Antonina HTML version
the generous patrician. Gradually and carefully the illustrious travellers moved
through the crowd around them to the city gate; and thence, amid incessant shouts
of applause, raised with imposing unanimity of lung, and wrought up to the most
distracting discordancy of noise, Vetranio and his lively companion departed in
triumph for Rome.
A few days after this event the citizens were again assembled at the same place
and hour--probably to witness another patrician departure-- when their ears were
assailed by the unexpected sound produced by the call to arms, which was
followed immediately by the closing of the city gates. They had scarcely asked
each other the meaning of these unusual occurrences, when a peasant, half frantic
with terror, rushed into the square, shouting out the terrible intelligence that the
Goths were in sight!
The courtiers heard the news, and starting from a luxurious repast, hurried to the
palace windows to behold the portentous spectacle. For the remainder of the
evening the banqueting tables were unapproached by the guests.
The wretched emperor was surprised among his poultry by that dreaded
intelligence. He, too, hastened to the windows, and looking forth, saw the army of
avengers passing in contempt his solitary fortress, and moving swiftly onward
towards defenceless Rome. Long after the darkness had hidden the masses of that
mighty multitude from his eyes, did he remain staring helplessly upon the fading
landscape, in a stupor of astonishment and dread; and, for the first time since he
had possessed them, his flocks of fowls were left for that night unattended by
their master's hand.