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26. Retribution
As, in the progress of Life, each man pursues his course with the passions, good
and evil, set, as it were, on either side of him; and viewing their results in the
actions of his fellow-men, finds his attention, while still attracted by the spectacle
of what is noble and virtuous, suddenly challenged by the opposite display of
what is mean and criminal--so, in the progress of this narrative, which aims to be
the reflection of Life, the reader who has journeyed with us thus far, and who may
now be inclined to follow the little procession of Christian devotees, to walk by
the side of the afflicted father, and to hold with him the hand of his ill-fated child,
is yet, in obedience to the conditions of the story, required to turn back for awhile
to the contemplation of its darker passages of guilt and terror--he must enter the
temple again; but he will enter it for the last time.
The scene before the altar of idols was fast proceeding to its fatal climax.
The Pagan's frenzy had exhausted itself in its own fury--his insanity was
assuming a quieter and a more dangerous form; his eye grew cunning and
suspicious; a stealthy deliberation and watchfulness appeared in all his actions. He
now slowly lifted his foot from Goisvintha's breast, and raised his hands at the
same time to strike her back if she should attempt to escape. Seeing that she lay
senseless from her fall, he left her; retired to one of the corners of the temple, took
from it a rope that lay there, and returning, bound her arms behind her at the
hands and wrists. The rope cut deep through the skin--the pain restored her to her
senses; she suffered the sharp agony in her own body, in the same place where she
had inflicted it on the young chieftain at the farm- house beyond the suburbs.
The minute after, she felt herself dragged along the ground, farther into the
interior of the building. The madman drew her up to the iron gates of the passage
through the partition, and fastening the end of the rope to them, left her there. This
part of the temple was enveloped in total darkness--her assailant addressed not a
word to her--she could not obtain even a glimpse of his form, but she could hear
him still laughing to himself in hoarse, monotonous tones, that sounded now near,
and now distant again.
She abandoned herself as lost--prematurely devoted to the torment and death that
she had anticipated; but, as yet, her masculine resolution and energy did not
decline. The very intensity of the anguish she suffered from the bindings at her
wrists, producing a fierce bodily effort to resist it, strengthened her iron-strung
nerves. She neither cried for help nor appealed to the Pagan for pity. The gloomy
fatalism which she had inherited from her savage ancestors sustained her in a
Ere long the laughter of Ulpius, while he moved slowly hither and thither in the
darkness of the temple, was overpowered by the sound of her voice--deep,
groaning, but yet steady--as she uttered her last words--words poured forth like
the wild dirges, the fierce death-songs of the old Goths when they died deserted
on the bloody battle-field, or were cast bound into deep dungeons, a prey to the
viper and the asp. Thus she spoke:-- 'I swore to be avenged! while I went forth