Antonina HTML version

18. The Farm-House
As the night still advanced, so did the storm increase. On the plains in the open
country its violence was most apparent. Here no living voices jarred with the
dreary music of the elements; no flaming torches opposed the murky darkness or
imitated the glaring lightning. The thunder pursued uninterruptedly its tempest
symphony, and the fierce wind joined it, swelling into wild harmony when it
rushed through the trees, as if in their waving branches it struck the chords of a
mighty harp.
In the small chamber of the farm-house sat together Hermanric and Antonina,
listening in speechless attention to the increasing tumult of the storm.
The room and its occupants were imperfectly illuminated by the flame of a
smouldering wood fire. The little earthenware lamp hung from its usual place in
the ceiling, but its oil was exhausted and its light was extinct. An alabaster vase of
fruit lay broken by the side of the table, from which it had fallen unnoticed to the
floor. No other articles of ornament appeared in the apartment. Hermanric's
downcast eyes and melancholy, unchanging expressions betrayed the gloomy
abstraction in which he was absorbed. With one hand clasped in his, and the other
resting with her head on his shoulder, Antonina listened attentively to the
alternate rising and falling of the wind. Her beauty had grown fresher and more
woman-like during her sojourn at the farm- house. Cheerfulness and hope seemed
to have gained at length all the share in her being assigned to them by nature at
her birth. Even at this moment of tempest and darkness there was more of wonder
and awe than of agitation and affright in her expression, as she sat hearkening,
with flushed cheek and brightened eye, to the progress of the nocturnal storm.
Thus engrossed by their thoughts, Hermanric and Antonina remained silent in
their little retreat, until the reveries of both were suddenly interrupted by the
snapping asunder of the bar of wood which secured the door of the room, the
stress of which, as it bent under the repeated shocks of the wind, the rotten spar
was too weak to sustain any longer. There was something inexpressibly desolate
in the flood of rain, wind, and darkness that seemed instantly to pour into the
chamber through the open door, as it flew back violently on its frail hinges.
Antonina changed colour, and shuddered involuntarily, as Hermanric hastily rose
and closed the door again, by detaching its rude latch from the sling which held it
when not wanted for use. He looked round the room as he did so for some
substitute for the broken bar, but nothing that was fit for the purpose immediately
met his eye, and he muttered to himself as he returned impatiently to his seat:
'While we are here to watch it the latch is enough; it is new and strong.'
He seemed on the point of again relapsing into his former gloom, when the voice
of Antonina arrested his attention, and aroused him for the moment from his
'Is it in the power of the tempest to make you, a warrior of a race of heroes, thus
sorrowful and sad?' she asked, in accents of gentle reproach. 'Even I, as I look on
these walls that are so eloquent of my happiness, and sit by you whose presence