Antonina HTML version
refuge at least; while standing before it, he should oblige the woman to declare
her purpose, if she followed them even there. In a moment he had begun the
ascent of the steps, with the exhausted girl by his side. Arrived at the summit, he
guided her before him into the doorway, and stopped on the threshold to look
round again. Goisvintha was nowhere to be seen.
Not duped by the woman's sudden disappearance into the belief that she had
departed from the street--persisting in his resolution to lead his daughter to a place
of repose, where she might most immediately feel herself secure, and might
therefore most readily recover her self- possession, Numerian drew Antonina with
him into the temple. He lingered there for a moment, ere he departed to watch the
street from the portico outside.
The light in the building was dim,--it was admitted only from a small aperture in
the roof, and through the narrow doorway, where it was intercepted by the
overhanging bulk of the outer portico. A crooked pile of dark heavy-looking
substances on the floor, rose high towards the ceiling in the obscure interior.
Irregular in form, flung together one over the other in strange disorder, for the
most part dusky in hue, yet here and there gleaming at points with a metallic
brightness, these objects presented a mysterious, indefinite, and startling
appearance. It was impossible, on a first view of their confused arrangement, to
discover what they were, or to guess for what purpose they could have been pile
together on the floor of a deserted temple. From the moment when they had first
attracted Numerian's observation, his attention was fixed on them, and as he
looked a faint thrill of suspicion--vague, inexplicable, without apparent cause or
object--struck chill to his heart.
He had moved a step forward to examine the hidden space at the back of the pile,
when his further advance was instantly stopped by the appearance of a man who
walked forth from it dressed in the floating, purple-edged robe and white fillet of
the Pagan priests. Before either father or daughter could speak, even before they
could move to depart, he stepped up to them, and, placing his hand on the
shoulder of each, confronted them in silence.
At the moment when the stranger approached, Numerian raised his hand to thrust
him back, and, in so doing, fixed his eyes on the man's countenance, as a ray of
light from the doorway floated over it. Instantly his arm remained outstretched
and rigid, then it dropped to his side, and the expression of horror on the face of
the child became reflected, as it were, on the face of the parent. Neither moved
under the hand of the dweller in the temple when he laid it heavily on each, and
both stood before him speechless as himself.