“No, I shall not laugh.”
“I say, I will not.”
“Very well, I go to China to die!”
“Nonsense! You can die here. Haven’t I agreed to send your body back if you die before I do?”
“I die in four weeks, two days!”
“My brother, he in prison. He twenty-six, I fifty. He have wife and baby. In China they accept any man same family to die. I go to China, give my money to my brother—he live, I die!”
The next day a new Chinaman appeared as servant in the lawyer’s household. In a week this servant knew everything, and nothing, just like Sam.
And Sam disappeared, without saying good-by.
He went to China and was beheaded, four weeks and two days from the day he broke the news of his intent to go.
His brother was set free.
And the lawyer’s household goes along about as usual, save when the master calls for “Sam,” when he should say, “Charlie.”
At such times there comes a kind of clutch at his heart, but he says nothing.
When power and beauty meet,
the world would do well
to take to its cyclone-cellar.
CLEOPATRA AND CAESAR
The sole surviving daughter of the great King Ptolemy of Egypt, Cleopatra was seventeen years old when her father died.
By his will the King made her joint heir to the throne with her brother Ptolemy, several years her junior. And according to the custom not unusual among royalty at that time, it was provided that Ptolemy should become the husband of Cleopatra.
She was a woman—her brother a child.
She had intellect, ambition, talent. She knew the history of her own country, and that of Assyria, Greece and Rome; and all the written languages of the world were to her familiar. She had been educated by the philosophers, who had brought from Greece the science of Pythagoras and Plato. Her companions had been men—not women, or nurses, or pious, pedantic priests.
Through the veins of her young body pulsed and leaped life, plus.
She abhorred the thought of an alliance with her weak-chinned brother; and the ministers of State, who suggested another husband as a compromise, were dismissed with a look.
They said she was intractable, contemptuous, unreasonable, and was scheming for the sole possession of the throne.
She was not to be diverted even by ardent courtiers who were sent to her, and who lay in wait ready with amorous sighs—she scorned them all.
Yet she was a woman still, and in her dreams she saw the coming prince.
She was banished from Alexandria.
A few friends followed her, and an army was formed to force from the enemy her rights.
But other things were happening—a Roman army came leisurely drifting in with the tide and disembarked at Alexandria. The Great Caesar himself was in command—a mere holiday, he said. He had intended to join the land forces of Mark Antony and help crush the rebellious Pompey, but Antony had done the trick alone; and only a few days before, word had come that Pompey was dead.