Antonina HTML version
watching, and the fierce and varying emotions of the morning, suddenly brought
to a crisis, as they had been, by her exultation when she heard the old warrior's
fatal message, had at length overtasked the energies even of her powerful frame.
Yet one moment more she endeavoured to advance, to speak, to snatch the
hunting knife from Hermanric's hand; the next she fell insensible at his feet.
Goaded almost to madness by the successive trials that he had undergone;
Goisvintha's furious determination to thwart him, still present to his mind; the
scornful words of his companions yet ringing in his ears; his inexorable duties
demanding his attention without reserve or delay; Hermanric succumbed at last
under the difficulties of his position, and despairingly abandoned all further hope
of effecting the girl's preservation. Pointing to some food that lay in a corner of
the tent, and to the country behind, he said to her, in broken and gloomy accents,
'Furnish yourself with those provisions, and fly, while Goisvintha is yet unable to
pursue you. I can protect you no longer!'
Until this moment, Antonina had kept her face hidden, and had remained still
crouching on the ground; motionless, save when a shudder ran through her frame
as she listened to the loud, coarse jesting of the Goths; and speechless, except that
when Goisvintha sank senseless to the earth, she uttered an exclamation of terror.
But now, when she heard the sentence of her banishment proclaimed by the very
lips which but the evening before had assured her of shelter and protection, she
rose up instantly, cast on the young Goth a glance of such speechless misery and
despair, that he involuntarily quailed before it; and then, without a tear or a sigh,
without a look of reproach, or a word of entreaty, petrified and bowed down
beneath a perfect trance of terror and grief, she left the tent.
Hurrying his actions with the reckless energy of a man determined on banishing
his thoughts by his employments, Hermanric placed himself at the head of his
troop, and marched quickly onwards in an eastward direction past the Pincian
Gate. Two of his attendants who happened to enter the tent after his departure,
observing Goisvintha still extended on the earth, proceeded to transport her to part
of the camp occupied by the women who were attached to the army; and then, the
little sheltering canopy which made the abode of the Goth, and which had
witnessed so large a share of human misery and so fierce a war of human
contention in so few hours, was left as silent and lonely as the deserted country in
which Antonina was now fated to seek a refuge and a home.