Antonina HTML version
silence and solitude led his memory back to his morning's abandonment of his
helpless charge, that act of fatal impatience and irresolution inspired him with the
strongest emotions of sorrow and remorse. If during her sojourn under his care,
Antonina had insensibly influenced his heart, her image, now that he reflected on
his guilty share in their parting scene, filled all his thoughts, at once saddening
and shaming him, as he remembered her banishment from the shelter of his tent.
Every feeling which had animated his reflections on Antonina on the previous
night, was doubled in intensity as he thought on her now. Again he recalled her
eloquent words, and remembered the charm of her gentle and innocent manner;
again he dwelt on the beauties of her outward form. Each warm expression; each
varying intonation of voice that had accompanied her petition to him for safety
and companionship; every persuasion that she had used to melt him, now revived
in his memory and moved in his heart with steady influence and increasing power.
All the hurried and imperfect pictures of happiness which she had drawn to allure
him, now expanded and brightened, until his mind began to figure to him visions
that had been hitherto unknown to faculties occupied by no other images than
those of rivalry, turbulence, and strife. Scenes called into being by Antonina's
lightest and hastiest expressions, now rose vague and shadowy before his
brooding spirit. Lovely places of earth that he had visited and forgotten now
returned to his recollection, idealised and refined as he thought of her. She
appeared to his mind in every allurement of action, fulfilling all the duties and
enjoying all the pleasures that she had proposed to him. He imagined her happy
and healthful, journeying gaily by his side in the fresh morning, with rosy cheek
and elastic step; he imagined her delighting him by her promised songs,
enlivening him by her eloquent words, in the mellow stillness of evening; he
imagined her sleeping, soft and warm and still, in his protecting arms--ever happy
and ever gentle; girl in years, and woman in capacities; at once lover and
companion, teacher and pupil, follower and guide!
Such she might have been once! What was she now?
Was she sinking under her loneliness, perishing from exposure and fatigue,
repulsed by the cruel, or mocked by the unthinking? To all these perils and
miseries had he exposed her; and to what end? To maintain the uncertain favour,
to preserve the unwelcome friendship, of a woman abandoned even by the most
common and intuitive virtues of her sex; whose frantic craving for revenge,
confounded justice with treachery, innocence with guilt, helplessness with
tyranny; whose claims of nation and relationship should have been forfeited in his
estimation, by the openly-confessed malignity of her designs, at the fatal moment
when she had communicated them to him in all their atrocity, before the walls of
Rome. He groaned in despair, as he thought on this, the most unworthy of the
necessities, to which the forsaken girl had been sacrificed.
Soon, however, his mind reverted from such reflections as these, to his own duties
and his own renown; and here his remorse became partially lightened, though his
sorrow remained unchanged.
Wonderful as had been the influence of Antonina's presence and Antonina's words
over the Goth, they had not yet acquired power enough to smother in him entirely
the warlike instincts of his sex and nation, or to vanquish the strong and hostile