Antonina HTML version
oblige him to expose the fugitive to the malignity of her revengeful enemy; the
thousand contingencies that the difference of their sexes, their nations, and their
lives, might create to oppose the continuance of the permanent protection that he
had promised to her, caused him no forebodings. Antonina, and Antonina alone,
occupied every faculty of his mind, and every feeling of his heart. There was a
softness and a melody to his ear in her very name!
His early life had made him well acquainted with the Latin tongue, but he had
never discovered all its native smoothness of sound, and elegance of structure,
until he had heard it spoken by Antonina. Word by word, he passed over in his
mind her varied, natural, and happy turns of expression; recalling, as he was thus
employed, the eloquent looks, the rapid gesticulations, the changing tones which
had accompanied those words, and thinking how wide was the difference between
this young daughter of Rome, and the cold and taciturn women of his own nation.
The very mystery enveloping her story, which would have excited the suspicion
or contempt of more civilised men, aroused in him no other emotions than those
of wonder and compassion. No feelings of a lower nature than these entered his
heart towards the girl. She was safe under the protection of the enemy and the
barbarian, after having been lost through the interference of the Roman and the
To the simple perceptions of the Goth, the discovery of so much intelligence
united to such extreme youth, of so much beauty doomed to such utter loneliness,
was the discovery of an apparition that dazzled, and not of a woman who charmed
him. He could not even have touched the hand of the helpless creature, who now
reposed under his tent, unless she had extended it to him of her own accord. He
could only think--with a delight whose excess he was far from estimating himself-
-on this solitary mysterious being who had come to him for shelter and for aid;
who had awakened in him already new sources of sensation; and who seemed to
his startled imagination to have suddenly twined herself for ever about the
destinies of his future life.
He was still deep in meditation, when he was startled by a hand suddenly laid on
his arm. He looked up and saw that Antonina, whom he had imagined to be
slumbering on her couch, was standing by his side.
'I cannot sleep,' said the girl in a low, awe-struck voice, 'until I have asked you to
spare my father when you enter Rome. I know that you are here to ravage the city;
and, for aught I can tell, you may assault and destroy it to-night. Will you promise
to warn me before the walls are assailed? I will then tell you my father's name and
abode, and you will spare him as you have mercifully spared me? He has denied
me his protection, but he is my father still; and I remember that I disobeyed him
once, when I possessed myself of a lute! Will you promise me to spare him? My
mother, whom I have never seen and who must therefore be dead, may love me in
another world for pleading for my father's life!'
In a few words, Hermanric quieted her agitation by explaining to her the nature
and intention of the Gothic blockade, and she silently returned to the couch. After
a short interval, her slow, regular breathing announced to the young warrior, as he
watched by the side of the fire, that she had at length forgotten the day's heritage
of misfortune in the welcome oblivion of sleep.