And as I spoke, Cleopatra turned white and trembled, glancing at me the while to find my meaning. But I well knew that the thing was of the avenging Gods, working through me, their instrument.
“Learned Olympus,” she said, not answering my words; “my Lord Antony is sick and crazed with grief. Like some poor hunted slave he hides himself in yonder sea-girt Tower and shuns mankind—yes, he shuns even me, who, for his sake, endure so many woes. Now, this is my bidding to thee. To-morrow, at the coming of the light, do thou, led by Charmion, my waiting-lady, take boat and row thee to the Tower and there crave entry, saying that ye bring tidings from the army. Then he will cause you to be let in, and thou, Charmion, must break this heavy news that Canidius bears; for Canidius himself I dare not send. And when his grief is past, do thou, Olympus, soothe his fevered frame with thy draughts of value, and his soul with honeyed words, and draw him back to me, and all will yet be well. Do thou this, and thou shalt have gifts more than thou canst count, for I am yet a Queen and yet can pay back those who serve my will.”
“Fear not, O Queen,” I answered, “this thing shall be done, and I ask no reward, who have come hither to do thy bidding to the end.”
So I bowed and went and, summoning Atoua, made ready a certain potion.
OF THE DRAWING FORTH OF ANTONY FROM THE TIMONIUM BACK TO CLEOPATRA; OF THE FEAST MADE BY CLEOPATRA; AND OF THE MANNER OF THE DEATH OF EUDOSIUS THE STEWARD
Ere it was yet dawn Charmion came again, and we walked to the private harbour of the palace. There, taking boat, we rowed to the island mount on which stands the Timonium, a vaulted tower, strong, small, and round. And, having landed, we twain came to the door and knocked, till at length a grating was thrown open in the door, and an aged eunuch, looking forth, roughly asked our business.
“Our business is with the Lord Antony,” said Charmion.
“Then it is no business, for Antony, my master, sees neither man nor woman.”
“Yet will he see us, for we bring tidings. Go tell him that the Lady Charmion brings tidings from the army.”
The man went, and presently returned.
“The Lord Antony would know if the tidings be good or ill, for, if ill, then will he none of it, for with evil tidings he has been overfed of late.”
“Why—why, it is both good and ill. Open, slave, I will make answer to thy master!” and she slipped a purse of gold through the bars.
“Well, well,” he grumbled, as he took the purse, “the times are hard, and likely to be harder; for when the lion’s down who will feed the jackal? Give thy news thyself, and if it do but draw the noble Antony out of this hall of Groans, I care not what it be. Now the palace door is open, and there’s the road to the banqueting-chamber.”