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Antonina

'Then his downfall is assured! I have seen Alaric.'
'We shall trample him under our feet!--this boy, who has been set over us that are
his elders, because he is a Goth and we are Huns! But what of Alaric? How did
you gain his ear?'
'The Goths round his tent scoffed at me as a savage, and swore that I was begotten
between a demon and a witch. But I remembered the time when these boasters
fled from their settlements; when our tribes mounted their black steeds and hunted
them like beasts! Aha, their very lips were pale with fear in those days.'
'Speak of Alaric--our time is short,' interrupted the other fiercely.
'I answered not a word to their taunts,' resumed his companion, 'but I called out
loudly that I was a Gothic ally, that I brought messages to Alaric, and that I had
the privilege of audience like the rest. My voice reached the ears of the king: he
looked forth from his tent, and beckoned me in. I saw his hatred of my nation
lowering in his eye as we looked on one another, but I spoke with submission and
in a soft voice. I told him how his chieftain whom he had set over us secretly
deserted his post; I told him how we had seen his favoured warrior for many
nights journeying towards the suburbs; how on this night, as on others before, he
had stolen from the encampment, and how you had gone forth to track him to his
lurking-place.'
'Was the tyrant angered?'
'His cheeks reddened, and his eyes flashed, and his fingers trembled round the hilt
of his sword while I spoke! When I ceased he answered me that I lied. He cursed
me for an infidel Hun who had slandered a Christian chieftain. He threatened me
with hanging! I cried to him to send messengers to our quarters to prove the truth
ere he slew me. He commanded a warrior to return hither with me. When we
arrived, the most Christian chieftain was nowhere to be beheld--none knew
whither he had gone! We turned back again to the tent of the king; his warrior,
whom he honoured, spoke the same words to him as the Hun whom he despised.
Then the wrath of Alaric rose. "This very night," he cried, "did I with my own lips
direct him to await my commands with vigilance at his appointed post! I would
visit such disobedience with punishment on my own son! Go, take with you
others of your troop--your comrade who has tracked him will guide you to his
hiding-place--bring him prisoner into my tent!" Such were his words! Our
companions wait us without--lest he should escape let us depart without delay.'
'And if he should resist us,' cried the other, leading the way eagerly towards the
door; 'what said the king if he should resist us?'
'Slay him with your own hands.'
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