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'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
'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.'