Antonina HTML version

Goisvintha's Return
It was morning. The sun had risen, but his beams were partially obscured by thick
heavy clouds, which scowled already over the struggling brightness of the eastern
horizon. The bustle and animation of the new day gradually overspread the Gothic
encampment in all directions. The only tent whose curtain remained still closed,
and round which no busy crowds congregated in discussion or mingled in labour,
was that of Hermanric. By the dying embers of his watchfire stood the young
chieftain, with two warriors, to whom he appeared to be giving some hurried
directions. His countenance expressed emotions of anxiety and discontent, which,
though partially repressed while he was in the presence of his companions,
became thoroughly visible, not only in his features, but in his manner, when they
left him to watch alone before his tent.
For some time he walked regularly backwards and forwards, looking anxiously
down the westward lines of the encampment, and occasionally whispering to
himself a hasty exclamation of doubt and impatience. With the first breath of the
new morning, the delighting meditations which had occupied him by his watchfire
during the darkness of the night had begun to subside. And now, as the hour of
her expected return gradually approached, the image of Goisvintha banished from
his mind whatever remained of those peaceful and happy contemplation in which
he had hitherto been absorbed. The more he thought on his fatal promise--on the
nation of Antonina--on his duties to the army and the people to whom he
belonged, the more doubtful appeared to him his chance of permanently
protecting the young Roman without risking his degradation as a Goth, and his
ruin as a warrior; and the more sternly and ominously ran in his ears the
unassailable truth of Goisvintha's parting taunt--'You must remember your
promise, you cannot save her if you would!'
Wearied of persisting in deliberations which only deepened his melancholy and
increased his doubts; bent on sinking in a temporary and delusive oblivion the
boding reflections that overcame him in spite of himself, by seeking--while its
enjoyment was yet left to him--the society of his ill-fated charge, he turned
towards his tent, drew aside the thick, heavy curtains of skins which closed its
opening, and approached the rude couch on which Antonina was still sleeping.
A ray of sunlight, fitful and struggling, burst at this moment through the heavy
clouds, and stole into the opening of the tent as he contemplated the slumbering
girl. It ran its flowing course up her uncovered hand and arm, flew over her
bosom and neck, and bathed in a bright fresh glow, her still and reposing features.
Gradually her limbs began to move, her lips parted gently and half smiled, as if in
welcome to the greeting of the light; her eyes slightly opened, then dazzled by the
brightness that flowed through their raised lids, tremblingly closed again. At
length thoroughly awakened, she shaded her face with her hands, and sitting up
on the couch, met the gaze of Hermanric fixed on her in sorrowful examination.
'Your bright armour, and your glorious name, and your merciful words, have
remained with me even in my sleep,' said she, wonderingly; 'and now, when I