A few days afterwards Sextus Tarquin went, unknown to Collatinus, with one companion to Collatia.
He was hospitably received by the household, who suspected nothing, and after supper was conducted to the bedroom set apart for guests. When all around seemed safe and everybody fast asleep, he went in the frenzy of his passion with a naked sword to the sleeping Lucretia
, and placing his left hand on her breast, said, ‘Silence, Lucretia
! I am Sextus Tarquin, and I have a sword in my hand; if you utter a word, you shall die.’
When the woman, terrified out of her sleep, saw that no help was near, and instant death threatening her, Tarquin began to confess his passion, pleaded, used threats as well as entreaties, and employed every argument likely to influence a female heart.
When he saw that she was inflexible and not moved even by the fear of death, he threatened to disgrace her, declaring that he would lay the naked corpse of the slave by her dead body, so that it might be said that she had been slain in foul adultery.
By this awful threat, his lust triumphed over her inflexible chastity, and Tarquin went off exulting in having successfully attacked her honour. Lucretia
, overwhelmed with grief at such a frightful outrage, sent a messenger to her father at Rome
and to her husband at Ardea, asking them to come to her, each accompanied by one faithful friend; it was necessary to act, and to act promptly; a horrible thing had happened.
Spurius Lucretius came with Publius Valerius, the son of Volesus; Collatinus with Lucius Junius Brutus, with whom he happened to be returning to Rome
when he was met by his wife's messenger. They found Lucretia
sitting in her room prostrate with grief.
As they entered, she burst into tears, and to her husband's inquiry whether all was well, replied, ‘No! what can be well with a woman when her honour is lost? The marks of a stranger Collatinus are in your bed. But it is only the body that has been violated the soul is pure; death shall bear witness to that. But pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished.
It is Sextus Tarquin, who, coming as an enemy instead of a guest forced from me last night by brutal violence a pleasure fatal to me, and, if you are men, fatal to him.’
They all successively pledged their word, and tried to console the distracted woman , by turning the guilt from the victim of the outrage to the perpetrator, and urging that it is the mind that sins not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt ‘It is for you,’ she said, ‘to see that he gets his deserts:
although I acquit myself of the sin, I do not free myself from the penalty; no unchaste woman shall henceforth live and plead Lucretia
She had a knife concealed in her dress which she plunged into her, heart, and fell dying on the floor.
Her father and husband raised the death-cry.1