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their pedestals of gold, the high priest Ulpius reads the destinies of the future, that
are unrolled before his eyes like a book!'
As he ceased, and, still holding the hands of his captives, looked on them fixedly
as ever, his eyes brightened and dilated again; but they expressed not the slightest
recognition either of father or daughter. The delirium of his imagination had
transported him to the temple at Alexandria; the days were revived when his glory
had risen to its culminating point, when the Christians trembled before him as
their fiercest enemy, and the Pagans surrounded him as their last hope. The
victims of his former and forgotten treachery were but as two among the throng of
votaries allured by the fame of his eloquence, by the triumphant notoriety of his
power to protect the adherents of the ancient creed.
But it was not always thus that his madness declared itself: there were moments
when it rose to appalling frenzy. Then he imagined himself to be again hurling the
Christian assailants from the topmost walls of the besieged temple, in that past
time when the image of Serapis was doomed by the Bishop of Alexandria to be
destroyed. His yells of fury, his frantic execrations of defiance were heard afar, in
the solemn silence of pestilence-stricken Rome. Those who, during the most fatal
days of the Gothic blockade, dropped famished on the pavement before the little
temple, as they endeavoured to pass it on their onward way, presented a dread
reality of death, to embody the madman's visions of battle and slaughter. As these
victims of famine lay expiring in the street, they heard above them his raving
voice cursing them for Christians, triumphing over them as defeated enemies
destroyed by his hand, exhorting his imaginary adherents to fling the slain above
on the dead below, until the bodies of the besiegers of the temple were piled, as
barriers against their living comrades, round its walls. Sometimes his frenzy
gloried in the fancied revival of the foul and sanguinary ceremonies of Pagan
superstition. Then he bared his arms, and shouted aloud for the sacrifice; he
committed dark and nameless atrocities--for now again the dead and the dying lay
before him, to give substance to the shadow of his evil thoughts; and Plague and
Hunger were as creatures of his will, and slew the victim for the altar ready to his
At other times, when the raving fit had passed away, and he lay panting in the
darkest corner of the interior of the temple, his insanity assumed another and a
mournful form. His voice grew low and moaning; the wreck of his memory--
wandering and uncontrollable--floated back, far back, on the dark waters of the
past; and his tongue uttered fragments of words and phrases that he had
murmured at his father's knees-- farewell, childish wishes that he had breathed in
his mother's ear-- innocent, anxious questions which he had addressed to
Macrinus, the high priest, when he first entered the service of the gods at
Alexandria. His boyish reveries--the gentleness of speech and poetry of thought of
his first youthful days, were now, by the unsearchable and arbitrary influences of
his disease, revived in his broken words, renewed in his desolate old age of
madness and crime, breathed out in unconscious mockery by his lips, while the
foam still gathered about them, and the last flashes of frenzy yet lightened in his