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Title: Sisters, the — Complete
Author: Ebers, Georg, 1837-1898
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE SISTERS, Complete

By Georg Ebers

Translated from the German by Clara Bell



DEDICATION TO HERR EDUARD von HALLBERGER

Allow me, my dear friend, to dedicate these pages to you. I present them
to you at the close of a period of twenty years during which a warm and
fast friendship has subsisted between us, unbroken by any disagreement.
Four of my works have first seen the light under your care and have
wandered all over the world under the protection of your name. This, my
fifth book, I desire to make especially your own; it was partly written
in your beautiful home at Tutzing, under your hospitable roof, and I
desire to prove to you by some visible token that I know how to value
your affection and friendship and the many happy hours we have passed
together, refreshing and encouraging each other by a full and perfect
interchange of thought and sentiment.



PREFACE.

By a marvellous combination of circumstances a number of fragments of the
Royal Archives of Memphis have been preserved from destruction with the
rest, containing petitions written on papyrus in the Greek language;
these were composed by a recluse of Macedonian birth, living in the
Serapeum, in behalf of two sisters, twins, who served the god as "Pourers
out of the libations."

At a first glance these petitions seem scarcely worthy of serious
consideration; but a closer study of their contents shows us that we
possess in them documents of the greatest value in the history of
manners. They prove that the great Monastic Idea--which under the
influence of Christianity grew to be of such vast moral and historical
significance--first struck root in one of the centres of heathen
religious practices; besides affording us a quite unexpected insight into
the internal life of the temple of Serapis, whose ruined walls have, in
our own day, been recovered from the sand of the desert by the
indefatigable industry of the French Egyptologist Monsieur Mariette.

I have been so fortunate as to visit this spot and to search through
every part of it, and the petitions I speak of have been familiar to me
for years. When, however, quite recently, one of my pupils undertook to
study more particularly one of these documents--preserved in the Royal
Library at Dresden--I myself reinvestigated it also, and this study
impressed on my fancy a vivid picture of the Serapeum under Ptolemy
Philometor; the outlines became clear and firm, and acquired color, and
it is this picture which I have endeavored to set before the reader, so
far as words admit, in the following pages.

I did not indeed select for my hero the recluse, nor for my heroines the
twins who are spoken of in the petitions, but others who might have lived
at a somewhat earlier date under similar conditions; for it is proved by
the papyrus that it was not once only and by accident that twins were
engaged in serving in the temple of Serapis, but that, on the contrary,
pair after pair of sisters succeeded each other in the office of pouring
out libations.

I have not invested Klea and Irene with this function, but have simply
placed them as wards of the Serapeum and growing up within its precincts.
I selected this alternative partly because the existing sources of
knowledge give us very insufficient information as to the duties that
might have been required of the twins, partly for other reasons arising
out of the plan of my narrative.

Klea and Irene are purely imaginary personages, but on the other hand I
have endeavored, by working from tolerably ample sources, to give a
faithful picture of the historical physiognomy of the period in which
they live and move, and portraits of the two hostile brothers Ptolemy
Philometor and Euergetes II., the latter of whom bore the nickname of
Physkon: the Stout. The Eunuch Eulaeus and the Roman Publius Cornelius
Scipio Nasica, are also historical personages.

I chose the latter from among the many young patricians living at the
time, partly on account of the strong aristocratic feeling which he
displayed, particularly in his later life, and partly because his
nickname of Serapion struck me. This name I account for in my own way,
although I am aware that he owed it to his resemblance to a person of
inferior rank.

For the further enlightenment of the reader who is not familiar with this
period of Egyptian history I may suggest that Cleopatra, the wife of
Ptolemy Philometor--whom I propose to introduce to the reader--must not
be confounded with her famous namesake, the beloved of Julius Caesar and
Mark Antony. The name Cleopatra was a very favorite one among the
Lagides, and of the queens who bore it she who has become famous through
Shakespeare (and more lately through Makart) was the seventh, the sister
and wife of Ptolemy XIV. Her tragical death from the bite of a viper or
asp did not occur until 134 years later than the date of my narrative,
which I have placed 164 years B.C.

At that time Egypt had already been for 169 years subject to the rule of
a Greek (Macedonian) dynasty, which owed its name as that of the
Ptolemies or Lagides to its founder Ptolemy Soter, the son of Lagus. This
energetic man, a general under Alexander the Great, when his
sovereign--333 B.C.--had conquered the whole Nile Valley, was appointed
governor of the new Satrapy; after Alexander's death in 323 B.C., Ptolemy
mounted the throne of the Pharaohs, and he and his descendants ruled over
Egypt until after the death of the last and most famous of the
Cleopatras, when it was annexed as a province to the Roman Empire.

This is not the place for giving a history of the successive Ptolemies,
but I may remark that the assimilating faculty exercised by the Greeks
over other nations was potent in Egypt; particularly as the result of the
powerful influence of Alexandria, the capital founded by Alexander, which
developed with wonderful rapidity to be one of the most splendid centres
of Hellenic culture and of Hellenic art and science.

Long before the united rule of the hostile brothers Ptolemy Philometor
and Euergetes--whose violent end will be narrated to the reader of this
story--Greek influence was marked in every event and detail of Egyptian
life, which had remained almost unaffected by the characteristics of
former conquerors--the Hyksos, the Assyrians and the Persians; and, under
the Ptolemies, the most inhospitable and exclusive nation of early
antiquity threw open her gates to foreigners of every race.

Alexandria was a metropolis even in the modern sense; not merely an
emporium of commerce, but a focus where the intellectual and religious
treasures of various countries were concentrated and worked up, and
transmitted to all the nations that desired them. I have resisted the
temptation to lay the scene of my story there, because in Alexandria the
Egyptian element was too much overlaid by the Greek, and the too splendid
and important scenery and decorations might easily have distracted the
reader's attention from the dramatic interest of the persons acting.

At that period of the Hellenic dominion which I have described, the kings
of Egypt were free to command in all that concerned the internal affairs
of their kingdom, but the rapidly-growing power of the Roman Empire
enabled her to check the extension of their dominion, just as she chose.

Philometor himself had heartily promoted the immigration of Israelites
from Palestine, and under him the important Jewish community in
Alexandria acquired an influence almost greater than the Greek; and this
not only in the city but in the kingdom and over their royal protector,
who allowed them to build a temple to Jehovah on the shores of the Nile,
and in his own person assisted at the dogmatic discussions of the
Israelites educated in the Greek schools of the city. Euergetes II., a
highly gifted but vicious and violent man, was, on the contrary, just as
inimical to them; he persecuted them cruelly as soon as his brother's
death left him sole ruler over Egypt. His hand fell heavily even on the
members of the Great Academy--the Museum, as it was called--of
Alexandria, though he himself had been devoted to the grave labors of
science, and he compelled them to seek a new home. The exiled sons of
learning settled in various cities on the shores of the Mediterranean,
and thus contributed not a little to the diffusion of the intellectual
results of the labors in the Museum.

Aristarchus, the greatest of Philometor's learned contemporaries, has
reported for us a conversation in the king's palace at Memphis. The
verses about "the puny child of man," recited by Cleopatra in chapter X.,
are not genuinely antique; but Friedrich Ritschl--the Aristarchus of our
own days, now dead--thought very highly of them and gave them to me, some
years ago, with several variations which had been added by an anonymous
hand, then still in the land of the living. I have added to the first
verse two of these, which, as I learned at the eleventh hour, were
composed by Herr H. L. von Held, who is now dead, and of whom further
particulars may be learned from Varnhagen's 'Biographisclaen Denkmalen'.
Vol. VII. I think the reader will thank me for directing his attention to
these charming lines and to the genius displayed in the moral application
of the main idea. Verses such as these might very well have been written
by Callimachus or some other poet of the circle of the early members of
the Museum of Alexandria.

I was also obliged in this narrative to concentrate, in one limited
canvas as it were, all the features which were at once the conditions and
the characteristics of a great epoch of civilization, and to give them
form and movement by setting the history of some of the men then living
before the reader, with its complications and its denouement. All the
personages of my story grew up in my imagination from a study of the
times in which they lived, but when once I saw them clearly in outline
they soon stood before my mind in a more distinct form, like people in a
dream; I felt the poet's pleasure in creation, and as I painted them
their blood grew warm, their pulses began to beat and their spirit to
take wings and stir, each in its appropriate nature. I gave history her
due, but the historic figures retired into the background beside the
human beings as such; the representatives of an epoch became vehicles for
a Human Ideal, holding good for all time; and thus it is that I venture
to offer this transcript of a period as really a dramatic romance.

Leipzig November 13, 1879.
GEORG EBERS.



THE SISTERS.



CHAPTER I.

On the wide, desert plain of the Necropolis of Memphis stands the
extensive and stately pile of masonry which constitutes the Greek temple
of Serapis; by its side are the smaller sanctuaries of Asclepios, of
Anubis and of Astarte, and a row of long, low houses, built of unburnt
bricks, stretches away behind them as a troop of beggar children might
follow in the train of some splendidly attired king.

The more dazzlingly brilliant the smooth, yellow sandstone walls of the
temple appear in the light of the morning sun, the more squalid and mean
do the dingy houses look as they crouch in the outskirts. When the winds
blow round them and the hot sunbeams fall upon them, the dust rises from
them in clouds as from a dry path swept by the gale. Even the rooms
inside are never plastered, and as the bricks are of dried Nile-mud mixed
with chopped straw, of which the sharp little ends stick out from the
wall in every direction, the surface is as disagreeable to touch as it is
unpleasing to look at. When they were first built on the ground between
the temple itself and the wall which encloses the precincts, and which,
on the eastern side, divides the acacia-grove of Serapis in half, they
were concealed from the votaries visiting the temple by the back wall of
a colonnade on the eastern side of the great forecourt; but a portion of
this colonnade has now fallen down, and through the breach, part of these
modest structures are plainly visible with their doors and windows
opening towards the sanctuary--or, to speak more accurately, certain
rudely constructed openings for looking out of or for entering by. Where
there is a door there is no window, and where a gap in the wall serves
for a window, a door is dispensed with; none of the chambers, however, of
this long row of low one-storied buildings communicate with each other.

A narrow and well-trodden path leads through the breach in the wall; the
pebbles are thickly strewn with brown dust, and the footway leads past
quantities of blocks of stone and portions of columns destined for the
construction of a new building which seems only to have been intermitted
the night before, for mallets and levers lie on and near the various
materials. This path leads directly to the little brick houses, and ends
at a small closed wooden door so roughly joined and so ill-hung that
between it and the threshold, which is only raised a few inches above the
ground, a fine gray cat contrives to squeeze herself through by putting
down her head and rubbing through the dust. As soon as she finds herself
once more erect on her four legs she proceeds to clean and smooth her
ruffled fur, putting up her back, and glancing with gleaming eyes at the
house she has just left, behind which at this moment the sun is rising;
blinded by its bright rays she turns away and goes on with cautious and
silent tread into the court of the temple.

The hovel out of which pussy has crept is small and barely furnished; it
would be perfectly dark too, but that the holes in the roof and the rift
in the door admit light into this most squalid room. There is nothing
standing against its rough gray walls but a wooden chest, near this a few
earthen bowls stand on the ground with a wooden cup and a gracefully
wrought jug of pure and shining gold, which looks strangely out of place
among such humble accessories. Quite in the background lie two mats of
woven bast, each covered with a sheepskin. These are the beds of the two
girls who inhabit the room, one of whom is now sitting on a low stool
made of palm-branches, and she yawns as she begins to arrange her long
and shining brown hair. She is not particularly skilful and even less
patient over this not very easy task, and presently, when a fresh tangle
checks the horn comb with which she is dressing it, she tosses the comb
on to the couch. She has not pulled it through her hair with any haste
nor with much force, but she shuts her eyes so tightly and sets her white
teeth so firmly in her red dewy lip that it might be supposed that she
had hurt herself very much.

A shuffling step is now audible outside the door; she opens wide her
tawny-hazel eyes, that have a look of gazing on the world in surprise, a
smile parts her lips and her whole aspect is as completely changed as
that of a butterfly which escapes from the shade into the sunshine where
the bright beams are reflected in the metallic lustre of its wings.

A hasty hand knocks at the ill-hung door, so roughly that it trembles on
its hinges, and the instant after a wooden trencher is shoved in through
the wide chink by which the cat made her escape; on it are a thin round
cake of bread and a shallow earthen saucer containing a little olive-oil;
there is no more than might perhaps be contained in half an ordinary
egg-shell, but it looks fresh and sweet, and shines in clear, golden
purity. The girl goes to the door, pulls in the platter, and, as she
measures the allowance with a glance, exclaims half in lament and half in
reproach:

"So little! and is that for both of us?"

As she speaks her expressive features have changed again and her flashing
eyes are directed towards the door with a glance of as much dismay as
though the sun and stars had been suddenly extinguished; and yet her only
grief is the smallness of the loaf, which certainly is hardly large
enough to stay the hunger of one young creature--and two must share it;
what is a mere nothing in one man's life, to another may be of great
consequence and of terrible significance.

The reproachful complaint is heard by the messenger outside the door, for
the old woman who shoved in the trencher over the threshold answers
quickly but not crossly.

"Nothing more to-day, Irene."

"It is disgraceful," cries the girl, her eyes filling with tears, "every
day the loaf grows smaller, and if we were sparrows we should not have
enough to satisfy us. You know what is due to us and I will never cease
to complain and petition. Serapion shall draw up a fresh address for us,
and when the king knows how shamefully we are treated--"

"Aye! when he knows," interrupted the old woman. "But the cry of the poor
is tossed about by many winds before it reaches the king's ear. I might
find a shorter way than that for you and your sister if fasting comes so
much amiss to you. Girls with faces like hers and yours, my little Irene,
need never come to want."

"And pray what is my face like?" asked the girl, and her pretty features
once more seemed to catch a gleam of sunshine.

"Why, so handsome that you may always venture to show it beside your
sister's; and yesterday, in the procession, the great Roman sitting by
the queen looked as often at her as at Cleopatra herself. If you had been
there too he would not have had a glance for the queen, for you are a
pretty thing, as I can tell you. And there are many girls would sooner
hear those words then have a whole loaf--besides you have a mirror I
suppose, look in that next time you are hungry."

The old woman's shuffling steps retreated again and the girl snatched up
the golden jar, opened the door a little way to let in the daylight and
looked at herself in the bright surface; but the curve of the costly vase
showed her features all distorted, and she gaily breathed on the hideous
travestie that met her eyes, so that it was all blurred out by the
moisture. Then she smilingly put down the jar, and opening the chest took
from it a small metal mirror into which she looked again and yet again,
arranging her shining hair first in one way and then in another; and she
only laid it down when she remembered a certain bunch of violets which
had attracted her attention when she first woke, and which must have been
placed in their saucer of water by her sister some time the day before.
Without pausing to consider she took up the softly scented blossoms,
dried their green stems on her dress, took up the mirror again and stuck
the flowers in her hair.

How bright her eyes were now, and how contentedly she put out her hand
for the loaf. And how fair were the visions that rose before her young
fancy as she broke off one piece after another and hastily eat them after
slightly moistening them with the fresh oil. Once, at the festival of the
New Year, she had had a glimpse into the king's tent, and there she had
seen men and women feasting as they reclined on purple cushions. Now she
dreamed of tables covered with costly vessels, was served in fancy by
boys crowned with flowers, heard the music of flutes and harps and--for
she was no more than a child and had such a vigorous young
appetite--pictured herself as selecting the daintiest and sweetest
morsels out of dishes of solid gold and eating till she was satisfied,
aye so perfectly satisfied that the very last mouthful of bread and the
very last drop of oil had disappeared.

But so soon as her hand found nothing more on the empty trencher the
bright illusion vanished, and she looked with dismay into the empty
oil-cup and at the place where just now the bread had been.

"Ah!" she sighed from the bottom of her heart; then she turned the
platter over as though it might be possible to find some more bread and
oil on the other side of it, but finally shaking her head she sat looking
thoughtfully into her lap; only for a few minutes however, for the door
opened and the slim form of her sister Klea appeared, the sister whose
meagre rations she had dreamily eaten up, and Klea had been sitting up
half the night sewing for her, and then had gone out before sunrise to
fetch water from the Well of the Sun for the morning sacrifice at the
altar of Serapis.

Klea greeted her sister with a loving glance but without speaking; she
seemed too exhausted for words and she wiped the drops from her forehead
with the linen veil that covered the back of her head as she seated
herself on the lid of the chest. Irene immediately glanced at the empty
trencher, considering whether she had best confess her guilt to the
wearied girl and beg for forgiveness, or divert the scolding she had
deserved by some jest, as she had often succeeded in doing before. This
seemed the easier course and she adopted it at once; she went up to her
sister quickly, but not quite unconcernedly, and said with mock gravity:

"Look here, Klea, don't you notice anything in me? I must look like a
crocodile that has eaten a whole hippopotamus, or one of the sacred
snakes after it has swallowed a rabbit. Only think when I had eaten my
own bread I found yours between my teeth--quite unexpectedly--but now--"

Klea, thus addressed, glanced at the empty platter and interrupted her
sister with a low-toned exclamation. "Oh! I was so hungry."

The words expressed no reproof, only utter exhaustion, and as the young
criminal looked at her sister and saw her sitting there, tired and worn
out but submitting to the injury that had been done her without a word of
complaint, her heart, easily touched, was filled with compunction and
regret. She burst into tears and threw herself on the ground before her,
clasping her knees and crying, in a voice broken with sobs:

"Oh Klea! poor, dear Klea, what have I done! but indeed I did not mean
any harm. I don't know how it happened. Whatever I feel prompted to do I
do, I can't help doing it, and it is not till it is done that I begin to
know whether it was right or wrong. You sat up and worried yourself for
me, and this is how I repay you--I am a bad girl! But you shall not go
hungry--no, you shall not."

"Never mind; never mind," said the elder, and she stroked her sister's
brown hair with a loving hand.

But as she did so she came upon the violets fastened among the shining
tresses. Her lips quivered and her weary expression changed as she
touched the flowers and glanced at the empty saucer in which she had
carefully placed them the clay before. Irene at once perceived the change
in her sister's face, and thinking only that she was surprised at her
pretty adornment, she said gaily: "Do you think the flowers becoming to
me?"

Klea's hand was already extended to take the violets out of the brown
plaits, for her sister was still kneeling before her, but at this
question her arm dropped, and she said more positively and distinctly
than she had yet spoken and in a voice, whose sonorous but musical tones
were almost masculine and certainly remarkable in a girl:

"The bunch of flowers belongs to me; but keep it till it is faded, by
mid-day, and then return it to me."

"It belongs to you?" repeated the younger girl, raising her eyes in
surprise to her sister, for to this hour what had been Klea's had been
hers also. "But I always used to take the flowers you brought home; what
is there special in these?"

"They are only violets like any other violets," replied Klea coloring
deeply. "But the queen has worn them."

"The queen!" cried her sister springing to her feet and clasping her
hands in astonishment. "She gave you the flowers? And you never told me
till now? To be sure when you came home from the procession yesterday you
only asked me how my foot was and whether my clothes were whole and then
not another mortal word did you utter. Did Cleopatra herself give you
this bunch?"

"How should she?" retorted Klea. "One of her escort threw them to me; but
drop the subject pray! Give me the water, please, my mouth is parched and
I can hardly speak for thirst."

The bright color dyed her cheeks again as she spoke, but Irene did not
observe it, for--delighted to make up for her evil doings by performing
some little service--she ran to fetch the water-jar; while Klea filled
and emptied her wooden bowl she said, gracefully lifting a small foot, to
show to her sister:

"Look, the cut is almost healed and I can wear my sandal again. Now I
shall tie it on and go and ask Serapion for some bread for you and
perhaps he will give us a few dates. Please loosen the straps for me a
little, here, round the ankle, my skin is so thin and tender that a
little thing hurts me which you would hardly feel. At mid-day I will go
with you and help fill the jars for the altar, and later in the day I can
accompany you in the procession which was postponed from yesterday. If
only the queen and the great foreigner should come again to look on at
it! That would be splendid! Now, I am going, and before you have drunk
the last bowl of water you shall have some bread, for I will coax the old
man so prettily that he can't say 'no.'"

Irene opened the door, and as the broad sunlight fell in it lighted up
tints of gold in her chestnut hair, and her sister looking after her
could almost fancy that the sunbeams had got entangled with the waving
glory round her head. The bunch of violets was the last thing she took
note of as Irene went out into the open air; then she was alone and she
shook her head gently as she said to herself: "I give up everything to
her and what I have left she takes from me. Three times have I met the
Roman, yesterday he gave me the violets, and I did want to keep those for
myself--and now--" As she spoke she clasped the bowl she still held in
her hand closely to her and her lips trembled pitifully, but only for an
instant; she drew herself up and said firmly: "But it is all as it should
be."

Then she was silent; she set down the water-jar on the chest by her side,
passed the back of her hand across her forehead as if her head were
aching, then, as she sat gazing down dreamily into her lap, her weary
head presently fell on her shoulder and she was asleep.



CHAPTER II.

The low brick building of which the sisters' room formed a part, was
called the Pastophorium, and it was occupied also by other persons
attached to the service of the temple, and by numbers of pilgrims. These
assembled here from all parts of Egypt, and were glad to pass a night
under the protection of the sanctuary.

Irene, when she quitted her sister, went past many doors--which had been
thrown open after sunrise--hastily returning the greetings of many
strange as well as familiar faces, for all glanced after her kindly as
though to see her thus early were an omen of happy augury, and she soon
reached an outbuilding adjoining the northern end of the Pastophorium;
here there was no door, but at the level of about a man's height from the
ground there were six unclosed windows opening on the road. From the
first of these the pale and much wrinkled face of an old man looked down
on the girl as she approached. She shouted up to him in cheerful accents
the greeting familiar to the Hellenes "Rejoice!" But he, without moving
his lips, gravely and significantly signed to her with his lean hand and
with a glance from his small, fixed and expressionless eyes that she
should wait, and then handed out to her a wooden trencher on which lay a
few dates and half a cake of bread.

"For the altar of the god?" asked the girl. The old man nodded assent,
and Irene went on with her small load, with the assurance of a person who
knows exactly what is required of her; but after going a few steps and
before she had reached the last of the six windows she paused, for she
plainly heard voices and steps, and presently, at the end of the
Pastophorium towards which she was proceeding and which opened into a
small grove of acacias dedicated to Serapis--which was of much greater
extent outside the enclosing wall--appeared a little group of men whose
appearance attracted her attention; but she was afraid to go on towards
the strangers, so, leaning close up to the wall of the houses, she
awaited their departure, listening the while to what they were saying.

In front of these early visitors to the temple walked a man with a long
staff in his right hand speaking to the two gentlemen who followed, with
the air of a professional guide, who is accustomed to talk as if he were
reading to his audience out of an invisible book, and whom the hearers
are unwilling to interrupt with questions, because they know that his
knowledge scarcely extends beyond exactly what he says. Of his two
remarkable-looking hearers one was wrapped in a long and splendid robe
and wore a rich display of gold chains and rings, while the other wore
nothing over his short chiton but a Roman toga thrown over his left
shoulder.

His richly attired companion was an old man with a full and beardless
face and thin grizzled hair. Irene gazed at him with admiration and
astonishment, but when she had feasted her eyes on the stuffs and
ornaments he wore, she fixed them with much greater interest and
attention on the tall and youthful figure at his side.

"Like Hui, the cook's fat poodle, beside a young lion," thought she to
herself, as she noted the bustling step of the one and the independent
and elastic gait of the other. She felt irresistibly tempted to mimic the
older man, but this audacious impulse was soon quelled for scarcely had
the guide explained to the Roman that it was here that those pious
recluses had their cells who served the god in voluntary captivity, as
being consecrated to Serapis, and that they received their food through
those windows--here he pointed upwards with his staff when suddenly a
shutter, which the cicerone of this ill-matched pair had touched with his
stick, flew open with as much force and haste as if a violent gust of
wind had caught it, and flung it back against the wall.--And no less
suddenly a man's head-of ferocious aspect and surrounded by a shock of
gray hair like a lion's mane--looked out of the window and shouted to him
who had knocked, in a deep and somewhat overloud voice.

"If my shutter had been your back, you impudent rascal, your stick would
have hit the right thing. Or if I had a cudgel between my teeth instead
of a tongue, I would exercise it on you till it was as tired as that of a
preacher who has threshed his empty straw to his congregation for three
mortal hours. Scarcely is the sun risen when we are plagued by the
parasitical and inquisitive mob. Why! they will rouse us at midnight
next, and throw stones at our rotten old shutters. The effects of my last
greeting lasted you for three weeks--to-day's I hope may act a little
longer. You, gentlemen there, listen to me. Just as the raven follows an
army to batten on the dead, so that fellow there stalks on in front of
strangers in order to empty their pockets--and you, who call yourself an
interpreter, and in learning Greek have forgotten the little Egyptian you
ever knew, mark this: When you have to guide strangers take them to see
the Sphinx, or to consult the Apis in the temple of Ptah, or lead them to
the king's beast-garden at Alexandria, or the taverns at Hanopus, but
don't bring them here, for we are neither pheasants, nor flute-playing
women, nor miraculous beasts, who take a pleasure in being stared at.
You, gentlemen, ought to choose a better guide than this chatter-mag that
keeps up its perpetual rattle when once you set it going. As to
yourselves I will tell you one thing: Inquisitive eyes are intrusive
company, and every prudent house holder guards himself against them by
keeping his door shut."

Irene shrank back and flattened herself against the pilaster which
concealed her, for the shutter closed again with a slam, the recluse
pulling it to with a rope attached to its outer edge, and he was hidden
from the gaze of the strangers; but only for an instant, for the rusty
hinges on which the shutter was hanging were not strong enough to bear
such violent treatment, and slowly giving way it was about to fall. The
blustering hermit stretched out an arm to support it and save it; but it
was heavy, and his efforts would not have succeeded had not the young man
in Roman dress given his assistance and lifted up the shutter with his
hand and shoulder, without any effort, as if it were made of willow laths
instead of strong planks.

"A little higher still," shouted the recluse to his assistant. "Let us
set the thing on its edge! so, push away, a little more. There, I have
propped up the wretched thing and there it may lie. If the bats pay me a
visit to-night I will think of you and give them your best wishes."

"You may save yourself that trouble," replied the young man with cool
dignity. "I will send you a carpenter who shall refix the shutter, and we
offer you our apologies for having been the occasion of the mischief that
has happened."

The old man did not interrupt the speaker, but, when he had stared at him
from head to foot, he said: "You are strong and you speak fairly, and I
might like you well enough if you were in other company. I don't want
your carpenter; only send me down a hammer, a wedge, and a few strong
nails. Now, you can do nothing more for me, so pack off!"

"We are going at once," said the more handsomely dressed visitor in a
thin and effeminate voice. "What can a man do when the boys pelt him with
dirt from a safe hiding-place, but take himself off."

"Be off, be off," said the person thus described, with a laugh. "As far
off as Samothrace if you like, fat Eulaeus; you can scarcely have
forgotten the way there since you advised the king to escape thither with
all his treasure. But if you cannot trust yourself to find it alone, I
recommend you your interpreter and guide there to show you the road."

The Eunuch Eulaeus, the favorite councillor of King Ptolemy--called
Philometor (the lover of his mother)--turned pale at these words, cast a
sinister glance at the old man and beckoned to the young Roman; he
however was not inclined to follow, for the scolding old oddity had taken
his fancy--perhaps because he was conscious that the old man, who
generally showed no reserve in his dislikes, had a liking for him.
Besides, he found nothing to object to in his opinion of his companions,
so he turned to Eulaeus and said courteously:

"Accept my best thanks for your company so far, and do not let me detain
you any longer from your more important occupations on my account."

Eulaeus bowed and replied, "I know what my duty is. The king entrusted me
with your safe conduct; permit me therefore to wait for you under the
acacias yonder."

When Eulaeus and the guide had reached the green grove, Irene hoped to
find an opportunity to prefer her petition, but the Roman had stopped in
front of the old man's cell, and had begun a conversation with him which
she could not venture to interrupt. She set down the platter with the
bread and dates that had been entrusted to her on a projecting stone by
her side with a little sigh, crossed her arms and feet as she leaned
against the wall, and pricked up her ears to hear their talk.

"I am not a Greek," said the youth, "and you are quite mistaken in
thinking that I came to Egypt and to see you out of mere curiosity."

"But those who come only to pray in the temple," interrupted the other,
"do not--as it seems to me--choose an Eulaeus for a companion, or any
such couple as those now waiting for you under the acacias, and invoking
anything rather than blessings on your head; at any rate, for my own
part, even if I were a thief I would not go stealing in their company.
What then brought you to Serapis?"

"It is my turn now to accuse you of curiosity!"

"By all means," cried the old man, "I am an honest dealer and quite
willing to take back the coin I am ready to pay away. Have you come to
have a dream interpreted, or to sleep in the temple yonder and have a
face revealed to you?"

"Do I look so sleepy," said the Roman, "as to want to go to bed again
now, only an hour after sunrise?"

"It may be," said the recluse, "that you have not yet fairly come to the
end of yesterday, and that at the fag-end of some revelry it occurred to
you that you might visit us and sleep away your headache at Serapis."

"A good deal of what goes on outside these walls seems to come to your
ears," retorted the Roman, "and if I were to meet you in the street I
should take you for a ship's captain or a master-builder who had to
manage a number of unruly workmen. According to what I heard of you and
those like you in Athens and elsewhere, I expected to find you something
quite different."

"What did you expect?" said Serapion laughing. "I ask you notwithstanding
the risk of being again considered curious."

"And I am very willing to answer," retorted the other, "but if I were to
tell you the whole truth I should run into imminent danger of being sent
off as ignominiously as my unfortunate guide there."

"Speak on," said the old man, "I keep different garments for different
men, and the worst are not for those who treat me to that rare dish--a
little truth. But before you serve me up so bitter a meal tell me, what
is your name?"

"Shall I call the guide?" said the Roman with an ironical laugh. "He can
describe me completely, and give you the whole history of my family. But,
joking apart, my name is Publius."

"The name of at least one out of every three of your countrymen."

"I am of the Cornelia gens and of the family of the Scipios," continued
the youth in a low voice, as though he would rather avoid boasting of his
illustrious name.

"Indeed, a noble gentleman, a very grand gentleman!" said the recluse,
bowing deeply out of his window. "But I knew that beforehand, for at your
age and with such slender ankles to his long legs only a nobleman could
walk as you walk. Then Publius Cornelius--"

"Nay, call me Scipio, or rather by my first name only, Publius," the
youth begged him. "You are called Serapion, and I will tell you what you
wish to know. When I was told that in this temple there were people who
had themselves locked into their little chambers never to quit them,
taking thought about their dreams and leading a meditative life, I
thought they must be simpletons or fools or both at once."

"Just so, just so," interrupted Serapion. "But there is a fourth
alternative you did not think of. Suppose now among these men there
should be some shut up against their will, and what if I were one of
those prisoners? I have asked you a great many questions and you have not
hesitated to answer, and you may know how I got into this miserable cage
and why I stay in it. I am the son of a good family, for my father was
overseer of the granaries of this temple and was of Macedonian origin,
but my mother was an Egyptian. I was born in an evil hour, on the
twenty-seventh day of the month of Paophi, a day which it is said in the
sacred books that it is an evil day and that the child that is born in it
must be kept shut up or else it will die of a snake-bite. In consequence
of this luckless prediction many of those born on the same day as myself
were, like me, shut up at an early age in this cage. My father would very
willingly have left me at liberty, but my uncle, a caster of horoscopes
in the temple of Ptah, who was all in all in my mother's estimation, and
his friends with him, found many other evil signs about my body, read
misfortune for me in the stars, declared that the Hathors had destined me
to nothing but evil, and set upon her so persistently that at last I was
destined to the cloister--we lived here at Memphis. I owe this misery to
my dear mother and it was out of pure affection that she brought it upon
me. You look enquiringly at me--aye, boy! life will teach you too the
lesson that the worst hate that can be turned against you often entails
less harm upon you than blind tenderness which knows no reason. I learned
to read and write, and all that is usually taught to the priests' sons,
but never to accommodate myself to my lot, and I never shall.--Well, when
my beard grew I succeeded in escaping and I lived for a time in the
world. I have been even to Rome, to Carthage, and in Syria; but at last I
longed to drink Nile-water once more and I returned to Egypt. Why?
Because, fool that I was, I fancied that bread and water with captivity
tasted better in my own country than cakes and wine with freedom in the
land of the stranger.

"In my father's house I found only my mother still living, for my father
had died of grief. Before my flight she had been a tall, fine woman, when
I came home I found her faded and dying. Anxiety for me, a miserable
wretch, had consumed her, said the physician--that was the hardest thing
to bear. When at last the poor, good little woman, who could so fondly
persuade me--a wild scamp--implored me on her death-bed to return to my
retreat, I yielded, and swore to her that I would stay in my prison
patiently to the end, for I am as water is in northern countries, a child
may turn me with its little hand or else I am as hard and as cold as
crystal. My old mother died soon after I had taken this oath. I kept my
word as you see--and you have seen too how I endure my fate."

"Patiently enough," replied Publius, "I should writhe in my chains far
more rebelliously than you, and I fancy it must do you good to rage and
storm sometimes as you did just now."

"As much good as sweet wine from Chios!" exclaimed the anchorite,
smacking his lips as if he tasted the noble juice of the grape, and
stretching his matted head as far as possible out of the window. Thus it
happened that he saw Irene, and called out to her in a cheery voice:

"What are you doing there, child? You are standing as if you were waiting
to say good-morning to good fortune."

The girl hastily took up the trencher, smoothed down her hair with her
other hand, and as she approached the men, coloring slightly, Publius
feasted his eyes on her in surprise and admiration.

But Serapion's words had been heard by another person, who now emerged
from the acacia-grove and joined the young Roman, exclaiming before he
came up with them:

"Waiting for good fortune! does the old man say? And you can hear it
said, Publius, and not reply that she herself must bring good fortune
wherever she appears."

The speaker was a young Greek, dressed with extreme care, and he now
stuck the pomegranate-blossom he carried in his hand behind his ear, so
as to shake hands with his friend Publius; then he turned his fair,
saucy, almost girlish face with its finely-cut features up to the
recluse, wishing to attract his attention to himself by his next speech.

"With Plato's greeting 'to deal fairly and honestly' do I approach you!"
he cried; and then he went on more quietly: "But indeed you can hardly
need such a warning, for you belong to those who know how to conquer
true--that is the inner--freedom; for who can be freer than he who needs
nothing? And as none can be nobler than the freest of the free, accept
the tribute of my respect, and scorn not the greeting of Lysias of
Corinth, who, like Alexander, would fain exchange lots with you, the
Diogenes of Egypt, if it were vouchsafed to him always to see out the
window of your mansion--otherwise not very desirable--the charming form
of this damsel--"

"That is enough, young man," said Serapion, interrupting the Greek's flow
of words. "This young girl belongs to the temple, and any one who is
tempted to speak to her as if she were a flute-player will have to deal
with me, her protector. Yes, with me; and your friend here will bear me
witness that it may not be altogether to your advantage to have a quarrel
with such as I. Now, step back, young gentlemen, and let the girl tell me
what she needs."

When Irene stood face to face with the anchorite, and had told him
quickly and in a low voice what she had done, and that her sister Klea
was even now waiting for her return, Serapion laughed aloud, and then
said in a low tone, but gaily, as a father teases his daughter:

"She has eaten enough for two, and here she stands, on her tiptoes,
reaching up to my window, as if it were not an over-fed girl that stood
in her garments, but some airy sprite. We may laugh, but Klea, poor
thing, she must be hungry?"

Irene made no reply, but she stood taller on tiptoe than ever, put her
face up to Serapion, nodding her pretty head at him again and again, and
as she looked roguishly and yet imploringly into his eyes Serapion went
on:

"And so I am to give my breakfast to Klea, that is what you want; but
unfortunately that breakfast is a thing of the past and beyond recall;
nothing is left of it but the date-stones. But there, on the trencher in
your hand, is a nice little meal."

"That is the offering to Serapis sent by old Phibis," answered the girl.

"Hm, hm--oh! of course!" muttered the old man. "So long as it is for a
god--surely he might do without it better than a poor famishing girl."

Then he went on, gravely and emphatically, as a teacher who has made an
incautious speech before his pupils endeavors to rectify it by another of
more solemn import.

"Certainly, things given into our charge should never be touched;
besides, the gods first and man afterwards. Now if only I knew what to
do. But, by the soul of my father! Serapis himself sends us what we need.
Step close up to me, noble Scipio--or Publius, if I may so call you--and
look out towards the acacias. Do you see my favorite, your cicerone, and
the bread and roast fowls that your slave has brought him in that
leathern wallet? And now he is setting a wine-jar on the carpet he has
spread at the big feet of Eulaeus--they will be calling you to share the
meal in a minute, but I know of a pretty child who is very hungry--for a
little white cat stole away her breakfast this morning. Bring me half a
loaf and the wing of a fowl, and a few pomegranates if you like, or one
of the peaches Eulaeus is so judiciously fingering. Nay--you may bring
two of them, I have a use for both."

"Serapion!" exclaimed Irene in mild reproof and looking down at the
ground; but the Greek answered with prompt zeal, "More, much more than
that I can bring you. I hasten--"

"Stay here," interrupted Publius with decision, holding him back by the
shoulder. "Serapion's request was addressed to me, and I prefer to do my
friend's pleasure in my own person."

"Go then," cried the Greek after Publius as he hurried away. "You will
not allow me even thanks from the sweetest lips in Memphis. Only look,
Serapion, what a hurry he is in. And now poor Eulaeus has to get up; a
hippopotamus might learn from him how to do so with due awkwardness.
Well! I call that making short work of it--a Roman never asks before he
takes; he has got all he wants and Eulaeus looks after him like a cow
whose calf has been stolen from her; to be sure I myself would rather eat
peaches than see them carried away! Oh if only the people in the Forum
could see him now! Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, own grandson to the
great Africanus, serving like a slave at a feast with a dish in each
hand! Well Publius, what has Rome the all conquering brought home this
time in token of victory?"

"Sweet peaches and a roast pheasant," said Cornelius laughing, and he
handed two dishes into the anchorite's window; "there is enough left
still for the old man."

"Thanks, many thanks!" cried Serapion, beckoning to Irene, and he gave
her a golden-yellow cake of wheaten bread, half of the roast bird,
already divided by Eulaeus, and two peaches, and whispered to her: "Klea
may come for the rest herself when these men are gone. Now thank this
kind gentleman and go."

For an instant the girl stood transfixed, her face crimson with confusion
and her glistening white teeth set in her nether lip, speechless, face to
face with the young Roman and avoiding the earnest gaze of his black
eyes. Then she collected herself and said:

"You are very kind. I cannot make any pretty speeches, but I thank you
most kindly."

"And your very kind thanks," replied Publius, "add to the delights of
this delightful morning. I should very much like to possess one of the
violets out of your hair in remembrance of this day--and of you."

"Take them all," exclaimed Irene, hastily taking the bunch from her hair
and holding them out to the Roman; but before he could take them she drew
back her hand and said with an air of importance:

"The queen has had them in her hand. My sister Klea got them yesterday in
the procession."

Scipio's face grew grave at these words, and he asked with commanding
brevity and sharpness:

"Has your sister black hair and is she taller than you are, and did she
wear a golden fillet in the procession? Did she give you these flowers?
Yes--do you say? Well then, she had the bunch from me, but although she
accepted them she seems to have taken very little pleasure in them, for
what we value we do not give away--so there they may go, far enough!"

With these words he flung the flowers over the house and then he went on:

"But you, child, you shall be held guiltless of their loss. Give me your
pomegranate-flower, Lysias!"

"Certainly not," replied the Greek. "You chose to do pleasure to your
friend Serapion in your own person when you kept me from going to fetch
the peaches, and now I desire to offer this flower to the fair Irene with
my own hand."

"Take this flower," said Publius, turning his back abruptly on the girl,
while Lysias laid the blossom on the trencher in the maiden's hand; she
felt the rough manners of the young Roman as if she had been touched by a
hard hand; she bowed silently and timidly and then quickly ran home.

Publius looked thoughtfully after her till Lysias called out to him:

"What has come over me? Has saucy Eros perchance wandered by mistake into
the temple of gloomy Serapis this morning?"

"That would not be wise," interrupted the recluse, "for Cerberus, who
lies at the foot of our God, would soon pluck the fluttering wings of the
airy youngster," and as he spoke he looked significantly at the Greek.

"Aye! if he let himself be caught by the three-headed monster," laughed
Lysias. "But come away now, Publius; Eulaeus has waited long enough."

"You go to him then," answered the Roman, "I will follow soon; but first
I have a word to say to Serapion."

Since Irene's disappearance, the old man had turned his attention to the
acacia-grove where Eulaeus was still feasting. When the Roman addressed
him he said, shaking his great head with dissatisfaction:

"Your eyes of course are no worse than mine. Only look at that man
munching and moving his jaws and smacking his lips. By Serapis! you can
tell the nature of a man by watching him eat. You know I sit in my cage
unwillingly enough, but I am thankful for one thing about it, and that is
that it keeps me far from all that such a creature as Eulaeus calls
enjoyment--for such enjoyment, I tell you, degrades a man."

"Then you are more of a philosopher than you wish to seem," replied
Publius.

"I wish to seem nothing," answered the anchorite.

"For it is all the same to me what others think of me. But if a man who
has nothing to do and whose quiet is rarely disturbed, and who thinks his
own thoughts about many things is a philosopher, you may call me one if
you like. If at any time you should need advice you may come here again,
for I like you, and you might be able to do me an important service."

"Only speak," interrupted the Roman, "I should be glad from my heart to
be of any use to you."

"Not now," said Serapion softly. "But come again when you have
time--without your companions there, of course--at any rate without
Eulaeus, who of all the scoundrels I ever came across is the very worst.
It may be as well to tell you at once that what I might require of you
would concern not myself but the weal or woe of the water-bearers, the
two maidens you have seen and who much need protection."

"I came here for my parents' sake and for Klea's, and not on your
account," said Publius frankly. "There is something in her mien and in
her eyes which perhaps may repel others but which attracts me. How came
so admirable a creature in your temple?"

"When you come again," replied the recluse, "I will tell you the history
of the sisters and what they owe to Eulaeus. Now go, and understand me
when I say the girls are well guarded. This observation is for the
benefit of the Greek who is but a heedless fellow; but you, when you know
who the girls are, will help me to protect them."

"That I would do as it is, with real pleasure," replied Publius; he took
leave of the recluse and called out to Eulaeus.

"What a delightful morning it has been!"

"It would have been pleasanter for me," replied Eulaeus, "if you had not
deprived me of your company for such a long time."

"That is to say," answered the Roman, "that I have stayed away longer
than I ought."

"You behave after the fashion of your race," said the other bowing low.
"They have kept even kings waiting in their ante-chambers."

"But you do not wear a crown," said Publius evasively. "And if any one
should know how to wait it is an old courtier, who--"

"When it is at the command of his sovereign," interrupted Eulaeus, "the
old courtier may submit, even when youngsters choose to treat him with
contempt."

"That hits us both," said Publius, turning to Lysias. "Now you may answer
him, I have heard and said enough."



CHAPTER III.

Irene's foot was not more susceptible to the chafing of a strap than her
spirit to a rough or an unkind word; the Roman's words and manner had
hurt her feelings.

She went towards home with a drooping head and almost crying, but before
she had reached it her eyes fell on the peaches and the roast bird she
was carrying. Her thoughts flew to her sister and how much the famishing
girl would relish so savory a meal; she smiled again, her eyes shone with
pleasure, and she went on her way with a quickened step. It never once
occurred to her that Klea would ask for the violets, or that the young
Roman could be anything more to her sister than any other stranger.

She had never had any other companion than Klea, and after work, when
other girls commonly discussed their longings and their agitations and
the pleasures and the torments of love, these two used to get home so
utterly wearied that they wanted nothing but peace and sleep. If they had
sometimes an hour for idle chat Klea ever and again would tell some story
of their old home, and Irene, who even within the solemn walls of the
temple of Serapis sought and found many innocent pleasures, would listen
to her willingly, and interrupt her with questions and with anecdotes of
small events or details which she fancied she remembered of her early
childhood, but which in fact she had first learnt from her sister, though
the force of a lively imagination had made them seem a part and parcel of
her own experience.

Klea had not observed Irene's long absence since, as we know, shortly
after her sister had set out, overpowered by hunger and fatigue she had
fallen asleep. Before her nodding head had finally sunk and her drooping
eyelids had closed, her lips now and then puckered and twitched as if
with grief; then her features grew tranquil, her lips parted softly and a
smile gently lighted up her blushing cheeks, as the breath of spring
softly thaws a frozen blossom. This sleeper was certainly not born for
loneliness and privation, but to enjoy and to keep love and happiness.

It was warm and still, very still in the sisters' little room. The buzz
of a fly was audible now and again, as it flew round the little oil-cup
Irene had left empty, and now and again the breathing of the sleeper,
coming more and more rapidly. Every trace of fatigue had vanished from
Klea's countenance, her lips parted and pouted as if for a kiss, her
cheeks glowed, and at last she raised both hands as if to defend herself
and stammered out in her dream, "No, no, certainly not--pray, do not! my
love--" Then her arm fell again by her side, and dropping on the chest on
which she was sitting, the blow woke her. She slowly opened her eyes with
a happy smile; then she raised her long silken lashes till her eyes were
open, and she gazed fixedly on vacancy as though something strange had
met her gaze. Thus she sat for some time without moving; then she started
up, pressed her hand on her brow and eyes, and shuddering as if she had
seen something horrible or were shivering with ague, she murmured in
gasps, while she clenched her teeth:

"What does this mean? How come I by such thoughts? What demons are these
that make us do and feel things in our dreams which when we are waking we
should drive far, far from our thoughts? I could hate myself, despise and
hate myself for the sake of those dreams since, wretch that I am! I let
him put his arm round me--and no bitter rage--ah! no--something quite
different, something exquisitely sweet, thrilled through my soul."

As she spoke, she clenched her fists and pressed them against her
temples; then again her arms dropped languidly into her lap, and shaking
her head she went on in an altered and softened voice:

"Still-it was only in a dream and--Oh! ye eternal gods--when we are
asleep--well! and what then? Has it come to this; to impure thoughts I am
adding self-deception! No, this dream was sent by no demon, it was only a
distorted reflection of what I felt yesterday and the day before, and
before that even, when the tall stranger looked straight into my
eyes--four times he has done so now--and then--how many hours ago, gave
me the violets. Did I even turn away my face or punish his boldness with
an angry look? Is it not sometimes possible to drive away an enemy with a
glance? I have often succeeded when a man has looked after us; but
yesterday I could not, and I was as wide awake then as I am at this
moment. What does the stranger want with me? What is it he asks with his
penetrating glance, which for days has followed me wherever I turn, and
robs me of peace even in my sleep? Why should I open my eyes--the gates
of the heart--to him? And now the poison poured in through them is
seething there; but I will tear it out, and when Irene comes home I will
tread the violets into the dust, or leave them with her; she will soon
pull them to pieces or leave them to wither miserably--for I will remain
pure-minded, even in my dreams--what have I besides in the world?"

At these words she broke off her soliloquy, for she heard Irene's voice,
a sound that must have had a favorable effect on her spirit, for she
paused, and the bitter expression her beautiful features had but just now
worn disappeared as she murmured, drawing a deep breath:

"I am not utterly bereft and wretched so long as I have her, and can hear
her voice."

Irene, on her road home, had given the modest offerings of the anchorite
Phibis into the charge of one of the temple-servants to lay before the
altar of Serapis, and now as she came into the room she hid the platter
with the Roman's donation behind her, and while still in the doorway,
called out to her sister:

"Guess now, what have I here?"

"Bread and dates from Serapion," replied Klea.

"Oh, dear no!" cried the other, holding out the plate to her sister, "the
very nicest dainties, fit for gods and kings. Only feel this peach, does
not it feel as soft as one of little Philo's cheeks? If I could always
provide such a substitute you would wish I might eat up your breakfast
every day. And now do you know who gave you all this? No, that you will
never guess! The tall Roman gave them me, the same you had the violets
from yesterday."

Klea's face turned crimson, and she said shortly and decidedly:

"How do you know that?"

"Because he told me so himself," replied Irene in a very altered tone,
for her sister's eyes were fixed upon her with an expression of stern
gravity, such as Irene had never seen in her before.

"And where are the violets?" asked Klea.

"He took them, and his friend gave me this pomegranate-flower," stammered
Irene. "He himself wanted to give it me, but the Greek--a handsome, merry
man--would not permit it, and laid the flower there on the platter. Take
it--but do not look at me like that any longer, for I cannot bear it!"

"I do not want it," said her sister, but not sharply; then, looking down,
she asked in a low voice: "Did the Roman keep the violets?"

"He kept--no, Klea--I will not tell you a lie! He flung them over the
house, and said such rough things as he did it, that I was frightened and
turned my back upon him quickly, for I felt the tears coming into my
eyes. What have you to do with the Roman? I feel so anxious, so
frightened--as I do sometimes when a storm is gathering and I am afraid
of it. And how pale your lips are! that comes of long fasting, no
doubt--eat now, as much as you can. But Klea! why do you look at me
so--and look so gloomy and terrible? I cannot bear that look, I cannot
bear it!"

Irene sobbed aloud, and her sister went up to her, stroked her soft hair
from her brow, kissed her kindly, and said:

"I am not angry with you, child, and did not mean to hurt you. If only I
could cry as you do when clouds overshadow my heart, the blue sky would
shine again with me as soon as it does with you. Now dry your eyes, go up
to the temple, and enquire at what hour we are to go to the
singing-practice, and when the procession is to set out."

Irene obeyed; she went out with downcast eyes, but once out she looked up
again brightly, for she remembered the procession, and it occurred to her
that she would then see again the Roman's gay acquaintance, and turning
back into the room she laid her pomegranate-blossom in the little bowl
out of which she had formerly taken the violets, kissed her sister as
gaily as ever, and then reflected as to whether she would wear the flower
in her hair or in her bosom. Wear it, at any rate, she must, for she must
show plainly that she knew how to value such a gift.

As soon as Klea was alone she seized the trencher with a vehement
gesture, gave the roast bird to the gray cat, who had stolen back into
the room, turning away her head, for the mere smell of the pheasant was
like an insult. Then, while the cat bore off her welcome spoils into a
corner, she clutched a peach and raised her hand to fling it away through
a gap in the roof of the room; but she did not carry out her purpose, for
it occurred to her that Irene and little Philo, the son of the
gate-keeper, might enjoy the luscious fruit; so she laid it back on the
dish and took up the bread, for she was painfully hungry.

She was on the point of breaking the golden-brown cake, but acting on a
rapid impulse she tossed it back on the trencher saying to herself: "At
any rate I will owe him nothing; but I will not throw away the gifts of
the gods as he threw away my violets, for that would be a sin. All is
over between him and me, and if he appears to-day in the procession, and
if he chooses to look at me again I will compel my eyes to avoid meeting
his--aye, that I will, and will carry it through. But, Oh eternal gods!
and thou above all, great Serapis, whom I heartily serve, there is
another thing I cannot do without your aid. Help me, oh! help me to
forget him, that my very thoughts may remain pure."

With these words she flung herself on her knees before the chest, pressed
her brow against the hard wood, and strove to pray.

Only for one thing did she entreat the gods; for strength to forget the
man who had betrayed her into losing her peace of mind.

But just as swift clouds float across the sky, distracting the labors of
the star-gazer, who is striving to observe some remote planet--as the
clatter of the street interrupts again and again some sweet song we fain
would hear, marring it with its harsh discords--so again and again the
image of the young Roman came across Klea's prayers for release from that
very thought, and at last it seemed to her that she was like a man who
strives to raise a block of stone by the exertion of his utmost strength,
and who weary at last of lifting the stone is crushed to the earth by its
weight; still she felt that, in spite of all her prayers and efforts, the
enemy she strove to keep off only came nearer, and instead of flying from
her, overmastered her soul with a grasp from which she could not escape.

Finally she gave up the unavailing struggle, cooled her burning face with
cold water, and tightened the straps of her sandals to go to the temple;
near the god himself she hoped she might in some degree recover the peace
she could not find here.

Just at the door she met Irene, who told her that the singing-practice
was put off, on account of the procession which was fixed for four hours
after noon. And as Klea went towards the temple her sister called after
her.

"Do not stay too long though, water will be wanted again directly for the
libations."

"Then will you go alone to the work?" asked Klea; "there cannot be very
much wanted, for the temple will soon be empty on account of the
procession. A few jars-full will be enough. There is a cake of bread and
a peach in there for you; I must keep the other for little Philo."



CHAPTER IV.

Klea went quickly on towards the temple, without listening to Irene's
excuses. She paid no heed to the worshippers who filled the forecourt,
praying either with heads bent low or with uplifted arms or, if they were
of Egyptian extraction, kneeling on the smooth stone pavement, for, even
as she entered, she had already begun to turn in supplication to the
divinity.

She crossed the great hall of the sanctuary, which was open only to the
initiated and to the temple-servants, of whom she was one. Here all
around her stood a crowd of slender columns, their shafts crowned with
gracefully curved flower calyxes, like stems supporting lilies, over her
head she saw in the ceiling an image of the midnight sky with the bright,
unresting and ever-restful stars; the planets and fixed stars in their
golden barks looked down on her silently. Yes! here were the twilight and
stillness befitting a personal communion with the divinity.

The pillars appeared to her fancy like a forest of giant growth, and it
seemed to her that the perfume of the incense emanated from the gorgeous
floral capitals that crowned them; it penetrated her senses, which were
rendered more acute by fasting and agitation, with a sort of
intoxication. Her eyes were raised to heaven, her arms crossed over her
bosom as she traversed this vast hall, and with trembling steps
approached a smaller and lower chamber, where in the furthest and darkest
background a curtain of heavy and costly material veiled the brazen door
of the holy of holies.

Even she was forbidden to approach this sacred place; but to-day she was
so filled with longing for the inspiring assistance of the god, that she
went on to the holy of holies in spite of the injunction she had never
yet broken, not to approach it. Filled with reverent awe she sank down
close to the door of the sacred chamber, shrinking close into the angle
formed between a projecting door-post and the wall of the great hall.

The craving desire to seek and find a power outside us as guiding the
path of our destiny is common to every nation, to every man; it is as
surely innate in every being gifted with reason--many and various as
these are--as the impulse to seek a cause when we perceive an effect, to
see when light visits the earth, or to hear when swelling waves of sound
fall on our ear. Like every other gift, no doubt that of religious
sensibility is bestowed in different degrees on different natures. In
Klea it had always been strongly developed, and a pious mother had
cultivated it by precept and example, while her father always had taught
her one thing only: namely to be true, inexorably true, to others as to
herself.

Afterwards she had been daily employed in the service of the god whom she
was accustomed to regard as the greatest and most powerful of all the
immortals, for often from a distance she had seen the curtain of the
sanctuary pushed aside, and the statue of Serapis with the Kalathos on
his head, and a figure of Cerberus at his feet, visible in the half-light
of the holy of holies; and a ray of light, flashing through the darkness
as by a miracle, would fall upon his brow and kiss his lips when his
goodness was sung by the priests in hymns of praise. At other times the
tapers by the side of the god would be lighted or extinguished
spontaneously.

Then, with the other believers, she would glorify the great lord of the
other world, who caused a new sun to succeed each that was extinguished,
and made life grow up out of death; who resuscitated the dead, lifting
them up to be equal with him, if on earth they had reverenced truth and
were found faithful by the judges of the nether world.

Truth--which her father had taught her to regard as the best possession
of life--was rewarded by Serapis above all other virtues; hearts were
weighed before him in a scale against truth, and whenever Klea tried to
picture the god in human form he wore the grave and mild features of her
father, and she fancied him speaking in the words and tones of the man to
whom she owed her being, who had been too early snatched from her, who
had endured so much for righteousness' sake, and from whose lips she had
never heard a single word that might not have beseemed the god himself.
And, as she crouched closely in the dark angle by the holy of holies, she
felt herself nearer to her father as well as to the god, and accused
herself pitilessly, in that unmaidenly longings had stirred her heart,
that she had been insincere to herself and Irene, nay in that if she
could not succeed in tearing the image of the Roman from her heart she
would be compelled either to deceive her sister or to sadden the innocent
and careless nature of the impressionable child, whom she was accustomed
to succor and cherish as a mother might. On her, even apparently light
matters weighed oppressively, while Irene could throw off even grave and
serious things, blowing them off as it were into the air, like a feather.
She was like wet clay on which even the light touch of a butterfly leaves
a mark, her sister like a mirror from which the breath that has dimmed it
instantly and entirely vanishes.

"Great God!" she murmured in her prayer, "I feel as if the Roman had
branded my very soul. Help thou me to efface the mark; help me to become
as I was before, so that I may look again in Irene's eyes without
concealment, pure and true, and that I may be able to say to myself, as I
was wont, that I had thought and acted in such a way as my father would
approve if he could know it."

She was still praying thus when the footsteps and voices of two men
approaching the holy of holies startled her from her devotions; she
suddenly became fully conscious of the fact that she was in a forbidden
spot, and would be severely punished if she were discovered.

"Lock that door," cried one of the new-comers to his companion, pointing
to the door which led from the prosekos into the pillared hall, "none,
even of the initiated, need see what you are preparing here for us--"

Klea recognized the voice of the high-priest, and thought for a moment of
stepping forward and confessing her guilt; but, though she did not
usually lack courage, she did not do this, but shrank still more closely
into her hiding-place, which was perfectly dark when the brazen door of
the room; which had no windows, was closed. She now perceived that the
curtain and door were opened which closed the inmost sanctuary, she heard
one of the men twirling the stick which was to produce fire, saw the
first gleam of light from it streaming out of the holy of holies, and
then heard the blows of a hammer and the grating sound of a file.

The quiet sanctum was turned into a forge, but noisy as were the
proceedings within, it seemed to Klea that the beating of her own heart
was even louder than the brazen clatter of the tools wielded by Krates;
he was one of the oldest of the priests of Serapis, who was chief in
charge of the sacred vessels, who was wont never to speak to any one but
the high-priest, and who was famous even among his Greek
fellow-countrymen for the skill with which he could repair broken
metal-work, make the securest locks, and work in silver and gold.

When the sisters first came into the temple five years since, Irene had
been very much afraid of this man, who was so small as almost to be a
dwarf, broad shouldered and powerfully knit, while his wrinkled face
looked like a piece of rough cork-bark, and he was subject to a painful
complaint in his feet which often prevented his walking; her fears had
not vexed but only amused the priestly smith, who whenever he met the
child, then eleven years old, would turn his lips up to his big red nose,
roll his eyes, and grunt hideously to increase the terror that came over
her.

He was not ill-natured, but he had neither wife nor child, nor brother,
nor sister, nor friend, and every human being so keenly desires that
others should have some feeling about him, that many a one would rather
be feared than remain unheeded.

After Irene had got over her dread she would often entreat the old
man--who was regarded as stern and inaccessible by all the other dwellers
in the temple--in her own engaging and coaxing way to make a face for
her, and he would do it and laugh when the little one, to his delight and
her own, was terrified at it and ran away; and just lately when Irene,
having hurt her foot, was obliged to keep her room for a few days, an
unheard of thing had occurred: he had asked Klea with the greatest
sympathy how her sister was getting on, and had given her a cake for her.

While Krates was at his work not a word passed between him and the
high-priest. At length he laid down the hammer, and said:

"I do not much like work of this kind, but this, I think, is successful
at any rate. Any temple-servant, hidden here behind the altar, can now
light or extinguish the lamps without the illusion being detected by the
sharpest. Go now and stand at the door of the great hall and speak the
word."

Klea heard the high-priest accede to this request and cry in a chanting
voice: "Thus he commands the night and it becomes day, and the
extinguished taper and lo! it flames with brightness. If indeed thou art
nigh, Oh Serapis! manifest thyself to us."

At these words a bright stream of light flashed from the holy of holies,
and again was suddenly extinguished when the high-priest sang: "Thus
showest thou thyself as light to the children of truth, but dost punish
with darkness the children of lies."

"Again?" asked Krates in a voice which conveyed a desire that the answer
might be 'No.'

"I must trouble you," replied the high-priest. "Good! the performance
went much better this time. I was always well assured of your skill; but
consider the particular importance of this affair. The two kings and the
queen will probably be present at the solemnity, certainly Philometor and
Cleopatra will, and their eyes are wide open; then the Roman who has
already assisted four times at the procession will accompany them, and if
I judge him rightly he, like many of the nobles of his nation, is one of
those who can trust themselves when it is necessary to be content with
the old gods of their fathers; and as regards the marvels we are able to
display to them, they do not take them to heart like the poor in spirit,
but measure and weigh them with a cool and unbiassed mind. People of that
stamp, who are not ashamed to worship, who do not philosophize but only
think just so much as is necessary for acting rightly, those are the
worst contemners of every supersensual manifestation."

"And the students of nature in the Museum?" asked Krates. "They believe
nothing to be real that they cannot see and observe."

"And for that very reason," replied the high-priest, "they are often
singularly easy to deceive by your skill, since, seeing an effect without
a cause, they are inclined to regard the invisible cause as something
supersensual. Now, open the door again and let us get out by the side
door; do you, this time, undertake the task of cooperating with Serapis
yourself. Consider that Philometor will not confirm the donation of the
land unless he quits the temple deeply penetrated by the greatness of our
god. Would it be possible, do you think, to have the new censer ready in
time for the birthday of King Euergetes, which is to be solemnly kept at
Memphis?"

"We will see," replied Krates, "I must first put together the lock of the
great door of the tomb of Apis, for so long as I have it in my workshop
any one can open it who sticks a nail into the hole above the bar, and
any one can shut it inside who pushes the iron bolt. Send to call me
before the performance with the lights begins; I will come in spite of my
wretched feet. As I have undertaken the thing I will carry it out, but
for no other reason, for it is my opinion that even without such means of
deception--"

"We use no deception," interrupted the high-priest, sternly rebuking his
colleague. "We only present to short-sighted mortals the creative power
of the divinity in a form perceptible and intelligible to their senses."

With these words the tall priest turned his back on the smith and quitted
the hall by a side door; Krates opened the brazen door, and as he
gathered together his tools he said to himself, but loud enough for Klea
to hear him distinctly in her hiding-place:

"It may be right for me, but deceit is deceit, whether a god deceives a
king or a child deceives a beggar."

"Deceit is deceit," repeated Klea after the smith when he had left the
hall and she had emerged from her corner.

She stood still for a moment and looked round her. For the first time she
observed the shabby colors on the walls, the damage the pillars had
sustained in the course of years, and the loose slabs in the pavement.

The sweetness of the incense sickened her, and as she passed by an old
man who threw up his arms in fervent supplication, she looked at him with
a glance of compassion.

When she had passed out beyond the pylons enclosing the temple she turned
round, shaking her head in a puzzled way as she gazed at it; for she knew
that not a stone had been changed within the last hour, and yet it looked
as strange in her eyes as some landscape with which we have become
familiar in all the beauty of spring, and see once more in winter with
its trees bare of leaves; or like the face of a woman which we thought
beautiful under the veil which hid it, and which, when the veil is
raised, we see to be wrinkled and devoid of charm.

When she had heard the smith's words, "Deceit is deceit," she felt her
heart shrink as from a stab, and could not check the tears which started
to her eyes, unused as they were to weeping; but as soon as she had
repeated the stern verdict with her own lips her tears had ceased, and
now she stood looking at the temple like a traveller who takes leave of a
dear friend; she was excited, she breathed more freely, drew herself up
taller, and then turned her back on the sanctuary of Serapis, proudly
though with a sore heart.

Close to the gate-keeper's lodge a child came tottering towards her with
his arms stretched up to her. She lifted him up, kissed him, and then
asked the mother, who also greeted her, for a piece of bread, for her
hunger was becoming intolerable. While she ate the dry morsel the child
sat on her lap, following with his large eyes the motion of her hand and
lips. The boy was about five years old, with legs so feeble that they
could scarcely support the weight of his body, but he had a particularly
sweet little face; certainly it was quite without expression, and it was
only when he saw Klea coming that tiny Philo's eyes had lighted up with
pleasure.

"Drink this milk," said the child's mother, offering the young girl an
earthen bowl. "There is not much and I could not spare it if Philo would
eat like other children, but it seems as if it hurt him to swallow. He
drinks two or three drops and eats a mouthful, and then will take no more
even if he is beaten."

"You have not been beating him again?" said Klea reproachfully, and
drawing the child closer to her. "My husband--" said the woman, pulling
at her dress in some confusion. "The child was born on a good day and in
a lucky hour, and yet he is so puny and weak and will not learn to speak,
and that provokes Pianchi."

"He will spoil everything again!" exclaimed Klea annoyed. "Where is he?"

"He was wanted in the temple."

"And is he not pleased that Philo calls him 'father,' and you 'mother,'
and me by my name, and that he learns to distinguish many things?" asked
the girl.

"Oh, yes of course," said the woman. "He says you are teaching him to
speak just as if he were a starling, and we are very much obliged to
you."

"That is not what I want," interrupted Klea. "What I wish is that you
should not punish and scold the boy, and that you should be as glad as I
am when you see his poor little dormant soul slowly waking up. If he goes
on like this, the poor little fellow will be quite sharp and intelligent.
What is my name, my little one?"

"Ke-ea," stammered the child, smiling at his friend. "And now taste this
that I have in my hand; what is it?--I see you know. It is
called--whisper in my ear. That's right, mil--mil-milk! to be sure, my
tiny, it is milk. Now open your little mouth and say it prettily after
me--once more--and again--say it twelve times quite right and I will give
you a kiss--Now you have earned a pretty kiss--will you have it here or
here? Well, and what is this? your ea-? Yes, your ear. And this?--your
nose, that is right."

The child's eyes brightened more and more under this gentle teaching, and
neither Klea nor her pupil were weary till, about an hour later, the
re-echoing sound of a brass gong called her away. As she turned to go the
little one ran after her crying; she took him in her arms and carried him
back to his mother, and then went on to her own room to dress herself and
her sister for the procession. On the way to the Pastophorium she
recalled once more her expedition to the temple and her prayer there.

"Even before the sanctuary," said she to herself, "I could not succeed in
releasing my soul from its burden--it was not till I set to work to
loosen the tongue of the poor little child. Every pure spot, it seems to
me, may be the chosen sanctuary of some divinity, and is not an infant's
soul purer than the altar where truth is mocked at?"

In their room she found Irene; she had dressed her hair carefully and
stuck the pomegranate-flower in it, and she asked Klea if she thought she
looked well.

"You look like Aphrodite herself," replied Klea kissing her forehead.
Then she arranged the folds of her sister's dress, fastened on the
ornaments, and proceeded to dress herself. While she was fastening her
sandals Irene asked her, "Why do you sigh so bitterly?" and Klea replied,
"I feel as if I had lost my parents a second time."



CHAPTER V.

The procession was over.

At the great service which had been performed before him in the Greek
Serapeum, Ptolemy Philometor had endowed the priests not with the whole
but with a considerable portion of the land concerning which they had
approached him with many petitions. After the court had once more quitted
Memphis and the procession was broken up, the sisters returned to their
room, Irene with crimson cheeks and a smile on her lips, Klea with a
gloomy and almost threatening light in her eyes.

As the two were going to their room in silence a temple-servant called to
Klea, desiring her to go with him to the high-priest, who wished to speak
to her. Klea, without speaking, gave her water-jar to Irene and was
conducted into a chamber of the temple, which was used for keeping the
sacred vessels in. There she sat down on a bench to wait. The two men who
in the morning had visited the Pastophorium had also followed in the
procession with the royal family. At the close of the solemnities Publius
had parted from his companion without taking leave, and without looking
to the right or to the left, he had hastened back to the Pastophorium and
to the cell of Serapion, the recluse.

The old man heard from afar the younger man's footstep, which fell on the
earth with a firmer and more decided tread than that of the
softly-stepping priests of Serapis, and he greeted him warmly with signs
and words.

Publius thanked him coolly and gravely, and said, dryly enough and with
incisive brevity:

"My time is limited. I propose shortly to quit Memphis, but I promised
you to hear your request, and in order to keep my word I have come to see
you; still--as I have said--only to keep my word. The water-bearers of
whom you desired to speak to me do not interest me--I care no more about
them than about the swallows flying over the house yonder."

"And yet this morning you took a long walk for Klea's sake," returned
Serapion.

"I have often taken a much longer one to shoot a hare," answered the
Roman. "We men do not pursue our game because the possession of it is any
temptation, but because we love the sport, and there are sporting natures
even among women. Instead of spears or arrows they shoot with flashing
glances, and when they think they have hit their game they turn their
back upon it. Your Klea is one of this sort, while the pretty little one
I saw this morning looks as if she were very ready to be hunted, I
however, no more wish to be the hunter of a young girl than to be her
game. I have still three days to spend in Memphis, and then I shall turn
my back forever on this stupid country."

"This morning," said Serapion, who began to suspect what the grievance
might be which had excited the discontent implied in the Roman's speech,
"This morning you appeared to be in less hurry to set out than now, so to
me you seem to be in the plight of game trying to escape; however, I know
Klea better than you do. Shooting is no sport of hers, nor will she let
herself be hunted, for she has a characteristic which you, my friend
Publius Scipio, ought to recognize and value above all others--she is
proud, very proud; aye, and so she may be, scornful as you look--as if
you would like to say 'how came a water-carrier of Serapis by her pride,
a poor creature who is ill-fed and always engaged in service, pride which
is the prescriptive right only of those, whom privilege raises above the
common herd around them?--But this girl, you may take my word for it, has
ample reason to hold her head high, not only because she is the daughter
of free and noble parents and is distinguished by rare beauty, not
because while she was still a child she undertook, with the devotion and
constancy of the best of mothers, the care of another child--her own
sister, but for a reason which, if I judge you rightly, you will
understand better than many another young man; because she must uphold
her pride in order that among the lower servants with whom unfortunately
she is forced to work, she may never forget that she is a free and noble
lady. You can set your pride aside and yet remain what you are, but if
she were to do so and to learn to feel as a servant, she would presently
become in fact what by nature she is not and by circumstances is
compelled to be. A fine horse made to carry burdens becomes a mere
cart-horse as soon as it ceases to hold up its head and lift its feet
freely. Klea is proud because she must be proud; and if you are just you
will not contemn the girl, who perhaps has cast a kindly glance at
you--since the gods have so made you that you cannot fail to please any
woman--and yet who must repel your approaches because she feels herself
above being trifled with, even by one of the Cornelia gens, and yet too
lowly to dare to hope that a man like you should ever stoop from your
height to desire her for a wife. She has vexed you, of that there can be
no doubt; how, I can only guess. If, however, it has been through her
repellent pride, that ought not to hurt you, for a woman is like a
soldier, who only puts on his armor when he is threatened by an opponent
whose weapons he fears."

The recluse had rather whispered than spoken these words, remembering
that he had neighbors; and as he ceased the drops stood on his brow, for
whenever any thing disturbed him he was accustomed to allow his powerful
voice to be heard pretty loudly, and it cost him no small effort to
moderate it for so long.

Publius had at first looked him in the face, and then had gazed at the
ground, and he had heard Serapion to the end without interrupting him;
but the color had flamed in his cheeks as in those of a schoolboy, and
yet he was an independent and resolute youth who knew how to conduct
himself in difficult straits as well as a man in the prime of life. In
all his proceedings he was wont to know very well, exactly what he
wanted, and to do without any fuss or comment whatever he thought right
and fitting.

During the anchorite's speech the question had occurred to him, what did
he in fact expect or wish of the water-bearer; but the answer was
wanting, he felt somewhat uncertain of himself, and his uncertainty and
dissatisfaction with himself increased as all that he heard struck him
more and more. He became less and less inclined to let himself be thrown
over by the young girl who for some days had, much against his will, been
constantly in his thoughts, whose image he would gladly have dismissed
from his mind, but who, after the recluse's speech, seemed more desirable
than ever. "Perhaps you are right," he replied after a short silence, and
he too lowered his voice, for a subdued tone generally provokes an
equally subdued answer. "You know the maiden better than I, and if you
describe her correctly it would be as well that I should abide by my
decision and fly from Egypt, or, at any rate, from your protegees, since
nothing lies before me but a defeat or a victory, which could bring me
nothing but repentance. Klea avoided my eye to-day as if it shed poison
like a viper's tooth, and I can have nothing more to do with her: still,
might I be informed how she came into this temple? and if I can be of any
service to her, I will-for your sake. Tell me now what you know of her
and what you wish me to do."

The recluse nodded assent and beckoned Publius to come closer to him, and
bowing down to speak into the Roman's ear, he said softly: "Are you in
favor with the queen?" Publius, having said that he was, Serapion, with
an exclamation of satisfaction, began his story.

"You learned this morning how I myself came into this cage, and that my
father was overseer of the temple granaries. While I was wandering abroad
he was deposed from his office, and would probably have died in prison,
if a worthy man had not assisted him to save his honor and his liberty.
All this does not concern you, and I may therefore keep it to myself; but
this man was the father of Klea and Irene, and the enemy by whose
instrumentality my father suffered innocently was the villain Eulaeus.
You know--or perhaps indeed you may not know--that the priests have to
pay a certain tribute for the king's maintenance; you know? To be sure,
you Romans trouble yourselves more about matters of law and
administration than the culture of the arts or the subtleties of thought.
Well, it was my father's duty to pay these customs over to Eulaeus, who
received them; but the beardless effeminate vermin, the glutton--may
every peach he ever ate or ever is to eat turn to poison!--kept back half
of what was delivered to him, and when the accountants found nothing but
empty air in the king's stores where they hoped to find corn and woven
goods, they raised an alarm, which of course came to the ears of the
powerful thief at court before it reached those of my poor father. You
called Egypt a marvellous country, or something like it; and so in truth
it is, not merely on account of the great piles there that you call
Pyramids and such like, but because things happen here which in Rome
would be as impossible as moonshine at mid-day, or a horse with his tail
at the end of his nose! Before a complaint could be laid against Eulaeus
he had accused my father of the peculation, and before the Epistates and
the assessor of the district had even looked at the indictment, their
judgment on the falsely accused man was already recorded, for Eulaeus had
simply bought their verdict just as a man buys a fish or a cabbage in the
market. In olden times the goddess of justice was represented in this
country with her eyes shut, but now she looks round on the world like a
squinting woman who winks at the king with one eye, and glances with the
other at the money in the hand of the accuser or the accused. My poor
father was of course condemned and thrown into prison, where he was
beginning to doubt the justice of the gods, when for his sake the
greatest wonder happened, ever seen in this land of wonders since first
the Greeks ruled in Alexandria. An honorable man undertook without fear
of persons the lost cause of the poor condemned wretch, and never rested
till he had restored him to honor and liberty. But imprisonment, disgrace
and indignation had consumed the strength of the ill-used man as a worm
eats into cedar wood, and he fell into a decline and died. His preserver,
Klea's father, as the reward of his courageous action fared even worse;
for here by the Nile virtues are punished in this world, as crimes are
with you. Where injustice holds sway frightful things occur, for the gods
seem to take the side of the wicked. Those who do not hope for a reward
in the next world, if they are neither fools nor philosophers--which
often comes to the same thing--try to guard themselves against any change
in this.

"Philotas, the father of the two girls, whose parents were natives of
Syracuse, was an adherent of the doctrines of Zeno--which have many
supporters among you at Rome too--and he was highly placed as an
official, for he was president of the Chrematistoi, a college of judges
which probably has no parallel out of Egypt, and which has been kept up
better than any other. It travels about from province to province
stopping in the chief towns to administer justice. When an appeal is
brought against the judgment of the court of justice belonging to any
place--over which the Epistates of the district presides--the case is
brought before the Chrematistoi, who are generally strangers alike to the
accuser and accused; by them it is tried over again, and thus the
inhabitants of the provinces are spared the journey to Alexandria
or--since the country has been divided--to Memphis, where, besides, the
supreme court is overburdened with cases.

"No former president of the Chrematistoi had ever enjoyed a higher
reputation than Philotas. Corruption no more dared approach him than a
sparrow dare go near a falcon, and he was as wise as he was just, for he
was no less deeply versed in the ancient Egyptian law than in that of the
Greeks, and many a corrupt judge reconsidered matters as soon as it
became known that he was travelling with the Chrematistoi, and passed a
just instead of an unjust sentence.

"Cleopatra, the widow of Epiphanes, while she was living and acting as
guardian of her sons Philometor and Euergetes--who now reign in Memphis
and Alexandria--held Philotas in the highest esteem and conferred on him
the rank of 'relation to the king'; but she was just dead when this
worthy man took my father's cause in hand, and procured his release from
prison.

"The scoundrel Eulaeus and his accomplice Lenaeus then stood at the
height of power, for the young king, who was not yet of age, let himself
be led by them like a child by his nurse.

"Now as my father was an honest man, no one but Eulaeus could be the
rascal, and as the Chrematistoi threatened to call him before their
tribunal the miserable creature stirred up the war in Caelo-Syria against
Antiochus Epiphanes, the king's uncle.

"You know how disgraceful for us was the course of that enterprise, how
Philometor was defeated near Pelusium, and by the advice of Eulaeus
escaped with his treasure to Samothrace, how Philometor's brother
Euergetes was set up as king in Alexandria, how Antiochus took Memphis,
and then allowed his elder nephew to continue to reign here as though he
were his vassal and ward.

"It was during this period of humiliation, that Eulaeus was able to evade
Philotas, whom he may very well have feared, as though his own conscience
walked the earth on two legs in the person of the judge, with the sword
of justice in his hand, and telling all men what a scoundrel he was.

"Memphis had opened her gates to Antiochus without offering much
resistance, and the Syrian king, who was a strange man and was fond of
mixing among the people as if he himself were a common man, applied to
Philotas, who was as familiar with Egyptian manners and customs as with
those of Greece, in order that he might conduct him into the halls of
justice and into the market-places; and he made him presents as was his
way, sometimes of mere rubbish and sometimes of princely gifts.

"Then when Philometor was freed by the Romans from the protection of the
Syrian king, and could govern in Memphis as an independent sovereign,
Eulaeus accused the father of these two girls of having betrayed Memphis
into the hands of Antiochus, and never rested till the innocent man was
deprived of his wealth, which was considerable, and sent with his wife to
forced labor in the gold mines of Ethiopia.

"When all this occurred I had already returned to my cage here; but I
heard from my brother Glaucus--who was captain of the watch in the
palace, and who learned a good many things before other people did--what
was going on out there, and I succeeded in having the daughters of
Philotas secretly brought to this temple, and preserved from sharing
their parents' fate. That is now five years ago, and now you know how it
happens, that the daughters of a man of rank carry water for the altar of
Serapis, and that I would rather an injury should be done to me than to
them, and that I would rather see Eulaeus eating some poisonous root than
fragrant peaches."

"And is Philotas still working in the mines?" asked the Roman, clenching
his teeth with rage.

"Yes, Publius," replied the anchorite. "A 'yes' that it is easy to say,
and it is just as easy too to clench one's fists in indignation--but it
is hard to imagine the torments that must be endured by a man like
Philotas; and a noble and innocent woman--as beautiful as Hera and
Aphrodite in one--when they are driven to hard and unaccustomed labor
under a burning sun by the lash of the overseer. Perhaps by this time
they have been happy enough to die under their sufferings and their
daughters are already orphans, poor children! No one here but the
high-priest knows precisely who they are, for if Eulaeus were to learn
the truth he would send them after their parents as surely as my name is
Serapion."

"Let him try it!" cried Publius, raising his right fist threateningly.

"Softly, softly, my friend," said the recluse, "and not now only, but
about everything which you under take in behalf of the sisters, for a man
like Eulaeus hears not only with his own ears but with those of thousand
others, and almost everything that occurs at court has to go through his
hands as epistolographer. You say the queen is well-disposed towards you.
That is worth a great deal, for her husband is said to be guided by her
will, and such a thing as Eulaeus cannot seem particularly estimable in
Cleopatra's eyes if princesses are like other women--and I know them
well."

"And even if he were," interrupted Publius with glowing cheeks, "I would
bring him to ruin all the same, for a man like Philotas must not perish,
and his cause henceforth is my own. Here is my hand upon it; and if I am
happy in having descended from a noble race it is above all because the
word of a son of the Cornelii is as good as the accomplished deed of any
other man."

The recluse grasped the right hand the young man gave him and nodded to
him affectionately, his eyes radiant, though moistened with joyful
emotion. Then he hastily turned his back on the young man, and soon
reappeared with a large papyrus-roll in his hand. "Take this," he said,
handing it to the Roman, "I have here set forth all that I have told you,
fully and truly with my own hand in the form of a petition. Such matters,
as I very well know, are never regularly conducted to an issue at court
unless they are set forth in writing. If the queen seems disposed to
grant you a wish give her this roll, and entreat her for a letter of
pardon. If you can effect this, all is won."

Publius took the roll, and once more gave his hand to the anchorite, who,
forgetting himself for a moment, shouted out in his loud voice:

"May the gods bless thee, and by thy means work the release of the
noblest of men from his sufferings! I had quite ceased to hope, but if
you come to our aid all is not yet wholly lost."



CHAPTER VI.

"Pardon me if I disturb you."

With these words the anchorite's final speech was interrupted by Eulaeus,
who had come in to the Pastophorium softly and unobserved, and who now
bowed respectfully to Publius.

"May I be permitted to enquire on what compact one of the noblest of the
sons of Rome is joining hands with this singular personage?"

"You are free to ask," replied Publius shortly and drily, "but every one
is not disposed to answer, and on the present occasion I am not. I will
bid you farewell, Serapion, but not for long I believe."

"Am I permitted to accompany you?" asked Eulaeus.

"You have followed me without any permission on my part."

"I did so by order of the king, and am only fulfilling his commands in
offering you my escort now."

"I shall go on, and I cannot prevent your following me."

"But I beg of you," said Eulaeus, "to consider that it would ill-become
me to walk behind you like a servant."

"I respect the wishes of my host, the king, who commanded you to follow
me," answered the Roman. "At the door of the temple however you can get
into your chariot, and I into mine; an old courtier must be ready to
carry out the orders of his superior."

"And does carry them out," answered Eulaeus with deference, but his eyes
twinkled--as the forked tongue of a serpent is rapidly put out and still
more rapidly withdrawn--with a flash first of threatening hatred, and
then another of deep suspicion cast at the roll the Roman held in his
hand.

Publius heeded not this glance, but walked quickly towards the
acacia-grove; the recluse looked after the ill-matched pair, and as he
watched the burly Eulaeus following the young man, he put both his hands
on his hips, puffed out his fat cheeks, and burst into loud laughter as
soon as the couple had vanished behind the acacias.

When once Serapion's midriff was fairly tickled it was hard to reduce it
to calm again, and he was still laughing when Klea appeared in front of
his cell some few minutes after the departure of the Roman. He was about
to receive his young friend with a cheerful greeting, but, glancing at
her face, he cried anxiously;

"You look as if you had met with a ghost; your lips are pale instead of
red, and there are dark shades round your eyes. What has happened to you,
child? Irene went with you to the procession, that I know. Have you had
bad news of your parents? You shake your head. Come, child, perhaps you
are thinking of some one more than you ought; how the color rises in your
cheeks! Certainly handsome Publius, the Roman, must have looked into your
eyes--a splendid youth is he--a fine young man--a capital good fellow--"

"Say no more on that subject," Klea exclaimed, interrupting her friend
and protector, and waving her hand in the air as if to cut off the other
half of Serapion's speech. "I can hear nothing more about him."

"Has he addressed you unbecomingly?" asked the recluse.

"Yes!" said Klea, turning crimson, and with a vehemence quite foreign to
her usual gentle demeanor, "yes, he persecutes me incessantly with
challenging looks."

"Only with looks?" said the anchorite. "But we may look even at the
glorious sun and at the lovely flowers as much as we please, and they are
not offended."

"The sun is too high and the soulless flowers too humble for a man to
hurt them," replied Klea. "But the Roman is neither higher nor lower than
I, the eye speaks as plain a language as the tongue, and what his eyes
demand of me brings the blood to my cheeks and stirs my indignation even
now when I only think of it."

"And that is why you avoid his gaze so carefully?"

"Who told you that?"

"Publius himself; and because he is wounded by your hard-heartedness he
meant to quit Egypt; but I have persuaded him to remain, for if there is
a mortal living from whom I expect any good for you and yours--"

"It is certainly not he," said Klea positively. "You are a man, and
perhaps you now think that so long as you were young and free to wander
about the world you would not have acted differently from him--it is a
man's privilege; but if you could look into my soul or feel with the
heart of a woman, you would think differently. Like the sand of the
desert which is blown over the meadows and turns all the fresh verdure to
a hideous brown-like a storm that transforms the blue mirror of the sea
into a crisped chaos of black whirl pools and foaming ferment, this man's
imperious audacity has cruelly troubled my peace of heart. Four times his
eyes pursued me in the processions; yesterday I still did not recognize
my danger, but to-day--I must tell you, for you are like a father to me,
and who else in the world can I confide in?--to-day I was able to avoid
his gaze, and yet all through long endless hours of the festival I felt
his eyes constantly seeking mine. I should have been certain I was under
no delusion, even if Publius Scipio--but what business has his name on my
lips?--even if the Roman had not boasted to you of his attacks on a
defenceless girl. And to think that you, you of all others, should have
become his ally! But you would not, no indeed you would not, if you knew
how I felt at the procession while I was looking down at the ground, and
knew that his very look desecrated me like the rain that washed all the
blossoms off the young vine-shoots last year. It was just as if he were
drawing a net round my heart--but, oh! what a net! It was as if the flax
on a distaff had been set on fire, and the flames spun out into thin
threads, and the meshes knotted of the fiery yarn. I felt every thread
and knot burning into my soul, and could not cast it off nor even defend
myself. Aye! you may look grieved and shake your head, but so it was, and
the scars hurt me still with a pain I cannot utter."

"But Klea," interrupted Serapion, "you are quite beside yourself--like
one possessed. Go to the temple and pray, or, if that is of no avail, go
to Asclepios or Anubis and have the demon cast out."

"I need none of your gods!" answered the girl in great agitation. "Oh! I
wish you had left me to my fate, and that we had shared the lot of our
parents, for what threatens us here is more frightful than having to sift
gold-dust in the scorching sun, or to crush quartz in mortars. I did not
come to you to speak about the Roman, but to tell you what the
high-priest had just disclosed to me since the procession ended."

"Well?" asked Serapion eager and almost frightened, stretching out his
neck to put his head near to the girl's, and opening his eyes so wide
that the loose skin below them almost disappeared.

"First he told me," replied Klea, "how meagrely the revenues of the
temple are supplied--"

"That is quite true," interrupted the anchorite, "for Antiochus carried
off the best part of its treasure; and the crown, which always used to
have money to spare for the sanctuaries of Egypt, now loads our estates
with heavy tribute; but you, as it seems to me, were kept scantily
enough, worse than meanly, for, as I know--since it passed through my
hands--a sum was paid to the temple for your maintenance which would have
sufficed to keep ten hungry sailors, not speak of two little pecking
birds like you, and besides that you do hard service without any pay.
Indeed it would be a more profitable speculation to steal a beggar's rags
than to rob you! Well, what did the high-priest want?"

"He says that we have been fed and protected by the priesthood for five
years, that now some danger threatens the temple on our account, and that
we must either quit the sanctuary or else make up our minds to take the
place of the twin-sisters Arsinoe and Doris who have hitherto been
employed in singing the hymns of lamentation, as Isis and Nephthys, by
the bier of the deceased god on the occasion of the festivals of the
dead, and in pouring out the libations with wailing and outcries when the
bodies were brought into the temple to be blessed. These maidens,
Asclepiodorus says, are now too old and ugly for these duties, but the
temple is bound to maintain them all their lives. The funds of the temple
are insufficient to support two more serving maidens besides them and us,
and so Arsinoe and Doris are only to pour out the libations for the
future, and we are to sing the laments, and do the wailing."

"But you are not twins!" cried Serapion. "And none but twins--so say the
ordinances--may mourn for Osiris as Isis and Neplithys."

"They will make twins of us!" said Klea with a scornful turn of her lip.
"Irene's hair is to be dyed black like mine, and the soles of her sandals
are to be made thicker to make her as tall as I am."

"They would hardly succeed in making you smaller than you are, and it is
easier to make light hair dark than dark hair light," said Serapion with
hardly suppressed rage. "And what answer did you give to these
exceedingly original proposals?"

"The only one I could very well give. I said no--but I declared myself
ready, not from fear, but because we owe much to the temple, to perform
any other service with Irene, only not this one."

"And Asclepiodorus?"

"He said nothing unkind to me, and preserved his calm and polite demeanor
when I contradicted him, though he fixed his eyes on me several times in
astonishment as if he had discovered in me something quite new and
strange. At last he went on to remind me how much trouble the temple
singing-master had taken with us, how well my low voice went with Irene's
high one, how much applause we might gain by a fine performance of the
hymns of lamentation, and how he would be willing, if we undertook the
duties of the twin-sisters, to give us a better dwelling and more
abundant food. I believe he has been trying to make us amenable by
supplying us badly with food, just as falcons are trained by hunger.
Perhaps I am doing him an injustice, but I feel only too much disposed
to-day to think the worst of him and of the other fathers. Be that as it
may; at any rate he made me no further answer when I persisted in my
refusal, but dismissed me with an injunction to present myself before him
again in three days' time, and then to inform him definitively whether I
would conform to his wishes, or if I proposed to leave the temple. I
bowed and went towards the door, and was already on the threshold when he
called me back once more, and said: 'Remember your parents and their
fate!' He spoke solemnly, almost threateningly, but he said no more and
hastily turned his back on me. What could he mean to convey by this
warning? Every day and every hour I think of my father and mother, and
keep Irene in mind of them."

The recluse at these words sat muttering thoughtfully to himself for a
few minutes with a discontented air; then he said gravely:

"Asclepiodorus meant more by his speech than you think. Every sentence
with which he dismisses a refractory subordinate is a nut of which the
shell must be cracked in order to get at the kernel. When he tells you to
remember your parents and their sad fate, such words from his lips, and
under the present circumstances, can hardly mean anything else than this:
that you should not forget how easily your father's fate might overtake
you also, if once you withdrew yourselves from the protection of the
temple. It was not for nothing that Asclepiodorus--as you yourself told
me quite lately, not more than a week ago I am sure--reminded you how
often those condemned to forced labor in the mines had their relations
sent after them. Ah! child, the words of Asclepiodorus have a sinister
meaning. The calmness and pride, with which you look at me make me fear
for you, and yet, as you know, I am not one of the timid and tremulous.
Certainly what they propose to you is repulsive enough, but submit to it;
it is to be hoped it will not be for long. Do it for my sake and for that
of poor Irene, for though you might know how to assert your dignity and
take care of yourself outside these walls in the rough and greedy world,
little Irene never could. And besides, Klea, my sweetheart, we have now
found some one, who makes your concerns his, and who is great and
powerful--but oh! what are three clays? To think of seeing you turned
out--and then that you may be driven with a dissolute herd in a filthy
boat down to the burning south, and dragged to work which kills first the
soul and then the body! No, it is not possible! You will never let this
happen to me--and to yourself and Irene; no, my darling, no, my pet, my
sweetheart, you cannot, you will not do so. Are you not my children, my
daughters, my only joy? and you, would you go away, and leave me alone in
my cage, all because you are so proud!"

The strong man's voice failed him, and heavy drops fell from his eyes one
after another down his beard, and on to Klea's arm, which he had grasped
with both hands.

The girl's eyes too were dim with a mist of warm tears when she saw her
rough friend weeping, but she remained firm and said, as she tried to
free her hand from his:

"You know very well, father Serapion, that there is much to tie me to
this temple; my sister, and you, and the door-keeper's child, little
Philo. It would be cruel, dreadful to have to leave you; but I would
rather endure that and every other grief than allow Irene to take the
place of Arsinoe or the black Doris as wailing woman. Think of that
bright child, painted and kneeling at the foot of a bier and groaning and
wailing in mock sorrow! She would become a living lie in human form, an
object of loathing to herself, and to me--who stand in the place of a
mother to her--from morning till night a martyrizing reproach! But what
do I care about myself--I would disguise myself as the goddess without
even making a wry face, and be led to the bier, and wail and groan so
that every hearer would be cut to the heart, for my soul is already
possessed by sorrow; it is like the eyes of a man, who has gone blind
from the constant flow of salt tears. Perhaps singing the hymns of
lamentation might relieve my soul, which is as full of sorrow as an
overbrimming cup; but I would rather that a cloud should for ever darken
the sun, that mists should hide every star from my eyes, and the air I
breathe be poisoned by black smoke than disguise her identity, and darken
her soul, or let her clear laugh be turned to shrieks of lamentation, and
her fresh and childlike spirit be buried in gloomy mourning. Sooner will
I go way with her and leave even you, to perish with my parents in misery
and anguish than see that happen, or suffer it for a moment."

As she spoke Serapion covered his face with his hands, and Klea, hastily
turning away from him, with a deep sigh returned to her room.

Irene was accustomed when she heard her step to hasten to meet her, but
to-day no one came to welcome her, and in their room, which was beginning
to be dark as twilight fell, she did not immediately catch sight of her
sister, for she was sitting all in a heap in a corner of the room, her
face hidden, in her hands and weeping quietly.

"What is the matter?" asked Klea, going tenderly up to the weeping child,
over whom she bent, endeavoring to raise her.

"Leave me," said Irene sobbing; she turned away from her sister with an
impatient gesture, repelling her caress like a perverse child; and then,
when Klea tried to soothe her by affectionately stroking her hair, she
sprang up passionately exclaiming through her tears:

"I could not help crying--and, from this hour, I must always have to cry.
The Corinthian Lysias spoke to me so kindly after the procession, and
you--you don't care about me at all and leave me alone all this time in
this nasty dusty hole! I declare I will not endure it any longer, and if
you try to keep me shut up, I will run away from this temple, for outside
it is all bright and pleasant, and here it is dingy and horrid!"



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     A mere nothing in one man's life, to another may be great
     A subdued tone generally provokes an equally subdued answer
     Air of a professional guide
     Before you serve me up so bitter a meal (the truth)
     Blind tenderness which knows no reason
     By nature she is not and by circumstances is compelled to be
     Deceit is deceit
     Desire to seek and find a power outside us
     Inquisitive eyes are intrusive company
     Many a one would rather be feared than remain unheeded
     Not yet fairly come to the end of yesterday
     The altar where truth is mocked at
     Virtues are punished in this world
     Who can be freer than he who needs nothing
     Who only puts on his armor when he is threatened



THE SISTERS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 2.



CHAPTER VII.

In the very midst of the white wall with its bastions and ramparts, which
formed the fortifications of Memphis, stood the old palace of the kings,
a stately structure built of bricks, recently plastered, and with courts,
corridors, chambers and halls without number, and veranda-like
out-buildings of gayly-painted wood, and a magnificent pillared
banqueting-hall in the Greek style. It was surrounded by verdurous
gardens, and a whole host of laborers tended the flower-beds and shady
alleys, the shrubs and the trees; kept the tanks clean and fed the fish
in them; guarded the beast-garden, in which quadrupeds of every kind,
from the heavy-treading elephant to the light-footed antelope, were to be
seen, associated with birds innumerable of every country and climate.

A light white vapor rose from the splendidly fitted bath-house, loud
barkings resounded from the dog-kennels, and from the long array of open
stables came the neighing of horses with the clatter and stamp of hoofs,
and the rattle of harness and chains. A semicircular building of new
construction adjoining the old palace was the theatre, and many large
tents for the bodyguard, for ambassadors and scribes, as well as others,
serving as banqueting-halls for the various court-officials, stood both
within the garden and outside its enclosing walls. A large space leading
from the city itself to the royal citadel was given up to the soldiers,
and there, by the side of the shady court-yards, were the houses of the
police-guard and the prisons. Other soldiers were quartered in tents
close to the walls of the palace itself. The clatter of their arms and
the words of command, given in Greek, by their captain, sounded out at
this particular instant, and up into the part of the buildings occupied
by the queen; and her apartments were high up, for in summer time
Cleopatra preferred to live in airy tents, which stood among the
broad-leaved trees of the south and whole groves of flowering shrubs, on
the level roof of the palace, which was also lavishly decorated with
marble statues. There was only one way of access to this retreat, which
was fitted up with regal splendor; day and night it was fanned by
currents of soft air, and no one could penetrate uninvited to disturb the
queen's retirement, for veteran guards watched at the foot of the broad
stair that led to the roof, chosen from the Macedonian "Garde noble," and
owing as implicit obedience to Cleopatra as to the king himself. This
select corps was now, at sunset, relieving guard, and the queen could
hear the words spoken by the officers in command and the clatter of the
shields against the swords as they rattled on the pavement, for she had
come out of her tent into the open air, and stood gazing towards the
west, where the glorious hues of the sinking sun flooded the bare, yellow
limestone range of the Libyan hills, with their innumerable tombs and the
separate groups of pyramids; while the wonderful coloring gradually
tinged with rose-color the light silvery clouds that hovered in the clear
sky over the valley of Memphis, and edged them as with a rile of living
gold.

The queen stepped out of her tent, accompanied by a young Greek girl--the
fair Zoe, daughter of her master of the hunt Zenodotus, and Cleopatra's
favorite lady-in-waiting--but though she looked towards the west, she
stood unmoved by the magic of the glorious scene before her; she screened
her eyes with her hand to shade them from the blinding rays, and said:

"Where can Cornelius be staying! When we mounted our chariots before the
temple he had vanished, and as far as I can see the road in the quarters
of Sokari and Serapis I cannot discover his vehicle, nor that of Eulaeus
who was to accompany him. It is not very polite of him to go off in this
way without taking leave; nay, I could call it ungrateful, since I had
proposed to tell him on our way home all about my brother Euergetes, who
has arrived to-day with his friends. They are not yet acquainted, for
Euergetes was living in Cyrene when Publius Cornelius Scipio landed in
Alexandria. Stay! do you see a black shadow out there by the vineyard at
Kakem; That is very likely he; but no--you are right, it is only some
birds, flying in a close mass above the road. Can you see nothing more?
No!--and yet we both have sharp young eyes. I am very curious to know
whether Publius Scipio will like Euergetes. There can hardly be two
beings more unlike, and yet they have some very essential points in
common."

"They are both men," interrupted Zoe, looking at the queen as if she
expected cordial assent to this proposition.

"So they are," said Cleopatra proudly. "My brother is still so young
that, if he were not a king's son, he would hardly have outgrown the
stage of boyhood, and would be a lad among other Epheboi,--[Youths above
18 were so called]--and yet among the oldest there is hardly a man who is
his superior in strength of will and determined energy. Already, before I
married Philometor, he had clutched Alexandria and Cyrene, which by right
should belong to my husband, who is the eldest of us three, and that was
not very brotherly conduct--and indeed we had other grounds for being
angry with him; but when I saw him again for the first time after nine
months of separation I was obliged to forget them all, and welcome him as
though he had done nothing but good to me and his brother--who is my
husband, as is the custom of the families of Pharaohs and the usage of
our race. He is a young Titan, and no one would be astonished if he one
day succeeded in piling Pelion upon Ossa. I know well enough how wild he
can often be, how unbridled and recalcitrant beyond all bounds; but I can
easily pardon him, for the same bold blood flows in my own veins, and at
the root of all his excesses lies power, genuine and vigorous power. And
this innate pith and power are just the very thing we most admire in men,
for it is the one gift which the gods have dealt out to us with a less
liberal hand than to men. Life indeed generally dams its overflowing
current, but I doubt whether this will be the case with the stormy
torrent of his energy; at any rate men such as he is rush swiftly
onwards, and are strong to the end, which sooner or later is sure to
overtake them; and I infinitely prefer such a wild torrent to a shallow
brook flowing over a plain, which hurts no one, and which in order to
prolong its life loses itself in a misty bog. He, if any one, may be
forgiven for his tumultuous career; for when he pleases my brother's
great qualities charm old and young alike, and are as conspicuous and as
remarkable as his faults--nay, I will frankly say his crimes. And who in
Greece or Egypt surpasses him in grasp and elevation of mind?"

"You may well be proud of him," replied Zoe. "Not even Publius Scipio
himself can soar to the height reached by Euergetes."

"But, on the other hand, Euergetes is not gifted with the steady, calm
self-reliance of Cornelius. The man who should unite in one person the
good qualities of those two, need yield the palm, as it seems to me, not
even to a god!"

"Among us imperfect mortals he would indeed be the only perfect one,"
replied Zoe. "But the gods could not endure the existence of a perfect
man, for then they would have to undertake the undignified task of
competing with one of their own creatures."

"Here, however, comes one whom no one can accuse!" cried the young queen,
as she hastened to meet a richly dressed woman, older than herself, who
came towards her leading her son, a pale child of two years old. She bent
down to the little one, tenderly but with impetuous eagerness, and was
about to clasp him in her arms, but the fragile child, which at first had
smiled at her, was startled; he turned away from her and tried to hide
his little face in the dress of his nurse--a lady of rank-to whom he
clung with both hands. The queen threw herself on her knees before him,
took hold of his shoulder, and partly by coaxing and partly by insistence
strove to induce him to quit the sheltering gown and to turn to her; but
although the lady, his wet-nurse, seconded her with kind words of
encouragement, the terrified child began to cry, and resisted his
mother's caresses with more and more vehemence the more passionately she
tried to attract and conciliate him. At last the nurse lifted him up, and
was about to hand him to his mother, but the wilful little boy cried more
than before, and throwing his arms convulsively round his nurse's neck he
broke into loud cries.

In the midst of this rather unbecoming struggle of the mother against the
child's obstinacy, the clatter of wheels and of horses' hoofs rang
through the court-yard of the palace, and hardly had the sound reached
the queen's ears than she turned away from the screaming child, hurried
to the parapet of the roof, and called out to Zoe:

"Publius Scipio is here; it is high time that I should dress for the
banquet. Will that naughty child not listen to me at all? Take him away,
Praxinoa, and understand distinctly that I am much dissatisfied with you.
You estrange my own child from me to curry favor with the future king.
That is base, or else it proves that you have no tact, and are
incompetent for the office entrusted to you. The office of wet-nurse you
duly fulfilled, but I shall now look out for another attendant for the
boy. Do not answer me! no tears! I have had enough of that with the
child's screaming." With these words, spoken loudly and passionately, she
turned her back on Praxinoa--the wife of a distinguished Macedonian
noble, who stood as if petrified--and retired into her tent, where
branched lamps had just been placed on little tables of elegant
workmanship. Like all the other furniture in the queen's dressing-tent
these were made of gleaming ivory, standing out in fine relief from the
tent-cloth which was sky-blue woven with silver lilies and ears of corn,
and from the tiger-skins which covered all the cushions, while white
woollen carpets, bordered with a waving scroll in blue, were spread on
the ground.

The queen threw herself on a seat in front of her dressing-table, and sat
staring at herself in a mirror, as if she now saw her face and her
abundant, reddish-fair hair for the first time; then she said, half
turning to Zoe and half to her favorite Athenian waiting-maid, who stood
behind her with her other women:

"It was folly to dye my dark hair light; but now it may remain so, for
Publius Scipio, who has no suspicion of our arts, thought this color
pretty and uncommon, and never will know its origin. That Egyptian
headdress with the vulture's head which the king likes best to see me in,
the young Greek Lysias and the Roman too, call barbaric, and so every one
must call it who is not interested in the Egyptians. But to-night we are
only ourselves, so I will wear the chaplet of golden corn with sapphire
grapes. Do you think, Zoe, that with that I could wear the dress of
transparent bombyx silk that came yesterday from Cos? But no, I will not
wear that, for it is too slight a tissue, it hides nothing and I am now
too thin for it to become me. All the lines in my throat show, and my
elbows are quite sharp--altogether I am much thinner. That comes of
incessant worry, annoyance, and anxiety. How angry I was yesterday at the
council, because my husband will always give way and agree and try to be
pleasant; whenever a refusal is necessary I have to interfere, unwilling
as I am to do it, and odious as it is to me always to have to stir up
discontent, disappointment, and disaffection, to take things on myself
and to be regarded as hard and heartless in order that my husband may
preserve undiminished the doubtful glory of being the gentlest and
kindest of men and princes. My son's having a will of his own leads to
agitating scenes, but even that is better than that Philopator should
rush into everybody's arms. The first thing in bringing up a boy should
be to teach him to say 'no.' I often say 'yes' myself when I should not,
but I am a woman, and yielding becomes us better than refusal--and what
is there of greater importance to a woman than to do what becomes her
best, and to seem beautiful?

"I will decide on this pale dress, and put over it the net-work of gold
thread with sapphire knots; that will go well with the head-dress. Take
care with your comb, Thais, you are hurting me! Now--I must not chatter
any more. Zoe, give me the roll yonder; I must collect my thoughts a
little before I go down to talk among men at the banquet. When we have
just come from visiting the realm of death and of Serapis, and have been
reminded of the immortality of the soul and of our lot in the next world,
we are glad to read through what the most estimable of human thinkers has
said concerning such things. Begin here, Zoe."

Cleopatra's companion, thus addressed, signed to the unoccupied
waiting-women to withdraw, seated herself on a low cushion opposite the
queen, and began to read with an intelligent and practised intonation;
the reading went on for some time uninterrupted by any sound but the
clink of metal ornaments, the rustle of rich stuffs, the trickle of oils
or perfumes as they were dropped into the crystal bowls, the short and
whispered questions of the women who were attiring the queen, or
Cleopatra's no less low and rapid answers.

All the waiting-women not immediately occupied about the queen's
person--perhaps twenty in all, young and old-ranged themselves along the
sides of the great tent, either standing or sitting on the ground or on
cushions, and awaiting the moment when it should be their turn to perform
some service, as motionless as though spellbound by the mystical words of
a magician. They only made signs to each other with their eyes and
fingers, for they knew that the queen did not choose to be disturbed when
she was being read to, and that she never hesitated to cast aside
anything or anybody that crossed her wishes or inclinations, like a tight
shoe or a broken lutestring.

Her features were irregular and sharp, her cheekbones too strongly
developed, and the lips, behind which her teeth gleamed pearly
white-though too widely set--were too full; still, so long as she exerted
her great powers of concentration, and listened with flashing eyes, like
those of a prophetess, and parted lips to the words of Plato, her face
had worn an indescribable glow of feeling, which seemed to have come upon
her from a higher and better world, and she had looked far more beautiful
than now when she was fully dressed, and when her women crowded round
leer--Zoe having laid aside the Plato--with loud and unmeasured flattery.

Cleopatra delighted in being thus feted, and, in order to enjoy the
adulation of a throng, she would always when dressing have a great number
of women to attend her toilet; mirrors were held up to her on every side,
a fold set right, and the jewelled straps of her sandals adjusted.

One praised the abundance of her hair, another the slenderness of her
form, the slimness of her ankles, and the smallness of her tiny hands and
feet. One maiden remarked to another--but loud enough to be heard--on the
brightness of her eyes which were clearer than the sapphires on her brow,
while the Athenian waiting-woman, Thais, declared that Cleopatra had
grown fatter, for her golden belt was less easy to clasp than it had been
ten days previously.

The queen presently signed to Zoe, who threw a little silver ball into a
bowl of the same metal, elaborately wrought and decorated, and in a few
minutes the tramp of the body-guard was audible outside the door of the
tent.

Cleopatra went out, casting a rapid glance over the roof--now brightly
illuminated with cressets and torches--and the white marble statues that
gleamed out in relief against the dark clumps of shrubs; and then,
without even looking at the tent where her children were asleep, she
approached the litter, which had been brought up to the roof for her by
the young Macedonian nobles. Zoe and Thais assisted her to mount into it,
and her ladies, waiting-women, and others who had hurried out of the
other tents, formed a row on each side of the way, and hailed their
mistress with loud cries of admiration and delight as she passed by,
lifted high above them all on the shoulders of her bearers. The diamonds
in the handle of her feather-fan sparkled brightly as Cleopatra waved a
gracious adieu to her women, an adieu which did not fail to remind them
how infinitely beneath her were those she greeted. Every movement of her
hand was full of regal pride, and her eyes, unveiled and untempered, were
radiant with a young woman's pleasure in a perfect toilet, with
satisfaction in her own person, and with the anticipation of the festive
hours before her.

The litter disappeared behind the door of the broad steps that led up to
the roof, and Thais, sighing softly, said to herself, "If only for once I
could ride through the air in just such a pretty shell of colored and
shining mother-of-pearl, like a goddess! carried aloft by young men, and
hailed and admired by all around me! High up there the growing Selene
floats calmly and silently by the tiny stars, and just so did she ride
past in her purple robe with her torch-bearers and flames and lights-past
us humble creatures, and between the tents to the banquet--and to what a
banquet, and what guests! Everything up here greets her with rejoicing,
and I could almost fancy that among those still marble statues even the
stern face of Zeno had parted its lips, and spoken flattering words to
her. And yet poor little Zoe, and the fair-haired Lysippa, and the
black-haired daughter of Demetrius, and even I, poor wretch, should be
handsomer, far handsomer than she, if we could dress ourselves with fine
clothes and jewels for which kings would sell their kingdoms; if we could
play Aphrodite as she does, and ride off in a shell borne aloft on
emerald-green glass to look as if it were floating on the waves; if
dolphins set with pearls and turquoises served us for a footstool, and
white ostrich-plumes floated over our heads, like the silvery clouds that
float over Athens in the sky of a fine spring day. The transparent tissue
that she dared not put on would well become me! If only that were true
which Zoe was reading yesterday, that the souls of men were destined to
visit the earth again and again in new forms! Then perhaps mine might
some day come into the world in that of a king's child. I should not care
to be a prince, so much is expected of him, but a princess indeed! That
would be lovely!"

These and such like were Thais' dreams, while Zoe stood outside the tent
of the royal children with her cousin, the chief-attendant of prince
Philopator, carrying on an eager conversation in a low tone. The child's
nurse from time to time dried her eyes and sobbed bitterly as she said:
"My own baby, my other children, my husband and our beautiful house in
Alexandria--I left them all to suckle and rear a prince. I have
sacrificed happiness, freedom, and my nights'-sleep for the sake of the
queen and of this child, and how am I repaid for all this? As if I were a
lowborn wench instead of the daughter and wife of noble men; this woman,
half a child still, scarcely yet nineteen, dismisses me from her service
before you and all her ladies every ten days! And why? Because the
ungoverned blood of her race flows in her son's veins, and because he
does not rush into the arms of a mother who for days does not ask for him
at all, and never troubles herself about him but in some idle moment when
she has gratified every other whim. Princes distribute favor or disgrace
with justice only so long as they are children. The little one
understands very well what I am to him, and sees what Cleopatra is. If I
could find it in my heart to ill-use him in secret, this mother--who is
not fit to be a mother--would soon have her way. Hard as it would be to
me so soon to leave the poor feeble little child, who has grown as dear
to my soul as my own--aye and closer, even closer, as I may well
say--this time I will do it, even at the risk of Cleopatra's plunging us
into ruin, my husband and me, as she has done to so many who have dared
to contravene her will."

The wet-nurse wept aloud, but Zoe laid her hand on the distressed woman's
shoulder, and said soothingly: "I know you have more to submit to from
Cleopatra's humors than any of us all, but do not be overhasty. Tomorrow
she will send you a handsome present, as she so often has done after
being unkind; and though she vexes and hurts you again and again, she
will try to make up for it again and again till, when this year is over,
your attendance on the prince will be at an end, and you can go home
again to your own family. We all have to practise patience; we live like
people dwelling in a ruinous house with to-day a stone and to-morrow a
beam threatening to fall upon our heads. If we each take calmly whatever
befalls us our masters try to heal our wounds, but if we resist may the
gods have mercy on us! for Cleopatra is like a strung bow, which sets the
arrow flying as soon as a child, a mouse, a breath of air even touches
it--like an over-full cup which brims over if a leaf, another drop, a
single tear falls into it. We should, any one of us, soon be worn out by
such a life, but she needs excitement, turmoil and amusement at every
hour. She comes home late from a feast, spends barely six hours in
disturbed slumber, and has hardly rested so long as it takes a pebble to
fall to the ground from a crane's claw before we have to dress her again
for another meal. From the council-board she goes to hear some learned
discourse, from her books in the temple to sacrifice and prayer, from the
sanctuary to the workshops of artists, from pictures and statues to the
audience-chamber, from a reception of her subjects and of foreigners to
her writing-room, from answering letters to a procession and worship once
more, from the sacred services back again to her dressing-tent, and
there, while she is being attired she listens to me while I read the most
profound works--and how she listens! not a word escapes her, and her
memory retains whole sentences. Amid all this hurry and scurry her spirit
must need be like a limb that is sore from violent exertion, and that is
painfully tender to every rough touch. We are to her neither more nor
less than the wretched flies which we hit at when they trouble us, and
may the gods be merciful to those on whom this queen's hand may fall!
Euergetes cleaves with the sword all that comes in his way. Cleopatra
stabs with the dagger, and her hand wields the united power of her own
might and of her yielding husband's. Do not provoke her. Submit to what
you cannot avert; just as I never complain when, if I make a mistake in
reading, she snatches the book from my hand, or flings it at my feet. But
I, of course, have only myself to fear for, and you have your husband and
children as well."

Praxinoa bowed her head at these words in sad assent, and said:

"Thank you for those words! I always think only from my heart, and you
mostly from your head. You are right, this time again there is nothing
for me to do but to be patient; but when I have fulfilled the duties
here, which I undertook, and am at home again, I will offer a great
sacrifice to Asclepias and Hygiea, like a person recovered from a severe
illness; and one thing I know: that I would rather be a poor girl,
grinding at a mill, than change with this rich and adored queen who, in
order to enjoy her life to the utmost, carelessly and restlessly hurries
past all that our mortal lot has best to offer. Terrible, hideous to me
seems such an existence with no rest in it! and the heart of a mother
which is so much occupied with other things that she cannot win the love
of her child, which blossoms for every hired nurse, must be as waste as
the desert! Rather would I endure anything--everything--with patience
than be such a queen!"



CHAPTER VIII.

"What! No one to come to meet me?" asked the queen, as she reached the
foot of the last flight of porphyry steps that led into the ante-chamber
to the banqueting-hall, and, looking round, with an ominous glance, at
the chamberlains who had accompanied her, she clinched her small fist. "I
arrive and find no one here!"

The "No one" certainly was a figure of speech, since more than a hundred
body-guards-Macedonians in rich array of arms-and an equal number of
distinguished court-officials were standing on the marble flags of the
vast hall, which was surrounded by colonnades, while the star-spangled
night-sky was all its roof; and the court-attendants were all men of
rank, dignified by the titles of fathers, brothers, relatives, friends
and chief-friends of the king.

These all received the queen with a many-voiced "Hail!" but not one of
them seemed worthy of Cleopatra's notice. This crowd was less to her than
the air we breathe in order to live--a mere obnoxious vapor, a whirl of
dust which the traveller would gladly avoid, but which he must
nevertheless encounter in order to proceed on his way.

The queen had expected that the few guests, invited by her selection and
that of her brother Euergetes to the evening's feast, would have welcomed
her here at the steps; she thought they would have seen her--as she felt
herself--like a goddess borne aloft in her shell, and that she might have
exulted in the admiring astonishment of the Roman and of Lysias, the
Corinthian: and now the most critical instant in the part she meant to
play that evening had proved a failure, and it suggested itself to her
mind that she might be borne back to her roof-tent, and be floated down
once more when she was sure of the presence of the company. But there was
one thing she dreaded more even than pain and remorse, and that was any
appearance of the ridiculous; so she only commanded the bearers to stand
still, and while the master of the ceremonies, waiving his dignity,
hurried off to announce to her husband that she was approaching, she
signed to the nobles highest in rank to approach, that she might address
a few gracious words to them, with distant amiability. Only a few
however, for the doors of thyia wood leading into the banqueting hall
itself, presently opened, and the king with his friends came forward to
meet Cleopatra.

"How were we to expect you so early?" cried Philometor to his wife.

"Is it really still early?" asked the queen, "or have I only taken you by
surprise, because you had forgotten to expect me?"

"How unjust you are!" replied the king. "Must you now be told that, come
as early as you will, you always come too late for my desires."

"But for ours," cried Lysias, "neither too early nor too late, but at the
very right time--like returning health and happiness, or the victor's
crown."

"Health as taking the place of sickness?" asked Cleopatra, and her eyes
sparkled keenly and merrily. "I perfectly understand Lysias," said
Publius, intercepting the Greek. "Once, on the field of Mars, I was flung
from my horse, and had to lie for weeks on my couch, and I know that
there is no more delightful sensation than that of feeling our departed
strength returning as we recover. He means to say that in your presence
we must feel exceptionally well."

"Nay rather," interrupted Lysias, "our queen seems to come to us like
returning health, since so long as she was not in our midst we felt
suffering and sick for longing. Thy presence, Cleopatra, is the most
effectual remedy, and restores us to our lost health."

Cleopatra politely lowered her fan, as if in thanks, thus rapidly turning
the stick of it in her hand, so as to make the diamonds that were set in
it sparkle and flash. Then she turned to the friends, and said:

"Your words are most amiable, and your different ways of expressing your
meaning remind me of two gems set in a jewel, one of which sparkles
because it is skilfully cut, and reflects every light from its mirrorlike
facets, while the other shines by its genuine and intrinsic fire. The
genuine and the true are one, and the Egyptians have but one word for
both, and your kind speech, my Scipio--but I may surely venture to call
you Publius--your kind speech, my Publius seems to me to be truer than
that of your accomplished friend, which is better adapted to vainer ears
than mine. Pray, give me your hand."

The shell in which she was sitting was gently lowered, and, supported by
Publius and her husband, the queen alighted and entered the
banqueting-hall, accompanied by her guests.

As soon as the curtains were closed, and when Cleopatra had exchanged a
few whispered words with her husband, she turned again to the Roman, who
had just been joined by Eulaeus, and said:

"You have come from Athens, Publius, but you do not seem to have followed
very closely the courses of logic there, else how could it be that you,
who regard health as the highest good--that you, who declared that you
never felt so well as in my presence--should have quitted me so promptly
after the procession, and in spite of our appointment? May I be allowed
to ask what business--"

"Our noble friend," answered Eulaeus, bowing low, but not allowing the
queen to finish her speech, "would seem to have found some particular
charm in the bearded recluses of Serapis, and to be seeking among them
the key-stone of his studies at Athens."

"In that he is very right," said the queen. "For from them he can learn
to direct his attention to that third division of our existence,
concerning which least is taught in Athens--I mean the future--"

"That is in the hands of the gods," replied the Roman. "It will come soon
enough, and I did not discuss it with the anchorite. Eulaeus may be
informed that, on the contrary, everything I learned from that singular
man in the Serapeum bore reference to the things of the past."

"But how can it be possible," said Eulaeus, "that any one to whom
Cleopatra had offered her society should think so long of anything else
than the beautiful present?"

"You indeed have good reason," retorted Publius quickly, "to enter the
lists in behalf of the present, and never willingly to recall the past."

"It was full of anxiety and care," replied Eulaeus with perfect
self-possession. "That my sovereign lady must know from her illustrious
mother, and from her own experience; and she will also protect me from
the undeserved hatred with which certain powerful enemies seem minded to
pursue me. Permit me, your majesty, not to make my appearance at the
banquet until later. This noble gentleman kept me waiting for hours in
the Serapeum, and the proposals concerning the new building in the temple
of Isis at Philae must be drawn up and engrossed to-day, in order that
they may be brought to-morrow before your royal husband in council and
your illustrious brother Euergetes--"

"You have leave, interrupted Cleopatra."

As soon as Eulaeus had disappeared, the queen went closer up to Publius,
and said:

"You are annoyed with this man--well, he is not pleasant, but at any rate
he is useful and worthy. May I ask whether you only feel his personality
repugnant to you, or whether actual circumstances have given rise to your
aversion--nay, if I have judged rightly, to a very bitterly hostile
feeling against him?"

"Both," replied Publius. "In this unmanly man, from the very first, I
expected to find nothing good, and I now know that, if I erred at all, it
was in his favor. To-morrow I will ask you to spare me an hour when I can
communicate to your majesty something concerning him, but which is too
repulsive and sad to be suitable for telling in an evening devoted to
enjoyment. You need not be inquisitive, for they are matters that belong
to the past, and which concern neither you nor me."

The high-steward and the cup-bearer here interrupted this conversation by
calling them to table, and the royal pair were soon reclining with their
guests at the festal board.

Oriental splendor and Greek elegance were combined in the decorations of
the saloon of moderate size, in which Ptolemy Philometor was wont to
prefer to hold high-festival with a few chosen friends. Like the great
reception-hall and the men's hall-with its twenty doors and lofty
porphyry columns--in which the king's guests assembled, it was lighted
from above, since it was only at the sides that the walls--which had no
windows--and a row of graceful alabaster columns with Corinthian
acanthus-capitals supported a narrow roof; the centre of the hall was
quite uncovered. At this hour, when it was blazing with hundreds of
lights, the large opening, which by day admitted the bright sunshine, was
closed over by a gold net-work, decorated with stars and a crescent moon
of rock-crystal, and the meshes were close enough to exclude the bats and
moths which at night always fly to the light. But the illumination of the
king's banqueting-hall made it almost as light as day, consisting of
numerous lamps with many branches held up by lovely little figures of
children in bronze and marble. Every joint was plainly visible in the
mosaic of the pavement, which represented the reception of Heracles into
Olympus, the feast of the gods, and the astonishment of the amazed hero
at the splendor of the celestial banquet; and hundreds of torches were
reflected in the walls of polished yellow marble, brought from Hippo
Regius; these were inlaid by skilled artists with costly stones, such as
lapis lazuli and malachite, crystals, blood-stone, jasper, agates and
chalcedony, to represent fruit-pieces and magnificent groups of game or
of musical instruments; while the pilasters were decorated with masks of
the tragic and comic Muses, torches, thyrsi wreathed with ivy and vine,
and pan-pipes. These were wrought in silver and gold, and set with costly
marbles, and they stood out from the marble background like metal work on
a leather shield, or the rich ornamentation on a sword-sheath. The
figures of a Dionysiac procession, forming the frieze, looked down upon
the feasters--a fine relievo that had been designed and modelled for
Ptolemy Soter by the sculptor Bryaxis, and then executed in ivory and
gold.

Everything that met the eye in this hall was splendid, costly, and above
all of a genial aspect, even before Cleopatra had come to the throne; and
she--here as in her own apartments--had added the busts of the greatest
Greek philosophers and poets, from Thales of Miletus down to Strato, who
raised chance to fill the throne of God, and from Hesiod to Callimachus;
she too had placed the tragic mask side by side with the comic, for at
her table--she was wont to say--she desired to see no one who could not
enjoy grave and wise discourse more than eating, drinking, and laughter.

Instead of assisting at the banquet, as other ladies used, seated on a
chair or at the foot of her husband's couch, she reclined on a couch of
her own, behind which stood busts of Sappho the poetess, and Aspasia the
friend of Pericles.

Though she made no pretensions to be regarded as a philosopher nor even
as a poetess, she asserted her right to be considered a finished
connoisseur in the arts of poetry and music; and if she preferred
reclining to sitting how should she have done otherwise, since she was
fully aware how well it became her to extend herself in a picturesque
attitude on her cushions, and to support her head on her arm as it rested
on the back of her couch; for that arm, though not strictly speaking
beautiful, always displayed the finest specimens of Alexandrian
workmanship in gem-cutting and goldsmiths' work.

But, in fact, she selected a reclining posture particularly for the sake
of showing her feet; not a woman in Egypt or Greece had a smaller or more
finely formed foot than she. For this reason her sandals were so made
that when she stood or walked they protected only the soles of her feet,
and her slender white toes with the roseate nails and their polished
white half-moons were left uncovered.

At the banquet she put off her shoes altogether, as the men did; hiding
her feet at first however, and not displaying them till she thought the
marks left on her tender skin by the straps of the sandals had completely
disappeared.

Eulaeus was the greatest admirer of these feet; not, as he averred, on
account of their beauty, but because the play of the queen's toes showed
him exactly what was passing in her mind, when he was quite unable to
detect what was agitating her soul in the expression of her mouth and
eyes, well practised in the arts of dissimulation.

Nine couches, arranged three and three in a horseshoe, invited the guests
to repose, with their arms of ebony and cushions of dull olive-green
brocade, on which a delicate pattern of gold and silver seemed just to
have been breathed.

The queen, shrugging her shoulders, and, as it would seem, by no means
agreeably surprised at something, whispered to the chamberlain, who then
indicated to each guest the place he was to occupy. To the right of the
central group reclined the queen, and her husband took his place to the
left; the couch between the royal pair, destined for their brother
Euergetes, remained unoccupied.

On one of the three couches which formed the right-hand angle with those
of the royal family, Publius found a place next to Cleopatra; opposite to
him, and next the king, was Lysias the Corinthian. Two places next to him
remained vacant, while on the side by the Roman reclined the brave and
prudent Hierax, the friend of Ptolemy Euergetes and his most faithful
follower.

While the servants strewed the couches with rose leaves, sprinkled
perfumed waters, and placed by the couch of each guest a small table-made
of silver and of a slab of fine, reddish-brown porphyry, veined with
white-the king addressed a pleasant greeting to each guest, apologizing
for the smallness of the number.

"Eulaeus," he said, "has been forced to leave us on business, and our
royal brother is still sitting over his books with Aristarchus, who came
with him from Alexandria; but he promised certainly to come."

"The fewer we are," replied Lysias, bowing low, "the more honorable is
the distinction of belonging to so limited a number of your majesty's
most select associates."

"I certainly think we have chosen the best from among the good," said the
queen. "But even the small number of friends I had invited must have
seemed too large to my brother Euergetes, for he--who is accustomed to
command in other folks' houses as he does in his own--forbid the
chamberlain to invite our learned friends--among whom Agatharchides, my
brothers' and my own most worthy tutor, is known to you--as well as our
Jewish friends who were present yesterday at our table, and whom I had
set down on my list. I am very well satisfied however, for I like the
number of the Muses; and perhaps he desired to do you, Publius,
particular honor, since we are assembled here in the Roman fashion. It is
in your honor, and not in his, that we have no music this evening; you
said that you did not particularly like it at a banquet. Euergetes
himself plays the harp admirably. However, it is well that he is late in
coming as usual, for the day after tomorrow is his birthday, and he is to
spend it here with us and not in Alexandria; the priestly delegates
assembled in the Bruchion are to come from thence to Memphis to wish him
joy, and we must endeavor to get up some brilliant festival. You have no
love for Eulaeus, Publius, but he is extremely skilled in such matters,
and I hope he will presently return to give us his advice."

"For the morning we will have a grand procession," cried the king.
"Euergetes delights in a splendid spectacle, and I should be glad to show
him how much pleasure his visit has given us."

The king's fine features wore a most winning expression as he spoke these
words with heart-felt warmth, but his consort said thoughtfully: "Aye! if
only we were in Alexandria--but here, among all the Egyptian people--"



CHAPTER IX.

A loud laugh re-echoing from the marble walls of the state-room
interrupted the queen's speech; at first she started, but then smiled
with pleasure as she recognized her brother Euergetes, who, pushing aside
the chamberlains, approached the company with an elderly Greek, who
walked by his side.

"By all the dwellers on Olympus! By the whole rabble of gods and beasts
that live in the temples by the Nile!" cried the new-comer, again
laughing so heartily that not only his fat cheeks but his whole immensely
stout young frame swayed and shook. "By your pretty little feet,
Cleopatra, which could so easily be hidden, and yet are always to be
seen--by all your gentle virtues, Philometor, I believe you are trying to
outdo the great Philadelphus or our Syrian uncle Antiochus, and to get up
a most unique procession; and in my honor! Just so! I myself will take a
part in the wonderful affair, and my sturdy person shall represent Eros
with his quiver and bow. Some Ethiopian dame must play the part of my
mother Aphrodite; she will look the part to perfection, rising from the
white sea-foam with her black skin. And what do you think of a Pallas
with short woolly hair; of the Charities with broad, flat Ethiopian feet;
and an Egyptian, with his shaven head mirroring the sun, as Phoebus
Apollo?"

With these words the young giant of twenty years threw himself on the
vacant couch between his brother and sister, and, after bowing, not
without dignity, to the Roman, whom his brother named to him, he called
one of the young Macedonians of noble birth who served at the feast as
cup-bearers, had his cup filled once and again and yet a third time,
drinking it off quickly and without setting it down; then he said in a
loud tone, while he pushed his hands through his tossed, light brown
hair, till it stood straight up in the air from his broad temples and
high brow:

"I must make up for what you have had before I came.--Another cup-full
Diocleides."

"Wild boy!" said Cleopatra, holding up her finger at him half in jest and
half in grave warning. "How strange you look!"

"Like Silenus without the goat's hoofs," answered Euergetes. "Hand me a
mirror here, Diocleides; follow the eyes of her majesty the queen, and
you will be sure to find one. There is the thing! And in fact the picture
it shows me does not displease me. I see there a head on which besides
the two crowns of Egypt a third might well find room, and in which there
is so much brains that they might suffice to fill the skulls of four
kings to the brim. I see two vulture's eyes which are always keen of
sight even when their owner is drunk, and that are in danger of no peril
save from the flesh of these jolly cheeks, which, if they continue to
increase so fast, must presently exclude the light, as the growth of the
wood encloses a piece of money stuck into a rift in a tree-or as a
shutter, when it is pushed to, closes up a window. With these hands and
arms the fellow I see in the mirror there could, at need, choke a
hippopotamus; the chain that is to deck this neck must be twice as long
as that worn by a well-fed Egyptian priest. In this mirror I see a man,
who is moulded out of a sturdy clay, baked out of more unctuous and solid
stuff than other folks; and if the fine creature there on the bright
surface wears a transparent robe, what have you to say against it,
Cleopatra? The Ptolemaic princes must protect the import trade of
Alexandria, that fact was patent even to the great son of Lagus; and what
would become of our commerce with Cos if I did not purchase the finest
bombyx stuffs, since those who sell it make no profits out of you, the
queen--and you cover yourself, like a vestal virgin, in garments of
tapestry. Give me a wreath for my head--aye and another to that, and new
wine in the cup! To the glory of Rome and to your health, Publius
Cornelius Scipio, and to our last critical conjecture, my Aristarchus--to
subtle thinking and deep drinking!"

"To deep thinking and subtle drinking!" retorted the person thus
addressed, while he raised the cup, looked into the wine with his
twinkling eyes and lifted it slowly to his nose--a long, well-formed and
slightly aquiline nose--and to his thin lips.

"Oh! Aristarchus," exclaimed Euergetes, and he frowned. "You please me
better when you clear up the meaning of your poets and historians than
when you criticise the drinking-maxims of a king. Subtle drinking is mere
sipping, and sipping I leave to the bitterns and other birds that live
content among the reeds. Do you understand me? Among reeds, I
say--whether cut for writing, or no."

"By subtle drinking," replied the great critic with perfect indifference,
as he pushed the thin, gray hair from his high brow with his slender
hand. "By subtle drinking I mean the drinking of choice wine, and did you
ever taste anything more delicate than this juice of the vines of
Anthylla that your illustrious brother has set before us? Your
paradoxical axiom commends you at once as a powerful thinker and as the
benevolent giver of the best of drinks."

"Happily turned," exclaimed Cleopatra, clapping her hands, "you here see,
Publius, a proof of the promptness of an Alexandrian tongue."

"Yes!" said Euergetes, "if men could go forth to battle with words
instead of spears the masters of the Museum in Alexander's city, with
Aristarchus at their head, they might rout the united armies of Rome and
Carthage in a couple of hours."

"But we are not now in the battle-field but at a peaceful meal," said the
king, with suave amiability. "You did in fact overhear our secret
Euergetes, and mocked at my faithful Egyptians, in whose place I would
gladly set fair Greeks if only Alexandria still belonged to me instead of
to you.--However, a splendid procession shall not be wanting at your
birthday festival."

"And do you really still take pleasure in these eternal goose-step
performances?" asked Euergetes, stretching himself out on his couch, and
folding his hands to support the back of his head. "Sooner could I
accustom myself to the delicate drinking of Aristarchus than sit for
hours watching these empty pageants. On two conditions only can I declare
myself ready and willing to remain quiet, and patiently to dawdle through
almost half a day, like an ape in a cage: First, if it will give our
Roman friend Publius Cornelius Scipio any pleasure to witness such a
performance--though, since our uncle Antiochus pillaged our wealth, and
since we brothers shared Egypt between us, our processions are not to be
even remotely compared to the triumphs of Roman victors--or, secondly, if
I am allowed to take an active part in the affair."

"On my account, Sire," replied Publius, "no procession need be arranged,
particularly not such a one as I should here be obliged to look on at."

"Well! I still enjoy such things," said Cleopatra's husband.
"Well-arranged groups, and the populace pleased and excited are a sight I
am never tired of."

"As for me," cried Cleopatra, "I often turn hot and cold, and the tears
even spring to my eyes, when the shouting is loudest. A great mass of men
all uniting in a common emotion always has a great effect. A drop, a
grain of sand, a block of stone are insignificant objects, but millions
of them together, forming the sea, the desert or the pyramids, constitute
a sublime whole. One man alone, shouting for joy, is like a madman
escaped from an asylum, but when thousands of men rejoice together it
must have a powerful effect on the coldest heart. How is it that you,
Publius Scipio, in whom a strong will seems to me to have found a
peculiarly happy development, can remain unmoved by a scene in which the
great collective will of a people finds its utterance?"

"Is there then any expression of will, think you," said the Roman, "in
this popular rejoicing? It is just in such circumstances that each man
becomes the involuntary mimic and duplicate of his neighbor; while I love
to make my own way, and to be independent of everything but the laws and
duties laid upon me by the state to which I belong."

"And I," said Euergetes, "from my childhood have always looked on at
processions from the very best places, and so it is that fortune punishes
me now with indifference to them and to everything of the kind; while the
poor miserable devil who can never catch sight of anything more than the
nose or the tip of a hair or the broad back of those who take part in
them, always longs for fresh pageants. As you hear, I need have no
consideration for Publius Scipio in this, willing as I should be to do
so. Now what would you say, Cleopatra, if I myself took a part in my
procession--I say mine, since it is to be in my honor; that really would
be for once something new and amusing."

"More new and amusing than creditable, I think," replied Cleopatra dryly.

"And yet even that ought to please you," laughed Euergetes. "Since,
besides being your brother, I am your rival, and we would sooner see our
rivals lower themselves than rise."

"Do not try to justify yourself by such words," interrupted the king
evasively, and with a tone of regret in his soft voice. "We love you
truly; we are ready to yield you your dominion side by side with ours,
and I beg you to avoid such speeches even in jest, so that bygones may be
bygones."

"And," added Cleopatra, "not to detract from your dignity as a king and
your fame as a sage by any such fool's pranks."

"Madam teacher, do you know then what I had in my mind? I would appear as
Alcibiades, followed by a train of flute-playing women, with Aristarchus
to play the part of Socrates. I have often been told that he and I
resemble each other--in many points, say the more sincere; in every
point, say the more polite of my friends."

At these words Publius measured with his eye the frame of the royal young
libertine, enveloped in transparent robes; and recalling to himself, as
he gazed, a glorious statue of that favorite of the Athenians, which he
had seen in the Ilissus, an ironical smile passed over his lips. It was
not unobserved by Euergetes and it offended him, for there was nothing he
liked better than to be compared to the nephew of Pericles; but he
suppressed his annoyance, for Publius Cornelius Scipio was the nearest
relative of the most influential men of Rome, and, though he himself
wielded royal power, Rome exercised over him the sovereign will of a
divinity.

Cleopatra noticed what was passing in her brother's mind, and in order to
interrupt his further speech and to divert his mind to fresh thoughts,
she said cheerfully:

"Let us then give up the procession, and think of some other mode of
celebrating your birthday. You, Lysias, must be experienced in such
matters, for Publius tells me that you were the leader in all the games
of Corinth. What can we devise to entertain Euergetes and ourselves?"

The Corinthian looked for a moment into his cup, moving it slowly about
on the marble slab of the little table at his side, between an oyster
pasty and a dish of fresh asparagus; and then he said, glancing round to
win the suffrages of the company:

"At the great procession which took place under Ptolemy
Philadelphus--Agatharchides gave me the description of it, written by the
eye-witness Kallixenus, to read only yesterday--all kinds of scenes from
the lives of the gods were represented before the people. Suppose we were
to remain in this magnificent palace, and to represent ourselves the
beautiful groups which the great artists of the past have produced in
painting or sculpture; but let us choose those only that are least
known."

"Splendid," cried Cleopatra in great excitement, "who can be more like
Heracles than my mighty brother there--the very son of Alcmene, as
Lysippus has conceived and represented him? Let us then represent the
life of Heracles from grand models, and in every case assign to Euergetes
the part of the hero."

"Oh! I will undertake it," said the young king, feeling the mighty
muscles of his breast and arms, "and you may give me great credit for
assuming the part, for the demi-god who strangled the snakes was lacking
in the most important point, and it was not without due consideration
that Lysippus represented him with a small head on his mighty body; but I
shall not have to say anything."

"If I play Omphale will you sit at my feet?" asked Cleopatra.

"Who would not be willing to sit at those feet?" answered Euergetes. "Let
us at once make further choice among the abundance of subjects offered to
us, but, like Lysias, I would warn you against those that are too
well-known."

"There are no doubt things commonplace to the eye as well as to the ear,"
said Cleopatra. "But what is recognized as good is commonly regarded as
most beautiful."

"Permit me," said Lysias, "to direct your attention to a piece of
sculpture in marble of the noblest workmanship, which is both old and
beautiful, and yet which may be known to few among you. It exists on the
cistern of my father's house at Corinth, and was executed many centuries
since by a great artist of the Peloponnesus. Publius was delighted with
the work, and it is in fact beautiful beyond description. It is an
exquisite representation of the marriage of Heracles and Hebe--of the
hero, raised to divinity, with sempiternal youth. Will Your Majesty allow
yourself to be led by Pallas Athene and your mother Alcmene to your
nuptials with Hebe?"

"Why not?" said Euergetes. "Only the Hebe must be beautiful. But one
thing must be considered; how are we to get the cistern from your
father's house at Corinth to this place by to-morrow or next day? Such a
group cannot be posed from memory without the original to guide us; and
though the story runs that the statue of Serapis flew from Sinope to
Alexandria, and though there are magicians still at Memphis--"

"We shall not need them," interrupted Publius, "while I was staying as a
guest in the house of my friend's parents--which is altogether more
magnificent than the old castle of King Gyges at Sardis--I had some gems
engraved after this lovely group, as a wedding-present for my sister.
They are extremely successful, and I have them with me in my tent."

"Have you a sister?" asked the queen, leaning over towards the Roman.
"You must tell me all about her."

"She is a girl like all other girls," replied Publius, looking down at
the ground, for it was most repugnant to his feelings to speak of his
sister in the presence of Euergetes.

"And you are unjust like all other brothers," said Cleopatra smiling,
"and I must hear more about her, for"--and she whispered the words and
looked meaningly at Publius--"all that concerns you must interest me."

During this dialogue the royal brothers had addressed themselves to
Lysias with questions as to the marriage of Heracles and Hebe, and all
the company were attentive to the Greek as he went on: "This fine work
does not represent the marriage properly speaking, but the moment when
the bridegroom is led to the bride. The hero, with his club on his
shoulder, and wearing the lion's skin, is led by Pallas Athene, who, in
performing this office of peace, has dropped her spear and carries her
helmet in her hand; they are accompanied by his mother Alcmene, and are
advancing towards the bride's train. This is headed by no less a
personage than Apollo himself, singing the praises of Hymenaeus to a
lute. With him walks his sister Artemis and behind them the mother of
Hebe, accompanied by Hermes, the messenger of the gods, as the envoy of
Zeus. Then follows the principal group, which is one of the most lovely
works of Greek art that I am acquainted with. Hebe comes forward to meet
her bridegroom, gently led on by Aphrodite, the queen of love. Peitho,
the goddess of persuasion, lays her hand on the bride's arm,
imperceptibly urging her forward and turning away her face; for what she
had to say has been said, and she smiles to herself, for Hebe has not
turned a deaf ear to her voice, and he who has once listened to Peitho
must do what she desires."

"And Hebe?" asked Cleopatra.

"She casts down her eyes, but lifts up the arm on which the hand of
Peitho rests with a warning movement of her fingers, in which she holds
an unopened rose, as though she would say; 'Ah! let me be--I tremble at
the man'--or ask: 'Would it not be better that I should remain as I am
and not yield to your temptations and to Aphrodite's power?' Oh! Hebe is
exquisite, and you, O Queen! must represent her!"

"I!" exclaimed Cleopatra. "But you said her eyes were cast down."

"That is from modesty and timidity, and her gait must also be bashful and
maidenly. Her long robe falls to her feet in simple folds, while Peitho
holds hers up saucily, between her forefinger and thumb, as if stealthily
dancing with triumph over her recent victory. Indeed the figure of Peitho
would become you admirably."

"I think I will represent Peitho," said the queen interrupting the
Corinthian. "Hebe is but a bud, an unopened blossom, while I am a mother,
and I flatter myself I am something of a philosopher--"

"And can with justice assure yourself," interrupted Aristarchus, "that
with every charm of youth you also possess the characters attributed to
Peitho, the goddess, who can work her spells not only on the heart but on
the intellect also. The maiden bud is as sweet to look upon as the rose,
but he who loves not merely color but perfume too--I mean refreshment,
emotion and edification of spirit--must turn to the full-blown flower; as
the rose--growers of lake Moeris twine only the buds of their favorite
flower into wreaths and bunches, but cannot use them for extracting the
oil of imperishable fragrance; for that they need the expanded blossom.
Represent Peitho, my Queen! the goddess herself might be proud of such a
representative."

"And if she were so indeed," cried Cleopatra, "how happy am I to hear
such words from the lips of Aristarchus. It is settled--I play Peitho. My
companion Zoe may take the part of Artemis, and her grave sister that of
Pallas Athene. For the mother's part we have several matrons to choose
from; the eldest daughter of Epitropes appears to me fitted for the part
of Aphrodite; she is wonderfully lovely."

"Is she stupid too?" asked Euergetes. "That is also an attribute of the
ever-smiling Cypria."

"Enough so, I think, for our purpose," laughed Cleopatra. "But where are
we to find such a Hebe as you have described, Lysias? The daughter of
Alimes the Arabarch is a charming child."

"But she is brown, as brown as this excellent wine, and too thoroughly
Egyptian," said the high-steward, who superintended the young Macedonian
cup-bearers; he bowed deeply as he spoke, and modestly drew the queen's
attention to his own daughter, a maiden of sixteen. But Cleopatra
objected, that she was much taller than herself, and that she would have
to stand by the Hebe, and lay her hand on her arm.

Other maidens were rejected on various grounds, and Euergetes had already
proposed to send off a carrier-pigeon to Alexandria to command that some
fair Greek girl should be sent by an express quadriga to Memphis--where
the dark Egyptian gods and men flourish, and are more numerous than the
fair race of Greeks--when Lysias exclaimed:

"I saw to-day the very girl we want, a Hebe that might have stepped out
from the marble group at my father's, and have been endued with life and
warmth and color by some god. Young, modest, rose and white, and just
about as tall as Your Majesty. If you will allow me, I will not tell you
who she is, till after I have been to our tent to fetch the gems with the
copies of the marble."

"You will find them in an ivory casket at the bottom of my
clothes-chest," said Publius; "here is the key."

"Make haste," cried the queen, "for we are all curious to hear where in
Memphis you discovered your modest, rose and white Hebe."



CHAPTER X.

An hour had slipped by with the royal party, since Lysias had quitted the
company; the wine-cups had been filled and emptied many times; Eulaeus
had rejoined the feasters, and the conversation had taken quite another
turn, since the whole of the company were not now equally interested in
the same subject; on the contrary, the two kings were discussing with
Aristarchus the manuscripts of former poets and of the works of the
sages, scattered throughout Greece, and the ways and means of obtaining
them or of acquiring exact transcripts of them for the library of the
Museum. Hierax was telling Eulaeus of the last Dionysiac festival, and of
the representation of the newest comedy in Alexandria, and Eulaeus
assumed the appearance--not unsuccessfully--of listening with both ears,
interrupting him several times with intelligent questions, bearing
directly on what he had said, while in fact his attention was exclusively
directed to the queen, who had taken entire possession of the Roman
Publius, telling him in a low tone of her life--which was consuming her
strength--of her unsatisfied affections, and her enthusiasm for Rome and
for manly vigor. As she spoke her cheeks glowed and her eyes sparkled,
for the more exclusively she kept the conversation in her own hands the
better she thought she was being entertained; and Publius, who was
nothing less than talkative, seldom interrupted her, only insinuating a
flattering word now and then when it seemed appropriate; for he
remembered the advice given him by the anchorite, and was desirous of
winning the good graces of Cleopatra.

In spite of his sharp ears Eulaeus could understand but little of their
whispered discourse, for King Euergetes' powerful voice sounded loud
above the rest of the conversation; but Eulaeus was able swiftly to
supply the links between the disjointed sentences, and to grasp the
general sense, at any rate, of what she was saying. The queen avoided
wine, but she had the power of intoxicating herself, so to speak, with
her own words, and now just as her brothers and Aristarchus were at the
height of their excited and eager question and answer--she raised her
cup, touched it with her lips and handed it to Publius, while at the same
time she took hold of his.

The young Roman knew well enough all the significance of this hasty
action; it was thus that in his own country a woman when in love was wont
to exchange her cup with her lover, or an apple already bitten by her
white teeth.

Publius was seized with a cold shudder--like a wanderer who carelessly
pursues his way gazing up at the moon and stars, and suddenly perceives
an abyss yawning; at his feet. Recollections of his mother and of her
warnings against the seductive wiles of the Egyptian women, and
particularly of this very woman, flashed through his mind like lightning;
she was looking at him--not royally by any means, but with anxious and
languishing gaze, and he would gladly have kept his eyes fixed on the
ground, and have left the cup untouched; but her eye held his fast as
though fettering it with ties and bonds; and to put aside the cup seemed
to the most fearless son of an unconquered nation a deed too bold to be
attempted. Besides, how could he possibly repay this highest favor with
an affront that no woman could ever forgive--least of all a Cleopatra?

Aye, many a life's happiness is tossed away and many a sin committed,
because the favor of women is a grace that does honor to every man, and
that flatters him even when it is bestowed by the unloved and unworthy.
For flattery is a key to the heart, and when the heart stands half open
the voice of the tempter is never wanting to whisper: "You will hurt her
feelings if you refuse."

These were the deliberations which passed rapidly and confusedly through
the young Roman's agitated brain, as he took the queen's cup and set his
lips to the same spot that hers had touched. Then, while he emptied the
cup in long draughts, he felt suddenly seized by a deep aversion to the
over-talkative, overdressed and capricious woman before him, who thus
forced upon him favors for which he had not sued; and suddenly there rose
before his soul the image, almost tangibly distinct, of the humble
water-bearer; he saw Klea standing before him and looking far more
queenly as, proud and repellent, she avoided his gaze, than the sovereign
by his side could ever have done, though crowned with a diadem.

Cleopatra rejoiced to mark his long slow draught, for she thought the
Roman meant to imply by it that he could not cease to esteem himself
happy in the favor she had shown him. She did not take her eyes off him,
and observed with pleasure that his color changed to red and white; nor
did she notice that Eulaeus was watching, with a twinkle in his eyes, all
that was going on between her and Publius. At last the Roman set down the
cup, and tried with some confusion to reply to her question as to how he
had liked the flavor of the wine.

"Very fine--excellent--" at last he stammered out, but he was no longer
looking at Cleopatra but at Euergetes, who just then cried out loudly:

"I have thought over that passage for hours, I have given you all my
reasons and have let you speak, Aristarchus, but I maintain my opinion,
and whoever denies it does Homer an injustice; in this place 'siu' must
be read instead of 'iu'."

Euergetes spoke so vehemently that his voice outshouted all the other
guests; Publius however snatched at his words, to escape the necessity
for feigning sentiments he could not feel; so he said, addressing himself
half to the speaker and half to Cleopatra:

"Of what use can it be to decide whether it is one or the other--'iu' or
'siu'. I find many things justifiable in other men that are foreign to my
own nature, but I never could understand how an energetic and vigorous
man, a prudent sovereign and stalwart drinker--like you, Euergetes--can
sit for hours over flimsy papyrus-rolls, and rack his brains to decide
whether this or that in Homer should be read in one way or another."

"You exercise yourself in other things," replied Euergetes. "I consider
that part of me which lies within this golden fillet as the best that I
have, and I exercise my wits on the minutest and subtlest questions just
as I would try the strength of my arms against the sturdiest athletes. I
flung five into the sand the last time I did so, and they quake now when
they see me enter the gymnasium of Timagetes. There would be no strength
in the world if there were no obstacles, and no man would know that he
was strong if he could meet with no resistance to overcome. I for my part
seek such exercises as suit my idiosyncrasy, and if they are not to your
taste I cannot help it. If you were to set these excellently dressed
crayfish before a fine horse he would disdain them, and could not
understand how foolish men could find anything palatable that tasted so
salt. Salt, in fact, is not suited to all creatures! Men born far from
the sea do not relish oysters, while I, being a gourmand, even prefer to
open them myself so that they may be perfectly fresh, and mix their
liquor with my wine."

"I do not like any very salt dish, and am glad to leave the opening of
all marine produce to my servants," answered Publius. "Thereby I save
both time and unnecessary trouble."

"Oh! I know!" cried Euergetes. "You keep Greek slaves, who must even read
and write for you. Pray is there a market where I may purchase men, who,
after a night of carousing, will bear our headache for us? By the shores
of the Tiber you love many things better than learning."

"And thereby," added Aristarchus, "deprive yourselves of the noblest and
subtlest of pleasures, for the purest enjoyment is ever that which we
earn at the cost of some pains and effort."

"But all that you earn by this kind of labor," returned Publius, "is
petty and unimportant. It puts me in mind of a man who removes a block of
stone in the sweat of his brow only to lay it on a sparrow's feather in
order that it may not be carried away by the wind."

"And what is great--and what is small?" asked Aristarchus. "Very opposite
opinions on that subject may be equally true, since it depends solely on
us and our feelings how things appear to us--whether cold or warm; lovely
or repulsive--and when Protagoras says that 'man is the measure of all
things,' that is the most acceptable of all the maxims of the Sophists;
moreover the smallest matter--as you will fully appreciate--acquires an
importance all the greater in proportion as the thing is perfect, of
which it forms a part. If you slit the ear of a cart-horse, what does it
signify? but suppose the same thing were to happen to a thoroughbred
horse, a charger that you ride on to battle!

"A wrinkle or a tooth more or less in the face of a peasant woman matters
little, or not at all, but it is quite different in a celebrated beauty.
If you scrawl all over the face with which the coarse finger of the
potter has decorated a water-jar, the injury to the wretched pot is but
small, but if you scratch, only with a needle's point, that gem with the
portraits of Ptolemy and Arsinoe, which clasps Cleopatra's robe round her
fair throat, the richest queen will grieve as though she had suffered
some serious loss.

"Now, what is there more perfect or more worthy to be treasured than the
noblest works of great thinkers and great poets.

"To preserve them from injury, to purge them from the errors which, in
the course of time, may have spotted their immaculate purity, this is our
task; and if we do indeed raise blocks of stone it is not to weight a
sparrow's feather that it may not be blown away, but to seal the door
which guards a precious possession, and to preserve a gem from injury.

"The chatter of girls at a fountain is worth nothing but to be wafted
away on the winds, and to be remembered by none; but can a son ever deem
that one single word is unimportant which his dying father has bequeathed
to him as a clue to his path in life? If you yourself were such a son,
and your ear had not perfectly caught the parting counsels of the
dying-how many talents of silver would you not pay to be able to supply
the missing words? And what are immortal works of the great poets and
thinkers but such sacred words of warning addressed, not to a single
individual, but to all that are not barbarians, however many they maybe.
They will elevate, instruct, and delight our descendants a thousand years
hence as they do us at this day, and they, if they are not degenerate and
ungrateful will be thankful to those who have devoted the best powers of
their life to completing and restoring all that our mighty forefathers
have said, as it must have originally stood before it was mutilated, and
spoiled by carelessness and folly.

"He who, like King Euergetes, puts one syllable in Homer right, in place
of a wrong one, in my opinion has done a service to succeeding
generations--aye and a great service."

"What you say," replied Publius, "sounds convincing, but it is still not
perfectly clear to me; no doubt because I learned at an early age to
prefer deeds to words. I find it more easy to reconcile my mind to your
painful and minute labors when I reflect that to you is entrusted the
restoration of the literal tenor of laws, whose full meaning might be
lost by a verbal error; or that wrong information might be laid before me
as to one single transaction in the life of a friend or of a
blood-relation, and it might lie with me to clear him of mistakes and
misinterpretation."

"And what are the works of the great singers of the deeds of the
heroes-of the writers of past history, but the lives of our fathers
related either with veracious exactness or with poetic adornments?" cried
Aristarchus. "It is to these that my king and companion in study devotes
himself with particular zeal."

"When he is neither drinking, nor raving, nor governing, nor wasting his
time in sacrificing and processions," interpolated Euergetes. "If I had
not been a king perhaps I might have been an Aristarchus; as it is I am
but half a king--since half of my kingdom belongs to you, Philometor--and
but half a student; for when am I to find perfect quiet for thinking and
writing? Everything, everything in me is by halves, for I, if the scale
were to turn in my favor"--and here he struck his chest and his forehead,
"I should be twice the man I am. I am my whole real self nowhere but at
high festivals, when the wine sparkles in the cup, and bright eyes flash
from beneath the brows of the flute-players of Alexandria or
Cyrene--sometimes too perhaps in council when the risk is great, or when
there is something vast and portentous to be done from which my brother
and you others, all of you, would shrink--nay perhaps even the Roman.
Aye! so it is--and you will learn to know it."

Euergetes had roared rather than spoken the last words; his cheeks were
flushed, his eyes rolled, while he took from his head both the garland of
flowers and the golden fillet, and once more pushed his fingers through
his hair.

His sister covered her ears with her hands, and said: "You positively
hurt me! As no one is contradicting you, and you, as a man of culture,
are not accustomed to add force to your assertions, like the Scythians,
by speaking in a loud tone, you would do well to save your metallic voice
for the further speech with which it is to be hoped you will presently
favor us. We have had to bow more than once already to the strength of
which you boast--but now, at a merry feast, we will not think of that,
but rather continue the conversation which entertained us, and which had
begun so well. This eager defence of the interests which most delight the
best of the Hellenes in Alexandria may perhaps result in infusing into
the mind of our friend Publius Scipio--and through him into that of many
young Romans--a proper esteem for a line of intellectual effort which he
could not have condemned had he not failed to understand it perfectly.

"Very often some striking poetical turn given to a subject makes it, all
at once, clear to our comprehension, even when long and learned
disquisitions have failed; and I am acquainted with such an one, written
by an anonymous author, and which may please you--and you too,
Aristarchus. It epitomizes very happily the subject of our discussion.
The lines run as follows:

          "Behold, the puny Child of Man
          Sits by Time's boundless sea,
          And gathers in his feeble hand
          Drops of Eternity.

          "He overhears some broken words
          Of whispered mystery
          He writes them in a tiny book
          And calls it 'History!'

"We owe these verses to an accomplished friend; another has amplified the
idea by adding the two that follow:

          "If indeed the puny Child of Man
          Had not gathered drops from that wide sea,
          Those small deeds that fill his little span
          Had been lost in dumb Eternity.

          "Feeble is his hand, and yet it dare
          Seize some drops of that perennial stream;
          As they fall they catch a transient gleam--
          Lo! Eternity is mirrored there!

"What are we all but puny children? And those of us who gather up the
drops surely deserve our esteem no less than those who spend their lives
on the shore of that great ocean in mere play and strife--"

"And love," threw in Eulaeus in a low voice, as he glanced towards
Publius.

"Your poet's verses are pretty and appropriate," Aristarchus now said,
"and I am very happy to find myself compared to the children who catch
the falling drops. There was a time--which came to an end, alas! with the
great Aristotle--when there were men among the Greeks, who fed the ocean
of which you speak with new tributaries; for the gods had bestowed on
them the power of opening new sources, like the magician Moses, of whom
Onias, the Jew, was lately telling us, and whose history I have read in
the sacred books of the Hebrews. He, it is true--Moses I mean--only
struck water from the rock for the use of the body, while to our
philosophers and poets we owe inexhaustible springs to refresh the mind
and soul. The time is now past which gave birth to such divine and
creative spirits; as your majesties' forefathers recognized full well
when they founded the Museum of Alexandria and the Library, of which I am
one of the guardians, and which I may boast of having completed with your
gracious assistance. When Ptolemy Soter first created the Museum in
Alexandria the works of the greatest period could receive no additions in
the form of modern writings of the highest class; but he set us--children
of man, gathering the drops--the task of collecting and of sifting them,
of eliminating errors in them--and I think we have proved ourselves equal
to this task.

"It has been said that it is no less difficult to keep a fortune than to
deserve it; and so perhaps we, who are merely 'keepers' may nevertheless
make some credit--all the more because we have been able to arrange the
wealth we found under hand, to work it profitably, to apply it well, to
elucidate it, and to make it available. When anything new is created by
one of our circle we always link it on to the old; and in many
departments we have indeed even succeeded in soaring above the ancients,
particularly in that of the experimental sciences. The sublime
intelligence of our forefathers commanded a broad horizon--our narrower
vision sees more clearly the objects that lie close to us. We have
discovered the sure path for all intellectual labor, the true scientific
method; and an observant study of things as they are, succeeds better
with us than it did with our predecessors. Hence it follows that in the
provinces of the natural sciences, in mathematics, astronomy, mechanics
and geography the sages of our college have produced works of unsurpassed
merit. Indeed the industry of my associates--"

"Is very great," cried Euergetes. "But they stir up such a dust that all
free-thought is choked, and because they value quantity above all things
in the results they obtain, they neglect to sift what is great from what
is small; and so Publius Scipio and others like him, who shrug their
shoulders over the labors of the learned, find cause enough to laugh in
their faces. Out of every four of you I should dearly like to set three
to some handicraft, and I shall do it too, one of these days--I shall do
it, and turn them and all their miserable paraphernalia out of the
Museum, and out of my capital. They may take refuge with you, Philometor,
you who marvel at everything you cannot do yourself, who are always
delighted to possess what I reject, and to make much of those whom I
condemn--and Cleopatra I dare say will play the harp, in honor of their
entering Memphis."

"I dare say!" answered the queen, laughing bitterly. "Still, it is to be
expected that your wrath may fall even on worthy men. Until then I will
practise my music, and study the treatise on harmony that you have begun
writing. You are giving us proof to-day of how far you have succeeded in
attaining unison in your own soul."

"I like you in this mood!" cried Euergetes. "I love you, sister, when you
are like this! It ill becomes the eagle's brood to coo like the dove, and
you have sharp talons though you hide them never so well under your soft
feathers. It is true that I am writing a treatise on harmony, and I am
doing it with delight; still it is one of those phenomena which, though
accessible to our perception, are imperishable, for no god even could
discover it entire and unmixed in the world of realities. Where is
harmony to be found in the struggles and rapacious strife of the life of
the Cosmos? And our human existence is but the diminished reflection of
that process of birth and decease, of evolution and annihilation, which
is going on in all that is perceptible to our senses; now gradually and
invisibly, now violently and convulsively, but never harmonyously.

"Harmony is at home only in the ideal world--harmony which is unknown
even among the gods harmony, whom I may know, and yet may never
comprehend--whom I love, and may never possess--whom I long for, and who
flies from me.

"I am as one that thirsteth, and harmony as the remote, unattainable
well--I am as one swimming in a wide sea, and she is the land which
recedes as I deem myself near to it.

"Who will tell me the name of the country where she rules as queen,
undisturbed and untroubled? And which is most in earnest in his pursuit
of the fair one: He who lies sleeping in her arms, or he who is consumed
by his passion for her?

"I am seeking what you deem that you possess.--Possess--!

"Look round you on the world and on life--look round, as I do, on this
hall of which you are so proud! It was built by a Greek; but, because the
simple melody of beautiful forms in perfect concord no longer satisfies
you, and your taste requires the eastern magnificence in which you were
born, because this flatters your vanity and reminds you, each time you
gaze upon it, that you are wealthy and powerful--you commanded your
architect to set aside simple grandeur, and to build this gaudy
monstrosity, which is no more like the banqueting-hall of a Pericles than
I or you, Cleopatra, in all our finery, are like the simply clad gods and
goddesses of Phidias. I mean not to offend you, Cleopatra, but I must say
this; I am writing now on the subject of harmony, and perhaps I shall
afterwards treat of justice, truth, virtue; although I know full well
that they are pure abstractions which occur neither in nature nor in
human life, and which in my dealings I wholly set aside; nevertheless
they seem to me worthy of investigation, like any other delusion, if by
resolving it we may arrive at conditional truth. It is because one man is
afraid of another that these restraints--justice, truth, and what else
you will--have received these high-sounding names, have been stamped as
characteristics of the gods, and placed under the protection of the
immortals; nay, our anxious care has gone so far that it has been taught
as a doctrine that it is beautiful and good to cloud our free enjoyment
of existence for the sake of these illusions. Think of Antisthenes and
his disciples, the dog-like Cynics--think of the fools shut up in the
temple of Serapis! Nothing is beautiful but what is free, and he only is
not free who is forever striving to check his inclinations--for the most
part in vain--in order to live, as feeble cowards deem virtuously, justly
and truthfully.

"One animal eats another when he has succeeded in capturing it, either in
open fight or by cunning and treachery; the climbing plant strangles the
tree, the desert-sand chokes the meadows, stars fall from heaven, and
earthquakes swallow up cities. You believe in the gods--and so do I after
my own fashion--and if they have so ordered the course of this life in
every class of existence that the strong triumph over the weak, why
should not I use my strength, why let it be fettered by those
much-belauded soporifics which our prudent ancestors concocted to cool
the hot blood of such men as I, and to paralyze our sinewy fists.

"Euergetes--the well-doer--I was named at my birth; but if men choose to
call me Kakergetes--the evil-doer--I do not mind it, since what you call
good I call narrow and petty, and what you call evil is the free and
unbridled exercise of power. I would be anything rather than lazy and
idle, for everything in nature is active and busy; and as, with
Aristippus, I hold pleasure to be the highest good, I would fain earn the
name of having enjoyed more than all other men; in the first place in my
mind, but no less in my body which I admire and cherish."

During this speech many signs of disagreement had found expression, and
Publius, who for the first time in his life heard such vicious sentiments
spoken, followed the words of the headstrong youth with consternation and
surprise. He felt himself no match for this overbearing spirit, trained
too in all the arts of argument and eloquence; but he could not leave all
he had heard uncontroverted, and so, as Euergetes paused in order to
empty his refilled cup, he began:

"If we were all to act on your principles, in a few centuries, it seems
to me, there would be no one left to subscribe to them; for the earth
would be depopulated; and the manuscripts, in which you are so careful to
substitute 'siu' for 'iu', would be used by strong-handed mothers, if any
were left, to boil the pot for their children--in this country of yours
where there is no wood to burn. Just now you were boasting of your
resemblance to Alcibiades, but that very gift which distinguished him,
and made him dear to the Athenians--I mean his beauty--is hardly possible
in connection with your doctrines, which would turn men into ravening
beasts. He who would be beautiful must before all things be able to
control himself and to be moderate--as I learnt in Rome before I ever saw
Athens, and have remembered well. A Titan may perhaps have thought and
talked as you do, but an Alcibiades--hardly!"

At these words the blood flew to Euergetes' face; but he suppressed the
keen and insulting reply that rose to his lips, and this little victory
over his wrathful impulse was made the more easy as Lysias, at this
moment, rejoined the feasters; he excused himself for his long absence,
and then laid before Cleopatra and her husband the gems belonging to
Publius.

They were warmly admired; even Euergetes was not grudging of his praise,
and each of the company admitted that he had rarely seen anything more
beautiful and graceful than the bashful Hebe with downcast eyes, and the
goddess of persuasion with her hand resting on the bride's arm.

"Yes, I will take the part of Peitho," said Cleopatra with decision.

"And I that of Heracles," cried Euergetes.

"But who is the fair one," asked King Philometor of Lysias, "whom you
have in your eye, as fulfilling this incomparably lovely conception of
Hebe? While you were away I recalled to memory the aspect of every woman
and girl who frequents our festivals, but only to reject them all, one
after the other."

"The fair girl whom I mean," replied Lysias, "has never entered this or
any other palace; indeed I am almost afraid of being too bold in
suggesting to our illustrious queen so humble a child as fit to stand
beside her, though only in sport."

"I shall even have to touch her arm with my hand!" said the queen
anxiously, and she drew up her fingers as if she had to touch some
unclean thing. "If you mean a flower-seller or a flute-player or something
of that kind--"

"How could I dare to suggest anything so improper?" Lysias hastily
interposed. "The girl of whom I speak may be sixteen years old; she is
innocence itself incarnate, and she looks like a bud ready to open
perhaps in the morning dew that may succeed this very night, but which as
yet is still enfolded in its cup. She is of Greek race, about as tall as
you are, Cleopatra; she has wonderful gazelle-like eyes, her little head
is covered by a mass of abundant brown hair, when she smiles she has
delicious dimples in her cheeks--and she will be sure to smile when such
a Peitho speaks to her!"

"You are rousing our curiosity," cried Philometor. "In what garden, pray,
does this blossom grow?"

"And how is it," added Cleopatra, "that my husband has not discovered it
long since, and transplanted it to our palace."

"Probably," answered Lysias, "because he who possesses Cleopatra, the
fairest rose of Egypt, regards the violets by the roadside as too
insignificant to be worth glancing at. Besides, the hedge that fences
round my bud grows in a gloomy spot; it is difficult of access and
suspiciously watched. To be brief: our Hebe is a water-bearer in the
temple of Serapis, and her name is Irene."



CHAPTER XI.

Lysias was one of those men from whose lips nothing ever sounds as if it
were meant seriously. His statement that he regarded a serving girl from
the temple of Serapis as fit to personate Hebe, was spoken as naturally
and simply as if he were telling a tale for children; but his words
produced an effect on his hearers like the sound of waters rushing into a
leaky ship.

Publius had turned perfectly white, and it was not till his friend had
uttered the name of Irene that he in some degree recovered his composure;
Philometor had struck his cup on the table, and called out in much
excitement:

"A water-bearer of Serapis to play Hebe in a gay festal performance! Do
you conceive it possible, Cleopatra?"

"Impossible--it is absolutely out of the question," replied the queen,
decidedly. Euergetes, who also had opened his eyes wide at the
Corinthian's proposition, sat for a long time gazing into his cup in
silence; while his brother and sister continued to express their surprise
and disapprobation and to speak of the respect and consideration which
even kings must pay to the priests and servants of Serapis.

At length, once more lifting his wreath and crown, he raised his curls
with both hands, and said, quite calmly and decisively;

"We must have a Hebe, and must take her where we find her. If you
hesitate to allow the girl to be fetched it shall be done by my orders.
The priests of Serapis are for the most part Greeks, and the high-priest
is a Hellene. He will not trouble himself much about a half-grown-up girl
if he can thereby oblige you or me. He knows as well as the rest of us
that one hand washes the other! The only question now is--for I would
rather avoid all woman's outcries--whether the girl will come willingly
or unwillingly if we send for her. What do you think, Lysias?"

"I believe she would sooner get out of prison to-day than to-morrow,"
replied Lysias. "Irene is a lighthearted creature, and laughs as clearly
and merrily as a child at play--and besides that they starve her in her
cage."

"Then I will have her fetched to-morrow!" said Euergetes.

"But," interrupted Cleopatra, "Asclepiodorus must obey us and not you;
and we, my husband and I--"

"You cannot spoil sport with the priests," laughed Euergetes. "If they
were Egyptians, then indeed! They are not to be taken in their nests
without getting pecked; but here, as I have said, we have to deal with
Greeks. What have you to fear from them? For aught I care you may leave
our Hebe where she is, but I was once much pleased with these
representations, and to-morrow morning, as soon as I have slept, I shall
return to Alexandria, if you do not carry them into effect, and so
deprive me, Heracles, of the bride chosen for me by the gods. I have said
what I have said, and I am not given to changing my mind. Besides, it is
time that we should show ourselves to our friends feasting here in the
next room. They are already merry, and it must be getting late."

With these words Euergetes rose from his couch, and beckoned to Hierax
and a chamberlain, who arranged the folds of his transparent robe, while
Philometor and Cleopatra whispered together, shrugging their shoulders
and shaking their heads; and Publius, pressing his hand on the
Corinthian's wrist, said in his ear: "You will not give them any help if
you value our friendship; we will leave as soon as we can do so with
propriety."

Euergetes did not like to be kept waiting. He was already going towards
the door, when Cleopatra called him back, and said pleasantly, but with
gentle reproachfulness:

"You know that we are willing to follow the Egyptian custom of carrying
out as far as possible the wishes of a friend and brother for his
birthday festival; but for that very reason it is not right in you to try
to force us into a proceeding which we refuse with difficulty, and yet
cannot carry out without exposing ourselves to the most unpleasant
consequences. We beg you to make some other demand on us, and we will
certainly grant it if it lies in our power."

The young colossus responded to his sister's appeal with a loud shout of
laughter, waved his arm with a flourish of his hand expressive of haughty
indifference; and then he exclaimed:

"The only thing I really had a fancy for out of all your possessions you
are not willing to concede, and so I must abide by my word--or I go on my
way."

Again Cleopatra and her husband exchanged a few muttered words and rapid
glances, Euergetes watching them the while; his legs straddled apart, his
huge body bent forward, and his hands resting on his hips. His attitude
expressed so much arrogance and puerile, defiant, unruly audacity, that
Cleopatra found it difficult to suppress an exclamation of disgust before
she spoke.

"We are indeed brethren," she said, "and so, for the sake of the peace
which has been restored and preserved with so much difficulty, we give
in. The best way will be to request Asclepiodorus--"

But here Euergetes interrupted the queen, clapping his hands loudly and
laughing:

"That is right, sister! only find me my Hebe! How you do it is your
affair, and is all the same to me. To-morrow evening we will have a
rehearsal, and the day after we will give a representation of which our
grandchildren shall repeat the fame. Nor shall a brilliant audience be
lacking, for my complimentary visitors with their priestly splendor and
array of arms will, it is to be hoped, arrive punctually. Come, my lords,
we will go, and see what there is good to drink or to listen to at the
table in the next room."

The doors were opened; music, loud talking, the jingle of cups, and the
noise of laughter sounded through them into the room where the princes
had been supping, and all the king's guests followed Euergetes, with the
exception of Eulaeus. Cleopatra allowed them to depart without speaking a
word; only to Publius she said: "Till we meet again!" but she detained
the Corinthian, saying:

"You, Lysias, are the cause of this provoking business. Try now to repair
the mischief by bringing the girl to us. Do not hesitate! I will guard
her, protect her with the greatest care, rely upon me."

"She is a modest maiden," replied Lysias, "and will not accompany me
willingly, I am sure. When I proposed her for the part of Hebe I
certainly supposed that a word from you, the king and queen, would
suffice to induce the head of the temple to entrust her to you for a few
hours of harmless amusement. Pardon me if I too quit you now; I have the
key of my friend's chest still in my possession, and must restore it to
him."

"Shall we have her carried off secretly?" asked Cleopatra of her husband,
when the Corinthian had followed the other guests.

"Only let us have no scandal, no violence," cried Philometor anxiously.
"The best way would be for me to write to Asclepiodorus, and beg him in a
friendly manner to entrust this girl--Ismene or Irene, or whatever the
ill-starred child's name is--for a few days to you, Cleopatra, for your
pleasure. I can offer him a prospect of an addition to the gift of land I
made today, and which fell far short of his demands."

"Let me entreat your majesty," interposed Eulaeus, who was now alone with
the royal couple, "let me entreat you not to make any great promises on
this occasion, for the moment you do so Asclepiodorus will attribute an
importance to your desire--"

"Which it is far from having, and must not seem to have," interrupted the
queen. "It is preposterous to waste so many words about a miserable
creature, a water-carrying girl, and to go through so much
disturbance--but how are we to put an end to it all? What is your advice,
Eulaeus?"

"I thank you for that enquiry, noble princess," replied Eulaeus. "My
lord, the king, in my opinion, should have the girl carried off, but not
with any violence, nor by a man--whom she would hardly follow so
immediately as is necessary--but by a woman.

"I am thinking of the old Egyptian tale of 'The Two Brothers,' which you
are acquainted with. The Pharaoh desired to possess himself of the wife
of the younger one, who lived on the Mount of Cedars, and he sent armed
men to fetch her away; but only one of them came back to him, for Batau
had slain all the others. Then a woman was sent with splendid ornaments,
such as women love, and the fair one followed her unresistingly to the
palace.

"We may spare the ambassadors, and send only the woman; your lady in
waiting, Zoe, will execute this commission admirably. Who can blame us in
any way if a girl, who loves finery, runs away from her keepers?"

"But all the world will see her as Hebe," sighed Philometor, "and
proclaim us--the sovereign protectors of the worship of Serapis--as
violators of the temple, if Asclepiodorus leads the cry. No, no, the
high-priest must first be courteously applied to. In the case of his
raising any difficulties, but not otherwise, shall Zoe make the attempt."

"So be it then," said the queen, as if it were her part to express her
confirmation of her husband's proposition.

"Let your lady accompany me," begged Eulaeus, "and prefer your request to
Asclepiodorus. While I am speaking with the high-priest, Zoe can at any
rate win over the girl, and whatever we do must be done to-morrow, or the
Roman will be beforehand with us. I know that he has cast an eye on
Irene, who is in fact most lovely. He gives her flowers, feeds his pet
bird with pheasants and peaches and other sweetmeats, lets himself be
lured into the Serapeum by his lady-love as often as possible, stays
there whole hours, and piously follows the processions, in order to
present the violets with which you graciously honored him by giving them
to his fair one--who no doubt would rather wear royal flowers than any
others--"

"Liar!" cried the queen, interrupting the courtier in such violent
excitement and such ungoverned rage, so completely beside herself, that
her husband drew back startled.

"You are a slanderer! a base calumniator! The Roman attacks you with
naked weapons, but you slink in the dark, like a scorpion, and try to
sting your enemy in the heel. Apelles, the painter, warns us--the
grandchildren of Lagus--against folks of your kidney in the picture he
painted against Antiphilus; as I look at you I am reminded of his Demon
of Calumny. The same spite and malice gleam in your eyes as in hers, and
the same fury and greed for some victim, fire your flushed face! How you
would rejoice if the youth whom Apelles has represented Calumny as
clutching by the hair, could but be Publius! and if only the lean and
hollow-eyed form of Envy, and the loathsome female figures of Cunning and
Treachery would come to your did as they have to hers! But I remember too
the steadfast and truthful glance of the boy she has flung to the ground,
his arms thrown up to heaven, appealing for protection to the goddess and
the king--and though Publius Scipio is man enough to guard himself
against open attack, I will protect him against being surprised from an
ambush! Leave this room! Go, I say, and you shall see how we punish
slanderers!"

At these words Eulaeus flung himself at the queen's feet, but she,
breathing hurriedly and with quivering nostrils, looked away over his
head as if she did not even see him, till her husband came towards her,
and said in a voice of most winning gentleness:

"Do not condemn him unheard, and raise him from his abasement. At least
give him the opportunity of softening your indignation by bringing the
water-bearer here without angering Asclepiodorus. Carry out this affair
well, Eulaeus, and you will find in me an advocate with Cleopatra."

The king pointed to the door, and Eulaeus retired, bowing deeply and
finding his way out backwards. Philometer, now alone with his wife, said
with mild reproach:

"How could you abandon yourself to such unmeasured anger? So faithful and
prudent a servant--and one of the few still living of those to whom our
mother was attached--cannot be sent away like a mere clumsy attendant.
Besides, what is the great crime he has committed? Is it a slander which
need rouse you to such fury when a cautious old man says in all innocence
of a young one--a man belonging to a world which knows nothing of the
mysterious sanctity of Serapis--that he has taken a fancy to a girl, who
is admired by all who see her, that he seeks her out, and gives her
flowers--"

"Gives her flowers?" exclaimed Cleopatra, breaking out afresh. "No, he is
accused of persecuting a maiden attached to Serapis--to Serapis I say.
But it is simply false, and you would be as angry as I am if you were
ever capable of feeling manly indignation, and if you did not want to
make use of Eulaeus for many things, some of which I know, and others
which you choose to conceal from me. Only let him fetch the girl; and
when once we have her here, and if I find that the Roman's indictment
against Eulaeus--which I will hear to-morrow morning--is well founded,
you shall see that I have manly vigor enough for both of us. Come away
now; they are waiting for us in the other room."

The queen gave a call, and chamberlains and servants hurried in; her
shell-shaped litter was brought, and in a few minutes, with her husband
by her side, she was borne into the great peristyle where the grandees of
the court, the commanders of the troops, the most prominent of the
officials of the Egyptian provinces, many artists and savants, and the
ambassadors from foreign powers, were reclining on long rows of couches,
and talking over their wine, the feast itself being ended.

The Greeks and the dark-hued Egyptians were about equally represented in
this motley assembly; but among them, and particularly among the learned
and the fighting men, there were also several Israelites and Syrians.

The royal pair were received by the company with acclamations and marks
of respect; Cleopatra smiled as sweetly as ever, and waved her fan
graciously as she descended from her litter; still she vouchsafed not the
slightest attention to any one present, for she was seeking Publius, at
first among those who were nearest to the couch prepared for her, and
then among the other Hellenes, the Egyptians, the Jews, the
ambassadors--still she found him not, and when at last she enquired for
the Roman of the chief chamberlain at her side, the official was sent for
who had charge of the foreign envoys. This was an officer of very high
rank, whose duty it was to provide for the representatives of foreign
powers, and he was now near at hand, for he had long been waiting for an
opportunity to offer to the queen a message of leave-taking from Publius
Cornelius Scipio, and to tell her from him, that he had retired to his
tent because a letter had come to him from Rome.

"Is that true?" asked the queen letting her feather fan droop, and
looking her interlocutor severely in the face.

"The trireme Proteus, coming from Brundisium, entered the harbor of
Eunostus only yesterday," he replied; "and an hour ago a mounted
messenger brought the letter. Nor was it an ordinary letter but a
despatch from the Senate--I know the form and seal."

"And Lysias, the Corinthian?"

"He accompanied the Roman."

"Has the Senate written to him too?" asked the queen annoyed, and
ironically. She turned her back on the officer without any kind of
courtesy, and turning again to the chamberlain she went on, in incisive
tones, as if she were presiding at a trial:

"King Euergetes sits there among the Egyptians near the envoys from the
temples of the Upper Country. He looks as if he were giving them a
discourse, and they hang on his lips. What is he saying, and what does
all this mean?"

"Before you came in, he was sitting with the Syrians and Jews, and
telling them what the merchants and scribes, whom he sent to the South,
have reported of the lands lying near the lakes through which the Nile is
said to flow. He thinks that new sources of wealth have revealed
themselves not far from the head of the sacred river which can hardly
flow in from the ocean, as the ancients supposed."

"And now?" asked Cleopatra. "What information is he giving to the
Egyptians?"

The chamberlain hastened towards Euergetes' couch, and soon returned to
the queen--who meanwhile had exchanged a few friendly words with Onias,
the Hebrew commander--and informed her in a low tone that the king was
interpreting a passage from the Timaeus of Plato, in which Solon
celebrates the lofty wisdom of the priests of Sais; he was speaking with
much spirit, and the Egyptians received it with loud applause.

Cleopatra's countenance darkened more and more, but she concealed it
behind her fan, signed to Philometor to approach, and whispered to him:

"Keep near Euergetes; he has a great deal too much to say to the
Egyptians. He is extremely anxious to stand well with them, and those
whom he really desires to please are completely entrapped by his
portentous amiability. He has spoiled my evening, and I shall leave you
to yourselves."

"Till to-morrow, then."

"I shall hear the Roman's complaint up on my roof-terrace; there is
always a fresh air up there. If you wish to be present I will send for
you, but first I would speak to him alone, for he has received letters
from the Senate which may contain something of importance. So, till
to-morrow."



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     And what is great--and what is small
     Behold, the puny Child of Man
     Evolution and annihilation
     Flattery is a key to the heart
     Hold pleasure to be the highest good
     Man is the measure of all things
     Museum of Alexandria and the Library
     One hand washes the other
     Prefer deeds to words
     What are we all but puny children?



THE SISTERS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 3.



CHAPTER XII.

While, in the vast peristyle, many a cup was still being emptied, and the
carousers were growing merrier and noisier--while Cleopatra was abusing
the maids and ladies who were undressing her for their clumsiness and
unreadiness, because every touch hurt her, and every pin taken out of her
dress pricked her--the Roman and his friend Lysias walked up and down in
their tent in violent agitation.

"Speak lower," said the Greek, "for the very griffins woven into the
tissue of these thin walls seem to me to be lying in wait, and listening.

"I certainly was not mistaken. When I came to fetch the gems I saw a
light gleaming in the doorway as I approached it; but the intruder must
have been warned, for just as I got up to the lantern in front of the
servants' tent, it disappeared, and the torch which usually burns outside
our tent had not been lighted at all; but a beam of light fell on the
road, and a man's figure slipped across in a black robe sprinkled with
gold ornaments which I saw glitter as the pale light of the lantern fell
upon them--just as a slimy, black newt glides through a pool. I have good
eyes as you know, and I will give one of them at this moment, if I am
mistaken, and if the cat that stole into our tent was not Eulaeus."

"And why did you not have him caught?" asked Publius, provoked.

"Because our tent was pitch-dark," replied Lysias, "and that stout villain
is as slippery as a badger with the dogs at his heels, Owls, bats and
such vermin which seek their prey by night are all hideous to me, and
this Eulaeus, who grins like a hyaena when he laughs--"

"This Eulaeus," said Publius, interrupting his friend, "shall learn to
know me, and know too by experience that a man comes to no good, who
picks a quarrel with my father's son."

"But, in the first instance, you treated him with disdain and
discourtesy," said Lysias, "and that was not wise."

"Wise, and wise, and wise!" the Roman broke out. "He is a scoundrel. It
makes no difference to me so long as he keeps out of my way; but when, as
has been the case for several days now, he constantly sticks close to me
to spy upon me, and treats me as if he were my equal, I will show him
that he is mistaken. He has no reason to complain of my want of
frankness; he knows my opinion of him, and that I am quite inclined to
give him a thrashing. If I wanted to meet his cunning with cunning I
should get the worst of it, for he is far superior to me in intrigue. I
shall fare better with him by my own unconcealed mode of fighting, which
is new to him and puzzles him; besides it is better suited to my own
nature, and more consonant to me than any other. He is not only sly, but
is keen-witted, and he has at once connected the complaint which I have
threatened to bring against him with the manuscript which Serapion, the
recluse, gave me in his presence. There it lies--only look.

"Now, being not merely crafty, but a daring rascal too--two qualities
which generally contradict each other, for no one who is really prudent
lives in disobedience to the laws--he has secretly untied the strings
which fastened it. But, you see, he had not time enough to tie the roll
up again! He has read it all or in part, and I wish him joy of the
picture of himself he will have found painted there. The anchorite wields
a powerful pen, and paints with a firm outline and strongly marked
coloring. If he has read the roll to the end it will spare me the trouble
of explaining to him what I purpose to charge him with; if you disturbed
him too soon I shall have to be more explicit in my accusation. Be that
as it may, it is all the same to me."

"Nay, certainly not," cried Lysias, "for in the first case Eulaeus will
have time to meditate his lies, and bribe witnesses for his defence. If
any one entrusted me with such important papers--and if it had not been
you who neglected to do it--I would carefully seal or lock them up. Where
have you put the despatch from the Senate which the messenger brought you
just now?"

"That is locked up in this casket," replied Publius, moving his hand to
press it more closely over his robe, under which he had carefully hidden
it.

"May I not know what it contain?" asked the Corinthian.

"No, there is not time for that now, for we must first, and at once,
consider what can be done to repair the last mischief which you have
done. Is it not a disgraceful thing that you should betray the sweet
creature whose childlike embarrassment charmed us this morning--of whom
you yourself said, as we came home, that she reminded you of your lovely
sister--that you should betray her, I say, into the power of the wildest
of all the profligates I ever met--to this monster, whose pleasures are
the unspeakable, whose boast is vice? What has Euergetes--"

"By great Poseidon!" cried Lysias, eagerly interrupting his friend. "I
never once thought of this second Alcibiades when I mentioned her. What
can the manager of a performance do, but all in his power to secure the
applause of the audience? and, by my honor! it was for my own sake that I
wanted to bring Irene into the palace--I am mad with love for her--she
has undone me."

"Aye! like Callista, and Phryne, and the flute-player Stephanion,"
interrupted the Roman, shrugging his shoulders.

"How should it be different?" asked the Corinthian, looking at his friend
in astonishment. "Eros has many arrows in his quiver; one strikes deeply,
another less deeply; and I believe that the wound I have received to-day
will ache for many a week if I have to give up this child, who is even
more charming than the much-admired Hebe on our cistern."

"I advise you however to accustom yourself to the idea, and the sooner
the better," said Publius gravely, as he set himself with his arms
crossed, directly in front of the Greek. "What would you feel inclined to
do to me if I took a fancy to lure your pretty sister--whom Irene, I
repeat it, is said to resemble--to tempt her with base cunning from your
parents' house?"

"I protest against any such comparison," cried the Corinthian very
positively, and more genuinely exasperated than the Roman had ever seen
him.

"You are angry without cause," replied Publius calmly and gravely. "Your
sister is a charming girl, the ornament of your illustrious house, and
yet I dare compare the humble Irene--"

"With her! do you mean to say?" Lysias shouted again. "That is a poor
return for the hospitality which was shown to you by my parents and of
which you formally sang the praises. I am a good-natured fellow and will
submit to more from you than from any other man--I know not why,
myself;--but in a matter like this I do not understand a joke! My sister
is the only daughter of the noblest and richest house in Corinth and has
many suitors. She is in no respect inferior to the child of your own
parents, and I should like to know what you would say if I made so bold
as to compare the proud Lucretia with this poor little thing, who carries
water like a serving-maid."

"Do so, by all means!" interrupted Publius coolly, "I do not take your
rage amiss, for you do not know who these two sisters are, in the temple
of Serapis. Besides, they do not fill their jars for men but in the
service of a god. Here--take this roll and read it through while I answer
the despatch from Rome. Here! Spartacus, come and light a few more
lamps."

In a few minutes the two young men were sitting opposite each other at
the table which stood in the middle of their tent. Publius wrote busily,
and only looked up when his friend, who was reading the anchorite's
document, struck his hand on the table in disgust or sprang from his seat
ejaculating bitter words of indignation. Both had finished at the same
moment, and when Publius had folded and sealed his letter, and Lysias had
flung the roll on to the table, the Roman said slowly, as he looked his
friend steadily in the face: "Well?"

"Well!" repeated Lysias. I now find myself in the humiliating position of
being obliged to deem myself more stupid than you--I must own you in the
right, and beg your pardon for having thought you insolent and arrogant!
Never, no never did I hear a story so infernally scandalous as that in
that roll, and such a thing could never have occurred but among these
accursed Egyptians! Poor little Irene! And how can the dear little girl
have kept such a sunny look through it all! I could thrash myself like
any school-boy to think that I--a fool among fools--should have directed
the attention of Euergetes to this girl, and he, the most powerful and
profligate man in the whole country. What can now be done to save Irene
from him? I cannot endure the thought of seeing her abandoned to his
clutches, and I will not permit it to happen.

"Do not you think that we ought to take the water-bearers under our
charge?"

"Not only we ought but we must," said Publius decisively; "and if we did
not we should be contemptible wretches. Since the recluse took me into
his confidence I feel as if it were my duty to watch over these girls
whose parents have been stolen from them, as if I were their
guardian--and you, my Lysias, shall help me. The elder sister is not now
very friendly towards me, but I do not esteem her the less for that; the
younger one seems less grave and reserved than Klea; I saw how she
responded to your smile when the procession broke up. Afterwards, you did
not come home immediately any more than I did, and I suspect that it was
Irene who detained you. Be frank, I earnestly beseech you, and tell me
all; for we must act in unison, and with thorough deliberation, if we
hope to succeed in spoiling Euergetes' game."

"I have not much to tell you," replied the Corinthian. "After the
procession I went to the Pastophorium--naturally it was to see Irene, and
in order not to fail in this I allowed the pilgrims to tell me what
visions the god had sent them in their dreams, and what advice had been
given them in the temple of Asclepius as to what to do for their own
complaints, and those of their cousins, male and female.

"Quite half an hour had passed so before Irene came. She carried a little
basket in which lay the gold ornaments she had worn at the festival, and
which she had to restore to the keeper of the temple-treasure. My
pomegranate-flower, which she had accepted in the morning, shone upon me
from afar, and then, when she caught sight of me and blushed all over,
casting down her eyes, then it was that it first struck me 'just like the
Hebe on our cistern.'

"She wanted to pass me, but I detained her, begging her to show me the
ornaments in her hand; I said a number of things such as girls like to
hear, and then I asked her if she were strictly watched, and whether they
gave her delicate little hands and feet--which were worthy of better
occupation than water-carrying--a great deal to do. She did not hesitate
to answer, but with all she said she rarely raised her eyes. The longer
you look at her the lovelier she is--and yet she is still a mere
child-though a child certainly who no longer loves staying at home, who
has dreams of splendor, and enjoyment, and freedom while she is kept shut
up in a dismal, dark place, and left to starve.

"The poor creatures may never quit the temple excepting for a procession,
or before sunrise. It sounded too delightful when she said that she was
always so horribly tired, and so glad to go to sleep again after she was
waked, and had to go out at once just when it is coldest, in the twilight
before sunrise. Then she has to draw water from a cistern called the Well
of the Sun."

"Do you know where that cistern lies?" asked Publius.

"Behind the acacia-grove," answered Lysias. "The guide pointed it out to
me. It is said to hold particularly sacred water, which must be poured as
a libation to the god at sunrise, unmixed with any other. The girls must
get up so early, that as soon as dawn breaks water from this cistern
shall not be lacking at the altar of Serapis. It is poured out on the
earth by the priests as a drink-offering."

Publius had listened attentively, and had not lost a word of his friend's
narrative. He now quitted him hastily, opened the tent-door, and went out
into the night, looking up to discover the hour from the stars which were
silently pursuing their everlasting courses in countless thousands, and
sparkling with extraordinary brilliancy in the deep blue sky. The moon
was already set, and the morning-star was slowly rising--every night
since the Roman had been in the land of the Pyramids he had admired its
magnificent size and brightness.

A cold breeze fanned the young man's brow, and as he drew his robe across
his breast with a shiver, he thought of the sisters, who, before long,
would have to go out in the fresh morning air. Once more he raised his
eyes from the earth to the firmament over his head, and it seemed to him
that he saw before his very eyes the proud form of Klea, enveloped in a
mantle sown over with stars. His heart throbbed high, and he felt as if
the breeze that his heaving breast inhaled in deep breaths was as fresh
and pure as the ether that floats over Elysium, and of a strange potency
withal, as if too rare to breathe. Still he fancied he saw before him the
image of Klea, but as he stretched out his hand towards the beautiful
vision it vanished--a sound of hoofs and wheels fell upon his ear.
Publius was not accustomed to abandon himself to dreaming when action was
needed, and this reminded him of the purpose for which he had come out
into the open air. Chariot after chariot came driving past as he returned
into his tent. Lysias, who during his absence had been pacing up and down
and reflecting, met him with the question:

"How long is it yet till sunrise?"

"Hardly two hours," replied the Roman. "And we must make good use of them
if we would not arrive too late."

"So I think too," said the Corinthian. "The sisters will soon be at the
Well of the Sun outside the temple walls, and I will persuade Irene to
follow me. You think I shall not be successful? Nor do I myself--but
still perhaps she will if I promise to show her something very pretty,
and if she does not suspect that she is to be parted from her sister, for
she is like a child."

"But Klea," interrupted Publius thoughtfully, "is grave and prudent; and
the light tone which you are so ready to adopt will be very little to her
taste, Consider that, and dare the attempt--no, you dare not deceive her.
Tell her the whole truth, out of Irene's hearing, with the gravity the
matter deserves, and she will not hinder her sister when she knows how
great and how imminent is the danger that threatens her."

"Good!" said the Corinthian. "I will be so solemnly earnest that the most
wrinkled and furrowed graybeard among the censors of your native city
shall seem a Dionysiac dancer compared with me. I will speak like your
Cato when he so bitterly complained that the epicures of Rome paid more
now for a barrel of fresh herrings than for a yoke of oxen. You shall be
perfectly satisfied with me!--But whither am I to conduct Irene? I might
perhaps make use of one of the king's chariots which are passing now by
dozens to carry the guests home."

"I also had thought of that," replied Publius. "Go with the chief of the
Diadoches, whose splendid house was shown to us yesterday. It is on the
way to the Serapeum, and just now at the feast you were talking with him
incessantly. When there, indemnify the driver by the gift of a gold
piece, so that he may not betray us, and do not return here but proceed
to the harbor. I will await you near the little temple of Isis with our
travelling chariot and my own horses, will receive Irene, and conduct her
to some new refuge while you drive back Fuergetes' chariot, and restore
it to the driver."

"That will not satisfy me by any means," said Lysias very gravely; "I was
ready to give up my pomegranate-flower to you yesterday for Irene, but
herself--"

"I want nothing of her," exclaimed Publius annoyed. "But you might--it
seems to me--be rather more zealous in helping me to preserve her from
the misfortune which threatens her through your own blunder. We cannot
bring her here, but I think that I have thought of a safe hiding-place
for her.

"Do you remember Apollodorus, the sculptor, to whom we were recommended
by my father, and his kind and friendly wife who set before us that
capital Chios wine? The man owes me a service, for my father commissioned
him and his assistants to execute the mosaic pavement in the new arcade
he was having built in the capitol; and subsequently, when the envy of
rival artists threatened his life, my father saved him. You yourself
heard him say that he and his were all at my disposal."

"Certainly, certainly," said Lysias. "But say, does it not strike you as
most extraordinary that artists, the very men, that is to say, who beyond
all others devote themselves to ideal aims and efforts, are particularly
ready to yield to the basest impulses; envy, detraction, and--"

"Man!" exclaimed Publius, angrily interrupting the Greek, "can you never
for ten seconds keep on the same subject, and never keep anything to
yourself that comes into your head? We have just now, as it seems to me,
more important matters to discuss than the jealousy of each other shown
by artists--and in my opinion, by learned men too. The sculptor
Apollodorus, who is thus beholden to me, has been living here for the
last six months with his wife and daughters, for he has been executing
for Philometor the busts of the philosophers, and the animal groups to
decorate the open space in front of the tomb of Apis. His sons are
managers of his large factory in Alexandria, and when he next goes there,
down the Nile in his boat, as often happens, he can take Irene with him,
and put her on board a ship.

"As to where we can have her taken to keep her safe from Euergetes, we
will talk that over afterwards with Apollodorus."

"Good, very good," agreed the Corinthian. "By Heracles! I am not
suspicious--still it does not altogether please me that you should
yourself conduct Irene to Apollodorus, for if you are seen in her company
our whole project may be shipwrecked. Send the sculptor's wife, who is
little known in Memphis, to the temple of Isis, and request her to bring
a veil and cloak to conceal the girl. Greet the gay Milesian from me too,
and tell her--no, tell her nothing--I shall see her myself afterwards at
the temple of Isis."

During the last words of this conversation, slaves had been enveloping
the two young men in their mantles. They now quitted the tent together,
wished each other success, and set out at a brisk pace; the Roman to have
his horses harnessed, and Lysias to accompany the chief of the Diadoches
in one of the king's chariots, and then to act on the plan he had agreed
upon with Publius.



CHAPTER XIII.

Chariot after chariot hurried out of the great gate of the king's palace
and into the city, now sunk in slumber. All was still in the great
banqueting-hall, and dark-hued slaves began with brooms and sponges to
clean the mosaic pavement, which was strewed with rose leaves and with
those that had fallen from the faded garlands of ivy and poplar; while
here and there the spilt wine shone with a dark gleam in the dim light of
the few lamps that had not been extinguished.

A young flute-player, overcome with sleep and wine, still sat in one
corner. The poplar wreath that had crowned his curls had slipped over his
pretty face, but even in sleep he still held his flute clasped fast in
his fingers. The servants let him sleep on, and bustled about without
noticing him; only an overseer pointed to him, and said laughing:

"His companions went home no more sober than that one. He is a pretty
boy, and pretty Chloes lover besides--she will look for him in vain this
morning."

"And to-morrow too perhaps," answered another; "for if the fat king sees
her, poor Damon will have seen the last of her."

But the fat king, as Euergetes was called by the Alexandrians, and,
following their example, by all the rest of Egypt, was not just then
thinking of Chloe, nor of any such person; he was in the bath attached to
his splendidly fitted residence. Divested of all clothing, he was
standing in the tepid fluid which completely filled a huge basin of white
marble. The clear surface of the perfumed water mirrored statues of
nymphs fleeing from the pursuit of satyrs, and reflected the shimmering
light of numbers of lamps suspended from the ceiling. At the upper end of
the bath reclined the bearded and stalwart statue of the Nile, over whom
the sixteen infant figures--representing the number of ells to which
the great Egyptian stream must rise to secure a favorable
inundation--clambered and played to the delight of their noble father
Nile and of themselves. From the vase which supported the arm of the
venerable god flowed an abundant stream of cold water, which five pretty
lads received in slender alabaster vases, and poured over the head and
the enormously prominent muscles of the breast, the back and the arms of
the young king who was taking his bath.

"More, more--again and again," cried Euergetes, as the boys began to
pause in bringing and pouring the water; and then, when they threw a
fresh stream over him, he snorted and plunged with satisfaction, and a
perfect shower of jets splashed off him as the blast of his breath
sputtered away the water that fell over his face.

At last he shouted out: "Enough!" flung himself with all his force into
the water, that spurted up as if a huge block of stone had been thrown
into it, held his head for a long time under water, and then went up the
marble steps of the bath shaking his head violently and mischievously in
his boyish insolence, so as thoroughly to wet his friends and servants
who were standing round the margin of the basin; he suffered himself to
be wrapped in snowy-white sheets of the thinnest and finest linen, to be
sprinkled with costly essences of delicate odor, and then he withdrew
into a small room hung all round with gaudy hangings.

There he flung himself on a mound of soft cushions, and said with a
deep-drawn breath: "Now I am happy; and I am as sober again as a baby
that has never tasted anything but its mother's milk. Pindar is right!
there is nothing better than water! and it slakes that raging fire which
wine lights up in our brain and blood. Did I talk much nonsense just now,
Hierax?"

The man thus addressed, the commander-in-chief of the royal troops, and
the king's particular friend, cast a hesitating glance at the bystanders;
but, Euergetes desiring him to speak without reserve, he replied:

"Wine never weakens the mind of such as you are to the point of folly,
but you were imprudent. It would be little short of a miracle if
Philometor did not remark--"

"Capital!" interrupted the king sitting up on his cushions. "You, Hierax,
and you, Komanus, remain here--you others may go. But do not go too far
off, so as to be close at hand in case I should need you. In these days
as much happens in a few hours as usually takes place in as many years."

Those who were thus dismissed withdrew, only the king's dresser, a
Macedonian of rank, paused doubtfully at the door, but Euergetes signed
to him to retire immediately, calling after him:

"I am very merry and shall not go to bed. At three hours after sunrise I
expect Aristarchus--and for work too. Put out the manuscripts that I
brought. Is the Eunuch Eulaeus waiting in the anteroom? Yes--so much the
better!

"Now we are alone, my wise friends Hierax and Komanus, and I must explain
to you that on this occasion, out of pure prudence, you seem to me to
have been anything rather than prudent. To be prudent is to have the
command of a wide circle of thought, so that what is close at hand is no
more an obstacle than what is remote. The narrow mind can command only
that which lies close under observation; the fool and visionary only that
which is far off. I will not blame you, for even the wisest has his hours
of folly, but on this occasion you have certainly overlooked that which
is at hand, in gazing at the distance, and I see you stumble in
consequence. If you had not fallen into that error you would hardly have
looked so bewildered when, just now, I exclaimed 'Capital!'

"Now, attend to me. Philometor and my sister know very well what my humor
is, and what to expect of me. If I had put on the mask of a satisfied man
they would have been surprised, and have scented mischief, but as it was
I showed myself to them exactly what I always am and even more reckless
than usual, and talked of what I wanted so openly that they may indeed
look forward to some deed of violence at my hands but hardly to a
treacherous surprise, and that tomorrow; for he who falls on his enemy in
the rear makes no noise about it.

"If I believed in your casuistry, I might think that to attack the enemy
from behind was not a particularly fine thing to do, for even I would
rather see a man's face than his rear--particularly in the case of my
brother and sister, who are both handsome to look upon. But what can a
man do? After all, the best thing to do is what wins the victory and
makes the game. Indeed, my mode of warfare has found supporters among the
wise. If you want to catch mice you must waste bacon, and if we are to
tempt men into a snare we must know what their notions and ideas are, and
begin by endeavoring to confuse them.

"A bull is least dangerous when he runs straight ahead in his fury; while
his two-legged opponent is least dangerous when he does not know what he
is about and runs feeling his way first to the right and then to the
left. Thanks to your approval--for I have deserved it, and I hope to be
able to return it, my friend Hierax. I am curious as to your report.
Shake up the cushion here under my head--and now you may begin."

"All appears admirably arranged," answered the general. "The flower of
our troops, the Diadoches and Hetairoi, two thousand-five hundred men,
are on their way hither, and by to-morrow will encamp north of Memphis.
Five hundred will find their way into the citadel, with the priests and
other visitors to congratulate you on your birthday, the other two
thousand will remain concealed in the tents. The captain of your brother
Philometor's Philobasilistes is bought over, and will stand by us; but
his price was high--Komanus was forced to offer him twenty talents before
he would bite."

"He shall have them," said the king laughing, "and he shall keep them
too, till it suits me to regard him as suspicious, and to reward him
according to his deserts by confiscating his estates. Well! proceed."

"In order to quench the rising in Thebes, the day before yesterday
Philometor sent the best of the mercenaries with the standards of
Desilaus and Arsinoe to the South. Certainly it cost not a little to
bribe the ringleaders, and to stir up the discontent to an outbreak."

"My brother will repay us for this outlay," interrupted the king, "when
we pour his treasure into our own coffers. Go on."

"We shall have most difficulty with the priests and the Jews. The former
cling to Philometor, because he is the eldest son of his father, and has
given large bounties to the temples, particularly of Apollinopolis and
Philae; the Jews are attached to him, because he favors them more than
the Greeks, and he, and his wife--your illustrious sister--trouble
themselves with their vain religious squabbles; he disputes with them
about the doctrines contained in their book, and at table too prefers
conversing with them to any one else."

"I will salt the wine and meat for them that they fatten on here," cried
Euergetes vehemently, "I forbade to-day their presence at my table, for
they have good eyes and wits as sharp as their noses. And they are most
dangerous when they are in fear, or can reckon on any gains.

"At the same time it cannot be denied that they are honest and tenacious,
and as most of them are possessed of some property they rarely make
common cause with the shrieking mob--particularly here in Alexandria.

"Envy alone can reproach them for their industry and enterprise, for the
activity of the Hellenes has improved upon the example set by them and
their Phoenician kindred.

"They thrive best in peaceful times, and since the world runs more
quietly here, under my brother and sister, than under me, they attach
themselves to them, lend my brother money, and supply my sister with cut
stones, sapphires and emeralds, selling fine stuffs and other woman's
gear for a scrap of written papyrus, which will soon be of no more value
than the feather which falls from the wing of that green screaming bird
on the perch yonder.

"It is incomprehensible to me that so keen a people cannot perceive that
there is nothing permanent but change, nothing so certain as that nothing
is certain; and that they therefore should regard their god as the one
only god, their own doctrine as absolutely and eternally true, and that
they contemn what other peoples believe.

"These darkened views make fools of them, but certainly good soldiers
too--perhaps by reason indeed of this very exalted self-consciousness and
their firm reliance on their supreme god."

"Yes, they certainly are," assented Hierax. "But they serve your brother
more willingly, and at a lower price, than us."

"I will show them," cried the king, "that their taste is a perverted and
obnoxious one. I require of the priests that they should instruct the
people to be obedient, and to bear their privations patiently; but the
Jews," and at these words his eyes rolled with an ominous glare, "the
Jews I will exterminate, when the time comes."

"That will be good for our treasury too," laughed Komanus.

"And for the temples in the country," added Euergetes, "for though I seek
to extirpate other foes I would rather win over the priests; and I must
try to win them if Philometor's kingdom falls into my hands, for the
Egyptians require that their king should be a god; and I cannot arrive at
the dignity of a real god, to whom my swarthy subjects will pray with
thorough satisfaction, and without making my life a burden to me by
continual revolts, unless I am raised to it by the suffrages of the
priests."

"And nevertheless," replied Hierax, who was the only one of Euergetes'
dependents, who dared to contradict him on important questions,
"nevertheless this very day a grave demand is to be preferred on your
account to the high-priest of Serapis. You press for the surrender of a
servant of the god, and Philometor will not neglect--"

"Will not neglect," interrupted Euergetes, "to inform the mighty
Asclepiodorus that he wants the sweet creature for me, and not for
himself. Do you know that Eros has pierced my heart, and that I burn for
the fair Irene, although these eyes have not yet been blessed with the
sight of her?

"I see you believe me, and I am speaking the exact truth, for I vow I
will possess myself of this infantine Hebe as surely as I hope to win my
brother's throne; but when I plant a tree, it is not merely to ornament
my garden but to get some use of it. You will see how I will win over
both the prettiest of little lady-loves and the high-priest who, to be
sure, is a Greek, but still a man hard to bend. My tools are all ready
outside there.

"Now, leave me, and order Eulaeus to join me here."

"You are as a divinity," said Komanus, bowing deeply, "and we but as
frail mortals. Your proceedings often seem dark and incomprehensible to
our weak intellect, but when a course, which to us seems to lead to no
good issue, turns out well, we are forced to admit with astonishment that
you always choose the best way, though often a tortuous one."

For a short time the king was alone, sitting with his black brows knit,
and gazing meditatively at the floor. But as soon as he heard the soft
foot-fall of Eulaeus, and the louder step of his guide, he once more
assumed the aspect of a careless and reckless man of the world, shouted a
jolly welcome to Eulaeus, reminded him of his, the king's, boyhood, and
of how often he, Eulaeus, had helped him to persuade his mother to grant
him some wish she had previously refused him.

"But now, old boy," continued the king, "the times are changed, and with
you now-a-days it is everything for Philometor and nothing for poor
Euergetes, who, being the younger, is just the one who most needs your
assistance."

Eulaeus bowed with a smile which conveyed that he understood perfectly
how little the king's last words were spoken in earnest, and he said:

"I purposed always to assist the weaker of you two, and that is what I
believe myself to be doing now."

"You mean my sister?"

"Our sovereign lady Cleopatra is of the sex which is often unjustly
called the weaker. Though you no doubt were pleased to speak in jest when
you asked that question, I feel bound to answer you distinctly that it
was not Cleopatra that I meant, but King Philometor."

"Philometor? Then you have no faith in his strength, you regard me as
stronger than he; and yet, at the banquet to-day, you offered me your
services, and told me that the task had devolved upon you of demanding
the surrender of the little serving-maiden of Serapis, in the king's
name, of Asclepiodorus, the high-priest. Do you call that aiding the
weaker? But perhaps you were drunk when you told me that?

"No? You were more moderate than I? Then some other change of views must
have taken place in you; and yet that would very much surprise me, since
your principles require you to aid the weaker son of my mother--"

"You are laughing at me," interrupted the courtier with gentle
reproachfulness, and yet in a tone of entreaty. "If I took your side it
was not from caprice, but simply and expressly from a desire to remain
faithful to the one aim and end of my life."

"And that is?"

"To provide for the welfare of this country in the same sense as did your
illustrious mother, whose counsellor I was."

"But you forget to mention the other--to place yourself to the best
possible advantage."

"I did not forget it, but I did not mention it, for I know how closely
measured out are the moments of a king; and besides, it seems to me as
self-evident that we think of our personal advantage as that when we buy
a horse we also buy his shadow."

"How subtle! But I no more blame you than I should a girl who stands
before her mirror to deck herself for her lover, and who takes the same
opportunity of rejoicing in her own beauty.

"However, to return to your first speech. It is for the sake of Egypt as
you think--if I understand you rightly--that you now offer me the
services you have hitherto devoted to my brother's interests?"

"As you say; in these difficult times the country needs the will and the
hand of a powerful leader."

"And such a leader you think I am?"

"Aye, a giant in strength of will, body and intellect--whose desire to
unite the two parts of Egypt in your sole possession cannot fail, if you
strike and grasp boldly, and if--"

"If?" repeated the king, looking at the speaker so keenly that his eyes
fell, and he answered softly:

"If Rome should raise no objection."

Euergetes shrugged his shoulders, and replied gravely:

"Rome indeed is like Fate, which always must give the final decision in
everything we do. I have certainly not been behindhand in enormous
sacrifices to mollify that inexorable power, and my representative,
through whose hands pass far greater sums than through those of the
paymasters of the troops, writes me word that they are not unfavorably
disposed towards me in the Senate."

"We have learned that from ours also. You have more friends by the Tiber
than Philometor, my own king, has; but our last despatch is already
several weeks old, and in the last few days things have occurred--"

"Speak!" cried Euergetes, sitting bolt upright on his cushions. "But if
you are laying a trap for me, and if you are speaking now as my brother's
tool, I will punish you--aye! and if you fled to the uttermost cave of
the Troglodytes I would have you followed up, and you should be torn in
pieces alive, as surely as I believe myself to be the true son of my
father."

"And I should deserve the punishment," replied Eulaeus humbly. Then he
went on: "If I see clearly, great events lie before us in the next few
days."

"Yes--truly," said Euergetes firmly.

"But just at present Philometor is better represented in Rome than he has
ever been. You made acquaintance with young Publius Scipio at the king's
table, and showed little zeal in endeavoring to win his good graces."

"He is one of the Cornelii," interrupted the king, "a distinguished young
man, and related to all the noblest blood of Rome; but he is not an
ambassador; he has travelled from Athens to Alexandria, in order to learn
more than he need; and he carries his head higher and speaks more freely
than becomes him before kings, because the young fellows fancy it looks
well to behave like their elders."

"He is of more importance than you imagine."

"Then I will invite him to Alexandria, and there will win him over in
three days, as surely as my name is Euergetes."

"It will then be too late, for he has to-day received, as I know for
certain, plenipotentiary powers from the Senate to act in their name in
case of need, until the envoy who is to be sent here again arrives."

"And I only now learn this for the first time!" cried the king springing
up from his couch, "my friends must be deaf, and blind and dull indeed,
if still I have any, and my servants and emissaries too! I cannot bear
this haughty ungracious fellow, but I will invite him tomorrow
morning--nay I will invite him to-day, to a festive entertainment, and
send him the four handsomest horses that I have brought with me from
Cyrene. I will--"

"It will all be in vain," said Eulaeus calmly and dispassionately. "For
he is master, in the fullest and widest meaning of the word, of the
queen's favor--nay--if I may permit myself to speak out freely--of
Cleopatra's more than warm liking, and he enjoys this sweetest of gifts
with a thankful heart. Philometor--as he always does--lets matters go as
they may, and Cleopatra and Publius--Publius and Cleopatra triumph even
publicly in their love; gaze into each other's eyes like any pair of
pastoral Arcadians, exchange cups and kiss the rim on the spot where the
lips of the other have touched it. Promise and grant what you will to
this man, he will stand by your sister; and if you should succeed in
expelling her from the throne he would boldly treat you as Popilius
Laenas did your uncle Antiochus: he would draw a circle round your
person, and say that if you dared to step beyond it Rome would march
against you."

Euergetes listened in silence, then, flinging away the draperies that
wrapped his body, he paced up and down in stormy agitation, groaning from
time to time, and roaring like a wild bull that feels itself confined
with cords and bands, and that exerts all its strength in vain to rend
them.

Finally he stood still in front of Eulaeus and asked him:

"What more do you know of the Roman?"

"He, who would not allow you to compare yourself to Alcibiades, is
endeavoring to out-do that darling of the Athenian maidens; for he is not
content with having stolen the heart of the king's wife, he is putting
out his hand to reach the fairest virgin who serves the highest of the
gods. The water-bearer whom Lysias, the Roman's friend, recommended for a
Hebe is beloved by Publius, and he hopes to enjoy her favors more easily
in your gay palace than he can in the gloomy temple of Serapis."

At these words the king struck his forehead with his hand, exclaiming:
"Oh! to be a king--a man who is a match for any ten! and to be obliged to
submit with a patient shrug like a peasant whose grain my horsemen crush
into the ground!

"He can spoil everything; mar all my plans and thwart all my desires--and
I can do nothing but clench my fist, and suffocate with rage. But this
fuming and groaning are just as unavailing as my raging and cursing by
the death-bed of my mother, who was dead all the same and never got up
again.

"If this Publius were a Greek, a Syrian, an Egyptian--nay, were he my own
brother--I tell you, Eulaeus, he should not long stand in my way; but he
is plenipotentiary from Rome, and Rome is Fate--Rome is Fate."

The king flung himself back on to his cushions with a deep sigh, and as
if crushed with despair, hiding his face in the soft pillows; but Eulaeus
crept noiselessly up to the young giant, and whispered in his ear with
solemn deliberateness:

"Rome is Fate, but even Rome can do nothing against Fate. Publius Scipio
must die because he is ruining your mother's daughter, and stands in the
way of your saving Egypt. The Senate would take a terrible revenge if he
were murdered, but what can they do if wild beasts fall on their
plenipotentiary, and tear him to pieces?"

"Grand! splendid!" cried Euergetes, springing again to his feet, and
opening his large eyes with radiant surprise and delight, as if heaven
itself had opened before them, revealing the sublime host of the gods
feasting at golden tables.

"You are a great man, Eulaeus, and I shall know how to reward you; but do
you know of such wild beasts as we require, and do they know how to
conduct themselves so that no one shall dare to harbor even the shadow of
a suspicion that the wounds torn by their teeth and claws were inflicted
by daggers, pikes or spearheads?"

"Be perfectly easy," replied Eulaeus. "These beasts of prey have already
had work to do here in Memphis, and are in the service of the king--"

"Aha! of my gentle brother!" laughed Euergetes. "And he boasts of never
having killed any one excepting in battle--and now--"

"But Philometor has a wife," interposed Eulaeus; and Euergetes went on.

"Aye, woman, woman! what is there that a man may not learn from a woman?"

Then he added in a lower tone: "When can your wild beasts do their work?"

"The sun has long since risen; before it sets I will have made my
preparations, and by about midnight, I should think, the deed may be
done. We will promise the Roman a secret meeting, lure him out to the
temple of Serapis, and on his way home through the desert--"

"Aye, then,--" cried the king, making a thrust at his own breast as
though his hand held a dagger, and he added in warning: "But your beasts
must be as powerful as lions, and as cautious-as cautious, as cats. If
you want gold apply to Komanus, or, better still, take this purse. Is it
enough? Still I must ask you; have you any personal ground of hatred
against the Roman?"

"Yes," answered Eulaeus decisively. "He guesses that I know all about him
and his doings, and he has attacked me with false accusations which may
bring me into peril this very day. If you should hear that the queen has
decided on throwing me into prison, take immediate steps for my
liberation."

"No one shall touch a hair of your head; depend upon that. I see that it
is to your interest to play my game, and I am heartily glad of it, for a
man works with all his might for no one but himself. And now for the last
thing: When will you fetch my little Hebe?"

"In an hour's time I am going to Asclepiodorus; but we must not demand
the girl till to-morrow, for today she must remain in the temple as a
decoy-bird for Publius Scipio."

"I will take patience; still I have yet another charge to give you.
Represent the matter to the high-priest in such a way that he shall think
my brother wishes to gratify one of my fancies by demanding--absolutely
demanding--the water-bearer on my behalf. Provoke the man as far as is
possible without exciting suspicion, and if I know him rightly, he will
stand upon his rights, and refuse you persistently. Then, after you, will
come Komanus from me with greetings and gifts and promises.

"To-morrow, when we have done what must be done to the Roman, you shall
fetch the girl in my brother's name either by cunning or by force; and
the day after, if the gods graciously lend me their aid in uniting the
two realms of Egypt under my own hand, I will explain to Asclepiodorus
that I have punished Philometor for his sacrilege against his temple, and
have deposed him from the throne. Serapis shall see which of us is his
friend.

"If all goes well, as I mean that it shall, I will appoint you Epitropon
of the re-united kingdom--that I swear to you by the souls of my deceased
ancestors. I will speak with you to-day at any hour you may demand it."

Eulaeus departed with a step as light as if his interview with the king
had restored him to youth.

When Hierax, Komanus, and the other officers returned to the room,
Euergetes gave orders that his four finest horses from Cyrene should be
led before noonday to his friend Publius Cornelius Scipio, in token of
his affection and respect. Then he suffered himself to be dressed, and
went to Aristarchus with whom he sat down to work at his studies.



CHAPTER XIV.

The temple of Serapis lay in restful silence, enveloped in darkness,
which so far hid its four wings from sight as to give it the aspect of a
single rock-like mass wrapped in purple mist.

Outside the temple precincts too all had been still; but just now a
clatter of hoofs and rumble of wheels was audible through the silence,
otherwise so profound that it seemed increased by every sound. Before the
vehicle which occasioned this disturbance had reached the temple, it
stopped, just outside the sacred acacia-grove, for the neighing of a
horse was now audible in that direction.

It was one of the king's horses that neighed; Lysias, the Greek, tied him
up to a tree by the road at the edge of the grove, flung his mantle over
the loins of the smoking beast; and feeling his way from tree to tree
soon found himself by the Well of the Sun where he sat down on the
margin.

Presently from the east came a keen, cold breeze, the harbinger of
sunrise; the gray gloaming began by degrees to pierce and part the tops
of the tall trees, which, in the darkness, had seemed a compact black
roof. The crowing of cocks rang out from the court-yard of the temple,
and, as the Corinthian rose with a shiver to warm himself by a rapid walk
backwards and forwards, he heard a door creak near the outer wall of the
temple, of which the outline now grew sharper and clearer every instant
in the growing light.

He now gazed with eager observation down the path which, as the day
approached, stood out with increasing clearness from the surrounding
shades, and his heart began to beat faster as he perceived a figure
approaching the well, with rapid steps. It was a human form that advanced
towards him--only one--no second figure accompanied it; but it was not a
man--no, a woman in a long robe. Still, she for whom he waited was surely
smaller than the woman, who now came near to him. Was it the elder and
not the younger sister, whom alone he was anxious to speak with, who came
to the well this morning?

He could now distinguish her light foot-fall--now she was divided from
him by a young acacia-shrub which hid her from his gaze-now she set down
two water-jars on the ground--now she briskly lifted the bucket and
filled the vessel she held in her left hand--now she looked towards the
eastern horizon, where the dim light of dawn grew broader and brighter,
and Lysias thought he recognized Irene--and now--Praised be the gods! he
was sure; before him stood the younger and not the elder sister; the very
maiden whom he sought.

Still half concealed by the acacia-shrub, and in a soft voice so as not
to alarm her, he called Irene's name, and the poor child's blood froze
with terror, for never before had she been startled by a man here, and at
this hour. She stood as if rooted to the spot, and, trembling with
fright, she pressed the cold, wet, golden jar, sacred to the god, closely
to her bosom.

Lysias repeated her name, a little louder than before, and went on, but
in a subdued voice:

"Do not be frightened, Irene; I am Lysias, the Corinthian--your friend,
whose pomegranate-blossom you wore yesterday, and who spoke to you after
the procession. Let me bid you good morning!"

At these words the girl let her hand fall by her side, still holding the
jar, and pressing her right hand to her heart, she exclaimed, drawing a
deep breath:

"How dreadfully you frightened me! I thought some wandering soul was
calling me that had not yet returned to the nether world, for it is not
till the sun rises that spirits are scared away."

"But it cannot scare men of flesh and blood whose purpose is good. I, you
may believe me, would willingly stay with you, till Helios departs again,
if you would permit me."

"I can neither permit nor forbid you anything," answered Irene. "But, how
came you here at this hour?"

"In a chariot," replied Lysias smiling.

"That is nonsense--I want to know what you came to the Well of the Sun
for at such an hour."

"I What but for you yourself? You told me yesterday that you were glad to
sleep, and so am I; still, to see you once more, I have been only to glad
to shorten my night's rest considerably."

"But, how did you know?"

"You yourself told me yesterday at what time you were allowed to leave
the temple."

"Did I tell you? Great Serapis! how light it is already. I shall be
punished if the water-jar is not standing on the altar by sunrise, and
there is Klea's too to be filled."

"I will fill it for you directly--there--that is done; and now I will
carry them both for you to the end of the grove, if you will promise me
to return soon, for I have many things to ask you."

"Go on--only go on," said the girl; "I know very little; but ask away,
though you will not find much to be made of any answers that I can give."

"Oh! yes, indeed, I shall--for instance, if I asked you to tell me all
about your parents. My friend Publius, whom you know, and I also have
heard how cruelly and unjustly they were punished, and we would gladly do
much to procure their release."

"I will come--I will be sure to come," cried Irene loudly and eagerly,
"and shall I bring Klea with me? She was called up in the middle of the
night by the gatekeeper, whose child is very ill. My sister is very fond
of it, and Philo will only take his medicine from her. The little one had
gone to sleep in her lap, and his mother came and begged me to fetch the
water for us both. Now give me the jars, for none but we may enter the
temple."

"There they are. Do not disturb your sister on my account in her care of
the poor little boy, for I might indeed have one or two things to say to
you which she need not hear, and which might give you pleasure. Now, I am
going back to the well, so farewell! But do not let me have to wait very
long for you." He spoke in a tender tone of entreaty, and the girl
answered low and rapidly as she hurried away from him:

"I will come when the sun is up."

The Corinthian looked after her till she had vanished within the temple,
and his heart was stirred--stirred as it had not been for many years. He
could not help recalling the time when he would teaze his younger sister,
then still quite a child, putting her to the test by asking her, with a
perfectly grave face, to give him her cake or her apple which he did not
really want at all. The little one had almost always put the thing he
asked for to his mouth with her tiny hands, and then he had often felt
exactly as he felt now.

Irene too was still but a child, and no less guileless than his darling
in his own home; and just as his sister had trusted him--offering him the
best she had to give--so this simple child trusted him; him, the
profligate Lysias, before whom all the modest women of Corinth cast down
their eyes, while fathers warned their growing-up sons against him;
trusted him with her virgin self--nay, as he thought, her sacred person.

"I will do thee no harm, sweet child!" he murmured to himself, as he
presently turned on his heel to return to the well. He went forward
quickly at first, but after a few steps he paused before the marvellous
and glorious picture that met his gaze. Was Memphis in flames? Had fire
fallen to burn up the shroud of mist which had veiled his way to the
temple?

The trunks of the acacia-trees stood up like the blackened pillars of a
burning city, and behind them the glow of a conflagration blazed high up
to the heavens. Beams of violet and gold slipped and sparkled between the
boughs, and danced among the thorny twigs, the white racemes of flowers,
and the tufts of leaves with their feathery leaflets; the clouds above
were fired with tints more pure and tender than those of the roses with
which Cleopatra had decked herself for the banquet.

Not like this did the sun rise in his own country! Or, was it perhaps
only that in Corinth or in Athens at break of day, as he staggered home
drunk from some feast, he had looked more at the earth than at the
heavens?

His horses began now to neigh loudly as if to greet the steeds of the
coming Sun-god. Lysias hurried to them through the grove, patted their
shining necks with soothing words, and stood looking down at the vast
city at his feet, over which hung a film of violet mist--at the solemn
Pyramids, over which the morning glow flung a gay robe of rose-color--on
the huge temple of Ptah, with the great colossi in front of its
pylons--on the Nile, mirroring the glory of the sky, and on the limestone
hills behind the villages of Babylon and Troy, about which he had, only
yesterday, heard a Jew at the king's table relating a legend current
among his countrymen to the effect that these hills had been obliged to
give up all their verdure to grace the mounts of the sacred city
Hierosolyma.

The rocky cliffs of this barren range glowed at this moment like the fire
in the heart of the great ruby which had clasped the festal robe of King
Euergetes across his bull-neck, as it reflected the shimmer of the
tapers: and Lysias saw the day-star rising behind the range with blinding
radiance, shooting forth rays like myriads of golden arrows, to rout and
destroy his foe, the darkness of night.

Eos, Helios, Phoebus Apollo--these had long been to him no more than
names, with which he associated certain phenomena, certain processes and
ideas; for he when he was not luxuriating in the bath, amusing himself in
the gymnasium, at cock or quail-fights, in the theatre or at Dionysiac
processions--was wont to exercise his wits in the schools of the
philosophers, so as to be able to shine in bandying words at
entertainments; but to-day, and face to face with this sunrise, he
believed as in the days of his childhood--he saw in his mind's eye the
god riding in his golden chariot, and curbing his foaming steeds, his
shining train floating lightly round him, bearing torches or scattering
flowers--he threw up his arms with an impulse of devotion, praying aloud:

"To-day I am happy and light of heart. To thy presence do I owe this, O!
Phoebus Apollo, for thou art light itself. Oh! let thy favors continue--"

But he here broke off in his invocation, and dropped his arms, for he
heard approaching footsteps. Smiling at his childish weakness--for such
he deemed it that he should have prayed--and yet content from his pious
impulse, he turned his back on the sun, now quite risen, and stood face
to face with Irene who called out to him:

"I was beginning to think that you had got out of patience and had gone
away, when I found you no longer by the well. That distressed me--but you
were only watching Helios rise. I see it every day, and yet it always
grieves me to see it as red as it was to-day, for our Egyptian nurse used
to tell me that when the east was very red in the morning it was because
the Sun-god had slain his enemies, and it was their blood that colored
the heavens, and the clouds and the hills."

"But you are a Greek," said Lysias, "and you must know that it is Eos
that causes these tints when she touches the horizon with her rosy
fingers before Helios appears. Now to-day you are, to me, the rosy dawn
presaging a fine day."

"Such a ruddy glow as this," said Irene, "forebodes great heat, storms,
and perhaps heavy rain, so the gatekeeper says; and he is always with the
astrologers who observe the stars and the signs in the heavens from the
towers near the temple-gates. He is poor little Philo's father. I wanted
to bring Klea with me, for she knows more about our parents than I do;
but he begged me not to call her away, for the child's throat is almost
closed up, and if it cries much the physician says it will choke, and yet
it is never quiet but when it is lying in Klea's arms. She is so
good--and she never thinks of herself; she has been ever since midnight
till now rocking that heavy child on her lap."

"We will talk with her presently," said the Corinthian. "But to-day it
was for your sake that I came; you have such merry eyes, and your little
mouth looks as if it were made for laughing, and not to sing
lamentations. How can you bear being always in that shut up dungeon with
all those solemn men in their black and white robes?"

"There are some very good and kind ones among them. I am most fond of old
Krates, he looks gloomy enough at every one else; but with me only he
jokes and talks, and he often shows me such pretty and elegantly wrought
things."

"Ah! I told you just now you are like the rosy dawn before whom all
darkness must vanish."

"If only you could know how thoughtless I can be, and how often I give
trouble to Klea, who never scolds me for it, you would be far from
comparing me with a goddess. Little old Krates, too, often compares me to
all sorts of pretty things, but that always sounds so comical that I
cannot help laughing. I had much rather listen to you when you flatter
me."

"Because I am young and youth suits with youth. Your sister is older, and
so much graver than you are. Have you never had a companion of your own
age whom you could play with, and to whom you could tell everything?"

"Oh! yes when I was still very young; but since my parents fell into
trouble, and we have lived here in the temple, I have always been alone
with Klea. What do you want to know about my father?"

"That I will ask you by-and-by. Now only tell me, have you never played
at hide and seek with other girls? May you never look on at the merry
doings in the streets at the Dionysiac festivals? Have you ever ridden in
a chariot?"

"I dare say I have, long ago--but I have forgotten it. How should I have
any chance of such things here in the temple? Klea says it is no good
even to think of them. She tells me a great deal about our parents--how
my mother took care of us, and what my father used to say. Has anything
happened that may turn out favorably for him? Is it possible that the
king should have learned the truth? Make haste and ask your questions at
once, for I have already been too long out here."

The impatient steeds neighed again as she spoke, and Lysias, to whom this
chat with Irene was perfectly enchanting, but who nevertheless had not
for a moment lost sight of his object, hastily pointed to the spot where
his horses were standing, and said:

"Did you hear the neighing of those mettlesome horses? They brought me
hither, and I can guide them well; nay, at the last Isthmian games I won
the crown with my own quadriga. You said you had never ridden standing in
a chariot. How would you like to try for once how it feels? I will drive
you with pleasure up and down behind the grove for a little while."

Irene heard this proposal with sparkling eyes and cried, as she clapped
her hands:

"May I ride in a chariot with spirited horses, like the queen? Oh!
impossible! Where are your horses standing?"

In this instant she had forgotten Klea, the duty which called her back to
the temple, even her parents, and she followed the Corinthian with winged
steps, sprang into the two-wheeled chariot, and clung fast to the
breastwork, as Lysias took his place by her side, seized the reins, and
with a strong and practised hand curbed the mettle of his spirited
steeds.

She stood perfectly guileless and undoubting by his side, and wholly at
his mercy as the chariot rattled off; but, unknown to herself, beneficent
powers were shielding her with buckler and armor--her childlike
innocence, and that memory of her parents which her tempter himself had
revived in her mind, and which soon came back in vivid strength.

Breathing deep with excitement, and filled with such rapture as a bird
may feel when it first soars from its narrow nest high up into the ether
she cried out again and again:

"Oh, this is delightful! this is splendid!" and then:

"How we rush through the air as if we were swallows! Faster, Lysias,
faster! No, no--that is too fast; wait a little that I may not fall! Oh,
I am not frightened; it is too delightful to cut through the air just as
a Nile boat cuts through the stream in a storm, and to feel it on my face
and neck."

Lysias was very close to her; when, at her desire, he urged his horses to
their utmost pace, and saw her sway, he involuntarily put out his hand to
hold her by the girdle; but Irene avoided his grasp, pressing close
against the side of the chariot next her, and every time he touched her
she drew her arm close up to her body, shrinking together like the
fragile leaf of a sensitive plant when it is touched by some foreign
object.

She now begged the Corinthian to allow her to hold the reins for a little
while, and he immediately acceded to her request, giving them into her
hand, though, stepping behind her, he carefully kept the ends of them in
his own. He could now see her shining hair, the graceful oval of her
head, and her white throat eagerly bent forward; an indescribable longing
came over him to press a kiss on her head; but he forbore, for he
remembered his friend's words that he would fulfil the part of a guardian
to these girls. He too would be a protector to her, aye and more than
that, he would care for her as a father might. Still, as often as the
chariot jolted over a stone, and he touched her to support her, the
suppressed wish revived, and once when her hair was blown quite close to
his lips he did indeed kiss it--but only as a friend or a brother might.
Still, she must have felt the breath from his lips, for she turned round
hastily, and gave him back the reins; then, pressing her hand to her
brow, she said in a quite altered voice--not unmixed with a faint tone of
regret:

"This is not right--please now to turn the horses round."

Lysias, instead of obeying her, pulled at the reins to urge the horses to
a swifter pace, and before he could find a suitable answer, she had
glanced up at the sun, and pointing to the east she exclaimed:

"How late it is already! what shall I say if I have been looked for, and
they ask me where I have been so long? Why don't you turn round--nor ask
me anything about my parents?"

The last words broke from her with vehemence, and as Lysias did not
immediately reply nor make any attempt to check the pace of the horses,
she herself seized the reins exclaiming:

"Will you turn round or no?"

"No!" said the Greek with decision. "But--"

"And this is what you intended!" shrieked the girl, beside herself. "You
meant to carry me off by stratagem--but wait, only wait--"

And before Lysias could prevent her she had turned round, and was
preparing to spring from the chariot as it rushed onwards; but her
companion was quicker than she; he clutched first at her robe and then
her girdle, put his arm round her waist, and in spite of her resistance
pulled her back into the chariot.

Trembling, stamping her little feet and with tears in her eyes, she
strove to free her girdle from his grasp; he, now bringing his horses to
a stand-still, said kindly but earnestly:

"What I have done is the best that could happen to you, and I will even
turn the horses back again if you command it, but not till you have heard
me; for when I got you into the chariot by stratagem it was because I was
afraid that you would refuse to accompany me, and yet I knew that every
delay would expose you to the most hideous peril. I did not indeed take a
base advantage of your father's name, for my friend Publius Scipio, who
is very influential, intends to do everything in his power to procure his
freedom and to reunite you to him. But, Irene, that could never have
happened if I had left you where you have hitherto lived."

During this discourse the girl had looked at Lysias in bewilderment, and
she interrupted him with the exclamation:

"But I have never done any one an injury! Who can gain any benefit by
persecuting a poor creature like me:

"Your father was the most righteous of men," replied Lysias, "and
nevertheless he was carried off into torments like a criminal. It is not
only the unrighteous and the wicked that are persecuted. Have you ever
heard of King Euergetes, who, at his birth, was named the 'well-doer,'
and who has earned that of the 'evil doer' by his crimes? He has heard
that you are fair, and he is about to demand of the high-priest that he
should surrender you to him. If Asclepiodorus agrees--and what can he do
against the might of a king--you will be made the companion of
flute-playing girls and painted women, who riot with drunken men at his
wild carousals and orgies, and if your parents found you thus, better
would it be for them--"

"Is it true, all you are telling me?" asked Irene with flaming cheeks.

"Yes," answered Lysias firmly. "Listen Irene--I have a father and a dear
mother and a sister, who is like you, and I swear to you by their
heads--by those whose names never passed my lips in the presence of any
other woman I ever sued to--that I am speaking the simple truth; that I
seek nothing but only to save you; that if you desire it, as soon as I
have hidden you I will never see you again, terribly hard as that would
be to me--for I love you so dearly, so deeply--poor sweet little
Irene--as you can never imagine."

Lysias took the girl's hand, but she withdrew it hastily, and raising her
eyes, full of tears, to meet his she said clearly and firmly:

"I believe you, for no man could speak like that and betray another. But
how do you know all this? Where are you taking me? Will Klea follow me?"

"At first you shall be concealed with the family of a worthy sculptor. We
will let Klea know this very day of all that has happened to you, and
when we have obtained the release of your parents then--but--Help us,
protecting Zeus! Do you see the chariot yonder? I believe those are the
white horses of the Eunuch Eulaeus, and if he were to see us here, all
would be lost! Hold tight, we must go as fast as in a chariot race.
There, now the hill hides us, and down there, by the little temple of
Isis, the wife of your future host is already waiting for you; she is no
doubt sitting in the closed chariot near the palm-trees.

"Yes, certainly, certainly, Klea shall hear all, so that she may not be
uneasy about you! I must say farewell to you directly and then,
afterwards, sweet Irene, will you sometimes think of the unhappy Lysias;
or did Aurora, who greeted him this morning, so bright and full of happy
promise, usher in a day not of joy but of sorrow and regret?" The Greek
drew in rein as he spoke, bringing his horses to a sober pace, and looked
tenderly in Irene's eyes. She returned his gaze with heart-felt emotion,
but her gunny glance was dimmed with tears.

"Say something," entreated the Greek. "Will you not forget me? And may I
soon visit you in your new retreat?"

Irene would so gladly have said yes--and yes again, a thousand times yes;
and yet she, who was so easily carried away by every little emotion of
her heart, in this supreme moment found strength enough to snatch her
hand from that of the Greek, who had again taken it, and to answer
firmly:

"I will remember you for ever and ever, but you must not come to see me
till I am once more united to my Klea."

"But Irene, consider, if now--" cried Lysias much agitated.

"You swore to me by the heads of your nearest kin to obey my wishes,"
interrupted the girl. "Certainly I trust you, and all the more readily
because you are so good to me, but I shall not do so any more if you do
not keep your word. Look, here comes a lady to meet us who looks like a
friend. She is already waving her hand to me. Yes, I will go with her
gladly, and yet I am so anxious--so troubled, I cannot tell you--but I am
so thankful too! Think of me sometimes, Lysias, and of our journey here,
and of our talk, and of my parents: I entreat you, do for them all you
possibly can. I wish I could help crying--but I cannot!"



CHAPTER XV.

Lysias eyes had not deceived him. The chariot with white horses which he
had evaded during his flight with Irene belonged to Eulaeus. The morning
being cool--and also because Cleopatra's lady-in-waiting was with him--he
had come out in a closed chariot, in which he sat on soft cushions side
by side with the Macedonian lady, endeavoring to win her good graces by a
conversation, witty enough in its way.

"On the way there," thought he, "I will make her quite favorable to me,
and on the way back I will talk to her of my own affairs."

The drive passed quickly and pleasantly for both, and they neither of
them paid any heed to the sound of the hoofs of the horses that were
bearing away Irene.

Eulaeus dismounted behind the acacia-grove, and expressed a hope that Zoe
would not find the time very long while he was engaged with the
high-priest; perhaps indeed, he remarked, she might even make some use of
the time by making advances to the representative of Hebe.

But Irene had been long since warmly welcomed in the house of
Apollodorus, the sculptor, by the time they once more found themselves
together in the chariot; Eulaeus feigning, and Zoe in reality feeling,
extreme dissatisfaction at all that had taken place in the temple. The
high-priest had rejected Philometor's demand that he should send the
water-bearer to the palace on King Euergetes' birthday, with a
decisiveness which Eulaeus would never have given him credit for, for he
had on former occasions shown a disposition to measures of compromise;
while Zoe had not even seen the waterbearer.

"I fancy," said the queen's shrewd friend, "that I followed you somewhat
too late, and that when I entered the temple about half an hour after
you--having been detained first by Imhotep, the old physician, and then
by an assistant of Apollodorus, the sculptor, with some new busts of the
philosophers--the high-priest had already given orders that the girl
should be kept concealed; for when I asked to see her, I was conducted
first to her miserable room, which seemed more fit for peasants or goats
than for a Hebe, even for a sham one--but I found it perfectly deserted.

"Then I was shown into the temple of Serapis, where a priest was
instructing some girls in singing, and then sent hither and thither, till
at last, finding no trace whatever of the famous Irene, I came to the
dwelling-house of the gate-keeper of the temple.

"An ungainly woman opened the door, and said that Irene had been gone
from thence for some long time, but that her elder sister was there, so I
desired she might be fetched to speak with me. And what, if you please,
was the answer I received? The goddess Klea--I call her so as being
sister to a Hebe--had to nurse a sick child, and if I wanted to see her I
might go in and find her.

"The tone of the message quite conveyed that the distance from her down
to me was as great as in fact it is the other way. However, I thought it
worth the trouble to see this supercilious water-bearing girl, and I went
into a low room--it makes me sick now to remember how it smelt of
poverty--and there she sat with an idiotic child, dying on her lap.
Everything that surrounded me was so revolting and dismal that it will
haunt my dreams with terror for weeks to come and spoil all my cheerful
hours.

"I did not remain long with these wretched creatures, but I must confess
that if Irene is as like to Hebe as her elder sister is to Hera,
Euergetes has good grounds for being angry if Asclepiodorus keeps the
girl from him.

"Many a queen--and not least the one whom you and I know so
intimately-would willingly give half of her kingdom to possess such a
figure and such a mien as this serving-girl. And then her eyes, as she
looked at me when she rose with that little gasping corpse in her arms,
and asked me what I wanted with her sister!

"There was an impressive and lurid glow in those solemn eyes, which
looked as if they had been taken out of some Medusa's head to be set in
her beautiful face. And there was a sinister threat in them too which
seemed to say: 'Require nothing of her that I do not approve of, or you
will be turned into stone on the spot.' She did not answer twenty words
to my questions, and when I once more tasted the fresh air outside, which
never seemed to me so pleasant as by contrast with that horrible hole, I
had learnt no more than that no one knew--or chose to know--in what
corner the fair Irene was hidden, and that I should do well to make no
further enquiries.

"And now, what will Philometor do? What will you advise him to do?"

"What cannot be got at by soft words may sometimes be obtained by a
sufficiently large present," replied Eulaeus. "You know very well that of
all words none is less familiar to these gentry than the little word
'enough'; but who indeed is really ready to say it?

"You speak of the haughtiness and the stern repellent demeanor of our
Hebe's sister. I have seen her too, and I think that her image might be
set up in the Stoa as a happy impersonation of the severest virtue: and
yet children generally resemble their parents, and her father was the
veriest peculator and the most cunning rascal that ever came in my way,
and was sent off to the gold-mines for very sufficient reasons. And for
the sake of the daughter of a convicted criminal you have been driven
through the dust and the scorching heat, and have had to submit to her
scorn and contemptuous airs, while I am threatened with grave peril on
her account, for you know that Cleopatra's latest whim is to do honor to
the Roman, Publius Scipio; he, on the other hand, is running after our
Hebe, and, having promised her that he will obtain an unqualified pardon
for her father, he will do his utmost to throw the odium of his robbery
upon me.

"The queen is to give him audience this very day, and you cannot know how
many enemies a man makes who, like me, has for many years been one of the
leading men of a great state. The king acknowledges, and with gratitude,
all that I have done for him and for his mother; but if, at the moment
when Publius Scipio accuses me, he is more in favor with her than ever, I
am a lost man.

"You are always with the queen; do you tell her who these girls are, and
what motives the Roman has for loading me with their father's crimes; and
some opportunity must offer for doing you and your belongings some
friendly office or another."

"What a shameless crew!" exclaimed Zoe. "Depend upon it I will not be
silent, for I always do what is just. I cannot bear seeing others
suffering an injustice, and least of all that a man of your merit and
distinction should be wounded in his honor, because a haughty foreigner
takes a fancy to a pretty little face and a conceited doll of a girl."

Zoe was in the right when she found the air stifling in the gate-keeper's
house, for poor Irene, unaccustomed to such an atmosphere, could no more
endure it than the pretentious maid of honor. It cost even Klea an effort
to remain in the wretched room, which served as the dwelling-place of the
whole family; where the cooking was carried on at a smoky hearth, while,
at night, it also sheltered a goat and a few fowls; but she had endured
even severer trials than this for the sake of what she deemed right, and
she was so fond of little Philo--her anxious care in arousing by degrees
his slumbering intelligence had brought her so much soothing
satisfaction, and the child's innocent gratitude had been so tender a
reward--that she wholly forgot the repulsive surroundings as soon as she
felt that her presence and care were indispensable to the suffering
little one.

Imhotep, the most famous of the priest-physicians of the temple of
Asclepius--a man who was as learned in Greek as in Egyptian medical lore,
and who had been known by the name of "the modern Herophilus" since King
Philometor had summoned him from Alexandria to Memphis--had long since
been watchful of the gradual development of the dormant intelligence of
the gate-keeper's child, whom he saw every day in his visits to the
temple. Now, not long after Zoe had quitted the house, he came in to see
the sick child for the third time. Klea was still holding the boy on her
lap when he entered. On a wooden stool in front of her stood a brazier of
charcoal, and on it a small copper kettle the physician had brought with
him; to this a long tube was attached. The tube was in two parts, joined
together by a leather joint, also tubular, in such a way that the upper
portion could be turned in any direction. Klea from time to time applied
it to the breast of the child, and, in obedience to Imhotep's
instructions, made the little one inhale the steam that poured out of it.

"Has it had the soothing effect it ought to have?" asked the physician.

"Yes, indeed, I think so," replied Klea, "There is not so much noise in
the chest when the poor little fellow draws his breath."

The old man put his ear to the child's mouth, laid his hand on his brow,
and said:

"If the fever abates I hope for the best. This inhaling of steam is an
excellent remedy for these severe catarrhs, and a venerable one besides;
for in the oldest writings of Hermes we find it prescribed as an
application in such cases. But now he has had enough of it. Ah! this
steam--this steam! Do you know that it is stronger than horses or oxen,
or the united strength of a whole army of giants? That diligent enquirer
Hero of Alexandria discovered this lately.

"But our little invalid has had enough of it, we must not overheat him.
Now, take a linen cloth--that one will do though it is not very fine.
Fold it together, wet it nicely with cold water--there is some in that
miserable potsherd there--and now I will show you how to lay it on the
child's throat.

"You need not assure me that you understand me, Klea, for you have
hands--neat hands--and patience without end! Sixty-five years have I
lived, and have always had good health, but I could almost wish to be ill
for once, in order to be nursed by you. That poor child is well off
better than many a king's child when it is sick; for him hireling nurses,
no doubt, fetch and do all that is necessary, but one thing they cannot
give, for they have it not; I mean the loving and indefatigable patience
by which you have worked a miracle on this child's mind, and are now
working another on his body. Aye, aye, my girl; it is to you and not me
that this woman will owe her child if it is preserved to her. Do you hear
me, woman? and tell your husband so too; and if you do not reverence Klea
as a goddess, and do not lay your hands beneath her feet, may you
be--no--I will wish you no ill, for you have not too much of the good
things of life as it is!"

As he spoke the gate-keeper's wife came timidly up to the physician and
the sick child, pushed her rough and tangled hair off her forehead a
little, crossed her lean arms at full length behind her back, and,
looking down with out-stretched neck at the boy, stared in dumb amazement
at the wet cloths. Then she timidly enquired:

"Are the evil spirits driven out of the child?"

"Certainly," replied the physician. "Klea there has exorcised them, and I
have helped her; now you know."

"Then I may go out for a little while? I have to sweep the pavement of
the forecourt."

Klea nodded assent, and when the woman had disappeared the physician
said:

"How many evil demons we have to deal with, alas! and how few good ones.
Men are far more ready and willing to believe in mischievous spirits than
in kind or helpful ones; for when things go ill with them--and it is
generally their own fault when they do--it comforts them and flatters
their vanity if only they can throw the blame on the shoulders of evil
spirits; but when they are well to do, when fortune smiles on them of
course, they like to ascribe it to themselves, to their own cleverness or
their superior insight, and they laugh at those who admonish them of the
gratitude they owe to the protecting and aiding demons. I, for my part,
think more of the good than of the evil spirits, and you, my child,
without doubt are one of the very best.

"You must change the compress every quarter of an hour, and between
whiles go out into the open air, and let the fresh breezes fan your
bosom--your cheeks look pale. At mid-day go to your own little room, and
try to sleep. Nothing ought to be overdone, so you are to obey me."

Klea replied with a friendly and filial nod, and Imhotep stroked down her
hair; then he left; she remained alone in the stuffy hot room, which grew
hotter every minute, while she changed the wet cloths for the sick child,
and watched with delight the diminishing hoarseness and difficulty of his
breathing. From time to time she was overcome by a slight drowsiness, and
closed her eyes for a few minutes, but only for a short while; and this
half-awake and half-asleep condition, chequered by fleeting dreams, and
broken only by an easy and pleasing duty, this relaxation of the tension
of mind and body, had a certain charm of which, through it all, she
remained perfectly conscious. Here she was in her right place; the
physicians kind words had done her good, and her anxiety for the little
life she loved was now succeeded by a well-founded hope of its
preservation.

During the night she had already come to a definite resolution, to
explain to the high-priest that she could not undertake the office of the
twin-sisters, who wept by the bier of Osiris, and that she would rather
endeavor to earn bread by the labor of her hands for herself and
Irene--for that Irene should do any real work never entered her mind--at
Alexandria, where even the blind and the maimed could find occupation.
Even this prospect, which only yesterday had terrified her, began now to
smile upon her, for it opened to her the possibility of proving
independently the strong energy which she felt in herself.

Now and then the figure of the Roman rose before her mind's eye, and
every time that this occurred she colored to her very forehead. But
to-day she thought of this disturber of her peace differently from
yesterday; for yesterday she had felt herself overwhelmed by him with
shame, while to-day it appeared to her as though she had triumphed over
him at the procession, since she had steadily avoided his glance, and
when he had dared to approach her she had resolutely turned her back upon
him. This was well, for how could the proud foreigner expose himself
again to such humiliation.

"Away, away--for ever away!" she murmured to herself, and her eyes and
brow, which had been lighted up by a transient smile, once more assumed
the expression of repellent sternness which, the day before, had so
startled and angered the Roman. Soon however the severity of her features
relaxed, as she saw in fancy the young man's beseeching look, and
remembered the praise given him by the recluse, and as--in the middle of
this train of thought--her eyes closed again, slumber once more falling
upon her spirit for a few minutes, she saw in her dream Publius himself,
who approached her with a firm step, took her in his arms like a child,
held her wrists to stop her struggling hands, gathered her up with rough
force, and then flung her into a canoe lying at anchor by the bank of the
Nile.

She fought with all her might against this attack and seizure, screamed
aloud with fury, and woke at the sound of her own voice. Then she got up,
dried her eyes that were wet with tears, and, after laying a freshly
wetted cloth on the child's throat, she went out of doors in obedience to
the physician's advice.

The sun was already at the meridian, and its direct rays were fiercely
reflected from the slabs of yellow sandstone that paved the forecourt. On
one side only of the wide, unroofed space, one of the colonnades that
surrounded it threw a narrow shade, hardly a span wide; and she would not
go there, for under it stood several beds on which lay pilgrims who, here
in the very dwelling of the divinity, hoped to be visited with dreams
which might give them an insight into futurity.

Klea's head was uncovered, and, fearing the heat of noon, she was about
to return into the door-keeper's house, when she saw a young white-robed
scribe, employed in the special service of Asclepiodorus, who came across
the court beckoning eagerly to her. She went towards him, but before he
had reached her he shouted out an enquiry whether her sister Irene was in
the gate-keeper's lodge; the high-priest desired to speak with her, and
she was nowhere to be found. Klea told him that a grand lady from the
queen's court had already enquired for her, and that the last time she
had seen her had been before daybreak, when she was going to fill the
jars for the altar of the god at the Well of the Sun.

"The water for the first libation," answered the priest, "was placed on
the altar at the right time, but Doris and her sister had to fetch it for
the second and third. Asclepiodorus is angry--not with you, for he knows
from Imhotep that you are taking care of a sick child--but with Irene.
Try and think where she can be. Something serious must have occurred that
the high-priest wishes to communicate to her."

Klea was startled, for she remembered Irene's tears the evening before,
and her cry of longing for happiness and freedom. Could it be that the
thoughtless child had yielded to this longing, and escaped without her
knowledge, though only for a few hours, to see the city and the gay life
there?

She collected herself so as not to betray her anxiety to the messenger,
and said with downcast eyes:

"I will go and look for her."

She hurried back into the house, once more looked to the sick child,
called his mother and showed her how to prepare the compresses, urging
her to follow Imhotep's directions carefully and exactly till she should
return; she pressed one loving kiss on little Philo's forehead--feeling
as she did so that he was less hot than he had been in the morning--and
then she left, going first to her own dwelling.

There everything stood or lay exactly as she had left it during the
night, only the golden jars were wanting. This increased Klea's alarm,
but the thought that Irene should have taken the precious vessels with
her, in order to sell them and to live on the proceeds, never once
entered her mind, for her sister, she knew, though heedless and easily
persuaded, was incapable of any base action.

Where was she to seek the lost girl? Serapion, the recluse, to whom she
first addressed herself, knew nothing of her.

On the altar of Serapis, whither she next went, she found both the
vessels, and carried them back to her room.

Perhaps Irene had gone to see old Krates, and while watching his work and
chattering to him, had forgotten the flight of time--but no, the
priest-smith, whom she sought in his workshop, knew nothing of the
vanished maiden. He would willingly have helped Klea to seek for his
favorite, but the new lock for the tombs of the Apis had to be finished
by mid-day, and his swollen feet were painful.

Klea stood outside the old man's door sunk in thought, and it occurred to
her that Irene had often, in her idle hours, climbed up into the dove-cot
belonging to the temple, to look out from thence over the distant
landscape, to visit the sitting birds, to stuff food into the gaping
beaks of the young ones, or to look up at the cloud of soaring doves. The
pigeon-house, built up of clay pots and Nile-mud, stood on the top of the
storehouse, which lay adjoining the southern boundary wall of the temple.

She hastened across the sunny courts and slightly shaded alleys, and
mounted to the flat roof of the storehouse, but she found there neither
the old dove-keeper nor his two grandsons who helped him in his work, for
all three were in the anteroom to the kitchen, taking their dinner with
the temple-servants.

Klea shouted her sister's name; once, twice, ten times--but no one
answered. It was just as if the fierce heat of the sun burnt up the sound
as it left her lips. She looked into the first pigeon-house, the second,
the third, all the way to the last. The numberless little clay tenements
of the brisk little birds threw out a glow like a heated oven; but this
did not hinder her from hunting through every nook and corner. Her cheeks
were burning, drops of perspiration stood on her brow, and she had much
difficulty in freeing herself from the dust of the pigeon-houses, still
she was not discouraged.

Perhaps Irene had gone into the Anubidium, or sanctuary of Asclepius, to
enquire as to the meaning of some strange vision, for there, with the
priestly physicians, lived also a priestess who could interpret the
dreams of those who sought to be healed even better than a certain
recluse who also could exercise that science. The enquirers often had to
wait a long time outside the temple of Asclepius, and this consideration
encouraged Klea, and made her insensible to the burning southwest wind
which was now rising, and to the heat of the sun; still, as she returned
to the Pastophorium--slowly, like a warrior returning from a defeat--she
suffered severely from the heat, and her heart was wrung with anguish and
suspense.

Willingly would she have cried, and often heaved a groan that was more
like a sob, but the solace of tears to relieve her heart was still denied
to her.

Before going to tell Asclepiodorus that her search had been unsuccessful,
she felt prompted once more to talk with her friend, the anchorite; but
before she had gone far enough even to see his cell, the high-priest's
scribe once more stood in her way, and desired her to follow him to the
temple. There she had to wait in mortal impatience for more than an hour
in an ante room. At last she was conducted into a room where
Asclepiodorus was sitting with the whole chapter of the priesthood of the
temple of Serapis.

Klea entered timidly, and had to wait again some minutes in the presence
of the mighty conclave before the high-priest asked her whether she could
give any information as to the whereabouts of the fugitive, and whether
she had heard or observed anything that could guide them on her track,
since he, Asclepiodorus, knew that if Irene had run away secretly from
the temple she must be as anxious about her as he was.

Klea had much difficulty in finding words, and her knees shook as she
began to speak, but she refused the seat which was brought for her by
order of Asclepiodorus. She recounted in order all the places where she
had in vain sought her sister, and when she mentioned the sanctuary of
Asclepius, and a recollection came suddenly and vividly before her of the
figure of a lady of distinction, who had come there with a number of
slaves and waiting-maids to have a dream interpreted, Zoe's visit to
herself flashed upon her memory; her demeanor--at first so over-friendly
and then so supercilious--and her haughty enquiries for Irene.

She broke off in her narrative, and exclaimed:

"I am sure, holy father, that Irene has not fled of her own free impulse,
but some one perhaps may have lured her into quitting the temple and me;
she is still but a child with a wavering mind. Could it possibly be that
a lady of rank should have decoyed her into going with her? Such a person
came to-day to see me at the door-keeper's lodge. She was richly dressed
and wore a gold crescent in her light wavy hair, which was plaited with a
silk ribband, and she asked me urgently about my sister. Imhotep, the
physician, who often visits at the king's palace, saw her too, and told
me her name is Zoe, and that she is lady-in-waiting to Queen Cleopatra."

These words occasioned the greatest excitement throughout the conclave of
priests, and Asclepiodorus exclaimed:

"Oh! women, women! You indeed were right, Philammon; I could not and
would not believe it! Cleopatra has done many things which are forgiven
only in a queen, but that she should become the tool of her brother's
basest passions, even you, Philammon, could hardly regard as likely,
though you are always prepared to expect evil rather than good. But now,
what is to be done? How can we protect ourselves against violence and
superior force?"

Klea had appeared before the priests with cheeks crimson and glowing from
the noontide heat, but at the high-priest's last words the blood left her
face, she turned ashy-pale, and a chill shiver ran through her trembling
limbs. Her father's child--her bright, innocent Irene--basely stolen for
Euergetes, that licentious tyrant of whose wild deeds Serapion had told
her only last evening, when he painted the dangers that would threaten
her and Irene if they should quit the shelter of the sanctuary.

Alas, it was too true! They had tempted away her darling child, her
comfort and delight, lured her with splendor and ease, only to sink her
in shame! She was forced to cling to the back of the chair she had
disdained, to save herself from falling.

But this weakness overmastered her for a few minutes only; she boldly
took two hasty steps up to the table behind which the high-priest was
sitting, and, supporting herself with her right hand upon it, she
exclaimed, while her voice, usually so full and sonorous, had a hoarse
tone:

"A woman has been the instrument of making another woman unworthy of the
name of woman! and you--you, the protectors of right and virtue--you who
are called to act according to the will and mind of the gods whom you
serve--you are too weak to prevent it? If you endure this, if you do not
put a stop to this crime you are not worthy--nay, I will not be
interrupted--you, I say, are unworthy of the sacred title and of the
reverence you claim, and I will appeal--"

"Silence, girl!" cried Asclepiodorus to the terribly excited Klea. "I
would have you imprisoned with the blasphemers, if I did not well
understand the anguish which has turned your brain. We will interfere on
behalf of the abducted girl, and you must wait patiently in silence. You,
Callimachus, must at once order Ismael, the messenger, to saddle the
horses, and ride to Memphis to deliver a despatch from me to the queen;
let us all combine to compose it, and subscribe our names as soon as we
are perfectly certain that Irene has been carried off from these
precincts. Philammon, do you command that the gong be sounded which calls
together all the inhabitants of the temple; and you, my girl, quit this
hall, and join the others."



CHAPTER XVI.

Klea obeyed the high-priest's command at once, and wandered--not knowing
exactly whither--from one corridor to another of the huge pile, till she
was startled by the sound of the great brazen plate, struck with mighty
blows, which rang out to the remotest nook and corner of the precincts.
This call was for her too, and she went forthwith into the great court of
assembly, which at every moment grew fuller and fuller. The
temple-servants and the keepers of the beasts, the gate-keepers, the
litter-bearers, the water-carriers-all streamed in from their interrupted
meal, some wiping their mouths as they hurried in, or still holding in
their hands a piece of bread, a radish, or a date which they hastily
munched; the washer-men and women came in with hands still wet from
washing the white robes of the priests, and the cooks arrived with brows
still streaming from their unfinished labors. Perfumes floated round from
the unwashed hands of the pastophori, who had been busied in the
laboratories in the preparation of incense, while from the library and
writing-rooms came the curators and scribes and the officials of the
temple counting-house, their hair in disorder, and their light
working-dress stained with red or black. The troop of singers, male and
female, came in orderly array, just as they had been assembled for
practice, and with them came the faded twins to whom Klea and Irene had
been designated as successors by Asclepiodorus. Then came the pupils of
the temple-school, tumbling noisily into the court-yard in high delight
at this interruption to their lessons. The eldest of these were sent to
bring in the great canopy under which the heads of the establishment
might assemble.

Last of all appeared Asclepiodorus, who handed to a young scribe a
complete list of all the inhabitants and members of the temple, that he
might read it out. This he proceeded to do; each one answered with an
audible "Here" as his name was called, and for each one who was absent
information was immediately given as to his whereabouts.

Klea had joined the singing-women, and awaited in breathless anxiety a
long-endlessly long-time for the name of her sister to be called; for it
was not till the very smallest of the school-boys and the lowest of the
neat-herds had answered, "Here," that the scribe read out, "Klea, the
water-bearer," and nodded to her in answer as she replied "Here!"

Then his voice seemed louder than before as he read. "Irene, the
water-bearer."

No answer following on these words, a slight movement, like the bowing
wave that flies over a ripe cornfield when the morning breeze sweeps
across the ears, was evident among the assembled inhabitants of the
temple, who waited in breathless silence till Asclepiodorus stood forth,
and said in a distinct and audible voice:

"You have all met here now at my call. All have obeyed it excepting those
holy men consecrated to Serapis, whose vows forbid their breaking their
seclusion, and Irene, the water-bearer. Once more I call, 'Irene,' a
second, and a third time--and still no answer; I now appeal to you all
assembled here, great and small, men and women who serve Serapis. Can any
one of you give any information as to the whereabouts of this young girl?
Has any one seen her since, at break of day, she placed the first
libation from the Well of the Sun on the altar of the god? You are all
silent! Then no one has met her in the course of this day? Now, one
question more, and whoever can answer it stand forth and speak the words
of truth.

"By which gate did this lady of rank depart who visited the temple early
this morning?--By the eastern gate--good.

"Was she alone?--She was.

"By which gate did the epistolographer Eulaeus depart?--By the east.

"Was he alone?--He was.

"Did any one here present meet the chariot either of the lady or of
Eulaeus?"

"I did," cried a car-driver, whose daily duty it was to go to Memphis
with his oxen and cart to fetch provisions for the kitchen, and other
necessaries.

"Speak," said the high-priest.

"I saw," replied the man, "the white horses of my Lord Eulaeus hard by
the vineyard of Khakem; I know them well. They were harnessed to a closed
chariot, in which besides himself sat a lady."

"Was it Irene?" asked Asclepiodorus.

"I do not know," replied the tarter, "for I could not see who sat in the
chariot, but I heard the voice of Eulaeus, and then a woman's laugh. She
laughed so heartily that I had to screw my mouth up myself, it tickled me
so."

While Klea supposed this description to apply to Irene's merry
laugh-which she had never thought of with regret till this moment--the
high-priest exclaimed:

"You, keeper of the eastern gate, did the lady and Eulaeus enter and
leave this sanctuary together?"

"No," was the answer. "She came in half an hour later than he did, and
she quitted the temple quite alone and long after the eunuch."

"And Irene did not pass through your gate, and cannot have gone out by
it?--I ask you in the name of the god we serve!"

"She may have done so, holy father," answered the gate-keeper in much
alarm. "I have a sick child, and to look after him I went into my room
several times; but only for a few minutes at a time-still, the gate
stands open, all is quiet in Memphis now."

"You have done very wrong," said Asclepiodorus severely, "but since you
have told the truth you may go unpunished. We have learned enough. All
you gate-keepers now listen to me. Every gate of the temple must be
carefully shut, and no one--not even a pilgrim nor any dignitary from
Memphis, however high a personage he may be--is to enter or go out
without my express permission; be as alert as if you feared an attack,
and now go each of you to his duties."

The assembly dispersed; these to one side, those to another.

Klea did not perceive that many looked at her with suspicion as though
she were responsible for her sister's conduct, and others with
compassion; she did not even notice the twin-sisters, whose place she and
Irene were to have filled, and this hurt the feelings of the good elderly
maidens, who had to perform so much lamenting which they did not feel at
all, that they eagerly seized every opportunity of expressing their
feelings when, for once in a way, they were moved to sincere sorrow. But
neither these sympathizing persons nor any other of the inhabitants of
the temple, who approached Klea with the purpose of questioning or of
pitying her, dared to address her, so stern and terrible was the solemn
expression of her eyes which she kept fixed upon the ground.

At last she remained alone in the great court; her heart beat faster
unusual, and strange and weighty thoughts were stirring in her soul. One
thing was clear to her: Eulaeus--her father's ruthless foe and
destroyer--was now also working the fall of the child of the man he had
ruined, and, though she knew it not, the high-priest shared her
suspicions. She, Klea, was by no means minded to let this happen without
an effort at defence, and it even became clearer and clearer to her mind
that it was her duty to act, and without delay. In the first instance she
would ask counsel of her friend Serapion; but as she approached his cell
the gong was sounded which summoned the priests to service, and at the
same time warned her of her duty of fetching water.

Mechanically, and still thinking of nothing but Irene's deliverance, she
fulfilled the task which she was accustomed to perform every day at the
sound of this brazen clang, and went to her room to fetch the golden jars
of the god.

As she entered the empty room her cat sprang to meet her with two leaps
of joy, putting up her back, rubbing her soft head against her feet with
her fine bushy tail ringed with black stripes set up straight, as cats
are wont only when they are pleased. Klea was about to stroke the coaxing
animal, but it sprang back, stared at her shyly, and, as she could not
help thinking, angrily with its green eyes, and then shrank back into the
corner close to Irene's couch.

"She mistook me!" thought Klea. "Irene is more lovable than I even to a
beast, and Irene, Irene--" She sighed deeply at the name, and would have
sunk down on her trunk there to consider of new ways and means--all of
which however she was forced to reject as foolish and impracticable--but
on the chest lay a little shirt she had begun to make for little Philo,
and this reminded her again of the sick child and of the duty of fetching
the water.

Without further delay she took up the jars, and as she went towards the
well she remembered the last precepts that had been given her by her
father, whom she had once been permitted to visit in prison. Only a few
detached sentences of this, his last warning speech, now came into her
mind, though no word of it had escaped her memory; it ran much as
follows:

"It may seem as though I had met with an evil recompense from the gods
for my conduct in adhering to what I think just and virtuous; but it only
seems so, and so long as I succeed in living in accordance with nature,
which obeys an everlasting law, no man is justified in accusing me. My
own peace of mind especially will never desert me so long as I do not set
myself to act in opposition to the fundamental convictions of my inmost
being, but obey the doctrines of Zeno and Chrysippus. This peace every
one may preserve, aye, even you, a woman, if you constantly do what you
recognize to be right, and fulfil the duties you take upon yourself. The
very god himself is proof and witness of this doctrine, for he grants to
him who obeys him that tranquillity of spirit which must be pleasing in
his eyes, since it is the only condition of the soul in which it appears
to be neither fettered and hindered nor tossed and driven; while he, on
the contrary, who wanders from the paths of virtue and of her daughter,
stern duty, never attains peace, but feels the torment of an unsatisfied
and hostile power, which with its hard grip drags his soul now on and now
back.

"He who preserves a tranquil mind is not miserable, even in misfortune,
and thankfully learns to feel con tented in every state of life; and that
because he is filled with those elevated sentiments which are directly
related to the noblest portion of his being--those, I mean--of justice
and goodness. Act then, my child, in conformity with justice and duty,
regardless of any ulterior object, without considering whether your
action will bring you pleasure or pain, without fear of the judgment of
men or the envy of the gods, and you will win that peace of mind which
distinguishes the wise from the unwise, and may be happy even in adverse
circumstances; for the only real evil is the dominion of wickedness, that
is to say the unreason which rebels against nature, and the only true
happiness consists in the possession of virtue. He alone, however, can
call virtue his who possesses it wholly, and sins not against it in the
smallest particular; for there is no difference of degrees either in good
or in evil, and even the smallest action opposed to duty, truth or
justice, though punishable by no law, is a sin, and stands in opposition
to virtue.

"Irene," thus Philotas had concluded his injunctions, "cannot as yet
understand this doctrine, but you are grave and have sense beyond your
years. Repeat this to her daily, and when the time comes impress on your
sister--towards whom you must fill the place of a mother--impress on her
heart these precepts as your father's last will and testament."

And now, as Klea went towards the well within the temple-wall to fetch
water, she repeated to herself many of these injunctions; she felt
herself encouraged by them, and firmly resolved not to give her sister up
to the seducer without a struggle.

As soon as the vessels for libation at the altar were filled she returned
to little Philo, whose state seemed to her to give no further cause for
anxiety; after staying with him for more than an hour she left the
gate-keeper's dwelling to seek Serapion's advice, and to divulge to him
all she had been able to plan and consider in the quiet of the sick-room.

The recluse was wont to recognize her step from afar, and to be looking
out for her from his window when she went to visit him; but to-day he
heard her not, for he was stepping again and again up and down the few
paces which the small size of his tiny cell allowed him to traverse. He
could reflect best when he walked up and down, and he thought and thought
again, for he had heard all that was known in the temple regarding
Irene's disappearance; and he would, he must rescue her--but the more he
tormented his brain the more clearly he saw that every attempt to snatch
the kidnapped girl from the powerful robber must in fact be vain.

"And it must not, it shall not be!" he had cried, stamping his great
foot, a few minutes before Klea reached his cell; but as soon as he was
aware of her presence he made an effort to appear quite easy, and cried
out with the vehemence which characterized him even in less momentous
circumstances:

"We must consider, we must reflect, we must puzzle our brains, for the
gods have been napping this morning, and we must be doubly wide-awake.
Irene--our little Irene--and who would have thought it yesterday! It is a
good-for-nothing, unspeakably base knave's trick--and now, what can we do
to snatch the prey from the gluttonous monster, the savage wild beast,
before he can devour our child, our pet little one?

"Often and often I have been provoked at my own stupidity, but never,
never have I felt so stupid, such a godforsaken blockhead as I do now.
When I try to consider I feel as if that heavy shutter had been nailed
clown on my head. Have you had any ideas? I have not one which would not
disgrace the veriest ass--not a single one."

"Then you know everything?" asked Klea, "even that it is probably our
father's enemy, Eulaeus, who has treacherously decoyed the poor child to
go away with him?"

"Yes, Yes!" cried Serapion, "wherever there is some scoundrel's trick to
be played he must have a finger in the pie, as sure as there must be meal
for bread to be made. But it is a new thing to me that on this occasion
he should be Euergetes' tool. Old Philammon told me all about it. Just
now the messenger came back from Memphis, and brought a paltry scrap of
papyrus on which some wretched scribbler had written in the name of
Philometer, that nothing was known of Irene at court, and complaining
deeply that Asclepiodorus had not hesitated to play an underhand game
with the king. So they have no idea whatever of voluntarily releasing our
child."

"Then I shall proceed to do my duty," said Klea resolutely. "I shall go
to Memphis, and fetch my sister."

The anchorite stared at the girl in horror, exclaiming: "That is folly,
madness, suicide! Do you want to throw two victims into his jaws instead
of one?"

"I can protect myself, and as regards Irene, I will claim the queen's
assistance. She is a woman, and will never suffer--"

"What is there in this world that she will not suffer if it can procure
her profit or pleasure? Who knows what delightful thing Euergetes may not
have promised her in return for our little maid? No, by Serapis! no,
Cleopatra will not help you, but--and that is a good idea--there is one
who will to a certainty. We must apply to the Roman Publius Scipio, and
he will have no difficulty in succeeding."

"From him," exclaimed Klea, coloring scarlet, "I will accept neither good
nor evil; I do not know him, and I do not want to know him."

"Child, child!" interrupted the recluse with grave chiding. "Does your
pride then so far outweigh your love, your duty, and concern for Irene?
What, in the name of all the gods, has Publius done to you that you avoid
him more anxiously than if he were covered with leprosy? There is a limit
to all things, and now--aye, indeed--I must out with it come what may,
for this is not the time to pretend to be blind when I see with both eyes
what is going on--your heart is full of the Roman, and draws you to him;
but you are an honest girl, and, in order to remain so, you fly from him
because you distrust yourself, and do not know what might happen if he
were to tell you that he too has been hit by one of Eros' darts. You may
turn red and white, and look at me as if I were your enemy, and talking
contemptible nonsense. I have seen many strange things, but I never saw
any one before you who was a coward out of sheer courage, and yet of all
the women I know there is not one to whom fear is less known than my bold
and resolute Klea. The road is a hard one that you must take, but only
cover your poor little heart with a coat of mail, and venture in all
confidence to meet the Roman, who is an excellent good fellow. No doubt
it will be hard to you to crave a boon, but ought you to shrink from
those few steps over sharp stones? Our poor child is standing on the edge
of the abyss; if you do not arrive at the right time, and speak the right
words to the only person who is able to help in this matter, she will be
thrust into the foul bog and sink in it, because her brave sister was
frightened at--herself!"

Klea had cast down her eyes as the anchorite addressed her thus; she
stood for some time frowning at the ground in silence, but at last she
said, with quivering lips and as gloomily as if she were pronouncing a
sentence on herself.

"Then I will ask the Roman to assist me; but how can I get to him?"

"Ah!--now my Klea is her father's daughter once more," answered Serapion,
stretching out both his arms towards her from the little window of his
cell; and then he went on: "I can make the painful path somewhat smoother
for you. My brother Glaucus, who is commander of the civic guard in the
palace, you already know; I will give you a few words of recommendation
to him, and also, to lighten your task, a little letter to Publius
Scipio, which shall contain a short account of the matter in hand. If
Publius wishes to speak with you yourself go to him and trust him, but
still more trust yourself.

"Now go, and when you have once more filled the water-jars come back to
me, and fetch the letters. The sooner you can go the better, for it would
be well that you should leave the path through the desert behind you
before nightfall, for in the dark there are often dangerous tramps about.
You will find a friendly welcome at my sister Leukippa's; she lives in
the toll-house by the great harbor--show her this ring and she will give
you a bed, and, if the gods are merciful, one for Irene too."

"Thank you, father," said Klea, but she said no more, and then left him
with a rapid step.

Serapion looked lovingly after her; then he took two wooden tablets faced
with wax out of his chest, and, with a metal style, he wrote on one a
short letter to his brother, and on the other a longer one to the Roman,
which ran as follows:

"Serapion, the recluse of Serapis, to Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica,
the Roman.

"Serapion greets Publius Scipio, and acquaints him that Irene, the
younger sister of Klea, the water-bearer, has disappeared from this
temple, and, as Serapion suspects, by the wiles of the epistolographer
Eulaeus, whom we both know, and who seems to have acted under the orders
of King Ptolemy Euergetes. Seek to discover where Irene can be. Save her
if thou canst from her ravishers, and conduct her back to this temple or
deliver her in Memphis into the hands of my sister Leukippa, the wife of
the overseer of the harbor, named Hipparchus, who dwells in the
toll-house. May Serapis preserve thee and thine."

The recluse had just finished his letters when Klea returned to him. The
girl hid them in the folds of the bosom of her robe, said farewell to her
friend, and remained quite grave and collected, while Serapion, with
tears in his eyes, stroked her hair, gave her his parting blessing, and
finally even hung round her neck an amulet for good luck, that his mother
had worn--it was an eye in rock-crystal with a protective inscription.
Then, without any further delay, she set out towards the temple gate,
which, in obedience to the commands of the high priest, was now locked.
The gate-keeper--little Philo's father--sat close by on a stone bench,
keeping guard. In a friendly tone Klea asked him to open the gate; but
the anxious official would not immediately comply with her request, but
reminded her of Asclepiodorus' strict injunctions, and informed her that
the great Roman had demanded admission to the temple about three hours
since, but had been refused by the high-priest's special orders. He had
asked too for her, and had promised to return on the morrow.

The hot blood flew to Klea's face and eyes as she heard this news. Could
Publius no more cease to think of her than she of him? Had Serapion
guessed rightly? "The darts of Eros"--the recluse's phrase flashed
through her mind, and struck her heart as if it were itself a winged
arrow; it frightened her and yet she liked it, but only for one brief
instant, for the utmost distrust of her own weakness came over her again
directly, and she told herself with a shudder that she was on the
high-road to follow up and seek out the importunate stranger.

All the horrors of her undertaking stood vividly before her, and if she
had now retraced her steps she would not have been without an excuse to
offer to her own conscience, since the temple-gate was closed, and might
not be opened to any one, not even to her.

For a moment she felt a certain satisfaction in this flattering
reflection, but as she thought again of Irene her resolve was once more
confirmed, and going closer up to the gate-keeper she said with great
determination:

"Open the gate to me without delay; you know that I am not accustomed to
do or to desire anything wrong. I beg of you to push back the bolt at
once."

The man to whom Klea had done many kindnesses, and whom Imhotep had that
very day told that she was the good spirit of his house, and that he
ought to venerate her as a divinity--obeyed her orders, though with some
doubt and hesitation. The heavy bolt flew back, the brazen gate opened,
the water-bearer stepped out, flung a dark veil over her head, and set
out on her walk.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     If you want to catch mice you must waste bacon
     Man works with all his might for no one but himself
     Nothing permanent but change
     Nothing so certain as that nothing is certain
     Priests that they should instruct the people to be obedient



THE SISTERS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 4.



CHAPTER XVII.

A paved road, with a row of Sphinxes on each side, led from the Greek
temple of Serapis to the rock-hewn tombs of Apis, and the temples and
chapels built over them, and near them; in these the Apis bull after its
death--or "in Osiris" as the phrase went--was worshipped, while, so long
as it lived, it was taken care of and prayed to in the temple to which it
belonged, that of the god Ptah at Memphis. After death these sacred
bulls, which were distinguished by peculiar marks, had extraordinarily
costly obsequies; they were called the risen Ptah, and regarded as the
symbol of the soul of Osiris, by whose procreative power all that dies or
passes away is brought to new birth and new life--the departed soul of
man, the plant that has perished, and the heavenly bodies that have set.
Osiris-Sokari, who was worshipped as the companion of Osiris, presided
over the wanderings which had to be performed by the seemingly extinct
spirit before its resuscitation as another being in a new form; and
Egyptian priests governed in the temples of these gods, which were purely
Egyptian in style, and which had been built at a very early date over the
tomb-cave of the sacred bulls. And even the Greek ministers of Serapis,
settled at Memphis, were ready to follow the example of their rulers and
to sacrifice to Osiris-Apis, who was closely allied to Serapis--not only
in name but in his essential attributes. Serapis himself indeed was a
divinity introduced from Asia into the Nile valley by the Ptolemies, in
order to supply to their Greek and Egyptian subjects alike an object of
adoration, before whose altars they could unite in a common worship. They
devoted themselves to the worship of Apis in Osiris at the shrines, of
Greek architecture, and containing stone images of bulls, that stood
outside the Egyptian sanctuary, and they were very ready to be initiated
into the higher significance of his essence; indeed, all religious
mysteries in their Greek home bore reference to the immortality of the
soul and its fate in the other world.

Just as two neighboring cities may be joined by a bridge, so the Greek
temple of Serapis--to which the water-bearers belonged--was connected
with the Egyptian sanctuary of Osiris-Apis by the fine paved road for
processions along which Klea now rapidly proceeded. There was a shorter
way to Memphis, but she chose this one, because the mounds of sand on
each side of the road bordered by Sphinxes--which every day had to be
cleared of the desert-drift--concealed her from the sight of her
companions in the temple; besides the best and safest way into the city
was by a road leading from a crescent, decorated with busts of the
philosophers, that lay near the principal entrance to the new Apis tombs.

She looked neither at the lion-bodies with men's heads that guarded the
way, nor at the images of beasts on the wall that shut it in; nor did she
heed the dusky-hued temple-slaves of Osiris-Apis who were sweeping the
sand from the paved way with large brooms, for she thought of nothing but
Irene and the difficult task that lay before her, and she walked swiftly
onwards with her eyes fixed on the ground.

But she had taken no more than a few steps when she heard her name called
quite close to her, and looking up in alarm she found herself standing
opposite Krates, the little smith, who came close up to her, took hold of
her veil, threw it back a little before she could prevent him, and asked:

"Where are you off to, child?"

"Do not detain me," entreated Klea. "You know that Irene, whom you are
always so fond of, has been carried off; perhaps I may be able to save
her, but if you betray me, and if they follow me--"

"I will not hinder you," interrupted the old man. "Nay, if it were not
for these swollen feet I would go with you, for I can think of nothing
else but the poor dear little thing; but as it is I shall be glad enough
when I am sitting still again in my workshop; it is exactly as if a
workman of my own trade lived in each of my great toes, and was dancing
round in them with hammer and file and chisel and nails. Very likely you
may be so fortunate as to find your sister, for a crafty woman succeeds
in many things which are too difficult for a wise man. Go on, and if they
seek for you old Krates will not betray you."

He nodded kindly at Klea, and had already half turned his back on her
when he once more looked round, and called out to her:

"Wait a minute, girl--you can do me a little service. I have just fitted
a new lock to the door of the Apis-tomb down there. It answers admirably,
but the one key to it which I have made is not enough; we require four,
and you shall order them for me of the locksmith Heri, to be sent the day
after to-morrow; he lives opposite the gate of Sokari--to the left, next
the bridge over the canal--you cannot miss it. I hate repeating and
copying as much as I like inventing and making new things, and Heri can
work from a pattern just as well as I can. If it were not for my legs I
would give the man my commission myself, for he who speaks by the lips of
a go-between is often misunderstood or not understood at all."

"I will gladly save you the walk," replied Klea, while the Smith sat down
on the pedestal of one of the Sphinxes, and opening the leather wallet
which hung by his side shook out the contents. A few files, chisels, and
nails fell out into his lap; then the key, and finally a sharp, pointed
knife with which Krates had cut out the hollow in the door for the
insertion of the lock; Krates touched up the pattern-key for the smith in
Memphis with a few strokes of the file, and then, muttering thoughtfully
and shaking his head doubtfully from side to side, he exclaimed:

"You still must come with me once more to the door, for I require
accurate workmanship from other people, and so I must be severe upon my
own."

"But I want so much to reach Memphis before dark," besought Klea.

"The whole thing will not take a minute, and if you will give me your arm
I shall go twice as fast. There are the files, there is the knife."

"Give it me," Klea requested. "This blade is sharp and bright, and as
soon as I saw it I felt as if it bid me take it with me. Very likely I
may have to come through the desert alone at night."

"Aye," said the smith, "and even the weakest feels stronger when he has a
weapon. Hide the knife somewhere about you, my child, only take care not
to hurt yourself with it. Now let me take your arm, and on we will
go--but not quite so fast."

Klea led the smith to the door he indicated, and saw with admiration how
unfailingly the bolt sprang forward when one half of the door closed upon
the other, and how easily the key pushed it back again; then, after
conducting Krates back to the Sphinx near which she had met him, she went
on her way at her quickest pace, for the sun was already very low, and it
seemed scarcely possible to reach Memphis before it should set.

As she approached a tavern where soldiers and low people were accustomed
to resort, she was met by a drunken slave. She went on and past him
without any fear, for the knife in her girdle, and on which she kept her
hand, kept up her courage, and she felt as if she had thus acquired a
third hand which was more powerful and less timid than her own. A company
of soldiers had encamped in front of the tavern, and the wine of Kbakem,
which was grown close by, on the eastern declivity of the Libyan range,
had an excellent savor. The men were in capital spirits, for at noon
today--after they had been quartered here for months as guards of the
tombs of Apis and of the temples of the Necropolis--a commanding officer
of the Diadoches had arrived at Memphis, who had ordered them to break up
at once, and to withdraw into the capital before nightfall. They were not
to be relieved by other mercenaries till the next morning.

All this Klea learned from a messenger from the Egyptian temple in the
Necropolis, who recognized her, and who was going to Memphis,
commissioned by the priests of Osiris-Apis and Sokari to convey a
petition to the king, praying that fresh troops might be promptly sent to
replace those now withdrawn.

For some time she went on side by side with this messenger, but soon she
found that she could not keep up with his hurried pace, and had to fall
behind. In front of another tavern sat the officers of the troops, whose
noisy mirth she had heard as she passed the former one; they were sitting
over their wine and looking on at the dancing of two Egyptian girls, who
screeched like cackling hens over their mad leaps, and who so effectually
riveted the attention of the spectators, who were beating time for them
by clapping their hands, that Klea, accelerating her step, was able to
slip unobserved past the wild crew. All these scenes, nay everything she
met with on the high-road, scared the girl who was accustomed to the
silence and the solemn life of the temple of Serapis, and she therefore
struck into a side path that probably also led to the city which she
could already see lying before her with its pylons, its citadel and its
houses, veiled in evening mist. In a quarter of an hour at most she would
have crossed the desert, and reach the fertile meadow land, whose emerald
hue grew darker and darker every moment. The sun was already sinking to
rest behind the Libyan range, and soon after, for twilight is short in
Egypt, she was wrapped in the darkness of night. The westwind, which had
begun to blow even at noon, now rose higher, and seemed to pursue her
with its hot breath and the clouds of sand it carried with it from the
desert.

She must certainly be approaching water, for she heard the deep pipe of
the bittern in the reeds, and fancied she breathed a moister air. A few
steps more, and her foot sank in mud; and she now perceived that she was
standing on the edge of a wide ditch in which tall papyrus-plants were
growing. The side path she had struck into ended at this plantation, and
there was nothing to be done but to turn about, and to continue her walk
against the wind and with the sand blowing in her face.

The light from the drinking-booth showed her the direction she must
follow, for though the moon was up, it is true, black clouds swept across
it, covering it and the smaller lights of heaven for many minutes at a
time. Still she felt no fatigue, but the shouts of the men and the loud
cries of the women that rang out from the tavern filled her with alarm
and disgust. She made a wide circuit round the hostelry, wading through
the sand hillocks and tearing her dress on the thorns and thistles that
had boldly struck deep root in the desert, and had grown up there like
the squalid brats in the hovel of a beggar. But still, as she hurried on
by the high-road, the hideous laughter and the crowing mirth of the
dancing-girls still rang in her mind's ear.

Her blood coursed more swiftly through her veins, her head was on fire,
she saw Irene close before her, tangibly distinct--with flowing hair and
fluttering garments, whirling in a wild dance like a Moenad at a
Dionysiac festival, flying from one embrace to another and shouting and
shrieking in unbridled folly like the wretched girls she had seen on her
way. She was seized with terror for her sister--an unbounded dread such
as she had never felt before, and as the wind was now once more behind
her she let herself be driven on by it, lifting her feet in a swift run
and flying, as if pursued by the Erinnyes, without once looking round her
and wholly forgetful of the smith's commission, on towards the city along
the road planted with trees, which as she knew led to the gate of the
citadel.



CHAPTER XVIII.

In front of the gate of the king's palace sat a crowd of petitioners who
were accustomed to stay here from early dawn till late at night, until
they were called into the palace to receive the answer to the petition
they had drawn up. When Klea reached the end of her journey she was so
exhausted and bewildered that she felt the imperative necessity of
seeking rest and quiet reflection, so she seated herself among these
people, next to a woman from Upper Egypt. But hardly had she taken her
place by her with a silent greeting, when her talkative neighbor began to
relate with particular minuteness why she had come to Memphis, and how
certain unjust judges had conspired with her bad husband to trick
her--for men were always ready to join against a woman--and to deprive
her of everything which had been secured to her and her children by her
marriage-contract. For two months now, she said, she had been waiting
early and late before the sublime gate, and was consuming her last ready
cash in the city where living was so dear; but it was all one to her, and
at a pinch she would sell even her gold ornaments, for sooner or later
her cause must come before the king, and then the wicked villain and his
accomplices would be taught what was just.

Klea heard but little of this harangue; a feeling had come over her like
that of a person who is having water poured again and again on the top of
his head. Presently her neighbor observed that the new-comer was not
listening at all to her complainings; she slapped her shoulder with her
hand, and said:

"You seem to think of nothing but your own concerns; and I dare say they
are not of such a nature as that you should relate them to any one else;
so far as mine are concerned the more they are discussed, the better."

The tone in which these remarks were made was so dry, and at the same
time so sharp, that it hurt Klea, and she rose hastily to go closer to
the gate. Her neighbor threw a cross word after her; but she did not heed
it, and drawing her veil closer over her face, she went through the gate
of the palace into a vast courtyard, brightly lighted up by cressets and
torches, and crowded with foot-soldiers and mounted guards.

The sentry at the gate perhaps had not observed her, or perhaps had let
her pass unchallenged from her dignified and erect gait, and the numerous
armed men through whom she now made her way seemed to be so much occupied
with their own affairs, that no one bestowed any notice on her. In a
narrow alley, which led to a second court and was lighted by lanterns,
one of the body-guard known as Philobasilistes, a haughty young fellow in
yellow riding-boots and a shirt of mail over his red tunic, came riding
towards her on his tall horse, and noticing her he tried to squeeze her
between his charger and the wall, and put out his hand to raise her veil;
but Klea slipped aside, and put up her hands to protect herself from the
horse's head which was almost touching her.

The cavalier, enjoying her alarm, called out: "Only stand still--he is
not vicious."

"Which, you or your horse?" asked Klea, with such a solemn tone in her
deep voice that for an instant the young guardsman lost his
self-possession, and this gave her time to go farther from the horse. But
the girl's sharp retort had annoyed the conceited young fellow, and not
having time to follow her himself, he called out in a tone of
encouragement to a party of mercenaries from Cyprus, whom the frightened
girl was trying to pass:

"Look under this girl's veil, comrades, and if she is as pretty as she is
well-grown, I wish you joy of your prize." He laughed as he pressed his
knees against the flanks of his bay and trotted slowly away, while the
Cypriotes gave Klea ample time to reach the second court, which was more
brightly lighted even than the first, that they might there surround her
with insolent importunity.

The helpless and persecuted girl felt the blood run cold in her veins,
and for a few minutes she could see nothing but a bewildering confusion
of flashing eyes and weapons, of beards and hands, could hear nothing but
words and sounds, of which she understood and felt only that they were
revolting and horrible, and threatened her with death and ruin. She had
crossed her arms over her bosom, but now she raised her hands to hide her
face, for she felt a strong hand snatch away the veil that covered her
head. This insolent proceeding turned her numb horror to indignant rage,
and, fixing her sparkling eyes on her bearded opponents, she exclaimed:

"Shame upon you, who in the king's own house fall like wolves on a
defenceless woman, and in a peaceful spot snatch the veil from a young
girl's head. Your mothers would blush for you, and your sisters cry shame
on you--as I do now!"

Astonished at Klea's distinguished beauty, startled at the angry glare in
her eyes, and the deep chest-tones of her voice which trembled with
excitement, the Cypriotes drew back, while the same audacious rascal that
had pulled away her veil came closer to her, and cried:

"Who would make such a noise about a rubbishy veil! If you will be my
sweetheart I will buy you a new one, and many things besides."

At the same time he tried to throw his arm round her; but at his touch
Klea felt the blood leave her cheeks and mount to her bloodshot eyes, and
at that instant her hand, guided by some uncontrollable inward impulse,
grasped the handle of the knife which Krates had lent her; she raised it
high in the air though with an unsteady arm, exclaiming:

"Let me go or, by Serapis whom I serve, I will strike you to the heart!"

The soldier to whom this threat was addressed, was not the man to be
intimidated by a blade of cold iron in a woman's hand; with a quick
movement he seized her wrist in order to disarm her; but although Klea
was forced to drop the knife she struggled with him to free herself from
his clutch, and this contest between a man and a woman, who seemed to be
of superior rank to that indicated by her very simple dress, seemed to
most of the Cypriotes so undignified, so much out of place within the
walls of a palace, that they pulled their comrade back from Klea, while
others on the contrary came to the assistance of the bully who defended
himself stoutly. And in the midst of the fray, which was conducted with
no small noise, stood Klea with flying breath. Her antagonist, though
flung to the ground, still held her wrist with his left hand while he
defended himself against his comrades with the right, and she tried with
all her force and cunning to withdraw it; for at the very height of her
excitement and danger she felt as if a sudden gust of wind had swept her
spirit clear of all confusion, and she was again able to contemplate her
position calmly and resolutely.

If only her hand were free she might perhaps be able to take advantage of
the struggle between her foes, and to force her way out between their
ranks.

Twice, thrice, four times, she tried to wrench her hand with a sudden
jerk through the fingers that grasped it; but each time in vain.
Suddenly, from the man at her feet there broke a loud, long-drawn cry of
pain which re-echoed from the high walls of the court, and at the same
time she felt the fingers of her antagonist gradually and slowly slip
from her arm like the straps of a sandal carefully lifted by the surgeon
from a broken ankle.

"It is all over with him!" exclaimed the eldest of the Cypriotes. "A man
never calls out like that but once in his life! True enough--the dagger
is sticking here just under the ninth rib! This is mad work! That is your
doing again, Lykos, you savage wolf!"

"He bit deep into my finger in the struggle--"

"And you are for ever tearing each other to pieces for the sake of the
women," interrupted the elder, not listening to the other's excuses.
"Well, I was no better than you in my time, and nothing can alter it! You
had better be off now, for if the Epistrategist learns we have fallen to
stabbing each other again--"

The Cypriote had not ceased speaking, and his countrymen were in the very
act of raising the body of their comrade when a division of the civic
watch rushed into the court in close order and through the passage near
which the fight for the girl had arisen, thus stopping the way against
those who were about to escape, since all who wished to get out of the
court into the open street must pass through the doorway into which Klea
had been forced by the horseman. Every other exit from this second court
of the citadel led into the strictly guarded gardens and buildings of the
palace itself.

The noisy strife round Klea, and the cry of the wounded man had attracted
the watch; the Cypriotes and the maiden soon found themselves surrounded,
and they were conducted through a narrow side passage into the court-yard
of the prison. After a short enquiry the men who had been taken were
allowed to return under an escort to their own phalanx, and Klea gladly
followed the commander of the watch to a less brilliantly illuminated
part of the prison-yard, for in him she had recognized at once Serapion's
brother Glaucus, and he in her the daughter of the man who had done and
suffered so much for his father's sake; besides they had often exchanged
greetings and a few words in the temple of Serapis.

"All that is in my power," said Glaucus--a man somewhat taller but not so
broadly built as his brother--when he had read the recluse's note and
when Klea had answered a number of questions, "all that is in my power I
will gladly do for you and your sister, for I do not forget all that I
owe to your father; still I cannot but regret that you have incurred such
risk, for it is always hazardous for a pretty young girl to venture into
this palace at a late hour, and particularly just now, for the courts are
swarming not only with Philometor's fighting men but with those of his
brother, who have come here for their sovereign's birthday festival. The
people have been liberally entertained, and the soldier who has been
sacrificing to Dionysus seizes the gifts of Eros and Aphrodite wherever
he may find them. I will at once take charge of my brother's letter to
the Roman Publius Cornelius Scipio, but when you have received his answer
you will do well to let yourself be escorted to my wife or my sister, who
both live in the city, and to remain till to-morrow morning with one or
the other. Here you cannot remain a minute unmolested while I am
away--Where now--Aye! The only safe shelter I can offer you is the prison
down there; the room where they lock up the subaltern officers when they
have committed any offence is quite unoccupied, and I will conduct you
thither. It is always kept clean, and there is a bench in it too."

Klea followed her friend who, as his hasty demeanor plainly showed, had
been interrupted in important business. In a few steps they reached the
prison; she begged Glaucus to bring her the Roman's answer as quickly as
possible, declared herself quite ready to remain in the dark--since she
perceived that the light of a lamp might betray her, and she was not
afraid of the dark--and suffered herself to be locked in.

As she heard the iron bolt creak in its brass socket a shiver ran through
her, and although the room in which she found herself was neither worse
nor smaller than that in which she and her sister lived in the temple,
still it oppressed her, and she even felt as if an indescribable
something hindered her breathing as she said to herself that she was
locked in and no longer free to come and to go. A dim light penetrated
into her prison through the single barred window that opened on to the
court, and she could see a little bench of palm-branches on which she sat
down to seek the repose she so sorely needed. All sense of discomfort
gradually vanished before the new feeling of rest and refreshment, and
pleasant hopes and anticipations were just beginning to mingle themselves
with the remembrance of the horrors she had just experienced when
suddenly there was a stir and a bustle just in front of the prison--and
she could hear, outside, the clatter of harness and words of command. She
rose from her seat and saw that about twenty horsemen, whose golden
helmets and armor reflected the light of the lanterns, cleared the wide
court by driving the men before them, as the flames drive the game from a
fired hedge, and by forcing them into a second court from which again
they proceeded to expel them. At least Klea could hear them shouting 'In
the king's name' there as they had before done close to her. Presently
the horsemen returned and placed themselves, ten and ten, as guards at
each of the passages leading into the court. It was not without interest
that Klea looked on at this scene which was perfectly new to her; and
when one of the fine horses, dazzled by the light of the lanterns, turned
restive and shied, leaping and rearing and threatening his rider with a
fall--when the horseman checked and soothed it, and brought it to a
stand-still--the Macedonian warrior was transfigured in her eyes to
Publius, who no doubt could manage a horse no less well than this man.

No sooner was the court completely cleared of men by the mounted guard
than a new incident claimed Klea's attention. First she heard footsteps
in the room adjoining her prison, then bright streaks of light fell
through the cracks of the slight partition which divided her place of
retreat from the other room, then the two window-openings close to hers
were closed with heavy shutters, then seats or benches were dragged about
and various objects were laid upon a table, and finally the door of the
adjoining room was thrown open and slammed to again so violently, that
the door which closed hers and the bench near which she was standing
trembled and jarred.

At the same moment a deep sonorous voice called out with a loud and
hearty shout of laughter:

"A mirror--give me a mirror, Eulaeus. By heaven! I do not look much like
prison fare--more like a man in whose strong brain there is no lack of
deep schemes, who can throttle his antagonist with a grip of his fist,
and who is prompt to avail himself of all the spoil that comes in his
way, so that he may compress the pleasures of a whole day into every
hour, and enjoy them to the utmost! As surely as my name is Euergetes my
uncle Antiochus was right in liking to mix among the populace. The
splendid puppets who surround us kings, and cover every portion of their
own bodies in wrappings and swaddling bands, also stifle the expression
of every genuine sentiment; and it is enough to turn our brain to reflect
that, if we would not be deceived, every word that we hear--and, oh dear!
how many words we must needs hear-must be pondered in our minds. Now, the
mob on the contrary--who think themselves beautifully dressed in a
threadbare cloth hanging round their brown loins--are far better off. If
one of them says to another of his own class--a naked wretch who wears
about him everything he happens to possess--that he is a dog, he answers
with a blow of his fist in the other's face, and what can be plainer than
that! If on the other hand he tells him he is a splendid fellow, he
believes it without reservation, and has a perfect right to believe it.

"Did you see how that stunted little fellow with a snub-nose and
bandy-legs, who is as broad as he is long, showed all his teeth in a
delighted grin when I praised his steady hand? He laughs just like a
hyena, and every respectable father of a family looks on the fellow as a
god-forsaken monster; but the immortals must think him worth something to
have given him such magnificent grinders in his ugly mouth, and to have
preserved him mercifully for fifty years--for that is about the rascal's
age. If that fellow's dagger breaks he can kill his victim with those
teeth, as a fox does a duck, or smash his bones with his fist."

"But, my lord," replied Eulaeus dryly and with a certain matter-of-fact
gravity to King Euergetes--for he it was who had come with him into the
room adjoining Klea's retreat, "the dry little Egyptian with the thin
straight hair is even more trustworthy and tougher and nimbler than his
companion, and, so far, more estimable. One flings himself on his prey
with a rush like a block of stone hurled from a roof, but the other,
without being seen, strikes his poisoned fang into his flesh like an
adder hidden in the sand. The third, on whom I had set great hopes, was
beheaded the day before yesterday without my knowledge; but the pair whom
you have condescended to inspect with your own eyes are sufficient. They
must use neither dagger nor lance, but they will easily achieve their end
with slings and hooks and poisoned needles, which leave wounds that
resemble the sting of an adder. We may safely depend on these fellows."

Once more Euergetes laughed loudly, and exclaimed: What criticism!
Exactly as if these blood-hounds were tragic actors of which one could
best produce his effects by fire and pathos, and the other by the
subtlety of his conception. I call that an unprejudiced judgment. And why
should not a man be great even as a murderer? From what hangman's noose
did you drag out the neck of one, and from what headsman's block did you
rescue the other when you found them?

"It is a lucky hour in which we first see something new to us, and, by
Heracles! I never before in the whole course of my life saw such villains
as these. I do not regret having gone to see them and talked to them as
if I were their equal. Now, take this torn coat off me, and help me to
undress. Before I go to the feast I will take a hasty plunge in my bath,
for I twitch in every limb, I feel as if I had got dirty in their
company.

"There lie my clothes and my sandals; strap them on for me, and tell me
as you do it how you lured the Roman into the toils."

Klea could hear every word of this frightful conversation, and clasped
her hand over her brow with a shudder, for she found it difficult to
believe in the reality of the hideous images that it brought before her
mind. Was she awake or was she a prey to some horrid dream?

She hardly knew, and, indeed, she scarcely understood half of all she
heard till the Roman's name was mentioned. She felt as if the point of a
thin, keen knife was being driven obliquely through her brain from right
to left, as it now flashed through her mind that it was against him,
against Publius, that the wild beasts, disguised in human form, were
directed by Eulaeus, and face to face with this--the most hideous, the
most incredible of horrors--she suddenly recovered the full use of her
senses. She softly slipped close to that rift in the partition through
which the broadest beam of light fell into the room, put her ear close to
it, and drank in, with fearful attention, word for word the report made
by the eunuch to his iniquitous superior, who frequently interrupted him
with remarks, words of approval or a short laugh-drank them in, as a man
perishing in the desert drinks the loathsome waters of a salt pool.

And what she heard was indeed well fitted to deprive her of her senses,
but the more definite the facts to which the words referred that she
could overhear, the more keenly she listened, and the more resolutely she
collected her thoughts. Eulaeus had used her own name to induce the Roman
to keep an assignation at midnight in the desert close to the Apis-tombs.
He repeated the words that he had written to this effect on a tile, and
which requested Publius to come quite alone to the spot indicated, since
she dare not speak with him in the temple. Finally he was invited to
write his answer on the other side of the square of clay. As Klea heard
these words, put into her own mouth by a villain, she could have sobbed
aloud heartily with anguish, shame, and rage; but the point now was to
keep her ears wide open, for Euergetes asked his odious tool:

"And what was the Roman's answer?" Eulaeus must have handed the tile to
the king, for he laughed loudly again, and cried out:

"So he will walk into the trap--will arrive by half an hour after
midnight at the latest, and greets Klea from her sister Irene. He carries
on love-making and abduction wholesale, and buys water-bearers by the
pair, like doves in the market or sandals in a shoe maker's stall. Only
see how the simpleton writes Greek; in these few words there are two
mistakes, two regular schoolboys' blunders.

"The fellow must have had a very pleasant day of it, since he must have
been reckoning on a not unsuccessful evening--but the gods have an ugly
habit of clenching the hand with which they have long caressed their
favorites, and striking him with their fist.

"Amalthea's horn has been poured out on him today; first he snapped up,
under my very nose, my little Hebe, the Irene of Irenes, whom I hope
to-morrow to inherit from him; then he got the gift of my best Cyrenaan
horses, and at the same time the flattering assurance of my valuable
friendship; then he had audience of my fair sister--and it goes more to
the heart of a republican than you would believe when crowned heads are
graciously disposed towards him--finally the sister of his pretty
sweetheart invites him to an assignation, and she, if you and Zoe speak
the truth, is a beauty in the grand style. Now these are really too many
good things for one inhabitant of this most stingily provided world; and
in one single day too, which, once begun, is so soon ended; and justice
requires that we should lend a helping hand to destiny, and cut off the
head of this poppy that aspires to rise above its brethren; the thousands
who have less good fortune than he would otherwise have great cause to
complain of neglect."

"I am happy to see you in such good humor," said Eulaeus.

"My humor is as may be," interrupted the king. "I believe I am only
whistling a merry tune to keep up my spirits in the dark. If I were on
more familiar terms with what other men call fear I should have ample
reason to be afraid; for in the quail-fight we have gone in for I have
wagered a crown-aye, and more than that even. To-morrow only will decide
whether the game is lost or won, but I know already to-day that I would
rather see my enterprise against Philometor fail, with all my hopes of
the double crown, than our plot against the life of the Roman; for I was
a man before I was a king, and a man I should remain, if my throne, which
now indeed stands on only two legs, were to crash under my weight.

"My sovereign dignity is but a robe, though the costliest, to be sure, of
all garments. If forgiveness were any part of my nature I might easily
forgive the man who should soil or injure that--but he who comes too near
to Euergetes the man, who dares to touch this body, and the spirit it
contains, or to cross it in its desires and purposes--him I will crush
unhesitatingly to the earth, I will see him torn in pieces. Sentence is
passed on the Roman, and if your ruffians do their duty, and if the gods
accept the holocaust that I had slain before them at sunset for the
success of my project, in a couple of hours Publius Cornelius Scipio will
have bled to death.

"He is in a position to laugh at me--as a man--but I therefore--as a
man--have the right, and--as a king--have the power, to make sure that
that laugh shall be his last. If I could murder Rome as I can him how
glad should I be! for Rome alone hinders me from being the greatest of
all the great kings of our time; and yet I shall rejoice to-morrow when
they tell me Publius Cornelius Scipio has been torn by wild beasts, and
his body is so mutilated that his own mother could not recognize it more
than if a messenger were to bring me the news that Carthage had broken
the power of Rome."

Euergetes had spoken the last words in a voice that sounded like the roll
of thunder as it growls in a rapidly approaching storm, louder, deeper,
and more furious each instant. When at last he was silent Eulaeus said:
"The immortals, my lord, will not deny you this happiness. The brave
fellows whom you condescended to see and to talk to strike as certainly
as the bolt of our father Zeus, and as we have learned from the Roman's
horse-keeper where he has hidden Irene, she will no more elude your grasp
than the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt.--Now, allow me to put on your
mantle, and then to call the body-guard that they may escort you as you
return to your residence."

"One thing more," cried the king, detaining Eulaeus. "There are always
troops by the Tombs of Apis placed there to guard the sacred places; may
not they prove a hindrance to your friends?"

"I have withdrawn all the soldiers and armed guards to Memphis down to
the last man," replied Eulaeus, "and quartered them within the White Wall.
Early tomorrow, before you proceed to business, they will be replaced by
a stronger division, so that they may not prove a reinforcement to your
brother's troops here if things come to fighting."

"I shall know how to reward your foresight," said Euergetes as Eulaeus
quitted the room.

Again Klea heard a door open, and the sound of many hoofs on the pavement
of the court-yard, and when she went, all trembling, up to the window,
she saw Euergetes himself, and the powerfully knit horse that was led in
for him. The tyrant twisted his hand in the mane of the restless and
pawing steed, and Klea thought that the monstrous mass could never mount
on to the horse's back without the aid of many men; but she was mistaken,
for with a mighty spring the giant flung himself high in the air and on
to the horse, and then, guiding his panting steed by the pressure of his
knees alone, he bounded out of the prison-yard surrounded by his splendid
train.

For some minutes the court-yard remained empty, then a man hurriedly
crossed it, unlocked the door of the room where Klea was, and informed
her that he was a subaltern under Glaucus, and had brought her a message
from him.

"My lord," said the veteran soldier to the girl, "bid me greet you, and
says that he found neither the Roman Publius Scipio, nor his friend the
Corinthian at home. He is prevented from coming to you himself; he has
his hands full of business, for soldiers in the service of both the kings
are quartered within the White Wall, and all sorts of squabbles break out
between them. Still, you cannot remain in this room, for it will shortly
be occupied by a party of young officers who began the fray. Glaucus
proposes for your choice that you should either allow me to conduct you
to his wife or return to the temple to which you are attached. In the
latter case a chariot shall convey you as far as the second tavern in
Khakem on the borders of the desert-for the city is full of drunken
soldiery. There you may probably find an escort if you explain to the
host who you are. But the chariot must be back again in less than an
hour, for it is one of the king's, and when the banquet is over there may
be a scarcity of chariots."

"Yes--I will go back to the place I came from," said Klea eagerly,
interrupting the messenger. "Take me at once to the chariot."

"Follow me, then," said the old man.

"But I have no veil," observed Klea, "and have only this thin robe on.
Rough soldiers snatched my wrapper from my face, and my cloak from off my
shoulders."

"I will bring you the captain's cloak which is lying here in the
orderly's room, and his travelling-hat too; that will hide your face with
its broad flap. You are so tall that you might be taken for a man, and
that is well, for a woman leaving the palace at this hour would hardly
pass unmolested. A slave shall fetch the things from your temple
to-morrow. I may inform you that my master ordered me take as much care
of you as if you were his own daughter. And he told me too--and I had
nearly forgotten it--to tell you that your sister was carried off by the
Roman, and not by that other dangerous man, you would know whom he meant.
Now wait, pray, till I return; I shall not be long gone."

In a few minutes the guard returned with a large cloak in which he
wrapped Klea, and a broad-brimmed travelling-hat which she pressed down
on her head, and he then conducted her to that quarter of the palace
where the king's stables were. She kept close to the officer, and was
soon mounted on a chariot, and then conducted by the driver--who took her
for a young Macedonian noble, who was tempted out at night by some
assignation--as far as the second tavern on the road back to the
Serapeum.



CHAPTER XIX.

While Klea had been listening to the conversation between Euergetes and
Eulaeus, Cleopatra had been sitting in her tent, and allowing herself to
be dressed with no less care than on the preceding evening, but in other
garments.

It would seem that all had not gone so smoothly as she wished during the
day, for her two tire-women had red eyes. Her lady-in-waiting, Zoe, was
reading to her, not this time from a Greek philosopher but from a Greek
translation of the Hebrew Psalms: a discussion as to their poetic merit
having arisen a few days previously at the supper-table. Onias, the
Israelite general, had asserted that these odes might be compared with
those of Alcman or of Pindar, and had quoted certain passages that had
pleased the queen. To-day she was not disposed for thought, but wanted
something strange and out of the common to distract her mind, so she
desired Zoe to open the book of the Hebrews, of which the translation was
considered by the Hellenic Jews in Alexandria as an admirable work--nay,
even as inspired by God himself; it had long been known to her through
her Israelite friends and guests.

Cleopatra had been listening for about a quarter of an hour to Zoe's
reading when the blast of a trumpet rang out on the steps which led up
her tent, announcing a visitor of the male sex. The queen glanced angrily
round, signed to her lady to stop reading, and exclaimed:

"I will not see my husband now! Go, Thais, and tell the eunuchs on the
steps, that I beg Philometor not to disturb me just now. Go on, Zoe."

Ten more psalms had been read, and a few verses repeated twice or thrice
by Cleopatra's desire, when the pretty Athenian returned with flaming
cheeks, and said in an excited tone:

"It is not your husband, the king, but your brother Euergetes, who asks
to speak with you."

"He might have chosen some other hour," replied Cleopatra, looking round
at her maid. Thais cast down her eyes, and twitched the edge of her robe
between her fingers as she addressed her mistress; but the queen, whom
nothing could escape that she chose to see, and who was not to-day in the
humor for laughing or for letting any indiscretion escape unreproved,
went on at once in an incensed and cutting tone, raising her voice to a
sharp pitch:

"I do not choose that my messengers should allow themselves to be
detained, be it by whom it may--do you hear! Leave Me this instant and go
to your room, and stay there till I want you to undress me this evening.
Andromeda--do you hear, old woman?--you can bring my brother to me, and
he will let you return quicker than Thais, I fancy. You need not leer at
yourself in the glass, you cannot do anything to alter your wrinkles. My
head-dress is already done. Give me that linen wrapper, Olympias, and
then he may come! Why, there he is already! First you ask permission,
brother, and then disdain to wait till it is given you."

"Longing and waiting," replied Euergetes, "are but an ill-assorted
couple. I wasted this evening with common soldiers and fawning
flatterers; then, in order to see a few noble countenances, I went into
the prison, after that I hastily took a bath, for the residence of your
convicts spoils one's complexion more, and in a less pleasant manner,
than this little shrine, where everything looks and smells like
Aphrodite's tiring-room; and now I have a longing to hear a few good
words before supper-time comes."

"From my lips?" asked Cleopatra.

"There are none that can speak better, whether by the Nile or the
Ilissus."

"What do you want of me?"

"I--of you?"

"Certainly, for you do not speak so prettily unless you want something."

"But I have already told you! I want to hear you say something wise,
something witty, something soul-stirring."

"We cannot call up wit as we would a maid-servant. It comes unbidden, and
the more urgently we press it to appear the more certainly it remains
away."

"That may be true of others, but not of you who, even while you declare
that you have no store of Attic salt, are seasoning your speech with it.
All yield obedience to grace and beauty, even wit and the sharp-tongued
Momus who mocks even at the gods."

"You are mistaken, for not even my own waiting-maids return in proper
time when I commission them with a message to you."

"And may we not to be allowed to sacrifice to the Charites on the way to
the temple of Aphrodite?"

"If I were indeed the goddess, those worshippers who regarded my
hand-maidens as my equals would find small acceptance with me."

"Your reproof is perfectly just, for you are justified in requiring that
all who know you should worship but one goddess, as the Jews do but one
god. But I entreat you do not again compare yourself to the brainless
Cyprian dame. You may be allowed to do so, so far as your grace is
concerned; but who ever saw an Aphrodite philosophizing and reading
serious books? I have disturbed you in grave studies no doubt; what is
the book you are rolling up, fair Zoe?"

"The sacred book of the Jews, Sire," replied Zoe; "one that I know you do
not love."

"And you--who read Homer, Pindar, Sophocles, and Plato--do you like it?"
asked Euergetes.

"I find passages in it which show a profound knowledge of life, and
others of which no one can dispute the high poetic flight," replied
Cleopatra. "Much of it has no doubt a thoroughly barbarian twang, and it
is particularly in the Psalms--which we have now been reading, and which
might be ranked with the finest hymns--that I miss the number and rhythm
of the syllables, the observance of a fixed metre--in short, severity of
form. David, the royal poet, was no less possessed by the divinity when
he sang to his lyre than other poets have been, but he does not seem to
have known that delight felt by our poets in overcoming the difficulties
they have raised for themselves. The poet should slavishly obey the laws
he lays down for himself of his own free-will, and subordinate to them
every word, and yet his matter and his song should seem to float on a
free and soaring wing. Now, even the original Hebrew text of the Psalms
has no metrical laws."

"I could well dispense with them," replied Euergetes; "Plato too
disdained to measure syllables, and I know passages in his works which
are nevertheless full of the highest poetic beauty. Besides, it has been
pointed out to me that even the Hebrew poems, like the Egyptian, follow
certain rules, which however I might certainly call rhetorical rather
than poetical. The first member in a series of ideas stands in antithesis
to the next, which either re-states the former one in a new form or sets
it in a clearer light by suggesting some contrast. Thus they avail
themselves of the art of the orator--or indeed of the painter--who brings
a light color into juxtaposition with a dark one, in order to increase
its luminous effect. This method and style are indeed not amiss, and that
was the least of all the things that filled me with aversion for this
book, in which besides, there is many a proverb which may be pleasing to
kings who desire to have submissive subjects, and to fathers who would
bring up their sons in obedience to themselves and to the laws. Even
mothers must be greatly comforted by them,--who ask no more than that
their children may get through the world without being jostled or pushed,
and unmolested if possible, that they may live longer than the oaks or
ravens, and be blessed with the greatest possible number of descendants.
Aye! these ordinances are indeed precious to those who accept them, for
they save them the trouble of thinking for themselves. Besides, the great
god of the Jews is said to have dictated all that this book contains to
its writers, just as I dictate to Philippus, my hump-backed secretary,
all that I want said. They regard everyone as a blasphemer and desecrator
who thinks that anything written in that roll is erroneous, or even
merely human. Plato's doctrines are not amiss, and yet Aristotle had
criticised them severely and attempted to confute them. I myself incline
to the views of the Stagyrite, you to those of the noble Athenian, and
how many good and instructive hours we owe to our discussions over this
difference of opinion! And how amusing it is to listen when the
Platonists on the one hand and the Aristotelians on the other, among the
busy threshers of straw in the Museum at Alexandria, fall together by the
ears so vehemently that they would both enjoy flinging their metal cups
at each others' heads--if the loss of the wine, which I pay for, were not
too serious to bear. We still seek for truth; the Jews believe they
possess it entirely.

"Even those among them who most zealously study our philosophers believe
this; and yet the writers of this book know of nothing but actual
present, and their god--who will no more endure another god as his equal
than a citizen's wife will admit a second woman to her husband's
house--is said to have created the world out of nothing for no other
purpose but to be worshipped and feared by its inhabitants.

"Now, given a philosophical Jew who knows his Empedocles--and I grant
there are many such in Alexandria, extremely keen and cultivated
men--what idea can he form in his own mind of 'creation out of nothing?'
Must he not pause to think very seriously when he remembers the
fundamental axiom that 'out of nothing, nothing can come,' and that
nothing which has once existed can ever be completely annihilated? At any
rate the necessary deduction must be that the life of man ends in that
nothingness whence everything in existence has proceeded. To live and to
die according to this book is not highly profitable. I can easily
reconcile myself to the idea of annihilation, as a man who knows how to
value a dreamless sleep after a day brimful of enjoyment--as a man who if
he must cease to be Euergetes would rather spring into the open jaws of
nothingness--but as a philosopher, no, never!"

"You, it is true," replied the queen, "cannot help measuring all and
everything by the intellectual standard exclusively; for the gods, who
endowed you with gifts beyond a thousand others, struck with blindness or
deafness that organ which conveys to our minds any religious or moral
sentiment. If that could see or hear, you could no more exclude the
conviction that these writings are full of the deepest purport than I
can, nor doubt that they have a powerful hold on the mind of the reader.

"They fetter their adherents to a fixed law, but they take all bitterness
out of sorrow by teaching that a stern father sends us suffering which is
represented as being sometimes a means of education, and sometimes a
punishment for transgressing a hard and clearly defined law. Their god,
in his infallible but stern wisdom, sets those who cling to him on an
evil and stony path to prove their strength, and to let them at last
reach the glorious goal which is revealed to them from the beginning."

"How strange such words as these sound in the mouth of a Greek,"
interrupted Euergetes. "You certainly must be repeating them after the
son of the Jewish high-priest, who defends the cause of his cruel god
with so much warmth and skill."

"I should have thought," retorted Cleopatra, "that this overwhelming
figure of a god would have pleased you, of all men; for I know of no
weakness in you. Quite lately Dositheos, the Jewish centurion--a very
learned man--tried to describe to my husband the one great god to whom
his nation adheres with such obstinate fidelity, but I could not help
thinking of our beautiful and happy gods as a gay company of amorous
lords and pleasure-loving ladies, and comparing them with this stern and
powerful being who, if only he chose to do it, might swallow them all up,
as Chronos swallowed his own children."

"That," exclaimed Euergetes, "is exactly what most provokes me in this
superstition. It crushes our light-hearted pleasure in life, and whenever
I have been reading the book of the Hebrews everything has come into my
mind that I least like to think of. It is like an importunate creditor
that reminds us of our forgotten debts, and I love pleasure and hate an
importunate reminder. And you, pretty one, life blooms for you--"

"But I," interrupted Cleopatra, "I can admire all that is great; and does
it not seem a bold and grand thing even to you, that the mighty idea that
it is one single power that moves and fills the world, should be freely
and openly declared in the sacred writings of the Jews--an idea which the
Egyptians carefully wrap up and conceal, which the priests of the Nile
only venture to divulge to the most privileged of those who are initiated
into their mysteries, and which--though the Greek philosophers indeed
have fearlessly uttered it--has never been introduced by any Hellene into
the religion of the people? If you were not so averse to the Hebrew
nation, and if you, like my husband and myself, had diligently occupied
yourself with their concerns and their belief you would be juster to them
and to their scriptures, and to the great creating and preserving spirit,
their god--"

"You are confounding this jealous and most unamiable and ill-tempered
tyrant of the universe with the Absolute of Aristotle!" cried Euergetes;
"he stigmatises most of what you and I and all rational Greeks require
for the enjoyment of life as sin--sin upon sin. And yet if my easily
persuadable brother governed at Alexandria, I believe the shrewd priests
might succeed in stamping him as a worshipper of that magnified
schoolmaster, who punishes his untutored brood with fire and torment."

"I cannot deny," replied Cleopatra, "that even to me the doctrine of the
Jews has something very fearful in it, and that to adopt it seems to me
tantamount to confiscating all the pleasures of life.--But enough of such
things, which I should no more relish as a daily food than you do. Let us
rejoice in that we are Hellenes, and let us now go to the banquet. I fear
you have found a very unsatisfactory substitute for what you sought in
coming up here."

"No--no. I feel strangely excited to-day, and my work with Aristarchus
would have led to no issue. It is a pity that we should have begun to
talk of that barbarian rubbish; there are so many other subjects more
pleasing and more cheering to the mind. Do you remember how we used to
read the great tragedians and Plato together?"

"And how you would often interrupt our tutor Agatharchides in his
lectures on geography, to point out some mistake! Did you prosecute those
studies in Cyrene?"

"Of course. It really is a pity, Cleopatra, that we should no longer live
together as we did formerly. There is no one, not even Aristarchus, with
whom I find it more pleasant and profitable to converse and discuss than
with you. If only you had lived at Athens in the time of Pericles, who
knows if you might not have been his friend instead of the immortal
Aspasia. This Memphis is certainly not the right place for you; for a few
months in the year you ought to come to Alexandria, which has now risen
to be superior to Athens."

"I do not know you to-day!" exclaimed Cleopatra, gazing at her brother in
astonishment. "I have never heard you speak so kindly and brotherly since
the death of my mother. You must have some great request to make of us."

"You see how thankless a thing it is for me to let my heart speak for
once, like other people. I am like the boy in the fable when the wolf
came! I have so often behaved in an unbrotherly fashion that when I show
the aspect of a brother you think I have put on a mask. If I had had
anything special to ask of you I should have waited till to-morrow, for
in this part of the country even a blind beggar does not like to refuse
his lame comrade anything on his birthday."

"If only we knew what you wish for! Philometor and I would do it more
than gladly, although you always want something monstrous. Our
performance to-morrow will--at any rate--but--Zoe, pray be good enough to
retire with the maids; I have a few words to say to my brother alone."

As soon as the queen's ladies had withdrawn, she went on:

"It is a real grief to use, but the best part of the festival in honor of
your birthday will not be particularly successful, for the priests of
Serapis spitefully refuse us the Hebe about whom Lysias has made us so
curious. Asclepiodorus, it would seem, keeps her in concealment, and
carries his audacity so far as to tell us that someone has carried her
off from the temple. He insinuates that we have stolen her, and demands
her restitution in the name of all his associates."

"You are doing the man an injustice; our dove has followed the lure of a
dove-catcher who will not allow me to have her, and who is now billing
and cooing with her in his own nest. I am cheated, but I can scarcely be
angry with the Roman, for his claim was of older standing than mine."

"The Roman?" asked Cleopatra, rising from her seat and turning pale. "But
that is impossible. You are making common cause with Eulaeus, and want to
set me against Publius Scipio. At the banquet last night you showed
plainly enough your ill-feeling against him."

"You seem to feel more warmly towards him. But before I prove to you that
I am neither lying nor joking, may I enquire what has this man, this
many-named Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica, to recommend him above any
handsome well-grown Macedonian, who is resolute in my cause, in the whole
corps of your body guard, excepting his patrician pride? He is as bitter
and ungenial as a sour apple, and all the very best that you--a subtle
thinker, a brilliant and cultivated philosopher--can find to say is no
more appreciated by his meanly cultivated intellect than the odes of
Sappho by a Nubian boatman."

"It is exactly for that," cried the queen, "that I value him; he is
different from all of us; we who--how shall I express myself--who always
think at second-hand, and always set our foot in the rut trodden by the
master of the school we adhere to; who squeeze our minds into the moulds
that others have carved out, and when we speak hesitate to step beyond
the outlines of those figures of rhetoric which we learned at school! You
have burst these bonds, but even your mighty spirit still shows traces of
them. Publius Scipio, on the contrary, thinks and sees and speaks with
perfect independence, and his upright sense guides him to the truth
without any trouble or special training. His society revives me like the
fresh air that I breathe when I come out into the open air from the
temple filled with the smoke of incense--like the milk and bread which a
peasant offered us during our late excursion to the coast, after we had
been living for a year on nothing but dainties."

"He has all the admirable characteristics of a child!" interrupted
Euergetes. "And if that is all that appears estimable to you in the Roman
your son may soon replace the great Cornelius."

"Not soon! no, not till he shall have grown older than you are, and a
man, a thorough man, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot,
for such a man is Publius! I believe--nay, I am sure--that he is
incapable of any mean action, that he could not be false in word or even
in look, nor feign a sentiment be did not feel."

"Why so vehement, sister? So much zeal is quite unnecessary on this
occasion! You know well enough that I have my easy days, and that this
excitement is not good for you; nor has the Roman deserved that you
should be quite beside yourself for his sake. The fellow dared in my
presence to look at you as Paris might at Helen before he carried her
off, and to drink out of your cup; and this morning he no doubt did not
contradict what he conveyed to you last night with his eyes--nay, perhaps
by his words. And yet, scarcely an hour before, he had been to the
Necropolis to bear his sweetheart away from the temple of the gloomy
Serapis into that of the smiling Eros."

"You shall prove this!" cried the queen in great excitement. "Publius is
my friend--"

"And I am yours!"

"You have often proved the reverse, and now again with lies and
cheating--"

"You seem," interrupted Euergetes, "to have learned from your
unphilosophical favorite to express your indignation with extraordinary
frankness; to-day however I am, as I have said, as gentle as a kitten--"

"Euergetes and gentleness!" cried Cleopatra with a forced laugh. "No, you
only step softly like a cat when she is watching a bird, and your
gentleness covers some ruthless scheme, which we shall find out soon
enough to our cost. You have been talking with Eulaeus to-day; Eulaeus,
who fears and hates Publius, and it seems to me that you have hatched
some conspiracy against him; but if you dare to cast a single stone in
his path, to touch a single hair of his head, I will show you that even a
weak woman can be terrible. Nemesis and the Erinnyes from Alecto to
Megaera, the most terrible of all the gods, are women!"

Cleopatra had hissed rather than spoken these words, with her teeth set
with rage, and had raised her small fist to threaten her brother; but
Euergetes preserved a perfect composure till she had ceased speaking.
Then he took a step closer to her, crossed his arms over his breast, and
asked her in the deepest bass of his fine deep voice:

"Are you idiotically in love with this Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica,
or do you purpose to make use of him and his kith and kin in Rome against
me?"

Transported with rage, and without blenching in the least at her
brother's piercing gaze, she hastily retorted: "Up to this moment only
the first perhaps--for what is my husband to me? But if you go on as you
have begun I shall begin to consider how I may make use of his influence
and of his liking for me, on the shores of the Tiber."

"Liking!" cried Euergetes, and he laughed so loud and violently that Zoe,
who was listening at the tent door, gave a little scream, and Cleopatra
drew back a step. "And to think that you--the most prudent of the
prudent--who can hear the dew fall and the grass grow, and smell here in
Memphis the smoke of every fire that is lighted in Alexandria or in Syria
or even in Rome--that you, my mother's daughter, should be caught over
head and ears by a broad-shouldered lout, for all the world like a clumsy
town-girl or a wench at a loom. This ignorant Adonis, who knows so well
how to make use of his own strange and resolute personality, and of the
power that stands in his background, thinks no more of the hearts he sets
in flames than I of the earthen jar out of which water is drawn when I am
thirsty. You think to make use of him by the 'Tiber; but he has
anticipated you, and learns from you all that is going on by the Nile and
everything they most want to know in the Senate.

"You do not believe me, for no one ever is ready to believe anything that
can diminish his self-esteem--and why should you believe me? I frankly
confess that I do not hesitate to lie when I hope to gain more by untruth
than by that much-belauded and divine truth, which, according to your
favorite Plato, is allied to all earthly beauty; but it is often just as
useless as beauty itself, for the useful and the beautiful exclude each
other in a thousand cases, for ten when they coincide. There, the gong is
sounding for the third time. If you care for plain proof that the Roman,
only an hour before he visited you this morning, had our little Hebe
carried off from the temple, and conveyed to the house of Apollodorus,
the sculptor, at Memphis, you have only to come to see me in my rooms
early to-morrow after the first morning sacrifice. You will at any rate
wish to come and congratulate me; bring your children with you, as I
propose making them presents. You might even question the Roman himself
at the banquet to-day, but he will hardly appear, for the sweetest gifts
of Eros are bestowed at night, and as the temple of Serapis is closed at
sunset Publius has never yet seen his Irene in the evening. May I expect
you and the children after morning sacrifice?"

Before Cleopatra had time to answer this question another trumpet-blast
was heard, and she exclaimed: "That is Philometor, come to fetch us to
the banquet. I will ere long give the Roman the opportunity of defending
himself, though--in spite of your accusations--I trust him entirely. This
morning I asked him solemnly whether it was true that he was in love with
his friend's charming Hebe, and he denied it in his firm and manly way,
and his replies were admirable and worthy of the noblest mind, when I
ventured to doubt his sincerity. He takes truth more seriously than you
do. He regards it not only as beautiful and right to be truthful, he
says, but as prudent too; for lies can only procure us a small
short-lived advantage, as transitory as the mists of night which vanish
as soon as the sun appears, while truth is like the sunlight itself,
which as often as it is dimmed by clouds reappears again and again. And,
he says, what makes a liar so particularly contemptible in his eyes is,
that to attain his end, he must be constantly declaring and repeating the
horror he has of those who are and do the very same thing as he himself.
The ruler of a state cannot always be truthful, and I often have failed
in truth; but my intercourse with Publius has aroused much that is good
in me, and which had been slumbering with closed eyes; and if this man
should prove to be the same as all the rest of you, then I will follow
your road, Euergetes, and laugh at virtue and truth, and set the busts of
Aristippus and Strato on the pedestals where those of Zeno and
Antisthenes now stand."

"You mean to have the busts of the philosophers moved again?" asked King
Philometor, who, as he entered the tent, had heard the queen's last
words. "And Aristippus is to have the place of honor? I have no
objection--though he teaches that man must subjugate matter and not
become subject to it.--['Mihi res, non me rebus subjungere.']--This
indeed is easier to say than to do, and there is no man to whom it is
more impossible than to a king who has to keep on good terms with Greeks
and Egyptians, as we have, and with Rome as well. And besides all this to
avoid quarrelling with a jealous brother, who shares our kingdom! If men
could only know how much they would have to do as kings only in reading
and writing, they would take care never to struggle for a crown! Up to
this last half hour I have been examining and deciding applications and
petitions. Have you got through yours, Euergetes? Even more had
accumulated for you than for us."

"All were settled in an hour," replied the other promptly. "My eye is
quicker than the mouth of your reader, and my decisions commonly consist
of three words while you dictate long treatises to your scribes. So I had
done when you had scarcely begun, and yet I could tell you at once, if it
were not too tedious a matter, every single case that has come before me
for months, and explain it in all its details."

"That I could not indeed," said Philometor modestly, "but I know and
admire your swift intelligence and accurate memory."

"You see I am more fit for a king than you are;" laughed Euergetes. "You
are too gentle and debonair for a throne! Hand over your government to
me. I will fill your treasury every year with gold. I beg you now, come
to Alexandria with Cleopatra for good, and share with me the palace and
the gardens in the Bruchion. I will nominate your little Philopator heir
to the throne, for I have no wish to contract a permanent tie with any
woman, as Cleopatra belongs to you. This is a bold proposal, but reflect,
Philometor, if you were to accept it, how much time it would give you for
your music, your disputations with the Jews, and all your other favorite
occupations."

"You never know how far you may go with your jest!" interrupted
Cleopatra. "Besides, you devote quite as much time to your studies in
philology and natural history as he does to music and improving
conversations with his learned friends."

"Just so," assented Philometor, "and you may be counted among the sages
of the Museum with far more reason than I."

"But the difference between us," replied Euergetes, "is that I despise
all the philosophical prattlers and rubbish-collectors in Alexandria
almost to the point of hating them, while for science I have as great a
passion as for a lover. You, on the contrary, make much of the learned
men, but trouble yourself precious little about science."

"Drop the subject, pray," begged Cleopatra. "I believe that you two have
never yet been together for half an hour without Euergetes having begun
some dispute, and Philometor having at last given in, to pacify him. Our
guests must have been waiting for us a long time. Had Publius Scipio made
his appearance?"

"He had sent to excuse himself," replied the king as he scratched the
poll of Cleopatra's parrot, parting its feathers with the tips of his
fingers. "Lysias, the Corinthian, is sitting below, and he says he does
not know where his friend can be gone."

"But we know very well," said Euergetes, casting an ironical glance at
the queen. "It is pleasant to be with Philometor and Cleopatra, but
better still with Eros and Hebe. Sister, you look pale--shall I call for
Zoe?"

Cleopatra shook her head in negation, but she dropped into a seat, and
sat stooping, with her head bowed over her knees as if she were
dreadfully tired. Euergetes turned his back on her, and spoke to his
brother of indifferent subjects, while she drew lines, some straight and
some crooked, with her fan-stick through the pile of the soft rug on the
floor, and sat gazing thoughtfully at her feet. As she sat thus her eye
was caught by her sandals, richly set with precious stones, and the
slender toes she had so often contemplated with pleasure; but now the
sight of them seemed to vex her, for in obedience to a swift impulse she
loosened the straps, pushed off her right sandal with her left foot,
kicked it from her, and said, turning to her husband:

"It is late and I do not feel well, and you may sup without me."

"By the healing Isis!" exclaimed Philometor, going up to her. "You look
suffering. Shall I send for the physicians? Is it really nothing more
than your usual headache? The gods be thanked! But that you should be
unwell just to-day! I had so much to say to you; and the chief thing of
all was that we are still a long way from completeness in our
preparations for our performance. If this luckless Hebe were not--"

"She is in good hands," interrupted Euergetes. "The Roman, Publius
Scipio, has taken her to a place of safety; perhaps in order to present
her to me to morrow morning in return for the horses from Cyrene which I
sent him to-day. How brightly your eyes sparkle, sister--with joy no
doubt at this good idea. This evening, I dare say he is rehearsing the
little one in her part that she may perform it well to-morrow. If we are
mistaken--if Publius is ungrateful and proposes keeping the dove, then
Thais, your pretty Athenian waiting-woman, may play the part of Hebe.
What do you think of that suggestion, Cleopatra?"

"That I forbid such jesting with me!" cried the queen vehemently. "No one
has any consideration for me--no one pities me, and I suffer fearfully!
Euergetes scorns me--you, Philometor, would be glad to drag me down! If
only the banquet is not interfered with, and so long as nothing spoils
your pleasure!--Whether I die or no, no one cares!"

With these words the queen burst into tears, and roughly pushed away her
husband as he endeavored to soothe her. At last she dried her eyes, and
said: "Go down-the guests are waiting."

"Immediately, my love," replied Philometor. "But one thing I must tell
you, for I know that it will arouse your sympathy. The Roman read to you
the petition for pardon for Philotas, the chief of the Chrematistes and
'relative of the king,' which contains such serious charges against
Eulaeus. I was ready with all my heart to grant your wish and to pardon
the man who is the father of these miserable water-bearers; but, before
having the decree drawn up, I had the lists of the exiles to the
gold-mines carefully looked through, and there it was discovered that
Philotas and his wife have both been dead more than half a year. Death
has settled this question, and I cannot grant to Publius the first
service he has asked of me--asked with great urgency too. I am sorry for
this, both for his sake and for that of poor Philotas, who was held in
high esteem by our mother."

"May the ravens devour them!" answered Cleopatra, pressing her forehead
against the ivory frame which surrounded the stuffed back of her seat.
"Once more I beg of you excuse me from all further speech." This time the
two kings obeyed her wishes. When Euergetes offered her his hand she said
with downcast eyes, and poking her fan-stick into the wool of the carpet:

"I will visit you early to-morrow."

"After the first sacrifice," added Euergetes. "If I know you well,
something that you will then hear will please you greatly; very greatly
indeed, I should think. Bring the children with you; that I ask of you as
a birthday request."



CHAPTER XX.

The royal chariot in which Klea was standing, wrapped in the cloak and
wearing the hat of the captain of the civic guard, went swiftly and
without stopping through the streets of Memphis. As long as she saw
houses with lighted windows on each side of the way, and met riotous
soldiers and quiet citizens going home from the taverns, or from working
late in their workshops, with lanterns in their hands or carried by their
slaves--so long her predominant feeling was one of hatred to Publius; and
mixed with this was a sentiment altogether new to her--a sentiment that
made her blood boil, and her heart now stand still and then again beat
wildly--the thought that he might be a wretched deceiver. Had he not
attempted to entrap one of them--whether her sister or herself it was all
the same--wickedly to betray her, and to get her into his power!

"With me," thought she, "he could not hope to gain his evil ends, and
when he saw that I knew how to protect myself he lured the poor
unresisting child away with him, in order to ruin her and to drag her
into shame and misery. Just like Rome herself, who seizes on one country
after another to make them her own, so is this ruthless man. No sooner
had that villain Eulaeus' letter reached him, than he thought himself
justified in believing that I too was spellbound by a glance from his
eyes, and would spread my wings to fly into his arms; and so he put out
his greedy hand to catch me too, and threw aside the splendor and
delights of a royal banquet to hurry by night out into the desert, and to
risk a hideous death--for the avenging deities still punish the
evildoer."

By this time she was shrouded in total darkness, for the moon was still
hidden by black clouds. Memphis was already behind her, and the chariot
was passing through a tall-stemmed palm-grove, where even at mid-day deep
shades intermingled with the sunlight. When, just at this spot, the
thought once more pierced her soul that the seducer was devoted to death,
she felt as though suddenly a bright glaring light had flashed up in her
and round her, and she could have broken out into a shout of joy like one
who, seeking retribution for blood, places his foot at last on the breast
of his fallen foe. She clenched her teeth tightly and grasped her girdle,
in which she had stuck the knife given her by the smith.

If the charioteer by her side had been Publius, she would have stabbed
him to the heart with the weapon with delight, and then have thrown
herself under the horses' hoofs and the brazen wheels of the chariot.

But no! Still more gladly would she have found him dying in the desert,
and before his heart had ceased to beat have shouted in his ear how much
she hated him; and then, when his breast no longer heaved a breath--then
she would have flung herself upon him, and have kissed his dimmed eyes.

Her wildest thoughts of vengeance were as inseparable from tender pity
and the warmest longings of a heart overflowing with love, as the dark
waters of a river are from the brighter flood of a stream with which it
has recently mingled. All the passionate impulses which had hitherto been
slumbering in her soul were set free, and now raised their clamorous
voices as she was whirled across the desert through the gloom of night.
The wishes roused in her breast by her hatred appealing to her on one
side and her love singing in her ear, in tempting flute-tones, on the
other, jostled and hustled one another, each displacing the other as they
crowded her mind in wild confusion. As she proceeded on her journey she
felt that she could have thrown herself like a tigress on her victim, and
yet--like an outcast woman--have flung herself at Publius' knees in
supplication for the love that was denied her. She had lost all idea of
time and distance, and started as from a wild and bewildering dream when
the chariot suddenly halted, and the driver said in his rough tones:

"Here we are, I must turn back again."

She shuddered, drew the cloak more closely round her, sprang out on to
the road, and stood there motionless till the charioteer said:

"I have not spared my horses, my noble gentleman. Won't you give me
something to get a drop of wine?" Klea's whole possessions were two
silver drachma, of which she herself owned one and the other belonged to
Irene. On the last anniversary but one of his mother's death, the king
had given at the temple a sum to be divided among all the attendants,
male and female, who served Serapis, and a piece of silver had fallen to
the share of herself and her sister. Klea had them both about her in a
little bag, which also contained a ring that her mother had given her at
parting, and the amulet belonging to Serapion. The girl took out the two
silver coins and gave them to the driver, who, after testing the liberal
gift with his fingers, cried out as he turned his horses:

"A pleasant night to you, and may Aphrodite and all the Loves be
favorable!"

"Irene's drachma!" muttered Klea to herself, as the chariot rolled away.
The sweet form of her sister rose before her mind; she recalled the hour
when the girl--still but a child--had entrusted it to her, because she
lost everything unless Klea took charge of it for her.

"Who will watch her and care for her now?" she asked herself, and she
stood thinking, trying to defend herself against the wild wishes which
again began to stir in her, and to collect her scattered thoughts. She
had involuntarily avoided the beam of light which fell across the road
from the tavern-window, and yet she could not help raising her eyes and
looking along it, and she found herself looking through the darkness
which enveloped her, straight into the faces of two men whose gaze was
directed to the very spot where she was standing. And what faces they
were that she saw! One, a fat face, framed in thick hair and a short,
thick and ragged beard, was of a dusky brown and as coarse and brutal as
the other was smooth, colorless and lean, cruel and crafty. The eyes of
the first of these ruffians were prominent, weak and bloodshot, with a
fixed glassy stare, while those of the other seemed always to be on the
watch with a restless and uneasy leer.

These were Euergetes' assassins--they must be! Spellbound with terror and
revulsion she stood quite still, fearing only that the ruffians might
hear the beating of her heart, for she felt as if it were a hammer swung
up and down in an empty space, and beating with loud echoes, now in her
bosom and now in her throat.

"The young gentleman must have gone round behind the tavern--he knows the
shortest way to the 'tombs. Let us go after him, and finish off the
business at once," said the broad-shouldered villain in a hoarse whisper
that broke down every now and then, and which seemed to Klea even more
repulsive than the monster's face.

"So that he may hear us go after him-stupid!" answered the other. "When
he has been waiting for his sweetheart about a quarter of an hour I will
call his name in a woman's voice, and at his first step towards the
desert do you break his neck with the sand-bag. We have plenty of time
yet, for it must still be a good half hour before midnight."

"So much the better," said the other. "Our wine-jar is not nearly empty
yet, and we paid the lazy landlord for it in advance, before he crept
into bed."

"You shall only drink two cups more," said the punier villain. "For this
time we have to do with a sturdy fellow, Setnam is not with us now to
lend a hand in the work, and the dead meat must show no gaping thrusts or
cuts. My teeth are not like yours when you are fasting--even cooked food
must not be too tough for them to chew it, now-a-days. If you soak
yourself in drink and fail in your blow, and I am not ready with the
poisoned stiletto the thing won't come off neatly. But why did not the
Roman let his chariot wait?"

"Aye! why did he let it go away?" asked the other staring open-mouthed in
the direction where the sound of wheels was still to be heard. His
companion mean while laid his hand to his ear, and listened. Both were
silent for a few minutes, then the thin one said:

"The chariot has stopped at the first tavern. So much the better. The
Roman has valuable cattle in his shafts, and at the inn down there, there
is a shed for horses. Here in this hole there is hardly a stall for an
ass, and nothing but sour wine and mouldy beer. I don't like the rubbish,
and save my coin for Alexandria and white Mariotic; that is strengthening
and purifies the blood. For the present I only wish we were as well off
as those horses; they will have plenty of time to recover their breath."

"Yes, plenty of time," answered the other with a broad grin, and then he
with his companion withdrew into the room to fill his cup.

Klea too could hear that the chariot which had brought her hither, had
halted at the farther tavern, but it did not occur to her that the driver
had gone in to treat himself to wine with half of Irene's drachma. The
horses should make up for the lost time, and they could easily do it, for
when did the king's banquets ever end before midnight?

As soon as Plea saw that the assassins were filling their earthen cups,
she slipped softly on tiptoe behind the tavern; the moon came out from
behind the clouds for a few minutes, she sought and found the short way
by the desert-path to the Apis-tombs, and hastened rapidly along it. She
looked straight before her, for whenever she glanced at the road-side,
and her eye was caught by some dried up shrub of the desert, silvery in
the pale moonlight, she fancied she saw behind it the face of a murderer.

The skeletons of fallen beasts standing up out of the dust, and the
bleached jawbones of camels and asses, which shone much whiter than the
desert-sand on which they lay, seemed to have come to life and motion,
and made her think of the tiger-teeth of the bearded ruffian.

The clouds of dust driven in her face by the warm west wind, which had
risen higher, increased her alarm, for they were mingled with the colder
current of the night-breeze; and again and again she felt as if spirits
were driving her onwards with their hot breath, and stroking her face
with their cold fingers. Every thing that her senses perceived was
transformed by her heated imagination into a fearful something; but more
fearful and more horrible than anything she heard, than any phantom that
met her eye in the ghastly moonlight, were her own thoughts of what was
to be done now, in the immediate future--of the fearful fate that
threatened the Roman and Irene; and she was incapable of separating one
from the other in her mind, for one influence alone possessed her, heart
and soul: dread, dread; the same boundless, nameless, deadly dread--alike
of mortal peril and irremediable shame, and of the airiest phantoms and
the merest nothings.

A large black cloud floated slowly across the moon and utter darkness hid
everything around, even the undefined forms which her imagination had
turned to images of dread. She was forced to moderate her pace, and find
her way, feeling each step; and just as to a child some hideous form that
looms before him vanishes into nothingness when he covers his eyes with
his hand, so the profound darkness which now enveloped her, suddenly
released her soul from a hundred imaginary terrors.

She stood still, drew a deep breath, collected the whole natural force of
her will, and asked herself what she could do to avert the horrid issue.

Since seeing the murderers every thought of revenge, every wish to punish
the seducer with death, had vanished from her mind; one desire alone
possessed her now--that of rescuing him, the man, from the clutches of
these ravening beasts. Walking slowly onwards she repeated to herself
every word she had heard that referred to Publius and Irene as spoken by
Euergetes, Eulaeus, the recluse, and the assassins, and recalled every
step she had taken since she left the temple; thus she brought herself
back to the consciousness that she had come out and faced danger and
endured terror, solely and exclusively for Irene's sake. The image of her
sister rose clearly before her mind in all its bright charm, undimmed by
any jealous grudge which, indeed, ever since her passion had held her in
its toils had never for the smallest fraction of a minute possessed her.

Irene had grown up under her eye, sheltered by her care, in the sunshine
of her love. To take care of her, to deny herself, and bear the severest
fatigue for her had been her pleasure; and now as she appealed to her
father--as she wont to do--as if he were present, and asked him in an
inaudible cry: "Tell me, have I not done all for her that I could do?"
and said to herself that he could not possibly answer her appeal but with
assent, her eyes filled with tears; the bitterness and discontent which
had lately filled her breast gradually disappeared, and a gentle, calm,
refreshing sense of satisfaction came over her spirit, like a cooling
breeze after a scorching day.

As she now again stood still, straining her eyes which were growing more
accustomed to the darkness, to discover one of the temples at the end of
the alley of sphinxes, suddenly and unexpectedly at her right hand a
solemn and many-voiced hymn of lamentation fell upon her ear. This was
from the priests of Osiris-Apis who were performing the sacred mysteries
of their god, at midnight, on the roof of the temple. She knew the hymn
well--a lament for the deceased Osiris which implored him with urgent
supplication to break the power of death, to rise again, to bestow new
light and new vitality on the world and on men, and to vouchsafe to all
the departed a new existence.

The pious lament had a powerful effect on her excited spirit. Her parents
too perhaps had passed through death, and were now taking part in the
conduct of the destiny of the world and of men in union with the life
giving God. Her breath came fast, she threw up her arms, and, for the
first time since in her wrath she had turned her back on the holy of
holies in the temple of Serapis, she poured forth her whole soul with
passionate fervor in a deep and silent prayer for strength to fulfil her
duty to the end,--for some sign to show her the way to save Irene from
misfortune, and Publius from death. And as she prayed she felt no longer
alone--no, it seemed to her that she stood face to face with the
invincible Power which protects the good, in whom she now again had
faith, though for Him she knew no name; as a daughter, pursued by foes,
might clasp her powerful father's knees and claim his succor.

She had not stood thus with uplifted arms for many minutes when the moon,
once more appearing, recalled her to herself and to actuality. She now
perceived close to her, at hardly a hundred paces from where she stood,
the line of sphinxes by the side of which lay the tombs of Apis near
which she was to await Publius. Her heart began to beat faster again, and
her dread of her own weakness revived. In a few minutes she must meet the
Roman, and, involuntarily putting up her hand to smooth her hair, she was
reminded that she still wore Glaucus' hat on her head and his cloak
wrapped round her shoulders. Lifting up her heart again in a brief prayer
for a calm and collected mind, she slowly arranged her dress and its
folds, and as she did so the key of the tomb-cave, which she still had
about her, fell under her hand. An idea flashed through her brain--she
caught at it, and with hurried breath followed it out, till she thought
she had now hit upon the right way to preserve from death the man who was
so rich and powerful, who had given her nothing but taken everything from
her, and to whom, nevertheless, she--the poor water-bearer whom he had
thought to trifle with--could now bestow the most precious of the gifts
of the immortals, namely, life.

Serapion had said, and she was willing to believe, that Publius was not
base, and he certainly was not one of those who could prove ungrateful to
a preserver. She longed to earn the right to demand something of him, and
that could be nothing else but that he should give up her sister and
bring Irene back to her.

When could it be that he had come to an understanding with the
inexperienced and easily wooed maiden? How ready she must have been to
clasp the hand held out to her by this man! Nothing surprised her in
Irene, the child of the present; she could comprehend too that Irene's
charm might quickly win the heart even of a grave and serious man.

And yet--in all the processions it was never Irene that he had gazed at,
but always herself, and how came it to pass that he had given a prompt
and ready assent to the false invitation to go out to meet her in the
desert at midnight? Perhaps she was still nearer to his heart than Irene,
and if gratitude drew him to her with fresh force then--aye then--he
might perhaps woo her, and forget his pride and her lowly position, and
ask her to be his wife.

She thought this out fully, but before she had reached the half circle
enclosed by the Philosophers' busts the question occurred to her mind.
And Irene?

Had she gone with him and quitted her without bidding her farewell
because the young heart was possessed with a passionate love for
Publius--who was indeed the most lovable of men? And he? Would he indeed,
out of gratitude for what she hoped to do for him, make up his mind, if
she demanded it, to make her Irene his wife--the poor but more than
lovely daughter of a noble house?

And if this were possible, if these two could be happy in love and honor,
should she Klea come between the couple to divide them? Should she
jealously snatch Irene from his arms and carry her back to the gloomy
temple which now--after she had fluttered awhile in sportive freedom in
the sunny air--would certainly seem to her doubly sinister and
unendurable? Should she be the one to plunge Irene into misery--Irene,
her child, the treasure confided to her care, whom she had sworn to
cherish?

"No, and again no," she said resolutely. "She was born for happiness, and
I for endurance, and if I dare beseech thee to grant me one thing more, O
thou infinite Divinity! it is that Thou wouldst cut out from my soul this
love which is eating into my heart as though it were rotten wood, and
keep me far from envy and jealousy when I see her happy in his arms. It
is hard--very hard to drive one's own heart out into the desert in order
that spring may blossom in that of another: but it is well so--and my
mother would commend me and my father would say I had acted after his own
heart, and in obedience to the teaching of the great men on these
pedestals. Be still, be still my aching heart--there--that is right!"

Thus reflecting she went past the busts of Zeno and Chrysippus, glancing
at their features distinct in the moonlight: and her eyes falling on the
smooth slabs of stone with which the open space was paved, her own shadow
caught her attention, black and sharply defined, and exactly resembling
that of some man travelling from one town to another in his cloak and
broad-brimmed hat.

"Just like a man!" she muttered to herself; and as, at the same moment,
she saw a figure resembling her own, and, like herself, wearing a hat,
appear near the entrance to the tombs, and fancied she recognized it as
Publius, a thought, a scheme, flashed through her excited brain, which at
first appalled her, but in the next instant filled her with the ecstasy
which an eagle may feel when he spreads his mighty wings and soars above
the dust of the earth into the pure and infinite ether. Her heart beat
high, she breathed deeply and slowly, but she advanced to meet the Roman,
drawn up to her full height like a queen, who goes forward to receive
some equal sovereign; her hat, which she had taken off, in her left hand,
and the Smith's key in her right-straight on towards the door of the
Apis-tombs.



CHAPTER XXI.

The man whom Klea had seen was in fact none other than Publius. He was
now at the end of a busy day, for after he had assured himself that Irene
had been received by the sculptor and his wife, and welcomed as if she
were their own child, he had returned to his tent to write once more a
dispatch to Rome. But this he could not accomplish, for his friend Lysias
paced restlessly up and down by him as he sat, and as often as he put the
reed to the papyrus disturbed him with enquiries about the recluse, the
sculptor, and their rescued protegee.

When, finally, the Corinthian desired to know whether he, Publius,
considered Irene's eyes to be brown or blue, he had sprung up
impatiently, and exclaimed indignantly:

"And supposing they were red or green, what would it matter to me!"

Lysias seemed pleased rather than vexed with this reply, and he was on
the point of confessing to his friend that Irene had caused in his heart
a perfect conflagration--as of a forest or a city in flames--when a
master of the horse had appeared from Euergetes, to present the four
splendid horses from Cyrene, which his master requested the noble Roman
Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica to accept in token of his friendship.

The two friends, who both were judges and lovers of horses, spent at
least an hour in admiring the fine build and easy paces of these valuable
beasts. Then came a chamberlain from the queen to invite Publius to go to
her at once.

The Roman followed the messenger after a short delay in his tent, in
order to take with him the gems representing the marriage of Hebe, for on
his way from the sculptor's to the palace it had occurred to him that he
would offer them to the queen, after he had informed her of the parentage
of the two water-carriers. Publius had keen eyes, and the queen's
weaknesses had not escaped him, but he had never suspected her of being
capable of abetting her licentious brother in forcibly possessing himself
of the innocent daughter of a noble father. He now purposed to make her a
present--as in some degree a substitute for the representation his friend
had projected, and which had come to nothing--of the picture which she
had hoped to find pleasure in reproducing.

Cleopatra received him on her roof, a favor of which few could boast; she
allowed him to sit at her feet while she reclined on her couch, and gave
him to understand, by every glance of her eyes and every word she spoke,
that his presence was a happiness to her, and filled her with passionate
delight. Publius soon contrived to lead the conversation to the subject
of the innocent parents of the water-bearers, who had been sent off to
the goldmines; but Cleopatra interrupted his speech in their favor and
asked him plainly, undisguisedly, and without any agitation, whether it
was true that he himself desired to win the youthful Hebe. And she met
his absolute denial with such persistent and repeated expressions of
disbelief, assuming at last a tone of reproach, that he grew vexed and
broke out into a positive declaration that he regarded lying as unmanly
and disgraceful, and could endure any insult rather than a doubt of his
veracity.

Such a vehement and energetic remonstrance from a man she had
distinguished was a novelty to Cleopatra, and she did not take it amiss,
for she might now believe--what she much wished to believe--that Publius
wanted to have nothing to do with the fair Hebe, that Eulaeus had
slandered her friend, and that Zoe had been in error when, after her vain
expedition to the temple--from which she had then just returned--she had
told her that the Roman was Irene's lover, and must at the earliest hour
have betrayed to the girl herself, or to the priests in the Serapeum,
what was their purpose regarding her.

In the soul of this noble youth there was nothing false--there could be
nothing false! And she, who was accustomed never to hear a word from the
men who surrounded her without asking herself with what aim it was
spoken, and how much of it was dissimulation or downright falsehood,
trusted the Roman, and was so happy in her trust that, full of gracious
gaiety, she herself invited Publius to give her the recluse's petition to
read. The Roman at once gave her the roll, saying that since it contained
so much that was sad, much as he hoped she would make herself acquainted
with it, he felt himself called upon also to give her some pleasure,
though in truth but a very small one. Thus speaking he produced the gems,
and she showed as much delight over this little work of art as if,
instead of being a rich queen and possessed of the finest engraved gems
in the world, she were some poor girl receiving her first gift of some
long-desired gold ornament.

"Exquisite, splendid!" she cried again and again. "And besides, they are
an imperishable memorial of you, dear friend, and of your visit to Egypt.
I will have them set with the most precious stones; even diamonds will
seem worthless to me compared with this gift from you. This has already
decided my sentence as to Eulaeus and his unhappy victims before I read
your petition. Still I will read that roll, and read it attentively, for
my husband regards Eulaeus as a useful--almost an indispensable-tool, and
I must give good reasons for my verdict and for the pardon. I believe in
the innocence of the unfortunate Philotas, but if he had committed a
hundred murders, after this present I would procure his freedom all the
same."

The words vexed the Roman, and they made her who had spoken them in order
to please him appear to him at that moment more in the light of a
corruptible official than of a queen. He found the time hang heavy that
he spent with Cleopatra, who, in spite of his reserve, gave him to
understand with more and more insistence how warmly she felt towards him;
but the more she talked and the more she told him, the more silent he
became, and he breathed a sigh of relief when her husband at last
appeared to fetch him and Cleopatra away to their mid-day meal.

At table Philometor promised to take up the cause of Philotas and his
wife, both of whom he had known, and whose fate had much grieved him;
still he begged his wife and the Roman not to bring Eulaeus to justice
till Euergetes should have left Memphis, for, during his brother's
presence, beset as he was with difficulties, he could not spare him; and
if he might judge of Publius by himself he cared far more to reinstate
the innocent in their rights, and to release them from their miserable
lot--a lot of which he had only learned the full horrors quite recently
from his tutor Agatharchides--than to drag a wretch before the judges
to-morrow or the day after, who was unworthy of his anger, and who at any
rate should not escape punishment.

Before the letter from Asclepiodorus--stating the mistaken hypothesis
entertained by the priests of Serapis that Irene had been carried off by
the king's order--could reach the palace, Publius had found an
opportunity of excusing himself and quitting the royal couple. Not even
Cleopatra herself could raise any objection to his distinct assurance
that he must write to Rome today on matters of importance. Philometor's
favor was easy to win, and as soon as he was alone with his wife he could
not find words enough in praise of the noble qualities of the young man,
who seemed destined in the future to be of the greatest service to him
and to his interests at Rome, and whose friendly attitude towards himself
was one more advantage that he owed--as he was happy to acknowledge--to
the irresistible talents and grace of his wife.

When Publius had quitted the palace and hurried back to his tent, he felt
like a journeyman returning from a hard day's labor, or a man acquitted
from a serious charge; like one who had lost his way, and has found the
right road again.

The heavy air in the arbors and alleys of the embowered gardens seemed to
him easier to breathe than the cool breeze that fanned Cleopatra's raised
roof. He felt the queen's presence to be at once exciting and oppressive,
and in spite of all that was flattering to himself in the advances made
to him by the powerful princess, it was no more gratifying to his taste
than an elegantly prepared dish served on gold plate, which we are forced
to partake of though poison may be hidden in it, and which when at last
we taste it is sickeningly sweet.

Publius was an honest man, and it seemed to him--as to all who resemble
him--that love which was forced upon him was like a decoration of honor
bestowed by a hand which we do not respect, and that we would rather
refuse than accept; or like praise out of all proportion to our merit,
which may indeed delight a fool, but rouses the indignation rather than
the gratitude of a wise man. It struck him too that Cleopatra intended to
make use of him, in the first place as a toy to amuse herself, and then
as a useful instrument or underling, and this so gravely incensed and
discomfited the serious and sensitive young man that he would willingly
have quitted Memphis and Egypt at once and without any leave-taking.
However, it was not quite easy for him to get away, for all his thoughts
of Cleopatra were mixed up with others of Klea, as inseparably as when we
picture to ourselves the shades of night, the tender light of the calm
moon rises too before our fancy.

Having saved Irene, his present desire was to restore her parents to
liberty; to quit Egypt without having seen Klea once more seemed to him
absolutely impossible. He endeavored once more to revive in his mind the
image of her proud tall figure; he felt he must tell her that she was
beautiful, a woman worthy of a king--that he was her friend and hated
injustice, and was ready to sacrifice much for justice's sake and for her
own in the service of her parents and herself. To-day again, before the
banquet, he purposed to go to the temple, and to entreat the recluse to
help him to an interview with his adopted daughter.

If only Klea could know beforehand what he had been doing for Irene and
their parents she must surely let him see that her haughty eyes could
look kindly on him, must offer him her hand in farewell, and then he
should clasp it in both his, and press it to his breast. Then would he
tell her in the warmest and most inspired words he could command how
happy he was to have seen her and known her, and how painful it was to
bid her farewell; perhaps she might leave her hand in his, and give him
some kind word in return. One kind word--one phrase of thanks from Klea's
firm but beautiful mouth--seemed to him of higher value than a kiss or an
embrace from the great and wealthy Queen of Egypt.

When Publius was excited he could be altogether carried away by a sudden
sweep of passion, but his imagination was neither particularly lively nor
glowing. While his horses were being harnessed, and then while he was
driving to the Serapeum, the tall form of the water-bearer was constantly
before him; again and again he pictured himself holding her hand instead
of the reins, and while he repeated to himself all he meant to say at
parting, and in fancy heard her thank him with a trembling voice for his
valuable help, and say that she would never forget him, he felt his eyes
moisten--unused as they had been to tears for many years. He could not
help recalling the day when he had taken leave of his family to go to the
wars for the first time. Then it had not been his own eyes but his
mother's that had sparkled through tears, and it struck him that Klea, if
she could be compared to any other woman, was most like to that noble
matron to whom he owed his life, and that she might stand by the side of
the daughter of the great Scipio Africanus like a youthful Minerva by the
side of Juno, the stately mother of the gods.

His disappointment was great when he found the door of the temple closed,
and was forced to return to Memphis without having seen either Klea or
the recluse.

He could try again to-morrow to accomplish what had been impossible
to-day, but his wish to see the girl he loved, rose to a torturing
longing, and as he sat once more in his tent to finish his second
despatch to Rome the thought of Klea came again to disturb his serious
work. Twenty times he started up to collect his thoughts, and as often
flung away his reed as the figure of the water-bearer interposed between
him and the writing under his hand; at last, out of patience with
himself, he struck the table in front of him with some force, set his
fists in his sides hard enough to hurt himself, and held them there for a
minute, ordering himself firmly and angrily to do his duty before he
thought of anything else.

His iron will won the victory; by the time it was growing dusk the
despatch was written. He was in the very act of stamping the wax of the
seal with the signet of his family--engraved on the sardonyx of his
ring--when one of his servants announced a black slave who desired to
speak with him. Publius ordered that he should be admitted, and the negro
handed him the tile on which Eulaeus had treacherously written Klea's
invitation to meet her at midnight near the Apis-tombs. His enemy's
crafty-looking emissary seemed to the young man as a messenger from the
gods; in a transport of haste and, without the faintest shadow of a
suspicion he wrote, "I will be there," on the luckless piece of clay.

Publius was anxious to give the letter to the Senate, which he had just
finished, with his own hand, and privately, to the messenger who had
yesterday brought him the despatch from Rome; and as he would rather have
set aside an invitation to carry off a royal treasure that same night
than have neglected to meet Klea, he could not in any case be a guest at
the king's banquet, though Cleopatra would expect to see him there in
accordance with his promise. At this juncture he was annoyed to miss his
friend Lysias, for he wished to avoid offending the queen; and the
Corinthian, who at this moment was doubtless occupied in some perfectly
useless manner, was as clever in inventing plausible excuses as he
himself was dull in such matters. He hastily wrote a few lines to the
friend who shared his tent, requesting him to inform the king that he had
been prevented by urgent business from appearing among his guests that
evening; then he threw on his cloak, put on his travelling-hat which
shaded his face, and proceeded on foot and without any servant to the
harbor, with his letter in one hand and a staff in the other.

The soldiers and civic guards which filled the courts of the palace,
taking him for a messenger, did not challenge him as he walked swiftly
and firmly on, and so, without being detained or recognized, he reached
the inn by the harbor, where he was forced to wait an hour before the
messenger came home from the gay strangers' quarter where he had gone to
amuse himself. He had a great deal to talk of with this man, who was to
set out next morning for Alexandria and Rome; but Publius hardly gave
himself the necessary time, for he meant to start for the meeting place
in the Necropolis indicated by Klea, and well-known to himself, a full
hour before midnight, although he knew that he could reach his
destination in a very much shorter time.

The sun seems to move too slowly to those who long and wait, and a planet
would be more likely to fail in punctuality than a lover when called by
love.

In order to avoid observation he did not take a chariot but a strong mule
which the host of the inn lent him with pleasure; for the Roman was so
full of happy excitement in the hope of meeting Klea that he had slipped
a gold piece into the small, lightly-closed fingers of the innkeeper's
pretty child, which lay asleep on a bench by the side of the table,
besides paying double as much for the country wine he had drunk as if it
had been fine Falernian and without asking for his reckoning. The host
looked at him in astonishment when, finally, he sprang with a grand leap
on to the back of the tall beast, without laying his hand on it; and it
seemed even to Publius himself as though he had never since boyhood felt
so fresh, so extravagantly happy as at this moment.

The road to the tombs from the harbor was a different one to that which
led thither from the king's palace, and which Klea had taken, nor did it
lead past the tavern in which she had seen the murderers. By day it was
much used by pilgrims, and the Roman could not miss it even by night, for
the mule he was riding knew it well. That he had learned, for in answer
to his question as to what the innkeeper kept the beast for he had said
that it was wanted every day to carry pilgrims arriving from Upper Egypt
to the temple of Serapis and the tombs of the sacred bulls; he could
therefore very decidedly refuse the host's offer to send a driver with
the beast. All who saw him set out supposed that he was returning to the
city and the palace.

Publius rode through the streets of the city at an easy trot, and, as the
laughter of soldiers carousing in a tavern fell upon his ear, he could
have joined heartily in their merriment. But when the silent desert lay
around him, and the stars showed him that he would be much too early at
the appointed place, he brought the mule to a slower pace, and the nearer
he came to his destination the graver he grew, and the stronger his heart
beat. It must be something important and pressing indeed that Klea
desired to tell him in such a place and at such an hour. Or was she like
a thousand other women--was he now on the way to a lover's meeting with
her, who only a few days before had responded to his glance and accepted
his violets?

This thought flashed once through his mind with importunate distinctness,
but he dismissed it as absurd and unworthy of himself. A king would be
more likely to offer to share his throne with a beggar than this girl
would be to invite him to enjoy the sweet follies of love-making with her
in a secret spot.

Of course she wanted above all things to acquire some certainty as to her
sister's fate, perhaps too to speak to him of her parents; still, she
would hardly have made up her mind to invite him if she had not learned
to trust him, and this confidence filled him with pride, and at the same
time with an eager longing to see her, which seemed to storm his heart
with more violence with every minute that passed.

While the mule sought and found its way in the deep darkness with slow
and sure steps, he gazed up at the firmament, at the play of the clouds
which now covered the moon with their black masses, and now parted,
floating off in white sheeny billows while the silver crescent of the
moon showed between them like a swan against the dark mirror of a lake.

And all the time he thought incessantly of Klea--thinking in a dreamy way
that he saw her before him, but different and taller than before, her
form growing more and more before his eyes till at last it was so tall
that her head touched the sky, the clouds seemed to be her veil, and the
moon a brilliant diadem in her abundant dark hair. Powerfully stirred by
this vision he let the bridle fall on the mule's neck, and spread open
his arms to the beautiful phantom, but as he rode forwards it ever
retired, and when presently the west wind blew the sand in his face, and
he had to cover his eyes with his hand it vanished entirely, and did not
return before he found himself at the Apis-tombs.

He had hoped to find here a soldier or a watchman to whom he could
entrust the beast, but when the midnight chant of the priests of the
temple of Osiris-Apis had died away not a sound was to be heard far or
near; all that lay around him was as still and as motionless as though
all that had ever lived there were dead. Or had some demon robbed him of
his hearing? He could hear the rush of his own swift pulses in his
ears-not the faintest sound besides.

Such silence is there nowhere but in the city of the dead and at night,
nowhere but in the desert.

He tied the mule's bridle to a stela of granite covered with
inscriptions, and went forward to the appointed place. Midnight must be
past--that he saw by the position of the moon, and he was beginning to
ask himself whether he should remain standing where he was or go on to
meet the water-bearer when he heard first a light footstep, and then saw
a tall erect figure wrapped in a long mantle advancing straight towards
him along the avenue of sphinxes. Was it a man or a woman--was it she
whom he expected? and if it were she, was there ever a woman who had come
to meet a lover at an assignation with so measured, nay so solemn, a
step? Now he recognized her face--was it the pale moonlight that made it
look so bloodless and marble-white? There was something rigid in her
features, and yet they had never--not even when she blushingly accepted
his violets--looked to him so faultlessly beautiful, so regular and so
nobly cut, so dignified, nay impressive.

For fully a minute the two stood face to face, speechless and yet quite
near to each other. Then Publius broke the silence, uttering with the
warmest feeling and yet with anxiety in his deep, pure voice, only one
single word; and the word was her name "Klea."

The music of this single word stirred the girl's heart like a message and
blessing from heaven, like the sweetest harmony of the siren's song, like
the word of acquittal from a judge's lips when the verdict is life or
death, and her lips were already parted to say 'Publius' in a tone no
less deep and heartfelt-but, with all the force of her soul, she
restrained herself, and said softly and quickly:

"You are here at a late hour, and it is well that you have come."

"You sent for me," replied the Roman.

"It was another that did that, not I," replied Klea in a slow dull tone,
as if she were lifting a heavy weight, and could hardly draw her breath.
"Now--follow me, for this is not the place to explain everything in."

With these words Klea went towards the locked door of the Apis-tombs, and
tried, as she stood in front of it, to insert into the lock the key that
Krates had given her; but the lock was still so new, and her fingers
shook so much, that she could not immediately succeed. Publius meanwhile
was standing close by her side, and as he tried to help her his fingers
touched hers.

And when he--certainly not by mistake--laid his strong and yet trembling
hand on hers, she let it stay for a moment, for she felt as if a tide of
warm mist rose up in her bosom dimming her perceptions, and paralyzing
her will and blurring her sight.

"Klea," he repeated, and he tried to take her left hand in his own; but
she, like a person suddenly aroused to consciousness after a short dream,
immediately withdrew the hand on which his was resting, put the key into
the lock, opened the door, and exclaimed in a voice of almost stern
command, "Go in first."

Publius obeyed and entered the spacious antechamber of the venerable
cave, hewn out of the rock and now dimly lighted. A curved passage of
which he could not see the end lay before him, and on both sides, to the
right and left of him, opened out the chambers in which stood the
sarcophagi of the deceased sacred bulls. Over each of the enormous stone
coffins a lamp burnt day and night, and wherever a vault stood open their
glimmer fell across the deep gloom of the cave, throwing a bright beam of
light on the dusky path that led into the heart of the rock, like a
carpet woven of rays of light.

What place was this that Klea had chosen to speak with him in.

But though her voice sounded firm, she herself was not cool and
insensible as Orcus--which this place, which was filled with the fumes of
incense and weighed upon his senses, much resembled--for he had felt her
fingers tremble under his, and when he went up to her, to help her, her
heart beat no less violently and rapidly than his own. Ah! the man who
should succeed in touching that heart of hard, but pure and precious
crystal would indeed enjoy a glorious draught of the most perfect bliss.

"This is our destination," said Klea; and then she went on in short
broken sentences. "Remain where you are. Leave me this place near the
door. Now, answer me first one question. My sister Irene has vanished
from the temple. Did you cause her to be carried off?"

"I did," replied Publius eagerly. "She desired me to greet you from her,
and to tell you how much she likes her new friends. When I shall have
told you--"

"Not now" interrupted Klea excitedly. "Turn round--there where you see
the lamp-light." Publius did as he was desired, and a slight shudder
shook even his bold heart, for the girl's sayings and doings seemed to
him not solemn merely, but mysterious like those of a prophetess. A
violent crash sounded through the silent and sacred place, and loud
echoes were tossed from side to side, ringing ominously throughout the
grotto. Publius turned anxiously round, and his eye, seeking Klea, found
her no more; then, hurrying to the door of the cave, he heard her lock it
on the outside.

The water-bearer had escaped him, had flung the heavy door to, and
imprisoned him; and this idea was to the Roman so degrading and
unendurable that, lost to every feeling but rage, wounded pride, and the
wild desire to be free, he kicked the door with all his might, and called
out angrily to Klea:

"Open this door--I command you. Let me free this moment or, by all the
gods--"

He did not finish his threat, for in the middle of the right-hand panel
of the door a small wicket was opened through which the priests were wont
to puff incense into the tomb of the sacred bulls--and twice, thrice,
finally, when he still would not be pacified, a fourth time, Klea called
out to him:

"Listen to me--listen to me, Publius." Publius ceased storming, and she
went on:

"Do not threaten me, for you will certainly repent it when you have heard
what I have to tell you. Do not interrupt me; I may tell you at once this
door is opened every day before sunrise, so your imprisonment will not
last long; and you must submit to it, for I shut you in to save your
life--yes, your life which was in danger. Do you think my anxiety was
folly? No, Publius, it is only too well founded, and if you, as a man,
are strong and bold, so am I as a woman. I never was afraid of an
imaginary nothing. Judge yourself whether I was not right to be afraid
for you.

"King Euergetes and Eulaeus have bribed two hideous monsters to murder
you. When I went to seek out Irene I overheard all, and I have seen with
my own eyes the two horrible wolves who are lurking to fall upon you, and
heard with these ears their scheme for doing it. I never wrote the note
on the tile which was signed with my name; Eulaeus did it, and you took
his bait and came out into the desert by night. In a few minutes the
ruffians will have stolen up to this place to seek their victim, but they
will not find you, Publius, for I have saved you--I, Klea, whom you first
met with smiles--whose sister you have stolen away--the same Klea that
you a minute since were ready to threaten. Now, at once, I am going into
the desert, dressed like a traveller in a coat and hat, so that in the
doubtful light of the moon I may easily be taken for you--going to give
my weary heart as a prey to the assassins' knife."

"You are mad!" cried Publius, and he flung himself with his whole weight
on the door, and kicked it with all his strength. "What you purpose is
pure madness open the door, I command you! However strong the villains
may be that Euergetes has bribed, I am man enough to defend myself."

"You are unarmed, Publius, and they have cords and daggers."

"Then open the door, and stay here with me till day dawns. It is not
noble, it is wicked to cast away your life. Open the door at once, I
entreat you, I command you!"

At any other time the words would not have failed of their effect on
Klea's reasonable nature, but the fearful storm of feeling which had
broken over her during the last few hours had borne away in its whirl all
her composure and self-command. The one idea, the one resolution, the one
desire, which wholly possessed her was to close the life that had been so
full of self-sacrifice by the greatest sacrifice of all--that of life
itself, and not only in order to secure Irene's happiness and to save the
Roman, but because it pleased her--her father's daughter--to make a noble
end; because she, the maiden, would fain show Publius what a woman might
be capable of who loved him above all others; because, at this moment,
death did not seem a misfortune; and her mind, overwrought by hours of
terrific tension, could not free itself from the fixed idea that she
would and must sacrifice herself.

She no longer thought these things--she was possessed by them; they had
the mastery, and as a madman feels forced to repeat the same words again
and again to himself, so no prayer, no argument at this moment would have
prevailed to divert her from her purpose of giving up her young life for
Publius and Irene. She contemplated this resolve with affection and pride
as justifying her in looking up to herself as to some nobler creature.
She turned a deaf ear to the Roman's entreaty, and said in a tone of
which the softness surprised him:

"Be silent Publius, and hear me further. You too are noble, and certainly
you owe me some gratitude for having saved your life."

"I owe you much, and I will pay it," cried Publius, "as long as there is
breath in this body--but open the door, I beseech you, I implore you--"

"Hear me to the end, time presses; hear me out, Publius. My sister Irene
went away with you. I need say nothing about her beauty, but how bright,
how sweet her nature is you do not know, you cannot know, but you will
find out. She, you must be told, is as poor as I am, but the child of
freeborn and noble parents. Now swear to me, swear--no, do not interrupt
me--swear by the head of your father that you will never, abandon her,
that you will never behave to her otherwise than as if she were the
daughter of your dearest friend or of your own brother."

"I swear it and I will keep my oath--by the life of the man whose head is
more sacred to me than the names of all the gods. But now I beseech you,
I command you open this door, Klea--that I may not lose you--that I may
tell you that my whole heart is yours, and yours alone--that I love you,
love you unboundedly."

"I have your oath," cried the girl in great excitement, for she could now
see a shadow moving backwards and forwards at some distance in the
desert. "You have sworn by the head of your father. Never let Irene
repent having gone with you, and love her always as you fancy now, in
this moment, that you love me, your preserver. Remember both of you the
hapless Klea who would gladly have lived for you, but who now gladly dies
for you. Do not forget me, Publius, for I have never but this once opened
my heart to love, but I have loved you Publius, with pain and torment,
and with sweet delight--as no other woman ever yet revelled in the
ecstasy of love or was consumed in its torments." She almost shouted the
last words at the Roman as if she were chanting a hymn of triumph, beside
herself, forgetting everything and as if intoxicated.

Why was he now silent, why had he nothing to answer, since she had
confessed to him the deepest secret of her breast, and allowed him to
look into the inmost sanctuary of her heart? A rush of burning words from
his lips would have driven her off at once to the desert and to death;
his silence held her back--it puzzled her and dropped like cool rain on
the soaring flames of her pride, fell on the raging turmoil of her soul
like oil on troubled water. She could not part from him thus, and her
lips parted to call him once more by his name.

While she had been making confession of her love to the Roman as if it
were her last will and testament, Publius felt like a man dying of
thirst, who has been led to a flowing well only to be forbidden to
moisten his lips with the limpid fluid. His soul was filled with
passionate rage approaching to despair, and as with rolling eyes he
glanced round his prison an iron crow-bar leaning against the wall met
his gaze; it had been used by the workmen to lift the sarcophagus of the
last deceased Apis into its right place. He seized upon this tool, as a
drowning man flings himself on a floating plank: still he heard Klea's
last words, and did not lose one of them, though the sweat poured from
his brow as he inserted the metal lever like a wedge between the two
halves of the door, just above the threshold.

All was now silent outside; perhaps the distracted girl was already
hurrying towards the assassins--and the door was fearfully heavy and
would not open nor yield. But he must force it--he flung himself on the
earth and thrust his shoulder under the lever, pushing his whole body
against the iron bar, so that it seemed to him that every joint
threatened to give way and every sinew to crack; the door rose--once more
he put forth the whole strength of his manly vigor, and now the seam in
the wood cracked, the door flew open, and Klea, seized with terror, flew
off and away--into the desert--straight towards the murderers.

Publius leaped to his feet and flung himself out of his prison; as he saw
Klea escape he flew after her with, hasty leaps, and caught her in a few
steps, for her mantle hindered her in running, and when she would not
obey his desire that she should stand still he stood in front of her and
said, not tenderly but sternly and decidedly:

"You do not go a step farther, I forbid it."

"I am going where I must go," cried the girl in great agitation. "Let me
go, at once!"

"You will stay here--here with me," snarled Publius, and taking both her
hands by the wrists he clasped them with his iron fingers as with
handcuffs. "I am the man and you are the woman, and I will teach you who
is to give orders here and who is to obey."

Anger and rage prompted these quite unpremeditated words, and as
Klea--while he spoke them with quivering lips--had attempted with the
exertion of all her strength, which was by no means contemptible, to
wrench her hands from his grasp, he forced her--angry as he still was,
but nevertheless with due regard for her womanliness--forced her by a
gentle and yet irresistible pressure on her arms to bend before him, and
compelled her slowly to sink down on both knees.

As soon as she was in this position, Publius let her free; she covered
her eyes with her aching hands and sobbed aloud, partly from anger, and
because she felt herself bitterly humiliated.

"Now, stand up," said Publius in an altered tone as he heard her weeping.
"Is it then such a hard matter to submit to the will of a man who will
not and cannot let you go, and whom you love, besides?" How gentle and
kind the words sounded! Klea, when she heard them, raised her eyes to
Publius, and as she saw him looking down on her as a supplicant her anger
melted and turned to grateful emotion--she went closer to him on her
knees, laid her head against him and said:

"I have always been obliged to rely upon myself, and to guide another
person with loving counsel, but it must be sweeter far to be led by
affection and I will always, always obey you."

"I will thank you with heart and soul henceforth from this hour!" cried
Publius, lifting her up. "You were ready to sacrifice your life for me,
and now mine belongs to you. I am yours and you are mine--I your husband,
you my wife till our life's end!"

He laid his hands on her shoulders, and turned her face round to his; she
resisted no longer, for it was sweet to her to yield her will to that of
this strong man. And how happy was she, who from her childhood had taken
it upon herself to be always strong, and self-reliant, to feel herself
the weaker, and to be permitted to trust in a stronger arm than her own.
Somewhat thus a young rose-tree might feel, which for the first time
receives the support of the prop to which it is tied by the careful
gardener.

Her eyes rested blissfully and yet anxiously on his, and his lips had
just touched hers in a first kiss when they started apart in terror, for
Klea's name was clearly shouted through the still night-air, and in the
next instant a loud scream rang out close to them followed by dull cries
of pain.

"The murderers!" shrieked Klea, and trembling for herself and for him she
clung closely to her lover's breast. In one brief moment the self-reliant
heroine--proud in her death-defying valor--had become a weak, submissive,
dependent woman.



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     Created the world out of nothing for no other purpose
     Dreamless sleep after a day brimful of enjoyment
     Man must subjugate matter and not become subject to it
     No one believes anything that can diminish his self-esteem
     Praise out of all proportion to our merit
     Save them the trouble of thinking for themselves
     She no longer thought these things--she was possessed by them
     Taken it upon herself to be always strong, and self-reliant
     The most terrible of all the gods, are women
     The sun seems to move too slowly to those who long and wait
     We seek for truth; the Jews believe they possess it entirely
     Who always think at second-hand
     Why so vehement, sister? So much zeal is quite unnecessary



THE SISTERS

By Georg Ebers

Volume 5.



CHAPTER XXII.

On the roof of the tower of the pylon by the gate of the Serapeum stood
an astrologer who had mounted to this, the highest part of the temple, to
observe the stars; but it seemed that he was not destined on this
occasion to fulfil his task, for swiftly driving black clouds swept again
and again across that portion of the heavens to which his observations
were principally directed. At last he impatiently laid aside his
instruments, his waxed tablet and style, and desired the gate-keeper--the
father of poor little Philo--whose duty it was to attend at night on the
astrologers on the tower, to carry down all his paraphernalia, as the
heavens were not this evening favorable to his labors.

"Favorable!" exclaimed the gate-keeper, catching up the astrologer's
words, and shrugging his shoulders so high that his head disappeared
between them.

"It is a night of horror, and some great disaster threatens us for
certain. Fifteen years have I been in my place, and I never saw such a
night but once before, and the very next day the soldiers of Antiochus,
the Syrian king, came and plundered our treasury. Aye--and to-night is
worse even than that was; when the dog-star first rose a horrible shape
with a lion's mane flew across the desert, but it was not till midnight
that the fearful uproar began, and even you shuddered when it broke out
in the Apis-cave. Frightful things must be coming on us when the sacred
bulls rise from the dead and butt and storm at the door with their horns
to break it open. Many a time have I seen the souls of the dead
fluttering and wheeling and screaming above the old mausoleums, and
rock-tombs of ancient times. Sometimes they would soar up in the air in
the form of hawks with men's heads, or like ibises with a slow lagging
flight, and sometimes sweep over the desert like gray shapeless shadows,
or glide across the sand like snakes; or they would creep out of the
tombs, howling like hungry dogs. I have often heard them barking like
jackals or laughing like hyenas when they scent carrion, but to-night is
the first time I ever heard them shrieking like furious men, and then
groaning and wailing as if they were plunged in the lake of fire and
suffering horrible torments.

"Look there--out there--something is moving again! Oh! holy father,
exorcise them with some mighty bann. Do you not see how they are growing
larger? They are twice the size of ordinary mortals." The astronomer took
an amulet in his hand, muttered a few sentences to himself, seeking at
the same time to discover the figures which had so scared the
gate-keeper.

"They are indeed tall," he said when he perceived them. "And now they are
melting into one, and growing smaller and smaller--however, perhaps they
are only men come to rob the tombs, and who happen to be particularly
tall, for these figures are not of supernatural height."

"They are twice as tall as you, and you are not short," cried the
gate-keeper, pressing his lips devoutly to the amulet the astrologer held
in his hand, "and if they are robbers why has no watchman called out to
stop them? How is it their screams and groans have not waked the
sentinels that are posted there every night? There--that was another
fearful cry! Did you ever hear such tones from any human breast? Great
Serapis, I shall die of fright! Come down with me, holy father, that I
may look after my little sick boy, for those who have seen such sights do
not escape unstricken."

The peaceful silence of the Necropolis had indeed been disturbed, but the
spirits of the departed had no share in the horrors which had been
transacted this night in the desert, among the monuments and rocktombs.
They were living men that had disturbed the calm of the sacred place,
that had conspired with darkness in cold-blooded cruelty, greater than
that of evil spirits, to achieve the destruction of a fellow-man; but
they were living men too who, in the midst of the horrors of a most
fearful night, had experienced the blossoming in their own souls of the
divinest germ which heaven implants in the bosom of its mortal children.
Thus in a day of battle amid blood and slaughter may a child be born that
shall grow up blessed and blessing, the comfort and joy of his family.

The lion-maned monster whose appearance and rapid disappearance in the
desert had first alarmed the gate-keeper, had been met by several
travellers on its way to Memphis, and each and all, horrified by its
uncanny aspect, had taken to flight or tried to hide themselves--and yet
it was no more than a man with warm pulses, an honest purpose, and a true
and loving heart. But those who met him could not see into his soul, and
his external aspect certainly bore little resemblance to that of other
men.

His feet, unused to walking, moved but clumsily, and had a heavy body to
carry, and his enormous beard and the mass of gray hair on his
head--which he turned now this way and now that--gave him an aspect that
might well scare even a bold man who should meet him unexpectedly. Two
stall-keepers who, by day, were accustomed to offer their wares for sale
near the Serapeum to the pilgrims, met him close to the city.

"Did you see that panting object?" said one to the other as they looked
after him. "If he were not shut up fast in his cell I could declare it
was Serapion, the recluse."

"Nonsense," replied the other. "He is tied faster by his oath than by
chains and fetters. It must be one of the Syrian beggars that besiege the
temple of Astarte."

"Perhaps," answered his companion with indifference. "Let us get on now,
my wife has a roast goose for supper this evening."

Serapion, it is true, was fast tied to his cell, and yet the pedler had
judged rightly, for he it was who hurried along the high-road frightening
all he met. After his long captivity walking was very painful to him;
besides, he was barefoot, and every stone in the path hurt the soles of
his feet which had grown soft; nevertheless he contrived to make a by no
means contemptible pace when in the distance he caught sight of a woman's
figure which he could fancy to be Klea. Many a man, who in his own
particular sphere of life can cut a very respectable figure, becomes a
laughing-stock for children when he is taken out of his own narrow
circle, and thrown into the turmoil of the world with all his
peculiarities clinging to him. So it was with Serapion; in the suburbs
the street-boys ran after him mocking at him, but it was not till three
smart hussys, who were resting from their dance in front of a tavern,
laughed loudly as they caught sight of him, and an insolent soldier drove
the point of his lance through his flowing mane, as if by accident, that
he became fully conscious of his wild appearance, and it struck him
forcibly that he could never in this guise find admission to the king's
palace.

With prompt determination he turned into the first barber's stall that he
saw lighted up; at his appearance the barber hastily retreated behind his
counter, but he got his hair and beard cut, and then, for the first time
for many years, he saw his own face in the mirror that the barber held
before him. He nodded, with a melancholy smile, at the face--so much
aged--that looked at him from the bright surface, paid what was asked,
and did not heed the compassionate glance which the barber and his
assistant sent after him. They both thought they had been exercising
their skill on a lunatic, for he had made no answer to all their
questions, and had said nothing but once in a deep and fearfully loud
voice:

"Chatter to other people--I am in a hurry."

In truth his spirit was in no mood for idle gossip; no, it was full of
gnawing anxiety and tender fears, and his heart bled when he reflected
that he had broken his vows, and forsworn the oath he had made to his
dying mother.

When he reached the palace-gate he begged one of the civic guard to
conduct him to his brother, and as he backed his request with a gift of
money he was led at once to the man whom he sought. Glaucus was
excessively startled to recognize Serapion, but he was so much engaged
that he could only give up a few minutes to his brother, whose
proceedings he considered as both inexplicable and criminal.

Irene, as the anchorite now learned, had been carried off from the
temple, not by Euergetes but by the Roman, and Klea had quitted the
palace only a few minutes since in a chariot and would return about
midnight and on foot from the second tavern to the temple. And the poor
child was so utterly alone, and her way lay through the desert where she
might be attacked by dissolute soldiery or tomb-robbers or jackals and
hyenas. Her walk was to begin from the second tavern, and that was the
very spot where low rioters were wont to assemble--and his darling was so
young, so fair, and so defenceless!

He was once more a prey to the same unendurable dread that had come over
him, in his cell, after Klea had left the temple and darkness had closed
in. At that moment he had felt all that a father could feel who from his
prison-window sees his beloved and defenceless child snatched away by
some beast of prey. All the perils that could threaten her in the palace
or in the city, swarming with drunken soldiers, had risen before his mind
with fearful vividness, and his powerful imagination had painted in
glaring colors all the dangers to which his favorite--the daughter of a
noble and respected man--might be exposed.

He rushed up and down his cell like a wounded tiger, he flung himself
against the walls, and then, with his body hanging far out of the window,
had looked out to see if the girl--who could not possibly have returned
yet--were not come back again. The darker it grew, the more his anguish
rose, and the more hideous were the pictures that stood before his fancy;
and when, presently, a pilgrim in the Pastophorium who had fallen into
convulsions screamed out loud, he was no longer master of himself--he
kicked open the door which, locked on the outside and rotten from age,
had been closed for years, hastily concealed about him some silver coins
he kept in his chest, and let himself down to the ground.

There he stood, between his cell and the outer wall of the temple, and
now it was that he remembered his vows, and the oath he had sworn, and
his former flight from his retreat. Then he had fled because the
pleasures and joys of life had tempted him forth--then he had sinned
indeed; but now the love, the anxious care that urged him to quit his
prison were the same as had brought him back to it. It was to keep faith
that he now broke faith, and mighty Serapis could read his heart, and his
mother was dead, and while she lived she had always been ready and
willing to forgive.

He fancied so vividly that he could see her kind old face looking at him
that he nodded at her as if indeed she stood before him.

Then, he rolled an empty barrel to the foot of the wall, and with some
difficulty mounted on it. The sweat poured down him as he climbed up the
wall built of loose unbaked bricks to the parapet, which was much more
than a man's height; then, sliding and tumbling, he found himself in the
ditch which ran round it on the outside, scrambled up its outer slope,
and set out at last on his walk to Memphis.

What he had afterwards learned in the palace concerning Klea had but
little relieved his anxiety on her account; she must have reached the
border of the desert so much sooner than he, and quick walking was so
difficult to him, and hurt the soles of his feet so cruelly! Perhaps he
might be able to procure a staff, but there was just as much bustle
outside the gate of the citadel as by day. He looked round him, feeling
the while in his wallet, which was well filled with silver, and his eye
fell on a row of asses whose drivers were crowding round the soldiers and
servants that streamed out of the great gate.

He sought out the strongest of the beasts with an experienced eye, flung
a piece of silver to the owner, mounted the ass, which panted under its
load, and promised the driver two drachmm in addition if he would take
him as quickly as possible to the second tavern on the road to the
Serapeum. Thus--he belaboring the sides of the unhappy donkey with his
sturdy bare legs, while the driver, running after him snorting and
shouting, from time to time poked him up from behind with a
stick--Serapion, now going at a short trot, and now at a brisk gallop,
reached his destination only half an hour later than Klea.

In the tavern all was dark and empty, but the recluse desired no
refreshment. Only his wish that he had a staff revived in his mind, and
he soon contrived to possess himself of one, by pulling a stake out of
the fence that surrounded the innkeeper's little garden. This was a
somewhat heavy walking-stick, but it eased the recluse's steps, for
though his hot and aching feet carried him but painfully the strength of
his arms was considerable.

The quick ride had diverted his mind, had even amused him, for he was
easily pleased, and had recalled to him his youthful travels; but now, as
he walked on alone in the desert, his thoughts reverted to Klea, and to
her only.

He looked round for her keenly and eagerly as soon as the moon came out
from behind the clouds, called her name from time to time, and thus got
as far as the avenue of sphinxes which connected the Greek and Egyptian
temples; a thumping noise fell upon his ear from the cave of the
Apis-tombs. Perhaps they were at work in there, preparing for the
approaching festival. But why were the soldiers, which were always on
guard here, absent from their posts to-night? Could it be that they had
observed Klea, and carried her off?

On the farther side of the rows of sphinxes too, which he had now
reached, there was not a man to be seen--not a watchman even though the
white limestone of the tombstones and the yellow desert-sand shone as
clear in the moonlight as if they had some internal light of their own.

At every instant he grew more and more uneasy, he climbed to the top of a
sand-hill to obtain a wider view, and loudly called Klea's name.

There--was he deceived? No--there was a figure visible near one of the
ancient tomb-shrines--a form that seemed wrapped in a long robe, and when
once more he raised his voice in a loud call it came nearer to him and to
the row of sphinxes. In great haste and as fast as he could he got down
again to the roadway, hurried across the smooth pavement, on both sides
of which the long perspective of man-headed lions kept guard, and
painfully clambered up a sand-heap on the opposite side. This was in
truth a painful effort, for the sand crumbled away again and again under
his feet, slipping down hill and carrying him with it, thus compelling
him to find a new hold with hand and foot. At last he was standing on the
outer border of the sphinx-avenue and opposite the very shrine where he
fancied he had seen her whom he sought; but during his clamber it had
become perfectly dark again, for a heavy cloud had once more veiled the
moon. He put both hands to his mouth, and shouted as loud as he could,
"Klea!"--and then again, "Klea!"

Then, close at his feet he heard a rustle in the sand, and saw a figure
moving before him as though it had risen out of the ground. This could
not be Klea, it was a man--still, perhaps, he might have seen his
darling--but before he had time to address him he felt the shock of a
heavy blow that fell with tremendous force on his back between his
shoulders. The assassin's sand-bag had missed the exact spot on the nape
of the neck, and Serapion's strongly-knit backbone would have been able
to resist even a stronger blow.

The conviction that he was attacked by robbers flashed on his
consciousness as immediately as the sense of pain, and with it the
certainty that he was a lost man if he did not defend himself stoutly.

Behind him he heard another rustle in the sand. As quickly as he could he
turned round with an exclamation of "Accursed brood of vipers!" and with
his heavy staff he fell upon the figure before him like a smith beating
cold iron, for his eye, now more accustomed to the darkness, plainly saw
it to be a man. Serapion must have hit straight, for his foe fell at his
feet with a hideous roar, rolled over and over in the sand, groaning and
panting, and then with one shrill shriek lay silent and motionless.

The recluse, in spite of the dim light, could see all the movements of
the robber he had punished so severely, and he was bending over the
fallen man anxiously and compassionately when he shuddered to feel two
clammy hands touching his feet, and immediately after two sharp pricks in
his right heel, which were so acutely painful that he screamed aloud, and
was obliged to lift up the wounded foot. At the same time, however, he
did not overlook the need to defend himself. Roaring like a wounded bull,
cursing and raging, he laid about him on all sides with his staff, but
hit nothing but the ground. Then as his blows followed each other more
slowly, and at last his wearied arms could no longer wield the heavy
stake, and he found himself compelled to sink on his knees, a hoarse
voice addressed him thus:

"You have taken my comrade's life, Roman, and a two-legged serpent has
stung you for it. In a quarter of an hour it will be all over with you,
as it is with that fellow there. Why does a fine gentleman like you go to
keep an appointment in the desert without boots or sandals, and so make
our work so easy? King Euergetes and your friend Eulaeus send you their
greetings. You owe it to them that I leave you even your ready money; I
wish I could only carry away that dead lump there!"

During this rough speech Serapion was lying on the ground in great agony;
he could only clench his fists, and groan out heavy curses with his lips
which were now getting parched. His sight was as yet undimmed, and he
could distinctly see by the light of the moon, which now shone forth from
a broad cloudless opening in the sky, that the murderer attempted to
carry away his fallen comrade, and then, after raising his head to listen
for a moment sprang off with flying steps away into the desert. But the
recluse now lost consciousness, and when some minutes later he once more
opened his eyes his head was resting softly in the lap of a young girl,
and it was the voice of his beloved Klea that asked him tenderly.

"You poor dear father! How came you here in the desert, and into the
hands of these murderers? Do you know me--your Klea? And he who is
looking for your wounds--which are not visible at all--he is the Roman
Publius Scipio. Now first tell us where the dagger hit you that I may
bind it up quickly--I am half a physician, and understand these things as
you know."

The recluse tried to turn his head towards Klea's, but the effort was in
vain, and he said in a low voice: "Prop me up against the slanting wall
of the tomb shrine yonder; and you, child, sit down opposite to me, for I
would fain look at you while I die. Gently, gently, my friend Publius,
for I feel as if all my limbs were made of Phoenician glass, and might
break at the least touch. Thank you, my young friend--you have strong
arms, and you may lift me a little higher yet. So--now I can bear it;
nay, I am well content, I am to be envied--for the moon shows me your
dear face, my child, and I see tears on your cheeks, tears for me, a
surly old man. Aye, it is good, it is very good to die thus."

"Oh, father, father!" cried Klea. "You must not speak so. You must live,
you must not die; for see, Publius here asks me to be his wife, and the
Immortals only can know how glad I am to go with him, and Irene is to
stay with us, and be my sister and his. That must make you happy,
father.--But tell us, pray tell us where the wound hurts that the
murderer gave you?"

"Children, children," murmured the anchorite, and a happy smile parted
his lips. "The gracious gods are merciful in permitting me to see
that--aye, merciful to me, and to effect that end I would have died
twenty deaths."

Klea pressed his now cold hand to her lips as he spoke and again asked,
though hardly able to control her voice for tears:

"But the wound, father--where is the wound?" "Let be, let be," replied
Serapion. "It is acrid poison, not a dagger or dart that has undone my
strength. And I can depart in peace, for I am no longer needed for
anything. You, Publius, must now take my place with this child, and will
do it better than I. Klea, the wife of Publius Scipio! I indeed have
dreamt that such a thing might come to pass, and I always knew, and have
said to myself a thousand times that I now say to you my son: This girl
here, this Klea is of a good sort, and worthy only of the noblest. I give
her to you, my son Publius, and now join your hands before me here--for I
have always been like a father to her."

"That you have indeed," sobbed Klea. "And it was no doubt for my sake, and
to protect me, that you quitted your retreat, and have met your death."

"It was fate, it was fate," stammered the old man.

"The assassins were in ambush for me," cried Publius, seizing Serapion's
hand, "the murderers who fell on you instead of me. Once more, where is
your wound?"

"My destiny fulfils itself," replied the recluse. "No locked-up cell, no
physician, no healing herb can avail against the degrees of Fate. I am
dying of a serpent's sting as it was foretold at my birth; and if I had
not gone out to seek Klea a serpent would have slipped into my cage, and
have ended my life there. Give me your hands, my children, for a deadly
chill is creeping over me, and its cold hand already touches my heart."

For a few minutes his voice failed him, and then he said softly:

"One thing I would fain ask of you. My little possessions, which were
intended for you and Irene, you will now use to bury me. I do not wish to
be burnt, as they did with my father--no, I should wish to be finely
embalmed, and my mummy to be placed with my mother's. If indeed we may
meet again after death--and I believe we shall--I would rather see her
once more than any one, for she loved me so much--and I feel now as if I
were a child again, and could throw my arms round her neck. In another
life, perhaps, I may not be the child of misfortune that I have been in
this--in another life--now it grips my heart--in another----Children
whatever joys have smiled on me in this, children, it was to you I have
owed it--Klea, to you--and there is my little Irene too----"

These were the last words of Serapion the recluse; he fell back with a
deep sigh and was dead. Klea and Publius tenderly closed his faithful
eyes.



CHAPTER XXIII.

The unwonted tumult that had broken the stillness of the night had not
been unobserved in the Greek Serapeum any more than in the Egyptian
temple adjoining the Apis-tombs; but perfect silence once more reigned in
the Necropolis, when at last the great gate of the sanctuary of
Osiris-Apis was thrown open, and a little troop of priests arranged in a
procession came out from it with a vanguard of temple servants, who had
been armed with sacrificial knives and axes.

Publius and Klea, who were keeping faithful watch by the body of their
dead friend, saw them approaching, and the Roman said:

"It would have been even less right in such a night as this to let you
proceed to one of the temples with out my escort than to have let our
poor friend remain unwatched."

"Once more I assure you," said Klea eagerly "that we should have thrown
away every chance of fulfilling Serapion's last wish as he intended, if
during our absence a jackal or a hyena had mutilated his body, and I am
happy to be able at least to prove to my friend, now he is dead, how
grateful I am for all the kindness he showed us while he lived. We ought
to be grateful even to the departed, for how still and blissful has this
hour been while guarding his body. Storm and strife brought us
together--"

"And here," interrupted Publius, "we have concluded a happy and permanent
treaty of peace for the rest of our lives."

"I accept it willingly," replied Klea, looking down, "for I am the
vanquished party."

"But you have already confessed," said Publius, "that you were never so
unhappy as when you thought you had asserted your strength against mine,
and I can tell you that you never seemed to me so great and yet so
lovable as when in the midst of your triumph, you gave up the battle for
lost. Such an hour as that, a man experiences but once in his lifetime. I
have a good memory, but if ever I should forget it, and be angry and
passionate--as is sometimes my way--remind me of this spot, or of this
our dead friend, and my hard mood will melt, and I shall remember that
you once were ready to give your life for mine. I will make it easy for
you, for in honor of this man, who sacrificed his life for yours and who
was actually murdered in my stead, I promise to add his name of Serapion
to my own, and I will confirm this vow in Rome. He has behaved to us as a
father, and it behoves me to reverence his memory as though I had been
his son. An obligation was always unendurable to me, and how I shall ever
make full restitution to you for what you have done for me this night I
do not yet know--and yet I should be ready and willing every day and
every hour to accept from you some new gift of love. 'A debtor,' says the
proverb, 'is half a prisoner,' and so I must entreat you to deal
mercifully with your conquerer."

He took her hand, stroked back the hair from her forehead, and touched it
lightly with his lips. Then he went on:

"Come with me now that we may commit the dead into the hands of these
priests."

Klea once more bent over the remains of the anchorite, she hung the
amulet he had given her for her journey round his neck, and then silently
obeyed her lover. When they came up with the little procession Publius
informed the chief priest how he had found Serapion, and requested him to
fetch away the corpse, and to cause it to be prepared for interment in
the costliest manner in the embalming house attached to their temple.
Some of the temple-servants took their places to keep watch over the
body, and after many questions addressed to Publius, and after examining
too the body of the assassin who had been slain, the priests returned to
the temple.

As soon as the two lovers were left alone again Klea seized the Roman's
hand, and said passionately: "You have spoken many tender words to me,
and I thank you for them; but I am wont always to be honest, and less
than any one could I deceive you. Whatever your love bestows upon me will
always be a free gift, since you owe me nothing at all and I owe you
infinitely much; for I know now that you have snatched my sister from the
clutches of the mightiest in the land while I, when I heard that Irene
had gone away with you, and that murder threatened your life, believed
implicitly that on the contrary you had lured the child away to become
your sweetheart, and then--then I hated you, and then--I must confess
it\--in my horrible distraction I wished you dead!"

"And you think that wish can offend me or hurt me?" said Publius. "No, my
child; it only proves to me that you love me as I could wish to be loved.
Such rage under such circumstances is but the dark shadow cast by love,
and is as inseparable from love as from any tangible body. Where it is
absent there is no such thing as real love present--only an airy vision,
a phantom, a mockery. Such an one as Klea does not love nor hate by
halves; but there are mysterious workings in your soul as in that of
every other woman. How did the wish that you could see me dead turn into
the fearful resolve to let yourself be killed in my stead?"

"I saw the murderers," answered Klea, "and I was overwhelmed with horror
of them and of their schemes, and of all that had to do with them; I
would not destroy Irene's happiness, and I loved you even more deeply
than I hated you; and then--but let us not speak of it."

"Nay-tell me all."

"Then there was a moment--"

"Well, Klea?"

"Then--in these last hours, while we have been sitting hand in hand by
the body of poor Serapion, and hardly speaking, I have felt it all over
again--then the midnight hymn of the priests fell upon my heart, and as I
lifted up my soul in prayer at their pious chant I felt as if all my
inmost heart had been frozen and hardened, and was reviving again to new
life and tenderness and warmth. I could not help thinking of all that is
good and right, and I made up my mind to sacrifice myself for you and for
Irene's happiness far more quickly and easily than I could give it up
afterwards. My father was one of the followers of Zeno--"

"And you," interrupted Publius, "thought you were acting in accordance
with the doctrine of the Stoa. I also am familiar with it, but I do not
know the man who is so virtuous and wise that he can live and act, as
that teaching prescribes, in the heat of the struggle of life, or who is
the living representative in flesh and blood of the whole code of ethics,
not sinning against one of its laws and embodying it in himself. Did you
ever hear of the peace of mind, the lofty indifference and equanimity of
the Stoic sages? You look as if the question offended you, but you did
not by any means know how to attain that magnanimity, for I have seen you
fail in it; indeed it is contrary to the very nature of woman, and--the
gods be thanked--you are not a Stoic in woman's dress, but a woman--a
true woman, as you should be. You have learned nothing from Zeno and
Chrysippus but what any peasant girl might learn from an honest father,
to be true I mean and to love virtue. Be content with that; I am more
than satisfied."

"Oh, Publius," exclaimed the girl, grasping her friend's hand. "I
understand you, and I know that you are right. A woman must be miserable
so long as she fancies herself strong, and imagines and feels that she
needs no other support than her own firm will and determination, no other
counsel than some wise doctrines which she accepts and adheres to. Before
I could call you mine, and went on my own way, proud of my own virtue, I
was--I cannot bear to think of it--but half a soul, and took it for a
whole; but now--if now fate were to snatch you from me, I should still
know where to seek the support on which I might lean in need and despair.
Not in the Stoa, not in herself can a woman find such a stay, but in
pious dependence on the help of the gods."

"I am a man," interrupted Publius, "and yet I sacrifice to them and yield
ready obedience to their decrees."

"But," cried Klea, "I saw yesterday in the temple of Serapis the meanest
things done by his ministers, and it pained me and disgusted me, and I
lost my hold on the divinity; but the extremest anguish and deepest love
have led me to find it again. I can no longer conceive of the power that
upholds the universe as without love nor of the love that makes men happy
as other than divine. Any one who has once prayed for a being they love
as I prayed for you in the desert can never again forget how to pray.
Such prayers indeed are not in vain. Even if no god can hear them there
is a strengthening virtue in such prayer itself.

"Now I will go contentedly back to our temple till you fetch me, for I
know that the discreetest, wisest, and kindest Beings will watch over our
love."

"You will not accompany me to Apollodorus and Irene?" asked Publius in
surprise.

"No," answered Klea firmly. "Rather take me back to the Serapeum. I have
not yet been released from the duties I undertook there, and it will be
more worthy of us both that Asclepiodorus should give you the daughter of
Philotas as your wife than that you should be married to a runaway
serving-maid of Serapis."

Publius considered for a moment, and then he said eagerly:

"Still I would rather you should come with me. You must be dreadfully
tired, but I could take you on my mule to Apollodorus. I care little for
what men say of me when I am sure I am doing right, and I shall know how
to protect you against Euergetes whether you wish to be readmitted to the
temple or accompany me to the sculptor. But do come--it will be hard on
me to part from you again. The victor does not lay aside the crown when
he has just won it in hard fight."

"Still I entreat you to take me back to the Serapeum," said Klea, laying
her hand in that of Publius.

"Is the way to Memphis too long, are you utterly tired out?"

"I am much wearied by agitation and terror, by anxiety and happiness,
still I could very well bear the ride; but I beg of you to take me back
to the temple."

"What--although you feel strong enough to remain with me, and in spite of
my desire to conduct you at once to Apollodorus and Irene?" asked Publius
astonished, and he withdrew his hand. "The mule is waiting out there.
Lean on my arm. Come and do as I request you."

"No, Publius, no. You are my lord and master, and I will always obey you
unresistingly. In one thing only let me have my own way, now and in the
future. As to what becomes a woman I know better than you, it is a thing
that none but a woman can decide."

Publius made no reply to these words, but he kissed her, and threw his
arm round her; and so, clasped in each other's embrace, they reached the
gate of the Serapeum, there to part for a few hours.

Klea was let into the temple, and as soon as she had learned that little
Philo was much better, she threw herself on her humble bed.

How lonely her room seemed, how intolerably empty without Irene. In
obedience to a hasty impulse she quitted her own bed, lay herself down on
her sister's, as if that brought her nearer to the absent girl, and
closed her eyes; but she was too much excited and too much exhausted to
sleep soundly. Swiftly-changing visions broke in again and again on her
sincerely devotional thoughts and her restless half-sleep, painting to
her fancy now wondrously bright images, and now most horrible ones--now
pictures of exquisite happiness, and again others of dismal melancholy.
And all the time she imagined she heard distant music and was being
rocked up and down by unseen hands.

Still the image of the Roman overpowered all the rest.

At last a refreshing sleep sealed her eyes more closely, and in her dream
she saw her lover's house in Rolne, his stately father, his noble
mother--who seemed to her to bear a likeness to her own mother--and the
figures of a number of tall and dignified senators. She felt herself much
embarrassed among all these strangers, who looked enquiringly at her, and
then kindly held out their hands to her. Even the dignified matron came
to meet her with effusion, and clasped her to her breast; but just as
Publius had opened his to her and she flew to his heart, and she fancied
she could feel his lips pressed to hers, the woman, who called her every
morning, knocked at her door and awoke her.

This time she had been happy in her dream and would willingly have slept
again; but she forced herself to rise from her bed, and before the sun
was quite risen she was standing by the Well of the Sun and, not to
neglect her duty, she filled both the jars for the altar of the god.

Tired and half-overcome by sleep, she set the golden vessels in their
place, and sat down to rest at the foot of a pillar, while a priest
poured out the water she had brought, as a drink-offering on the ground.

It was now broad daylight as she looked out into the forecourt through
the many-pillared hall of the temple; the early sunlight played round the
columns, and its slanting rays, at this hour, fell through the tall
doorway far into the great hall which usually lay in twilight gloom.

The sacred spot looked very solemn in her eyes, sublime, and as it were
reconsecrated, and obeying an irresistible impulse she leaned against a
column, and lifting up her arms, and raising her eyes, she uttered her
thankfulness to the god for his loving kindness, and found but one thing
to pray for, namely that he would preserve Publius and Irene, and all
mankind, from sorrow and anxiety and deception.

She felt as if her heart had till now been benighted and dark, and had
just disclosed some latent light--as if it had been withered and dry, and
was now blossoming in fresh verdure and brightly-colored flowers.

To act virtuously is granted even to those who, relying on themselves.
earnestly strive to lead moral, just and honest lives; but the happy
union of virtue and pure inner happiness is solemnized only in the heart
which is able to seek and find a God--be it Serapis or Jehovah.

At the door of the forecourt Klea was met by Asclepiodorus, who desired
her to follow him. The high-priest had learned that she had secretly
quitted the temple: when she was alone with him in a quiet room he asked
her gravely and severely, why she had broken the laws and left the
sanctuary without his permission. Klea told him, that terror for her
sister had driven her to Memphis, and that she there had heard that
Publics Cornelius Scipio, the Roman who had taken up her father's cause,
had saved Irene from king Euergetes, and placed her in safety, and that
then she had set out on her way home in the middle of the night.

The high-priest seemed pleased at her news, and when she proceeded to
inform him that Serapion had forsaken his cell out of anxiety for her,
and had met his death in the desert, he said:

"I knew all that, my child. May the gods forgive the recluse, and may
Serapis show him mercy in the other world in spite of his broken oath!
His destiny had to be fulfilled. You, child, were born under happier
stars than he, and it is within my power to let you go unpunished. This I
do willingly; and Klea, if my daughter Andromeda grows up, I can only
wish that she may resemble you; this is the highest praise that a father
can bestow on another man's daughter. As head of this temple I command
you to fill your jars to-day, as usual, till one who is worthy of you
comes to me, and asks you for his wife. I suspect he will not be long to
wait for."

"How do you know, father,--" asked Klea, coloring.

"I can read it in your eyes," said Asclepiodorus, and he gazed kindly
after her as, at a sign from him, she quitted the room.

As soon as he was alone he sent for his secretary and said:

"King Philometor has commanded that his brother Euergetes' birthday shall
be kept to-day in Memphis. Let all the standards be hoisted, and the
garlands of flowers which will presently arrive from Arsinoe be fastened
up on the pylons; have the animals brought in for sacrifice, and arrange
a procession for the afternoon. All the dwellers in the temple must be
carefully attired. But there is another thing; Komanus has been here, and
has promised us great things in Euergetes' name, and declares that he
intends to punish his brother Philometor for having abducted a
girl--Irene--attached to our temple. At the same time he requests me to
send Klea the water-bearer, the sister of the girl who was carried off,
to Memphis to be examined--but this may be deferred. For to-day we will
close the temple gates, solemnize the festival among ourselves, and allow
no one to enter our precincts for sacrifice and prayer till the fate of
the sisters is made certain. If the kings themselves make their
appearance, and want to bring their troops in, we will receive them
respectfully as becomes us, but we will not give up Klea, but consign her
to the holy of holies, which even Euergetes dare not enter without me;
for in giving up the girl we sacrifice our dignity, and with that
ourselves."

The secretary bowed, and then announced that two of the prophets of
Osiris-Apis desired to speak with Asclepiodorus.

Klea had met these men in the antechamber as she quitted the high-priest,
and had seen in the hand of one of them the key with which she had opened
the door of the rock-tomb. She had started, and her conscience urged her
to go at once to the priest-smith, and tell him how ill she had fulfilled
her errand.

When she entered his room Krates was sitting at his work with his feet
wrapped up, and he was rejoiced to see her, for his anxiety for her and
for Irene had disturbed his night's rest, and towards morning his alarm
had been much increased by a frightful dream.

Klea, encouraged by the friendly welcome of the old man, who was usually
so surly, confessed that she had neglected to deliver the key to the
smith in the city, that she had used it to open the Apis-tombs, and had
then forgotten to take it out of the new lock. At this confession the old
man broke out violently, he flung his file, and the iron bolt at which he
was working, on to his work-table, exclaiming:

"And this is the way you executed your commission. It is the first time I
ever trusted a woman, and this is my reward! All this will bring evil on
you and on me, and when it is found out that the sanctuary of Apis has
been desecrated through my fault and yours, they will inflict all sorts
of penance on me, and with very good reason--as for you, they will punish
you with imprisonment and starvation."

"And yet, father," Klea calmly replied, "I feel perfectly guiltless, and
perhaps in the same fearful situation you might not have acted
differently."

"You think so--you dare to believe such a thing?" stormed the old man.
"And if the key and perhaps even the lock have been stolen, and if I have
done all that beautiful and elaborate work in vain?"

"What thief would venture into the sacred tombs?" asked Klea doubtfully.

"What! are they so unapproachable?" interrupted Krates. "Why, a miserable
creature like you even dared to open them. But only wait--only wait; if
only my feet were not so painful--"

"Listen to me," said the girl, going closer up to the indignant smith.
"You are discreet, as you proved to me only yesterday; and if I were to
tell you all I went through and endured last night you would certainly
forgive me, that I know."

"If you are not altogether mistaken!" shouted the smith. "Those must be
strange things indeed which could induce me to let such neglect of duty
and such a misdemeanor pass unpunished."

And strange things they were indeed which the old man now had to hear,
for when Klea had ended her narrative of all that had occurred during the
past night, not her eyes only but those of the old smith too were wet
with tears.

"These accursed legs!" he muttered, as his eyes met the enquiring glance
of the young girl, and he wiped the salt dew from his cheeks with the
sleeve of his coat. "Aye-a swelled foot like mine is painful, child, and
a cripple such as I am is not always strong-minded. Old women grow like
men, and old men grow like women. Ah! old age--it is bad to have such
feet as mine, but what is worse is that memory fades as years advance. I
believe now that I left the key myself in the door of the Apis-tombs last
evening, and I will send at once to Asclepiodorus, so that he may beg the
Egyptians up there to forgive me--they are indebted to me for many small
jobs."



CHAPTER XXIV.

All the black masses of clouds which during the night had darkened the
blue sky and hidden the light of the moon had now completely disappeared.
The north-east wind which rose towards morning had floated them away, and
Zeus, devourer of the clouds, had swallowed them up to the very last. It
was a glorious morning, and as the sun rose in the heavens, and pierced
and burnt up with augmenting haste the pale mist that hovered over the
Nile, and the vapor that hung--a delicate transparent veil of bluish-grey
bombyx-gauze--over the eastern slopes, the cool shades of night vanished
too from the dusky nooks of the narrow town which lay, mile-wide, along
the western bank of the river. And the intensely brilliant sunlight which
now bathed the streets and houses, the palaces and temples, the gardens
and avenues, and the innumerable vessels in the harbor of Memphis, was
associated with a glow of warmth which was welcome even there in the
early morning of a winter's day.

Boats' captains and sailors--were hurrying down to the shore of the Nile
to avail themselves of the northeast breeze to travel southwards against
the current, and sails were being hoisted and anchors heaved, to an
accompaniment of loud singing. The quay was so crowded with ships that it
was difficult to understand how those that were ready could ever
disentangle themselves, and find their way through those remaining
behind; but each somehow found an outlet by which to reach the navigable
stream, and ere long the river was swarming with boats, all sailing
southwards, and giving it the appearance of an endless perspective of
camp tents set afloat.

Long strings of camels with high packs, of more lightly laden asses, and
of dark-colored slaves, were passing down the road to the harbor; these
last were singing, as yet unhurt by the burden of the day, and the
overseers' whips were still in their girdles.

Ox-carts were being laden or coming down to the landing-place with goods,
and the ship's captains were already beginning to collect round the
different great merchants--of whom the greater number were Greeks, and
only a few dressed in Egyptian costume--in order to offer their freight
for sale, or to hire out their vessels for some new expedition.

The greatest bustle and noise were at a part of the quay where, under
large tents, the custom-house officials were busily engaged, for most
vessels first cast anchor at Memphis to pay duty or Nile-toll on the
"king's table." The market close to the harbor also was a gay scene;
there dates and grain, the skins of beasts, and dried fish were piled in
great heaps, and bleating and bellowing herds of cattle were driven
together to be sold to the highest bidder.

Soldiers on foot and horseback in gaudy dresses and shining armor,
mingled with the busy crowd, like peacocks and gaudy cocks among the
fussy swarm of hens in a farm yard; lordly courtiers, in holiday dresses
of showy red, blue and yellow stuffs, were borne by slaves in litters or
standing on handsome gilt chariots; garlanded priests walked about in
long white robes, and smartly dressed girls were hurrying down to the
taverns near the harbor to play the flute or to dance.

The children that were playing about among this busy mob looked
covetously at the baskets piled high with cakes, which the bakers' boys
were carrying so cleverly on their heads. The dogs innumerable, put up
their noses as the dealers in such dainties passed near them, and many of
them set up longing howls when a citizen's wife came by with her slaves,
carrying in their baskets freshly killed fowls, and juicy meats to roast
for the festival, among heaps of vegetables and fruits.

Gardeners' boys and young girls were bearing garlands of flowers,
festoons and fragrant nosegays, some piled on large trays which they
carried two and two, some on smaller boards or hung on cross poles for
one to carry; at that part of the quay where the king's barge lay at
anchor numbers of workmen were busily employed in twining festoons of
greenery and flowers round the flag-staffs, and in hanging them with
lanterns.

Long files of the ministers of the god-representing the five phyla or
orders of the priesthood of the whole country--were marching, in holiday
attire, along the harbor-road in the direction of the palace, and the
jostling crowd respectfully made way for them to pass. The gleams of
festal splendor seemed interwoven with the laborious bustle on the quay
like scraps of gold thread in a dull work-a-day garment.

Euergetes, brother of the king, was keeping his birthday in Memphis
to-day, and all the city was to take part in the festivities.

At the first hour after sunrise victims had been sacrificed in the temple
of Ptah, the most ancient, and most vast of the sanctuaries of the
venerable capital of the Pharaohs; the sacred Apis-bull, but recently
introduced into the temple, was hung all over with golden ornaments;
early in the morning Euergetes had paid his devotions to the sacred
beast--which had eaten out of his hand, a favorable augury of success for
his plans; and the building in which the Apis lived, as well as the
stalls of his mother and of the cows kept for him, had been splendidly
decked with flowers.

The citizens of Memphis were not permitted to pursue their avocations or
ply their trades beyond the hour of noon; then the markets, the booths,
the workshops and schools were to be closed, and on the great square in
front of the temple of Ptah, where the annual fair was held, dramas both
sacred and profane, and shows of all sorts were to be seen, heard and
admired by men, women and children--provided at the expense of the two
kings.

Two men of Alexandria, one an AEolian of Lesbos, and the other a Hebrew
belonging to the Jewish community, but who was not distinguishable by
dress or accent from his Greek fellow-citizens, greeted each other on the
quay opposite the landing-place for the king's vessels, some of which
were putting out into the stream, spreading their purple sails and
dipping their prows inlaid with ivory and heavily gilt.

"In a couple of hours," said the Jew, "I shall be travelling homewards.
May I offer you a place in my boat, or do you propose remaining here to
assist at the festival and not starting till to-morrow morning? There are
all kinds of spectacles to be seen, and when it is dark a grand
illumination is to take place."

"What do I care for their barbarian rubbish?" answered the Lesbian. "Why,
the Egyptian music alone drives me to distraction. My business is
concluded. I had inspected the goods brought from Arabia and India by way
of Berenice and Coptos, and had selected those I needed before the vessel
that brought them had moored in the Mariotic harbor, and other goods will
have reached Alexandria before me. I will not stay an hour longer than is
necessary in this horrible place, which is as dismal as it is huge.
Yesterday I visited the gymnasium and the better class of
baths--wretched, I call them! It is an insult to the fish-market and the
horse-ponds of Alexandria to compare them with them."

"And the theatre!" exclaimed the Jew. "The exterior one can bear to look
at--but the acting! Yesterday they gave the 'Thals' of Menander, and I
assure you that in Alexandria the woman who dared to impersonate the
bewitching and cold-hearted Hetaira would have been driven off the
stage--they would have pelted her with rotten apples. Close by me there
sat a sturdy, brown Egyptian, a sugar-baker or something of the kind, who
held his sides with laughing, and yet, I dare swear, did not understand a
word of the comedy. But in Memphis it is the fashion to know Greek, even
among the artisans. May I hope to have you as my guest?"

"With pleasure, with pleasure!" replied the Lesbian. "I was about to look
out for a boat. Have you done your business to your satisfaction?"

"Tolerably!" answered the Jew. "I have purchased some corn from Upper
Egypt, and stored it in the granaries here. The whole of that row yonder
were to let for a mere song, and so we get off cheaply when we let the
wheat lie here instead of at Alexandria where granaries are no longer to
be had for money."

"That is very clever!" replied the Greek. "There is bustle enough here in
the harbor, but the many empty warehouses and the low rents prove how
Memphis is going down. Formerly this city was the emporium for all
vessels, but now for the most part they only run in to pay the toll and
to take in supplies for their crews. This populous place has a big
stomach, and many trades drive a considerable business here, but most of
those that fail here are still carried on in Alexandria."

"It is the sea that is lacking," interrupted the Jew; "Memphis trades
only with Egypt, and we with the whole world. The merchant who sends his
goods here only load camels, and wretched asses, and flat-bottomed
Nile-boats, while we in our harbors freight fine seagoing vessels. When
the winter-storms are past our house alone sends twenty triremes with
Egyptian wheat to Ostia and to Pontus; and your Indian and Arabian goods,
your imports from the newly opened Ethiopian provinces, take up less
room, but I should like to know how many talents your trade amounted to
in the course of the past year. Well then, farewell till we meet again on
my boat; it is called the Euphrosyne, and lies out there, exactly
opposite the two statues of the old king--who can remember these stiff
barbarian names? In three hours we start. I have a good cook on board,
who is not too particular as to the regulations regarding food by which
my countrymen in Palestine live, and you will find a few new books and
some capital wine from Byblos."

"Then we need not dread a head-wind," laughed the Lesbian. "We meet again
in three hours."

The Israelite waved his hand to his travelling companion, and proceeded
at first along the shore under the shade of an alley of sycamores with
their broad unsymmetrical heads of foliage, but presently he turned aside
into a narrow street which led from the quay to the city. He stood still
for a moment opposite the entrance of the corner house, one side of which
lay parallel to the stream while the other--exhibiting the front door,
and a small oil-shop--faced the street; his attention had been attracted
to it by a strange scene; but he had still much to attend to before
starting on his journey, and he soon hurried on again without noticing a
tall man who came towards him, wearing a travelling-hat and a cloak such
as was usually adapted only for making journeys.

The house at which the Jew had gazed so fixedly was that of Apollodorus,
the sculptor, and the man who was so strangely dressed for a walk through
the city at this hour of the day was the Roman, Publius Scipio. He seemed
to be still more attracted by what was going on in the little stall by
the sculptor's front door, than even the Israelite had been; he leaned
against the fence of the garden opposite the shop, and stood for some
time gazing and shaking his head at the strange things that were to be
seen within.

A wooden counter supported by the wall of the house-which was used by
customers to lay their money on and which generally held a few
oil-jars-projected a little way into the street like a window-board, and
on this singular couch sat a distinguished looking youth in a light blue,
sleeveless chiton, turning his back on the stall itself, which was not
much bigger than a good sized travelling-chariot. By his side lay a
"Himation"--[A long square cloak, and an indispensable part of the dress
of the Greeks.]--of fine white woolen stuff with a blue border. His legs
hung out into the street, and his brilliant color stood out in wonderful
contrast to the dark skin of a naked Egyptian boy, who crouched at his
feet with a cage full of doves.

The young Greek sitting on the window-counter had a golden fillet on his
oiled and perfumed curls, sandals of the finest leather on his feet, and
even in these humble surroundings looked elegant--but even more merry
than elegant--for the whole of his handsome face was radiant with smiles
while he tied two small rosy-grey turtle doves with ribands of
rose-colored bombyx-silk to the graceful basket in which they were
sitting, and then slipped a costly gold bracelet over the heads of the
frightened birds, and attached it to their wings with a white silk tie.

When he had finished this work he held the basket up, looked at it with a
smile of satisfaction, and he was in the very act of handing it to the
black boy when he caught sight of Publius, who went up to him from the
garden-fence.

"In the name of all the gods, Lysias," cried the Roman, without greeting
his friend, "what fool's trick are you at there again! Are you turned
oil-seller, or have you taken to training pigeons?"

"I am the one, and I am doing the other," answered the Corinthian with a
laugh, for he it was to whom the Roman's speech was addressed. "How do
you like my nest of young doves? It strikes me as uncommonly pretty, and
how well the golden circlet that links their necks becomes the little
creatures!"

"Here, put out your claws, you black crocodile," he continued, turning to
his little assistant, "carry the basket carefully into the house, and
repeat what I say, 'From the love-sick Lysias to the fair Irene'--Only
look, Publius, how the little monster grins at me with his white teeth.
You shall hear that his Greek is far less faultless than his teeth. Prick
up your ears, you little ichneumon--now once more repeat what you are to
say in there--do you see where I am pointing with my finger?--to the
master or to the lady who shall take the doves from you."

With much pitiful stammering the boy repeated the Corinthian's message to
Irene, and as he stood there with his mouth wide open, Lysias, who was an
expert at "ducks and drakes" on the water, neatly tossed into it a silver
drachma. This mouthful was much to the little rascal's taste, for after
he had taken the coin out of his mouth he stood with wide-open jaws
opposite his liberal master, waiting for another throw; Lysias however
boxed him lightly on his ears, and chucked him under the chin, saying as
he snapped the boy's teeth together:

"Now carry up the birds and wait for the answer." "This offering is to
Irene, then?" said Publius. "We have not met for a long time; where were
you all day yesterday?"

"It will be far more entertaining to hear what you were about all the
night long. You are dressed as if you had come straight here from Rome.
Euergetes has already sent for you once this morning, and the queen
twice; she is over head and ears in love with you."

"Folly! Tell me now what you were doing all yesterday."

"Tell me first where you have been."

"I had to go some distance and will tell you all about it later, but not
now; and I encountered strange things on my way--aye, I must say
extraordinary things. Before sunrise I found a bed in the inn yonder, and
to my own great surprise I slept so soundly that I awoke only two hours
since."

"That is a very meagre report; but I know of old that if you do not
choose to speak no god could drag a syllable from you. As regards myself
I should do myself an injury by being silent, for my heart is like an
overloaded beast of burden and talking will relieve it. Ah! Publius, my
fate to-day is that of the helpless Tantalus, who sees juicy pears
bobbing about under his nose and tempting his hungry stomach, and yet
they never let him catch hold of them, only look-in there dwells Irene,
the pear, the peach, the pomegranate, and my thirsting heart is consumed
with longing for her. You may laugh--but to-day Paris might meet Helen
with impunity, for Eros has shot his whole store of arrows into me. You
cannot see them, but I can feel them, for not one of them has he drawn
out of the wound. And the darling little thing herself is not wholly
untouched by the winged boy's darts. She has confessed so much to me
myself. It is impossible for me to refuse her any thing, and so I was
fool enough to swear a horrible oath that I would not try to see her till
she was reunited to her tall solemn sister, of whom I am exceedingly
afraid. Yesterday I lurked outside this house just as a hungry wolf in
cold weather sneaks about a temple where lambs are being sacrificed, only
to see her, or at least to hear a word from her lips, for when she speaks
it is like the song of nightingales--but all in vain. Early this morning
I came back to the city and to this spot; and as hanging about forever
was of no use, I bought up the stock of the old oil-seller, who is asleep
there in the corner, and settled myself in his stall, for here no one can
escape me, who enters or quits Apollodorus' house--and, besides, I am
only forbidden to visit Irene; she herself allows me to send her
greetings, and no one forbids me, not even Apollodorus, to whom I spoke
an hour ago."

"And that basket of birds that your dusky errand-boy carried into the
house just now, was such a 'greeting?"

"Of course--that is the third already. First I sent her a lovely nosegay
of fresh pomegranate-blossoms, and with it a few verses I hammered out in
the course of the night; then a basket of peaches which she likes very
much, and now the doves. And there lie her answers--the dear, sweet
creature! For my nosegay I got this red riband, for the fruit this peach
with a piece bitten out. Now I am anxious to see what I shall get for my
doves. I bought that little brown scamp in the market, and I shall take
him with me to Corinth as a remembrance of Memphis, if he brings me back
something pretty this time. There, I hear the door, that is he; come here
youngster, what have you brought?" Publius stood with his arms crossed
behind his back, hearing and watching the excited speech and gestures of
his friend who seemed to him, to-day more than ever, one of those
careless darlings of the gods, whose audacious proceedings give us
pleasure because they match with their appearance and manner, and we feel
they can no more help their vagaries than a tree can help blossoming. As
soon as Lysias spied a small packet in the boy's hand he did not take it
from him but snatched up the child, who was by no means remarkably small,
by the leather belt that fastened up his loin-cloth, tossed him up as if
he were a plaything, and set him down on the table by his side,
exclaiming:

"I will teach you to fly, my little hippopotamus! Now, show me what you
have got."

He hastily took the packet from the hand of the youngster, who looked
quite disconcerted, weighed it in his hand and said, turning to Publius:

"There is something tolerably heavy in this--what can it contain?"

"I am quite inexperienced in such matters," replied the Roman.

"And I much experienced," answered Lysias. "It might be, wait-it might be
the clasp of her girdle in here. Feel, it is certainly something hard."

Publius carefully felt the packet that the Corinthian held out to him,
with his fingers, and then said with a smile:

"I can guess what you have there, and if I am right I shall be much
pleased. Irene, I believe, has returned you the gold bracelet on a little
wooden tablet."

"Nonsense!" answered Lysias. "The ornament was prettily wrought and of
some value, and every girl is fond of ornaments."

"Your Corinthian friends are, at any rate. But look what the wrapper
contains."

"Do you open it," said the Corinthian.

Publius first untied a thread, then unfolded a small piece of white
linen, and came at last to an object wrapped in a bit of flimsy, cheap
papyrus. When this last envelope was removed, the bracelet was in fact
discovered, and under it lay a small wax tablet.

Lysias was by no means pleased with this discovery, and looked
disconcerted and annoyed at the return of his gift; but he soon mastered
his vexation, and said turning to his friend, who was not in the least
maliciously triumphant, but who stood looking thoughtfully at the ground.

"Here is something on the little tablet--the sauce no doubt to the
peppered dish she has set before me."

"Still, eat it," interrupted Publius. "It may do you good for the
future."

Lysias took the tablet in his hand, and after considering it carefully on
both sides he said:

"It belongs to the sculptor, for there is his name. And there--why she
has actually spiced the sauce or, if you like it better the bitter dose,
with verses. They are written more clearly than beautifully, still they
are of the learned sort."

"Well?" asked the Roman with curiosity, as Lysias read the lines to
himself; the Greek did not look up from the writing but sighed softly,
and rubbing the side of his finely-cut nose with his finger he replied:

"Very pretty, indeed, for any one to whom they are not directly
addressed. Would you like to hear the distich?"

"Read it to me, I beg of you."

"Well then," said the Corinthian, and sighing again he read aloud;

     'Sweet is the lot of the couple whom love has united;
     But gold is a debt, and needs must at once be restored.'

"There, that is the dose. But doves are not human creatures, and I know
at once what my answer shall be. Give me the fibula, Publius, that clasps
that cloak in which you look like one of your own messengers. I will
write my answer on the wax."

The Roman handed to Lysias the golden circlet armed with a strong pin,
and while he stood holding his cloak together with his hands, as he was
anxious to avoid recognition by the passers-by that frequented this
street, the Corinthian wrote as follows:

     "When doves are courting the lover adorns himself only;
     But when a youth loves, he fain would adorn his beloved."

"Am I allowed to hear it?" asked Publius, and his friend at once read him
the lines; then he gave the tablet to the boy, with the bracelet which he
hastily wrapped up again, and desired him to take it back immediately to
the fair Irene. But the Roman detained the lad, and laying his hand on
the Greek's shoulder, he asked him: "And if the young girl accepts this
gift, and after it many more besides--since you are rich enough to make
her presents to her heart's content--what then, Lysias?"

"What then?" repeated the other with more indecision and embarrassment
than was his wont. "Then I wait for Klea's return home and--Aye! you may
laugh at me, but I have been thinking seriously of marrying this girl,
and taking her with me to Corinth. I am my father's only son, and for the
last three years he has given me no peace. He is bent on my mother's
finding me a wife or on my choosing one for myself. And if I took him the
pitch-black sister of this swarthy lout I believe he would be glad. I
never was more madly in love with any girl than with this little Irene,
as true as I am your friend; but I know why you are looking at me with a
frown like Zeus the Thunderer. You know of what consequence our family is
in Corinth, and when I think of that, then to be sure--"

"Then to be sure?" enquired the Roman in sharp, grave tone.

"Then I reflect that a water-bearer--the daughter of an outlawed man, in
our house--"

"And do you consider mine as being any less illustrious in Rome than your
own is in Corinth?" asked Publius sternly.

"On the contrary, Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica. We are important by
our wealth, you by your power and estates."

"So it is--and yet I am about to conduct Irene's sister Klea as my lawful
wife to my father's house."

"You are going to do that!" cried Lysias springing from his seat, and
flinging himself on the Roman's breast, though at this moment a party of
Egyptians were passing by in the deserted street. "Then all is well,
then--oh! what a weight is taken off my mind!--then Irene shall be my
wife as sure as I live! Oh Eros and Aphrodite and Father Zeus and Apollo!
how happy I am! I feel as if the biggest of the Pyramids yonder had
fallen off my heart. Now, you rascal, run up and carry to the fair Irene,
the betrothed of her faithful Lysias--mark what I say--carry her at once
this tablet and bracelet. But you will not say it right; I will write
here above my distich: 'From the faithful Lysias to the fair Irene his
future wife.' There--and now I think she will not send the thing back
again, good girl that she is! Listen, rascal, if she keeps it you may
swallow cakes to-day out on the Grand Square till you burst--and yet I
have only just paid five gold pieces for you. Will she keep the bracelet,
Publius--yes or no?"

"She will keep it."

A few minutes later the boy came hurrying back, and pulling the Greek
vehemently by his dress, he cried:

"Come, come with me, into the house." Lysias with a light and graceful
leap sprang right over the little fellow's head, tore open the door, and
spread out his arms as he caught sight of Irene, who, though trembling
like a hunted gazelle, flew down the narrow ladder-like stairs to meet
him, and fell on his breast laughing and crying and breathless.

In an instant their lips met, but after this first kiss she tore herself
from his arms, rushed up the stairs again, and then, from the top step,
shouted joyously:

"I could not help seeing you this once! now farewell till Klea comes,
then we meet again," and she vanished into an upper room.

Lysias turned to his friend like one intoxicated, he threw himself down
on his bench, and said:

"Now the heavens may fall, nothing can trouble me! Ye immortal gods, how
fair the world is!"

"Strange boy!" exclaimed the Roman, interrupting his friend's rapture.
"You can not stay for ever in this dingy stall."

"I will not stir from this spot till Klea comes. The boy there shall
fetch me victuals as an old sparrow feeds his young; and if necessary I
will lie here for a week, like the little sardines they preserve in oil
at Alexandria."

"I hope you will have only a few hours to wait; but I must go, for I am
planning a rare surprise for King Euergetes on his birthday, and must go
to the palace. The festival is already in full swing. Only listen how
they are shouting and calling down by the harbor; I fancy I can hear the
name of Euergetes."

"Present my compliments to the fat monster! May we meet again
soon--brother-in-law!"



CHAPTER XXV.

King Euergetes was pacing restlessly up and down the lofty room which his
brother had furnished with particular magnificence to be his
reception-room. Hardly had the sun risen on the morning of his birthday
when he had betaken himself to the temple of Ptah with a numerous
suite--before his brother Philometor could set out--in order to sacrifice
there, to win the good graces of the high-priest of the sanctuary, and to
question of the oracle of Apis. All had fallen out well, for the sacred
bull had eaten out of his hand; and yet he would have been more
glad--though it should have disdained the cake he offered it, if only
Eulaeus had brought him the news that the plot against the Roman's life
had been successful.

Gift after gift, addresses of congratulation from every district of the
country, priestly decrees drawn up in his honor and engraved on tablets
of hard stone, lay on every table or leaned against the walls of the vast
ball which the guests had just quitted. Only Hierax, the king's friend,
remained with him, supporting himself, while he waited for some sign from
his sovereign, on a high throne made of gold and ivory and richly
decorated with gems, which had been sent to the king by the Jewish
community of Alexandria.

The great commander knew his master well and knew too that it was not
prudent to address him when he looked as he did now. But Euergetes
himself was aware of the need for speech, and he began, without pausing
in his walk or looking at his dignified friend:

"Even the Philobasilistes have proved corrupt; my soldiers in the citadel
are more numerous and are better men too than those that have remained
faithful to Philometor, and there ought to be nothing more for me to do
but to stir up a brief clatter of swords on shields, to spring upon the
throne, and to have myself proclaimed king; but I will never go into the
field with the strongest division of the enemy in my rear. My brother's
head is on my sister's shoulders, and so long as I am not certain of
her--"

A chamberlain rushed into the room as the king spoke, and interrupted him
by shouting out:

"Queen Cleopatra."

A smile of triumph flashed across the features of the young giant; he
flung himself with an air of indifference on to a purple divan, and
desired that a magnificent lyre made of ivory, and presented to him by
his sister, should be brought to him; on it was carved with wonderful
skill and delicacy a representation of the first marriage, that of Cadmus
with Harmonia, at which all the gods had attended as guests.

Euergetes grasped the chords with wonderful vigor and mastery, and began
to play a wedding march, in which eager triumph alternated with tender
whisperings of love and longing.

The chamberlain, whose duty it was to introduce the queen to her
brother's presence, wished to interrupt this performance of his
sovereign's; but Cleopatra held him back, and stood listening at the door
with her children till Euergetes had brought the air to a rapid
conclusion with a petulant sweep of the strings, and a loud and
ear-piercing discord; then he flung his lute on the couch and rose with
well-feigned surprise, going forward to meet the queen as if, absorbed in
playing, he had not heard her approach.

He greeted his sister affectionately, holding out both his hands to her,
and spoke to the children--who were not afraid of him, for he knew how to
play madcap games with them like a great frolicsome boy--welcoming them
as tenderly as if he were their own father.

He could not weary of thanking Cleopatra for her thoughtful present--so
appropriate to him, who like Cadmus longed to boast of having mastered
Harmonia, and finally--she not having found a word to say--he took her by
the hand to exhibit to her the presents sent him by her husband and from
the provinces. But Cleopatra seemed to take little pleasure in all these
things, and said:

"Yes, everything is admirable, just as it has always been every year for
the last twenty years; but I did not come here to see but to listen."

Her brother was radiant with satisfaction; she on the contrary was pale
and grave, and, could only now and then compel herself to a forced smile.

"I fancied," said Euergetes, "that your desire to wish me joy was the
principal thing that had brought you here, and, indeed, my vanity
requires me to believe it. Philometor was with me quite early, and
fulfilled that duty with touching affection. When will he go into the
banqueting-hall?"

"In half an hour; and till then tell me, I entreat you, what yesterday
you--"

"The best events are those that are long in preparing," interrupted her
brother. "May I ask you to let the children, with their attendants,
retire for a few minutes into the inner rooms?"

"At once!" cried Cleopatra eagerly, and she pushed her eldest boy, who
clamorously insisted on remaining with his uncle, violently out of the
door without giving his attendant time to quiet him or take him in her
arms.

While she was endeavoring, with angry scolding and cross words, to hasten
the children's departure, Eulaeus came into the room. Euergetes, as soon
as he saw him, set every limb with rigid resolve, and drew breath so
deeply that his broad chest heaved high, and a strong respiration parted
his lips as he went forward to meet the eunuch, slowly but with an
enquiring look.

Eulaeus cast a significant glance at Hierax and Cleopatra, went quite
close up to the king, whispered a few words into his ear, and answered
his brief questions in a low voice.

"It is well," said Euergetes at last, and with a decisive gesture of his
hand he dismissed Eulaeus and his friend from the room.

Then he stood, as pale as death, his teeth set in his under-lip, and
gazing blankly at the ground.

He had his will, Publius Cornelius Scipio lived no more; his ambition
might reach without hindrance the utmost limits of his desires, and yet
he could not rejoice; he could not escape from a deep horror of himself,
and he struck his broad forehead with his clenched fists. He was face to
face with his first dastardly murder.

"And what news does Eulaeus bring?" asked Cleopatra in anxious
excitement, for she had never before seen her brother like this; but he
did not hear these words, and it was not till she had repeated them with
more insistence that he collected himself, stared at her from head to
foot with a fixed, gloomy expression, and then, letting his hand fall on
her shoulder so heavily that her knees bent under her and she gave a
little cry, asked her in a low but meaning tone:

"Are you strong enough to bear to hear great news?"

"Speak," she said in a low voice, and her eyes were fixed on his lips
while she pressed her hand on her heart. Her anxiety to hear fettered her
to him, as with a tangible tie, and he, as if he must burst it by the
force of his utterance, said with awful solemnity, in his deepest tones
and emphasizing every syllable:

"Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica is dead."

At these words Cleopatra's pale cheeks were suddenly dyed with a crimson
glow, and clenching her little hands she struck them together, and
exclaimed with flashing eyes:

"I hoped so!"

Euergetes withdrew a step from his sister, and said: "You were right. It
is not only among the race of gods that the most fearful of all are
women!"

"What have you to say?" retorted Cleopatra. "And am I to believe that a
toothache has kept the Roman away from the banquet yesterday, and again
from coming to see me to-day? Am I to repeat, after you, that he died of
it? Now, speak out, for it rejoices my heart to hear it; where and how
did the insolent hypocrite meet his end?"

"A serpent stung him," replied Euergetes, turning from his sister. "It
was in the desert, not far from the Apis-tombs."

"He had an assignation in the Necropolis at midnight--it would seem to
have begun more pleasantly than it ended?"

Euergetes nodded assent to the question, and added gravely:

"His fate overtook him--but I cannot see anything very pleasing in the
matter."

"No?" asked the queen. "And do you think that I do not know the asp that
ended that life in its prime? Do you think that I do not know, who set
the poisoned serpent on the Roman? You are the assassin, and Eulaeus and
his accomplices have helped you! Only yesterday I would have given my
heart's blood for Publius, and would rather have carried you to the grave
than him; but to-day, now that I know the game that the wretch has been
playing with me, I would even have taken on myself the bloody deed which,
as it is, stains your hands. Not even a god should treat your sister with
such contempt--should insult her as he has done--and go unpunished!
Another has already met the same fate, as you know--Eustorgos, Hipparchon
of Bithynia, who, while he seemed to be dying of love for me, was
courting Kallistrata my lady in waiting; and the wild beasts and serpents
exercised their dark arts on him too. Eulaeus' intelligence has fallen on
you, who are powerful, like a cold hand on your heart; in me, the weak
woman, it rouses unspeakable delight. I gave him the best of all a woman
has to bestow, and he dared to trample it in the dust; and had I no right
to require of him that he should pour out the best that he had, which was
his life, in the same way as he had dared to serve mine, which is my
love? I have a right to rejoice at his death. Aye! the heavy lids now
close those bright eyes which could be falser than the stern lips that
were so apt to praise truth. The faithless heart is forever still which
could scorn the love of a queen--and for what? For whom? Oh, ye pitiful
gods!"

With these words the queen sobbed aloud, hastily lifting her hands to
cover her eyes, and ran to the door by which she had entered her
brother's rooms.

But Euergetes stood in her way, and said sternly and positively:

"You are to stay here till I return. Collect yourself, for at the next
event which this momentous day will bring forth it will be my turn to
laugh while your blood shall run cold." And with a few swift steps he
left the hall.

Cleopatra buried her face in the soft cushions of the couch, and wept
without ceasing, till she was presently startled by loud cries and the
clatter of arms. Her quick wit told her what was happening. In frantic
haste she flew to the door but it was locked; no shaking, no screaming,
no thumping seemed to reach the ears of the guard whom she heard
monotonously walking up and down outside her prison.

And now the tumult and clang of arms grew louder and louder, and the
rattle of drums and blare of trumpets began to mingle with the sound. She
rushed to the window in mortal fear, and looked down into the
palace-yard; at that same instant the door of the great banqueting-hall
was flung open, and a flying crowd streamed out in distracted
confusion--then another, and a third--all troops in King Philometor's
uniform. She ran to the door of the room into which she had thrust her
children; that too was locked. In her desperation she once more sprang to
the window, shouted to the flying Macedonians to halt and make a
stand--threatening and entreating; but no one heard her, and their number
constantly increased, till at length she saw her husband standing on the
threshold of the great hall with a gaping wound on his forehead, and
defending himself bravely and stoutly with buckler and sword against the
body-guard of his own brother, who were pressing him sorely. In agonized
excitement she shouted encouraging words to him, and he seemed to hear
her, for with a strong sweep of his shield he struck his nearest
antagonist to the earth, sprang with a mighty leap into the midst of his
flying adherents, and vanished with them through the passage which led to
the palace-stables.

The queen sank fainting on her knees by the window, and, through the
gathering shades of her swoon her dulled senses still were conscious of
the trampling of horses, of a shrill trumpet-blast, and at last of a
swelling and echoing shout of triumph with cries of, "Hail: hail to the
son of the Sun--Hail to the uniter of the two kingdoms; Hail to the King
of Upper and Lower Egypt, to Euergetes the god."

But at the last words she recovered consciousness entirely and started
up. She looked down into the court again, and there saw her brother borne
along on her husband's throne-litter by dignitaries and nobles. Side by
side with the traitor's body-guard marched her own and Philometor's
Philobasilistes and Diadoches.

The magnificent train went out of the great court of the palace, and
then--as she heard the chanting of priests--she realized that she had
lost her crown, and knew whither her faithless brother was proceeding.

She ground her teeth as her fancy painted all that was now about to
happen. Euergetes was being borne to the temple of Ptah, and proclaimed
by its astonished chief-priests, as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, and
successor to Philometor. Four pigeons would be let fly in his presence to
announce to the four quarters of the heavens that a new sovereign had
mounted the throne of his fathers, and amid prayer and sacrifice a golden
sickle would be presented to him with which, according to ancient custom,
he would cut an ear of corn.

Betrayed by her brother, abandoned by her husband, parted from her
children, scorned by the man she had loved, dethroned and powerless, too
weak and too utterly crushed to dream of revenge--she spent two
interminably long hours in the keenest anguish of mind, shut up in her
prison which was overloaded with splendor and with gifts. If poison had
been within her reach, in that hour she would unhesitatingly have put an
end to her ruined life. Now she walked restlessly up and down, asking
herself what her fate would be, and now she flung herself on the couch
and gave herself up to dull despair.

There lay the lyre she had given to her brother; her eye fell on the
relievo of the marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia, and on the figure of a
woman who was offering a jewel to the bride. The bearer of the gift was
the goddess of love, and the ornament she gave--so ran the
legend--brought misfortune on those who inherited it. All the darkest
hours of her life revived in her memory, and the blackest of them all had
come upon her as the outcome of Aphrodite's gifts. She thought with a
shudder of the murdered Roman, and remembered the moment when Eulaeus had
told her that her Bithynian lover had been killed by wild beasts. She
rushed from one door to another--the victim of the avenging
Eumenides--shrieked from the window for rescue and help, and in that one
hour lived through a whole year of agonies and terrors.

At last--at last, the door of the room was opened, and Euergetes came
towards her, clad in the purple, with the crown of the two countries on
his grand head, radiant with triumph and delight.

"All hail to you, sister!" he exclaimed in a cheerful tone, and lifting
the heavy crown from his curling hair. "You ought to be proud to-day, for
your own brother has risen to high estate, and is now King of Upper and
Lower Egypt."

Cleopatra turned from him, but he followed her and tried to take her
hand. She however snatched it away, exclaiming:

"Fill up the measure of your deeds, and insult the woman whom you have
robbed and made a widow. It was with a prophecy on your lips that you
went forth just now to perpetrate your greatest crime; but it falls on
your own head, for you laugh over our misfortune--and it cannot regard
me, for my blood does not run cold; I am not overwhelmed nor hopeless,
and I shall--"

"You," interrupted Euergetes, at first with a loud voice, which presently
became as gentle as though he were revealing to her the prospect of a
future replete with enjoyment, "You shall retire to your roof-tent with
your children, and there you shall be read to as much as you like, eat as
many dainties as you can, wear as many splendid dresses as you can
desire, receive my visits and gossip with me as often as my society may
seem agreeable to you--as yours is to me now and at all times. Besides
all this you may display your sparkling wit before as many Greek and
Jewish men of letters or learning as you can command, till each and all
are dazzled to blindness. Perhaps even before that you may win back your
freedom, and with it a full treasury, a stable full of noble horses, and
a magnificent residence in the royal palace on the Bruchion in gay
Alexandria. It depends only on how soon our brother Philometor--who
fought like a lion this morning--perceives that he is more fit to be a
commander of horse, a lute-player, an attentive host of word-splitting
guests--than the ruler of a kingdom. Now, is it not worthy of note to
those who, like you and me, sister, love to investigate the phenomena of
our spiritual life, that this man--who in peace is as yielding as wax, as
week as a reed--is as tough and as keen in battle as a finely tempered
sword? We hacked bravely at each other's shields, and I owe this slash
here on my shoulder to him. If Hierax--who is in pursuit of him with his
horsemen--is lucky and catches him in time, he will no doubt give up the
crown of his own free will."

"Then he is not yet in your power, and he had time to mount a horse!"
cried Cleopatra, her eyes sparkling with satisfaction; "then all is not
yet lost for us. If Philometor can but reach Rome, and lay our case
before the Senate--"

"Then he might certainly have some prospect of help from the Republic,
for Rome does not love to see a strong king on the throne of Egypt," said
Euergetes. "But you have lost your mainstay by the Tiber, and I am about
to make all the Scipios and the whole gens Cornelia my stanch allies, for
I mean to have the deceased Roman burnt with the finest cedar-wood and
Arabian spices; sacrifices shall be slaughtered at the same time as if he
had been a reigning king, and his ashes shall be sent to Ostia and Rome
in the costliest specimen of Vasa murrina that graces my treasure-house,
and on a ship specially fitted, and escorted by the noblest of my
friends. The road to the rampart of a hostile city lies over corpses, and
I, as general and king--"

Euergetes suddenly broke off in his sentence, for a loud noise and
vehement talking were heard outside the door. Cleopatra too had not
failed to observe it, and listened with alert attention; for on such a
day and in these apartments every dialogue, every noise in the king's
antechamber might be of grave purport.

Euergetes did not deceive himself in this matter any more than his
sister, and he went towards the door holding the sacrificial sickle,
which formed part of his regalia, in his right hand. But he had not
crossed the room when Eulaeus rushed in, as pale as death, and calling
out to his sovereign:

"The murderers have betrayed us; Publius Scipio is alive, and insists on
being admitted to speak with you."

The king's armed hand fell by his side, and for a moment he gazed blankly
into vacancy, but the next instant he had recovered himself, and roared
in a voice which filled the room like rolling thunder:

"Who dares to hinder the entrance of my friend Publius Cornelius Scipio?
And are you still here, Eulaeus--you scoundrel and you villain! The first
case that I, as King of Upper and Lower Egypt, shall open for trial will
be that which this man--who is your foe and my friend--proposes to bring
against you. Welcome! most welcome on my birthday, my noble friend!"

The last words were addressed to Publius, who now entered the room with
stately dignity, and clad in the ample folds of the white toga worn by
Romans of high birth. He held a sealed roll or despatch in his right
hand, and, while he bowed respectfully to Cleopatra, he seemed entirely
to overlook the hands King Euergetes held out in welcome. After his first
greeting had been disdained by the Roman, Euergetes would not have
offered him a second if his life had depended on it. He crossed his arms
with royal dignity, and said:

"I am grieved to receive your good wishes the last of all that have been
offered me on this happy day."

"Then you must have changed your mind," replied Publius, drawing up his
slight figure, which was taller than the king's, "You have no lack of
docile instruments, and last night you were fully determined to receive
my first congratulations in the realm of shades."

"My sister," answered Euergetes, shrugging his shoulders, "was only
yesterday singing the praises of your uncultured plainness of speech; but
to-day it is your pleasure to speak in riddles like an Egyptian oracle."

"They cannot, however, be difficult to solve by you and your minions,"
replied Publius coldly, as he pointed to Eulaeus. "The serpents which you
command have powerful poisons and sharp fangs at their disposal; this
time, however, they mistook their victim, and have sent a poor recluse of
Serapis to Hades instead of one of their king's guests."

"Your enigma is harder than ever," cried the king. "My intelligence at
least is unequal to solve it, and I must request you to speak in less
dark language or else to explain your meaning."

"Later, I will," said Publius emphatically, "but these things concern
myself alone, and I stand here now commissioned by the State of Rome
which I serve. To-day Juventius Thalna will arrive here as ambassador
from the Republic, and this document from the Senate accredits me as its
representative until his arrival."

Euergetes took the sealed roll which Publius offered to him. While he
tore it open, and hastily looked through its contents, the door was again
thrown open and Hierax, the king's trusted friend, appeared on the
threshold with a flushed face and hair in disorder.

"We have him!" he cried before he came in. "He fell from his horse near
Heliopolis."

"Philometor?" screamed Cleopatra, flinging herself upon Hierax. "He fell
from his horse--you have murdered him?"

The tone in which the words were said, so full of grief and horror that
the general said compassionately:

"Calm yourself, noble lady; your husband's wound in the forehead is not
dangerous. The physicians in the great hall of the temple of the Sun
bound it up, and allowed me to bring him hither on a litter."

Without hearing Hierax to the end Cleopatra flew towards the door, but
Euergetes barred her way and gave his orders with that decision which
characterized him, and which forbade all contradiction:

"You will remain here till I myself conduct you to him. I wish to have
you both near me."

"So that you may force us by every torment to resign the throne!" cried
Cleopatra. "You are in luck to-day, and we are your prisoners."

"You are free, noble queen," said the Roman to the poor woman, who was
trembling in every limb. "And on the strength of my plenipotentiary
powers I here demand the liberty of King Philometor, in the name of the
Senate of Rome."

At these words the blood mounted to King Euergetes' face and eyes, and,
hardly master of himself, he stammered out rather than said:

"Popilius Laenas drew a circle round my uncle Antiochus, and threatened
him with the enmity of Rome if he dared to overstep it. You might excel
the example set you by your bold countryman--whose family indeed was far
less illustrious than yours--but I--I--"

"You are at liberty to oppose the will of Rome," interrupted Publius with
dry formality, "but, if you venture on it, Rome, by me, will withdraw her
friendship. I stand here in the name of the Senate, whose purpose it is
to uphold the treaty which snatched this country from the Syrians, and by
which you and your brother pledged yourselves to divide the realm of
Egypt between you. It is not in my power to alter what has happened here;
but it is incumbent on me so to act as to enable Rome to distribute to
each of you that which is your due, according to the treaty ratified by
the Republic.

"In all questions which bear upon that compact Rome alone must decide,
and it is my duty to take care that the plaintiff is not prevented from
appearing alive and free before his protectors. So, in the name of the
Senate, King Euergetes, I require you to permit King Philometor your
brother, and Queen Cleopatra your sister, to proceed hence, whithersoever
they will." Euergetes, breathing hard in impotent fury, alternately
doubling his fists, and extending his quivering fingers, stood opposite
the Roman who looked enquiringly in his face with cool composure; for a
short space both were silent. Then Euergetes, pushing his hands through
his hair, shook his head violently from side to side, and exclaimed:

"Thank the Senate from me, and say that I know what we owe to it, and
admire the wisdom which prefers to see Egypt divided rather than united
in one strong hand--Philometor is free, and you also Cleopatra."

For a moment he was again silent, then he laughed loudly, and cried to
the queen:

"As for you sister--your tender heart will of course bear you on the
wings of love to the side of your wounded husband."

Cleopatra's pale cheeks had flushed scarlet at the Roman's speech; she
vouchsafed no answer to her brother's ironical address, but advanced
proudly to the door. As she passed Publius she said with a farewell wave
of her pretty hand.

"We are much indebted to the Senate."

Publius bowed low, and she, turning away from him, quitted the room.

"You have forgotten your fan, and your children!" the king called after
her; but Cleopatra did not hear his words, for, once outside her
brother's apartment, all her forced and assumed composure flew to the
winds; she clasped her hands on her temples, and rushed down the broad
stairs of the palace as if she were pursued by fiends.

When the sound of her steps had died away, Euergetes turned to the Roman
and said:

"Now, as you have fulfilled what you deem to be your duty, I beg of you
to explain the meaning of your dark speeches just now, for they were
addressed to Euergetes the man, and not the king. If I understood you
rightly you meant to imply that your life had been attempted, and that
one of those extraordinary old men devoted to Serapis had been murdered
instead of you."

"By your orders and those of your accomplice Eulaeus," answered Publius
coolly.

"Eulaeus, come here!" thundered the king to the trembling courtier, with
a fearful and threatening glare in his eyes. "Have you hired murderers to
kill my friend--this noble guest of our royal house--because he
threatened to bring your crimes to light?"

"Mercy!" whimpered Eulaeus sinking on his knees before the king.

"He confesses his crime!" cried Euergetes; he laid his hand on the girdle
of his weeping subordinate, and commanded Hierax to hand him over without
delay to the watch, and to have him hanged before all beholders by the
great gate of the citadel. Eulaeus tried to pray for mercy and to speak,
but the powerful officer, who hated the contemptible wretch, dragged him
up, and out of the room.

"You were quite right to lay your complaint before me," said Euergetes
while Eulaeus cries and howls were still audible on the stairs. "And you
see that I know how to punish those who dare to offend a guest."

"He has only met with the portion he has deserved for years," replied
Publius. "But now that we stand face to face, man to man, I must close my
account with you too. In your service and by your orders Eulaeus set two
assassins to lie in wait for me--"

"Publius Cornelius Scipio!" cried the king, interrupting his enemy in an
ominous tone; but the Roman went on, calmly and quietly:

"I am saying nothing that I cannot support by witnesses; and I have truly
set forth, in two letters, that king Euergetes during the past night has
attempted the life of an ambassador from Rome. One of these despatches is
addressed to my father, the other to Popilius Lamas, and both are already
on their way to Rome. I have given instructions that they are to be
opened if, in the course of three months reckoned from the present date,
I have not demanded them back. You see you must needs make it convenient
to protect my life, and to carry out whatever I may require of you. If
you obey my will in everything I may demand, all that has happened this
night shall remain a secret between you and me and a third person, for
whose silence I will be answerable; this I promise you, and I never broke
my word."

"Speak," said the king flinging himself on the couch, and plucking the
feathers from the fan Cleopatra had forgotten, while Publius went on
speaking.

"First I demand a free pardon for Philotas of Syracuse, 'relative of the
king,' and president of the body of the Chrematistes, his immediate
release, with his wife, from their forced labor, and their return from
the mines."

"They both are dead," said Euergetes, "my brother can vouch for it."

"Then I require you to have it declared by special decree that Philotas
was condemned unjustly, and that he is reinstated in all the dignities he
was deprived of. I farther demand that you permit me and my friend Lysias
of Corinth, as well as Apollodorus the sculptor, to quit Egypt without
let or hindrance, and with us Klea and Irene, the daughters of Philotas,
who serve as water-bearers in the temple of Serapis.--Do you hesitate as
to your reply?"

"No," answered the king, and he tossed up his hand. "For this once I have
lost the game."

"The daughters of Philotas, Klea and Irene," continued Publius with
imperturbable coolness, "are to have the confiscated estates of their
parents restored to them."

"Then your sweetheart's beauty does not satisfy you!" interposed
Euergetes satirically.

"It amply satisfies me. My last demand is that half of this wealth shall
be assigned to the temple of Serapis, so that the god may give up his
serving-maidens willingly, and without raising any objections. The other
half shall be handed over to Dicearchus, my agent in Alexandria, because
it is my will that Klea and Irene shall not enter my own house or that of
Lysias in Corinth as wives, without the dowry that beseems their rank.
Now, within one hour, I must have both the decree and the act of
restitution in my hands, for as soon as Juventius Thalna arrives
here--and I expect him, as I told you this very day--we propose to leave
Memphis, and to take ship at Alexandria."

"A strange conjuncture!" cried Euergetes. "You deprive me alike of my
revenge and my love, and yet I see myself compelled to wish you a
pleasant journey. I must offer a sacrifice to Poseidon, to the Cyprian
goddess, and to the Dioscurides that they may vouchsafe your ship a
favorable voyage, although it will carry the man who in the future, can
do us more injury at Rome by his bitter hostility, than any other."

"I shall always take the part of which ever of you has justice on his
side."

Publius quitted the room with a proud wave of his hand, and Euergetes, as
soon as the door had closed behind the Roman, sprang from his couch,
shook his clenched fist in angry threat, and cried:

You, you obstinate fellow and your haughty patrician clan may do me
mischief enough by the Tiber; and yet perhaps I may win the game in spite
of you!

"You cross my path in the name of the Roman Senate. If Philometor waits
in the antechambers of consuls and senators we certainly may chance to
meet there, but I shall also try my luck with the people and the
tribunes.

"It is very strange! This head of mine hits upon more good ideas in an
hour than a cool fellow like that has in a year, and yet I am beaten by
him--and if I am honest I can not but confess that it was not his luck
alone, but his shrewdness that gained the victory. He may be off as soon
as he likes with his proud Hera--I can find a dozen Aphrodites in
Alexandria in her place!

"I resemble Hellas and he Rome, such as they are at present. We flutter
in the sunshine, and seize on all that satisfies our intellect or
gratifies our senses: they gaze at the earth, but walk on with a firm
step to seek power and profit. And thus they get ahead of us, and yet--I
would not change with them."



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

     A debtor, says the proverb, is half a prisoner
     Old women grow like men, and old men grow like women
     They get ahead of us, and yet--I would not change with them



     ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS FOR THE SISTERS, COMPLETE:

     A subdued tone generally provokes an equally subdued answer
     A mere nothing in one man's life, to another may be great
     A debtor, says the proverb, is half a prisoner
     Air of a professional guide
     And what is great--and what is small
     Before you serve me up so bitter a meal (the truth)
     Behold, the puny Child of Man
     Blind tenderness which knows no reason
     By nature she is not and by circumstances is compelled to be
     Deceit is deceit
     Desire to seek and find a power outside us
     Evolution and annihilation
     Flattery is a key to the heart
     Hold pleasure to be the highest good
     If you want to catch mice you must waste bacon
     Inquisitive eyes are intrusive company
     Man is the measure of all things
     Man works with all his might for no one but himself
     Many a one would rather be feared than remain unheeded
     Museum of Alexandria and the Library
     Not yet fairly come to the end of yesterday
     Nothing permanent but change
     Nothing so certain as that nothing is certain
     Old women grow like men, and old men grow like women
     One hand washes the other
     Prefer deeds to words
     Priests that they should instruct the people to be obedient
     The altar where truth is mocked at
     They get ahead of us, and yet--I would not change with them
     Virtues are punished in this world
     What are we all but puny children?
     Who can be freer than he who needs nothing
     Who only puts on his armor when he is threatened





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