Antonina HTML version

The Rift In The Wall
When Ulpius suddenly departed from Numerian's house on the morning of the
siege, it was with no distinct intention of betaking himself to any particular place,
or devoting himself to any immediate employment. It was to give vent to his joy--
to the ecstacy that now filled his heart to bursting--that he sought the open streets.
His whole moral being was exalted by that overwhelming sense of triumph, which
urges the physical nature into action. He hurried into the free air, as a child runs
on a bright day in the wide fields; his delight was too wild to expand under a roof;
his excess of bliss swelled irrepressibly beyond all artificial limits of space.
The Goths were in sight! A few hours more, and their scaling ladders would be
planted against the walls. On a city so weakly guarded as Rome, their assault must
be almost instantaneously successful. Thirsting for plunder, they would descend
in infuriated multitudes on the defenceless streets. Christians though they were,
the restraints of religion would, in that moment of fierce triumph, be powerless
with such a nation of marauders against the temptations to pillage. Churches
would be ravaged and destroyed; priests would be murdered in attempting the
defence of their ecclesiastical treasures; fire and sword would waste to its
remotest confines the stronghold of Christianity, and overwhelm in death and
oblivion the boldest of Christianity's devotees! Then, when the hurricane of ruin
and crime had passed over the city, when a new people were ripe for another
government and another religion--then would be the time to invest the banished
gods of old Rome with their former rule; to bid the survivors of the stricken
multitude remember the judgment that their apostacy to their ancient faith had
demanded and incurred; to strike the very remembrance of the Cross out of the
memory of man; and to reinstate Paganism on her throne of sacrifices, and under
her roof of gold, more powerful from her past persecutions; more universal in her
sudden restoration, than in all the glories of her ancient rule!
Such thoughts as these passed through the Pagan's toiling mind as, unobservant of
all outward events, he paced through the streets of the beleaguered city. Already
he beheld the array of the Goths preparing the way, as the unconscious pioneers
of the returning gods, for the march of that mighty revolution which he was
determined to lead. The warmth of his past eloquence, the glow of his old
courage, thrilled through his heart, as he figured to himself the prospect that
would soon stretch before him--a city laid waste, a people terrified, a government
distracted, a religion destroyed. Then, arising amid this darkness and ruin; amid
this solitude, desolation, and decay, it would be his glorious privilege to summon
an unfaithful people to return to the mistress of their ancient love; to rise from
prostration beneath a dismantled Church; and to seek prosperity in temples
repeopled and at shrines restored!
All remembrance of late events now entirely vanished from his mind. Numerian,
Vetranio, Antonina, they were all forgotten in this memorable advent of the
Goths! His slavery in the mines, his last visit to Alexandria, his earlier
wanderings--even these, so present to his memory until the morning of the siege,