Antonina HTML version

of the charitable act which they had performed at their own peril, but beyond this
no further intercourse was held with her by any of her former associates.
All her actions favoured their hasty belief that her faculties were disordered, and
others shunned her as she shunned them. Her daily allowance of food was left for
her to seek at a certain place in the camp, as it might have been left for an animal
too savage to be cherished by the hand of man. At certain periods she returned
secretly from her wanderings to take it. Her shelter for the night was not the
shelter of her people before the walls of Rome; her thoughts were not their
thoughts. Widowed, childless, friendless, the assassin of her last kinsman, she
moved apart in her own secret world of bereavement, desolation, and crime.
Yet there was no madness, no remorse for her share in accomplishing the fate of
Hermanric, in the dark and solitary existence which she now led. From the
moment when the young warrior had expiated with his death his disregard of the
enmities of his nation and the wrongs of his kindred, she thought of him only as
of one more victim whose dishonour and ruin she must live to requite on the
Romans with Roman blood, and matured her schemes of revenge with a stern
resolution which time, and solitude, and bodily infirmity were all powerless to
She would pace for hours and hours together, in the still night and in the broad
noonday, round and round the warrior's grave, nursing her vengeful thoughts
within her, until a ferocious anticipation of triumph quickened her steps and
brightened her watchful eyes. Then she would enter the farm-house, and, drawing
the knife from its place of concealment in her garments, would pass its point
slowly backwards and forwards over the hearth on which she had mutilated
Hermanric with her own hand, and from which he had advanced, without a
tremor, to meet the sword-points of the Huns. Sometimes, when darkness had
gathered over the earth, she would stand--a boding and menacing apparition--
upon the grave itself, and chaunt, moaning to the moaning wind, fragments of
obscure Northern legends, whose hideous burden was ever of anguish and crime,
of torture in prison vaults, and death by the annihilating sword--mingling with
them the gloomy story of the massacre at Aquileia, and her fierce vows of
vengeance against the households of Rome. The forager, on his late return past
the farm-house to the camp, heard the harsh, droning accents of her voice, and
quickened his onward step. The venturesome peasant from the country beyond,
approaching under cover of the night to look from afar on the Gothic camp,
beheld her form, shadowy and threatening, as he neared the garden, and fled
affrighted from the place. Neither stranger nor friend intruded on her dread
solitude. The foul presence of cruelty and crime violated undisturbed the scenes
once sacred to the interests of tenderness and love, once hallowed by the sojourn
of youth and beauty!
But now the farm-house garden is left solitary, the haunting spirit of evil has
departed from the grave, the footsteps of Goisvintha have traced to their close the
same paths from the suburbs over which the young Goth once eagerly hastened on
his night journey of love; and already the walls of Rome rise--dark, near, and
hateful--before her eyes. Along these now useless bulwarks of the fallen city she