Antonina HTML version

mistress and author of these preparations resigned herself to await, with pleased
anxiety, the approach of the guest for whose welcome they were designed.
And never did she expect the arrival of that treasured companion in vain.
Hermanric remembered his promise to repair constantly to the farm-house, and
performed it with all the constancy of love and all the enthusiasm of youth. When
the sentinels under his command were arranged in their order of watching for the
night, and the trust reposed in him by his superiors exempted his actions from
superintendence during the hours of darkness that followed, he left the camp,
passed through the desolate suburbs, and gained the dwelling where the young
Roman awaited him--returning before daybreak to receive the communication s
regularly addressed to him, at that hour, by his inferior in the command.
Thus, false to his nation, yet true to the new Egeria of his thoughts and actions--
traitor to the requirements of vengeance and war, yet faithful to the interests of
tranquility and love--did he seek, night after night, Antonina's presence. His
passion, though it denied him to his warrior duties, wrought not deteriorating
change in his disposition. All that it altered in him it altered nobly. It varied and
exalted his rude emotions, for it was inspired, not alone by the beauty and youth
that he saw, but by the pure thoughts, the artless eloquence that he heard. And
she--the forsaken daughter, the source whence the Northern warrior derived those
new and higher sensations that had never animated him until now--regarded her
protector, her first friend and companion, as her first love, with a devotion which,
in its mingled and exalted nature, may be imagined by the mind, but can be but
imperfectly depicted by the pen. It was a devotion created of innocence and
gratitude, of joy and sorrow, of apprehension and hope. It was too fresh, too
unworldly to own any upbraidings of artificial shame, any self- reproaches of
artificial propriety. It resembled in its essence, though not in its application, the
devotion of the first daughters of the Fall to their brother-lords.
But it is now time that we return to the course of our narrative; although, ere we
again enter on the stirring and rapid present, it will be necessary for a moment
more to look back in another direction to the eventful past.
But it is not on peace, beauty, and pleasure that our observation now fixes itself. It
is to anger, disease, and crime--to the unappeasable and unwomanly Goisvintha,
that we now revert.
Since the day when the violence of her conflicting emotions had deprived her of
consciousness, at the moment of her decisive triumph over the scruples of
Hermanric and the destiny of Antonina, a raging fever had visited on her some
part of those bitter sufferings that she would fain have inflicted on others. Part of
the time she lay in a raving delirium; part of the time in helpless exhaustion; but
she never forgot, whatever the form assumed by her disease, the desperate
purpose in the pursuit of which she had first incurred it. Slowly and doubtfully her
vigour at length returned to her, and with it strengthened and increased the fierce
ambition of vengeance that absorbed her lightest thoughts and governed her most
careless actions.
Report informed her of the new position, on the line of blockade, on which
Hermanric was posted, and only enumerated as the companions of his sojourn the
warriors sent thither under his command. But, though thus persuaded of the