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Title: Cleopatra
Author: Ferval, Claude
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Cleopatra" ***

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  TRANSLATED BY M. E. POINDEXTER



  CLEOPATRA

  BY
  CLAUDE FERVAL



  GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK
  GARDEN CITY PUBLISHING CO., INC.



  COPYRIGHT, 1924, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE
  & COMPANY.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES AT THE
  COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.



FOREWORD

Cleopatra, that curiously perverse figure, that incarnation of fatal
passion, what was she like?  A combination of pride and frailty,
adored and despised.  Plutarch said that "Her charm entered into
men's very souls," and Horace thanked the gods for delivering the
earth from that "_Fatale Monstrum_."

It is not the gigantic outlines graven on the dusty walls of the
temple at Dendera that will reveal the mystery of Cleopatra; nor yet
those bronze medals from Syracuse, with their curious hieratic
profiles; disguised by these gross images who would recognize the
intelligence, the passion, the daring, the flame, the storm, the
witchery, that were united in that "serpent of old Nile"?

If only some masterpiece of Greek sculpture had been preserved! If we
possessed that statue made at Cæsar's orders by the sculptor,
Timomachus! or that cherished treasure which a rich citizen of
Alexandria offered Cæsar Augustus two thousand talents to leave
untouched!  But all these portraits have disappeared.

Poor as we are in material we can only divine what she really was in
appearance and in character.  It is not certain that she was
beautiful, at least not of that sensuous type of beauty which has
been generally attributed to her.  But, if tradition which has come
down the ages has any weight, with her burning mouth, her radiant
eyes, her slender body, which her country's fiery sun had polished
till it shone like gilded marble, what creature born of woman was
ever more fitted to inspire delight and adoration?

  "The kings who crossed her threshold died from excess of love."


But physical beauty alone could not have so ensnared and deprived of
reason such warriors as Cæsar and Antony, brave, indefatigable,
honourable men, who fell at her feet, forgetting duty, honour, the
very memory of their country, for love of her.

We must look further.  Her rare intellect, which made her every word
of interest; her incomparable, magnetic charm, which banished ennui
and held her listeners enthralled; her ardent, passionate nature;
these have made her peerless among the fascinators of the world,
Circe, Delilah, Heloise, Yseult, Carmen, Sirens or Walkyrie--living
women, or creatures of the poets' fancy--all the enchantresses who
have driven men to madness have had the one gift in common, that of
arousing passion, stirring emotion, fanning the flame of love.

Whether their eyes had the blue of the heavens, or shone like stars
at midnight, whether their noses were long or short, their mouths
delicate or voluptuous, all the world-heroines have had burning
hearts that touched their lovers' hearts with kindred fire.

If Cleopatra stands above all others it is because she possessed in a
higher degree that sovereign gift that transforms the dullness of
every-day life and creates an atmosphere of rose and gold.

History shows her as crafty, diplomatic, frivolous, generous; capable
of horrible cruelties; coveting the whole world; a prey to ambition,
yet flinging it all away for the sake of her lover's kiss.  But
history gives us only half the picture.  Its frame is too narrow to
hold it all.  It is to Imagination and her winged daughters, Poetry
and Legend, that we have to look for the whole.

The asp with which Shakespeare encircled Cleopatra's arm has made her
more famous than her own great plan to wipe out Rome and put
Alexandria in its place.  The noted sonnet, which shows her in her
silver trireme, on the waters of the Cydnus,

  Dont le sillage laisse un parfum d'encensoir,
  Avec les sons de flutes et des frissons de soie.

shows us more vividly her manner of living, than do all the erudite
volumes concerning her life.

Notwithstanding all the splendid efforts to portray her that have
been already made, will the Public pardon my attempt to add another
taper to light the mysterious ways of that wonderful woman, who, with
a lotus flower in her hand, still stands with Antony, weaving the
enchanting mists of romance and breathing the warm breath of passion
over the crumbling ruins of the world?



CONTENTS

I. Julius Cæsar

II. Alexandria

III. Mark Antony

IV. Cleopatra

V. The Inimitables

VI. Antony's Wives

VII. The Marriage at Antioch

VIII. The Two Rivals

IX. Actium

X. The Death



THE LIFE AND DEATH OF CLEOPATRA



I

JULIUS CÆSAR

It was about seven o'clock.  On the crowded docks of Alexandria the
sailors were unloading the last bales of merchandise.  Swiftly, like
belated birds, the fishing boats dropped anchor at the old wharves in
Eunostus harbour.  It was almost dark when the last vessel slipped in
stealthily.  A man stepped down, broad-shouldered, covered from head
to foot with a dark cloak, his traveller's cap pulled down to his
ears.  With the utmost care he helped a woman to land, a woman so
young, so light-footed, that she seemed almost a child.

But, though barely seventeen years of age, would any one have called
Cleopatra a child?  The wife for two years of the brother, whom the
dynastic law had compelled her to marry on the death of her father;
cast off by her perfidious consort, sent into exile and, coming back
to-night under the care of Apollodorus, she had undoubtedly a store
of experience extraordinary for her age.  One wonders how her
impressions would have compared with those of the average girl, for
Cleopatra had grown up in a shamelessly corrupt court and was the
daughter of Ptolemy Auletes, that remarkable dilettante king who had
met the uproar of revolution and foreign invasion with the persistent
playing of his flute.

Descendant of a race cultivated to the last degree, proficient
herself in literature and art, with a thorough education, this young
girl's outlook on life was one of unusual breadth.  At the time when
other girls, just released from the women's quarters, still revered
virtue and dreamed of pleasure, she had already the inclination to
beguile and to rule.  With liberal views, she looked things squarely
in the face; she fully recognized the value of men, and whether in
serving or in pleasing them, had a spirit of rare understanding, keen
and comprehensive.

Even in the depths of the Thebaid--whither she had been exiled by the
king on the advice of the agitator Photinus--when she heard that
Cæsar had arrived in Alexandria, she knew, by that curious intuition
of super-sensitive minds, that unexpected good fortune was in store
for her.  But how could she reach this great man?  By what means
could she secure from his omnipotence that aid which would transform
her from a prisoner to a queen?

It was the Greek savant, Apollodorus, her professor of rhetoric, and
warmly attached to her, who opened the negotiations.  As Cæsar from
the very first interview had shown his interest in behalf of the
persecuted young girl rather than in Ptolemy and his crafty minister,
Cleopatra had no misgivings.  Although she was closely watched and
ignorant of the roads, which were infested by gangs of robbers and
murderers, she managed to escape with only two slaves for escort, and
took passage down the Nile to Canopus, where Apollodorus awaited her.
Trusting in his faithful devotion, she was confident of gaining her
end.

The voyage, however, was not without danger.  In order to escape
notice, one of the smallest boats had been selected and the wretched
little fishing craft came very near being swallowed up by the waves.
Consequently it was with the joy and relief of the rescued voyager
that the young Lapida felt the solid ground of her capital under her
trembling little feet; that dear Alexandria which by right of birth
she looked upon as her own.

The next thing was to gain admission to the palace, and this was by
no means easy.  In spite of the Roman occupation, soldiers, agents of
the Egyptian king, had watchful eyes for all that was going on.  If
she were recognized Cleopatra would be again in her brother's power.

Fortunately Apollodorus was both ingenious and sturdy.  With the
exquisite care due such a precious object, he wrapped up the young
fugitive and, concealing her in a roll of rugs, hoisted the bundle on
his shoulders like an ordinary parcel.  Who, seeing this porter
walking along the wharf, laden like so many others, would have
suspected the mystery hidden in his burden?  At the Bruchium he was
recognized, but on his declaring that, in response to an order from
Cæsar, he was bringing him carpets, the palace guards allowed him to
enter.

Julius Cæsar was no longer a young man.  All that life could give of
glory, power, and pleasure he had had, and at times his nerves showed
the effects.  Prematurely bald, the deep lines in his face indicated
his weariness; but, at the least stimulus the brilliant splendour of
his glance shone out.  No one could come near the divine Cæsar
without immediately recognizing his supremacy; without feeling that
magnetic quality of power and charm which could only be explained by
remembering his descent by Æneas direct from Venus herself.  When he
spoke, his gracious gesture, the resonance of his voice, won, at
least while he was talking, the sympathy of his listeners.  If he
were silent, his very silence was eloquent, for people recalled his
orations, those memorable words which had made an echo around the
world.

Wherever he went, the fame of his astounding deeds surrounded him.
Not only was he pictured at the head of his legions, guiding them
from one end to the other of that Gaul which he had conquered; not
only did the people actually see him, descending on Italy through the
terrible ravines of the Alps, crossing at a bound the narrow Rubicon,
and sweeping down on Rome in the throes of revolution, which, the
instant the conqueror appeared, crouched meekly at his feet; but
legend glorified him.  The Germans, whom he had defeated, were
represented as a race of giants, whose mere glance was death.
Britain, where he had been the first to dare set foot, was said to be
in total darkness three months of the year and inhabited by spirits.
All these fantastic tales added to his real victories made them
appear yet more marvellous.

In appealing to a man like this, in coming to him to seek counsel and
help, Cleopatra relied to a certain extent on her natural rights; but
she was not so foolish as to believe that being in the right was a
woman's surest appeal.

As she got out of the sack, where her charms had been hidden for the
past hour, she felt the thrill of a young animal which has just been
set free; then, with typical feminine eagerness, she grasped the
burnished silver mirror which hung by a chain from her belt.  What
appalling disorder she beheld!  Her dainty overdress was all rumpled;
her dishevelled hair fell on her neck in brown waves; of the antimony
around her eyes, or the rouge on her lips and cheeks, not a trace was
left.  But thus simply clad, adorned only with the beauty of youth,
was she any less blooming, less expressive, less distracting, this
fascinating plaintiff who in a few moments would appear before her
judge?

She was anxious, however.  She wondered how she would be received by
this man who was accustomed to the guile of the Romans, this powerful
ruler to whom everyone, the most virtuous as well as the most
corrupt, was compelled to yield.  For Cæsar's reputation was
world-wide, and everyone knew that the great captain, writer, jurist,
and orator was a libertine at heart.  In addition to those excesses
common to all young men, in which he had indulged amidst the gaieties
of the world, it was well known that his adventures had brought grief
to many households, not excepting those of his best friends; and it
was in no kindly spirit that his name was coupled with the phrase:
_omnium mulierum vir_--the husband of all women.

Cleopatra, however, was needlessly disturbed.  To a temperament
craving novelty, originality, fresh experience; to nerves tired as
were those of the Emperor, what vision could appeal so intensely as
that of this queenly young woman?  From the first moment, as he gazed
on the rhythmic, harmonious grace of her body; her low, straight
brows, the golden light in her eyes; her delicate nostrils, her
parted, sensuous lips, her radiant, amber-coloured flesh, suggesting
luscious sun-kissed fruit, Cæsar had felt an indescribable thrill run
through his veins.  Never, no, never before, had the West, or Rome
itself, with her ardent virgins, her tempting, seductive matrons,
offered him anything so intoxicating.  Ready to grant everything that
he might attain the height of his desire, he asked: "What can I do
for you?  What do you seek?"

With charming tact, Cleopatra replied in Latin, which she spoke with
the same ease that she did Greek, Egyptian, Syrian, and several other
languages.  She described the tyranny of which she had been the
victim, the criminal injustice which had made her a wanderer, and,
with a confiding air which was irresistible, she said that she
trusted in the omnipotence of Cæsar to restore her crown.

Her voice was sweet and winning.  The things she said, her claims
against her usurping brother, became, the moment they left her lips,
irrefutable truths.  Why should they not have seemed so to the
gallant judge, fascinated by the starry light in her wonderful, dark
eyes?

Cæsar's first impulse was to grant all her demands.  But there were
grave difficulties in the way.  He had gone to Egypt on a friendly
visit and had only a few troops stationed there.  Those of Ptolemy,
on the other hand, were legion and well prepared to defend their
sovereign.  Discretion forbade rashness.  This was no time to "let
slip the dogs of war."

With enthusiasm, yet with a well-balanced judgment surprising in so
young a woman, Cleopatra tried to touch Cæsar with her own fire.  If
he could not start the invasion at once, let him summon his armies as
quickly as possible, and while awaiting their arrival, proclaim her
reigning queen.

While she was speaking the Emperor could not take his eyes from her.
He watched each rhythmic gesture, each word as it fell from her
exquisite lips.  "What an adorable mistress she would be!" he
thought, as he breathed the perfume of her hair.

And, feeling that she had conquered him, that he was ready to do
whatever she wished, Cleopatra had a thrill of delicious
assurance--"In a little while I shall be queen!"

On hearing that his sister, whom he believed he had got rid of, had
arrived in Alexandria, and that Cæsar had sworn to restore her to
power, Ptolemy XII had one of those fits of demented rage to which
this offspring of a degenerate race was subject.  "The traitress!" he
cried, crushing with his foot a murrhine vase of exquisite beauty.
"She has tricked me.  This decision that she has had the impudence to
proclaim is nothing but damnable treason!"  And placing Achillas in
command of his troops, he massacred the Roman guard.

This was the beginning of a war which was to last two years.  With
all the strength of the Republic behind him it was obvious that Cæsar
would win; but at the outset the insurrections and riots, with which
his soldiers were not in the habit of dealing, were hard to handle.

Rather than continually encounter these street brawls, where the odds
were often against him, Cleopatra's champion decided it was wiser to
shut himself and his garrison up behind the walls of the Bruchium;
this could, in an emergency, be used as a fort, where he could hold
siege while awaiting the arrival of his army.

To be imprisoned with the man whom she was planning to captivate, so
that he should have no interests other than her own--what conditions
could have been more favourable to this young woman's dreams?  The
Bruchium, founded by Alexander, and added to by each of his
successors, who, like the Pharaohs, but with a more refined taste,
had a passion for building, was not merely a palace.  Situated on a
height, at a point where the hills which skirt the coast go down to
the sea, its elaborate structures made it a city in itself; a
magnificent enclosure of varied and unsurpassed splendour, where
examples of massive Egyptian architecture stood side by side with
graceful monuments of Greek art.  The part of the palace set aside
for Cleopatra had been specially arranged by Ptolemy Auletes, anxious
to provide suitable surroundings for his favourite daughter.  Lover
of all that was rare and beautiful, this musician, no less sensitive
to purity of line than to harmony of sound, had delighted in adorning
it with the most perfect creations of art.  At every turn were the
exquisite works of Myron, Praxiteles, and Phidias; finely carved
candelabra, chairs of graceful outline, ivory coffers heavily
encrusted with gold; jewelled tripods in which rare incense burned,
and a wealth of carpets of marvellous and intricate design.  There
was no room in the gorgeous domain which did not afford a feast of
form and colour to the eyes.  All things seemed planned to enhance
the joy of living.

But the real wonder which surpassed all else, and which could only
have been found under Egyptian skies, was the stretch of gardens.
Fanned by the sea breeze the air there was delicious.  Terrace after
terrace, connected by great marble steps, were dotted with fountains
where crystal water flowed.  Under the benign influence of this
water, brought by aqueducts from the Nile, the vegetation was of
unusual luxuriance.  The green plants from more temperate climates,
as well as the fig trees and palms which flourish in the tropics,
grew everywhere.  Flowers bloomed in profusion; rosebushes from
Persia in such abundance that even the garden plots of Ecbatana
seemed poor compared with those whose fragrance mounted to the
windows of the Queen.

Was it strange that this son of Venus, whom the needs of war had so
often compelled to endure the cold of barbarous countries, should
have revelled to the point of intoxication in the delights of such an
abiding-place?  Everything united to bring about perfect felicity,
and the grace and youth of the hostess crowned it all.  From the very
first he had loved her with one of those burning passions which are
like the glowing sunset skies of early autumn, when summer is over
and the trees are about to put on brilliant robes to surpass in
colour all that has gone before.

Cleopatra gave herself unreservedly to the joys of love.  Privation,
exile, the dread of further persecution, all these had made her eager
for happiness.  Without questioning for a moment the nature of his
affection, with no thought of the selfish motive behind it, she was
enchanted at her triumph.  Indeed, on second thoughts even, she had
every reason to be satisfied.  She had sought only a protector; she
had found a most passionate and tender lover.  Safe on board the
great ship which had anchored near her coast, she had yielded to his
powerful protection as to a force whose elements were not to be
analyzed.  If his devotion aroused no kindred sentiment in her bosom,
the love of this mighty conqueror filled her with such pride,
awakened such anticipations, that her heart felt no need of anything
more vital.  With dreams of a glorious future, she had a thrill of
ecstacy at being borne along toward a destiny which, though unknown,
with Cæsar for a pilot, could not fail to be one of untold splendour.
Although frequently disturbed by the noise of the catapults and the
clamour of the engines, with which the besiegers were riddling the
approaches to the Bruchium, the days that this pair of lovers spent
there as prisoners were filled with rare delight.  With no intruders
to annoy them, with no other care than a continuous effort to give
each other pleasure, their conversation broken only by renewed
caresses, they fully realized that ideal of _solitude à deux_ which
so many lovers have vainly sought.

And now the armies that Cæsar had summoned began to arrive.  From
Cilicia and Rhodes came ships laden with provisions.  This put the
situation in the control of the captives and everything was in their
power.  Gaul sent bodies of infantry; Rome supplied the ammunition;
and the cavalry, under the command of Calvinus, completed the
effective force.  The siege, which had lasted for six months, was now
lifted and the war was carried into the open country.

Achillas's army, however, was more powerful than they had thought,
and owing to its skilful tactics Cæsar was often forced into awkward
positions, but with the strength and courage of Rome behind him his
final success was a thing of certainty, and the beginning of the end
was shown when he marshalled his men on the field of the Delta.  Here
the decisive battle was fought and, beaten, routed, driven into the
waters of the Nile, the troops of Ptolemy were annihilated.  That
king met death as, on an improvised dam, he sought to leap across the
flood.  Cæsar, more merciful than Fate, spared the life of his
opponent, Achillas, when he was brought to him in chains.  He was
content to receive the required reprisals, and departed in hot haste
for Alexandria.

There, in the seventh story of her tower, Cleopatra was awaiting his
return.  When she caught the flash of his Roman eagles, amidst a
cloud of dust, her heart began to throb fiercely.  Unable to restrain
her eagerness to see him, she ordered her litter at once.  "Run
quickly," she commanded her carriers, twelve Ethiopians, whose bronze
legs shone as they sped swiftly over the road.

The golden hawk which soared above its roof, the gorgeous purple
curtains which hung at its sides, made the royal litter visible at a
great distance.  At the first signal of its approach, Cæsar leaped
from his horse and, with the delicate chivalry which distinguished
him, greeted his beloved.  He had been parted from her for several
days and was longing to embrace her.

"Egypt is yours!" he exclaimed.  "I have conquered it only to lay it
at your feet.  Accept it."  And he handed her the keys of Alexandria
which Achillas, in surrendering, had given up to him.

From that hour the rebels recognized the strength of the Roman power
and realized the ruin that Photinus had brought upon them.  From the
ambitious heights of yesterday they had fallen to the desperate
depths of to-day.  They who had counted on reprisals were to have
only amnesties; but who could have disputed the claims of the Queen
that such a magnanimous conqueror had placed upon the throne?  On her
first appearance in public Cleopatra was acclaimed with an enthusiasm
which would have been accorded her had she been the
universally-designed sovereign.

Thanks to this war, which had been gained because of Cæsar's
adoration, she was once more in possession of the crown of her
ancestors.  In order, however, to secure the good will of the people,
she submitted once again to the old dynastic rule, which required
children of the same parents to share the throne, and agreed to wed
her younger brother, Ptolemy XIII.

All being arranged to his satisfaction, it was now time for Cæsar to
leave Egypt and return to Rome where his party was clamouring for
him.  But Cæsar was no longer his own master.  Given over to that
passion which, to the end of his life, was to be the mainspring of
all his actions, to come before duty, ambition, self-interest, and
lead to his final downfall, he delayed his departure.  Deaf to the
warning that each new messenger brought, he heeded only the voice of
the dear enchantress who, in addition to all the other spells with
which she had held him, now suggested the delight of a voyage
together.

In those days, as in our own, sailing along the borders of the Nile,
with the monuments of the Pharaohs on either side, was a fascinating
experience.  Aristocrats of wealth, princes from the Orient, artists
from Asia Minor and Greece--after exploring the treasures of
Alexandria--alike found rare pleasure in sailing in the luxurious
Egyptian barges under the smiling skies.  These voyages meant weeks
of restful leisure and enjoyment.

The barge of Cleopatra was a floating palace.  The charming
apartments of the Bruchium were reproduced in miniature.  The various
vessels which accompanied it accommodated a large staff, not of
servants alone, but bands of dancers, poets, musicians, who were
engaged to while away the time and make life an enchanting dream.

Winter was at hand; that season of snow and frost which, in less
fortunate lands, plunges people in gloom; when all the fields are in
mourning and the shivering trees wave their naked branches in
distress.  But there was no depression along the sunny route chosen
by our travellers.  Propelled by the steady rowing of fifty Nubians
pulling on oars of ebony, they glided along, intoxicated with
freedom, happiness, space, as toward a Promised Land, and at each
stopping-place the golden sun seemed to shine with a richer glow.

All at once, after the leagues of emerald foliage of the first few
days, the vegetation grew scanty, the barge slipped along between
barren shores, and the country, as far as the distant horizon, was a
vast stretch of sand covered with arid hillocks, like volutes of
silver, which melted away in the mist.  Here and there groups of
aloes waved their sharp, blade-like branches, or clusters of date
trees shook their feathery plumes, like giant torches about to burst
into flame.

As the barge approached Memphis more buildings were seen: temples
with broad columns, shining palaces of glittering whiteness, giant
gateways like mighty mountains, all mirrored in the waters of the
sacred river.

The barge dropped anchor opposite the Pyramids.  Cæsar was filled
with wondering admiration at the mighty skill which had reared these
colossal tombs.  He who, as a disciple of Plato, attached so little
importance to the needs of the body, and who believed that
immortality was attained only by the beauty which came from the soul,
asked himself what thoughts had stirred the mind of a Cheops or a
Chephren concerning the mystery of Death?  Had they regarded it as
the true life, and the earthly one merely as a passage leading to it?
Had they raised these temples in honour of Death, or, indignant at
its devastations, was it in defiance of it that they had erected
these formidable triangles?

Among the countless mysterious monuments on the plains about Memphis,
the great Sphinx of Gizeh has always aroused the keenest wonder and
curiosity.  Cleopatra had caught a glimpse of it in the distance on
her adventurous flight and now she was overjoyed at letting Cæsar
compare her delicate grace with its tremendous proportions.  The sun
was setting behind the Libyan hills when they drew near the Sphinx.
Lying on her bed of sand, the monster seemed about to emerge from a
vast beach beside a congealed ocean.  Although looking toward the
East, her enigmatic smile already hidden in the shadow, her tawny
back was touched by the last rays of the setting sun, which made her
like a living creature.

Recalling the question that OEdipus, anxious concerning his future,
had put to that other Sphinx long ago, the Dictator, whose destiny
also was uncertain, was tempted to interrogate this one.  Would she
reply?  Mystery of mysteries!  Quivering at the touch of the warm
young body at his side, looking at the reddish moon, breathing in the
strange soul of the night, even had some wise counsel been whispered
in his ear he was hardly in a state to heed it.  The voice of love
was too overpowering, he was deaf to all else.

On the thirtieth day of their voyage the lovers reached Philæ, that
pearl in its double setting of blue sky and blue water, both so pure,
so transparent, that it was difficult to tell which was the
reflection of the other, which has inspired the poets of every age.
Those who once entered there went no further to seek an earthly
paradise.  To tarry, pitch their tent, and forget in the worship of
its beauty all that had fretted and distracted them elsewhere, was
the ardent desire of every artist who landed there.  Only a few,
however, were allowed to carry it out.

From remote ages the island had been in possession of the priests of
Isis, who did not tolerate the intrusion of profane outsiders.
Guardians of a temple which the religious fervour of its worshippers
had made the richest in all Egypt, these priests of the holy goddess
allowed no interference with their rights; no one else was permitted
to share the revenue, which was the largest in the land.

In many of the sanctuaries, however, the religious rites were in no
way disturbed by the addition of worldly goods; consequently the
arrival of the royal visitors was regarded as a godsend.  Barges,
filled with musicians, were sent down the river to welcome them, and
along the banks a procession of priests greeted them with sacred
songs.  They were forced to attend the services in the temple, listen
to orations, and receive committees bearing gifts.  To celebrate
their coming, goats were sacrificed and the blood of doves ran red.

The official reception over, Cleopatra requested that she and Cæsar
be left alone, quite undisturbed by any formalities, since that was
their chief desire.  During the heat of the day they remained
indoors, where the spray from numerous fountains made the air
comparatively cool.  They amused themselves watching the blue, white,
and pink lotus buds open their delicate petals, both lost in a
delicious languor in which cares, plans, ambitions, were all
forgotten.

The young Queen, however, never for a moment forgot the secret object
of this voyage, which was to bind her great protector to her by
indelible memories and make Egypt's interests his own.  In the
evenings they loitered along the garden paths, breathing the
honey-scented fragrance of the tropical violets, or lingered in the
shadowy groves whose branches sent showers of gold dust on their
heads.  Here, in response to her lover's tender speeches, she would
reply, in a tone of almost childish terror: "Oh! yes, of course my
country is the most beautiful in all the world, but it is so
difficult to govern it."  And Cæsar, moved by the frailty of the
slender arm about his neck, would with deep earnestness pledge her
the perpetual and all-powerful support of his own country.

Although this absence from public life could not be prolonged
indefinitely, these lovers wished at least to commemorate the happy
memory of these days together.  A plan for a temple was drawn up,
and, before leaving the island, in a space surrounded by oleander
trees, where birds of brilliant plumage flitted in and out, they laid
the corner-stone.  Two thousand years have gone by, and the pilgrims
who in each succeeding age have visited the paradise of Philæ have
gazed in admiration on the exquisite marble colonnade of pure
Corinthian design which stands there in delicate beauty.  The name of
no goddess is carved upon its stone, but each pilgrim knows to whom
it is dedicated.

At Alexandria a delegation awaited Cæsar.  When Rome heard that the
conqueror of the Pharaohs, the hero on whom his country's hopes
relied, was dallying with a new Circe, there was general
consternation.  Did he think that he could defy Fate?  What his good
fortune and his genius had built, his neglect could destroy.  What
would happen if the allies of Pompey, knowing that Cæsar was
distracted by a love affair, should mobilize new troops?  The more
daring among these were already on the alert and threats were in the
air.

However sweet a pillow a woman's breast may be, a man of Cæsar's
stamp is roused by the call of his friends: "Your honour is at
stake."  At the sound of the voice of those who had come to seek him,
the lover started from his sleep.  He knew that all his mighty deeds
would count for nothing if he did not respond to the appeal of the
hour.  He must go at once.  He would go, but he must have time to
break the tidings to the woman who had put her trust in him.  With
all possible tenderness he told Cleopatra of the coming separation.

"Ah!" she cried, "you wish to unwind my arms from about your neck?"
and with a passionate gesture she held him closer, and Cæsar, strong
against the world, was weak against his loved one.  He hesitated;
then, happily remembering the maxim which had guided him through
life: "The first, always, and everywhere," his courage came again.
He was not an ordinary voluptuary whose instinct was his master.  His
noble temperament demanded action and the strain of public life was
essential to him.  "Shall I," he muttered, "who have looked on
mankind as a vile herd, become by cowardly inertia like unto those I
scorn?"

Cleopatra was overcome with grief at the thought of losing him.  How
would she fare with Cæsar far away?  Who would protect and defend
her?  Who would help her to govern her capricious and deceitful
people?  She was about to become a mother and, relying on this new
tie which would bind her lover to her, she made him promise not to
leave her before the birth of her child.

And Cæsar was much interested in the expected birth; what he had said
to her regarding the coming child had given Cleopatra ground for the
most exalted hopes.  It had been a source of keen regret to him that
none of his three wives had given him an heir.  He had been
particularly anxious since the death of his daughter Julia, and the
consequent loss of her fortune.  To whom should he leave his
boundless wealth, that vast estate that he owned in Umbria?  Who
would carry on the divine race of the Cæsars?

To be sure, his sister Atia had a son, Octavius, but this nephew was
in delicate health, of a weak, undecided character, which did not
promise a brilliant future.  Who could tell whether the coming
bastard would not be a more worthy heir to the glorious fortunes of
the Emperor?

The baby was born on the very eve of the day that the friends of
Cæsar, worn out with waiting, had made him agree to set sail.  It was
a boy!  By wonderful chance the scarcely-formed features of the tiny
creature showed an undeniable resemblance to those of his father.
The hearts of those who are beginning to grow old are naturally
easily moved, and the Emperor's joy in his new-born son was very
evident.  He decided to call him Cæsarion and promised to adopt him.
In a touching farewell scene, filled with reproaches and
protestations, Cleopatra expressed the cherished desire of her heart:
"Make me your wife, O Cæsar!"  Her dainty head, adorned with her
restored crown, was filled with new aspirations.  She was no longer
content with ruling the country of her ancestors.  It had lost
prestige and was now scarcely more than a commercial power.  Her
secret dream was to link her destiny with that of the master of the
Roman Empire.

At first Cæsar was alarmed at this suggestion.  In the royal palace
on the Aventine, Calpurnia, his lawful wife, awaited his return.
Cleopatra herself was married, bound by the tradition of her line.
But what were such obstacles to the youthful heroine who had measured
the world and found it none too large for her ambitions?  She laid
stress on what it would mean to them both, this contract which,
uniting the vast riches of the one with the warlike genius of the
other, would make all things possible for them.

The prospect was magnificent and Cæsar was tempted.  He understood
how well it fitted in with his own passion for his royal mistress.
But would Rome allow him to carry it out?  One of the strictest laws
of the Roman Senate forbade the marriage of Patricians with
foreigners.  "But are you not above the law?" said the loved voice of
the temptress.  What man could resist being placed in the ranks of
the gods?

It was the moment of farewell.  Overcome, Cæsar took Cleopatra in a
final embrace.  There was no formal engagement but, with the
departure of her lover, she felt the solemnity of a betrothal.

Left alone, her imagination ran riot; and she was lost in fantastic
dreams.  She had visions of a Rome humiliated, submissive to the will
of Alexandria.  Vassals crouched at her feet, coming to lay down
their arms and present the keys of their different capitals.
Multitudes passed before her, and she fancied she heard her name
coupled with that of Cæsar, amidst general acclamation.  Happy in
such dreams, her solitude was transformed, it was no longer a
desolate, arid plain; the stage changed and the coveted goal seemed
more real than the dull present.

Once free from the sorcery which the dark, velvet eyes of the
Egyptian had thrown over him, Cæsar was himself again; shrewd,
clear-minded, quick at wise decisions.  His eagle eye took in things
at a glance.  The conditions were far from being what they had been
at Pharsalus.  No longer dreading him, the army of Pompey had had
time to reorganize.  It was threatening him on every side.  The
danger seemed more imminent in the Orient; so, before returning to
Italy, the Emperor set sail for Asia Minor and began by destroying
the enemy's fleet which was blocking the entrance to the Cydnus;
then, with an army of tried veterans, from whom he could demand
miracles, he attacked Caius Cassius at Ephesus, Pharnaces at Zela,
returned to Africa and there won the battle of Thapsus.  After having
gained vast sums from the terrified rulers, in exchange for certain
territories which he granted the enemy, he reëntered Rome, laden with
spoils, to calm the malcontents.

Triumph awaited Cæsar, such a triumph as the Via Sacra had never seen
before.  Beholding him crowned with laurels, followed by a procession
of captive kings, and greater than them all, by the illustrious
Vercingetorix, who represented the opposing armies of Gaul, the Roman
people forgot their grievances.  Around his chariot, on which was
inscribed in letters of gold the famous phrase, _Veni, vidi, vici_,
the crowd flocked with the enthusiasm of children welcoming a
long-lost father.  The Aristocracy was more reserved; it was to the
People that the Dictator looked for support; it was to improve their
conditions that his first reforms were brought about.  But he
understood this unstable mass, and the sudden changes that their
whims effected, too thoroughly to confine his reforms to serious
benefits alone.  To amuse the populace has always been the surest
means of holding it.  Consequently Cæsar ordered festivals and
banquets.  In every quarter of the city wheat was distributed, and
oil and wine were provided in abundance.  There was acting of plays;
the circuses were filled with crowds, eager to watch the slaughter of
gladiators and look on as the blood flowed from the wounded beasts.
The orgy lasted forty days and during all that time there was but one
opinion.  Cæsar was the _Illustrious_, the _Invincible_, the _beloved
Father of his Country_.  Every title and every honour was bestowed
upon him.  He was Consul, Dictator for Ten Years.  He received the
insignia of the great Pontiff.  His chair of state was placed above
all the other chairs, and on the statue erected to him in the temple
of Jupiter the word "God" was chiselled.

At Alexandria, however, things were not going so smoothly.  In spite
of the troops which Cæsar had left, under the command of Calvinus, to
maintain order, seditious outbreaks occurred.  More or less openly
the Queen was accused of having decoyed the alien, of having become
the mistress of a Roman, and of compromising the honour of the
kingdom by declaring him to be the father of her child.  Did she mean
to put as future king over the Egyptians one who was not of their own
race?  Such accusations would have had no weight with any one strong
enough to ignore them.  But Cleopatra was not yet the dauntless ruler
who later on was to defy public opinion and lead her own armies to
battle.  At twenty years of age she was sensitive; she shuddered at
these whispers of revolution.  The protector who had restored her
throne and made her respected thereon was no longer at her side; she
was uneasy.  Could she always withstand these snares, these threats,
these uprisings?  Until now Cæsar's influence, even in his absence,
had been strong enough to shield her.  But if these insurrectionists
should think her deserted, dependent only on her own resources, of
what attempt would they not be capable?  Besides, foul rumours were
abroad.  It was said that during the expedition in Africa the Emperor
had amused himself with the Queen Eunonia.  Was it possible?  So soon
after leaving her bosom where he had sworn to be faithful to her
forever?  Ah, how powerless is woman when her lover is no longer
within reach of her encircling arms!

But the distance between them was not impassable.  If it were true,
as his letters declared, that Cæsar loved her still and was desolate
at being so far away from her, why should she not go to him?  The
desire to strengthen, lest it become too lax, the bond which united
them was mixed with a certain curiosity in regard to Rome itself.
Rome, her hereditary foe; that rival against whom perpetual vigilance
was needed.  Seen at close quarters a rival is less deadly, for one
can find ways of opposing her.  Cleopatra decided to suggest the
visit to Cæsar.

After a year's absence from her, his letters declared that he cared
for her as deeply as ever.  If he had been attracted by the Queen of
Numidia, it had been but a passing fancy, or rather the need, through
some diversion, to escape the memories which were taking too much of
his time.  Burdened with grave responsibilities, did he have any
right to be so absorbed in his love affairs?  Indeed he was always
going back, sometimes with a degree of intensity over which he had no
control, to the affecting scenes at the Bruchium, or recalling the
hours when he had been lulled to slumber by the soothing waters of
the Nile.

Cæsar did not agree immediately, however, to the proposed visit.  To
have the Queen of Egypt come to Rome was a serious undertaking.  He
would not wish to run the risk until everything had been made smooth
for the trip.  The gravest difficulty lay in the natural antipathy of
the Romans to everyone who wore a crown.  It might almost be said
that this sentiment was so deeply rooted that the mere approach of
royalty seemed to endanger the monarchy.  Now Cleopatra was an
especial object of distrust.  She was known to be ambitious, and no
one had forgotten the spell she had cast over Cæsar.  The discontent
that had been felt momentarily toward him was now directed against
her.  In order to clear the one they accused the other, and the blame
fell upon her.  A woman must have had strange powers to have kept the
Emperor away from his own country for such a long time; to have
detained him at such a great distance from those who had the
strongest claims upon him!

How far was it wise to bring his mistress amongst such adverse
opinions?  Cæsar put the question to himself.  He did not dare to
expose her to a hostile reception; still less could he afford to
disregard the enemies who were ready to resent his shortest absence
in order to go to her.

And so the days went by and Cleopatra was filled with grief and
indignation.

It was from her that the final decision came which solved the vexed
question.  Pretending that the conditions of her treaty with Rome had
never been settled, she offered to come in person to discuss several
disputable clauses.  In order to obtain the title of _socius
republicæ_ (ally of the Republic) it was not in the least necessary
for the Queen to go herself: the different ambassadors could have
attended to the matter; but the Roman Senate, flattered by her
preferring to deal directly with it, extended her an invitation.  The
trick had succeeded.  There was nothing more to do but to start on
the journey.

The June sun was shining brilliantly.  With her Forum alive, her
windows crowded, the multitudes ranged along the principal
thoroughfares, Rome seemed to be holding a festival.  Defiance,
however, rather than sympathy, was the spirit of the crowd.  Many
strange stories were afloat concerning the coming visitor.  To some,
she was a courtesan, glittering with pearls and gold; to others, she
was a sorceress, whose evil influence drove to distraction all those
who came near her.  For the majority, Cleopatra was simply the alien,
the woman from the East, that is to say, the thing that the Roman
people despised more than anything on earth.  The procession was
composed of black slaves wearing gold ear-rings; of eunuchs clothed
in long robes, like those worn by women; of ministers with their
heavy wigs; of half-naked soldiers (whose heads, adorned with
antennae, resembled huge insects).  When it began to file past, there
were shouts of laughter.  Derision greeted the appearance of the
astronomers, whose pointed caps seemed reaching toward the sky, and
the priests muffled in panther skins.  The jeering grew louder at the
sight of the standards on which sacred images were painted.  What,
those jackals, those hawks, those cows!  They were meant for gods?
And the Latin commonsense rebelled against a religion debased by such
emblems.

But in the midst of the flashing splendour of spears and shields, the
royal litter was seen.  Silence reigned and all eyes were fixed on
Cleopatra with her baby in her arms.  This child, a cause of
embarrassment to her at Alexandria, it was on his winning smile, on
his astonishing likeness to Cæsar, that she had relied to gain a warm
welcome from the Romans.  And she was not mistaken.  At this time
Cæsar was the idol of Rome.  Everything he did was approved, and if
there were covert sneers and occasionally harsh criticisms, no one
would have dared openly to attack his invited guests.

However beautiful she might be, the Queen of Egypt could not hope to
please a people so infatuated with themselves as were the Romans, who
looked on their own race as superior to all others.  With her golden
complexion, her eyes so painted with antimony that they seemed to
touch her temples, her vivid red lips, her curious headdress, from
which a snake of gold peered forth; her transparent tunic, which left
her bosom bare, Cleopatra shocked and scandalized the Roman people.
But, as Cæsar's orders made graciousness obligatory, they pretended
to be absorbed in the tiny Cæsarion, whose fair skin and quick,
intelligent expression indicated his divine ancestry.

Moreover, in order that there should be no mistake in regard to the
respect due Cleopatra and her son, Cæsar had installed them in the
palace which he had just had built on the left side of the Tiber,
overlooking the magnificent gardens along the edge of the hill of
Janiculum; those gardens which were left to the populace in his will,
which generous gift the day after his death brought the people to
their knees, in tears, to look upon his blood-stained toga.

On finding herself, at last, the honoured guest of Rome, Cleopatra
felt that keen pleasure of achievement which follows a hard struggle
for success.  In spite of all obstacles she had, to her entire
satisfaction, accomplished the first part of her undertaking.

But the essential thing, the real triumph, was yet to be carried out.
She must bind her lover by that long-desired marriage which would
make her twice a Queen.  For a woman of her talent, accustomed to
using her varied powers of fascination to gain her ends, the present
situation was ideal.  Rome, from the very moment that she had entered
its gates, had ceased to be the austere stronghold, where each and
every citizen, faithful to his Lares and Penates, was steadfast in
revering ancient traditions.  These traditions, which had made the
strength and greatness of the Republic as well as its formidable
power, were already losing their hold.  The old religion was passing;
although still acknowledged by the State, unbelievers were many,
especially among the Aristocracy.  If the people had still a certain
fear of the gods, this did not prevent them from breaking the laws of
their deities, or from desecrating their temples in moments of
passion.  The story of the cynical soldier who boasted of having
stolen the statue of Diana and of having made a fortune by this
godless act was a common tale.  The inviolability of the marriage law
was a thing of the past.  On every hand, Senators, Consuls, high
dignitaries, put away their wives on the slightest pretext.  Cicero
himself, the best, the gentlest of men, said to Terentia, his wife
for thirty years, the cruel words of divorcement: "Go hence and take
with you whatever belongs to you," in order to put a younger, more
beautiful woman in her place.

This disregard of the morals and manners of the old régime was a
general canker, pervading all classes of Roman society.  Shocking
scandals marked the closing days of the circus, when it was a common
occurrence for the nobles to descend into the arena and measure arms
with the gladiators.  The immense fortunes, accumulated during the
war, had wiped out the simple habits of former days.  Gold was the
god that reigned supreme.  Originally used for the decoration of the
temples only, it was now displayed in private houses, where
furniture, ceilings, walls, everything, was gilded.  As a protest
against the wanton luxury of his contemporaries Cato made a practice
of walking about bare-footed, in a torn toga; but no one followed his
example!  He was merely ridiculed, while the procession of gorgeous
chariots rolled on.  No longer restrained by the Oppian law, the
women's extravagance in dress knew no limit.  Encircling their arms,
twisted in their hair, clasping their ankles, golden ornaments of
Etruscan workmanship glittered over them from head to foot; about
their necks fell jewelled chains, which had been brought, at fabulous
cost, from the rich caverns of India.

The banquets that were served at the tables of the wealthy Patricians
rivalled those of Lucullus.  The dishes of silver, the richly carved
goblets, the heavy purple draperies of the couches, equalled in
magnificence those of oriental sovereigns.  Dignity, along with the
once-revered virtues of economy, sobriety, endurance, all that Rome
had stood for in the old days, was becoming a mere legend of the past.

But if the old society was changing, giving place to a new era which
lacked the dignity of its predecessor, it is certain that the actual
joy of living was materially increased.  The culture of letters, the
pursuit of art, had never been so widely spread.  The philosophy, the
sculpture, the language even, of Greece--which cultivated people
prided themselves on speaking perfectly--had been born anew in the
Rome of that day.  There was no aristocratic youth who did not as a
matter of course finish his education at Rhodes, Apollonia, or, best
of all, at Athens.  The theories that they learned there were
universally accepted.  A knowledge of literature was general in the
higher ranks of society, where formerly it had been the exclusive
privilege of the so-called intellectuals.  It became the fashion to
be learned.  Many patrician homes aspired to the honour of
entertaining a savant or a philosopher.  It was considered a
particular distinction to have the youthful Virgil, recently arrived
from Mantua, as a guest, and to hear him recite his gracious
pastorals at evening entertainments; or to listen to the verses of
that poem, forged on the ringing anvil which was to resound down the
ages, sung by Horace, then a youth of twenty years.  In fact,
everywhere, from whatever source it sprang, talent was held in high
esteem.

Cleopatra understood at once the tremendous part that her personal
charm could play in a society eager for everything that was new,
original, and interesting.  Probably she alone, among all the women
there, was in a position to attract to her apartments learned men
from all countries, and to furnish them with liberal, amusing
recreation.  Endowed with the rare and fascinating advantage of an
understanding and spirit unequalled either by the Roman matrons,
absorbed in their household affairs, or by the famous courtesans,
whose conversation was often both frivolous and ribald, she had every
reason to be confident of success.

In the sumptuous hall, which her artistic taste had adorned with
luxurious divans, rich rugs, splendid draperies, she entertained the
friends of Cæsar, who, happy in having his latest _inamorata_
restored to him, came every evening to forget at her side the
political cares of the day.  He enjoyed meeting his friends there
informally, though all the while looking forward to the hour when he
would clasp her lissome, perfumed body, and feel her heart beat
against his own.

Trebonius, Lepidus, Sulpicius Rufus, Curion, and other Senators of
congenial tastes were always to be found there.  They discussed the
leading questions of the hour; the means for carrying out promises
made to the troops; the abolition of debts, reduction of rents.  In
all these debates they were surprised to hear this young woman, who
apparently was there only to illuminate the room with her shining
eyes, or to charm the hearers by the tinkling of her bracelets, give
grave advice on these important matters and show in all things a wise
judgment.  Their astonishment grew greater on overhearing her
conversation with the historian Sallust, whose writing and psychology
she had studied and appreciated.  Her comments were trenchant and
convincing.  The orator Asinius Pollion delighted in bringing his
serious speeches to her for criticism, as well as those little
ironical poems in which, speaking through the mouth of a shepherd, he
ridiculed the absurdities of his fellow-citizens.  Her arguments and
criticism were marvels of intelligent thought.  Her discussions with
the archæologist, Atticus, in whose discoveries she was much
interested, when he unrolled the delicately illuminated Persian
scrolls, pointed out a bit of ivory polished by the patient skill of
a Chinese workman, or showed her a fragment of bas-relief from the
temple of Ephesus, all these indicated an unusual mind, alive to
wide-reaching interests.  Who would not have been moved at seeing
this young girl poring over that chart of the heavens, on which a
congress of savants was engaged in their alteration of the calendar;
or watching her follow the evolution of the Great Bear, of
Cassiopeia, of Orion, around the North Star?  Truly in all things she
was an exceptional creature, one of those chosen by the deities to
represent them on earth.

It was at this time that Mark Antony, young, handsome, renowned, was
presented to her.  He had just arrived from Spain, covered with
laurels won at Munda and laden with spoils.  The fame of incomparable
valour had given him a crown of glory.  With his athletic body, the
Bacchus-like smile which lighted up his face, his generous
extravagance, he made a heroic figure, recalling the mythical
Hercules, from whom he claimed descent.  Although for the moment
enamoured of the courtesan Cytheris, the young soldier was deeply
impressed by the bewildering beauty of Cleopatra and it was only his
sincere devotion to Cæsar which prevented him from expressing his
admiration openly.  He could not forget any single detail of their
first meeting: the queenly grace with which the enchantress stretched
out her tiny hand for him to kiss, the dress she wore that first
evening, or the sudden anguish that thrilled him at the sound of her
voice.

However enthusiastic was the adoration of this new Aspasia within
that sanctuary of art and literature which her villa had become, a
pack of wolves was snarling just outside.  It was made up of
virtuous, or pretendedly virtuous, men, indignant at the generally
accepted and avowed liaison of the Dictator with this foreign woman.
All the women of position in Rome were with them.  The majority of
them had endured humiliation at the hands of their husbands, and
these embittered wives were leagued together in jealous persecution
of this oriental sorceress of loose morals, whose dwelling was
thronged with the men who had deserted their own firesides to seek
her.

But Cleopatra's worst enemies were her political foes.  Bound by
ancient traditions, the Conservatives were uneasy at these new
proceedings, which tended more and more to encroach on old customs.
For some time it had been well known that Cæsar's ambition and
personal desire were goading him to seek sovereign power; but,
however evident had been the pomp with which he loved to surround
himself, it was on his royal mistress that the chief blame fell.  Was
he giving up pious ways, did he disregard the laws, was he careless
of all that Rome held most sacred?  It was the accursed Egyptian who
was responsible for all.

Whether or not it was the fault of the fair foreigner, it was evident
that each day Cæsar strayed further and further from republican
forms.  Since the wars were over, there was no excuse for his
prolonging his dictatorship.  He was now absolute arbitrator and
controlled all the affairs of the State.  He chose the officers and
divided the confiscated territories as he pleased.  Where would his
power stop?  The title of King itself could not increase this power,
but the feeling prevailed that he coveted that title and would seize
the first opportunity to assume it.  So far from consulting his
colleagues as to ways and means, according to the established usage
among Senators, Consuls, and Pontiffs, he seemed to delight in
defying them, and showing the public that he looked on their opinions
as antiquated, if not obsolete.  With an insolence reeking of the
grand seigneur, a lord who had flung off the traditions of his caste,
he deliberately ridiculed the ethics of Cato, and was skeptical of
everything, including the gods themselves.  Had he not declared in
the open Senate, among other imprudent sayings which had been noised
abroad and exaggerated, that "The Republic from now on is a word
without meaning?"

Cicero was leader of the party most genuinely alarmed by this state
of things.  The great orator was, after Cæsar, the first citizen of
Rome.  At all events he was the most honest and among those most
respected.  His liberal views had formerly associated him with
Pompey's party and, since the latter's defeat, he had lived in
retirement in his villa at Tusculum, given over to meditation.  It
had been a keen regret to Cæsar to lose the friendship of this
warm-hearted man whose distinguished ability was so widely known and
who would have been an invaluable adviser.  The withdrawal of so
important a figure had also been a blow to Cleopatra's pride.  To
entice him to her home, to number him among her courtiers, to make
him an ally against the day when it might be necessary to break the
law to gain her ends; with all her boundless ambition, this idea
became a veritable obsession.

She unbosomed herself to Atticus, who was an intimate friend of
Cicero.  Attached as he was to the Queen whose hospitality had
afforded him so many agreeable hours, he promised to use his
influence with Cicero.  No one was better fitted for the duties of
ambassador.  To bring together, to reconcile, to persuade, were
intrinsic qualities of his serene nature.  He was undoubtedly helped
in his mission by the insufferable ennui which was consuming Cicero.
For a man who had known the intoxication of power, who had been
applauded in tones to shake the columns of the temples, there was no
worse punishment than to be forced into seclusion.  In order to hear
again the praises of the crowd which was eager for him, to accept the
homage which awaited him, and, above all, to enjoy the splendour of
Cleopatra's library, where he would be free to read to his heart's
content, the man of letters yielded to temptation and appeared at her
portals, wrapped in the toga which no one knew so well as he how to
drape about the shoulders.  Cæsar was there to welcome him.

Cleopatra, radiant as always when one of her caprices had triumphed,
received her distinguished guest with every honour.  To please his
connoisseur's taste, that first evening she drew his attention to the
interesting things in her luxurious dwelling.  One table was covered
with antique parchments, embellished with curious drawings, depicting
the history of the Pharaohs.  The orator with his delicate hands
would unroll these time-yellowed pages, and, while he was admiring
the singular figures of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Queen would
translate the meaning of the script in her cultivated, sweet-toned
voice.  Seeing his keen interest she thought him already won, but to
make sure she promised that the precious writings should be sent to
him at Tusculum the very next day.

A man of Cicero's character, however, was not so easily beguiled.
If, after the various pledges made to the Conservative party, he had
for the moment believed that Cæsar would return to his old liberal
views, the recent outbreaks, the arbitrary proceedings, left him no
shadow of illusion.  Without a doubt the fall of the Republic was
close at hand, and nowhere did the patriotic old man find an
atmosphere more repugnant to his cherished ideals than in the court
of the Transtevera.  Gradually he stopped attending the sessions
there.  He felt freer to express his opinions outside its doors, and,
alluding probably to the mixed crowd, enthusiastic but vulgar, which
Cæsar's popularity had attracted, he replied to Atticus's query as to
the cause of his absence: "I cannot be content in a place so devoid
of civility."

This criticism, as well as other comments on his attitude, made no
impression on Cæsar.  He saw no need of concessions, especially if
they were demanded by minds less daring than his own.  The one thing
necessary to establish his authority was the carrying out of some yet
more brilliant project.  To attain the height of his dream the old
weapons were out of date.  New expeditions, new wars even, must be
planned; something that would surpass in splendour all his other
achievements.

The country that attracted his adventurous spirit, tempted him with
the most entrancing visions, was Persia; that Persia which had been
the scene of the world-famous exploits of Alexander.  Its boundless
territory, its high plateaus, which pastured peaceful herds; its
valleys, watered by the abundant streams of the Tigris and the
Euphrates; its hanging gardens, its palaces of porphyry, its temples
with their crowned columns; its incomparable rugs, its roses, its
porcelains--all the fascinating possibilities of this kingdom called
him, and the appeal was irresistible.

How different it was from poor, bare, barbarous Gaul!  If he could
perch his eagles in Persia, he would gain not only glory, a glory
equal to that of the victorious Macedonian, but the inexhaustible
riches of the country.

Cleopatra was even more enthusiastic than Cæsar in the pursuit of
this wonderful vision.  With no illusions as to the hatred which
surrounded her, she fully realized that the only way to make the
stern Roman aristocracy accept her presence was through the mighty
power of Cæsar.  To augment this power, to extend it from the borders
of the Orient to her own country, to build a pedestal so high that
from it she could see the whole world, was the ambition of the young
Queen.  So, although it was hard to leave the palace where she had so
calmly and persistently played her part as a great lady of Rome,
harder still to go back to Egypt and rejoin the clown whom she had
accepted for her husband, she began to make ready for the journey.

It was generally known that when the Dictator came back from the
campaign in Persia he would celebrate their wedding and adopt the son
that she had given him.  Certain malcontents declared that to the
supreme power, which now equalled that of any king, Cæsar would then
add the royal sceptre, and that he was planning to found a
far-reaching empire, whose capital would be Alexandria.  These
rumours disturbed the people; they wounded them in their tenderest
spot, their desire for the supremacy of their beloved Rome.  To
threaten it with division, with possible downfall, aroused the
fiercest passions of the multitude.

As usual, the responsibility for these evil schemes fell on
Cleopatra.  The hatred of her was redoubled.  Her enemies invented
fantastic tales and circulated the dreadful accusation that she
sealed her oaths with the avowal: "As surely as that one day I shall
rule Rome."  When they heard this the wrath of the multitude
overflowed.  When her litter appeared in the street, there was a
riot.  On every hand there were threats of compelling this Egyptian
interloper to leave the country, of forcing her to return to her own
land of crocodiles!

These disrespectful speeches naturally came to Cæsar's ears.  They
angered him more than the criticisms of his own conduct.  To dare to
desecrate the sacred one whom he had chosen!  To approach her with
lack of reverence!  It was not to be tolerated!  Alluding to a
special group which had offended him, he exclaimed: "You shall see
the penalty that I will inflict on those greasy, curly-pated
slanderers!"

He immediately summoned Timomachus, who for the past month had been
working on a statue of the Queen, made of ivory overlaid with gold.

"How long will it take to finish that piece of sculpture?" he
demanded.

The sculptor reflected, estimated the time needed for the required
incrustations of gold, which were not even begun, and answered,
awkwardly,

"Twenty years, at least."

"I will give you three days," declared the Dictator.  "In three days
I desire that statue to be placed on its pillar in the temple of
Venus-Genitrix."

The autocratic temper of Cæsar, which frequently brought on violent
crises owing to his delicate, over-wrought nerves, was too well known
for any one to dare to oppose his wishes.  The dedication of the
statue took place with great ceremony on the day specified, and with
rage in their hearts, priests, noblemen, officers of all ranks were
compelled to bow before this new goddess who had invaded their temple.

A little later, in order to see how far he could brave public
opinion, Cæsar devised a new experiment.  It was at the festival of
Lupercalia, a carnival lasting several days, during which the young
Patricians ran half naked through the streets, striking in jest the
passers-by with leather thongs, under pretext of bringing them good
luck.  In his position of grand Pontiff, Cæsar presided at the
festival.  Seated in the Tribune, in a chair of gold and ivory, he
had Cleopatra by his side.  After the earth had been sprinkled with
the blood of goats and dogs, according to the customary rites, he was
about to withdraw, when Mark Antony, pushing his way through the
crowd, boldly offered him a diadem.  At this movement a murmur arose,
like the sound of the sea before a coming storm.  Cæsar felt that it
was not the moment for such a display and he turned away.  But, urged
on by the Queen, who perhaps was the original instigator of the
comedy, Mark Antony insisted on proffering the glittering crown.  The
angry murmur increased; it sounded now as though the wind were
rushing through the waves.  Decidedly this was not an auspicious
hour.  With a sterner gesture than before, a gesture which left no
room for doubt, Cæsar threw back his head and thrust aside the
tempting jewel.  All the world was witness, he had refused to be
crowned as King!

Many of the spectators, deceived by the scene which had just taken
place, applauded furiously.  Others, keener-sighted, detected signs
of a plot, and said to each other: "Oh, no doubt he refuses to-day,
but only to accept more graciously when he shall come back, bearing
the standards of victory!"  And in dark corners conspirators began to
gather.

Spring was drawing near.  It was about the middle of the month
consecrated to the god of War.  Blown by strong winds the tiny clouds
scudded across the faint blue sky.  The quivering trees began to
swell and the crests of the seven hills around Rome were touched with
vivid green.  At their base lay the city, shrouded in the dim evening
light.  The clamour of the streets slowly died out and silence
reigned.  It was the hour when, the day's work done, each was going
to his own home.  This was the time when Cæsar, absorbed all day by
his preparations for war, was hastening toward the dwelling of his
beloved and beautiful mistress.

Seated near the window, from which she could see him coming,
Cleopatra was lost in dreams.  A few more days and they must part.
While Cæsar was seeking fresh conquests through the Caspian gates she
would be once more on the borders of the Nile.  The coming separation
made her anxious, suggested painful isolation and unknown
difficulties.  She was resigned, however, for she knew it was
inevitable.  Was not glory as necessary to rulers as bread to the
common people?  Master of Persia, Cæsar would be lord of all.  No
human power could then prevent them from carrying out their plans.
He would place her on the thrones of Nineveh and Babylon, and
proclaim her as his lawful wife.  Together they would build their
capital and this same Rome, which she had heard roaring like an
infuriated she-wolf whenever she passed, would be compelled to
receive her with acclamation.

It was on these mighty visions, on this dream of Semiramis, that the
dreadful thunderbolt of the Ides of March was about to fall.

Morning had just come.  Cæsar had left her scarcely an hour before,
and in leaving had crushed her to his heart as though he would never
let her go.  By one of those mysterious forebodings which sometimes
come in moments of decisive action and which should never be ignored,
she had tried to detain him.  "Why are you going so early?  You said
you were tired.  Stay here and rest."  But, no, he was expected.  For
fear lest he be late Brutus had sent Cassius to meet him, and, with
no flinching of his traitor face, the latter had told him he must
make haste, that there were matters of grave importance awaiting him
in the Senate.

And it was there that the blow fell.  A sudden noise was heard.
"Hark, what was that?"  The passers-by halted to ask what had
happened.  Suddenly the portico was filled with blanched faces.
There was a terrifying cry: "Cæsar is assassinated!"  Wailing was
heard on every side, but it was drowned by the yells of the
murderers, who, swords in hand, surged around, shrieking: "We have
avenged the honour of the Republic!"

Horrified, not knowing what to believe, the people scattered, like a
river that had burst its dam, and spread all over the city.  In a
moment the frightful news reached all quarters of Rome.  Disorder and
consternation reigned.  The shops were quickly closed; each man hid
his terror behind the shutters of his house.  All knew that an
overwhelming disaster had fallen on Rome and that others, many
others, were treading closely on its heels.

To Cleopatra it meant the end of all her hopes.  A great black gulf
seemed to open at her feet, swallowing in its hungry depths her whole
future.  The world was a desert.

Gangs of armed men ran along the shores of the Tiber, waving batons
surmounted by skull-caps, the Roman symbol of liberty.  They paused
under the windows of the royal palace.  Fierce cries rang out on the
air of that fair spring morning.

"Down with the Egyptian woman!  Put her to death!  Put her to death!"
They were the same voices that spring up the world over, in every
age, at the sign of revolution.  Some attendants gathered around the
Queen, eager to defend her; but they were too distracted to afford
any certainty of protection.

Apollodorus, alone, whose stern commonsense never deserted him in the
most critical moments, spoke quickly, and with authority:

"Your Majesty must quit this bloody town without delay!"

But it was not in Cleopatra's nature to yield to threats, and she
rebelled.  Her instinct was to resist this mob.  Perhaps all was not
yet lost.  Cæsar would surely have avengers.  A party had already
formed, with Antony at its head.  He had loved the dead Cæsar, and
would be likely to respect his wishes, to recognize the young
Cæsarion as his lawful son, the proper heir to....

This was only an illusion; an illusion which, if persisted in, would
be disastrous.  In the prevailing tumults neither the child nor his
mother would be safe.  The cries grew louder.  There was nothing to
do but heed the counsel of Apollodorus.  With his ingenuity and
affection he had already made all necessary preparations for flight.

Through the same gardens, along dangerous paths, surrounded by spies,
the scene of four years ago--when she had come, a persecuted girl, to
Cæsar for protection--was repeated, and Cleopatra, heavily veiled,
slipped out of the hostile city of Rome.

As she journeyed on she felt sometimes almost overwhelmed by the
racking anguish of her heart.  It seemed as though the earth were
giving way under her feet.  Horror!  Desolation!  To be alone, when
so short a while before she had had the Master of the World for her
companion!  The thought made her dizzy.  But at her breast was the
tiny head bearing the features of that master.  She pressed the child
closer and kissed his smiling mouth.  No!  All was not lost.  Hope
was born anew and courage came to bear her company.



II

ALEXANDRIA

Two years had passed.  From her capital, whither she had returned
crushed by the disaster of the Ides of March, Cleopatra was still
watching the civil war which was destroying the Roman world.  That
violent struggle, which was led alternately by the murderers and the
avengers of Cæsar, was a series of brutal reverses.  The feeling that
it roused in her was not merely one of sentiment.  Grief for the
great man who had loved her so passionately, the desire to see his
vile assassins punished, were mixed with grave political anxiety.

For nearly a century Egypt had been impossible to govern.  Restless,
corrupt, sanguinary, it had become a prey to the various pretenders
to the throne.  To hold it together in any way, to utilize the
magnificent resources of its rich soil, to get rid of the bands of
pirates, deserters, and outlaws which made up the larger part of its
army, required a stronger power than the Lagidæ possessed.  Too
indolent to make any exertion, these dilettante sovereigns had formed
the habit of appealing to Rome for aid whenever a new insurrection
broke out.  Ptolemy the Piper, Cleopatra's father, had only been able
to secure his crown by bribing the Roman Senators; and as to
Cleopatra, we know what means she had used to regain her sceptre!

If the peace that she had restored seemed desirable, if she had been
given credit for the temporary prosperity of the country, there was
also much discontent that these things had been accomplished at the
price of a scandal, and by an alliance which, at any time, might
change the ruling power and put it in foreign hands.

Feeling herself deserted, surrounded by opposition, by plots,
deprived of the troops, which, owing to military reasons, had been
removed to other parts, the Queen had days of deep depression.  She
was overwhelmed by her responsibilities, especially when her
ministers came with various accounts: of a pest so terrible that the
embalmers were unable to care for the bodies of the dead; with
sickening tales of the corpses which lined the public highways; again
of famine, which for two successive seasons had ravished the land; of
the wasteful extravagance of dishonest officials in charge of
government affairs; of the difficulties of administration which each
and every day brought forth.  She was weary and often went back in
imagination to the days when the passion of a mighty conqueror had
taken all care away, and she had only to wave her ivory sceptre to
have any desire fulfilled.

What remained to-day of that ancient alliance?  It was Rome now that
stood in need of aid.  Moreover, she was invoking it, and in the
present state of discord each faction was, in turn, begging the
support of Egypt's fleet.  If Cleopatra did not respond to this
appeal it was because she was uncertain which side would win.  To
which party would the Republic belong to-morrow?  If the conspirators
who had murdered Cæsar were victorious, it was probable that, shorn
of power as it was, the kingdom of Egypt, together with those of
Greece, Syria, Gaul, and Spain, as well as Mauritania, would become
merely colonies of Rome.  If the other party, that was loyal to
Cæsar's memory, were the winner, then she could look for the
consideration due her.  Was it not likely that the friends of Cæsar,
desirous of carrying on the work that he had planned, would guard the
interests of the woman whom he had named as his wife?  Would they not
protect the child who bore his image?  But who would be the
conquerors?  Cleopatra was tormented with the perpetual question; and
the report of Cassius' success in Macedonia filled her with
apprehension.

That was in the early autumn.  Then came winter, with its fogs and
storms; navigation was suspended and there was no further news from
the battle-fields.

The sight of Alexandria, filled as that city was for her with
memories and with forebodings, plunged her into endless reveries.
There the brimming cup of joy had been handed her and she had drunk
her fill.  Often at sunset, when the magic purple light bathed the
landscape, she would climb to one of the terraces looking toward the
Bruchium and gaze upon the façades of shimmering gold.  How lovely it
was, stretched under the fiery sky, at the edge of the tawny beach;
or lighted at night by the giant torches of its watch-towers!  How
much more beautiful it had grown in the decades since its founder had
drawn the first plans and shaped its boundaries, which lay around it
like the folds of a military cloak.  The Queen of such a city might
well be proud.  In whichever direction she looked were many-coloured
marbles, enamelled domes of porcelain, triumphal arches, façades
exquisitely carved.  On the crest of a small hill stood the Pantheon,
called in jest the Cage of the Muses.  It was here, according to
ancient tradition which the Lagidæ held in deepest reverence, that
poets, sculptors, musicians, and artists of all nations were accorded
a warm welcome, always provided they had excelled in their art and
were faithful worshippers of Apollo.

Here, in the middle of the colonnade, stood the famous Library--rich,
even after the terrible fire, in the possession of seven hundred
thousand volumes, and which held, among other precious treasures, the
Septimus, that first translation of the Bible into Greek, made by
seventy-two learned Egyptian Jews, under Ptolemy Philadelphus.  Not
far distant, as though to seek the fountain of spiritual nourishment,
clustered the group of temples of Serapis.  This centre of learning,
home of history, philosophy, medicine, and mathematics, as well as
guardian of previous manuscripts, was in very truth the light of the
world.  To-day, after two thousand years, we are indebted to it for
the preservation of the life of Greek literature.

The instruction given there, the names of the savants who taught, the
methods employed, the accuracy of the instruments, the very quality
of the papyrus furnished the students, all these were so justly
famous that wealthy people of all countries, Rome, Athens, even
distant Asia, who had some especially gifted son desired to send him
there, that he might bear the illustrious seal of having been a
student at Alexandria.

Across the distance, to the wide avenues where chariots, litters,
cavalcades were thronging the broad streets, Cleopatra was still
gazing.  She saw the circuses, the theatres; the gymnasium, with the
crowd at its doors, reading the announcements; the stadium, with its
circling race-course; she looked at the gigantic hippodrome, which
twenty thousand spectators could barely fill; at the widely scattered
temples which over-topped the houses, dominating the other buildings
by their mysterious grandeur, and farther on, she saw, with a thrill
of awe, the Soma, that mausoleum where, in a crystal sarcophagus,
rested the repatriated body of her heroic ancestor.

Of these precious stones, of all this magnificence, the Queen
reckoned the worth, and with a fearful pride asked herself: "Will all
this be mine to-morrow?"  Her mind revelled in the vastness of her
heritage; she regarded the inexhaustible valley, watered by the
divine river; she thought of the thirty thousand towns which from
north to south reared their noble ramparts; of Bubastos, where the
goddess of love reigned; of Memphis, sleeping at the base of her
pyramids; of Thebes, the Holy City; of Hermonthis, called the glory
of two heavens; of Edfu, rich in antique treasures.  Farther on, she
saw, in imagination, those southern regions which produce granite and
spices; the legendary vineyards, where each cluster of grapes was so
heavy that two men were needed to carry it to the wine-press.  She
went back to that enchanted island whose perfumed paths bore the
traces of her footsteps, near to those of her lover.  Her old-time
confidence returned and she cried: "No, my Egypt! sacred land of
Osiris and of Ra, you who fill the granaries of the earth and
reverently protect your dead!  Garden of palms and of vines!  Shore
where the holy ibis seeks cooling drink, never shall you be a slave!"

And Cleopatra was right.  Success was in sight.  A decisive victory
had just been gained by Cæsar's avengers.  Pirates, escaped from
Naxos, had brought the good tidings.  Brutus, then Cassius, had been
defeated in the plains of Philippi, and each had taken his life with
the blade which their treacherous hands had plunged in the blood of
their benefactor; thus was justice done.

Cleopatra took fresh courage.  New light came into her life,
overshadowed since that fatal morning in March.  Although still
wrapped in mist, the future was no longer an opaque and
indistinguishable mass of blackness.  A certain harmony prevailed
between it and the past.  Rome emerged from the gloom.  Freed from
the conspirators, she might once more become a valuable ally.

Meanwhile, the Queen, faithful to the tradition of her ancestors, who
had squandered fortunes in amusing the populace, ordered elaborate
entertainments, beginning with religious ceremonies, accompanied by
sacrifices.  Was it not fitting to give thank-offerings to the gods
who had just punished the hateful perpetrators of that deadly crime?

The people of Alexandria welcomed every opportunity for a festival.
If their city was famous for its university, for the learned men who
came there daily to give lectures, it was also a centre of
dissipation; rich in every variety of entertainment, vibrating with
the sheer joy of living.  The enormous fortunes which were made there
had produced unlimited luxury.  For gaiety of all kinds, banquets,
dances, races, theatres, orgies of love and wine, it was without a
rival.

The fame of the Alexandrian festivals was far-spread.  Wherever they
were announced, at Bubastos, or at Pelusium, along the Syrian or
Cilician coasts, eager throngs came to mingle with the populace.
From day-break, along the broad promenades of the modern quarters, as
well as in the overgrown alleys of the old Rhakotis, there were
swarms of noisy people.

The many-coloured costumes, the variety of complexions, dark and
fair, olive and amber, indicated the hurly-burly of the cosmopolitan
town.  The active life of its harbour, filled with all sorts of
beauty and splendour, from the Pillars of Hercules to the entrance of
the Indus; the various spectacles, the museums, the fabulous Nile,
where flower-laden barges went up and down day and night; the
primitive debauchery, to which Greek culture had added every possible
refinement, all these whetted curiosity and made the diversions of
the metropolis inexhaustible.

On one hand a high-shouldered native, his loins girded with
bright-coloured cloths, led an ass laden with leathern bottles;
another was driving a wheat-cart; there, a sunburned, withered sailor
dragged his net; yonder soldiers marched, whose imposing appearance
attracted the crowd.  Men from all countries and of all races were
gathered together there.

Greeks predominated, recognizable, under their palliums, by their
athletic suppleness; there were Romans with their bronze masks, and
Gauls, whose blue eyes and close-fitting woollen tunics contrasted
strangely with the heavy lidded Asiatics, whose flowing, embroidered
robes swept the dust.

The different nationalities of the women were even more conspicuous,
owing to their curious coiffures; some wore the hair loose, others
made it into curls on either side of their cheeks; and still others,
as the girls from Ephesus, fastened it with golden pins, intertwined
with flowers and leaves.

Vast numbers of nomads, usually restricted to the suburbs, added to
the throngs in the streets, for the police were ordered to be
tolerant on the fête days.  Save on the Royal Way, which was reserved
exclusively for the official cortèges, Arabs were allowed to wander
at will, leading, by a cord passed through a nose-ring, one or more
camels, whose air of indescribable dignity dominated the crowd.
There were Jews, who carried bags of money hidden in their shabby,
black caftans; Ethiopians and Kaffirs, with baskets of figs and
citrons balanced on their crimped heads.

Mingling in this mob, strolling about in couples, were lazy little
working-girls, attracted by the clap-trap inducements of
fortune-tellers, watching the acrobats who, standing on their heads,
swallowed swords; or pausing to gaze at the light and wiry jugglers
leaping in and out of the encircling flames.  There were loafers
everywhere, seeking amusement; children in danger of being crushed by
the crowd; even ladies of rank, who, diverted by the street-shows,
had left their litters, and were closely followed by their slaves to
protect them from being jostled.

But everyone had to contend with the general disorder and each was in
danger of being hustled or even beaten down.  Theocritus has left us
a vivid sketch describing a scene at one of these popular festivals
between two young women from Syracuse.  One of them, Gorga, is
visiting her friend.  She arrives all out of breath.


"O Praxinoa! give me a chair, quick!  Put a cushion in it.  How my
heart is thumping!  I thought I never should find you.  You live so
far away, and what a crowd there is to get through!"

Praxinoa listened while she finished dressing.  Her maid, Eunoe,
brought her water, soap, and the key of her big chest.  She took out
a hat and dress and added the last touches to her costume.

Gorga: "How becoming the long, plaited effect of that dress is!  Was
it very expensive?"

Praxinoa: "Ah! don't speak of it!  It cost more than two mines of
pure silver, to say nothing of the time it took to make it up."

After some grumbling about their husbands, and instructions to the
Phrygian attendant to look after the baby and to keep the dog shut
up, the two women leave the house.  As soon as the door is closed
Praxinoa cried: "Ye gods, what a rabble!  What shall we do?  How can
we walk?  And here come the soldiers!  Look at the cavalry!  Nothing
frightens me so much as horses.  Gorga!  Look at that chestnut mare
kicking!"

Gorga: "Never mind, it's going back in line now!"

They push ahead through the surging crowd.  But the sensitive
Praxinoa is all confused.  "Give me your hand," she calls to Gorga.
"And Eunoe, you hold on to Eutyclus.  Let us keep close together lest
we lose each other."

In spite of these precautions they were soon forced apart by the mob.
"How unlucky I am!" exclaimed Praxinoa; her pretty plaited dress had
been trodden under foot by a passing man.  She called angrily after
him: "By Jupiter, be careful if you don't want me to...."

But the offender was a gallant man.  Instead of being rude he
apologized and helped Praxinoa to arrange her disordered gown.  "Take
courage, lady, you are out of danger now!"  Praxinoa thanked him,
with the gratitude of a person who has just been rescued: "Kindly
stranger, how can I express my appreciation of your help and
protection?"  Just here she caught sight of Gorga, and the two
friends fell into each other's arms.

"I have been looking everywhere for you, Gorga!"

"And I for you, Praxinoa!" they proceeded to discuss their mishaps.

Praxinoa: "See, my dress is all torn!"

Gorga: "So is my cloak.  What will my husband say?"

Arm in arm they walked along the road to the edge of the Bruchium
where the banquet is being prepared.

"Is it much farther?" they demanded of an old woman.

"Alas, yes, my children!"

"At least it will be an easy matter to get in?"

The old woman, who knew her Homer, teased them: "'With strenuous
efforts the Greeks entered Troy.'  If you take enough trouble, my
fair maids, you may reach your goal!"

* * *

There was a sudden flourish of trumpets.  It was the signal for the
procession to start.  It filed by, solemn, unending, with the
musicians at its head, half-naked cymbal players clanging their
shining disks; cithern players, who sounded rings strung on metal
threads; men, striking with sycamore sticks the wild asses' skins
stretched over round drums hanging from their necks.

At a certain distance, intended to indicate the difference between
them and what was merely human, the cortège of priests appeared.  The
trumpet players had already commanded silence and with reverent
interest the spectators gazed at the horoscope casters, who could
reveal the future; the hieroglyphic readers; prophets with long
beards, who burned incense in little brass boxes; priests, whose duty
it was to offer to faithful worshippers the images of the gods.
Raising their gilded staffs, some would balance the standards by
their painted ends; others, accompanied them in chariots; amid the
general exultation, and before the staring eyes of the crowd, filed
the mysterious figures of Apis, Hathor, the Bull; of the grimacing
Toth, of Horus, in his sparrow-hawk mask, of Anubis, the god of
Death, all expressing unknown power.  There were great shoutings and
cries as these images passed, for all believed in the might of this
blind matter, all believed in its power of conferring an infinite
degree of strength on the suppliant.

Between two rows of soldiers the High Priest at last was seen
advancing.  He was a very old man and leaned on a cane.  A long,
hyacinth-coloured veil covered his hands and his face, which no
profane glance was allowed to desecrate.  He alone was admitted to
private conference with the god, who presently, through his mouth,
would reveal the oracle.  After him came the priestesses, young,
pure, dressed entirely in white, their pointed fingers balancing the
stems of lotus-flowers.  Then followed the conjurers, with their
quivering torches; the bell ringers; the bird catchers, who, on their
batons daubed with glue, held the sacred fowls.  Then came the
beggars, exposing their infirmities; the vendors of sacred images, of
scarabs, of amulets; the inevitable commercial tail that always drags
behind wherever man raises up a god to be adored.  And all this tide
of incongruous beings, this turbulent collection of races, of
passions, of divers interests, advanced in order, marching with even
step toward the fascinating goal, which yonder against the azure sky,
resplendent and sacred, called to them all alike to come: the temple
of Serapis.

Built on the model of the old temples of the gods, this sanctuary,
uniting all forms of worship, was the most noted in Egypt.  The
princely sums with which it was endowed served continually to augment
its power, and only the most famous monuments of the Roman Capitol
could compare with its mighty structure.  One hundred steps led up to
the entrance.  Its portal was guarded by a line of sphinxes of
imposing majesty; and along its sides, from arches of yellow and
vermilion, light streamers floated in the wind.

As they approached the entrance the students of the different
colleges took their places along the portico, according to their
rank.  Some stood in the empty spaces between the rows of columns
and, thus, little by little, the building was filled, peopled with
human forms which, in their immobility, resembled groups of statues.

Suddenly there was a commotion.  Everyone turned toward a light which
shone above the crowd.  A herald announced "The Queen!"  Magnificent,
surrounded by a glittering guard, on her way, one would have said, to
a heavenly kingdom, Cleopatra appeared, borne on a shield.  Seeing
her thus, so innocent, in a sheath of silver which encircled her as
though she were a graven image, with her knees bent, her elbows close
to her sides, her eyes raised to the sky, it was not possible to
believe the evil tales about her.  She was no longer the woman, but
the august daughter of kings; a priestess, who, in another moment,
would be in the presence of a god.  Four slaves waved immense fans of
peacocks' feathers above her head, and at her feet, like a cushion, a
panther lay.

While the temple slaves attended to the slaughter of the victims,
whose warm entrails were smoking on the slope, a young poet-singer,
his zither hanging from his shoulder, advanced and, after bowing to
the multitude, began chanting the praises of the Queen.  "_Thy hair
is like a sweet-smelling plant.  Thy hands are the palms of love.
Thy brow is like a moon coming out from behind a cloud.  Thine eyes,
with their shining lashes, are two summer butterflies.  Thy teeth
have the brilliancy of a stream, running between two banks bordered
with roses and peonies._"  And after each verse, a chorus of virgins
would take up the refrain: "_Hail to thee, O resplendent daughter of
Amoun-Ra!_"

The moment for the burnt-offerings had come.  Erect now, her
shoulders covered with the mantle of Isis, white as wheat, followed
by the priests and the chief dignitaries, Cleopatra stepped over the
sill of the temple, and the enormous door, behind which crouched the
terrifying watch-dog of granite, with his triple head of wolf,
jackal, and lion, was closed.  In the farthest corner, behind great
columns, covered with hieroglyphics explaining the destiny of the
human soul, stood a Serapis of marble and of gold.  Ruling deity in
whom was combined the antique Kronos, together with the Zeus of the
Greeks and the Jupiter of the Latins, Serapis was the national god.
He was believed to be omnipotent.  It was to him that the Egyptians
looked for glory, health, and riches; from him came their faith in
the mighty powers of the waters of the Nile.  His figure was three
times the height of man and serene majesty was written on his
features.  His beard spread over his knees, abundant and shining; the
seal of kings was on his forehead; his hands were extended with a
gesture that seemed to embrace the whole world.  By a skilful
arrangement the light, coming in from above, fell on his enamelled
lips, and this single ray produced the effect of a kiss from heaven,
and gave his worshippers the illusion that he was speaking.

Before this colossal statue the sacrificial table was spread.  The
signs of the Zodiac were engraved on its huge circumference.  In the
centre was burning oil, and side by side with the blood of the
victims were precious vases holding wine and wheat, the water of the
Nile, and the seven perfumes most agreeable to the god.  While the
High Priest inclined toward the flame, pouring out the offerings that
the fire might devour them, the Queen prostrated herself before the
altar.  She pleaded, she implored: "O mighty god, all-powerful god,
whom the winds obey, be favourable to my prayers.  Liberate thy
healing waters, let their abundance flow over Egypt and make her
fertile.  Let no sedition breed in her cities, nor alien enemy come
to destroy her troops.  May her people be loyal to her and protect
her with foot-soldiers armed with arrows, and with horsemen in
shining armour."

Absorbed in the mysterious rites in the temple, all hearts were
beating furiously.  It was the moment when the omens would become
visible; and, as though a single soul, a single voice, the multitude
united in the prayer of its sovereign.  Moved by an unconquerable
faith she repeated the words of supplication: "O mighty god, god whom
the winds obey, liberate the still waters.'"

The smoke cleared away, the cedar doors of the temple reopened, and
the Queen reappeared.  She was very pale.  Under her sparkling
necklaces her bosom was heaving.  Her large eyes were gazing far off,
beyond earthly things, into that region of prophecy whither her
prayer had ascended.  What had she seen there?  What had she heard?
What communication from the oracle did the High Priest have to bring?
Three blasts of the trumpet announced that the Queen was about to
speak.  She came to the edge of the first step, and her voice, sweet
as a flute, pronounced these words:

"May the name of Serapis be praised!  His mercy is upon us.  He
promises glory and prosperity to Egypt.  On your seed the Nile will
spread her blessed waters and will make your wheat to swell!"

A tremendous clamour arose.  From the thousands of throats it swelled
like the roar of a hurricane.  With enthusiasm, with an almost insane
gratitude, as though the miracle had already taken place, thanks
began to pour forth.

With a gesture like that of Neptune when he bids the floods be still,
the Queen commanded silence.  She had not yet finished speaking.

"The goodness of Serapis," she said, "surpasses our hopes.  He loves
Egypt; he wishes for it greatness and prosperity.  From him will come
a warrior whose sword cannot know defeat."

A new burst of enthusiasm arose, which this time nothing could
suppress.  It was a general delirium, a reaching out toward joy,
toward that great unknown happiness which the mass as well as the
individual expects from the future.

The shield was again lowered.  The Queen climbed up lightly, barely
touching the three ivory steps of the wooden stool, then, with the
fans waving above her head, the panther crouching at her feet, she
took again the road leading to the palace.  Shouts, flowers, and
palms greeted her on every side, but she did not seem to see any of
these things.

Lost in a world of thought, she was dreaming her own dreams.  However
skeptical she might have felt, she had been impressed by the words of
the High Priest.  Would a warrior really come?  And if he did, who
would he be?  A name came to her mind.  With curious persistence,
past memories began to fill her fancy.  Some details, almost
forgotten, came back to her.  One evening, nearly three years before,
in the villa on the banks of the Tiber; the conversation between
Cæsar and Trebonius had grown dull.  The question had come up as to
whether the committees would meet again or be abolished from the
concourse.  Suddenly the door was flung open and Mark Antony entered.
It was a new life that came in.  He was laughing; his hair fell over
his forehead; his shoulders, cut like those of his ancestor,
Hercules, were strong enough to carry the Nemean lion.  His presence
impregnated the atmosphere of the room with youth, with warm, glowing
exuberance, and straightway Cleopatra had felt his covetous eyes fall
on her, with that look which a woman always understands.  How often
since that first evening she had felt that same look, that frank
admission on the part of the man that he was no longer master of
himself.  And another evening, when they had been left alone for a
moment, she had felt the warm touch of his lips on her shoulder.  Her
surprise and embarrassment had been so great that, wishing to conceal
them, she had sought refuge in flight.  Since then he had been more
reserved; but if he did not speak, if his manner were constrained, it
was because his loyalty to Cæsar had put a seal upon his lips.  How
would he have dared do otherwise?  And Cleopatra, though fully aware
of his feeling, how would she have received an avowal of his love?
Undoubtedly Cæsar's exalted position restrained his inferior officer,
who owed everything to him, from trespassing on forbidden ground;
just as it prevented Cleopatra from yielding to any passing fancy.
However tempting the athletic beauty of Mark Antony, glory was her
chief ambition.  She would let nothing stand in the way of that.  But
to-day death had changed everything.  Mark Antony stood in Cæsar's
place; he had no master for a rival.  Could it be that he was the
saviour whom the god had promised?

Weary of her widowhood, a flood of hope, at this thought, swept over
her heart.  She wanted to be alone to give herself up to these dreams.

The sun had just set, and a crescent of silver was visible in the
evening sky.  One by one the high lamps, planted like trees along the
avenues, shone out.  Delicate, rose-coloured illuminations began to
sparkle along the edges of the houses, where they hung like fruit
among the thin branches of the plane trees.  If the festivals of the
daylight had been rich and attractive, the evening decorations
satisfied the sensuous taste.  The Queen had given orders that no
expense be spared to give general pleasure.  The fountains at the
palace doors ran red with wine, and on the long tables in the inner
courts, which led from the stables to the kitchen, meats, pastries,
and cheese were served to the public.  Order was carefully preserved
and, after getting their portions, the people were compelled to move
on.  Many went to the theatres, where free performances were given;
others preferred to linger by the street-shows, watching the farces;
others wound up the evening's entertainment in some of the notorious
resorts of the Rhakotis.

While the common people amused themselves thus, herded together in an
atmosphere of dust and sweat, the rich people, to whom every day was
a holiday, entertained themselves in a less vulgar manner.  Many, at
the hour of supper, left the crowded part of the city to linger along
the aristocratic avenues on the west side of the great capital, which
seemed half asleep among their silent gardens.  A group of perfumed
dandies stopped before a dwelling, small, but of charming
proportions, surrounded by pine trees.  A slave came out to open the
gate.  Crossing the vestibule, where a fountain was playing, they
were introduced into a hall lined from floor to ceiling by thousands
of rolls of papyrus.  It was the library where Polydemus, who had
made a fortune in perfumes, delighted to receive his guests.  Those
whom he had invited this evening belonged to various circles of
society; for it was his pleasure that in his home all subjects should
be discussed and all the topics of the day be passed upon freely.
Except in art, where he had a preference for the Greek style, he was
liberal-minded, and so unprejudiced that he did not hesitate to bring
together men of opposing views.  Consequently he numbered among his
guests Apollodorus, the secretary of the Queen, whose devotion to her
was well known; Demetrius, the lieutenant, who had fought him under
Achillas; Sati, a Theban of ancient family, who was wedded to the old
traditions and objected to all foreign influence; rhetoricians, noted
for their Athenian culture; financiers and artists; philosophers, as
little likely to hold the same views on any one subject as are men of
political bent.

Behind drawn curtains the hall was brilliantly lighted.  Between the
delicate columns, busts of Homer, Pindar, Zeno, and Epicurus rested
on bronze pedestals; and, alternating with them, as though to thank
these great men for their indulgence, stood graceful statues of women.

The guests reclined on couches, placed around a table which was
adorned with silver and painted pottery.  In the middle stood an
alabaster bowl, surrounded by branches of rose-bushes, some of which,
as though too heavy to bear their own weight, fell in garlands on the
snow-white table-cover.  As soon as the banqueters were comfortably
settled the first course was served.  Eels from Lake Mareotis, just
outside Alexandria, covered with a sauce flavoured with caraway seed;
congers, fried in butter; roe, in tiny casseroles.

Then began the general conversation, trivial at first, turning on the
happenings of the day.  One guest commented on the passing
processions, which had never been better managed; another on the
sumptuous banquets which were being served at the Bruchium; this one
praised the marvellous circus, where two hundred beasts and twenty
gladiators had been slaughtered; that one called the attention of the
guests to the wonderful illuminations which, seen through the open
windows, were reddening the skies above the city.

Apollodorus took advantage of these various comments to dwell upon
the gracious generosity of the Queen, who was always eager to afford
happiness to her people.

"Hail to Cleopatra!" responded the artists, who were being
entertained in the halls of the Paneum.

"Hail to the beloved of the gods!"

"Glory to her who is a delight to our eyes!"

"Drink to her who brings light to our minds!"

But, as always, this very praise aroused controversy.  If the young
Queen had passionate admirers, especially among the younger men who,
impressed by her beauty and intelligence, were led to expect great
things, there were others, grave and sedate men, who were shocked by
her audacity.  From the time of her liaison with Cæsar they had
criticized her lack of dignity.  There were even suspicions in regard
to the recent death of her young brother, and hostile queries as to
what part she might have had in it.

This evening the wanton extravagance of the present fêtes came under
discussion, and the air was full of unfriendly criticism.  It was no
time to spend money recklessly when a severe famine was devastating
the land.  Some, who had noticed certain affectations of taste and
manner, which Cleopatra had shown since her return from Italy, were
here, in their condemnation of her.

That very day, disdainful of the old ceremony with the Pschent,
surmounted by the sacred Uræus, a ceremony at which kings and queens
from time immemorial had covered their hair with the ancient
headdress, Cleopatra had substituted a diadem!  And on that ornament,
which concealed her temples and forehead, the respecters of the old
Egyptian tradition had been horrified to see the image of Minerva
instead of that of Isis, worn by her who was supposed to be the
priestess of Isis.

Sati deplored these conditions.  "It is the first time that a
sovereign of ours has treated an ancient custom with contempt!"

When the sculptor Nicias remarked that this diadem, which revealed
the nape of her neck, was most becoming to her delicate profile, the
venerable Theban rebuked him:

"So far from favouring them the Queen should be the first to
discourage these foreign fashions."

This objection was not surprising from a man who still wore the old
national tunic, held in place by a belt with floating ends, and whose
curled beard reached nearly to his waist.

Apollodorus observed smilingly that it seemed scarcely worth while to
lay so much stress on the matter of a coiffure.

The subject, unluckily, was not so trivial as the devoted secretary
wished to represent.  He was not unaware of the state of things, and
in these criticisms he saw plainly the attitude of those who, having
suffered from the effects of the Roman invasion, were all too ready
to reproach the Queen for having brought it about.  He desired in
every way to lay stress on her loyalty to her people.

Unfortunately, the former lieutenant of Achillas chose that moment to
recall all that the invasion had cost Egypt: two years of war, the
destruction of the fleet, a great part of their priceless library
wiped out by fire.

The latter memory was particularly painful to the thoughtful men, for
they loved books and naturally deplored the irreparable loss of their
country's treasures.  Was this splendid banquet to turn to vinegar in
their mouths?

As though pricked by a spur Polydemus turned the talk to other
subjects.  Pointing to the satinwood shelves, where lay thousands of
rolls of papyrus, he announced that he was leaving them in his will
to the city of Alexandria, and that there were many rare copies among
them of which he was the sole possessor, and that these would replace
the specimens which had been so unfortunately destroyed by fire.

This generous gift was warmly appreciated.  The friends of this good
citizen congratulated him on his public spirit, and unanimously
expressed the hope that the promised legacy would not come to them
for many years.

The second course of the banquet was now served.  A huge copper basin
was brought in, containing a whole sheep, whose flesh was still
crackling; then come a platter, embellished with various dressings,
on which was a giant goose still decked in his coat of feathers,
whose stomach was stuffed with snipe.  These delicacies were carved
in the twinkling of an eye, the guests who were nearest the host
being served first.  They used silver spatula and chiselled spoons.
The light from the flaring torches made the table shine like gold.
The perfume of the roses was so strong that the food seemed flavoured
with it.  For a few moments the guests were absorbed in the
consumption of the epicurean delicacies and silence reigned.  There
was no sound save the flitting steps of the slaves as they passed to
and fro.

Suddenly one of the slaves announced that a vessel had just entered
the harbour, with an important messenger on board.  Just what his
errand was no one as yet knew, in fact, nothing would be known until
the next day.  There were, however, grave rumours, and serious
happenings were said to be going on at Rome.  A shiver ran around the
table.  The Egyptians, always suspicious concerning Rome and her
schemes, already felt the entangling meshes of the net which perhaps
in another twenty-four hours would hold them captives.  What might
this news be?  What horrors, what scandals, were yet in store?  For
the past two years the Forum had been nothing more than a nest of
bandits, and the echo of its evil brawls was constantly in their ears.

Polydemus, anxious that there should be no second disturbance at his
supper, expressed the hope that with the triumph of the Cæsarian
party an era of peace and order would be established.  But there was
an outcry from his guests.  What order, what justice could be
expected from people who, although fighting for the same cause, had
never ceased to destroy each other?  No one referred to Lepidus; his
very mediocrity protected him from criticism.  But what of Antony?
Of Octavius?  Which of these was the greater villain?  In the hubbub
of noisy speeches each gave himself up to reciting the various
sensational acts which witnesses, or writers, had handed on to him.

"While performing his sacred duties a priest was told he was to be
banished and sought refuge," said Eudoxos.  "Too late!  Before he
could cross the sill of the Tribunal, a centurion stabbed him."

Lycon declared that mothers, to save themselves, shut their doors
against their own sons who were suspected of treason; that daughters
did not hesitate to tell where their fathers were concealed.

Even little children, according to another, were no longer safe.  One
child, on its way to school, had been seized by an executioner and
slaughtered before the eyes of its parents.

"Remember, above all else, the brutal assassination of Cicero," cried
the rhetorician, Antipus, who had made a journey to Rome expressly to
hear the voice of that great orator.

"That was an unpardonable crime," agreed one of his colleagues, "and
it will leave a lasting stain on the name of Mark Antony!"

Apollodorus, who the moment before had been praising the latter, in
order to protect the Queen, now tried to throw the odium of this
assassination on Octavius.  He was chiefly to blame; the friend of
Cicero, he, like a white-livered coward, and without a single qualm,
had given Cicero into the hands of the murderers.  He whom, only a
few days before, Cicero had pressed to his heart and called his son!

A shiver of disgust ran around the table as though a serpent had
appeared in the room.  Again the talk turned on Mark Antony.  In
spite of his misdoings, he at least, with the coarse tunic that he
put on when he went to drink with the soldiers and the women of the
town, with his sword slung over his shoulder and his chariot drawn by
lions, accompanied by the courtesan Cytheris, was amusing.  A voice
was even heard praising him, for a brave man will always find someone
to stand up for him.

The philosopher, Lycon, though a professed cynic, recalled that at
the moment when the conspirators were still waving their swords, when
Octavius was in hiding, and when terror prevailed throughout Rome,
Mark Antony had had the courage to insist on a proper funeral for
Cæsar and had stood before the body of his benefactor and fearlessly
proclaimed his virtues.

But this praise aroused little enthusiasm.  The group of
distinguished men of letters had no interest in a boor like Antony
whose valour was simply that of the battle-field.

The diatribe that the sculptor Nicias hurled against the Romans met
the popular sentiment.  If the invasion of these barbarians
continued, what would become of the present civilization?  He had
just come from Corinth and knew that many of the splendid buildings
had already been destroyed.  Greece was a mass of ruins.  What was to
be expected if these things continued?

The supper was over at last.  The creams and pastries gave forth a
delicious odour of wild honey.  The citrons were all the more
refreshing after the highly spiced dishes of the repast.  The rare
wines had increased in exquisite bouquet with each course.  After the
cider and mead, the delicate, violet-flavoured wines of Phoenicia
were served, then the warm liqueurs of Spain.  There were also the
celebrated Gallic wines, clear and sparkling, well calculated to
drive away all manner of depression.

The conversation turned on women.  It was not usual for them to be
absent from the banquets at Polydemus's house; but this evening,
those that he had invited, chiefly celebrated courtesans, for he was
unmarried, had had engagements elsewhere.  The younger men, who were
devoted to horse-racing, had taken Faustina and Leah to the stadium
to see their horses run.  Chloris could not leave Naudres, that noted
actor, on the evening when, shod with buskins and with trumpet-like
voice, he played his famous role of Orestes; a banquet at Gauthene's
had attracted Moussana and Trophena, for they knew that the two sons
of the banker Rupin would be there as well as the heir of the richest
ship-owner of Ephesus.  A number had preferred to keep their evening
free that they might stroll along the Heptastadium, for a night such
as this afforded every chance of meeting open-handed gallants.

The older men agreed that a supper was fully as agreeable without
women, and Sati declared that their presence was often a drawback to
interesting conversation.

"Is that on account of their modesty?" inquired Lycias, who loved his
joke.

"They cannot talk of anything but love," sighed the banker in a bored
tone.

The poet, Melanis, who up to then had said nothing, raised his voice
in protest.  "Even though the hour and place were not especially
consecrated to love, was it not permissible to evoke its charming
images?" he demanded.

"For my part," declared the lieutenant, "I don't think there's any
sense in discussing such things."

Just at that moment, the cup-bearer appeared, bringing, with great
care, an amphora.  It contained a marvellous Cyprian wine, one of
those rare vintages which the lips approach with reverence.  Many of
the men declared that nothing so delicious had ever tickled their
palates.

"O wine!  Golden fountain that reflects the sun!  Flagon that the
generous gods have spilled on the earth to rejoice the hearts of
men!" exclaimed the young Melanis, in a burst of improvisation.

Taking advantage of the general good humour that the wine had
created, Apollodorus reminded the company that if Cyprus were once
more a province of Egypt, and if its wines came into Alexandria free
of duty, it was to Cleopatra that they owed the credit.

"That is very true," said Polydemus.  "The restoration of this
province was really a gift from Cæsar to the Queen."

This reference to the wine produced a spirit of good-will, and those
who had been criticizing Cleopatra most severely now raised their
glasses in her honour, and the master of the house was pleased to see
the supper, which angry arguments had several times threatened to
spoil, end in good humour.

About eleven o'clock the slaves withdrew and the dancers, with
attendant musicians, appeared under the peristyle.  They were twelve
young girls of pure Egyptian descent, whose type is still preserved
and known to us to-day as the Gypsy.

At the sound of the five-stringed lyre their lithe bodies began to
sway.  The figures that they formed, first approaching, then
retreating, turning to join hands and then withdraw again, were not
so much a dance, as a game between nymphs and their pursuing satyrs.
This first movement was soon succeeded by livelier frolics.
Tambourines and castanets resounded.  The legs of the dancers, which
until then had only bent and moved gracefully, had an irresistible
impetus.  At the same moment black eyes shot lightning glances from
under blue-white lids; there was a wave of sound, heels clicked, and
rings clanged together.  A whirl of bare flesh was visible through
the slit tunics, bent-over backs straightened up, arms, interlaced
like branches, unwound themselves abruptly.

Now delightfully voluptuous, now urged on by the wild music, the
dancing continued far into the night.  The older men, stupefied by
the heavy meal and the abundant flow of wine, soon grew drowsy; but
the younger ones, who had been somewhat bored during the
long-drawn-out repast, were now waked to feverish excitement.  With a
kind of intoxication they followed the women's gestures, which seemed
to parody love before their eyes, making it waver, come forward,
then, in a flash, rise and triumph in an ecstatic embrace.

The roses were fading in the alabaster vases.  The torches, one by
one, flickered and went out The pale dawn was creeping through the
parted curtains, as the banqueters took leave of their gracious host,
expressing appreciation of his kindly hospitality.

Apollodorus, whose duties at the Bruchium began very early, had no
time to return to his own home, which was far out on the road toward
Sais.  There was a chance, however, for him to walk off the last
fumes of the Cyprian wine.

The city was deserted.  Silence reigned, but the flagstones seemed
still vibrating from the tread of countless feet.  Here and there lay
withered garlands, side by side with various lost objects, bits of
draggled silk and other débris, which had been part of the evening's
vanities.  The abandoned halls, these cast-off trifles, brought a
certain sadness to Apollodorus as he recalled the discussions at
Polydemus's table.  They were rebellious, dissatisfied, hard to
control, these subjects of Cleopatra, and how evident was the feeling
of enmity against her.  There were parties ready at any moment to
band together and bring about one of those revolutions which her
ancestors had ceaselessly combated; and what countless traps had
already been set for her!  He remembered the day when he sailed in a
fishing boat to seek her on the beach at Canopus.  But then a mighty
power sheltered her, worked for her.  To-day, alone, criticized on
every side, opposed, would she have sufficient strength?

His mind filled with these misgivings, Apollodorus found himself at
the door of the palace.  In the misty morning light, the delicate
architecture, with its multitude of supporting columns, seemed almost
aerial.  He was astounded to see the Queen standing on one of the
terraces.  Her hair was loosened and her scarf was waving in the
breeze.  He learned that just as her women were preparing her for bed
a courier had arrived and she had had a long conference with him.  At
its close she had shown keen delight.  "There are times when life is
too beautiful to lose any moment of it in sleep," she had said when
her attendants had begged her to rest for a while.  Left alone, she
had unrolled the script which confirmed the message that had just
come to her.

The tidings recorded were so many and so unexpected that she was
compelled to go over them two or three times, and then to repeat them
to herself.  This much, at least, was true: reconciled by their
victory, the avengers of Cæsar had formed a new Triumvirate.  The
world was in their hands.  They had divided it, or rather, Mark
Antony, the only champion to fight and conquer Octavius (who, ill and
quaking in his tent, had awaited him with chattering teeth) had
divided it, according to his own liking.  He gave the control of
barbarous Gaul and a part of Italy, ruined and still racked by
threats of revolution, to his wretched associate; Lepidus, who had
not even taken any part in the war, had Spain (which was always on
the eye of insurrection) and the African provinces assigned to him;
and Mark Antony, supreme arbitrator and the worshipped leader of
thirty-two legions, the hero before whom all knees were bent, claimed
for his share of the spoils the mighty Orient, always desired, always
coveted on account of its riches.

So, the words of the god had not been in vain.  The sacred promise
had been fully carried out.  She, Cleopatra, would have an ally as
powerful as Cæsar and one whom she would have chosen above all others.

As things now stood all lay within her grasp.  The past had taught
her that a woman like herself could make of such a man, of such a
great man, whatever she desired.  Was not this the moment to put her
experience to the test, to try with another that fortune which before
had played her false?  The flood of hope rose quickly.  It came from
the depths of her being, like a magic stream, washing away her grief
in a single wave.  The future, full of beautiful vistas, spread out
before her.  The walls of her room seemed to cramp her vision and she
went out on the terrace.  Night was almost gone.  A mist of silver
floated between the sea and sky.  A sudden light gleamed through the
haze, the horizon was transfused with rose-coloured clouds, and
through the limpid light shot the gold and scarlet rays of the rising
sun.



III

MARK ANTONY

In the accounts written by the admirers of Cæsar Augustus, Mark
Antony is depicted as a combination of all the vices.  His
adversaries undoubtedly had good grounds for denouncing a man whose
name reeked of scandals and whose passions had driven him to fight
against his own country.  It is easy to see how conservative men
would have taken exception to his free ways, his bragging, his
notorious wine-drinking, his extravagant habits; his gold plates
carried, along with his mistresses, his mimes, and buffoons, into his
very camps during the wars; the lions that were harnessed to his
chariot, all the eccentricities which had caused him to be described
as "an overgrown child who might have conquered the world and who did
not know how to deny himself the least pleasure."

On the other hand, what charming characteristics he had, which they
ignored!  Without these delightful qualities, this foundation, so to
say, which shone through the deceptive masquerade, how can we
understand the continuous, irresistible attraction which he possessed
for everyone who came in contact with him?  People attract, not by
the virtues that they strive for, but by their own natural charm.
Mark Antony was blessed with this magnetism.  Superb in face and
figure, a nobleman full of enthusiasm, whose gay spirits were
contagious, brutal perhaps, at times, but never malicious, he
possessed all the gifts to make life a thing of joy for himself and
for those about him.  He was noted for his generosity and his friends
knew that they could appeal to it and did not hesitate to do so.  On
one occasion, Curion, a man of gay life like himself, being in sudden
need of money to pay a gambling debt, came to him early one morning
before he had finished dressing.  Antony was in exactly the same
predicament, having lost his last penny at the gaming table the night
before.  The two friends were dismayed.  What could be done?  They
were out in the country at some distance from Rome and the need was
pressing.  How could they procure the necessary funds?  Antony looked
about him.  The furnishings, the weapons, the skins of wild beasts,
nothing had any money value.  Suddenly his eyes lighted on a gold
basin filled with water for his morning toilet.  With a quick
movement he emptied it.  "There," he said, "take that.  The goldsmith
will certainly give you two talents for it."*


*NOTE: In Plutarch's "Life of Antony" a like incident is related of
Antony's father.


Though he spent money recklessly, he never used evil means to get it.
Even Cicero, his mortal enemy, who brought many charges against him,
did him the justice to say: "No one can accuse Mark Antony of
dishonesty in money matters, of selfishness, or of any meanness of
that kind."

In spite of his lax morals and of his deplorable habit of hard
drinking, Antony was not lacking in nobility.  It was his enemy,
Seneca, who recognized this and described him: _Magnum virum ingenii
nobilis_.  And what finer keynote to his character as a man could be
found than his loyal submission to his chief, whose glory he never
coveted?  As long as Cæsar lived, his young comrade-in-arms
recognized that his own place was in the second rank.  He never had
any idea of usurping Cæsar's power, and aspired to his place only
when he had Octavius for a rival.

It was chiefly on the battle-field that his real character was shown.
Patient, steady, imperturbable, a model both of endurance and of
submission to discipline, Antony won universal admiration.  His
soldiers, who had seen him in dangerous crises, would have followed
him to the ends of the earth.  They looked on him as a god.  A man of
Antony's temperament naturally had violent reactions.  The more he
had been restrained, the more he demanded when he was free.  During
the heroic retreat from Modena he slept on the hard ground, drank
stagnant water, lived on roots and herbs; but when it was over, and
peace was declared, the high-liver demanded his rights, and the
orgies he held were not exceeded by Silenus himself.  Just as
moderation is the safe rule for most men, Antony thrived on excess.
From every fatigue, from every indulgence, he came forth stronger,
more keenly alive, invigorated.

Nature, with all her generous gifts to this grandson of Jupiter and
Semele, had, however, denied him the one thing needful, without which
the others were practically useless: Mark Antony had no commonsense.
How could he have made great decisions?  His passions were so
compelling that he was carried away by them before he had time to
reflect.  They were irresistible, bearing him on with the force of a
hurricane which is appeased only after having devastated all that
lies in its path.  Two elements fought for mastery in his ardent yet
weak spirit: ambition and sensuality.  Each, in turn supreme, carried
him to extremes.  Ambition, pre-eminent in his youth, had inspired
those valorous deeds which had made him a leader in the invasions of
Gaul and Sicily, and at the death of Cæsar had rendered him
all-powerful in subduing the conspirators; between two campaigns it
had led him to follow in Alexander's path and undertake the conquest
of Persia.  But sensuality was the stronger and conquered him at
last.  Little by little it took possession of its noble prey, binding
him, engrossing all his faculties, stifling them, one by one, and at
the end throwing him into the abyss of despair.

The morning after the battle of Philippi, before he had set foot on
the soil of that Orient which was to be his triumph and his undoing,
Antony was well balanced.  Though his senses were exultant, his mind
was filled with mighty projects.  As he left that wild Macedonian
country, where victory had been gained only after cruel sacrifices,
the memory of whose bitter cold still made him shiver, he dreamed of
those sunny southern lands, with their warmth and abundance, which
his valour had won.  Which one should he visit first?  Each had its
own attraction, each shore held some new charm.  On the other side of
Ossa and Pelion, whose snow-capped summits shut him in, lay the
fascination and culture of Greece; beyond that, the coast of Asia,
crowded with cities, each richer and more famous than the other:
Smyrna, Ephesus, Pergamus; then Syria, with her palm trees, her
gardens filled with luscious fruits; Lebanon, the stopping-place of
the caravans from the Far East, laden with silks and precious stones.
Then Palestine, arid beneath her gray olive trees, but crowned by
holy Jerusalem, that sacred shrine calling a perpetual pilgrimage of
Jews from the four corners of the earth; and above all, Egypt, Egypt
fragrant with incense and violets, the kingdom of the incomparable
Cleopatra!

Ever since the catastrophe of the Ides of March had so abruptly
separated them, Antony had dreamed of the beautiful Queen.  Often, in
the heat of battle, or during the dreary watches in his tent at
night, he had conjured up her fair image.  Sometimes he saw again
that indefinable look with which, when quite sure that she was
unobserved, the mistress of Cæsar had returned his passionate regard.
Tender and enticing, her glance, which stole toward him from between
her long, dark lashes, seemed to demand his adoration.  So vivid had
been his sensations that at moments he was thrilled by the memory.
The unspoken words of those evenings at the Transtevera would come
back to him and, with the hunger of unsatisfied desire, he went over
those scenes again and again.  Unceasingly he repeated to himself the
comforting thought that what had been impossible to him in the
lifetime of Cæsar, he was no longer barred from taking.  Cleopatra
was free, and he, in his turn, had become one of the pillars of the
world, a man whom any woman, even were she a queen, would be proud to
call her lord.  Above all, he had that magic gift of youth, to which
all things are possible, and that ever-buoyant hope which, dreaming
of the fairest fortune that the future may hold, whispers: "Why
should not this be mine?"

But Antony was tormented by one ever-recurring doubt: what did
Cleopatra really feel in regard to him?  She had always been most
gracious in her manner, but discreet at all times, careful not to
give Cæsar the least ground for jealousy.  What had she thought of
him that day when, alone together for a moment, he had not been able
to resist kissing her exquisite bare shoulder?  She seemed like a
beautiful sphinx, as, without remonstrance, without a smile, she had
turned away and silently left the room.  Was it love of the great
Cæsar that made her so prudent, or the fear of losing his powerful
protection?  He had never understood her complex personality; he
could not forget her feline grace, and those eyes which had stirred
his innermost depths and had left him wondering, as does the
mysterious beauty of a night in spring.  What had she been doing for
the past two years?  He was utterly ignorant of her life, of her
interests, and he longed to see her once more.

Antony, however, was not yet entirely in the power of these desires.
The duties and responsibilities of his position were the chief
factors in his life.  He was fully alive to the necessity of visiting
the new provinces that had come under his care, of giving them the
protection which they had a right to expect from him.  What excuse
did he have for going first to Egypt?  It was not, strictly speaking,
a Roman province and could well afford to wait.  Besides, it was not
a good season for crossing.

So Antony sailed for Greece.  It was not his first visit to that
noble country.  He had already trod the fields of Thessaly when, as a
young commander, he had opposed Pompey.  He had seen the wonderful
temples of Delphi, Corinth, Olympia, with their wealth of sculpture
and incomparable jewels.  He had lingered in the forest of Eleusis,
and in the theatre of Epidaurus he had been transported in spirit to
the prophetic realms of the art of Æschylus.  How thrilling it would
be to revisit all these scenes!  To come to them, clothed in majesty
and with unlimited power!

The Greeks had become accustomed to foreign rule and no longer hated
their conquerors.  Indeed they had a certain regard for this Roman
soldier who was said to be as handsome as Alcibiades and comparable
to Themistocles in his warlike virtues.  Among a people who counted
physical strength and beauty as the highest gifts the gods could
bestow, this son of Hercules had every chance of winning all hearts.
He was welcomed graciously according to the custom of the country.
The villages sent groups of men, bearing branches by day and torches
by night, to escort his litter.  As he entered the cities young girls
greeted him with showers of roses, and a chorus of young men sang and
danced to the music of lyres.

These acclamations were accompanied by alternate petitions and songs
of praise.  Wishing to prove how worthy he was of the latter, he
showed his characteristic generosity in granting the requests.  Ten
thousand talents were donated to restore the theatre at Megara; at
Thebes and Larissa he rebuilt the dwellings which Pompey's hordes had
burned; and at Corinth he restored the ancient temple devoted to the
worship of Venus Pandenus.  While thus scattering gold broadcast he
quickened his march over the slopes of Hymettus, for beyond them lay
Athens, and he was eager to hear her honey-sweet praises.

Although badly damaged by Sulla's troops, pillaged by the greedy
government which had succeeded him, poverty-stricken as she now was,
and inconvenient as her narrow streets, small houses, and irregular
squares had always made her, the city of Pericles kept her old charm.
The magic light, which at sunrise and sunset illuminated the
rose-coloured sides of the Pentelicus, would alone have made her
worthy of adoration; and the birthplace of Phidias still possessed
nearly all his wonderful creations.  The monuments of the Acropolis
were undisturbed; no profane hand had touched the pure glory of the
Parthenon; the Poecile still held her brilliantly coloured
decorations, fresh as the day they were completed, and the five doors
of the Propylea were yet open to the blue sky.

Antony was not artistic by nature, and his career as a soldier had,
naturally, not developed any love of art; yet he was not insensible
to the charm of beautiful things.  Rome had many rich sculptures, and
he had grown up among them; and the Greek education which, in common
with most Patrician youths, he had received had made him familiar
with the works of Homer and the wisdom of Plato.  He therefore
approached the bridge of Ilisos in a spirit of reverence.

Athens was not only a venerated sanctuary with the glory of four
centuries behind her, who had given the world a radiance of wisdom
and culture which had never been equalled; she was still a centre of
life and prosperity.  Her colleges, though fewer and not so richly
endowed as the schools of Alexandria, kept their ancient standards of
excellence.  Although not the equals of those of the old days,
philosophers, poets, and artists still gathered there, together with
fencers, horsemen, athletes, disk and javelin throwers; all youths
who were faithful to the tradition of keeping a sound mind in a
healthy body.  Educated in the ideals of that republican past which
had made their country great, these young men were full of fire and
enthusiasm.  A generous instinct gave them a natural sympathy for
high aims, for all that recalled the heroes of their native land.  On
hearing of the death of Cato, they covered their heads with ashes; at
the call of Brutus the elite of the country had perished at Philippi;
and to-day Mark Antony, as opposed to Octavius, represented to them
the old liberal spirit of Rome.

The Triumvir was careful not to check this flattering popularity.
Knowing how these sons of Themistocles respected military pomp, he
entered Athens on horseback, clad in cuirass and helmet, with
clashing arms; then, in accordance with the simplicity of the
civilian customs, he partook of the unpretentious hospitality that
was offered him in the ancient palace of the Archons.  His customary
gold plate, silken togas, and couches were banished; he had a frugal
meal prepared and, recalling the example set by Cæsar, he put on a
woollen cloak and, preceded by a solitary lictor, went on foot up the
hill of the Acropolis.

During his stay at Athens he never deviated from this simple manner
of living; whether his unlimited power had wrought a sudden change in
his views, or breathing the air of Greece had made him feel the
beauty of moderation, his attitude astonished all those who had known
him.  His conduct was that of a real chief, and the sentences that he
was called upon to pronounce all bore the stamp of balanced judgment.
Not content with merely edifying the Athenians, it was soon apparent
that he wished to win them.  It was the season for the festival of
Adonis.  He consented to celebrate this with them and ingenuously
joined in the rite of the quickly blooming, quickly fading flowers
which symbolized the premature death of the son of Myrrha.  He
graciously listened to the elegies recited by the mourning women, who
wept for the young god; and to the hymns with which these same women,
now crowned with roses, filled the air the following day, in token of
his resurrection.  He presided over the different competitions held
on the Pnyx, and, surrounded by a group of distinguished Athenians,
awarded prizes to those who had won distinction in either athletics
or oratory.

Had Antony become a convert to the virtuous life?  Could such a
sudden transformation be genuine?  Was the former worshipper of Venus
given over to gaining the affections of the masses?  Some people who
were interested in his future greatness believed this and rejoiced in
it.  But the real reason for this abrupt change lay in his craving
for new sensations.  Did he want to amuse?  Did he hope to mystify?
Not exactly; but the blood which bubbled in his veins was too strong
and active to be satisfied with living one life only.  By playing
many parts this sturdy actor sought the illusion of crowding more
into his life.

But his real character quickly came out.  He suddenly grew weary of
these simple pleasures and dull duties.  The shores of Asia with its
gracious fields were within easy reach, and its cities offered every
luxury and entertainment.  So one fine morning he shook the sacred
dust of the Acropolis from his buskins, and taking ship, set sail for
Antioch.

This metropolis, at that time the third in importance in the world,
seemed, at a distance, to hang from the sides of the Coryphean
mountains.  Long before entering the harbour of Seleucia, voyagers
were astonished to see the gigantic military forts which scaled the
rocky slopes and crowned the summit with their crenelated walls.  The
city itself was on the banks of the Orontes, a white mass gleaming
through the cypress trees.  In addition to the theatres, gymnasiums,
aqueducts, circuses, and race-courses, common to all large capitals,
that of Syria had a Corso, a wide avenue, bordered from one end to
the other by quadruple lines of columns.  This splendid boulevard was
a rendezvous for the world of fashion, and a constant stream of
people passed up and down it day and night; on certain days the life
and animation surpassed even that of the Roman Forum.  The
innumerable attractions of Antioch, especially since the decline of
Athens, had brought many people to settle there, and it had, as well,
a large floating population: Persians, Jews, Orientals of every
country, to say nothing of the courtesans who flocked there from
Susa, Ecbatana, often from the banks of the Ganges.  Under the
influence of these transient dwellers and of its tremendous
commercial power, equalled only by that of Alexandria, manners and
morals had gradually become corrupt.  It was declared to be the most
depraved city between Paphlagonia and Palmyra, a region noted for its
scandalous living.  As an example of the loose customs of the day,
when the feast of Maia was celebrated, groups of naked girls ran
through the streets, waving torches, while others, in like state,
swam in the clear waters of the fishing pools, in full sight of the
crowds.

This corrupt atmosphere had an immediate effect upon Mark Antony.
The instant he breathed it his spirits rose; he was exhilarated,
cheerful, full of his old keen desire for the pleasure of living.
But did not everything in the palace of the Seleucides--a restoration
of the one which had made Sardanapalus famous--tend to increase this
feeling?  As he strolled along the Corso, watching the beautiful and
fascinating women file past, their look seemed to say: "Every hour
cheated of its joy is empty as the grave!"  How far he was from those
austere assemblies of the Pnyx, or the house of the Archons!  With
impetuous vehemence, he stripped off his disguise of Athenian
simplicity and was once more his natural self.  The grave demeanour
and governmental cares with which he had been occupied since the
Macedonian days were succeeded by a period of license proportionate
to his tedious term of self-restraint.  No longer influenced by any
fear of criticism, as everyone about him was of the same mind,
yielding to the flattering libertines who surrounded him he put aside
all dignity and, oblivious of his rank, joined in their orgies of
debauchery.  Every evening a group of perfumed courtesans, brought in
by Anaxanor, the flute-player, swayed in rhythmic movement on the
rich carpets, displaying the grace of their bodies, accompanied by
languorous melodies upon the flute.  The dancer, Xantos, directed the
performances of the mimes and buffoons, and Medrador, whose father
had grown rich by means of the wine-cellars of King Tissaphernus, had
charge of the table which, in extravagant abundance and delicacy, had
never been surpassed, even in the most famous Asiatic courts.

Such an establishment necessarily entailed great expense.  How could
the money for this be supplied save by the usual methods of the
conqueror in a vanquished country--an increase of taxation?  Antony
did not fail to follow the example of his predecessors.  He claimed
that, as Brutus and Cassius had drawn heavily upon the resources of
these provinces, he was entitled to get even more.  Certain towns
that had already been severely taxed were called upon for new
contributions.  "That will teach them the folly of upholding a bad
cause," said Antony, with his genial smile.

These hardships, however, were not accepted everywhere with equal
submission.  Hybreas, the champion of Cappadocia, made bold to say,
when the master appeared: "If Mark Antony demands a double, a triple
tribute from us, will he provide a double, a triple crop each year?"

So far from annoying him, this remark pleased the Triumvir, for he
had a sense of humour, and appreciated it in others, even though the
joke was at his own expense.  He replied with a jest and let the
province of Cappadocia go free of extra taxes.

The good faith which he usually showed in his dealings gained him
indulgence, and his generosity was an antidote to his plundering.  He
often restored with one hand what he had taken with the other.  The
day before he left Antioch, wishing to reward the chef who had
prepared the feasts which he and his friends had enjoyed, he gave him
a palace which had served as a ransom for a wealthy citizen of
Magnesia.

His stay at Ephesus brought about the undoing of Mark Antony.  Though
not less dissolute than Antioch, this celebrated city was in a way
different.  Entirely under the influence of the priests, since the
temple of Diana had been erected with its marble columns, it had
impressed on everything, even the most objectionable, the stamp of
her worship.  Magnificent festivals attracted not only pilgrims, but
hordes of suspicious characters, to whom the sanctuary afforded a
safe refuge.  All this mass of men, this mixture of charlatans,
mountebanks, magicians, jugglers, and sorcerers, skilful in
exploiting vice as well as superstition, helped to transform these
fêtes into wild revels.  And these horrors, these infamous liberties,
took place at the shrine of Diana and under the guise of her worship.
In leaving Delos and approaching the Syrian coast, where all things
became tainted and corrupt, the character of the chaste goddess was
changed.  She who on the other side of the water breathed forth
strength and modesty had become a coarse idol of the flesh.  It
seemed as though in changing her dwelling-place the very essence of
her being was altered; the divine huntress had abandoned her bow and
arrow, and the decadent imagination of some unknown sculptor had
coarsened and distorted the lines of her virginal body.  Oh, nymph of
the woods, in what profane regions have your flying feet strayed!

When the Ephesians heard that the Triumvir was on his way to visit
their city they determined, with their passion for deifying
everything, to welcome him as they would Dionysos.  Chariots preceded
him, filled with girls representing Bacchantes; a group of Pans and
Satyrs surrounded him, dancing to the accompaniment of the flute.
They saluted him with the names given to the god himself, greeting
him with the verses sacred to his worship: "Hail to thee, Heracles,
giver of all joys!  Oh, Bacchus, to whom we owe the juicy fruit of
the vines!  Omestes, sweet as tender figs, thou art welcome!"  The
whole town, wherever Antony's chariot passed, was decorated with ivy
and garlands of flowers.  Music resounded and blue clouds of incense
mounted heavenward.

If Antony did not actually believe himself to be the son of Jupiter,
he was drunk with flattery and claimed some of the privileges of
divine ancestry, chiefly that of being beyond the control of human
laws.  His caprices were limitless.  He attired himself in silk and
cloth of gold, had a chorus of dancers in continual attendance, and
held his court with Olympian bearing.

But with all this he did not, for a moment, forget the selfish object
of his journey.  He was willing to be adored, but not to make the
least sacrifice.  The Ionians had put up a strong protest, but he did
not lessen by a farthing the tax of two hundred thousand talents
which he had levied upon them.  All that they gained was an extension
of the time of payment, and that only because the request came to him
through the beautiful Corelia, who was, for the time being, in high
favour.

Antony soon tired of travelling from one city to another and decided
that it was more in keeping with his dignity to summon the kings, his
vassals, to him, than to go to them.  He chose Tarsus for his
residence and announced that henceforth the sovereigns should seek
him, and he made it quite clear that the continuance of their
sovereignty depended on his pleasure.

None dared disobey his orders.  Along the dusty roads, under the
placid skies, cavalcades and litters, chariots drawn by oxen, by
elephants with majestic tread, moved steadily on, followed by a long
file of dromedaries, bearing the baggage with oriental pomp.  As the
caravans drew near lances flashed, armour gleamed, the standards bore
curious devices, the swarm of men and beasts presented a motley
appearance.  On arriving at the city gates a herald went forward and,
through a silver trumpet, announced the name of the august visitor.
The kings of Antioch and Sysima, the satrap, Palemon, Herod, who
reigned in Judea, and Adallas of Sidonia, were all duly announced,
also the tetrarchs of Lycaonia and Pontus, the governor of Commagene,
as well as the rulers of Thrace and Arabia.

Tanned by the hot sun of the East, many of them seemed sad and very
weary.  One and all they hated this conqueror, but as soon as they
were in his presence they were animated by the hope of some reward to
be obtained, some honour or promotion to be secured.

Luxuriously installed in a tent, which served as a tribunal, Antony
received the various suppliants with great ceremony and dealt out his
favours.  The report got abroad that the personal attractiveness of
the claimant influenced his decisions, and the princesses hastened to
seek an audience.  He received a visit from the noted beauty,
Glaphyra, and her gracious charms secured the throne of Phrygia for
her son; the young widow of Aristobulus was assured of the permanence
of her crown; Herod's devoted wife, Mariamne, in spite of her
reserve, succeeded in winning what she desired for her husband.

But the one whom, above all others, he desired and expected, the
Queen of Egypt, had not come.  Why was she so late?  The command had
been sent to her as to the others; perhaps the wish to see her had
inspired the general edict.  Cleopatra's failure to appear was all
the more remarkable as she had certain affairs to settle with him.
As an ally of Rome, her attitude during the late war had given
grounds for criticism.  When the avengers of Cæsar had asked the aid
of her fleet she had urged the pretext of a tempest which prevented
her from sending it.  But this prudence could be interpreted as a
desire to keep on good terms with both parties.  So she had much to
explain and should lose no time.  Antony had written to her several
times.  The first letters had been official notes from a ruler to a
queen, desiring her presence according to the prescribed form then in
use.  Her replies had been vague.  He then wrote more urgently.
Getting no satisfactory result from his efforts, his anger was
aroused.  Was this daughter of the Lagidæ trifling with him?  Had she
forgotten that her father owed the restoration of his throne to the
gracious power of Rome?  And her own position?  To-morrow, if he so
decreed.

One day he decided to send her a letter of command.  But what could
he say?  After all he was only a man, tormented by his passions, who,
unaccustomed to any resistance, felt his desire turning to
exasperation.  Like Jupiter with his thunderbolts, he imagined that
the elements would obey him and that this coveted woman would come
submissively if he frightened her sufficiently.  When he found that
his commands were disregarded, just as his advances had been ignored,
he tried to forget her.  He was rich in resources and had many
mistresses.  One succeeded the other with incredible speed, as though
a constant change could give to each the power to efface the memory
of Cleopatra.  Each time that he clasped a new love to his breast he
would, for the moment, feel free from the desire for her presence,
would think that he had effectually rid himself of the craving for
her.  But these periods of oblivion passed quickly and the longing
for the absent one returned, stronger than ever.  Although there had
never been any definite bond between them, he unconsciously nourished
toward Cleopatra the kind of rancour that he would have felt toward a
mistress who had betrayed and deserted him.  He was beginning to hate
her; and yet, he still longed for her coming.

Tarsus, like Antioch and Ephesus, was one of the principal cities of
Asia Minor.  Situated almost at the mouth of the Cydnus, that
ice-cold river which, to the young Alexander, had felt like the first
touch of death--it had the animated life of a port, while the
neighbouring forests of myrtles lent it the glamour of romance.  The
temple of Apollo made it a shrine for men of letters, and it showed a
tendency toward idealism which prepared the way for that apostle who
was soon to be born there, and who was destined to preach the gospel
of Christ within its walls.  In the meantime it was the sanctuary of
Aphrodite, and innumerable voluptuous statues, always laden with
abundant offerings, bore witness to the fervent worship of this
goddess.  Thus associated with divinity and screened by the range of
the Taurus mountains, watered by bubbling springs and swept by
fragrant breezes, Tarsus was an ideal resting-place.

If satisfied ambition could content the human heart, Antony should
have been perfectly happy, for each day brought him new homage and
more complete submission.  In his innermost being, however,
uneasiness and discontent reigned.  He was not altogether sensual and
was, at times, overcome by a noble sadness.  He craved an object for
his ambition, an aim for the exuberance which carried him away.  On
the days when this discontent tormented him beyond endurance he
sought a counter-irritant, not in commonplace pleasures--they no
longer amused him--but in healthy physical exercise, which, while it
lasted, drove away all irritating thought.  He would fling himself on
one of his Syrian steeds, under whose delicate skin the veins were
clearly visible, whose nostrils seemed to breathe fire, and with
bridle-rein hanging loose would ride headlong through torrents and
down valleys.  This exhilarating exercise restored at once that
vitality and enthusiasm which his temporary depression had apparently
crushed for ever.  He seemed born again, full of fierce energy and
joyousness, as though he had just gained a new victory, more glorious
than any he had yet won.

These rides often took Antony to the Ægean shore.  Perhaps
unconsciously he felt the need of looking out upon the sea, of
questioning its depths.  It was full of peace and beauty, covered
with the shining gold of the setting sun.  Its rippling bosom seemed
to breathe.  Gazing steadily at it, hearing its murmur on the beach,
feeling its soft breath, it became at last a living creature to him,
the woman of his dreams.  In his imagination he saw two women, each
aiding the other against him, both seductive, both perfidious, each
having the same sovereign power to make him the happiest of men, yet
taking pleasure in leaving him on this shore, solitary and forlorn.

But the days went by and although he scanned the horizon to its
uttermost limits, although the winds were favourable and the sea was
covered with ships, he could never see that world-renowned galley
with its purple sails, which travellers returning from Alexandria had
so often described to him.  At last his patience gave out.  He was
tired of hoping against hope; all his powers availed him nothing
against that far-away indifference, whose cause baffled him.
Impelled by that mysterious force which controls human destinies, he
finally despatched an ambassador with orders to use all possible
persuasions to induce Cleopatra to come to him.



IV

CLEOPATRA

Day was just breaking.  Within its inlaid walls the bed-chamber was
cool and shadowy.  The rose-covered trellis outside the windows made
a soft, dim light.  At the farther end stood an ivory bed, its four
feet fashioned like a leopard's paws.  Cleopatra lay quiet on her
pillow, her arms above her head, her eyes closed, but she was not
sleeping.  Still drowsy, she followed, waking, the happy dreams that
had come to her in sleep.  Ever since that first letter from Antony
when, with her unfailing feminine instinct, she had read between the
lines an appeal that was more than a request from the Triumvir of
Rome to a subject, her thoughts had been full of him.  He had not
forgotten her, then!  This mighty adventurer, this conqueror who was
welcomed everywhere as a god, was willing to pay any price for the
privilege of seeing her again.  Not only was her pride flattered by
this homage, but she felt that her position as a sovereign, which had
been disturbed by continued tumults and uprisings, would be
strengthened.

It must be remembered that Cleopatra was still in the restlessness of
youth and her blood had all the heat of the tropics.  Ardent passions
bring profound depressions in their train.  How could she suppress
this tempest within her?  She hungered after tender embraces, the
warmth of declared love; the fierce delight of that passion which
wounds and transports at the same time--and she had only her present
empty existence, with its succession of lonely days, in which life
seemed to slip away, vanishing drop by drop, like water falling from
a fountain.  If she had followed the natural impulse of her impetuous
nature she would have accepted eagerly Antony's first invitation.
Reflection, however, counselled her to wait.  The more her coming was
desired, the greater would be the stimulus of a delay.  This scheme
was well devised, but it nearly brought fatal disaster by arousing
Antony's anger and his desire to show his authority, and submission
was the last virtue of which Cleopatra was capable.  The mere
suggestion of restraint woke all her instinct of rebellion.  This
conqueror of the Orient should not imagine that because he had made
vassals of a set of corrupt princes, he could compel her to appear
before his tribunal, subdued and trembling.  She would never come
into his presence in that manner.

A step on the carpet interrupted her reveries.  It was Charmian, her
lady-in-waiting, her confidante and friend, who was privileged to
approach the Queen at any time.  She had been associated with
Cleopatra from the latter's early childhood, when Ptolemy Auletes had
chosen her from all the nobility of Athens, that his adored daughter
might have always near her an agreeable and cultured companion; one
who would speak to her in the language of the gods.  Charmian, in
addition, had the task of teaching the young princess the art of
walking with ease, of dressing in taste, and of draping her form with
those graceful linen folds which the women of Tanagra have
immortalized.  The pupil soon surpassed her instructor, but the
changed relations in no way lessened their friendship.  It resulted
on the one side in a deep admiration and blind devotion lasting until
death, and on the other, in a confidence without reserve.

If Charmian came earlier than usual this morning and seemed hurried,
it was because she had important news.  At dawn a Roman galley had
entered the port, bringing Quintus Dellius, the ambassador of Mark
Antony.

Cleopatra was much stirred by this announcement.  If Antony had sent
an ambassador it was because he had something in mind which letters
were inadequate to explain.  What could this be?  Perhaps only a
reiteration of his former invitation.  But in what form would it
come?  Reproaches were inevitable.  Her apparent indifference to his
requests had merited them.  The idea, however, brought a smile to her
scornful lips.  She knew how to manage her excuses.  But there might
be another explanation of this messenger, and the thought made her
uneasy.  What if the ambassador were a Roman magistrate?  What if he
brought papers giving him the power to question her and demand a
reckoning?  As a subject of Rome she must be cautious.  How could she
explain her failure to send assistance during the recent war, and
that in the face of repeated and urgent demands?

But Charmian assured her that it was useless to torment herself with
these questions.  Let her go to Antony, as she had gone to Cæsar, and
all would be well.  Did she not possess the divine gift of
fascination which stole men's reason and made them see everything
through her eyes?

In her heart Cleopatra was of the same opinion, especially in regard
to Antony.  She understood how strongly he was influenced by the
magnetism of a beautiful woman.  But who was his messenger and what
course should she take with him?  For a moment she was perplexed, but
only for a moment.  She decided to treat this messenger in the same
manner that she would have treated Antony, had he come in person.
The first thing to do was to make herself beautiful, very beautiful;
to select the apparel which would show her charms to the greatest
advantage and make her irresistible.  The other matters would adjust
themselves in the course of conversation.

She rapped three times upon a brass plaque to summon her attendants.
The blinds were raised and the fresh morning light poured into the
room, while the servants, like a swarm of bees, set about their daily
tasks.  Cleopatra arose from her bed and passed on to the pool where
a warm bath had been prepared.  She went down the six steps into the
marble basin, which was just deep enough for the water to cover her
as she lay in its gentle embrace.  A Nubian slave was always in
readiness to give her a vigorous rubbing when she came out of her
bath.  This massage made her transparent skin glow, and then she was
again rubbed softly with nard brought from Sidon.  Other women came
in their turn to contribute to the care of her precious body.  One
blanched her dainty hands with a lotion made of hyssop; another
polished her rosy nails; still another, squatting on her heels,
touched with carmine the extremities of her tiny feet, then put on
the soft-lined sandals.

The hair-dresser stood in especially high favour.  Her profession
enjoyed various privileges, not the least being her right to have
long and intimate audiences with the Queen, to be consulted, and,
above all, to be allowed to place a flower, a feather, or the diadem,
in the Queen's hair, thus having her chance to win royal approval.
Iras, the Persian, had filled this office for the past three years.
The fairy-lightness of her touch and her sweet breath were
celebrated.  Hearing them spoken of when the young girl was an
attendant of Mariamne, Herod's wife, whose auburn hair reached to her
knees, Cleopatra had elected to have her for her own service.  This
served the double purpose of securing a talented artist for herself,
and of depriving a woman whom she detested of a cherished attendant.

Iras had been brought to the Egyptian court by a merchant of
perfumes, who, under pretext of giving her a new essence to inhale,
had put her to sleep and carried her off without resistance.
Although the new court was far grander than that of Judea, even as
the sun surpasses the moon, Iras wept floods of tears at the change.
Her companions, who envied her good fortune, exclaimed: "What, you
weep, when your hands have the distinguished honour of adorning the
divine Cleopatra!"  But Iras had a loving heart and the splendour of
her new surroundings could not reconcile her to the separation from
Queen Mariamne, to whom she was warmly attached.  This, at least, was
her feeling for the first few days when, still a novice, she assisted
at the ceremony of the royal toilet.

One day, Cleopatra, noticing the pallor of her serving-woman, spoke
to her.  In her incomparably musical voice she inquired why the young
girl was so sad.  "Are you homesick?  Is it regret at leaving your
family, or your lover?"  Iras replied that her mother was dead and
that she had left no lover behind on the shores of the Aracus.  She
could not, however, cease to grieve for Jerusalem and Herod's palace,
where the Queen had been so unfailingly kind to her.

However insignificant the feelings of a slave might be in the eyes of
this world-famous beauty, Cleopatra was touched by the ardent
sincerity of Iras.  It was just at the time when she had returned
from Rome, alone and full of grief.  She had a sudden wish to make
this young girl, who was practically in exile, grow fond of her.
Nothing could be easier.  A few kind words, some presents offered
with tact, quickly warmed the poor little heart that distress had
chilled.  Giving her her freedom later completed the conquest and
aroused in Iras as fervent an adoration as any divinity had ever been
offered; a flame willing to consume itself at any moment for the
Queen, and ready, too, to burn itself out the day that this adored
mistress ceased to illuminate the world.

"Quick, Iras," Cleopatra said that morning, when she wished to be
especially beautiful.  "Take off my fillet and try to surpass
yourself."  She sat down before her dressing-table, which was covered
with combs of different sizes, iridescent glass bottles, tiny jars
filled with unguents, dainty puffs in boxes of powdered orris-root
and other cosmetics; gold turtles, whose pierced shells held long
hairpins.  Cleopatra bent her head, and while the negro women,
immobile as bronze statues, held a silver mirror that she might see
her reflection, Iras passed a comb of amber tortoise-shell through
the Queen's hair.

No one was more skilful than the young Persian girl in handling the
Queen's flowing tresses.  It was like play for her to spread them
out, then turn and twist them, lift them up and arrange them in a
different fashion each day.  These changes of coiffure made an
inexhaustible subject of conversation between the Queen and her
attendant.  They discussed them, pronounced them more or less
becoming, tried new ornaments fit for varying occasions.  Which was
most suitable for to-day?  There was no time to lose in experiments.
They must decide without delay how Cleopatra would receive the
messenger from Mark Antony.  After a moment's thought she decided
against the crown, the ancestral head-dress, the diadem; they were
all too pretentious, too formal.  It was as a woman, a beautiful
woman, that she would appear before this ambassador.  She chose the
Athenian style: a simple cord attached by a ribbon above the nape of
her neck, and, confining the thick waves of her hair, three bands
outlined her delicate head.

Iras was no less expert in the use of rouge and perfumes.  In
Phoenicia she had become familiar with salves and ointments
compounded from roses and lilies and the blossoms of the privet.
Prepared by her these unguents had a marvellous effect in making
limbs supple, and she alone knew how to make flesh shine like
polished marble by rubbing it with a powder made of crushed
mother-of-pearl.  Cleopatra never allowed any one but her dear Iras
to put the roses in her cheeks, to accentuate the arch of her
splendid eyebrows, and to darken the natural shadows under her eyes
by the skilful use of a swan's feather touched with sibium.

When Cleopatra was thus shod, coifed, and redolent from head to foot
with sweet perfumes, the ladies in charge of the robes came in.  They
brought in great chests in which the robes lay without a crease to
spoil their freshness.  Raising the covers they laid out two, three,
four, until the Queen had made her choice.  She chose a
saffron-coloured silk tunic, embroidered with narcissus blossoms.
Fastened to her shoulders by two amber clasps the tunic left her arms
and bosom bare.  Above this a transparent drapery hung, woven by the
women of Cos and made, so the legend went, of the condensed vapours
of the morning mists of springtime, the tissue that is known to-day
as "the Virgin's threads."

Cleopatra urged her attendants to make haste.  She was impatient at
their delay in fastening a fold, or arranging her girdle, those
innumerable details of her toilet which usually entertained her.  She
was anxious to be ready, eager to meet this unknown man with whom she
was planning such an exciting battle.  When her string of pearls had
been clasped around her neck, her arms and fingers adorned with
bracelets and rings, she gave a final glance at her exquisite
reflection in the mirrors and left the room.


Mark Antony had chosen for his ambassador Quintus Dellius, famous in
the Odes of Horace, one of the most charming and well informed men of
his day.  A wit, a learned historian, as well as a poet from time to
time, he had the adaptable disposition which real intelligence gives,
and though quick at epigrams he could be, when it was to his
advantage, considerate and gracious.  The consistent policy which he
had successfully followed through life had been to make friends with
the man in command, to devote himself exclusively to forwarding his
patron's interests, and invariably to quit his service on the instant
that his star set, and to attach himself to the next one in power.
Thus before the battle of Philippi he had been the friend of Cassius,
after the battle of Actium he became the inseparable companion of
Octavius.  At present he thought that all the odds were in favour of
Antony, and, deciding that the latter was likely to hold his own, his
devotion to him was unmistakable.  No one could have been better
qualified for the delicate mission which led him to Alexandria than
this practised go-between, who thoroughly understood the ways of
women.

As the Queen, surrounded by her guard, mounted the throne, which
stood before a tapestry of birds and flowers, the guest was summoned.
He was a Roman, short of stature, with refined features, an alert,
gracious expression, whose distinguished bearing marked him as an
Aristocrat.  He saluted her at the threshold with sword-point lowered
and his left hand touching his shoulder.  Instead of coming forward
at once he remained motionless for a moment looking steadily at
Cleopatra as though his amazement at her beauty had taken away his
senses.  Then he spoke:

"Before all else, O mighty Queen, my master, Mark Antony, whose
mouthpiece I am, salutes you; he wishes you glory, happiness, and
lasting prosperity."

"You will take him my good wishes in return," she replied, smiling;
and added: "But his hopes have already been fulfilled in his
victories."

The ambassador replied: "You are mistaken, O divine sovereign; Mark
Antony's happiness will never be complete, he will never feel that he
is truly great, until you honour him with your gracious presence."

This was surely an auspicious beginning; but how could Cleopatra be
certain that these were not merely preliminary formulas.  She must
find out whether this envoy had not some other communication to make,
some personal message which would indicate the real discontent of
Mark Antony.

At her command the attendants withdrew, and their departure seemed to
lighten the atmosphere, free it from all suggestion of restraint.
The two now felt at ease, each eager to be agreeable to the other.

"Why have you come to see me?" asked the Queen in a tone of playful
frankness, as though inviting his confidence.  "Tell me all; keep
nothing back.  I must know the real reason for the Triumvir's
desiring my presence; what intentions has he in regard to me?" and
the expression of her eyes seemed to add: "If you do as I ask, if you
speak sincerely, you shall have no cause to regret it."

When she had been assured that Antony had despatched his ambassador
only because of his impatience to see her and renew their former
friendly relations, her anxiety vanished.  She had the sensation of
breathing more freely, as though a window had been opened.  Her
calculations had not betrayed her.  In deferring her visit to Antony
she had whetted his desire to see her.  But would he not make her pay
for her coquetry?  Was he not, perhaps, planning some revenge?

She made various excuses for her delay, which in no way deceived
Dellius.  He was still more skeptical when, under pretence of
timidity, she said that she had put off her departure on account of
current reports concerning the reception accorded to certain
princesses on their arrival at Tarsus.

Judging it wise to reassure her he protested: "What!  Glaphyra!
Eutrope!  Beggars already dethroned, or fearing to be!  Vassals who
threw themselves at the conqueror's feet with the most doubtful
intentions!  What comparison can there be between them and your
gracious self?"  Then, adopting the tone of a priest addressing an
idol, he went on:

"O thou, the well-beloved of Osiris!  August sovereign whose sceptre
covers land and sea!  Woman above all other women!  Understand that
your presence is expected with reverence as well as eagerness.  From
the moment that you set foot on Roman territory, gracious deeds will
follow you and the whole people will pay you homage."

But this was not what interested Cleopatra.  One word as to Antony's
personal sentiments would have given her more satisfaction.  How
could she learn what these were?  How was she to find out whether he
was summoning her as a sovereign, with whom he wished to renew an
alliance, or as a vassal who was already in his debt?  Or simply
because in his heart of hearts old memories of her still lingered?

As he watched her and talked with her, Dellius began to understand
what an exceptional creature she was and why his master thought her
worth the price he was paying.  It was not alone her beauty which
made her so wonderful.  In gazing at her a vague uneasiness, an
indefinable fear took possession of him.  If her animation sometimes
caused an uncontrollable tremor, her sensuous languor, at others,
gave promise of untold delights.  His keen insight told him the
influence such a woman would have in the life of Antony, who was now
nearly forty years old, that dangerous age in sensual natures.  The
gallant adventures of his youth no longer sufficed; he was now
experiencing an actual sentimental hunger which comes to men who,
without genuine passion, have lived a life of excess.  An
overwhelming love at this time would be his salvation.  He would give
himself up to it without reservation, and however unworthy the woman
who inspired it might be, she would not fail to acquire a power whose
limit it was impossible to foresee.  Dellius felt that Cleopatra
would be this ruler over Antony's destiny; so he decided that he
would not only carry out his master's mission and persuade her to go
to Tarsus, but that he would also make her his patron and friend.
Later, when she had become the Egeria of Antony, perhaps she would
recall the service he had rendered her and would help him to attain
his own end, which was a consulship.  From that moment the shrewd man
set to work to interpret the sentiments of his master.  He described
him as deeply in love, which Antony certainly was not as yet, though
he was ready to be; pretended that he was obsessed by the memory of
Cleopatra; that for days at a time he did nothing but wait for her
coming.  He was often seen standing at the mouth of the Cydnus,
beaten by the winds, watching the incoming ships.  It would be
inhuman to prolong his misery.  One word from her would set his mind
at rest.  If she would only send him that word of promise Antony
would be happier than if he had conquered fresh kingdoms.

"Is it possible," added Dellius, as though talking to himself, "is it
possible to have been near the divine Cleopatra without experiencing
on leaving her a regret which nothing but seeing her again can cure?"

An indescribable dread disturbed the Queen's mind.  She felt that
this was the decisive moment of her life, and a thrill went through
her.  She had a burning desire for the joys that the future might
hold, and wanted to hurry on to them.  She had the impulse to cry
out: "I am going!  I shall start to-morrow!"  The attitude, however,
which she had adopted from the beginning still held her captive.
Even to the end she must play her part, seem to hesitate, to be
difficult to win, and above all, let no one suspect the longing she
had to be forced to go.

"Since it is necessary, since the Triumvir demands it, I will go to
bear him my homage," she said.

But this did not satisfy Dellius.  He had too little faith in women
to trust to a vague promise made from a sense of duty.  He wanted a
definite statement, with no reservations.  So he began to protest
again.  It was not as a sovereign that Antony would receive the Queen
of Egypt.  He longed for her coming and would welcome her with the
reverence due a goddess.

Such words could not fail to win the consent which was already in her
heart.  Cleopatra's pride was safe, she had been sufficiently
implored; so, with a smile, she promised to set out for Tarsus before
the days began to shorten.

Although eager to announce the good tidings, Dellius accepted her
invitation to stay a few days in Alexandria.  It would not be a waste
of time because, although his master's mission had been successfully
accomplished, his own was not fulfilled.  In bringing Cleopatra to
Tarsus, where she would become the mistress of Antony, he had the
secret hope that he would thereby win their double gratitude.

Each had his own end to gain and the two held long conversations,
usually with Antony for the subject.  Dellius made a point of
dwelling on the Triumvir's various characteristics; his tastes, his
qualities, for her information when opportunity offered.  Undoubtedly
Antony had always cared for display, but the incense which Asia had
burned at his feet had so intoxicated him that he had become almost
obsessed by the love of ostentation.  Nothing was gorgeous enough, no
banquet sufficiently resplendent, to satisfy him.

"How severe and gloomy Rome to-day would seem to him; on the other
hand how enchanted he would be with the magnificence that reigns
here," said Dellius.

Further persuasion was needless; Cleopatra understood.  A plan was
already forming in her mind.  She saw in imagination the glorious
vision she would present to Antony's astonished eyes.

The next day she began to make ready for the journey.  Although she
commanded all possible haste, for she was now really eager to go, the
preparations took nearly a month.  It would not have been possible to
complete in less time the marvellous equipment for the voyage of this
new Queen of Sheba.


The rising sun cast the soft light of one of those ideal summer days
when all outlines are blurred and blend in the mysterious charm of
woods and sky.  Under a cluster of sycamore trees, which shaded the
public square of Tarsus, Antony was holding court as Proconsul,
assisted by petty rulers, magi, and prætors, and, governed by his
somewhat rudimentary conscience, deciding the various cases according
to the Roman law.  He was besieged by a crowd, each having his own
special petition, and each in turn being granted a hearing.  The
court was following the speech of one of the advocates in respectful
silence when excited murmurs began to be heard.  Men came running up
from the shores of the Cydnus with strange tales.  The agitation
spread rapidly and Aphrodite's name was on all lips.  The people had
been carefully trained by the priests, and their religion had
accustomed them to believe in the proximity of the gods and in their
possible intervention.  But this strange tale surpassed the most
wonderful fables.  It was reported that the daughter of Zeus was
sailing up the river on a golden galley resounding with music.  She
had been recognized, not only by her supernatural beauty, but by
those symbols with which painters and sculptors had always
represented her.  Reclining in an enormous shell, this goddess seemed
to be rising from the sea.  Purple sails adorned the galley and a
troop of nereids hung in the rigging, waving fans, while tiny cupids
scattered rose leaves at her feet.  Every moment new messengers
arrived with fresh details that surpassed all the preceding ones.
The galley's sails were of silk; purple draperies covered the decks;
fifty black men from Koursch rowed rhythmically, with oars tipped
with silver; light smoke from the galley wafted the sweet perfume of
cinnamon and of incense.

The public square was gradually deserted as curiosity overcame the
people.  Those who, the instant before, had been struggling for a
place near the Tribunal, had suddenly vanished.  The ever-growing
crowd was now jostling each other on the banks of the Cydnus.  Snouts
and cries of admiration went up.  The whole city of Tarsus was soon
on the quais, and, in an ecstasy of enthusiasm, welcomed the
approaching goddess and thanked Zeus for sending her.

On hearing these astounding reports Antony was as one distracted.  He
put his hand to his head; he struggled for breath.  Beyond all doubt
it was she!  That goddess whom his impatient heart had so long
craved!  She had taken him by surprise!

As he could not permit himself to join the crowd and rush to meet
her, he called Dellius.

"Go," he said, "receive Cleopatra with all honour.  Put at her
disposal all that she wishes, and ask her to sup with me at the
palace this evening."

Antony was too much agitated to resume the interrupted hearings.  Of
what importance were individual interests, or even those of the
Republic, in comparison with this overwhelming event?  Assessors,
registrars, witnesses were all dismissed, and in his ecstasy, wishing
to share his joy with others, he granted all the petitions laid
before him.

Dellius returned with the message that Cleopatra warmly appreciated
the invitation from the Triumvir, but that this first evening she
wished to have him as her guest.  She would expect him on board her
galley at the time appointed for supper.

Then it was really true!  It was she!  She had crossed the seas to
come to him!  In a few moments he would see her, be at the same table
with her!  How should he approach her; what words of greeting should
he use?  He was perplexed, for proper words never come in the moment
of excitement.  He tried to imagine the scene.  His attitude would be
courteous, certainly; how otherwise?  But he must have a certain
majesty of bearing.  His title of Triumvir placed him above all other
sovereigns.  In the eyes of his colleagues it was important that he
should maintain his prestige.  Cleopatra had failed in her duty as an
ally of Rome and it would be necessary to inquire the reasons.  With
all possible consideration, yet with firmness, he would ask: "What
part did you take in the war?  Why did you fail us?"

Full of these thoughts, he began his preparations.  He chose his most
beautiful silver breast-plate, the one by an Athenian artist
representing Achilles being dipped in the Styx by his mother.  He put
perfume on his face, rubbed it in his hair, and, a superb martial
figure, his head erect, every nerve alert, as though he were going
into battle, set out on the avenue leading to the river.  The plane
trees cast darker shadows in the evening light.  Between the trunks
of the trees the setting sun was like burnished copper.  When he
reached the river banks the brilliant sunset light had faded, but
before him shone the marvellous galley.  From the tips of the masts
to the water's edge it was a mass of draperies illuminated by
torches.  It was not possible to count them, but the shining whole
was like a fire mounting almost to the sky.

That famous supper at Tarsus, that evening meeting between those two
beings who were to stir the world and leave a path of fire across the
centuries, is assuredly one of the enthralling moments of history.
Putting aside the magnificence of the entertainment, the prodigal
abundance of the feast which this daughter of the Lagidæ had planned
to dazzle the most powerful of the Romans, to let him see that the
luxury in which he lived was provincial compared with the customs and
manners of her court, it was the force of the dramatic situation
which appealed as these two approached each other.  It was the climax
of her long-planned design, the result of all her grace and wit, this
taking possession of Antony's very soul, so to seduce and imprison
him that he could find no escape from the binding circle of her
charm.  She brought to this plan all the skill of the experienced
woman of the world and a heart as yet untouched by real passion.

In this meeting it was Antony who felt embarrassed and ill at ease.
Although he was familiar with women's ways and accustomed to speaking
freely with them, yet this charmer, with her seductive guile, the
elaborate beauty of her costume, and her mysterious smile, which now
mocked, now tempted him to kneel at her feet, daunted him.

"You!--at last!" ... he exclaimed as he approached her, and that was
all he dared say by way of reproach.

This heart-felt cry was so filled with satisfied longing, showed such
real joy, that Cleopatra knew that she had won him.  She began to
make excuses for not having come before.  She had been bound by so
many obligations.  Egypt was the source of so much anxiety.  For the
past two years the wheat crop had failed and there was growing
discontent among her people.  It was highly important to attend to
the needs of her country.  For a long time she had doubted the
possibility of being able to leave.

But Antony's eyes were fixed on Cleopatra.  He ignored the flimsy
excuses, which would not have stood in her way had she desired to
overcome them.  He could only whisper:

"You are more beautiful than ever!"

"Do you think so?" she answered, and her smile was that of a simple
girl.

Then, taking her guest by the hand, she led him to the stern of the
vessel, which had been converted into a grove.  They took their
places on the two purple couches beside the table; and enjoying the
rare delicacies, drinking old wines from golden cups, they talked of
many things, while the stringed instruments made sweet music.
Memories of other days came back to them, days when, reclining around
a sumptuous table in brilliantly lighted rooms, Antony had gazed on
Cleopatra, eager to declare his love, yet held back by conditions
which so often restrain the natural inclinations.  He was baulked
again this evening, not by the presence of others, as in former days,
but by their mutual relations.  A definite explanation was necessary
to clear away the political clouds which enveloped them.

Cleopatra took the initiative.  To run the risk of being accused, of
having to defend herself was contrary to all her instincts.  Besides,
what was the danger?  However much at fault she might be she was
confident of having a lenient judge.  Whatever stand she might take,
of attack or defence, she felt that her tiny hand had the power to
conquer.  She preferred to attack, however, and began an account of
the indignities which, to uphold a just course, she had suffered at
the hands of Cassius.  Three different times he had demanded recruits
from her, and at each refusal she had been overwhelmed by a deluge of
threats.

"The scoundrel!" muttered Antony.

She went on hurriedly: "But you, too, Antony, you counted on me, you
expected my fleet to come to your aid, and you had a right to expect
it!  You could never have doubted my good intentions; I was your
surest ally.  All my prayers were with you, you, the avenger of
Cæsar!"

The atmosphere was changed.  The discussion was taking an entirely
different turn from what Antony had expected.  He was completely
disarmed.  He who had planned to question her sternly, to obtain a
justification, or at least some excuse for her attitude, found
himself quietly listening to the voice of an enchantress.

"You have been annoyed with me?" she said, in a caressing tone.

"I have never been angry with you," he answered.

"Yes, you have.  I know very well.  It was at Lacedæmon.  You were
put out at having waited for me in vain."

But here, too, Cleopatra was ready with an explanation.  She related
how the gods, whose designs are impenetrably concealed from men, had
seemed determined to thwart her plans.  Her squadron had scarcely set
sail when it had been scattered by a tempest.  Several of the ships
had been sunk.  She, herself, ill and exhausted, had been saved only
by a fortunate chance.  She had returned to Alexandria at grave peril
in a boat which was leaking.  And when the squadron had been put in
condition again it was too late; the allies had just won the battle
of Philippi.

Presented in this light her conduct as an ally of Rome was not only
above reproach but worthy of all praise; and Antony was not sparing
in his commendation.  He was deeply moved at the thought of the
dangers she had passed through.  He called her sublime, heroic.  He
was almost at the point of making excuses on his own account.  Had he
not been a fool in so obstinately expecting her arrival?  But, on the
other hand, had he not suffered torment all the days since Fate had
separated them?  Everywhere, at every moment, he had sought her, had
hoped to see her appear.  Without her he knew only unhappiness.  He
loved her, he had always loved her.  To be content without her was
impossible.  And now that she was with him his passion was too strong
for him.  It was a burning fire that would never be quenched.

Cleopatra listened to all this gravely, making no comment.  His words
stirred her innermost being, and she was thrilled at the thought:
"The master of the world belongs to me!"  Undoubtedly she understood
the passionate tone of this hero, shared his intoxication.  She felt
how sweet it would be to yield, to let herself be carried away by
this overwhelming emotion.  But the time had gone by when she was
ready to give herself up at the first asking, as when she had yielded
to the desire of Cæsar.  The innocent young girl of those days had
grown rich in experience.  The years, the events, the stay at Rome
had taught her many things.  She recognized the value of her favours.
Although fully determined to grant them, that she might bind Antony
to her, unite their destinies in order to begin once more with him
the game that she had lost the first time, she intended to choose her
own hour.

The supper was over.  Leaning back on her cushions she seemed the
very image of sensual delight.  She regarded Antony.

"I love you," he whispered.

"Hush," she said in the gentlest way, as though correcting a
cherished child; "you must not say such things."

With a sudden frenzy and before she had time to draw back Antony
pressed his passionate lips to hers.  He would not be silent.  He had
already waited too long, had suffered too much from her delay.  All
hope of happiness seemed to have slipped away and he had been on the
verge of despair.  And now that she was really with him, she the
adored idol of his heart, she told him not to speak, not to tell her
of this love which meant life itself to him!

The young Queen stood up.  The dying light of the candles and torches
transformed her into a statuette of gold, one of those deities who
are worshipped surrounded by a flashing circle of fire.  She looked
at Antony.  A little dismayed by his ardour she asked herself
whether, in spite of her ambition, she really could endure such a
passionate lover.

"Wait," she said, "it grows late.  I am very tired.  Let me have this
evening to rest."

But Antony did not stir.  Leaning on the couch, his elbows on his
knees and his chin in his hands, he stared distractedly at this
exquisite creature.  He could have remained there for ever, under
those shining stars which, hour by hour increasing in brilliancy as
the light of the torches faded, seemed to draw nearer, as though to
share his happiness.

"Let us go," she murmured, "it is time to say good-night."

His longing eyes implored her: "Do not send me from you without a
promise."

With her maddening smile, she replied, "To-morrow I will come to have
supper with you."

"Until to-morrow, then," signed Antony.  Then, disappointed and
baffled, his whole being tortured by visions of a joy which had
seemed within his grasp and which for the moment had escaped him, he
left the barge and went back to the shore.

For the next few days Cleopatra and Antony were inseparable.  It was
the beginning of that passion which was gradually to absorb their
whole being and consume them like a fire.

If Antony had from that first evening completely lost his reason,
Cleopatra had kept hers.  Her mind was stronger than her emotions.
Shrewd and clear-sighted, she looked into the future.  With her
mind's eye she saw the old dreams come back, her cherished plans of
long ago.  If Antony, as ruler of Rome, lacked the strength of Cæsar,
his power was as far-reaching; and, if his character lacked the
force, his mind the breadth of the other, she would have all the more
chance of supremacy, all the greater opportunity of controlling the
government.

She was seized with the desire to try the experiment without delay.
A great bitterness, an ever-growing rancour was in her heart against
her sister who had disputed her right to the throne and who had
failed in the contest.  Fleeing from her vengeance, this sister,
Arsinoë, had taken refuge in the temple of Diana, at Ephesus, and,
under the protection of the high priest, Megabyzus, had assumed the
role of a sovereign.  This insult to Cleopatra fell directly within
the jurisdiction of the Triumvir.  He alone could put a stop to it.
She asked that the Princess be put to death, and also the minister,
Serapion, who had upheld her in the rebellion and flight to Ephesus.

Such severities were not at all to Antony's taste.  The happy hours
spent at Ephesus were still fresh in his memory.  Should he forfeit
those for a woman's caprice?  Should he thus discredit his reputation
as a genial Proconsul?  Besides, in violating the religious
privileges he would incur the risk of making many enemies.  He tried
to argue, not in favour of the guilty ones, but to save his own
standing.  How would it look if, having shown mercy to the vanquished
of his own country, he should prove pitiless to people who were
subjects of Rome, and against whom he had no just complaint?

The plea had no effect.  There was something in Cleopatra's
character, not so much of cruelty as of a desire for domination,
which would not endure resistance.  Arsinoe had attacked her
authority; consequently, as long as Arsinoe lived Cleopatra would not
be happy.  Was not she constantly in danger of some new attempt
against her crown on the part of this rebel?

Antony suggested imprisonment.  But no, it was Arsinoe's head that
she demanded from him.  He finally succeeded in rescuing the priest
Megabyzus, thanks to the intervention of the Ephesians, who
threatened to put the town in a state of siege rather than allow any
indignity to their revered High Priest.

This was the beginning of a succession of trivial discussions.
Cleopatra always succeeded in having her own way, gradually
substituting her own wishes for the authority of Antony.  His will
was completely dominated by her, for she held him by the magic force
of love.  What did she give him in exchange for her first victory?
Her method of evasion had succeeded too well for her to renounce it
readily.  Before giving herself to Antony, her instinct, a curious
compound of ambition and coquetry, told her to lead him by slow
degrees to the point where a whole lifetime of delight would be
needed to quench his burning thirst to possess her.  Prudence
whispered also that, while granting him certain privileges, it would
be wise to reserve the fulfilment of his happiness until they had
arrived in Alexandria.  Would not this be the surest means of
attracting him to that city where she needed him to stabilize her
power?  And as to keeping him there, was not the enchanted court of
the Bruchium, the prestige of her palace, its festivals, the bed of
roses where Cæsar had lingered, the place where she would have the
greatest chance of playing the part of the bewitching sorceress, from
whose spell he would never escape?



V

THE INIMITABLES

When Antony and Cleopatra separated they planned to be together again
for the winter.  Antony applied himself to his affairs in Asia Minor
with an unexpected industry.  From early morning until late in the
evening he was busy, often receiving delegates and signing papers
after his supper had been served.  At this rate he quickly settled
the disputes between Herod and the adjoining rulers concerning
frontiers, assigned to each legion the territory belonging to it,
chose the governors, and, in a word, put everything in such order
that he could absent himself with safety.  He decided to set sail the
latter part of November.  The heavens were ominously dark, the sea
was gray and rough, but what matter?  The wind blew from the north
and would drive him straight to Alexandria.

In Alexandria the presence of the Triumvir was expected with varied
feelings.  Those who had faith in Egypt's power and her ability for
self-government deplored the arrival of the Roman ruler.  To them he
meant merely a new lover for the Queen, a master less gracious and
perhaps more covetous than Cæsar.  Others, recalling the promise of
the god, regarded the hero of Philippi as a possible ally, who would
restore the ancient grandeur of the kingdom.  When it was announced
that Antony would disembark unpretentiously, unescorted by either
troops or squadron, simply as a nobleman returning the visit of a
great lady, these dissensions ceased.  All agreed that, as this was
merely a visit of courtesy, it was necessary to welcome him warmly.
Besides, the Queen's orders were explicit.  She had not forgotten the
lessons that Dellius had taught her.  The insignificant specimen of
splendour that she had displayed at Tarsus had been so much
appreciated that she wanted now to show the whole wealth of her
resources.  She had made up her mind that Antony's reception here
should entirely efface the memory of those accorded him at Ephesus
and at Tarsus.  She spent gold lavishly and offered prizes to those
who should invent some new decoration, some spectacle which would be
sure to win universal admiration.

However brilliantly decked with flags the fort, with its banners
blazing from one end to the other like bonfires, however magnificent
the pageants, and numerous the gateways, carpets, triumphal arches,
which lined the streets where the procession passed, they made little
impression on Antony; or rather, these external trappings seemed but
the natural setting for his own happiness.  Even the shouts of
welcome were but echoes of his own exaltation.  One thought alone
absorbed his mind.  In a moment now he would see hen, would hold her
in his arms.  Her image obliterated everything else.  His desire to
possess her was the rhythm to which the whole world moved.

Four galloping horses were speeding him along the Royal Way.  The
pink façade of the Bruchium rose above its terraces.  He was getting
nearer, nearer; in another instant he would be face to face with
Cleopatra.

"Will she be mine at last?" he asked himself, breathlessly.  She had
sworn it and it was on this understanding that they had parted.  But
with women, with this woman especially, with her subtle, sinuous
ways, one could never tell.  The uncertainty made his heart beat
fast.  The horses galloped steadily on, made the last slope, and
Antony was at the door of the palace.

Above, on the first step, surrounded by white-mitred priests swinging
censers, and by officers in rich array, Cleopatra was awaiting him.
She evidently wished to remind him of the days at Tarsus, for she was
draped in a sea-green robe which made her look like a nereid.
Necklaces of pale green chalcedony fell over her bosom like ocean
spray, and on the turquoise clasp of her belt mysterious symbols were
engraved.

As Antony approached she cast a laurel branch toward him and came
down to greet him.  On bended knees, with outstretched arms, he
saluted her with a gesture of adoration.  They grasped each other's
hands and spoke for a moment in low tones.  Then they went up the
steps of the grand stairway together in silence.  They were smiling,
and their expression was that of perfect, exquisite understanding.

From that day serene happiness encompassed them.  The calculations,
the coquetry, vanished.  There was no further anxiety save that which
comes to those accustomed to a life of pleasure, when they ask
themselves: "Will it last, shall I still be happy to-morrow?"  This
was real, absolute, supreme love.  Many people, resenting the glamour
of romance, have not seen, have not wished to see in this famous
adventure anything but a selfish scheme, and in Cleopatra an
ambitious courtesan.  It is true that the persecutions of her youth
had caused her to look on love as a means, had made her regard Cæsar
as a protector from whom she could expect, primarily, the restoration
of her kingdom, and later, if death had not come so suddenly, the
crown of an empress.  But with Antony it was different.  At the
outset, perhaps, in her dreary solitude she had certain plans in mind
by which she could use him to carry out her ambitious schemes.
Bereft of the great ruler by whose power she had built up her
fortune, she probably dreamed of replacing him with Antony and
continuing with him those bonds that the fatal poignard of Brutus had
severed.  But she had not reckoned on the hot blood of youth.  If
that voyage to Tarsus had been a snare Cleopatra was caught in her
own trap.  She had set out as a conqueror, sure of enforcing her
will, and she had found love awaiting her to lead her captive.
However attractive Antony's possessions might be, his personal charm
outweighed them all.  He had in a rare degree those gifts which win
affection, and, in spite of all her premeditated schemes and plots,
in spite of the endless intrigues which may have been combined with
her feeling for him, Cleopatra undoubtedly gave him her whole heart.
What is more convincing than the final tragedy?  When a love affair
ends with the voluntary death of the lovers, when they both kill
themselves rather than live on alone, any preceding faults or
failings are of small account.  That last hour is the only one to be
marked on the dial of history.

But at this time there was no thought of death.  Day followed day,
wholly given over to the joy of living.  Every moment spent together
created new dreams to be carried out; each desire gratified gave
birth to a new desire.  They seemed to have within them an
inexhaustible spring from which they drank without ever quenching
their thirst.  The only perfect love is that where flesh and spirit
are satisfied in turn, where heart and soul share in the ecstasy.  To
Cleopatra, who had never loved before, this feeling was a new
experience.  To Antony it was a surprise which plunged him in
unspeakable delight.  After his life of excess it would have seemed
impossible for him to be thrilled by this new joy.  But all other
experiences were wiped out, and in this love he was born again.  Like
to the fire which rises, impervious to corruption, his passion for
Cleopatra had burned away all stains of the past.

Their mutual happiness seemed to affect all their environment.  The
Queen took an exquisite pleasure in pointing out the charms of the
Bruchium, that incomparable museum of art and nature.  She wanted to
share all its wonders with her lover.  Even if she picked a rose she
wanted him to inhale its fragrance as though it were an ethereal
fragment of herself, and its perfume were her own breath.  In showing
him a marble statue from the chisel of Praxiteles, the bronze
Hercules that Ptolemy VII had brought from Corinth, a bas-relief
covered with figures from the Iliad; in music, or some page from a
Greek drama, she sought that close contact of mind and spirit which
should make them one being.

But if Antony yielded at times to the refining influence of the
daughter of the Lagidæ, at other moments his own virile nature had
the mastery and controlled them both.

The orgies of the Bruchium are matters of history.  The moderation of
modern life, with its democratic views, its lesser fortunes, its
law-restricted vices, gives no hint of the extravagant living of the
ancients.  The scale is entirely different.  There is no comparison
between the provincial fêtes of to-day and the saturnalian revelries
of the Romans.  Our hygienic repasts offer no idea of the gluttonous
feasts of Balthazar.  Modern monuments, modern buildings, how
pitifully poor they are compared with those colossal structures that
Rameses or Darius employed thirty years of their reign in completing,
and which have survived them for as many centuries!  What a contrast
between our richest palaces and those massive retreats of ancient
kings, with their stupendous ramparts, their avenues of obelisks, the
forest of columns which surrounded them!  The most magnificent court
of Europe would seem paltry set by the side of one of any satrap or
Roman proconsul.

The world in those days belonged to the privileged few who had the
entire control.  The lower classes were content to look on at their
revels.  There were giants in those days compared with the less
virile physique of modern men.  The suns which shone on their joys
have set.  A certain sadness depresses the modern mind, inoculated
with the virus of the ideal.

Antony and Cleopatra lived at a time when they could watch life roll
by like a mighty torrent.  The vigour of the young world boiled in
their veins with no thought of sin.  To be happy was the only wisdom.
They were like the followers of Epicurus, whose sole aim was to enjoy
to the full the passing hour.  In that wonderful city, where
everything seemed planned for their delight, they spent indescribable
days, days in which nothing seemed too high or too low to add to
their enjoyment.  As fearless in planning pleasures as in carrying
them out, they were truly inimitable.

Cleopatra wished to shower every possible luxury on her guest, and
she commanded that the habitual magnificence of the court life be
increased in every way.  A story is told by Philotas, who had come
from Amphissus to finish his studies at the Serapium, of having made
the acquaintance of a steward of the royal kitchens.  There he saw
eight wild boars waiting to be roasted before a huge brazier.  "Is
the Queen having a banquet this evening?" he asked.  He was much
astonished to learn that only the usual court was to be present, not
more than a dozen guests at the outside.

"What," he cried, "eight wild boars for twelve stomachs?"

"Don't you know," answered the steward, "that only at a certain stage
is a roast fit to eat?  Now it is not possible to know at what moment
the food must be served here, for the Triumvir may dally over a game
of chess, or take a sudden fancy for a gallop to Canopus.  Then there
is nothing to do but to put out the fires and wait.  At other times
he says he is famished and must be served before the regular time.
So one boar, one quarter of beef, a few geese or guinea fowls are not
enough; there must be an unlimited supply!"

This is one anecdote among many which shows not only the wastefulness
but the happy carelessness which surrounded this great spoiled child,
Antony.  Everything gave way to his capricious fancy.  Cleopatra
lived but to please him.  Leaning on the breast of her hero, she saw
life only through his eyes.  At times their caresses made a paradise
for both; at others she was occupied in inventing some new form of
amusement to divert her lover and herself.

This constant effort was a drain on her physically and mentally and
led to all kinds of follies.  One of these, which happened at a
banquet, is famous.

The vast hall where the guests were assembled was proportioned to
conceal its height.  It was encircled by arcades.  In each of these a
great-pawed sphinx of porphyry bore the image of a woman in Egyptian
head-dress.  Light poured out from torches supported by brass arms,
from high candelabra spread out like sheaves, from silver tripods,
these latter spouting great flames.

A hundred guests stood expectantly around the table looking at the
marvellous display of golden platters, cups, and bowls.  They were
awaiting the arrival of Antony and Cleopatra.  Presently, to the
sound of music, the royal couple appeared, he, superb, god-like, in
his star-covered tunic, she, adjusting her floating scarf and playing
with the bracelets on her arms.

At the head of the table stood a couch supported by four crouching
griffins.  The royal hosts reclined there, side by side, and motioned
to the guests to take their places around the table.  This evening
the special feature was a dance, or rather, a series of emblematic
figures invented by Clitias, the celebrated Sicilian comedian.  A
group of twenty-four dancing girls appeared, each representing an
hour; some black as night, some rosy as the dawn, others, again, the
colour of broad daylight, and the different shades of dusk.  These,
slowly or quickly, called up in turn the image of earthly joys which
come with the passing day.  As each Hour gave place to the succeeding
one she came to kiss the feet of the Queen.

Although this charming spectacle roused great enthusiasm and so
delighted Antony that it was repeated several times, Cleopatra seemed
absent-minded.  She was wondering what novelty she could provide for
the next evening.  It was essential to set before her beloved guest
something which he had never before seen.  A sudden light came into
her eyes; again she had found it.

"I invite you to come to-morrow to a feast which will surpass all
that your eyes have ever beheld!"

And as Antony, with his generous smile, said that such a thing could
not be possible, she replied, briefly:

"The supper alone will cost ten million sesterces."

Antony continued incredulous.  This was not the first time that his
beloved one had made extravagant statements.

"Let us lay a wager," she cried.

He agreed.  "If I lose what shall I give you?"

She needed no time to consider.  The word came to her lips as though
she had often used it:

"A kingdom."

Had the wine gone to his head?  Did he regard the Roman provinces
merely as stakes to gamble with?  He suggested Phoenicia.

Phoenicia, on whose coast lay Tyre, Gebel, Sidon, Berytus, all
manufacturing towns, with their dyes, their carpets, their valuable
carved furniture made from the cedars of Lebanon; and all sorts of
other rich possessions!  For the moment Cleopatra did not believe her
ears.  She thought he was jesting.  But Antony's expression was
serious.  She saw that the offer was made in good faith.  They
touched their fingertips in token of agreement.

The report of the wager soon spread.  Nothing was talked of in the
city but the mysterious plan for the coming night when the Bruchium
would see all its former splendours surpassed.  Reasonable men
shrugged their shoulders.  Ten million sesterces for a single repast!
It was not possible!  Others crowded together to discuss among
themselves what new extravagance the Queen was concocting to shake
the finances of the kingdom.

The next evening the same guests assembled in the vast hall of the
arcades.  They were alive with curiosity.  What were they gathered
together to witness?  What spectacle could justify the enormous
expense that had been announced?  But on entering the hall they saw
nothing out of the ordinary.  There were the same brilliant
illuminations, the same gorgeous display of flowers and gold plate;
all the exquisite details were just the same.

With their customary ceremony the sovereigns entered.  The Queen was
so simply dressed that only her jewels attracted attention.  Her
passion for them was well known and she had continually added to the
countless treasures of the Lagidæ.  Wherever she went she had
acquired the rarest stones.  While at Rome the Etruscan workers had
given their entire time to making jewellery of her own designing.
Her preference had always been for pearls.  She had collected them
from the Persian gulf, from Ceylon, from Malaysia, and whenever a
ship-owner went to India he had orders to bring back any exceptional
pearls that he found there, regardless of their cost.  She wore them
everywhere, around her neck, about her arms, fastened in her belt, of
every shape and tint.

This evening, however, she wore only two.  But such pearls!  Their
size, their beauty of outline, were beyond all estimate.  Suspended
by an invisible thread of gold, they gleamed in her ears like drops
of dew on the petals of a rose.  The marvel was that nature had twice
produced such perfect pearls, identical in form and sheen, and that
twice they had been found by man, although centuries apart.  The
first had been sent to Olympias from Ophir, by her son Alexander, and
the second had only recently been discovered near the coast of Malay
after exhaustive searching.  Did they reflect her shining eyes, were
they tinted with the roses on her young cheeks; or were they, as
legend says, living creatures who are affected when their fate is in
the balance?

The banquet went on, lavish, but a little dull, as when an expected
diversion fails.  Dessert was served, and still nothing had happened.
There was a general air of disappointment.  Antony alone was in high
spirits.  He looked on himself as the winner of the wager and was
amusing himself by imagining the prize he could demand.  His joking
became flippant:

"By Bacchus, your supper is not worth the ten million sesterces that
you promised," he cried, impatiently, as he leaned toward Cleopatra.

"Don't be so certain," she replied: "you have not won yet."

She called the cup-bearer, who stood always near, and signalled to
him to re-fill her cup.  This golden cup, a marvel of workmanship,
was supposed to have belonged to Pericles.  In any case it had been
carved by one of the best artists of his epoch.  A troop of archers
adorned it, and the handle was in the form of a beautiful woman.

All eyes were fixed on Cleopatra.  What was she about to do?  What
miracle was to happen?  For astonishing things were always expected
of her.

Turning toward Antony she raised the cup to her lips, and with an
expression half humorous, half solemn, said:

"Look carefully.  When I have drunk this, my wager will be won."  At
the same time she fastened one of the pearls and let it fall to the
bottom of the foaming cup, where it was quickly dissolved.

Cries of horror went up, as in the face of an irreparable disaster.

Having emptied the cup, Cleopatra made ready, for a second sacrifice.

Antony seized her wrist.

"Spare your jewels," he cried; "I acknowledge my defeat."

The Queen hesitated; and he added, "Phoenicia is yours!"

What was the use of doubling the sacrifice?  It was said that in
memory of that evening Cleopatra always wore the odd pearl in her
bosom.  Octavius found it there after her death.  It was in the shape
of a tear, an enormous tear, as though all the tears that those
beautiful, closed eyes had shed were gathered together in it.
Thinking that no woman, not even Livia, was worthy of such a jewel,
or fearing that it would bring him misfortune, the conqueror of
Actium carried it off as an offering to Venus.  "Thus," says Pliny,
in melancholy vein, as he was dreaming one day in the temple, "the
half of one of those suppers at Alexandria is to-day the ornament of
a goddess."


Had Antony forgotten that he was Triumvir?  Did he not remember that
the life of all men, especially that of a ruler, is a hard and
continuous struggle?  Not altogether; but, without questioning
whether the moment was propitious, unmindful of the disturbing news
of troubles in Italy, and of the incursions of the Parthians into
Asia Minor, led by the traitor Labismus, he still dallied.  He knew
that some day he would be forced to take command of his troops, but
the life of a conqueror slips by very quickly when he is in the arms
of a beautiful woman.  While waiting, enmeshed, entangled, like a
prey, he was verily a captive; but the bands that held him were too
delightful for him to make the slightest effort to break them.  When
stung by conscience he comforted himself with the reflection that he
would know how to get away when it was actually necessary.

In order to have a pretext that would justify his prolonged stay in
Alexandria he took up some governmental work, chiefly the revision of
the treaty of alliance between the Roman Republic and Cleopatra.  All
its clauses were arranged in accordance with her wishes and, at her
instigation, he sealed it by recognizing Cæsarion as the legitimate
son of Cæsar, the heir-presumptive to the throne of Egypt.

The understanding between the two countries being arranged, he
summoned the best equipped divisions of his army and had them placed
along the borders of the Nile.  This military display restored order
generally.  It was universally recognized that the Queen had a
powerful support, and that obedience to her was necessary.  Finally,
to confirm her authority over these troops, and to show that they
were hers to command, the hawk-crest of the Lagidæ was engraved on
their shields by the side of the Roman eagle.  Armed with helmet and
cuirass Cleopatra, riding at Antony's side, reviewed them on the
parade ground.

As she was now convinced of the solidity of her throne, and had no
longer any uneasiness save the dread of seeing her lover take leave,
Cleopatra put her wits to work to keep all disquieting outside cares
away from him.  Constantly with him, seeing everyone who came near
him, she arranged their daily programmes in such fashion that there
was no chance for idleness.  Their life was a veritable whirlwind.
They went for long rides along the sandy roads, taking such
unreasonable routes that they returned with their horses foundered.
They sought recreation in hunting deer and gazelles, and risked life
and limb in pursuit of the wild faun.  Danger exhilarated them, and
it, in turn, gave them keener appreciation of the hours spent in the
privacy of their apartment.

Gradually, however, their sense of enjoyment lost its flavour.  The
need for perpetual novelty, the desire for sharper sensations, made
them seek experiences which were inevitably degrading.  In their
quest of these new adventures they went, at first secretly, then
without disguise, to mix with the disorderly pleasure seekers who
nightly frequented the gardens of the Ceramicus.

Many goddesses had temples at Alexandria but none was worshipped more
persistently and fervently than Venus.  Under the different names of
Urania, Astarte, Acidalia, Callypige, and Cypris, each inhabitant,
each young girl, recognized her power, and brought her offerings.

In a sycamore grove, opposite the celebrated wall, more than fifteen
hundred courtesans trafficked openly in their wares, unhampered by
the hypocrisy which restrains modern civilization.  Here, also, was
the school where expert matrons instructed a hundred young girls in
the intricate art of pleasing the goddess of Love.  Taken from their
parents, either with their consent, or for money, these girls came
sometimes from the most remote countries, for the variety of types
found at the Ceramicus formed one of its chief attractions.  Some
were fair, with light eyes and hair like silk; others were of olive
complexion, and others again had dark skins.  They were not all
equally beautiful, that is, according to the Greek ideal, but they
all had plump arms and firm breasts, all understood the art of
smiling, and of perfuming their bodies.

What did these royal lovers, who had all possible means of gratifying
every kind of caprice without leaving their palace walls, what did
these misguided beings seek in the dim shade of those trees, among a
crowd of loose women?

Unluckily, these expeditions could not be concealed indefinitely.
Although Antony wore a mask, and Cleopatra was draped from head to
foot in a sombre veil, more than one passer-by, because of the
presence of Eros, a devoted satellite of Antony who went everywhere
with them, suspected the presence of these sovereigns in places where
they had no right to be.  The final _dénouement_ came as the result
of a brawl in which they were hopelessly entangled.

It happened in the Rhakotis quarter, one of the most disreputable
parts of the town, where debauchery ran riot.  It was filled with
houses of ill-repute; the alleys rang with barbarous music
accompanying revolting scenes in the fetid taverns.  And here the
ruler of Rome and the descendant of Egyptian kings loved to spend
their nights.  Antony was becoming brutalized, and Cleopatra, also,
was affected by this life.  They quarrelled, passed cynical jests,
and, taking colour from their surroundings, nothing pleased Antony so
much as to watch the Queen of Egypt seated till morning before these
dirty booths, and to hear her ravishing voice, meant to make music
for the gods, singing vulgar songs, reciting obscene verses, or using
the phrases that he had formerly heard only between low soldiers and
women of the town.

One night there was a squabble between one of these women and some
sailors.  Instantly a tumult of cries and blows began.  Violent
fighting followed and knives glittered.  Cleopatra was about to
faint.  Her throat was parched, a cold sweat broke out on her
forehead.  She had hardly strength enough to reach the exit.  Eros
seized her just in time and carried her into the open air.  She
revived, but unfortunately her veil had been pushed aside, and pale
and frightened appeared the young face that at other times was seen
crowned by the head-dress of the Egyptian kings.

What is more significant than the degradation of these lovers,
overtaken by Fate?  From the crest of Fortune's hill they could have
looked down on the ugliness of the world at their feet and have said:
"We are safe!"  But they were insatiable.  Possessing all the best,
they coveted the worst as well.  They wanted their wheel of
sensations to go on turning, turning.  At the least sign of its
stopping they set it going again, and it dragged them into the depths
from which they came up irremediably stained.

This scandal of the street brawl had no immediate consequence,
however.  The hour of Nemesis had not yet come.  The people of
Alexandria were content with their reëstablished government, their
increased revenue, and attached but little importance to what they
called these frivolous pranks.  Their own standards were low and
there was no actual laws that condemned Cleopatra's conduct.  On the
contrary, it established a certain sympathy between the Queen and her
subjects.  Since she, who had seemed so far above them, had descended
to the ranks of the street women, what concession might not be
expected from her, or what good fortune?  Men who had long worshipped
her at a distance drew near to regard her with longing eyes.  One of
these admirers wrote: "Any other woman would grow stale, but not
Cleopatra.  The more you see her the greater her fascination.  She
can transform even vice, cruelty, debauchery by her unspeakable
charm.  In the midst of her excesses the very priests themselves can
only bless her!"

Antony also had been adopted by the Alexandrians.  Cæsar's
aristocratic bearing, his stern expression, his austere habit of
mind, had overawed them; while their naturally frivolous temperament
was thoroughly at ease in the presence of the jovial Triumvir.
Whereas the one always kept them at a distance, whether on horseback
or in his litter, never mixing with the populace, the other enjoyed
the street shows, went about everywhere, stopped before the stalls,
sometimes buying a trifle for which he paid double price, and taking
it to Cleopatra.  He talked with the men in the street, was not
afraid of passing jokes with them, or even of emptying an amphora of
wine in their company.  He had discarded his military dress when
appearing in public, as it recalled the hated Roman rule.  He
replaced the Roman officers by Egyptian guards, and the coats of mail
and helmets, surmounted by silver crests, were exchanged for silk
robes with oriental head-dresses.

This delicate flattery of the populace provoked much jesting
criticism.  "He reserves his tragic role for the Romans; for us he
has always a smile," many said, recalling the part he had played at
the time of the proscriptions.

His intimate associates, who shared this lawless life, had even less
cause than the Alexandrians to find fault with him.  Like Antony,
they were under the bewitching charm of Cleopatra.  They loved her,
admired her, and to win her favour bore with good humour the
sarcastic thrusts of her jesting moods.  To please and amuse her some
of them sacrificed all sense of dignity.  Paterculus has left the
story of Munatius Plancus, former consul, and several members of
Antony's staff who, one evening during a fête, crowned themselves
with reeds, tied fish tails to their naked backs, and mimicked the
dance of Glaucus.  It seemed as though the masters of the world,
those proud Romans who had formerly scorned the Queen of Egypt, had
now become her slaves.



VI

ANTONY'S WIVES

It was no time for play, for masquerading, or for parades.  Threats
were in the air.  The Parthian invasions were daily becoming bolder
and there were many uprisings in Italy.  It was one of those feverish
crises of that malady which had stricken Italy for more than a
century and whose periodic return endangered her foundations.  On one
hand the landowners were trying to regain their confiscated property;
on the other, the war veterans, to whom these estates had been
promised, were exacting the fulfilment of the promise.  These latter,
reinforced by the standing army, which no longer received its pay
regularly, were the larger and stronger party.  In fact, they were
the only remaining organized force of the Republic.

The man who could meet their just demands and enforce his own will
would have been master of the situation.  With his countless legions
and his control over them Antony seemed to be the man.  In his
absence, Octavius was next in line.  But his puny personality and his
reputed cowardice and cruelty were grave handicaps.  He made sundry
efforts to reconcile the opposing parties.  On one occasion, at
Gabies, he had a meeting of the landowners and representatives of the
soldiers to discuss before a jury the relative interests of the
opponents.  Some decision might have been reached, as both sides
desired it, had a hearing been possible; but two people purposely
absented themselves; two who were determined on war and had effective
means of bringing it about.  These two were Fulvia, Antony's wife,
and his brother, Lucius.

For Antony was married, very much married.  The day after the battle
of Pharsalus he had wedded Fulvia, who had already been twice
married; the first time to the demagogue Clodius, and, after his
tragic death, to Curion, Tribune of the people.  In her association
with these violent men she had acquired the habit of meddling in
politics.  Under their influence her mind had become emancipated and
masculine; she had lost the sweetness of her own sex without gaining
any qualities to make up for it.  In spite of this, and although she
had no beauty, Fulvia had succeeded in laying hold of the Imperator,
perhaps even in making him love her.  She had doubtless succeeded,
because it was the destiny of this great agitator to upset the hearts
of women and yet be subject to their will.  Far-seeing and masterful,
she had discerned what could be drawn from the powerful instrument
that Antony was, provided a firm hand controlled him.  The power
Fulvia had over him was such that at times he seemed to be nothing
more than a sword hung at her girdle.

Her detestable influence was responsible for most of the bloody deeds
which have sullied the name of Antony.  The three hundred deserters
from Brindisi were executed at the instigation of this termagant;
their punishment afforded her such keen joy that she desired to be
present at the death, that her robe might be spattered with their
blood.  It was she also who stirred up in her husband's heart his
hatred of Cicero.

It is well known with what vehemence Cicero, in his Philippics,
denounced the man who, though a Republican, stood for despotism.  He
designated Antony as "a soldier lacking political genius, without
loftiness of soul, destitute of real distinction, lost by
debauchery."  Divining whose influence impelled Antony to act, he
fearlessly accused her: "Is this man free," he demanded of the
citizens whom he was urging to quit the demagogic party, "is he free,
when controlled by a woman who imposes her laws upon him, prescribes,
commands, forbids, as she sees fit?"

Fulvia could never forgive.  At the hour of reckoning she found in
her venomous heart the arrow that Cicero had planted there, and sent
it back with fatal effect.  To have her assailant assassinated was
not sufficient, she desired to dishonour his remains.  When the head
of the great orator was brought to Antony, she drew a long gold pin
from her hair and pierced the tongue which had defended justice from
one end of the world to the other.

Naturally such a woman would not let herself be robbed without
protest.  When she heard what skilful hands were detaining her
husband, rage gnawed at her heart.  How should she get him back?
Supplications and threats were sent in turn to the Bruchium.  But
Antony was dwelling in paradise, oblivious to all that did not
concern his beautiful mistress.  He was determined to remain ignorant
of any reason for leaving her and often did not even unroll the
scripts which the courier had brought him from his wife.

Fulvia, however, was capable of dire vengeance.  To stir up civil war
appealed to her as an expedient worthy of consideration.  In
consultation with her brother-in-law, Lucius, an intriguer who had
the dream of crushing Octavius and putting his own family in power,
she said: "When thousands of men are dying for his cause Antony will
be compelled to leave Cleopatra's arms."

At the instigation of the two conspirators several landowners roused
the rural population.  There were skirmishes and combats.  A large
number of towns declared themselves as opposed to Octavius.  The
cries of death resounded as far as Rome.  The statues of the
Triumvirs were broken.  Lucius took advantage of these uprisings to
declare himself, in his brother's name, the defender of Republican
ideals.  Antony himself, he affirmed, thought that the Triumvirate
had lasted long enough.  He was ready to cancel his power and content
himself with being Consul.

These assertions gained many partisans for him among the men who
wished law and order restored.  With things at such a pass it was
incredible that Antony would not come to assume the leadership.
Delegates sent to Alexandria to induce him to return were refused
admission to his presence.  Cleopatra bade them depart without delay
on pain of imprisonment.

Hearing of this outrage, Fulvia, whom no crime appalled, conceived
the idea of combining with Antony's enemies.  She made a proposal to
Octavius, and, as a proof of sincerity, suggested his marrying
Clodia, her daughter by Clodius.  She was a charming young girl, not
yet seventeen years of age, and had already attracted Octavius's
fancy.  But he was not to be ensnared; at no price would this
practical man have encumbered his career by having Fulvia for a
mother-in-law!

So the war went on.

Despite Antony's contempt for his adversary--"that beardless
blackguard," as he scornfully called him--he knew very well what the
ultimate issue would be, although Cleopatra took all possible means
to conceal the actual danger; but he persisted in his indifference.
His exasperated wife was in despair and, seeing the peril increase
from day to day, began to re-open negotiations.  However difficult
these might be with such an elusive husband, still they offered the
only possible chance of rousing Antony to action.  The chief thing
was to find an ambassador who could gain an audience.

She and Lucius finally selected Ahenobarbus, the Triumvir's old
comrade-in-arms, one of his bravest generals, who during all their
campaigns together had rendered most valuable aid, yet at the hour of
victory had always effaced himself before his chief.  He, at least,
would be given a hearing.

When this Roman of the old school, fresh from the battlefield, whose
cuirass seemed to stick to his body as his flesh to his bones,
entered the luxurious perfumed quarters of the Bruchium, and saw
Antony in a flowing, embroidered robe, a scimitar in his girdle, his
head wrapped in a turban adorned with a shining carbuncle, he was
overcome.  Was this the conqueror of Philippi, his comrade that he
had not seen since, clad in wild beasts' skins, he had endured
without complaint the bitter hardships of a Macedonian winter?

"Mark Antony!" he exclaimed, and that name alone expressed all the
astonishment and dismay that filled his soul.

Antony was far from callous to this appeal.  When he understood what
his wife and brother had undertaken, his face reddened.  He knew well
that personal interest and profit formed part of their zeal in
serving him; but the fact remained that Fulvia furnished a rare
example of wifely devotion, and Lucius was an intelligent man.  For
the moment he had a sincere desire to join them.

"If you feel that way," said Ahenobarbus with the simplicity of a
heart accustomed to match deeds with words, "why hesitate?  The men
who are fighting for your cause are imprisoned in the fort at
Perugia; they are in danger of starving to death.  Take command of
your legions and go to their aid."

But things were not so simple as this brave soldier imagined.
Cleopatra undertook to enlighten him.  Little versed as he was in the
ways of sentiment, he comprehended at the first sight of her, at the
sound of her charming voice, that Antony was no longer his own
master, that he belonged body and soul to this siren.  And then he
tried to make her see reason.

He explained the situation without reserve.  If Lucius and Fulvia
were dependent on their own resources, Octavius would probably have
the advantage, and Antony would lose the chance of overcoming an
enemy who, though cowardly now, might one day be formidable.

Cleopatra was too wise not to realize the justice of these arguments.
No one was more anxious than she for Antony's advancement, no one had
greater reason to dread the triumph of that legitimate nephew, who
disputed with Cæsarion the heritage of Cæsar.  Undoubtedly if Lucius
had been alone in his struggle, she would have said: "For our mutual
glory, for the extension of our power, go to the front."  But giving
Antony his liberty, permitting her cherished lover to set foot on
Italian soil, meant giving him up to Fulvia.  Ugly, coarse, and
antipathetic though she was, better fitted to harangue troops than to
inspire passion, nevertheless this Bellona caused her a certain
uneasiness.  She knew her ambitions and was perfectly conscious of
her despotic control of Antony.  Under these conditions was it
prudent, even for a few days, to deliver this precious hostage into
her hands?  Weighing all considerations, Love, that tyrant who knows
no will save his own, gained his end.  Perugia, Rome, the whole of
Italy might be burning, Cleopatra would not give up her lover.

The day before Ahenobarbus, disappointed and disgusted, was to return
to Italy, a trifling incident changed the course of things.  Antony
was depressed.  His conscience troubled him; that conscience which he
had ignored so long, but which, at certain memories, disturbed his
peace.  His old war comrade said nothing more, but his looks were
full of reproach.

"How shall I divert him?" thought Cleopatra.  "What amusement can I
devise to protect him during this last day from the appeals of
Ahenobarbus?"

She proposed a fishing party.

Both men accepted and the boats across the canal which led to the
harbour of Eunostus, carried them to Lake Mareotis.  The reeds were
rustling in the breeze, above the quiet water stretched a heaven of
radiant blue.  The buildings along the shore made red reflections in
the lake as though they were on fire.  The vessels anchored at the
further end of the lake where, remote from noise and excitement, the
carp had taken refuge in the quiet lapping of the waves.

Antony threw his line half a dozen times and caught nothing.  This
bad luck, especially before Ahenobarbus, who was watching him with
folded arms, increased his ill-humour.  Irritated and determined to
catch the fish, or at least to seem to catch them, he whispered a
word to Eros.  What he told him was to fasten to his own hook one of
the largest fish that had been caught and to slip it skilfully under
the water so that no one would suspect the trick.

The Queen, however, was not long fooled.  She, too, knew how to play
that game.  She quickly concocted a plan that, unknown to Eros,
another attendant carried out.

Antony was again in high spirits.  Every time he drew in his line a
large carp hung from his hook.  He was overwhelmed with compliments
on his astounding skill.  All at once, just as he drew out a huge
prize, there was a burst of laughter.  The fish, this time, proved to
be one that had been kept in brine to serve as bait.  Ordinarily
Antony would have been the first to join in the ridicule against
himself, but in the presence of the dignified Roman general he was
annoyed and mortified.  The party went home in silence.

Thinking this a good chance for a final effort, Ahenobarbus waited
until everyone had gone to his own apartment and then sought Antony.

"Do you not realize that this is no place for you?" he demanded.
"This child's play is fit only for women and eunuchs; but you,
warrior, chief of the State, one of the three heads of the Republic,
when there are towns and continents waiting for your taking...."

With the gesture habitual to him in moments of perplexity, Antony put
his elbow on his knee, his chin resting in his right hand, and stared
at his friend.  What was there to say?  That fire that still burned
in his veins flamed up, showing him the glorious goal toward which
they had marched together.

"I wish I might follow you!" he cried.

"What is there to hinder you?"

"How can you ask!"

"Is love so mighty then," gasped the old soldier, "that once in its
thrall a man has no more power over himself?"

They continued to talk.  Antony was ready to be persuaded.  The light
wound to his vanity made him sensitive to appeals to his honour.  The
future spread out before him.  Where would the life of a love-sick
satrap lead him?

Suddenly he cried, grasping his friend's hand: "You are right;
to-morrow I will go with you."  And with a firm step he turned toward
Cleopatra's bedchamber.

She was lying on a low couch, awaiting her lover, but she was more
than usually eager for his coming this evening.  He had been morose
at supper.  What had been the trouble?  Was he annoyed at the joke
she had played on him?

Charmian was beside her, trying to comfort her.  Surely Antony
understood a joke!

The soothing sound of the sea came in through the windows.  Just
outside the curtain of her room Antony heard the question: "Do you
believe he will always love me?"

His heart was softened and he thought: "How can I hurt the most
tender of women?"  Going in, he looked at her without speaking, and
she asked:

"What is it?  Of what are you thinking?"

He hesitated.  Then, suddenly, like one who takes his courage in both
hands, he cried:

"Beyond all question I must go away."

She looked at him, incredulous.  This was worse than all her fears.

"Go away!  You are saying it to frighten me, because I teased you."

"Child," he ejaculated, "as though such a thing counted!  I owe it to
those who are fighting for me."

Cleopatra's heart sank.

"You wish to be with your wife!"

In spite of the gravity of the occasion Antony could not help
laughing.

"You!  Jealous of Fulvia!"

After all, why should she not be jealous?  The cause which this
deserted wife was heading was not led by an ordinary woman.
Beautiful or hideous, with their storms, their upheavals, their
tears, these passionate souls are the most dangerous rivals.
Cleopatra understood; she knew, better than any other woman, of what
the heart is capable to protect or regain its loved one.  And
Antony's temperament did not reassure her.  At a distance from her,
he would surely find in that other woman, that Amazon, the very
support that his wavering will unconsciously sought in all his
relations with women.

All these soul-torturing thoughts she put in her next demand:

"You want me to die, then?"  And, as though she were already nearing
death, she fell back on her pillows, pale and sobbing.

That was enough to shake his new-born resolution.  Antony was already
wavering.  Bending over that dear face, which he had so often seen
flushed with happiness, his only thought was to repair the damage his
words had wrought.  He would not leave her at once.  He would get
Ahenobarbus to take his place and later, should it be necessary...

Cleopatra recovered immediately!

"If it were necessary," she whispered, still trembling, and pressing
his head against her bosom, "I should be the first to urge you to go.
I desire your well-being, your glory far more than you do.  But,
believe me, your wife and your brother are fools.  They are working
only for their own interest.  Let them get out of this embarrassment,
which they have brought about themselves, without any aid from you."

Antony was more than content to believe her.  And that night there
was no further question of their parting.

Other happy nights followed.  The lovers were reunited, and behind
those protecting ramparts that love builds they were oblivious of
war, threats, everything.  What matter if the world fell, so long as
they were together?

The gods, however, who favoured Antony, combined this time to save
him.  At the moment when Perugia, exhausted, was on the point of
surrendering; when the army, headed by his brother and his wife,
seeing no chance of the Triumvir's coming, began to lose courage,
Fulvia suddenly fell ill and died.  She had been the soul of the
resisting army.  With this support gone Lucius was not strong enough
to continue the fight against such heavy odds, and he sheathed his
sword.  Thus, by unforeseen events, Antony's absence, which had
seemed so fatal, brought most excellent results.  He had taken no
part in the war and so could not be held responsible for it.
Consequently there would be no difficulty in making peace with
Octavius.  He had only to disavow any political designs of his own.
But he must at least go to negotiate this affair in person.

With Fulvia dead there was no further reason for Cleopatra to oppose
Antony's temporary absence, or to feel any alarm in regard to it.
She had borne him one child and another was coming.  They had decided
to celebrate their wedding in the spring and to legitimatize the
children, as Cæsar had done in the case of Cæsarion.  As though,
however, the growlings of the crafty beast that lurks near perfect
happiness were heard from afar, Cleopatra still had certain
apprehensions.  What did she dread?  She could not have defined it.
The idea of consulting the oracles came to her.  Perhaps they would
explain that mysterious danger against which her whole being rebelled.

Here, as at Rome, the long-bearded augurs sought to unravel the
secrets of the future by studying the sacred books, observing the
flight of birds and examining the entrails of the victims.  As
Claros, Curnes, and Tibur had their sybils, Delphi her Pythian
priestess, so Alexandria had a college of celebrated astrologers.
These famous men not only gave their nights to the study of the
heavens (they knew the laws that governed the stars and they gave the
constellations the names that they bear to-day) but their science
pretended to be able to question these stars and to obtain
information from them.  Each celestial body represented a divinity
who influenced the birth and life of mortals, and its vivid
brilliancy in the height of happiness was dimmed by the approach of
disaster.

After nightfall, when it was entirely dark, Cleopatra, accompanied by
a slave, climbed the one hundred and twenty steps which led to the
highest terrace.

Sisogenus, the great compiler of horoscopes, who had been advised of
her visit, was awaiting her.  With outstretched arms and his forehead
in the dust he saluted her three times.

"What does the daughter of Amoun-Ra seek of an insignificant being?"

She explained her wish to know the destiny of Mark Antony.  In a few
days the Triumvir would be in Latin territory once more.  What fate
awaited him there?  Was there anything to fear in regard to him?

Before replying, the sage, draped in yellow, his sleeves and high cap
adorned with a row of bells which rang as he moved, traced some signs
on the sand of the terrace; then, in an attitude of ecstasy, his body
bent back, his palms outspread, he searched the starry vault.
Myriads of golden points pricked the sombre blue, and their
reflections in the sea were like a shower of diamonds.

Sisogenus suddenly seized his wand and pointed to a star.  He had
recognized the planet under which Antony was born.

"There!" he cried, "clear and brilliant it is approaching its zenith."

But presently the star grew dim.  It drew near another star.  A
moment later the latter seemed to fade away and the first shone again
in its original, magnificent splendour.

Cleopatra was much impressed by this phenomenon, the more so on
hearing that it was Octavius's star which had made Antony's pale.
This experience was conclusive.  It was undeniably true that by their
natures these two men were opposed to each other, and that Antony
should, in all matters, distrust his colleague and avoid him.

When she brought him the horoscope Antony was the more impressed by
it because of a vision which had disturbed his slumber.  In his dream
he had been walking in a field of flowers.  All at once he had a
sensation of resistance, as though a barrier had been placed in his
path.  After a hard struggle he waked suddenly, covered with sweat,
as though he had just escaped some grave peril.

Antony would not have been of his age and country if he had ignored
such a warning.  No Latin was indifferent to these things.  A sneeze,
a burning of the ears, had their meaning.  A fall, the swelling of
the little finger, were regarded as evil omens.  If he saw a flight
of crows on leaving the house, the prudent man returned home and
carried out no business that day.  If, on the contrary, a swarm of
bees welcomed him as he stepped out into the golden sunshine, he was
safe in any undertaking, for they brought good luck!

Naturally, when such importance was attached to insignificant things,
the signs of the heavens were pregnant with meaning.  If Antony had
deferred his going it would have brought only unhappiness to
Cleopatra and himself, for stronger than all dreams was a voice which
warned them that the better part of their romance was over.  Would
they ever again find time to give themselves up entirely to the joys
of love?  That careless rapture which passionate youth brings was
ended.  Different obligations would separate them, perhaps
indefinitely.  Antony's position called him back to his duty.  That
peace with Octavius, if it were accomplished, would solve only one of
the new difficulties which had arisen.  The Parthians had to be
subdued, order must be established in Asia Minor; many things
demanded his attention.  Already, with the putting on of his armour,
the Imperator felt like his old self; he heard the clarion call with
pleasure and his gay, child-like smile had vanished.  He left his cup
half filled with wine.

Cleopatra was unhappy; she had more to dread from the coming
separation.  A sorrowful expression came into her eyes when she
looked at her lover, and, in spite of herself, in spite of his
repeated promises that he would return before the end of the year,
bitter grief wrung her heart.

When the day came, although she was faint from weeping, she insisted
on going down to the ship with him.  A fresh wind was coming up from
the east.  The ruffled sea was covered with long white wings, wings
which would carry off her happiness.  If she could only keep him with
her!  But poor human desires have never for a single moment deferred
the coming disaster.  The ship's sails were set; the three ranks of
rowers had taken their places, and fifty ebony arms were about to
strike the water.  Leaning over the edge of the rampart, which ran
along the side of the _Heptastadium_, Cleopatra was repeating softly
the tender farewells which her hand waved to Antony.  Just as the
ship left the quay she cried:

"Remember the stars!"


If Antony had been torn at this time by the revengeful passion which
inflamed him the day after the Ides of March, or by the hate which
possessed him later--too late--and which was to set him, weakened,
against an enemy who had grown powerful, he would undoubtedly have
gained the mastery of Octavius, and the fate of the world would have
been changed.  But the time that he had spent at Alexandria had
sapped his primitive instincts, and the fighting power that was one
of the savage beauties of his nature had lost its freshness.  Instead
of returning to Italy with the fierce enthusiasm essential to
victory, his mind was absorbed in Egyptian magic; his chief idea was
to bring about peace as quickly as possible so that he might be free
to go back.

Octavius, also, wanted an amicable adjustment of the disturbances
which the family Antonius had brought about, but from totally
different motives.  He was occupied with more serious things.  Pompey
was in command of several legions who were bound to him through
loyalty to the glorious memory of his father.  He had taken these to
Sardinia and was superintending the piracy of a fleet whose object
was to starve out the Latin coasts.  If Antony, with the sixteen
legions which he had in Macedonia, and the fast fleet which the
Rhodians had built for him, were to form an alliance with this new
antagonist, Octavius would inevitably be defeated.

It is a truism that fear makes men both cruel and cowardly.  In the
present instance it caused Octavius to take outrageous reprisals from
the vanquished Perugians and made him a lamb in the presence of
Antony.  He had never been really at ease with his herculean
colleague.  All that Antony stood for in beauty, pride, and happiness
was secret gall and bitterness to him.  Though quite as well versed
in debauchery, his weakness made him despair of ever attaining the
graceful, easy bearing which made Antony so attractive.  He felt,
too, the indifference of his soldiers toward him, compared with the
feeling that his opponent inspired among his men; their devotion was
such that they preferred serving under him without pay to being well
paid for marching against him.  Feeling the scantiness of his
ammunition, compared with Antony's abundant resources, he had
concluded at the outset that it would be wiser to have Antony for a
friend than an enemy, and to-day again he said to himself: "Though it
cost me the one hundred million sesterces that he has stolen from the
heritage of Cæsar, yet I will make this man my ally."

Both sides then were ready to come to terms.  Their followers were as
eager for it as the chief combatants themselves, for after so much
grief, agitation, and bloodshed, all the world thirsted for peace.

Antony's friends were awaiting him at Brindisi.  They had no
difficulty in persuading him to repulse the revolutionary proposals
of Pompey and to come to an understanding with Octavius.  This latter
offered Cyrenaica, which had been included in Lepidus's share, in
exchange for Gaul, which originally had been allotted to Antony in
the division of territory.

Anxious to go to Asia, where his most important interests lay, Antony
selected Asinius Pollion to look after his affairs in Italy.  The
latter's tact and knowledge qualified him to deal with Mæcenas,
Octavius's delegate, and Antony gave him full power.  It would be
time to sign the papers when he returned from Asia.

Antony's haste to plant his eagles in the Orient was because
Cleopatra had persuaded him to regard these provinces as their common
property, the rich area that was destined to supplant ancient,
impoverished Europe and to become that world-empire which they had
planned to establish together.  To drive out the Parthians and
procure the gold necessary to content his soldiers, who were his
chief support, was of infinitely greater importance than to dispute
fragments of territory with Octavius and Lepidus.  Antony, as always
when impelled by his strong instinct as a leader, showed his usual
masterful decision, quickness, and courage.  He immediately took
Palestine from Pacoros and reëstablished Herod there; punished the
towns which had massacred their garrisons, put Labienus to flight,
destroyed the gates of Lamanos, and took possession of Syria.  These
victories recalled the days of his untrammelled youth, and roused
that enthusiastic energy which so often followed his periods of
inertia.

His friends, knowing this complete metamorphosis, had reckoned
accordingly.  They persuaded him to put on his Imperator's cuirass
while they were laying the cornerstone of a new Triumvirate, saying
among themselves: "We shall gain time in this way"; for they had
their own plans.  They thought that a marriage would serve the double
purpose of making the desired treaty binding and also would keep him
from going back to his mistress; so they had arranged to bring about
a union between him and the sister of Octavius.  They knew that
although death had fortunately taken away Fulvia, the main obstacle
had not gone with her.  They understood perfectly that "the courtesan
of the Nile," as in their hate and scorn they designated Cleopatra,
was still there, beguiling, regal, clothed with her indescribable
charm.  But absence, for the time being, lessened her power, and by
this absence they were determined to profit.

Antony's return was the propitious moment to bring about the union of
the two Triumvirs by means of the most pleasing of women.  The
important thing was to arrange this skilfully and without undue
haste.  The sun on that day shone over Rome not with the metallic
brilliance which cut hard outlines in the Levantine landscape, but
gently, delicately, with fleece-like clouds that softened the light.
Among its flowery hills the ancient city lay in quiet dignity; its
low houses clustered around its temples seemed like a family group.

From the first moment that Antony trod the streets, filled with
sacred memories; when, on the border of the river, he looked again at
the place where he had gathered the ashes of Cæsar from the funeral
pyre; when he heard the great voices of the Forum welcoming him--his
heart quivered with an emotion that he had not felt for a long time.
Whatever joys might thrill him elsewhere, no other place in the world
could give him the inexpressible happiness of feeling that he was at
home.  Rome, it was the birthplace of his fathers; the air that he
breathed there stirred and exhilarated him like that on a mountain
top.  The blood ran through his veins richer, fuller, as though all
that of his forebears had joined the flood.

In this frame of mind Octavia's attractions were naturally very
powerful.  Although not radiantly beautiful, her modest, winning
carriage represented all that to the Latin mind signified the
guardian of the home.  Her face was oval, rather long, the type which
the artists of the Renaissance chose in painting their Madonnas.  Her
dreamy eyes were shaded by long lashes, and her masses of hair, whose
regular braids encircled her forehead, rested there like a crown.

No more striking contrast could have been found than that between
this sweet, gracious woman and the implacable Fulvia; unless in
comparing the warm seductions of Cleopatra with the diaphanous
delicacy, the sensitive shadows, which enveloped the sister of
Octavius.

The young woman had been married once.  The short time that she had
lived with Marcellus, for whom she still wore a widow's veil, had
been filled with love, peace, and fruitfulness, and was indicative of
what life would be at her side.  It was on her discretion and
deep-seated kindliness that the friends of Antony and Octavius alike
had relied, hoping to make of her arms an arch of peace which would
unite the two columns of the world.  Her domestic virtues alone would
have insured its solidity.  At a time when baseness was rampant, when
selfish fear engendered cowardice, when treason entered even into the
heart of family life, she had many times shown her intrinsic
qualities, her generous, human, kindly soul.  Her gentle influence
over her brother had frequently saved the victims of his wrath.  Her
friend, Tullia, owed the life of Thoranius, her idolized husband, to
her intervention.  He had been sentenced to death more than a month
and was awaiting the hour of his execution.  All Tullia's prayers had
been in vain and the time was at hand.  What could be done to save
the unfortunate man?  Public opinion was not in favour of his
condemnation, but, debased as it was, what means could it take to
express its disapproval?  Octavia was fearless.  One evening when the
Imperator was expected at the theatre, she prepared a device.  At the
moment when he entered his box, dressed in purple and surrounded by
lictors, a curtain rose and by the side of a young woman weeping
there appeared a phantom loaded with chains.  Cries of "Mercy,
mercy," resounded on every side.  What each individual would have
feared to ask, the crowd demanded.  The future Augustus was too weak
to go counter to the voice of the people.  He raised his right hand.
The cause was won!

Octavia's presence had the effect on Antony of grateful shade.  Never
since childhood had he been associated with such a wholesome,
comforting personality.  The idea of making his home with her gave
him a qualm of conscience.  If only he had met her earlier he would
undoubtedly have been a different man.  His way of living would not
have become so debased.  But, as he was to-day, how could he change
his habits?  How reach her level?  Deluded by an apparently newly
gained liberty, he said to himself: "Who knows, it may not be too
late!"  The next moment the image of the Egyptian sorceress came to
him, forbidding any happiness save with her in the alternate fever
and ecstasy which her love created.

Octavia was thoroughly familiar with Mark Antony's past life.
Desirous, as he was, of combining their political interests, her
brother, who was devoted to her, had not concealed from her the risks
involved in a marriage with Cleopatra's lover.  He could not bring
himself to praise a man so entirely opposite in character to himself.
Fundamentally honest and careful of her future as Octavia was, she
might, by these warnings, have been spared such a perilous adventure;
but she had a brave heart under her outward shyness.  Her youth
longed to taste the sweets of passion as well as the quiet joys of
life.  From their very first interview she had been irresistibly
drawn toward the tyrant that Antony was to be in her life.  It would
not be possible, she thought while admiring his splendid contour and
his bright smile, for such a man to be false.  If he had yielded to
temptations it was because those near him had failed to bind him with
that cord of tenderness which can restrain the lion.  This was the
pathetic mistake of virtue, confident of its own power; that fatal
attraction which makes gentle hearts the prey of strong, full-blooded
men, and impels them to yield to those who will become their masters
and their ruin.

Octavia's illusion continued for some time.  The marriage began
auspiciously with that real happiness which was unknown to Antony and
afforded him pleasure by its novelty.  In his wife's eyes, he was a
traveller who had seen many countries, destroyed many forests, and
whose wounded feet were grateful for repose.  He had exchanged his
flaming paradise for this innocent love in which he was a novice, and
for some time he was happy in the new experience.  As to his young
wife, she felt that the charm of completed cycles was hers, and that
she had found the secret which makes the spring sweet and gives
fragrance to the flowers.  Her heart was full to overflowing and she
had no other desire than to fulfil her husband's lightest wish.  With
instinctive knowledge, she divined his thought and carried out his
fancy before he had time even to stretch out his hand.  One day when
they were walking together he admired the palace that Pompey had
built on the Appian Way and expressed regret that so beautiful a
place remained empty.  She immediately obtained permission from her
brother to have the ban lifted and offered the palace, filled with
its wonderful treasures, to Antony.  Although her own tastes up to
the present moment had been simple, she thought no frame too spacious
or too rich for her husband.  How could this Omphale, consumed with
faithful devotion, foresee that this palace would seem a prison to
Antony before the first year of their marriage had gone by?

Her tenderness and devotion were so all-absorbing that the atmosphere
soon became stifling to Antony, who felt that his arms were wide
enough to embrace an infinity of delights.  Full of strength and
imagination, this grandson of Hercules felt cramped in the network of
tradition, and Rome, which had looked so magnificent on the day of
his triumphal return, had taken again its real proportions, which, in
comparison with the magnificence of Alexandria's sumptuous buildings,
obelisks, and columns, seemed like those of a market town.  Its
austere customs, narrow views, and prejudices irritated him.  Antony
was bored.  What had become of those joyous songs whose golden-winged
fancies had cradled his life in the past two years?

The association with Octavius was intolerable.  Whereas the men who
had brought about their reconciliation were delighted at seeing them
apparently working together in harmony, issuing decrees, reviewing
troops, or united at the family table, they themselves were conscious
of a fermenting mutual hatred.  It was inevitable between two men
equal in rank, sharing an authority which caused perpetual friction.
Whether acting for the State, or in the smallest detail of private
life, everything was a subject of dispute.  When the Roman people,
emotional and easily excited, applauded one or the other of the
Triumvirs, or showed the least sign of approval of his acts, the
demon of jealousy arose.  Even the games, in which they sometimes
sought diversion, led to disagreements, for neither of the two could
stand having the other one win.  The dice on several occasions having
been favourable to Antony, Octavius claimed that they were loaded.
One evening they entertained their guests with a pair of fighting
cocks, and the customary stakes were laid.  Once, twice, three times
Octavius's cock won.  Antony was white with rage.  He left the room
abruptly and even Octavia's pleading was powerless to bring him back
that evening.

Trifling as such wounds were, their daily occurrence was like
mosquito bites which finally poison the entire system.  Their
relations, never cordial, grew definitely worse.  Antony showed
always the more decided enmity.  Confident, as he was, that the first
place should belong to him, he was irritated by any interference,
especially when Octavius was given precedence over him.  Upon the
least pretext the words of the Egyptian oracle would come back to
him: "Keep away from your rival.  Whenever you come together your
star will be eclipsed by his.  In the Orient alone will your star
have its full radiance."

Even had he tried to forget these ominous words, the diviners,
astrologers, all the clique with which Cleopatra had secretly
surrounded him, kept them constantly in his mind.  The longing to get
away from this annoying comparison haunted him.  His one object was
to leave Rome and return to the land where he could find that
preëminence so indispensable to his masterful nature.  To be the
chief, the one whose commands all the world obeyed!  To look out on
unlimited space and to say to himself: "No one can contend with me
for the tiniest morsel of it!"  Those dreams which pride evolves to
tempt the covetous mind!

Only a great victory could upset the equality of power and exalt one
of the Triumvirs above the other two.  This Antony determined to win.
The colossal vision of making the Orient his military and political
centre, and of founding an immense empire of which he would be the
sole sovereign, appealed to him more than ever.  It was reviving
Cæsar's chimera, that chimera which, in an age where venality
reigned, would supply him gold in abundance.  But could he carry it
out to a glorious victory?  To begin with, he must expel the Parthian
invaders who infested the frontiers, then establish himself beyond
the Euphrates and gain the mastery of Persia.

The plans for this daring campaign were already drawn; they had been
laid out in the minutest details by the conqueror of Gaul.  Antony,
who had been in Cæsar's confidence during his latter days, had only
to take possession of them.  The only change that he needed to make
was in the choice of a city to supplant Rome.  Alexandria apparently
had been selected by Cæsar, who on the eve of this great enterprise
had been wholly absorbed in Cleopatra.  This same Alexandria had
shone in Antony's eyes as his future capital while he was with
Cleopatra and they were elaborating their plans.  But to-day, in the
house ruled by the virtuous Octavia, even the name of Egypt was
abhorrent.  He thought of Athens.

Like all women really in love, Octavia would rather have kept her
husband at her side.  To lean on his breast was happiness enough for
her tender heart.  When Antony unfolded his ambitious projects she
felt as though joy were about to leave her fireside for ever, and
that the future held for her only sorrow and disappointment.  But she
was too sensible not to realize that action is the law of great
lives, and that to love a conqueror entails lonely melancholy.

Even her brother, enamoured as he was of his bride, Livia, pricked by
this spur of supremacy, had just left to do battle with the pirates
of Sextus Pompey.  Octavia accepted Antony's departure like a
submissive wife, but exacted a promise that after the birth of her
child he would allow her to join him in Greece.


A sensation of escape, such as a ship feels when freed from her
moorings, thrilled Antony's heart the moment he passed the mole and
saw the port of Ostia growing fainter in the distance.  He was free.
In vain he tried to repress this feeling of exultation.  It was
useless.  He remembered his wife's gracious goodness, the love she
showered on him, the real affection that he had for her, and he was
filled with self-reproach.  But he could not control his delight; he
was enchanted to have loosed his shackles.  To be back again in the
fight, to be working out his own destiny, was like waking up after a
long spell of drowsiness.

Athens afforded him the exquisite pleasure of being the cynosure of
all eyes; the delight of receiving, without having to share them, the
keys of power; its submission, its homage.  The Greeks had preserved
an indelible memory of his personality.  They admired his beauty, his
military genius, his strength.  A warrior primarily, they knew him
also as a patron of art who respected their traditions.  His
pilgrimage to the summit of the Acropolis, made on foot and clothed
in the national pallium, had endeared him to all hearts.  Whatever
reports had come to them since, their original conviction was
unaltered: Mark Antony was a demigod.  They lavished titles and
honours upon him.  A chorus of dancing girls offered him the thyrsus
of Bacchus crowned with leaves, and fêtes were held everywhere, as at
the celebration of the Nabathæans.  This delirium of flattery passed
all bounds and ended in absurdity.  They offered this new Bacchus the
hand of the virgin Athene who stood before the Parthenon, armed with
the gold helmet and lance of the Olympian games.

Antony, secretly amused, pretended to take this seriously.

"I will accept this offer of marriage," he said, "provided my spouse
brings me a million drachmas."

The sycophants were caught in the trap.  They carried on the game.
It was a severe lesson, however, and one of them, the High Priest
charged with supplying this money from the treasury of the temple,
could not restrain himself from saying: "Zeus himself did not demand
so much to become the lover of your mother, Semele!"

In the whirl of these extravagant espousals Octavia was apparently
forgotten; but she made no protest.  There is distinction in sharing
honours with a goddess.  She only asked to be allowed to come and
play her part in the comedy.  The Athenians were no fools.  They
received her enthusiastically, and pretended to honour her as the
living image of Athene.  There were festivals, entertainments,
banquets, and in order to make them as gorgeous as he desired Antony
had only to copy those that he had revelled in at Alexandria.  Once
again he was living the life of an Oriental sovereign and, robed in
purple, shod with sandals of gold, his forehead bound with fillets,
he employed his leisure time in presiding over the athletic games,
watching the races and wrestling matches, the lance- and
disc-throwing.  Octavia awarded the prizes, and happy, united, with
no thought of the morrow, they both enjoyed their gracious
sovereignty.

Spring had come again.  Antony watched the budding branches of the
sacred laurel and drank of the fountain of Clepsydra.  The oracles
that he had consulted had promised him a triumph.  He was eager to
take his place at the head of the troops, who, under the command of
Ventidius, were awaiting him in Epirus.

The campaign opened brilliantly.  A succession of uninterrupted
victories by the advance-guard seemed to indicate that the invasion
of Persia would be simply a military procession.  Success at this
time meant all the more because Octavius was then fighting his own
battles on the shores of Sicily.

These were golden hours for Antony; hours when the thought "The world
with its kingdoms will be mine," came to him repeatedly.  This
illusion made him careless in replying to messages from his
brother-in-law.  Secure himself, he was rejoicing in the difficulties
of Octavius and had no desire whatever to send to his assistance the
noble Rhodian fleet for which he was clamouring.

Octavia felt very differently.  If her passionate love had thrown her
into Antony's arms, it had in no way lessened her warm affection for
her brother.  Her loyalty, even had she not cared for Octavius, would
have made her remember that one of the chief reasons for her marriage
with Antony had been to forward the interests of both.  Up to the
present time she had only been called upon to adjust slight
disagreements between them.  To-day, however, conditions were
different; indeed, the very supremacy of the two rulers was at stake.
They envied each other, they hated each other, and between these
opposing forces her gentle personality was in imminent danger of
being crushed.  Why had the gods so cruelly put this grain of wheat
between two millstones?

After driving out Antiochus, Antony returned from Syria.  He was
drunk with the exultation of victory and his wife decided that this
would be a propitious moment to present her petition to him.  She
went to Ephesus to meet him, accompanied by Ahenobarbus, who deplored
the dissension between the Triumvirs and predicted dire consequences.
Antony's first greeting was so full of affection that she was led to
believe that her influence over the conqueror was not wholly lost.
With the tenderest caution, but firmly, as her conscience demanded,
she asked why he still kept the fleet in the harbour instead of
despatching it to her brother's assistance.  Quite apart from their
signed contract, was he unmindful of the fact that he might have need
of reinforcements in the heart of Asia, even as Octavius was needing
these ships?  This refusal to send one might later cut him off from
the other.  Why did they not coöperate?

Her eminently rational appeal made little impression on Antony, for
he felt himself invincible.  He knew that a rupture was inevitable,
and left to himself he probably would have brought it about at once,
but he was touched by Octavia's tears.  He had always been easily
moved by women, and after yielding to those who made tempestuous
demands upon him, it seemed only fair that, for once in his life, he
should heed this messenger of peace.

"Go," he commanded, "make terms with Octavius, but remember, before
all else, that you are the wife of Antony!"

Greater difficulties than she had looked for awaited her in arranging
matters with her brother.  Exasperated by the evidently evil
intentions of Antony, he decided that such an ally was as dangerous
as an enemy, and that while awaiting the supreme decision it was as
well to learn to be independent.  Aided by Agrippa, who was showing
his authority on all maritime matters, he commenced to build a fleet.
The port of Tarentum was full of excitement.  Well-paid carpenters
and caulkers were busy night and day, singing as they worked.  The
noise of hammers and hatchets resounded.  The rhythmic ringing of the
anvil was broken by the cries of the fishmongers and bargemen.

It was in the midst of this strenuous labour that Octavia arrived to
hold conference with her brother.  As she drew near, he was
surrounded by engineers to whom he was giving endless orders, and the
welcome he accorded her was, unlike his usual greeting, defiant
rather than cordial.

"What do you wish?  Why are you here?"

"I am only a little ahead of the fleet which Antony has put at your
disposal."

"It is too late," replied Octavius curtly, "in three months my own
ships will be on the high seas."

That first repulse was hard to bear.  It killed the hope of bringing
about a reconciliation which Octavia had built on her brother's
embarrassments.  But she was not a woman to be easily baulked.  The
mission that she had undertaken filled her with invincible courage
and tenacity.  Through life and death she would carry it out.  She
now defended her husband's actions as valiantly as she had those of
her brother when pleading with her husband.  If Antony had delayed,
it was because he had been surrounded by such countless difficulties
that he had lost count of time.  The moment that she had reminded him
of the need for action he had answered: "I am ready to go."  He would
be there in a few days.

But the deeply furrowed brow of Octavius, marked with premature
wrinkles between his black eyebrows, was not so easily smoothed as
Antony's had been.  The masterful will which enveloped them both like
a cuirass had no fissure in his case.  Octavia saw that her efforts
to defend her husband were futile, and as her excuses had really
little foundation she began to plead her own cause.

"If you give way to anger," she said, looking tenderly at her
brother, "if sword and lance cross, no one can tell who will be the
victor.  There is only one certainty and that is that I, wife or
sister of the vanquished, will spend the rest of my life in tears!"

Was he touched by this woman's gentle plea?  Or did he in the bottom
of his heart feel that if he repulsed Antony's advances the latter
would ally himself with their mutual enemy Sextus Pompey?  Be that as
it may, urged by his two good geniuses, Agrippa and Mæcenas, Octavius
yielded and consented to an agreement.

Anchored in the bay of Piræus, Antony was awaiting his
brother-in-law's decision.  As soon as he got the report from
Ahenabarbus he set sail with the two hundred and twenty triremes
which were his pride and his strength.  Their arrival at Tarentum had
a tremendous effect.  When Octavius first caught sight of them in the
distance, their snowy sails seeming to cover the face of the waters,
enveloped in the silvery foam splashed up by the oars, he had the
conviction that however numerous and powerful his own future fleet
might be, these splendid ships, all new, well equipped, and well
armed, would be a most valuable addition to his navy.

But he could not foresee that those same ships, those slender craft,
would one day turn against Antony and decide the victory of Actium.
And Antony, still wrapped in his own illusions, had no power to look
so far into the future.  In his ardour to begin that famous campaign
through which he expected to be the master of the world, he was
absorbed in his dreams of the six Gallic legions, made up of expert
archers, trained foot-soldiers, strong cavalrymen, that he was to
obtain in exchange for part of his fleet.

The negotiations were long and complicated, as each side desired to
secure the greatest possible benefit from the arrangement and accord
a minimum in return.  Unaided by the gentle Octavia, who went back
and forth bearing the olive branch, it is doubtful if they would ever
have come to an understanding.  While Agrippa and Mæcenas on one
side, and Ahenobarbus and Pollion on the other, discussed, dissected,
picked over, one by one, the ships and soldiers that constituted the
coin of that terrible market, a plaintive refrain could be heard.

"War, more war!" groaned Octavia, "will you transform me from the
happiest woman in the world to the most miserable?"  And regularly
every morning she went to the temple of Vesta, where she lighted at
the sacred candelabra as many tapers as there were prayers in her
heart.

In granting the prayers of the loving sister and faithful wife, the
goddess softened the hearts of the two adversaries.  Each having
weighed the relative advantage that he would gain by certain
concessions, they both assumed a grand air of magnanimity.  They
pretended that neither of them wanted to grieve the one who formed
such a close bond between them and that her little hand should disarm
them.  A new agreement was made, prolonging the Triumvirate for five
years.  This modern Sabine woman in raising the golden cup to drink
to them that evening, might truthfully have said: "I have preserved
the peace of the world!"



VII

THE MARRIAGE AT ANTIOCH

Leaning on the parapet, within sound of the waves that lapped against
the quai, Cleopatra watched the ship that was carrying off her lover
grow smaller in the distance.  When the highest mast had disappeared
beneath the horizon, she let her hand fall; the hand that had been
waving a handkerchief since the ship had weighed anchor.  Her throat
contracted and the tears ran down her cheeks.  The sea, in shades of
green and amethyst, spread out before her like a piece of silk
unrolled.  It was perfectly calm, yet that wide gulf which separated
her from Antony was full of terror for her.  She turned to Charmian:

"What does life hold for me now?  He who meant all my happiness has
gone.  Without his loving glance, the sound of his merry laughter, I
shall have no joy in living."

The ideal confidante is one who makes her friend's grief her own.
Although Charmian had deplored her mistress's relations with Antony
and had felt, from the outset, that he would bring only misery to her
beloved lady, yet she now feigned deep sorrow.

"The Triumvir's absence will make the Bruchium seem an empty palace,
but he will not tarry long away from you, my Queen.  Even as he
stepped on board the ship I heard him promise to return before the
year is ended."

Cleopatra did not doubt his prompt return, for hope filled her veins,
as the sap runs strong in the young tree in full leaf.  But summer
had barely begun, the days would drag along very slowly.  Thus
talking, under the protecting shade of ivory-handled fans held over
them by two negro slaves, they went back to the terrace.  The Queen
stopped every few steps, for there were memories of Antony at each
turn.  There was the rose-coloured ibis, one leg tucked out of sight,
who, motionless and quite tame, was standing on the grass, apparently
lost in thought.  The aromatic perfume of the carnations made her
sigh, remembering that each night Antony had plucked one in passing,
touched it to his lips, and put it in her bosom, saying: "I give you
all my heart."  And when he was not near to embrace her she always
felt the warm fragrance of the flower as she breathed, like lips
pressing against her breast.  Nothing is more cruel in the absence of
a loved one than the constant reminders of shared joys.

"Antony, come back to me, my beloved!" she cried in a sudden spasm of
loneliness.

"You care too much, Madame.  No living man is worthy of such love."

"It is easy to see, Charmian, that nothing has troubled the calm
waters of your soul!  Do you imagine that love is measured by the
worthiness of the beloved?  If that were true I could have loved no
one so much as Cæsar; yet, as you know, Antony is the only one who
has filled my whole soul."

She approached the fountain, where the water ran like living crystal
and broke into foam at the basin's edge.  The falling water brought
the thought of the flying time that was taking away her happiness.
Would those blissful days ever come again, or were they, like
yesterday's flow of water, lost for ever?

Anxious to divert her from things which by their very charm were
depressing, Charmian said gently:

"Will you not come now and try to sleep, Madame?  To-morrow surely
will bring you fresh courage."

Cleopatra had her royal robes laid aside, swallowed a draught of
nepenthes to induce slumber, and said, as she closed her eyes:

"If I could only sleep on until he comes again!"

Life had to go on, however; four, five, six months, or more, would
pass before Antony's return and Cleopatra was not the woman to give
herself up to idle lamentations.  Leaving the mourning veil and ashes
to Dido of old, she resumed her sumptuous life and the royal routine
of her daily duties.

Many things which had been neglected during those months of
infatuation with her lover now claimed her attention.  She took note
of all the buildings, ships, and gardens in need of repair and saw
that they were thoroughly overhauled and set in order.  Her ministers
were astonished to see how altogether conversant she was with the
problems of state, and those who had thought her given over to
frivolity were amazed with the way she handled the finances of the
Government.  She was equally proficient in reorganizing the army
after the model of the legions which Antony had left with her; in
adding to the marine service and in improving the administration
generally.

As reigning sovereign, she set to work to improve the condition of
her people; guarded against famine by irrigating the lands with
fertilizing floods from the Nile; drove off the Nabathæan tribes who
were threatening the Arabian frontier, showing that the ruler of
Egypt, woman though she was, was the equal of the great kings of the
world.

Like all her ancestors she had a love for building.  She went from
city to city with a host of architects, engineers, and artists, to
see that the old temples were kept in proper repair.  Those at Edfu,
Hermonthis, and Coptis were rebuilt under her direction.  The one at
Dendera, which she enlarged, still shows her portrait carved on its
tablets.  She restored the Library at Alexandria and began the
Cæsarium, whose excavated ruins reveal her admiration for Greek art.
The last of the obelisks was erected during her reign: that
Cleopatra's Needle, which, two thousand years later, was transported
to the borders of the Thames, and now mournfully lifts its once rosy
sides to the sooty skies of the British metropolis.

All these activities, however, could not make Cleopatra forget the
aching void in her heart.  In the midst of ceremonials, festivals,
travels, she was continually asking herself: "What has become of
Antony?  Where is he?  Has he forgotten me?"

Separation between lovers is endurable only if there is a steady
interchange of letters.  When Antony first left Egypt a galley came
from Brindisi every ten days bringing long letters.  In the beginning
these were infinitely tender, filled with the solicitous grief that
showed his anxiety in his absence.  They reëchoed every expression of
devotion which Cleopatra's letters contained.  "Waking and sleeping
you are always with me.  I seek your presence everywhere and I feel
that you are near," he wrote repeatedly.  He said that public affairs
were going forward satisfactorily and announced that, in order to
hasten his return, he intended to put these in Pollion's care, as he
understood all the details concerning them, while he himself was
going at once to Syria and Palestine to reëstablish the authority
which his long absence had compromised.

Since he could not be with her, Cleopatra much preferred having her
lover in Asia Minor.  That was where they were to come together
again, in that country so like her own in climate, customs, habits of
dress and tastes.  There he would be reminded of her at every turn,
whereas in Italy everything was different.  By one of those unfailing
feminine instincts, she felt that in Rome some unlooked-for turn of
events would bring her disaster.  She had never seen Octavius, but
the fact that he was Cæsar's heir made him the rival and enemy of her
little Cæsarion.  Anything that occurred in Italy aroused her
suspicion, and she could only hope that Antony, easily led and
trustful as he was, would never fail to be on his guard.

Cleopatra's various enterprises were interrupted, for the time being,
by the birth of twins, to whom she gave the somewhat pretentious
names of Helios and Selene.  It seemed the propitious moment to
remind Antony of the projected marriage which they had planned
together and which was essential for the future protection of these
children.

He responded by joyous and elaborate felicitations, saying that he
was eager to legitimatize his claim to fatherhood as soon as
possible.  In confirmation of this assurance his messenger brought
the young mother a coffer of carved gold, containing two pearls of
perfect shape and wonderful orient, with the written words: "My lips
have covered these with kisses, as I should love to cover your
beautiful breasts, which are moulded in their likeness."

Such demonstrations made Cleopatra very happy.  She loved--she was
loved.  That was enough for the present, and the future stretched
before her like a flaming torch.

Then Antony's letters began to come less frequently.  But what of
that?  He had left the coast; he was in the interior of the country,
absorbed in necessary military details which left him little leisure
for writing.  Besides, he was remote from cities and consequently not
exposed to the temptations of town life; why should she have any
fears?

Her confidence that all was well was confirmed by the arrival of a
Roman galley, sent from Asia, about the middle of the autumn.  It
brought neither gifts nor the customary sealed roll which the Queen
was in the habit of seeing in the messenger's hand long before he
reached her side.  This time a courier came, requesting an audience
with her.  Cleopatra's heart throbbed with hope and fear.  Her eyes
sought those of the man who had so recently looked on her lover.

"How long since you have seen the Imperator?" she demanded.

"Twenty days, Madame."

"Where was he then?"

"At Samosata, on the border of the Commagene."

Her eager questions followed each other breathlessly.  "How did he
look?  Was he sad or gay?  What did he say to you?  What message has
he sent to me?"

This courier, Menecratus, was a freedman who had Antony's confidence,
and whom long association with the Imperator had trained in the art
of making a pleasing impression.  He had abundant tact and
discretion, an ideal interpreter for his master.  He gave the
following account to the Queen:

"When I went to receive the Imperator's orders he was neither sad nor
gay.  His face was radiant with that divine energy which is seen in
the visage of Mars.  The country all around him showed the marks of
war.  There were chariots, mules, troops of soldiers, shields
glittering in the sun.  He was holding the bridle of his fierce
charger, which he was about to mount, in one hand; the other was on
the pommel of his saddle.  'By the sacred geese which fly over the
Capitol,' he said, 'go and report what you have seen.  Tell Cleopatra
that Mark Antony goes forth to conquer new kingdoms that he will soon
lay at her feet.'"

So once again Cleopatra was comforted.  Her lover was fighting for
her sake; he was preparing for their future.  Victory was in his
path, and soon he would come back to her, so crowned with glory, so
powerful in his conquests, that nothing, no one, could prevent the
fulfilment of their magnificent plans.


The winter mists, however, were now obscuring the sea; all navigation
was suspended.  For more than three months there had been no tidings
from Antony.  The faith of Cleopatra was woven of a tissue so fragile
that constant renewing was needed to keep the fabric whole.  She was
overwhelmed by a melancholy dread of possible disaster.  The final
date of his return was approaching.  If he were not there!  As she
had no actual reasons to explain this persistent silence she
tormented herself with the most rueful theories.  He was the victim
of poisoned arrows, a fatal fall, shipwreck; all these filled her
imagination with depressing visions.  She could not bear to be alone
for a moment.  Either Iras or Charmian was required to be in constant
attendance.  She kept them under a perpetual fire of questions, as an
outlet for her own fears.

"The end of the year is close at hand, my Charmian.  Why have I no
word of his return?"

"Without doubt, Madame, he is planning to give you a happy surprise."
The beautiful young Athenian girl spent hours at the feet of her
mistress, her violet eyes fixed upon the Queen's anxious face, trying
to reassure her.

But as the weary days dragged on and no news came, the ominous
menace, that seemed to threaten her from afar, drew nearer and the
Queen was more difficult to comfort.  One day she caught at Iras's
hand, as though a sudden fear had come to her: "Can he have ceased to
care for me?  Has he put another woman in my place?"

"But Madame, he has known Cleopatra, what other woman could he find
to take your place?" replied the Persian girl.

These fancies, vague at first, were now becoming cruel certainties.
Travellers from Rome reported that Antony had returned from Asia,
made his peace with Octavius, and the price of that peace was also
known!

The tragic scene in which Cleopatra learns of her lover's marriage;
the tears and passion which Shakespeare describes in words that make
his stage a living world, leave nothing more to be told.  By the
silence, that interminable silence, which surrounded her, the Queen
at last comprehended that dire misfortune had come to her.  Her
attendants tried to keep the truth back.  No one of them could muster
courage to speak.  Was the news so horrible?  Her mind leaped to the
most terrible thing of all: "Is he dead?  Has death frozen the
warmest heart that ever throbbed?"

"No, no, Madame," Charmian cried, "Antony is alive, he is well."  The
Queen breathed again, but the dreaded disaster rushed to her mind.
He had deserted her, then.  Her agonized eyes put the question that
her lips could not frame.  No one answered.  Everyone turned away and
Charmian stammered incoherently.

"Iras, tell me, what is it?"

"There is nothing known definitely, Madame."

"But I insist on knowing definitely and at once," said Cleopatra, in
a tone that suffered no denial.

The man who had brought the tidings was summoned.  He proved to be a
merchant, in Alexandria on his own business.  He had gossiped, as all
travellers do, bringing news from one town to the next.  He was
puzzled at being called to the palace.

"What is this tale?  Speak out," commanded the Queen.  Her look was
terrifying.  But the man had no sense of responsibility in repeating
a story which was the subject of general discussion in Rome.

"Antony is married?"  On hearing of this wedding with Octavia, which
had been celebrated with the utmost pomp and magnificence, Cleopatra
was beside herself with rage.  Her pride, her dignity, her position,
were as nothing.  She was practically delirious with fury.  She
looked wildly around for someone on whom to wreak her vengeance.
Those who were nearest to her shrank back in terror.  It was the
unfortunate wretch, whose only crime had been to bear ill-tidings, on
whom her wrath fell.  He was cursed, beaten, threatened with death.
It was the natural outburst of her passionate nature, accustomed to
command all, and who, for the first time, was confronted by
overpowering misfortune and injury.

Was there no refuge from her torment?  Could not the laws of the
universe be altered?  The first moments were horrible; a burst of
tears followed her access of rage and she fainted.  The servants
fled, filling the whole palace with wailings.  The doctors pressed
forward, as though to aid someone in mortal need.  Charmian was at
her side.

"For the love of the gods, Madame, do not give your enemies the joy
of seeing you crushed by this sorrow.  Do not let them know how this
blow has pierced your heart!"

"My Queen, my Queen, be brave!" whispered Iras, holding a
handkerchief with some drops of stimulant to Cleopatra's lips.
Gradually she grew calmer; she regained her self-control, but the
wild frenzy was succeeded by a stupor.  She felt as though a
bottomless abyss had opened suddenly at her feet.  "How can this be?"
she murmured dully.  "I trusted him and he told me that I meant all
the world to him!"  Her thoughts turned to the woman who had stolen
her happiness.  That sister of Octavius, Octavia--what kind of
creature was she?  The fierce desire to know the whole truth, in all
its bitter details, surged in her breast, with the same violence that
had caused her to pour out the stream of threats and curses so short
a while before.

But the traveller was nowhere to be seen.  Taking advantage of the
confusion that followed the Queen's fainting fit he had fled.  A
diligent search revealed him, hidden in the hold of a ship.  He had
taken refuge there, deciding to give up the affairs that had brought
him to Alexandria and, thankful to escape with his life, was hoping
to get away on the ship without being detected.

He was terrified at being caught and it took repeated assurances that
he would not be further punished to induce him to speak again.  Fear
had taught him discretion; he had learned that when speaking to the
great and mighty it was wise to say only what they desired to hear.
The plain truth was a crime.  He showed the manners of a practised
courtier when he had his second audience with Cleopatra.

The Queen, too, had undergone a great change.  A sad, compelling
curiosity dominated all other feelings.  She was like a wanderer,
lost in a dark wood, who seeks only light.

"Tell me something about Octavia," she said, with a gentleness that
veiled the autocratic command.  "You have seen her and know whether
she is beautiful.  Has she a wonderful expression?  Is she dark or
fair?  What is the colour of her hair?"  But however adroitly her
questions might be put, this man, in whose ears her curses still
rang, who was yet bruised from her shower of blows, would give no
direct reply.  According to him Octavia was a fright.  Her eyes were
dull, her hair scanty and fastened with austere, ash-coloured fillets.

"How old is she?" queried Cleopatra, still in the depths of despair,
for however fascinating a deserted mistress may be, in her eyes the
new love, though in reality a scarecrow, has all the attractiveness
of a pure maiden whose unsullied youth is like to a fragrant garden
in which her lover, or her husband, may wander at will to gather the
flowers of happiness.

The merchant's tale was comforting, however.  On hearing that Octavia
was a widow, with two children; that she was without beauty and
devoid of charm, with no power to kindle passion in a man's heart,
Cleopatra had a moment of relief.  Her anger had not died out, nor
her bitter rancour against the lover who had deceived and betrayed
her; she was, however, beginning to understand that this marriage had
merely been a matter of political stratagem, a means of accomplishing
Antony's designs.

In spite of this conviction, her fits of depression during the first
few weeks after the news had come to her were so terrible that at
times she felt that she must give up the struggle.  She had always
thought herself immune from jealousy, because of her conscious
superiority over all other women.  Now, little by little, it was
eating into her heart.  How could she be sure that Octavia was really
a fright? that she had no power to charm?  Was it true that her
thick-set body had no attraction for Antony?  After all, she had
nothing to depend on but the word of a common man in the street.  She
recalled the affection that Antony had had for the hideous Fulvia;
why should he not care for this new wife who was at least amiable and
virtuous?  Day by day this poison was entering into her soul.

At last she was so tortured by this canker of jealousy that she
determined to put it away from her.  By stupendous effort she tried
to make herself believe that her love for Antony was dead, that she
had never really cared for him and that consequently his marriage was
a matter of indifference to her.  In order to convince both herself
and the world of this indifference she resumed her former life of
dissipation with the young men of her court.  Restrained no longer by
those burning bonds that had kept her true to Antony, she went
recklessly from one excess to another.  Each involved a new
degradation, each exhausted her by its gross intoxication, but
nowhere could she find that oblivion for which her feverish heart
longed.  Crush, profane, trample on it, as she would, the memory of
her cherished idol could not be rooted out.  With inexhaustible
persistence it pursued her; even in the warm embrace of her most
ardent adorers, it came to make her shiver with horror at her own
disloyalty to her lover.  Wherever she went his dear image would
appear suddenly before her, would cover her with his reproachful
glance, as though he asked: "Why are you acting as though all were
over between us?  In spite of this seeming separation we are bound
together in spirit for all eternity.  Like ships, scattered for a
time by the tempest, we shall surely come together again."

Her eyes smarted with tears as she invented excuses for her faithless
lover.  Surely he had been forced into this marriage for political
reasons and against his will.  Who had gained by this trap save
Octavius?  Who else would profit by this unholy alliance?  This
scheme had been devised by that cunning fellow that he might make his
sister a sentinel to watch over Antony and report his doings to his
colleague.  The brute!  Half vexed, half tenderly, she would again
invoke the loved image, addressing him in imagination: "How guileless
you were!  You who had every right to rule, who could have chosen
your mate and controlled the world--why should you play such a petty
part, be made to obey like a little child?  Oh! the pity of it!"

And then a ray of hope gleamed.  That same weakness which had taken
her lover away from her arms might be used to restore him to her.
Her kisses were indelibly printed on his forehead; why should she not
re-kindle that fire which was probably still smouldering?  And in one
of those ecstasies, which were like a torch touched by a passing
spark, she cried aloud: "I will tempt him back again!  The hour is
not far off when I shall carry him away from Rome, from his wife,
from Octavius, from all who have thought that they were stronger than
I."

She did not trust simply to that thread, which, like a new Ariadne,
she had put in her Theseus's hands.  She put all her resources to
work to carry out her purpose.  Octavius had his spies; she would
have hers.  These she despatched immediately, with orders to keep
close watch over Antony; to learn the innermost secrets of his
household; to leave no stone unturned to discover all that was going
on there.

The first accounts sent back by these agents brought her only added
distress.  Apparently the newly wedded couple were happy and living
in perfect harmony.  She declined to be discouraged by these reports,
however.  "If I exhaust all the men in my kingdom," she said, "I will
place spies in every corner and in time they will surely find the
crack in his armour!"

When she first heard of the disagreements between the
brothers-in-law, especially of the silly quarrel over the cock-fight,
she was delighted.  At last she had found the long-looked-for crack,
and that would destroy the whole household, make it fall in ruins.
She knew Antony too well to believe that he would tolerate a rival
for any length of time.  Her chief object now was to entice him away
from Rome.  With untiring diligence she organized a secret society
composed of courtesans, freedmen, and court attendants.  She
instructed these to call Antony's attention to certain familiar
things sent from the Bruchium; to the fragrance of perfumes
associated with his days spent there with her; by a word spoken at
the right moment to set him dreaming of those months in Egypt.  The
dealers in oracles also had their mission.  They were to encourage
the Triumvir to consult them, and, as though all Nature were speaking
through them with one voice, they were told to repeat the famous
words of his horoscope: "The star of your fortune is at its zenith,
but the star of Octavius seeks to eclipse it.  Your glory fears his
glory, your power will diminish when the two stars come together."

Other influences were also working in unison with Cleopatra.  If
certain of his friends, like Ahenobarbus and Pollion, had urged
Antony's marriage with Octavia and had jeered at this man of valour
being subject to the yoke of Egypt's queen, others, more far-sighted,
divined that some day she would regain her sovereignty over him.
Among these latter was Quintus Dellius, he who had arranged the
affair at Tarsus.  He understood this passionate woman better than
any one else and knew that she was capable of any deed to gain
possession of her lover.  There was also Fonteius Capito, a subtle
observer of human nature, who had written before Antony had been
wedded a year: "Yes, Antony's marriage is apparently a happy one, but
that he is beginning to be bored by it is evident to every one."
These two men thought it wise to forestall future developments and
they kept up a close correspondence with the Queen, keeping her in
touch with everything that could be of interest to her.  She was not
only informed of the most intimate details of Antony's household, but
of all the governmental complications against which the Triumvir had
to fight.  The increasing boldness of the Parthian invasions, the
coast pillage of the pirates of Sextus Pompey, the uprisings of the
poorer classes, their refusals to pay the taxes.  All these
disturbances in Roman territory gave her fresh reasons for hope.  The
day she heard that Antony was leaving his wife to her maternal duties
and sailing for Athens, she was overcome with joy.

The game was not yet won, but at least she was no longer tormented by
visions of Octavia happy in the arms of her husband.  Those two were
separated and Antony's wife, desolate in her loneliness, would now
suffer as she had done.  If Cleopatra were not entirely comforted by
this knowledge, it at any rate helped her to bear her own trials more
patiently!

Stirred by alternate emotions, she sometimes felt as though all were
lost; then again she exulted in the thought that her sorrows were
almost over.  The most cruel moment was when she heard of the
reconciliation at Tarentum.  She had been following with intense
interest all the details of the fray and its results, and was
planning to gather up the fragments of these broken alliances and
construct a new power therefrom, and now this disappointment had
come.  It was a severe lesson and would have discouraged any one made
of less stern stuff than this indomitable woman.  She had, however, a
gift of clairvoyance which could not be deceived for any length of
time.  Although the treaty to renew peace between the brothers-in-law
was formally drawn up, although it was sealed with offerings to the
gods, libations, and festivals, and, more important still, by
betrothals of offspring which doubled and trebled the many bonds
between the families of Julius and Antony, it was very evident that
this reconciliation would only be a temporary alliance.

Antony had fulfilled his part of the contract at once.  A hundred
brass-prowed triremes, twenty despatch boats, and as many lighter
vessels, lying in the harbour at Tarentum, had already been given
over to Octavius.  And what had Octavius offered in exchange?
Promises, nothing but promises.  Sixteen legions and a quantity of
war supplies had been agreed upon in the treaty, but as yet none of
these had materialized.  There was nothing to do but trust in the
good faith of Octavius, and to those who knew him there seemed small
chance of these promises being carried out.

But Antony was confident that they would be.  His own loyalty made
him often the dupe of other people.  At this time he was especially
trustful, for he had Octavia as an intermediary and there could be no
possible doubt as to her sincerity.  He had no misgivings on that
score and, counting on the promised reinforcements being forthcoming
when required, he gave himself up to his own ambitious plans and left
Italy for Antioch.

His wife went with him as far as Corcyra, proud of having been able
to serve him, and more tenderly devoted to him than ever.  There they
parted, he to go on with his preparations for his coming campaign,
she to return to Rome and see that the conditions of the treaty were
carried out as promptly as possible.

Antony's first object was to procure money.  Since the Imperators had
persistently ravaged the cities and country, violated the temples and
over-taxed the people, this necessary commodity of war had grown very
scarce.  To extort it from Italy was impossible.  Greece had been
exploited to its utmost resources.  The provinces of Asia still
remained; rich always, as a result of the advanced, scientific
agriculture which made the land yield abundantly.  But the land
owners had been exasperated by toiling for Roman profit and there was
a general effort to evade the taxes by violence and fraud.  Many of
these offenders had been executed for opposing the law, and these
conditions had brought about disastrous results.

Antony found himself greatly embarrassed.  To declare that it was his
need of money alone that prompted him to return to Cleopatra would be
to ignore the complexities of human nature.  It is true that in those
trying hours when the censors returned empty-handed, with accounts of
money due, his thoughts naturally reverted to the overflowing
treasury of the Egyptian Queen, with those accumulated riches buried
in caverns beneath the earth.  If he had not deserted Cleopatra this
untold wealth would have been at his command.  He could have employed
it to sustain that army, which was, he firmly believed, to give him
the empire of the world.

But why waste time in dreaming of that vanished opportunity which
would come to him no more?  Yet his mind went back again and again to
those days spent in the palace of the Bruchium.  He saw his
enchanting hostess, with her dark, flashing eyes, her mocking smile,
her golden-tinted flesh--that golden colour which made his blood hot
at the mere thought of it.  What was the mysterious magic of this
woman that the very idea of her brought the sweat to his brow and
stirred his innermost being, even after these years of separation?
All the time he had been in Rome he had seen her in visions; embraced
her in his dreams.  Even when in Octavia's arms he had been ever
conscious of the mistress whom he had deserted, and her phantom form
would slip into the place of the actual woman by his side.  These
hallucinations had disturbed him.  As a faithful husband he had tried
to thrust them away from him.  To-day, in this land of perfumed
luxury that brought back the days he had spent at Tarsus, they had
complete mastery over him.  His blood ran faster; he was defenceless
against these persistent memories of his mistress.  He saw her in
every possible posture; the cat-like grace of her movements; the
exquisite colour and lines of her draperies.  He heard the soft
harmony of her voice, and all these images told him that he was
powerless to withstand her spell.

But would the mere personal possession of her have satisfied him?
Would it have sufficed in place of the social triumphs, interests,
and ambitions that bound the Triumvir to Roman life?  He was not
certain as to this, but complications arose which freed him from
further doubts and scruples.

The promised reënforcements from Octavius had not come and there were
certain wise men who predicted that they never would come.  These
troubles increased the discontent that was fermenting in him.  He not
only nursed a fierce hatred against his treacherous colleague, whose
delay was endangering all his projects, but he had a growing
prejudice against everyone connected with him.  Even Octavia,
invaluable and faithful as she had been, did not escape his
suspicion.  It was unpardonable that she should be the sister of the
most perfidious of men.  Besides, at this great distance she was
powerless to help him.  If absence be a mirage which gives greater
radiance to some images, it dims others, and often makes the more
delicate ones vanish, as though they were swallowed up in mist.  Each
day was gradually effacing the gracious contour of his wife from
Antony's mind, while the voluptuous outlines of his mistress grew
clearer and more irresistible.

Fonteius Capito, who understood his master's anxiety, struck the
decisive blow.  Antony had just experienced a fresh disappointment in
seeing promised confiscations for Peloponnesus reduced to a fourth of
the original amount agreed upon.  When Fonteius suggested that
Cleopatra would be only too glad to lend any money that he needed,
Antony staggered, as though he had received a sudden blow.

"How do you know that?" he asked impatiently.

"She has requested me to tell you so."

Was it possible that she was still thinking of him?  That after all
he had done she bore him no ill will?  He must be dreaming!  He
stared at Capito, fearing he might deny the words that he had just
spoken.  But no; explanations followed and Antony was assured that
Cleopatra had never ceased to love him, that she was still eager for
his success.

What miracle of love was this, that after being stabbed, scorned,
trodden under foot and profaned, thus came to life, or rather showed
that it had never ceased to live!  In a second Antony's exhausted
energy was renewed.  It was the ecstatic joy of an invalid recovering
from a protracted illness, of a convalescent who takes life up again,
to find it more beautiful than he had ever realized.

On being despatched to Alexandria, Capito had no occasion to copy the
diplomacy of Dellius in order to induce Cleopatra to follow him.  She
was more than ready to go.  Her days of coquetry were over.  She now
only desired to join her lover, to be assured that she could hold
him, and to begin immediately that contest with her rival in which
the more persistent and less scrupulous combatant was certain of the
victory.

Some letters from Antony had made his situation and its difficulties
quite clear to her.  He was on the eve of a campaign, without money,
without the necessary troops.  Outside aid was essential.  She would
supply this assistance; be the beneficent goddess, who at the crucial
moment turns the wheel of Fortune.

Ships were loaded at once; some with gold, others bearing beasts of
burden; others again laden with machinery and abundant supplies of
wheat; all the necessary stores to sustain the strength of the army.
When these were packed to the netting, the purple sails of the royal
galley were unfurled.  The negro rowers grasped their silver-mounted
oars, and, over gracious waves that seemed to make way for her
tranquil passage, Antony's mistress sped to her lover.

It was at Antioch again that Antony awaited Cleopatra; the same
Antioch where, five years before, he had begun to dream of her
beneath the cedars and the palm trees.  In the evening, under the
glowing sunset skies, she stood erect, beside the silken canopy,
looking as though she wished to hasten the flying ship to reach him
sooner.  His heart throbbed; his eyes grew dim; the blood surged in
his ears.  It seemed that the whole sea was beating against his
breast.  Amidst shoutings and acclamations he conducted the fair
traveller to the old palace of the Seleucides that he had prepared
for her with a luxury that rivalled the splendours of the Bruchium.

Alone at last, they looked at each other in silence.  So many months
had passed, so many things had happened since their parting that they
seemed scarcely able to recognize each other.  Was this the son of
Bacchus, with such a troubled brow?  Cleopatra, young as she was, and
more beautiful than ever, bore the marks of suffering.  Though her
passionate mouth had the vivid red of an open pomegranate, a curve of
bitterness had changed its expression.  She had lost the serene look
of former days.  In the storm of life she had been bruised against
the rocks of fate.  Her heart, her royal heart, whose only dream had
been to conquer, had known the humiliation of longing and of tears.
At this moment, on the verge of victory, she was torn by conflicting
emotions.  Even as she yielded to his irresistible fascination she
had the agonized thought: "Why do I still love this man who has put
another woman in my place?"

"What are you thinking about?" demanded Antony, almost brutally, as
though he dreaded her reply.

"I am thinking that you are no longer mine; that you never really
loved me," she answered bitterly.

"Do not say such things!"

But her mind was made up.  If only to show her generosity in
forgiving him, she would let him see how guilty he had been.

"If you had really cared, how could you have had the heart to desert
me?--to betray me, after all your promises?--to leave me, as you did,
sorrowful, humiliated, and alone?"

Antony knelt before her, a penitent, overwhelmed with grief.  He
tried to prove his innocence.  "I love you; I have always loved you
and you only.  Never, for one instant, have I loosed the bond that
unites us."  Cleopatra listened, but an ironical smile was on her
lips.

"How can you understand my difficulties?  The political necessity
which has controlled all my actions?  You have no idea what I have
suffered."

But she would not be convinced.  "If you had really loved me----"
Antony stopped her.  He leaped to his feet like a young Hercules,
threw his arms around her, and pressed his quivering lips to her own.

"Forgive me!  Only say that you forgive me!" he pleaded.

She was beginning to yield but turned away, with a last effort to
make him believe that she was impervious to his prayers.

"Miserable creature that I am!  Never have I so longed to hold you in
my arms as I do at this moment, when I feel that you have every right
to hate me, to curse me!"

She was looking at him through her dark lashes.  A slight twitching
at her throat showed the emotion that made them both the helpless
victims of an overmastering passion.

"I have cursed you, yes; but hated you, how could I?"

They clasped each other, fiercely, passionately, as though to crush
out all remembrance of what had come between them.  In that moment
they both forgot the cowardice, the bitterness; all that did not make
for happiness, for the ecstasy of being together, was wiped out.  The
old passionate ardour, their very breath of life, without which they
could only languish and die, had come back, nothing else mattered.
Their separation was only a vast emptiness.  Once more they were in
that enchanted garden where Fate had first brought them together.
They were wandering in its secret paths and would abide there for
ever.

Whatever might happen afterward these infatuated lovers, with no
interest, no desire except for each other, would wander hand in hand
through fields of triumph and adversity, conquerors even to the end,
since they would fix the hour for leaving life and would go down to
immortality together.

Antony had ample cause for self-reproach.  Haunted by the many wrongs
done his mistress, he now became her slave, and was absorbed in
carrying out her slightest wish.  There was never a more
extravagantly generous lover!  Cleopatra was interested in
literature; he sent two hundred thousand rolls of papyrus stolen from
Pergamus, for the library she had just rebuilt.  She had a passion
for art; several sanctuaries were rifled and their treasures
transported to Alexandria.

It was as easy for him to offer her kingdoms as it was for other men
to cover their mistresses with jewels, or to lay fortunes at their
feet.  Invested with sovereign power, he gave away the Roman
provinces as casually as though they had formed part of his own
patrimony.  In addition to Phoenicia, which he had presented to her
in payment of the famous wager over the pearls, the kingdoms of
Cilicia, Chalcides, and part of Arabia were annexed to Egypt.  The
Queen also coveted Judea, land of palms and spices, with its capital,
Jerusalem, into which poured the gold procured by the Jews from the
four quarters of the world; but it was difficult to dethrone Herod,
the King, who had reconquered it after a hard struggle.  Antony
conceded the crown to this ally, who was to be of use to him, on
condition that Cleopatra should receive the revenue from its most
bountiful districts, as well as the palms from Samaria, and the roses
of Jericho, which were cultivated for her only.

Some of the graver members of Antony's circle, among them Ahenobarbus
(who never hesitated to express openly what others were whispering),
resented this free use of Roman property.  But, drunk alike with
pride and passion, Antony replied: "Short-sighted men that you are,
can you not understand that the true grandeur of Rome is shown less
in her conquests and the extent of her possessions than in the
generosity which her riches makes possible?"

Nor was it bad policy to strengthen and enrich the woman who aspired
to be, not only his ally, but his wife!  For Cleopatra had never
renounced her original plan.  Having gathered wisdom from experience,
tired of joys which eluded her, of crowns which often melted away,
she was determined to carry out this project without further delay.

At this moment, when Antony was making ready to draw on her treasures
it was only fair that she should share the benefits.  In the same way
that she would help him to conquer Persia, thus making him more
powerful than all other rulers, she would play the part of his
companion, by fair means or foul, be present the day that he would
ride in triumph to the Capitol.

An arrangement so entirely in accord with her own interests has
caused Cleopatra to be considered a cold, calculating woman, who
weighed and planned everything for her own glory, and used Antony
merely as an easy instrument in her hands.  To deny that she had
schemes, and that, convinced of the Triumvir's weakness, she had made
up her mind to rule for him and to direct his actions to her own
advantage, would be to close one's eyes to actual evidence.  But when
have love and self-interest been proved irreconcilable?  Did her
dream of becoming a world-sovereign in any way lessen her passion?
To marry Antony, to unite her lot with a passionate lover as well as
a powerful ruler, to bind him so that he could never again escape
from her, that was the dream of this far-seeing, level-headed woman.

There were serious obstacles to be considered, however, the chief one
being Antony's marriage with Octavia.  Divorces, to be sure, were
neither rare nor difficult in Rome.  Originally, in a society founded
on religious faith and respect for the home, adultery had been the
necessary cause; but at that time they were granted for less serious
reasons.  Incompatibility of temper, provided it was not proved by
both sides, was accepted as a common cause of divorce.  At one time,
so lax were the morals, a man could put away the mother of his
children simply on the ground that she no longer pleased him, that he
preferred someone else.

But how could such injustice be done to a woman whose birth and rank
had placed her near Olympus?  What a brutal wrong against the pure,
the revered sister of Octavius!  Nor was this all.  An ancient law,
inscribed on the "Twelve Tables," prohibited all marriages between
Roman rulers and foreigners.  This law had always been rigorously
enforced, and disastrous results would have followed its
transgression by the first citizen of the Republic.  Antony tried to
persuade his audacious mistress of the danger that this cruel and
unreasonable act would involve.  He showed her how the common people,
always ready to throw down their idols, would take sides with
Octavius, how the Senate, indignant at his conduct, would rise up in
arms.

But Cleopatra was obstinate.  She determined to have her revenge on
Antony and she reminded him of Cæsar.

"He was married to Calpurnia, he faced the same obstacles that seem
insurmountable to you, yet he did not hesitate to divide with me the
flourcake used to consecrate espousals, and to declare me before all
the world as his lawful wife!"

"That was on his return from Persia," interrupted Antony.  "When the
voice of victory is loud enough to stifle all recriminations, I will
do the same.  Wait until I have conquered...."

But Cleopatra had had the cruel experience of what happens during
separations; she would wait no longer.  Their marriage should be the
express condition of that pardon that she had granted in the
excitement of those first moments of meeting, but which each
succeeding day she was more inclined to withdraw.  Crises of
jealousy, continual reproaches, bitter railings on the subject of the
lawful wife, perpetually reminded Antony of his sins and the need of
making atonement.

The man who had been brought up in Fulvia's school knew only too well
what punishment women can inflict.  These scratches of the beautiful
tigress, far from cooling his passion, fanned it into flame.  He felt
bound to her for life.  Her gift of intensifying life, of making it
feverishly exciting, her ferocious caresses, her pretended threats of
breaking off all relations, her swoons, all this exhilaration which
formed part of their daily life, how could he leave it to go back to
the tameness of an honest affection, and take up the routine of
married life?  He would have to do as Cleopatra demanded.  Their
marriage should be celebrated in the first days of spring, before the
army began the new campaign.

On hearing of this outrageous plot, the Triumvir's friends were
beside themselves with indignation.  If Dellius, Capito, and Plancus,
who lived chiefly by his favours, kept silence for fear of
displeasing him, others, who were more independent, did not hesitate
to express their opinions.  The proposed marriage would be a
revolutionary act, an unprecedented scandal which might well upset
the whole Roman Government.  Public opinion would be unanimous
against this contempt for the oldest traditions.  The Patricians
would take the insult as a personal offence and would defend
Octavia's cause; and as to Octavius, his fury over this affront to
his sister would pass all bounds, and who could foresee the
consequences?

Antony, fully aware of the justice of these warnings, hesitated,
tried to gain time.  Whatever way he turned storms came down on him.
By alarming Cleopatra, showing her the danger of a scandal when one
is not strong enough to carry it over the heads of the people, he
gained her consent, for the moment at least, to a middle course.  The
marriage would be celebrated, as he had promised, the official act
would be inscribed on the civil registers at Antioch, as well as in
Alexandria, but, until the termination of the war, there would be no
official notification made to the Roman Senate.  In this way, while
he became the husband of the rich Egyptian, he would still remain the
husband of the woman, whom, by lawful marriage, he had wedded
according to the rites of the Latin monogamy.

There was no justice in this, no consistency.  It was not possible
that the same man could bear the title of King of Egypt and of
Imperator at the same time; that a Proconsul could arrogate to
himself, as a satrap, the right to have more than one wife at any one
time.

But Cleopatra's lover had, for the time being, lost his senses.  The
good fortune which had followed him from his early youth, his
habitual laxness of morals, made him accept the absurd, confound
folly with reason.  Not knowing which to choose he pretended to need
all his titles.  It was certainly not the moment to renounce the most
important thing of all, the right to appear before his allies with
the authority of Triumvir.  He had neither the courage to decline the
royal hand which was held out to him filled with love and treasure,
nor to put away that other little hand which held his honour as a
Roman.

Intoxicated with his triumphs, having had no reverses to teach him
moderation, his violent nature demanded life in its highest key.  He
would not be bound by any restriction.  The whole world seemed to lie
before him like a huge field whose entire harvest was his by right.

To the kingdoms he had already given Cleopatra he added Crete, as a
wedding gift, with its forests of maple and satinwood, of sandal and
ebony; with its luxuriant larches whose branches swept the ground
while waiting for the trunks to grow thick enough to furnish masts
for the ships in the harbour.

Although fully aware of their value, these splendid donations were
not enough for Cleopatra.  Goddess as she was, her worship demanded
sacrifices.  What she was about to exact should be the price that
Antony would be forced to pay for Egypt's gold.  As he had not
consented to divorce Octavia, he must at least promise that he would
never see her again.

"The man who desires peace in his household has no regard for
promises," says an ancient proverb.  Diverted for the moment from
Rome as Antony was, entranced by the fascinations of the Orient, of
what importance was the guardian of his penates?  She whom he
believed wholly absorbed in the care of his children?

Antony was mistaken.  He was an indifferent psychologist, and under
the modest demeanour of the noble woman, whom the Athenians had
compared to their Pallas, he had never divined her passionate soul;
in the faithful and devoted wife he had not recognized the _woman_,
hungry for her share of happiness.

In reality, since their parting at Corcyra, Octavia's only thought
had been for her husband.  She could not give him daily proofs of her
love, but she could help him.  And she began to gather together
money, provisions, army equipments, all the things that a general
requires for a campaign.  Although she had been unable to make
Octavius fulfil his promises, she had in spite of his opposition,
recruited two thousand picked men, supplied them with the necessary
funds, and, happy in the thought that these fearless and splendidly
equipped volunteers would form an invincible cohort for the
Imperator, she had engaged ships and embarked with them for Greece.

When he heard with what a valuable cargo Octavia was arriving at
Piræus, Antony was greatly perplexed.  He was not wholly hardened in
evil-doing.  Weakness was his chief fault.  He acted on impulse and,
with the thoughtlessness of a child, turned his back on the
consequences.  The present was all-important, the future did not
count.  When he married Cleopatra and promised never again to see
Octavia, he had reckoned on the soothing effect of time and distance,
and also on that nameless assistance from the gods who never yet had
failed him.  And now he suddenly faced a definite situation, a
two-horned dilemma which led to equally disagreeable results.  It
would be madness to refuse the valuable help which Octavia was
bringing him; yet to accept her generous gift without according her a
welcome, without rewarding this god-sent messenger with even a kiss,
made him hot with shame.  But what was he to do?  There was
Cleopatra, fascinating and headstrong, jealous of her rights and not
willing to yield an inch.  In imagination he heard her bitter
reproaches and was distracted by their accusing tone.  What did his
promises mean?  The last were not the least binding, and they were
strengthened by a soft arm around his neck, a honey-sweet mouth near
his own, and eyes, now full of infinite tenderness, now threatening a
storm more terrifying to a lover than the blaze of lightning and the
roar of thunder.

But the image of Octavia had its influence too, and as she drew near
it seemed as though her sweet soul had the same power that it had
held for the past three years.  There was no need for him to read
again her last letter.  The words were always ringing in his ears:
"Why do you stay away?  Have I offended you in any way?  I thought it
wise to come myself with the men and armaments that you asked me to
get together.  Am I wrong?  I heard that you were about to start on
your great campaign.  May I embrace you before you go?  At your
bidding I will cross the seas that divide us, or if you do not want
me to come I will await your return.  As you know, I live only to
serve you.  But if you do not care for my aid and do not want me to
wait for you, what will become of me?"

This tender, submissive devotion wrung his heart.  He wanted to
reply, not from love, for the brief passion that this pure Roman
woman had roused in him was already dead, but--his conscience was not
dead.  His changes from sinner to penitent were a constant surprise
to his contemporaries.  They have recorded his grief at Fulvia's
death, although during her life he had repaid her fierce devotion by
gross ingratitude.

And now it was Octavia's turn to stir his heart and conscience.  With
the wheedling tenderness which, whatever wrong they may have done
them, men use toward women they love, he pleaded with Cleopatra:

"I shall be away from you only three days.  What are three days when
we have a lifetime of love before us?"

But he could not escape from her suspicious eyes.  She had suffered
too keenly ever again to feel free from distrust.  Why should the
sorrow and tears of this woman whom she had never seen concern her?
No, she would make no concessions.  Antony should never again seen
Octavia.

The preparations for war went on.  Antioch was like a vast
parade-ground.  The cohorts passed through the gate of Daphne every
day.  They marched with fearless step, making the paved street ring
under their buskins.  A brilliant group of horsemen was seen in the
midst of the glittering lances and eager young faces.  Pell-mell with
the Greeks came the Gauls, preceded by their standards.  Then came
the baggage: mules whose backs bent under the burden of stones and
weapons; camels loaded like ships; chariots whose noise resounded
through the silent old streets; and troop after troop marched by,
each raising dust in its turn.  Antony was about to leave for those
Mesopotamian plains that stretched out in the distance against the
misty blue horizon.

The thought of this new separation, which was bound to be long and
beset with dangers--for the Parthians were the most treacherous of
enemies--disturbed Cleopatra greatly.  The memory of the brief, happy
nights, the delicious days together, was only an additional grief;
and she had one tormenting thought: Surely Antony had not broken his
promise; he had not crossed the inlet of the sea which separated him
from Greece?  But Octavia was there, always there, expecting him,
waiting for him, probably sending messages to him, and of late he had
been preoccupied.  In spite of his slavish devotion to her, Cleopatra
was in continual dread of his secret escape to her rival, were it
only for an hour.  Before returning to Egypt she was determined to
have Octavia go back to Rome.  Once there, she would have at least
the bitter satisfaction of feeling that her hated rival was at the
greater distance from the husband who belonged to them in common.

As Antony was going to camp one morning to review his troops, he
noticed that she looked unusually gloomy.

"You are depressed; what is troubling you?" he asked tenderly.

"You know very well why I am miserable.  I cannot endure having
Octavia so near us," she answered, frowning.

He tried to seem indifferent.  "Why should she disturb you, since we
never see her?"

"She has come here to defy me."

Making no attempt at a defence which he knew would be futile, he said:

"The poor woman!" and went out to join his escort, whose horses were
pawing with impatience under the palace windows.

With that acute faculty, peculiar to people of passionate
temperament, for making themselves miserable when a desire is not
immediately fulfilled, Cleopatra imagined Antony as deceptive,
evasive, ready to betray her for the second time.  The very
exclamation that he had uttered on leaving her--"the poor
woman!"--rang in her ears and increased her anger.  What tender pity
he had put into the words!  How plainly he had implied that she was
innocent of any offence!  Did he still love her?  After all, it was
quite possible that this intriguing woman had retained her influence
over his weak heart.  At all events they were still good friends, and
that alone was a torment to the woman who, for her own advantage,
would have been willing to destroy the world.  She would have no
peace until Octavia went away, and she resolved to secure her
banishment that very day.

In the evening, when the Imperator returned, with the confident air
of a man who, having satisfactorily accomplished his day's work,
expects a certain reward, he had the disagreeable surprise of a cold
welcome.  Cleopatra had decided to smile upon him only on condition
that he would carry out her wishes at once.  She began:

"You are sacrificing our happiness for the sake of a woman who no
longer means anything to you!"

"She is certainly nothing to me that can distress you, since I love
only you!"

"But you are still good friends!"

He had gone over the same subject so often, defending himself and
pointing out the motives for his attitude, that the futility of
further words was clear to him.

"How you do hate her!" he exclaimed, in a tone which implied, "How
unjust you are!"

This reproach was the last touch.  Cleopatra was exasperated, and in
a fury, demanded:

"And you!  How can you pretend that you no longer love her?"

Kisses are the only sure means of persuasion between lovers, and she
refused to let him come near her.  Worn out, disheartened, like a man
who has lost all interest in life, Antony asked sadly:

"What is it that you wish?  What further proof do you require from
me?"

A papyrus leaf was lying ready on the table.

"Write!" commanded his despot.  "Send an order to Octavia to depart
for Rome as quickly as possible!"

This ungracious act was repugnant to Antony's instinctive gallantry.
He had never treated any woman rudely.  Should he behave like a
blackguard to the one who had every right to expect from him the
greatest gratitude and consideration?  He hesitated, his hand resting
on his knee.

"Yet you pretend to love me!" she murmured, her breath fanning his
cheek.

He realized that if he refused he would never again feel that sweet
breath mingling with his own; that he would have to leave her, go to
distant lands, contend with opposing forces, without having that last
embrace which inspires men with courage and on the eve of battle
makes them confident of victory.  Without this powerful stimulus
nothing seemed worth struggling for, his mighty enterprise would be
in vain.

With a sudden movement Cleopatra slipped the stylet between his
fingers.

"Write, write," she cried.

Slowly, painfully, as though the words were loath to come, he wrote
the letter.

"Now sign it!"

He put his name at the bottom of the written lines.  Everything had
been prepared.  The papyrus was rolled closely around the stick.
When the seal was pressed on the wax it seemed to shrink like
bleeding flesh.  An officer came in for instructions.  The message
was handed him with orders to deliver it at once to Octavia.  An
instant later they heard him galloping in the direction of Seleucia.
There he would find a boat which, in a few hours, would bring him to
Piræus.

Not knowing the reason for Antony's prolonged silence, Octavia was
counting the days.  It was nearly a month since she had arrived at
Piræus and she was still waiting for a reply to her letters.  Rumours
were afloat which might have given her a suggestion of the truth.
She knew that the Queen of Egypt had landed in Asia; that this
whimsical woman had put hordes of gold at the Imperator's disposal.
There was a report of a political alliance between them.  There were
even whispers of a secret marriage.  But to Octavia's virtuous and
upright mind, totally unprepared for such tidings, the terrible truth
was difficult to comprehend.  To realize that such treachery was
possible she required surer proof than mere hearsay.

The only proof that could convince her was already on its way: the
affirmation signed by Antony.

Yet it did not tell her the whole truth.  Under pretext of an
unlooked-for change of plans he had written that he was obliged to
leave Antioch sooner than he had expected, expressed formal regret at
being prevented from coming to thank her for her assistance, and
intimated his wish that she reëmbark as soon as possible and go back
to Rome.

In reading this letter, with no word of affection, with nothing of
her beloved husband in it but his signature, Octavia felt her heart
grow cold.  What had happened to him?  Instantly her worst fears were
confirmed.  Her eyes were opened and she saw the heartless facts as
they were; her husband no longer loved her.  However opposed to
deception she might be, she longed for the hour that had just passed,
when she was at least ignorant of her misery.  There was nothing to
comfort her.  She had to drink to the last drop the bitter cup of
knowledge.

Two days later Octavia, always submissive to her husband's will, left
Greece and turned toward Rome.  Her tear-stained face was heavily
veiled.  The Athenians watched her set sail, saw her quit the
beautiful city of song and play, where, as comrade of Dionysos, she
had been crowned with myrtle.  They looked after her as she took that
lonely road which Hagar, Penelope, Ariadne, and many others had
followed, and which to the end of time, the faithlessness of men will
force on loyal women.


Cleopatra was triumphant.  She had seized with both hands the reins
of the chariot of victory.  She was again madly in love with Antony,
and, as always when she had made him yield to her wishes, she covered
him with kisses.  She wanted to stay with him, but it was imperative
that she go back to Egypt.  This new Jason was going to unexplored
countries where he was confident of finding another golden fleece.

Cleopatra went with him as far as the frontier of the
Euphrates--sometimes on horseback, galloping with the grace of the
Queen of the Amazons, sometimes ensconced in a litter with clusters
of ostrich feathers waving at the four corners and curtains fastened
with crystal chains.  Twelve Nubians bore this litter on their sturdy
shoulders.  When the wind blew two faces could be seen behind those
soft silk curtains, two faces resting very near each other.  In the
evening a tent was pitched.  With its golden roof, its walls draped
with brilliant red, outlined by flaming torches, it looked like a
huge bonfire blazing in the midst of the camp.  Here the travellers,
on the eve of separation, built their fond dreams.  On their
return--that return which was to be so soon--their marriage would be
proclaimed.  They would put on that double crown which their union
would win for them.  The world would belong to them; it would be
their enchanted palace, a glorious, inexhaustible garden of delight.
For with these lovers glory and love were always intermingled.

The morning that they were to part, with hands clasped they looked at
each other in silence, as though each wished to imprint the vision of
the other before it vanished.

"To-morrow my eyes will no longer behold you," sighed Cleopatra.

"Mine will see you always," said Antony, "for you will be nearer to
me than the blaze of the sun by day, or the light of the stars at
night."

In order to see him until the last moment Cleopatra climbed a hill
which commanded the surrounding country.  The rocks in the river made
it a whirling torrent, foam-flecked and roaring furiously.  When
Antony had reached the farther side, he turned again, saluting
Cleopatra for the last time, and described a wide circle with his
flashing sword.  Before him lay a deep valley.  All was light,
transparent green, touched with the gold of the coming harvest.  The
great shadow of Alexander seemed to point out the path for him to
follow.  Impetuously he threw himself on his horse, which leaped
forward, his royal purple mantle floating in the wind.



VIII

THE TWO RIVALS

In spite of all the precautions for secrecy, Octavius soon learned
what had happened at Antioch.  His resentment was keen, for in
addition to the insult to his sister, which reflected on himself, he
could not accept calmly an alliance that added a crown to his
colleague's glory.  Would Antony, this lucky adventurer, succeed in
his invasion of Parthia?  To Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor, his
rightful share as one of the Triumvirate, would he annex Armenia as
well?  And Persia?  All that fabulously rich Orient, on which
Alexander had built his matchless fame?

Where would his power end?  What pinnacle would he leave unscathed?
A wave of hatred surged up in Octavius's heart.  Knowing, however,
that the hour had not yet come to unmask his real sentiments, he
pretended to ignore the matrimonial complications of Octavia's
treacherous husband.  When he and Antony were together his attitude
was friendly, ostentatiously fraternal.  He even begged the gods to
favour the expedition which he was hoping to see fail, and by pious
libations he made every pretence of kindly feeling, hiding his
personal grievances.  He made the mistake, however, of criticizing
his brother-in-law's habit of life.

This remonstrance, coming from a man whose recent marriage, preceded
by adultery and rape, had scandalized all decent people, was
naturally ridiculous.  It brought a return thrust from Antony, which,
though cynical, was not lacking in force and wit.  "Of what are you
accusing me?" he wrote from Alexandria, whither he had gone to visit
Cleopatra, in the brief interval between two battles.  "My relations
with the Queen are not new.  You know very well that I have been her
lover for the past nine years!  As for you! have you ever been
faithful to one woman?  I wager by the time that this letter reaches
you your Livia will have had cause for complaint, and that you have
already quarrelled with Tertulia, Terentella, or Rufilla, probably
all three of them.  If a man serves the gods and his country, what
matter with whom he takes his pleasures?"

Antony was in no hurry to raise his mask of secrecy and announce his
imitation marriage.  He wanted to wait until after his second
campaign into Persia--from which he looked for happier results than
the first had given him--before risking the inevitable reproaches and
disturbances that might involve more than the family relation.  Clad
in the armour of victory he would have nothing to fear.  He therefore
tore himself from the tender arms that held him and returned to the
field of battle.

His troops, awaiting him on the Median frontier, accorded him, as
always, an enthusiastic welcome.  They were his old soldiers, who had
often fought under his standards and were ready to follow wherever he
led.  They had implicit faith in him, understood the breadth of his
ambitions, and were touched with the fire of his aspirations.  They
were confident that his fortune would be their fortune; that they
would have, in their turn, quite as much glory and even more gold
than the veterans of Cæsar had won.

Why should they not have believed in the success of their
incomparable chief?  Their hero, brave, alert, always on the spot
when needed; a warlike genius, prompt in action, generous to a fault,
never weary; who met good fortune and evil with the same indomitable
smile!

This popularity was too precious for him to neglect any means of
adding to it.  Kindly always, he won hearts still more by his
epicurean indulgences, which he allowed his subordinates to share
with him.  A lover of good living, he wanted happy faces around him.
He confined his rigorous discipline to the time of action; in camp he
authorized a freedom from restriction which was a new departure in
the life of Roman soldiers.  What a contrast between the old bands of
Marius, valiant, it is true, but who marched under the lictor's whip,
and the spontaneous zeal of Antony's troops, who were ready to suffer
and to die for their leader!  A striking instance of their devotion
was shown in the reply made by his men in the passes of Armenia,
where they were enduring the combined miseries of fatigue, hunger,
and cold, to the envoys of Phraates, who approached them with
perfidious offers of peace.  "No," answered these loyal soldiers,
turning their backs to the tempters, "we would rather eat bark and
shells with Antony than abandon his cause."

The lieutenants were of the same mind.  They sympathized with the
splendid ambitions of their chief.  Many of his officers had been
taken into his confidence during the long night-watches in his tent,
and these young men were imbued with the spirit of warfare and hoped
to achieve brilliant records.  The greater part of them had been
impoverished by civil wars and revolutions, and they were counting on
the fortunes of war to retrieve their losses, so they fought with the
eager expectation of gamblers.

This was the material that Antony had collected for his first
campaign into Persia; an invasion which in spite of wonderful deeds
had brought him but scant success.  At the outset, he had been
compelled to tread cautiously in a country where the enemy had a
powerful army already installed, whereas he had to bring his forces
with him.  Deceived alike by his naturally hopeful nature and by the
reports which his couriers had brought after a superficial survey of
conditions, he had imagined that the mere entrance of the Roman army
into this ancient empire of Darius would make its worn-out granite
walls crumble into dust.

When the real battles began he saw very clearly that the Medes,
Parthians, and Armenians had lost none of their valour.  He realized
this cruelly at Phaaspa, where, by a totally unlooked-for turn of
tactics, the enemy compelled him to alter his lines and raise the
siege.  More cruelly still was their prowess brought home to him
during the retreat that he was forced to make at the beginning of
winter, through a devastated country and under a shower of murderous
arrows.

These calamities could have been avoided if his eagerness to return
to Cleopatra had not made him hasten operations which required the
most careful preparation.  He came back from his festival of love,
however, provided with new troops, reënforced artillery, and fresh
supplies.  The campaign met with greater success this time.  He
vanquished the Armenians, forced King Phraates to surrender to him
the standards formerly set up by the legions of Crassus, and thus was
able to send the Senate a glowing account of his movements, which
passed in Rome for the flaming breath of victory.

While Antony in the plains of Erzerum was giving these proofs of his
genius and daring, Octavius, no less determined to gain the
supremacy, was seeking the means to place it within his grasp.  War
was not his strong point.  At heart a coward, he preferred intrigue
to action.  He knew, however, that in Rome arms represented the
standard of all grandeur, and he forced himself to consider them.
Besides, circumstances left him no choice.  His colleagues were at
war; the one in Asia, the other in the African provinces.  It rested
with him to repulse the invasions of Sextus Pompey.  By good luck, in
spite of numerous defeats, his victory in Sicilian waters, whereby he
won one hundred and sixty vessels from the pirate fleet, enabled him
to announce before the Senate his delivery of the Republic from a
formidable enemy, almost at the same hour that Antony sent word of
his triumph in Persia.

However, neither of these victories was sufficiently important to
give either Triumvir definite ascendancy over the other.  But,
preceded by the eagles of Crassus, whose downfall had been such a
bitter blow to Roman pride, with the spoils that he had captured from
the enemy, and leading among his captives the King Artabazes,
together with his Queen and her children, Antony arrived at Rome.
Crowned with golden laurels, driving along the Via Sacra in his
chariot drawn by the four white horses that had borne Cæsar, Sulla,
Marius, and the Scipios, he had addressed the crowd, saying: "I am
master now, who knows who will come after me?"

It was not only in the army that Antony was popular.  His good
nature, his frankness, his consideration, and the scrupulous care
that he gave to rewarding any service rendered him, had made friends
for him everywhere, particularly among the townspeople.  His absence,
so far from destroying his prestige, had increased it, for in periods
of unrest the people are apt to lay the blame of all mishaps on the
Government in power, while they exaggerate the greatness of these who
are gaining victories at a distance.  If Antony had taken advantage
of his opportunity and brought his trophies to Rome the day after his
conquest of Media, and, like a good Roman citizen, prostrated himself
before the statue of Jupiter, there is no doubt whatever that the
imperial crown, refused to Cæsar, would have eventually been placed
on his head.  But, as wise old Homer has said, "What can be expected
of a man who lets himself be the slave of a woman?"

To prevent his eluding her, Cleopatra had gone to meet her lover on
the coast of Asia.  She profited by the occasion to investigate her
various interests there.  Judea had a special fascination for her.
That Judea of which she had not been able to obtain possession, but
whose king paid her millions in tribute.  Perhaps, too, she had a
curiosity to meet the beautiful Mariamne, who was reputed to have
such an irresistible fascination for Herod.

It was not without dire misgivings that these sovereigns learned of
the forthcoming visit to their household of the bold and dangerous
mistress of Antony.  To be sure, it was protected by their faithful
devotion, as well as by the holy memory of the Queen of Sheba's visit
to Solomon, but Cleopatra's reputation was widespread.  She, however,
was too well aware of the relations between Herod and Antony to run
any risk of offending the former.  It was even whispered that she had
a natural feminine desire to try her witcheries on the reputedly
invulnerable heart of Judea's King, and that these coquetries came
very near ending her life.

Like all women in love, Mariamne was morbidly jealous.  She was
furious at the intrusion of a woman, less beautiful perhaps than
herself, but whose rich bronze hair, milk-white skin, and shining
dark eyes had led astray the hearts of so many men.  One evening when
they had retired to their own apartments, after having been
entertained by a series of songs and dances from Cleopatra, in which
she had displayed all her marvellous power to charm, Mariamne
observed that her husband was absent-minded.  Promptly her thoughts
flew to the sorceress of Egypt, and her smouldering suspicion kindled
into flame: "You are thinking of her!" roared the enraged lioness,
and heedless of Herod's sincere denial she demanded that Cleopatra be
put to death on the instant.

To kill the Queen of Egypt!  The ally of Rome!  Such an act would
entail fatal consequences.  If Herod demurred it was not because his
bloodthirsty soul baulked at either poison or poignard.  It was not
because the siren songs had touched his senses.  No, he too hated
her, for her yoke weighed heavily on his avaricious soul.  He desired
to get rid of her, but he scarcely dared run so tremendous a risk.

Mariamne used all the wiles of the serpent of Eden; she coaxed, she
cajoled: "Do you not see that this woman is a menace to the whole
world?  Antony himself would be safer if he were free!"  But the King
was difficult to move.  He argued, he resisted, and finally chose the
part of prudence.  In place of the amorous homage that she had been
hoping to call forth, he loaded her with valuable gifts, and, without
letting her suspect how near she had come to losing her life, he
escorted her to the frontier, like a respectful vassal.

During those days that Cleopatra had spent near the Temple of Temples
had this learned pupil of Apollodorus any desire to read the sacred
books?  Did she understand that the time for the birth of the Messiah
was drawing near?  Had she any intuition that out of this land of
Judea, which she was oppressing like a despot, would rise the new
sovereignty of Christianity from the ruins of the world of her day?
Did she see the end of that civilization of which she was the fairest
representative?  Probably not, for, like all those who are devoured
by ambition, Cleopatra thought only of her own aggrandizement, of the
fulfilment of her glorious dreams.  It would have been inconceivable
to her mind, reared in the traditions of Egypt and of Greece, that
what had taken centuries to build up would vanish like a bit of straw.

Besides, this was the time for hopeful visions rather than for
misgivings.  Antony was returning as victor.  It was the moment to
announce their marriage, to prove her sole dominion over the mighty
conqueror.  She awaited him eagerly, trembling with joyful
anticipation.

When Antony caught sight of her on the Libyan slopes, a flower
amongst flowers, her arms outspread to welcome him, her luscious
mouth ready for his kisses, all thought of his duty to Rome was
effaced in a moment.  He saw her alone; his idol, his beloved, and
his only wish was to follow where she led, to share his triumphs with
her, and to add to her kingdoms the new kingdoms that he had just
conquered.  A squadron awaited them at the mouth of the Orontes and
they set sail for Alexandria.

It was beyond belief that a Roman general should fail to bring the
spoils of war to Rome.  It was for Rome alone that he had fought and
conquered.  To Rome only belonged the privilege of conferring the
triumph.  But Antony had a reckless disregard for all these
traditions.  He was drunk with the homage of the Orient; her
prostrate kings, her incense, the statues that she had erected in his
honour.  He felt a veritable giant and he meant to show his pride of
achievement by an act of outrageous audacity.  He planned to
duplicate, on the banks of the Nile, the magnificent ceremonies with
which Rome welcomed her returning conquerors on the banks of the
Tiber.

Egyptian splendour equalled, if it did not exceed, that of Rome.  On
this occasion everyone was anxious to contribute his share to the
gorgeous spectacle, for the insult to the Italian capital aroused
keen delight in the heart of the Alexandrians.  Every house was
decorated; every citizen brought offerings; every woman wore her
finest apparel and all her available jewels.  It was a variegated
crowd that assembled on the parade grounds to greet the Victor.

Suddenly there was a deep roar, as though the sea were pouring in.  A
thousand trumpets rang out and the victorious army marched into
sight.  The cavalry, in sparkling armour, led the way.  Then the
chariots shook the ground as they rolled by in martial splendour,
laden with gold, silver, statues, all the spoils taken from the
violated temples.  Thousands of captives, with arms bound and heads
bent, followed.  Then King Artabazes, his wife and their two sons,
appeared, their arms fastened with silver chains in token of their
former grandeur.  At last, standing in his chariot drawn by four
foaming chargers, his brow crowned with golden laurel, superb in, his
robes of royal purple, came the Imperator.

On a platform draped with sumptuous silk, Cleopatra awaited him, her
children by her side.  On the first step stood Cæsarion, his face,
even more than his name, recalling the divine Cæsar.  No ceremony in
Cleopatra's day had even approached this in royal grandeur, and
surely no other one had ever held such a triumph for her.  What it
meant for this proud woman, who had borne the scoffs and jeers of
Rome, to see its highest dignitaries prostrate at her feet!  What a
revenge to count by hundreds their golden eagles!  In order to leave
no doubt as to her intention of putting herself in the place of their
god, Jupiter, she was wearing the silver tiara, surmounted by the
sacred asp, which was the head-dress of her own goddess, Isis.

As the Imperator appeared she rose, advanced to the edge of the
platform, and handed him the lotus sceptre, the replica of her own,
in token that he was to share with her the throne of Egypt.

Antony's face was radiant.  From his exalted stand he proclaimed her
Queen of Kings, Empress, Goddess, and announced once more her
sovereignty over the kingdoms which he had recently presented to her.
Turning to the children, whose young heads were weighed down by their
diadems, he explained the order of their inheritance.  The eldest was
to have Media, Armenia, and the land of the Parthians.  Helios would
inherit the Libyan provinces; and his twin sister, Selene, Phoenicia
and the island of Cyprus.  Cæsarion, who had just reached his
fourteenth year and laid aside the white and purple robe of the Roman
youth for the toga of manhood, he declared to be the sole heir of his
father, Julius Cæsar.

There was deafening applause, as though Alexandria with her group of
prospective kings was indeed the capital of all the world.

The sun dropped into the sea.  From the gates of Canopus to the
Necropolis, the line of houses began to show lights, one by one, in
the gathering darkness, their roofs glowing red from the glare of the
torches.  All sorts of festivities began.  Oil, wine, and wheat were
distributed to the eager crowds; handfuls of money were thrown to the
populace and gathered up as quickly as it fell.  The huge tables in
the palace gardens were loaded with refreshments.  There were
spectacles of every variety, noble and obscene, artistic and bloody,
to suit all manner of tastes.  The arena, as always, attracted the
larger number of people.  The animals had been let loose, and, with a
license never permitted in Rome, young aristocrats took the part of
the gladiators.  When these contestants whetted the appetite of the
wild beasts by offering their bare arms the whole audience stood up
and watched, breathless, to see the blood gush out.

Following the Roman custom, these fêtes went on for forty days.  On
the opening evening Cleopatra and Antony appeared in their royal
robes, apart--as befitted their position as sovereigns.  Mounted on
elephants, gleaming with jewels, they went through the different
quarters of the city.  But they soon wearied of this imposing
regalia; it isolated them, kept them at a distance from the various
amusements whose echoes appealed to their desire for entertainment.
They dismissed the elephants and attendants and went about on foot
through the paved streets.  Once there, the feverish need for further
excitement that stirs all merry-makers in Saturnalia took possession
of them.  They mixed with the rioters, enjoying their ribald jests
and gross pleasures, and heedless of all sense of dignity, they
wandered about as in the old days when they frequented the
disreputable resorts of the Rhakotis.

Drink and excitement had stolen Antony's senses, and he conceived the
grotesque notion of ending the festival with a gigantic orgy and
masquerade, where, disguised as Silenus, surrounded by a crowd of
bacchanals, he would wander through the streets all night long.
There is a legend that owing to an amethyst ring, given to her by one
of her necromancers, Cleopatra never lost her presence of mind.  She
chose the moment when Antony was utterly intoxicated to add a final
insult to those that had been heaped upon Rome during this festival
of folly.  Mimics, eunuchs, the lowest kind of actors, were mounted
on curules, the ivory chairs of state reserved for the highest
dignitaries, and, in ridicule of a revered Roman custom, the Queen
ordered all the Romans then in Alexandria to file past this rabble.

This scandal crowned the succession of orgies.  When the news of it
reached Octavius his heart quivered with delight!  It supplied the
means, which he had lacked the wit to devise, to undermine Antony's
prestige.  Careful and cunning, he suppressed his first instinct to
make use of these outrages at once for his own advantage.  It was not
the right moment to attack an adversary who, in spite of blatant
faults, had many warm partisans.  Before beginning this assault he
must win favour for himself and dispel the unflattering impressions
that he had made in his youth.  Versed in the trick of changing his
policy, he effected such a complete alteration of standards that to
this day it is uncertain which represented his real self: the cruel,
suspicious, perfidious tyrant that he had seemed up to that time, or
the gracious prince, the patron of art and letters, who has been
known for so many centuries as Augustus Cæsar!

Cheating and trickery unquestionably played a part in this sudden
metamorphosis, but it is possible that, seeing the wisdom of honesty,
he used it as an instrument for promoting his own interests.  At all
events, if he were not a better man, his conduct from that time gave
every evidence of it.

There was general astonishment on his return from Sicily.  In place
of the atrocious bloody reprisals which had stained Rome after the
victory of Philippi, an amnesty was declared, with proposals of
peace, a reduction of taxes, and various changes for the benefit of
all classes of the people.  Was not this the surest way to win
favour?  Instead of setting himself up in opposition to his rival, to
give the people a season of wise moderation, as a contrast to the mad
debauchery of Antony?

He carried out this idea by proclaiming his wish to reëstablish the
simple manners and customs of former times.  Recalling the austere
principles of Cato, he forbade the wearing of the imperial purple by
the people, restricting its use to the Senators.  He suppressed
money-changing and encouraged agricultural pursuits.  He laid the
foundation of the temple of Apollo on the Palatine hill, in order to
furnish employment for the masons.  Though not completed until many
years later, this great religious work has always been associated
with his name.  And, most important of all, he decided to destroy
Lepidus, because of the general contempt he had incurred on account
of his merciless raids to accumulate wealth for his own use.  This
limiting of the Government to two rulers was universally welcomed.
It was a sign of ultimate republican unity, the first blow at the
accursed Triumvirate.

In all these movements Octavius had been aided by his friends'
counsel.  He had many warm friends, for the gods are generous in
according this blessing to men not otherwise specially gifted, who
are thereby able to accomplish great things.  Three of these friends
assumed all responsibility and bore him, on the wings of their
devotion, to heights which otherwise he could never have reached.
These were Theodorus, the learned teacher, on whose keen judgment he
could always rely in difficult undertakings; Agrippa, that
incomparable warrior, a veritable Neptune, who had complete command
of the seas; and Mæcenas, above all, the wise, the charming Mæcenas,
whose tactful, subtle intelligence was such that in giving counsel or
advice he always made his opponents believe that they themselves had
originated the idea.

Octavius fully understood the value of their support and undertook
nothing without consulting them.  When he heard of what was going on
at Alexandria he summoned them at once.  Each one, though consulted
privately as to what should be done in reply to Antony's insulting
actions, had the same view.  They were of one mind.  Assuredly Antony
had brought only anathemas upon his head, but his name, a synonym for
glory, generosity, courage, was greatly beloved; to make a direct
attack upon this popular hero would be unwise.  She who had shared in
his evil deeds, however, they could safely condemn, being sure of the
commendation of the people; feared, as well as scorned, Cleopatra, in
the eyes of the Romans, was responsible for all these outrages.  It
was rumoured that she had put secret potions in the wine which had
robbed Antony of his reason.  It was finally decided to ignore for
the moment any part that the Imperator had taken in these scandalous
proceedings and to rouse the people against her, whom they venomously
termed "the Sorceress of the Nile!"

The method of temporizing which Octavius embodied in his motto: "_Sat
celeriter quidquid fiat satis bene,_" had up to that time been highly
successful.  Accordingly he proceeded slowly and, while waiting to
attack his actual adversary, he commanded Theodorus to open a
campaign of accusations against the Egyptian Queen.

The Romans were always easily roused.  Devoted to their capital city,
it was enough for them to hear that it was in any way criticized: a
suspicion, a suggestion, that it was in peril was sufficient to stir
them profoundly.  These proud citizens of Rome had the idea that all
other great cities envied her and were anxious to overthrow her
power.  Carthage, Corinth, Athens, all in important positions, had in
their turn fallen under suspicion.  To-day all their instincts of
defence were united against superb, preëminent Alexandria.  There was
a persistent rumour that Cleopatra was planning to transfer the
world-capital from Rome to that city.  This danger in itself would
have bred hatred of her, but, in addition, there were the recent vile
tales.  Her extravagant luxury was especially distasteful to a people
who made poverty almost a crime.  In passing from mouth to mouth the
incident of the pearls was naturally exaggerated.  There was now an
account of a bath, enriched each day by a mixture of gold and amber,
to which the body of this courtesan owed the glowing warmth of colour
which so enticed men's gaze.

While this gossip was spreading among the Plebeians, Mæcenas was busy
agitating the Intellectuals.  He got together a group of literary
men, and, with that ease of language and charm of persuasion that
always carried conviction, he described Octavius as the coming master
of the world.  These men were quickly persuaded to use their pens to
advance his cause.  It was arranged to make conservatism, religion,
devotion, social reform the fashion--all the ideals of which Cæsar's
nephew was patron, as opposed to the Oriental usages to which Antony
had become a convert.  Virgil, in his delightful pastoral, was the
first to carry out this project of Mæcenas's.  His poems were of wide
influence in reviving that taste for country life and love of the
earth which the long wars had rudely interrupted.  At the same time
Horace put aside his Epodes on wine and women for the more serious
Odes.  Deploring the fatal power of women when in control of the
Government by actual right or by their domination over the men who
represented it, he gave an outline of the lives of women famous in
history and legend, and set forth the inevitable misfortune that they
had brought upon their countries.  He adjured the people, in the name
of their imperilled nation, to unite against the fatal Egyptian
woman, the evil demon of the day.

The situation was growing less difficult for Octavius.  He could now
venture to lay before the Senate certain accusations that until that
moment he had not dared to make public.  The Senate was the supreme
arbiter, the tribunal before which all discussions relating to the
Government were laid.  To denounce his colleague there was dangerous,
for not only had Antony many partisans in the Senate, but this year
the two Consuls, Caius Sossius and Ahenobarbus, were his sworn
friends.  The advisers of Octavius were well aware of the risks
incurred, but, under the existing conditions, immediate action was
imperative.  A duel to the death must be fought between the two
rivals.

It was one of the last days of the year 33 B.C.  The sun went in and
out amongst the flake-like clouds, making it impossible to know
whether sunshine or cloud-drifts would prevail.  Octavius studied the
sky long and earnestly and finally decided that the way the birds
were flying meant weather favourable for his undertaking.  He started
toward the Senate.

The crowd had begun to gather.  There were beggars asking alms and
slaves carrying provisions.  Women were collected about the public
market-places where beans, fish, and sausages were displayed.
Half-naked children, brown as crickets, paddled in the gutters.
Troops of donkeys, bearing wicker baskets, chariots, litters, blocked
the streets.  Twelve lictors ran before the Imperator to clear the
way, but in spite of that his pallor and nervousness were noticed by
the people in the street.  He was under a strain, and as he took his
seat in the chair of honour he felt beneath his toga for the poignard
which he always carried there.  Since the assassination of Cæsar a
_senatus consulte_ had forbidden the wearing of arms in the Senate
chamber.  But to-day, on the eve of a debate, the consequences of
which no one could divine, all precautions were legal.  At least so
Octavius thought!

At the first instant the opposing parties gauged each other at a
glance.  Placing a heavy portfolio before him, filled with his
various accusations against Antony, Octavius opened the discussion.
Faithful to his former tactics, which had been so successful with the
people, he launched his opening diatribes against Cleopatra:

"This incestuous daughter of Ptolemy the Piper, descendant of the
Lagidæ, is our worst enemy.  Threatened in her own country by those
who abhor her loose ways and the dangers of her insecure government,
she has made use of the power of Rome for her own protection.
Intoxicated with her success, this mad woman has even dreamed of
destroying our capital.  She is preparing to attack us, I tell you,
and with a shameful army of slaves and eunuchs is planning an
invasion of Italy!"

The effect of this speech was instantaneous.  The uproar that greeted
it was deafening.  Furious with rage, the Senators rose in a body,
and with angry gestures raised their togas like the wings of
gigantic, ferocious birds.

A direct attack on Antony required greater courage.  Octavius felt
that the least false step might result in an irreparable downfall.
Confident, however, of the convincing force of his arguments, he
commenced his address.  He denounced Antony, not only for having
taken for his own use the newly acquired provinces, but for having
deliberately made over the greater part of them to the Queen of Egypt.

"Yes, not content with robbing and despoiling his own country, this
infatuated lover of Cleopatra has offered to this alien woman Armenia
and Media, the territories of Calcida, as well as Phoenicia, with
Tyre and Sidon, and the enormous revenues from Palestine."  Octavius
paused between the name of each country in order to let the wrath of
the people have ample time to seek expression.  The protestations
came with precipitate and overwhelming violence.

"The scoundrel!  The traitor!  Our beautiful lands!  Our richest
provinces!"  Shouts of indignation filled the hall.

Until that moment Antony's staunch supporters had thought it wise to
keep silence.  When the first roars began to subside Caius Sossius
commanded silence.  He announced an important proclamation.  That
very morning he had received a notice that would give the lie direct
to these attacks, which the conqueror of the Parthians had fully
expected.  In eloquent terms, the Consul recalled the recent
brilliant deeds of Mark Antony.  "And," he thundered, "it is he, the
valiant hero of all these victories, whose life has been risked again
and again for the glory of his country, for the safety of Rome, who
is now being vilified because he is not here to defend himself!"

The tide changed on the instant.  "It is cowardly!  It is unworthy of
us," cried a dozen voices.  Encouraged by this evidence of sympathy,
Sossius went on with greater emphasis.  "These much decried donations
to Alexandria, what are they but annexations of Rome?  As Egypt is,
or will be to-morrow, a Roman province, why is there any discontent?
This wealth of the Orient, what is it used for?  It is equipping the
Roman army, feeding the soldiers of the Republic.  It is building
temples, it is erecting barracks, to make the name of our Capital
revered throughout the world!  Where is our loss?"

"Moreover," continued the friend of Antony, with a respectful
inclination to the august assembly, "in regard to the rights of the
Senate, the Imperator requests that you either ratify the measures
that he has taken in the service of his country, or, if you
disapprove of his action in the matter, to turn them down."

The tide had unmistakably turned in Antony's favour.  Whatever errors
he had committed in his infatuation for Cleopatra, he had been the
dominant figure in Roman warfare during the past ten years; the only
one who had accomplished great deeds and who had been, through all, a
noble citizen of Rome.

Octavius felt the ground giving way beneath his feet.  Pale as the
statues around him, he felt as though after this first tilt he might
probably end with his head in the dust.  His swelling portfolio,
however, was still full of accusations against Antony.  His weapons
were not yet exhausted.  He took his courage in both hands and again
began to speak.  He went over the deeds of Antony and Cleopatra
during the festivities at Alexandria, giving, in exaggerated and
revolting detail, the experiences of those nights of debauchery in
the streets of the great city.  He dwelt on the investiture of
Cleopatra's bastard children, especially the fact that Cæsarion was
treated with the honour and ceremony belonging to a Roman prince in
being presented to the Roman legions as the lawful heir of Cæsar.

Here there was an interruption.  Why harp on an old grievance?  The
Republic was not a dynasty, there was no sense in taking umbrage at
so-called heirs.  All that was merely part of the masquerading.  If
Antony had joined in such frivolous amusements it was regrettable
certainly, it showed a lack of dignity.  But, on the other hand, the
same thing had occurred at Rome, when he had had his chariot drawn by
lions.  Such puerile nonsense was ridiculous but scarcely deserving
of severe reproof.

The current was propitious now and Sossius took advantage of it to
remind the people that the policy of Octavius, at the time of Cæsar's
death, had been reprehensible in the extreme.  Here Tufius interposed
with the comment that it was useless to recur to things so far in the
past.

"I speak of the things of yesterday," retorted the Consul.  He then
explained briefly that in destroying the Triumvirate and altering it
into a dictatorship for two, Octavius had appropriated for himself
the share belonging to Lepidus.  In seizing the African provinces,
with, their ships, cavalry, infantry, and all their accessories; in
confiscating for his personal use the Sicilian land wrested from
Sextus Pompey; in dividing the best parts of Italy among his own
soldiers, leaving no portions for the veterans of the other armies,
had not Octavius offended justice and exceeded the limits of his
power far more than Antony had ever done?

Another outburst, equalling the one provoked by the opening speech of
Octavius, began.  The assembly was completely won over to Antony's
cause.  Sweat stood in great drops on the forehead of Octavius.  He
felt the sheath of his hidden poignard press against his left side.
For the moment he had the sensation of being trapped, and with
clenched teeth and flaming eyes he glared about him defiantly.  He
was accused of aspiring to the office of supreme magistrate!  How
could he give irrefutable proof of his disinterestedness?

"I will resign every office that I hold; I will give up all public
duties and go back to private life as a plain Roman citizen, on the
sole condition that my colleague, Antony, does the same!" he cried.

This struck the right note.  Every one was weary of the dictatorship
and wanted to return to a republican form of government.  But the
issues then at stake were too grave to permit a hasty decision.
Besides, Octavius did not have the confidence of the people.  His
former attitude had given good ground for suspicion.  The very moment
when he was ostensibly giving up his power might be precisely the
instant when he was exploiting his position in order to retain it.

Undecided as to what was to be the next step, the Consuls declared
that in Antony's absence immediate action was impossible.  A
conference with him was essential.  Ahenobarbus proposed going to
Alexandria to obtain his resignation.  The majority endorsed this
course and the vote was held over for a later meeting.

The situation was perplexing for Octavius.  Again he realized how
deep a hold Antony had on the affections of the people.  It was the
same old story.  How could he hope to defeat a rival who had not only
a formidable army at his back, but wealth and popularity in addition?
He went to consult his friends, as he always did when in a quandary.

Mæcenas lived in a villa on the Esquiline hill, commanding a
magnificent view.  Rome lay in majestic state on the banks of her
river below, and the soft beauty of the Campagna stretched out to the
Sabine Hills along the horizon.  As Octavius drew near Mæcenas went
out to meet him with outstretched hands.  His affection for the
Imperator was sincere and loyal, as is shown in various letters from
him.  "I love you better than myself.  Where you lead, I will follow.
Whatever comes to you I will share, for my life is inseparably bound
up in yours."

The two friends sat down near the brazier, which filled the hall with
warmth and the fragrance of incense.  Octavius recounted what had
just happened in the Senate.  Mæcenas admitted that there were grave
difficulties, but he contended that these were only temporary and
that they could be adjusted.  In Antony's present state of
over-excitement he would undoubtedly do something to rouse keen
disapproval, if not a serious disturbance.  In the meantime Agrippa
should make secret preparations for war, while Octavius devised some
means of turning the tide of public opinion once more in his favour.
A policy of strict conservatism, as opposed to the wild Egyptian
schemes of Antony, seemed the wise move at the moment.  The oldest
temple in Rome, that built in the time of Romulus in honour of
Jupiter Feretrius, was falling into ruins.  Octavius must give orders
for its reconstruction.  He must also complete the building of the
Pantheon, begun by Cæsar to the glory of Mars.

While the two friends were planning for the future, Athenodorus came
in.  His practical mind confirmed these suggestions.  He proposed
that they consider something to please the Plebeians, for their
opinion carried great weight as to popularity.  During the summer
months the Roman populace suffered cruelly from scarcity of water.
It would be an excellent device to repair the aqueduct of Marcia, and
to open cheap baths, in order that the working classes might have the
same comfort and refreshment that the Patricians enjoyed in their
luxurious _sudatoria_.

These constructive works met Octavius's entire approval.  In the near
future they might prove to be his strongest support.  But the moment
was not propitious for the carrying out of the plans.  He had barely
had time to summon the architects and go over their drawings, when a
thunderbolt fell!

Unknown to Cleopatra, Antony had always kept up friendly relations
with Octavia.  In the first place, he was really grateful for all the
assistance that this noble woman had rendered him.  In the second, he
had the more powerful motive of expecting further services!  They
exchanged letters frequently, and, as the sister of Octavius, she
could keep her husband fully informed of all that was going on in
Rome.  She was, in addition, the most desirable of mediators, for her
delicate hands held the thread of communication between the
brothers-in-law and she was careful not to break it off.  She also
constantly entertained a set of Antony's friends in her house on the
Palatine hill, and these were always ready to discuss the virtues of
their hero and do honour to him in his absence.  With warm affection
she had looked after the education not only of her own children, but
of those that Fulvia had borne Antony as well.

Unlucky chance, or one of those acts of treachery that often occur in
the nests of intrigue which form in kings' palaces, had thrown one of
Antony's letters to his wife into the hands of Cleopatra.  Its
affectionate tone and the promise of a visit in the near future
precipitated a crisis which was bound to come.  In the Queen's heart,
uneasy always with memories and fears, the arrow of jealousy struck
deep.  "After all he has promised me!" she cried bitterly.  Then came
the inevitable reaction, natural to a highly strung, nervous nature
that could endure no grief, and again she cried: "I will have my
revenge!"

Charmian, who never left her side, lived in a perpetual state of
terror.  She was divided between love for the Queen and dread of her
passionate temperament that was always courting dramatic situations.
Had not an augur predicted that the love affair of Antony and
Cleopatra would end in blood?  She longed to divert her beloved
mistress from the passion that threatened to drive her mad.  Kneeling
before her, she laid her head on the Queen's trembling knees.  "Why
should you suffer thus?" she said.  The girl felt her shoulder warm
from the Queen's feverish touch.  "If I could only hold that cursed
woman here in my hands and by a thousand tortures make her expiate
the sufferings she has brought me!"  Cleopatra's voice shook with
rage.  Charmian tried to calm her, but the wound was already
festering and the venom of hate was spreading through her veins.
With a sudden frenzy she included the whole world in her vengeance as
she swore: "I will go to Rome itself.  I will compel Octavius and his
sister to go to war, and with bound hands she shall follow my chariot
to the Capitol!"

This extravagant fancy was distressing to Charmian.  As in a mist she
saw the deadly whirlpool sucking them all down in its depths.  But
wise counsel is impotent in dealing with a mind wild with jealous
desire to seize and rend its prey.  Charmian's gentle words were not
regarded.

The afternoon was nearly over.  The air grew less stifling and fresh
puffs of fragrance were wafted in from the magnolia trees.  All the
shades of the rainbow shone in the sunset light.  It was the hour
when Antony, refreshed and perfumed, after his daily siesta, came to
seek Cleopatra.  She was lying on her couch and, annoyed at his being
a little late for their rendezvous, she put her elbow on the
sumptuous cushions and held her head as though it were heavy with
aching.  His step made her tremble, and she had a sullen, troubled
expression that indicated a coming storm.

Antony had no chance to escape.  The fatal letter, unrolled from its
mother-of-pearl rod, lay on the table.  For this letter, for his
crime of being friendly with his faithful wife, he would have to pay
dearly.  As he drew near she overwhelmed him with a flood of violent
reproaches.  He was a man who could not keep his word.  While she,
happy in their being together, and awaiting impatiently the coming
announcement of their marriage, was full of trust in him, he was
playing her false, planning to leave her.  He listened silently, and
when her first outburst had subsided he tried to plead with her.  The
political situation compelled him to maintain cordial relations with
the sister of Octavius, as she was the most valuable and dependable
intermediary in his connections with the Government at Rome.  Her
help was necessary for the protection of his interests there.  If he
severed this alliance it would entail a war for which he was not
prepared.  But Cleopatra paid no heed.  She was burning with jealousy
and a desire for vengeance.  She would put an end, once and for all,
to this rival who had alienated Antony's affections.  She would
require that Antony, by an official repudiation of Octavia, should
break the last bond that held him to the Occident, and thenceforth he
should belong to her alone.

Antony was fresh from an interview with Ahenobarbus, who had arrived
at Alexandria the day before, bringing news of the active campaign
against him that was going on in Italy and warning him of the
consequence of his continued stay in Egypt.  If the thunderbolts that
had been let loose in the Senate had been turned aside it was solely
due to the loyalty of his friends there, but they had defended him
because they were counting on his speedy return to Rome, on his skill
in handling the situation when he came.  They would brook no insult
to his noble wife.  She had the entire sympathy of the State and he
would offend public opinion if he dared to put the Egyptian woman in
her place.  No one would come to his defence a second time.
Patricians and Plebeians alike would be on the side of Octavius and
his sister, and their warm sentiments would be roused in behalf of
the abandoned wife and her children.

In a gleam of reason, the last perhaps that this warrior-statesman
ever knew, Antony saw clearly the dire results of his carrying out
the demand of his fierce mistress.  Quivering with excitement he
tried to ward off the coming tragedy.

"We must be cautious.  What demon of jealousy possesses you?  The
astounding rupture that you are asking me to make will in no way
affect our mutual relations.  All my life is yours, and only yours.
I have no thought but to serve you!"

But Cleopatra was too enraged to listen to reason.  With her long,
snake-like eyes, her luscious scarlet mouth, her body curled in a
corner of her divan, she seemed like an impregnable fortress.

"I will not yield.  I have had enough of hearing the Romans call
Octavia your wife and me your concubine.  I desire that by a solemn,
official deed you proclaim me, Cleopatra, as your only lawful wife."

The struggle this time was neither so long nor so violent as the one
of three years before when Antony, moved by the tender devotion of
Octavia, had defended her against his mistress.  To-day, far away,
given over to a life of uninteresting virtue, she had less power to
hold his affection.  Cleopatra's insatiable passion won the victory
and led to that entire subjugation of will in which a man is no
longer a man.  His spirit as well as his flesh was conquered.  He was
as wax in her hands, and when she asserted that Octavia had always
been the secret ally of her brother, and that both at Tarentum and at
Rome Antony had been their plaything, he made no protest and his
silence was like acquiescence.  But that was not enough.  To gain all
she wanted it was necessary to rouse in Antony a passionate hatred,
and as this would not have been possible against the tender, loving
wife who had been so faithful to him, she brought up the name of
Octavius to awaken all the fierce animosity in his soul.  To a man of
his temperament, impressionable, weak, but devoured with ambition,
she held up the poltroon Octavius as the man who was seizing the
supreme power.

"So you will be content with our little eastern kingdom," she
sneered, "while he holds dominion over all the countries from Illyria
to the Pillars of Hercules!"

Antony's cheeks blanched.  This vision of his colleague's outranking
him, possessing greater power, master of vaster territories than his
own, sent a shiver through his whole being.  Such hatred must have an
outlet.  Twice already these rivals had been at the point of flying
at each other's throats; of destroying each other; twice the tiny
hand of a woman had intervened.  To-day it was again a woman's hand
that slipped in between them, but this time to stir up anger, to
corrupt, to embitter, and this time war was inevitable.



IX

ACTIUM

Octavius had just come, as he did every few days, to see his sister.
Although there was always an affectionate intimacy between them,
to-day their voices were raised in a manner that suggested a
difference of opinion, if not a sharp disagreement.  The subject
under discussion was the usual one, and the more Octavius accused
Antony the more Octavia defended him.

"Antony is not so much in the wrong as you say.  I understand his
motives.  He writes often.  I know how dear Rome is to him, that he
adores his children.  Besides, we shall soon see him here."

"How can you deceive yourself so?  Are you blind, my sister, to the
infamous way he has treated you?  Have you forgotten that he sent you
back from Athens like a servant, without honour, without escort,
without even the thanks that your generosity toward him deserved?"

No, Octavia had forgotten nothing, but her loving heart was ready to
excuse all rather than lose the one she loved.

But Octavius had come to-day to make clear to her a plan which,
personally, was not agreeable to him.  Before publicly denouncing
Antony he believed that he should first separate his wife from him,
and make her an ally against the rival whom he wished to annihilate.
He recounted Antony's shameful submission to the Egyptian, and dwelt
upon the scandalous records of his life in Alexandria.  How could he
be so brutal?  Why did not Octavia's sensitive face, reddening at the
vile details, turning away, tortured, disarm this executioner?
Pitilessly he went on.  He wanted to search the very depths of her
heart to find its tenderest spot.  One day, on the parade grounds,
with officers and soldiers bearing arms, the staff surmounted by the
golden eagle in his hand, the Imperator was reviewing the troops.
Suddenly a messenger approached and said a few words.  Immediately,
disregarding the military display arranged by his order, he left the
grounds to rejoin Cleopatra, who had summoned him from no other
motive than the caprice of being obeyed by one who was commanding so
many men!  Another time he was in the prætorium.  The Tetrarch of
Judea was bringing up some important questions in litigation.  Antony
alone was able to decide these, but he heard the royal litter coming
and it acted like a wave of madness.  Without listening to another
word he fled from the assembled judges and was seen no more that day.

Octavius would have gone on indefinitely, for the list, more or less
true, of Antony's misdeeds in Egypt was a long one, but his sister
stopped him.

"It is enough; he has grave faults but he is my husband.  He only has
the right to break the tie that unites us.  As long as he does not
break it I will wait and hope."  And though her voice trembled, her
expression showed that her determination was not to be shaken.

A few days later this noble woman heard that Cleopatra's lover had
repudiated his lawful wife!  Nothing had availed; neither her
generous goodness, her patience under indignities, nor that hope
which is the heart's armour against the menace of destiny, nothing
had prevented the fatal blow!

Poor Octavia!  The home which her marriage had made her own, the room
where in Antony's arms she had known happiness, the table where his
deep laughter had made good cheer, the garden where they had breathed
together the rich fragrance of summer evenings, she had to leave them
all, to part with them for ever.  The overwhelming sorrow left her
listless, inert, like an instrument whose string is broken.

Octavius, who lost no chance to forward his own interest, and for
whose personal advantage each insult inflicted on his sister made
capital, had summoned the crowd.  Notified as to the day and hour
that Octavia was to leave the palace, the throngs filled the
entrances.  When they saw her, surrounded by her children, her own as
well as the son and daughter of Fulvia who had been left in her care,
there was a great clamour.  Her wrongs stirred their indignation, and
scornful epithets were heard concerning the libertine who, for the
sake of the Egyptian sorceress, had abandoned a wife of illustrious
blood and noble character.

Octavia kept silence.  She did not want Antony's name to be cursed on
her account.  With the idea of appeasing the crowd she held up her
youngest son, who was the living image of his father.  The unhappy
woman hoped that the sight of this beautiful, innocent child might
arouse some affection for the father.

Antony's divorcing the sister of Octavius was equivalent to a
declaration of war.  In spite of the totally different natures of the
two Triumvirs, their rivalries, deceptions, the tricks they had
played on each other, this gentle woman had been a powerful bond
between them.  With her and through her there had always been the
hope of maintaining a balance.  Now everything was upset.  The
violent shock had dislodged the masks and the bare faces showed fear.

Which would be master?  Although the real cause of the quarrel was
the desire for supremacy, there was now great pretence of its being a
struggle for ideals.  The words "honour," "patriotism," a "return to
republican institutions," were in the mouths of the people.  It was
difficult to choose between two competitors when each claimed to be
fighting to save the honour of the country.  Octavius lied when he
declared that he was ready to lay aside his power; and Antony was not
honest when he stood forth as the champion of liberty.  As in the
great contentions between Cæsar and Pompey, the public was divided,
each voter selecting the chief who seemed most likely to advance his
interests.  The feeling was such that even the children had their
share in it.  Athenodorus tells of seeing two little street urchins
in a vigorous fisticuff.  "Why are you beating each other like that?"
he asked.  "We are playing; I am Octavius," replied one, who had just
been chased to the edge of a ditch.  "And I am Antony," joined in the
other, tilting his little chin proudly.

Although the divorce had produced a most unfavourable impression and
had lessened the number of Antony's partisans, yet public opinion was
not altogether against him.  His glorious past, his strength, his
riches, made him an adversary to be feared, and one to be attacked
only on ground that was wholly unprepared.  To destroy his good name
and to vilify him as the slave of Egypt's Queen was Octavius's policy.

However patient he had sworn to be, Octavius was growing tired of
working underground like a mole, when suddenly the gods, who seemed
on his side, sent him an unexpected assistant.  Munatius Plancus, who
in the Egyptian celebrations, clad in green silk and crowned with
reeds, had played the role of Glaucus, "the handy man" as Cleopatra
had scornfully called him, had just arrived in Rome.  Whether from a
desire to avenge his wounded vanity, or a capacity for seeing which
way the wind was turning, this contemptible creature, suddenly
separated from his former companions, told vile tales about them
which made him a welcome guest in the halls of Rome.  But this social
success was not sufficient for a man as poverty-stricken as he was
vulgar.  He knew that a discovered treason would mean money to him,
so he gained the ear of Octavius and told him about a document of
great importance.  It was the will which Antony had revised on the
eve of his departure for Persia, a will making Cleopatra his sole
heir, dividing the Oriental empire between her and her children, and,
infatuated even in death, commanding that in whatever land he should
die his body be transported to rest near his beloved mistress.
Plancus did not have the actual document in his possession, for,
faithful to his mission three years before, he had deposited it
safely in the hands of the Vestal Virgins; but he knew every word of
it and could reproduce it to the letter.

The Romans attached great importance to the ceremony of burial.  It
was their universal desire to rest near their own people, in the
sacred ground of their ancestors, and where their children would lie
in their turn.  The thought of dying and of having their graves in
foreign lands was horrible to all soldiers, and every one who could
afford it left directions for his body to be brought back to Italy.

Of all Antony's follies through his mad love for Cleopatra, this
desire to be buried in Egypt was the most detestable, and the one
that influenced public opinion most bitterly.  Octavius felt that if
it were moved by this sacrilege he could count on rousing the wrath
of the Senate and turning the vote against the author of such a
crime.  The difficulty was to procure the proof.

The Temple of Vesta, modelled after the one at Delphi, stood near the
Forum, at the foot of the Palatine hill.  Octavius had only to cross
the Via Sacra to be at its doors.  He set forth with an escort and
preceded by twelve lictors, resplendent with the insignia of the
Government.  On reaching the entrance he signalled for them to remain
without, and wrapped in his purple toga he mounted the sacred steps
unattended.

The priestesses of Vesta lived in the shadow of the altars.  They
were young girls of noble birth, clad in snow-white robes with veils
over their heads.  They had profound reverence for their different
duties.  These consisted in keeping a perpetual flame burning before
the altar, and guarding the Palladium, that sacred statue of Pallas
Athene saved from burning Troy.  They were held in such high esteem
that whenever any of the Roman Pontiffs, Proconsuls, or Generals were
called away from Rome, they confided their most precious treasures
and priceless papers to their care, rather than risk the chances of
travelling with them.  For what safer place could be found than this
temple whose guardians had for their motto the words: "_Die rather
than break your oath._"

When Octavius made known the object of his visit these noble women
were filled with righteous indignation.  What!  Give up anything left
in their care!  Be false to their faith!  Betray the confidence which
had relied on their word!

The wily visitor pleaded that in a case of service to one's country
such scruples were absurd; but the Vestal Virgins were not to be
persuaded.  Force alone could drag from them what they had sworn to
guard.

Octavius was cautious.  His instincts were against using force, and
besides, he feared the criticism which any abuse of his power might
bring down on his head.  Sometimes, however, necessity compels.  The
lictors outside the temple were called in; a few blows of a mallet,
and the coffer that a warrior had trusted to guard his treasure gave
up its secret.

In the Senate the reading of Antony's will produced the effect that
Octavius had counted on.  For his side it was a triumph.  But
Antony's friends were speechless with consternation.  Was he so
faithless to his country that he did not even wish to be buried
there?  Had he, in truth, ceased to be a Roman?  Octavius, however,
was severely criticized for his conduct.  Caius Sossius laid stress
on the shameful act.  A will was sacred.  No one had the right to
question what a man ordered done after his death.  Such interference
was illegal; besides, a will could be changed at any time!  Some
Senators, faithful to the old traditions, held this view and were
incensed at the outrage offered to the Vestal Virgins.  The thing had
been done, however, and its consequences were serious.

It was the moment to drive the dagger to the hilt.  Octavius brought
up all the old grievances.  He emphasized the proof of Antony's
disloyalty.  There were additional charges.  One of the surest means
of transforming the rich Patricians who sat in the Senate into
pitiless judges was to bring up any injustice done to Rome in regard
to art.  He held up Antony as a collector for the Queen of Egypt, who
had robbed Greece and Asia of their rarest treasures in order to
offer them to his mistress.  The famous statue of Diana, once the
glory of Ephesus, now adorned the portico of the Bruchium.  The two
hundred thousand volumes from the library of Pergamus, intended to
enrich the Roman collection, had they not been shipped to Alexandria?
A murmur ran around the Senate chamber.  Ominous frowns were visible.
All these men whose dwellings were enriched with books, rare
furniture, beautiful marbles, collected in their travels or during
their rule over various countries, were as indignant as though
Antony's offence were without precedent.  In hypocritical anger they
demanded that a vote on his actions be taken without delay.  The urns
were passed, and flouted, scorned, pronounced unworthy of office,
Antony was deprived of all the functions that the Republic had given
into his keeping.

Complete as was the victory, it did not satisfy Octavius.  These
assemblies, as he well knew, were subject to quick and complete
changes of attitude.  What this wily tactician wanted was to give his
adversary a killing blow from which he would never recover.  A
military victory was the only certain means of putting this conqueror
of the Parthians definitely out of the running.  But how could his
compatriots be induced to take arms against him?  They were tired of
civil wars and nothing would be more distasteful than to rise against
Mark Antony, the only great citizen who, since Cæsar, had made the
Roman flag fly over new territories.

The same old subterfuge which had succeeded before was once more
adroitly employed by Octavius.  A few days later, leaving out any
allusion to Antony in his address, not even mentioning that name
which was always likely to create enthusiasm, he spoke of the
indisputable enemy, the one that was certain to rouse public
sentiment.  The tiresome repetition of Cleopatra's ambition, her
persistent intention of attacking Rome, these weapons had lost none
of their power.  The mere mention of her name created almost
ferocious excitement.  In a second the whole Senate was standing up,
hurling curses on the hated Egyptian.

At last war was declared.  Faithful to the custom consecrated by his
ancestors, Octavius repaired to the square just beyond the Pomoerium,
where the temple of Bellona, majestic and radiant, stood out against
the clear blue of the sky.  Amidst the acclamations of the wrought-up
crowd the Dictator threw a gold javelin whose point sunk in the
pedestal at the feet of the goddess.  This ceremony was to place the
army under her divine protection while declaring at the same time the
righteousness of the campaign that had just begun.

Nominally the war was directed against foreign forces, but who could
mistake its import?  Antony was the protector of Cleopatra, and on
both sides Roman blood would stain the battlefield.


Antony, however, had not awaited the challenge from Rome.  Like the
good captain that he was he had planned to forestall the enemy and
take the offensive.  Sixteen legions commanded by Canidius were
ordered to the coast of Asia Minor, and he was on his way to join
them.  A sure means of refuting the libellous statements of Octavius
occurred to him.  He would put aside his mistress and appear alone at
the head of his troops.  That would show whom they had to fight.

But Cleopatra objected to this device.  She had never forgotten what
had happened when Antony left her once before.  She would take no
chance of having her lover caught a second time in a Roman trap.
With his impressionable character it was necessary literally to keep
him in full view, to perform continual incantations over him.  So she
refused to be separated from him.  Where he went she went.  He should
plan no undertaking, no negotiation, without her knowledge and
supervision.  In vain the Imperator dwelt on the inconvenience of
having a woman present in the camps.  In vain Ahenobarbus, with
characteristic rudeness, declared that if they were to be encumbered
with a court he would retire.  Through everything Cleopatra held to
her resolution.  "Whatever happens," she replied to the malcontents,
"nothing shall separate me from Antony!"

A secret understanding between them doubtless enabled her to take
this stand.  In any case she acted with the unquestionable authority
of one who supplied the ways and means.  It was her unlimited wealth
that paid the expenses of the campaign.  It was her fleet of two
hundred brave ships, well-armed and equipped, that prevented the
enemy's attack in the Mediterranean.  Whatever was behind it, her
decision prevailed, and in the first days of spring, on board the
galley _Antoniad_, which was decorated as for a fête, the enamoured
pair embarked for the final stage of their destiny.

Never had the treacherous Mediterranean been clearer or more
tranquil.  The blue of sea and sky were blended in soft tones of
azure.  At sunset amber-coloured ripples passed over its surface,
mingled with waves of rose.  The sound of the wind in the sails toned
in with the music from lyres and flutes.  Nights of love followed the
joyous days, and there was no hint of the fierce storm that was
advancing toward the frail vessel.

This was only a prelude.  At Samos, where they landed, at Ephesus,
where they remained for some time, the lovers took up again the pomp
and festivals of Alexandria.  The old Asiatic town, accustomed though
it was to luxury, had never seen such displays as these.  Cortèges of
kings, crowned with tiaras and clad in embroidered robes, came every
day to Antony, bringing soldiers, horses, provisions, everything that
could contribute to the success of his campaign.  Desirous that they
should carry back to their own countries an exalted impression of
their sovereign, Cleopatra made every effort to outshine them.  Each
new arrival served as a pretext for a sumptuous display.  Spectacle
followed spectacle, and princes coming from distant lands to do
battle were astonished to find, side by side with the iron-covered
chests, brass chariots, and death-dealing engines, troops of
acrobats, mountebanks, and their paraphernalia, totally out of place
in camp life.

At the hour when the whole world was straining under the weight of
armaments, when masses of people were on the point of collapse, when
the fate of empires was in the balance, this was the way that the
mistress of Mark Antony chose to flaunt her overweening faith that
the victory would be hers.

Antony was far from sharing her confidence.  The time for frivolity
was over.  He recognized the perils of his position.  Divided between
the urgent pleas of his comrades-in-arms, urging him to carry the war
at once into Italy and give battle there before Octavius had time to
concentrate his forces, and the fair sorceress who was coaxing him to
dally, he was pulled both ways.  It was a tremendous game and the
chances were not in his favour.  To play it successfully cool
judgment was essential; and that had never been his strong point.
The nervous excitement of his life with Cleopatra and the amorous
demands of her jealous despotism had robbed him of what little he
possessed.  His generals added to his perplexities.  They were
convinced that their Imperator would never lead them to victory as
long as he was under the malign influence of this woman, and they
determined to compel her to leave the camp.

Ahenobarbus, as always, had the most courage and he took the
initiative.  He had an interview with the Queen, and, knowing the
value of his disinterested services, he made no pretence of flattery,
but declared brusquely that the confusion which her presence and that
of the court was creating exceeded even his worst fears, and that her
proper place was at Alexandria, where her ministers were calling for
her.  Although Antony was of the same mind, he was powerless against
the beguilements of a mistress who responded to his most earnest
arguments by embraces, kisses, and tears.

Cleopatra was more unwilling than ever to leave Antony exposed to the
reproaches of those austere Romans who surrounded him.  Harrowed by
their insistence, would he be able to resist that reconciliation with
Octavius which she knew many of them desired to bring about?  In
order to go on with her role of the warlike Egeria, some support was
necessary.  This she obtained, by promises and cajolings, from
Canidius, the general who had most influence with Antony.  He took
the opposite side from that of Ahenobarbus, declaring that it was
neither just nor wise to banish an ally whose gold, ships, and
soldiers formed such an important part of their army; and, with the
suavity of a courtier, added that he could not see how the counsels
of a great Queen, who was as noble and brave as she was beautiful,
could possibly harm an army whose courage she upheld by her own.

The opposing party was not beaten.  The most ardent among them was
Quintus Dellius, for he had all of Antony's interests at heart.  This
wise old juggler in politics had seen very quickly the schemes of the
Egyptian and had realized that they were entirely contrary to his own
advantage and that of his fellow Romans.  He decided that at all
hazards he would save his chief from his present peril, and without
circumlocution he said:

"Cleopatra is leading us to ruin!"

Enraged at this accusation of the woman who held his heart as well as
his reason in her hands, Antony cried:

"What are you saying?  What right have you to make such an assertion?"

Dellius was ready with explanations which were summed up in his next
speech:

"I tell you that this daughter of the Lagidæ does not bring, cannot
bring the same soul to this war that we Romans have!"

"Cleopatra's interests and mine are one and the same," answered
Antony, haughtily.

Dellius could not let that assertion pass.

"You are mistaken.  Cleopatra is Egypt's sovereign.  As long as her
crown is secure, provided she preserves the supremacy of the Orient,
and the commerce which fills her coffers with gold----"

A gesture from Antony cut him short.  The shrewd diplomat realized
that while arousing the Imperator it might not be bad policy to
reassure the lover.

"Cleopatra loves you.  Your precious body is more than all the world
to her.  But can she protect your power as we, your friends,
can?--the defenders of your cause who have left everything to follow
your standards?  If this power is lost what will become of all of us?
Ruined, hunted, condemned to flee from the vengeance of Octavius,
what remains for us all but exile?"

The Imperator strode up and down his tent.  He breathed heavily; his
emotions seemed to choke him.  Without having put them in actual
words these truths perhaps had been already in his mind.  Now, as
they were laid definitely before him, he had a sudden desire to see
clearly, even to the foundations of the situation.

"Speak!" he commanded.  "What reason have you for thinking that the
Queen has given up her ambition to reign with me in the Capitol at
Rome?"

"The advice she is giving you!"

"You know what she advises?"

Dellius promptly recalled the number of times that the Queen had
opposed their going forward to battle.  Only a few days before at
Corcyra, at Leucadia, when all the conditions were propitious, she
had invented excuses for deferring action.

"It makes me believe that Cleopatra fears defeat less than she dreads
a victory which would make you master of Rome!"

Antony made a signal for his officer to leave him.  He needed to be
alone.  His tent, but feebly lighted by a smoking lamp, was very dim.
He dropped on the couch, on which a lion's skin was spread.  A storm
was near.  He felt the earth tremble, and rumbling thunder filled the
air.  It seemed as though everything most precious to him had
received a sudden shock and were whirling around him.  Could it be
true that Cleopatra no longer coveted for him the rank of master of
the world?

In reality Cleopatra had not ceased to desire victory for her lover,
but she desired it in a manner which, as Dellius had pointed out,
differed from that of the Romans.  They, eager to return to their
homes and enjoy the rewards that they felt they deserved, urged on
the Imperator a war to the finish; she did all in her power to hold
him back.  Whether she had lost confidence in those warlike virtues
that she herself had helped to weaken, and foresaw the possibility,
if she risked all, of losing the heritage of her fathers; whether she
dreaded that complete triumph which would lead Antony to Rome, she
had given up her boundless ambitions and was now content with a
policy of division.  If the dominion of the Orient, commanded by
Antony, were assured to her, she would cheerfully have abandoned
Italy and its barbarous provinces, Gaul, Spain, and Mauritania, to
Octavius and the Republic.  Was this unexpected and complete change
of purpose caprice or inconsistency?

To understand these vacillations, Cleopatra's career should be
followed step by step from its beginning to the struggles which now
racked her heart and soul.  The young girl who was mistress of the
middle-aged Cæsar had no thought but to use her powerful lover for
her own best advantage; to obtain the security of her throne and the
restoration of her sovereign rights.  The meeting with Antony at
Tarsus had made another woman of her.  This bold son of Hercules
roused all her passions and the axis of her life was out of place.
Tender love-making replaced former ambitious desires.  Jealousy and
hatred entered into her soul and the peace of the world was in
danger.  If when with Antony she had kept the level head and wise
reasoning of her youth; if she had let the conqueror of the Parthians
carry out his ambitious plans, their interlaced names, instead of
that of Octavius, might have been inscribed on the Pantheon of
history.

But love had taken possession of her and its perpetual suspicions
left her no peace.  If Antony entered Rome as victor, what would
become of her?  And how could she combat that Aristocracy that hated
her, as she had been able to do when she was sixteen?  What Cæsar
could not accomplish, how could this lover bring about?  He was no
longer young, and she knew that he was weak.  These thoughts
tormented her.  In the midst of new and varied interests of his own
would he still belong to her?  Would he have the authority to impose
her as Queen on his people; she, a foreigner, whom the voices of the
gods and the people had alike rejected?

Her conduct can be traced to these fears.  She planned to keep Antony
away from Italy; to oppose any decisive action, and gradually bring
about a battle on the sea where, in case of defeat, there was always
Egypt as a refuge.

Antony's friends were only too conscious of the difficulties which
beset him.  They had no longer that faith which, on the eve of
battle, is a stimulus to those who are to go forth, perhaps to meet
death.  His generals, too, seeing him so absolutely under the control
of the hated Egyptian, began to lose confidence in him.  They
wondered whether the two might not betray them.  The idea of a
conspiracy against him began to grow.  Since their leader refused to
uphold the sacred memory of Pharsalus, of Philippi; since he was
being turned aside from the goal for which they had risked
everything, let another take his place, let a true Roman take his
place!  And by common consent they offered it to Ahenobarbus.

Through anxiety and distress this noble soldier had fallen ill.  When
his comrades came to seek him they found him stretched on a hard
couch of palm leaves which served him for a bed.  His teeth were
chattering with ague.  At their first words he turned away his head.

"I will not listen to you."

"Have you no longer any faith in our victory?" asked Dellius.

The old soldier's heart gave a leap.  He knew that the troops,
heedless of the orders which restrained them, were eager to draw
their swords.  With him at their head what glory might be theirs?
But to take command of the army meant betraying Antony, his
brother-in-arms, the close friend of his youth, the Imperator to whom
he had sworn allegiance.

Dellius sat near him and reasoned with him:

"If you refuse, what will happen?  The Egyptian will be our
destruction.  You cannot let us perish!"

With his burning hand Ahenobarbus grasped that of Dellius:

"Let me sleep now.  I will give you an answer to-morrow."

Before dawn the next morning a ship set sail for Peloponnesus.
Ahenobarbus left a letter on his table explaining the reason of his
going.  Everything around him was too distressing, too disturbing.
In a question of remaining inactive, or of supplanting Antony as
commander of the army, he preferred to retire.

This move was bitterly resented by his companions who had put their
hopes in his leadership.  All day they waited, thinking that he would
regret his decision.  When the sun set their eyes were still scanning
the horizon.  On the morrow, when it was certain that the best and
worthiest among them would not come back, Dellius and Amyntas decided
to join him.

When Antony heard that three of his generals had abandoned him, his
brow was covered with icy sweat.  His legs trembled; he leaned
against the wall to keep from falling.

"The best of all," he whispered, and his eyes filled.

Before others he knew that he must control himself, and, to prevent
their example being followed, he invented a tale to explain the
departure.  According to this falsehood, all three of these men were
debauchees, who, unable to remain longer away from their mistresses,
had gone to rejoin them.  Other cases of desertion occurred, however.
It was like an epidemic in which the poison spreads quickly.

After a scene with Cleopatra, who accused him of abusing her to
Antony, Fortunius resolved to quit the nest of hate and intrigue
which the headquarters had become.  A boat, his baggage, everything
was in readiness the following night when, before setting foot on the
quay, the Senator was seized and put to death.  Other executions
followed and terror was widespread through the camp.

Antony was a changed man.  He had completely lost his old, genial
manner.  The least annoyance upset him.  A storm at sea served to
convince him that all the vessels which had preceded him in the Gulf
of Ambracia had gone to the bottom.  A prey to a kind of vertigo, he
was suspicious of his most devoted friends.  He even accused Caius
Sossius, the man who had given endless proofs of his friendship, of
having delivered into the enemy's hands a detachment of troops in the
passes of Epirus.

Like all his contemporaries, Antony had great faith in presentiments.
They made an indelible impression on his mind.  He saw the will of
the gods revealed in them.  He never failed to put on his right boot
first; he kept silence in the dark; he always left a gathering if a
mouse were heard; he never undertook anything without consulting the
soothsayers, and only decided when they pronounced the comforting
words: "Go, the blood of the victims speaks in your behalf."  During
the last summer that he spent at Athens, that summer of the year 31,
when men's minds were seething like liquids in a vat, his statue, put
up by the populace in his honour, had been overthrown in a
thunderstorm.  His terror was such that, while awaiting the doctors,
his faithful Eros had to rub him vigorously with a strong ointment of
warm oil and ammonia to revive him.

In the last days of the month of August his deep depression
increased.  As the inevitable day drew near, in place of the
exhilaration, which formerly on the eve of battle had made him like a
flashing god, he was sad, exhausted.  It seemed as though all his
muscular force had been suddenly taken away.  For hours he sat
motionless, as though the slightest movement would overwhelm him.

One morning, however, he came out of his torpor and went on board the
_Antoniad_ to review the fleet which lay in the Bay of Actium.  It
was there that Octavius, with his two hundred and fifty triremes with
their curved prows, his hundred rapid despatch-boats, awaited him.
Antony's fleet was much the larger.  Well armed and equipped with
formidable engines, it should have inspired him with confidence.  He
was cheered when his lieutenant, Alexas, called his attention to the
good luck presaged by the swallows' nest in the rigging.  His face
lighted up; he jested.

"Before another moon the tiny galleys of Octavius will have fled
before our ships, scattered like a pack of hounds."

At last his soldiers recognized their old leader.  They gave him an
ovation.  But the next day other swallows flew in, killed the first
and destroyed their young ones.  And no sign brought such evil
fortune as that!

Cleopatra, a true Greek, had the characteristic Grecian philosophy
and did not share her lover's superstitions.  To be convinced that
she had taken all proper measures to insure success seemed more
important to her than considering the blood of the victims!  She had
also that confidence in destiny which is natural to all beautiful
women, who imagine that the gods, like men, will obey their wishes.
Consequently she made her plans carefully, sure that they would
succeed.

For several days the opposing armies had faced each other.  Both
sides hesitated.  Confident in the equipment of Agrippa's fleet,
Octavius wanted to force his enemy to a sea battle.  Perplexed,
uncertain, Antony could come to no decision.  The sea was a new
element for his war spirit; he had never won a victory on it, and his
officers insisted that he should choose solid ground, the ground of
Macedonia, rich in glorious memories.

The other influence, however, carried the day, for Cleopatra had so
willed it.  She knew that the results of a naval battle are rarely
decisive and, in any event, retreat would be easier.  It is not
certain that she really preferred retreat to victory.  Its results
were hazardous, but the precautions taken showed that she was
expecting it.  If she did not, why had she arranged those relays
between Greece and Egypt, why had she sent to places of safety the
ships laden with gold and precious stones from which she was never
separated?  And why, above all, had she, on the very eve of battle,
had the sails rolled up at the foot of the masts like sleeping
sorceresses who would know how to wake themselves when the order for
flight rang out?  Thus all had been foreseen, prepared, made ready.
She had only to be sure of that most uncertain and fragile of all
things: the heart of a man.

The tie which bound Antony to his mistress, the fleshly bond that
habit had, day by day, made stronger, was of the kind that rarely
breaks.  She had often had occasion to try its strength.  In those
latter days, especially, the necessity of having her beloved presence
continually near him had become almost an obsession.  The more uneasy
and anxious he felt, the greater was his need of her.  Nevertheless,
Cleopatra was alarmed.  It was never possible to know where the
intoxication of victory, or the despair of a lost cause, might drag a
leader.  She knew that his will bent so easily that sometimes the
giant became like a little child.

The night before the decisive day, the last day of August, which
seemed in its splendour to have concentrated all the sunlight of the
summer, the lovers spent the evening on board the _Antoniad_.  Around
them the brass-bound ships of the Egyptian squadron, like floating
citadels with their stone towers, swung at anchor.  Countless stars
pricked the dark blue tent of night above them.  For an endless
moment they stood without exchanging a word.  They heard the waves
lapping against the side of the boat.  It was a continuous sound,
prolonged indefinitely, which seemed to express their thoughts before
they had time to put them into words.

Antony sighed: "What will to-morrow bring forth?"

"Whatever happens, we have the invincible strength of being together."

Instinctively they grasped each other's hands in the darkness.

"Yes, our destinies are for ever bound together," Antony replied.
Then, after a moment's hesitation: "If any disaster should occur, if
either of us should ... the projectiles will rain down..."

She had imagined many possible calamities, but not that a chance blow
might kill her lover.  At the suggestion, she shivered.

"Antony, my beloved, do you not know that I could not live without
you?  I have guarded against that horror.  If you die, this dagger,
hidden in my girdle, will quickly put an end to me!"

In an ecstasy of almost fanatic ardour he pressed her to his heart.
He kissed her hair, her mouth.

"I love you, I love you," he repeated over and over again, as though
the magic words could save her from harm.

"And if I am killed, what will you do?"

"Killed!  You!  But that is not possible.  On the _Antoniad_ you will
be out of range of the battle!"

She looked at him dreamily.

"One never knows--we could be separated."

He could not imagine anything but death separating them.  How could
he live without his adored mistress, without her voice, her look?  If
she had her dagger ready, he had his sword!

She diverted him gently to less tragic possibilities.

"It is not only my death.  One never knows what may happen to divide
us."

But Antony was too wrought up to consider things calmly.

"Wherever you may be I will make a way to join you."

"You swear it?"

"I swear it!"

At last she had gained what she most desired.  Let the worst come,
they had exchanged vows, and she knew that at her signal her
submissive lover would obey.  Leave the rest to fate.

They listened silently, as though in the hope of catching some sign.
Nothing, always nothing but the monotonous lapping of the waves
against the keel.  The stars began to grow dim.  A rosy tint
illumined the summit of the Othrys.  Stirred by the first September
breezes, the points of the great masts seemed to trace mysterious
signs upon the sky.  Dawn had come and the lovers must part.

"Good-bye, my beloved, until this evening," and they turned to their
final preparations.

An hour later, as Antony was walking on the shore, he saw a centurion
approaching, covered with scars.

"What can I do for you?" he asked, kindly.

"Oh, my Imperator, is it because you scorn us, our swords, our
lances, that you are putting faith in those rotten planks?" said the
man, pointing to the ships.  "For the love of the gods leave the
Egyptians and Phoenicians to paddle in water, since that is their
vocation, and trust only in us, your old soldiers, who on solid
ground will know how to conquer or to die!"

More moved than he cared to show, Antony put his hand on the brave
soldier's shoulder and went on without reply.

It is said that at the very same hour Octavius met a man driving an
ass, and asked his name.

"Fortune," answered the man, merrily, "and my beast is called
Victory."

The coincidence is curious.


All possible suggestions and explanations have been offered
concerning the battle of Actium.  Nevertheless this famous day will
always be an enigma, and the reason for the defeat will remain, for
all time, a mystery.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon.  Since early morning the
two fleets had been engaged in a fierce battle.  As the bronze
trumpets shook the roadstead, the galleys, like huge monsters, were
rushing at each other.  Missiles, arrows, balls of burning resin,
whistled through the air.  The steel prows of Octavius's fleet grazed
the Egyptian mastodons.  From their high towers these hurled showers
of iron, which struck the enemy squarely.  Both sides fought with
equal ferocity and their blows were deadly.  Limbs were scattered and
heads fell, leaving only bloody masks in sight.  No one could have
predicted whose powerful machines would win, as they ruffled the
surface of the water, a busy swarm that attacked, tormented,
recoiled, and returned to the charge.

There was a sudden movement, an abrupt lunge, and the _Antoniad_,
pushing her way through the surrounding ships, made for the open sea
at full speed, followed by the royal squadron.

What incomprehensible motive had made the Queen act in this way?
Why, with nothing as yet lost, or even compromised, had she given up
the battle?  Many have alleged that it was a deliberate plot with
Antony.  But why should they declare themselves defeated when they
were not?  No, Antony had no part in this premeditated flight.  At
first he was surprised, confounded.  It could not be treason on
Cleopatra's part!  If from a variety of motives she did not want
Antony to have the final victory, if she acted in a way to make it
impossible, she surely did not wish Octavius to conquer?  The avenger
of Octavia, the representative of the Roman people from whom she had
everything to fear?  In the face of such astonishing contradictions
the only answer is that human actions are not always logical,
especially those of women!

From early morning Cleopatra had been watching the terrible battle.
The unspeakable horrors had been too much for her overstrained
nerves.  For a moment the wing which protected her shifted.  The
danger of being surrounded, imprisoned, separated from Antony,
threatened her.  She was frightened.  The assailants were very near,
and her courage suddenly gave way.  Standing on the bridge, like a
frightened bird, she took her bearings.  The wind blew from the
north.  It was favourable, and she took flight.  Did she think of
Antony and realize that in flying she condemned him?  No, she
remembered his promise to follow her, and her heart was comforted.

Unluckily she had divined only too well.  At the first sight of the
fleeing galleys Antony was puzzled.  Was it a feint, a trap?  Would
their prows sweep around again and return to the battle more fiercely
than ever?  Then the truth flashed on him.  His beloved was leaving
him.  Reason fled, and Cleopatra alone filled his heart and brain.
Forgetting who he was and what was expected of him, losing all
thought of those who were dying in his defence, he abandoned his
post.  A trireme was in waiting, all prepared for his flight, it is
said.  He threw himself on board and went after the woman who was
leading him to ruin.

It was evening.  A heavy silence weighed upon the sobbing waves.  The
_Antoniad_ had stopped.  At her stern Cleopatra was awaiting with
palpitating heart the life or death issue of the day.

At last a light appeared and a boat approached.  Antony came aboard;
but no one would have recognized him.  His head was bent and his
shoulders seemed to carry the weight of the world.  Without raising
his eyes he crossed the bridge, followed by Eros, and reached the
farther end of the ship.  He dropped on a bench and buried his head
in his hands.  He felt as though he were at the bottom of an abyss.
What had he done?  What power, stronger than his will, had brought
him there?  For a soldier like himself to act as he had done!  Was he
a hero or a coward?  A man with such triumphs behind him--and now he
was praying for the darkness to hide him!  What misfortune could be
like his?

Cleopatra, leaning on the arms of Charmian and Iras to keep her from
falling, watched him at a distance.  He looked so morose that she did
not dare to approach him.  Was this the result of all her scheming?
And then she saw the horrible blunder that she had committed in the
name of love.  If she had cared for Antony less, or loved him
differently; if, from the outset of this unhappy campaign, she had
only left him to follow his instincts as a warrior, he would not have
been sitting there, a desperate man, his head bowed in shame!  What a
fool she had been!  Why had she urged him to this battle against the
will of all his counsellors?  Why, above all, had she led this
retreat ... this flight, which she herself could not understand, so
quick and irresistible had been her impulse?  She asked herself
whether, if she had had any doubt as to Antony's following her, she
would have sailed away as she had done.  And she knew that if she had
not had the certainty that wherever Fate took her he would come, she
would have had greater strength to carry on the struggle; that she
would have been braver in the face of danger.  She had slipped away
because of her selfish confidence that in Egypt she would have him
for ever.  And now, before this broken-down man, who had no further
feeling for her, all her wild folly was borne in on her.  How could
she imagine that Antony could live when his honour was gone from him?
She turned her tear-stained face to Charmian.

"Do you think he can ever forgive me?"

Worn out with the horrors of the long day, the Greek girl was
trembling.  The carnage had frozen her blood.  At the moment of the
Queen's flight, although her terror was abated, she had felt that
disaster, greater than any that had yet come, was close upon them.
Now she could only say:

"Antony is a ruined man!"

Iras was younger and had more faith in the power of love.

"Go to him, Madame, see how he suffers!  Your presence will comfort
him!"

Cleopatra took two or three steps toward him, but Eros warned his
master, and Antony, clinging to his despair as to, a saving grace,
shook his head as a sign that he wished to be left alone.

For three days and three nights he stayed there, without consolation.
All his limbs seemed dead.  He refused all food and was unconscious
of the thirst that dried his tongue; but his mind was keenly awake to
torture him.

His slave knew his humiliation of grief and said at last:

"Will you destroy the life that is so precious to us?"

"My life has no longer any value; glory was its only excuse for
being.  I am now like a man robbed and left naked by the roadside,"
replied Antony.

"But all is not lost; your friends..."

"I have no friends.  Who stays by you in adversity?  Foreseeing my
defeat, no doubt those on whom I most counted have already deserted."

Crouching before the man whom he had always looked on as a demigod,
Eros embraced his knees.

"Others are faithful.  I know those who would shed their last drop of
blood to save you."

"Yes, you, my poor Eros, I know it well.  But it is not your blood
that I need now, but a promise."

Eros looked at him lovingly, submissively.

"Swear that the instant I command you to do it, you will deliver me
from the curse of existence!"

Startled by these words, the slave jumped up, rebellious.

"I will never swear that."

Antony turned away.

"Go away and let me hear no more of your devotion!"

It was brutal treatment to the slave who had just offered his life
and would have given it willingly.  He protested, stifling a sob:

"My sword, my hands, my life, all are yours, my master.  But as to
the oath that you demand, if I tried to execute it, the hand that
seized the weapon would, in spite of all that I could do, pierce my
heart rather than yours!"

Left to herself, now burning, now shivering with fever, Cleopatra was
forlorn.  Was Antony going to die?  Did he no longer love her?  She
went over in memory the days when, at the least sign from her, he was
ready to crush her to his heart.  How many messages she had written
him in these last three days that he had not taken the trouble to
open; and again she had the torturing thought that she herself had
destroyed her own happiness.

But grief is not endless, and passion, however shameful, is stronger
than remorse.  Days passed, and then Antony turned toward Cleopatra.
They rested side by side, not daring to look into each other's eyes.
The language of silence was sufficient.  Words had no power to
express their thoughts.  There was no need to speak of their
shattered hopes, to allude to that one fatal instant which had put
them among the vanquished.

Deeper than their anguish, keener than the mortification to their
pride, which had had no limits, was the intoxicating joy of being
once more together.  It wiped out all other feeling.  It was
irresistible, and their passionate love seemed all-sufficient,
obliterating all other claims.

"Forgive me!  I love you so!" his mistress pleaded, and Antony took
her in his arms.  Free for the moment from that remorse which was to
poison all the rest of his life, he rested his head on the breast for
which he had renounced the world.  A kiss from Cleopatra was worth
more than all the kingdoms of the earth!



X

THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA

They were again in Alexandria.  The people, deceived by the couriers
that Cleopatra, for fear of an insurrection, despatched in advance,
had welcomed them as returning conquerors.  The city, from one end to
the other, was hung with garlands; waving palms and arches of flowers
made a triumphal way for them.

But this joy was short-lived.  When the tragic collapse at Actium was
made public the people were stupefied.  The defeats on land were
equally appalling.  Each day fresh details of the downfall were
brought in by the arriving vessels.  Then came the news of the
surrender, practically without a struggle, of the legions of
Canidius; then of the Oriental commands, which, one by one, had
withdrawn from the lost cause, and by bribery and treachery were
seeking the good graces of their new master.  Last came the tidings
that Italy, as one body, had turned against her former idol, and with
the fury of a trust betrayed, was clamouring for his death.

For the first few days Antony still kept some illusions.  With the
remains of his scattered troops he imagined he might be able to save,
if not the vast empire which his former victories had created, at
least the portions of it which belonged to Cleopatra.  When he knew
that his troops at Arcamia had fled; that the army at Cyrenaica, the
best protected point in Egypt, had gone over to Octavius; when he
heard of the treason of Alexas, his lieutenant, who owed everything
to him, and also that of Herod, whom he had made King of the Jews and
showered with gifts--he felt as though the end of the world had come.
So these were the men he had trusted!  In his prosperity he had seen
only their flattering faces and had been blind to their possible
perfidy.  With such an outlook he gave way to overwhelming
depression.  He went over the past with vain self-reproach and
accusations.  And above all he condemned his over-confidence and his
lack of recognition of his adversary's forces.

The thought of Cleopatra only aggravated his anguish and remorse.
With that terrible clearness which follows disaster he beheld her as
his blinded eyes had never before seen her.  All the mistakes he had
made at her command vanished like phantoms in the distance.  To-day
she was the one to rally quickly to retrieve their failure, to build
anew their cherished plans.

Cleopatra was not a woman to be subdued.  However weak she had been
at the critical moment, the resources of her energy were boundless.
Whenever she seemed in the lowest depths of misery unlooked-for
strength enabled her to rise again.  Her strong love of life
compelled her, in the face of all misfortunes and disappointments, to
look toward the future.  In his despair this buoyancy irritated
Antony.  He could not understand it.  Her attitude, in contrast to
his own, exasperated him.  Seeing her now as the sole cause of his
downfall, he wanted to get away from her.  Many times he prepared to
leave her, but always her beautiful arms were about his neck and held
him back.

One day, however, in one of their frequent controversies, she
reproved him sharply for his inertia, and his old pride rose up.  It
was too much for him to have to submit to reproaches from her who had
been his undoing.  Since his ways no longer pleased her he would put
a wall between them.  An old tower of the Pharaohs stood on the edge
of the river; in memory of Timon of Athens he called it his Timonium,
and shut himself up there, with the intention of spending the rest of
his life alone.

Accustomed as she was to his violent changes of temper, Cleopatra was
not seriously alarmed.  "Antony a morose hermit-philosopher; it is
too absurd!" she cried, a smile of incredulity on her lips.  "I will
give him just two weeks to be back at my feet."

In the meantime what should she do?  Her active imagination was busy.
She thought that should ill fortune decree that the conqueror of
Actium be one day the master of Egypt, she must find a way to escape
him.  The far-off Indies offered ideal conditions.  Travellers to
that country had brought back fascinating accounts of it.  If she and
Antony had to seek a refuge, why not find it in that land of
enchantment, where delicious visions filled the air, where the
perfume of the flowers induced blissful slumber, where the
constellations of the heavens, surpassing in brilliancy Orion, the
Swan, and Cassiopeia, were reflected in the mirror-like waters?  How
was she to reach this magic land?  It was useless to think of going
by the Mediterranean and passing the Pillars of Hercules, which were
guarded by Roman sentinels; but the Red Sea was there, then Gidda,
then the Ganges!  She need only move her fleet across the Isthmus of
Suez and embark with all her treasures.

This romantic flight appealed to her adventurous spirit.  She would
not run the risk of being enslaved for lack of taking a short step.
And she threw herself body and soul into this new enterprise.  An
army of workmen were sent to Pelusium.  Enormous chariots, like those
that formerly transported the stones of the Pyramids, were built, to
be drawn by oxen.

Everything went on at great speed.  Several ships had already crossed
the sandy desert and were launched in the Gulf of Arabia when--she
had not counted on this--agents of Octavius landed at Alexandria!
Treason had done its work.  All was destroyed, given over to pillage.
What could not be carried off was cast to the bottom of the sea.

It was a cruel blow.  Was she no longer to be that creature blest of
the gods, before whom the elements yielded, like subjects to a queen?
She had the feeling that henceforth, whatever she undertook,
ill-fortune held her in its grip and would never loose its hold.

But it was not in her nature to yield.  Since flight was impossible
she would arrange for resistance.  With redoubled energy she
recruited fresh troops, equipped new ships, and negotiated alliances.
Alexandria was fortified.  In order to rouse the inhabitants to the
defence of their city, she put Cæsarion's name on the list of the
militia.

Cæsar's son was just eighteen years of age.  Clad in his first
armour, standing in his stirrups, this young man, who was meant to
persuade rather than command, recalled the memory of his father.

In a clear voice he cried:

"Soldiers and citizens, your future king goes out to fight with you.
Together we will use our swords against the usurper of Cæsar's name."

Applause broke out.

"Octavius shall not enter these gates," screamed a thousand voices
that rang out like cymbals.

Cleopatra stepped out of her litter, from which she had been looking
on at the scene.  Many who had been applauding her son now prostrated
themselves before her.  Beautiful always, whether under the helmet
that she wore in camp, or enveloped in the veil of Isis, she never
failed to inspire admiration.

When he saw how much loyal devotion the Queen could still command,
Antony was ashamed of his inaction.  Besides, he could no longer stay
away from her.  Although his feeling for her was sometimes more like
hate than love, she was necessary to him.  One day, when his heart
was heavier than usual, he realized how futile it was to try to
endure life without her, and, full of repentance, he quitted his
lonely retreat which had failed to bring him the coveted peace of
mind.

Cleopatra was not surprised.  She had known well that Antony, who in
order to follow her had abandoned his post in battle, could not
persist in his solitary confinement.

She welcomed him with open arms.

"Come to me!  We have never needed each other as we do now!"

It was true; in their misfortune they had only each other.  But their
love had received a mortal wound.  What each had done had placed an
indelible shadow between them.  Carried away by their violent natures
they took up again the disputes and recriminations which had formerly
forced them to separate.

Antony, especially, was incapable of hiding his rancour.  At every
turn he brought up the subject of the fatal day at Actium, which had
marked him with dishonour like the brand of a red-hot iron.  At other
times their mutual sufferings drew these unhappy beings closer
together.  It made an indestructible bond.  The hot breath of their
guilt passed over them and they felt the irresistible need of uniting
their forces.

They tried to go back to happier days and gather some of their old
associates about them.  With these old companions of their
dissipations they formed a society, no less magnificent than The
Inimitables, but with another name.  This, which was called
"Synapothanumenes"--inseparable in death--showed the state of mind of
the two lovers.  They had the same idea.  They knew the god to whom
their future libations would be consecrated.  Their companions knew,
also.  Their feasts were as gorgeous as those of former days.  They
meant to rise above the common herd and show that they were
determined not to endure a degrading lot, but to enjoy the days that
remained to them.

Suicide was a virtue among the ancients; the final act imposed on
them by misfortune.  When life was no longer the distaff from which
Clotho spun days of silk and gold, they gave it up, simply, as a
useless thing.  To put an end to himself Antony had the soldier's
recourse, his sword, which, like that of Cato and of Brutus, was
always at hand against the moment when he saw that the game was
finally lost.  Cleopatra's death would be more difficult.  For those
whose path through life has been strewn with flowers, whom youth
still holds with magic arms, that last leap in the dark is a rude
shock.  To die was easy, but it must be done so that the accustomed
harmony of life be not disturbed.  How could she manage so that her
lovely features, her fragrant body, should not be marred?  As an
artist who wanted to keep her place before the coming ages,
pretending that her death had been a glorious one, Cleopatra had
given much thought to this subject.  She was prejudiced against using
the ordinary poisons of the time.  Perfectly familiar with the method
employed to punish a conspirator, to get rid of an unworthy minister,
or of an undesirable husband, she preferred the knife which left its
deadly mark.  The result of the usual poisons left her indifferent.
What matter how many convulsions a dying enemy had?  But for herself
she wanted to study the matter carefully.  She summoned Olympus, the
celebrated physician.

He was versed in all branches of his art, having studied the effects
of certain plants in Assyria, such as henbane and belladonna, which
latter caused death or recovery, according to the strength of the
dose.

In making her desire known to him the Queen said:

"Your fortune is made if you give me the means of quitting life
painlessly and with no risk of spoiling my beauty."

Olympus was thoughtful.  The Queen's demand was beyond his power; but
he would do his best.  He got together a group of physicians and they
set to work.  From the mysterious laboratory in a retired corner of
the palace which had been set aside for them, red lights burned at
night and sickly, bitter odours went up.

Experiments soon began.  They were made on criminals who were
condemned to punishment.  The first results were terrifying.  Forced
to drink the deadly liquid, the unfortunate men writhed, their
twisted limbs beat against the air, their distorted faces took on a
greenish hue, and a hissing sound came from their dry throats.  And
this went on and on--prolonged indefinitely.

New combinations gave better results.  The patients had a burning
sensation, but the poison devoured them quickly and they fell,
asphyxiated.

"Try again, again," commanded Cleopatra.  "Your reward will be in
proportion to your success."

One morning, Olympus requested an audience.  His eyes shone under his
bushy brows.  At last he had found the right thing.

Accompanied by the devoted attendants who had sworn to die with her,
Cleopatra went down into the bottom of the prison where the
executions took place.  She would judge with her own eyes.

A door opened and two colossal Egyptians entered, leading in chains a
slave who had struck his master.  He was a strong man and made a
vigorous attempt to resist; but a funnel was placed in his upturned
throat and the liquid ran down in spite of him.  The effect was
almost immediate; some convulsive starts, then a swoon.  The man
dropped between the arms that held him; he was dead.

A cold shiver ran over Cleopatra.  Rapid as it had been, the scene
left a horrible impression on her.  Iras had not been able to stand
it and was carried out fainting.

"Can you find nothing gentler?" asked Charmian, her face pale with
fear.

"Not in the vegetable kingdom," said Olympus; "but there is the venom
of serpents.  You will see now."

At the same moment the door was opened to admit a young woman who had
been condemned to death for killing her child.  She was very
beautiful and her tears made her all the more appealing.  She fell at
the Queen's feet, begging to be spared.  The Ethiopians lifted her up.

"Have no fear," said Olympus.  "You will feel no pain."

But she still implored pardon.

"Let me live, I want to live!" she cried.

There was a sudden silence.  Without her knowing it the puncture had
been made.  Her lids closed, her limbs were heavy, she seemed asleep.
Her heart had ceased to beat.  Her face gradually relaxed, but lost
none of its beauty.

Thus, painlessly, as though sleep had come, life had gone out.  From
that time Cleopatra was content.  Her way of escape had been found.
The conqueror of Actium would never carry her off alive.


But catastrophe was coming quickly.  Pelusium had been captured and
razed to the ground.  Octavius's troops were camping under the walls
of the Parsetonium.  In this crisis what was to be done?  Two hundred
years before the days of knight-errantry Antony had a vision of
knighthood.  He would challenge his enemy to single combat.  If he
might only decide this mighty war in a tilting match and show the
world, in full view of his lady and before the united armies, what a
hero he was at heart!

Vain hope!  When Octavius, without any risk whatever, had won the
victory, why should he, coward that he was, expose himself to a fatal
thrust?

"Go tell your master," he said to the officer who brought him the
challenge, "that Antony can find several other ways to end his life!"

Before beginning the struggle which would settle Egypt's fate, and in
spite of the humiliation of making any further request of a rival who
had treated him so insolently, Antony tried, by generous
self-sacrifice, to save Cleopatra's throne.  If Octavius would
promise to insure her sovereignty he offered to live near her,
without arms, without titles, like an ordinary citizen.

Octavius did not even condescend to make any reply.

Several matters, however, were distracting his mind.  Traitors and
spies were not lacking in Alexandria and they reported that the Queen
was experimenting with poisons and that, before her death, she had
determined to set fire to her vast treasures.  Now Octavius coveted
these riches.  The person of Cleopatra herself, which he regarded as
the most brilliant trophy of his triumph, was scarcely more precious
in his eyes.  How was he to save these two treasures?  Like the
scheming man that he was, he consoled himself with the idea that all
women, however arrogant when in power, are rarely so in adversity,
and that undoubtedly terror, and the hope of gaining something from
the present conditions, would make his beautiful enemy gracious.  The
main thing was to deceive her.

Consequently it was with her, and with her only, that he consented to
enter into negotiations.  He sent an ambassador to the Bruchium to
represent him as inflexible; while, at the same time, Thyreus, a
secret agent, slily, like all who do dirty work, intimated to the
Queen that a reconcilation was by no means impossible.  Fascinated by
her charms, as all the great Roman leaders had been, Octavius wanted
her to know that far from treating her cruelly he only asked the
honour of serving her!

It is seldom that a woman fails to believe such flattery.  Cleopatra,
whose life had been a succession of conquests, to whom all the world
had burned incense, was easily persuaded that she had a new
worshipper.  In spite of her experience of the world she might have
been deceived by this mirage if one brutal condition had not
accompanied the proposition.  The demand was nothing less than the
betrayal of Antony.

What Octavius really wanted was to get him out of the way.  His
great, humiliated rival annoyed him.  A Roman general could not be
chained to his chariot as Artabazes or Vercingetorix.  Besides, with
even a broken sword, his high-spirited enemy, defeated though he was,
could dispute every inch of ground with him, and retard the final
victory; and the Dictator was anxious to end his combat definitely
and return to enjoy his triumph in Italy.

Unhappy Cleopatra!  "How he must despise me to suggest such a
bargain!" she groaned.  Although her feeling for Antony was not what
it once was; although the fugitive from Actium and the hermit of the
Timonium had shown a weakness which was fatal to her woman's passion,
yet she was indignant at the idea of such baseness.  Too cunning not
to take advantage of any possible chance of gain for herself,
however, she took part in the exchange of trickery and, without
refusing the proffered negotiations, asked time to consider them.

Spies, as has been said, infested the halls of the Bruchium, and one
of them, the same, probably, who had brought word to Octavius,
notified Antony that Octavius desired his death and that Cleopatra
had promised to give him up to Thyreus.

At this news Antony had one of his outbursts of fury which swept over
him like a hurricane.  Betrayed!  Sold by the woman for whom he had
sacrificed everything!  He thought of revenge.  Should he slay her?
He would rather put a dagger through his own heart.  Should he kill
himself?  No, for his rival was waiting for her.  Jealousy devoured
him.  Like his mighty ancestor, Hercules, he wore the shirt of Nessus
and its poison tortured him.  To love and to see in his beloved his
bitterest enemy!  His suspicions reached such a point that he would
touch no dish until Cleopatra had tasted it, for fear of her
poisoning him.

Justly indignant at such outrageous distrust, Cleopatra decided to
inflict a lesson on the ingrate.  It was toward the end of the
supper.  They were reclining side by side on the purple couch.  She
had amiably gratified the demands of the new order which required her
to be served first.  For a final libation she half emptied a cup of
clear wine.  A rose was in her hair.  She drew it out, dipped it in
the wine and, turning to Antony, said:

"Will you drink to our love in this cup?"

He agreed and put the cup to his lips.

With a quick motion she restrained him.

"Stop!  See how silly your suspicions are.  If I had any of the
horrible intentions that you credit me with there are countless ways
for me to carry them out.  That flower was saturated with poison!"

Embarrassed, and not daring to meet her eyes, Antony fell at his
mistress's feet.  Would she forgive him?  The little time he had left
to live was not long enough to expiate the crime of which he had been
guilty.

He prophesied better than he knew.  There was only one day between
him and the one when all would be settled.  In that day, at least, he
would accomplish wonders.  It was the lion reawakening.  The
brilliancy of his warrior instinct would blaze out for the last time
and show that, left to his own genius, he would have been a mighty
hero.

The enemy's army was only a few furlongs from Alexandria.  A hostile
populace, on the point of treason, was not eager to defend it.  The
Imperator got some troops together, those who had been faithful to
him through everything, and by a surprise attack, which there was no
time to return, he fell on the cavalry of Octavius.  Routed, pursued,
the latter crossed the Nile in disorder and went back to the old
intrenchments.  For that day, at least, Alexandria was saved.

Drunk with a happiness that he had despaired of ever feeling again,
Antony cried, "Victory, Victory," continually.  Yes, for a last
farewell Victory had come again and placed a crown on the forehead of
the master who had won it so many times in vain.  The old passionate
love flamed in Cleopatra's heart, and her Antony was the magnificent,
intrepid hero of former days.  Seeing him in the distance, surrounded
by banners, she left her window and ran down to welcome him.

In a transport of joy he leaped off his horse to press her to him,
and these two, whom adversity had divided, were united again in the
glory which was their native element.  In the delight of being
together all their past grief and bitterness were forgotten.

There was great rejoicing that evening in the old palace of the
Lagidæ.  The bravest soldier had a shower of gold.  One of them was
honoured by an antique golden armour, with the sparrow-hawk of the
Ptolemys.  The citterns and pipes resounded and the national songs
were sung.  It seemed like a revival of the days when the Imperator
was distributing kingdoms.

Feeling that the hours were few and precious, the lovers grudged
wasting any in sleep.  It was a clear, mild night, when the soul is
conscious of its own insignificance under the overwhelming vastness
of the Oriental heavens.  They wandered about the gardens until they
reached the farther end, the place where Cleopatra had watched Antony
disappear in the distance at their first parting.  The rhythmic swell
of the waters against the parapet sounded like their own heart-beats.
To the right, the seven-storied beacon seemed to defy the stars; and
above shone the crescent moon, whose silver reflections were like
scattered petals in the sea.

This scene that they had so often looked on together carried them
into the past.  Standing there in silence, the exquisite joy of their
former happiness was born anew, and tender memories of passing words,
trifling incidents came back.  They recalled those days at Tarsus,
when in the first flush of youth they had embarked on their
life-voyage with no thought of possible storms.

"Do you remember that first evening?" she whispered.

"Yes, your robe was clinging, iridescent, like the burnished breasts
of doves."

There were other memories, hours of grief as well as joy; but they
agreed that the most precious moments were those when they had each
forgiven the other for some wrong.  The present hour crowned them
all.  They felt as though they had traversed vast distances to find
each other, and the certainty of faithful love from then until death
obliterated all memory of rancour, suspicion, jealousy which had
marred their life in the past.  They were beginning a new existence
here, surrounded by the bridal fragrance of the orange blossoms.

The wind arose.  The sky changed from deep, tender blue to lead
colour.  A huge winding-sheet seemed suddenly spread over the face of
the waters.

Trembling with terror, Cleopatra clung to Antony.

"Are you cold?" he said.

"Yes!  No!  I do not know.  I feel as though darkness had entered
into my soul!"

He smiled at her fancies.  Although more easily discouraged than she,
and more inclined to melancholy, he attached an exaggerated
importance to the skirmish of the day before.

"Fear nothing," he cried, "I am strong again, and good fortune is
ours once more!"

The words were scarcely out of his mouth when they heard a cawing
above their heads.  The crows were predicting evil things.  It was
Antony's turn to tremble.  He looked at the horizon.  The coming dawn
revealed a monstrous fleet of ships crowded together opposite the
channel.  He recognized the same vessels which had faced him at
Actium, and his quivering hand grasped Cleopatra's.

Pressed close together, like those who are terrified on a dark road
at night, they retraced their way.  The steps showed white between
the dark masses of the trees.  They climbed up them slowly, as though
weighed down by fatigue.  On the last terrace they stopped.  Never
had the moment of leave-taking seemed so ominous.  They were facing
the fatal day.  Their lips met.

"Good-bye."

"Good-bye"--and their voices died out in space.


The attack of the day before had put Octavius on his guard and he had
passed a sleepless night.  He had exhorted his men to take a firmer
stand, reproached them for being put to flight by a few companies of
soldiers.

"And that," he added, "at the very gates of Alexandria!  At the
moment when you were within reach of enough booty to have secured a
home for every one of you!"

No further stimulus was needed.  At the same time emissaries were
sowing corruption in Antony's camp.  They threatened to punish with
reprisals from Rome the men who remained loyal to Antony; to the
others they promised an amnesty.

Under these conditions the battle began.

Antony's new-born hope soon fell to the ground.  In the very first
attack the desertions began.  Seized with panic, the brave men of
yesterday became the fugitives of to-day; and among them, by a cruel
irony of fate, he recognized the hero on whose shoulders Cleopatra
had placed the golden armour.  To have thought that he could move the
world according to his wish, and to look on at this!

In despair Antony cast aside his buckler and exposed his bare breast
to the blows.  If a sword would only put an end to him!  But the hour
was not yet.  The right to die is given only when the last effort has
been made.  And first, he must prevent a complete rout.  Alone he
undertook the titanic task.  He was all over the field; on every side
his wrathful gestures were seen.  With the flat of his sword he
threatened, he struck.  His fierce voice resounded:

"Miserable traitors who change masters at a word!"

But his imprecations were not heard.  The confusion was universal and
the city fell quickly.  Octavius passed the gates on horseback, all
the legions following him.

There was one more chance: the fleet.  But there, again, treason was
rampant.  The men stubbornly refused to fight.  Oars in hand, they
welcomed as comrades the men whom yesterday they had regarded as
enemies.

All was lost.  No heroic effort could have saved the day.  Antony
realized it and the roar of the blood in his ears deafened him.  He
went on like a demented man, surrounded by threatening fists and
curses.  Instinct led him to the Bruchium.  The approach to it was in
wild disorder.  His heart stood still.

"The Queen!  Where is the Queen?" he demanded.

An agonized silence was his answer.  All the javelins of presentiment
were at his heart.

"Cleopatra!" he cried loudly.

He was heard.  An officer came from the royal apartments.  His face
was sad.  Before he could speak the lover understood.

"Dead?"

"Yes, with your name on her lips!"

At first the dread word had no meaning.  Dead!  She who filled the
world.  Dead!  Had the daylight died, could heaven or earth die?
Little by little the frightful truth dawned on him.  He understood
that he would see her no more.  It was like a command given, as
though he had heard the long-expected hour strike.  He went back to
his tent.

In these days of cowardice and treason Eros had never left his side.
His brave arm had often warded off the blows aimed at the Imperator.
Seeing him stagger at times, he had brought him reviving draughts.
Now they were alone together.  Antony controlled himself.

"Come, Eros, the time is here.  The Queen has set the example.  Draw
your sword.  Let me expiate the disgrace of a defeat."

The slave turned his head.  His arm refused to obey.

"You promised me!"

"Master, do not ask the impossible.  You whom I have just saved from
the enemy's arrows!  How can I?"

"Do you want to see me ruined, humiliated?"

No, Eros would not see that.  He grasped his sword firmly, and
spinning the blade so rapidly that it seemed to make an aureole
around him, he hurled himself upon it with outstretched arms, and
fell face downward, at the feet of his master.

Tears rolled down Antony's hollow cheeks.

"Brave Eros!  You have shown me how to die," and he whirled his sword
in like manner.  The blow, unfortunately, had not the force of the
one that killed his slave; Antony still breathed.  He called, and the
soldiers of his guard ran toward him.

"Strike," he commanded.  "Stop my sufferings!"

But no one of them dared lay hands on that stately body from which
such glory had shone.


But Cleopatra was not dead.  On hearing that the army of Octavius,
meeting no resistance, was marching on Alexandria her one idea was to
save herself from the invader.  The mausoleum where her treasures
were gathered offered a safe refuge, and there she resolved to die.

But, once behind its iron grating, shut away from the living world, a
cold chill ran over her.  Was this the moment?  Undoubtedly.  There
was nothing further to hope for.  The last game had been played and
lost.  Servitude, captivity, with their threatening humiliation hung
over her.  Yet she hesitated.  Why?  The image of Antony was before
her, vanquished, dishonoured, destroyed.  Did she care to see him
again?  No, all was over between them.  Their meeting place would be
elsewhere, in those fields of asphodel that bloom in the land of
shadows.

Why did she, who had so valiantly accustomed herself to the idea of
dying, whose heart had nearly ceased beating, fall on Charmian's
shoulder and cry bitterly?  Her hand caressed the jade handle of the
tiny dagger that she always carried, and she murmured, "I cannot!"

Was she thinking of breaking her promise?  No, she would not survive
her lover.  She did not want to live.  But, in the compact they had
made, there was always the dread in the heart of each that the first
one who went to the undiscovered country might not be followed.  If
she died, Antony, instead of joining her in death, might go to
Octavia; and again her jealous soul imagined another of those
reconciliations between them which had disturbed the peace of the
world.  She would take no chance of that.  If she must go down into
Hades at least she would be sure that her lover had gone before her,
and so she sent him the false report of her death.

For the next hour the Queen suffered tortures in the depths of her
mausoleum.  How had Antony received the news of her death?

There was a sudden noise.  A crowd gathered outside the walls.
Cleopatra looked through one of the narrow openings which served as
windows.  Merciful gods!  What was that the soldiers were carrying on
a stretcher?  It was Antony.

After he had wounded himself Antony heard that his beloved was still
living and he wanted to see her once again.  His arms were stretched
out to her despairingly.  How could he reach her?  How get past the
iron grating which protected the mausoleum?

And then a scene occurred, harrowing and barbaric, one of those
superhuman acts which, viewed across the centuries, seems more
fabulous than real.  With the help of Charmian and Iras, Cleopatra
threw down ropes from the roof and the wounded man was fastened to
them.  What a load for the frail arms of women!  But, had it been
heavier still they would have found strength to lift it up, for love
made their muscles sturdy.

At last Antony was in his mistress's arms.  She held him close and
her burning tears fell over him.

"My lover!  My hero!  And I did not trust you!"

And Antony, heedless of his torn flesh that the least motion
tortured, pressed close to her.

"Cleopatra!  Beauty of the world!  I am dying!  Let me have your lips
once more!"

She pressed him close.  A few words, sobs, and the last breath went
from him.  Falling beside the lifeless form of him who had been her
joy and pride, Cleopatra tore her breast.

"Most generous of men!  This is where my love has brought you!"


When Octavius heard of Antony's death he was not overjoyed.  His
royal prey had escaped him.  He must secure Cleopatra at once, before
she came to herself and found strength to carry out her mysterious
plans.

To gain entrance to the mausoleum was not easy.  Proculeius,
son-in-law of Mæcenas and, like him, blindly devoted to Octavius,
undertook the task.  He was an old friend of Antony's, one of those
who, although they had gone over to the adverse camp, still retained
a certain regard for him.  Antony, when dying, had designated him as
the only one whom Cleopatra might trust to defend her interests and
those of her children.

Therefore, when he came, bearing the condolences of Octavius and of
the Roman army, and asked the Queen to receive him, she could not
refuse.  Suspicious, as always, and determined to open the doors to
no one, she tried to rise from her bed and go to receive her visitor
in a lower hall, which communicated with the outside only by a
grating.

But all caution was vain.  While the deceitful messenger discussed,
across the iron bars, the magnificent obsequies which Octavius was
planning in honour of his great rival, his confederates effected a
most cowardly entrance.

Cunningly as the plan was arranged, however, Cleopatra heard the
noise.  For a moment she did not answer her questioner.  With anxious
ears she listened to what was going on overhead.  Then a door was
flung open.  Charmian came in.

"Horror!  Treason!  We are invaded!" she cried.

With ropes and cords the assassins that Proculeius had brought had
scaled the walls.  They burst in.

"Queen, you are a prisoner!" said one, as he approached her.

"Not while living!" cried Cleopatra, proudly, and drew from her
girdle the tiny dagger which she had kept for such a moment.

Too late!  The weapon was snatched from her hand!

Yes, Cleopatra was a prisoner.  Through the lowered grating which she
had sworn never to lift, she was led back to her palace between files
of Roman soldiers.

Octavius was at last in possession of the long-coveted treasure.  He
was anxious to have an inventory made immediately.  Preceded by
slaves bearing flaming torches, he went through the subterranean
vaults which Cleopatra had planned to burn.  It was a world in
itself.  Marvellous works of art, priceless jewels, rare woods, rugs,
were piled up to the vaulted ceilings.  Many ships were needed to
convey even the store of precious metals to Ostia.  However
phlegmatic this usurer's son might be, he could not restrain an
exclamation of delight, which came from his heart, in passing through
these stores of ingots, these piles of coins.  These would put an end
at last to the embarrassments which had plagued him since the
indiscretions of his youth.  All his debts would be paid.  His
legionaries would receive generous donations, over and above their
just wages, that would attach them to him for life.  With the stream
of gold which would flow from this inexhaustible purse he could buy
solid devotion.  Was he not certain of wearing that imperial crown
which Cæsar had barely lifted?

The people of Alexandria, who dreaded devastation and advocated a
policy of prudence, welcomed the invader warmly.  Exhausted by fifty
years of revolutionary disturbances, they were only too willing to
have a government that promised peace.  The monarchial principle was,
however, so deeply rooted in these servitors of the Lagidean dynasty
that the surest way to obtain their respect and submission was to
replace one crowned head by another.

The Imperator was no sooner seated on the throne than numerous
well-wishers came to pay homage to him.  Anxious to establish general
friendly relations, he took care to flatter the pride that each
Alexandrian cherished in regard to his beautiful city.  Theatres,
palaces, museums, temples above all--for he understood the importance
of the priests' vote for the retention of the throne--were included
in his carefully devised project.  Concerned in all that could enrich
his mind and help to forward the glory and magnificence of the reign
of Augustus, he interested himself in the schools, the gymnasiums,
the Library.  He cultivated the learned men of the Serapeum, and was
much gratified at meeting there the philosopher, Areus, who had been
his professor at Athens.  He promised to continue the independence
which students had enjoyed under the former kings.

The visit to the Soma, that gigantic mausoleum, where the body of
Alexander of Macedon lay in its crystal coffin, was of tremendous
interest to a man whose only thought was glory.  It is said that
Cæsar, in the presence of the illustrious remains, had exclaimed: "I
weep, because at my age this man had already conquered the world."
His nephew, even more ambitious, examined the mummy long and
carefully.  He seemed to be questioning it, as though he were not
satisfied with merely looking at the earthly form of him who had
conceived and carried out such marvellous ambitions.  He had the lid
which covered the body raised, and, greedy to the point of
profanation, he dared to handle the skull.


Cleopatra had been taken back to her apartments in the Bruchium.  She
was kept carefully out of sight of the people.  Honours were not
lacking; but these honours merely served to accentuate the fact that
she was a captive, as they were all rendered by Roman functionaries.
For fear of poison her clothes, her boxes, her person even, were
continually searched.  Her greatest trial was the continual presence
of Epaphroditus, a eunuch of Octavius, who, according to
instructions, played the part of courtier and under his obsequious
manner concealed his role of jailor.

Emotion, disaster, grief, had finally broken Cleopatra's buoyant
nature.  That wound she had made in tearing her breast had become
inflamed.  Fever set in.  The physicians pronounced the malady
serious, possibly fatal.  For an instant the unhappy woman believed
that the merciful gods were going to save her from self-slaughter;
and she gave herself up to the disease as to a generous current.  So
far from resisting it, she aided it, refused all medicine, and would
take no nourishment.

Octavius was alarmed.  Although he had obtained the treasure, he
wanted the woman as well.  He desired her perfect, not injured in any
way.  In all her beauty she would be the crowning glory of his
triumphant return to Rome.

Trusting no one but himself to look after her health, which for that
cruel reason was precious to him, he sent her word of his visit,
thinking by this mark of respect to disarm his captive and deceive
her as to his motives.

His calculations, at first, seemed successful.  On hearing that the
Imperator was coming to see her Cleopatra improved somewhat.  She
decided to defer dying for the present!  Before that irreparable deed
she wished to see her enemy, to know what she was to hope or to fear
from him.

Much has been written on the meeting of these two remarkable figures,
who, after the manner of augurs, approached each other wearing masks.
The object of the Imperator was definite.  But what was her dream?
What temptations assailed that mistress of the art of seduction to
try her fatal powers once more?  What hope did she have in those last
days?  That was the undiscoverable secret of a soul already on its
way to eternity.

Those historians whose accounts of Augustus are full of adulation
have described this scene as typical of the chaste and grave son of
Theseus who was able to resist the seductions of the cursed
courtesan.  Perhaps, under other conditions, Cleopatra would still
have kept this role of courtesan; but, at this time of infinite
weariness, with her wounded breast, her tired eyes, her feet still
trembling from having felt her throne crumble beneath them; after
having buried the man whom she adored, and having in her mouth the
bitter taste of emptiness, could she still have played the part of a
coquette?  Her keen intelligence, apart from her dignity, would have
kept her from such a false step.  With no intention of beguiling him,
no hope of finding in him another Cæsar, or an Antony, she surely had
the privilege of using what remained of her charms, scarred by
thirty-eight years of passion and misfortune, to soften the heart of
her captor.  As to succeeding...?

The two antagonists were face to face.  Bowing courteously, Octavius
took the chair near her bed that the Queen had pointed out.  Then, as
customary when greeting an invalid, he inquired as to her health.

With a sigh, she replied:

"You can see.  I have no strength left."

Abruptly he broached the subject that was nearest his heart.  Was it
true that the Queen had given up in despair?  That she would rather
die than submit to his kindly rule?

She only sobbed.

He went on:

"Undoubtedly Thyreus has not delivered my message properly!"

She said that, on the contrary, she understood what a generous master
he was and that she expected every consideration from him.

"Then be brave, Queen.  Do not look on me as an enemy."

His voice was gentle, his expression kindly, but at a glance
Cleopatra had comprehended.  He was hard as a rock.  He was trying to
look human but she saw only the sharply cut nose that suggested a
bird of prey, the dry, close-lipped mouth.  No sincere words could
come from it.  She knew the part she must play.  It would be a
fencing match, and each must be on guard.  She made a gesture of
resignation.

"It is true; when Antony died I felt I could not go on living!"

"And now?"

"Oh! now I must think of my children.  Dear little souls!  How can I
leave them?  At least I must know what their future in Rome will be!"

Her children!  Cæsarion, Ptolemy, Antyllas, they were the first
prizes that Octavius had seized.  Defrauded of his principal victim,
these innocent children would be sacrificed to their mother's
insubordination.

The executioner went on with his hypocritical smile:

"Have no fear for them, Madame.  Their fate is in your hands.  If you
put your faith in me and comply with my requests, no harm shall come
to them."

She knew just how much this assurance was worth.  She knew that the
unhappy children would have to suffer; but she feigned confidence.

"I have the word of Octavius."

"And will you in return, beautiful Cleopatra, swear that you will not
try to kill yourself?  That you will not refuse to accompany me to
Rome?"

In this frightful comedy, with a vain knave on one side, and the
honour of a Queen on the other, who would win?

Cleopatra gave her word.

"You are my sovereign master," she replied, bending her beautiful
head.  "Wherever you choose to take me I will follow you
submissively."

And to demonstrate that from that time on she was his vassal, she
took from an attendant her list of jewels and handed it to Octavius.

"These are yours.  I have only kept some ornaments, the most
precious, it is true, in order to offer them myself to Livia, to
Octavia."

This time he was really astonished.

"Do you really mean it?"

"Yes, I want your sister, who is sharing my grief, to pardon me for
all the sorrow that I have brought on her."

However skilled he might have been in the art of deception, he was
chiefly accustomed to dealing with men, and he did not understand
Cleopatra's subtleties.  Entirely confident that all would be well,
he was about to leave her, but Cleopatra detained him.  She had one
favour to ask of him.  As she was soon to go away from Egypt, to tear
herself from the cherished city where her husband lay, might she be
allowed to go to his tomb for the last time?

A docile captive, a generous prince!  Following the example of
Antony, who, after the battle of Philippi had so magnanimously
honoured the bleeding body of Brutus, Octavius granted the request of
his widow.

The next day, though hardly able to stand, Cleopatra was taken to the
tomb.  Her jailors accompanied her, which pleased her, as she wanted
them to look on at the sad demonstration there.  It was not enough to
have convinced Octavius; she wanted it generally known that she had
accepted her fate.  Only in this way could she gain the liberty that
she needed for her plans.  She knelt down before an audience that
would not fail to report her every gesture, every word.  With tears
and grief, which at least were not feigned, she poured on the
tomb-stone oil and wine, the mystic nourishment of the dead.  Her
words came slowly, each cunningly conceived, and put together in a
manner to deceive the world.

"Oh, Antony, my beloved! my hands that laid you to rest here were
those of a free woman; to-day it is a slave who comes to offer you
libations.  Accept them, since they are the only honours, the last
homage that I can ever render you.  We, whom nothing could separate
in life, are condemned to exchange our countries in death.  You, a
Roman, will rest here, while I, unhappy being that I am, will find my
sepulchre in Italy, far from the land of my ancestors."

The effect of this pathetic farewell was just what Cleopatra had
foreseen.  The most skeptical were convinced of her sincerity.  In
speaking thus she surely accepted the decreed departure from the land
of her fathers.

Epaphroditus, himself, astonished at the transformation that had
taken place in the prisoner, was relieved to know that she had given
up the thought of suicide.  From that time on supervision was
relaxed.  The exits and entrances of the palace were unguarded.  The
Queen was allowed to entertain her visitors without witnesses.

A heroine who had borne so much suffering was worthy of profound
devotion.  What came to her exceeded her hopes.  The man who would
have risked his life, not to save that of the Queen, which, alas, was
not to be saved, but to spare her humiliation, was a Roman officer.
Young, handsome, of the noble family of Cornelius, Dolabella had
served as staff-officer during Octavius's campaign in Egypt.  Happy
to have done with war, he was thoroughly enjoying the brilliant
pleasures which the conquered city afforded.

One morning he was on duty as commander of the guard which protected
the Queen's apartments.  It was at the crisis of her illness.  He saw
her weeping, suffering, refusing all care.  He heard her implore
death to come as a divine mercy.  Men usually prefer women who are
happy, but turn instinctively away when they are suffering.  Some
rare natures, however, are drawn toward those who are in sorrow.
When Dolabella saw the misery of this royal woman, whom the gods had
first blessed above all others and then ruthlessly deprived of
happiness, he felt a tender compassion for her.  With a pity such as
a neglected garden inspires he thought, "What is to be done?  What
help can I give?  How can I aid this divine flower broken by the
storm?"

Without having had any encouragement he approached the Queen, saying:

"Use me, Madame, as a thing that belongs to you."

It was a surprise to this sorrowing woman, whom all the world seemed
to have forgotten.  For a moment Cleopatra hesitated.  Accustomed as
she was to trickery and betrayal, she suspected some trap.  He might
be another Proculeius!  But no, honesty was stamped on this man's
face.  His eyes inspired trust.  Her bruised heart took courage and
suddenly, with the faith of a young girl, she told him of the only
one of her desires that had any chance of being granted: to know
Octavius's intentions in regard to her, and to be duly warned of the
day fixed for his return to Rome.

The young officer was in touch with the Imperator.  It was easy to
find out what his immediate plans were.  Unconscious of being an
accomplice to a fatal act, he agreed to do as she asked.  It was a
perilous promise which might have cost him his life.  But even had he
realized this he had been too often under fire to value life save for
what it brings.

Three days later he gave her the information she desired.  Octavius
had decided to go back to Italy by way of Syria and Greece, and had
given orders that Cleopatra, together with her younger children, be
sent to Rome.

The hour had come at last.  Cleopatra knew that henceforth there was
no changing the fate which awaited her.  It was time for the sword,
which had been hanging over her for nearly a year, to fall.  She
regarded it fearlessly.  Perhaps had she only drunk a few drops of
bitterness she would have shrunk from the horror of it.  But her cup
of sorrow was empty; the game of life was lost.  She gave the news to
the two cherished friends, who had her full confidence, and
instructed them to inform Olympus.

For fear of arousing suspicions, this manipulator of poisons had been
kept in retirement; but his solicitude for Cleopatra made him
vigilant and everything was prepared secretly.  The Queen had no
anxiety on the subject.  She knew that at the appointed hour her
means of freedom would be ready.  There was nothing to do but wait
and arrange things according to the carefully thought-out plan.

As a woman to whom elegance was a necessity, Cleopatra had determined
to make her death, as she had made her life, a thing of beauty.  Her
queenly pride demanded that Octavius, Agrippa, Mæcenas, even
Proculeius, all these Romans who had scoffed at her, should admire,
not only the courage which had sustained her during the humiliating
farce which they had forced upon her, but the envelope of her rare
soul as well.  With an ardour which left her quite calm she
personally attended to all the little preparatory details of her
toilet.  As though she were making ready for meeting her lover, she
bathed in warm, perfumed water.  Her face was sweet with spikenard,
and antimony gave a touch of mystery to her dark eyes.  Her lips and
cheeks were like burning roses.  From the cedar chest came forth the
snow-white robe, shining with pearls and gold, which had made her
more than royal at the coronation feast.  Some jewels put the
finishing touch to her splendour.

What memories that brought back to her!  The dazzling processions,
the mad joy of the people, Antony, beautiful as Apollo, in his
two-wheeled chariot drawn by the four white chargers; his stepping
down and proclaiming her under the shining heavens Queen of kings,
Empress, Goddess--and to-day, the winding-sheet!

As she fastened the amethyst buckle at her girdle Cleopatra's fingers
trembled.  But a stoic, she drew herself up.  There must be no
weakness.  Her task was not yet completed.  Instead of there being
any suggestion of mourning here, all things should sing a chant of
deliverance.  Roses were scattered on the tables, on the carpet.
Incense burned in the cressets.  The shaded lamps gave a soft, rich
light.  When everything was adjusted to harmonize with the great
climax, Cleopatra drew a letter, written some days before, from a
secret drawer.  In it she had recommended her children to the
generosity of the conqueror and begged him to allow her to rest by
the side of Antony.  She read it over, wrote the date (August 15,
30), the date that was to be her last day of life, and affixed the
royal seal.

Was it as a jest that she charged Epaphroditus with the delivery of
this letter?  Perhaps, for Cleopatra had always loved to play with
men or perhaps she merely wanted to get him out of the way.  However
that was, his ugly snout smelt some trickery.  To go away from her
seemed imprudent.  He hesitated; but the message was important and
the Queen persuaded him, with one of those smiles which no man could
resist.  The jailor yielded.  Besides, why should he have any serious
suspicions of a woman whose days were passed in futile occupations?
Who since early morning had been poking in chests, turning over
jewels and trinkets?  Epaphroditus's shallow brain was incapable of
comprehending the whims and caprices of a Cleopatra!

The evening repast was served as usual.  The careless slaves came and
went.  That none of them should have any idea of what was coming, the
Queen forced herself to eat and to keep up the conversation.

There was a sudden stirring behind the curtain.  It sounded like a
dispute.  One of the guards came in.  He could not get rid of a man,
a peasant apparently, who insisted on speaking with the Queen.

"What does he want?"

"He wishes to give you a basket of figs."

"Let him come in."

Cleopatra understood.  Her heart contracted violently.  It required
all her strong will to control its spasms.  Under the peasant's garb
she had recognized Olympus.  Pale, but firm, she signalled him to
approach.  No word passed between them.  They exchanged glances which
made all clear.  It was arranged.  The gift had been paid for.  She
who received it understood what to do with it.

The Queen was alone with Iras and Charmian, those two devoted
priestesses whose worship meant the immolation of themselves.  These
three women no longer cared to live and were ready for the sacrifice.
No one knows, no one will ever know, what were those deadly rites.

The general belief is that an asp was hidden in the figs.  Olympus
had experimented with the venom of this serpent, which killed
according to the conditions exacted by the Queen; quickly, without
pain, leaving no disfiguring mark.

The idea of that age-old myth, bound up in religions for centuries,
comes back.  The woman and the serpent together.  Their eyes meet,
flames go out, they challenge each other.  The serpent hesitates,
draws back, then, enthralled by a look stronger than his own, darts,
and in the willing flesh implants his deadly sting.

Iras died first.  She was the frailest, and as soon as the poison
began to circulate in her veins she bent down, rested her head on the
knees of her beloved sovereign and held them till her last breath
went.

Cleopatra felt her lids grow heavy.  An irresistible langour
overwhelmed her.  Her mind began to wander and in her dream she saw
Antony coming toward her to the sound of flutes and lyres.  How quick
and joyous his step was!  They were on the sands of the shore.  Where
are they now?  It is evening in a fragrant garden.  A light breeze
caresses them.  There is music again, now it is fainter, all grows
dim, then black.  The eternal rest has come.

Charmian was still breathing when a clash of arms outside roused her.
Fierce blows sounded on the door.

"Open!  Open!"

The voices were commanding.  It was a company sent from Octavius.  He
himself would be there in an instant.

The first words of the letter brought him by Epaphroditus had
revealed the truth.  The letter was a will.

"Run!  Summon the physician!" commanded the Imperator.  "Ten talents
of gold to whoever will revive the Queen!"

But they came too late.  The gods keep guard over those who resemble
them.  They had saved Cleopatra.  Nothing could give her back to the
hate of her enemies.

The first attendant to enter the room found her on her purple bed,
which was upheld by the four sphinxes.  All white, in the midst of
flowers she seemed asleep.  Her face had the serenity which comes
from a duty fulfilled.  With a reverent gesture, Charmian,
staggering, with half closed eyes, was arranging her diadem.

"How fine that is!" railed Epaphroditus maliciously, furious that his
watchfulness had been in vain.

"A superb pose, worthy of the daughter of many kings," the Athenian
girl found strength to whisper.  Then she fell near the Queen whom
even to her last sigh she had adorned, served with a divine worship.

For Octavius it was a rude shock.  He remained dazed, as though in
dying Cleopatra had robbed his victory of its glory.  What would Rome
say?  And Italy?  The people, that pack of hounds who were devoured
with impatience to avenge on the Egyptian all the humiliations she
had inflicted on their country?  He who to-morrow would be Cæsar
Augustus had not forgotten his revenge.  His captive had escaped him,
but her children should suffer for her sins.  Neither the prayers
that she had addressed to him nor the pleading of these bleating
lambs, whose only crime was in being born, could soften his infamous
heart.

Antyllas was his first victim.  Cæsarion's remarkable resemblance to
his father, which seemed to make the divine Cæsar live again, should
have preserved that innocent youth.  On the contrary, it was another
reason for getting rid of him.

"There is no room for two Cæsars in this world," declared Octavius,
and gave orders that the young boy left in his care be put to death.
As to the other children that Cleopatra had borne Antony, too young
to be a serious menace, they were carried in the triumphal procession
to take the place of their mother.

Only one of the requests of the dead woman found grace with the
conqueror.  He contented himself with her effigy and abandoned the
body to the Alexandrians, who claimed it.  With reverent care,
arranged as though for her marriage, they placed, in the same
porphyry sepulchre where Antony lay, the body of the woman whose
passionate love had lost him an empire, but who in exchange had given
him immortality.



THE END





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