did not
know; and again a vexil of Numidian or Pannonian horsemen.

At the Temple of the Dioscuri he was stopped.  A Hispanian maniple had
just seized Antony's son Antyllus and, after a hasty court-martial,
killed him.  His tutor, Theodotus, had betrayed him to the Romans, but
the infamous fellow was being led with bound hands after the corpse of
the hapless youth, because he was caught in the act of hiding in his
girdle a costly jewel which he had taken from his neck.  Before his
departure for the island Gorgias heard that the scoundrel had been
sentenced to crucifixion.

At last he succeeded in forcing a passage to the tomb, which he found
surrounded on all sides by Roman lictors and the Scythian guards of the
city, who, however, permitted him, as the architect, to pass.

The numerous obstacles by which he had been delayed spared him from
becoming an eye-witness of the most terrible scenes of the tragedy which
had just ended; but he received a minute description from the Queen's
private secretary, a well-disposed Macedonian, who had accompanied the
wounded Antony, and with whom Gorgias had become intimately acquainted
during the building of the mausoleum.

Cleopatra had fled to the tomb as soon as the fortune of war turned in
favour of Octavianus.  No one was permitted to accompany her except
Charmian and Iras, who had helped her close the heavy brazen door of the
massive building.  The false report of her death, which had induced
Antony to put an end to his life, had perhaps arisen from the fact that
the Queen was literally in the tomb.

When, borne in the arms of his faithful servants, he reached the
mausoleum, mortally wounded, the Queen and her attendants vainly
endeavoured to open the heavy brazen portal.  But Cleopatra ardently
longed to see her dying lover.  She wished to have him near to render the
last services, assure him once more of her devotion, close his eyes, and,
if it was so ordered, die with him.

So she and her attendants had searched the place, and when Iras spoke of
the windlass which stood on the scaffold to raise the heavy brass plate
bearing the bas-relief of Love conquering Death, the Queen and her
friends hastened up the stairs, the bearer below fastened the wounded man
to the rope, and Cleopatra herself stood at the windlass to raise him,
aided by her faithful companions.

Diomedes averred that he had never beheld a more piteous spectacle than
the gigantic man hovering between heaven and earth in the agonies of
death and, while suffering the most terrible torture, extending his arms
longingly towards the woman he loved.  Though scarcely able to speak, he
tenderly called her name, but she made no reply; like Iras and Charmian,
she was exerting her whole strength at the windlass in the most
passionate effort to raise him.  The rope running over the pulley cut her
tender hands; her beautiful face was terribly distorted; but she did not
pause until they had succeeded in lifting the burden of the dying man
higher and higher till he reached the floor of the scaffolding.  The
frantic exertion by which the three women had succeeded in accomplishing
an act far beyond their strength, though it was doubled by the power of
the most earnest will and ardent longing, would nevertheless have failed
in attaining its object had not Diomedes, at the last moment, come to
their assistance.  He was a strong man, and by his aid the dying Roman
was seized, drawn upon the scaffolding, and carried down the staircase to
the tomb in the first story.

When the wounded general had been laid on one of the couches with which
the great hall was already furnished, the private secretary retired, but
remained on the staircase, an unnoticed spectator, in order to be at hand
in case the Queen again needed his assistance.  Flushed from the terrible
exertion which she had just made, with tangled, dishevelled locks,
gasping and moaning, Cleopatra, as if out of her senses, tore open her
robe, beat her breast, and lacerated it with her nails.  Then, pressing
her own beautiful face on her lover's wound to stanch the flowing blood,
she lavished upon him all the endearing names which she had bestowed on
their love.

His terrible suffering made her forget her own and the sad fate
impending.  Tears of pity fell like the refreshing drops of a shower upon
the still unwithered blossoms of their love, and brought those which,
during the preceding night, had revived anew, to their last magnificent
unfolding.

Boundless, limitless as her former passion for this man, was now the
grief with which his agonizing death filled her heart.

All that Mark Antony had been to her in the heyday of life, all their
mutual experiences, all that each had received from the other, had
returned to her memory in clear and vivid hues during the banquet which
had closed a few hours ago.  Now these scenes, condensed into a narrow
compass, again passed before her mental vision, but only to reveal more
distinctly the depth of misery of this hour.  At last anguish forced even
the clearest memories into oblivion: she saw nothing save the tortures of
her lover; her brain, still active, revealed solely the gulf at her feet,
and the tomb which yawned not only for Antony, but for herself.

Unable to think of the happiness enjoyed in the past or to hope for it in
the future, she gave herself up to uncontrolled despair, and no woman of
the people could have yielded more absolutely to the consuming grief
which rent her heart, or expressed it in wilder, more frantic language,
than did this great Queen, this woman who as a child had been so
sensitive to the slightest suffering, and whose after-life had certainly
not taught her to bear sorrow with patience.  After Charmian, at the
dying man's request, had given him some wine, he found strength to speak
coherently, instead of moaning and sighing.

He tenderly urged Cleopatra to secure her own safety, if it could be done
without dishonour, and mentioned Proculejus as the man most worthy of her
confidence among the friends of Octavianus.  Then he entreated her not to
mourn for him, but to consider him happy; for he had enjoyed the richest
favours of Fortune.  He owed his brightest hours to her love; but he had
also been the first and most powerful man on earth.  Now he was dying in
the arms of Love, honourable as a Roman who succumbed to Romans.

In this conviction he died after a short struggle.

Cleopatra had watched his last breath, closed his eyes, and then thrown
herself tearlessly on her lover's body.  At last she fainted, and lay
unconscious with her head upon his marble breast.

The private secretary had witnessed all this, and then returned with
tearful eyes to the second story.  There he met Gorgias, who had climbed
the scaffolding, and told him what he had seen and heard from the stairs.
But his story was scarcely ended when a carriage stopped at the Corner of
the Muses and an aristocratic Roman alighted.  This was the very
Proculejus whom the dying Antony had recommended to the woman he
loved as worthy of her confidence.

"In fact," Gorgias continued, "he seemed in form and features one of the
noblest of his haughty race.  He came commissioned by Octavianus, and is
said to be warmly devoted to the Caesar, and a well-disposed man.  We
have also heard him mentioned as a poet and a brother-in-law of Maecenas.
A wealthy aristocrat, he is a generous patron of literature, and also
holds art and science in high esteem.  Timagenes lauds his culture and
noble nature.  Perhaps the historian was right; but where the object in
question is the state and its advantage, what we here regard as worthy of
a free man appears to be considered of little moment at the court of
Octavianus.  The lord to whom he gives his services intrusted him with a
difficult task, and Proculejus doubtless considered it his duty to make
every effort to perform it--and yet----If I see aright, a day will come
when he will curse this, and the obedience with which he, a free man,
aided Caesar  But listen.

"Erect and haughty in his splendid suit of armour, he knocked at the door
of the tomb.  Cleopatra had regained consciousness and asked--she must
have known him in Rome--what he desired.

"He had come, he answered courteously, by the command of Octavianus, to
negotiate with her, and the Queen expressed her willingness to listen,
but refused to admit him into the mausoleum.

"So they talked with each other through the door.  With dignified
composure, she asked to have the sons whom she had given to Antony--not
Caasarion--acknowledged as Kings of Egypt.

"Proculejus instantly promised to convey her wishes to Caesar, and gave
hopes of their fulfilment.

"While she was speaking of the children and their claims--she did not
mention her own future--the Roman questioned her about Mark Antony's
death, and then described the destruction of the dead man's army and
other matters of trivial importance.  Proculejus did not look like a
babbler, but I felt a suspicion that he was intentionally trying to hold
the attention of the Queen.  This proved to be his design; he had been
merely waiting for Cornelius Gallus, the commander of the fleet, of whom
you have heard.  He, too, ranks among the chief men in Rome, and yet he
made himself the accomplice of Proculejus.

"The latter retired as soon as he had presented the new-comer to the
hapless woman.

"I remained at my post and now heard Gallus assure Cleopatra of his
master's sympathy.  With the most bombastic exaggeration he described how
bitterly Octavianus mourned in Mark Antony the friend, the brother-in-
law, the co-ruler and sharer in so many important enterprises.  He had
shed burning tears over the tidings of his death.  Never had more sincere
ones coursed down any man's cheeks.

"Gallus, too, seemed to me to be intentionally prolonging the
conversation.

"Then, while I was listening intently to understand Cleopatra's brief
replies, my foreman, who, when the workmen were driven away by the
Romans, had concealed himself between two blocks of granite, came to me
and said that Proculejus had just climbed a ladder to the scaffold in the
rear of the monument.  Two servants followed, and they had all stolen
down into the hall.

"I hastily started up.  I had been lying on the floor with my head
outstretched to listen.

"Cost what it might, the Queen must be warned.  Treachery was certainly
at work here.

"But I came too late.

"O Dion!  If I had only been informed a few minutes before, perhaps
something still more terrible might have happened, but the Queen would
have been spared what now threatens her.  What can she expect from the
conqueror who, in order to seize her alive, condescends to outwit a
noble, defenceless woman, who has succumbed to superior power?

"Death would have released the unhappy Queen from sore trouble and
horrible shame.  And she had already raised the dagger against her life.
Before my eyes she flung aloft her beautiful arm with the flashing steel,
which glittered in the light of the candles in the many-branched
candelabra beside the sarcophagi.  But I will try to remain calm!  You
shall hear what happened in regular order.  My thoughts grow confused as
the terrible scene recurs to my memory.  To describe it as I saw it, I
should need to be a poet, an artist in words; for what passed before me
happened on a stage--you know, it was a tomb.  The walls were of dark
stone-dark, too, were the pillars and ceiling--all dark and glittering;
most portions were smoothly polished stone, shining like a mirror.  Near
the sarcophagi, and around the candelabra as far as the vicinity of the
door, where the rascally trick was played, the light was brilliant as in
a festal hall.  Every blood-stain on the hand, every scratch, every wound
which the desperate woman had torn with her own nails on her bosom, which
gleamed snow-white from her black robes, was distinctly visible.  Farther
away, on the right and left, the light was dim, and near the side walls
the darkness was as intense as in a real tomb.  On the smooth porphyry
columns, the glittering black marble and serpentine--here, there, and
everywhere--flickered the wavering reflection of the candlelight.  The
draught kept it continually in motion, and it wavered to and fro in the
hall, like the restless souls of the damned.  Wherever the eye turned it
met darkness.  The end of the hall seemed black--black as the anteroom of
Hades--yet through it pierced a brilliant moving bar; sunbeams which
streamed from the stairway into the tomb and amid which danced tiny
motes.  How the scene impressed the eye!  The home of gloomy Hecate!  And
the Queen and her impending fate.  A picture flooded with light, standing
forth in radiant relief against the darkness of the heavy, majestic forms
surrounding it in a wide circle.  This tomb in this light would be a
palace meet for the gloomy rule of the king of the troop of demons
conjured up by the power of a magician--if they have a ruler.  But where
am I wandering?  'The artist!'  I hear you  exclaim  again, 'the  artist!
Instead of rushing forward and interposing, he stands studying the light
and its effects in the royal tomb.'  Yes, yes; I had come too late, too
late--far too late!  On the stairs leading to the lower story of the
building I saw it, but I was not to blame for the delay--not in the
least!

"At first I had been unable to see the men--or even a shadow; but I
beheld plainly in the brightest glare of the light the body of Mark
Antony on the couch and, in the dusk farther towards the right, Iras and
Charmian trying to raise a trapdoor.  It was the one which closed the
passage leading to the combustible materials stored in the cellar.  A
sign from the Queen had commanded them to fire it.  The first steps of
the staircase, down which I was hastening, were already behind me--then--
then Proculejus, with two men, suddenly dashed from the intense darkness
on the other side.  Scarcely able to control myself, I sprang down the
remaining steps, and while Iras's shrill cry, 'Poor Cleopatra, they will
capture you!' still rang in my ears, I saw the betrayed Queen turn from
the door through which, resolved on death, she was saying something to
Gallus, perceive Proculejus close behind her, thrust her hand into her
girdle, and with the speed of lightning--you have already heard so--throw
up her arm with the little dagger to bury the sharp blade in her breast.
What a picture!  In the full radiance of the brilliant light, she
resembled a statue of triumphant victory or of noble pride in great deeds
accomplished; and then, then, only an instant later, what an outrage was
inflicted!

"Like a robber, an assassin, Proculejus rushed upon her, seized her arm,
and wrested the weapon from her grasp.  His tall figure concealed her
from me.  But when, struggling to escape from the ruffian's clutch, she
again turned her face towards the hall, what a transformation had
occurred!  Her eyes--you know how large they are--were twice their usual
size, and blazed with scorn, fury, and hatred for the traitor.  The
cheering light had become a consuming fire.  So I imagine the vengeance,
the curse which calls down ruin upon the head of a foe.  And Proculejus,
the great lord, the poet whose noble nature is praised by the authors on
the banks of the Tiber, held the defenceless woman, the worthy daughter
of a brilliant line of kings, in a firm grasp, as if it required the
exertion of all his strength to master this delicate embodiment of
charming womanhood.  True, the proud blood of the outwitted lioness urged
her to resist this profanation, and Proculejus--an enviable honour--made
her feel the superior strength of his arm.  I am no prophet, but Dion, I
repeat, this shameful struggle and the glances which flashed upon him
will be remembered to his dying hour.  Had they been darted at me, I
should have cursed my life.

"They blanched even the Roman's cheeks.  He was lividly pale as he
completed what he deemed his duty.  His own aristocratic hands were
degraded to the menial task of searching the garments of a woman, the
Queen, for forbidden wares, poisons or weapons.  He was aided by one of
Caesar's freedmen, Epaphroditus, who is said to stand so high in the
favour of Octavianus.

"The scoundrel also searched Iras and Charmian, yet all the time both
Romans constantly spoke in cajoling terms of Caesar's favour; and his
desire to grant Cleopatra everything which was due a Queen.

"At last she was taken back to Lochias, but I felt like a madman; for
the image of the unfortunate woman pursued me like my shadow.  It was
no longer a vision of the bewitching sovereign nay, it resembled the
incarnation of despair, tearless anguish, wrath demanding vengeance.
I will not describe it; but those eyes, those flashing, threatening eyes,
and the tangled hair on which Antony's blood had flowed-terrible,
horrible!  My heart grew chill, as if I had seen upon Athene's shield the
head of the Medusa with its serpent locks.

"It had been impossible for me to warn her in time, or even to seize the
traitor's arm--I have already said so--and yet, yet her shining image
gazed reproachfully at me for my cowardly delay.  Her glance still haunts
me, robbing me of calmness and peace.  Not until I gaze into Helena's
pure, calm eyes will that terrible vision of the face, flooded by light
in the midst of the tomb, cease to haunt me."

His friend laid his hand on his arm, spoke soothingly to him, and
reminded him of the blessings which this terrible day--he had said so
himself--had brought.

Dion was right to give this warning; for Gorgias's bearing and the very
tone of his voice changed as he eagerly declared that the frightful
events had been followed by more than happy ones for the city, his
friend, and Barine.

Then, with a sigh of relief, he continued: "I pursued my way home like a
drunken man.  Every attempt to approach the Queen or her attendants was
baffled, but I learned from Charmian's clever Nubian that Cleopatra had
been permitted, in Caesar's name, to choose the palace she desired to
occupy, and had selected the one at Lochias.

"I did not make much progress towards my house; the crowd in front of the
great gymnasium stopped me.  Octavianus had gone into the city, and the
people, I heard, had greeted him with acclamations and flung themselves
on their knees before him.  Our stiff-necked Alexandrians in the dust
before the victor!  It enraged me, but my resentment was diminished.

"The members of the gymnasium all knew me.  They made way and, ere I was
aware of it, I had passed through the door.  Tall Phryxus had drawn my
arm through his.  He appears and vanishes at will, is as alert as he is
rich, sees and hears everything, and manages to secure the best places.
This time he had again succeeded; for when he released me we were
standing opposite to a newly erected tribune.

"They were waiting for Octavianus, who was still in the hypostyle of
Euergetes receiving the homage of the epitrop, the members of the
Council, the gymnasiarch, and I know not how many others.

"Phryxus said that on Caesar's entry he had held out his hand to his
former tutor, bade him accompany him, and commanded that his sons should
be presented.  The philosopher had been distinguished above every one
else, and this will benefit you and yours; for he is Berenike's brother,
and therefore your wife's uncle.  What he desires is sure to be granted.
You will hear at once how studiously the Caesar distinguishes him.  I do
not grudge it to the man; he interceded boldly for Barine; he is lauded
as an able scholar, and he does not lack courage.  In spite of Actium and
the only disgraceful deed with which, to my knowledge, Mark Antony could
be reproached--I mean the surader of Turullius--Arius remained here,
though the Imperator might have held the friend of Julius Caesar's nephew
as a hostage as easily as he gave up the Emperor's assassin.

"Since Octavianus encamped before the city, your uncle has been in
serious danger, and his sons shared his peril.  Surely you must know the
handsome, vigorous young Ephebi.

"We were not obliged to wait long in the gymnasium ere the Caesar
appeared on the platform; and now--if your hand clenches, it is only what
I expect--now all fell on their knees.  Our turbulent, rebellious rabble
raised their hands like pleading beggars, and grave, dignified men
followed their example.  Whoever saw me and Phryxus will remember us
among the kneeling lickspittles;  for had we remained standing we should
certainly have been dragged down.  So we followed the example of the
others."

"And Octavianus?" asked Dion eagerly.

"A man of regal bearing and youthful aspect; beardless face of the finest
chiselling, a profile as beautiful as if created for the coin-maker; all
the lines sharp and yet pleasing; every inch an aristocrat; but the very
mirror of a cold nature, incapable of any lofty aspiration, any warm
emotion, any tenderness of feeling.  All in all, a handsome, haughty,
calculating man, whose friendship would hardly benefit the heart, but
from whose enmity may the immortals guard all we love!

"Again he led Arius by the hand.  The philosopher's sons followed the
pair.  When he stood on the stage, looking down upon the thousands
kneeling before him, not a muscle of his noble face--it is certainly that
--betrayed the slightest emotion.  He gazed at us like a farmer surveying
his flocks and, after a long silence, said curtly in excellent Greek that
he absolved the Alexandrians from all guilt towards him: first--he
counted as if he were summoning individual veterans to reward them--from
respect for the illustrious founder of our city, Alexander, the conqueror
of the world; secondly, because the greatness and beauty of Alexandria
filled him with admiration; and, thirdly--he turned to Arius as he spoke
--to give pleasure to his admirable and beloved friend.

"Then shouts of joy burst forth.

"Every one, from the humblest to the greatest, had had a heavy burden
removed from his mind, and the throng had scarcely left the gymnasium
when they were again laughing saucily enough, and there was no lack of
biting and innocent jests.

"The fat carpenter, Memnon--who furnished the wood-work for your palace--
exclaimed close beside me that formerly a dolphin had saved Arius from
the pirates; now Arius was saving marine Alexandria from the robbers.  So
the sport went on.  Philostratus, Barine's first husband, offered the
best butt for jests.  The agitator had good reason to fear the worst; and
now, clad in black mourning robes, ran after Arius, whom but a few months
ago he persecuted with the most vindictive hatred, continually repeating
this shallow bit of verse:

          "'If he is a wise man, let the wise aid the wise.'

"Reaching home was not easy.  The street was swarming with Roman
soldiers.  They fared well enough; for in the joy of their hearts many a
prosperous citizen who saw his property saved invited individual
warriors, or even a whole maniple, to the taverns or cook-shops, and the
stock of wine in Alexandrian cellars will be considerably diminished to-
night.

"Many, as I have already said, had been quartered in the houses, with
orders to spare the property of the citizens; and it was in this way
that the misfortune with which I commenced my narrative befell the
grandmother.  She died before my departure.

"All the gates of the city will now stand open to you, and the niece of
Arius and her husband will be received with ovations.  I don't grudge
Barine the good fortune; for the way in which your noble wife, who had
cast her spell over me too, flung aside what is always dear to the
admired city beauty and found on the loneliest of islands a new world in
love, is worthy of all admiration and praise.  For yourself, I dread new
happiness and honours; if they are added to those which Fate bestowed
upon you in such a wife and your son Pyrrhus, the gods would not be
themselves if they did not pursue you with their envy.  I have less
reason to fear them."

"Ungrateful fellow!" interrupted his friend.  "There will be numerous
mortals to grudge you Helena.  As for me, I have already felt many a
slight foreboding; but we have already paid by no means a small tribute
to the divine ones.  The lamp is still burning in the sitting-room.
Inform the sisters of their grandmother's death, and tell them the
pleasant tidings you have brought us, but reserve until the morning a
description of the terrible scenes you witnessed.  We will not spoil
their sleep.  Mark my words!  Helena's silent grief and her joy at our
escape will lighten your heart."

And so it proved.  True, Gorgias lived over again in his dreams the
frightful spectacle witnessed the day before; but when the sun of the
2d day of August rose in full radiance over Alexandria and, early in
the morning, boat after boat reached the Serpent Island, landing first
Berenike and her nephews, the sons of the honoured philosopher Arius,
then clients, officials, and friends of Dion, and former favourite guests
of Barine, to greet the young pair and escort them from the refuge which
had so long sheltered them back to the city and their midst, new and
pleasant impressions robbed the gloomy picture of a large portion of its
terrors.

"Tall Phryxus" had rapidly spread the news of the place where Dion and
Barine had vanished, and that they had long been happily wedded.  Many
deemed it well worth a short voyage to see the actors in so strange an
adventure and be the first to greet them.  Besides, those who knew Barine
and her husband were curious to learn how two persons accustomed to the
life of a great capital had endured for months such complete solitude.
Many feared or expected to see them emaciated and careworn, haggard or
sunk in melancholy, and hence there were a number of astonished faces
among those whose boats the freedman Pyrrhus guided as pilot through the
shallows which protected his island.

The return of this rare couple to their home would have afforded an
excellent opportunity for gay festivities.  Sincerely as the majority of
the populace mourned the fate of the Queen, and gravely as the more
thoughtful feared for Alexandria's freedom under Roman rule, all rejoiced
over the lenient treatment of the city.  Their lives and property were
safe, and the celebration of festivals had become a life habit with all
classes.  But the news of the death of Didymus's wife and the illness of
the old man, who could not bear up under the loss of his faithful
companion, gave Dion a right to refuse any gay welcome at his home.

Barine's sorrow was his also, and Didymus died a few days after his wife,
with whom he had lived in the bonds of love for more than half a century
--people said, "of a broken heart."

So Dion and his young wife entered his beautiful palace with no noisy
festivities.  Instead of the jubilant hymenaeus, the voice of his own
child greeted him on the threshold.

The mourning garments in which Barine welcomed him in the women's
apartment reminded him of the envy of the gods which his friend had
feared for him.  But he often fancied that his mother's statue in the
tablinum looked specially happy when the young mistress of the house
entered it.

Barine, too, felt that her happiness as wife and mother in her
magnificent home would have been overwhelming had not a wise destiny
imposed upon her, just at this time, grief for those whom she loved.

Dion instantly devoted himself again to the affairs of the city and his
own business.  He and the woman he loved, who had first become really
his own during a time of sore privation, had run into the harbour and
gazed quietly at the storms of life.  The anchor of love, which moored
their ship to the solid earth, had been tested in the solitude of the
Serpent Island.




CHAPTER XXIV.

The fisherman and his family had watched the departure of their beloved
guests with sorrowful hearts, and the women had shed many tears, although
the sons of Pyrrhus had been dismissed from the fleet and were again
helping their father at home, as in former times.

Besides, Dion had made the faithful freedman a prosperous man, and given
his daughter, Dione, a marriage dowry.  She was soon to become the wife
of the captain of the Epicurus, Archibius's swift galley, whose
acquaintance she had made when the vessel, on several occasions, brought
Charmian's Nubian maid to the island.  Anukis's object in making these
visits was not only to see her friend, but to induce him to catch one of
the poisonous serpents in the neighbouring island and keep it ready for
the Queen.

Since Cleopatra had ascertained that no poison caused a less painful
death than the fangs of the asp, she had resolved that the bite of one of
these reptiles should release her from the burden of life.  The clever
Ethiopian had thought of inducing her friend Pyrrhus to procure the
adder, but it had required all Aisopion's skill in persuasion, and the
touching manner in which she understood how to describe the Queen's
terrible situation and severe suffering, to conquer the reluctance of the
upright man.  At last she succeeded in persuading him to measure a queen
by a different standard from a woman of the people, and inducing him to
arrange the manner and time of conveying the serpent into the well-
guarded palace.  A signal was to inform him when the decisive hour
arrived.  After that he was to be ready with the asp in the fish-market
every day.  Probably his service would soon be claimed; for Octavianus's
delay was scarcely an indication of a favourable decision of Cleopatra's
fate.

True, she was permitted to live in royal state at Lochias, and had even
been allowed to have the children, the twins, and little Alexander sent
back to her with the promise that life and liberty would be granted them;
but Caesarion--whose treacherous tutor Rhodon lured him from the journey
southward back to Alexandria by all sorts of representations, among them
the return of Barine--was held prisoner in his father's temple, where he
had sought refuge.  This news, and the fact that Octavianus had condemned
to death the youth who bore so striking a resemblance to Caesar, had not
remained concealed from the unhappy mother.  She was also informed of the
words in which the philosopher Arius had encouraged Caesar's desire to
rid himself of the son of his famous uncle.  They referred to the Homeric
saying concerning the disadvantage of having many rulers.

Everything which Cleopatra desired to know concerning events in the city
reached her ears; for she was allowed much liberty-only she was closely
watched day and night, and all the servants and officials to whom she
granted an audience were carefully searched to keep from her all means of
self-destruction.

True, it was very evident that she had closed her account with life.  Her
attempt to take no food and die of starvation must have been noticed.
Threats directed against the children, through whom she could be most
easily influenced, finally induced her to eat again.  Octavianus was
informed of all these things, and his conduct proved his anxiety to keep
her from suicide.

Several Asiatic princes vied with each other in the desire to honour Mark
Antony by a magnificent funeral, but Octavianus had allowed Cleopatra to
provide the most superb obsequies.  In the time of her deepest anguish it
afforded her comfort and satisfaction to arrange everything herself, and
even perform some offices with her own hands.  The funeral had been as
gorgeous as the dead man's love of splendour could have desired.

Iras and Charmian were often unable to understand how the Queen--who,
since Antony's death, had suffered not only from the wounds she had
inflicted upon herself in her despair, but also after her baffled attempt
at starvation from a slow fever--had succeeded in resisting the severe
exertions and mental agitation to which she had been subjected by
Antony's funeral.

The return of Archibius with the children, however, had visibly
reanimated her flagging energy.  She often went to Didymus's garden,
which was now connected with the palace at Lochias, to watch their work
and share whatever interested their young hearts.

But the gayest of mothers, who had understood how to enter so thoroughly
into her children's pursuits, had now become a sorrowful, grave monitor.
Though the lessons she urged upon them were often beautiful and wise,
they were little suited to the ages of Archibius's pupils, for they
usually referred to death and to questions of philosophy not easily
understood by children.

She herself felt that she no longer struck the right key; but whenever
she tried to change it and jest with them as usual, she could endure the
forced gaiety only a short time; a painful revulsion, frequently
accompanied by tears, followed, and she was obliged to leave her
darlings.

The life her foe granted her seemed like an intrusive gift, an oppressive
debt, which we desire to pay a troublesome creditor as soon as possible.
She seemed calmer and apparently content only when permitted to talk with
the companions of her youth concerning bygone days, or with them and Iras
of death, and how it would be possible to put an end to an unwelcome
existence.

After such conversations Iras and Charmian left her with bleeding hearts.
They had long since resolved to share the fate of their royal mistress,
whatever it might be.  Their common suffering was the bond which again
united them in affection.  Iras had provided poisoned pins which had
speedily destroyed the animals upon which they had been tried.  Cleopatra
knew of their existence, but she herself preferred the painless death
bestowed by the serpent's bite, and it was long since her friends had
seen the eyes of their beloved sovereign sparkle so brightly as when
Charmian told her that away had been found to obtain the uraeus serpent
as soon as it was needed.  Put it was not yet imperative to adopt the
last expedient.  Octavianus wished to be considered lenient, and perhaps
might still be prevailed upon to grant the Queen and her children a
future meet for their royal birth.

Cleopatra's reply was an incredulous smile, yet a faint hope which saved
her from despair began to bud in her soul.

Dolabella, an aristocratic Roman, a scion of the noble Cornelius family,
was in the Caesar's train, and had been presented to the Egyptian Queen.
In former years his father was a friend of Cleopatra; nay, she had placed
him under obligations by sending him, after the murder of Julius Caesar,
the military force at her command to be used against Cassius.  True, her
legions, by messengers from Dolabella himself, were despatched in another
direction; but Cleopatra had not withdrawn her favour from Dolabella's
father on that account.  The latter had known her in Rome before the
death of Caesar, and had enthusiastically described the charms of the
bewitching Egyptian sovereign.  Though the youth found her only a
mourning widow, ill in body and mind, he was so strongly attracted and
deeply moved by her beauty, her brilliant intellect, her grace of
bearing, her misfortunes and sufferings, that he devoted many hours to
her, and would have considered it a happiness to render her greater
services than circumstances permitted.  He often accompanied her to the
children, whose hearts had been completely won by his frank, cheerful
nature; and so it happened that he soon became one of the most welcome
guests at Lochias.  He confided without reserve every feeling that
stirred his soul to the warm-hearted woman who was so many years his
senior, and through him she learned many things connected with Octavianus
and his surroundings.  Without permitting himself to be used as a tool,
he became an advocate for the unfortunate woman whom he so deeply
esteemed.

In intercourse with her he made every effort to inspire confidence in
Octavianus, who favoured him, enjoyed his society, and in whose
magnanimity the youth firmly believed.

He anticipated the best results from an interview between the Queen and
the Caesar; for he deemed it impossible that the successful conqueror
could part untouched, and with no desire to mitigate her sad fate, from
the woman who, in earlier years, had so fascinated his father, and whom
he himself, though she might almost have been his mother, deemed peerless
in her bewitching and gracious charm.

Cleopatra, on the contrary, shrank from meeting the man who had brought
so much misfortune upon Mark Antony and herself, and inflicted upon her
insults which were only too well calculated to make her doubt his
clemency and truth.  On the other hand, she could not deny Dolabella's
assertion that it would be far less easy for Octavianus to refuse her in
person the wishes she cherished for her children's future than through
mediators.  Proculejus had learned that Antony had named him to the Queen
as the person most worthy of her confidence, and more keenly felt the
wrong which, as the tool and obedient friend of Octavianus, he had
inflicted upon the hapless woman.  The memory of his unworthy deed, which
history would chronicle, had robbed the sensitive man, the author and
patron of budding Roman poetry, of many an hour's sleep, and therefore he
also now laboured zealously to oblige the Queen and mitigate her hard
fate.  He, like the freedman Epaphroditus, who by Caesar's orders watched
carefully to prevent any attempt upon her life, seemed to base great
hopes on such an interview, and endeavoured to persuade her to request an
audience from the Caesar.

Archibius said that, even in the worst case, it could not render the
present state of affairs darker.  Experience, he said to Charmian, proved
that no man of any feeling could wholly resist the charm of her nature,
and to him at least she had never seemed more winning than now.  Who
could have gazed unmoved into the beautiful face, so eloquent in its
silent suffering, whose soul would not have been deeply touched by the
sorrowful tones of her sweet voice?  Besides, her sable mourning robes
were so well suited to the slight tinge of melancholy which pervaded her
whole aspect.  When the fever flushed her cheeks, Archibius, spite of the
ravages which grief, anxiety, and fear had made upon her charms, thought
that he had never seen her look more beautiful.  He knew her thoroughly,
and was aware that her desire to follow the man she loved into the realm
of death was sincere; nay, that it dominated her whole being.  She clung
to life only to die as soon as possible.  The decision which, after her
resolve to build the monument, she had recognized in the temple of
Berenike as the right one, had become the rule of conduct of her life.
Every thought, every conversation, led her back to the past.  The future
seemed to exist no longer.  If Archibius succeeded in directing her
thoughts to approaching days she occupied herself wholly with her
children's fate.  For herself she expected nothing, felt absolved from
every duty except the one of protecting herself and her name from
dishonour and humiliation.

The fact that Octavianus, when he doomed Caesarion to death, permitted
the other children to return to her with the assurance that no harm
should befall them, proved that he made a distinction between them and
his uncle's son, and had no fears that they threatened his own safety.
She might expect important results in their favour from an interview with
Octavianus, so she at last authorized Proculejus to request an audience.

The Imperator's answer came the very same day.  It was his place to seek
her--so ran the Caesar's message.  This meeting must decide her fate.
Cleopatra was aware of this, and begged Charmian to remember the asp.

Her attendants had been forbidden to leave Lochias, but Epaphroditus
permitted them to receive visitors.  The Nubian's merry, amusing talk had
made friends for her among the Roman guards, who allowed her to pass in
and out unmolested.  On her return, of course, she was searched with the
utmost care, like every one who entered Lochias.

The decisive hour was close at hand.  Charmian knew what she must do in
any event, but there was still one desire for whose fulfilment she
longed.  She wished to greet Barine and see her boy.

To spare Iras, she had hitherto refrained from sending for Dion's wife.
The sight of the mother and child might have reopened wounds still
unhealed, and she would not inflict this sorrow upon her niece, who for a
long time had once more been loyally devoted to her.

Octavianus did not hasten to fulfil his assurance.  But, at the end of a
week, Proculejus brought the news that he could promise a visit from the
Caesar that afternoon.  The Queen was deeply agitated, and desired before
the interview to pay a visit to her tomb.  Iras offered to accompany her,
and as Cleopatra intended to remain an hour or longer, Charmian thought
it a favourable opportunity to see Barine and her boy.

Dion's wife had been informed of her friend's wish, and Anukis, who was
to take her to Lochias, did not wait long for the mother and child.

Didymus's garden--now the property of the royal children--was the scene
of the meeting.  In the shade of the familiar trees the young mother sank
upon the breast of her faithful friend, and Charmian could not gaze her
fill at the boy, or weary of tracing in his features a resemblance to his
grandfather Leonax.

How much these two women, to whom Fate had allotted lives so widely
different, found to tell each other!  The older felt transported to the
past, the younger seemed to have naught save a present rich in blessing
and a future green with hope.  She had good news to tell of her sister
also.  Helena had long been the happy wife of Gorgias who, however, spite
of the love with which he surrounded the young mistress of his house,
numbered among his most blissful hours those which were devoted to
overseeing the progress of the work on the mausoleum, where he met
Cleopatra.

Time flew swiftly to the two women, and it was a painful surprise when
one of the eunuchs on guard announced that the Queen had returned.  Again
Charmian embraced her lover's grandson, blessed him and the young mother,
sent messages of remembrance to Dion, begged Barine to think of her
affectionately when she had passed from earth and, if her heart prompted
her to the act, to anoint or adorn with a ribbon or flower the tombstone
of the woman who had no friend to render her such a service.

Deeply moved by the firmness with which Charmian witnessed the approach
of death, Barine listened in silence, but suddenly started as the sharp
tones of a well-known voice called her friend's name and, as she turned,
Iras stood before her.  Pallid and emaciated, she looked in her long,
floating black robes the very incarnation of misery.

The sight pierced the heart of the happy wife and mother.  She felt as if
much of the joy which Iras lacked had fallen to her own lot, and all the
grief and woe she had ever endured had been transferred to her foe.  She
would fain have approached humbly and said something very kind and
friendly; but when she saw the tall, haggard woman gazing at her child,
and noticed the disagreeable expression which had formerly induced her to
compare her to a sharp thorn, a terrible dread of this woman's evil eye
which might harm her boy seized the mother's heart and, overwhelmed by an
impulse beyond control, she covered his face with her own veil.

Iras saw it, and after Barine had answered her question, "Dion's child?"
in the affirmative, with a glance beseeching forbearance, the girl drew
up her slender figure, saying with arrogant coldness "What do I care for
the child?  We have more important matters on our hearts."

Then she turned to Charmian to inform her, in the tone of an official
announcement, that during the approaching interview the Queen desired her
attendance also.

Octavianus had appointed sunset for the interview, and it still lacked
several hours of the time.  The suffering Queen felt wearied by her visit
to the mausoleum, where she had implored the spirit of Antony, if he had
any power over the conqueror's heart, to induce him to release her from
this torturing uncertainty and promise the children a happy fate.

To Dolabella, who had accompanied her from the tomb to the palace, she
said that she expected only one thing from this meeting, and then won
from him a promise which strengthened her courage and seemed the most
precious boon which could be granted at this time.

She had expressed the fear that Octavianus would still leave her in
doubt.  The youth spoke vehemently in Caesar's defence, and closed with
the exclamation, "If he should still keep you in suspense, he would be
not only cool and circumspect--"

"Then," Cleopatra interrupted, "be nobler, be less cruel, and release
your father's friend from these tortures.  If he does not reveal to me
what awaits me and you learn it, then--you will not say no, you cannot
refuse me--then you, yes, you will inform me?"

Promptly and firmly came the reply: "What have I been able to do for you
until now?  But I will release you from this torture, if possible."  Then
he hastily turned his back, that he might not be compelled to see the
eunuchs stationed at the palace gate search the garments of the royal
captive.

His promise sustained the failing courage of the wearied, anxious Queen,
and she reclined upon the cushions of a lounge to recover from the
exhausting expedition; but she had scarcely closed her eyes when the
pavement of the court-yard rang under the hoofs of the four horses which
bore the Caesar to Lochias.  Cleopatra had not expected the visit so
early.

She had just been consulting with her attendants about the best mode of
receiving him.  At first she had been disposed to do so on the throne,
clad in her royal attire, but she afterwards thought that she was too ill
and weak to bear the heavy ornaments.  Besides, the man and successful
conqueror would show himself more indulgent and gracious to the suffering
woman than to the princess.

There was much to palliate the course which she had pursued in former
days, and she had carefully planned the defence by which she hoped to
influence his calm but not unjust nature.  Many things in her favour were
contained in the letters from Caesar and Antony which, after her
husband's death, she had read again and again during so many wakeful
nights, and they had just been brought to her.

Both Archibius and the Roman Proculejus had counselled her not to receive
him entirely alone.  The latter did not express his opinion in words, but
he knew that Octavianus was more readily induced to noble and lenient
deeds when there was no lack of witnesses to report them to the world.
It was advisable to provide spectators for the most consummate actor of
his day.

Therefore the Queen had retained Iras, Charmian, and some of the
officials nearest to her person, among them the steward Seleukus, who
could give information if any question arose concerning the delivery of
the treasure.

She had also intended, after she had somewhat recovered from the visit to
the tomb, to be robed in fresh garments.  This was prevented by the
Caesar's unexpected arrival.  Now, even had time permitted, she would
have been unable to have her hair arranged, she felt so weak and yet so
feverishly excited.

The blood coursed hotly through her veins and flushed her cheeks.  When
told that the Caesar was close at hand, she had only time to raise
herself a little higher on her cushions, push back her hair, and let
Iras, with a few hasty touches, adjust the folds of her mourning robes.
Had she attempted to advance to meet him, her limbs would have failed to
support her.

When the Caesar at last entered, she could greet him only by a wave of
her hand; but Octavianus, who had uttered the usual salutations from the
threshold, quickly broke the painful silence, saying with a courteous
bow:

"You summoned me--I came.  Every one is subject to beauty--even the
victor."

Cleopatra's head drooped in shame as she answered distinctly, yet in a
tone of modest denial: "I only asked the favour of an audience.  I did
not summon.  I thank you for granting the request.  If it is dangerous
for man to bow to woman's charms, no peril threatens you here.  Beauty
cannot withstand tortures such as those which have been imposed on me--
barely can life remain.  But you prevented my casting it from me.  If you
are just, you will grant to the woman whom you would not permit to die an
existence whose burden will not exceed her power to endure."

The Caesar again bowed silently and answered courteously:

"I intend to make it worthy of you."

"Then," cried Cleopatra impetuously, "release me from this torturing
uncertainty.  You are not one of the men who never look beyond to-day and
to-morrow."

"You are thinking," said Octavianus harshly, "of one who perhaps would
still be among us, if with wiser caution--"

Cleopatra's eyes, which hitherto had met the victor's cold gaze with
modest entreaty, flashed angrily, and a majestic: "Let the past rest!"
interrupted him.

But she soon mastered the indignation which had stirred her passionate
blood, and in a totally different tone, not wholly free from gentle
persuasion, she continued:

"The provident intellect of the man whose nod the universe obeys grasps
the future as well as the present.  Must not he, therefore, have decided
the children's fate ere he consented to see their mother?  The only
obstacle in your path, the son of your great uncle--"

"His doom was a necessity," interrupted the conqueror in a tone of
sincere regret.  "As I mourned Antony, I grieve for the unfortunate boy."

"If that is true," replied Cleopatra eagerly, "it does honour to the
kindness of your heart.  When Proculejus wrested the dagger from my grasp
he blamed me because I attributed to the most clement of conquerors
harshness and implacability."

"Two qualities," the Caesar protested, "which are wholly alien to my
nature."

"And which--even if you possessed them--you neither could nor ought to
use," cried Cleopatra, "if you really mean the beautiful words you so
often utter that, as the nephew and heir of the great Julius Caesar, you
intend to walk in his footsteps.  Caesarion--there is his bust--was the
image in every feature of his father, your illustrious model.  To me, the
hapless woman now awaiting my sentence from his nephew's lips, the gods
granted, as the most precious of all gifts, the love of your divine
uncle.  And what love!  The world knew not what I was to his great heart,
but my wish to defend myself from misconception bids me show it to you,
his heir.  From you I expect my sentence.  You are the judge.  These
letters are my strongest defence.  I rely upon them to show myself to you
as I was and am, not as envy and slander describe me.--The little ivory
casket, Iras!  It contains the precious proofs of Caesar's love, his
letters to me."

She raised the lid with trembling hands and, as these mementoes carried
her back to the past, she continued in lower tones:

"Among all my  treasures  this  simple little coffer has been for half a
lifetime my most valued jewel.  He gave it to me.  It was in the midst of
the fierce contest here at the Bruchium."

Then, while unfolding the first roll, she directed Octavianus's attention
to it and the remainder of the contents of the little casket, exclaiming:

"Silent pages, yet how eloquent!  Each one a peerless picture, the
powerful thinker, the man of action, who permits his restless intellect
to repose, and suffers his heart to overflow with the love of youth!
Were I vain, Octavianus, I might call each one of these letters a trophy
of victory, an Olympic garland.  The woman to whom Julius Caesar owned
his subjugation might well hold her head higher than the unhappy,
vanquished Queen who, save the permission to die--"

"Do not part with the letters," said Octavianus kindly.  "Who can doubt
that they are a precious treasure--"

"The most precious and at the same time the advocate of the accused,"
replied Cleopatra eagerly; "on them--as you have already heard--rests my
vindication.  I will commence with their contents.  How terrible it is to
make what is sacred to us and intended only to elevate our own hearts
serve a purpose, to do what has always been repugnant to us!  But I need
an advocate and, Octavianus, these letters will restore to the wretched,
suffering beggar the dignity and majesty of the Queen.  The world knows
but two powers to which Julius Caesar bowed--the thrall of the pitiable
woman on this couch, and of all-conquering death.  An unpleasant
fellowship--but I do not shrink from it; for death robbed him of life,
and from my hand--I ask only a brief moment.  How gladly I would spare
myself my own praises, and you the necessity of listening to them!  Yes,
here it is: 'Through you, you irresistible woman,' he writes, 'I learned
for the first time, after youth was over, how beautiful life can be.'"

Cleopatra, as she spoke, handed Caesar the letter.  But while she was
still searching hastily for another he returned the first, saying:

"I understand only too well your reluctance to allow such confidential
effusions to play the part of defender.  I can imagine their purport, and
they shall influence me as if I had read them all.  However eloquent they
may be, they are needless witnesses.  Is any written testimony required
in behalf of charms whose magic is still potent?"

A bewitching smile, which seemed like a confirmation of the haughty young
conqueror's flattering words, flitted over Cleopatra's face.  Octavianus
noticed it.  This woman indeed possessed enthralling charms, and he felt
the slight flush that suffused his cheeks.

This unhappy captive, this suffering supplicant, could still draw into
her net any man who did not possess the cool watchfulness which panoplied
his soul.  Was it the marvellous melody of her voice, the changeful
lustre of her tearful eyes, the aristocratic grace of the noble figure,
the exquisite symmetry of the hands and feet, the weakness of the
prostrate sufferer, strangely blended with truly royal majesty, or the
thought that love for her had found earth's greatest and loftiest men
with indissoluble fetters, which lent this fragile woman, who had long
since passed the boundaries of youth, so powerful a spell of attraction?

At any rate, however certain of himself he might be, he must guard his
feelings.  He understood how to bridle passion far better than the uncle
who was so greatly his superior.

Yet it was of the utmost importance to keep her alive, and therefore to
maintain her belief in his admiration.  He wished to show the world and
the Great Queen of the East, who had just boasted of conquering, like
death, even the most mighty, its own supremacy as man and victor.  But he
must also be gentle, in order not to endanger the object for which he
wanted her.  She must accompany him to Rome.  She and her children
promised to render his triumph the most brilliant and memorable one which
any conqueror had ever displayed to the senate and the people.  In a
light tone which, however, revealed the emotion of his soul, he answered:
"My illustrious uncle was known as a friend of fair women.  His stern
life was crowned with flowers by many hands, and he acknowledged these
favours verbally and perhaps--as he did to you in all these letters--with
the reed.  His genius was greater, at any rate more many-sided and
mobile, than mine.  He succeeded, too, in pursuing different objects at
the same time with equal devotion.  I am wholly absorbed in the cares of
state, of government, and war.  I feel grateful when I can permit our
poets to adorn my leisure for a brief space.  Overburdened with toil,
I have no time to yield myself captive, as my uncle did in these very
rooms, to the most charming of women.  If I could follow my own will, you
would be the first from whom I would seek the gifts of Eros.  But it may
not be!  We Romans learn to curb even the most ardent wishes when duty
and morality command.  There is no city in the world where half so many
gods are worshipped as here; and what strange deities are numbered among
them!  It needs a special effort of the intellect to understand them.
But the simple duties of the domestic hearth!--they are too prosaic for
you Alexandrians, who imbibe philosophy with your mothers' milk.  What
marvel, if I looked for them in vain?  True, they would find little
satisfaction--our household gods I mean--here, where the rigid demands of
Hymen are mute before the ardent pleadings of Eros.  Marriage is scarcely
reckoned among the sacred things of life.  But this opinion seems to
displease you."

"Because it is false," cried Cleopatra, repressing with difficulty a
fresh outburst of indignation.  "Yet, if I see aright, your reproach is
aimed only at the bond which united me to the man who was called your
sister's husband.  But I will I would gladly remain silent, but you force
me to speak, and I will do so, though your own friend, Proculejus, is
signing to me to be cautious.  I--I, Cleopatra, was the wife of Mark
Antony according to the customs of this country, when you wedded him to
the widow of Marcellus, who had scarcely closed his eyes.  Not she, but
I, was the deserted wife--I to whom his heart belonged until the hour of
his death, not the unloved consort wedded--"  Here her voice fell.  She
had yielded to the passionate impulse which urged her to express her
feelings in the matter, and now continued in a tone of gentle
explanation:  "I  know that you  proposed this alliance solely for the
peace and welfare of Rome--"

"To guard both, and to spare the blood of tens of thousands," Octavianus
added with proud decision.  "Your clear brain perceived the true state
of affairs.  If, spite of the grave importance of these motives, you--
But what voices would not that of the heart silence with you women!  The
man, the Roman, succeeded in closing his ears to its siren song.  Were it
otherwise, I would never have chosen for my sister a husband by whom I
knew her happiness would be so ill-guarded--I would, as I have already
said, be unable to master my own admiration of the loveliest of women.
But I ought scarcely to boast of that.  I fear that a heart like yours
opens less quickly to the modest Octavianus than to a Julius Caesar or
the brilliant Mark Antony.  Yet I may be permitted to confess that
perhaps I might have avoided conducting this unhappy war against my
friend to the end under my own guidance, and appearing myself in Egypt,
had I not been urged by the longing to see once more the woman who had
dazzled my boyish eyes.  Now, in my mature manhood, I desired to
comprehend those marvellous gifts of mind, that matchless sagacity--"

"Sagacity!" interrupted the Queen, shrugging her shoulders mournfully.
"You possess a far greater share of what is commonly called by that name.
My fate proves it.  The pliant intellect which the gods bestowed on me
would ill sustain the test in this hour of anguish.  But if you really
care to learn what mental power Cleopatra once possessed, relieve me of
this terrible burden of uncertainty, and grant me a position in life
which will permit my paralyzed soul to move freely once more."

"It depends solely on yourself," Octavian eagerly responded, "to make
your future life, not only free from care, but beautiful."

"On me?"  asked Cleopatra in astonishment.   Our weal and woe are in your
hands alone.  I am modest and ask nothing save to know what you intend
for our future, what you mean by the lot which you term beautiful."

"Nothing less,"  replied the Caesar quietly, "than what seems to lie
nearest to your own heart--a life of that freedom of soul to which you
aspire."

The breath of the agitated Queen began come more quickly and, no longer
able to contr the impatience which overpowered her, she exclaimed, "With
the assurance of your favour on your lips, you refuse to discuss the
question which interests, me beyond any other--for which, if any you must
have been prepared when you came here--"

"Reproaches?" asked Octavianus with we feigned surprise.  "Would it not
rather be my place to complain?  It is precisely because I am thoroughly
sincere in the friendly disposition which you read aright from my words,
that some of your measures cannot fail to wound me.  Your treasures were
to be committed to the flames.  It would be unfair to expect tokens of
friendship from the vanquished; but can you deny that even the bitterest
hatred could scarcely succeed in devising anything more hostile?"

"Let the past rest!  Who would not seek in war to diminish the enemy's
booty?" pleaded the Queen in a soothing tone.  But as Octavianus delayed
his answer, she continued more eagerly: "It is said that the ibex in the
mountains, when in mortal peril, rushes upon the hunter and hurls him
with it down the precipice.  The same impulse is natural to human beings,
and praiseworthy, I think, in both.  Forget the past, as I will try to
do, I repeat with uplifted hands.  Say that you will permit the sons whom
I gave to Antony to ascend the Egyptian throne, not under their mother's
guardianship, but that of Rome, and grant me freedom wherever I may live,
and I will gladly transfer to you, down to the veriest trifles, all the
property and treasures I possess."

She clenched her little hand impatiently under the folds of her robe as
she spoke; but Octavianus lowered his eyes, saying carelessly: "In war
the victor disposes of the property of the vanquished; but my heart
restrains me from applying the universal law to you, who are so far above
ordinary mortals.  Your wealth is said to be vast, though the foolish war
which Antony, with your aid, so greatly prolonged, devoured vast sums.
In this country squandered gold seems like the grass which, when mowed,
springs up anew."

"You speak," replied Cleopatra, more and more deeply incensed, with proud
composure, "of the treasures which my ancestors, the powerful monarchs of
a wealthy country, amassed during three hundred years for their noble
race and for the adornment of the women of their line.  Parsimony did not
accord with the generosity and lofty nature of an Antony, yet avarice
itself would not deem the portion still remaining insignificant.  Every
article is registered."

While speaking, she took a manuscript from the hand of Seleukus and
passed it to Octavianus who, with a slight bend of the head, received it
in silence.  But he had scarcely begun to read it when the steward, a
little corpulent man with twinkling eyes half buried in his fat cheeks,
raised his short forefinger, pointed insolently at the Queen, and
asserted that she was trying to conceal some things, and had ordered him
not to place them on the list.  Every tinge of colour faded from the lips
and cheeks of the agitated and passionate woman; tortured by feverish
impatience and no longer able to control her emotions, she raised herself
and, with her own dainty hand, struck the accuser--whom she had lifted
from poverty and obscurity to his present high position--again and again
in the face, till Octavianus, with a smile of superiority, begged her,
much as the man deserved his punishment, to desist.

The unfortunate woman, thus thrown off her guard, flung herself back on
her couch and, panting for breath, with tears streaming from her eyes,
sobbed aloud, declaring that in the presence of such unendurable insult,
such contemptible baseness, she fairly loathed herself.  Then pressing
her clenched hands upon her temples, she exclaimed "Before the eyes of
the foe my royal dignity, which I have maintained all my life, falls from
me like a borrowed mantle.  Yet what am I?  What shall I be to-morrow,
what later?  But who beneath the sun who has warm blood in his veins can
preserve his composure when juicy grapes are held before his thirsting
lips to be withdrawn, as from Tantalus, ere he can taste them?  You came
hither with the assurance of your favour; but the flattering words of
promise which you bestowed upon the unhappy woman were probably only the
drops of poppy-juice given to soothe the ravings of fever.  Was the
favour which you permitted me to see and anticipate for the future merely
intended to delude a miserable--"

But she went no further; Octavianus, with dignified bearing and loud,
clear tones, interrupted "Whoever believes the heir of Caesar capable of
shamefully deceiving a noble woman, a queen, the object of his
illustrious uncle's love, insults and wounds him; but the just anger
which overmastered you may serve as your apology.  Ay," he added in a
totally different tone, "I might even have cause to be grateful for this
indignation, and to wish for another opportunity to witness the outbreak
of passion though in its unbridled fierceness--the royal lioness is
scarcely aware of her own beauty when the tempest of wrath sweeps her
away.  What must she be when it is love that constrains the flame of her
glowing soul to burst into a blaze?"

"Her glowing soul!"  Cleopatra eagerly repeated, and the desire awoke
to subjugate this man who had so confidently boasted of his power of
resistance.  Though he might be stronger than many others, he certainly
was not invincible.  And aware of her still unbroken sway over the hearts
of men, her eyes sparkled with the alluring radiance of love, and a
bewitching smile brightened her face.

The young Imperator's heart began to chafe under the curb and to beat
more quickly, his cheeks flushed and paled by turns.  How she gazed at
him!  What if she loved the nephew as she had once loved the uncle who,
through her, had learned what bliss life can offer?  Ay, it must be
happiness to kiss those lips, to be clasped in those exquisite arms, to
hear one's own name tenderly spoken by those musical tones.  Even the
magnificent marble statue of Ariadne, which he had seen in Athens, had
not displayed to his gaze lines more beautiful than those of the woman
reclining on yonder pillows.  Who could venture to speak in her presence
of vanished charms?  Ah, no!  The spell which had conquered Julius Caesar
was as vivid, as potent as ever.  He himself felt its power; he was
young, and after such unremitting exertions he too yearned to quaff the
nectar of the noblest joys, to steep body and soul in peerless bliss.

So, with a hasty movement, he took one step towards her couch, resolved
to grasp her hands and raise them to his lips.  His ardent gaze answered
hers; but surprised by the power which, though so heavily burdened with
physical and mental suffering, she still possessed over the strongest and
coldest of men, she perceived what was passing in his soul, and a smile
of triumph, blended with the most bitter contempt, hovered around her
beautiful lips.  Should she dupe him into granting her wishes by feigning
love for the first time?  Should she yield to the man who had insulted
her, in order to induce him to accord the children their rights?  Should
she, to gratify her lover's foe, relinquish the sacred grief which was
drawing her after him, give posterity and her children the right to call
her, instead of the most loyal of the loyal, a dishonoured woman, who
sold herself for power?

To all these questions came a prompt denial.  The single stride which
Octavianus had made towards her, his eyes aflame with love, gave her the
right to feel that she had vanquished the victor, and the proud delight
of triumph was too plainly reflected in her mobile features to escape the
penetrating, distrustful gaze of the subjugated Caesar.

But he had scarcely perceived what threatened him, and remembered her
words concerning his famous uncle's surrender only to her and to death,
when he succeeded in conquering his quickly kindled senses.  Blushing at
his own weakness, he averted his eyes from the Queen, and when he met
those of Proculejus and the other witnesses of the scene, he realized the
abyss on whose verge he stood.  He had half succumbed to the danger of
losing, by a moment's weakness, the fruit of great sacrifices and severe
exertions.

His expressive eyes, which had just rested rapturously upon a beautiful
woman, now scanned the spectators with the stern glance of a monarch and,
apparently wishing to moderate an excess of flattering recognition which
might be misinterpreted, he said in an almost pedagogical tone:

"Yet we would rather see the noble lioness in the majestic repose which
best suits all sovereigns.  It is difficult for a calm, deliberate nature
like mine to understand an ardent, quickly kindling heart."

Cleopatra had watched this sudden transition with more surprise than
disappointment.  Octavianus had half surrendered to her, but recovered
his self-command in time, and a man of his temperament does not readily
succumb twice to a danger which he barely escaped.  And this was well!
He should learn that he had misunderstood the glance which fired his
heart; so she answered distantly, with majestic dignity:

"Misery such as mine quenches all ardour.  And love?  Woman's heart is
ever open to it, save where it has lost the desire for power and
pleasure.  You are young and happy, therefore your soul still yearns for
love--I know that--though not for mine.  To me, on the contrary, one
suitor only is welcome, he with the lowered torch, whom you keep aloof
from me.  With him alone is to be found the boon for which this soul has
longed from childhood--painless peace!  You smile.  My past gives you the
right to do so.  I will not lessen it.  Each individual lives his or her
own life.  Few understand the changes of their own existence, far less
those of a stranger's.  The world has witnessed how Peace fled from my
path, or I from hers, and yet I see the possibility of finding the way.
I am safe from the only things which would debar me from those joys
--humiliation and disgrace."  Here she hesitated; then, as if in
explanation, continued in the sweetest tones at her command: "Your
generosity, I think, will guard from these two foes the woman whom just
now--I did not fail to see it--you considered worthy of a more than
gracious glance.  I shall treasure it among memories which will never
fade.  But now, illustrious Imperator! tell me, what is your decision
concerning me and the children?  What may we hope from your favour?"

"That  Octavianus will  be more  and  more warmly animated by the desire
to accord you and yours a worthy destiny, the more firmly you expect that
he will attest his generosity."

"And if I fulfil this desire and expect from you everything that is great
and noble--the condition is not difficult--what proofs of your
graciousness will then await us?"

"Paint them with all the fervour of that vivid power of imagination which
interpreted even my glance in your favour, and devised the marvels by
which you rendered the greatest and most brilliant man in Rome the
happiest of mortals.  But--by Zeus!--it is the fourth hour after
noonday!"

A glance from the window had caused the exclamation.  Then, pressing his
hand upon his heart, he continued in a tone of the most sincere regret
"How gladly I would prolong this fascinating conversation, but important
matters which, unfortunately, cannot be deferred, summon me--"

"And your answer?" cried Cleopatra, panting for breath and gazing at him
with eyes full of expectation.

"Must I repeat it?" he  asked with  impatient haste.  "Very well, then.
In return for implicit confidence on your part, favour, forgiveness,
cordiality, every consideration which you can justly desire.  Your heart
is so rich in warmth of feeling, grant me but a small share of it and ask
tangible gifts in return.  They are already bestowed."  Then greeting her
like a friend who is reluctant to say farewell, he hastily left the
apartment.

"Gone--gone!" cried Iras as the door closed behind him.  "An eel that
slips from the hand which strives to hold him."

"Northern ice," added Cleopatra gloomily as Charmian aided her to find a
more comfortable position.  "As smooth as it is cold; there is nothing
more to hope."

"Yes, my royal mistress, yes," Iras eagerly protested.  "Dolabella is
waiting for him in the Philadelphus court-yard.  From him--you have his
promise--we shall learn what Octavianus has in store for you."

In truth, the Caesar did find the youth at the first gate of the palace,
inspecting his superb Cyrenean horses.

"Magnificent animals!"  cried Octavianus; "a gift from the city!  Will
you drive with me?--A remarkable, a very remarkable woman!"

"Isn't she?" asked Dolabella eagerly.

"Undoubtedly," replied the Caesar.  "But though she might almost be your
mother, an uncommonly dangerous one for youths of your age.  What a
melting voice, what versatility, what fervour!  And yet such regal grace
in every movement!  But I wish to stifle, not to fan, the spark which
perhaps has already fallen into your heart.  And the play, the farce
which she just enacted before me in the midst of most serious matters!"

He uttered a low, short laugh; but Dolabella exclaimed expectantly:
"You rarely laugh, but this conversation--apparently--excites your mirth.
So the result was satisfactory?"

"Let us hope so.  I was as gracious to her as possible."

"That is delightful.  May I know in what manner your kindness and wisdom
have shaped her future?  Or, rather, what did you promise the vanquished
Queen?"

"My favour, if she will trust me."

"Proculejus and I will continue to strengthen her confidence.  And if we
succeed--?"

"Then, as I have said, she will have my favour--a generous abundance of
favour."

"But her future destiny?  What fate will you bestow on her and her
children?"

"Whatever the degree of her confidence deserves."

Here he hesitated, for he met Dolabella's earnest, troubled gaze, which
was blended with a shade of reproach.

Octavianus desired to retain the enthusiastic admiration of the youth,
who perhaps was destined to lofty achievements, so he continued in a
confidential tone: "To you, my young friend, I can venture to speak more
frankly.  I will gladly grant the most aspiring wishes of this
fascinating and, I repeat, very remarkable woman, but first I need her
for my triumph.  The Romans would have cause to reproach me if I deprived
them of the sight of this Queen, this peerless woman, in many respects
the first of her time.  We shall soon set out for Syria.  The Queen and
her children I shall send in three days to Rome.  If, in the triumphal
procession there, she creates the sensation I anticipate from a spectacle
so worthy of admiration, she shall learn how I reward those who oblige
me."

Dolabella had listened in silence.  When the Caesar entered the carriage,
he requested permission to remain behind.

Octavianus drove alone eastward to the camp where, in the vicinity of the
Hippodrome, men were surveying the ground on which the suburb of
Nikopolis--city of victory--was to be built to commemorate for future
generations the victory of the first Emperor over Antony and Cleopatra.
It grew, but never attained any great importance.

The noble Cornelius gazed indignantly after his sovereign's fiery steeds;
then, drawing up his stately figure to its full height, he entered the
palace with a firm step.  The act might cost him his life, but he would
do what he believed to be his duty to the noble woman who had honoured
him with her friendship.  This rare sovereign was too good to feast the
eyes of the rabble.

A few minutes later Cleopatra knew her impending ignominy.




CHAPTER XXV.

The next morning the Queen had many whispered conversations with
Charmian, and the latter with Anukis.  The day before, Archibius's
gardener had brought to his master's sister some unusually fine figs,
which grew in the old garden of Epicurus.  This fruit was also mentioned,
and Anukis went to Kanopus, and thence, in the steward's carriage, with a
basket of the very best ones to the fish-market.  There she had a great
deal to say to Pyrrhus, and the freedman went to his boat with the figs.

Shortly after the Nubian's return the Queen came back to the palace from
the mausoleum.  Her features bore an impress of resolution usually alien
to them; nay, the firmly compressed lips gave them an expression of
actual sternness.  She knew what duty required, and regarded her
approaching end as an inevitable necessity.  Death seemed to her like a
journey which she must take in order to escape the most terrible
disgrace.  Besides, life after the death of Antony was no longer the
same; it had been only a tiresome delay and waiting for the children's
sake.

The visit to the tomb had been intended, as it were, to announce her
coming to her husband.  She had remained a long time in the silent hall,
where she had garlanded the coffin with flowers, kissed it, talked to the
dead man as if he were still alive, and told him that the day had come
when what he had mentioned in his will as the warmest desire of his
heart--to rest beside her in the same tomb--would be fulfilled.  Among
the thousand forms of suffering which had assailed her, nothing had
seemed so hard to bear as to be deprived of his society and love.

Then she had gone into the garden, embraced and kissed the children, and
entreated them to remember her tenderly.  Her purpose had not been
concealed from Archibius, but Charmian had told him the menace of the
future, and he approved her decision.  By the exertion of all his innate
strength of will, he succeeded in concealing the grief which rent his
faithful heart.  She must die.  The thought of seeing her adorn the
triumphal procession of Octavianus was unbearable to him also.  Her
thanks and entreaties to be an affectionate guardian to the children were
received with an external calmness which afterwards seemed to him utterly
incomprehensible.

When she spoke of her approaching meeting with her lover, he asked
whether she had entirely abandoned the teachings of Epicurus, who
believed that death absolutely ended existence.

Cleopatra eagerly assented, saying: "Absence of pain has ceased to appear
to me the chief earthly blessing, since I have known that love does not
bring pleasure only, since I have learned that pain is the inseparable
companion of love.  I will not give it up, nor will I part from my lover.
Whoever experiences what fate has allotted to me has learned to know
other gods than those whom the master described as dwelling happily in
undisturbed repose.  Rather eternal torture in another world, united to
the man I love, than painless, joyless mere existence in a desolate,
incomprehensible, unknown region!  You will be the last to teach the
children to yearn for freedom from pain--"

"Because, like you," cried Archibius, "I have learned how great a
blessing is love, and that love is pain."

As he spoke he bent over her hand to kiss it, but she took his temples
between her hands and, bending hastily, pressed her lips on his broad
brow.

Then his self-control vanished, and, sobbing aloud, he hurried back to
the children.

Cleopatra gazed after him with a sorrowful smile, and leaning on
Charmian's arm, she entered the palace.

There she was bathed and, robed in costly mourning garments, reclined
among her cushions to take breakfast, which was usually served at this
hour.  Iras and Charmian shared it.

When dessert was carried in, the Nubian brought a basket filled with
delicious figs.  A peasant, she told Epaphroditus, who was watching the
meal, had given them to her because they were so remarkably fine.  Some
had already been snatched by the guards.

The Queen and her companions ate a little of the fruit, and Proculejus,
who had come to greet Cleopatra, was also persuaded to taste one of the
finest figs.

At the end of the meal Cleopatra wished to rest.  The Roman gentlemen and
the guards retired.  At last the women were alone, and gazed at each
other silently.

Charmian timidly lifted the upper layer of the fruit, but the Queen said
mournfully:

"The wife of Antony dragged through the streets of Rome behind the
victor's chariot, a spectacle for the populace and envious matrons!
"Then, starting up, she exclaimed: "What a thought!  Was it too great for
Octavianus, or too petty?  He who so loudly boasts his knowledge of
mankind expects this impossibility from the woman who revealed her inmost
soul to him as fully as he concealed his from her.  We will show him how
small is his comprehension of human nature, and teach him modesty."

A contemptuous smile flitted over her beautiful lips as, with rapid
movements, she flung handful after handful of figs on the table, till she
saw some thing stirring under the fruit, and with a sigh of relief
exclaimed under her breath:

"There it is!" as with hasty resolution she held out her arm towards the
asp, which hissed at her.

While gazing intently at the movements of the viper, which seemed afraid
to fulfil the dread office, she said to her attendants:

"I thank you-thank you for everything.  Be calm.  You know, Iras, it will
cause no pain.  They say it is like falling asleep."  Then she shuddered
slightly, adding: "Death is a solemn thing; yet it must be.  Why does the
serpent delay?  There, there; I will keep firm.  Ambition and love were
the moving forces of my life.  Men shall praise my memory.--I follow you,
Mark Antony!"  Charmian bent over the left arm of her royal mistress,
which hung loosely at her side, and, weeping aloud, covered it with
kisses, while Cleopatra, watching the motions of the asp still more
closely, added:

"The peace of our garden of Epicurus will begin to-day.  Whether it will
be painless, who can tell?  Yet--there I agree with  Archibius--life's
greatest joy--love--is blended with pain, as yonder branch of exquisite
roses from Dolabella, the last gift of friendship, has its sharp thorns.
I think you have both experienced this.  The twins and my little darling
--When they think of their mother and her end, will not the children--"

Here she uttered a low cry.  The asp had struck its fangs into the upper
part of her arm like an icy flash of lightning, and a few instants later
Cleopatra sank back upon her pillows lifeless.

Iras, pale but calm, pointed to her, saying "Like a sleeping child.
Bewitching even in death.  Fate itself was constrained to do her will and
fulfil the last desire of the great Queen, the victorious woman, whom no
heart resisted.  Its decree shatters the presumptuous plan of Octavianus.
The victor will show himself to the Romans without thee, thou dear one."

Sobbing violently, she bent over the inanimate form, closed the eyes, and
kissed the lips and brow.  The weeping Charmian did the same.

Then the footsteps of men were heard in the anteroom, and Iras, who was
the first to notice them, cried eagerly:

"The moment is approaching!  I am glad it is close at hand.  Does it not
seem to you also as if the very sun in the heavens was darkened?"
Charmian nodded assent, and whispered, "The poison?"

"Here!"  replied Iras calmly, holding out  a plain pin.  "One little
prick, and the deed will be done.  Look!  But no.  You once inflicted the
deepest suffering upon me.  You know--Dion, the playmate of my childhood
--It is forgiven.  But now--you will do me a kindness.  You will spare my
using the pin myself.  Will you not?  I will repay you.  If you wish, my
hand shall render you the same service."

Charmian clasped her niece to her heart, kissed her, pricked her arm
lightly, and gave her the other pin, saying:

"Now it is your turn.  Our hearts were filled with love for one who
understood how to bestow it as none other ever did, and our love was
returned.  What matters all else that we sacrificed?  Those on whom the
sun shines need no other light.  Love is pain," she said in dying, "but
this pain--especially that of renunciation for love's sake--bears with it
a joy, an exquisite joy, which renders death easy.  To me it seems as if
it were merely following the Queen to--Oh, that hurt!"  Iras's pin had
pricked her.

The poison did its work quickly.  Iras was seized with giddiness, and
could scarcely stand.  Charmian had just sunk on her knees, when some one
knocked loudly at the closed door, and the voices of Epaphroditus and
Proculejus imperiously demanded admittance.

When no answer followed, the lock was hastily burst open.

Charmian was found lying pale and distorted at the feet of her royal
mistress; but Iras, tottering and half stupefied by the poison, was
adjusting the diadem, which had slipped from its place.  To keep from her
beloved Queen everything that could detract from her beauty had been her
last care.

Enraged, fairly frantic with wrath, the Romans rushed towards the women.
Epaphroditus had seen Iras still occupied in arranging Cleopatra's
ornaments.  Now he endeavoured to raise her companion, saying
reproachfully, "Charmian, was this well done?"  Summoning her last
strength, she answered in a faltering voice, "Perfectly well, and worthy
a descendant of Egyptian kings."  Her eyes closed, but Proculejus, the
author, who had gazed long with deep emotion into the beautiful proud
face of the Queen whom he had so greatly wronged, said: "No other woman
on earth was ever so admired by the greatest, so loved by the loftiest.
Her fame echoed from nation to nation throughout the world.  It will
continue to resound from generation to generation; but however loudly men
may extol the bewitching charm, the fervour of the love which survived
death, her intellect, her knowledge, the heroic courage with which she
preferred the tomb to ignominy--the praise of these two must not be
forgotten.  Their fidelity deserves it.  By their marvellous end they
unconsciously erected the most beautiful monument to their mistress; for
what genuine goodness and lovableness must have been possessed by the
woman who, after the greatest reverses, made it seem more desirable to
those nearest to her person to die than to live without her!"

     [The Roman's exclamation and the answer of the loyal dying Charmian
     are taken literally from Plutarch's narrative.]

The news of the death of their beloved, admired sovereign transformed
Alexandria into a house of mourning.  Obsequies of unprecedented
magnificence and solemnity, at which many tears of sincere grief flowed,
honoured her memory.  One of Octavianus's most brilliant plans was
frustrated by her death, and he had raved furiously when he read the
letter in which Cleopatra, with her own hand, informed him of her
intention to die.  But he owed it to his reputation for generosity to
grant her a funeral worthy of her rank.  To the dead, who had ceased to
be dangerous, he was ready to show an excess of magnanimity.

The treatment which he accorded to Cleopatra's children also won the
world's admiration.  His sister Octavia received them into her own house
and intrusted their education to Archibius.

When the order to destroy the statues of Antony and Cleopatra was issued,
Octavianus gave his contemporaries another proof of his disposition to be
lenient, for he ordered that the numerous statues of the Queen in
Alexandria and Egypt should be preserved.  True, he had been influenced
by the large sum of two thousand talents paid by an Alexandrian to secure
this act of generosity.  Archibius was the name of the rare friend who
had impoverished himself to render this service to the memory of the
beloved dead.

In later times the statues of the unfortunate Queen adorned the places
where they had been erected.

The sarcophagi of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, by whose side rested Iras
and Charmian, were constantly heaped with flowers and offerings to the
dead.  The women of Alexandria, especially, went to the tomb of their
beloved Queen as if it were a pilgrimage; but in after-days faithful
mourners also came from a distance to visit it, among them the children
of the famous lovers whom death here united--Cleopatra Selene, now the
wife of the learned Numidian Prince Juba, Helios Antony, and Alexander,
who had reached manhood.  Their friend and teacher, Archibius,
accompanied them.  He taught them to hold their mother's memory dear, and
had so reared them that, in their maturity, he could lead them with head
erect to the sarcophagus of the friend who had confided them to his
charge.




ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Pain is the inseparable companion of love





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