Antonina HTML version

'Peace! or I will rend you limb by limb, as I rent the stones from the wall when I
passed through it!' he whispered to her in fierce accents, as she struggled to
escape him. 'You shall return with me to Rome! You shall walk in the track that I
have made in the rifted brick-work!'
Terror, anguish, exhaustion, overpowered her weak efforts. Her lips moved, partly
in prayer and partly in ejaculation; but she spoke in murmurs only, as she
mechanically suffered the Pagan to lead her onward by the hand.
They paced on under the waning starlight, over the cold, lonely road, and through
the dreary and deserted suburbs,--a fearful and discordant pair! Coldly,
obediently, impassively, as if she were walking in a dream, the spirit-broken girl
moved by the side of her scarce-human leader. Disjointed exclamation, alternating
horribly between infantine simplicity and fierce wickedness, poured incessantly
from the Pagan's lips, but he never addressed himself further to his terror-stricken
companion. So, wending rapidly onward, they gained the Gothic lines; and here
the madman slackened his pace, and paused, beast-like, to glare around him, as he
approached the habitations of men.
Still not opposed by Antonina, whose faculties of observation were petrified by
her terror into perfect inaction, even here, within reach of the doubtful aid of the
enemies of her people, the Pagan crept forward through the loneliest places of the
encampment, and, guided by the mysterious cunning of his miserable race, eluded
successfully the observation of the drowsy sentinels. Never bewildered by the
darkness-- for the moon had gone down--always led by the animal instinct co-
existent with his disease, he passed over the waste ground between the hostile
encampment and the city, and arrived triumphant at the heap of stones that
marked his entrance to the rifted wall.
For one moment he stopped, and turning towards the girl, pointed proudly to the
dark, low breach he was about to penetrate. Then, drawing her half-fainting form
closer to his side, looking up attentively to the ramparts, and stepping as
noiselessly as though turf were beneath his feet, he entered the dusky rift with his
helpless charge.
As they disappeared in the recesses of the wall, Night--the stormy, the eventful,
the fatal!--reached its last limit; and the famished sentinel on the fortifications of
the besieged city roused himself from his dreary and absorbing thoughts, for he
saw that the new day was dawning in the east.