Antony, believing the report that she was dead, fell upon his sword; but in his dying moments he was carried into the presence of the woman for whom he had given all. With her arms about him, his spirit passed away; and soon after she, too, met death, whether by a poisoned draught or by the storied asp no one can say.
Cleopatra had lived the mistress of a splendid kingdom. She had successively captivated two of the greatest men whom Rome had ever seen. She died, like a queen, to escape disgrace. Whatever modern critics may have to say concerning small details, this story still remains the strangest love story of which the world has any record.
Many a woman, amid the transports of passionate and languishing love, has cried out in a sort of ecstasy:
“I love you as no woman ever loved a man before!”
When she says this she believes it. Her whole soul is aflame with the ardor of emotion. It really seems to her that no one ever could have loved so much as she.
This cry—spontaneous, untaught, sincere—has become almost one of those conventionalities of amorous expression which belong to the vocabulary of self-abandonment. Every woman who utters it, when torn by the almost terrible extravagance of a great love, believes that no one before her has ever said it, and that in her own case it is absolutely true.
Yet, how many women are really faithful to the end? Very many, indeed, if circumstances admit of easy faithfulness. A high-souled, generous, ardent nature will endure an infinity of disillusionment, of misfortune, of neglect, and even of ill treatment. Even so, the flame, though it may sink low, can be revived again to burn as brightly as before. But in order that this may be so it is necessary that the object of such a wonderful devotion be alive, that he be present and visible; or, if he be absent, that there should still exist some hope of renewing the exquisite intimacy of the past.
A man who is sincerely loved may be compelled to take long journeys which will separate him for an indefinite time from the woman who has given her heart to him, and she will still be constant. He may be imprisoned, perhaps for life, yet there is always the hope of his release or of his escape; and some women will be faithful to him and will watch for his return. But, given a situation which absolutely bars out hope, which sunders two souls in such a way that they can never be united in this world, and there we have a test so terribly severe that few even of the most loyal and intensely clinging lovers can endure it.