“I imagine the whole Nile journey,” interrupted Barine, “to be like the fairy voyage, when the purple silk sails of Cleopatra’s galley bore Antony along the Cydnus.”
“No, no,” replied Archibius, “she first learned from Antony the art of filling this earthly existence with fleeting pleasures. Caesar demanded more. Her intellect offered him the highest enjoyment.”
Here he hesitated.
“True, the skill with which, to please Antony, she daily offered him for years fresh charms for every sense, was not a matter of accident.”
“And this,” cried Barine, “this was undertaken by the woman who had recognized the chief good in peace of mind!”
“Ay,” replied Archibius thoughtfully, “yet this was the inevitable result. Pleasure had been the young girl’s object in life. Ere passion awoke in her soul, peace of mind was the chief good she knew. When the hour arrived that this proved unattainable, the firmly rooted yearning for happiness still remained the purpose of her existence. My father would have been wiser to take her to the Stoa and impress it upon her that, if life must have a goal, it should be only to live in accordance with the sensibly arranged course of the world, and in harmony with one’s own nature. He should have taught her to derive happiness from virtue. He should have stamped goodness upon the soul of the future Queen as the fundamental law of her being. He omitted to do this, because in his secluded life he had succeeded in finding the happiness which the master promises to his disciples. From Athens to Cyrene, from Epicurus to Aristippus, is but a short step, and Cleopatra took it when she forgot that the master was far from recognizing the chief good in the enjoyment of individual pleasure. The happiness of Epicurus was not inferior to that of Zeus, if he had only barley bread and water to appease his hunger and thirst.
“Yet she still considered herself a follower of Epicurus, and later, when Antony had gone to the Parthian war, and she was a long time alone, she once more began to strive for freedom from pain and peace of mind, but the state, her children, the marriage of Antony—who had long been her lover—to Octavia, the yearning of her own heart, Anubis, magic, and the Egyptian teachings of the life after death, above all, the burning ambition, the unresting desire to be loved, where she herself loved, to be first among the foremost—”
Here he was interrupted by the messenger, who informed him that the ship was ready.
Archibius had buried himself so deeply in the past that it was several minutes ere he could bring himself back to the present. When he did so, he hastily discussed with the two ladies the date of their departure.