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A Friend of Caesar - A Tale of the Fall of the Roman Republic. Time, 50-47 B.C.
by William Stearns Davis
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[169] Tibiae.

And so Cornelia was refreshed and dressed; and when the maids held the mirror before her and she saw that the gold trinkets were shining in her hair, and the jewels which Demetrius had sent her were sparkling brightly at her throat, and realized that she was very fair to see,—then she laughed, the first real, unforced laugh for many a weary day, whereupon she laughed again and again, and grew the more pleased with her own face when she beheld a smile upon it. Then Fabia kissed her, and told her that no woman was ever more beautiful; and the dark Indian maids drew back, saying nothing, but admiring with their eyes. So Cornelia went up upon the deck, where Demetrius came to meet her. If she had been a Semiramis rewarding a deserving general, she could not have been more queenly. For she thanked him and his lieutenants with a warm gratitude which made every rough seaman feel himself more than repaid, and yet throughout it all bore herself as though the mere privilege on their part of rescuing her ought to be sufficient reward and honour. Then Demetrius knelt down before all his men, and kissed the hem of her robe, and swore that he would devote himself and all that was his to her service, until she and Quintus Drusus should meet, with no foe to come between; so swore all the pirates after their captain, and thus it was Cornelia entered into her life on the ship of the freebooters.

Other work, however, was before Demetrius that day, than casting glances of dutiful admiration at the stately lady that had deigned to accept his hospitality. Out from the various other cabins, less luxurious assuredly than the one in which Cornelia had awakened, the pirates led their several captives to stand before the chief. Demetrius, indeed, had accomplished what he euphemistically described as "a fair night's work." Half a dozen once very fashionable and now very disordered and dejected noble ladies and about as many more sadly bedraggled fine gentlemen were haled before his tribunal for judgment. The pirate prince stood on the raised roof of a cabin, a step higher than the rest of the poop. He was again in his splendid armour, his naked sword was in his hand, at his side was stationed Eurybiades and half a score more stalwart seamen, all swinging their bare cutlasses. Demetrius nevertheless conducted his interrogations with perhaps superfluous demonstrations of courtesy, and a general distribution of polite "domini" "dominae," "clarissimi," and "illustres." He spoke in perfectly good Latin, with only the slightest foreign accent; and Cornelia, who—unregenerate pagan that she was—was taking thorough delight in the dilemma of persons whom she knew had made her the butt of their scandalous gibes, could only admire the skilful manner in which he brought home to the several captives the necessity of finding a very large sum of money at their bankers' in a very short time, or enduring an indefinite captivity. After more or less of surly threats and resistance on the part of the men, and screaming on the part of the women, the prisoners one and all capitulated, and put their names to the papyri they were commanded to sign; and away went a boat dancing over the waves to Puteoli to cash the money orders, after which the captives would be set ashore at Baiae.

Last of the wretches brought before Demetrius came Phaon. The freedman had been roughly handled; across his brow a great welt had risen where a pirate had struck him with a rope's end. His arms were pinioned behind his back. He was perfectly pale, and his eyes wandered from one person to another as if vainly seeking some intercessor.

"Euge! Kyrios[170]" cried the pirate chief, "you indeed seem to enjoy our hospitality but ill."

[170] Your Highness.

Phaon fell on his knees.

"I am a poor man," he began to whimper. "I have no means of paying a ransom. My patron is not here to protect or rescue me. I have nothing to plunder. Mu! mu! set me free, most noble pirate! Oh! most excellent prince, what have I done, that you should bear a grudge against me?"

"Get up, fellow," snapped Demetrius; "I'm not one of those crocodile-headed Egyptian gods that they grovel before in the Nile country. My cousin Agias here says he knows you. Now answer—are you a Greek?"

"I am an Athenian born."

"Don't you think I can smell your Doric accent by that broad alpha? You are a Sicilian, I'll be bound!"

Phaon made a motion of sorrowful assent.

"Phui!" continued Demetrius, "tell me, Agias, is this the creature that tried to murder Quintus Drusus?"

Agias nodded.

"A fit minister for such a man as I imagine the son of Lucius Domitius to be. Eurybiades, take off that fellow's bands; he is not worth one stroke of the sword."

"The captain will not spare the knave!" remonstrated the sanguinary lieutenant.

"What I have said, I have said," retorted the other; then, when Phaon's arms hung free, "See, on the strength of our fellowship in our both being Greeks, I have set you at large!"

Phaon again sank to his knees to proffer thanks.

"Hold!" cried Demetrius, with a menacing gesture. "Don't waste your gratitude. Greek you pretend to be, more the shame! Such as you it is that have brought Hellas under the heel of the oppressor; such as you have made the word of a Hellene almost valueless in the Roman courts, so that juries have to be warned to consider us all liars; such as you have dragged down into the pit many an honest man; ay, myself too!"

Phaon left off his thanks and began again to supplicate.

"Stop whining, hound!" roared Demetrius; "haven't I said you are free? Free, but on one condition!"

"Anything, anything, my lord," professed the freedman, "money, service—"

"On this condition," and a broad, wicked smile over-spread the face of the pirate, "that you quit this ship instantly!"

"Gladly, gladly, merciful sir!" commenced Phaon again; "where is the boat?"

"Wretch!" shouted the other, "what did I say about a boat? Depart—depart into the sea! Swim ashore, if the load on your legs be not too heavy. Seize him and see that he sinks,"—this last to Eurybiades and the seamen.

Phaon's terror choked his utterance; he turned livid with mortal fright. He pleaded for life; life on the terms most degrading, most painful, most joyless—life, life and that only. He cried out to Cornelia to save him, he confessed his villanies, and vowed repentance a score of times all in one breath. But Cornelia lived in an age when the wisest and best—whatever the philosophers might theorize—thought it no shame to reward evil for evil, not less than good for good. When Demetrius asked her, "Shall I spare this man, lady?" she replied: "As he has made my life bitter for many days, why should I spare him a brief moment's pain? Death ends all woe!"

There was a dull splash over the side, a circle spreading out in the water, wider and wider, until it could be seen no more among the waves.

"There were heavy stones to his feet, Captain," reported Eurybiades, "and the cords will hold."

"It is well," answered Demetrius, very grave....

Later in the day the boat returned from Puteoli, and with it sundry small round-bellied bags, which the pirate prince duly stowed away in his strong chest. The ransomed captives were put on board a small unarmed yacht that had come out to receive them. Demetrius himself handed the ladies over the side, and salaamed to them as the craft shot off from the flagship. Then the pirates again weighed anchor, the great purple[171] square sail of each of the ships was cast to the piping breeze, the triple tiers of silver-plated oars[171] began to rise and fall in unison to the soft notes of the piper. The land grew fainter and more faint, and the three ships sprang away, speeding over the broad breast of the sea.

[171] These were real affectations of the Cilician pirates.

That night Cornelia and Fabia held each other in their arms for a long time. They were leaving Rome, leaving Italy, their closest friend at hand was only the quondam slave-boy Agias, yet Cornelia, at least, was happy—almost as happy as the girl Artemisia; and when she lay down to sleep, it was to enjoy the first sound slumber, unhaunted by dread of trouble, for nigh unto half a year.



Chapter XX

Cleopatra

I

A "clear singing zephyr" out of the west sped the ships on their way. Down they fared along the coast, past the isle of Capreae, then, leaving the Campanian main behind, cut the blue billows of the Tyrrhenian Sea; all that day and night, and more sail and oar swept them on. They flew past the beaches of Magna Graecia, then, betwixt Scylla and Charybdis, and Sicilia and its smoke-beclouded cone of AEtna faded out of view, and the long, dark swells of the Ionian Sea caught them. No feeble merchantman, hugging coasts and headlands, was Demetrius. He pushed his three barques boldly forward toward the watery sky-line; the rising and setting sun by day and the slowly circling stars by night were all-sufficient pilots; and so the ships flew onward, and, late though the season was, no tempest racked them, no swollen billow tossed them.

Cornelia sat for hours on the poop, beneath a crimson awning, watching the foam scudding out from under the swift-moving keel, and feeling the soft, balmy Notos, the kind wind of the south, now and then puff against her face, when the west wind veered away, and so brought up a whiff of the spices and tropic bloom of the great southern continent, over the parching deserts and the treacherous quicksands of the Syrtes and the broad "unharvested sea."

Cornelia had seen the cone of AEtna sinking away in the west, and then she looked westward no more. For eastward and ever eastward fared the ships, and on beyond them on pinions of mind flew Cornelia. To Africa, to the Orient! And she dreamed of the half-fabulous kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia; of the splendours of Memphis and Nineveh and Susa and Ecbatana; of Eastern kings and Eastern gold, and Eastern pomp and circumstance of war; of Ninus, and Cyrus the Great, and Alexander; of Cheops and Sesostris and Amasis; of the hanging gardens; of the treasures of Sardanapalus; of the labyrinth of Lake Moeris; of a thousand and one things rare and wonderful. Half was she persuaded that in the East the heart might not ache nor the soul grow cold with pain. And all life was fair to Cornelia. She was sure of meeting Drusus soon or late now, if so be the gods—she could not help using the expression despite her atheism—spared him in war. She could wait; she could be very patient. She was still very young. And when she counted her remaining years to threescore, they seemed an eternity. The pall which had rested on her life since her uncle and her lover parted after their stormy interview was lifted; she could smile, could laugh, could breathe in the fresh air, and cry, "How good it all is!"

Demetrius held his men under control with an iron hand. If ever the pirate ship was filled with sights and sounds unseemly for a lady's eyes and ears, there were none of them now. Cornelia was a princess, abjectly waited on by her subjects. Demetrius's attention outran all her least desires. He wearied her with presents of jewellery and costly dresses, though, as he quietly remarked to Agias, the gifts meant no more of sacrifice to him than an obol to a rich spendthrift. He filled her ears with music all day long; he entertained her with inimitable narrations of his own adventurous voyages and battles. And only dimly could Cornelia realize that the gems she wore in her hair, her silken dress, nay, almost everything she touched, had come from earlier owners with scant process of law.

Demetrius was no common rover. He had been a young man of rare culture before misfortune struck him. He knew his Homer and his Plato as well as how to swing a sword. "Yet," as he remarked with half jest, half sigh, "all his philosophy did not make him one whit more an honest man."

And in his crew of Greeks, Orientals, and Spaniards were many more whom calamity, not innate wickedness, so Cornelia discovered, had driven to a life of violence and rapine.

Demetrius, too, gave no little heed to Artemisia. That pretty creature had been basking in the sunshine of Agias's presence ever since coming on shipboard. It was tacitly understood that Cornelia would care for the welfare and education of Pratinas's runaway, until she reached a maturity at which Agias could assert his claims. The young Hellene himself had been not a little anxious lest his cousin cast obstacles in the way of an alliance with a masterless slavegirl; for of late Demetrius had been boasting to his kinsman that their family, before business misfortunes, had been wealthy and honourable among the merchant princes of Alexandria. But the worthy pirate had not an objection to make; on the contrary, he would sit for hours staring at Artemisia, and when Agias demanded if he was about to turn rival, shook his head and replied, rather brusquely:—

"I was only thinking that Daphne might be about her age, and look perhaps like her."

"Then you do not think your little daughter is dead?" asked Agias, sympathetic, yet personally relieved.

"I know nothing, nothing," replied his cousin, a look of ineffable pain passing over his fine features; "she was a mere infant when I was arrested. When I broke loose, I had to flee for my life. When I could set searchers after her, she had vanished. Poor motherless thing; I imagine she is the slave of some gay lady at Antioch or Ephesus or Rome now."

"And you do not know who stole her?" asked Agias.

"Don't tear open old wounds," was the retort. "I know nothing. I think—but it matters little what I think. There was that sly-eyed, smooth-tongued Greek, like that Phaon who met his deserts, who was no stranger to Domitius's blackmailings. I feel that he did it. Never mind his name. If ever I get the snake into my power—" and Demetrius's fingers tightened around the thick, hard cable he was clutching, and crushed the solid hemp into soft, loose strands; then he broke out again, "Never mention this another time, Agias, or I shall go mad, and plunge down, down into the waves, to go to sleep and forget it all!"

Agias was faithful to the injunction; but he observed that Demetrius showed Artemisia the same attention as Cornelia, albeit mingled with a little gracious and unoffending familiarity.

II

After a voyage in which one pleasant day succeeded another, Cornelia awoke one morning to hear the creak of blocks and tackle as the sailors were lowering sail. The full banks of oars were plashing in the waves, and on deck many feet were rushing to and fro, while officers shouted their orders. Coming out of her cabin, the young lady saw that the end of her seafaring was close at hand. Even to one fresh from the azure atmosphere of the Campanian Bay, the sky was marvellously clear. The water was of a soft green tint, that shaded off here and there into dark cerulean. The wind was blowing in cool puffs out of the north. A long, slow swell made the stately triremes rock gracefully. Before them, in clear view, rose the tall tower of the Pharos,—the lighthouse of Alexandria,—and beyond it, on the low-lying mainland, rose in splendid relief against the cloudless sky the glittering piles and fanes of the city of the Ptolemies. It was a magnificent picture,—a "picture" because the colours everywhere were as bright as though laid on freshly by a painter's brush. The stonework of the buildings, painted to gaudy hues, brought out all the details of column, cornice, and pediment. Here Demetrius pointed out the Royal Palace, here the Theatre; here, farther inland, the Museum, where was the great University; in the distance the whole looked like a painting in miniature. Only there was more movement in this picture: a splendid yacht, with the gold and ivory glittering on its prow and poop, was shooting out from the royal dockyards in front of the palace; a ponderous corn-ship was spreading her dirty sails to try to beat out against the adverse breeze, and venture on a voyage to Rome, at a season when the Italian traffic was usually suspended. The harbour and quays were one forest of masts. Boats and small craft were gliding everywhere. Behind the pirate's triremes several large merchantmen were bearing into the harbour under a full press of sail.

"And this, your ladyship," said Demetrius, smiling, "is Egypt. Does the first sight please you?"

"Does it not!" exclaimed Cornelia, drinking in the matchless spectacle. "But you, kind sir, do you not run personal peril by putting into this haven for my sake?"

Demetrius laughed.

"It speaks ill for the law-abiding qualities of my countrymen, lady," said he, "that I have nothing now to fear. I have too many great friends both in the court and in the city to fear arrest or annoyance. Here I may not stay long, for if it were to be noised in Rome that a pirate were harboured habitually at Alexandria, a demand for my arrest would come to the king quickly enough, and he must needs comply. But for a few days, especially while all Rome is in chaos, I am safe; and, come what may, I would be first warned if any one intended to lay hands on me."

Indeed, Demetrius's boast as to his own importance in Alexandria was soon verified. The customs officials were all obsequiousness when they went through the form of levying on the cargo of the ship. The master of the port was soon in Demetrius's own cabin over a crater of excellent wine, and no sooner had the vessels touched the quay than their crews were fraternizing with the hosts of stevedores and flower-girls who swarmed to meet the new arrivals.

* * * * *

A few days later Cornelia and Fabia found themselves received as members of the household of no less a person than Cleomenes, a distant kinsman of Demetrius and Agias, and himself one of the great merchant princes of the Egyptian capital. The Roman ladies found a certain amount of shyness to overcome on their own part and on that of their hosts. Cleomenes himself was a widower, and his ample house was presided over by two dark-skinned, dark-eyed daughters, Berenice and Monime—girls who blended with the handsome Greek features of their father the soft, sensuous charm of his dead Egyptian wife. Bashful indeed had been these maidens in contact with the strangers who came bearing with them the haughty pride of all-conquering Rome. But after a day or two, when Cornelia had cast off the hauteur begotten of diffidence, and Fabia had opened the depths of her pure womanly character, the barriers were thrown down rapidly enough; and Cornelia and Fabia gained, not merely an access to a new world of life and ideas, but two friends that they could regard almost as sisters.

It was a new thing for these Roman ladies to meet a foreigner on terms approaching equality. A non-Roman had been for them a servant, an intelligent underling, nothing more; even Agias and Demetrius they had regarded as friends, very close and agreeable, but whom it was a distinct condescension not to treat with ostentatious superiority. But to sustain this feeling long with Berenice and Monime was impossible. The young Egyptians were every whit as cultured, as intelligent, as themselves, every whit as accustomed to deference from others, and implicitly assumed the right to demand it. The result was that Cornelia found herself thinking less and less about being a Roman, and more and more regarded her gracious hosts as persons in every way equal to herself.

And less and less of a Roman, Cornelia, the Hellene-hater, became. Greek was the only tongue now that sounded in her ear, unless she talked privately with Fabia or was beguiled into trying to learn a little Egyptian—a language Berenice and Monime spoke fluently. The clothes she wore were no longer stola and palla, but chiton and himation. The whole atmosphere about her was foreign, down to the cries on the streets. And Italy was very far away, and the last memories thereof none the most pleasant.

It chanced that one morning Cleomenes, Monime, and Cornelia were driving down the great central street, under the shadow of seemingly endless colonnades.

"A! dearest one," cried Monime, "why must you think of leaving our lovely Alexandria, of going back to cold, cheerless Rome? What good thing does Rome send out but stern men and sharp iron?"

Cornelia shook her head and made answer—

"You Alexandrians are not one nation, but all the world; therefore you think all who are less cosmopolitan poor. See, I count in the crowds not only the dark Egyptians and fair Greeks, but a Persian in his splendid long kaftan, and a very venerable Jew, and a wiry little Arab, and Syrians, and negroes, and, I think, a Hindoo."

"And yourself, my lady, a Roman," concluded Cleomenes. "Truly all the earth has met in our city."

They whirled down the splendid highway that ran straight as an arrow the whole length of the city, lined on either side by a forest of the infinite number of columns of the great stretches of porticos. Handsomely dressed cavalrymen of the palace guard were dashing to and fro over the clean, hard pavement; elegant carriages containing the noble and wealthy were whirling in every direction. At each glance, the eye lit on some pleasing bit of sculpture, some delicate curve of architecture. Statues were everywhere, everywhere colour, everywhere crowds of gayly dressed citizens and foreigners. Cornelia contrasted the symmetrical streets, all broad, swept, and at right angles—the triumph of the wise architectural planning of Dinocrates—with the dirty, unsightly, and crooked lanes of the City of the Seven Hills, and told herself, as she had told herself often in recent days, that Romans had much yet to learn.

They drove on past the Amphitheatre toward the Egyptian quarter of the Rhacotis; and here, at the intersection of the Great Street with the other broad way leading from the "Gate of the Moon" on the harbour to the "Gate of the Sun" on Lake Mareotis, a moving hedge of outriders, cavalrymen, and foot-guards met them.

"The queen coming from the Serapeum," said Cleomenes, drawing rein.

Cornelia saw half-naked Numidian footmen thrusting back the crowd that bustled in the Omphalos—the great square where the two highroads met. Behind them pushed a squadron of light cavalry in silvered armour and splendid purple and scarlet uniforms. Then, in the midst of all, moved a chariot drawn by four horses white as snow, the harness resplendent with gold and jewels; at either side ran fan-bearers, waving great masses of bright ostrich plumes; a gaudy parasol swept over the carriage itself. There were three occupants, whereof two stood: an Egyptian, gaunt and of great height, clad in plain white linen, who was driving, and a handsome, gaudily dressed Greek youth, who was holding the parasol. Cornelia could just catch the profile of a young woman seated between them. The face was not quite regular, but marvellously intelligent and sensitive; the skin not pale, yet far from dark, and perfectly healthy and clear; the eyes restive and piercing. The queen was dressed plainly in Greek fashion; her himation was white, her only ornament a great diamond that was blazing like a star on her breast. Upon the coils of her heavy, dark hair sat a golden circlet faced in front with the likeness of the head of the venomous uraeus snake—the emblem of Egyptian royalty. This was all Cornelia could observe in the brief time the queen was in view. Some of the people—Egyptians mostly—cried out to her in their own tongue:—

"Hail to the ever glorious Daughter of Ra!"

But the queen paid them little heed. Once her restless eyes lit on the carriage of Cleomenes, and she made a slight inclination of the head in return to that gentleman's salute, for Cleomenes had standing at court as one of the "friends of the king."[172]

[172] A high order of Egyptian nobility.

The cortege rolled away toward the palace.

"This Cleopatra is a rather remarkable woman," observed Cornelia, for the sake of saying something.

"Indeed, that is true," replied Cleomenes, as he turned to drive homeward. "She is worthy to have lived in the days of the first Ptolemies, of Ptolemaeus Soter and Philadelphus and Euergetes. She is still very young, only twenty, and yet five years ago she was so fascinating that when Antonius, of whom I have heard you speak, came here with Gabinius's expeditions he quite lost his heart to her. She has a marvellous talent for statecraft and intrigue and diplomacy. You know that, nominally at least, she has to share her crown with young Ptolemaeus, her younger brother. He is a worthless rascal, but his tutor, the eunuch Pothinus, really wields him. Pothinus, as the custom is, was brought up with him as his playmate, and now Pothinus wants to drive out the queen, and rule Egypt through his power over the king. His ambition is notorious, but the queen has not been able to lay hands on him for treason."

Cleopatra and her fortunes and perils played a slight part in Cornelia's mind, however, that day. To know Alexandria in its sunlight and shadows was indeed to know a miniature world. First of all to notice, besides the heterogeneous nature of the crowds on the streets, was the fact that every person, high as well as low, was engaged in some trade. Very far was the typical Alexandrian from the quiet "leisure" which the average Greek or Latin believed requisite for a refined life—a life in which slaves did all the necessary work, and amassed an income for the master to expend in polite recreations. In Rome, for a free citizen to have been a handicraftsman would have been a disgrace; he could be farmer, banker, soldier,—nothing more. In Alexandria the glass-workers, paper-makers, and linen weavers were those who were proudest and most jealous of their title of "Men of Macedonia."[173] Money, Cornelia soon discovered, was even a greater god here than in Rome. Cleomenes himself was not ashamed to spend a large part of the day inspecting his factories, and did not hesitate to declare that during a period when he and his family had been in great distress, following the failure of the banking house of Agias's father, he had toiled with his own hands to win bread for his daughters.

[173] The official title of Alexandrian Greek citizens.

The conception that any honest labour, except a certain genteel agriculture, might not make a man the less of a gentleman, or a woman the less of a lady, was as new to Cornelia as the idea that some non-Romans could claim equality with herself. Neither proposition did she accept consciously. The prejudice wore quietly away. But other things about the city she gathered quickly enough from the caustic explanations of Cleomenes.

"Here in Alexandria," he asserted on one occasion, "we are always ripe for a riot. Never a chariot race without stone-throwing and throat-cutting after it. An unpopular official is torn in pieces by a mob. If you chance to kill a cat, the Egyptians are after you for your life. The Greeks hate the Jews, and are always ready to plunder their quarter; the Egyptians are on bad terms with both. We talk about being free citizens of the capital of the Ptolemies, and pretend to go to the Gymnasium for discussion, and claim a right to consult with the king; but our precious Senate, and all our tribes and wards, are only fictions. We are as much slaves as the poor creatures down in the royal quarries; only we demand the right to riot and give nicknames. We called the last Ptolemaeus, Auletes "the Piper," because in that way we have punished him in all history for the way he oppressed us. Euge! Have we not a wonderful city!"

It was on the very next day that Cleopatra was recalled to Cornelia's mind in a quite marked fashion. It was rather early, and she was upon the roof-garden, on the third story of the house, where there was a commanding view of the city. Berenice was busy reading from a papyrus the Egyptian legend of the "Adventures of Sinuhit," translating into Greek as she read.

Cleomenes broke in upon the reading. His face wore a mysterious smile.

"I have a rather strange piece of news for you, my lady," he said. "A chamberlain of the court has just been here, and brings a royal command."

"I am not accustomed to being commanded," interrupted Cornelia, all her Roman haughtiness rising.

"I do not think you will be found disobedient. The queen, it seems, noticed you in my carriage yesterday, and at once divined, with that wonderfully quick wit of hers, that you must be a Roman lady of rank. She immediately made inquiries, and now sends her chamberlain to ask you and the Lady Fabia, as well as myself, to dine with her at the palace to-night. You may be sure nothing will be lacking to do you honour."

Cornelia meekly acquiesced in this royal mandate. Fabia, however, could not stir from the house. The shock to her finely strung nature when she was taken from Rome had, indeed, produced a physical reaction. She was not seriously ill, but could endure no excitement. So it was with only Cleomenes for an escort that Cornelia mounted into one of the splendid royal chariots sent from the palace about dusk, and drove away surrounded by a cloud of guardsmen sent to do honour to the guests of the queen.

Cornelia herself felt highly strung and slightly nervous. She wished, for the first time since she reached Alexandria, that she could go dressed in the native costume of a Roman lady, She was going to enjoy the hospitality of a princess who was the successor of thirty odd dynasties of Pharaohs; who was worshipped herself as a goddess by millions of Egyptians; who was hailed as "Daughter of the Sun," and with fifty other fulsome titles; a princess, furthermore, who was supposed to dispose of the lives of her subjects as seemed right in her own eyes, without law of man or god to hinder. Cornelia was not afraid, nay rather, anticipatory; only she had never before been so thoroughly conscious that she was Roman down to her finger-tips—Roman, and hence could look upon the faces of princes unabashed.

The people saw the royal chariot, and some shouted salutations to the guests whom the queen delighted to honour. The company swept up under the magnificent archway leading to the palace; above them rose tall Ionic columns of red granite of Syene, building rising above building, labyrinths of pillars, myriads of statues. Torches were blazing from every direction. The palace grounds were as bright as day. The light breeze was sweeping through rare Indian ferns and tropical palms. The air was heavy with the breath of innumerable roses. Huge fountains were tossing up showers of spray, which fell tinkling onto broad basins wherein the cups of the blue and white lotus were floating. It was indeed as if one had been led on to enchanted ground.

Cornelia and her friend dismounted from their chariot, and were led through an endless colonnade, past a second, lower gateway, and then into a hall, not very high or large, but admirable in its proportions, with a whole gallery of choice mythological paintings on its walls. Small heed did Cornelia give to them. For at the end of the hall rose a low dais, whereon sat, in a gilded chair, the same person who had been pointed out to Cornelia the day before as the mistress of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The light was too dim to discover in the distance anything new in the face of the queen. She wore a loose, long gown of some light blue silken stuff; and her belt, shoes, neck, breast, and ears were all glittering with gems. At the foot of the dais was a group of half a dozen showily dressed chamberlains and courtiers, who made a slight motion of greeting when the two guests darkened the doorway. One of these functionaries advanced to Cornelia.

"Your ladyship," he began, in a smooth, colourless voice, "I have the honour to be the Royal Introducing Chamberlain. In approaching the queen, do as I shall direct. First, before advancing to the dais bow slightly; then at the foot of the dais it is proper—"

"Sir," interrupted Cornelia, drawing herself up to her full height, "I am not accustomed to your prostrations and genuflections, and of them my countrymen make sorry work; pray excuse me." And without waiting for reply or expostulation she advanced straight toward the dais. The hall was small, the steps from the door to the queen's chair few; but never did Cornelia fare on more tedious journey. She knew that a half-horrified titter was passing through the group of courtiers She knew that Cleopatra herself had stirred in her seat, as if to rise. But one word sounded in Cornelia's ears, and that word was "Rome." Were not Roman citizens nobles among nobles, and Roman senators peers of kings! And she, daughter of the Cornelii and Claudii, whose ancestors had broken the might of Antiochus the Great and Mithridates—should she not look in the face the heiress of the Lagidae? Had not one hundred years before Popilius, the Roman commissioner, come unarmed into the presence of Antiochus Epiphanes, while he was advancing to the gates of defenceless Alexandria, drawn a circle in the dust about the king, and bidden him answer, before he stepped over, whether he would court destruction or obey the mandate of the Republic and leave Egypt in peace? And had not the great king obeyed—humbly? Why, then, should not a Roman patrician maiden look down on a mere monarch, who was a pawn in the hands of her kinsfolk and countrymen?

To repeat these things is long. The mind moves faster than the sunlight. Cornelia came to the dais, and there gave the slightest inclination of her head—the greeting of a mistress to slaves—to the group of courtiers. She advanced straight toward the royal chair and stretched forth her hand.

"I am your debtor, O queen, for a kindness that I may not soon, I fear, repay—unless you come to Rome."

She spoke as a superior addressing an inferior who had rendered some slight service. The queen rose from her seat and took the proffered hand without the least hesitation.

"And I will ask for none other reward than that you do honour to my entertainment."

The voice was wonderfully soft, modulated, and ringing; like an instrument of many strings. Every syllable blended into the next in perfect harmony; to hear a few words was like listening unto music.

Cornelia knew later, when she was older and had thought more, that the queen had instantly caught the defiant mood of her guest, and thereupon left nothing unspared to conciliate it. At that moment, however, she attempted no such analysis of motive. She was conscious of only one thing: the luminous personality of Cleopatra. The queen was all that Cornelia had noticed her to be when they met at the Great Square; but she was more than a beautiful woman. In fact, in mere bodily perfection Monime or Berenice might well have stood beside her. The glance of the queen went through and through her guests like arrows of softly burning light. It was impossible to withdraw one's eyes from her; impossible to shake off the spell of an enjoyable magnetism. If she moved her long, shapely fingers, it was speech; if she raised her hand, eloquence. As shade after shade of varying emotion seemed to pass across Cleopatra's face, it was as if one saw the workings of a masterful spirit as in a mirror; and now could cry, "This is one of the Graces," and now "This is one of the Fates," as half-girlish candour and sweetness was followed by a lightning flash from the eyes, disclosing the deep, far-recessed subtleties of the soul within. Cornelia had entered the hall haughty, defiant; a word and a look—she was the most obedient vassal.

Cornelia had seen many a splendid banquet and dinner party in Rome. Even Oriental kings had not a great deal to teach the "masters of the toga" in ostentatious luxury. Perhaps the queen had realized this. The present occasion called, indeed for very little formality, for, besides Cornelia, Cleomenes was the only guest; and when that gentleman inquired politely if his Majesty, the King Ptolemaeus, was to honour them with his presence, Cleopatra replied, with an eloquent raising of the eyebrows:—

"The king will be to-night, as he always is, with his tutor—Pothinus."

There was indescribable scorn in the last word.

The doors of the reception hall had been flung back on noiseless pivots by unseen hands. The banqueting room disclosed within was not so much a room as a garden. Flowers, flowers were everywhere, roses, violets, narcissuses, and a score of others breathing forth a heavy fragrance. Overhead, the goldstudded ceiling was converted into a vast arbour of blending flowery tints. The room was large, very large for only three banqueters; on the walls, from out between the potted tropical plants, shone marvellous marble reliefs, one hundred in all; and in betwixt them were matchless paintings. Framing, after a fashion, the pictures, were equally perfect embroideries, portraying in silk and fine linen the stories of Thebes, the kingly house of Argos, and many another myth of fame. The pillars of the room represented palm trees and Bacchic thyrsi; skins of wild beasts were fastened high up to the walls; and everywhere was the sheen of silver and gold, the splendour of scarlet and purple tapestries.

"The decorations of this room," said the queen, as her two guests entered, "are nearly all preserved from the great banqueting pavilion of Ptolemaeus Philadelphus, which he erected for the grand festival that ushered in his reign."

Cornelia drew back as her foot crossed the threshold. Her sandals trod on the fair white cup of a blooming lily. The queen laughed as merrily as a little girl at her confusion.

"In Rome, I doubt not," she said, smiling, "there are not flowers enough at this time of year to have them for a carpet. But this is Alexandria. Flowers are never out of bloom."

So Cornelia advanced, but perhaps it grieved her more to tread on the innocent flowers, than any small thing had since she left Baiae.

And then the banquet, if such it may be termed when there are but three to enjoy it, began. Cleopatra knew well that she could not overwhelm her Roman guest with show of plate and gems, nor did she try. But Cornelia forgot about such things long before they rose. For the queen displayed to her a myriad dainty perfections and refinements that never had endeared themselves to the grosser Italian gourmands. Cleomenes had whispered to his companion, before they reached the palace, "Plato tells of four sorts of flattery; but I can promise you a thousand sorts from Cleopatra if she but cares to win your friendship." And surely the queen did thus desire. For Cornelia was surfeited with strange dishes, and rare sherbets, flowers, and music; surfeited with everything save the words that fell from the lips of Cleopatra.

The more the queen spoke, the more complete became the vassalage of her guest. Cornelia discovered that this woman, who was but little older than she, could speak fluently seven languages, and carried about with her an exceedingly accurate knowledge, not merely of the administration of Egypt, but of the politics of Rome, and the details of the great contest racking the Republic. When Cleopatra asked questions concerning Roman affairs, Cornelia was fain to confess ignorance and be put to shame. And as the evening advanced, Cornelia found herself talking with more and more confidence to this woman that she had never addressed until an hour before. Cleopatra of course knew, as all Alexandria knew, that Cornelia and Fabia were Roman ladies of the highest rank, who had been forced to take refuge abroad until the political crisis was over. But now Cornelia told the queen the true reasons that had led her to be willing to submit to Demetrius's friendly kidnapping; and when, in a burst of frankness,—which in a saner moment Cornelia would have deemed unwise,—she told of her betrothal to Drusus and willingness to wait long for him, if they might only come together in the end, the queen seemed unable to speak with her usual bright vivacity. Presently she said:—

"So you love this young man as none other? You are willing to be all your life his handmaid, his slave?"

"I love him, assuredly," said Cornelia, with a little heat. "And so far as being all my life his slave, I've given that never so much as a thought. Where love is, there slavery cannot be."

"And where love is not, there slavery must be, doubtless you wish to add?" broke in the queen.

"I should be very miserable if I had nothing to love, which I might love purely, and feel myself the nobler and happier thereby."

"Then pity us poor mortals who cannot climb up to your Olympus! Eh, my very noble Cleomenes," went on the queen, addressing the Greek, "do I not deserve compassion, that I have not been able to find some Tigranes of Armenia, or Parthian prince, who will be all in all to me, and make me forget everything in worshipping him?"

These were the first words that evening that had grated on Cornelia. A little ruffled, she replied:—

"I fear, O queen, that if you are awaiting a Tigranes or an Artavasdes to sue for your hand, you will indeed never find a lord to worship. Quintus Drusus is indeed wealthy at Rome, his family noble, he may rise to great things; but I would not lay down my life for him because of his wealth, his lineage, or his fair prospects. It is not these things which make a common woman love a man."

"But I am not a common woman," responded Cleopatra, with emphasis. "I am ambitious, not to be led, but to lead. I must rule or I must die. I cannot love a master, only fear him. Why, because I was born a woman, must I give up all my royal aspirations to rise to a great place among princes, to build up a great empire in the East, to make Alexandria a capital with the power of Rome, the culture of Athens, the splendour of Babylon, all in one? It is because I have these hopes stirring in me that I may love no man, can love no man! Nothing shall stand in my way; nothing shall oppose me. Whoever thwarts my ambitions, the worse for him; let him die—all things must die, but not I, until I have won my power and glory!"

For once, at least, the queen's emotions had run away with her; she spoke hotly, passionately, as though tearing her words from the recesses of her throbbing heart. Her wonderful voice was keyed in half-bitter defiance. For the moment Cornelia was mistress, and not the queen.

"O queen," broke in the young Roman, "would you know how I feel toward you?"

Cleopatra looked at her with dilated eyes.

"I feel for you a very great sorrow. I know not whether you will or will not do as you wish—set your empire over the far East, a rival, friendly, I hope, to our Rome; but this I know, that with your glory, and with your renown among men for all time, you will go down to your grave with an empty heart. And I know not what may compensate for that."

Cleomenes was clearly a little disturbed at this turn to the conversation; but Cleopatra bowed her head on her hands. It was only for an instant. When she looked up once more there were tears in her eyes, which she made no effort to conceal. The look of high defiance had faded from her face.

"Think kindly of me, Lady Cornelia," she said; "I am but a wilful girl with many things to learn. Perhaps you yourself know that purple robes do not make a light heart."

"That I know well and sadly."

"Therefore," went on the queen, "if I forget myself, and half envy a cup of happiness that seems dashed from my lips, do not be over blameful."

"Never," responded the young Roman.

"Time advances," said the queen; "let us forget that any barriers shut us out from perfect bliss. Let us call in the Egyptian musicians; and cry out upon me if my looks grow sad!"

Whereat a whole section in the side of the room turned on a pivot, and there entered three native harpers and eight pretty Egyptian girls, in gauzy dresses, who danced in intricate figures, and juggled with balls; now with two, now with three, catching them with their hands crossed. Boys ran in and out and sprinkled kyphi[174] on the heads of the three feasters, and flung huge wreaths of flowers round their necks, and thrust lotus flowers in their hair. And all the time the girls sang sweetly.

[174] A mixture of myrrh, frankincense, and other aromatic materials.

The queen kept her guests very late.

"We of Alexandria," said she, "make little difference between night and day. Our city is a new Sybaris."

And all through the evening Cleopatra kept close to Cornelia, often with her hand upon her, as though extremely loath to let her go. At last the moon crept up into the heavens, and as the queen and her guests roved out of the heated banqueting hall into the cool gardens, the pale yellow light gently bathed the sweep of the city, which lay in full view of the palace terrace.

"All sleep," said Cleopatra, "all but ourselves. Let there be one more song, and then farewell!—but soon to meet again."

The chorus of maidens, which followed them, sang, in Greek, the hymn of Onomacritus:[175]—

[175] Elton, translator.

"Heavenly Selene! goddess queen! that shed'st abroad the light! Bull-horned moon! air-habiting! thou wanderer through the night! Moon bearer of mighty torch! thou star-encircled maid! Woman thou, yet male the same, still fresh and undecayed! Thou that in thy steeds delightest, as they travel through the sky, Clothed in brightness! mighty mother of the rapid years that fly; Fruit dispenser! amber-visaged! melancholy, yet serene! All beholding! sleep-enamour'd! still with trooping planets seen! Quiet loving; who in pleasance and in plenty tak'st delight; Joy diffusing! Fruit maturing! Sparkling ornament of night! Swiftly pacing! ample-vested! star-bright! all divining maid! Come benignant! come spontaneous! with starry sheen arrayed! Sweetly shining! save us virgin, give thy holy suppliants aid!"

"Yes," said Cleopatra, passing her hand over her brow, "give us aid, either thou, O moon, or some other power, for we are full weak ourselves."

When the queen parted with her guests she put her arms around Cornelia's waist and kissed her on the forehead.

"I sent for you," said Cleopatra, "half intending to amuse myself with the boorishness and clumsy insolence which I conceived a noble Roman lady to possess. I have been punished. Promise to come to see me often, very often, or I shall call my body-guards and keep you prisoner. For I have very few friends."

While the chariot was bearing the two guests away, Cleomenes asked Cornelia what she thought of the queen.

"She is the most wonderful woman I have ever met," was her answer, enthusiastic and characteristically feminine. "I admire her. I am almost her slave."

The frequency of Cornelia's visits to the palace on following days seemed to prove that the admiration was not unreciprocated. Indeed, Monime and Berenice grew jealous of the queen for stealing their new friend from them.



Chapter XXI

How Ulamhala's Words Came True

I

The sentries were going their rounds; the camp-fires were burning low. Over on the western hills bounding the Thessalian plain-land lingered the last bars of light. It was oppressively warm, and man and beast were utterly fatigued. Quintus Drusus stripped off his armour, and flung himself on the turf inside his tattered leather tent. Vast had been the changes eighteen months of campaigning had made in him. He had fought in Italy, in Spain, in the long blockade of the Pompeians at Dyrrachium. He had learned the art of war in no gentle school. He had ceased even so much as to grumble inwardly at the hardships endured by the hard-pressed Caesarian army. The campaign was not going well. Pompeius had broken through the blockade; and now the two armies had been executing tedious manoeuvres, fencing for a vantage-ground before joining pitched battle.

Drusus was exceedingly weary. The events of the past two years,—loves, hates, pleasures, perils, battles,—all coursed through his mind; the fairest and most hideous of things were blended into buzzing confusion; and out of that confusion came a dull consciousness that he, Quintus Drusus, was thoroughly weary of everything and anything—was heavy of heart, was consumed with hatred, was chafing against a hundred barriers of time, space, and circumstance, and was utterly impotent to contend against them.

The Imperator—how he loved and adored him! Through all the campaigning nothing could seem to break the strength of that nervous, agile, finely strung physique. Sleeping in carriages or litters; ever moving; dictating continually books and letters to a secretary if for an hour there was a halt; dictating even while on horseback, in fact, and composing two letters at the same time; riding the most ungovernable horses fearlessly and without a fall; galloping at full speed with his hands clasped behind his back,—these were the mere external traits that made him wonderful among men. Worthy of all praise was the discipline by which the Imperator had held his troops to him by bonds firmer than iron; neither noticing all petty transgressions, nor punishing according to a rigid rule; swift and sure to apprehend mutineers and deserters; certain to relax the tight bands of discipline after a hard-fought battle with the genial remark that "his soldiers fought none the worse for being well oiled "; ever treating the troops as comrades, and addressing them as "fellow-soldiers," as if they were but sharers with him in the honour of struggling for a single great end. Drusus had known him to ride one hundred miles a day in a light chariot without baggage, march continually at the head of his legions on foot, sharing their fatigues in the most malignant weather, swim a swollen river on a float of inflated skins, always travelling faster than the news of his coming might fly before him. Tireless, unsleeping, all providing, all accomplishing, omniscient,—this was what made Drusus look upon his general as a being raised up by the Fates, to go up and down the world, destroying here and building there. The immediate future might be sombre enough, with all the military advantages falling, one after another, into Pompeius's lap; but doubt the ultimate triumph of Caesar? The young Livian would have as readily questioned his own existence.

Some one thrust back the flaps of the tent, and called inside into the darkness:—

"Are you here, Drusus?"

"I am," was the wearied answer. "Is that Antonius?"

"Yes. Come out. We may as well dispose of our cold puls before the moon rises, and while we can imagine it peacocks, Lucrine oysters, or what not."

"If sight were the only sense!" grumbled Drusus, as he pulled himself together by a considerable effort, and staggered to his feet.

Outside the tent Antonius was waiting with a helmet half full of the delectable viand, which the two friends proceeded to share together as equally as they might in the increasing darkness.

"You are over sober to-night," said Antonius, when this scarcely elaborate meal was nearly finished.

"Perpol!" replied Drusus, "have I been as a rule drunken of late? My throat hardly knows the feeling of good Falernian, it is so long since I have tasted any."

"I doubt if there is so much as a draught of posca[176] in the army," said Antonius, yawning. "I imagine that among our friends, the Pompeians, there is plenty, and more to spare. Mehercle, I feel that we must storm their camp just to get something worth drinking. But I would stake my best villa that you have not been so gloomy for mere lack of victuals, unless you have just joined the Pythagoreans, and have taken a vow not to eat fish or beans."

[176] A drink of vinegar and water very common among the soldiers.

"I do not know that I am especially gloomy to-night," replied Drusus, a bit testily. "I know little whereon to make merry."

"The arrows of Amor," hinted Antonius, "sink deep in the soul, and the god is unfair; he shoots venomed darts; the poison ever makes the pain greater."

"I would you could endure your own troubles," retorted the other, "and let me care for mine!"

"Perpol, friend," replied Antonius, "don't be vexed! I see it is a case of your wanting little said on a sore point. Well, keep silent, I won't tease you. Doesn't Theognis declare:—

"'Caress me not with words, while far away Thy heart is absent and thy feelings stray'?[177]

[177] Elton, translator.

And doubtless you would reverse the saying and put 'my heart' for 'thy heart.' Forgive me."

But Drusus, now that the ice was broken, was glad to talk.

"Now, amice, I won't harbour any ill feeling. I know that you don't look at women the way I do. If you had ever fallen in love with one like Cornelia, it would have been different. As it is, you can only stare at me, and say to yourself, 'How strange a sensible fellow like Drusus should care for a girl from whom he has been parted for nearly two years!' That's why I doubt if your sympathy can be of any great solace to me."

"Well," said Antonius, washing down his puls with a draught of water from a second helmet at hand, "I can't say that I would be full of grief two years from the day my beloved Fulvia was taken from me. But there are women of many a sort. Some are vipers to sting your breast, some are playthings, some are—what shall I call them—goddesses? no, one may not kiss Juno; flowers? they fade too early; silver and gold? that is rubbish. I have no name for them. But believe me, Quintus, I have met this Cornelia of yours once or twice, and I believe that she is one of those women for whom my words grow weak."

"Then you can sympathize, can feel, for me," said Drusus, as he lay back with his head on the dark green sward.

"Yes, as a poor man who has always possessed nothing can feel for a rich merchant whose whole fortune is about to founder at sea. Do not spurn my feeble sort of pity. But do you know nothing of her, not a word, a sign? Is she alive or dead? Much less, does she still care for you?"

"Nothing!" answered Drusus, and the sense of vexation and helplessness choked his utterance. "She vanished out of sight at Baiae, as a flash of lightning passes away in the sky. I cannot imagine the cause of her disappearance. The pirates, indeed, might have wished to take her for ransom; but no, they bore her off with never a demand for money from any friend or relative. I have tried to trace them—the Pompeian ships on every sea make it impossible. I have questioned many prisoners and spies; she is not at the Pompeian camp with her uncle. Neither can I discover that her kinsmen among the enemy themselves know where she is. And to this is added that other mystery: whither has my Aunt Fabia vanished? How much of the account of those who followed her to the river dock is to be believed—that pirates saved her from Gabinius, and then abducted her? Upon all, my clever freedman Agias is gone—gone without ever a word, though I counted him faithful as my own soul!"

"And what then do you expect?" asked Antonius, not without friendly interest.

"What can a man, who dares to look the situation in the face, expect, except something too horrible to utter?" and Drusus groaned in his agony.

"You mean—" began his friend.

"That the pirates have kept Cornelia and perhaps Fabia in their vile clutches until this hour; unless, indeed, the Fates have been merciful and they are dead! Do you wonder at my pain?"

"Phui! we will not imagine any such disagreeable thing!" said Antonius, in a sickly effort to make banter at the other's fears.

"Don't speak again unless you want me your enemy," threatened Drusus, springing up in fury. Antonius knew his own interests enough to keep quiet; besides, his friend's pain cut him to the heart, and he knew himself that Drusus's dread was justified under the circumstances.

"Do you think there will be a battle to-morrow?" demanded Drusus, after some interval of gloomy silence.

"I would to the gods it might be so," was his answer; "are you thirsting for blood?"

Drusus half drew his short sword, which even in camp never left the side of officer or private during that campaign.

"Thirst for blood?" he growled. "Yes, for the lives of Lucius Lentulus, and Domitius and his accursed younger son. I am hot as an old gladiator for a chance to spill their blood! If Cornelia suffers woe unutterable, it will be they—they who brought the evil upon her! It may not be a philosophic mood, but all the animal has risen within me, and rises more and more the longer I think upon them and on her."

"Come," said Antonius, lifting his friend by the arm, "and let us lie down in the tent. There will be toil enough to-morrow; and we must take what rest we may."

II

On that same night, in a very sumptuous tent, fresh from an ample dinner and a season over choice wines, the high and the mighty of Caesar's enemies were taking counsel together. No longer were they despairing, panic-stricken fugitives, driven from their native land which they had abandoned a prey to the invader. The strength of the East had gathered about them. Jews, Armenians, and Arabians were among their auxiliary forces; Asia Minor, Greece, the Archipelago, had poured out for them levies and subsidies. In the encampment were the vassal kings, Deiotarus of Galatia and Ariarathes of Cappadocia, allies who would share the triumph of the victorious Pompeius.

For none could doubt that the Magnus had proved his right to be called the favoured child of Fortune. Had not Caesar been utterly defeated at Dyrrachium? Was he not now almost a fugitive in the interior of Greece,—liable at any moment to have his forces cut to pieces, and he himself to be slain, in battle like a second Catilina, or to die by the executioner's axe like another Carbo? Had not several delighted Pompeians just hastened away to Lesbos, to convey to Cornelia, the wife of the Magnus, the joyful tidings that Caesar's power was broken and the war was over?

Throughout the Pompeian camps there was feasting and revelry, soldiers trolled low songs deriding their opponents, and drank themselves stupid, celebrating in advance the return of the victorious army to Italy. Their officers were looking forward even more eagerly to their reinstatement in their old haunts and pleasures at Rome. Lucius Ahenobarbus, who was outside the tent of the Magnus, while his father was taking part in the conference, was busy recounting to a crony the arrangements he was making.

"I have sent a freedman back to Rome to see that my rooms are furnished and put in order. But I have told him that I need a suite near the Forum, if possible, so as to be convenient for the canvass when I sue for quaestor at the next election, for it is time I began on my 'round of offices.'" (A "round of offices" being, according to this worthy young gentleman, an inalienable right to every male scion of his family.)

Within the debate was waxing hot. Not that any one had the least doubts that the Caesarians were at their last gasp; rather it was so extremely difficult to decide how the spoils of victory were to be equitably shared, and what was almost equally important, how the hostile and the neutral were to be punished. The noble lords were busy settling amongst themselves who should be consuls for several years to come, and how the confiscated villas of the proscribed Caesarians should be divided. As to the military situation, they were all complaisance.

"There is no need for a real battle," Pompeius was saying. "Our superior cavalry will rout their whole army before the infantry join the attack."

And Labienus, the only officer who had deserted Caesar, protested that the opposing legions had long since been thinned of their Gallic veterans, that only raw recruits composed them now.

Loudly the councillors wrangled over the successor to Caesar's pontificate; Scipio, Domitius, and another great noble, Lentulus Spinther, all had their claims. Domitius was clamouring against delay in disposing of Caesar, and in returning to Italy, to begin a general distribution of spoils, and sanguinary requital of enemies and neutrals. The contest over the pontificate grew more and more acrimonious each minute.

"Gentlemen," broke in Pompeius, "I would that you could agree amongst yourselves. It is a grievous thing that we must thus quarrel with bitterness, when victory is within our grasp."

But the war of words went on hotter and hotter. Lentulus Crus noticed that Pompeius looked pale and worried.

"You look careworn, Magnus," he whispered; "it will be a relief for the burdens of war to be off your shoulders!"

"I know not how this all will come out," said the general. "All the chances are in our favour. We have numbers, the best position, cavalry, the prestige of victory. Labienus cannot be mistaken in his estimate of Caesar's men; yet I am afraid, I am almost timorous."

"It is but the natural fear lest some slight event dim your excellency's great glory. Our position is too secure for reverse," remarked Lentulus, soothingly.

"Great glory—" repeated Pompeius, "yes, that makes me afraid. Remember Ulamhala's words,—they haunt me:—

"'He that is highest shall rise yet higher, He that is second shall utterly fall.'

Lentulus, I know Caesar is greater than I!"

Before he could continue, Labienus had risen to his feet in the council.

"An oath! an oath, gentlemen!" cried the renegade legate. "Swear all after me! 'By Jupiter Capitolinus, Optimus, Maximus, I swear not to return from the battle until victorious over Caesar!'"

All the council rose.

"We swear!" cried a score of tongues, as though their oath was the lightest thing imaginable.

"Bravely done!" shouted Labienus, while the two Lentuli and Domitius and Scipio and many another scion of the great noble houses joined in the oath. "Hem! Most excellent Magnus, you do not have confidence enough in your own cause to join us. Do you doubt our loyalty or soldierly qualities!"

"Perpol!" replied Pompeius, with a rather ill-concealed effort to speak gayly, "do you think, good Labienus, that I am as distrustful of you as Caesar ought to be of his men?"

And the Magnus also took the oath.

Outside the tent the sentries were exchanging their challenges. It was the end of the second watch of the night.[178]

[178] Midnight.

"It is late, gentlemen," said Pompeius. "I believe that I have given my orders. Remember our watch word for to-morrow."

"Hercules Invictus!" shouted one and all.

"Unconquerable' we shall be, I trust," continued the commander-in-chief. "Good-night, gentlemen; we meet to-morrow."

The council broke up, and filed out of the tent. Lentulus Spinther paused to cast a look of savage anger at Scipio, who lingered behind. The contest over the pontificate still rankled in his breast. That four and twenty hours hence both of these aristocratic gentlemen might have more pressing things to think of seemingly entered the head of neither. Lentulus Crus, Domitius, and Scipio waited after the others were gone.

"I have been wondering all day," said the genial Domitius, when the tent had emptied, "how Caesar will comport himself if he is taken prisoner and not slain in battle. I give him credit for not being likely to flee away."

"I trust he will die a soldier's death," replied Pompeius, gloomily. "It would be a grievous thing to have him fall into my hands. He has been my friend, my father-in-law. I could not treat him harshly."

"Doubtless," said the ever suave Lentulus Crus, "it would be most disagreeable for you, Magnus, to have to reward such an enemy of the Republic as he deserves. But your excellency will, of course, bow to the decrees of the Senate, and—I fear it will be very hard to persuade the conscript fathers that Caesar has earned any mercy."

"Vah! gentlemen," retorted Pompeius, pressing his hands together, and walking up and down: "I have been your tool a long while! I never at heart desired this war! A hundred times I would draw back, but you in some way prevented. I have been made to say things that I would fain have left unsaid. I am perhaps less educated and more superstitious than you. I believe that there are gods, and they punish the shedders of innocent blood. And much good Roman blood has been shed since you had your way, and drove Caesar into open enmity!"

"Of course," interposed Domitius, his face a little flushed with suppressed anger, "it is a painful thing to take the lives of fellow-countrymen; but consider the price that patriots must pay for liberty."

"Price paid for liberty," snorted Pompeius, in rising disgust, "phui! Let us at least be honest, gentlemen! It is very easy to cry out on tyrants when our ambition has been disappointed. But I am wasting words. Only this let me say. When, to-morrow, we have slain or captured our enemy, it will be I that determine the future policy of the state, and not you! I will prove myself indeed the Magnus! I will be a tool no longer."

The three consulars stared at each other, at loss for words.

"Time wastes, gentlemen," said Pompeius. "To your several commands! You have your orders."

The Magnus spoke in a tone that admonished the three oligarchs to bow in silence and go out without a word.

"His excellency is a bit tempted to play the high tragedian to-night," sneered Domitius, recovering from his first consternation. "He will think differently to-morrow. But of all things, my good Lentulus (if it comes your way), see that Caesar is quietly killed—no matter what fashion; it will save us endless trouble."

"Mehercle!" quoth the other, "do I need that advice? And again remind me to-morrow of this. We must arrange the dividing of the estate of that young reprobate, Quintus Drusus, who gave us some anxiety two years ago. But I imagine that must be deferred until after the battle."

And so they separated, and the two armies—scarce five miles apart—slept; and the stars watched over them.

III

The sun was climbing out of the dark bank of clouds that pressed down upon the eastern horizon. The green plain of Pharsalus lay spread out far and wide under the strengthening light; the distant hills were peering dimly out from the mist; the acropolis of Pharsalus itself,—perhaps the Homeric Phthia, dwelling of Achilles,—with its two peaked crags, five hundred feet in height, frowned down upon the Caesarian camp. The Enipeus and one or two minor streams were threading their way in silver ribbons down toward the distant Peneus. The fertile plain was green and verdant with the bursting summer. The scent of clover hung in the air, and with it the fragrance of thyme. Wild flowers were scattered under the feet. The early honeybee was hovering over the dew-laden petals. Wakeful thrushes were carolling out of the thickets. A thin grey fog was drifting off of the valley, soon to vanish in the blue of a perfect day. Clear and sweet the notes of the trumpets called the soldiers from their camp. The weary men shook the sleep from their eyes. There was a hurried pounding of grain in the stone mortars, breakfasts even more hurried. Then again the trumpets called out their signal. Busy hands tore up the tent pegs, other hands were folding the coverings, gathering up the poles and impedimenta, and loading them on the baggage animals.

The soldiers were grumbling as soldiers will. Drusus, who emerged from his own tent just as it was about to be pulled down about his ears, heard one private growl to another: "Look at the sun rising! What a hot day we shall have! AEdepol! will there never be an end to this marching and countermarching, skirmishing and intrenching,—water to drink, puls to eat,—I didn't take the oath[179] for that. No plunder here, and the sack of Gomphi, the last town stormed, amounted to nothing."

[179] The military oath of obedience.

Drusus would have rebuked the man for breeding discontent in the army, but at that moment he and every other around him for once relaxed that stringent discipline that held them in bands of iron. A third trumpet call cut the air, quick, shrill, penetrating.

"To arms!" Every centurion was shouting it to his men. The baggage animals were left unladen. A cohort that was about to leave the camp in marching order halted, and began to throw away its impedimenta, when Caesar himself rode up to them.

"Fellow-soldiers," said the Imperator, smiling as though he had to reveal a great piece of good fortune, "we can postpone the march. Let us put our hearts into the battle for which we have longed, and meet the foe with resolute souls, for now or never is our opportunity!"

"Io! Io!" cried a thousand hoarse throats.

Out of confusion came the most perfect order. Drusus ran to the horse that he had yielded for a pack animal on the march, saddled, mounted, flew away to Caesar's side, his heart pounding in his breast.

"Pompeius is leading out his men!" soldier was shouting to soldier. Legion after legion filed forth from the camp. Caesar, sitting with easy grace on his own favourite charger which he himself had bred, gave in calm, deliberate voice the last orders to his legates. Drusus drew rein at the general's side, ready to go anywhere or do anything that was needed, his position being one of general aide-de-camp.

Caesar was facing east; Pompeius, west. Five miles of mainly level country had extended between the camps, but Pompeius had pitched on a hill site, with a river and hills to flank him. There he might safely have defied attack. But he had come down from the eminence. He had led his army out into the plain, and the camp was a full mile behind. The long ranks of the Pompeians were splendid with all the bravery of war. On the right wing by the river lay his Cilician and Spanish cohorts, led by Lentulus Crus,—the flower of the Pompeian infantry. Scipio held the centre with two Syrian legions. On the left, Domitius was in command and Pompeius accompanied him. Seven cohorts were behind in the fortified camp. A great mass of auxiliaries and volunteers, as well as two thousand reenlisted veterans, gave strength to the lines of fully recruited cohorts. Out on the left wing, reaching up on to the foothills, lay the pride of the oligarchs, seven thousand splendid cavalry, the pick and flower of the exiled youth and nobility of Rome, reenforced by the best squadrons of the East. Here Labienus led. The Pompeian ranks were in three lines, drawn up ten deep. Forty-five thousand heavy infantry were they; and the horse and light troops were half as many—Spaniards, Africans, Italian exiles, Greeks, Asiatics—the glory of every warlike, classic race.

Slowly, slowly, the Caesarian legionaries advanced over the plain. Drusus knew that one of the most crucial hours of his life was before him, yet he was very calm. He saw some wild roses growing on a bush by the way, and thought how pretty they would look in a wreath on Cornelia's hair. He exchanged jokes with his fellow-officers; scolded a soldier who had come away without his sword in his sheath; asked Antonius, when he came across him, if he did not envy Achilles for his country-seat. It was as if he were going on the same tedious march of days and days gone by. Yet, with it all he felt himself far more intensely excited than ever before. He knew that his calm was so unnatural that he wished to cry aloud, to run, weep, to do anything to break it. This was to be the end of the great drama that had begun the day Lentulus and Marcellus first sat down as consuls!

Slowly, slowly, that long snake, the marching army, dragged out of the camp. The sun was high in the sky; the last cloud had vanished; the blue above was as clear and translucent as it is conceivable anything may be and yet retain its colour—not become clear light. The head of the column was six hundred paces from the silent Pompeian lines which awaited them. Then cohort after cohort filed off to the right and left, and the line of battle was ready. On the right was the tenth legion, on the left the weak ninth, reenforced by the eighth. There were eighty cohorts in all, to oppose one hundred and ten. But the ranks of Caesar's cohorts were thin. The numbers were scarce half as many as in those of the foe. And to confront Labienus and his cavalry Caesar had but one thousand horse. His army stood in three lines, facing the enemy's infantry; but, though it weakened his own legions dangerously, there was but one thing to do, unless Labienus was to force around the flank, and sweep all before him. Six cohorts Caesar stationed at the rear of his right wing, a defence against the hostile cavalry. The third line of the legions the Imperator commanded to hold back until he ordered them otherwise, for on them lay the turning of the battle.

Antonius commanded the left, Publius Sulla the right, Calvinus the centre. Caesar himself took post on his own right wing opposite Pompeius. Then, when the lines were formed, he rode down before his men, and addressed them; not in gaudy eloquence, as if to stir a flagging courage, but a manly request that they quit themselves as became his soldiers. Ever had he sought reconciliation, he said, ever peace; unwillingly had he exposed his own soldiers, and unwillingly attacked his enemies. And to the six chosen cohorts in the fourth line he gave a special word, for he bade them remember that doubtless on their firmness would depend the fate of the battle.

"Yes," he said in closing, while every scarred and tattered veteran laughed at the jest, "only thrust your pila in the faces of those brave cavaliers. They will turn and flee if their handsome faces are likely to be bruised." And a grim chuckle went down the line, relieving the tension that was making the oldest warriors nervous.

Caesar galloped back to his position on his own right wing. The legions were growing restive, and there was no longer cause for delay. The officers were shouting the battle-cry down the lines. The Imperator nodded to his trumpeter, and a single sharp, long peal cut the air. The note was drowned in the rush of twenty thousand feet, the howl of myriads of voices.

"Venus victrix!" The battle-cry was tossed from mouth to mouth, louder and louder, as the mighty mass of men in iron swept on.

"Venus victrix!" And the shout itself was dimmed in the crash of mortal battle, when the foremost Caesarians sent their pila dashing in upon the enemy, and closed with the short sword, while their comrades piled in upon them. Crash after crash, as cohort struck cohort; and so the battle joined.

* * * * *

Why was the battle of Pharsalus more to the world than fifty other stricken fields where armies of strength equal to those engaged there joined in conflict? Why can these other battles be passed over as dates and names to the historian, while he assigns to this a position beside Marathon and Arbela and Tours and the Defeat of the Armada and Waterloo and Gettysburg? What was at stake—that Caesar or Pompeius and his satellites should rule the world? Infinitely more—the struggle was for the very existence of civilization, to determine whether or not the fabric of ordered society was to be flung back into chaos. The Roman Republic had conquered the civilized world; it had thrown down kings; it had destroyed the political existence of nations. What but feebleness, corruption, decay, anarchy, disintegration, disruption, recurring barbarism, had the oligarchs, for whom Pompeius was fighting his battle, to put in the place of what the Republic had destroyed? Could a Senate where almost every man had his price, where almost every member looked on the provinces as a mere feeding ground for personal enrichment—could such a body govern the world? Were not German and Gaul ready to pluck this unsound organism called the Republic limb from limb, and where was the reviving, regenerating force that was to hold them back with an iron hand until a force greater than that of the sword was ready to carry its evangel unto all nations, Jew, Greek, Roman, barbarian,—bond and free? These were the questions asked and answered on that ninth day of August, forty-nine years, before the birth of a mightier than Pompeius Magnus or Julius Caesar. And because men fought and agonized and died on those plains by Pharsalus, the edict could go from Rome that all the world should be taxed, and a naturalized Roman citizen could scorn the howls of the provincial mobs, could mock at Sanhedrins seeking his blood, and cry: "Civis Romanus sum. Caesarem appello!"

How long did the battle last? Drusus did not know. No one knew. He flew at the heels of his general's charger, for where Caesar went there the fight was thickest. He saw the Pompeian heavy infantry standing stolidly in their ranks to receive the charge—a fatal blunder, that lost them all the enthusiasm aggression engenders. The Caesarian veterans would halt before closing in battle, draw breath, and dash over the remaining interval with redoubled vigour. The Pompeians received them manfully, sending back javelin for javelin; then the short swords flashed from their scabbards, and man pressed against man—staring into one another's face—seeking one another's blood; striking, striking with one thought, hope, instinct—to stride across his enemy's dead body.

The Pompeian reserves ran up to aid their comrades in the line. The odds against the Caesarian cohorts were tremendous. The pressure of shield against shield never abated. Woe to the man who lost footing and fell; his life was trampled out in a twinkling! The battle-cries grew fewer and fewer; shouting requires breath; breath, energy; and every scruple of energy was needed in pushing on those shields. There were few pila left now. The short swords dashed upon the armour, but in the press even to swing a blade was difficult. More and more intense grew the strain; Caesarians gave ground here and then regained it. Pompeians did the like yonder. The long reach of the line swayed to and fro, rippling like a dark ribbon in the wind. Now and then a combatant would receive a mortal wound, and go down out of sight in the throng, which closed over him almost ere he could utter one sharp cry.

Caesar was everywhere. His voice rang like a clarion down the lines; he knew, as it were, each soldier by name—and when a stout blow was to be struck, or a stand was needed to bear up against the weight of hostile numbers, Caesar's praise or admonition to stand firm was as a fresh cohort flung into the scale. Drusus rode with him, both mounted, hence unable to mingle in the press, but exposed to the showers of arrows and sling-stones which the Pompeian auxiliaries rained upon them. Caesar's red paludamentum marked him out a conspicuous figure for the aim of the missiles, but he bore a charmed life.

Drusus himself did what he could to steady the men. The contest in the line of battle could not continue long, flesh and blood might not endure the strain.

"Imperator," cried Drusus, riding up to his chief, "you see that this can last no longer. Our men are overmatched. Shall I order up the third line? The centurion Crastinus, who swore that he would win your gratitude living or dead, is slain after performing deeds worthy of his boast. Many others have gone down. What shall I do?"

Caesar drew rein, and cast his eyes down the swaying lines.

"I dare not order up the third line so early," he began; then, with a glance to the extreme right, "Ah, Mehercle! we are at the crisis now! Our cavalry have given way before the enemy's horse. They are outflanking us!"

"The six cohorts!" cried Drusus.

"The six cohorts—ride! Make them stop those horse, or all is lost! On your life, go!"

And away went Drusus. The supreme moment of his life had come. The whole act of being, he felt, he knew, had been only that he might live at that instant. What the next hour had in store—life, death—he cared not at all. The Caesarian horse, outnumbered seven to one, had fought valiantly, but been borne back by sheer weight of numbers. With not a man in sight to oppose them, the whole mass of the splendid Pompeian cavalry was sweeping around to crush the unprotected flank of the tenth legion. The sight of the on-rushing squadrons was beyond words magnificent. The tossing mass of their panoplies was a sea of scarlet, purple, brass, and flashing steel; the roar of the hoof-beats of seven thousand blooded coursers swept on like the approaching of the wind leading the clouds in whose breast are thunder and lightning unfettered. Behind them rose the dun vapour of the dust, drifting up toward heaven,—the whirling vortex of the storm. It was indeed the crisis.

The six cohorts were standing, resting on their shields, in the rear of the extreme right flank of the third line. They were in an oblique formation. The most distant cohort extended far back, and far beyond the Caesarian line of battle. The hearts of the soldiers were in the deathly press ahead, but they were veterans; discipline held them quiet, albeit restive in soul.

On swept the roar of the advancing Pompeians. What must be done must be done quickly. Drusus drove the spurs into his horse, and approached the cohorts on a headlong gallop.

"Forward! I will lead you against the enemy!"

No need of second command. The maniples rushed onward as though the men were runners in a race, not soldiers clothed in armour. Drusus flew down the ranks and swung the farthest cohorts into alignment with the others. There was not a moment to lose.

"Now, men, if ye be indeed soldiers of Caesar, at them!"

Drusus was astounded at the resonance of his own voice; a thousand others caught up the shout.

"Venus victrix!" And straight into the teeth of the galloping hosts charged the thin line of infantry.

The line was weak, its members strong. They were rural Italians, uncorrupted by city life, hardy, god-fearing peasants and sons of peasants, worthy descendants of the men who died in the legions at Cannae, or triumphed at the Metaurus. Steady as on a review the six cohorts bore down into action. And when they struck the great mass of horsemen they thrust their pila into the riders' eyes and prodded the steeds. The foremost cavalrymen drew rein; the horses reared. The squadrons were colliding and plunging. In an eye's twinkling their momentum had been checked.

"Charge! Charge!" Drusus sent the word tossing down along the cohorts, and the legionaries pressed forward. It was done. The whole splendid array of horsemen broke in rout; they went streaming back in disordered squadrons over the plain, each trooper striving to outride his fellow in the flight. Pompeius had launched his most deadly bolt, and it had failed.

Now was Drusus's chance. No further order had been given him; to pursue cavalry with infantry were folly; he needed no new commands. The six cohorts followed his lead like machinery. The crash of battle dimmed his voice; the sight of his example led the legionaries on. They fell on the Pompeian archers and slingers and dispersed them like smoke. They wheeled about as on a pivot and struck the enemy's left wing; struck the Pompeian fighting line from the rear, and crushed it betwixt the upper and nether millstone of themselves and the tenth legion. Drusus drove into the very foremost of the fight; it was no longer a press, it was flight, pursuit, slaughter, and he forced his horse over one enemy after another—transformed, transfigured as he was into a demon of destruction, while the delirium of battle gained upon him.

Drusus saw the figure of a horseman clothed, like Caesar, in a red general's cloak spurring away to the enemy's camp. He called to his men that Pompeius had taken panic and fled away; that the battle was won. He saw the third line of the Caesarians drive through the Pompeian centre and right as a plough cuts through the sandy field, and then spread terror, panic, rout—the battle became a massacre.

So the Caesarians hunted their foes over the plain to the camp. And, though the sun on high rained down a pitiless heat, none faltered when the Imperator bade them use their favour with Fortune, and lose not a moment in storming the encampment. They assailed the ramparts. The Pompeian reserve cohorts stood against them like men; the Thracian and other auxiliary light troops sent down clouds of missiles—of what avail? There are times when mortal might can pass seas of fire and mountains of steel; and this was one of those moments. The Pompeians were swept from the ramparts by a pitiless shower of javelins. The panic still was upon them; standards of cohorts, eagles of legions, they threw them all away. They fled—fled casting behind shields, helmets, swords, anything that hindered their running. The hills, the mountain tops, were their only safety. Their centurions and tribunes were foremost among the fugitives. And from these mountain crests they were to come down the next morning and surrender themselves prisoners to the conquerors—petitioners for their lives.

Not all were thus fated. For in the flight from the camp Domitius fell down from fatigue, and Marcus Antonius, whose hand knew no weariness, neither his heart remorse or mercy, slew him as a man would slay a snake. And so perished one of the evil spirits that hounded Pompeius to his death, the Roman oligarchy to its downfall.

Drusus sought far and wide for Lentulus and Lucius Ahenobarbus. The consular had fought on the most distant wing, and in the flight he and his mortal enemy did not meet. Neither did Drusus come upon the younger son of the slain Domitius. Fortune kept the two asunder. But slaying enough for one day the young Livian had wrought. He rode with Caesar through the splendid camp just captured. The flowers had been twined over the arbours under which the victory was to be celebrated; the plate was on the tables; choice viands and wines were ready; the floors of the tents were covered with fresh sods; over the pavilion of Lentulus Crus was a great shade of ivy. The victors rode out from the arbours toward the newly taken ramparts. There lay the dead, heaps upon heaps, the patrician dress proclaiming the proud lineage of the fallen; Claudii, Fabii, AEmilii, Furii, Cornelii, Sempronii, and a dozen more great gentes were represented—scions of the most magnificent oligarchy the world has ever seen. And this was their end! Caesar passed his hand over his forehead and pressed his fingers upon his eyes.

"They would have it so," he said, in quiet sadness, to the little knot of officers around him. "After all that I had done for my country, I, Caius Caesar, would have been condemned by them like a criminal, if I had not appealed to my army."

And so ended that day and that battle. On the field and in the camp lay dead two hundred Caesarians and fifteen thousand Pompeians. Twenty-four thousand prisoners had been taken, one hundred and eighty standards, nine eagles. As for the Magnus, he had stripped off his general's cloak and was riding with might and main for the seacoast, accompanied by thirty horsemen.



Chapter XXII

The End of the Magnus

I

The months had come and gone for Cornelia as well as for Quintus Drusus, albeit in a very different manner. The war was raging upon land and sea. The Pompeian fleet controlled all the water avenues; the Italian peninsula was held by the Caesarians. Cornelia wrote several times to old Mamercus at Praeneste, enclosing a letter which she begged him to forward to her lover wherever he might be. But no answer came. Once she learned definitely that the ship had been captured. For the other times she could imagine the same catastrophe. Still she had her comfort. Rumours of battles, of sieges, and arduous campaigning drifted over the Mediterranean. Now it was that a few days more would see Caesar an outlaw without a man around him, and then Cornelia would believe none of it. Now it was that Pompeius was in sore straits, and then she was all credulity. Yet beside these tidings there were other stray bits of news very dear to her heart. Caesar, so it was said, possessed a young aide-de-camp of great valour and ability, one Quintus Drusus, and the Imperator was already entrusting him with posts of danger and of responsibility. He had behaved gallantly at Ilerda; he had won more laurels at the siege of Massilia. At Dyrrachium he had gained yet more credit. And on account of these tidings, it may easily be imagined that Cornelia was prepared to be very patient and to be willing to take the trying vicissitudes of her own life more lightly.

As a matter of fact, her own position at Alexandria had begun to grow complicated. First of all, Agias had made one day a discovery in the city which it was exceeding well for Artemisia was not postponed for a later occasion. Pratinas was in Alexandria. The young Greek had not been recognized when, as chance meetings will occur, he came across his one-time antagonist face to face on the street. He had no fears for himself. But Artemisia was no longer safe in the city. Cleomenes arranged that the girl should be sent to a villa, owned by the relatives of his late wife, some distance up the Nile. Artemisia would thus be parted from Agias, but she would be quite safe; and to secure that, any sacrifice of stolen looks and pretty coquetry was cheerfully accepted.

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