THE POISONOUS SNAKE
OCTAVIUS followed Antony and Cleopatra to Egypt as soon as he
had made his victory sure. Cleopatra tried many times
to make peace with him, but he refused to listen to her
unless she would give up Mark Antony. Then the fair
Egyptian queen tried to soften the stern young
conqueror's heart by the sight of her great beauty.
But this plan failed also.
 All was now at an end, and Cleopatra knew that Octavius
would insist upon her going to Rome, where she would
have to appear in his triumph. She could not bear this
thought, and made up her mind to die rather than suffer
such a disgrace.
In the mean while, Mark Antony had heard that she was
already dead; so he called his slave Eros, and bade
the man kill him. Eros took the sword, as he was told;
but, instead of killing his master, he drove it into
his own heart, and fell to the earth, dead. Then Mark
Antony drew the sword from the slave's breast, and
plunged it into his own. Such was his hesitation,
however, that the wound did not prove at once fatal;
and he lived to hear that the news he had received was
false, and that Cleopatra still lived.
To see her once more, Antony had himself carried to the
tower in which the Egyptian queen had taken refuge,
with her servants and treasures. But the doors were so
well barricaded that they could not be opened. He
therefore had himself lifted through a window; but he
died just as he was laid at Cleopatra's feet.
After obtaining permission to bury Antony, and assuring
herself that there was no hope of escape, Cleopatra lay
down upon her couch to die. Taking an asp—a very
poisonous serpent—from a basket of fruit in which
it was hidden, she allowed it to bite her till she
Octavius, warned of her danger, sent in haste to save
her; but his officer found her already dead, with her
favorite attendants dying at her feet. "Is this well?"
he asked of one of these women.
"Yes, it is well!" she answered, and died smiling
 her beautiful mistress would never be obliged to follow
the conqueror's chariot in the streets of Rome.
By the death of his rival, Octavius now found himself
sole ruler; and with Antony the old Roman Republic
ends, and the story of the Roman Empire begins.