The messengers, on their arrival at the gates, found the sentinels and
soldiers quietly on guard before the door, as if all were well. On
entering Cleopatra's room, however, they beheld a shocking spectacle.
Cleopatra was lying dead upon a couch. One of her women was upon the
floor, dead too. The other, whose name was Charmian, was sitting over
the body of her mistress, fondly caressing her, arranging flowers in her
hair, and adorning her diadem. The messengers of Octavius, on witnessing
this spectacle, were overcome with amazement, and demanded of Charmian
what it could mean. "It is all right," said Charmian. "Cleopatra has
acted in a manner worthy of a princess descended from so noble a line of
kings." As Charmian said this, she began to sink herself, fainting, upon
the bed, and almost immediately expired.

The by-standers were not only shocked at the spectacle which was thus
presented before them, but they were perplexed and confounded in their
attempts to discover by what means Cleopatra and her women had succeeded
in effecting their design. They examined the bodies, but no marks of
violence were to be discovered. They looked all around the room, but no
weapons, and no indication of any means of poison, were to be found.
They discovered something that appeared like the slimy track of an
animal on the wall, toward a window, which they thought might have been
produced by an _asp_; but the reptile itself was nowhere to be seen.
They examined the body with great care, but no marks of any bite or
sting were to be found, except that there were two very slight and
scarcely discernible punctures on the arm, which some persons fancied
might have been so caused. The means and manner of her death seemed to
be involved in impenetrable mystery.

There were various rumors on the subject subsequently in circulation
both at Alexandria and at Rome, though the mystery was never fully
solved. Some said that there was an asp concealed among the figs which
the servant man brought in in the basket; that he brought it in that
manner, by a preconcerted arrangement between him and Cleopatra, and
that, when she received it, she placed the creature on her arm. Others
say that she had a small steel instrument like a needle, with a poisoned
point, which she had kept concealed in her hair, and that she killed
herself with that, without producing any visible wound. Another story
was, that she had an asp in a box somewhere in her apartment, which she
had reserved for this occasion, and when the time finally came, that she
pricked and teased it with a golden bodkin to make it angry, and then
placed it upon her flesh and received its sting. Which of these stones,
if either of them, was true, could never be known. It has, however, been
generally believed among mankind that Cleopatra died in some way or
other by the self-inflicted sting of the asp, and paintings and
sculptures without number have been made to illustrate and commemorate
the scene.

This supposition in respect to the mode of her death is, in fact,
confirmed by the action of Octavius himself on his return to Rome, which
furnishes a strong indication of his opinion of the manner in which his
captive at last eluded him. Disappointed in not being able to exhibit
the queen herself in his triumphal train, he caused a golden statue
representing her to be made, with an image of an asp upon the arm of it,
and this sculpture he caused to be borne conspicuously before him in his
grand triumphal entry into the capital, as the token and trophy of the
final downfall of the unhappy Egyptian queen.

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