"Yes, I know it; and, because of the hot blood of youth, I forgive thee, Harmachis. The boaster was sent to thee as a temptation, he was sent as a trial of thy strength, and see! it has not been equal to the burden. Therefore thy hour is put back. Hadst thou been strong in this matter, the path had been made plain to thee even now. But thou hast failed, and therefore thy hour is put back."
And at last that night came, that dreadful night when, hid within the chamber, I saw thee cast my kerchief to the winds, and with sweet words cherish my royal Rival's gift. Then oh, thou knowest in my pain I betrayed the secret that thou wouldst not see, and thou didst make a mock of me, Harmachis! Oh! the shame of it thou in thy foolishness didst make a mock of me!
Then her face sank in with terror, her great eyes grew pale, and, shrieking, Cleopatra fell and died: passing, with that dread company, to her appointed place. Thus, then, I, Harmachis, fed my soul with vengeance, fulfilling the justice of the Gods, and yet knew myself empty of all joy therein.
"Even as thou wilt," I said again; "it is for thee to judge, since if thou judgest falsely on thee will surely fall the curse from which there is no escape." "So, Harmachis, take Pharaoh's head and I will take his Oh, what an awful place is this!" and suddenly she clung to me. "Methought I saw a shadow yonder in the darkness! Methought that it moved toward us and then straightway vanished!
"Pardon me," she said, in her gentle voice, "in that I dare to come to thee in Cleopatra's place. Thy joy is not delayed for long, for thou shalt see her presently." I shrank at her words, as well I might, and, seeing her vantage, she seized it. "I come, Harmachis royal no more! I come to say that thou art free!
Thou must still cling to thee, Harmachis; for, whatever my sins, yet I am great and set above thy scorn. Would that I could have loved thee as thou lovest me! Almost I did so when thou slewest those guards; and yet not quite. "What a fenced city is my heart, that none can take it, and, even when I throw the gates wide, no man may win its citadel!
There I would wish to dwell, rocked on the dark bosom of the night, and losing the little sense of self as I gazed for ever on the countenance of yon sweet-eyed space. Nay who can tell, Harmachis? perhaps those stars partake of our very substance, and, linked to us by Nature's invisible chain, do, indeed, draw our destiny with them as they roll. What says the Greek fable of him who became a star?
"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 Cæsar as becomes the last of Egypt's Queens."
Why, in the issue, of what common clay was this Roman Cæsar, and how poor a thing!" But Sepa looked at me and shook his head. "Be not so rash, Harmachis, and talk not with so proud a voice. Knowest thou not that in every suit of mail there is a joint, and woe to him who wears the harness if the sword should search it out! For Woman, in her weakness, is yet the strongest force upon the earth.
She gazed, and gave a little cry. "Surely," she whispered, glancing round, "surely thou art not that " And she paused. "That Harmachis whom once thy foolish heart did love, O Charmion? Yes, I am he and what thou seest, most fair lady. Yet is Harmachis dead whom thou didst love; but Olympus, the skilled Egyptian, waits upon thy words!"