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» CHAPTER VIII
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Antony immediately decided that this was Cleopatra's treason. She had|
made peace with Octavius, he thought, and surrendered the fleet to him
as one of the conditions of it. Antony ran through the city, crying out
that he was betrayed, and in a frensy of rage sought the palace.
Cleopatra fled to her tomb. She took in with her one or two attendants,
and bolted and barred the doors, securing the fastenings with the heavy
catches and springs that she had previously made ready. She then
directed her women to call out through the door that she had killed
herself within the tomb.
The tidings of her death were borne to Antony. It changed his anger to
grief and despair. His mind, in fact, was now wholly lost to all balance
and control, and it passed from the dominion of one stormy passion to
another with the most capricious facility. He cried out with the most
bitter expressions of sorrow, mourning, he said, not so much Cleopatra's
death, for he should soon follow and join her, as the fact that she had
proved herself so superior to him in courage at last, in having thus
anticipated him in the work of self-destruction.
He was at this time in one of the chambers of the palace, whither he had
fled in despair, and was standing by a fire, for the morning was cold.
He had a favorite servant named Eros, whom he greatly trusted, and whom
he had made to take an oath long before, that whenever it should become
necessary for him to die, Eros should kill him. This Eros he now called
to him, and telling him that the time was come, ordered him to take the
sword and strike the blow.
Eros took the sword while Antony stood up before him. Eros turned his
head aside as if wishing that his eyes should not see the deed which his
hands were about to perform. Instead, however, of piercing his master
with it, he plunged it into his own breast, fell down at Antony's feet,
Antony gazed a moment at the shocking spectacle, and then said, "I thank
thee for this, noble Eros. Thou hast set me an example. I must do for
myself what thou couldst not do for me." So saying, he took the sword
from his servant's hands, plunged it into his body, and staggering to a
little bed that was near, fell over upon it in a swoon. He had received
a mortal wound.
The pressure, however, which was produced by the position in which he
lay upon the bed, stanched the wound a little, and stopped the flow of
blood. Antony came presently to himself again, and then began to beg and
implore those around him to take the sword and put him out of his
misery. But no one would do it. He lay for a time suffering great pain,
and moaning incessantly, until, at length, an officer came into the
apartment and told him that the story which he had heard of Cleopatra's
death was not true; that she was still alive, shut up in her monument,
and that she desired to see him there. This intelligence was the source
of new excitement and agitation. Antony implored the by-standers to
carry him to Cleopatra, that he might see her once more before he died.
They shrank from the attempt; but, after some hesitation and delay, they
concluded to undertake to remove him. So, taking him in their arms, they
bore him along, faint and dying, and marking their track with his blood,
toward the tomb.
Cleopatra would not open the gates to let the party in. The city was all
in uproar and confusion through the terror of the assault which Octavius
was making upon it, and she did not know what treachery might be
intended. She therefore went up to a window above, and letting down
ropes and chains, she directed those below to fasten the dying body to
them, that she and the two women with her might draw it up. This was
done. Those who witnessed it said that it was a most piteous sight to
behold,--Cleopatra and her women above exhausting their strength in
drawing the wounded and bleeding sufferer up the wall, while he, when he
approached the window, feebly raised his arms to them, that they might
lift him in. The women had hardly strength sufficient to draw the body
up. At one time it seemed that the attempt would have to be abandoned;
but Cleopatra reached down from the window as far as she could to get
hold of Antony's arms, and thus, by dint of great effort, they succeeded
at last in taking him in. They bore him to a couch which was in the
upper room from which the window opened, and laid him down, while
Cleopatra wrung her hands and tore her hair, and uttered the most
piercing lamentations and cries. She leaned over the dying Antony,
crying out incessantly with the most piteous exclamations of grief. She
bathed his face, which was covered with blood, and vainly endeavored to
stanch his wound.
Antony urged her to be calm, and not to mourn his fate. He asked for
some wine. They brought it to him and he drank it. He then entreated
Cleopatra to save her life, if she possibly could do so, and to make
some terms or other with Octavius, so as to continue to live. Very soon
after this he expired.