H. Rider Haggard
Part 5 out of 6
HOLY ISIS BY THE WORD OF FEAR; OF THE PROMISE OF ISIS; OF THE
COMING OF ATOUA, AND OF THE WORDS OF ATOUA
I crouched upon the floor gazing at the dead body of my father, who
had lived to curse me, the utterly accursed, while the darkness crept
and gathered round us, till at length the dead and I were alone in the
black silence. Oh, how tell the misery of that hour! Imagination
cannot dream it, nor words paint it forth. Once more in my
wretchedness I bethought me of death. A knife was at my girdle, with
which I might cut the thread of sorrow and set my spirit free. Free?
ay, free to fly and face the last vengeance of the Holy Gods! Alas!
and alas! I did not dare to die. Better the earth with all its woes
than the quick approach of those unimagined terrors that, hovering in
dim Amenti, wait the advent of the fallen.
I grovelled on the ground and wept tears of agony for the lost
unchanging past--wept till I could weep no more; but no answer came
from the silence--no answer but the echoes of my grief. Not a ray of
hope! My soul wandered in a darkness more utter than that which was
about me--I was forsaken of the Gods and cast out of men. Terror took
hold upon me crouching in that lonely place hard by the majesty of the
awful Dead. I rose to fly. How could I fly in this gloom?--And where
should I fly who had no place of refuge? Once more I crouched down,
and the great fear grew on me till the cold sweat ran from my brow and
my soul was faint within me. Then, in my last despair, I prayed aloud
to Isis, to whom I had not dared to pray for many days.
"O Isis! Holy Mother!" I cried; "put away Thy wrath, and of Thine
infinite pity, O Thou all-pitiful, hearken to the voice of the anguish
of him who was Thy son and servant, but who by sin hath fallen from
the vision of Thy love. O throned Glory, who, being in all things,
hast of all things understanding and of all griefs knowledge, cast the
weight of Thy mercy against the scale of my evil-doing, and make the
balance equal. Look down upon my woe, and measure it; count up the sum
of my repentance and take Thou note of the flood of sorrow that sweeps
my soul away. O Thou Holy, whom it was given to me to look upon face
to face, by that dread hour of commune I summon Thee; I summon Thee by
the mystic word. Come, then, in mercy, to save me; or, in anger, to
make an end of that which can no more be borne."
And, rising from my knees, I stretched out my arms and dared to cry
aloud the Word of Fear, to use which unworthily is death.
Swiftly the answer came. For in the silence I heard the sound of the
shaken sistra heralding the coming of the Glory. Then, at the far end
of the chamber, grew the semblance of the horned moon, gleaming
faintly in the darkness, and betwixt the golden horns rested a small
dark cloud, in and out of which the fiery serpent climbed.
My knees waxed loose in the presence of the Glory, and I sank down
Then spake the small, sweet Voice within the cloud:
"Harmachis, who wast my servant and my son, I have heard thy prayer,
and the summons that thou hast dared to utter, which on the lips of
one with whom I have communed, hath power to draw Me from the
Uttermost. No more, Harmachis, may we be one in the bond of Love
Divine, for thou hast put Me away of thine own act. Therefore, after
this long silence I come, Harmachis, clothed in terrors, and,
perchance, ready for vengeance, for not lightly can Isis be drawn from
the halls of Her Divinity."
"Smite, Goddess!" I answered. "Smite, and give me over to those who
wreak Thy vengeance; for I can no longer bear the burden of my woe!"
"And if thou canst not bear thy burden here, upon this upper earth,"
came the soft reply, "how then shalt thou bear the greater burden that
shall be laid upon thee there, coming defiled and yet unpurified into
my dim realm of Death, that is Life and Change unending? Nay,
Harmachis, I smite thee not, for not all am I wroth that thou hast
dared to utter the awful Word which calls Me down to thee. Hearken,
Harmachis; I praise not, and I reproach not, for I am the Minister of
Reward and Punishment and the Executrix of Decrees; and if I give, I
give in silence; and if I smite, in silence do I smite. Therefore, I
will add naught to thy burden by the weight of heavy words, though
through thee it has come to pass that soon shall Isis, the Mother-
Mystery, be but a memory in Egypt. Thou hast sinned, and heavy shall
be thy punishment, as I did warn thee, both in the flesh and in my
kingdom of Amenti. But I told thee that there is a road of repentance,
and surely thy feet are set thereon, and therein must thou walk with a
humble heart, eating of the bread of bitterness, till such time as thy
doom be measured."
"Have I, then, no hope, O holy?"
"That which is done, Harmachis, is done, nor can its issues be
altered. Khem shall no more be free till all its temples are as the
desert dust; strange Peoples shall, from age to age, hold her hostage
and in bonds; new Religions shall arise and wither within the shadow
of her pyramids, for to every World, Race, and Age the countenances of
the Gods are changed. This is the tree that shall spring from thy seed
of sin, Harmachis, and from the sin of those who tempted thee!"
"Alas! I am undone!" I cried.
"Yea, thou art undone; and yet shall this be given to thee: thy
Destroyer thou shalt destroy--for so, in the purpose of my justice, it
is ordained. When the sign comes to thee, arise, go to Cleopatra, and
in such manner as I shall put into thy heart do Heaven's vengeance
upon her! And now for thyself one word, for thou hast put Me from
thee, Harmachis, and no more shall I come face to face with thee till,
cycles hence, the last fruit of thy sin hath ceased to be upon this
earth! Yet, through the vastness of the unnumbered years, remember
thou this: the Love Divine is Love Eternal, which cannot be
extinguished, though it be everlastingly estranged. Repent, my son;
repent and do well while there is yet time, that at the dim end of
ages thou mayest once more be gathered unto Me. Still, Harmachis,
though thou seest Me not; still, when the very name by which thou
knowest Me has become a meaningless mystery to those who shall be
after thee; still I, whose hours are eternal--I, who have watched
Universes wither, wane, and, beneath the breath of Time, melt into
nothingness; again to gather, and, re-born, thread the maze of space--
still, I say, I shall companion thee. Wherever thou goest, in whatever
form of life thou livest, there I shall be! Art thou wafted to the
farthest star, art thou buried in Amenti's lowest deep--in lives, in
deaths, in sleeps, in wakings, in remembrances, in oblivions, in all
the fevers of the outer Life, in all the changes of the Spirit--still,
if thou wilt but atone and forget Me no more, I shall be with thee,
waiting thine hour of redemption. For this is the nature of Love
Divine, wherewith it loves that which partakes of its divinity and by
the holy tie hath once been bound to it. Judge then, Harmachis: was it
well to put this from thee to win the dust of earthly woman? And, now,
dare not again to utter the Word of Power till these things are done!
Harmachis, for this season, fare thee well!"
As the last note of the sweet Voice died away, the fiery snake climbed
into the heart of the cloud. Now the cloud rolled from the horns of
light, and was gathered into the blackness. The vision of the crescent
moon grew dim and vanished. Then, as the Goddess passed, once more
came the faint and dreadful music of the shaken sistra, and all was
I hid my face in my robe, and even then, though my outstretched hand
could touch the chill corpse of that father who had died cursing me, I
felt hope come back into my heart, knowing that I was not altogether
lost nor utterly rejected of Her whom I had forsaken, but whom I yet
loved. And then weariness overpowered me, and I slept.
I woke, the faint lights of dawn were creeping from the opening in the
roof. Ghastly they lay upon the shadowy sculptured walls and ghastly
upon the dead face and white beard of my father, the gathered to
Osiris. I started up, remembering all things, and wondering in my
heart what I should do, and as I rose I heard a faint footfall
creeping down the passage of the names of the Pharaohs.
"/La! La! La!/" mumbled a voice that I knew for the voice of the old
wife, Atoua. "Why, 'tis dark as the House of the Dead! The Holy Ones
who built this Temple loved not the blessed sun, however much they
worshipped him. Now, where's the curtain?"
Presently it was drawn, and Atoua entered, a stick in one hand and a
basket in the other. Her face was somewhat more wrinkled, and her
scanty locks were somewhat whiter than aforetime, but for the rest she
was as she had ever been. She stood and peered around with her sharp
black eyes, for as yet she could see nothing because of the shadows.
"Now where is he?" she muttered. "Osiris--glory to His name--send that
he has not wandered in the night, and he blind! Alack! that I could
not return before the dark. Alack! and alack! what times have we
fallen on, when the Holy High Priest and the Governor, by descent, of
Abouthis, is left with one aged crone to minister to his infirmity! O
Harmachis, my poor boy, thou hast laid trouble at our doors! Why,
what's this? Surely he sleeps not, there upon the ground?--'twill be
his death! Prince! Holy Father! Amenemhat! awake, arise!" and she
hobbled towards the corpse. "Why, how is it! By Him who sleeps, he's
dead! untended and alone--/dead! dead!/" and she sent her long wail of
grief ringing up the sculptured walls.
"Hush! woman, be still!" I said, gliding from the shadows.
"Oh, what art thou?" she cried, casting down her basket. "Wicked man,
hast thou murdered this Holy One, the only Holy One in Egypt? Surely
the curse will fall on thee, for though the Gods do seem to have
forsaken us now in our hour of trial, yet is their arm long, and
certainly they will be avenged on him who hath slain their anointed!"
"Look on me, Atoua," I cried.
"Look! ay, I look--thou wicked wanderer who hast dared this cruel
deed! Harmachis is a traitor and lost far away, and Amenemhat his holy
father is murdered, and now I'm all alone without kith or kin. I gave
them for him. I gave them for Harmachis, the traitor! Come, slay me
also, thou wicked one!"
I took a step toward her, and she, thinking that I was about to smite
her, cried out in fear:
"Nay, good Sir, spare me! Eighty and six, by the Holy Ones, eighty and
six, come next flood of Nile, and yet I would not die, though Osiris
is merciful to the old who served him! Come no nearer--help! help!"
"Thou fool, be silent," I said; "knowest thou me not?"
"Know thee? Can I know every wandering boatman to whom Sebek grants to
earn a livelihood till Typhon claims his own? And yet--why, 'tis
strange--that changed countenance!--that scar!--that stumbling gait!
It is thou, Harmachis!--'tis thou, O my boy! Art come back to glad
mine old eyes? I hoped thee dead! Let me kiss thee?--nay, I forget.
Harmachis is a traitor, ay, and a murderer! Here lies the holy
Amenemhat, murdered by the traitor, Harmachis! Get thee gone! I'll
have none of traitors and of parricides! Get thee to thy wanton!--it
is not thou whom I did nurse."
"Peace! woman; peace! I slew not my father--he died, alas!--he died
even in my arms."
"Ay, surely, and cursing thee, Harmachis! Thou hast given death to him
who gave thee life! /La! la!/ I am old, and I've seen many a trouble;
but this is the heaviest of them all! I never liked the looks of
mummies; but I would I were one this hour! Get thee gone, I pray
"Old nurse, reproach me not! Have I not enough to bear?"
"Ah! yes, yes!--I did forget! Well; and what is thy sin? A woman was
thy bane, as women have been to those before thee, and shall be to
those after thee. And what a woman! /La! la!/ I saw her, a beauty such
as never was--an arrow pointed by the evil Gods for destruction! And
thou, a young man bred as a priest--an ill training--a very ill
training! 'Twas no fair match. Who can wonder that she mastered thee?
Come, Harmachis; let me kiss thee! It is not for a woman to be hard on
a man because he loved our sex too much. Why, that is but nature; and
Nature knows her business, else she had made us otherwise. But here is
an evil case. Knowest thou that this Macedonian Queen of thine hath
seized the temple lands and revenues, and driven away the priests--
all, save the holy Amenemhat, who lies here, and whom she left, I know
not why; ay, and caused the worship of the Gods to cease within these
walls. Well, he's gone!--he's gone! and indeed he is better with
Osiris, for his life was a sore burden to him. And hark thou,
Harmachis: he hath not left thee empty-handed; for, so soon as the
plot failed, he gathered all his wealth, and it is large, and hid it--
where, I can show thee--and it is thine by right of descent."
"Talk not to me of wealth, Atoua. Where shall I go and how shall I
hide my shame?"
"Ah! true, true; here mayst thou not abide, for if they found thee,
surely they would put thee to the dreadful death--ay, to the death by
the waxen cloth. Nay, I will hide thee, and, when the funeral rites of
the holy Amenemhat have been performed, we will fly hence, and cover
us from the eyes of men till these sorrows are forgotten. /La! la!/ it
is a sad world, and full of trouble as the Nile mud is full of
beetles. Come, Harmachis, come."
OF THE LIFE OF HIM WHO WAS NAMED THE LEARNED OLYMPUS, IN
THE TOMB OF THE HARPERS THAT IS BY TÁPÉ; OF HIS COUNSEL TO
CLEOPATRA; OF THE MESSAGE OF CHARMION; AND OF THE PASSING
OF OLYMPUS DOWN TO ALEXANDRIA
These things then came to pass. For eighty days I was hidden of the
old wife, Atoua, while the body of the Prince, my father, was made
ready for burial by those skilled in the arts of embalming. And when
at last all things were done in order, I crept from my hiding-place
and made offerings to the spirit of my father, and placing lotus-
flowers on his breast went thence sorrowing. And on the following day,
from where I lay hid, I saw the Priests of the Temple of Osiris and of
the holy shrine of Isis come forth, and in slow procession bear his
painted coffin to the sacred lake and lay it beneath the funeral tent
in the consecrated boat. I saw them celebrate the symbol of the trial
of the dead, and name him above all men just, and then bear him thence
to lay him by his wife, my mother, in the deep tomb that he had hewn
in the rock near to the resting-place of the Holy Osiris, where,
notwithstanding my sins, I, too, hope to sleep ere long. And when all
these things were done and the deep tomb sealed, the wealth of my
father having been removed from the hidden treasury and placed in
safety, I fled, disguised, with the old wife, Atoua, up the Nile till
we came to Tápé,[*] and here in this great city I lay a while, till a
place could be found where I should hide myself.
And such a place I found. For to the north of the great city are brown
and rugged hills, and desert valley blasted of the sun, and in this
place of desolation the Divine Pharaohs, my forefathers, hollowed out
their tombs in the solid rock, the most part of which are lost to this
day, so cunningly have they been hidden. But some are open, for the
accursed Persians and other thieves broke into them in search of
treasure. And one night--for by night only did I leave my hiding-place
--just as the dawn was breaking on the mountain tops, I wandered alone
in this sad valley of death, like to which there is no other, and
presently came to the mouth of a tomb hidden amid great rocks, which
afterwards I knew for the place of the burying of the Divine Rameses,
the third of that name, now long gathered to Osiris. And by the faint
light of the dawn creeping through the entrance I saw that it was
spacious and that within were chambers.
On the following night, therefore, I returned, bearing lights, with
Atoua, my nurse, who ever ministered faithfully to me as when I was
little and without discretion. And we searched the mighty tomb and
came to the great Hall of the Sarcophagus of granite, in which the
Divine Rameses sleeps, and saw the mystic paintings on the walls: the
symbol of the Snake unending, the symbol of Ra resting upon the
Scarabæus, the symbol of Ra resting upon Nout, the symbol of the
Headless men, and many others, whereof, being initiated, well I read
the mysteries. And opening from the long descending passage I found
chambers in which were paintings beautiful to behold, and of all
manner of things. For beneath each chamber is entombed the master of
the craft of which the paintings tell, he who was the chief of the
servants of that craft in the house of this Divine Rameses. And on the
walls of the last chamber--on the left-hand side, looking toward the
Hall of the Sarcophagus--are paintings exceedingly beautiful, and two
blind harpers playing upon their bent harps before the God Mou; and
beneath the flooring these harpers, who harp no more, are soft at
sleep. Here, then, in this gloomy place, even in the tomb of the
Harpers and the company of the dead, I took up my abode; and here for
eight long years I worked out my penance and made atonement for my
sin. But Atoua, because she loved to be near the light, abode in the
chamber of the Boats--that is, the first chamber on the right-hand
side of the gallery looking toward the Hall of the Sarcophagus.
And this was the manner of my life. On every second day the old wife,
Atoua, went forth and brought water from the city and such food as is
necessary to keep the life from failing, and also tapers made from
fat. And one hour at the time of sunrise and one hour at the time of
sunset I did go forth also to wander in the valley for my health's
sake and to save my sight from failing in the great darkness of the
tomb. But the other hours of the day and night, except when I climbed
the mountain to watch the course of the stars, I spent in prayer and
meditation and sleep, till the cloud of sin lifted from my heart and
once more I drew near to the Gods, though with Isis, my heavenly
Mother, I might speak no more. And I grew exceedingly wise also,
pondering on all those mysteries to which I held the key. For
abstinence and prayer and sorrowful solitude wore away the grossness
of my flesh, and with the eyes of the Spirit I learned to look deep
into the heart of things till the joy of Wisdom fell like dew upon my
Soon the rumour was wafted about the city that a certain holy man
named Olympus abode in solitude in the tombs of the awful Valley of
the Dead; and hither came people bearing sick that I might cure them.
And I gave my mind to the study of simples, in which Atoua instructed
me; and by lore and the weight of my thought I gained great skill in
medicine, and healed many sick. And thus ever, as time went on, my
fame was noised abroad; for it was said that I was also a magician and
that in the tombs I had commune with the Spirits of the Dead. And
this, indeed, I did--though it is not lawful for me to speak of these
matters. Thus, then, it came to pass that no more need Atoua go forth
to seek food and water, for the people brought it--more than was
needful, for I would receive no fee. Now at first, fearing lest some
in the hermit Olympus might know the lost Harmachis, I would only meet
those who came in the darkness of the tomb. But afterwards, when I
learned how it was held through all the land that Harmachis was
certainly no more, I came forth and sat in the mouth of the tomb, and
ministered to the sick, and at times calculated nativities for the
great. And thus my fame grew continually, till at length folk
journeyed even from Memphis and Alexandria to visit me; and from them
I learned how Antony had left Cleopatra for a while, and, Fulvia being
dead, had married Octavia, the sister of Cæsar. Many other things I
And in the second year I did this: I despatched the old wife, Atoua,
disguised as a seller of simples, to Alexandria, bidding her seek out
Charmion, and, if yet she found her faithful, reveal to her the secret
of my way of life. So she went, and in the fifth month from her
sailing returned, bearing Charmion's greetings and a token. And she
told me that she had found means to see Charmion, and, in talk, had
let fall the name of Harmachis, speaking of me as one dead; at which
Charmion, unable to control her grief, wept aloud. Then, reading her
heart--for the old wife was very clever, and held the key of knowledge
--she told her that Harmachis yet lived, and sent her greetings.
Thereon Charmion wept yet more with joy, and kissed the old wife, and
made her gifts, bidding her tell me that she had kept her vow, and
waited for my coming and the hour of vengeance. So, having learned
many secrets, Atoua returned again to Tápé.
And in the following year messengers came to me from Cleopatra,
bearing a sealed roll and great gifts. I opened the roll, and read
this in it:
"Cleopatra to Olympus, the learned Egyptian who dwells in the
Valley of Death by Tápé--
"The fame of thy renown, O learned Olympus, hath reached our ears.
Tell thou, then, this to us, and if thou tellest aright greater
honour and wealth shalt thou have than any in Egypt: How shall we
win back the love of noble Antony, who is bewitched of cunning
Octavia, and tarries long from us?"
Now, in this I saw the hand of Charmion, who had made my renown known
All that night I took counsel with my wisdom, and on the morrow wrote
my answer as it was put into my heart to the destruction of Cleopatra
and Antony. And thus I wrote:
"Olympus the Egyptian to Cleopatra the Queen--
"Go forth into Syria with one who shall be sent to lead thee; thus
shalt thou win Antony to thy arms again, and with him gifts more
great than thou canst dream."
And with this letter I dismissed the messengers, bidding them share
the presents sent by Cleopatra among their company.
So they went wondering.
But Cleopatra, seizing on the advice to which her passion prompted
her, departed straightway with Fonteius Capito into Syria, and there
the thing came about as I had foretold, for Antony was subdued of her
and gave her the greater part of Cilicia, the ocean shore of Arabia
Nabathæa, the balm-bearing provinces of Judæa, the province of
Phœnicia, the province of Cœle-Syria, the rich isle of Cyprus, and all
the library of Pergamus. And to the twin children that, with the son
Ptolemy, Cleopatra had borne to Antony, he impiously gave the names of
"Kings, the Children of Kings"--of Alexander Helios, as the Greeks
name the sun, and of Cleopatra Selene, the moon, the long-winged.
These things then came to pass.
Now on her return to Alexandria Cleopatra sent me great gifts, of
which I would have none, and prayed me, the learned Olympus, to come
to her at Alexandria; but it was not yet time, and I would not. But
thereafter she and Antony sent many times to me for counsel, and I
ever counselled them to their ruin, nor did my prophecies fail.
Thus the long years rolled away, and I, the hermit Olympus, the
dweller in a tomb, the eater of bread and the drinker of water, by
strength of the wisdom that was given me of the avenging Power, became
once more great in Khem. For I grew ever wiser as I trampled the
desires of the flesh beneath my feet and turned my eyes to heaven.
At length eight full years were accomplished. The war with the
Parthians had come and gone, and Artavasdes, King of Armenia, had been
led in triumph through the streets of Alexandria. Cleopatra had
visited Samos and Athens; and, by her counselling, the noble Octavia
had been driven, like some discarded concubine, from the house of
Antony at Rome. And now, at the last, the measure of the folly of
Antony was full even to the brim. For this Master of the World had no
longer the good gift of reason; he was lost in Cleopatra as I had been
lost. Therefore, in the event, Octavianus declared war against him.
And as I slept upon a certain day in the chamber of the Harpers, in
the tomb of Pharaoh that is by Tápé, there came to me a vision of my
father, the aged Amenemhat, and he stood over me, leaning on his
staff, and spoke, saying:
"Look forth, my son."
Then I looked forth, and with the eyes of my spirit saw the sea, and
two great fleets grappling in war hard by a rocky coast. And the
emblems were those of Octavian, and of the other those of Cleopatra
and Antony. The ships of Antony and Cleopatra bore down upon the ships
of Cæsar, and drove them on, for victory inclined to Antony.
I looked again. There sat Cleopatra in a gold-decked galley watching
the fight with eager eyes. Then I cast my Spirit on her so that she
seemed to hear the voice of dead Harmachis crying in her ear.
"/Fly, Cleopatra,/" it seemed to say, "/fly or perish!/"
She looked up wildly, and again she heard my Spirit's cry. Now a
mighty fear took hold of her. She called aloud to the sailors to hoist
the sails and make signal to her fleet to put about. This they did
wondering but little loath, and fled in haste from the battle.
Then a great roar went up from friend and foe.
"Cleopatra is fled! Cleopatra is fled!" And I saw wreck and red ruin
fall upon the fleet of Antony and awoke from my trance.
The days passed, and again a vision of my father came to me and spoke,
"Arise, my son!--the hour of vengeance is at hand! Thy plots have not
failed; thy prayers have been heard. By the bidding of the Gods, as
she sat in her galley at the fight of Actium, the heart of Cleopatra
was filled with fears, so that, deeming she heard thy voice bidding
her fly or perish, she fled with all her fleet. Now the strength of
Actium is broken on the sea. Go forth, and as it shall be put into thy
mind, so do thou."
In the morning I awoke, wondering, and went to the mouth of the tomb,
and there, coming up the valley, I saw the messengers of Cleopatra,
and with them a Roman guard.
"What will ye with me now?" I asked, sternly.
"This is the message of the Queen and of great Antony," answered the
Captain, bowing low before me, for I was much feared by all men. "The
Queen commands thy presence at Alexandria. Many times has she sent,
and thou wouldst not come; now she bids thee to come, and that
swiftly, for she has need of thy counsel."
"And if I say Nay, soldier, what then?"
"These are my orders, most holy Olympus; that I bring thee by force."
I laughed aloud. "By force, thou fool! Use not such talk to me, lest I
smite thee where thou art. Know, then, that I can kill as well as
"Pardon, I beseech thee!" he answered, shrinking. "I say but those
things that I am bid."
"Well, I know it, Captain. Fear not; I come."
So on that very day I departed, together with the aged Atoua. Ay, I
went as secretly as I had come; and the tomb of the Divine Rameses
knew me no more. And with me I took all the treasures of my father,
Amenemhat, for I was not minded to go to Alexandria empty-handed and
as a suppliant, but rather as a man of much wealth and condition. Now,
as I went, I learned that Antony, following Cleopatra, had, indeed,
fled from Actium, and knew that the end drew nigh. For this and many
other things had I foreseen in the darkness of the tomb of Tápé, and
planned to bring about.
Thus, then, I came to Alexandria, and entered into a house which had
been made ready for me at the palace gates.
And that very night Charmion came to me--Charmion whom I had not seen
for nine long years.
OF THE MEETING OF CHARMION WITH THE LEARNED OLYMPUS; OF HER
SPEECH WITH HIM; OF THE COMING OF OLYMPUS INTO THE
PRESENCE OF CLEOPATRA; AND OF THE COMMANDS OF CLEOPATRA.
Clad in my plain black robe, I sat in the guest-chamber of the house
that had been made ready for me. I sat in a carven lion-footed chair,
and looked upon the swinging lamps of scented oil, the pictured
tapestries, the rich Syrian rugs--and, amidst all this luxury,
bethought me of that tomb of the Harpers which is at Tápé, and of the
nine long years of dark loneliness and preparation. I sat; and
crouched upon a rug near to the door, lay the aged Atoua. Her hair was
white as snow, and shrivelled with age was the wrinkled countenance of
the woman who, when all deserted me, had yet clung to me, in her great
love forgetting my great sins. Nine years! nine long years! and now,
once again, I set my foot in Alexandria! Once again in the appointed
circle of things I came forth from the solitude of preparation to be a
fate to Cleopatra; and this second time I came not forth to fail.
And yet how changed the circumstance! I was out of the story: my part
now was but the part of the sword in the hands of Justice; I might no
more hope to make Egypt free and great and sit upon my lawful throne.
Khem was lost, and lost was I, Harmachis. In the rush and turmoil of
events, the great plot of which I had been the pivot was covered up
and forgotten; scarce a memory of it remained. The curtain of dark
night was closing in upon the history of my ancient Race; its very
Gods were tottering to their fall; I could already, in the spirit,
hear the shriek of the Roman eagles as they flapped their wings above
the furthest banks of Sihor.
Presently I roused myself and bade Atoua go seek a mirror and bring it
to me, that I might look therein.
And I saw this: a face shrunken and pallid, on which no smile came;
great eyes grown wan with gazing into darkness looking out beneath the
shaven head, emptily, as the hollow eye-pits of a skull; a wizened
halting form wasted by abstinence, sorrow, and prayer; a long wild
beard of iron grey; thin blue-veined hands that ever trembled like a
leaf; bowed shoulders and lessened limbs. Time and grief had done
their work indeed; scarce could I think myself the same as when, the
royal Harmachis--in all the splendour of my strength and youthful
beauty--I first had looked upon the woman's loveliness that did
destroy me. And yet within me burned the same fire as of yore; yet I
was not changed, for time and grief have no power to alter the
immortal spirit of man. Seasons may come and go; Hope, like a bird,
may fly away; Passion may break its wings against the iron bars of
Fate; Illusions may crumble as the cloudy towers of sunset flame;
Faith, as running water, may slip from beneath our feet; Solitude may
stretch itself around us like the measureless desert sand; Old Age may
creep as the gathering night over our bowed heads grown hoary in their
shame--yea, bound to Fortune's wheel, we may taste of every turn of
chance--now rule as Kings, now serve as Slaves; now love, now hate;
now prosper, and now perish. But still, through all, we are the same;
for this is the marvel of Identity.
And as I sat and thought these things in bitterness of heart, there
came a knocking at the door.
"Open, Atoua!" I said.
She rose and did my bidding; and a woman entered, clad in Grecian
robes. It was Charmion, still beautiful as of old, but sad faced now
and very sweet to see, with a patient fire slumbering in her downcast
She entered unattended; and, speaking no word, the old wife pointed to
where I sat, and went.
"Old man," she said, addressing me, "lead me to the learned Olympus. I
come upon the Queen's business."
I rose, and, lifting my head, looked upon her.
She gazed, and gave a little cry.
"Surely," she whispered, glancing round, "surely thou art not
that----" And she paused.
"That Harmachis whom once thy foolish heart did love, O Charmion? Yes,
I am he and what thou seest, most fair lady. Yet is Harmachis dead
whom thou didst love; but Olympus, the skilled Egyptian, waits upon
"Cease!" she said, "and of the past but one word, and then--why, let
it lie. Not well, with all thy wisdom, canst thou know a true woman's
heart, if thou dost believe, Harmachis, that it can change with the
changes of the outer form, for then assuredly could no love follow its
beloved to that last place of change--the Grave. Know thou, learned
Physician, I am of that sort who, loving once, love always, and being
not beloved again, go virgin to the death."
She ceased, and having naught to say, I bowed my head in answer. Yet
though I said nothing and though this woman's passionate folly had
been the cause of all our ruin, to speak truth, in secret I was
thankful to her who, wooed of all and living in this shameless Court,
had still through the long years poured out her unreturned love upon
an outcast, and who, when that poor broken slave of Fortune came back
in such unlovely guise, held him yet dear at heart. For what man is
there who does not prize that gift most rare and beautiful, that one
perfect thing which no gold can buy--a woman's unfeigned love?
"I thank thee that thou dost not answer," she said; "for the bitter
words which thou didst pour upon me in those days that long are dead,
and far away in Tarsus, have not lost their poisonous sting, and in my
heart is no more place for the arrows of thy scorn, new venomed
through thy solitary years. So let it be. Behold! I put it from me,
that wild passion of my soul," and she looked up and stretched out her
hands as though to press some unseen presence back, "I put it from me
--though forget it I may not! There, 'tis done, Harmachis; no more
shall my love trouble thee. Enough for me that once more my eyes
behold thee, before sleep seals thee from their sight. Dost remember
how, when I would have died by thy dear hand, thou wouldst not slay,
but didst bid me live to pluck the bitter fruit of crime, and be
accursed by visions of the evil I had wrought and memories of thee
whom I have ruined?"
"Ay, Charmion, I remember well."
"Surely the cup of punishment has been filled. Oh! couldst thou see
into the record of my heart, and read in it the suffering that I have
borne--borne with a smiling face--thy justice would be satisfied
"And yet, if report be true, Charmion, thou art the first of all the
Court, and therein the most powerful and beloved. Does not Octavianus
give it out that he makes war, not on Antony, nor even on his
mistress, Cleopatra, but on Charmion and Iras?"
"Yes, Harmachis, and think that it has been to me thus, because of my
oath to thee, to be forced to eat the bread and do the tasks of one
whom so bitterly I hate!--one who robbed me of thee, and who, through
the workings of my jealousy, brought me to be that which I am, brought
thee to shame, and all Egypt to its ruin! Can jewels and riches and
the flattery of princes and nobles bring happiness to such a one as I,
who am more wretched than the meanest scullion wench? Oh, I have often
wept till I was blind; and then, when the hour came, I must arise and
tire me, and, with a smile, go do the bidding of the Queen and that
heavy Antony. May the Gods grant me to see them dead--ay, the twain of
them!--then myself I shall be content to die! Thy lot has been hard,
Harmachis; but at least thou have been free, and many is the time that
I have envied thee the quiet of thy haunted cave."
"I do perceive, O Charmion, that thou art mindful of thy oaths; and
it is well, for the hour of vengeance is at hand."
"I am mindful, and in all things I have worked for thee in secret--for
thee, and for the utter ruin of Cleopatra and the Roman. I have fanned
his passion and her jealousy, I have egged her on to wickedness and
him to folly, and of all have I caused report to be brought to Cæsar.
Listen! thus stands the matter. Thou knowest how went the fight at
Actium. Thither went Cleopatra with her fleet, sorely against the will
of Antony. But, as thou sentest me word, I entreated him for the
Queen, vowing to him, with tears, that, did he leave her, she would
die of grief; and he, poor slave, believed me. And so she went, and in
the thick of the fight, for what cause I know not, though perchance
thou knowest, Harmachis, she made signal to her squadron, and, putting
about fled from the battle, sailing for Peloponnesus. And now, mark
the end! When Antony saw that she was gone, he, in his madness, took a
galley, and deserting all, followed hard after her, leaving his fleet
to be shattered and sunk, and his great army in Greece, of twenty
legions and twelve thousand horse, without a leader. And all this no
man would believe, that Antony, the smitten of the Gods, had fallen so
deep in shame. Therefore for a while the army tarried, and but now
to-night comes news brought by Canidius, the General, that, worn with
doubt and being at length sure that Antony had deserted them, the
whole of his great force has yielded to Cæsar."
"And where, then, is Antony?"
"He has built him a habitation on a little isle in the Great Harbour
and named it Timonium; because, forsooth, like Timon, he cries out at
the ingratitude of mankind that has forsaken him. And there he lies
smitten by a fever of the mind, and thither thou must go at dawn, so
wills the Queen, to cure him of his ills and draw him to her arms; for
he will not see her, nor knows he yet the full measure of his woe. But
first my bidding is to lead thee instantly to Cleopatra, who would ask
"I come," I answered, rising. "Lead thou on."
And so we passed the palace gates and along the Alabaster Hall, and
presently once again I stood before the door of Cleopatra's chamber,
and once again Charmion left me to warn her of my coming.
Presently she came back and beckoned to me. "Make strong thy heart,"
she whispered, "and see that thou dost not betray thyself, for still
are the eyes of Cleopatra keen. Enter!"
"Keen, indeed, must they be to find Harmachis in the learned Olympus!
Had I not willed it, thyself thou hadst not known me, Charmion," I
Then I entered that remembered place and listened once more to the
plash of the fountain, the song of the nightingale, and the murmur of
the summer sea. With bowed head and halting gait I came, till at
length I stood before the couch of Cleopatra--that same golden couch
on which she had sat the night she overcame me. Then I gathered my
strength, and looked up. There before me was Cleopatra, glorious as of
old, but, oh! how changed since that night when I saw Antony clasp her
in his arms at Tarsus! Her beauty still clothed her like a garment;
the eyes were yet deep and unfathomable as the blue sea, the face
still splendid in its great loveliness. And yet all was changed. Time,
that could not touch her charms, had stamped upon her presence such a
look of weary grief as may not be written. Passion, beating ever in
that fierce heart of hers, had written his record on her brow, and in
her eyes shone the sad lights of sorrow.
I bowed low before this most royal woman, who once had been my love
and destruction, and yet knew me not.
She looked up wearily, and spoke in her slow, well remembered voice:
"So thou art come at length, Physician. How callest thou thyself?--
Olympus? 'Tis a name of promise, for surely now that the Gods of Egypt
have deserted us, we do need aid from Olympus. Well, thou hast a
learned air, for learning does not with beauty. Strange, too, there is
that about thee which recalls what I know not. Say, Olympus, have we
"Never, O Queen, have my eyes fallen on thee in the body," I answered
in a feigned voice. "Never till this hour, when I come forth from my
solitude to do thy bidding and cure thee of thy ills!"
"Strange! and even in the voice--Pshaw! 'tis some memory that I cannot
catch. In the body, thou sayest? then, perchance, I knew thee in a
"Ay, O Queen; we have met in dreams."
"Thou art a strange man, who talkest thus, but, if what I hear be
true, one well learned; and, indeed, I mind me of thy counsel when
thou didst bid me join my Lord Antony in Syria, and how things befell
according to thy word. Skilled must thou be in the casting of
nativities and in the law of auguries, of which these Alexandrian
fools have little knowledge. Once I knew such another man, one
Harmachis," and she sighed: "but he is long dead--as I would I were
also!--and at times I sorrow for him."
She paused, while I sank my head upon my breast and stood silent.
"Interpret me this, Olympus. In the battle at that accursed Actium,
just as the fight raged thickest and Victory began to smile upon us, a
great terror seized my heart, and thick darkness seemed to fall before
my eyes, while in my ears a voice, ay, the voice of that long dead
Harmachis, cried '/Fly! fly, or perish!/' and I fled. But from my
heart the terror leapt to the heart of Antony, and he followed after
me, and thus was the battle lost. Say, then, what God brought this
evil thing about?"
"Nay, O Queen," I answered, "it was no God--for wherein hast thou
angered the Gods of Egypt? Hast thou robbed the temples of their
Faith? Hast thou betrayed the trust of Egypt? Having done none of
these things, how, then, can the Gods of Egypt be wroth with thee?
Fear not, it was nothing but some natural vapour of the mind that
overcame thy gentle soul, made sick with the sight and sound of
slaughter; and as for the noble Antony, where thou didst go needs must
that he should follow."
And as I spoke, Cleopatra turned white and trembled, glancing at me
the while to find my meaning. But I well knew that the thing was of
the avenging Gods, working through me, their instrument.
"Learned Olympus," she said, not answering my words; "my Lord Antony
is sick and crazed with grief. Like some poor hunted slave he hides
himself in yonder sea-girt Tower and shuns mankind--yes, he shuns even
me, who, for his sake, endure so many woes. Now, this is my bidding to
thee. To-morrow, at the coming of the light, do thou, led by Charmion,
my waiting-lady, take boat and row thee to the Tower and there crave
entry, saying that ye bring tidings from the army. Then he will cause
you to be let in, and thou, Charmion, must break this heavy news that
Canidius bears; for Canidius himself I dare not send. And when his
grief is past, do thou, Olympus, soothe his fevered frame with thy
draughts of value, and his soul with honeyed words, and draw him back
to me, and all will yet be well. Do thou this, and thou shalt have
gifts more than thou canst count, for I am yet a Queen and yet can pay
back those who serve my will."
"Fear not, O Queen," I answered, "this thing shall be done, and I ask
no reward, who have come hither to do thy bidding to the end."
So I bowed and went and, summoning Atoua, made ready a certain potion.
OF THE DRAWING FORTH OF ANTONY FROM THE TIMONIUM BACK TO
CLEOPATRA; OF THE FEAST MADE BY CLEOPATRA; AND OF THE MANNER
OF THE DEATH OF EUDOSIUS THE STEWARD
Ere it was yet dawn Charmion came again, and we walked to the private
harbour of the palace. There, taking boat, we rowed to the island
mount on which stands the Timonium, a vaulted tower, strong, small,
and round. And, having landed, we twain came to the door and knocked,
till at length a grating was thrown open in the door, and an aged
eunuch, looking forth, roughly asked our business.
"Our business is with the Lord Antony," said Charmion.
"Then it is no business, for Antony, my master, sees neither man nor
"Yet will he see us, for we bring tidings. Go tell him that the Lady
Charmion brings tidings from the army."
The man went, and presently returned.
"The Lord Antony would know if the tidings be good or ill, for, if
ill, then will he none of it, for with evil tidings he has been
overfed of late."
"Why--why, it is both good and ill. Open, slave, I will make answer to
thy master!" and she slipped a purse of gold through the bars.
"Well, well," he grumbled, as he took the purse, "the times are hard,
and likely to be harder; for when the lion's down who will feed the
jackal? Give thy news thyself, and if it do but draw the noble Antony
out of this hall of Groans, I care not what it be. Now the palace door
is open, and there's the road to the banqueting-chamber."
We passed on, to find ourselves in a narrow passage, and, leaving the
eunuch to bar the door, advanced till we came to a curtain. Through
this entrance we went, and found ourselves in a vaulted chamber, ill-
lighted from the roof. On the further side of this rude chamber was a
bed of rugs, and on them crouched the figure of a man, his face hidden
in the folds of his toga.
"Most noble Antony," said Charmion drawing near, "unwrap thy face and
hearken to me, for I bring thee tidings."
Then he lifted up his head. His face was marred by sorrow; his tangled
hair, grizzled with years, hung about his hollow eyes, and white on
his chin was the stubble of an unshaven beard. His robe was squalid,
and his aspect more wretched than that of the poorest beggar at the
temple gates. To this, then, had the love of Cleopatra brought the
glorious and renowned Antony, aforetime Master of half the World!
"What will ye with me, Lady," he asked, "who would perish here alone?
And who is this man who comes to gaze on fallen and forsaken Antony?"
"This is Olympus, noble Antony, that wise physician, the skilled in
auguries, of whom thou hast heard much, and whom Cleopatra, ever
mindful of thy welfare, though but little thou dost think of hers, has
sent to minister to thee."
"And, can thy physician minister to a grief such as my grief? Can his
drugs give me back my galleys, my honour, and my peace? Nay! Away with
thy physician! What are thy tidings?--quick!--out with it! Hath
Canidius, perchance, conquered Cæsar? Tell me but that, and thou shalt
have a province for thy guerdon--ay! and if Octavianus be dead, twenty
thousand sestertia to fill its treasury. Speak--nay--speak not! I fear
the opening of thy lips as never I feared an earthly thing. Surely the
wheel of fortune has gone round and Canidius has conquered? Is it not
so? Nay--out with it! I can no more!"
"O noble Antony," she said, "steel thy heart to hear that which I
needs must tell thee! Canidius is in Alexandria. He has fled far and
fast, and this is his report. For seven whole days did the legions
wait the coming of Antony, to lead them to victory, as aforetime,
putting aside the offers of the envoys of Cæsar. But Antony came not.
And then it was rumoured that Antony had fled to Tænarus, drawn
thither by Cleopatra. The man who first brought that tale to the camp
the legionaries cried shame on--ay, and beat him to the death! But
ever it grew, until at length there was no more room to doubt; and
then, O Antony, thy officers slipped one by one away to Cæsar, and
where the officers go there the men follow. Nor is this all the story;
for thy allies--Bocchus of Africa, Tarcondimotus of Cilicia,
Mithridates of Commagene, Adallas of Thrace, Philadelphus of
Paphlagonia, Archelaus of Cappadocia, Herod of Judæa, Amyntas of
Galatia, Polemon of Pontus, and Malchus of Arabia--all, all have fled
or bid their generals fly back to whence they came; and already their
ambassador's crave cold Cæsar's clemency."
"Hast done thy croakings, thou raven in a peacock's dress, or is there
more to come?" asked the smitten man, lifting his white and trembling
face from the shelter of his hands. "Tell me more; say that Egypt's
dead in all her beauty; say that Octavianus lowers at the Canopic
gate; and that, headed by dead Cicero, all the ghosts of Hell do
audibly shriek out the fall of Antony! Yea, gather up every woe that
can o'erwhelm those who once were great, and loose them on the hoary
head of him whom--in thy gentleness--thou art still pleased to name
'the noble Antony'!"
"Nay, my Lord, I have done."
"Ay, and so have I done--done, quite done! It is altogether finished,
and thus I seal the end," and snatching a sword from the couch, he
would, indeed, have slain himself had I not sprung forward and grasped
his hand. For it was not my purpose that he should die as yet; since
had he died at that hour Cleopatra had made her peace with Cæsar, who
rather wished the death of Antony than the ruin of Egypt.
"Art mad, Antony? Art, indeed, a coward?" cried Charmion, "that thou
wouldst thus escape thy woes, and leave thy partner to face the sorrow
"Why not, woman? Why not? She would not be long alone. There's Cæsar
to keep her company. Octavianus loves a fair woman in his cold way,
and still is Cleopatra fair. Come now, thou Olympus! thou hast held my
hand from dealing death upon myself, advise me of thy wisdom. Shall I,
then, submit myself to Cæsar, and I, Triumvir, twice Consul, and
aforetime absolute Monarch of all the East, endure to follow in his
triumph along those Roman ways where I myself have passed in triumph?"
"Nay, Sire," I answered. "If thou dost yield, then art thou doomed.
All last night I questioned of the Fates concerning thee, and I saw
this: when thy star draws near to Cæsar's it pales and is swallowed
up; but when it passes from his radiance, then bright and big it
shines, equal in glory to his own. All is not lost, and while some
part remains, everything may be regained. Egypt can yet be held,
armies can still be raised. Cæsar has withdrawn himself; he is not yet
at the gates of Alexandria, and perchance may be appeased. Thy mind in
its fever has fired thy body; thou art sick and canst not judge
aright. See, here, I have a potion that shall make thee whole, for I
am well skilled in the art of medicine," and I held out the phial.
"A potion, thou sayest man!" he cried. "More like it is a poison, and
thou a murderer, sent by false Egypt, who would fain be rid of me now
that I may no more be of service to her. The head of Antony is the
peace offering she would send to Cæsar--she for whom I have lost all!
Give me thy draught. By Bacchus! I will drink it, though it be the
very elixir of Death!"
"Nay, noble Antony; it is no poison, and I am no murderer. See, I will
taste it, if thou wilt," and I held forth the subtle drink that has
the power to fire the veins of men.
"Give it me, Physician. Desperate men are brave men. There!---- Why,
what is this? Yours is a magic draught! My sorrows seem to roll away
like thunder-clouds before the southern gale, and the spring of Hope
blooms fresh upon the desert of my heart. Once more I am Antony, and
once again I see my legions' spears asparkle in the sun, and hear the
thunderous shout of welcome as Antony--beloved Antony--rides in pomp
of war along his deep-formed lines! There's hope! there's hope! I may
yet see the cold brows of Cæsar--that Cæsar who never errs except from
policy--robbed of their victor bays and crowned with shameful dust!"
"Ay," cried Charmion, "there still is hope, if thou wilt but play the
man! O my Lord! come back with us; come back to the loving arms of
Cleopatra! All night she lies upon her golden bed, and fills the
hollow darkness with her groans for 'Antony!' who, enamoured now of
Grief, forgets his duty and his love!"
"I come! I come! Shame upon me, that I dared to doubt her! Slave,
bring water, and a purple robe: not thus can I be seen of Cleopatra.
Even now I come."
In this fashion, then, did we draw Antony back to Cleopatra, that the
ruin of the twain might be made sure.
We led him up the Alabaster Hall and into Cleopatra's chamber, where
she lay, her cloudy hair about her face and breast, and tears flowing
from her deep eyes.
"O Egypt!" he cried, "behold me at thy feet!"
She sprang from the couch. "And art thou here, my love?" she murmured;
"then once again are all things well. Come near, and in these arms
forget thy sorrows and turn my grief to joy. Oh, Antony, while love is
left to us, still have we all!"
And she fell upon his breast and kissed him wildly.
That same day, Charmion came to me and bade me prepare a poison of the
most deadly power. And this at first I would not do, fearing that
Cleopatra would therewith make an end of Antony before his time. But
Charmion showed me that this was not so, and told me also for what
purpose was the poison. Therefore I summoned Atoua, the skilled in
simples, and all that afternoon we laboured at the deadly work. And
when it was done, Charmion came once more, bearing with her a chaplet
of fresh roses, that she bade me steep in the poison.
This then I did.
That night at the great feast of Cleopatra, I sat near Antony, who was
at her side, and wore the poisoned wreath. Now as the feast went on,
the wine flowed fast, till Antony and the Queen grew merry. And she
told him of her plans, and of how even now her galleys were being
drawn by the canal that leads from Bubastis on the Pelusiac branch of
the Nile, to Clysma at the head of the Bay of Heroopolis. For it was
her design, should Cæsar prove stubborn, to fly with Antony and her
treasure down the Arabian Gulf, where Cæsar had no fleet, and seek
some new home in India, whither her foes might not follow. But,
indeed, this plan came to nothing, for the Arabs of Petra burnt the
galleys, incited thereto by a message sent by the Jews of Alexandria,
who hated Cleopatra and were hated of her. For I caused the Jews to be
warned of what was being done.
Now, when she had made an end of telling him, the Queen called on him
to drink a cup with her, to the success of this new scheme, bidding
him, as she did so, steep his wreath of roses in the wine, and make
the draught more sweet. This, then, he did, and it being done, she
pledged him. But when he was about to pledge her back, she caught his
hand, crying "/Hold!/" whereat he paused, wondering.
Now, among the servants of Cleopatra was one Eudosius, a steward; and
this Eudosius, seeing that the fortunes of Cleopatra were at an end,
had laid a plan to fly that very night to Cæsar, as many of his
betters had done, taking with him all the treasure in the palace that
he could steal. But this design being discovered to Cleopatra, she
determined to be avenged upon Eudosius.
"Eudosius," she cried, for the man stood near; "come hither, thou
faithful servant! Seest thou this man, most noble Antony; through all
our troubles he has clung to us and been of comfort to us. Now,
therefore, he shall be rewarded according to his deserts and the
measure of his faithfulness, and that from thine own hand. Give him
thy golden cup of wine, and let him drink a pledge to our success; the
cup shall be his guerdon."
And still wondering, Antony gave it to the man, who, stricken in his
guilty mind, took it, and stood trembling. But he drank not.
"Drink! thou slave; drink!" cried Cleopatra, half rising from her seat
and flashing a fierce look on his white face. "By Serapis! so surely
as I yet shall sit in the Capitol at Rome, if thou dost thus flout the
Lord Antony, I'll have thee scourged to the bones, and the red wine
poured upon thy open wounds to heal them! /Ah!/ at length thou
drinkest! Why, what is it, good Eudosius? art sick? Surely, then, this
wine must be as the water of jealousy of those Jews, that has power to
slay the false and strengthen the honest only. Go, some of you, search
this man's room; methinks he is a traitor!"
Meanwhile the man stood, his hands to his head. Presently he began to
tremble, and then fell, clutching at his bosom, as though to tear out
the fire in his heart. He staggered, with livid, twisted face and
foaming lips, to where Cleopatra lay watching him with a slow and
"Ah, traitor! thou hast it now!" she said. "Prithee, is death sweet?"
"Thou wanton!" yelled the dying man, "thou hast poisoned me! Thus
mayst thou also perish!" and with one shriek he flung himself upon
her. She saw his purpose, and swift and supple as a tiger sprang to
one side, so that he did but grasp her royal cloak, tearing it from
its emerald clasp. Down he fell upon the ground, rolling over and over
in the purple chiton, till presently he lay still and dead, his
tormented face and frozen eyes peering ghastly from its folds.
"Ah!" said the Queen, with a hard laugh, "the slave died wondrous
hard, and fain would have drawn me with him. See, he has borrowed my
garment for a pall! Take him away and bury him in his livery."
"What means Cleopatra?" said Antony, as the guards dragged the corpse
away; "the man drank of my cup. What is the purpose of this most sorry
"It serves a double end, noble Antony! This very night that man would
have fled to Octavianus, bearing of our treasure with him. Well, I
have lent him wings, for the dead fly fast! Also this: thou didst fear
that I should poison thee, my Lord; nay, I know it. See now, Antony,
how easy it were that I should slay thee if I had the will. That
wreath of roses which thou didst steep within the cup is dewed with
deadly bane. Had I, then, a mind to make an end of thee, I had not
stayed thy hand. O Antony, henceforth trust me! Sooner would I slay
myself than harm one hair of thy beloved head! See, here come my
messengers! Speak, what did ye find?"
"Royal Egypt, we found this. All things in the chamber of Eudosius are
made ready for flight, and in his baggage is much treasure."
"Thou hearest?" she said, smiling darkly. "Think ye, my loyal servants
all, that Cleopatra is one with whom it is well to play the traitor?
Be warned by this Roman's fate!"
Then a great silence of fear fell upon the company, and Antony sat
OF THE WORKINGS OF THE LEARNED OLYMPUS AT MEMPHIS; OF THE
POISONINGS OF CLEOPATRA; OF THE SPEECH OF ANTONY TO HIS
CAPTAINS; AND OF THE PASSING OF ISIS FROM THE LAND OF KHEM
Now I, Harmachis, must make speed with my task, setting down that
which is permitted as shortly as may be, and leaving much untold. For
of this I am warned, that Doom draws on and my days are wellnigh sped.
After the drawing forth of Antony from the Timonium came that time of
heavy quiet which heralds the rising of the desert wind. Antony and
Cleopatra once again gave themselves up to luxury, and night by night
feasted in splendour at the palace. They sent ambassadors to Cæsar;
but Cæsar would have none of them; and, this hope being gone, they
turned their minds to the defence of Alexandria. Men were gathered,
ships were built, and a great force was made ready against the coming
And now, aided by Charmion, I began my last work of hate and
vengeance. I wormed myself deep into the secrets of the palace,
counselling all things for evil. I bade Cleopatra keep Antony gay,
lest he should brood upon his sorrows: and thus she sapped his
strength and energy with luxury and wine. I gave him of my draughts--
draughts that sank his soul in dreams of happiness and power, leaving
him to wake to a heavier misery. Soon, without my healing medicine he
could not sleep, and thus, being ever at his side, I bound his
weakened will to mine, till at last he would do little if I said not
"It is well." Cleopatra, also grown very superstitious, leaned much
upon me; for I prophesied falsely to her in secret.
Moreover, I wove other webs. My fame was great throughout Egypt, for
during the long years that I had dwelt in Tápé it had spread through
all the land. Therefore many men of note came to me, both for their
health's sake and because it was known that I had the ear of Antony
and the Queen; and, in these days of doubt and trouble, they were fain
to learn the truth. All these men I worked upon with doubtful words,
sapping their loyalty; and I caused many to fall away, and yet none
could bear an evil report of what I had said. Also, Cleopatra sent me
to Memphis, there to move the Priests and Governors that they should
gather men in Upper Egypt for the defence of Alexandria. And I went
and spoke to the priests with such a double meaning and with so much
wisdom that they knew me to be one of the initiated in the deeper
mysteries. But how I, Olympus the physician, came thus to be initiated
none might say. And afterwards they sought me secretly, and I gave
them the holy sign of brotherhood; and thereunder bade them not to ask
who I might be, but send no aid to Cleopatra. Rather, I said, must
they make peace with Cæsar, for by Cæsar's grace only could the
worship of the Gods endure in Khem. So, having taken counsel of the
Holy Apis, they promised in public to give help to Cleopatra, but in
secret sent an embassy to Cæsar.
Thus, then, it came to pass that Egypt gave but little aid to its
hated Macedonian Queen. Thence from Memphis I came once more to
Alexandria, and, having made favourable report, continued my secret
work. And, indeed, the Alexandrians could not easily be stirred, for,
as they say in the marketplace, "The ass looks at its burden and is
blind to its master." Cleopatra had oppressed them so long that the
Roman was like a welcome friend.
Thus the time passed on, and every night found Cleopatra with fewer
friends than that which had gone before, for in evil days friends fly
like swallows before the frost. Yet she would not give up Antony, whom
she loved; though to my knowledge Cæsar, by his freedman, Thyreus,
made promise to her of her dominions for herself and for her children
if she would but slay Antony, or even betray him bound. But to this
her woman's heart--for still she had a heart--would not consent, and,
moreover, we counselled her against it, for of necessity we must hold
him to her, lest, Antony escaping or being slain, Cleopatra might ride
out the storm and yet be Queen of Egypt. And this grieved me, because
Antony, though weak, was still a brave man, and a great; and,
moreover, in my own heart I read the lesson of his woes. For were we
not akin in wretchedness? Had not the same woman robbed us of Empire,
Friends, and Honour? But pity has no place in politics, nor could it
turn my feet from the path of vengeance it was ordained that I should
tread. Cæsar drew nigh; Pelusium fell; the end was at hand. It was
Charmion who brought the tidings to the Queen and Antony, as they
slept in the heat of the day, and I came with her.
"Awake!" she cried. "Awake! This is no time for sleep! Seleucus hath
surrendered Pelusium to Cæsar, who marches straight on Alexandria!"
With a great oath, Antony sprang up and clutched Cleopatra by the arm.
"Thou hast betrayed me--by the Gods I swear it! Now thou shalt pay the
price!" And snatching up his sword he drew it.
"Stay thy hand, Antony!" she cried. "It is false--I know naught of
this!" And she sprang upon him, and clung about his neck, weeping. "I
know naught, my Lord. Take thou the wife of Seleucus and his little
children, whom I hold in guard, and avenge thyself. O Antony, Antony!
why dost thou doubt me?"
Then Antony threw down his sword upon the marble, and, casting himself
upon the couch, hid his face, and groaned in bitterness of spirit.
But Charmion smiled, for it was she who had sent secretly to Seleucus,
her friend, counselling him to surrender forthwith, saying that no
fight would be made at Alexandria. And that very night Cleopatra took
all her great store of pearls and emeralds--those that remained of the
treasure of Menkau-ra--all her wealth of gold, ebony, ivory, and
cinnamon, treasure without price, and placed it in the mausoleum of
granite which, after our Egyptian fashion, she had built upon the hill
that is by the Temple of the Holy Isis. These riches she piled up upon
a bed of flax, that, when she fired it, all might perish in the flame
and escape the greed of money-loving Octavianus. And she slept
henceforth in this tomb, away from Antony; but in the daytime she
still saw him at the palace.
But a little while after, when Cæsar with all his great force had
already crossed the Caponic mouth of the Nile and was hard on
Alexandria, I came to the palace, whither Cleopatra had summoned me.
There I found her in the Alabaster Hall, royally clad, a wild light in
her eyes, and, with her, Iras and Charmion, and before her guards; and
stretched here and there upon the marble, bodies of dead men, among
whom lay one yet dying.
"Greeting, thou Olympus!" she cried. "Here is a sight to glad a
physician's heart--men dead and men sick unto death!"
"What doest thou, O Queen?" I said affrighted.
"What do I? I wreak justice on these criminals and traitors; and,
Olympus, I learn the ways of death. I have caused six different
poisons to be given to these slaves, and with an attentive eye have
watched their working. That man," and she pointed to a Nubian, "he
went mad, and raved of his native deserts and his mother. He thought
himself a child again, poor fool! and bade her hold him close to her
breast and save him from the darkness which drew near. And that Greek,
he shrieked, and, shrieking, died. And this, he wept and prayed for
pity, and in the end, like a coward, breathed his last. Now, note the
Egyptian yonder, he who still lives and groans; first he took the
draught--the deadliest draught of all, they swore--and yet the slave
so dearly loves his life he will not leave it! See, he yet strives to
throw the poison from him; twice have I given him the cup and yet he
is athirst. What a drunkard we have here! Man, man, knowest thou not
that in death only can peace be found? Struggle no more, but enter
into rest." And even as she spoke, the man, with a great cry, gave up
"There!" she cried, "at length the farce is played--away with those
slaves whom I have forced through the difficult gates of Joy!" and she
clapped her hands. But when they had borne the bodies thence she drew
me to her, and spoke thus:
"Olympus, for all thy prophecies, the end is at hand. Cæsar must
conquer, and I and my Lord Antony be lost. Now, therefore, the play
being wellnigh done, I must make ready to leave this stage of earth in
such fashion as becomes a Queen. For this cause, then, I do make trial
of these poisons, seeing that in my person I must soon endure those
agonies of death that to-day I give to others. These drugs please me
not; some wrench out the soul with cruel pains, and some too slowly
work their end. But thou art skilled in the medicines of death. Now,
do thou prepare me such a draught as shall, pangless, steal my life
And as I listened the sense of triumph filled my bitter heart, for I
knew now that by my own hand should this ruined woman die and the
justice of the Gods be done.
"Spoken like a Queen, O Cleopatra!" I said. "Death shall cure thy
ills, and I will brew such a wine as shall draw him down a sudden
friend and sink thee in a sea of slumber whence, upon this earth, thou
shalt never wake again. Oh! fear not Death: Death is thy hope; and,
surely, thou shalt pass sinless and pure of heart into the dreadful
presence of the Gods!"
She trembled. "And if the heart be not altogether pure, tell me--thou
dark man--what then? Nay, I fear not the Gods! for if the Gods of Hell
be men, there I shall Queen it also. At the least, having once been
royal, royal I shall ever be."
And, as she spoke, suddenly from the palace gates came a great
clamour, and the noise of joyful shouting.
"Why, what is this?" she said, springing from her couch.
"Antony! Antony!" rose the cry; "Antony hath conquered!"
She turned swiftly and ran, her long hair streaming on the wind. I
followed her, more slowly, down the great hall, across the courtyards,
to the palace gates. And here she met Antony, riding through them,
radiant with smiles and clad in his Roman armour. When he saw her he
leapt to the ground, and, all armed as he was, clasped her to his
"What is it?" she cried; "is Cæsar fallen?"
"Nay, not altogether fallen, Egypt: but we have beat his horsemen back
to their trenches, and, like the beginning, so shall be the end, for,
as they say here, 'Where the head goes, the tail will follow.'
Moreover, Cæsar has my challenge, and if he will but meet me hand to
hand, the world shall soon see which is the better man, Antony or
Octavian." And even as he spoke and the people cheered there came the
cry of "A messenger from Cæsar!"
The herald entered, and, bowing low, gave a writing to Antony, bowed
again, and went. Cleopatra snatched it from his hand, broke the silk
and read aloud:
"Cæsar to Antony, greeting.
"This answer to thy challenge: Can Antony find no better way of
death than beneath the sword of Cæsar? Farewell!"
And thereafter they cheered no more.
The darkness came, and before it was midnight, having feasted with his
friends who to-night went over his woes and to-morrow should betray
him, Antony went forth to the gathering of the captains of the land-
forces and of the fleet, attended by many, among whom was I.
When all were come together, he spoke to them, standing bareheaded in
their midst, beneath the radiance of the moon. And thus he most nobly
"Friends and companions in arms! who yet cling to me, and whom many a
time I have led to victory, hearken to me now, who to-morrow may lie
in the dumb dust, disempired and dishonoured. This is our design: no
longer will we hang on poised wings above the flood of war, but will
straightway plunge, perchance thence to snatch the victor's diadem,
or, failing, there to drown. Be now but true to me, and to your
honour's sake, and you may still sit, the most proud of men, at my
right hand in the Capitol of Rome. Fail me now, and the cause of
Antony is lost and so are ye. To-morrow's battle must be hazardous
indeed, but we have stood many a time and faced a fiercer peril, and
ere the sun had sunk, once more have driven armies like desert sands
before our gale of valour and counted the spoil of hostile kings. What
have we to fear? Though allies be fled, still is our array as strong
as Cæsar's! And show we but as high a heart, why, I swear to you, upon
my princely word, to-morrow night I shall deck yonder Canopic gate
with the heads of Octavian and his captains!
"Ay, cheer, and cheer again! I love that martial music which swells,
not as from the indifferent lips of clarions, now 'neath the breath of
Antony and now of Cæsar, but rather out of the single hearts of men
who love me. Yet--and now I will speak low, as we do speak o'er the
bier of some beloved dead--yet, if Fortune should rise against me and
if, borne down by the weight of arms, Antony, the soldier, dies a
soldier's death, leaving you to mourn him who ever was your friend,
this is my will, that, after our rough fashion of the camp, I here
declare to you. You know where all my treasure lies. Take it, most
dear friends; and, in the memory of Antony, make just division. Then
go to Cæsar and speak thus: 'Antony, the dead, to Cæsar, the living,
sends greeting; and, in the name of ancient fellowship and of many a
peril dared, craves this boon: the safety of those who clung to him
and that which he hath given them.'
"Nay, let not my tears--for I must weep--overflow your eyes! Why, it
is not manly; 'tis most womanish! All men must die, and death were
welcome were it not so lone. Should I fall, I leave my children to
your tender care--if, perchance, it may avail to save them from the
fate of helplessness. Soldiers, enough! to-morrow at the dawn we
spring on Cæsar's throat, both by land and sea. Swear that ye will
cling to me, even to the last issue!"
"We swear!" they cried. "Noble Antony, we swear!"
"It is well! Once more my star grows bright; to-morrow, set in the
highest heaven, it yet may shine the lamp of Cæsar down! Till then,
He turned to go. As he went they caught his hand and kissed it; and so
deeply were they moved that many wept like children; nor could Antony
master his grief, for, in the moonlight, I saw tears roll down his
furrowed cheeks and fall upon that mighty breast.
And, seeing all this, I was much troubled. For I well knew that if
these men held firm to Antony all might yet go well for Cleopatra; and
though I bore no ill-will against Antony, yet he must fall, and in
that fall drag down the woman who, like some poisonous plant, had
twined herself about his giant strength till it choked and mouldered
in her embrace.
Therefore, when Antony went I went not, but stood back in the shadow
watching the faces of the lords and captains as they spoke together.
"Then it is agreed!" said he who should lead the fleet. "And this we
swear to, one and all, that we will cling to noble Antony to the last
extremity of fortune!"
"Ay! ay!" they answered.
"Ay! ay!" I said, speaking from the shadow; "cling, and /die!/"
They turned fiercely and seized me.
"Who is he?" quoth one.
"'Tis that dark-faced dog, Olympus!" cried another. "Olympus, the
"Olympus, the traitor!" growled another; "put an end to him and his
magic!" and he drew his sword.
"Ay! slay him; he would betray the Lord Antony, whom he is paid to
"Hold a while!" I said in a slow and solemn voice, "and beware how ye
try to murder the servant of the Gods. I am no traitor. For myself, I
abide the event here in Alexandria, but to you I say, Flee, flee to
Cæsar! I serve Antony and the Queen--I serve them truly; but above all
I serve the Holy Gods; and what they make known to me, that, Lords, I
do know. And I know this: that Antony is doomed, and Cleopatra is
doomed, for Cæsar conquers. Therefore, because I honour you, noble
gentlemen, and think with pity on your wives, left widowed, and your
little fatherless children, that shall, if ye hold to Antony, be sold
as slaves--therefore, I say, cling to Antony if ye will and die; or
flee to Cæsar and be saved! And this I say because it is so ordained
of the Gods."
"The Gods!" they growled; "what Gods? Slit the traitor's throat, and
stop his ill-omened talk!"
"Let him show us a sign from his Gods or let him die: I do mistrust
this man," said another.
"Stand back, ye fools!" I cried. "Stand back--free mine arms--and I
will show you a sign;" and there was that in my face which frightened
them, for they freed me and stood back. Then I lifted up my hands and
putting out all my strength of soul searched the depths of space till
my Spirit communed with the Spirit of my Mother Isis. Only the Word of
Power I uttered not, as I had been bidden. And the holy mystery of the
Goddess answered to my Spirit's cry, falling in awful silence upon the
face of the earth. Deeper and deeper grew the terrible silence; even
the dogs ceased to howl, and in the city men stood still afeared.
Then, from far away, there came the ghostly music of the sistra. Faint
it was at first, but ever as it came it grew more loud, till the air
shivered with the unearthly sound of terror. I said naught, but
pointed with my hand toward the sky. And behold! bosomed upon the air,
floated a vast veiled Shape that, heralded by the swelling music of
the sistra, drew slowly near, till its shadow lay upon us. It came, it
passed, it went toward the camp of Cæsar, till at length the music
died away, and the awful Shape was swallowed in the night.
"It is Bacchus!" cried one. "Bacchus, who leaves lost Antony!" and, as
he spoke, there rose a groan of terror from all the camp.
But I knew that it was not Bacchus, the false God, but the Divine Isis
who deserted Khem, and, passing over the edge of the world, sought her
home in space, to be no more known of men. For though her worship is
still upheld, though still she is here and in all Earths, Isis
manifests herself no more in Egypt. I hid my face and prayed, but when
I lifted it from my robe, lo! all had fled and I was alone.
OF THE SURRENDER OF THE TROOPS AND FLEET OF ANTONY BEFORE
THE CANOPIC GATE; OF THE END OF ANTONY, AND OF THE BREWING OF
THE DRAUGHT OF DEATH
On the morrow, at dawn, Antony came forth and gave command that his
fleet should advance against the fleet of Cæsar, and that his cavalry
should open the land-battle with the cavalry of Cæsar. Accordingly,
the fleet advanced in a triple line, and the fleet of Cæsar came out
to meet it. But when they met, the galleys of Antony lifted their oars
in greeting, and passed over to the galleys of Cæsar; and they sailed
away together. And the cavalry of Antony rode forth beyond the
Hippodrome to charge the cavalry of Cæsar; but when they met, they
lowered their swords and passed over to the camp of Cæsar, deserting
Antony. Then Antony grew mad with rage and terrible to see. He shouted
to his legions to stand firm and wait attack; and for a little while
they stood. One man, however--that same officer who would have slain
me on the yesternight--strove to fly; but Antony seized him with his
own hand, threw him to the earth, and, springing from his horse, drew
his sword to slay him. He held his sword on high, while the man,
covering his face, awaited death. But Antony dropped his sword and
bade him rise.
"Go!" he said. "Go to Cæsar, and prosper! I did love thee once. Why,
then, among so many traitors, should I single thee out for death?"
The man rose and looked upon him sorrowfully. Then, shame overwhelming
him, with a great cry he tore open his shirt of mail, plunged his
sword into his own heart and fell down dead. Antony stood and gazed at
him, but he said never a word. Meanwhile the ranks of Cæsar's legions
drew near, and so soon as they crossed spears the legions of Antony
turned and fled. Then the soldiers of Cæsar stood still mocking them;
but scarce a man was slain, for they pursued not.
"Fly, Lord Antony! fly!" cried Eros, his servant, who alone with me
stayed by him. "Fly ere thou art dragged a prisoner to Cæsar!"
So he turned and fled, groaning heavily. I went with him, and as we
rode through the Canopic gate, where many folk stood wondering, Antony
spoke to me:
"Go, thou, Olympus; go to the Queen and say: 'Antony sends greeting to
Cleopatra, who hath betrayed him! To Cleopatra he sends greeting and
And so I went to the tomb, but Antony fled to the palace. When I came
to the tomb I knocked upon the door, and Charmion looked forth from
"Open," I cried, and she opened.
"What news, Harmachis?" she whispered.
"Charmion," I said, "the end is at hand. Antony is fled!"
"It is well," she answered; "I am aweary."
And there on her golden bed sat Cleopatra.
"Speak, man!" she cried.
"Antony has fled, his forces are fled, Cæsar draws near. To Cleopatra
the great Antony sends greeting and farewell. Greeting to Cleopatra
who betrayed him, and farewell."
"It is a lie!" she screamed; "I betrayed him not! Thou, Olympus, go
swiftly to Antony and answer thus: 'To Antony, Cleopatra, who hath not
betrayed him, sends greeting and farewell. Cleopatra is no more.'"
And so I went, following out my purpose. In the Alabaster Hall I found
Antony pacing to and fro, tossing his hands toward heaven, and with
him Eros, for of all his servants Eros alone remained by this fallen
"Lord Antony," I said, "Egypt bids thee farewell. Egypt is dead by her
"Dead! dead!" he whispered, "and is Egypt dead? and is that form of
glory now food for worms? Oh, what a woman was this! E'en now my heart
goes out towards her. And shall she outdo me at the last, I who have
been so great; shall I become so small that a woman can overtop my
courage and pass where I fear to follow? Eros, thou hast loved me from
a boy--mindest thou how I found thee starving in the desert, and made
thee rich, giving thee place and wealth? Come, now pay me back. Draw
that sword thou wearest and make an end of the woes of Antony."
"Oh, Sire," cried the Greek, "I cannot! How can I take away the life
of godlike Antony?"
"Answer me not, Eros; but in the last extreme of fate this I charge
thee. Do thou my bidding, or begone and leave me quite alone! No more
will I see thy face, thou unfaithful servant!"
Then Eros drew his sword and Antony knelt before him and bared his
breast, turning his eyes to heaven. But Eros, crying "I cannot! oh, I
cannot!" plunged the sword to his own heart, and fell dead.
Antony rose and gazed upon him. "Why, Eros, that was nobly done," he
said. "Thou art greater than I, yet I have learned thy lesson!" and he
knelt down and kissed him.
Then, rising of a sudden, he drew the sword from the heart of Eros,
plunged it into his bowels, and fell, groaning, on the couch.
"O thou, Olympus," he cried, "this pain is more than I can bear! Make
an end of me, Olympus!"
But pity stirred me, and I could not do this thing.
Therefore I drew the sword from his vitals, staunched the flow of
blood, and, calling to those who came crowding in to see Antony die, I
bade them summon Atoua from my house at the palace gates. Presently
she came, bringing with her simples and life-giving draughts. These I
gave to Antony, and bade Atoua go with such speed as her old limbs
might to Cleopatra, in the tomb, and tell her of the state of Antony.
So she went, and after a while returned, saying that the Queen yet
lived and summoned Antony to die in her arms. And with her came
Diomedes. When Antony heard, his ebbing strength came back, for he was
fain to look upon Cleopatra's face again. So I called to the slaves--
who peeped and peered through curtains and from behind pillars to see
this great man die--and together, with much toil, we bore him thence
till we came to the foot of the Mausoleum.
But Cleopatra, being afraid of treachery, would no more throw wide the
door; so she let down a rope from the window and we made it fast
beneath the arms of Antony. Then did Cleopatra, who the while wept
most bitterly, together with Charmion and Iras the Greek, pull on the
rope with all their strength, while we lifted from below till the
dying Antony swung in the air, groaning heavily, and the blood dropped
from his gaping wound. Twice he nearly fell to earth: but Cleopatra,
striving with the strength of love and of despair, held him till at
length she drew him through the windowplace, while all who saw the
dreadful sight wept bitterly, and beat their breasts--all save myself
When he was in, once more the rope was let down, and, with some aid
from Charmion, I climbed into the tomb, drawing up the rope after me.
There I found Antony, laid upon the golden bed of Cleopatra; and she,
her breast bare, her face stained with tears, and her hair streaming
wildly about him, knelt at his side and kissed him, wiping the blood
from his wounds with her robes and hair. And let all my shame be
written: as I stood and watched her the old love awoke once more
within me, and mad jealousy raged in my heart because--though I could
destroy these twain--I could not destroy their love.
"O Antony! my Sweet, my Husband, and my God!" she moaned. "Cruel
Antony, hast thou the heart to die and leave me to my lonely shame? I
will follow thee swiftly to the grave. Antony, awake! awake!"
He lifted up his head and called for wine, which I gave him, mixing
therein a draught that might allay his pain, for it was great. And
when he had drunk he bade Cleopatra lie down on the bed beside him,
and put her arms about him; and this she did. Then was Antony once
more a man; for, forgetting his own misery and pain, he counselled her
as to her own safety: but to this talk she would not listen.
"The hour is short," she said; "let us speak of this great love of
ours that hath been so long and may yet endure beyond the coasts of
Death. Mindest thou that night when first thou didst put thine arms
about me and call me 'Love'? Oh! happy, happy night! Having known that
night it is well to have lived--even to this bitter end!"
"Ay, Egypt, I mind it well and dwell upon its memory, though from that
hour fortune has fled from me--lost in my depth of love for thee, thou
Beautiful. I mind it!" he gasped; "then didst thou drink the pearl in
wanton play, and then did that astrologer of thine call out his hour--
'The hour of the coming of the curse of Menkau-ra.' Through all the
after-days those words have haunted me, and now at the last they ring
in my ears."
"He is long dead, my love," she whispered.
"If he be dead, then I am near him. What meant he?"
"He is dead, the accursed man!--no more of him! Oh! turn and kiss me,
for thy face grows white. The end is near!"
He kissed her on the lips, and for a little while so they stayed, to
the moment of death, babbling their passion in each other's ears, like
lovers newly wed. Even to my jealous heart, it was a strange and awful
thing to see.
Presently, I saw the Change of Death gather on his face. His head fell
"Farewell, Egypt; farewell!--I die!"
Cleopatra lifted herself upon her hands, gazed wildly on his ashen
face, and then, with a great cry, she sank back swooning.
But Antony yet lived, though the power of speech had left him. Then I
drew near and, kneeling, made pretence to minister to him. And as I
ministered I whispered in his ear:
"Antony," I whispered, "Cleopatra was my love before she passed from
me to thee. I am Harmachis, that astrologer who stood behind thy couch
at Tarsus; and I have been the chief minister of thy ruin.
"/Die, Antony!--the curse of Menkau-ra hath fallen!/"
He raised himself, and stared upon my face. He could not speak, but,
gibbering, he pointed at me. Then with a groan his spirit fled.
Thus did I accomplish my revenge upon Roman Antony, the World-loser.
Thereafter, we recovered Cleopatra from her swoon, for not yet was I
minded that she should die. And taking the body of Antony, Cæsar
permitting, I and Atoua caused it to be most skilfully embalmed after
our Egyptian fashion, covering the face with a mask of gold fashioned
like to the features of Antony. Also I wrote upon his breast his name
and titles, and painted his name and the name of his father within his
inner coffin, and drew the form of the Holy Nout folding her wings
Then with great pomp Cleopatra laid him in that sepulchre which had
been made ready, and in a sarcophagus of alabaster. Now, this
sarcophagus was fashioned so large that place was left in it for a
second coffin, for Cleopatra would lie by Antony at the last.
These things then happened. And but a little while after I learned
tidings from one Cornelius Dolabella, a noble Roman who waited upon
Cæsar, and, moved by the beauty that swayed the souls of all who
looked upon her, had pity for the woes of Cleopatra. He bade me warn
her--for, as her physician, it was allowed me to pass in and out of
the tomb where she dwelt--that in three days she would be sent away to
Rome, together with her children, save Cæsarion, whom Octavian had
already slain, that she might walk in the triumph of Cæsar.
Accordingly I went in, and found her sitting, as now she always sat,
plunged in a half stupor, and before her that blood-stained robe with
which she had staunched the wounds of Antony. For on this she would
continually feast her eyes.
"See how faint they grow, Olympus," she said, lifting her sad face and
pointing to the rusty stains, "and he so lately dead! Why, Gratitude
could not fade more fast. What is now thy news? Evil tidings is writ
large in those dark eyes of thine, which ever bring back to me
something that still slips my mind."
"The news is ill, O Queen," I answered. "I have this from the lips of
Dolabella, who has it straight from Cæsar's secretary. On the third
day from now Cæsar will send thee and the Princes Ptolemy and
Alexander and the Princess Cleopatra to Rome, there to feast the eyes
of the Roman mob, and be led in triumph to that Capitol where thou
didst swear to set thy throne!"
"Never, never!" she cried, springing to her feet. "Never will I walk
in chains in Cæsar's triumph! What must I do? Charmion, tell me what I
And Charmion, rising, stood before her, looking at her through the
long lashes of her downcast eyes.
"Lady, thou canst die," she said quietly.
"Ay, of a truth I had forgotten; I can die. Olympus, hast thou the
"Nay; but if the Queen wills it, by to-morrow morn it shall be brewed
--a drug so swift and strong that not the Gods themselves can hold him
who drinks it back from sleep."
"Let it be made ready, thou Master of Death!"
I bowed, and withdrew myself; and all that night I and old Atoua
laboured at the distilling of the deadly draught. At length it was
done, and Atoua poured it into a crystal phial, and held it to the
light of the fire; for it was white as the purest water.
"/La! la!/" she sang, in her shrill voice; "a drink for a Queen! When
fifty drops of that water of my brewing have passed those red lips of
hers, thou wilt indeed be avenged of Cleopatra, O Harmachis! Ah, that
I could be there to see thy Ruin ruined! /La! la!/ it would be sweet
"Vengeance is an arrow that oft-times falls upon the archer's head," I
answered, bethinking me of Charmion's saying.
OF THE LAST SUPPER OF CLEOPATRA; OF THE SONG OF CHARMION;
OF THE DRINKING OF THE DRAUGHT OF DEATH; OF THE REVEALING OF HARMACHIS;
OF THE SUMMONING OF THE SPIRITS BY HARMACHIS;
AND OF THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA
On the morrow Cleopatra, having sought leave of Cæsar, visited the
tomb of Antony, crying that the Gods of Egypt had deserted her. And
when she had kissed the coffin and covered it with lotus-flowers she
came back, bathed, anointed herself, put on her most splendid robes,
and, together with Iras, Charmion, and myself, she supped. Now as she
supped her spirit flared up wildly, even as the sky lights up at
sunset; and once more she laughed and sparkled as in bygone years,
telling us tales of feasts which she and Antony had eaten of. Never,
indeed, did I see her look more beauteous than on that last fatal
night of vengeance. And thus her mind drew on to that supper at Tarsus
when she drank the pearl.
"Strange," she said; "strange that at the last the mind of Antony
should have turned back to that night among all the nights and to the
saying of Harmachis. Charmion, dost thou remember Harmachis the
"Surely, O Queen," she answered slowly.
"And who, then, was Harmachis?" I asked; for I would learn if she
sorrowed o'er my memory.
"I will tell thee. It is a strange tale, and now that all is done it
may well be told. This Harmachis was of the ancient race of the
Pharaohs, and, having, indeed, been crowned in secret at Abydus, was
sent hither to Alexandria to carry out a great plot that had been
formed against the rule of us royal Lagidæ. He came and gained entry
to the palace as my astrologer, for he was very learned in all magic--
much as thou art, Olympus--and a man beautiful to see. Now this was
his plot--that he should slay me and be named Pharaoh. In truth it was
a strong one, for he had many friends in Egypt, and I had few. And on
that very night when he should carry out his purpose, yea, at the very
hour, came Charmion yonder, and told the plot to me; saying that she
had chanced upon its clue. But, in after days--though I have said
little thereon to thee, Charmion--I misdoubted me much of that tale of
thine; for, by the Gods! to this hour I believe that thou didst love
Harmachis, and because he scorned thee thou didst betray him; and for
that cause also hast all thy days remained a maid, which is a thing
unnatural. Come, Charmion, tell us; for naught matters now at the
Charmion shivered and made answer: "It is true, O Queen; I also was of
the plot, and because Harmachis scorned me I betrayed him; and because
of my great love for him I have remained unwed." And she glanced up at
me and caught my eyes, then let the modest lashes veil her own.
"So! I thought it. Strange are the ways of women! But little cause,
methinks, had that Harmachis to thank thee for thy love. What sayest
thou, Olympus? Ah, and so thou also wast a traitor, Charmion? How
dangerous are the paths which Monarchs tread! Well, I forgive thee,
for thou hast served me faithfully since that hour.
"But to my tale. Harmachis I dared not slay, lest his great party
should rise in fury and cast me from the throne. And now mark the
issue. Though he must murder me, in secret this Harmachis loved me,
and something thereof I guessed. I had striven a little to draw him to
me, for the sake of his beauty and his wit; and for the love of man
Cleopatra never strove in vain. Therefore when, with the dagger in his
robe, he came to slay me, I matched my charms against his will, and
need I tell you, being man and woman, how I won? Oh, never can I
forget the look in the eyes of that fallen prince, that forsworn
priest, that discrowned Pharaoh, when, lost in the poppied draught, I
saw him sink into a shameful sleep whence he might no more wake with
honour! And, thereafter--till, in the end, I wearied of him, and his
sad learned mind, for his guilty soul forbade him to be gay--a little
I came to care for him, though not to love. But he--he who loved me--
clung to me as a drunkard to the cup which ruins him. Deeming that I
should wed him, he betrayed to me the secret of the hidden wealth of
the pyramid of /Her/--for at the time I much needed treasure--and
together we dared the terrors of the tomb and drew it forth, even from
dead Pharaoh's breast. See, this emerald was a part thereof!"--and she
pointed to the great scarabæus that she had drawn from the holy heart
"And because of what was written in the tomb, and of that Thing which
we saw in the tomb--ah, pest upon it! why does its memory haunt me
now?--and also because of policy, for I would fain have won the love
of the Egyptians, I was minded to marry this Harmachis and declare his
place and lineage to the world--ay, and by his aid hold Egypt from the
Roman. For Dellius had then come to call me to Antony, and after much
thought I determined to send him back with sharp words. But on that
very morning, as I tired me for the Court, came Charmion yonder, and I
told her this, for I would see how the matter fell upon her mind. Now
mark, Olympus, the power of jealousy, that little wedge which yet has
strength to rend the tree of Empire, that secret sword which can carve
the fate of Kings! This she could in no wise bear--deny it, Charmion,
if thou canst, for now it is clear to me!--that the man she loved
should be given to me as husband--me, whom /he/ loved! And therefore,
with more skill and wit than I can tell, she reasoned with me, showing
that I should by no means do this thing, but journey to Antony; and
for that, Charmion, I thank thee, now that all is come and gone. And
by a very little, her words weighed down my scale of judgment against
Harmachis, and I went to Antony. Thus it is through the jealous spleen
of yonder fair Charmion and the passion of a man on which I played as
on a lyre, that all these things have come to pass. For this cause
Octavian sits a King in Alexandria; for this cause Antony is
discrowned and dead; and for this cause I, too, must die to-night! Ah!
Charmion! Charmion! thou hast much to answer, for thou hast changed
the story of the world; and yet, even now--I would not have it
She paused awhile, covering her eyes with her hand; and, looking, I
saw great tears upon the cheek of Charmion.
"And of this Harmachis," I asked; "where is he now, O Queen?"
"Where is he? In Amenti, forsooth--making his peace with Isis,
perchance. At Tarsus I saw Antony, and loved him; and from that moment
I loathed the sight of the Egyptian, and swore to make an end of him;
for a lover done with should be a lover dead. And, being jealous, he
spoke some words of evil omen, even at that Feast of the Pearl; and on
the same night I would have slain him, but before the deed was done,
he was gone."
"And whither was he gone?"
"Nay; that know not I. Brennus--he who led my guard, and last year
sailed North to join his own people--Brennus swore he saw him float to
the skies; but in this matter I misdoubted me of Brennus, for methinks
he loved the man. Nay, he sank off Cyprus, and was drowned; perchance
Charmion can tell us how?"
"I can tell thee nothing, O Queen; Harmachis is lost."
"And well lost, Charmion, for he was an evil man to play with--ay,
although I bettered him I say it! Well he served my purpose; but I
loved him not, and even now I fear him; for it seemed to me that I
heard his voice summoning me to fly, through the din of the fight at
Actium. Thanks be to the Gods, as thou sayest, he is lost, and can no
more be found."
But I, listening, put forth my strength, and, by the arts I have, cast
the shadow of my Spirit upon the Spirit of Cleopatra so that she felt
the presence of the lost Harmachis.
"Nay, what is it?" she said. "By Serapis! I grow afraid! It seems to
me that I feel Harmachis here! His memory overwhelms me like a flood
of waters, and he these ten years dead! Oh! at such a time it is
"Nay, O Queen," I answered, "if he be dead then he is everywhere, and
well at such a time--the time of thy own death--may his Spirit draw
near to welcome thine at its going."
"Speak not thus, Olympus. I would see Harmachis no more; the count
between us is too heavy, and in another world than this more evenly,
perchance should we be matched. Ah, the terror passes! I was but
unnerved. Well the fool's story hath served to wile away the heaviest
of our hours, the hour which ends in death. Sing to me, Charmion,
sing, for thy voice is very sweet, and I would soothe my soul to
sleep. The memory of that Harmachis has wrung me strangely! Sing,
then, the last song I shall hear from those tuneful lips of thine, the
last of so many songs."
"It is a sad hour for song, O Queen!" said Charmion; but,
nevertheless, she took her harp and sang. And thus she sang, very soft
and low, the dirge of the sweet-tongued Syrian Meleager:
Tears for my lady dead,
Salt tears and strange to shed,
Over and o'er;
Go tears and low lament
Fare from her tomb,
Wend where my lady went,
Down through the gloom--
Sighs for my lady dead,
Tears do I send,
Long love remembered,
Mistress and friend!
Sad are the songs we sing,
Tears that we shed,
Empty the gifts we bring--
Gifts to the dead!
Ah, for my flower, my Love,
Hades hath taken,
Ah, for the dust above,
Scattered and shaken!
Mother of blade and grass,
Earth, in thy breast
Lull her that gentlest was,
Gently to rest!
The music of her voice died away, and it was so sweet and sad that
Iras began to weep and the bright tears stood in Cleopatra's stormy
eyes. Only I wept not; my tears were dry.
"'Tis a heavy song of thine, Charmion," said the Queen. "Well, as thou
saidst, it is a sad hour for song, and thy dirge is fitted to the
hour. Sing it over me once again when I lie dead, Charmion. And now
farewell to music, and on to the end. Olympus, take yonder parchment
and write what I shall say."
I took the parchment and the reed, and wrote thus in the Roman tongue:
"Cleopatra to Octavianus, greeting.
"This is the state of life. At length there comes an hour when,
rather than endure those burdens that overwhelm us, putting off
the body we would take wing into forgetfulness. Cæsar, thou hast
conquered: take thou the spoils of victory. But in thy triumph
Cleopatra cannot walk. When all is lost, then we must go to seek
the lost. Thus in the desert of Despair the brave do harvest
Resolution. Cleopatra hath been great as Antony was great, nor
shall her fame be minished in the manner of her end. Slaves live
to endure their wrong; but Princes, treading with a firmer step,
pass through the gates of Wrong into the royal Dwellings of the
Dead. This only doth Egypt ask of Cæsar--that he suffer her to lie
in the tomb of Antony. Farewell!"
This I wrote, and having sealed the writing, Cleopatra bade me go find
a messenger, despatch it to Cæsar, and then return. So I went, and at
the door of the tomb I called a soldier who was not on duty, and,
giving him money, bade him take the letter to Cæsar. Then I went back,
and there in the chamber the three women stood in silence, Cleopatra
clinging to the arm of Iras, and Charmion a little apart watching the
"If indeed thou art minded to make an end, O Queen," I said, "the time
is short, for presently Cæsar will send his servants in answer to thy
letter," and I drew forth the phial of white and deadly bane and set
it upon the board.
She took it in her hand and gazed thereon. "How innocent it seems!"
she said; "and yet therein lies my death. 'Tis strange."
"Ay, Queen, and the death of ten other folk. No need to take so long a
"I fear," she gasped--"how know I that it will slay outright? I have
seen so many die by poison and scarce one has died outright. And some
--ah, I cannot think on them!"
"Fear not," I said, "I am a master of my craft. Or, if thou dost fear,
cast this poison forth and live. In Rome thou mayst still find
happiness; ay, in Rome, where thou shalt walk in Cæsar's triumph,
while the laughter of the hard-eyed Latin women shall chime down the
music of thy golden chains."
"Nay, I will die, Olympus. Oh, if one would but show the path."
Then Iras loosed her hand and stepped forward. "Give me the draught,
Physician," she said. "I go to make ready for my Queen."
"It is well," I answered; "on thy own head be it!" and I poured from
the phial into a little golden goblet.
She raised it, curtsied low to Cleopatra, then, coming forward, kissed
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