Antonina HTML version
from Aquileia with the child that was killed and the child that was wounded;
while I climbed the high wall in the night-time, and heard the tumult of the
beating waves near the bank where I buried the dead; while I wandered in the
darkness over the naked heath and through the lonely forest; while I climbed the
pathless sides of the mountains, and made my refuge in the cavern by the waters
of the dark lake.
'I swore to be avenged! while the warriors approached me on their march, and the
roaring of the trumpets and the clash of the armour sounded in my ears; while I
greeted my kinsman, Hermanric, a mighty chieftain, at the king's side, among the
invading hosts; while I looked on my last child, dead like the rest, and knew that
he was buried afar from the land of his people, and from the others that the
Romans had slain before him.
'I swore to be avenged! while the army encamped before Rome, and I stood with
Hermanric, looking on the great walls in the misty evening; while the daughter of
the Roman was a prisoner in our tent, and I eyed her as she lay on my knees;
while for her sake my kinsman turned traitor, and withheld my hand from the
blow; while I passed unseen into the lonely farm-house to deal judgment on him
with my knife; while I saw him die the death of a deserter at my feet, and knew
that it was a Roman who had lured him from his people, and blinded him to the
righteousness of revenge.
'I swore to be avenged! while I walked round the grave of the chieftain who was
the last of my race; while I stood alone out of the army of my people in the city of
the slayers of my babes; while I tracked the footsteps of the Roman who had
twice escaped me, as she fled through the street; while I watched and was patient
among the pillars of the temple, and waited till the sun went down, and the victim
was unshielded for the moment to strike.
'I swore to be avenged! and my oath has been fulfilled--the knife that still bleeds
drops with her blood; the chief vengeance has been wreaked! The rest that were to
be slain remain for others, and not for me! For now I go to my husband and my
children; now the hour is near at hand when I shall herd with their spirits in the
Twilight World of Shadows, and make my long-abiding place with them in the
Valley of Eternal Repose! The Destinies have willed it--it is enough!'
Her voice trembled and grew faint as she pronounced the last words. The anguish
of the fastenings at her wrists was at last overpowering her senses--conquering, in
spite of all resistance, her stubborn endurance. For a little while yet she spoke at
intervals, but her speech was fragmentary and incoherent. At one moment she still
gloried in her revenge, at another she exulted in the fancied contemplation of the
girl's body still lying before her, and her hands writhed beneath their bonds in the
effort to repossess themselves of the knife and strike again. But soon all sounds
ceased to proceed from her lips, save the loud, thick, irregular breathings, which
showed that she was yet conscious and yet lived.
Meanwhile the madman had passed into the inner recess of the temple, and had
drawn the shutter over the opening in the wall, through which light had been
admitted into the place when Numerian and Antonina first entered it. Even the
black chasm formed by the mouth of the vault of the dragon now disappeared,
with all other objects, in the thick darkness. But no obscurity could confuse the