For Love is of the Spirit, and knows not Death.
OF THE FAREWELL OF CHARMION; OF THE DEATH OF CHARMION; OF THE DEATH OF THE OLD WIFE, ATOUA; OF THE COMING OF HARMACHIS TO ABOUTHIS; OF HIS CONFESSION IN THE HALL OF SIX-AND-THIRTY PILLARS; AND OF THE DECLARING OF THE DOOM OF HARMACHIS
Charmion unclasped my arm, to which she had clung in terror.
“Thy vengeance, thou dark Harmachis,” she said, in a hoarse voice, “is a thing hideous to behold! O lost Egypt, with all thy sins thou wast indeed a Queen!
“Come, aid me, Prince; let us stretch this poor clay upon the bed and deck it royally, so that it may give its dumb audience to the messengers of Caesar as becomes the last of Egypt’s Queens.”
I spoke no word in answer, for my heart was very heavy, and now that all was done I was weary. Together, then, we lifted up the body and laid it on the golden bed. Charmion placed the uraeus crown upon the ivory brow, and combed the night-dark hair that showed never a thread of silver, and, for the last time, shut those eyes wherein had shone all the changing glories of the sea. She folded the chill hands upon the breast whence Passion’s breath had fled, and straightened the bent knees beneath the broidered robe, and by the head set flowers. And there at length Cleopatra lay, more splendid now in her cold majesty of death than in her richest hour of breathing beauty!
We drew back and looked on her, and on dead Iras at her feet.
“It is done!” quoth Charmion; “we are avenged, and now, Harmachis, dost follow by this same road?” And she nodded towards the phial on the board.
“Nay, Charmion. I fly—I fly to a heavier death! Not thus easily may I end my space of earthly penance.”
“So be it, Harmachis! And I, Harmachis—I fly also, but with swifter wings. My game is played. I, too, have made atonement. Oh! what a bitter fate is mine, to have brought misery on all I love, and, in the end, to die unloved! To thee I have atoned; to my angered Gods I have atoned; and now I go to find a way whereby I may atone to Cleopatra in that Hell where she is, and which I must share! For she loved me well, Harmachis; and, now that she is dead, methinks that, after thee, I loved her best of all. So of her cup and the cup of Iras I will surely drink!” And she took the phial, and with a steady hand poured what was left of the poison into the goblet.
“Bethink thee, Charmion,” I said; “yet mayst thou live for many years, hiding these sorrows beneath the withered days.”