H. Rider Haggard
Part 4 out of 6
I pressed upon the turning stone with trembling hands. It swung to and
caught, leaving no mark of the secret place of entry. Then I leapt
down and, having pushed away the pile of stones, looked on Cleopatra.
She had swooned, and notwithstanding the dust and grime upon her face,
it was so pale that at first I believed she must be dead. But placing
my hand upon her heart I felt it stir beneath; and, being spent, I
flung myself down beside her upon the sand, to gather up my strength
OF THE COMING BACK OF HARMACHIS; OF THE GREETING OF CHARMION;
AND OF THE ANSWER OF CLEOPATRA TO QUINTUS DELLIUS,
THE AMBASSADOR OF ANTONY THE TRIUMVIR
Presently I lifted myself, and, laying the head of Egypt's Queen upon
my knee, strove to call her back to life. How fair she seemed, even in
her disarray, her long hair streaming down her breast! how deadly fair
she seemed in the faint light--this woman the story of whose beauty
and whose sin shall outlive the solid mass of the mighty pyramid that
towered over us! The heaviness of her swoon had smoothed away the
falseness of her face, and nothing was left but the divine stamp of
Woman's richest loveliness, softened by shadows of the night and
dignified by the cast of deathlike sleep. I gazed upon her and all my
heart went out to her; it seemed that I did but love her more because
of the depth of the treasons to which I had sunk to reach her, and
because of the terrors we had outfaced together. Weary and spent with
fears and the pangs of guilt, my heart sought hers for rest, for now
she alone was left to me. She had sworn to wed me also, and with the
treasure we had won we would make Egypt strong and free her from her
foes, and all should yet be well. Ah! could I have seen the picture
that was to come, how, and in what place and circumstance, once again
this very woman's head should be laid upon my knee, pale with that
cast of death! Ah! could I have seen!
I chafed her hand between my hands. I bent down and kissed her on the
lips, and at my kiss she woke. She woke with a little sob of fear--a
shiver ran along her delicate limbs, and she stared upon my face with
"Ah! it is thou!" she said. "I mind me--thou hast saved me from that
horror-haunted place!" And she threw her arms about my neck, drew me
to her and kissed me. "Come, love," she said, "let us be going! I am
sore athirst, and--ah! so very weary! The gems, too, chafe my breast!
Never was wealth so hardly won! Come, let us be going from the shadow
of this ghostly spot! See the faint lights glancing from the wings of
Dawn. How beautiful they are, and how sweet to behold! Never, in those
Halls of Eternal Night, did I think to look upon the blush of dawn
again! Ah! I can still see the face of that dead slave, with the
Horror hanging to his beardless chin! Bethink thee!--there he'll sit
for ever--there--with the Horror! Come; where may we find water? I
would give an emerald for a cup of water!"
"At the canal on the borders of the tilled land below the Temple of
Horemkhu--it is close by," I answered. "If any see us, we will say
that we are pilgrims who have lost our way at night among the tombs.
Veil thyself closely, therefore, Cleopatra; and beware lest thou dost
show aught of those gems about thee."
So she veiled herself, and I lifted her on to the ass which was
tethered near at hand. We walked slowly through the plain till we came
to the place where the symbol of the God Horemkhu,[*] fashioned as a
mighty Sphinx (whom the Greeks call Harmachis), and crowned with the
royal crown of Egypt, looks out in majesty across the land, his eyes
ever fixed upon the East. As we walked the first arrow of the rising
sun quivered through the grey air, striking upon Horemkhu's lips of
holy calm, and the Dawn kissed her greeting to the God of Dawn. Then
the light gathered and grew upon the gleaming sides of twenty
pyramids, and, like a promise from Life to Death, rested on the
portals of ten thousand tombs. It poured in a flood of gold across the
desert sand--it pierced the heavy sky of night, and fell in bright
beams upon the green of fields and the tufted crest of palms. Then
from his horizon bed royal Ra rose up in pomp and it was day.
[*] That is, "Horus on the horizon"; and signifies the power of Light
and Good overcoming the power of Darkness and Evil incarnate in
his enemy, Typhon.--Editor.
Passing the temple of granite and of alabaster that was built before
the days of Khufu, to the glory of the Majesty of Horemkhu, we
descended the slope, and came to the banks of the canal. There we
drank; and that draught of muddy water was sweeter than all the
choicest wine of Alexandria. Also we washed the mummy dust and grime
from our hands and brows and made us clean. As she bathed her neck,
stooping over the water, one of the great emeralds slipped from
Cleopatra's breast and fell into the canal, and it was but by chance
that at length I found it in the mire. Then, once more, I lifted
Cleopatra onto the beast, and slowly, for I was very weary, we marched
back to the banks of Sihor, where our craft was. And having at length
come thither, seeing no one save some few peasants going out to labour
on the lands, I turned the ass loose in that same field where we had
found him, and we boarded the craft while the crew were yet sleeping.
Then, waking them, we bade them make all sail, saying that we had left
the eunuch to sojourn a while behind us, as in truth we had. So we
sailed, having first hidden away the gems and such of the ornaments of
gold as we could bring to the boat.
We spent four days and more in coming to Alexandria, for the wind was
for the most part against us; and they were happy days! At first,
indeed, Cleopatra was somewhat silent and heavy at heart, for what she
had seen and felt in the womb of the pyramid weighed her down. But
soon her Imperial spirit awoke and shook the burden from her breast,
and she became herself again--now gay, now learned; now loving, and
now cold; now queenly, and now altogether simple--ever changing as the
winds of heaven, and as the heaven, deep, beauteous, and unsearchable!
Night after night for those four perfect nights, the last happy hours
I ever was to know, we sat hand in hand upon the deck and heard the
waters lap the vessel's side, and watched the soft footfall of the
moon as she trod the depths of Nile. There we sat and talked of love,
talked of our marriage and all that we would do. Also I drew up plans
of war and of defence against the Roman, which now we had the means to
carry out; and she approved them, sweetly saying that what seemed good
to me was good to her. And so the time passed all too swiftly.
Oh those nights upon the Nile! their memory haunts me yet! Yet in my
dreams I see the moonbeams break and quiver, and hear Cleopatra's
murmured words of love mingle with the sound of murmuring waters. Dead
are those dear nights, dead is the moon that lit them; the waters
which rocked us on their breast are lost in the wide salt sea, and
where we kissed and clung there lips unborn shall kiss and cling! How
beautiful was their promise, doomed, like an unfruitful blossom, to
wither, fall, and rot! and their fulfilment, ah, how drear! For all
things end in darkness and in ashes, and those who sow in folly shall
reap in sorrow. Ah! those nights upon the Nile!
And so at length once more we stood within the hateful walls of that
fair palace on the Lochias, and the dream was done.
"Whither hast thou wandered with Cleopatra, Harmachis?" Charmion asked
of me when I met her by chance on that day of return. "On some new
mission of betrayal? Or was it but a love-journey?"
"I went with Cleopatra upon secret business of the State," I answered
"So! Those who go secretly, go evilly; and foul birds love to fly at
night. Not but what thou art wise, for it would scarce beseem thee,
Harmachis, to show thy face openly in Egypt."
I heard, and felt my passion rise within me, for I could ill bear this
fair girl's scorn.
"Hast thou never a word without a sting?" I asked. "Know, then, that I
went whither thou hadst not dared to go, to gather means to hold Egypt
from the grasp of Antony."
"So," she answered, looking up swiftly. "Thou foolish man! Thou hadst
done better to save thy labour, for Antony will grasp Egypt in thy
despite. What power hast thou to-day in Egypt?"
"That he may do in my despite; but in despite of Cleopatra that he
cannot do," I said.
"Nay, but with the /aid/ of Cleopatra he can and will do it," she
answered with a bitter smile. "When the Queen sails in state up Cydnus
stream she will surely draw this coarse Antony thence to Alexandria,
conquering, and yet, like thee, a slave!"
"It is false! I say that it is false! Cleopatra goes not to Tarsus,
and Antony comes not to Alexandria; or, if he come, it will be to take
the chance of war."
"Now, thinkest thou thus?" she answered with a little laugh. "Well, if
it please thee, think as thou wilt. Within three days thou shalt know.
It is pretty to see how easily thou art fooled. Farewell! Go, dream on
Love, for surely Love is sweet."
And she went, leaving me angered and troubled at heart.
I saw Cleopatra no more that day, but on the day which followed I saw
her. She was in a heavy mood, and had no gentle word for me. I spake
to her of the defence of Egypt, but she put the matter away.
"Why dost thou weary me?" she said with anger; "canst thou not see
that I am lost in troubles? When Dellius has had his answer to-morrow
then we will speak of these matters."
"Ay," I said, "when Dellius has had his answer; and knowest thou that
but yesterday, Charmion--whom about the palace they name the 'Keeper
of the Queen's secrets'--Charmion swore that the answer would be 'Go
in peace, I come to Antony!'"
"Charmion knows nothing of my heart," said Cleopatra, stamping her
foot in anger, "and if she talk so freely the girl shall be scourged
out of my Court, as is her desert. Though, in truth," she added, "she
has more wisdom in that small head of hers than all my privy
councillors--ay, and more wit to use it. Knowest thou that I have sold
a portion of those gems to the rich Jews of Alexandria, and at a great
price, ay, at five thousand sestertia for each one?[*] But a few, in
truth, for they could not buy more as yet. It was rare to see their
eyes when they fell upon them: they grew large as apples with avarice
and wonder. And now leave me, Harmachis, for I am weary. The memory of
that dreadful night is with me yet."
[*] About forty thousand pounds of our money.--Editor.
I bowed and rose to go, and yet stood wavering.
"Pardon me, Cleopatra; it is of our marriage."
"Our marriage! Why, are we not indeed already wed?" she answered.
"Yes; but not before the world. Thou didst promise."
"Ay, Harmachis, I promised; and to-morrow, when I have rid me of this
Dellius, I will keep my promise, and name thee Cleopatra's Lord before
the Court. See that thou art in thy place. Art content?"
And she stretched out her hand for me to kiss, looking on me with
strange eyes, as though she struggled with herself. Then I went; but
that night I strove once more to see Cleopatra, and could not. "The
Lady Charmion was with the Queen," so said the eunuchs, and none might
On the morrow the Court met in the great hall one hour before mid-day,
and I went thither with a trembling heart to hear Cleopatra's answer
to Dellius, and to hear myself also named King-consort to the Queen of
Egypt. It was a full and splendid Court; there were councillors,
lords, captains, eunuchs, and waiting-women, all save Charmion. The
house passed, but Cleopatra and Charmion came not. At length Charmion
entered gently by a side entrance, and took her place among the
waiting-ladies about the throne. Even as she did so she cast a glance
at me, and there was triumph in her eyes, though I knew not over what
she triumphed. I little guessed that she had but now brought about my
ruin and sealed the fate of Egypt.
Then presently the trumpets blared, and, clad in her robes of state,
the urŠus crown upon her head, and on her breast, flashing like a
star, that great emerald scarabŠus which she had dragged from dead
Pharaoh's heart, Cleopatra swept in splendour to her throne, followed
by a glittering guard of Northmen. Her lovely face was dark, dark were
her slumbrous eyes, and none might read their message, though all that
Court searched them for a sign of what should come. She seated herself
slowly as one who may not be moved, and spoke to the chief of the
heralds in the Greek tongue:
"Does the Ambassador of the noble Antony wait?"
The herald bowed low and made assent.
"Let him come in and hear our answer."
The doors were flung wide, and, followed by his train of knights,
Dellius, clad in his golden armour and his purple mantle, walked with
cat-like step up the great hall, and made obeisance before the throne.
"Most royal and beauteous Egypt," he said, in his soft voice, "as thou
hast graciously been pleased to bid me, thy servant, I am here to take
thy answer to the letter of the noble Antony the Triumvir, whom
to-morrow I sail to meet at Tarsus, in Cilicia. And I will say this,
royal Egypt, craving pardon the while for the boldness of my speech--
bethink thee well before words that cannot be unspoken fall from those
sweet lips. Defy Antony, and Antony will wreck thee. But, like thy
mother AphroditÚ, rise glorious on his sight from the bosom of the
Cyprian wave, and for wreck he will give thee all that can be dear to
woman's royalty--Empire, and pomp of place, cities and the sway of
men, fame and wealth, and the Diadem of rule made sure. For mark:
Antony holds this Eastern World in the hollow of his warlike hand; at
his will kings are, and at his frown they cease to be."
And he bowed his head and, folding his hands meekly on his breast,
For a while Cleopatra answered not, but sat like the Sphinx Horemkhu,
dumb and inscrutable, gazing with lost eyes down the length of that
Then, like soft music, her answer came; and trembling I listened for
Egypt's challenge to the Roman:
"Noble Dellius,--We have bethought us much of the matter of thy
message from great Antony to our poor Royalty of Egypt. We have
bethought us much, and we have taken counsel from the oracles of the
Gods, from the wisest among our friends, and from the teachings of our
heart, that ever, like a nesting bird, broods over our people's weal.
Sharp are the words that thou has brought across the sea; methinks
they had been better fitted to the ears of some petty half-tamed
prince than to those of Egypt's Queen. Therefore we have numbered the
legions that we can gather, and the triremes and the galleys wherewith
we may breast the sea, and the moneys which shall buy us all things
wanting to our war. And we find this, that, though Antony be strong,
yet has Egypt naught to fear from the strength of Antony."
She paused, and a murmur of applause of her high words ran down the
hall. Only Dellius stretched out his hand as though to push them back.
Then came the end!
"Noble Dellius,--Half are we minded there to bid our tongue stop, and,
strong in our fortresses of stone, and our other fortresses built of
the hearts of men, abide the issue. And yet thou shalt not go thus. We
are guiltless of those charges against us that have come to the ears
of noble Antony, and which now he rudely shouts in ours; nor will we
journey into Cilicia to answer them."
Here the murmur arose anew, while my heart beat high in triumph; and
in the pause that followed, Dellius spoke once more.
"Then, royal Egypt, my word to Antony is word of War?"
"Nay," she answered; "it shall be one of Peace. Listen; we said that
we would not come to make answer to these charges, nor will we. But"--
and she smiled for the first time--"we will gladly come, and that
swiftly, in royal friendship to make known our fellowship of peace
upon the banks of Cydnus."
I heard, and was bewildered. Could I hear aright? Was it thus that
Cleopatra kept her oaths? Moved beyond the hold of reason, I lifted up
my voice and cried:
"O Queen, /remember!/"
She turned upon me like a lioness, with a flashing of the eyes and a
swift shake of her lovely head.
"Peace, Slave!" she said; "who bade thee break in upon our counsels?
Mind thou thy stars, and leave matters of the world to the rulers of
I sank back shamed, and, as I did so, once more I saw the smile of
triumph on the face of Charmion, followed by what was, perhaps, the
shadow of pity for my fall.
"Now that yon brawling charlatan," said Dellius, pointing at me with
his jewelled finger, "has been rebuked, grant me leave, O Egypt, to
thank thee from my heart for these gentle words----"
"We ask no thanks from thee, noble Dellius; nor lies it in thy mouth
to chide our servant," broke in Cleopatra, frowning heavily; "we will
take thanks from the lips of Antony alone. Get thee to thy master, and
say to him that before he can make ready a fitting welcome our keels
shall follow in the track of thine. And now, farewell! Thou shalt find
some small token of our bounty upon thy vessel."
Dellius bowed thrice and withdrew, while the Court stood waiting the
Queen's word. And I, too, waited, wondering if she would yet make good
her promise, and name me royal Spouse there in the face of Egypt. But
she said nothing. Only, still frowning heavily, she rose, and,
followed by her guards, left the throne, and passed into the Alabaster
Hall. Then the Court broke up, and as the lords and councillors went
by they looked on me with mockery. For though none knew all my secret,
nor how it stood between me and Cleopatra, yet they were jealous of
the favour shown me by the Queen, and rejoiced greatly at my fall. But
I took no heed of their mocking as I stood dazed with misery and felt
the world of Hope slip from beneath my feet.
OF THE REPROACH OF HARMACHIS; OF THE STRUGGLE OF HARMACHIS
WITH THE GUARDS; OF THE BLOW OF BRENNUS; AND OF THE SECRET
SPEECH OF CLEOPATRA
And at length, all being gone, I, too, turned to go, when a eunuch
struck me on the shoulder and roughly bade me wait on the presence of
the Queen. An hour past this fellow would have crawled to me on his
knees; but he had heard, and now he treated me--so brutish is the
nature of such slaves--as the world treats the fallen, with scorn. For
to come low after being great is to learn all shame. Unhappy,
therefore, are the Great, for they may fall!
I turned upon the slave with so fierce a word that, cur-like, he
sprang behind me; then I passed on to the Alabaster Hall, and was
admitted by the guards. In the centre of the hall, near the fountain,
sat Cleopatra, and with her were Charmion and the Greek girl Iras, and
Merira and other of her waiting-ladies. "Go," she said to these, "I
would speak with my astrologer." So they went, and left us face to
"Stand thou there," she said, lifting her eyes for the first time.
"Come not nigh me, Harmachis: I trust thee not. Perchance thou hast
found another dagger. Now, what hast thou to say? By what right didst
thou dare to break in upon my talk with the Roman?"
I felt the blood rush through me like a storm; bitterness and burning
anger took hold of my heart. "What hast /thou/ to say, Cleopatra?" I
answered boldly. "Where is thy vow, sworn on the dead heart of
Menkau-ra, the ever-living? Where now thy challenge to this Roman
Antony? Where thy oath that thou wouldest call me 'husband' in the
face of Egypt?" and I choked and ceased.
"Well doth it become Harmachis, who never was forsworn, to speak to me
of oaths!" she said in bitter mockery. "And yet, O thou most pure
Priest of Isis; and yet, O thou most faithful friend, who never didst
betray thy friends; and yet, O thou most steadfast, honourable, and
upright man, who never bartered thy birthright, thy country, and thy
cause for the price of a woman's passing love--by what token knowest
thou that my word is void?"
"I will not answer thy taunts, Cleopatra," I said, holding back my
heart as best I might, "for I have earned them all, though not from
thee. By this token, then, I know it. Thou goest to visit Antony; thou
goest, as said that Roman knave, 'tricked in thy best attire,' to
feast with him whom thou shouldst give to vultures for their feast.
Perhaps, for aught I know, thou art about to squander those treasures
that thou hast filched from the body of Menkau-ra, those treasures
stored against the need of Egypt, upon wanton revels which shall
complete the shame of Egypt. By these things, then, I know that thou
art forsworn, and I, who, loving thee, believed thee, tricked; and by
this, also, that thou who didst but yesternight swear to wed me, dost
to-day cover me with taunts, and even before that Roman put me to an
"To wed thee? and I did swear to wed thee? Well, and what is marriage?
Is it the union of the heart, that bond beautiful as gossamer and than
gossamer more light, which binds soul to soul, as they float through
the dreamy night of passion, a bond to be, perchance, melted in the
dews of dawn? Or is it the iron link of enforced, unchanging union
whereby if sinks the one the other must be dragged beneath the sea of
circumstance, there, like a punished slave, to perish of unavoidable
corruption?[*] Marriage! /I/ to marry! /I/ to forget freedom and court
the worst slavery of our sex, which, by the selfish will of man, the
stronger, still binds us to a bed grown hateful, and enforces a
service that love mayhap no longer hallows! Of what use, then, to be a
Queen, if thereby I may not escape the evil of the meanly born? Mark
thou, Harmachis: Woman being grown hath two ills to fear--Death and
Marriage; and of these twain is Marriage the more vile; for in Death
we may find rest, but in Marriage, should it fail us, we must find
hell. Nay, being above the breath of common slander that enviously
would blast those who of true virtue will not consent to stretch
affection's links, I /love/, Harmachis; but I /marry/ not!"
[*] Referring to the Roman custom of chaining a living felon to the
body of one already dead.--Editor.
"And yesternight, Cleopatra, thou didst swear that thou wouldst wed
me, and call me to thy side before the face of Egypt!"
"And yesternight, Harmachis, the red ring round the moon marked the
coming of the storm, and yet the day is fair! But who knows that the
tempest may not break to-morrow? Who knows that I have not chosen the
easier path to save Egypt from the Roman? Who knows, Harmachis, that
thou shalt not still call me wife?"
Then I no longer could bear her falsehood, for I saw that she but
played with me. And so I spoke that which was in my heart:
"Cleopatra!" I cried," thou didst swear to protect Egypt, and thou art
about to betray Egypt to the Roman! Thou didst swear to use the
treasures that I revealed to thee for the service of Egypt, and thou
art about to use them to be her means of shame--to fashion them as
fetters for her wrists! Thou didst swear to wed me, who loved thee,
and for thee gave all, and thou dost mock me and reject me! Therefore
I say--with the voice of the dread Gods I say it!--that on /thee/
shall fall the curse of Menkau-ra, whom thou hast robbed indeed! Let
me go hence and work out my fate! Let me go, O thou fair Shame! thou
living Lie! whom I have loved to my doom, and who hast brought upon me
the last curse of doom! Let me hide myself and see thy face no more!"
She rose in her wrath, and she was terrible to see.
"Let thee go to stir up evil against me! Nay, Harmachis, thou shalt
not go to build new plots against my throne! I say to thee that thou,
too, shalt come to visit Antony in Cilicia, and there, perchance, I
will let thee go!" And ere I could answer, she had struck upon the
silver gong that hung near her.
Before its rich echo had died away, Charmion and the waiting-women
entered from one door, and from the other, a file of soldiers--four of
them of the Queen's bodyguard, mighty men, with winged helmets and
long fair hair.
"Seize that traitor!" cried Cleopatra, pointing to me. The captain of
the guard--it was Brennus--saluted and came towards me with drawn
But I, being mad and desperate, and caring little if they slew me,
flew straight at his throat, and dealt him such a heavy blow that the
great man fell headlong, and his armour clashed upon the marble floor.
As he fell I seized his sword and targe, and, meeting the next, who
rushed on me with a shout, caught his blow upon the shield, and in
answer smote with all my strength. The sword fell where the neck is
set into the shoulder, and, shearing through the joints of his
harness, slew him, so that his knees were loosened and he sank down
dead. And the third, as he came, I caught upon the point of my sword
before he could strike, and it pierced him and he died. Then the last
rushed on me with a cry of "Taranis!" and I, too, rushed on him, for
my blood was aflame. Now the women shrieked--only Cleopatra said
nothing, but stood and watched the unequal fray. We met, and I struck
with all my strength, and it was a mighty blow, for the sword shore
through the iron shell and shattered there, leaving me weaponless.
With a shout of triumph the guard swung up his sword and smote down
upon my head, but I caught the blow with my shield. Again he smote,
and again I parried; but when he raised his sword a third time I saw
this might not endure, so with a cry I hurled my buckler at his face.
Glancing from his shield it struck him on the breast and staggered
him. Then, before he could gain his balance, I rushed in beneath his
guard and gripped him round the middle.
For a full minute the tall man and I struggled furiously, and then, so
great was my strength in those days, I lifted him like a toy and
dashed him down upon the marble floor in such fashion that his bones
were shattered so that he spoke no more. But I could not save myself
and fell upon him, and as I fell the Captain Brennus, whom I had
smitten to earth with my fist, having once more found his sense, came
up behind me and smote me upon the head and shoulders with the sword
of one of those whom I had slain. But I being on the ground, the blow
did not fall with all its weight, also my thick hair and broidered cap
broke its force; and thus it came to pass that, though sorely wounded,
the life was yet whole in me. But I could struggle no more.
Then the cowardly eunuchs, who had gathered at the sound of blows and
stood huddled together like a herd of cattle, seeing that I was spent,
threw themselves upon me, and would have butchered me with their
knives. But Brennus, now that I was down, would strike no more, but
stood waiting. And the eunuchs had surely slain me, for Cleopatra
watched like one who watches in a dream and made no sign. Already my
head was dragged back, and their knife-points were at my throat, when
Charmion, rushing forward, threw herself upon me and, calling them
"Dogs!" desperately thrust her body before them in such fashion that
they could not smite. Now Brennus with an oath seized first one and
then another and cast them from me.
"Spare his life, Queen!" he cried in his barbarous Latin. "By Jupiter,
he is a brave man! Myself felled like an ox in the shambles, and three
of my boys finished by a man without armour and taken unawares! I
grudge them not to such a man! A boon, Queen! spare his life, and give
him to me!"
"Ay, spare him! spare him!" cried Charmion, white and trembling.
Cleopatra drew near and looked upon the dead and him who lay dying as
I had dashed him to the ground, and on me, her lover of two days gone,
whose wounded head rested now on Charmion's white robes.
I met the Queen's glance. "Spare not!" I gasped; "/vŠ victis!/" Then a
flush gathered on her brow--methinks it was a flush of shame!
"Dost after all love this man at heart, Charmion," she said with a
little laugh, "that thou didst thrust thy tender body between him and
the knives of these sexless hounds?" and she cast a look of scorn upon
"Nay!" the girl answered fiercely; "but I cannot stand by to see a
brave man murdered by such as these."
"Ay!" said Cleopatra, "he is a brave man, and he fought gallantly; I
have never seen so fierce a fight even in the games at Rome! Well, I
spare his life, though he is weak of me--womanish weak. Take him to
his own chamber and guard him there till he is healed or--dead."
Then my brain reeled, a great sickness seized upon me, and I sank into
the nothingness of a swoon.
Dreams, dreams, dreams! without end and ever-changing, as for years
and years I seemed to toss upon a sea of agony. And through them a
vision of a dark-eyed woman's tender face and the touch of a white
hand soothing me to rest. Visions, too, of a royal countenance bending
at times over my rocking bed--a countenance that I could not grasp,
but whose beauty flowed through my fevered veins and was a part of me
--visions of childhood and of the Temple towers of Abouthis, and of
the white-haired Amenemhat, my father--ay, and an ever-present vision
of that dread hall in Amenti, and of the small altar and the Spirits
clad in flame! There I seemed to wander everlastingly, calling on the
Holy Mother, whose memory I could not grasp; calling ever and in vain!
For no cloud descended upon the altar, only from time to time the
great Voice pealed aloud: "Strike out the name of Harmachis, child of
Earth, from the living Book of Her who Was and Is and Shall Be! /Lost!
And then another voice would answer:
"Not yet! not yet! Repentance is at hand; strike not out the name of
Harmachis, child of Earth, from the living Book of Her who Was and Is
and Shall Be! By suffering may sin be wiped away!"
I woke to find myself in my own chamber in the tower of the palace. I
was so weak that I scarce could lift my hand, and life seemed but to
flutter in my breast as flutters a dying dove. I could not turn my
head; I could not stir; yet in my heart there was a sense of rest and
of dark trouble done. The light from the lamp hurt my eyes: I shut
them, and, as I shut them, heard the sweep of a woman's robes upon the
stair, and a swift, light step that I knew well. It was that of
She entered and drew near. I felt her come! Every pulse of my poor
frame beat an answer to her footfall, and all my mighty love and hate
rose from the darkness of my death-like sleep, and rent me in their
struggle! She leaned over me; her ambrosial breath played upon my
face: I could hear the beating of her heart! Lower she leaned, till at
last her lips touched me softly on the brow.
"Poor man!" I heard her murmur. "Poor, weak, dying Man! Fate hath been
hard to thee! Thou wert too good to be the sport of such a one as I--
the pawn that I must move in my play of policy! Ah, Harmachis! thou
shouldst have ruled the game! Those plotting priests could give thee
learning; but they could not give thee knowledge of mankind, nor fence
thee against the march of Nature's law. And thou didst love me with
all thy heart--ah! well I know it! Manlike, thou didst love the eyes
that, as a pirate's lights, beckoned thee to shipwrecked ruin, and
didst hang doting on the lips which lied thy heart away and called
thee 'slave'! Well; the game was fair, for thou wouldst have slain me;
and yet I grieve. So thou dost die? and this is my farewell to thee!
Never may we meet again on earth; and, perchance, it is well, for who
knows, when my hour of tenderness is past, how I might deal with thee,
didst thou live? Thou dost die, they say--those learned long-faced
fools, who, if they let thee die, shall pay the price. And where,
then, shall we meet again when my last throw is thrown? We shall be
equal there, in the kingdom that Osiris rules. A little time, a few
years--perhaps to-morrow--and we shall meet; then, knowing all I am,
how wilt thou greet me? Nay, here, as there, still must thou worship
me! for injuries cannot touch the immortality of such a love as thine.
Contempt alone, like acid, can eat away the love of noble hearts, and
reveal the truth in its pitiful nakedness. Thou must still cling to
thee, Harmachis; for, whatever my sins, yet I am great and set above
thy scorn. Would that I could have loved thee as thou lovest me!
Almost I did so when thou slewest those guards; and yet--not quite.
"What a fenced city is my heart, that none can take it, and, even when
I throw the gates wide, no man may win its citadel! Oh, to put away
this loneliness and lose me in another's soul! Oh, for a year, a
month, an hour to quite forget policy, peoples, and my pomp of place,
and be but a loving woman! Harmachis, fare thee well! Go join great
Julius whom thy art called up from death before me, and take Egypt's
greetings to him. Ah well! I fooled thee, and I fooled CŠsar--
perchance before all is done Fate will find me, and myself I shall be
fooled. Harmachis, fare thee well!"
She turned to go, and as she turned I heard the sweep of another dress
and the light fall of another woman's foot.
"Ah! it is thou, Charmion. Well, for all thy watching the man dies."
"Ay," she answered, in a voice thick with grief. "Ay, O Queen, so the
physicians say. Forty hours has he lain in stupor so deep that at
times his breath could barely lift this tiny feather's weight, and
hardly could my ear, placed against his breast, take notice of the
rising of his heart. I have watched him now for ten long days, watched
him day and night, till my eyes stare wide with want of sleep, and for
faintness I can scarce keep myself from falling. And this is the end
of all my labour! The coward blow of that accursed Brennus has done
its work, and Harmachis dies!"
"Love counts not its labour, Charmion, nor can it weight its
tenderness on the scale of purchase. That which it has it gives, and
craves for more to give and give, till the soul's infinity be drained.
Dear to thy heart are these heavy nights of watching; sweet to thy
weary eyes is that sad sight of strength brought so low that it hangs
upon thy weakness like a babe to its mother's breast! For, Charmion,
thou dost love this man who loves thee not, and now that he is
helpless thou canst pour thy passion forth over the unanswering
darkness of his soul, and cheat thyself with dreams of what yet might
"I love him not, as thou hast proof, O Queen! How can I love one who
would have slain thee, who art as my heart's sister? It is for pity
that I nurse him."
She laughed a little as she answered, "Pity is love's own twin,
Charmion. Wondrous wayward are the paths of woman's love, and thou
hast shown thine strangely, that I know. But the more high the love,
the deeper the gulf whereinto it can fall--ay, and thence soar again
to heaven, once more to fall! Poor woman! thou art thy passion's
plaything: now tender as the morning sky, and now, when jealousy grips
thy heart, more cruel than the sea. Well, thus are we made. Soon,
after all this troubling, nothing will be left thee but tears,
And she went forth.
OF THE TENDER CARE OF CHARMION; OF THE HEALING OF HARMACHIS;
OF THE SAILING OF THE FLEET OF CLEOPATRA FOR CILICIA; AND OF THE
SPEECH OF BRENNUS TO HARMACHIS
Cleopatra went, and for a while I lay silent, gathering up my strength
to speak. But Charmion came and stood over me, and I felt a great tear
fall from her dark eyes upon my face, as the first heavy drop of rain
falls from a thunder cloud.
"Thou goest," she whispered; "thou goest fast whither I may not
follow! O Harmachis, how gladly would I give my life for thine!"
Then at length I opened my eyes, and spoke as best I could:
"Restrain thy grief, dear friend," I said, "I live yet; and, in truth,
I feel as though new life gathered in my breast!"
She gave a little cry of joy, and I never saw aught more beautiful
than the change that came upon her weeping face! It was as when the
first lights of the day run up the pallor of that sad sky which veils
the night from dawn. All rosy grew her lovely countenance; her dim
eyes shone out like stars; and a smile of wonderment, more sweet than
the sudden smile of the sea as its ripples wake to brightness beneath
the kiss of the risen moon, broke through her rain of tears.
"Thou livest!" she cried, throwing herself on her knees beside my
couch. "Thou livest--and I thought thee gone! Thou art come back to
me! Oh! what say I? How foolish is a woman's heart! 'Tis this long
watching! Nay; sleep and rest thee, Harmachis!--why dost thou talk?
Not one more word, I command thee straitly! Where is the draught left
by that long-bearded fool? Nay thou shalt have no draught! There,
sleep, Harmachis; sleep!" and she crouched down at my side and laid
her cool hand upon my brow, murmuring, "/Sleep! sleep!/"
And when I woke there she was still, but the lights of dawn were
peeping through the casement. There she knelt, one hand upon my
forehead, and her head, in all its disarray of curls, resting upon her
"Charmion," I whispered, "have I slept?"
Instantly she was wide awake, and, gazing on me with tender eyes,
"Yea, thou hast slept, Harmachis."
"How long, then, have I slept?"
"And thou hast held thy place there, at my side, for nine long hours?"
"Yes, it is nothing; I also have slept--I feared to waken thee if I
"Go, rest," I said; "it shames me to think of this thing. Go rest
"Vex not thyself," she answered; "see, I will bid a slave watch thee,
and to wake me if thou needest aught; I sleep there, in the outer
chamber. Peace--I go!" and she strove to rise, but, so cramped was
she, fell straightway on the floor.
I can scarcely tell the sense of shame that filled me when I saw her
fall. Alas! I could not stir to help her.
"It is naught," she said; "move not, I did but catch my foot. There!"
and she rose, again to fall--"a pest upon my awkwardness! Why--I must
be sleeping. 'Tis well now. I'll send the slave;" and she staggered
thence like one overcome with wine.
And after that, I slept once more, for I was very weak. When I woke it
was afternoon, and I craved for food, which Charmion brought me.
I ate. "Then I die not," I said.
"Nay," she answered, with a toss of her head, "thou wilt live. In
truth, I did waste my pity on thee."
"And thy pity saved my life," I said wearily, for now I remembered.
"It is nothing," she answered carelessly. "After all, thou art my
cousin; also, I love nursing--it is a woman's trade. Like enough I had
done as much for any slave. Now, too, that the danger is past, I leave
"Thou hadst done better to let me die, Charmion," I said after a
while, "for life to me can now be only one long shame. Tell me, then,
when sails Cleopatra for Cilicia?"
"She sails in twenty days, and with such pomp and glory as Egypt has
never seen. Of a truth, I cannot guess where she has found the means
to gather in this store of splendour, as a husbandman gathers his
But I, knowing whence the wealth came, groaned in bitterness of
spirit, and made no answer.
"Goest thou also, Charmion?" I asked presently.
"Ay, I and all the Court. Thou, too--thou goest."
"I go? Nay, why is this?"
"Because thou art Cleopatra's slave, and must march in gilded chains
behind her chariot; because she fears to leave thee here in Khem;
because it is her will, and there is an end."
"Charmion, can I not escape?"
"Escape, thou poor sick man? Nay, how canst thou escape? Even now thou
art most strictly guarded. And if thou didst escape, whither wouldst
thou fly? There's not an honest man in Egypt but would spit on thee in
Once more I groaned in spirit, and, being so very weak, I felt the
tears roll adown my cheek.
"Weep not!" she said hastily, and turning her face aside. "Be a man,
and brave these troubles out. Thou hast sown, now must thou reap; but
after harvest the waters rise and wash away the rotting roots, and
then seed-time comes again. Perchance, yonder in Cilicia, a way may be
found, when once more thou art strong, by which thou mayst fly--if in
truth thou canst bear thy life apart from Cleopatra's smile; then in
some far land must thou dwell till these things are forgotten. And now
my task is done, so fare thee well! At times I will come to visit thee
and see that thou needest nothing."
So she went, and I was nursed thenceforward, and that skilfully, by
the physician and two women-slaves; and as my wound healed so my
strength came back to me, slowly at first, then most swiftly. In four
days from that time I left my couch, and in three more I could walk an
hour in the palace gardens; another week and I could read and think,
though I went no more to Court. And at length one afternoon Charmion
came and bade me make ready, for the fleet would sail in two days,
first for the coast of Syria, and thence to the gulf of Issus and
Thereon, with all formality, and in writing, I craved leave of
Cleopatra that I might be left, urging that my health was so feeble
that I could not travel. But a message was sent to me in answer that I
And so, on the appointed day, I was carried in a litter down to the
boat, and together with that very soldier who had cut me down, the
Captain Brennus, and others of his troop (who, indeed, were sent to
guard me), we rowed aboard a vessel where she lay at anchor with the
rest of the great fleet. For Cleopatra was voyaging as though to war
in much pomp, and escorted by a fleet of ships, among which her
galley, built like a house and lined throughout with cedar and silken
hangings, was the most beautiful and costly that the world has ever
seen. But I went not on this vessel, and therefore it chanced that I
did not see Cleopatra or Charmion till we landed at the mouth of the
The signal being made, the fleet set sail; and, the wind being fair,
we came to Joppa on the evening of the second day. Thence we sailed
slowly with contrary winds up the coast of Syria, making CŠsarea, and
Ptolemais, and Tyrus, and Berytus, and past Lebanon's white brow
crowned with his crest of cedars, on to Heraclea and across the gulf
of Issus to the mouth of Cydnus. And ever as we journeyed, the strong
breath of the sea brought back my health, till at length, save for a
line of white upon my head where the sword had fallen, I was almost as
I had been. And one night, as we drew near Cydnus, while Brennus and I
sat alone together on the deck, his eye fell upon the white mark his
sword had made, and he swore a great oath by his heathen Gods. "An
thou hadst died, lad," he said, "methinks I could never again have
held up my head! Ah! that was a coward stroke, and I am shamed to
think that it was I who struck it, and thou on the ground with thy
back to me! Knowest thou that when thou didst lie between life and
death, I came every day to ask tidings of thee? and I swore by Taranis
that if thou didst die I'd turn my back upon that soft palace life and
then away for the bonny North."
"Nay, trouble not, Brennus," I answered; "it was thy duty."
"Mayhap! but there are duties that a brave man should not do--nay, not
at the bidding of any Queen who ever ruled in Egypt! Thy blow had
dazed me or I had not struck. What is it, lad?--art in trouble with
this Queen of ours? Why art thou dragged a prisoner upon this pleasure
party? Knowest thou that we are strictly charged that if thou dost
escape our lives shall pay the price?"
"Ay, in sore trouble, friend," I answered; "ask me no more."
"Then, being of the age thou art, there's a woman in it--that I swear
--and, perchance, though I am rough and foolish, I might make a guess.
Look thou, lad, what sayest thou? I am weary of this service of
Cleopatra and this hot land of deserts and of luxury, that sap a man's
strength and drain his pocket; and so are others whom I know of. What
sayest thou: let's take one of these unwieldy vessels and away to the
North? I'll lead thee to a better land than Egypt--a land of lake and
mountain, and great forests of sweet-scented pine; ay, and find thee a
girl fit to mate with--my own niece--a girl strong and tall, with wide
blue eyes and long fair hair, and arms that could crack thy ribs were
she of a mind to hug thee! Come, what sayest thou? Put away the past,
and away for the bonny North, and be a son to me."
For a moment I thought, and then sadly shook my head; for though I was
sorely tempted to be gone, I knew that my fate lay in Egypt, and I
might not fly my fate.
"It may not be, Brennus," I answered. "Fain would I that it might be,
but I am bound by a chain of destiny which I cannot break, and in the
land of Egypt I must live and die."
"As thou wilt, lad," said the old warrior. "I should have dearly loved
to marry thee among my people, and make a son of thee. At the least,
remember that while I am here thou hast Brennus for a friend. And one
thing more; beware of that beauteous Queen of thine, for, by Taranis,
perhaps an hour may come when she will hold that thou knowest too
much, and then----" and he drew his hand across his throat. "And now
good night; a cup of wine, then to sleep, for to-morrow the
[Here several lengths of the second roll of papyrus are so broken as
to be undecipherable. They seem to have been descriptive of
Cleopatra's voyage up the Cydnus to the city of Tarsus.]
"And--[the writing continues]--to those who could take joy in such
things, the sight must, indeed, have been a gallant one. For the stern
of our galley was covered with sheets of beaten gold, the sails were
of the scarlet of Tyre, and the oars of silver touched the water to a
measure of music. And there, in the centre of the vessel, beneath an
awning ablaze with gold embroidery, lay Cleopatra, attired as the
Roman Venus (and surely Venus was not more fair!), in thin robes of
whitest silk, bound in beneath her breast with a golden girdle
delicately graven over with scenes of love. All about her were little
rosy boys, chosen for their beauty, and clad in naught save downy
wings strapped upon their shoulders, and on their backs Cupid's bow
and quiver, who fanned her with fans of plumes. Upon the vessel's
decks, handling the cordage, that was of silken web, and softly
singing to the sound of harps and the beat of oars, were no rough
sailors, but women lovely to behold, some robed as Graces and some as
Nereids--that is, scarce robed at all, except in their scented hair.
And behind the couch, with drawn sword, stood Brennus, in splendid
armour and winged helm of gold; and by him others--I among them--in
garments richly worked, and knew that I was indeed a slave! On the
high poop also burned censers filled with costliest incense, of which
the fragrant steam hung in little clouds about our wake.
Thus, as in a dream of luxury, followed by many ships, we glided on
towards the wooded slopes of Taurus, at whose foot lay that ancient
city Tarshish. And ever as we came the people gathered on the banks
and ran before us, shouting: "Venus is risen from the sea! Venus hath
come to visit Bacchus!" We drew near to the city, and all its people--
everyone who could walk or be carried--crowded down in thousands to
the docks, and with them came the whole army of Antony, so that at
length the Triumvir was left alone upon the judgment seat.
Dellius, the false-tongued, came also, fawning and bowing, and in the
name of Antony gave the "Queen of Beauty" greeting, bidding her to a
feast that Antony had made ready. But she made high answer, and said,
"Forsooth, it is Antony who should wait on us; not we on Antony. Bid
the noble Antony to our poor table this night--else we dine alone."
Dellius went, bowing to the ground; the feast was made ready; and then
at last I set eyes on Antony. He came clad in purple robes, a great
man and beautiful to see, set in the stout prime of life, with bright
eyes of blue, and curling hair, and features cut sharply as a Grecian
gem. For he was great of form and royal of mien, and with an open
countenance on which his thoughts were so clearly written that all
might read them; only the weakness of the mouth belied the power of
the brow. He came attended by his generals, and when he reached the
couch where Cleopatra lay he stood astonished, gazing on her with
wide-opened eyes. She, too, gazed on him earnestly; I saw the red
blood run up beneath her skin, and a great pang of jealousy seized
upon my heart. And Charmion, who saw all beneath her downcast eyes,
saw this also and smiled. But Cleopatra spoke no word, only she
stretched out her white hand for him to kiss; and he, saying no word,
took her hand and kissed it.
"Behold, noble Antony!" she said at last in her voice of music, "thou
hast called me, and I am come."
"Venus has come," he answered in his deep notes, and still holding his
eyes fixed upon her face. "I called a woman--a Goddess hath risen from
"To find a God to greet her on the land," she laughed with ready wit.
"Well, a truce to compliments, for being on the earth even Venus is
ahungered. Noble Antony, thy hand."
The trumpets blared, and through the bowing crowd Cleopatra, followed
by her train, passed hand in hand with Antony to the feast.
[Here there is another break in the papyrus.]
OF THE FEAST OF CLEOPATRA; OF THE MELTING OF THE PEARL;
OF THE SAYING OF HARMACHIS; AND OF CLEOPATRA'S VOW OF LOVE
On the third night the feast was once more prepared in the hall of the
great house that had been set aside to the use of Cleopatra, and on
this night its splendour was greater even than on the nights before.
For the twelve couches that were set about the table were embossed
with gold, and those of Cleopatra and Antony were of gold set with
jewels. The dishes also were all of gold set with jewels, the walls
were hung with purple cloths sewn with gold, and on the floor, covered
with a net of gold, fresh roses were strewn ankle-deep, that as the
slaves trod them sent up their perfume. Once again I was bidden to
stand, with Charmion and Iras and Merira, behind the couch of
Cleopatra, and, like a slave, from time to time call out the hours as
they flew. And there being no help, I went wild at heart; but this I
swore--it should be for the last time, since I could not bear that
shame. For though I would not yet believe what Charmion told me--that
Cleopatra was about to become the Love of Antony--yet I could no more
endure this ignominy and torture. For from Cleopatra now I had no
words save such as a Queen speaks to her slave, and methinks it gave
her dark heart pleasure to torment me.
Thus it came to pass that I, the Pharaoh, crowned of Khem, stood among
eunuchs and waiting-women behind the couch of Egypt's Queen while the
feast went merrily and the wine-cup passed. And ever Antony sat, his
eyes fixed upon the face of Cleopatra, who from time to time let her
deep glance lose itself in his, and then for a little while their talk
died away. For he told her tales of war and of deeds that he had done
--ay, and love-jests such as are not meet for the ears of women. But
she took offence at nothing; rather, falling into his humour, she
would cap his stories with others of a finer wit, but not less
At length, the rich meal being finished, Antony gazed at the splendour
"Tell me, then, most lovely Egypt," he said; "are the sands of Nile
compact of gold, that thou canst, night by night, thus squander the
ransom of a King upon a single feast? Whence comes this untold
I bethought me of the tomb of the Divine Menkau-ra, whose holy
treasure was thus wickedly wasted, and looked up so that Cleopatra's
eye caught mine; but, reading my thoughts, she frowned heavily.
"Why, noble Antony," she said, "surely it is nothing! In Egypt we have
our secrets, and know whence to conjure riches at our need. Say, what
is the value of this golden service, and of the meats and drinks that
have been set before us?"
He cast his eyes about, and hazarded a guess.
"Maybe a thousand sestertia."[*]
[*] About eight thousand pounds of English money.--Editor.
"Thou hast understated it by half, noble Antony! But such as it is I
will give it thee and those with thee as a free token of my
friendship. And more will I show thee now: I myself will eat and drink
ten thousand sestertia at a draught."
"That cannot be, fair Egypt!"
She laughed, and bade a slave bring her white vinegar in a glass. When
it was brought she set it before her and laughed again, while Antony,
rising from his couch, drew near and set himself at her side, and all
the company leant forward to see what she would do. And this she did.
She took from her ear one of those great pearls which last of all had
been drawn from the body of the Divine Pharaoh; and before any could
guess her purpose she let it fall into the vinegar. Then came silence,
the silence of wonder, and slowly the priceless pearl melted in the
strong acid. When it was melted she lifted the glass and shook it,
then drank the vinegar, to the last drop.
"More vinegar, slave!" she cried; "my meal is but half finished!" and
she drew forth the second pearl.
"By Bacchus, no! that shalt thou not!" cried Antony, snatching at her
hands; "I have seen enough;" and at that moment, moved to it by I know
not what, I called aloud:
"The hour falls, O Queen!--/the hour of the coming of the curse of
An ashy whiteness grew upon Cleopatra's face, and she turned upon me
furiously, while all the company gazed wondering, not knowing what the
words might mean.
"Thou ill-omened slave!" she cried. "Speak thus once more and thou
shalt be scourged with rods!--ay, scourged like an evildoer--that I
promise thee, Harmachis!"
"What means the knave of an astrologer?" asked Antony. "Speak, sirrah!
and make clear thy meaning, for those who deal in curses must warrant
"I am a servant of the Gods, noble Antony. That which the Gods put in
my mind that must I say; nor can I read their meaning," I answered
"Oh, oh! thou servest the Gods, dost thou, thou many-coloured
mystery?" This he said having reference to my splendid robes. "Well, I
serve the Goddesses, which is a softer cult. And there's this between
us: that though what they put in my mind I say, neither can I read
their meaning," and he glanced at Cleopatra as one who questions.
"Let the knave be," she said impatiently; "to-morrow we'll be rid of
him. Sirrah, begone!"
I bowed and went; and, as I went, I heard Antony say: "Well, he may be
a knave--for that all men are--but this for thy astrologer: he hath a
royal air and the eye of a King--ay, and wit in it."
Without the door I paused, not knowing what to do, for I was
bewildered with misery. And, as I stood, someone touched me on the
hand. I glanced up--it was Charmion, who in the confusion of the
rising of the guests, had slipped away and followed me.
For in trouble Charmion was ever at my side.
"Follow me," she whispered; "thou art in danger."
I turned and followed her. Why should I not?
"Whither go we?" I asked at length.
"To my chamber," she said. "Fear not; we ladies of Cleopatra's Court
have small good fame to lose; if anyone by chance should see us,
they'll think that it is a love-tryst, and such are all the fashion."
I followed, and, presently, skirting the crowd, we came unseen to a
little side entrance that led to a stair, up which we passed. The
stair ended in a passage; we turned down it till we found a door on
the left hand. Charmion entered silently, and I followed her into a
dark chamber. Being in, she barred the door and, kindling tinder to a
flame, lit a hanging lamp. As the light grew strong I gazed around.
The chamber was not large, and had but one casement, closely
shuttered. For the rest, it was simply furnished, having white walls,
some chests for garments, an ancient chair, what I took to be a tiring
table, on which were combs, perfumes, and all the frippery that
pertains to woman, and a white bed with a broidered coverlid, over
which was hung a gnat-gauze.
"Be seated, Harmachis," she said, pointing to the chair. I took the
chair, and Charmion, throwing back the gnat-gauze, sat herself upon
the bed before me.
"Knowest thou what I heard Cleopatra say as thou didst leave the
banqueting-hall?" she asked presently.
"Nay, I know not."
"She gazed after thee, and, as I went over to her to do some service,
she murmured to herself: 'By Serapis, I will make an end! I will wait
no longer: to-morrow he shall be strangled!'"
"So!" I said, "it may be; though, after all that has been, I can
scarce believe that she will murder me."
"Why canst thou not believe it, thou most foolish of men? Dost forget
how nigh thou wast to death there in the Alabaster Hall? Who saved
thee then from the knives of the eunuchs? Was it Cleopatra? Or was it
I and Brennus? Stay, I will tell thee. Thou canst not yet believe it,
because, in thy folly, thou dost not think it possible that the woman
who has but lately been as a wife to thee can now, in so short a time,
doom thee to be basely done to death. Nay, answer not--I know all; and
I tell thee this: thou hast not measured the depth of Cleopatra's
perfidy, nor canst thou dream the blackness of her wicked heart. She
had surely slain thee in Alexandria had she not feared that thy
slaughter being noised abroad might bring trouble on her. Therefore
has she brought thee here to kill thee secretly. For what more canst
thou give her? She has thy heart's love, and is wearied of thy
strength and beauty. She has robbed thee of thy royal birthright and
brought thee, a King, to stand amidst the waiting-women behind her at
her feasts; she has won from thee the great secret of the holy
"Ah, thou knowest that?"
"Yes, I know all; and to-night thou seest how the wealth stored
against the need of Khem is being squandered to fill up the wanton
luxury of Khem's Macedonian Queen! Thou seest how she has kept her
oath to wed thee honourably. Harmachis--at length thine eyes are open
to the truth!"
"Ay, I see too well; and yet she swore she loved me, and I, poor fool,
I believed her!"
"She swore she loved thee!" answered Charmion, lifting her dark eyes:
"now I will show thee how she loves thee. Knowest thou what was this
house? It was a priest's college; and, as thou wottest, Harmachis,
priests have their ways. This little room aforetime was the room of
the Head Priest, and the chamber that is beyond and below was the
gathering-place of the other priests. The old slave who keeps the
house told me all this, and also she revealed what I shall show thee.
Now, Harmachis, be silent as the dead, and follow me!"
She blew out the lamp, and by the little light that crept through the
shuttered casement led me by the hand to the far corner of the room.
Here she pressed upon the wall, and a door opened in its thickness. We
entered, and she closed the spring. Now we were in a little chamber,
some five cubits in length by four in breadth; for a faint light
struggled into the closet, and also the sound of voices, I knew not
whence. Loosing my hand, she crept to the end of the place, and looked
steadfastly at the wall; then crept back and, whispering "Silence!"
led me forward with her. Then I saw that there were eyeholes in the
wall, which pierced it, and were hidden on the farther side by carved
work in stone. I looked through the hole that was in front of me, and
I saw this: six cubits below was the level of the floor of another
chamber, lit with fragrant lamps, and most richly furnished. It was
the sleeping-place of Cleopatra, and there, within ten cubits of where
we stood, sat Cleopatra on a gilded couch, and by her side sat Antony.
"Tell me," Cleopatra murmured--for this place was so built that every
word spoken in the room below came to the ears of the listener above--
"tell me, noble Antony, wast pleased with my poor festival?"
"Ay," he answered in his deep soldier's voice, "ay, Egypt, I have made
feasts, and been bidden to feasts, but never saw I aught like thine;
and I tell thee this, though I am rough of tongue and unskilled in
pretty sayings such as women love, thou wast the richest sight of all
that splendid board. The red wine was not so red as thy beauteous
cheek, the roses smelt not so sweet as the odour of thy hair, and no
sapphire there with its changing light was so lovely as thy eyes of
"What! Praise from Antony! Sweet words from the lips of him whose
writings are so harsh! Why, it is praise indeed!"
"Ay," he went on, "it was a royal feast, though I grieve that thou
didst waste that great pearl; and what meant that hour-calling
astrologer of thine, with his ill-omened talk of the curse of
A shadow fled across her glowing face. "I know not; he was lately
wounded in a brawl, and methinks the blow has crazed him."
"He seemed not crazed, and there was that about his voice which rings
in my ears like some oracle of fate. So wildly, too, he looked upon
thee, Egypt, with those piercing eyes of his, like one who loved and
yet hated through the love."
"He is a strange man, I tell thee, noble Antony, and a learned.
Myself, at times, I almost fear him, for he is deeply versed in the
ancient arts of Egypt. Knowest thou that the man is of royal blood,
and once he plotted to slay me? But I won him over, and slew him not,
for he had the key to secrets that I fain would learn; and, indeed, I
loved his wisdom, and to listen to his deep talk of all hidden
"By Bacchus, I grow jealous of the knave! And now, Egypt?"
"And now I have sucked his knowledge dry, and have no more cause to
fear him. Didst thou not see that I have made him stand these three
nights a slave amid my slaves, and call aloud the hours as they fled
in festival. No captive King marching in thy Roman triumphs can have
suffered pangs so keen as that proud Egyptian Prince when he stood
shamed behind my couch."
Here Charmion laid her hand on mine and pressed it, as though in
"Well, he shall trouble us no more with his words of evil omen,"
Cleopatra went on slowly; "to-morrow morn he dies--dies swiftly and in
secret, leaving no trace of what his fate has been. On this is my mind
fixed; of a truth, noble Antony, it is fixed. Even as I speak the fear
of this man grows and gathers in my breast. Half am I minded to give
the word even now, for I breathe not freely till he be dead," and she
made as though to rise.
"Let it be till morning," he said, catching her by the hand; "the
soldiers drink, and the deed will be ill done. 'Tis pity too. I love
not to think of men slaughtered in their sleep."
"In the morning, perchance, the hawk may have flown," she answered,
pondering. "He hath keen ears, this Harmachis, and can summon things
to aid him that are not of the earth. Perchance, even now he hears me
in the spirit; for, of a truth, I seem to feel his presence breathing
round me. I could tell thee--but no, let him be! Noble Antony, be my
tiring-woman and loose me this crown of gold, it chafes my brow. Be
gentle, hurt me not--so."
He lifted the urŠus crown from her brows, and she shook loose her
heavy weight of hair that fell about her like a garment.
"Take back thy crown, royal Egypt," he said, speaking low, "take it
from my hand; I will not rob thee of it, but rather set it more firmly
on that beauteous brow."
"What means my Lord?" she asked, smiling and looking into his eyes.
"What mean I? Why then, this: thou camest hither at my bidding to make
answer of the charges laid against thee as to matters politic. And
knowest thou, Egypt, that hadst thou been other than thou art thou
hadst not gone back to queen it on the Nile; for of this I am sure,
the charges against thee are true in fact. But, being what thou art--
and look thou! never did Nature serve a woman better!--I forgive thee
all. For the sake of thy grace and beauty I forgive thee that which
had not been forgiven to virtue, or to patriotism, or to the dignity
of age! See now how good a thing is woman's wit and loveliness, that
can make kings forget their duty and cozen even blindfolded Justice to
peep ere she lifts her sword! Take back thy crown, O Egypt! It is now
my care that, though it be heavy, it shall not chafe thee."
"These are royal words, most notable Antony," she made answer;
"gracious and generous words, such as befit the Conqueror of the
world! And touching my misdeeds in the past--if misdeeds there have
been--I say this, and this alone--then I knew not Antony. For, knowing
Antony, who could sin against him? What woman could lift a sword
against one who must be to all women as a God--one who, seen and
known, draws after him the whole allegiance of the heart, as the sun
draws flowers? And what more can I say and not cross the bounds of
woman's modesty? Why, only this--set that crown upon my brow, great
Antony, and I will take it as a gift from thee, by the giving made
doubly dear, and to thy uses I will guard it.
"There, now I am thy vassal Queen, and through me all old Egypt that I
rule does homage to Antony the Triumvir, who shall be Antony the
Emperor of Rome and Khem's Imperial Lord!"
And, having set the crown upon her locks, he stood gazing on her,
grown passionate in the warm breath of her living beauty, till at
length he caught her by both hands and drawing her to him kissed her
"Cleopatra, I love thee, Sweet--I love thee as I never loved before."
She drew back from his embrace, smiling softly; and as she did so the
golden circlet of the sacred snakes fell, being but loosely set upon
her brow, and rolled away into the darkness beyond the ring of light.
I saw the omen, and even in the bitter anguish of my heart knew its
evil import. But these twain took no note.
"Thou lovest me?" she said, most sweetly; "how know I that thou lovest
me? Perchance it is Fulvia whom thou lovest--Fulvia, thy wedded wife?"
"Nay, it is not Fulvia, 'tis thou, Cleopatra, and thou alone. Many
women have looked favourably upon me from my boyhood up, but to never
a one have I known such desire as to thee, O thou Wonder of the World,
like unto whom no woman ever was! Canst thou love me, Cleopatra, and
to me be true, not for my place or power, not for that which I can
give or can withhold, not for the stern music of my legion's tramp, or
for the light that flows from my bright Star of Fortune; but for
myself, for the sake of Antony, the rough captain, grown old in camps?
Ay, for the sake of Antony the reveller, the frail, the unfixed of
purpose, but who yet never did desert a friend, or rob a poor man, or
take an enemy unawares? Say, canst thou love me, Egypt? Oh! if thou
wilt, why, I am more happy than though I sat to-night in the Capitol
at Rome crowned absolute Monarch of the World!"
And, ever as he spoke, she gazed on him with wonderful eyes, and in
them shone a light of truth and honesty such as was strange to me.
"Thou speakest plainly," she said, "and thy words are sweet to mine
ears--they would be sweet, even were things otherwise than they are,
for what woman would not love to see the world's master at her feet?
But things being as they are, why, Antony, what can be so sweet as thy
sweet words? The harbour of his rest to the storm-tossed mariner--
surely that is sweet! The dream of Heaven's bliss which cheers the
poor ascetic priest on his path of sacrifice--surely that is sweet!
The sight of Dawn, the rosy-fingered, coming in his promise to glad
the watching Earth--surely that is sweet! But, ah! not one of these,
nor all dear delightful things that are, can match the honey-sweetness
of thy words to me, O Antony! For thou knowest not--never canst thou
know--how drear my life hath been, and empty, since thus it is
ordained that in love only can woman lose her solitude! And I have
/never/ loved--never might I love--till this happy night! Ay, take me
in thy arms, and let us swear a great vow of love--an oath that may
not be broken while life is in us! Behold! Antony! now and for ever I
do vow most strict fidelity unto thee! Now and for ever I am thine,
and thine alone!"
Then Charmion took me by the hand and drew me thence.
"Hast seen enough?" she asked, when we were once more within the
chamber and the lamp was lit.
"Yea," I answered; "my eyes are opened."
OF THE PLAN OF CHARMION; OF THE CONFESSION OF CHARMION; AND
OF THE ANSWER OF HARMACHIS
For some while I sat with bowed head, and the last bitterness of shame
sank into my soul. This, then, was the end. For this I had betrayed my
oaths; for this I had told the secret of the pyramid; for this I had
lost my Crown, my Honour, and, perchance, my hope of Heaven! Could
there be another man in the wide world so steeped in sorrow as I was
that night? Surely not one! Where should I turn? What could I do? And
even through the tempest of my torn heart the bitter voice of jealousy
called aloud. For I loved this woman, to whom I had given all; and she
at this moment--she was---- Ah! I could not bear to think of it; and
in my utter agony, my heart burst in a river of tears such as are
terrible to weep!
Then Charmion drew near me, and I saw that she, too, was weeping.
"Weep not, Harmachis!" she sobbed, kneeling at my side. "I cannot
endure to see thee weep. Oh! why wouldst thou not be warned? Then
hadst thou been great and happy, and not as now. Listen, Harmachis!
Thou didst hear what that false and tigerish woman said--to-morrow she
hands thee over to the murderers!"
"It is well," I gasped.
"Nay: it is not well. Harmachis, give her not this last triumph over
thee. Thou hast lost all save life: but while life remains, hope
remains also, and with hope the chance of vengeance."
"Ah!" I said, starting from my seat. "I had not thought of that. Ay--
the chance of vengeance! It would be sweet to be avenged!"
"It would be sweet, Harmachis, and yet this--Vengeance is an arrow
that in falling oft pierces him who shot it. Myself--I know it," and
she sighed. "But a truce to talk and grief. There will be time for us
twain to grieve, if not to talk, in all the heavy coming years. Thou
must fly--before the coming of the light must thou fly. Here is a
plan. To-morrow, ere the dawn, a galley that but yesterday came from
Alexandria, bearing fruit and stores, sails thither again, and its
captain is known to me, but to thee he is not known. Now, I will find
thee the garb of a Syrian merchant, and cloak thee, as I know how, and
furnish thee with a letter to the captain of the galley. He shall give
thee passage to Alexandria; for to him thou wilt seem but as a
merchant going on the business of thy trade. Brennus is officer of the
guard to-night, and Brennus is a friend to me and thee. Perhaps he
will guess somewhat; or, perhaps, he will not guess; at the least, the
Syrian merchant shall safely pass the lines. What sayest thou?"
"It is well," I answered wearily; "little do I reck the issue."
"Rest thou, then, here, Harmachis, while I make these matters ready;
and, Harmachis, grieve not overmuch; there are others who should
grieve more heavily than thou." And she went, leaving me alone with my
agony which rent me like a torture-bed. Had it not been for that
fierce desire of vengeance which from time to time flashed across my
tormented mind as the lightning over a midnight sea, methinks my
reason had left me in that dark hour. At length I heard her footstep
at the door, and she entered, breathing heavily, for she bore a sack
of clothing in her arms.
"It is well," she said: "here is the garb with spare linen, and
writing-tablets, and all things needful. I have seen Brennus also, and
told him that a Syrian merchant would pass the guard an hour before
the dawn. And though he made pretence of sleep, I think he understood,
for he answered, yawning, that if they but had the pass-word,
'Antony,' fifty Syrian merchants might go through about their lawful
business. And here is the letter to the captain--thou canst not
mistake the galley, for she is moored along to the right--a small
galley, painted black, as thou dost enter on the great quay, and,
moreover, the sailors make ready for sailing. Now I will wait here
without, while thou dost put off the livery of thy service and array
When she was gone I tore off my gorgeous garments and spat upon them
and trod them on the ground. Then I put on the modest robe of a
merchant, and bound the tablets round me, on my feet the sandals of
untanned hide, and at my waist the knife. When it was done Charmion
entered once again and looked on me.
"Too much art thou still the royal Harmachis," she said; "see, it must
Then she took scissors from her tiring-table, and, bidding me be
seated, she cut off my locks, clipping the hair close to the head.
Next she found stains of such sort as women use to make dark the eyes,
and mixed them cunningly, rubbing the stuff on my face and hands and
on the white mark in my hair where the sword of Brennus had bitten to
"Now thou art changed--somewhat for the worse, Harmachis," she said,
with a dreary laugh, "scarce myself should I know thee. Stay, there is
one more thing," and, going to a chest of garments, she drew thence a
heavy bag of gold.
"Take thou this," she said; "thou wilt have need of money."
"I cannot take thy gold, Charmion."
"Yes, take it. It was Sepa who gave it to me for the furtherance of
our cause, and therefore it is fitting that thou shouldst spend it.
Moreover, if I want money, doubtless Antony, who is henceforth my
master, will give me more; he is much beholden to me, and this he
knows well. There, waste not the precious time in haggling o'er the
pelf--not yet art thou all a merchant, Harmachis;" and, without more
words, she thrust the pieces into the leather bag that hung across my
shoulders. Then she made fast the sack containing the spare garments,
and, so womanly thoughtful was she, placed in it an alabaster jar of
pigment, with which I might stain my countenance afresh, and, taking
the broidered robes of my office that I had cast off, hid them in the
secret passage. And so at last all was made ready.
"Is it time that I should go," I asked.
"Not yet a while. Be patient, Harmachis, for but one little hour more
must thou endure my presence, and then, perchance, farewell for ever."
I made a gesture signifying that this was no time for sharp words.
"Forgive me my quick tongue," she said; "but from a salt spring bitter
waters well. Be seated, Harmachis; I have heavier words to speak to
thee before thou goest."
"Say on," I answered; "words, however heavy, can move me no more."
She stood before me with folded hands, and the lamp-light shone upon
her beauteous face. I noticed idly how great was its pallor and how
wide and dark were the rings about the deep black eyes. Twice she
lifted her white face and strove to speak, twice her voice failed her;
and when at last it came it was in a hoarse whisper.
"I cannot let thee go," she said--"I cannot let thee go unwitting of
"/Harmachis, 'twas I who did betray thee!/"
I sprang to my feet, an oath upon my lips; but she caught me by the
"Oh, be seated," she said--"be seated and hear me; then, when thou
hast heart, do to me as thou wilt. Listen. From that evil moment when,
in the presence of thy uncle Sepa, for the second time I set eyes upon
thy face, I loved thee--how much, thou canst little guess. Think upon
thine own love for Cleopatra, and double it, and double it again, and
perchance thou mayst come near to my love's mighty sum. I loved thee,
day by day I loved thee more, till in thee and for thee alone I seemed
to live. But thou wast cold--thou wast worse than cold! thou didst
deal with me not as a breathing woman, but rather as the instrument to
an end--as a tool with which to grave thy fortunes. And then I saw--
yes, long before thou knewest it thyself--thy heart's tide was setting
strong towards that ruinous shore whereon to-day thy life is broken.
And at last that night came, that dreadful night when, hid within the
chamber, I saw thee cast my kerchief to the winds, and with sweet
words cherish my royal Rival's gift. Then--oh, thou knowest--in my
pain I betrayed the secret that thou wouldst not see, and thou didst
make a mock of me, Harmachis! Oh! the shame of it--thou in thy
foolishness didst make a mock of me! I went thence, and within me were
rising all the torments which can tear a woman's heart, for now I was
sure that thou didst love Cleopatra! Ay, and so mad was I, even that
night I was minded to betray thee: but I thought--not yet, not yet;
to-morrow he may soften. Then came the morrow, and all was ready for
the bursting of the great plot that should make thee Pharaoh. And I
too came--thou dost remember--and again thou didst put me away when I
spake to thee in parables, as something of little worth--as a thing
too small to claim a moment's weighty thought. And, knowing that this
was because--though thou knewest it not--thou didst love Cleopatra,
whom now thou must straightway slay, I grew mad, and a wicked Spirit
entered into me, possessing me utterly, so that I was myself no
longer, nor could control myself. And because thou hadst scorned me, I
did this, to my everlasting shame and sorrow!--I passed into
Cleopatra's presence and betrayed thee and those with thee, and our
holy cause, saying that I had found a writing which thou hadst let
fall and read all this therein."
I gasped and sat silent; and gazing sadly at me she went on:
"When she understood how great was the plot, and how deep its roots,
Cleopatra was much troubled; and, at first, she would have fled to
Sais or taken ship and run for Cyprus, but I showed her that the ways
were barred. Then she said she would cause thee to be slain, there, in
the chamber, and I left her so believing; for, at that hour, I was
glad that thou shouldst be slain--ay, even if I wept out my heart upon
thy grave, Harmachis. But what said I just now?--Vengeance is an arrow
that oft falls on him who looses it. So it was with me; for between my
going and thy coming Cleopatra hatched a deeper plan. She feared that
to slay thee would only be to light a fiercer fire of revolt; but she
saw that to bind thee to her, and, having left men awhile in doubt, to
show thee faithless, would strike the imminent danger at its roots and
wither it. This plot once formed, being great, she dared its doubtful
issue, and--need I go on? Thou knowest, Harmachis, how she won; and
thus the shaft of vengeance that I loosed fell upon my own head. For
on the morrow I knew that I had sinned for naught, that the burden of
my betrayal had been laid on the wretched Paulus, and that I had but
ruined the cause to which I was sworn and given the man I loved to the
arms of wanton Egypt."
She bowed her head awhile, and then, as I spoke not, once more went
"Let all my sin be told, Harmachis, and then let justice come. See
now, this thing happened. Half did Cleopatra learn to love thee, and
deep in her heart she bethought her of taking thee to wedded husband.
For the sake of this half love of hers she spared the lives of those
in the plot whom she had meshed, bethinking her that if she wedded
thee she might use them and thee to draw the heart of Egypt, which
loves not her nor any Ptolemy. And then, once again she entrapped
thee, and in thy folly thou didst betray to her the secret of the
hidden wealth of Egypt, which to-day she squanders to delight the
luxurious Antony; and, of a truth, at that time she purposed to make
good her oath and marry thee. But on the very morn when Dellius came
for answer she sent for me, and telling me all--for my wit, above any,
she holds at price--demanded of me my judgment whether she should defy
Antony and wed thee, or whether she should put the thought away and
come to Antony. And I--now mark thou all my sin--I, in my bitter
jealousy, rather than I would see her thy wedded wife and thou her
loving lord, counselled her most strictly that she should come to
Antony, well knowing--for I had had speech with Dellius--that if she
came, this weak Antony would fall like a ripe fruit at her feet, as,
indeed, he has fallen. And but now I have shown thee the issue of the
scheme. Antony loves Cleopatra and Cleopatra loves Antony, and thou
art robbed, and matters have gone well for me, who of all women on the
earth to-night am the wretchedest by far. For when I saw how thy heart
broke but now, my heart seemed to break with thine, and I could no
longer bear the burden of my evil deeds, but knew that I must tell
them and take my punishment.
"And now, Harmachis, I have no more to say; save that I thank thee for
thy courtesy in hearkening, and this one thing I add. Driven by my
great love I have sinned against thee unto death! I have ruined thee,
I have ruined Khem, and myself also I have ruined! Let death reward
me! Slay thou me, Harmachis--I will gladly die upon thy sword; ay, and
kiss its blade! Slay thou me and go; for if thou slayest me not,
myself I will surely slay!" And she threw herself upon her knees,
lifting her fair breast toward me, that I might smite her with my
dagger. And, in my bitter fury, I was minded to strike; for, above
all, I thought how, when I was fallen, this woman, who herself was my
cause of shame, had scourged me with her whip of scorn. But it is hard
to slay a fair woman; and, even as I lifted my hand to strike, I
remembered that she had now twice saved my life.
"Woman! thou shameless woman!" I said, "arise! I slay thee not! Who am
I, that I should judge thy crime, that, with mine own, doth overtop
all earthly judgment?"
"Slay me, Harmachis!" she moaned; "slay me, or I slay myself! My
burden is too great for me to bear! Be not so deadly calm! Curse me,
"What was it that thou didst say to me just now, Charmion--that as I
had sown so I must reap? It is not lawful that thou shouldst slay
thyself; it is not lawful that I, thine equal in sin, should slay thee
because through thee I sinned. As /thou/ hast sown, Charmion, so must
/thou/ also reap. Base woman! whose cruel jealousy has brought all
these woes on me and Egypt, live--live on, and from year to year pluck
the bitter fruit of crime! Haunted be thy sleep by visions of thy
outraged Gods, whose vengeance awaits thee and me in their dim Amenti!
Haunted be thy days by memories of that man whom thy fierce love
brought to shame and ruin, and by the sight of Khem a prey to the
insatiate Cleopatra and a slave to Roman Antony."
"Oh, speak not thus, Harmachis! Thy words are sharper than any sword;
and more surely, if more slowly, shall they slay! Listen, Harmachis,"
and she grasped my robe: "when thou wast great, and all power lay
within thy grasp, thou didst reject me. Wilt reject me now that
Cleopatra hast cast thee from her--now that thou art poor and shamed
and with no pillow to thy head? Still am I fair, and still I worship
thee. Let me fly with thee, and make atonement for my lifelong love.
Or, if this be too great a thing to ask, let me be but as thy sister
and thy servant--thy very slave, so that I may still look upon thy
face, and share thy trouble and minister to thee. O Harmachis, let me
but come and I will brave all things and endure all things, and
nothing but Death himself shall stay me from thy side. For I do
believe that the love that sank me to so low a depth, dragging thee
with me, can yet lift me to an equal height, and thee with me!"
"Wouldst tempt me to fresh sin, woman? And dost thou think, Charmion,
that in some hovel where I must hide, I could bear, day by day, to
look upon thy fair face, and seeing, remember that those lips betrayed
me? Not thus easily shalt thou atone! This I know even now: many and
heavy shall be thy lonely days of penance! Perchance that hour of
vengeance yet may come, and perchance thou shalt live to play thy part
in it. Thou must still abide in the Court of Cleopatra; and, while
thou art there, if I yet live, I will from time to time find means to
give thee tidings. Perhaps a day may dawn when once more I shall need
thy service. Now, swear that, in this event, thou wilt not fail me a
"I swear, Harmachis!--I swear! May everlasting torments, too hideous
to be dreamed--more hideous, even, by far, than those that wring me
now--be my portion if I fail thee in one jot or tittle--ay, though I
wait a lifetime for thy word!"
"It is well; see that thou keep the oath--not twice may we betray. I
go to work out my fate; abide thou to work out thine. Perchance our
divers threads will once more mingle ere the web be spun. Charmion,
who unasked didst love me--and who, prompted by that gentle love of
thine, didst betray and ruin me--fare thee well!"
She gazed wildly upon my face--she stretched out her arms as though to
clasp me; then, in the agony of her despair, she cast herself at
length and grovelled upon the ground.
I took up the sack of clothing and the staff and gained the door, and,
as I passed it, I threw one last glance upon her. There she lay, with
arms outstretched--more white than her white robes--her dark hair
streaming about her, and her fair brows hidden in the dust.
And thus I left her, nor did I again set my eyes upon her till nine
long years had come and gone.
[Here ends the second and largest roll of papyrus.]
THE VENGEANCE OF HARMACHIS
OF THE ESCAPE OF HARMACHIS FROM TARSUS; OF HIS BEING CAST
FORTH AS AN OFFERING TO THE GODS OF THE SEA; OF HIS SOJOURN IN
THE ISLE OF CYPRUS; OF HIS RETURN TO ABOUTHIS; AND OF THE
DEATH OF AMENEMHAT
I made my way down the stair in safety, and presently stood in the
courtyard of that great house. It was but an hour from dawn, and none
were stirring. The last reveller had drunk his fill, the dancing-girls
had ceased their dancing, and silence lay upon the city. I drew near
the gate, and was challenged by an officer who stood on guard, wrapped
in a heavy cloak.
"Who passes," said the voice of Brennus.
"A merchant, may it please you, Sir, who, having brought gifts from
Alexandria to a lady of the Queen's household, and, having been
entertained of the lady, now departs to his galley," I answered in a
"Umph!" he growled. "The ladies of the Queen's household keep their
guests late. Well; it is a time of festival. The pass-word, Sir
Shopkeeper? Without the pass-word you must needs return and crave the
lady's further hospitality."
"'/Antony/,' Sir; and a right good word, too. Ah! I've wandered far,
and never saw I so goodly a man or so great a general. And, mark you,
Sir! I've travelled far, and seen many generals."
"Ay; '/Antony/''s the word! And Antony is a good general in his way--
when it is a sober way, and when he cannot find a skirt to follow.
I've served with Antony--and against him, too; and know his points.
Well, well; he's got an armful now!"
And all this while that he was holding me in talk, the sentry had been
pacing to and fro before the gate. But now he moved a little way to
the right, leaving the entrance clear.
"Fare thee well, Harmachis, and begone!" whispered Brennus, leaning
forward and speaking quickly. "Linger not. But at times bethink thee
of Brennus who risked his neck to save thine. Farewell, lad, I would
that we were sailing North together," and he turned his back upon me
and began to hum a tune.
"Farewell, Brennus, thou honest man," I answered, and was gone. And,
as I heard long afterwards, when on the morrow the hue and cry was
raised because the murderers could not find me, though they sought me
everywhere to slay me, Brennus did me a service. For he swore that as
he kept his watch alone an hour after midnight he saw me come and
stand upon the parapet of the roof, that then I stretched out my robes
and they became wings on which I floated up to Heaven, leaving him
astonished. And all those about the Court lent ear to this history,
believing in it, because of the great fame of my magic; and they
wondered much what the marvel might portend. The tale also travelled
into Egypt, and did much to save my good name among those whom I had
betrayed; for the more ignorant among them believed that I acted not
of my will, but of the will of the dread Gods, who of their own
purpose wafted me into Heaven. And thus to this day the saying runs
that "/When Harmachis comes again Egypt shall be free./" But alas,
Harmachis comes no more! Only Cleopatra, though she was much afraid,
doubted her of the tale, and sent an armed vessel to search for the
Syrian merchant, but not to find him, as shall be told.
When I reached the galley of which Charmion had spoken, I found her
about to sail, and gave the writing to the captain, who conned it,
looking on me curiously, but said nothing.
So I went aboard, and immediately we dropped swiftly down the river
with the current. And having come to the mouth of the river
unchallenged, though we passed many vessels, we put out to sea with a
strong favouring wind that before night freshened to a great gale.
Then the sailor men, being much afraid, would have put about and run
for the mouth of Cydnus again, but could not because of the wildness
of the sea. All that night it blew furiously, and by dawn our mast was
carried away, and we rolled helplessly in the trough of the great
waves. But I sat wrapped in a cloak, little heeding; and because I
showed no fear the sailors cried out that I was a wizard, and sought
to cast me into the sea, but the captain would not. At dawn the wind
slackened, but ere noon it once more blew in terrible fury, and at the
fourth hour from noon we came in sight of the rocky coast of that cape
in the island of Cyprus which is called Dinaretum, where is a mountain
named Olympus, and thither-wards we drifted swiftly. Then, when the
sailors saw the terrible rocks, and how the great waves that smote on
them spouted up in foam, once more they grew much afraid, and cried
out in their fear. For, seeing that I still sat unmoved, they swore
that I certainly was a wizard, and came to cast me forth as a
sacrifice to the Gods of the sea. And this time the captain was over-
ruled, and said nothing. Therefore, when they came to me I rose and
defied them, saying, "Cast me forth, if ye will; but if ye cast me
forth ye shall perish."
For in my heart I cared little, having no more any love of life, but
rather a desire to die, though I greatly feared to pass into the
presence of my Holy Mother Isis. But my weariness and sorrow at the
bitterness of my lot overcame even this heavy fear; so that when,
being mad as brute beasts, they seized me and, lifting me, hurled me
into the raging waters, I did but utter one prayer to Isis and made
ready for death. But it was fated that I should not die; for, when I
rose to the surface of the water, I saw a spar of wood floating near
me, to which I swam and clung. And a great wave came and swept me,
riding, as it were, upon the spar, as when a boy I had learned to do
in the waters of the Nile, past the bulwarks of the galley where the
fierce-faced sailors clustered to see me drown. And when they saw me
come mounted on the wave, cursing them as I came, and saw, too, that
the colour of my face had changed--for the salt water had washed way
the pigment, they shrieked with fear and threw themselves down upon
the deck. And within a very little while, as I rode toward the rocky
coast, a great wave poured into the vessel, that rolled broadside on,
and pressed her down into the deep, whence she rose no more.
So she sank with all her crew. And in that same storm also sank the
galley which Cleopatra had sent to search for the Syrian merchant.
Thus all traces of me were lost, and of a surety she believed that I
But I rode on toward the shore. The wind shrieked and the salt waves
lashed my face as, alone with the tempest, I rushed upon my way, while
the sea-birds screamed about my head. I felt no fear, but rather a
wild uplifting of the heart; and in the stress of my imminent peril
the love of life seemed to waken again. And so I plunged and drifted,
now tossed high toward the lowering clouds, now cast into the deep
valleys of the sea, till at length the rocky headland loomed before
me, and I saw the breakers smite upon the stubborn rocks, and through
the screaming of the wind heard the sullen thunder of their fall and
the groan of stones sucked seaward from the beach. On! high-throned
upon the mane of a mighty billow--fifty cubits beneath me the level of
the hissing waters; above me the inky sky! It was done! The spar was
torn from me, and, dragged downwards by the weight of the bag of gold
and the clinging of my garments, I sank struggling furiously.
Now I was under--the green light for a moment streamed through the
waters, and then came darkness, and on the darkness pictures of the
past. Picture after picture--all the long scene of life was written
here. Then in my ears I only heard the song of the nightingale, the
murmur of the summer sea, and the music of Cleopatra's laugh of
victory, following me softly and yet more soft as I sank away to
Once more my life came back, and with it a sense of deadly sickness
and of aching pain. I opened my eyes and saw a kind face bending over
me, and knew that I was in the room of a builded house.
"How came I hither?" I asked faintly.
"Of a truth, Poseidon brought thee, Stranger," answered a rough voice
in barbarous Greek; "we found thee cast high upon the beach like a
dead dolphin and brought thee to our house, for we are fisher-folk.
And here, methinks, thou must lie a while, for thy left leg is broken
by the force of the waves."
I strove to move my foot and could not. It was true, the bone was
broken above the knee.
"Who art thou, and how art thou named?" asked the rough-bearded
"I am an Egyptian traveller whose ship has sunk in the fury of the
gale, and I am named Olympus," I answered, for these people called a
mountain that we had sighted Olympus, and therefore I took the name at
hazard. And as Olympus I was henceforth known.
Here with these rough fisher-folk I abode for the half of a year,
paying them a little out of the sum of gold that had come safely
ashore upon me. For it was long before my bones grew together again,
and then I was left somewhat of a cripple; for I, who had been so tall
and straight and strong, now limped--one limb being shorter than the
other. And after I recovered from my hurt, I still lived there, and
toiled with them at the trade of fishing; for I knew not whither I
should go or what I should do, and, for a while, I was fain to become
a peasant fisherman, and so wear my weary life away. And these people
entreated me kindly, though, as others, they feared me much, holding
me to be a wizard brought hither by the sea. For my sorrows had
stamped so strange an aspect on my face that men gazing at me grew
fearful of what lay beneath its calm.
There, then, I abode, till at length, one night as I lay and strove to
sleep, great restlessness came upon me, and a mighty desire once more
to see the face of Sihor. But whether this desire was of the Gods or
born of my own heart, not knowing, I cannot tell. So strong was it, at
the least, that before it was dawn I rose from my bed of straw and
clothed myself in my fisher garb, and, because I had no wish to answer
questions, thus I took farewell of my humble hosts. First I placed
some pieces of gold on the well-cleaned table of wood, and then taking
a pot of flour I strewed it in the form of letters, writing:
"This gift from Olympus, the Egyptian, who returns into the sea."
Then I went, and on the third day I came to the great city of Salamis,
that is also on the sea. Here I abode in the fishermen's quarters till
a vessel was about to sail for Alexandria, and to the captain of this
vessel, a man of Paphos, I hired myself as a sailor. We sailed with a
favouring wind, and on the fifth day I came to Alexandria, that
hateful city, and saw the light dancing on its golden domes.
Here I might not abide. So again I hired myself out as a sailor,
giving my labour in return for passage, and we passed up the Nile. And
I learned from the talk of men that Cleopatra had come back to
Alexandria, drawing Antony with her and that they lived together with
royal state in the palace on the Lochias. Indeed, the boatmen already
had a song thereon, which they sang as they laboured at the oar. Also
I heard how the galley that was sent to search for the vessel which
carried the Syrian merchant had foundered with all her crew, and the
tale that the Queen's astronomer, Harmachis, had flown to Heaven from
the roof of the house at Tarsus. And the sailors wondered because I
sat and laboured and would not sing their ribald song of the loves of
Cleopatra. For they, too, began to fear me, and mutter concerning me
among themselves. Then I knew that I was a man accursed and set apart
--a man whom none might love.
On the sixth day we drew nigh to Abouthis, where I left the craft, and
the sailors were right glad to see me go. And, with a breaking heart,
I walked through the fertile fields, seeing faces that I knew well.
But in my rough disguise and limping gait none knew me. At length, as
the sun sank, I came near to the great outer pylon of the temple; and
here I crouched down in the ruins of a house, not knowing why I had
come or what I was about to do. Like a lost ox I had strayed from far,
back to the fields of my birth, and for what? If my father, Amenemhat,
still lived, surely he would turn his face from me. I dared not go
into the presence of my father. I sat hidden there among the broken
rafters, and idly watched the pylon gates, to see if, perchance, a
face I knew should issue from them. But none came forth or entered in,
though the great gates stood wide; and then I saw that herbs were
growing between the stones, where no herbs had grown for ages. What
could this be? Was the temple deserted? Nay; how could the worship of
the eternal Gods have ceased, that for thousands of years had, day by
day, been offered in the holy place? Was, then, my father dead? It
well might be. And yet, why this silence? Where were the priests:
where the worshippers?
I could bear the doubt no more, but as the sun sank red I crept like a
hunted jackal through the open gates, and on till I reached the first
great Hall of Pillars. Here I paused and gazed around me--not a sight,
not a sound, in the dim and holy place! I went on with a beating heart
to the second great hall, the hall of six-and-thirty pillars where I
had been crowned Lord of all the Lands: still not a sight or a sound!
Thence, half fearful of my own footfall, so terribly did it echo in
the silence of the deserted Holies, I passed down the passage of the
names of the Pharaohs towards my father's chamber. The curtain still
swung over the doorway; but what would there be within?--also
emptiness? I lifted it, and noiselessly passed in, and there in his
carven chair at the table on which his long white beard flowed, sat my
father, Amenemhat, clad in his priestly robes. At first I thought that
he was dead, he sat so still; but at length he turned his head, and I
saw that his eyes were white and sightless. He was blind, and his face
was thin as the face of a dead man, and woeful with age and grief.
I stood still and felt the blind eyes wandering over me. I could not
speak to him--I dared not speak to him; I would go and hide myself
I had already turned and grasped the curtain, when my father spoke in
a deep, slow voice:
"Come hither, thou who wast my son and art a traitor. Come hither,
thou Harmachis, on whom Khem builded up her hope. Not in vain, then,
have I drawn thee from far away! Not in vain have I held my life in me
till I heard thy footfall creeping down these empty Holies, like the
footfall of a thief!"
"Oh! my father," I gasped, astonished. "Thou art blind: how knowest
"How do I know thee?--and askest thou that who hast learned of our
lore? Enough, I know thee and I brought thee hither. Would, Harmachis,
that I knew thee not! Would that I had been blasted of the Invisible
ere I drew thee down from the womb of Nout, to be my curse and shame,
and the last woe of Khem!"
"Oh, speak not thus!" I moaned; "is not my burden already more than I
can bear? Am I not myself betrayed and utterly outcast? Be pitiful, my
"Be pitiful!--be pitiful to thee who hast shown so great pity? It was
thy pity which gave up noble Sepa to die beneath the hands of the
"Oh, not that--not that!" I cried.
"Ay, traitor, that!--to die in agony, with his last poor breath
proclaiming thee, his murderer, honest and innocent! Be pitiful to
thee, who gavest all the flower of Khem as the price of a wanton's
arms!--thinkest thou that, labouring in the darksome desert mines,
those noble ones in thought are pitiful to thee, Harmachis? Be pitiful
to thee, by whom this Holy Temple of Abouthis hath been ravaged, its
lands seized, its priests scattered, and I alone, old and withered,
left to count out its ruin--to thee, who hast poured the treasures of
/Her/ into thy leman's lap, who hast forsworn Thyself, thy Country,
thy Birthright, and thy Gods! Yea, thus am I pitiful: Accursed be
thou, fruit of my loins!--Shame be thy portion, Agony thy end, and
Hell receive thee at the last! Where art thou? Yea, I grew blind with
weeping when I heard the truth--sure, they strove to hide it from me.
Let me find thee that I may spit upon thee, thou Renegade! thou
Apostate! thou Outcast!"--and he rose from his seat and staggered like
a living Wrath toward me, smiting the air with his wand. And as he
came with outstretched arms, awful to see, suddenly his end found him,
and with a cry he sank down upon the ground, the red blood streaming
from his lips. I ran to him and lifted him; and as he died, he
"He was my son, a bright-eyed lovely boy, and full of promise as the
Spring; and now--and now--oh, would that he were dead!"
Then came a pause and the breath rattled in his throat.
"Harmachis," he gasped, "art there?"
"Harmachis, atone!--atone! Vengeance can still be wreaked--forgiveness
may still be won. There's gold; I've hidden it--Atoua--she can tell
thee--ah, this pain! Farewell!"
And he struggled faintly in my arms and was dead.
Thus, then, did I and my holy father, the Prince Amenemhat, meet
together for the last time in the flesh, and for the last time part.
OF THE LAST MISERY OF HARMACHIS; OF THE CALLING DOWN OF THE
Back to Full Books