Antonina HTML version

were swept from its very surface now. Age, solitude, infirmity--hitherto the
mournful sensations which were proofs to him that he still continued to exist--
suddenly vanished from his perceptions, as things that were not; and now at
length he forgot that he was an outcast, and remembered triumphantly that he was
still a priest. He felt animated by the same hopes, elevated by the same
aspirations, as in those early days when he had harangued the wavering Pagans in
the Temple, and first plotted the overthrow of the Christian Church.
It was a terrible and warning proof of the omnipotent influence that a single idea
may exercise over a whole life, to see that old man wandering among the crowds
around him, still enslaved, after years of suffering and solitude, degradation, and
crime, by the same ruling ambition, which had crushed the promise of his early
youth! It was an awful testimony to the eternal and mysterious nature of thought,
to behold that wasted and weakened frame; and then to observe how the
unassailable mind within still swayed the wreck of body yet left to it-- how
faithfully the last exhausted resources of failing vigour rallied into action at its
fierce command--how quickly, at its mocking voice, the sunken eye lightened
again with a gleam of hope, and the pale, thin lips parted mechanically with an
exulting smile!
The hours passed, but he still walked on--whither or among whom he neither
knew nor cared. No remorse touched his heart for the destruction that he had
wreaked on the Christian who had sheltered him; no terror appalled his soul at the
contemplation of the miseries that he believed to be in preparation for the city
from the enemy at its gates. The end that had hallowed to him the long series of
his former offences and former sufferings, now obliterated iniquities just passed,
and stripped of all their horrors, atrocities immediately to come.
The Goths might be destroyers to others, but they were benefactors to him; for
they were harbingers of the ruin which would be the material of his reform, and
the source of his triumph. It never entered his imagination that, as an inhabitant of
Rome, he shared the approaching perils of the citizens, and in the moment of the
assault might share their doom. He beheld only the new and gorgeous prospect
that war and rapine were opening before him. He thought only of the time that
must elapse ere his new efforts could be commenced--of the orders of the people
among whom he should successively make his voice heard--of the temples which
he should select for restoration--of the quarter of Rome which should first be
chosen for the reception of his daring reform.
At length he paused; his exhausted energies yielded under the exertions imposed
on them, and obliged him to bethink himself of refreshment and repose. It was
now noon. The course of his wanderings had insensibly conducted him again to
the precincts of his old, familiar dwelling- place; he found himself at the back of
the Pincian Mount, and only separated by a strip of uneven woody ground, from
the base of the city wall. The place was very solitary. It was divided from the
streets and mansions above by thick groves and extensive gardens, which
stretched along the undulating descent of the hill. A short distance to the
westward lay the Pincian Gate, but an abrupt turn in the wall and some olive trees
which grew near it, shut out all view of objects in that direction. On the other side,
towards the eastward, the ramparts were discernible, running in a straight line of