Antonina HTML version

descended before her into a chasm beyond, and then turned to drag her after him
to a darker and a lower depth yet; sometimes bent in supplication, when her lips
moved once more with a last despairing entreaty, and her limbs trembled with a
final effort to escape from her captor's relentless grasp. While still, through all
that opposed him, the same fierce tenacity of purpose would have been invariably
visible in every action of Ulpius, constantly confirming him in his mad resolution
to make his victim the follower of his progress through the wall, ever guiding him
with a strange instinct through every hindrance, and preserving him from every
danger in his path, until it brought him forth triumphant, with his prisoner still in
his power, again free to tread the desolate streets and mingle with the famine-
stricken citizens of Rome.
And now when, after peril and anguish, she once more stood within the city of her
home, what hope remained to Antonina of obtaining her last refuge under her
father's roof, and deriving her solitary consolation from the effort to regain her
father's love? With the termination of his passage through the breach in the wall
had ended ever recollection associated with it in the Pagan's shattered memory. A
new blank now pervaded his lost faculties, desolate as that which had
overwhelmed them in the night when he first stood in the farm-house garden by
the young chieftain's grave. He moved onward, unobservant, unthinking, without
aim or hope, driven by a mysterious restlessness, forgetting the very presence of
Antonina as she followed him, but still mechanically grasping her hand, and
dragging her after him he knew not whither.
And she, on her part, made no effort more for deliverance. She had seen the
sentinel unmoved by her entreaties, she had seen the walls of her father's house
receding from her longing eyes, as Ulpius pitilessly hurried her father and farther
from its distant door; and she lost the last faint hope of restoration, the last
lingering desire of life, as the sense of her helplessness now weighed heaviest on
her mind. Her heart was full of her young warrior, who had been slain, and of her
father, from whom she had parted in the hour of his wrath, as she now feebly
followed the Pagan's steps, and resigned herself to a speedy exhaustion and death
in her utter despair.
They turned from the Pincian Gate and gained the Campus Martius; and here the
aspect of the besieged city and the condition of its doomed inhabitants were fully
and fearfully disclosed to view. On the surface of the noble area, once thronged
with bustling crowds passing to and fro in every direction as their various
destinations or caprices might lead them, not twenty moving figures were now
discernible. These few, who still retained their strength or the resolution to pace
the greatest thoroughfare of Rome, stalked backwards and forwards incessantly,
their hollow eyes fixed on vacancy, their wan hands pressed over their mouths;
each separate, distrustful, and silent; fierce as imprisoned madmen; restless as
spectres disturbed in a place of tombs.
Such were the citizens who still moved over the Campus Martius; and, besetting
their path wherever they turned, lay the gloomy numbers of the dying and the
dead--the victims already stricken by the pestilence which had now arisen in the
infected city, and joined the famine in its work of desolation and death. Around
the public fountains, where the water still bubbled up as freshly as in the summer-