“Vengeance is an arrow that oft-times falls upon the archer’s head,” I answered, bethinking me of Charmion’s saying.
OF THE LAST SUPPER OF CLEOPATRA; OF THE SONG OF CHARMION; OF THE DRINKING OF THE DRAUGHT OF DEATH; OF THE REVEALING OF HARMACHIS; OF THE SUMMONING OF THE SPIRITS BY HARMACHIS; AND OF THE DEATH OF CLEOPATRA
On the morrow Cleopatra, having sought leave of Caesar, visited the tomb of Antony, crying that the Gods of Egypt had deserted her. And when she had kissed the coffin and covered it with lotus-flowers she came back, bathed, anointed herself, put on her most splendid robes, and, together with Iras, Charmion, and myself, she supped. Now as she supped her spirit flared up wildly, even as the sky lights up at sunset; and once more she laughed and sparkled as in bygone years, telling us tales of feasts which she and Antony had eaten of. Never, indeed, did I see her look more beauteous than on that last fatal night of vengeance. And thus her mind drew on to that supper at Tarsus when she drank the pearl.
“Strange,” she said; “strange that at the last the mind of Antony should have turned back to that night among all the nights and to the saying of Harmachis. Charmion, dost thou remember Harmachis the Egyptian?”
“Surely, O Queen,” she answered slowly.
“And who, then, was Harmachis?” I asked; for I would learn if she sorrowed o’er my memory.
“I will tell thee. It is a strange tale, and now that all is done it may well be told. This Harmachis was of the ancient race of the Pharaohs, and, having, indeed, been crowned in secret at Abydus, was sent hither to Alexandria to carry out a great plot that had been formed against the rule of us royal Lagidae. He came and gained entry to the palace as my astrologer, for he was very learned in all magic—much as thou art, Olympus—and a man beautiful to see. Now this was his plot—that he should slay me and be named Pharaoh. In truth it was a strong one, for he had many friends in Egypt, and I had few. And on that very night when he should carry out his purpose, yea, at the very hour, came Charmion yonder, and told the plot to me; saying that she had chanced upon its clue. But, in after days—though I have said little thereon to thee, Charmion—I misdoubted me much of that tale of thine; for, by the Gods! to this hour I believe that thou didst love Harmachis, and because he scorned thee thou didst betray him; and for that cause also hast all thy days remained a maid, which is a thing unnatural. Come, Charmion, tell us; for naught matters now at the end.”
Charmion shivered and made answer: “It is true, O Queen; I also was of the plot, and because Harmachis scorned me I betrayed him; and because of my great love for him I have remained unwed.” And she glanced up at me and caught my eyes, then let the modest lashes veil her own.