Antonina HTML version

friend who concealed her disobedience from her father's ear. After that first fatal
step every day brought the projects of Ulpius nearer to success. The long-sought
interview with the senator was at length obtained; the engagement imperatively
demanded on the one side was, as we have already related, carelessly accepted on
the other; the day that was to bring success to the schemes of the betrayer, and
degradation to the honour of the betrayed, was appointed; and once more the cold
heart of the fanatic warmed to the touch of joy. No doubts upon the validity of his
engagement with Vetranio ever entered his mind. He never imagined that
powerful senator could with perfect impunity deny him the impracticable
assistance he had demanded as his reward, and thrust him as an ignorant madman
from his palace gates. Firmly and sincerely he believed that Vetranio was so
satisfied with his readiness in pandering to his profligate designs, and so dazzled
by the prospect of the glory which would attend success in the great enterprise,
that he would gladly hold to the performance of his promise whenever it should
be required of him. In the meantime the work was begun. Numerian was already,
through his agency, watched by the spies of a jealous and unscrupulous Church.
Feuds, schisms, treacheries, and dissensions marched bravely onward through the
Christian ranks. All things combined to make it certain that the time was near at
hand when, through his exertions and the friendly senator's help, the restoration of
Paganism might be assured.
With the widest diversity of pursuit and difference of design, there was still a
strange and mysterious analogy between the temporary positions of Ulpius and
Numerian. One was prepared to be a martyr for the temple; the other to be a
martyr for the Church. Both were enthusiasts in an unwelcome cause; both had
suffered more than a life's wonted share of affliction; and both were old, passing
irretrievably from their fading present on earth to the eternal future awaiting them
in the unknown spheres beyond.
But here--with their position--the comparison between them ends. The Christian's
principle of action, drawn from the Divinity he served, was love; the Pagan's,
born of the superstition that was destroying him, was hate. The one laboured for
mankind; the other for himself. And thus the aspirations of Numerian, founded on
the general good, nourished by offices of kindness, and nobly directed to a
generous end, might lead him into indiscretion, but could never degrade him into
crime--might trouble the serenity of his life, but could never deprive him of the
consolation of hope. While, on the contrary, the ambition of Ulpius, originating in
revenge and directed to destruction, exacted cruelty from his heart and duplicity
from his mind; and, as the reward for his service, mocked him alternately
throughout his whole life with delusion and despair.