The men sent by Archibius to obtain news had brought back no definite information; but a short time before, a royal runner had handed him a tablet from Iras, requesting him to visit her the next day. Disquieting, but fortunately as yet unverified tidings had arrived. The Regent was doing everything in his power to ascertain the truth; but he (Archibius) was aware of the distrust of the government, and everything connected with it, felt by the sailors and all the seafaring folk at the harbour. An independent person like himself could often learn more than the chief of the harbour police, with all his ships and men.
The little tablet was accompanied by a second, which, in the Regent’s name, authorized the bearer to have the harbour chains raised anywhere, to go out into the open sea and return without interference.
The messenger, the overseer of Archibius’s galley slaves, was an experienced man. He undertook to have the “Epicurus”—a swift vessel, which Cleopatra had given to her friend—ready for a voyage to the open sea within two hours. The carriage should be sent for his master, that no time might be lost.
When Archibius had returned to the ladies and asked whether it would be an abuse of their hospitality, if—it was now nearly midnight—he should still delay his departure for a time, they expressed sincere pleasure, and begged him to continue his narrative.
“I must hasten,” he hurriedly began, after eating the lunch which Berenike had ordered while he was talking with the messenger, “but the events of the next few years are hardly worth mentioning. Besides, my time was wholly occupied by my studies in the museum.
“As for Cleopatra and Arsinoe, they stood like queens at the head of all the magnificence of the court. The day on which they left our house was the last of their childhood.
“Who would venture to determine whether her father’s restoration, or the meeting with Antony, had wrought the great change which took place at that time in Cleopatra?
“Just before she left us, my mother had lamented that she must give her to a father like the flute-player, instead of to a worthy mother; for the best could not help regarding herself happy in the possession of such a daughter. Afterwards her character and conduct were better suited to delight men than to please a mother. The yearning for peace of mind seemed over. Only the noisy festivals, the singing and music, of which there was never any cessation in the palace of the royal virtuoso, seemed to weary her and at such times she appeared at our house and spent several days beneath its roof. Arsinoe never accompanied her; her heart was sometimes won by a golden-haired officer in the ranks of the German horsemen whom Gabinius had left among the garrison of Alexandria, sometimes by a Macedonian noble among the youths who, at that time, performed the service of guarding the palace.