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  • By Apis, Persian, thy gods are good to thee.

  • Try yet again, O captain.

  • Double or quits!

  • No more. I am not in the vein.

  • Captain, a stranger approaches.

  • Stand. Who goes there? The bearer of evil tidings.

  • Pass him in.

  • Who art thou that laughest in the House of Cleopatra the Queen,

  • and in the teeth of Belzanor, the captain of her guard?

  • I am Bel Affris, descended from the gods.

  • Hail, cousin!

  • Hail, cousin!

  • All the Queen's guards are descended from the gods, save myself.

  • I am a Persian,

  • descended from many kings.

  • Hail, cousins!

  • Hail, mortal!

  • You have been in battle, Bel Affris; and you are a soldier among soldiers.

  • You will not let the Queen's women have the first of your tidings.

  • I have no tidings,

  • except that we shall have our throats cut presently,

  • women, soldiers, and all.

  • I thought so.

  • Tell us what we fell.

  • Yes, tell us, tell us.

  • Know then that I serve in a guard in the temple of Ra, here in Memphis.

  • We went to Alexandria to inquire of king Ptolemy,

  • how we egyptians do with a Roman Pompey newly come to our shores

  • after his defeat by Caesar at Pharsalia.

  • Caesar defeated Pompey?

  • Thus Roman fight Roman?

  • Even as egyptian fights egyptian.

  • What did you learn from the Queen's brother Ptolemy, a pretender?

  • We learned that Caesar is coming also in hot pursuit of his foe, and that Ptolemy has slain Pompey.

  • Nay, more: we found that Caesar is already come;

  • for we had not made half a day's journey on our way back

  • when we came upon a city rabble flying from his legions.

  • And ye, the temple guard! Did you not withstand these legions?

  • What man could, that we did.

  • But this Caesar throws his legions where we are weakest

  • as he throws a stone from a catapult.

  • And this legion is a man with one head and thousand arms

  • And no religion, I have fought against him, I know.

  • Were you frightened, cousin?

  • No cousin, but I was beaten.

  • Could you not die?

  • There was no time

  • All was over in a moment.

  • and I am come to warn you that you must open your gates to Caesar;

  • for his advance guard is scarce an hour behind me;

  • and not an Egyptian warrior is left standing between you and his legions.

  • Woe, alas!

  • Nail him to the door, quick!

  • Now this news will run through the palace like fire through stubble.

  • What shall we do to save the women from the Romans?

  • Why not kill them?

  • Because we should have to pay blood money.

  • Better let the Romans kill them:

  • it is cheaper.

  • O subtle one! O serpent!

  • But your Queen? True:

  • we must carry off Cleopatra.

  • I will take her on the crupper of my horse.

  • Fly, fly!

  • What's an uproar?

  • The sacred white cat has been stolen!

  • Hail, Sphinx:

  • salutation from Julius Caesar!

  • I have wandered in many lands, seeking the lost regions

  • from which my birth into this world exiled me,

  • and the company of creatures such as I myself.

  • I have found flocks and pastures, men and cities,

  • but no other Caesar, no air native to me,

  • no man kindred to me, none

  • who can do my day's deed, and think my night's thought.

  • In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place is as high

  • as yours in this great desert;

  • only I wander, and you sit still; I conquer,

  • and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and wait;

  • Sphinx,

  • you and I, strangers to the race of men, are no strangers to one another:

  • have I not been conscious of you and of this place since I was born?

  • Rome is a madman's dream:

  • this is my Reality.

  • My way hither was the way of destiny;

  • for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol:

  • part brute, part woman, and part God--

  • nothing of man in me at all.

  • Have I read your riddle, Sphinx?

  • Old gentleman.

  • Immortal gods!

  • Old gentleman: don't run away.

  • Old gentleman:

  • don't run away!!!

  • This! To Julius Caesar!

  • Old gentleman.

  • Sphinx: you presume on your centuries.

  • I am younger than you, though your voice is but a girl's voice as yet.

  • Climb up here, quickly; or the Romans will come and eat you.

  • A child at its breast! A divine child!

  • Come up quickly. You must get up at its side and creep round.

  • Who are you?

  • Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

  • Queen of the Gypsies, you mean.

  • You must not be disrespectful to me,

  • or the Sphinx will let the Romans eat you.

  • Come up. It is quite cosy here.

  • What a dream!

  • What a magnificent dream!

  • Only let me not wake,

  • Take care.

  • That's right. Now sit down:

  • you may have its other paw.

  • It is very powerful and will protect us;

  • but it would not take any notice of me or keep me company.

  • I am glad you have come: I was very lonely.

  • Did you happen to see a white cat anywhere?

  • Have you lost one?

  • Yes: the sacred white cat: is it not dreadful?

  • I brought him here to sacrifice him to the Sphinx;

  • but when we got a little way from the city a black cat called him,

  • and he jumped out of my arms and ran away to it.

  • Do you think that the black cat can have been my great-great-great-grandmother?

  • Your great-great-great-grandmother!

  • Well, why not?

  • Nothing would surprise me on this night of nights.

  • I think it must have been. My great-grandmother's great-grandmother

  • was a black kitten of the sacred white cat;

  • and my blood is made with Nile water.

  • That is why my hair is so wavy.

  • What are you doing here at this time of night?

  • Do you live here? Of course not:

  • I am the Queen; and I shall live in the palace at Alexandria

  • when I have killed my brother, who drove me out of it.

  • When I am old enough I shall do just what I like.

  • I shall be able to poison the slaves and see them wriggle, and pretend to Ftatateeta,

  • my nurse, that she is going to be put into the fiery furnace.

  • Hm! Meanwhile why are you not at home and in bed?

  • Because the Romans are coming to eat us all.

  • YOU are not at home and in bed either.

  • Yes I am.

  • I live in a tent; and I am now in that tent, fast asleep and dreaming.

  • Do you suppose that I believe

  • you are real, you impossible little dream witch?

  • You are a funny old gentleman. I like you.

  • Ah, that spoils the dream.

  • Why don't you dream that I am young?

  • I wish you were;

  • only I think I should be more afraid of you.

  • I like men, especially young men with round strong arms;

  • but I am afraid of them.

  • You are old and rather wrinkly;

  • but you have a nice voice; and I like to have somebody to talk to,

  • though I think you are a little mad.

  • It is the moon that makes you talk to yourself in that silly way.

  • What! you heard that, did you?

  • I was saying my prayers to the great Sphinx.

  • But this isn't the great Sphinx. What!

  • This is only a dear little kitten of the Sphinx.

  • Why, the great Sphinx is so big that it has a temple between its paws.

  • This is my pet Sphinx.

  • Tell me: do you think the Romans have any sorcerers

  • who could take us away from the Sphinx by magic?

  • Why? Are you afraid of the Romans?

  • Oh, they would eat us if they caught us.

  • They are barbarians.

  • Their chief is called Julius Caesar.

  • His father was a tiger and his mother a burning mountain; and his nose is like an elephant's trunk.

  • They all have long noses, and ivory tusks,

  • and little tails, and seven arms with a hundred arrows in each;

  • and they live on

  • human flesh.

  • Would you like me to show you a real Roman?

  • No. You are frightening me.

  • No matter: this is only a dream--

  • It is not a dream: it is not a dream. See, see.

  • How dare you?

  • You said you were dreaming.

  • I only wanted to show you--

  • Come, come: don't cry.

  • A queen mustn't cry.

  • Cleopatra: can you see my face well?

  • Yes.

  • It is so white in the moonlight.

  • Are you sure it is the moonlight that makes me look whiter than an Egyptian?

  • Do you notice that I have a rather long nose?

  • It is a Roman nose, Cleopatra.

  • Bite him in two, Sphinx: bite him in two.

  • I meant to sacrifice the white ca--I did indeed--I--Ah!

  • Cleopatra: shall I show you a way to prevent Caesar from eating you?

  • Oh do, do, do.

  • I will steal a crown jewel and give them to you.

  • I will make the river Nile water your lands twice a year.

  • My child. Your gods are afraid of the Romans:

  • you see the Sphinx dare not bite me,

  • nor prevent me carrying you off to Julius Caesar.

  • You won't, you won't. You said you wouldn't.

  • Caesar never eats women. But he eats girls and cats.

  • Now you are a silly little girl;

  • and you are descended from the black kitten. You are both a girl and a cat.

  • And will he eat me? Yes;

  • unless you make him believe that you are a woman.

  • Oh, you must get a sorcerer to make a woman of me.

  • Are you a sorcerer? Perhaps.

  • But it will take a long time;

  • and this very night you in the palace of your fathers.

  • you must stand face to face with Caesar

  • No, no. I daren't.

  • Whatever dread may be in your soul--

  • however terrible Caesar may be to you--

  • you must confront him as a brave woman and a great queen;

  • and you must feel no fear.

  • If your hand shakes: if your voice quavers;

  • then--night and death!

  • But if he thinks you worthy to rule,

  • he will set you on the throne by his side

  • and make you the real ruler of Egypt.

  • No: he will find me out: he will find me out.

  • He is easily deceived by women.

  • Their eyes dazzle him;

  • Then we will cheat him.

  • If you do that he will eat you at one mouthful.

  • I will do whatever you tell me. I will be good!

  • I will be your slave.

  • Hark! What was that?

  • Caesar's voice.

  • Let us run away. Come. Oh, come.

  • You are safe with me

  • until you stand on your throne to receive Caesar.

  • Lead me to your palace in the desert.

  • I will, I will. Oh, come, come, come:

  • the gods are angry. Do you feel the earth shaking?

  • It is the tread of Caesar's legions.

  • This way, quickly. And let us look for the white cat as we go.

  • It is he that has turned you into a Roman.

  • Incorrigible, oh,

  • incorrigible!

  • Come, come.

  • Ftatateeta!

  • What place is this?

  • This is where I sit on the throne when I am allowed to wear my crown and robes.

  • Ftatateeta!

  • Order the slave to light the lamps.

  • Do you think I may? Of course.

  • You are the Queen. Go on.

  • Light all the lamps.

  • Stop.

  • Who is this you have with you;

  • and how dare you order the lamps to be lighted

  • without my permission?

  • Who is she? Ftatateeta.

  • Chief nurse to--

  • I speak to the Queen. Be silent.

  • Is this how your servants know their places?

  • Send her away;