But still smiling, I pledged them back, and answered with a jest. For rising, I bowed before Cleopatra and craved leave to go. “Venus,” I said, speaking of the planet that we know as Donaou in the morning and Bonou in the evening, “was in the ascendant. Therefore, as new-crowned King of Love, I must now pass to do my homage to its Queen.” For these barbarians name Venus Queen of Love.
And so amidst their laughter I withdraw to my watch-tower, and, dashing that shameful chaplet down amidst the instruments of my craft, made pretence to note the rolling of the stars. There I waited, thinking on many things that were to be, until Charmion should come with the last lists of the doomed and the messages of my uncle Sepa, whom she had seen that evening.
At length the door opened softly, and she came jewelled and clad in her white robes, as she had left the feast.
OF THE COMING OF CLEOPATRA TO THE CHAMBER OF HARMACHIS; OF THE THROWING FORTH OF THE KERCHIEF OF CHARMION; OF THE STARS; AND OF THE GIFT BY CLEOPATRA OF HER FRIENDSHIP TO HER SERVANT HARMACHIS
“At length thou art come, Charmion,” I said. “It is over-late.”
“Yea, my Lord; but by no means could I escape Cleopatra. Her mood is strangely crossed to-night. I know not what it may portend. Strange whims and fancies blow across it like light and contrary airs upon a summer sea, and I cannot read her purpose.”
“Well, well; enough of Cleopatra. Hast thou seen our uncle?”
“Yes, royal Harmachis.”
“And hast thou the last lists?”
“Yes; here they are,” and she drew them from her bosom. “Here is the list of those who, after the Queen, must certainly be put to the sword. Among them thou wilt note is the name of that old Gaul Brennus. I grieve for him, for we are friends; but it must be. It is a heavy list.”
“It is so,” I answered conning it; “when men write out their count they forget no item, and our count is long. What must be must be. Now for the next.”
“Here is the list of those to be spared, as friendly or uncertain; and here that of the towns which will certainly rise as soon as the messenger reaches their gates with tidings of the death of Cleopatra.”
“Good. And now”—and I paused—“and now as to the manner of Cleopatra’s death. How hast thou settled it? Must it be by my own hand?”
“Yea, my Lord,” she answered, and again I caught that note of bitterness in her voice. “Doubtless Pharaoh will rejoice that his should be the hand to rid the land of this false Queen and wanton woman, and at one blow break the chains which gall the neck of Egypt.”
“Talk not thus, girl,” I said; “thou knowest well that I do not rejoice, being but driven to the act by deep necessity and the pressure of my vows. Can she not, then, be poisoned? Or can no one of the eunuchs be suborned to slay her? My soul turns from this bloody work! Indeed, I marvel, however heavy be her crimes, that thou canst speak so lightly of the death by treachery of one who loves thee!”