Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Struggle for Rome, v. 3
Author: Dahn, Felix, 1834-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Struggle for Rome, v. 3" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcriber's Notes:
      1. Page scan source:
         http://www.archive.org/details/astruggleforrom02dahngoog
      2. Diphthong oe and OE are represented by [oe] and [OE].



                          A STRUGGLE FOR ROME.

                                   BY
                              FELIX DAHN.


           _T R A N S L A T E D  F R O M  T H E  G E R M A N_
                                   BY
                            LILY WOLFFSOHN.


           "If there be anything more powerful than Fate,
            It is the courage which bears it undismayed."
                                                GEIBEL.


                           IN THREE VOLUMES.
                               VOL. III.



                                LONDON:
                        RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.
                                  1878.
                        [_All Rights Reserved._]



                          A STRUGGLE FOR ROME.


                         BOOK IV.--_Continued_.

                               WITICHIS.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

Thanks to the precautions taken by Procopius, the trick had succeeded
completely.

At the moment in which the flag of the Goths fell and their King was
taken prisoner, they were everywhere surprised and overpowered.
In the courts of the palace, in the streets and canals of the city
and in the camp, they were surrounded by far superior numbers. A
palisade of lances met their sight on all sides. Almost without an
exception the paralysed Goths laid down their arms. The few who offered
resistance--the nearest associates of the King--were struck down.

Witichis himself, Duke Guntharis, Earl Wisand, Earl Markja, and the
leaders of the army who were taken prisoners with them, were placed in
separate confinement; the King imprisoned in the "prison of Theodoric,"
a strong and deep dungeon in the palace itself.

The procession from the Gate of Stilicho to the Forum of Honorius had
not been interrupted.

Arrived at the palace, Belisarius summoned the Senate and decurions of
the city, and took their oaths of allegiance for Emperor Justinian.

Procopius was sent to Byzantium with the golden keys of Neapolis, Rome,
and Ravenna. He was to give a full report to the Emperor, and to demand
for Belisarius the prolongation of his office until Italy had been
completely tranquillised, as could not fail to be the case presently,
and afterwards, as had been the case after the Vandal wars, to accord
him the honour of a triumph, with the exposure of the King of the
Goths, as prisoner of war, in the Hippodrome.

For Belisarius looked upon the war as ended.

Cethegus almost shared this belief. But still he feared the outbursts
of indignation amongst the Goths in the provinces. Therefore he took
care that, for the present, no report of the manner in which the city
had fallen should pass the gates; and he pondered upon some means of
making use of the imprisoned King himself, to palliate the possible
renewal of national feeling in the Goths.

He also persuaded Belisarius to send Acacius, with the Persian
horsemen, to follow Hildebad, who had escaped in the direction of
Tarvisium.

In vain he tried to speak to the Queen.

She had not yet fully recovered the effects of the night of the
earthquake, and admitted no one. She had even listened to the news of
the fall of the city with indifference. The Prefect gave her a guard of
honour, in order to make sure of her, for he had great plans in
connection with her. Then he sent her the sword of the King,
accompanying it with a note.

"I have kept my word. King Witichis is ruined, you are revenged and
free. Now it is your turn to fulfil my wish."

A few days later, Belisarius, deprived of his constant adviser
Procopius, called the Prefect to an interview in the right wing of the
palace, where he had taken up his quarters.

"Unheard-of mutiny!" he cried, as Cethegus entered.

"What has happened?"

"You know that I placed Bessas, with the Lazian mercenaries, in the
trenches of the Gate of Honorius, one of the most important points of
the city. Hearing that the temper of these troops was insubordinate I
recalled them--and Bessas----"

"Well?"

"Refuses to obey."

"Without reason? Impossible!"

"A ridiculous reason! Yesterday the term of my office expired."

"Well?"

"And Bessas declares that since midnight I am no longer his commander!"

"Shameful! But he is in the right."


"In the right! In a few days the Emperor's reply will arrive, according
to my wish. He will naturally, after the conquest of Ravenna, again
appoint me as commander-in-chief, until the war is ended. The news may
be here the day after to-morrow."

"Perhaps still sooner, Belisarius. At sunset the watchman on the
lighthouse of Classis announced the approach of a ship coming from
Ariminum. It appears to be an imperial trireme. It may run into harbour
at any hour. Then the knot will be loosened."

"I will cut it beforehand. My body-guard shall storm the trenches and
strike the head off the obstinate Bessas----"

He was interrupted by the entrance of Johannes.

"General," he cried, "the Emperor is here! The Emperor, Justinian
himself, has just anchored in the harbour of Classis."

Cethegus involuntarily started. Was such a thunderbolt from a clear
sky, such a whim of the incalculable despot, after such toil, to
overthrow the almost perfect structure of his plans?

But Belisarius, with sparkling eyes, asked:

"The Emperor? How do you know?"

"He comes himself to thank you for your victory--never was such
honour done to mortal man! The ship from Ariminum bears the imperial
flag--purple and silver. You know that that indicates the actual
presence of the Emperor."

"Or of a member of his family," interposed Cethegus thoughtfully, and
once more breathing freely.

"Let us hasten to the harbour, to receive our Imperial master," cried
Belisarius.


He was disappointed in his joy and pride when, on their way to Classis,
they were met by the first courtiers who had disembarked, and who
demanded quarters in the palace, not for the Emperor, but for his
nephew Germanus.

"At least he sends the next in rank," said Belisarius--consoling
himself--to Cethegus as they went on. "Germanus is the noblest man at
court. Just, incorruptible, and pure. They call him 'The Lily of the
Swamp.' But you do not listen to me!"

"Pardon! but I saw my young friend Lucius Licinius in the crowd of
people who are approaching us."

"Salve, Cethegus!" cried Lucius as he made his way to the Prefect.

"Welcome to free Italy! What news from the Empress?" asked Cethegus in
a whisper.

"Her parting word, 'Nike!' (Victoria), and this letter," Lucius
whispered just as softly. "But," and he frowned, "never again send me
to that woman!"

"No, no, young Hippolytus, I think it will never again be necessary."

They had now reached the quay of the harbour, the steps of which the
Imperial Prince was just ascending. His noble form distinguished itself
from the crowd of splendid courtiers who surrounded him, and he was
received by the troops and the people with imperial honours and cries
of joy.

Cethegus looked keenly at him.

"His pale face has become still paler," he remarked to Licinius.

"Yes. They say that the Empress, because she could not seduce him, has
poisoned him."

The Prince, bowing his acknowledgments to all sides, had now reached
Belisarius, who greeted him reverently.

"I return your greeting, Belisarius," said the Prince gravely; "follow
me at once to the palace. Where is Cethegus the Prefect? Where is
Bessas? Ah, Cethegus!" he said, grasping the latter's hand, "I am glad
to see again the greatest man in Italy. You will presently accompany me
to the granddaughter of Theodoric. To her belongs my first visit. I
bring her gifts from Justinian and my humble service. She was a
prisoner in her own kingdom; she shall be a queen at the Court of
Byzantium."

"That she shall!" thought Cethegus. He bowed profoundly and said, "I
know that you are acquainted with the Princess already. Her hand was
once destined for you."

A flush rapidly spread over the cheek of the Prince.

"But unfortunately," he answered, "not her heart. I saw her here years
ago, at her mother's court, and since then, my mind's eye has beheld
nothing but her picture."

"Yes, she is the loveliest woman on earth," said the Prefect quietly.

"Accept this chrysolite as thanks for that word!" cried Germanus, and
put a ring upon the Prefect's finger.

They entered the door of the palace. "Now, Mataswintha," said Cethegus
to himself, "now a new life begins for you. I know no Roman woman--one
girl perhaps excepted--who could resist such a temptation. And shall
this rude barbarian withstand?"

As soon as the Prince had partially recovered from the fatigue of the
voyage, and had exchanged his travelling dress for a state-costume, he
appeared, with Cethegus at his side, in the throne-room of the great
Theodoric.

The trophies of Gothic valour still hung on the walls of the lofty and
vaulted hall. On three sides ran a colonnade; in the middle of the
fourth stood the elevated throne of Theodoric.

The Prince ascended the steps of the throne with dignity. Cethegus with
Belisarius, Bessas, Demetrius, Johannes, and numerous other leaders,
remained standing at a short distance.

"In the name of my Imperial master and uncle, I take possession of this
city of Ravenna and of the Western Roman Empire," said Germanus. "To
you, magister militum, this writing from our master the Emperor. Break
the seal, and read it before the assembly. Such were the orders of
Justinian."

Belisarius stepped forward, received the letter upon his knees, kissed
the seal, rose, opened it, and read:

"'Justinian, Emperior of the Romans, Lord of the East and West,
conqueror of the Persians and Saracens, of the Vandals and Alans, of
the Lazians and Sabirians, of the Huns and Bulgarians, the Avarians and
Slavonians, and lastly of the Goths, to Belisarius the Consul, lately
magister militum. We have been acquainted by Cethegus the Prefect with
the events which led to the fall of Ravenna. His report will, at his
request, be communicated to you. We, however, cannot at all agree with
the good opinion, therein expressed, of you and your successes; and we
dispense you from your office as commander-in-chief. We order you by
this letter to return at once to Byzantium, to answer for yourself
before our throne. We can the less accord you a triumph, such as you
received after the Vandal wars, because neither Rome nor Ravenna fell
through your valour; Rome having freely capitulated, and Ravenna having
fallen by means of an earthquake, which was a sign of the anger of the
Almighty against the heretics, and against highly suspicious actions,
the harmlessness of which you, accused of high treason, must prove
before our throne. As, in consideration of former merit, we would not
condemn you unheard--for East and West shall celebrate us to all
time as the King of Justice--we refrain from arresting you as your
accusers wish. Without chains--only bound by the fetters of your own
self-accusing conscience--you will appear before our Imperial
countenance.'"

Belisarius reeled; he could read no further; he covered his face with
his hands and let the letter fall.

Bessas lifted it up, kissed it, and read on:

"'We name the strategist Bessas as your successor in the army. We
charge the Archon Johannes with the care of Ravenna. The administration
of the taxes will remain--in spite of the highly unjust complaints made
against him by the Italians--in the hands of the logician Alexandros,
who is so zealous in our service. And as our Governor in Italy we name
the highly-deserving Prefect of Rome, Cornelius Cethegus Cæsarius. Our
nephew Germanus, furnished with Imperial power, is answerable for your
transport to our fleet off Ariminum, whence Areobindos will take you to
Byzantium.'"

Germanus rose, and ordered all present, except Belisarius and Cethegus,
to leave the hall.

Then he descended from the throne, and went up to Belisarius, who was
now totally unconscious of what was going on around him. He stood
immovable, leaning his head and arm against a column, and staring at
the ground.

The Prince took his right hand.

"It pains me, Belisarius, to be the bearer of such a message. I
undertook it, because I thought that a friend would fulfil such an
errand more gently than any of the enemies who were eager to do it. But
I cannot deny that this last victory of yours cancels the fame of many
former ones. Never could I have expected such a game of lies from the
hero Belisarius! Cethegus begged that his report to the Emperor should
be laid before you. It is full of your praise. Here it is. I believe it
was the Empress who kindled the anger of Justinian against you. But you
do not hear----"

And he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the unfortunate man.
Belisarius shook it off.

"Let me alone, boy! You bring me--you bring me the true thanks of a
crowned head!"

Germanus drew himself up with dignity.

"Belisarius, you forget yourself, and who I am!"

"Oh no! I am a prisoner, and you are my gaoler. I will go at once on
board your ship--only spare me chains and fetters."


It was very late before the Prefect could get away from the Prince, who
spoke to him with the greatest frankness on state affairs and his own
personal wishes.

As soon as Cethegus was alone in his rooms, which had also been
appointed to him in the palace, he hastened to read the letter which
Lucius Licinius had brought from the Empress. It ran thus:


"You have conquered, Cethegus. As I read your epistle I thought of old
times, when your letters to Theodora, written in the same cipher, did
not talk of statesmanship and warfare, but of kisses and roses----"


"She must always remind me of that!" cried the Prefect, interrupting
his perusal of the letter.


"But even in this letter I recognise the irresistible intellect that,
more even than your youthful beauty, conquered the women of Byzantium.
And this time also I accede to the wishes of the old friend as I
once did to those of the young one. Ah, how I love to think of our
youth--our sweet youth! I fully understand that Antonina's spouse would
stand far too securely for the future if he did not fall now. So--as
you wrote me--I whispered to the Emperor that a subject who could play
such a game with crowns and rebellion was too dangerous; no general
ought to be exposed to such temptations. What he had this time feigned,
he could, at another time, carry into earnest practice. These words
weighed more heavily than all Belisarius's success, and my--that is,
your--demands were granted. For mistrust is the very soul of Justinian.
He trusts no one on earth, except--Theodora. Your messenger, Lucius, is
_handsome_, but unamiable; he has nothing in his head but weapons and
Rome. Ah, Cethegus, my friend, youth is now no more what it was! You
have conquered, Cethegus--do you remember that evening when I first
whispered those words?--but do not forget to whom you owe your victory.
And mind: Theodora permits herself to be used as a tool only so long as
she likes. Never forget that."


"Certainly not," said Cethegus, as he carefully destroyed the letter.
"You are too dangerous an ally, Theodora, my little demon! I will see
whether you cannot be replaced.--Patience! In a few weeks Mataswintha
will be in Byzantium."



                              CHAPTER XXV.


The round tower, in the deepest dungeon of which Witichis was confined,
was situated at the angle of the right wing of the palace, the same in
which he had dwelt and ruled as King.

The iron door of the tower formed the end of a long passage which led
from a court, and which was separated from this court by a heavy iron
gate.

Exactly opposite this gate, on the ground-floor of the building at the
left side of the court, was the small dwelling of Dromon, the
_carcerarius_ or gaoler of the prison.

This dwelling consisted of two small chambers; the first, which was
separated from the second by a curtain, was merely an ante-room.

The inner chamber afforded an outlook across the court to the round
tower.

Both rooms were very simply furnished. A straw couch in the inner room,
and two chairs, a table, and a row of keys upon the walls in the outer
room, was almost all that they contained.

Upon the wooden bench in the window abovementioned, sat, day and
night--her eyes fixed upon the hole in the wall, through which alone
light and air could penetrate to the King's prison--a silent and
thoughtful woman.

It was Rauthgundis. Her eyes never left the little chink in the wall,
"For," she said to herself, "thither turn all my thoughts--there, where
_his_ eyes too are ever fixed."

Even when she spoke to her companion, Wachis, or to the gaoler, she
never turned her eyes away. It seemed as if she thought that her mere
look could guard the prisoner from every danger.

On the day of which we speak she had sat thus for a long time.

It was evening. Dark and threatening the massive tower rose into the
sky, casting a broad shadow over the court and the left wing of the
palace.

"Thanks, O Heavenly Father," murmured Rauthgundis; "even the strokes of
fate have led to good. If, as I once intended, I had gone to my father
upon the High Arn, I should never have heard of all the misery here. Or
far too late. But I could not bear to forsake the last resting-place of
my child near our home. The last, indeed, I was obliged to leave, for
how could I know that _she_, his Queen, would not come there? I dwelt
in the woods near Fæsulæ, and when news came of failure, and one
misfortune followed another; when the Persians burnt our house, and I
saw the flames from my hiding-place; it was too late to escape to my
father. All the roads were blocked, and the Italians delivered all whom
they found with yellow hair into the hands of the Massagetæ. No way was
open but the road here--to the city where I had ever refused to go as
_his_ wife. I came like a fugitive beggar. Wachis, the slave, now the
freedman, and Wallada, our horse, alone remained faithful to me.
But--forced by God's hand to come, whether I would or not--I found that
it was only that I might save _him_--deliver him from the shameful
treachery of his wife, and out of the hands of his enemies! I thank
Thee, O God, for this Thy mercy!"

Her attention was attracted by the rattling of the iron gate opposite.

A man with a light came through it across the court, and now entered
the ante-room. It was the old gaoler.

"Well? Speak! cried Rauthgundis, leaving her seat and hurrying to him.

"Patience--patience! Let me first set down the lamp. There! Well, he
has drunk and it has done him good."

Rauthgundis laid her hand upon her heart.

"'What is he doing?" she asked.

"He always sits in the same position, perfectly silent. He sits on a
stone block, his back turned to the door, his head supported on his
hands. He gives me no answer when I speak to him. Generally he does not
even move; I believe grief and pain have stupefied him. But to-day,
when I handed him the wine in the wooden cup and said, 'Drink, dear
sir; it comes from true friends,' he looked up. Ah, his look was so
sorrowful, as sad as death! He drank deeply, and bowed his head
thankfully, and gave such a sigh, that it cut me to the heart."

Rauthgundis covered her eyes with her hand.

"God knows what horrid thing that man means to do to him!" the old man
murmured to himself.

"What sayest thou?"

"I say that you must eat and drink well, or else you will lose your
strength; and you will need it before long, poor woman!"

"I shall have strength enough!"

"Then take at least a cup of wine."

"Of this wine? No, it is all for him!"

And she went back into the inner chamber, where she again took her old
place.

"The flask will last some time," old Dromon said to himself; "but we
must save him soon, if he is to be saved at all. There comes Wachis.
May he bring good news, else----"

Wachis entered. Since his visit to the Queen he had exchanged his steel
cap and mantle for clothes borrowed from Dromon.

"I bring good news!" he cried, as he entered. "But where were you an
hour ago? I knocked in vain."

"We had both gone out to buy wine."

"To be sure; that is the reason why the whole room smells so sweet.
What do I see? Why, this is old and costly Falernian! How could you pay
for it?"

"Pay for it?" repeated the old man. "With the purest gold in the world!
I told you that the Prefect had purposely let the King starve, in order
to undermine his health. For many days I have received no rations for
him. Against my conscience I have kept him alive by depriving the other
prisoners. This Rauthgundis would no longer suffer. She fell into deep
thought, and then asked me whether the rich Roman ladies still paid so
dearly for the yellow locks of the Gothic women. Suspecting nothing, I
said 'Yes.' She went away, and soon returned shorn of her beautiful
auburn hair, but with a handful of gold. With this the wine was
bought."

Wachis went into the next room, and kissing the hand of Rauthgundis,
exclaimed: "Good and faithful wife!"

"What art thou doing, Wachis? Rise, and tell me thy news."

"Yes, tell us," said Dromon, joining them. "What says my Paukis? What
advice does he give?"

"What matters his advice?" asked Rauthgundis. "I can manage alone."

"We need him very much. The Prefect has formed nine cohorts, after the
model of the Roman legionaries, of all the youth of Ravenna, and my
Paulus is enrolled amongst them. Luckily, the Prefect has entrusted the
guard of the city gates to these legionaries. The Byzantines are placed
outside the city in the harbour; the Isaurians here in the palace."

"Yes," continued Wachis; "and these gates are carefully closed at
night; but the breach near the Tower of Ætius is not yet repaired. Only
sentinels are placed there to guard it."

"When has my son the watch?"

"In two days. He will have the third night-watch."

"Thanks be to the saints! It could not have lasted much longer. I
feared----"

He hesitated.

"What? Speak!" cried Rauthgundis. "I can bear to hear everything."

"Perhaps it is well that you should know it; for you are cleverer than
we two, and will better find out what is to be done. I fear they have
something wicked in their heads. As long as Belisarius had the command
here, it went well with the King. But since Belisarius has gone and the
Prefect--that silent demon!--is master of the palace, things look
dangerous. He visits the King every day, and speaks to him for a long
time, earnestly and threateningly. I have often listened in the
passage. But it seems to have little effect, for the King, I believe,
never answers him; and when the Prefect comes out, he looks as black as
thunder. For six days I have received no wine for the King, and only a
little piece of bread; and the air down there is as mouldy and damp as
the grave."

Rauthgundis sighed deeply.

"Yesterday," continued Dromon, "when the Prefect came up, he looked
blacker than ever. He asked me----"

"Well? Tell me, whatever it may be!"

"He asked me whether the instruments of torture were in good order!"

Rauthgundis turned pale, but remained silent.

"The wretch!" cried Wachis. "What did you----"

"Do not be afraid; all is safe for a time. 'Clarissimus,' I said--and
it is the pure truth--'the screws and pincers, the weights and spikes,
and the whole delightful apparatus lie all together as safe as
possible.' 'Where?' he asked. 'In the deep sea,' I answered; 'I myself,
at the order of King Theodoric, threw them in!' For you must know,
Mistress Rauthgundis, that when your master was a simple Earl, he once
saved me from being tortured. At his request, the horrible practice was
fully abolished. I owe him my life and my sound limbs, and I would
gladly risk my neck for him. And, if it cannot be otherwise, I will
leave this city with you. But we must not delay long, for the Prefect
has no need of my pincers and screws if he once takes it into his head
to torture a man's marrow out of his bones. I fear him as I fear the
devil!"

"And I hate him as I hate a lie!" cried Rauthgundis sternly.

"So we must be quick," Dromon went on, "before he can carry out his
cruel intentions; for he is certainly planning something terrible
against the King. I don't know what he can want of the poor prisoner.
Now listen, and mark my words. The third night from now, when Paulus
keeps the watch, and I take the King his evening drink, I will unlock
his chains, throw my mantle over him, and lead him out of the prison
and the passage into the court. Thence he will be able to go unnoticed
to the gate of the palace, where the sentinel will demand the
watch-word. This I shall acquaint him with. When he is once in the
street, he must go direct to the Tower of Ætius, where Paulus will let
him pass the breach. Outside, in the pine-grove of Diana, at a short
distance from the gate, Wachis will wait for him with Wallada. But no
one must accompany him; not even you, Rauthgundis. He will escape more
surely alone."

"Of what consequence am I? He shall be free; not even bound to me! Thou
must not even name my name. I have brought him misfortune enough, I
will only look at him once again from the window as he goes away!"


The Prefect now sunned himself in the feeling of supremacy. He was
Governor of Italy. By his order the fortifications were repaired and
strengthened, the citizens practised in the use of arms all over the
country. The representatives of Byzantium could no longer
counterbalance him. Their captains had no luck; the siege of Tarvisium,
as well as of Verona and Ticinum, made no progress. And Cethegus heard
with pleasure that Hildebad, whose troops had been augmented by
deserters to the number of about six hundred, had badly beaten Acacius,
who had overtaken and attacked him with a thousand Persian horsemen.
But Hildebad's road was still blocked by a strong battalion of
Byzantines, who marched against him from Mantua--he had intended to
join Totila at Tarvisium--and he was obliged to throw himself into the
Castle of Castra Nova, which was still occupied by the Goths under
Thorismuth.

Here the Byzantines kept him shut up. They could not, however, take the
strong fortress, and the Prefect already foresaw that Acacius would
soon call upon him to help to destroy the Goths, who could then no
longer escape him. It rejoiced him that, since the departure of
Belisarius, the forces of Byzantium were proved, in the face of all
Italy, to be incapable of putting an end to the resistance of the
Goths. And the harshness of the Byzantine financial administration,
which had accompanied Belisarius wherever he went--for he could not
prevent the practice of draining the resources of the country, which
was carried on at the Emperor's command--awakened or heightened the
dislike of both town and country to the East Roman rule.

Cethegus took good care not--as Belisarius had often done--to oppose
the worst acts of Justinian's officials. It gave him great pleasure
when the populations of Neapolis and Rome repeatedly broke out into
open rebellion against their oppressors.

When the Goths were completely annihilated, the power of the Byzantines
become contemptible, and their tyranny sufficiently hated, Italy might
be called upon to assert her independence, and her saviour, her ruler,
would be Cethegus.

Notwithstanding, he was troubled by one circumstance--for he was far
from undervaluing his enemies. The Gothic war, the last sparks of which
were not yet trampled out, might at any time flame up anew, fanned by
the national indignation aroused by the treachery which had been
practised. It had great weight with the Prefect that the most hated
leaders of the Goths, Totila and Teja, had not been taken in the trap
laid at Ravenna.

For the purpose, therefore, of preventing such a national uprising as
he feared, he attempted to drag from the Gothic King a declaration,
that he had surrendered himself and the city without hope and without
condition, and that he called upon his people to abstain from fruitless
resistance. He also wished his prisoner to tell him in what castle the
war-treasure of Theodoric was concealed.

Even in those days such a treasure, as a means of gaining foreign
princes and mercenaries, was of the highest importance. If the Goths
lost it, they would lose their best chance of strengthening their
exhausted forces by the aid of foreign weapons.

And it was the Prefect's greatest wish not to let this treasure--which
legend spoke of as immense--fall into the hands of the Byzantines--whose
need of money, and the tyranny caused by this need, were such active
allies in his plans--but to secure it for himself. His means were also
not inexhaustible. But opposed to the calm steadfastness of his prisoner,
the Prefect's efforts to extort the secret were vain.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.


All necessary measures had been taken for the escape of the King.

Rauthgundis and Wachis had made themselves thoroughly acquainted with
the pine-grove where the faithful freedman was to wait with the charger
of Dietrich of Bern.

And it was with the confidence which completed preparations always lend
to a stout heart, that Rauthgundis returned to the dwelling of the
gaoler.

But she turned pale when the latter rushed to meet her with an air of
desperation, and dragged her across the threshold.

Once in the room, he threw himself on his knees before her, beating his
breast with his fists and tearing his grey hair.

For some time he could find no words.

"Speak," cried Rauthgundis, pressing her hand to her wildly-beating
heart. "Is he dead?"

"No; but flight is impossible! all is lost! all is lost! An hour ago
the Prefect came, and went down to the King. As usual, I opened both
doors for him, the passage and the prison door, and then----"

"Well?"

"Then he took both keys from me, saying he would keep them in future
himself."

"And thou gavest them up!" said Rauthgundis, grinding her teeth.

"How could I refuse? I did all I could. I kept them back and asked:
'Master, do you no longer trust me?' He looked at me with a look that
seemed to pierce soul and body. 'From this moment,' he said, 'no
longer,' and snatched the keys from my hand."

"And thou didst not prevent him?"

"Oh, mistress, you are unjust! What could you have done in my place?
Nothing!"

"I should have strangled him. And now? What shall we do now?"

"Do? Nothing! Nothing can be done!"

"He _must_ be liberated. Dost thou hear? he _must_!"

"But, mistress, I know not how."

Rauthgundis caught up an axe which lay near the hearth.

"We will open the doors by force."

Dromon tried to take the axe from her hand.

"It is impossible! They are thickly plated with iron."

"Then send for the monster! Tell him that Witichis desires to speak
with him, and I will strike him down at the passage door."

"And then? You rave! Let me go out. I will call Wachis away from his
useless watch."

"No! I cannot think that we shall not succeed. Perhaps that devil will
return of his own accord. Perhaps--" she continued reflectively--"Ha!"
she cried suddenly, "it must be so. He wants to murder him! He intends
to steal alone to the defenceless prisoner. But woe to him if he come!
I will guard the threshold of that door as if it were a sanctuary, and
woe to him if he cross it!"

She leaned heavily against the half-door of the room, and swung the
ponderous axe.

But Rauthgundis was wrong.

Not to kill his prisoner had the Prefect taken the keys into his own
keeping.

He had gone with them in his hand to the south side of the palace,
where he gained admittance to Mataswintha's room.

The stillness of death and the excitement of fever alternated so
rapidly in Mataswintha, that Aspa could never look at her mistress
without the tears rushing to her eyes.

"Most beautiful daughter of the Germans," began the Prefect, "dissipate
the cloud which rests upon your white brow, and listen to me calmly."

"How is the King? You leave me without news. You promised to let him go
free when all was decided. You promised that he should be taken over
the Alps. You have not kept your word."

"I promised it on two conditions. You know them well, and you have not
yet done your part. Tomorrow the nephew of the Emperor will return from
Ariminum, ready to take you to Byzantium, and I desire you to give him
hopes that you will become his bride. Your marriage with Witichis was
forced and null."

"No, never! I have told you so before."

"I am sorry for it, for the sake of my prisoner, for he will not see
the light of day again until you are on the way to Byzantium with
Germanus."

"Never!"

"Do not irritate me, Mataswintha. The folly of the girl who bought the
Ares' head at such a high price, is, I think, outgrown. For that once
enamoured being has since sacrificed the Ares of the Goths to his
enemies. But if you still honour that dream of girlhood, then save the
man you once loved."

Mataswintha shook her head.

"Until now I have treated you as a free agent, as a Queen. Do
not remind me that you, as well as he, are in my power. You will
become the wife--soon the widow--of this noble Prince--and
Justinian--Byzantium--the whole world, will lie at your feet. Daughter
of the Amelungs, is it possible that you do not love power?"

"I only love---- Never!"

"Then I must force you."

She laughed.

"_You?_ Force _me_?"

"Yes, I force you! (She still loves the man she has ruined!) The second
condition is this: that the prisoner fill up this empty space with a
name--the name of the castle in which the treasure of the Goths is
concealed--and sign the declaration. He refuses to do this with a
stubbornness which begins to anger me. Seven times I, the conqueror,
have been to him. He would never yet speak to me. And the first time I
went I received a look for which alone he deserves to lose his haughty
head."

"He will never consent!"

"That remains to be seen. The continual dropping of water wears away a
stone at last. But I can wait no longer. Early to-day I received word
that that mad Hildebad, in a furious sally, has beaten Bessas so
thoroughly, that the latter can scarcely continue the siege. Everywhere
the Goths rebel. I must go and make an end of it, and extinguish these
last sparks with the water of deception, which is better than blood. To
this end I must have the King's declaration, and the secret of the
castle. Therefore I tell you that if, before to-morrow, you do not
consent to accompany the Prince to Byzantium, and have not procured for
me the signature of the prisoner, witnessed as such by yourself, I
will--I swear by the Styx--kill----"

Horrified at the awful expression of Cethegus's face, Mataswintha
started from her seat and grasped his arm.

"You will not kill _him_!"

"Yes; or rather, I will first torture him, then blind him, and
afterwards kill him!"

"No! no!" screamed Mataswintha.

"I am resolved. The executioners are ready. And you, you shall tell him
this. He will believe that I am in earnest when he sees your despair.
You will perhaps be able to soften him; the sight of me only hardens
him. Perhaps he thinks that he is still in the hands of Belisarius,
that tender-hearted hero. You will tell him in whose power he really
is. Here are the documents--here the keys which open his prison. You
shall choose the hour yourself."

A ray of joyful hope shone from Mataswintha'a eyes. Cethegus failed not
to remark it, but, smiling calmly, he left the room.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.


Soon after the Prefect had left the Queen it became quite dark.

The sky was thickly covered with ragged clouds, which were driven
across the moon by the fierce wind, so that brief and uncertain light
alternated with a gloom rendered greater by contrast.

Dromon had completed his evening round of the cells, and returned to
his dwelling tired and sad.

He found no light within. He could scarcely make out that Rauthgundis
was still leaning against the half«door, the axe in her hand, her eyes
fixed upon the door of the passage.

"Let me strike a light, mistress, and kindle the chips upon the hearth.
Share the evening meal with me. Come, you wait here in vain."

"No, no light, no fire! I can see better what happens in the court
without, for it is moonlight."

"Well, at least come in here and rest yourself. Here is bread and
meat."

"Shall I eat while he hungers?"

"You will be exhausted! Of what are you thinking the whole evening?"

"Of what am I thinking?" repeated Rauthgundis, still looking out. "I am
thinking how often we have sat in the colonnade before our beautiful
house, when the fountain splashed in the garden and the cicalas chirped
in the trees. The cool night-breeze fanned his beloved face, and I
nestled against his shoulder, and we did not speak one word, and above
us was the silent march of the stars. And we listened to the deep and
peaceful breathing of our child, who had fallen asleep upon my lap, his
little hands, like soft white fetters, clasping the arm of his father.
Alas! his arm now wears other fetters! Iron fetters--that pain----"

And she pressed her forehead against the iron grating, until she, too,
felt pain.

"Mistress, why do you torment yourself thus? We cannot help it!"

"'But we will help it! I must save him and----Dromon! look there! What
is that?" she whispered, and pointed at something in the court.

The old man hastened noiselessly to her side.

In the court was a tall white figure, which seemed to glide stealthily
along the wall.

At brief intervals, but sharp and clear, the moonlight fell upon it.

"It is a Lemure! The ghost of some one who has been murdered here!"
said the old man, trembling. "God and all the saints protect us!"

He crossed himself and covered his head with his mantle.

"No," said Rauthgundis, "the dead do not return from the other world!
Now it has disappeared--all is dark. Ha! the moon breaks through
once--more there it is again! It moves towards the passage-door. What
is that shining red in the white light? Ha! it is the Queen--that is
her red hair? She stops at the door! She opens it! She is going to
murder him in his sleep!"

"God knows, it is the Queen! But _she_ murder him! How could she?"

"_She_ could! But, as I live, she shall not! Follow her! A miracle
opens the door to us. But softly, softly!"

And she went out on tiptoe into the court, the axe still in her hand,
slowly and stealthily, seeking the shadow. Dromon followed her closely.

Meanwhile Mataswintha, for she it was, had opened the door and gone
forward, down many steps and then through a small passage, feeling the
way with her hands.

She now reached the door of the prison. She opened it very softly.

Through an aperture high up on the wall, where a stone had been taken
out, a slanting strip of moonlight fell into the square and narrow
dungeon.

The light revealed the prisoner. He sat motionless upon a block of
stone, his back turned to the door, his head supported on his hands.

Mataswintha trembled and leaned against the doorpost. The air felt damp
and icy-cold. She shivered. She could not say a word for very horror.

Witichis remarked the draught of air from the open door. He lifted his
head, but did not look round.

"Witichis--King Witichis--" at last stammered Mataswintha; "it is I!
Dost thou hear me?"

But the prisoner did not move.

"I come to save thee--fly! Thou art free!"

But the prisoner dropped his head again.

"Oh, speak!--oh, only look at me!"

She now went quite into the dungeon. Gladly would she have touched his
arm, and taken his hand, but she did not yet dare.

"Cethegus will kill thee!" she said; "torture thee. He surely will if
thou dost not fly!"

And now her desperation gave her courage. She drew nearer.

"But thou wilt fly! Thou shalt not die! I must save thee! I beseech
thee, fly, fly! Oh, thou dost not hear me, and time presses! Sometime
thou shalt know everything! but now fly--to life and liberty! I have
the keys of the doors! fly, fly!" And now she grasped his arm and tried
to drag him from his seat.

But she heard the rattling of chains--on his arms on his feet. He was
chained to the block of stone.

"Oh! what is this?" she cried, and fell upon her knees.

"Stone and iron," he said, in a toneless voice. "Leave me, I am doomed.
And even if these bonds did not hold me--I would not follow thee. Back
to the world? The world is one great lie. Everything is a lie."

"Thou art right. It is better to die. Let me die with thee, but forgive
me! For I, too, have lied to thee."

"It is very possible. It does not surprise me."

"But thou wilt forgive me before we die? I have hated thee--I have
rejoiced in thy ruin--I have--oh, it is so hard to tell! I have not the
strength to confess it! And yet I must have thy forgiveness. Oh,
forgive me!--give me thy hand as a sign of thy pardon."

But Witichis had sunk back into his former stupor.

"Oh, I beseech thee--forgive me, whatever I may have done!"

"Go--why should I not forgive thee? thou art like the rest--not better
and not worse."

"No, I am more wicked than all--and yet better. At least more
miserable. It is true that I hated thee, but only because thou hast
ever thrust me from thee. Thou wouldst not permit me to share thy life.
Forgive me!--O God! I only wish to die with thee!--give me thy hand as
a sign of pardon!"

Kneeling and beseeching, she stretched out both her hands.

The King again lifted his head. The kindness of his nature awoke within
him, and overpowered his own dull pain.

"Mataswintha," he said, lifting his chained hand, "go. I am sorry for
thee. Let me die alone. Whatever thou mayst have done--go--I forgive
thee."

"O Witichis!" breathed Mataswintha, and would have clasped his hand,
but she felt herself suddenly and violently dragged away.

"Incendiary! never shall he forgive thee! Come, Witichis!--_my_
Witichis!--follow me; thou art free!"

The King sprang up, roused to life by this voice.

"Rauthgundis! My wife! Thou hast never lied! Thou art true! at last I
have thee again!"

And, with a gasp of joy, he stretched out his arms. His wife flew to
his bosom, and tear's of delight rushed from their eyes.

But Mataswintha, who had risen, tottered to the wall. She slowly
stroked her loose red hair out of her eyes and looked at the pair, who
were illuminated by the bright moonlight from the chink in the wall.

"How he loves her! Yes, he will follow _her_! But he shall not! He
shall remain and die with me!"

"Delay no longer!" said the voice of Dromon at the door.

"Come, come quickly, my life!" cried Rauthgundis.

She drew a little key from her bosom and felt at the chains, seeking
the small opening of the lock.

"What? Shall I really breathe once more the air of freedom?" asked the
prisoner, half sinking back into his stupor.

"Yes; the free and open air!" cried Rauthgundis, and threw the loosened
chains to the ground. "Here, Witichis, here is a weapon! an axe! Take
it!"

Eagerly the Goth took the axe and weighed it in his hand.

"Ha! how the weapon strengthens my arm and soul!"

"I knew it, my brave Witichis," said Rauthgundis, kneeling down and
unlocking the chain which bound his left foot to the block of stone.
"Now step out, for thou art free!"

Witichis, raising the axe in his right hand, made a step toward the
door.

"And _she_ is permitted to loose his chains!" whispered Mataswintha.

"Yes, free!" cried Witichis, drawing a deep breath. "Come, Rauthgundis,
let us go!"

"He goes with _her_!" screamed Mataswintha, and cast herself before the
pair. "Witichis--farewell--but tell me once more--that thou hast
forgiven me!"

"Forgiven thee!" cried Rauthgundis. "Never--never! She has destroyed
our kingdom--she has betrayed thee! It was no lightning--it was her
hand which kindled the granaries!"

"Ha--then be thou accursed!" cried Witichis. "Away, away from this
serpent!" and, thrusting Mataswintha violently away, he crossed the
threshold, followed by Rauthgundis.

"Witichis," screamed Mataswintha, dragging herself up--"stay--stay!
Hear one word--Witichis!"

"Be silent," said Dromon, grasping her arm. "You will alarm the guard!"

But Mataswintha, now no more mistress of herself, ran up the steps into
the passage. "Stay, Witichis--stay!" she screamed. "Thou canst not
leave me thus!" and fell fainting to the earth.

Dromon hurried past her, and followed the fugitives.

But the shrill cries of Mataswintha had already reached the ear of one
who ever slept lightly. Cethegus, his sword in his hand, and only half
dressed, came out of his chamber into the gallery which looked over the
square court of the palace.

"Guards!" he cried. "To arms!"

The soldiers were already astir.

Scarcely had Witichis, Rauthgundis, and Dromon left the passage and
safely reached the dwelling of the latter, when six Isaurian
mercenaries rushed noisily into the passage.

Quick as thought Rauthgundis ran out of the house to the heavy iron
door, shut it, turned the key, and took it out.

"Now they can do no harm," she whispered.

The husband and wife presently hastened from Dromon's house to the
great gate which led from the court into the street. The single
sentinel who had remained behind stopped them and demanded the
watchword. "Rome," he cried, "and----"

"Revenge!" cried Witichis, and struck him down with the axe.

The sentinel screamed and fell, hurling his spear at the fugitives. It
pierced the last of the three--Dromon.

As Witichis and Rauthgundis rushed down the marble stairs of the palace
into the street, they heard the imprisoned soldiers thundering at the
strong iron door, and a loud voice calling: "Syphax, my horse!" Then
they disappeared into the darkness.

A few minutes later the courtyard was bright with the lights of many
torches, and several horsemen galloped off to the different gates of
the city.

"Six thousand solidi to whoever takes him alive; three thousand if he
be brought in dead!" cried Cethegus, swinging himself into the saddle.
"Up, Sons of the Wind, Ellak and Mondzach, Huns and Massagetæ! Ride as
you have never ridden before!"

"But whither?" asked Syphax, as he galloped out of the gate at his
master's aide.

"That is difficult to say. But all the gates are closed and guarded.
They can only escape by a breach."

"There are two large breaches."

"Look at Jupiter, which is just rising from behind the clouds in the
east. It seems to sign to me. In that direction----"

"Lies the breach near the Tower of Ætius."

"Good! Then thither--I follow my star!"


Meantime the fugitives had happily reached the breach, where Paulus,
the son of Dromon, let them pass. In the pine-grove of Diana they found
their faithful Wachis and two horses.

The husband and wife mounted Wallada. The freedman took the other horse
and rode off at a gallop towards the river, which at this point was
very broad.

Witichis held Rauthgundis before him.

"My wife--losing thee I had lost all: life and courage. But now I will
once more try for the kingdom. Oh, how could I ever let thee go, thou
soul of my soul!"

"Thine arm is wounded with the chaffing of the chain. Lay it across my
neck, my Witichis."

"Forward, Wallada--quick! It is for life or death!"

They now issued from the grove into the open country. They reached the
shore of the river.

Wachis was trying to urge his rearing steed into the dark flood. The
animal shyed and resisted.

The freedman sprang off.

"It is very deep, very rapid," he said.  "For three days the river has
been unusually full. The ford is useless. The horses will have to swim,
and the current will drag us far to the left. There are rocks in the
stream, and the moonlight is so inconstant and deceptive."

He looked doubtfully and searchingly up and down the river.

"Hark! what was that?" asked Rauthgundis. "It was not the wind in the
trees."

"It is horses!" cried Witichis. "They approach rapidly. I hear the
clatter of arms. There--torches! Now into the river for life or
death--but softly!"

He urged his horse into the water.

"There is no footing. The horses must swim. Hold fast by the mane,
Rauthgundis. Forward, Wallada!"

Snorting and trembling, the noble animal looked at the black water. His
mane was blown wildly about his head--he held his fore-feet stretched
out, his haunches drawn in.

"Forward, Wallada!" said Witichis, and called softly into the faithful
animal's ear, "Theodoric!"

At this the charger sprang willingly into the water.

The pursuing horsemen had already galloped out of the wood, Cethegus
foremost; at his side rode Syphax with a torch.

"Here the track disappears in the sand, master."

"They are in the river. Forward, Huns!"

But the horsemen drew rein and stood stock-still.

"Well, Ellak, why do you linger? At once into the flood!"

"Sir, we cannot. Before we ride into running water at night-time, we
must ask forgiveness of Phug, the water-spirit. We must first pray to
him."

"Pray when you are across as long as you like; but now----"

Just then a strong gust of wind blew from the river and extinguished
all the torches.

The river rushed and roared.

"You see, sir, that Phug is angry."

"Be silent. Did you see nothing? There to the left."

The moon just then glanced between the driving clouds. It shone upon
the light-coloured garments of Rauthgundis. She had lost her brown
mantle.

"Aim quickly; there!"

"We cannot; we must first finish our worship!"

The clouds passed across the moon, and it was again quite dark.

With a curse, Cethegus snatched bow and quiver from the shoulder of the
chief of the Huns.

"Come on!" cried Wachis in a low voice, when he had almost reached the
opposite shore; "come quickly, before the moon issues from that narrow
strip of cloud!"

"Halt, Wallada!" cried Witichis, as he dismounted in order to lighten
the burden, and held fast by the horse's mane. "Here is a rock. Take
care, Rauthgundis."

Horse, man, and woman were checked for a moment while balancing upon
the top of the rock, past which the water rushed and gurgled in a deep
whirl.

Suddenly the moon shone out clear and bright. It illuminated the
surface of the stream and the group on the rock.

"It is they!" cried Cethegus, who held his bow and arrow ready.

He took a rapid aim, and pulled the string.

Whistling, the long black-feathered arrow flew from the string.

"Rauthgundis!" cried Witichis in terror; for his wife started
convulsively and sank forward upon the horse's neck. But she did not
utter a groan. "Rauthgundis, thou art hit?"

"I believe so. Leave me here and save thyself."

"Never! Let me support thee."

"For God's sake, sir, stoop! dive! They take aim again!"

The Huns had finished praying. They rode a short way into the water,
fixing their arrows and taking aim.

"Leave me, Witichis. Fly! I will die here."

"No; I will never leave thee again!"

He lifted her out of the saddle, and tried to hide her on the rock. The
group stood in the full light of the moon.

"Yield, Witichis!" cried Cethegus, spurring his horse up to its
haunches in the water.

"A curse upon thee, thou traitor!" was the reply of Witichis.

Twelve arrows whizzed at once. The charger of Theodoric leaped wildly
forward, and sank for ever into the flood.

But Witichis also was mortally wounded.

"With thee!" sighed Rauthgundis. She held him closely with both arms.

"With thee!"

And, locked in a fast embrace, husband and wife sank into the river.

In bitter grief, Wachis, on the farther shore, called their names. In
vain. Three times he called, and then galloped away into the night.

"Get the bodies out," ordered Cethegus grimly, turning his horse to the
bank.

And the Huns rode and swam to the rock, and sought for the bodies. But
they sought in vain.

The rapid current had carried man and wife, united now for ever, into
the free and open sea.


The same day Prince Germanus had returned from Ariminum to the harbour
of Ravenna, ready to take Mataswintha to Byzantium.

The latter was only roused from the faint into which she had fallen
when left by Witichis and Rauthgundis, by the noise of the hammers with
which the work-people broke open the passage to liberate the soldiers.

The Princess was found crouching upon the steps of the prison. She was
carried up to her chamber in a high fever. She lay for hours upon her
purple cushions without moving or speaking, her eyes fixed in a wild
stare.

Towards noon Cethegus asked for admission.

His look was dark and threatening; his expression cold as ice.

He went up to Mataswintha's couch.

"He is dead!" she quietly said.

"He would not have it otherwise. He--and you. It is useless to reproach
you. But you see what ensues when you oppose me. The report of his
death will inevitably rouse the barbarians to new fury. You have
created a difficult task for me; for you only are the cause of his
flight and death. The least that you can do to atone for this is to
fulfil my second wish. Prince Germanus has landed. He comes to fetch
you. You will follow him."

"Where is the corpse?"

"It has not been found. The current has carried it away; his body
and--the woman's."

Mataswintha's lips twitched.

"Even in death! She died with him?"

"Think no more of the dead. In two hours I will return with the Prince.
Will you then be prepared to welcome him?"

"I shall be ready."

"'Tis well. We will be punctual."

"I also. Aspa, call all my slaves; they shall adorn me richly to meet
this Prince. Diadem, purple, and silk."

"She has lost her senses," Cethegus said to himself as he left the
room. "But women are tough; she will recover them. These women can
live, even when their hearts are broken."

He went to console the impatient Prince.

Before the expiration of the time appointed, a slave came to invite the
two men to come to the Queen.

Germanus crossed the threshold of her room with a rapid step. But he
stood still astonished. He had never seen the Gothic Princess looking
so lovely, so queenly.

She had placed a high golden diadem upon her shining hair, which fell
over her shoulders in two thick tresses. Her under-dress of heavy white
silk, embroidered with golden flowers, was only visible below the knee,
for the upper part of her body was covered by the royal purple. Her
face was white and cold as marble: her eyes blazed with a strange and
supernatural light.

"Prince Germanus," she said, as he entered, "you once spoke to me of
love; but do you know of what you spoke? To love is to die."

Germanus looked inquiringly at the Prefect, who now came forward.

He was about to speak, but Mataswintha, in a clear loud voice,
recommenced:

"Prince Germanus, you are famed as the most highly-cultivated man of a
learned court, where it is a favourite pastime to practise the solving
of finely-pointed riddles. I also will put to you a riddle; see to it
that you solve it. Let the clever Prefect, who so well understands
human nature, help you. What is this?--A wife, and yet a maid; a widow,
and yet no wife? You cannot guess? You are right; death alone resolves
all riddles!"

With a sudden movement, she cast off her purple robe.

There was a flash of steel! She had stabbed herself to the heart.

With a shriek, Germanus and Aspa (who had stood behind) sprang forward.

Cethegus silently caught the falling figure.

She died as soon as he drew the sword from her breast. He knew the
sword. He himself had sent it to her.

It was the sword of King Witichis.



                                BOOK V.
                                TOTILA.


"Well for us that this sunny youth still lives!"--_Margrave Ruediger of
Bechelaren_, Act i., Scene i.



                                PART I.



                               CHAPTER I.


A few days after the death of Mataswintha and the departure of Prince
Germanus, who was deeply shocked by the sad event, a message came from
Castra Nova, which rendered necessary the march of Byzantine troops
from Ravenna.

Hildebad had been informed, by fugitive Goths, who had made their way
in disguise through the lines of the besiegers, of the treacherous
imprisonment of the King.

On hearing the news, he sent word to Cethegus and Belisarius, through
some prisoners whom he released, that he challenged them, either
together or singly, to mortal combat, "if they had a drop of courage in
their veins, or a trace of honour in their souls."

"He thinks that Belisarius is still in the country, and does not seem
to fear him greatly," said Bessas.

"This might be a means," said Cethegus cunningly, of ruining the
turbulent fellow. "But, certainly, it needs great courage--such courage
as Belisarius possesses."

"You know that I do not yield to him a jot in that," answered Bessas.

"Good," said Cethegus. "Then follow me to my house. I will show you how
to destroy this giant. You shall succeed where Belisarius failed." But
he said to himself, "Bessas is indeed a tolerably bad commander; but
Demetrius is still worse, and therefore easier to lead. And I owe
Bessas a grudge for that affair of the Tiburtinian Gate at Rome."


The Prefect had not without reason feared that the almost extinguished
resistance of the Goths would be renewed on hearing of the treason
practised on their King.

No exact report had yet reached old Hildebrand at Verona, Totila at
Tarvisium, or Teja at Ticinum.

They had only heard that Ravenna had fallen, and that the King was
imprisoned.

Vague rumours of treachery accompanied this report, and the friends of
the King, in their pain and anger, were persuaded that the fall of the
strong fortress and of the brave King had not been effected by honest
means.

Instead of discouraging them, this misfortune only increased the
strength of their resistance.

They weakened their besiegers by repeated and successful sallies.

And the enemy felt almost constrained to raise the siege, for already
signs of an important change of circumstance crowded upon them from all
sides.

This change was, in fact, a rapidly progressing reversion of feeling in
the Italian population, at least of the middle classes: the merchants
and artisans of the towns; the peasants and farmers of the country.

The Italians had everywhere greeted the Byzantines as liberators.

But after a short period their exultation died away.

Whole troops of officials followed Belisarius from Byzantium, sent by
Justinian to reap without delay the fruits of the war, and to fill the
ever-empty treasury of the East with the riches of Italy.

In the midst of all the suffering caused by the war, these zealous
officials began their work.

As soon as Belisarius had occupied a town, his treasurer summoned all
free citizens to the Curia or to the Forum; ordered them to divide
themselves into six classes according to their wealth, and then called
upon each class to value the property of the class above it.

According to this valuation, the imperial officials then laid the
highest possible tax upon each class.

And, as these officials were almost necessitated, because of the
retention and curtailment of their never punctually paid salaries, to
think of filling their own pockets as well as the Emperor's treasury,
the oppression they put in practice became intolerable.

They were not content with the high rates which the Emperor required to
be paid in advance for three years; the special tax laid upon every
liberated town of Italy as a "gratitude tax"--besides the large
contributions and requisitions which Belisarius and his generals were
obliged to demand for the use of the army--for neither gold nor
provisions came from Byzantium--but every official sought to extort
special payments, by special means, out of the richer citizens.

They everywhere ordered a revision of the tax-lists, discovered arrears
owing since the times of the Gothic Kings, even from the days of
Odoacer, and left the citizens the option of paying immense sums for
indemnity or of carrying on a ruinous lawsuit with Justinian's fiscus,
who scarcely ever lost one.

But if the tax-lists were incomplete or destroyed--which happened often
enough in those times of war--the accountants arbitrarily reconstructed
them.

In short, all the arts of finance which had ruined the provinces of the
Eastern Empire were practised in Italy, after the landing of
Belisarius, as far as imperial arms could reach.

Without consideration for the misery of war-time, the tax executors
unyoked the oxen of the peasant from the plough, took his tools from
the workshop of the artisan, and his wares from the house of the
merchant.

In many towns the people rebelled against their oppressors and drove
them away; but they only returned in larger numbers with severer
measures.

The Mauretanian horsemen of Justinian, with African bloodhounds, hunted
the desperate peasants from their hiding-places in the woods, whither
they had fled to escape the tax-gatherer. And Cethegus, who alone was
in a position to check such deeds, looked on with calculating coolness.

He desired that, before the end of the war, all Italy should have
become acquainted with the tyranny of Byzantium, for then it would be a
lighter task for him to persuade the people to rise and, when they had
got rid of the Goths, to throw off the burden of the Byzantines. He
listened to the complaints of the deputations from various towns, who
appealed to him for assistance, with a shrug and the laconic answer:

"That is only Byzantine government--you must get used to it."

"No," had answered the deputation from Rome, "one does not get
accustomed to what is unbearable. The Emperor may live to see that of
which he has never even dreamed!"

To Cethegus this could only mean the independence of Italy; he knew of
nothing else.

But he was mistaken.

Although he thought meanly enough of his countrymen and the times in
which he lived, he yet believed that he could elevate them by example.

But the thought so natural to his spirit; as necessary to him as the
air he breathed--the freedom and independence of Italy--was far too
grand for the comprehension of that generation.

They could only vacillate between two masters.

And when the yoke of Byzantium proved unbearable they began to recall
to their memory the milder rule of the Goths; a possibility which had
never entered the Prefect's head.

And yet such was the case.

Before Tarvisium, Ticinum, and Verona, there now happened on a small
scale, that which was preparing on a large one in such cities as
Neapolis and Rome. The Italian country-people revolted against
the Byzantine officials and soldiers, and the inhabitants of the
above-named three cities supported the Goths in every possible manner.

So, when Totila, backed by the armed peasants of the plains, had
destroyed a great part of their works, the besiegers of Tarvisium were
obliged to cease their attacks, and limit themselves to the defence of
their camp, thus enabling Totila to draw supplies and soldiers from the
neighbouring country.

With a more cheerful spirit than usual he one evening made his round of
the walls of Tarvisium.

Rosy clouds floated across the sky, and the sun, as it sank behind the
Venetian hills, gilded all the plain before him.

With emotion he watched the peasants from the neighbourhood streaming
through the open gates of the city, bringing bread, meat, and wine to
his half-starved Goths; who, on their part, hurried out into the open
country, and Germans and Italians, embracing, celebrated the victory
which they had together gained over their hated enemies.

"Is it then impossible," said Totila to himself, "to preserve and
propagate this amity through the whole country? Is it a necessity that
these two nations should be eternally divided? How their friendship
embellishes each! Have we not also failed, in that we ever treated the
Italians as the vanquished? We meet them with suspicion, instead of
with generous confidence. We demand their obedience, and neglect to win
their affection. And it would have been well worth the winning! Had it
been won--never would Byzantium have gained a footing here! The release
from my vow--Valeria--would not have been so unattainable. Would that
it were permitted me to strive for this goal in _my_ way!"

His reflections and dreams were interrupted by a messenger from the
outposts, announcing that the enemy had suddenly forsaken their camp,
and were in fall retreat to the south, towards Ravenna. On the road to
the west clouds of dust were seen: a large body of horsemen was
approaching--probably Goths.

Totila received the news with joy, but also with doubt. He took all
necessary measures against a stratagem.

But during the night his doubts were resolved. He was awakened by the
news of a Gothic victory, and the arrival of the victor.

He hurried out and found Hildebrand, Teja, Thorismuth, and Wachis.

With the cry of "Victory! victory!" his friends greeted him, and
Teja and Hildebrand announced that at Ticina, and Verona also, the
country-people had rebelled against the Byzantines, and had aided the
Goths in falling upon the besiegers, whom, after destroying their
defences, they had forced to retreat.

But in spite of this joyful news, there lay in Teja's eyes and voice a
deeper melancholy than usual.

"What of sorrow hast thou to communicate, beside this joy?" asked
Totila.

"The shameful ruin of the best man in the world!" said Teja, and signed
to Wachis, who now related the sufferings and death of the King and his
wife.

"I escaped the arrows of the Huns by hiding amongst the rushes. Thus I
still live. But only for one thing; that is, to revenge my master upon
his betrayer and murderer--Cethegus the Prefect."

"No; the Prefect is mine!" said Teja.

"Thou, Totila, hast the first right to his life," said Hildebrand, "for
thou hast a brother to revenge."

"My brother Hildebad!" cried Totila. "What of him?"

"He has been shamefully murdered by the Prefect," said Thorismuth,
"before my very eyes, and I could not prevent it."

"My strong Hildebad dead!" exclaimed Totila. "Speak!"

"The hero lay with us in the Castle of Castra Nova, near Mantua,"
related Thorismuth. "The report of the King's treacherous death had
reached us. Hildebad challenged Belisarius and Cethegus to mortal
combat. Presently a herald arrived, who said that Belisarius had
accepted the challenge, and expected thy brother on the plain between
our walls and their camp. Thy brother set forth rejoicing; we horsemen
followed. And verily, there rode out of a tent, in his golden armour,
with closed helm and white plume, with his round shield--well known to
us all--the hero, Belisarius. Only twelve horsemen followed him;
foremost of all, Cethegus the Prefect. The other Byzantines halted just
outside the camp. Hildebad ordered me to follow him with an equal
number of horsemen. The two combatants greeted each other with their
spears; the trumpets sounded, and Hildebad rushed at his enemy. The
next moment the latter lay upon the ground, pierced through and
through. Thy brother, unhurt, dismounted, crying: 'That was no thrust
from Belisarius!' and opened the visor of the dying man. 'Bessas!'
cried Hildebad, and looked, furious at the deception, towards his
enemies. Then the Prefect gave a sign. The twelve Moorish horsemen
hurled their spears, and, severely hit, thy brother fell."

Totila covered his face. Teja went sympathisingly up to him.

"Listen to the end," said Thorismuth. "When we saw this murder, we were
filled with fury. We threw ourselves upon the enemy, who, trusting that
we should be discouraged, pressed forward from the camp. After a hot
fight, we compelled them to fly. Only the speed of his devilish horse
saved the Prefect, who was wounded in the shoulder by my spear. Thy
brother lived to see our victory. He caused the chest which he had
brought from Ravenna to be carried down to the Castle; opened it, and
said to me: 'Crown, shield, and sword of Theodoric. Take them to my
brother.' And with his last breath he cried: 'He must revenge me and
renew our kingdom. Tell him--that I loved him very dearly!' Then he
sank back upon his shield, and his faithful soul departed."

"My brother! Oh, my beloved brother!" cried Totila, leaning against a
pillar. Tears flowed from his eyes.

There was a moment of reverent silence.

Then: "Remember thine oath!" cried Hildebrand. "He was doubly thy
brother! Thou wilt revenge him!"

"Yes," said Totila, and involuntarily he drew the sword--which Teja
handed to him--from its sheath. "I will revenge him!"

It was the sword of Theodoric.

"And renew the kingdom," said old Hildebrand solemnly, and, taking the
crown, he set it upon Totila's head. "Hail to thee, King of the Goths!"

Totila started.

He raised his left hand to the golden coronet.

"What do ye?" he exclaimed.

"That which is right. The dying hero's words were prophecy! Thou wilt
surely renew the kingdom. Three victories call upon thee to take up the
struggle. Remember thine oath. We are not yet defenceless. Shall we lay
down our weapons? Shall we submit to treachery and tricks?"

"No," cried Totila, "that we will not. And it is well done to choose a
king, as a sign of renewed hope. But here stands Earl Teja, worthier
than I, of proved experience. Choose Teja!"

"No," said Teja, shaking his head, "it is thy turn first! Thy dying
brother has sent _thee_ this sword and crown. Wear them happily! If the
kingdom can be saved, it is thou who canst save it; if not, an avenger
must be left."

"But now," interrupted Hildebrand, "now we must hasten to sow the seeds
of confidence in all hearts. This is thine office, Totila! See, the
young day breaks in glory. The first rays of the sun fall into the hall
and kiss, thy brow! It is a sign from the gods! Hail, King Totila--thou
that shalt renew the Gothic kingdom!"

The youth pressed the glittering crown firmly upon his golden locks,
and raised Theodoric's sword towards the morning sun.

"Yes!" he cried, "if human strength can do it, I will raise anew the
kingdom of the Goths."



                              CHAPTER II.


And King Totila kept his word.

Once again he raised the Goths, whose sole hold on Italy was embodied
in a few thousand men and three cities, to a great power, greater even
than in the days of Theodoric.

He drove the Byzantines out of all the towns of Italy, with one fatal
exception.

He won back the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicilia.

And still more: he victoriously crossed the old limits of the kingdom,
and, as the Emperor obstinately refused recognition of the Gothic rule
and possession, sent his royal fleet to carry terror and devastation
into the provinces of the Eastern Empire.

And Italy, in spite of the continuance of the war--which was never
quite extinguished--bloomed under his government as in the time of
Theodoric.

It is remarkable that the legends both of the Goths and Italians
celebrate this fortunate King, now as the grandchild of Numa Pompilius,
Titus, or Theodoric, now as the spirit of the latter, returned to earth
in youthful form, to restore and bless his well-beloved kingdom.

As the morning sun, issuing from the clouds of night, irresistibly
spreads light and blessing abroad, so Totila's arms brought happiness
to Italy.

The dark shadows retreated step by step at his approach. Victory flew
before him, and the gates of the cities and the hearts of men opened to
him almost without a struggle.

The manly qualities--the genius of a general and a ruler--which had
slumbered in this fair youth, which were only guessed at by Theodoric
and Teja, and known to their full extent to no one, were now gloriously
displayed.

The youthful freshness of his nature, far from being destroyed by the
hard trials of the last years, by the sufferings which he had endured
in Neapolis and before Rome, by the long absence from his beloved
Valeria, from whom he was parted farther and farther by every fresh
victory of the Byzantines, had only deepened into more earnest
manliness. The bright sympathy of his manner remained, and cast the
charm of amiability and heartfelt kindness over all his actions.

Sustained by his own ideality, he tamed trustingly to the ideal in his
fellow-men; and almost all, except those governed by some diabolical
power, found his confident appeal to what was noble and good
irresistible.

As light illumines whatever it shines upon, so the noble-heartedness of
this glorious King seemed to communicate itself to his courts to his
associates, and even to his adversaries.

"He is irresistible as Apollo!" said the Italians.

More closely regarded, we find that the secret of his great and rapid
success lay in the genial art with which--following the inmost impulse
of his nature--he contrived to transmute the bitterness of the Italians
against Byzantine oppression into sympathy with the benevolence of the
Goths.

We have seen how this feeling of bitterness had taken root amongst the
peasants, the farmers, the rich merchants, the artisans, and the middle
and lower ranks of the citizens; in fact, among the greater part of the
population.

And later, when the Goths marched to the field of battle with the
jubilating cry of "Totila!" the personality of the young King
completely estranged the Italians from their Byzantine oppressors, who
seemed to be totally forsaken by the fortune of war.

It is true that a minority remained uninfluenced: the Orthodox Church,
which knew of no peace with heretics; hard-headed Republicans; and the
kernel of the Catacomb conspiracy--the proud Roman aristocrats and the
friends of the Prefect. But this small minority compared to the mass of
the population, was of little moment.

The King's first act was to publish a manifesto to the Goths and
Italians.

It was proved to the first that the fall of King Witichis and Ravenna
had been the work of superior falsehood, and not of superior strength;
and the duty of revenge, begun already by three victories, was
impressed upon them.

And the Italians, having now experienced what kind of exchange they had
made in revolting to Byzantium, were invited to return to their old
friends.

In order to favour this return, the King promised not only a general
amnesty, but equal rights with the Goths; the abolition of all former
Gothic privileges; the right of forming a native army; and--what was
especially effective by contrast--the abolition of all taxes upon
Italian soil or property until the end of the war.

Further, as the aristocracy favoured the Byzantines--the farmers, on
the contrary, the Goths--it was a measure of the highest prudence which
provided that every Roman noble who did not, within three months,
subject himself to the Goths, should lose his landed property in favour
of his former tenants.

And, lastly, the King placed a high premium, to be paid out of the
royal purse, on all intermarriages between Goths and Italians,
promising the settlement of the pair upon the confiscated property of
Roman senators.

"Italia," concluded the manifesto, "bleeding from the wounds inflicted
by the tyranny of Byzantium, shall recover and bloom again under my
protection. Help us, sons of Italia, to drive from this sacred ground
our common enemies, the Huns and Scythians of Justinianus. Then, in
the new-born kingdom of the Italians and Goths, a new people shall
arise--begotten of Italian beauty and cultivation, of Gothic strength
and truth--whose nobility and splendour shall be such as the world has.
never yet beheld!"


When Cethegus the Prefect, awaking at morn on the field-bed to which
his wound had confined him, heard the news of Totila's accession, he
sprang from his couch with a curse.

"Sir," said the Grecian physician, "you must take care of yourself
and----"

"Did you not hear? Totila wears the Gothic crown! It is no time now to
be prudent.--My helm, Syphax."

And he snatched the manifesto from the hand of Lucius Licinius, who had
brought the news, and read eagerly.

"Is it not ridiculous--madness?" asked Lucius.

"Madness it is if the Romans be yet Romans! But are they so? If they
are not--then we--and not the barbarian prince--work madness. The thing
must never be put to a trial, but be at once nipped in the bud. The
blow directed against the aristocracy is a masterpiece. It must not
have time to take effect. Where is Demetrius?"

"He marched against Totila last evening. You were asleep. The physician
forbade us to awaken you, and Demetrius also."

"Totila king, and you let me sleep! Do you not know that this
flaxen-head is the very genius of the Goths? Demetrius wishes to win
his laurels alone. How strong is he?"

"More than twice as strong as the Goths; twelve thousand to five
thousand."

"Demetrius is lost. Up--to horse! Arm all who can carry a lance.
Leave only the wounded to guard the walls. This firebrand Totila must
be trampled out, or an ocean of blood cannot extinguish him. My
weapons--to horse!"

"I have never seen the Prefect look so," said Lucius Licinius to the
physician. "It must be fever? He grew pale."

"He is without fever."

"Then I do not comprehend it, for it cannot be _fear_. Syphax, let us
follow him."

Cethegus urged on his troop indefatigably. So indefatigably, that only
a small suite of horsemen could keep up with his impatience and the
swift hoofs of his war-horse.

At long intervals followed Marcus Licinius, Massurius with Cethegus's
mercenaries, and Balbus with the hurriedly-armed citizens of Ravenna.
For Cethegus had indeed left in the fortress only old men, women and
children, and the wounded soldiers.

At last the Prefect succeeded in communicating with the rear-guard of
the Byzantines.

Totila was marching from Tarvisium southwards against Ravenna.

He was joined by numerous bands of armed Italians from the provinces of
Liguria, Venetia, and Æmilia, who had been roused by his manifesto into
new hope and new resolve.

They desired to fight with him his first battle against the Byzantines.

"No," Totila had answered their general; "you shall decide upon what
you will do _after_ the battle. We Goths will fight alone. If we win,
then you may join us. If we lose, then the revenge of the Byzantines
will not affect you. Await the result."

The report of such magnanimous sentiments attracted many more to the
Gothic flag.

Besides this, Totila's army was reinforced from hour to hour, during
the march, by the arrival of Gothic warriors, who, singly, or in small
bands, had come out of prison or left their hiding-places when they
heard of the treachery practised on King Witichis, the accession of a
new King, and the renewal of the war.

The haste with which Totila pressed forward, in order to avail himself
of the enthusiasm of his troops before it had time to cool, and the
zeal with which Demetrius flew to meet him, soon brought the two armies
in sight of each other.

It was at the bridge across the Padus, named Pons Padi.

The Byzantines stood in the plain; they had the river, which they had
crossed with half their foot, at their backs.

The Goths appeared upon the gently-sloping hills towards the
north-west.

The rays of the setting sun dazzled the eyes of the Byzantines.

Totila, from the hill, observed the position of the enemy.

"The victory is mine!" he cried to his troops, and, drawing his sword,
he swooped upon his enemies like a falcon on his prey.


Cethegus and his followers had reached the last deserted camp of the
Byzantines shortly after sunset.

They were met by the first fugitives.

"Turn, Prefect," cried the foremost horseman, who recognised him, "turn
and save yourself! Totila is upon us! He cleaved the helm and head of
Artabazes, the best captain of the Armenians, with his own hand!" And
the man continued his flight.

"A god led the barbarians!" cried a second. "All is lost--the
commander-in-chief is taken!"

"This King Totila is irresistible!" cried a third, trying to pass the
Prefect, who blocked his way.

"Tell that in hell!" cried Cethegus, and struck him to the earth.
"Forward!"

But he had scarcely given the command when he recalled it.

For already whole battalions of vanquished Byzantines came flying
through the wood towards him. He saw that it would be impossible to
stem the flight of these masses with his small troop.

For some time he watched the movement irresolutely.

The Gothic pursuers were already visible in the distance, when
Vitalius, one of Demetrius's captains, came wounded up to Cethegus.

"Oh, friend," he cried, "there is no stopping them! They will now go on
till they reach Ravenna."

"I verily believe it," said Cethegus. "They will more likely carry my
men away with them than stand and fight."

"And yet only the half of the victors, under Teja and Hildebrand,
follow us. The King turned back already on the field of battle. I saw
him withdraw his troops. He wheeled to the south-west."

"_Whither?_" cried Cethegus, becoming attentive. "Tell me again. In
_what_ direction?"

"He marched towards the south-west."

"He is going to Rome!" exclaimed the Prefect, and pulled his horse
round so suddenly that it reared. "Follow me!--to the coast!"

"And the routed army? without leaders!" cried Lucius Licinius. "See how
they fly!"

"Let them fly! Ravenna is strong. It will hold out. Do you not hear?
The Goth is going to _Rome_! We must get there before him. Follow me to
the coast--the way by sea is open. To Rome!"



                              CHAPTER III.


Lovely--famed far and wide for its beauty--is the valley in which the
Passara flows from the north into the rapid Athesis, which hurries from
the west to the south-east.

Like a bending figure, which leans longingly towards the beautiful
Southland, the lofty Mendola rises at a distance from the right bank of
the river.

Here, above the junction of the two streams, once lay the Roman
settlement of Mansio Majæ.

A little farther up the river, on a dominating rock, stood the Castle
of Teriolis.

Now--from a mountain-"muhr" or "mar" (landslip)--the town is called
Meran.

The Castle has given its name to the Tyrol.

"Mansio Majæ" is heard even now in the name of the place "Mais," rich
in pleasant villas.

But at the time of which we speak an East Gothic garrison lay in the
Castle of Teriolis, as was the case in all the old Rhætian rock-nests
on the Athesis, the Isarcus, and the [OE]nus, in order to keep down the
only half-subjected Suevi, Alamanni, and Markomanni, or, as they were
already named, the Bajuvars, who dwelt in Rhætia, on the Licus, and on
the lower course of the [OE]nus.

But, besides the garrisons of the castles, East-Gothic families had
settled in larger numbers in the mild and fruitful valley and on the
willow-covered slopes of the mountains.

Even now a singular, noble, and grave beauty distinguishes the peasants
of the valleys of Meran, Ultner, and Sarn. These reticent people are
much more refined, pensive, and aristocratic than the Bajuvar type on
the Inn, the Lech, and the Isar.

Their dialect and legends support the supposition that here some few
remains of the Goths continued to flourish; for the legends of the
Amelungs, Dietrich of Bern, and the Rose-garden, still live in the
names of the places and the traditions of the people.

Upon one of the highest mountains on the left shore of the Athesis, a
Goth named Iffa had before-times settled; his descendants continued the
settlement.

The mountain is named the "Iffinger" to this day. Upon the southern
slope, half-way up, the simple settlement was fixed. The Gothic
emigrants had found it already cultivated. The Rhætian alpine-house,
which Druses had met with when he conquered the Rasenian
mountain-people, had suffered no change in its characteristic and
commodious form through the Roman conquerors, who built their villas in
the valley, and their watch-towers on dominating rocks.

All the Romanised inhabitants of the Eltsch valley had, after the
East-Gothic invasion, remained in quiet possession of their property.

For not here, but farther east, from the Save and over the Isonzo, had
the Goths pressed forward into the peninsula; and only when Ravenna and
Odoacer had fallen, did Theodoric spread his hosts in a peaceful and
regular manner over North Italy and the Etschland.

Thus Iffa and his people had peacefully shared the soil with the Roman
settlers whom they found upon the mountain, which at that time still
possessed its Rasenian name.

A third of the arable land, the meadows and woods; a third part of the
house, slaves, and animals, was, here as everywhere, claimed by the
Gothic settler from the Roman farmer.

In the course of years, however, the Roman _hospes_ had found this
close and involuntary vicinity to the barbarians inconvenient. He
therefore left the rest of his property on the mountains to the Goths,
in exchange for thirty yoke of the splendid oxen which the Germans had
brought with them from Pannonia--and which they so well understood how
to breed--and went southwards, where the Romans dwelt in greater
numbers.

And so the "Iffinger" had become completely Germanic, for the present
master had suddenly sold the few Roman slaves which he possessed,
and had replaced them by men and maids of Germanic race: Gepidians
taken in war. This master was again named "Iffa," like his ancestor.
He lived alone, a silver-haired man. A brother, and his wife and
daughter-in-law, had, many years ago, been buried under a landslip.

A son, a younger brother, and a son of the latter, had obeyed the call
of King Witichis to arms, and had never returned from the siege of
Rome.

So no one was left to the old man but his two grandchildren, the boy
and girl of the son who had fallen.

The sun had set gloriously behind the mountains which bordered the
incomparable Etsch valley in the blue distance to the south and west.

A warm golden lustre lay upon the tender porphyry colouring of the
"Iffinger," making it glow like red wine.

Up the mountain slope, upon the top of which stood a dwelling-house
with a row of stalls a little apart, climbed slowly, step by step,
resting ever and again, and holding her hands over her eyes as she
looked at the sunset, a child--or was it already a maiden?--who was
driving a flock of lambs before her.

She now and then gave her _protégées_ time to crop with dainty tooth
the aromatic Alpine herbs which grew in their path, and beat time with
the hazel stick which she carried to an ancient and simple melody, the
words of which she was softly singing:

                 "Little lambkins,
                  Follow freely;
                  By your shepherd's
                  Hand led heedful;
                  Like the heaven's
                  Lovely lambkins,
                  Like the quiet
                  Steady stars, that
                  Shining, sparkling,
                  Obey ever
                  Their bright shepherd,
                  Mustered by the
                  Mild moon ever,
                  Without trouble,
                  Without pause."

She ceased, and bent forward to look over into a deep ravine on her
left hand, which had been hollowed out in the steep slope by a rapid
mountain brook. Now, being summer, the water was very shallow. On the
opposite side the hill again rose steeply upward.

"Where can he be?" the girl said; "usually his goats are already
descending the hill when the sun has turned to gold. My flowers will
fade soon!"

She seated herself upon a stone near the path, let the lambs graze,
laid the hazel stick beside her, and allowed the apron of sheepskin,
which, till now, she had held up carefully, to fall. A shower of the
loveliest Alpine flowers fell to the ground.

She began to wind a wreath.

"The blue speik will suit his brown hair the best," she said as she
worked busily. "I get much more tired when I drive the flock alone than
when he is with me. And yet then we climb much higher. I wonder how it
is! How my naked feet burn! I might go down to the brook and cool them.
And then I should see him sooner when he comes along the height. The
sun does not scorch any more."

She took off the large broad pumpkin leaf which she wore instead of a
hat; and now was seen the shining colour of her pale golden hair--so
fair it was!--which, stroked back from the temples, was tied together
at the back of the head with a red ribbon. Like a flood of sunbeams it
rippled over her neck, which was only covered by a white woollen
kirtle, that, confined at the waist with a leather girdle, reached a
little above the knees.

She measured the size of her wreath on her own head.

"Certainly," she said, "his head is larger. I will add these Alpine
roses."

Then she tied the two ends of the wreath together with delicate
grasses, sprang up, shook the remaining flowers from her lap, took the
wreath in her left hand, and turned to descend the steep declivity, at
the foot of which the brook gurgled amid the stones.

"No! stop up here and wait! Thou, too, darling White Elf! I will come
back directly."

And she drove back the lambs, which had tried to follow, and which now,
bleating, looked wistfully after their mistress.

With great agility the practised girl sprang down the ravine; now
holding fast to the tough shrubs, spurge-olives, and yellow willow; now
boldly leaping from rock to rock.

The loose stones broke and the fragments came rattling after her. As
she merrily jumped after the rolling pebbles, she suddenly heard a
sharp and threatening hiss from below.

Before she could turn, a great copper-brown snake, which had no doubt
been disturbed from sunning itself on a stone, coiled itself up, ready
to dart at her naked feet.

The child was alarmed; her knees trembled, and screaming loudly, she
called:

"Adalgoth, help! help!"

A clear voice immediately replied to this cry of fear with the words,
"Alaric! Alaric!" which sounded like a battle-cry.

The bushes on the right creaked and cracked; stones rolled down the
slope, and, swift as an arrow, a slender boy in a rough wolf-skin flew
between the hissing snake and the affrighted maiden.

He hurled his strong Alpine stick like a spear, and with so true an aim
that the small head of the snake was transfixed to the ground. Its long
body twined convulsively round the deadly shaft.

"Gotho, thou art not wounded?"

"No, thanks to thee, thou hero!"

"Then let me say the snake-charm before the viper ceases to struggle;
it will ban all its fellows for three leagues around."


And lifting the three first fingers of his right hand, the boy repeated
the ancient saying:

                 "Woe! thou wolf-worm,
                  Wriggle wildly!
                  Bite the bushes,
                  Poisonous panting:
                  Men and maidens,
                  Hurt thou shalt not.
                  Down, black devil,
                  Venomous viper,
                  Down and die now!
                  High o'er the heads
                  Of scaly-bright serpents
                  Steppeth the race of the glorious Goths!"



                              CHAPTER IV.


As he finished speaking, and was bending to examine the snake, the girl
suddenly placed the wreath which she had made upon his curly auburn
hair.

"Hail, hero and helper! Look! the victor's wreath was ready for thee.
Ah! how well the blue flowers become thee!" And she clapped her hands
joyfully.

"Thy foot is bleeding!" said Adalgoth anxiously; "let me suck the
wound. If the poisonous snake has bitten thee!"

"It was only a sharp stone. Thou wouldst better like to die thyself?"

"For thee, Gotho, how gladly! But the poison is harmless in the mouth.
Now let me wash thy wound. I have still some vinegar and water left in
my gourd. And then I will put sage-leaves upon it, and healing endive."

Thus saying, he gently made her sit down upon a stone, lifted her naked
foot and dropped the mixture out of the gourd upon it. This done, he
sprang up, looked about in the grass, and presently returned with some
soothing herbs, which he tied carefully over the wound with the leather
strap which he loosened from his own foot.

"How kind thou art, dear boy!" said the girl, stroking his hair.

"Now let me carry thee--only up the hill?" he begged; "I should so like
to hold thee in my arms!"

"Indeed thou shalt not!" she laughed, as she sprang up; "I am no
wounded lamb! See how I can run. But where are thy goats?"

"There they come out from the juniper-trees. I will call them."

And putting his shepherd's-pipe to his mouth, he blew a shrill note,
swinging his stick round his head.

The sturdy goats came leaping towards him--fearing punishment.

And now, laying his arm tenderly about the girl's neck, and strewing a
stripe of salt from his pocket upon the earth, which the goats,
following, eagerly licked up, Adalgoth went up the slope.

"But tell me, dearest," said Gotho, when they had arrived at the top of
the hill, and she was gathering her lambs together, "why thy cry was
again 'Alaric! Alaric!' just as when thou madest the eagle leave my
little White Elf, which it had already seized in its talons?"

"That is my battle-cry."

"Who taught it thee?"

"Grandfather; the first time he took me with him to hunt wolves. The
time when I got this skin from Master Isegrim's ribs. As I sprang at
the wolf, which could not escape and turned to attack me, crying
'Iffa,' just as I had always heard grandfather cry, he said, 'Thou must
not cry "Iffa," Adalgoth. When thou attackest a hero or a monster, cry
"Alaric!" it will bring thee luck.'"

"But none of our ancestors are so named, brother. We know all their
names."

They had now reached the stalls, into which they drove the animals, and
then seated themselves before an open window upon a wooden bench, which
ran round the front of the house on each side of the door.

"There are," counted Gotho, "first Iffamer, our father; and Uncle
Wargs, who was buried by the mountain; then Iffa, our grandfather;
Iffamuth, our other uncle; Iffaswinth, his son; and Iffarich, our
great-grandfather; and Iffa again--but no Alaric."

"And yet I feel as if I had often heard that name at the time when I
used first to run about the mountain; when the great landslip killed
Uncle Wargs. And I like the name. Grandfather has told me about a
hero-king who was called so; who was first of all the heroes to conquer
the fortress of Roma--thou knowest, it is the city from which father
and Uncle Iffamuth and Cousin Iffaswinth never returned. And that hero
died young, like Siegfried, the dragon-killer, and Balthar, the heathen
god. And his grave is in a deep river. There he lies on his golden
shield, under his treasures, and tall reeds bend and wave above him.
And now another king has arisen, who is called Totila, as the warriors
who relieved the garrison over there in the Castle of Teriolis told me.
They say he is just like that Alaric, and like Siegfried and the
Sun-god. And grandfather says that I also shall become a warrior and go
down to King Totila and rush into the fray with the cry of 'Alaric!
Alaric!' Long ago I got tired of climbing about and keeping goats here
on the mountains, where there is nothing to fight but wolves, or at
most a bear which eats up the grapes and honey-combs. You all praise my
harp-playing and my songs, but I feel that they are not worth it, and
that I cannot learn much more from the old man. I should like to sing
better things. I am never tired of listening to the soldiers' stories
about the victories of glorious King Totila. Lately I gave the best
chamois I ever shot to old Hunibad--whom the King sent up here to nurse
his wounds--so that he might tell me, for the third time, all about the
battle at the bridge across the Padus, and how King Totila himself
overthrew that black devil, the dreadful Cethegus. And I have made a
song about it, which begins:

           "Tremble, thou traitor,
            Cunning Cethegus;
            Tricks will not serve thee;
            Teja the terrible
            Daunts thy defiance.
            And brightly arises,
            Like morning and May-time,
            Like night from the darkness,
            The favourite of Heaven,
            The bright and the beautiful
            King of the Goths.

"But it goes no further; and I can make no more poetry alone. I need a
master for the words and the harp. I should like to finish a song that
I have began about the spear-hurler Teja, whom they call the 'Black
Earl,' and who is said to play the harp wonderfully. And long ago--but
this I tell to thee alone--I should have run away without asking
grandfather, who always says I am too young yet, if _one_ thing did not
keep me back."

He sprang hastily up.

"What is that, brother?" asked Gotho, who sat quite still and looked
full at him with her large blue eyes.

"Nay, if thou dost not guess it," he answered almost angrily, "I cannot
tell thee. But now I must go and forge some new arrow-points in the
smithy. First give me one more kiss--there! And now let me kiss each of
thine eyes, and thy fair hair. Good-bye, dear sister, until
supper-time."

He left her and ran to a side building, before the door of which stood
a grind-stone and various implements.

Gotho rested her cheek upon her hand, and looked thoughtful. Then she
said aloud:

"I cannot guess it; for of course he would take me with him. We could
not live apart."


She rose with a slight sigh, and went to a field near the house, to
look after the linen which was lying there bleaching.

But now old Iffa rose from his seat behind the open window, where he
had heard all that had passed.

"This will not do," he cried, rubbing his head hard. "I never yet had
the heart to separate the children--for they were but children! I
always waited and waited; and now I think I have put it off a little
too long. Away with thee, young Adalgoth!"

He left the dwelling-house, and walked slowly to the smithy. He found
the boy working busily. With puffed-out cheeks, he blew into the fire
on the hearth, and held the already roughly-prepared arrow-points in
it, in order to make them red-hot and fit for the hammer. Then he took
them out with a pair of pincers, laid them on an anvil, and hammered
out neat points and hooks. Without pausing in his work, he nodded
silently to his grandfather, striking sturdily upon the anvil till the
sparks flew.

"Well," thought the old man, "just now, at least, he thinks of nothing
but arrows and iron."

But suddenly the young smith finished his work with a tremendous
stroke, threw away the hammer, passed his hand across his hot forehead,
and asked, turning sharply to the old man:

"Grandfather, where do men come from?"

"Jesus, Woden, and Maria!" exclaimed the old man, starting back. "Boy,
how comest thou to such thoughts?"

"The thoughts come to me, not I to them. I mean the first men--the very
first. That tall Hermegisel over there in Teriolis, who ran away from
the Arian church at Verona, and can read and write, says that the
Christian God made a man in a garden out of clay, and, while he slept,
took one of his ribs and made a woman. That is ridiculous; for out of
the longest rib that ever was, one could not make ever so small a
girl."

"Well, I don't believe it either," the old man thoughtfully confessed.
"It is difficult to imagine. And I remember that my father once said,
as he was sitting by the hearth, that the first men grew upon
trees. But old Hildebrand, who was his friend, although he was much
older--and who stopped here on his way back from an expedition against
the savage Bajuvars, and who was sitting near father, for it was early
in the year, and very rough and cold--_he_ said that it was all right
about the trees; only that men did not grow on them, but that two
heathen gods--Hermegisel called them demons--once found an ash and an
alder lying on the sea-shore, and from them they framed a man and a
woman. They still sing an old song about it. Hildebrand knew a few
words of it, but my father could not remember it."

"I would rather believe that. But, at all events, there were very few
people at the beginning?"

"To be sure."

"And at first there was only _one_ family?"

"Certainly."

"And the old ones generally died before the young ones?"

"Of course."

"Then I tell thee what, grandfather. Either the race of men must have
died out, or, as it still exists--and thou seest that is what I am
coming to--brothers and sisters must often have married each other,
until more families were formed."

"Adalgoth, the fairies are riding thee! Thou speakest nonsense!"

"Not at all. And, in short, if it could happen before, it can happen
now; and I will have my sister Gotho for my wife."

The old man ran to stop the boy's mouth by force; but the lad evaded
him and said:

"I know all that thou wouldst say. The priests from Tridentum would
soon get to know of it here, and tell the King's Earl. But I can go
with her to some distant land, where no one knows us. And she will go
with me, I know."

"Indeed! Thou knowest that already?"

"Yes; I am sure."

"But this thou dost not know, Adalgoth," the old man now said, gravely
and decidedly: "that to-night is the last which thou wilt spend upon
the 'Iffinger.' Up, Adalgoth! I command thee--I, thy grandfather and
guardian! Thou hast a sacred duty to perform--the duty of revenge! Thou
wilt fulfil it at the court, and with the army of Totila. A duty
bequeathed to thee by thine uncle Wargs--bequeathed to thee by
thine ancestor. Thou art now old and strong enough to undertake it.
To-morrow, at dawn of day, thou wilt start for the south--for Italia,
where King Totila punishes evil-doers, helps the good cause, and fights
against that wretch, Cethegus. Follow me to my chamber. I have to hand
over to thee a jewel, which was left for thee by thine uncle Wargs, and
to give thee many a word of counsel. But do not speak about it to
Gotho; do not make her heart heavy. If thou obeyest thine uncle's
orders and my counsel, thou wilt become a mighty and joyous hero in
King Totila's court. And then, but only then, thou shalt again see
Gotho!"

Very grave and pale, the youth followed his grandfather into the house.
There, in the old man's chamber, they talked in low voices for a long
time.

At supper, Adalgoth was missing.

He sent word to Gotho by their grandfather that he had gone to bed,
being more tired than hungry.

But at night, when Gotho slept, he went into her room on tiptoe. The
moon threw a soft light upon her angel face.

Adalgoth stopped upon the threshold, and only stretched out his right
hand towards her.

"I shall see thee again, my Gotho," he cried, and signed a farewell.

Presently he crossed the threshold of the simple alpine cottage.

The stars had scarcely begun to pale; fresh and exhilarating the
night-wind blew from the mountains around his temples.

He looked up at the silent sky.

All at once a falling star shot in a bright semicircle over his head.
It fell towards the south.

The youth raised his shepherd's staff, and cried:

"The stars beckon thither! Now beware, Cethegus the traitor!"



                               CHAPTER V.


On seeing the disastrous result of the battle at the bridge across the
Padus, the Prefect had sent messengers back to his troops and the armed
citizens of Ravenna, who were following him, to order them to return at
once to the latter city. He left the defeated troops of Demetrius to
their fate.

Totila had taken all the flags and field-badges of the twelve thousand,
a thing which, as Procopius angrily writes, "never before happened to
the Romans."

Cethegus himself, with his small band of trusty adherents, hastened
across the Æmilia to the west coast of Italy, which he reached at
Populonium. There he went on board a swift ship of war, and, favoured
by a strong breeze from the north-east (sent, as he said, by the
ancient gods of Latium), sailed to the harbour of Rome--Portus.

He could never have succeeded in reaching Rome by land, for, after
Totila's victory, all Tuscany and Valeria fell to the Goths; the plains
unconditionally, and also such cities as were held by weak Byzantine
garrisons.

Near Mucella, a day's march from Florence, the King once again
vanquished a powerful army of Byzantines, under the command of eleven
disunited leaders, who had gathered together the imperial garrisons of
the Tuscan fortresses to block his way. The commander-in-chief of this
army, Justinus, escaped to Florence with difficulty.

The King treated his numerous prisoners with such lenity, that very
many Italians and imperial mercenaries deserted their flag and joined
the Gothic army.

And now all the roads of Central Italy were covered by Goths and
natives who hastened to join Totila on his march to Rome.

Arrived at the latter city, Cethegus had at once taken the necessary
measures for its defence.

For Totila, after this new victory at Mucella, approached rapidly,
scarcely detained by anything but the ovations made to him by the
cities and castles on his way, which rivalled each other in opening
wide their gates to the conqueror.

The few forts which still resisted were invested by small divisions of
Italians, kept in order by a few chosen Gothic troops. Totila was
enabled to do this without weakening his army, as, during his march to
Rome, his power was increased, like a river, by the inflowing of
greater or smaller parties of Goths and Italians. Not only did the
Italian peasants join him by thousands, but even the mercenaries of
Belisarius, who for months had received no pay, now offered their
weapons to the Goths, so that a few days after the arrival of the
Prefect, Totila led a very considerable army before the walls of Rome.

With loud hurrahs the troops in the Gothic encampment greeted the
arrival of the brave Duke Guntharis, Wisand the bandalarius. Earl
Markja, and old Grippa, whose release Totila had procured by exchanging
them for the prisoners taken at the battle of the Padus.

And now the almost impossible task was laid upon Cethegus of manning
effectually his grandly-designed fortifications. The whole army of
Belisarius was missing--besides the greater part of his own soldiers,
who were slowly sailing to the harbour of Portcus from Ravenna.

In order, even insufficiently, to defend the entire circle of the
ramparts, Cethegus was obliged, not only to demand unusual and
unexpected exertions from the Roman legionaries, but also to increase
their numbers by despotic measures.

From boys of sixteen years of age to old men of sixty, he called "all
the sons of Romulus, Camillus, and Cæsar to arms; to protect the
sanctuary of their forefathers against the barbarians."

But his appeal was scarcely read or propagated, and was responded to by
very few volunteers; while he saw with mortification that the manifesto
of the Gothic King, which was thrown every night over the walls in many
places, was carried about and read by crowds; so that he angrily
proclaimed that anyone found picking up, pasting on the walls, or
reading this manifesto, or in any way facilitating its publication,
would be punished by the confiscation of his property or the loss of
his liberty.

In spite of this, the manifesto still spread among the citizens, and
the list of volunteers remained empty.

He then sent his Isaurians into all the houses to drag boys and old men
to the walls by force; and very soon he was more feared, and even
hated, than beloved.

His stern will, and the gradual arrival of his troops from Ravenna,
alone checked the growing discontent of the Roman population.

But in the Gothic camp messengers of good fortune overtook each other.

Teja and Hildebrand had pursued the Byzantines to the gates of Ravenna.

The defence of that city was conducted by Demetrius, one of the
exchanged prisoners, and by Bloody Johannes; that of the harbour town
of Classis by Constantianus against Hildebrand, who had won Ariminum in
passing, for the citizens had disarmed the Armenian mercenaries of
Artasires and opened the gates.

Teja had beaten the troops of the Byzantine general Verus, who had
defended the crossing of the Santernus; had killed the general with his
own hand, and had then hastened through the whole of North Italy with
the manifesto in his left hand, his sword in his right, and in a few
weeks had won by force or by persuasion all towns and castles as far as
Mediolanum.

But Totila, taught by the experience of the first siege of Rome, would
not expose his troops by attempting to storm the formidable defences of
the Prefect, and also desired to spare his future capital.

"I will get into Rome with linen wings, and on wooden bridges," he one
day said to Duke Guntharis; left to him the investment of the city; and
taking all his horsemen with him, marched for Neapolis.

There in the harbour lay, very inefficiently manned, an imperial fleet.

Totila's march upon the Appian Way through South Italy resembled a
triumphal procession.

Those districts which had suffered the longest under the yoke of the
Byzantines were now most willing to greet the Goths as liberators.

The maidens of Terracina went to meet the King of the Goths with
wreaths of flowers.

The people of Minturnæ brought out a golden chariot, made the King
descend from his white horse, and dragged him into the town in triumph.

"Look! look!" was the cry in the streets of Casilinum--an ancient place
once dedicated to the worship of the Campanian Diana--"Ph[oe]bus Apollo
himself has descended from Olympus and comes as a saviour to the
sanctuary of his sister!"

The citizens of Capua begged him to impress the first gold coins of his
reign with the inscription, "_Capua revindicata_."

Thus it continued until he reached Neapolis; the very same road he had
once passed as a wounded fugitive.

The commander of the Armenian mercenaries in Neapolis, who had a very
brave but small troop, did not dare to trust the fidelity of the
population in case of a siege.

He therefore led his lance-bearers and the armed citizens to meet the
King outside the gates.

But before the battle commenced, a man on a white horse rode out of the
lines of Goths, took his helmet from his head, and cried:

"Have you forgotten me, men of the Parthenopæian city? I am Totila. You
loved me when I was commander of your harbour. You shall bless me as
your King. Do you not recollect how I saved in my ships your wives and
children from the Huns of Belisarius? Listen. These very wives and
children are again in my power; not as fugitives, but as prisoners. To
protect them from the Byzantines (perhaps from me also), you sent them
into the strong fortress of Cumæ. But know that Cumæ has surrendered,
and all the fugitives are in my power. I have been advised to keep them
as hostages in order to compel you to capitulate. But that is repugnant
to my feelings. I have set them at liberty; the wives of the Roman
senators I have sent to Rome. But your wives and children, men of
Neapolis, I have brought with me; not as my hostages, not as my
prisoners, but as my guests. Look how they stream out of my tents! Open
your arms to receive them--they are free! Will you now fight against
me? I cannot believe it! Who will be the first to aim at this breast?"
and he opened wide his arms.

"Hail to King Totila the Good!" was the universal acclamation.

And the warm-hearted men threw down their weapons, rushed forward, and
greeted with tears of joy their liberated wives and children, kissing
the hem of Totila's mantle.

The commander of the mercenaries rode up to him.

"My lancers are surrounded and too weak to fight alone. Here, O King,
is my sword. I am your prisoner."

"Not so, brave Arsakide! Thou art unconquered--therefore no prisoner.
Go with thy troop whither thou wilt."

"I _am_ a prisoner, conquered by your magnanimity and the splendour of
your eyes. Permit us henceforward to fight under your flag."

In this manner a chosen troop, who stood by him faithfully, was won for
Totila.

Amid a shower of flowers he made his entry into Neapolis through Porta
Nolana.

Before Aratius, the admiral of the Byzantine fleets could raise the
anchors of his war-ships, their crews were overpowered by the sailors
of the many merchant vessels which lay near in the harbour, the masters
of which were old admirers and thankful _protégés_ of Totila.

Without shedding a drop of blood, the King had gained a fleet and the
third city of importance in the kingdom.

In the evenings during the banquet which the rejoicing inhabitants had
prepared for him, Totila stole softly away.

With surprise the Gothic sentinels saw their King, all alone, disappear
into an old half-fallen tower, close to an ancient olive-tree by the
Porta Capuana.

The next day there appeared a decree of Totila which dispensed the
women and girls of the Jews of Neapolis from a pole-tax which had,
until now, been laid upon them; and which--they being forbidden to
carry jewels in public--permitted them to wear a golden heart upon the
bosom of their dress as a mark of distinction.

In the neglected garden, where a tall stone cross and a deep-sunk grave
were completely overgrown with wild ivy and moss, there presently arose
a monument of the most beautiful black marble, with the simple
inscription: "_Miriam from Valeria._"

But there was no one living in Neapolis who understood its meaning.



                              CHAPTER VI.


There now streamed into Neapolis ambassadors from Campania and Samnium,
Bruttia and Lucania, Apulia and Calabria, who came to invite the Gothic
King to enter their cities as a liberator.

Even the important and strong fortress of Beneventum and the
neighbouring forts of Asculum, Canusia, and Acheruntia surrendered at
discretion.

In these districts thousands of cases occurred in which the peasants
were settled upon the lands of their former masters, who had fallen in
battle, or had fled to Byzantium or to Rome.

Besides Rome and Ravenna, there were now in the hands of the
Byzantines, only Florentia, held by Justinus; Spoletium, whose joint
governors were Bonus and Herodianus; and Perusia, under the Hun,
Uldugant.

In a few days the King, reinforced by many Italians from the south of
the Peninsula, had new manned his conquered fleet, and left the harbour
in full sail, while his horsemen marched by land on the Via Appia to
the north.

Rome was  the goal of both ships and horse; while Teja, having
conquered all the country between Ravenna and the Tiber--Petra and
Cæsena fell without bloodshed--the Æmilia and both Tuscanies (the
Annonarian and the Sub-urbicarian), marched with a third army on the
Flaminian Way against the city of the Prefect.

On hearing of these movements, Cethegus was obliged to acknowledge that
the struggle would now begin in good earnest, and, like a dragon in his
den, he determined to defend himself to the death.

With a proud and contented look he viewed the ramparts and towers, and
said to his brothers-in-arms, who were uneasy at the approach of the
Goths:

"Be comforted! Against these invincible walls they shall be broken to
pieces for the second time!"

But at heart he was not so easy as his words and looks would seem to
indicate.

Not that he ever repented his past deeds or thought his plans
unachievable. But that when, after repeated reverses, he appeared to
have arrived at the point of success, he should be as far off the goal
as ever because of Totila's victories--this feeling had a great effect
upon even _his_ iron nerves.

"Water wears away a rock!" he said, when his friend Licinius once asked
him why he looked so gloomy. "And besides, I cannot sleep as I used to
do."

"Since when?"

"Since--Totila! That fair youth has stolen my slumbers!"

Though the Prefect felt so secure and so superior to all his enemies
and adversaries, Totila's bright and open nature, and his easily-won
success, irritated him so much, that his coolness often melted in the
heat of his passion; while Totila went to meet the universally feared
foe with a sense of victory which nothing could disquiet.

"He has luck, the downy-beard!" cried Cethegus, when he heard of the
easy conquest of Neapolis. "He is as fortunate as Achilles and
Alexander. But luckily such god-like youths never grow old! The soft
gold of such natures is quickly worn out. We lumps of native iron last
longer. I have seen the laurels and roses of the enthusiast, and it
seems to me that I shall soon see his cypresses. It cannot be that I
shall yield to this maiden soul! Fortune has borne him rapidly to a
dizzy height; she will hurl him down as rapidly and dizzily. Will she
first carry him over the ramparts of Rome?--Fly then, without effort,
young Icarus, in the brightest sunshine. I, through blood and strife,
step by step, climb up in the shade. But I shall stand on high when the
treacherous and burning kiss of Fortune has melted the wax on thy bold
wings. Thou wilt vanish beneath me like a falling star!"

This, however, did not seem likely to happen soon.

Cethegus awaited with impatience the arrival of a numerous fleet from
Ravenna, which was to bring him the remainder of his troops, and all
who could be spared of the legionaries and the troops of Demetrius, as
well as a quantity of provisions.

When these reinforcements had arrived, he would be able to relieve the
grumbling Romans from their arduous duties.

For weeks he had comforted the embittered inhabitants with the promise
of this fleet.

At last it was announced by a swift-sailer that the fleet had reached
Ostia.

Cethegus caused the news to be published in all the streets with a
flourish of trumpets, and announced that at the next Ides of October,
eight thousand citizens would be relieved from duty on the walls. He
also caused double rations of wine to be distributed among the soldiers
on the ramparts.

When the Ides of October arrived, thick fog covered Ostia and the sea.

The day after, a little sailing-boat flew from Ostia to Portus. The
trembling crew announced that King Totila had attacked the Ravennese
triremes with the fleet from Neapolis, under the protection of a thick
fog. Of the eighty ships, twenty were burnt or sunk; the remaining
sixty, with all their men and provisions, taken.

Cethegus would not believe it.

He hurried on board his own swift boat, the _Sagitta_, and flew down
the Tiber.

But with difficulty he escaped the boats of the King, who had already
blockaded the harbour of Portus and sent small cruisers up the river.

The Prefect now hastily caused a double river-bolt to be laid across
the Tiber; the first consisting of masts; the second of iron chains
placed an arrow's length farther up the river. The space between the
two bolts was filled with a great number of small boats.

Cethegus felt deeply the blow which had fallen upon him. Not only had
his long-wished-for reinforcements fallen into the enemy's hand; not
only was he obliged to lay still heavier burdens upon the Romans, who
began to curse him, for now the river, too, had to be defended against
the constant attempts of the Gothic ships to break through; but with a
slight shudder of horror he saw approaching nearer and nearer the most
terrible of all enemies--famine.

The water-road, by which he, as formerly Belisarius, had received
abundant provisions, was now blocked.

Italy had no third fleet. That of Neapolis and that of Ravenna
blockaded Rome under the Gothic flag.

And now the horsemen which Marcus Licinius had sent on the Flaminian
Way to reconnoitre and forage, came galloping back with the news that a
strong army of Goths, under the dreaded Teja, was approaching at a
quick step. The vanguard had already reached Reate.

The day following Rome was also invested on the last side which had
remained open--the north--and had nothing left to depend upon but its
own citizens.

And the latter were weak enough, however strong might be the Prefect's
will and the walls of the city.

Yet for weeks and months Cethegus's stern resolution sustained the
despairing defenders against their will.

At last the fall of the city, not by force, but by starvation, was
expected daily.

At this juncture an unexpected event occurred, which revived the hopes
of the besieged, and put the genius and good fortune of the young King
to a hard proof: for there once more appeared upon the scene of
battle--Belisarius!



                              CHAPTER VII.


When news arrived in the golden palace of the Cæsars at Byzantium of
the lost battles on the Padus and at Mucella; of the renewed siege of
Rome, and the loss of Neapolis and almost all Italy, the Emperor
Justinian, who had already imagined the West again united to the East,
was awakened from his dream of triumph in a terrible manner.

It was now easy for the friends of Belisarius to prove that the recall
of that hero had been the origin of all these disasters.

It was clear that as long as Belisarius had been in Italy victory had
followed victory; and no sooner had he turned his back, than
misfortunes crowded one upon the other.

The Byzantine generals in Italy openly acknowledged that they could not
replace Belisarius.

"I am not able," wrote Demetrius from Ravenna, "to meet Totila
in the open field. Scarcely am I able to defend this fortress in the
marshes. Neapolis has fallen. Rome may surrender any day. Send us
again the lion-hearted man, whom, in our vanity, we dreamed we could
replace--the conqueror of the Vandals and the Goths."

And Belisarius, although he had sworn never again to serve the
ungrateful Emperor, forgot all his wrongs as soon as Justinian smiled
upon him. And when, after the fall of Neapolis, he actually embraced
him and called him "his faithful sword"--in truth, the Emperor had
never believed in the general's rebellion, but was envious of his
sovereign position--Belisarius could no longer be restrained by
Antonina and Procopius.  As, however, the Emperor feared the expense of
a second enterprise in Italy (besides that of the Persian wars, which
Narses conducted successfully but expensively in Asia), avarice and
ambition produced a struggle within him, which would, perhaps, have
lasted longer than the resistance of Rome and Ravenna, had not Prince
Germanus and Belisarius proposed an expedient. The noble Prince was
impelled by the wish to revisit Ravenna and the tomb of Mataswintha,
and to revenge her memory on the rude barbarians, for Cethegus had
declared that the cause of the tragic end of this incomparable woman
was that her mind had been disordered in consequence of her forced
marriage with Witichis.

Belisarius, on his side, could not endure that all his fame should be
imperilled by Totila's success. "For," asked his enemies at court,
"could he really have conquered a people who, within the year, had
again almost made themselves masters of Italy?"

He had given his word to annihilate the Goths, and he would keep it.

So, influenced by these motives, Germanus and Belisarius proposed to
conquer Italy for the Emperor at their own expense. The Prince offered
his whole fortune for the equipment of a fleet; Belisarius all his
lately reinforced body-guard and lance-bearers.

"That is a proposition after Justinian's own heart!" cried Procopius,
when informed of it by Belisarius. "Not a solidus out of his own
pocket! And perhaps the laurels of fame and a province for this world,
and the wholesale destruction of heretics to rejoice Heaven and
Theodora! You may be sure that he will accept, and give you his
fatherly benediction into the bargain. But nothing else. You,
Belisarius, I know, can be as little kept back as Balan, your piebald,
when he hears the call of the trumpet; but I will not see your
lamentable fall."

"Fall? Wherefore, Raven of Misfortune?"

"This time you have both Goths and Italians against you. And you could
not conquer the first when Italy was _for_ you."

But Belisarius only reproached him with cowardice, and presently went
to sea with Germanus.

The Emperor, in fact, gave them nothing but his blessings and the great
toe of the holy Mazaspes.

The Byzantines in Italy breathed again when they heard that an imperial
fleet had anchored off Salona, in Dalmatia, and that the army had
landed.

Even Cethegus, to whom the news was brought by spies, exclaimed with a
sigh:

"Better Belisarius in Rome than Totila!"

And the King of the Goths was filled with anxiety. He determined first
of all to discover the strength of the Byzantine army, in order to
decide upon what course he would take. Perhaps it would be necessary to
raise the siege of Rome, and advance to attack the army of relief.

Belisarius sailed from Salona to Pola, where he mustered his ships and
men. While there, two men came to him, who announced themselves to be
Herulian mercenaries, therefore Goths, but speaking Latin well. They
said that they had been sent by Bonus, one of the commanders of
Spoletium.

They had succeeded in passing the Gothic lines, and they pressed the
commander-in-chief to come to the relief of that place. They begged for
exact particulars as to the strength of his army and the number of his
ships, in order to be able to revive the sinking courage of the
besieged by trustworthy reports.

"Well, my friends," said Belisarius, "you must perforce embellish your
report; for the truth is, that the Emperor has left me entirely to my
own resources."

All the day long he showed these messengers his army and fleet.

The night following the messengers had disappeared.

They were Thorismuth and Aligern, who had been sent by King Totila, and
now furnished him with the much-desired particulars.

So, from the very beginning, fate was against Belisarius, and the whole
course of this campaign was unworthy of the fame of that great general.

It is true that he succeeded in running into the harbour of Ravenna,
and providing that city with provisions.

But, the very day that he arrived. Prince Germanus was attacked by a
fatal malady while visiting the tomb of Mataswintha.

She had been buried in the vault of the palace, near the graves of her
brother and the young King Athalaric.

Germanus died, and, according to his last wish, was buried beside the
woman he had loved so truly.

In a little niche in the same vault there reposed a heart which had
ever beat warmly for Queen "Beautiful-hair."

Aspa, the Numidian slave, would not outlive her beloved mistress.

"In my home," she had said, "the virgins of the Goddess of the Sun
often voluntarily leap into the flames which receive the Godhead.
Aspa's goddess, the lovely, bright, and kind, has left her. Aspa will
not live forlorn in the cold and darkness. She will follow her Sun."

She had heaped up flowers in the death-chamber of her mistress--heaped
them still higher than on the day when she had prepared the same small
room for a bridal chamber--and had kindled unknown combustibles and
African resin, the stupefying odours of which drove away all the other
slaves. But Aspa had spent the night in the room.

The next morning Syphax, attracted by the well-known but dangerous
odour, which reminded him of his country's sacrificial customs, went
softly into the room, which was as silent as the grave. At
Mataswintha's feet, her head buried in flowers, he had found his
Antelope--dead.

"She died," he told Cethegus, "for love of her mistress. And now I have
none left on earth but you."

After the burial of Germanus, Belisarius left Ravenna with the whole
fleet.

But his very next undertaking, an attempt to surprise Pisaurum, was
repulsed with great loss.

And King Totila, now acquainted with the small number of Belisarius's
troops, had sent skirmishers, under the command of Wisand, supported by
a few ships of war, to take Firmum, which was situated on the same
coast, almost under the generals very eyes.

The Byzantines, Herodian and Bonus, surrendered Spoletium to Earl
Grippa, after the lapse of thirty days, during which they had hoped for
reinforcements from Belisarius in vain.

In Assisium the commander of the garrison was a man of the name of
Sisifrid, a Goth who had deserted in the days of the fall of Witichis.

This man well knew what was in store for him, should he fall into
Hildebrand's hands, who besieged the fort in person. Hatred of such
treason had enticed the old man from the siege of Ravenna to complete
this task of retribution.

The Goth obstinately defended the town, but when, during a sally, the
axe of the old master-at-arms sent him to the other world, the citizens
obliged the Thracian garrison to yield. Many aristocratic Italians,
members of the old Catacomb conspiracy, three hundred Illyrian
horsemen, and some chosen body-guards of Belisarius, were taken
prisoners.

Immediately afterwards, Placentia, the last town in the Æmilia which
was held by a Saracen garrison for the Emperor, was forced to
capitulate to Earl Markja, who commanded the small army of investment.

In Bruttia, the fortress of Ruscia, the most important harbour for
Thurii, surrendered to the bold Aligern.

Belisarius now despaired of reaching Rome by land. On hearing of the
terrible distress of that city, he determined at once to attempt to
relieve it by running the blockade of the Gothic fleet.

But as he sailed round the south point of Calabria, off Hydrunt, a
fearful storm dispersed his ships; he himself, with a few triremes, was
driven southward as far as Sicily, and the greater part of his ships,
which had taken refuge in a bay near Croton, were there surprised and
taken by a Gothic squadron sent by the King from Rome, which had lain
in ambush near Squillacium. These prizes proved to be an important
addition to the Gothic fleet, for, as we shall see hereafter, the
Goths, were thereby enabled to attack the Byzantines in their islands
and coast-towns.

After this blow, the forces of Belisarius, which had been weak from the
very first, became completely powerless.

Generalship and valour could not replace missing ships, warriors, and
horses.

The hope that the Italians, as in the first campaign, would revolt to
the Emperor's commander-in-chief, proved vain.

Thus the whole enterprise was a complete failure, as we are told by
Procopius in unsparing words.

The Emperor left all petitions for reinforcements unanswered. And when
Antonina repeatedly begged for permission to return, the Empress sent
the mocking reply, "that the Emperor dare not venture, for the second
time, to interrupt the hero in the course of his victories."

So, lying off Sicily, Belisarius spent a miserable time of doubt and
helplessness.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


And meanwhile the suffering and exhaustion of the citizens in Rome
reached its highest point.

Hunger thinned the ranks, never very full, of the defenders on the
walls.

The Prefect in vain did his utmost. In vain he had recourse to all
possible measures of persuasion or despotism.  In vain he lavishly
opened his coffers to provide the means of existence for the people.

For the stores of grain which he had procured from Sicily and garnered
in the Capitol were exhausted.

He promised incredible rewards to any boat which should succeed in
running the blockade of the King's ships and bring provisions to the
city; to every mercenary who ventured to creep through the gates and
the tents of the besiegers and bring back food.

But Totila's watchfulness was not to be deceived.

At first the promised reward had tempted a few avaricious and daring
men to venture out at night. But when Earl Teja, next morning, caused
their heads to be thrown over the walls at the Flaminian Gate, even the
most venturesome lost all desire to follow their example.

The dung of animals was sold at a high price.

Hungry women fought for the weeds and nettles which they found on the
heaps of rubbish.

Long since had hunger taught the populace to eat greedily unheard-of
things.

And countless deserters fled from the city to the Goths.

Teja would have forced them to return, in order the sooner to oblige
the city to surrender; but Totila gave orders that they should be
received and fed, and that care should be taken that they did not
injure themselves by the too sudden gratification of their ravenous
appetites.

Cethegus now spent his nights upon the walls. At various hours he
himself, spear and shield in hand, went the round of the patrols, and
sometimes took the place of a sentinel who was overcome with hunger or
the want of sleep. His example certainly had the greatest effect on the
brave. The two Licinii, Piso, and Salvius Julianus stood by the Prefect
and his blindly-devoted Isaurians with enthusiasm.

But not so all Romans; not Balbus, the gormandiser.

"No, Piso," said Balbus one day, "I cannot endure it any longer. It is
not in a man's power, at least not in mine. Holy Lucullus! who would
have thought that I should ever give my last and largest diamonds for
half a rock-marten!"

"I remember the time," answered Piso, laughing, "when you would have
put your cook in irons if he had let a lobster boil a minute too long."

"A lobster! Mercy on us! How can you recall such a picture to my mind!
I would give my immortal soul for one claw of a lobster, or even for
the tail. And never to sleep one's fill! To be awakened, if not by
hunger, by the trumpets of the patrol!"

"Look at the Prefect! For the last fourteen days he has not slept
fourteen hours. He lies upon his hard shield, and drinks rain-water out
of his helmet."

"The Prefect! He need not eat. He lives upon his pride, like the bear
on his fat, and sucks his own gall. He is made of nothing but sinews
and muscles, pride and hatred! But I--who had accumulated such soft
white flesh, that the mice nibbled at me when I slept, thinking that I
was a Spanish ham!--Do you know the latest news? A whole herd of fat
oxen was driven into the Gothic camp this morning--all from Apulia;
darlings of gods and men!"

The next day early Piso, with Salvius Julianus, came to wake the
Prefect, who had lain down on the wall by the Porta Portuensis, close
to the most important point of defence, the bolt across the river.

"Forgive me for disturbing your rare slumbers."

"I was not asleep; I was awake. Tell me your news, tribune."

"Last night Balbus deserted his post with twenty citizens. They let
themselves down from the Porta Latina by ropes. Outside there had been
heard all night long the lowing of Apulian herds. It seems that their
bellowing was irresistible."

But the smile of the satirist faded away when he looked at the
Prefect's face.

"Let a cross thirty feet high be erected before the house of Balbus in
the Via Sacra. Every deserter who falls into our hands shall be
crucified thereon."

"General--Constantinus abolished the punishment of crucifixion in the
name of our Saviour," said Salvius Julianus reprovingly.

"Then I re-introduce the practice in honour of Rome. That Emperor no
doubt held it to be impossible that a Roman noble and tribune could
desert his post for the sake of roast meat."

"I have other news. I can no longer set the watch on the tower of the
Porta Pinciana. Of the sixteen mercenaries nine are either dead or
sick."

"Almost the same thing is reported by Marcus Licinius, at the Porta
Tiburtina," said Julianus. "Who can ward off the danger which threatens
us on all sides?"

"I! and the courage of the Romans. Go! Let the heralds summon all the
citizens, who may yet be in the houses, to the Forum Romanum."

"Sir, there are only women, children, and sick people----"

"Obey, tribune!"

And with a dark expression on his face the Prefect descended from the
walls, mounted his noble Spanish charger, and, followed by a troop of
mounted Isaurians, made a long round through the city, everywhere
assuring himself that the sentinels were on the alert, and examining
the troops; thus giving the herald time to summon the people, and the
latter to obey. He advanced, very slowly, along the right bank of the
Tiber. A few ragged people crept out of their huts to stare in dull
despair at the passing horsemen. Only at the Bridge of Cestius did the
throng become thicker.

Cethegus stopped his horse in order to muster the guard on the bridge.

Suddenly, from the door of a low hut, there rushed a woman with
dishevelled hair, holding a child in her arms. Another pulled at her
ragged skirt.

"Bread? bread?" she asked; "can stones be softened by tears until they
become bread? Oh no! They remain as hard--as hard as that man. Look,
children, that is the Prefect of Rome. He upon the black horse, with
the crimson crest and the terrible eyes! But I fear him no longer.
Look, children! that man forced your father to keep watch on the walls
day and night, until he fell dead. Curses on the Prefect of Rome!"

And she shook her fist at the immovable horseman.

"Bread, mother! Give us something to eat," howled the children.

"I have nothing more for you to eat, but plenty to drink! Come!"
screamed the woman, and, clasping the elder child round the waist with
her right arm, and pressing the younger more firmly to her bosom, she
cast herself over the wall into the river.

A cry of horror, followed by curses, ran through the crowd.

"She was mad!" said the Prefect in a loud voice, and rode on.

"No, she was the wisest of us all!" cried a voice from the crowd.

"Silence! Legionaries, sound the trumpets! Forwards! To the Forum!"
commanded Cethegus, and the troop of horsemen galloped away.

Across the Fabrician Bridge and through the Carmentalian Gate, the
Prefect arrived in the Forum Romanum at the foot of the Capitoline
Hill.

The wide space appeared almost empty; the few thousand people who, clad
in miserable garments, crouched upon the steps of the temple and halls,
or supported themselves on their staffs or spears, made little
impression.

"What does the Prefect want?"--"What can he want? we have nothing left
but our lives."--"And those he will--" "Do you know that the day before
yesterday the coast town Centumcellæ surrendered to the Goths?"--"Yes;
the citizens overpowered the Prefect's Isaurians and opened the
gates."--"Would that we could follow their example!"--"We must do it
soon, or it will be too late."--"Yesterday my brother fell down dead,
some boiled nettles still in his mouth. He was too weak to swallow the
mess."---"Yesterday in the Forum Boarium a mouse was sold for its
weight in gold!"--"For a week I got roasted meat from a butcher--he
would not sell the flesh raw."--"You were lucky! They storm all houses
where they smell roast meat!"--"But the day before yesterday he was
torn to pieces by the mob, for he had enticed beggar-children into his
house--and that was the flesh he had sold us!"--"But do you know what
the Gothic King does with his prisoners? He treats them as a father
treats his helpless children; and most of them enter his army at
once."--"Yes, and those who will not he provides with money for the
journey."--"Yes, and with clothes and shoes and provisions. The
sick and wounded are nursed."--"And he gives them guides to the
coast towns."--"And sometimes he even pays for their passage in
merchant-ships to the East."--"Look, the Prefect dismounts!"

"He looks like Pluto!"

"He is no longer Princeps Senatus, but Princeps Inferorum."

"Look at his eyes! As cold as ice, and yet like red-hot arrows."

"Yes, my godmother is right; she says that only those who have no heart
can look like that."

"That is an old tale. Spectres and Lemures have eaten his heart in the
night."

"Ah, bah! There are no Lemures. But there is a devil, for it says so in
the Bible. And the Prefect has sold himself to the devil. The Numidian
who is holding his black horse by the bridle is an imp from hell, who
always accompanies him. Nothing can hurt the Prefect. He feels neither
hunger nor thirst nor the want of sleep. But he can never smile, for he
has sold his soul!"

"How do you know?"

"The deacon of St. Paul's has explained it all. And it is a sin to
serve such a man any longer. Did he not betray our Bishop, Silverius,
to the Emperor, and send him over the sea in chains?"

"And lately he accused sixty priests, Orthodox and Arian, of treason,
and banished them from the city."

"That is true!"

"And he must have promised the devil that he would torment the Romans."

"But we will endure it no longer. We are free! He himself has often
told us so. I will ask him by what right----"

But the bold speaker stopped short, for the Prefect glanced at the
murmuring group as he mounted the rostrum.

"Quirites," he began, "I call upon you all to become legionaries.
Famine and treachery--a shameful thing to say of Romans!--have thinned
the ranks of our defenders. Do you hear the sound of hammers? A
crucifix is being erected to punish all deserters. Rome demands still
greater sacrifices from her citizens, for _they_ have no choice. The
citizens of other towns choose between surrender or destruction. We,
who have grown up in the shadow of the Capitol, have no choice; for
more than a thousand years of heroism sanctify this place. Here no
coward thought dare arise. You cannot again endure to see the
barbarians tie their horses to the columns of Trajan. We must make a
last effort. The marrow of heroism ripens early in the descendants of
Romulus and Cæsar; and late is spent the strength of the men who drink
of the waters of the Tiber. I call upon all boys from their twelfth,
all men until their eightieth year, to help to man the walls. Silence!
Do not murmur. I shall send my tribunes and the lance-bearers into
every house--only to prevent boys of too tender years and too aged men
from volunteering their services--then why do you murmur? Does any one
know of something better? Let him speak out boldly; from this place,
which I now vacate in his favour."

At this, the group at which the Prefect looked became perfectly silent.

But behind him, amid those whom his eye could not intimidate, there
arose a threatening cry:

"Bread!" "Surrender!" "Bread!"

Cethegus turned.

"Are you not ashamed? You, worthy of your great name, have borne so
much, and now, when it is only necessary to hold out a little longer,
you would succumb? In a few days Belisarius will bring relief."

"You told us so seven times already!"

"And after the seventh time Belisarius lost almost all his ships.

"Which now aid in blocking our harbour!"

"You should name a term; a limit to this misery. My heart bleeds for
this people!"

"Who are you?" the Prefect asked the invisible speaker of the last
sentence; "you can be no Roman!"

"I am Pelagius the deacon, a Christian and a priest of the Lord. And I
fear not man but God. The King of the Goths, although a heretic, has
promised to restore to the orthodox the churches of which his
fellow-heretics, the Arians, have deprived them, in every town which
surrenders. Three times already has he sent a herald to the citizens of
Rome with the most lenient proposals--they have never been permitted to
speak to us."

"Be silent, priest! You have no fatherland but heaven; no people but
the communion of saints; no army but that of the angels. Manage your
heavenly kingdom, but leave to men the kingdom of the Romans."

"But the man of God is right!"

"Set us a term."

"A short one!"

"Till then we will still hold out."


"But if it elapse without relief----"

"Then we will surrender!"

"We will open the gates."

But Cethegus shunned this thought. Not having received news from the
outer world for weeks, he had no idea when Belisarius could possibly
arrive at the mouth of the Tiber.

"What!" he cried. "Shall I fix a term during which you will remain
Romans, and after which you will become cowards and slaves! Honour
knows no term!"

"You speak thus, because you do not believe in the reinforcements."

"I speak thus, because I believe in _you_!"

"But we will have a term. We are resolved. You speak of Roman freedom!
Are we free, or are we bound to obey you like your slaves? We demand a
term, and we will have it."

"We will have it!" repeated a chorus of voices.

Before Cethegus could reply, the sound of trumpets was heard from the
south-eastern corner of the Forum.

From the Via Sacra advanced a crowd of people, citizens and soldiers;
in their midst were two horsemen in foreign armour.



                              CHAPTER IX.


Lucius Licinius galloped before them, sprang off his horse, and mounted
the tribune.

"A herald from the Goths! I arrived too late to prevent his entrance as
usual. The famished legionaries at the Tiburtinian Gate opened it for
him."


"Down with him! He must not speak," cried the Prefect, rushing from the
tribune and drawing his sword.

But the people guessed his intentions. They surrounded the herald with
cries of joy, protecting him from the Prefect.

"Peace!"

"Hail!"

"Bread! Peace! Listen to the herald!"

"No! do not listen to him!" thundered Cethegus. "Who is Prefect of
Rome, he or I? Who defends this city? I, Cornelius Cethegus Cæsarius;
and I tell you, do not listen!"

And he tried to make a way for himself.

But, thick as a swarm of bees, women and old men threw themselves into
his path, and the armed citizens surrounded the herald.

"Speak, herald!" they cried; "what bring you?"

"Peace and deliverance!" cried Thorismuth, and waved his white wand.
"Totila, King of the Italians and the Goths, sends you greetings and
demands a safe-conduct into the city, in order to tell you important
news and to announce peace."

"Hail to King Totila!"

"We will hear him. He shall come!"

Cethegus had hastily mounted his horse, and now ordered his trumpeters
to blow a flourish.

At this well-known sound, all became quiet.

"Hear me, herald! I, the governor of this city, refuse a safe-conduct.
I shall treat every Goth who enters this city as an enemy."

But at these words a cry of rage burst from the multitude.

"Cornelius Cethegus, are you our officer or our tyrant? We are free.
You have often vaunted the majesty of the Roman people. And the Roman
people command that the King shall be heard. Do we not, people of
Rome?"

"We do!"

"It is according to law," growled the Quirites.

"You have heard! Will you obey or defy the people of Rome?"

Cethegus sheathed his sword.

Thorismuth and his companion galloped off to fetch the King.

The Prefect signed to the young tribunes to draw near him.

"Lucius Licinius," he said, "go to the Capitol. Salvius Julianus, you
will protect the lower river-bolt: the bolt of masts. Quintus Piso, you
will defend the chain-bolt. Marcus Licinius, you shall keep the bulwark
which protects the ascent to the Capitoline Hill and the way to my
house. The mercenaries will follow me."

"What do you intend to do, general?" asked Lucius Licinius, as he was
preparing to obey the order.

"Attack and destroy the barbarians."

There were but fifty horsemen and about a hundred lance-bearers to
follow the Prefect, when he had sent away the tribunes.

Meanwhile the people had waited anxiously for the sound of the Gothic
horns.

At last they were heard, and presently there appeared Thorismuth and
six horn-blowers; Wisand the bandalarius, carrying the royal blue
banner of the Goths; the King, accompanied by Duke Guntharis and Earl
Teja; and about ten other leaders, almost all without weapons; only
Earl Teja displayed his broad and dreaded axe.

As this procession was on the point of setting forth from the Gothic
encampment, to ride through the Metronian Gate into the city, Duke
Guntharis felt some one pull his mantle, and looking down, beheld a boy
or youth, with short and curly brown hair and blue eyes, standing near
his horse, with a shepherd's staff in his hand.

"Art thou the King? No, thou art not he. And that, that is brave Teja,
the Black Earl, as the songs call him!"

"What wouldst thou with the King, boy?"

"I would fight for him."

"Thou art still too tender. Go, and return two summers hence. And,
meanwhile, guard thy flocks."

"I may be young, but I am no longer weak, and I have guarded the flock
long enough. Ha! I see that that is the King!" and he went up to
Totila, and bowed gracefully, saying:

"By thy leave, O King!"

And he caught the bridle of the horse to lead it, as if it were a
matter of course.

The King looked amused, and smiled at the boy.

And the boy led his horse.

But Guntharis thought: "I have seen that face before! But no, it is
only a resemblance; yet such a resemblance I have never seen in my
life. And how noble is the young shepherd's carriage!"

"Hail to King Totila! Peace and salvation!" cried the people, as the
Goths entered the city.

But the young guide looked up into the King's shining countenance, and
sang in a soft sweet voice:

           "Cunning Cethegus:
            Tricks will not serve thee!
            Teja the terrible
            Daunts thy defiance.
            And brightly arises,
            Like morning and May-time,
            Like night from the darkness,
            The favourite of heaven,
            The bright, and the beautiful
            King of the Goths!
            To him are wide opened
            All halls and all hearts;
            To him, overpowered,
            Yield Winter and Woe!"

When the King entered the Forum, there fell a dead silence upon the
people.

But Cethegus, who had expected this, immediately took advantage of it.
He urged his horse into the crowd and cried:

"What would you, Goth, in this my city?"

Totila cast one flaming look at him, and then turned away.

"With _him_ I speak, for evermore, only with my sword! With him, the
threefold liar and murderer! To _you_ I speak, unhappy and befooled
inhabitants of Rome! Your sufferings wring my heart. I come to end your
misery. I come without arms, for I am safer, trusting to the honour of
Romans, than protected by sword and shield."

He paused.

Cethegus no more attempted to interrupt him.

"Quirites," continued Totila, "you yourselves have truly acknowledged
that I might long since have stormed your walls with my hosts. For now
you have but stones, and no men to defend them. But if Rome were
carried by storm, then Rome would burn; and I confess that I would
rather never enter Rome, than enter to find it in ashes. I will not
reproach you with the manner in which you have requited the kindness of
Theodoric and the Goths. Have you forgotten the time when you coined
your gold with the grateful inscription, 'Roma felix'? Truly you are
punished enough; more heavily punished by hunger, pestilence, and the
yoke of the Byzantines and that demon Cethegus, than by the severest
penalty which we could have inflicted. More than eight thousand
people--women and children not included--have perished. Your deserted
houses fall into ruins; you greedily pluck the grass which grows in
your temples; despair walks your streets with hollow eyes; famished
mothers--Roman mothers--have devoured the flesh of their own children.
Until this day, your resistance was heroic, although lamentable. But
henceforward it is madness. Your last hope was placed in Belisarius.
Then hear: Belisarius has sailed from Sicily to Byzantium. He has
deserted you."

Cethegus ordered the trumpets to be sounded, in order to drown the
groans of the multitude.

For some time it was all in vain, but at last the brazen tones
conquered.

When all was quiet the Prefect cried:

"It is a lie! Do not believe such barefaced lies!"

"Have the Goths, have I, ever lied to you, Romans? But you shall
believe your own eyes and ears. Come forward, man, and speak. Do you
know him?"

A Byzantine in rich armour was led forward by the Gothic horsemen.

"Konon!"

"The navarchus of Belisarius!"

"We know him!" cried the crowd.

Cethegus turned pale.

"Men of Rome," said the Byzantine, "Belisarius, the magister militum,
has sent me to King Totila. I arrived in the camp to-day. Belisarius
was obliged to return to Byzantium. On leaving Sicily, he recommended
Rome and Italy to the well-known benevolence of King Totila. This was
my message to him and to you."

"If this be so," cried Cethegus, with a threatening voice, "then now is
the day to prove whether you be Romans or bastards! Mark me well!
Cethegus the Prefect will never, never surrender his Rome to the
barbarians! Oh I think once more of the time when I was your all! When
you exalted my name above those of the saints! Who has given you, for
years, work, bread, and, what is more, weapons? Who protected
you--Belisarius or Cethegus?--when these barbarians encamped by
millions before your walls? Who saved Rome, with his heart's blood,
from King Witichis? For the last time I call you to the combat! Do you
hear me, grandchildren of Camillus? As he once, solely by the might of
the Roman sword, swept the Gauls, who had already taken the city, away
from the Capitol, so will I sweep away these Goths! Follow me! We will
sally forth and let the world see what is possible to Roman valour when
led by Cethegus and despair. Choose!"

"Aye, choose!" cried Totila, raising himself in his stirrups. "Choose
between certain destruction or certain freedom. If you once more follow
this madman, I can no longer protect you. Listen to Earl Teja, who
stands at my right hand. You know him, I think. I can no longer protect
you."

"No," cried Teja, raising his mighty axe, "then, by the God of Hate, no
more mercy! If you refuse this last offer, not a life will be spared
within these walls. I, and a thousand others, have sworn it!"

"I offer you complete immunity, and will prove a mild and just king to
you. Ask Neapolis what I am! Choose between me and the Prefect!"

"Hail to King Totila! Death to the Prefect!" was the unanimous
acclamation.

And, as if at a signal, the women and children, with uplifted hands,
threw themselves on their knees; while all the armed inhabitants raised
their weapons threateningly, and many a spear was hurled at the
Prefect. They were the very weapons which he himself had given to the
people.

"They are dogs--no Romans!" exclaimed Cethegus, with disdainful fury,
and turned his horse. "To the Capitol!"

And his horse, with a sudden leap, cleared the row of kneeling and
screaming women. Through a shower of darts which the Romans now sent
after him galloped the Prefect, riding down the few who had courage
enough to try to stop him.

His crimson crest soon disappeared in the distance.

His companions galloped swiftly after him. The lance-bearers on foot
retreated in good order, now and then turning and levelling their
spears. Thus they reached the lofty bulwark which, held by Marcus
Licinius, protected the ascent to the Capitol, and the way to the
Prefect's house.

"What next? Shall we pursue?" the citizens asked the King.

"No--stay. Let all the gates be opened. Wagons laden with meat, bread,
and wine stand ready in the camp. Let them be brought into all parts of
the city. Feed the people of Rome for three whole days. My Goths shall
keep watch to prevent excess."

"And the Prefect?" asked Duke Guntharis.

"Cornelius Cethegus, the ex-Prefect of Rome, will not escape the
vengeance of God," cried Totila, turning away.

"And not mine!" cried the shepherd-boy.

"And not mine!" said Teja, and galloped after the King.



                               CHAPTER X.


Most of the quarters of the city of Rome had now fallen into the hands
of the enemy.

Cethegus was in possession of that part of the city which extended on
the right bank of the Tiber from the Mausoleum of Hadrian in the north
to the Porta Portuensis in the south, near which were situated the two
bolts across the river.

On the left bank the Prefect held only the small but dominating quarter
west of the Forum Romanum, of which the Capitol formed the centre. This
quarter was enclosed by walls and high bulwarks which stretched from
the shore of the Tiber at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, and round
the hill eastwards, to the Forum of Trajan in the north; while at the
back and westwards from the Capitol, they passed between the Circus
Flaminius and the Theatre of Marcellus (abandoning the first and
enclosing the last), and ended at the Fabrician Bridge and the Island
of the Tiber.

The King had left the Forum, and the rest of the day was spent by the
inhabitants of the city in feasting and rejoicing.

The King caused eighty wagons, each drawn by four oxen, to be drawn up
in all the principal squares and places of those parts of the city
which had surrendered. And round about these wagons, upon the pavement
or upon speedily-erected wooden benches, lay the famishing population,
raising their voices in thanks to God, the saints, and the "good King."

The Prefect had at once closed all the gates which led from those parts
of the city occupied by the Goths into _his_ Rome; particularly the
approaches from the Forum Romanum to the Capitol, and the Flumentanian,
Carmentalian and Ratumenian Gates. He caused them all to be barricaded,
and divided the few soldiers he had at his command among the most
important points of defence.

He held much about the same part of Rome as he had before occupied
under and against Belisarius.

"Salvius Julianus must have another hundred Isaurians to protect the
bolt of masts on the river," he commanded. "The Abasgian bowmen must
hasten to join Piso at the bolt of chains. Marcus Licinius will remain
on the bulwark of the Forum."

But now Lucius Licinius announced that the rest of the legionaries, who
had not been present at the scene on the Forum, because they had been
on duty in the now barricaded portion of the city, were become very
unruly.

"Ah," cried Cethegus, "the odour of the roast meat for which their
comrades sold their honour, tickles their nostrils! I come."

And he rode up to the Capitol, where the legionaries, about five
hundred men, were standing in their ranks with a very gloomy and
threatening aspect.

Looking at them with a searching eye, Cethegus slowly rode along their
front.

At last he spoke.

"For you I had reserved the fame of having defended the Lares and
Penates of the Capitol against the barbarians. I hear, indeed, that you
prefer the joints of beef below there. But I will not believe it. You
will not desert the man who, after centuries of helplessness, has again
taught the Romans how to fight and conquer. Whoever will stand by
Cethegus and the Capitol--let him raise his sword."

But not a blade was seen.

"Hunger is a more powerful god than the Capitoline Jupiter," said
Cethegus contemptuously.

A centurion stepped forward.

"It is not that, Prefect of Rome. But we will not fight against our
fathers and brothers who are on the side of the Goths."

"I ought to keep you as hostages for your fathers and brothers, and
when they storm the bulwarks, throw to them your heads! But I fear it
would not stop them in their enthusiasm, which comes from their
stomachs! Go--you are not worthy to save Rome! Open the gate, Licinius.
Let them turn their backs upon the Capitol and honour!"

And the legionaries marched away, all but about a hundred men, who
stood still irresolutely, leaning on their spears.

"Well, what do you want?" cried Cethegus, riding up to them.

"To die with you, Prefect of Rome!" cried one of them.

And the others repeated: "To die with you!"

"I thank you! Do you see, Licinius, a hundred Romans! Are they not
enough to found a new Roman Empire?--I will give you the post of
honour; you shall defend the bulwark to which I have given the name of
Julius Cæsar."

He sprang from his horse, threw the bridle to Syphax, called his
tribunes together, and spoke:

"Now listen to my plan."

"You have a plan already?"

"Yes. We will attack! If I know these barbarians, we are safe for
to-night from any assault. They have won three quarters of the city.
Before they think of the last quarter, their victory must be celebrated
in a hundred thousand tipsy bouts. At midnight the whole company of
yellow-haired heroes and drinkers will be immersed in feasting, wine,
and sleep; and the hungry Quirites will not be behindhand in excess.
Look! How they feast and sing below there--crowned with flowers! And
very few barbarians have yet entered the city. That is our hope of
victory. At midnight we will sally forth from all our gates--they will
not dream of an attack from such a minority--and slay them in their
revels."

"Your plan is bold," said Lucius Licinius. "And if we fall, the Capitol
will be our tombstone!"

"You learn from me words as well as sword-strokes," said Cethegus,
smiling. "My plan is desperate, but it is the only one now possible. Is
the watch set? I will go home and sleep for a couple of hours. No one
must rouse me before that time. In two hours come and wake me."

"You can sleep at such a moment, general?"

"Yes; I _must_. And I hope I shall sleep soundly. I must have time to
collect myself--I have just yielded the Forum Romanum to the barbarian
King! It was too much! I need time to recover myself. Syphax, I asked
yesterday if no more wine was to be had on the right bank of the
Tiber?"

"I have been to seek some. There is yet a little in the temple of your
God; but the priests say that it is dedicated to the service of the
altar."

"That will not have spoiled it! Go, Lucius, and take it from the
priests. Divide it amongst the hundred men on the bulwark of Cæsar. It
is the only thing that I can give them to show my gratitude."

Followed by Syphax, Cethegus now rode slowly home.

He stopped at the principal entrance to his house.

In answer to the call of Syphax, Thrax, a groom, opened the gate.

Cethegus dismounted and stroked the neck of his noble charger.

"Our next ride will be a sharp one, my Pluto--to victory or in flight!
Thrax, give him the white bread which was reserved for me."

The horse was led into the stables near at hand. The stalls were empty.
Pluto shared the spacious building only with the brown horse belonging
to Syphax. All the Prefect's other horses had been slaughtered and
devoured by the mercenaries.

The master of the house passed through the splendid vestibule and
atrium into the library.

The old ostiarius and secretary, the slave Fidus, who was past carrying
a spear, the only domestic in the house. All the slaves and freedmen
were upon the walls--either living or dead.

"Reach me the roll of Plutarch's Cæsar, and the large goblet set with
amethysts--it scarcely needed their decoration--full of spring water."

The Prefect stayed in the library for some time. The old servant had
lighted the lamp, filled with costly oil of spikenard, as he had been
accustomed to do in times of peace.

Cethegus cast a long look at the numerous busts, Hermes, and statues,
which cast sharp shadows along the exquisite mosaic pavement.

There, upon pedestals or brackets, on which were inscribed their names,
stood small marble busts of almost all the heroes of Rome, from the
mythic Kings to the long rows of Consuls and Cæsars, ended by Trajan,
Hadrian, and Constantine.

The ancestors of the "Cethegi" formed a numerous group.

An empty niche already contained the pedestal upon which his bust would
one day stand--the last on that side of the room, for he was the last
of his house.

But on another side there was a whole row of arches and empty niches,
destined for future scions of the family, not by marriage, but by
adoption, should the name of Cethegus be continued into more fortunate
generations.

As Cethegus walked slowly past the rows of busts, he chanced to look at
the niche destined to contain his own, and, to his astonishment, saw
that it was not empty.

"What is that?" he asked. "Lift up the lamp, secretary. Whose is that
bust standing in my place?"

"Forgive, master! The pedestal of that bust, one of the ancients,
needed reparation. I was obliged to remove it, and I placed it in the
empty niche to keep it from harm."

"Show a light. Still higher. Who can it be?"

And Cethegus read the short inscription upon the bust: "Tarquinius
Superbus, tyrant of Rome, died in exile; banished from the city by the
inhabitants on account of his monstrous despotism. A warning to future
generations."

Cethegus, in his youth, had himself composed this inscription.

He took the bust away, and placed it on one side.

"Away with the omen!" he cried.

Lost in thought, he entered his study.

He leaned his helm, shield, and sword against the couch. The slave
kindled the lamp which stood on the tortoise-shell table, brought the
goblet and the roll of papyrus, and left the room.

Cethegus took up the roll.

But he soon laid it down again. His forced composure could not last; it
was too unnatural. In the Roman Forum the Quirites drank with the
barbarians to the health of the King of the Goths and the ruin of the
Prefect of Rome, the Princeps Senatus! In two hours he was about to
attempt to wrest the city from the Goths. He could not fill up the
short pause with the perusal of a biography which he almost knew by
heart.

He drank thirstily of the water in the goblet.

Then he threw himself upon his couch.

"Was it an omen?" he asked himself. "But there are no omens for
those who do not believe in them. 'This is the only omen: to fight for
the fatherland,' says Homer. Truly, I fight not alone for my native
land; I fight still more for myself. But have not to-day's events
disgracefully proved that Rome is Cethegus, and Cethegus is Rome? These
name-forgetting Romans do not make Rome. The Rome of to-day is far more
Cethegus than the Rome of old was Cæsar. Was not he, too, a tyrant in
the eyes of fools?"

He rose uneasily, and went up to the colossal statue of his great
ancestor.

"God-like Julius! If I could pray, I would pray now to thee! Help me!
Complete the work of thy grandchild. How hard have I striven since the
day when the idea of the renewal of thy empire was born within my
brain--born full-armed, like Pallas Athene from the head of Jupiter!
How have I fought, mentally and physically, by day and by night! And
though thrown to the ground seven times by the superior force of two
peoples, seven times have I again struggled to my feet, unconquered and
unintimidated! A year ago my goal seemed near--so near; and now, this
very night, I must fight this fair youth for Rome and for my life! Can
it be that I must succumb after such deeds and such exertions? Succumb
to the good fortune of a youth! Is it, then, impossible for thy
descendant to stand alone for his nation, until he renew both it and
himself? Is it impossible to conquer the barbarians and the Greeks? Can
not I, Cethegus, stop the wheel of Fate and roll it backward? Must I
fail because I stand alone--a general without an army, a king without a
nation to support him? Must I yield thy and my Rome? I cannot, will not
think so! Did not thy star fade shortly before Pharsalus? and didst
thou not swim over the Nile to save thy life, bleeding from a hundred
wounds? And yet thou hast succeeded. Again thou hast entered Rome in
triumph. It will not go more hardly with thy descendant. No; I will not
lose my Rome! I will not lose my house, and this thy God-like image,
which has often, like the crucifix of the Christian, filled me with
hope and comfort. As a pledge of my success, to thee I will entrust a
treasure. Where can anything on earth be safe if not with thee? In an
hour of despondency, I was about to give this treasure to Syphax to
bury in the earth. But if I lose Rome and this house, this sanctuary, I
will lose all. Who can decipher these hieroglyphics? As thou hast kept
the letters and the diary, so shalt thou keep this treasure also."

So saying, he drew from the bosom of his tunic, beneath his shirt of
mail, a rather large leather bag, filled with costly pearls and
precious stones, and touched a spring on the left side of the statue,
below the edge of its shield.

A small opening was revealed, out of which he took an oblong casket of
beautifully-carved ivory, provided with a golden lock. The casket
contained all sorts of writings and rolls of papyrus. He now added the
bag.

"Here, great ancestor, guard my secrets and my treasure. With whom
should they be safe, if not with thee?"

He touched the spring again, and the statue looked as perfect as
before.

"Beneath thy shield, upon thy heart! As a pledge that I trust in thee
and my good fortune as thy descendant! As a pledge that nothing shall
force me away from thee and Rome--at least for any length of time. If I
_must_ go--I will return again. And who will seek my secret in the
marble Cæsar?"

If the water in the amethyst cup had been the strongest wine, it could
not have had a more intoxicating effect than this soliloquy or dialogue
with the colossal statue which Cethegus worshipped like a god.

The unnatural strain upon all his mental and physical powers during the
last few weeks; the unsuccessful attempt to persuade the people on the
Forum; the conception of a new and desperate plan as soon as he had
been defeated in the first, and the consuming anxiety with which he
awaited its execution, had excited and exhausted the iron nerves of the
Prefect to the utmost.

He thought, spoke, and acted as if in a high fever.

Tired out, he threw himself upon his couch at the foot of the statue;
and suddenly sleep overcame him.

But it was not the sound sleep which, until now, he had been able to
command at will, even after some criminal act or before a dangerous
enterprise: the result of a strong constitution which was superior to
all excitement.

For the first time his slumber was uneasy, disturbed by changeful
dreams, which, like the fancies of a delirious man, chased each other
through his brain.

At last the visions of the dreamer took a more concrete form.

He saw the statue at the feet of which he lay, grow and grow. The
majestic head rose higher and higher, and passed through the roof of
the house. With its crown of laurel it at last penetrated the clouds,
and towered into the starry heavens.

"Take me with thee!" sighed Cethegus.

But the demigod replied:

"I can scarcely see thee from this height. Thou art too small! Thou
canst not follow me."

And it seemed to Cethegus that a thunderbolt fell and shattered the
roof of his house. With a crash the beams fell upon him, burying him
under the ruins. The statue of Cæsar also broke and fell.

And crash after crash echoed through the place.

Cethegus woke, sprang up, and looked around in bewilderment.



                              CHAPTER XI.


The sound continued.

It was real--no dream! Blow after blow fell thundering against the door
of his house.

Cethegus caught up his helm and sword.

At that moment Syphax and Lucius rushed into the room.

"Up, general!"

"Up, Cethegus!"

"Two hours cannot yet have passed. Why have you awakened me?"

"The Goths! They have been beforehand with us! They storm the
bulwarks!"

"Damn them! Where do they storm?"

Cethegus had already reached the door of the room.

"Where does the King attack?"

"At the bolts on the river. He has sent fire-ships up the stream.
Floats with heavy towers on deck, full of resin, pitch, and sulphur.
The first bolt of masts and all the boats between are in flames!
Salvius Julianus is wounded and taken prisoner. There! you can see the
reflection of the flames in the south-east!"

"The bolt of chains--does it hold?"

"It holds still. But if it break--"

"Then I, as once before, am the bolt of Rome! Forward!"

Syphax led up the snorting horses.

Cethegus swung himself into the saddle.

"Away! Where is your brother Marcus?"

"At the bulwark by the Forum."

As Cethegus and Lucius were galloping off, they were met by a mass of
mercenaries, Isaurians and Abasgians, who fled from the river.

"Fly!" they cried. "Save the Prefect!"

"Where is Cethegus?"

"Here--to save you! Turn back. To the river!"

He galloped on. The reflection of the burning masts plainly showed the
way. Arrived at the river bank, Cethegus dismounted. Syphax placed his
horse out of harm's way in an empty storehouse.

"Torches!" cried Cethegus. "Into the boats! There lie a dozen ready.
Bowmen, into the boats! Follow me! Lucius, go into the second boat. Row
up to the chain. Place yourselves close to it. Whatever comes up the
river--shoot! They cannot land below the bolt, the walls are too high
and descend straight into the water. They _must_ come up here to the
chain!"

Already a few boats, filled with Goths, had ventured too near. Some
caught fire at the burning masts; others were upset in the crush and
confusion. One, which had approached within half an arrow's length of
the chain, drove helplessly down the stream again: all the crew had
been killed by the arrows of the Abasgians.

"Do you see! There goes a boat of corpses! Resist to the last man.
Nothing is lost! Bring torches and firebrands! Kindle the wharf there!
Fire against fire!"

"Look there, master!" cried Syphax, who never left the Prefect's side.

"Aye, now comes the struggle!"

It was a splendid sight.

The Goths had seen that the bolt of chains could never be forced by
small boats, so they had hewn away so much of the burning bolt of masts
that a space was left in the middle just broad enough to permit the
passage of a ship of war.

But to try to pass up the river, exposed to the arrows of the
Abasgians, between the flaming ends of the masts, and propelled only by
their oars, might be more dangerous for the large vessel than for the
"boat of corpses."

The Goths hesitated and stopped just before the burning beams.

But suddenly there arose a strong breeze from the south, rippling the
surface of the water.

"Do you feel the wind? It is the breath of the God of Victory! Set the
sails! Now follow me, my Goths!" cried a joyful voice.

The sails were set, and the wings of the royal galley, the "Wild Swan,"
spread wide to the breeze.

It was a magnificent spectacle as the great vessel, all its canvas
spread, and urged by a hundred oarsmen, came majestically up the river,
illuminated by the terrible light from the burning masts and boats.

With irresistible force the noble galley sailed up the stream.

On both sides of the upper deck, high above the heads of the oarsmen on
the lower deck, kneeled close rows of Gothic warriors, their shields
forming a brazen roof to protect them from the arrows of the foe.

Upon the bows of the ship an immense figure of a swan lifted high its
snowy wings.

Between these wings, upon the back of the swan, stood King Totila, his
sword in his right hand.

"Forward!" he cried. "Pull, my men, with all your might! Be ready,
Goths!"

Cethegus recognised the youth's tall figure. He even recognised the
voice.

"Let the galley approach quite close. When within twenty feet, shoot!
Not yet!--Now! now shoot!"

"Crouch close, Goths!" cried Totila.

A hail of arrows fell over the galley. But they rebounded from a roof
of shields.

"Damn them!" cried Piso, behind the Prefect. "They intend to break the
chain with the force of the shock. And they will surely do it, even if
every man on deck should fall! The oarsmen we cannot reach, and the
south wind cannot be wounded!"

"Fire the sails! fire the ship! Bring firebrands!" cried Cethegus.

Ever nearer rustled the threatening "Swan."


Ever nearer approached the ruinous shock against the tightly-stretched
chains.

Firebrands were hurled at the galley.

One flew into the sail of the main-mast, burnt quickly up, and then
died out.

A second--Cethegus himself had hurled it--passed close to the golden
locks of the King. It fell near him. He had not remarked it; but a
shepherd-boy, who carried no weapon but a shepherd's staff, ran up and
trampled it out.

The other brands rebounded from the shields and fell hissing into the
river.

And now the prow of the galley was only eight feet from the chain.

The Romans trembled in expectation of the shock.

Cethegus stepped to the bow of his boat, balancing and aiming his heavy
spear.

"Mark!" he said; "as soon as the King falls, be quick with more
firebrands."

Never had the practised soldier aimed better. Drawing back his spear
once more, he launched it at the King with all the force lent to his
arm by hatred.

His followers waited breathlessly. But the King did not fall. He had
caught sight of Cethegus while aiming; at the same moment he threw down
his long and narrow shield and awaited the flying shaft with his left
arm drawn back.

Whistling came the spear straight at the spot where the King's bare
neck showed above his breastplate.

When within a few inches of his throat, the King caught the shaft with
his left hand and immediately hurled it back at the Prefect, wounding
him on the left arm just above his shield.

Cethegus fell on his knee.

At the same instant the galley struck the chain. It burst. The Roman
boats which lay near, including that of Cethegus, were upset; and most
of them drove masterless down the river.

"Victory!" shouted Totila. "Yield, mercenaries!"

Cethegus, bleeding, swam to the left bank of the river. He saw how the
Gothic galley lowered two boats, into one of which sprang the King.

He saw how a whole flotilla of large vessels, which had sailed up in
the wake of the King's galley, now broke through the boats of his
bowmen, and landed troops on both sides of the river.

He saw how his Abasgians--neither armed nor in the mood for a
hand-to-hand fight--surrendered themselves by companies to the Goths.

He saw how a rain of arrows from the royal galley fell upon the
defenders on the left bank.

He saw how the little boat, in which stood the King, now approached the
place where he himself stood, dripping with water.

He had lost his helmet in the river, his shield he had thrown away, in
order the more speedily to gain the land.

He was on the point of attacking the King, who had just landed, with
his sword alone, when a Gothic arrow grazed his neck.

"Well hit, Haduswinth?" cried a young voice; "better than at the
Mausoleum!"

"Bravo, Gunthamund!"

Cethegus tottered.

Syphax caught his arm.

At the same moment a hand was laid on his shoulder. He recognised
Marcus Licinius.

"You here! Where are your men?"

"Dead!" said Marcus. "The hundred Romans fell on the bulwark. Teja, the
terrible Teja, stormed it. The half of your Isaurians fell on the way
to the Capitol. The rest still keep the doors, and the half-bulwark in
front of your house. I can no more. Teja's axe penetrated through my
shield and entered my ribs. Farewell, O great Cethegus! Save the
Capitol. But--look there! Teja is quick!"

And he fell to the ground.

From the Capitoline Hill flames rose high into the night.

"There is nothing more to be done here," the Prefect said with
difficulty, for he was losing blood fast and becoming rapidly weak. "I
will save the Capitol! To you, Piso, I leave the barbarian King. Once
before you have wounded a Gothic King upon the threshold of Rome. Now
wound a second, but this time mortally! You, Lucius, will revenge your
brother. Do not follow me!"

As he spoke he cast one more furious glance at the King, at whose feet
kneeled his Abasgians, and sighed deeply.

"You tremble, master!" said Syphax sadly.

"_Rome_ trembles!" cried Cethegus. "To the Capitol!"

Lucius Licinius pressed the hand of his dying brother.

"I shall follow him notwithstanding," he said, "for he is wounded."


While Cethegus, Syphax, and Lucius Licinius disappeared in the
distance, Piso crouched behind the columns of a Basilica close to which
the street led upwards from the river.

Meanwhile the King had placed the Abasgians under the guard of his
soldiers. He went a few steps up the bank of the river and pointed with
his sword to the flames which arose from the Capitol.

Then he turned to the Goths who were landing.

"Forward!" he cried. "Make haste! The flames up there must be
extinguished. The fight is over. Now, Goths, protect and preserve Rome,
for it is yours!"

Piso took advantage of the moment.

"Apollo!" he exclaimed; "if ever my satires hit their mark, help now my
sword!"

And he sprang from behind the column towards the King, who stood with
his back turned to him. But before he could deal a blow, he let his
sword fell with a loud cry. A sturdy stroke from a stick had lamed his
hand.

Immediately a young shepherd sprang upon him and pulled him to the
ground, kneeling on his breast.

"Yield, thou Roman wolf!" cried a clear boyish voice.

"Ah! Piso.... the poet He is thy prisoner, boy," said the King, who now
turned. "He shall ransom himself with a goodly sum. But who art thou,
young shepherd?"

"He is the saviour of your life, sire," interposed old Haduswinth. "We
saw the Roman rush at you, but we were too far off to call or help you.
We owe your life to this boy."

"What is thy name, young hero?"

"Adalgoth."

"And what wouldst thou here?"

"Cethegus, the traitor, the Prefect of Rome! where is he, King? Pray
tell me. I was sent to the boats. I heard that he would oppose thy
attack here."

"He was here. He has fled; most likely to his house."

"Wouldst thou overcome that King of Hell with this stick?" asked
Haduswinth.

"No," cried the boy; "I have now a sword."

And he took up his prisoner's sword, which was lying on the ground;
brandished it over his head and rushed away.

Totila gave Piso in charge to the Goths, who had now landed in great
numbers.

"Hasten!" he cried again. "Save the Capitol, which the Romans are
destroying!"



                              CHAPTER XII.


Meanwhile the Prefect had left the river and gone in the direction of
the Capitol.

He passed the Porta Trigemina and arrived at the Forum Boarium.

Before the Temple of Janus he met with a crowd of people by which he
was detained for a short time.

In spite of his wound he had made such haste that Lucius and Syphax
could scarcely follow. They had repeatedly lost sight of him. Only now
did they overtake him.

He now tried to go through the Porta Carmentalis, and thus gain the
back of the Capitol.

But he found the gate already occupied by numerous Goths. Amongst them
was Wachis. He recognised the Prefect from a distance.

"Revenge for Rauthgundis!" he cried.

A heavy stone struck the Prefect's helmless head. He turned and fled.

He now remembered that there was a sinking of the wall not far from the
gate. He determined to climb it at that place.

As he neared it, the flames from the Capitol again shot high into the
air.

Three men sprang over the wall just in front of him. They were
Isaurians. They recognised him.

"Fly, general! The Capitol is lost! Teja, the black Gothic devil!"

"Did he--did Teja kindle the fire?"

"No; we ourselves set a wooden bulwark, which the barbarians had taken,
on fire. The Goths do all they can to extinguish the flames."

"The barbarians save the Capitol!" said Cethegus bitterly, and
supported himself upon a spear which was handed to him by one of the
mercenaries.

"I must get to my house."

And he turned to the right, the shortest way to the principal entrance
to his house.

"O master, that way is dangerous!" cried one of the Isaurians. "The
Goths will soon be there. I heard the Black Earl ask repeatedly after
you. He was seeking you everywhere upon the Capitol. He will now seek
you in your house."

"I _must_ once more go to my house!"

But he had scarcely gone a few steps, when a troop of Goths and Romans,
carrying torches and firebrands, came towards him from the city.

The foremost, who were Romans, recognised him.

"The Prefect!"

"The destroyer of Rome!"

"He has set the Capitol on fire! Down with him!"

Arrows, stones, and spears were hurled at Cethegus. One of his
Isaurians fell; the others took to their heels.

Cethegus was hit by an arrow; it penetrated slightly into his left
shoulder. He tore it out.

"A Roman arrow, with my own stamp!" he cried with a terrible laugh.

With difficulty he gained a dark side-street.

Before his House there was a crowd of soldiers, trying in vain to break
open the principal door.

Cethegus heard the uproar, and well understood the cries of rage with
which the soldiers accompanied their ineffectual exertions.

"The door is strong," he said to himself. "Before they force an
entrance, I shall be again out of the house."

He hurried to the back of the house. He pressed a secret spring which
opened the door of the court, entered, and, leaving the door open
behind him, hurried in.

Hark! a stroke--very different from all which had gone
before--thundered against the front door of the house.

"That is a battle-axe!" thought Cethegus. "That is Teja?"

He hastened to a small gap in the wall, which afforded an outlook into
the main street. It was Teja. His long black locks waved about his bare
head; in his left hand he carried a firebrand; in his right the dreaded
battle-axe. He was covered with blood.

"Cethegus!" he shouted at every stroke of his axe. "Cornelius Cethegus
Cæsarius, where art thou? I sought thee in the Capitol, Prefect of
Rome! Where art thou? Must I seek thee upon thy hearth?"

Cethegus, listening, heard hasty steps behind him.

Syphax had reached the court, and had followed his master through the
open door. He now caught sight of him.

"O master, fly! I will protect thy threshold with my body."

And he hastened past Cethegus, through a suite of apartments to the
front door.

Cethegus turned to the right. He could hardly keep himself upright. He
managed to reach the "Hall of Jupiter." Here he sank to the ground. But
the next moment he again sprang to his feet, for a fearful noise was
heard from the front door.

At last it was broken in.

With a thundering crash it fell inwards, and Teja entered the dwelling
of his enemy.

Upon the threshold, with a leap like that of a panther, the Moor sprang
upon him, grasping his throat and raising a dagger in his hand.

But the Goth let fall his axe, seized him in his right hand, and, like
a stone from a sling, the Moor flew sideways through the door and
rolled down the steps into the street.

"Where art thou, Cethegus?" again sounded the voice of Teja, coming
nearer and nearer, from the vestibule and the atrium.

Some doors, which had been bolted by the secretary, Fidus, were forced
one after the other by Teja's axe.

With difficulty Cethegus dragged himself to the middle of the Hall of
Jupiter. He still hoped to be able to reach the study and take the
writings and treasure out of the statue of Cæsar.

He heard the crash of another falling door, and the voice of Teja now
sounded from the study.

He heard how the soldiers, who had pressed forward after Teja into the
library, were demolishing the statues and busts of his ancestors.

"Where is thy master, old man?" asked Teja's voice.

The slave had taken refuge in the study.

"I know not, by my soul!"

"Not even here! Cethegus! coward! Where hidest thou?"

It was now evident that the soldiers had also entered the study.

Cethegus could no longer stand upright.

He leaned against the marble statue of Jupiter, from which the hall
took its name.

"What shall be done with this house?" he heard some one ask.

"It shall be burned!" cried Teja.

"The King has forbidden that," answered the voice of Thorismuth.

"Yes; but I have begged this house from the King. It shall be razed to
the ground! Down with the temple of that devil! Down with the holiest
of holies--this idol!"

A fearful blow resounded.

With a crash the Cæsar statue fell in fragments to the ground.

Gold, jewels, and rolls of papyrus covered the floor.

"Ah! the barbarian!" cried Cethegus, forgetting himself, and he was
about to rush into the study with his drawn sword, when he fell
senseless at the foot of the statue of Jupiter.

"Hark! What was that?" cried a boyish voice.

"The voice of the Prefect!" exclaimed Teja, and opening the door which
led from the study into the hall, he sprang forward, swinging his
battle-axe.

But the hall was empty.

A pool of blood lay at the feet of the Jupiter, and a broad track of
the crimson fluid led to the window which opened into the inner court.

The court was empty.

But some Goths who entered it found the little door closed from
outside; the key was still in the lock on the side of the street.

When they had forced this door--some of them had also gone round from
the front of the house--and had searched the side-street and the
dwellings in it, they only found the Prefect's sword, which was
recognised by Fidus, the secretary.

With a gloomy look Teja took it up, and returned into the study.

"Take up carefully all that was concealed in the Prefect's idol,
particularly the writings, and carry everything to the King. Where is
the King?"

"When he left the Capitol, he, with all the Romans and Goths, went into
the sanctuary of St. Peter, to attend a service of thanksgiving."

"'Tis well. Go to him in the church and give him everything. Also the
sword of the fugitive. Tell him that Teja sends it."

"Thy order shall be obeyed," said Thorismuth. "But thou--wilt thou not
go with us to the church?"

"No."

"Where wilt thou spend this night of victory, when all the others are
giving thanks?"

"I will spend it in the ruins of this house!"

And he thrust the firebrand into the purple cushions of the Prefect's
couch.



                         BOOK V.--_Continued_.

                                TOTILA.

"Happy are we that this sunny youth still lives!"--_Margrave Ruediger
of Bechelaren_, Act i., Scene i.



                                PART II.


                              CHAPTER I.

Thenceforth King Totila held his court in Rome with much splendour and
rejoicing.

The heaviest task of all the war seemed to be completed.

After the fall of Rome, most of the small forts on the coast and in the
Apennines opened their gates; very few remained to be taken by siege.

For this purpose the King sent forth his generals, Teja, Guntharis,
Grippa, Markja, and Aligern; while he himself undertook the difficult
political task of reducing to order the kingdom so long disturbed by
war or rebellion. He had, indeed, almost to refound it.

He sent his dukes and earls into the towns and districts to carry out
his intentions in all departments of the state; particularly to protect
the Italians from the vengeance of the victorious Goths. He had
published from the Capitol a general amnesty; excluding only one
person: the ex-Prefect, Cornelius Cethegus Cæsarius.

Everywhere he caused the destroyed churches, both Catholic and Arian,
to be restored; everywhere the landed property was settled, the taxes
newly-laid and diminished.

The beneficial results of all this care were not long in making
themselves felt.

Even when Totila had first assumed the crown and issued his manifesto,
had the Italians resumed the long-neglected cultivation of the land.
The Gothic soldiers were directed to refrain from disturbing this
important work, and to do all in their power to prevent any such
disturbance on the part of the Byzantines.

And a wonderful fertility of the soil, a harvest of grain, wine, and
oil, such as had not been seen for ages, seemed to prove that the
blessing of Heaven had fallen upon the young King.

The news of the taking of Neapolis and Rome spread rapidly through the
Eastern Empire, where it was received with great astonishment, for all
there had long since considered the Gothic kingdom to be extinct.

Merchants who had been tempted by the strong and just government, the
security of the high-roads and of the sea--which were severally
protected by patrols of soldiers and watchful squadrons of Gothic
ships--to revisit the deserted towns and harbours of the peninsula,
praised the justice and benevolence of the royal youth, and told of the
flourishing state of his kingdom, and of the brilliancy of his court at
Rome, where he gathered about him the senators who had repented of
their rebellion, and gave to the populace liberal alms and splendid
games in the Circus.

The Kings of the Franks acknowledged this change of circumstances. They
sent presents--Totila rejected them; they sent ambassadors--Totila
would not receive them.

The King of the Ostrogoths frankly offered an alliance against
Byzantium and the hand of his daughter. The Avarian and Slavonian
marauders on the eastern frontier were punished. With the exception of
the few fortresses which were still in a state of siege--Ravenna,
Perusium, and a few small castles--the whole country enjoyed as perfect
peace as in Theodoric's most glorious days.

At the same time, the King was wise enough to be moderate. He
acknowledged, in spite of his victories, the danger-fraught superiority
of the East, and earnestly sought to make peace with the Emperor.

He resolved to send an embassy to Byzantium, to offer peace on the
basis of a full acknowledgment of the Gothic rule in Italy. He would
renounce all claim to Sicily--where not a Goth was now dwelling (the
Gothic settlements on that island had never been very numerous); he
would also resign those parts of Dalmatia now occupied by the
Byzantines. On his side the Emperor should immediately evacuate
Ravenna, which no perseverance or stratagem on the part of the Gothic
besiegers had been able to reduce.

As the person most qualified to undertake this mission of peace and
reconciliation, the King thought of a man who was distinguished by
worth and dignity, by his love for Italy and the Goths, and who was
renowned, even in the East, for his wisdom--the venerable Cassiodorus.

Although the pious old man had withdrawn from all affairs of state for
many years, the young King succeeded in persuading him to leave the
peaceful quiet of his lonely cloister, and brave the troubles and
dangers of a journey to Byzantium in order to perform this noble and
pious work.

But it was impossible to lay upon the old man the whole burden of such
an embassy, and the King now sought for a younger and stronger man to
accompany him. A man of similar benevolent and Christian feeling--a
second apostle of peace.

A few weeks after the conquest of Rome, a royal messenger carried the
following letter over the Cottian Alps into Provence:


"To Julius Manilius Montanus, Totila, who is called the King of the
Goths.

"Come, my beloved friend, return to my heart! Years have passed; much
blood has been shed, and many tears have fallen. More than once,
terribly or fortunately, has everything changed around me since I
pressed your hand for the last time. Everything around me has changed,
but I remain the same. All is as it was between you and me. I still
revere the idols at whose shrines we worshipped together in the first
dreams of our youth, but growing experience has ennobled these idols.
When sin, treachery, and all dark powers raged upon Italian soil, you
abandoned it. See, they have disappeared, like moisture in the sun and
wind. The conquered demons growl in the distance, and a rainbow
stretches its brilliant arch over this my beloved kingdom. When nobler
souls unhappily succumbed. Heaven preserved me to see the end of the
fearful storm and to sow the seeds of a new time. Come now, my Julius;
help me to carry out those dreams at which you so often smiled,
thinking them _mere_ dreams. Help me to create a new people of Goths
and Italians, which will unite the advantages and exclude the
weaknesses of both nations. Help me to found a realm of justice and of
peace, of freedom and of beauty, ennobled by Italian grace, and
strengthened by Gothic endurance. You, my Julius, have built a cloister
for the Church--help me to build a temple for humanity. I am lonely,
friend, at the summit of fortune. Lonely my bride awaits the full
completion of my vow. The war has robbed me of my devoted brother. Will
you not come, my Dioscuros? In two months I shall expect you at Taginæ
with Valeria."


Julius read; and with emotion said to himself: "My friend, I come!"


Before King Totila left Rome for Taginæ, he resolved to pay an old debt
of gratitude, and to give a worthy, that is a beautiful, form to an old
connection that, until now, had not satisfied the desire for harmony
which possessed his soul--his connection with the first hero of his
nation, with Teja.

They had been friends from their earliest boyhood. Although Teja was
several years older, he had always perceived and honoured the depth of
the younger man's nature under the brilliant husk of his joyous
temperament. And a common inclination to enthusiasm and idealism,
besides a certain pride and magnanimity, had drawn them early together.
Later, however, their opposite fates had caused their originally very
different natures to deviate more and more.

The sunny brightness of the one seemed to contrast with the austerity
of the other with painful brilliancy. And Totila, after repeated and
impetuous attempts to dispel the gloom of his silent friend--the cause
of which he did not know, and the nature of which he did not
understand--had at last, attributing it to a morbid mind, withdrawn to
a distance.

The milder, though grave and softer influence of Julius, and his
passion for Valeria, gradually estranged Totila from the friend of his
boyhood.

But the experience of late years, the sufferings and dangers he had
endured since the death of Valerius and Miriam, the burning of
Neapolis, the distress of Rome, the crimes committed at Ravenna and
Castra Nova, and lately the cares and duties of royalty, had so
completely matured the impatient and joyous youth, that he was now able
to do full justice to his gloomy friend.

And what had not this friend accomplished since the night when they had
sworn brotherhood!

When the others had become paralysed by suffering; when Hildebrand's
impatience, Totila's enthusiasm, and the quiet steadfastness of
Witichis, even old Hildebrand's icy fortitude, had wavered--Teja had
never sighed, but always acted; never hoped, but always dared!

At Regeta, before Rome, after the fall of Ravenna, and again before
Rome--what had he not accomplished! What did not the kingdom owe to his
efforts! And he would receive no thanks.

When Witichis had offered him the dignity of a duke, gold, and land, he
had rejected the offer as an offence.

Lonely, silent, and melancholy, he walked through the streets of Rome,
the last shadow in the light of Totila's presence. He stood next to the
King's throne, with his black eyes ever lowered to the ground. He stole
away without a word from the royal table. He never laid aside his
armour or weapons.

Only when in action did he sometimes laugh; when, with contempt of
death, or the temerity which courts it, he sprang amid the spears of
the Byzantines--then only did he seem to feel at ease, then all his
being was life, movement, and fire.

It was known to all the nation--and Totila specially had known it from
his boyhood--that this melancholy hero possessed the gift of song.

But since his return from captivity in Greece, no one had ever been
able to persuade him to sing one of his glowing and inspiring songs;
and yet every one knew that his little triangular harp was his constant
companion in war or peace, inseparable as his sword. At the moment of
attack he was sometimes heard to sing wild snatches of song to the
measure of the Gothic horns. And whoever followed him into the
wilderness of white marble and green bushes, among the old Roman ruins,
where he was fond of passing his nights, might sometimes hear him play
some long-forgotten melody, accompanying it with dreamy words. But if
any one--which was seldom the case--ventured to ask what he wanted, he
turned silently away.

Once, after the taking of Rome, he replied to a similar question put by
Guntharis, by the words, "The head of the Prefect!"

The only person whose company he affected was Adalgoth, to whom he had
lately attached himself.

The young shepherd had been raised to the office of herald and
cup-bearer to the King, as a reward for his bold act at the storming of
the Tiber shore.

He had brought with him, though little schooled, a decided gift for
song. Teja was pleased with his genius; and it was reported that he
secretly taught him his superior art, though they suited each other as
little as night and morning.

"It is just on that account," said Teja, when his brave cousin Aligern
once remarked this to him, "something must be left when the night
sinks."

The King felt that the only thing that could be offered to this man was
in _his_ power to offer--neither gold, nor land, nor dignities.

One night King Totila came to where the two bards were sitting. He
followed the sounds which, arising at irregular intervals from a grove
of cypresses, and interrupted by half-sung, half-spoken words, were
borne to his ear by the night wind. Unnoticed and unbetrayed by the
soft moonlight, Totila reached the avenue of half-wild laurels and
cypresses which led into the centre of the garden.

But now Teja heard the approaching footsteps, and laid aside his harp.

"It is the King," he said; "I recognise his step. What seekest thou
here, my King?"

"I seek thee, Teja," answered Totila.

Teja sprang from his seat upon a fallen column.

"Then we must fight!" he exclaimed.

"No," said Totila; "but I deserve this reproach."

He took Teja's hand, and affectionately drew him down to his former
seat, placing himself at his side.

"I did not seek thy sword, Teja; I sought thyself. I need thee; not
thine arm, but thy heart. No, Adalgoth; do not go. Thou mayst see--and
I wish thee to see--how every one must love this proud man, the 'Black
Earl.'"

"I knew it," said Adalgoth, "ever since I first saw him. He is like a
dark forest, through the branches of whose lofty trees blows a
mysterious breach, full of terror and charm."

Teja fixed his large and melancholy eyes upon the King.

"My friend," began Totila, "the gracious God of Heaven has endowed me
richly. I have won back a kingdom which was half-lost; shall I not be
able to win back the half-lost heart of a friend? And it was to this
friend's efforts that most of my success was owing; he must now help me
to regain my friend. What has estranged thee from me? Forgive me if I,
or my good fortune, has offended thee. I know to whom I owe my crown;
but I cannot wear it with gladness if only thy sword and not thy heart
be mine. We were once friends, Teja; oh! let us be so again, for I miss
thee sorely!"

And he would have embraced Teja, but the latter caught both his hands
and pressed them to his heart.

"This evening's walk honours thee more than thy victorious march
through Italy! The tear which I see glittering in thine eye is worth
more than the richest pearl upon thy crown. Forgive thou me; I have
been unjust. The gifts of fortune and thy careless joy have not
corrupted thy heart. I have never been angered against thee; I have
ever loved thee, and it was with sorrow that I saw our paths in life
diverge; for, in truth, thou art more congenial to me, nearer than thou
ever wert to the brave Witichis, or even to thine own brother."

"Yes," said Adalgoth; "you two complete each other like light and
shade."

"Our natures are, indeed, equally emotional and fiery," said the King.

"If Witichis and Hildebad," continued Teja, "went the straight way with
a steady pace, we two were borne, by our impatient enthusiasm, as if on
wings. And being so congenial, though so different, it pains me that,
in thy sunny bliss, thou seemest to think that any one who cannot laugh
like thee is a sick fool! Oh, my King and friend! whoever has once
experienced certain trials and woes, and conceived certain thoughts,
has for ever lost the sweet art of laughter!"

Totila, filled with a deep sense of Teja's worth, answered:

"Whoever has fulfilled life's noblest duties with a heroism equal to
thine, my Teja, may be pitied, but not blamed, if he proudly scorns
life's light pleasures."

"And thou couldst think that I was envious of thy good fortune or thy
cheerful humour? O Totila! it is not with envy, but with deep, deep
sadness that I observe thee and thy hopefulness. As a child may excite
our sadness who believes that sunshine, spring-time, and life endure
for ever; who knows neither night, winter, nor death! Thou trustest
that success and happiness will be the reward of the cheerful-hearted;
but I for ever hear the flapping of the wings of Fate, who, deaf and
merciless to curses, prayers, or thanks, sweeps high above the heads of
poor mortals and their futile works."

He ceased, and looked out into the darkness, as if he saw the shadow of
the coming future.

"Yes, yes," said the young cup-bearer, "that reminds me of an old adage
which Iffa sang in the mountain, and which means something like that;
he had learnt it from Uncle Wargs:

                "'Good fortune or bad
                  Is not the world's aim;
                  That is but vain folly,
                  Imagined by men.
                  On the earth is fulfilled
                  A Will everlasting.
                  Obedience, defiance--
                  They serve it alike.'

"But," he continued thoughtfully, "if, with all our exertions, we can
never alter the inevitable, why do we move our hands at all? Why do we
not wait for what shall come in dull inaction? In what lies the
difference between hero and coward?"

"It does not lie in victory, my Adalgoth, but in the kind of strife or
endurance! Not justice, but necessity decides the fate of nations.
Often enough has the better man, the nobler race, succumbed to the
meaner. 'Tis true that generosity and nobility of mind are in
themselves a power. But they are not always able to defy other and
ignoble powers. Noble-mindedness, generosity, and heroism can always
consecrate and glorify a downfall, but not always prevent it. And the
only comfort we have is, that it is not _what_ we endure, but _how_ we
endure it, that honours us the most; it is often not the victor, but
the conquered hero, who deserves the crown of laurels."

The King looked meditatively at the ground, leaning on his sword.

"How much thou must have suffered, friend," he then said warmly,
"before thou couldst embrace such a dark error! Thou hast lost thy God
in heaven! For me, that would be worse than to lose the sun in the
sky--I should feel as if blinded. I could not breathe if I could not
believe in a just God, who looks down from His heavenly throne upon the
deeds of men, and makes the good cause to triumph!"

"And King Witichis?" asked Teja; "what evil had he done? that man
without spot or blemish! And I myself, and----"

He suddenly became silent.

"Thy life has been a mystery to me since our early youth----"

"Enough for the present," said Teja. "I have this evening revealed more
of my inmost heart than in many a long year. The time will surely come
when I may unfold to thee my life and my thoughts. I should not like,"
he continued, turning to Adalgoth, and stroking his shining locks, "to
dim too soon the bright harp-strings of the youngest and best singer of
our nation."

"As thou wilt," said the King, rising. "To me thy sorrow is sacred.
But, I pray thee, let us cherish our refound friendship. To-morrow I go
to Taginæ, to my bride. Accompany me--that is, if it does not pain thee
to see me happy with a Roman woman."

"Oh no--it touches me--it reminds me of---- I will go with thee!"



                              CHAPTER II.


Soon after this conversation, the King, Earl Teja, Adalgoth, and a
numerous suite, arrived at the small town of Taginæ, above which, on a
precipitous and thickly-wooded height, stood the cloister founded by
Valerius, in which Valeria still continued to reside.

For her the place had lost all its terrors. She had become used to it,
not only physically but morally. Slowly but surely, her reluctant soul
was influenced by the grave authority of the sacred precincts.

The King met her in the cloister garden, and it seemed to him that her
complexion was much paler, her step slower, than usual.

"What ails you, Valeria?" he asked tenderly. "When our vow seemed past
fulfilment, you were still full of hope and courage. Now, when your
lover wears the crown of this realm, and the foot of the enemy treads
the sacred soil of Italia in scarcely more than one city, will you sink
and despair?"

"Not despair, friend," said Valeria gravely, "but renounce. No, no!
be patient and hear me. Why do you hide from me what all Italia
knows--what your people wish? The King of the Ostrogoths at Toletum has
offered you his alliance against Byzantium, and the hand of his
daughter. Your people expect and wish you to accept both these offers.
I will not be more selfish than was that high-minded daughter of your
nation, Rauthgundis, of whom your minstrels already sing. And I know
that you are as capable of sacrifice as the simple-minded man who was
your unfortunate King."

"I hope that I should be so, if necessary. But happily there is no need
of sacrifice. I do not want the help of the Ostrogoth. Look around, or
rather, look beyond these convent walls. Never has the kingdom
flourished as it does now. Once again I will offer to make peace with
the Emperor. If he still refuse, a war will break out such as he has
never seen. Ravenna will soon fell. Truly, my power and my courage are
not reduced to the point of renunciation! The air of this cloister has
at length enervated your steadfast mind. You must leave this place.
Choose the most lovely of all Italian cities for your residence. Let us
rebuild your father's house in Neapolis."

"No. Leave me here. I have learned to love this quiet place."

"It is the quiet of the grave! And you know well that to renounce you
would be to renounce the ideal of my life. You are the living symbol
of all my plans; you are to me Italia herself! You must become
mine--wholly, irrevocably mine. Goths and Italians shall take their
King and Queen for a pattern; they shall become as united and happy as
we. No--no objections--no more doubts! Thus I smother them!" and he
passionately embraced her.


A few days later Julius Montanus arrived, coming from Genoa and
Urbinum.

The King and his retinue went to meet him outside the cloister gates.

The two friends embraced each other tenderly; for some time they were
incapable of speaking.

Teja stood near and gravely observed them.

"Sir," whispered Adalgoth, "who is the man with the deep-set eyes? a
monk?"

"In his heart he is; but not outwardly."

"Such a young man with such an old look! Dost thou know whom he
resembles? That picture in the cloisters on the golden background."

"It is true; he is like that gentle and sorrowful head of the Apostle
John."

"Your letter," Julius said to Totila, "found me already resolved to
come here."

"You were about to seek me--or Valeria?"

"No, Totila. I came to be examined and accepted by Cassiodorus.
Benedict of Nursia, who fills our century with the fame of his
miracles, has founded an order which powerfully attracts me."

"Julius, you must not do that! What spirit of flying from the world has
seized upon my companions? Valeria, you, and Teja!"

"I fly from nothing," said Julius, "not even from the world."

"How," continued the King, taking his friend by the arm, and leading
him towards the cloister, "how come you, in the bloom of your manhood,
to think of this moral suicide? Look, there comes Valeria. She must
help me to convince you. Ah, if you had ever loved, you would not turn
your back upon the world."

Julius smiled, but made no reply. He quietly clasped Valeria's offered
hand, and followed her into the cloister, where Cassiodorus came to
meet them.

Thanks to the King's eloquence, he was able to induce his friend to
promise that he would accompany the aged Cassiodorus to Byzantium in a
few days. Julius at first shunned the glitter, the noise, and the
wickedness of the Emperor's court, until at last Cassiodorus' example
and Totila's persuasions overcame his scruples.

"I think," the King said, "that more pious works can be accomplished in
the world than in the cloister. _This_ embassy is such a pious work; a
work which is to save two nations from the horrors of renewed warfare."

"Certainly," said Julius, "a king and a hero can serve God as well as a
monk. I do not blame your manner of service--leave mine to me. It seems
to me that in the time in which we live, when an ancient world is
sinking amid much terror, and a new one arises amid wild storms; when
all the vices of a degenerated heathenism are mixed with the wildness
of a barbarous race; when luxury, brute force, and the lusts of the
flesh fill East and West, I think it is well done to found a sanctuary
apart from the world, where poverty, purity, and humble-mindedness can
dwell in peace."

"But to me," said Totila, "it seems that splendour, the happiness of
honest love, and cheerful pride, are no sin before the God of Heaven!
What thinkest thou of our dispute, friend Teja?"

"It has no meaning for me," answered Teja quietly, "for your God is not
my God. But let us not speak of that, for here comes Valeria."



CHAPTER III.


One evening, the same on which Adalgoth had arrived with the King at
Taginal, Gotho, the shepherdess, stood in the sunset light upon the
southern declivity of the Iffinger, leaning upon her staff.

Round her gambolled and grazed her flock of sheep and lambs, and
gradually gathered close round their mistress, eagerly expecting to be
led to the sheepfold.

But they waited and bleated in vain, for the pretty maiden bent over
the mossy stones on the edge of the clear mountain brook. Heaped up in
her leather apron lay the lovely scented flowers of the mountain:
thyme, wild-rose, mint--which grew on the moist edges of the brook--and
the dark blue enzian.

Gotho murmured and spoke to herself, to the flowers, and to the running
stream, throwing the flowers into the water, sometimes singly,
sometimes in little sprays or unfinished wreaths.

"How many," said the girl, as she tossed her thick yellow braids over
her shoulder, "how many of you have I sent away to greet him! For he
has gone to the south, and the water runs there too. But I know not if
you give my greeting, for he has never yet come home. But you, as you
rise and sink in the dance of the ripples, you beckon me to follow you.
Ah! if I could! or follow the little fish which dart down the stream
like dark arrows! Or the swift mountain swallows that skim through the
air as free as thought! Or the rosy-winged evening clouds, when the
mountain wind drives them southwards! But most surely of all would the
heart of the seeker herself find him, could she but leave the mountain,
and follow him to the distant and sunny land. But what should I do down
there? A shepherdess amongst the warriors or the wise court-ladies! And
I shall certainly see him again, as surely as I shall again see the
sun, although it sinks behind yonder mountains. It is sure to come
again, and yet! all the time between its parting ray and its morning
greeting is filled with longing!"

From the house there suddenly sounded a far-reaching tone, a blast upon
the twisted ram's horn. Gotho looked up; it had become darker; she
could see the red fire upon the hearth glimmer through the open door.
The sheep answered the well-known sound with louder bleatings,
stretching their necks in the direction of the house and the stalls.
The brown and shaggy sheep-dog sprang upon Gotho, as if to remind her
that it was time to go home.

"I will go directly," she said, smiling, and stroking the dog's head.
"Ah! the sheep are sooner tired of their pasture than the shepherdess
of her thoughts! Now, forwards, White Elf, thou art already become a
great fat sheep!"

She went down the hill towards the little hollow between two mountain
summits, where the house and stalls found protection from the wind and
the avalanches. There the last rays of the sun dazzled her no more. The
stars were already visible. Gotho looked up at the sky.

"They are so beautiful, because _he_ has looked at them so often!"

A shooting-star fell to the south.

"He calls me! Thither!" cried Gotho, slightly trembling.

She now drove the sheep more quickly forward, and presently shut
them into their cot, and entered the large and only chamber of the
ground-floor of the dwelling-house.

There she found her grandfather stretched upon the raised stone placed
close to the hearth; his feet covered with two large sheep-skins.

He looked paler and older than usual.

"Seat thyself beside me, Gotho," he said, "and drink; here is milk
mixed with honey. Listen to me. The time is come of which I have often
spoken. We must part. I am going home. Thy dear face is indistinct; my
tired old eyes can no longer distinguish thy features. And yesterday
when I tried to go down to the spring, my knees failed me. Then I felt
that the end was near, and I sent the goat-herd over to Teriolis with a
message. But thou shalt not be present when his soul flies out of old
Iffa's mouth. The death of a man is not lovely to behold--especially
death upon the straw-bed. And thou hast never yet seen anything
sorrowful. This shadow shall not fall upon thy young life. To-morrow,
before cockcrow, brave Hunibad will come over from Teriolis to fetch
thee--he has promised me to do so. His wounds are not yet healed; he is
yet weak; but he says that he cannot remain idle when, as they say, the
war will be sure to break out again. He wishes to go to King Totila in
Rome. And there too thou must go with an important message. He shall be
thy guide and protector. Bind thick soles of beech-rind under thy feet,
for the way is long. Brun, the dog, may accompany thee. Take that bag
of goat's leather; in it are six gold pieces which belonged to--to
Adalgoth's--to your father; they are Adalgoth's--but thou mayst use
them--they will last till thou reachest Rome. And take a bundle of
scented mountain hay from the meadows of the Iffinger, and lay thy head
upon it at night; then thou wilt sleep more soundly. And when thou
reachest Rome and the golden palace of the King, and enterest the hall,
observe which of the men wears a golden circlet upon his brow, and from
whose countenance shines a light like that of the morning--that will be
King Totila. Then bow thy head before him--but not too much--and do not
bend thy knee; for thou art a free Goth's free child. Thou must give
the King this roll, which I have carefully kept for many summers. It
comes from Uncle Wargs, who was buried by the mountain."

The old man lifted a brick from the masonry which separated the hearth
from the floor of stamped clay, and took from a hole a roll of papyrus,
which, tied and sealed, was folded in a piece of parchment covered with
writing and fastened with strange seals.

"Here," he said, "take the greatest care of this writing. That upon the
parchment cover I myself dictated to Hermegisel over in Majæ. He swore
to keep it secret, and he has kept his oath. And now he can speak no
more from out of his grave in the church. And thou and Hunibad--you
cannot read. That is a good thing, for it might be dangerous for thee
and--and another--if any one knew what that roll contains before
Totila, the mild and just King, has read it. Above all, hide it
carefully from the Italians. And in every town to which thou comest,
ask if there dwells Cornelius Cethegus Cæsarius, the Prefect of Rome.
And if the door-keepers say aye, then turn upon thy heel, however tired
thou mayst be, and however late the night, or hot the day, and wander
on until thou hast put three several waters between thee and the man
Cethegus. And no less carefully than the writing--thou seest that I
have put rosin, such as drops from the fir-trees, upon it instead of
wax, and I have scratched our house-mark upon the seal, the mark that
our cattle and wagons bear--not less carefully keep this old and costly
gold."

And he took from the hole the half of a broad gold bracelet, such as
the Gothic heroes wore upon their naked arms. He kissed the bracelet
and the imperfect Runic inscription upon it reverently.

"This came from Theodoric, the great King, and from him--my dear--son
Wargs. Mark--it belongs to Adalgoth. It is his most valuable
inheritance. The other half of the bracelet--and the half of the
inscription--I gave to the boy when I sent him away. When King Totila
has read the writing, and if Adalgoth is present--as he must be if he
obeys my orders--then call Adalgoth and put half-ring to half-ring, and
ask the King to pronounce a judgment. He is said to be mild and wise
and clear as the light of day. He will judge righteously. If not he,
then no one. Now kiss my darkening eyes, and go and sleep. May the Lord
of heaven and all his clear eyes, sun, moon, and stars, shine upon all
thy ways. When thou hast found Adalgoth, and when thou dwellest with
him in the little rooms of the close houses in the narrow streets of
the city, and when it feels too small and close and narrow down
there--then both of you think of your childish days up here upon the
high Iffinger, and once again the fresh mountain air will seem to blow
across your heated brows."

Silently, without objection, without fear, without a question, the
shepherd-girl listened and obeyed.

"Farewell, grandfather!" she said, kissing him upon his eyes; "I thank
thee for much love and faithfulness."

But she did not weep.

She knew not what death was.

She went away from him to the threshold of the door, and looked out at
the mountain landscape, which now appeared dark and melancholy. The sky
was clear, the summits of the mountains shone in the moonlight.

"Farewell!" said Gotho; "farewell, thou Iffinger! and thou,
Wolf's-head! and thou, old Giant! and thou, running below,
bright-shining Passara! Do you know it already? To-morrow I leave you
all. But I go willingly, for I go to _him_!"



                              CHAPTER IV.


After the lapse of many weeks, Cassiodorus and Julius returned from
Byzantium, bringing--no peace.

On landing, Cassiodorus, weary of the world and its ways, retired at
once to Brundusium, to his Apulian cloister, leaving Julius to report
their ill-success to the King in Rome.

Totila received his friend in the Capitol, in the presence of the
leaders of the army.

"At first," related Julius, "our prospects were sufficiently
favourable. The Emperor, who had formerly refused to receive the
ambassadors of Witichis, could not shut his palace doors in the face of
the most learned man of the West, the pious and wise Cassiodorus. We
were received with kindness and respect. In the council held by the
Emperor, men of distinction, such as Tribonianus and Procopius, raised
their voices in favour of peace. The Emperor himself seemed inclined
thereto. His two great generals, Narses and Belisarius, were fighting,
at different points of the south-eastern frontier of the Empire,
against Persians and Saracens; and the campaign in Italy and Dalmatia
had demanded such great sacrifices, and had lasted so long, that war
with the Goths had become hateful to the Emperor. It was indeed not
likely that he would entirely renounce the hope of reconquering Italy,
but he saw the impossibility of doing so at present. He therefore
willingly entered into negotiations of peace, and accepted our
proposals for further consideration. His first thought was, as he told
us, to bring about a provisional division of the peninsula; the far
larger portion of the country, to the south of the Padus, to belong to
the Emperor, the northern half to the Goths. One day at noon, we had
left the Emperor's presence with great hopes; the audience had turned
out more favourably than all former ones. But in the evening of the
same day we were surprised by the arrival of the Curo-palata Marcellus,
accompanied by slaves carrying the gifts which it is customary to
present to parting guests--a not-to-be-mistaken sign that all
negotiations were broken off. Confounded at this sudden change,
Cassiodorus decided, for the sake of his work of peace, to dare the
utmost--namely, to seek an audience of the Emperor after the
presentation of the parting gifts. Tribonianus, who had always opposed
the war, and who highly esteemed Cassiodorus, allowed himself to be
prevailed upon to sue for this extraordinary grace. The answer came in
a very ungracious threat of banishment should he ever again venture to
petition for anything against the clearly-expressed will of the
Emperor, Never, never would the Emperor conclude peace with the
barbarians, until they had entirely evacuated the kingdom. Never would
he look upon the Goths in Italy as anything but enemies. In vain we
tried," Julius continued, "to discover the cause of this sudden change.
We only learned that, after our last audience, the Empress, who is said
to be often suffering, had invited her husband to dinner in her
apartments. But it is certain that the Empress, formerly known to be
the most zealous advocate of war, has lately given her voice in favour
of peace."

"And what," asked the King, who had listened quietly, and with an
expression of countenance more threatening than anxious--"what
has procured me the honour of such a change of sentiment in the
circus-girl?"

"It is whispered that, becoming more and more anxious for the salvation
of her soul, the Empress desires to use all pecuniary means--not for a
war, the end of which she scarcely expects to outlive--but upon the
erection of churches, and especially for the completion of the church
of St. Sophia. It is said that she wishes to be buried with the plan of
this church imprinted upon her bosom."

"No doubt as a shield against the anger of the Almighty, at the
resurrection of the dead! The woman thinks to disarm her God with her
hundred churches, and to bribe Him with the sums expended. What madness
this belief engenders!" murmured Teja.

"We could discover nothing," repeated Julius; "for I cannot think the
shadow of suspicion which crossed my mind, perhaps the shadow of a
mistake, of any moment."

"What was that?" inquired Totila.

"That evening, as I left the palace at a late hour, thinking over
Tribonianus's unfavourable report, the golden litter of the Empress was
carried past me by her Cappadocian slaves from the quadrangle of the
garden where stands the Empress's palace. The trellised shutter was
lifted a little by the inmate of the litter--I looked up--and it seemed
to me as if I recognised----"

"Well?" asked the King.

"My unhappy protector, the vanished Cethegus," concluded Julius sadly.

"That can scarcely be," said the King. "He fell when Rome was taken. It
was surely a mistake when Teja thought he heard his voice in his
house."

"_I_ mistake that voice!" cried Teja. "And what meant his sword, which
Adalgoth found at the corner of the street?"

"He may have lost it earlier, when he hurried to the Tiber from his
house. I distinctly saw him conduct the defence of the chain from his
boat. He hurled his spear at me with all the force and steadiness lent
by intense hatred. And I struck him, I am sure, when I cast the spear
back again. And Gunthamund, that excellent shot, told me that he was
certain that he wounded the Prefect in the neck. His mantle with the
purple hem was found by the river, pierced by many arrows and covered
with blood."

"No doubt he died there," Julius said, very gravely.

"Are you such good Christians, and do not know that demons are
immortal?" asked Teja.

"They may be," said the King, "but so are angels!" and, with a frown on
his brow, he continued: "Up, my brave Teja! now there is new work for
thy sword. Hear it, Duke Guntharis, Wisand, Grippa, Markja, Thorismuth,
and Aligern--I shall soon have enough to do for you all. You have heard
that Emperor Justinian refuses to make peace, and will not leave us in
quiet possession of Italy. It is evident that he considers us inclined
to peace at any cost. He thinks it can never hurt him to have us for
enemies; that in the worst case we shall quietly await his attack in
Italy; that Byzantium will always be able to choose the moment,
repeating it until successful. Well--we will show him that we can
become dangerous! That it might be wiser to leave us Italy, and not
irritate us! He will not let us enjoy our kingdom? Then, as in the
days of Alaric and Theodoric, he shall again see the Goths in his
own country! At present only this--for secrecy is the mother of
victory--we will reach the heart of the Eastern Empire as we once
reached Rome--on canvas wings and wooden bridges.--Now, Justinianus,
protect thine own hearth-stone!"



                               CHAPTER V.


Soon after the Emperor's refusal of the proposals of the Goths had
arrived in Rome, we find--in the dining-room of a simple but
tastefully-built and furnished house upon the Forum Strategii at
Byzantium, which, close to the incomparable shore of the Golden
Horn, affords a view of the Straits and of the splendid suburb
"Justiniana"--two men engaged in confidential talk.

The master of the house was our old--and, we hope, not
unloved--acquaintance Procopius, who now lived much respected as a
senator in Byzantium.

He zealously attended to the wants of his guest, but in doing so used
his left hand. His right arm ended in a covered stump.

"Yes," he was saying, "at every moment I am reminded by my missing hand
of a folly. I do not, however, repent it. I should do the same thing
again even if it cost me my eyesight. It was a folly of the heart, and
to be capable of that is the greatest happiness. I have never been able
really to love a woman. My only love was and is--Belisarius! I know
very well--you need not draw down the corners of your mouth so
contemptuously, friend--I see very clearly the weaknesses and
imperfections of my hero. But that is exactly what is sweet in a
heart-folly--to love the foibles of your idol more than the merits of
other people. And so--to cut my story short--it was during the last
Persian war that, one day, I warned the lion-hearted general not to
ride through a dangerous wood with a scanty escort. Of course he did it
all the more, the dear fool; and of course Procopius, the wise fool,
rode with him. All happened just as I had expected. The whole wood was
suddenly filled with Persians. It seemed as if the wind had shaken the
withered leaves from the trees, and every leaf was an axe or a spear.
It was very like the ambush before the Tiburtinian Gate. Balan, the
faithful piebald, bore his master for the last time. Stuck full of
spears, he fell dead to the ground. I assisted the hero to mount my own
horse. But a Persian prince, who was almost as tall as his name was
long--the pleasant fellow was called Adrastaransalanes--aimed a blow at
the magister militum which, in my hurry, I received upon my right
arm--for my shield was occupied in protecting Belisarius against a
Saracen. The blow was well meant; if it had reached my hero's helmless
head, it would have cracked it like a nutshell. As it was, it only cut
off my fore-arm as if it had never been part of my body."


"Of course Belisarius escaped, and of course Procopius was taken
prisoner," said the guest, shaking his head.

"Quite right, you commander of perspicacity, as my friend
Adrastaransalanes would call you. But the same man with his long body,
scimitar, and name--you will not insist upon my repeating it--was so
moved by my 'elephantine magnanimity,' as he expressed himself, that he
very soon set me free without ransom. He only begged for a ring which
had been on the finger of my former right hand: as a remembrance, he
said. Since then it is all over with my campaigns," added Procopius
more gravely. "But in this loss of my pen-hand I see a punishment. I
have written with it many a useless or not perfectly sincere word.
However, if a like punishment overtook all the writers of Byzantium,
there would soon be not a two-handed man left who could write. Writing
is now a much slower and more difficult process with me. But that is
good, for then, at every word one considers whether it is worth the
trouble of inscribing or whether one is justified in doing so."

"I have read with true enjoyment," said the guest, "your 'Vandal Wars,'
your 'Persian Wars,' and, as far as it goes, the 'Gothic War.' When
recovering from my hurt, it was my favourite book. But I am surprised
that you were not sent to the Ult-ziagirian Huns and the mines of
Cherson to keep our friend Petros company. If Justinian so severely
punishes the forgery of documents--how harshly must he punish veracity
in history! And you have so mercilessly scourged his indecision, his
avarice, his mistakes in the choice of generals and officers--I wonder
that you go unpunished."

"Oh, I have not escaped punishment," said the historian gravely. "He
left me my head: but he tried to rob me of my honour; and _she_ still
more, the beautiful demon. For I had hinted that Justinian was tied to
her apron-string. And she as passionately tries to hide her dominion
as to uphold it. When my book was published, she called me to her.
When I entered her apartment, and saw those pages upon her lap, I
thought--Adrastaransalanes took off the hand that wrote; this woman
will take off the head that thought. But she contented herself with
giving me her little golden shoe to kiss; smiled very sweetly, and
said, 'You write Greek better than any other author of our day,
Procopius. So beautifully and so truly! I have been advised to sink you
to the dumb fishes in the Bosphorus. But the man who so well told the
truth when it was bitter to us, will also tell the truth when it is
sweet to our ears. The greatest censurer of Justinian shall be his
greatest panegyrist. Your punishment for the book upon Justinian's
warlike deeds--shall be a book upon Justinian's peaceful deeds. You
will write by the imperial order a book upon the edifices erected by
the Emperor. You cannot deny that he has done great things in that
line. If you were a better jurist than your camp-life with the great
Belisarius has, unfortunately, allowed you to become--you should
describe the Emperor's great piece of mosaic--his pandects. But for
that your legal education is not complete enough' (and she was right!).
'Therefore you will describe the edifices of Justinian; and you
yourself will be a living monument of his generosity. For you must
confess that, for far less heinous offences, many an author under
former Emperors has lost eyes, nose, and other things that it is
disagreeable to miss. No Emperor has ever allowed such things to be
said of him, and, moreover, rewarded candour with new commissions. But
if the edifices of Justinian were to displease you, then indeed I fear
you would not long outlive your want of taste--the gods would punish
such ingratitude with a speedy death. See, I have procured this reward
for you--for Justinian would have made you senator--so that you may
be right in your assertion that Theodora possesses a pernicious and
all-commanding influence!' Another kiss of her foot; of which she took
advantage playfully to strike me on the mouth with her shoe. I had made
my will before going to this audience. You now see how this demon in a
woman's form revenges herself upon me! One really cannot censure the
edifices erected by Justinian: one can only be silent--or praise them.
If I remain silent, it will cost me my life. If I speak and do not
praise, it will cost my life and my veracity. Therefore I must either
praise or die. And I am weak enough," concluded Procopius with a sigh,
"to prefer to praise and live."

"You have consumed so much Thucydides and Tacitus, dry or liquid," said
the guest, filling the glasses, "and yet have become neither a
Thucydides nor a Tacitus!"

"I would rather let my long-named friend cut off my left hand also than
write about these buildings."

"Keep your hand. But, after the public panegyric on the buildings,
write a secret history of the shameful deeds of Justinian and
Theodora."

Procopius sprang from his seat.

"That would be devilish, but grand! The advice is worthy of you,
friend. For that you shall have one of the nine muses of Herodotus from
my cellar--my oldest, dearest, most excellent wine. Oh! this secret
history shall excite astonishment! The only pity is that I cannot
relate the most filthy and most murderous deeds. I should die of
disgust. And that which I can write will be always looked upon as
immensely exaggerated. And what will posterity say of Procopius, who
left a panegyric, a criticism, and an accusation--one and all on
Justinian?"

"Posterity will say that he was the greatest historian, but also the
son and the victim, of the Empire of Byzantium. Revenge yourself; she
has left you your clever head and your left hand. Well, your left hand
need not know what your right hand formerly wrote. Draw the picture of
this Empress and her husband for all future generations. Then _they_
will not have conquered with their buildings, but _you_ with your
secret history.  They would have punished limited candour; you will
punish them by an unlimited revelation of the truth. Every one revenges
himself with his own weapons--the bull with his horns, the warrior with
his sword, the author by his pen."

"Particularly," said Procopius, "when he has only his left hand. I
thank you, and will follow your advice, Cethegus. I will write the
'Secret History' in revenge for the 'Edifices.' But now it is your turn
to tell your story. I know the progress of events, through letters and
the report of fugitives from Rome, or legionaries set free by Totila,
until the time when you were last seen in your house, or, as they say,
were last heard. Now relate what happened afterwards, you Prefect
without a city!"

"Immediately," said Cethegus. "But tell me first, how did Belisarius
succeed in the last Persian war?"

"As usual. You should not need to ask such a question! He had really
beaten the enemy, and was on the point of forcing the Persian King,
Chosroes, the son of Kabades, to conclude a lasting peace. Just then
Areobindos, the Prince of Purple Snails, appeared in the camp with the
announcement of an armistice of half a year's duration, granted,
unknown to Belisarius, by Byzantium. Justinian had long ago entered
into secret negotiations with Chosroes; he needed money; he again
pretended to mistrust Belisarius, and let the Persian King escape for a
hundred tons of gold, just as we were about to draw the net over him.
Narses was wiser. When the Prince of Purple Snails came to him, on the
Saracen side of the scene of war, he declared that the ambassador must
be either a forger or a madman, took him prisoner, and continued the
war until he had completely vanquished the Saracens. Then he sent the
imperial ambassador back with an excuse to Byzantium. But the best
excuse was the keys and treasures of seventy forts and towns which he
had wrested from the enemy during the armistice, which Belisarius had
respected."

"This Narses is----"

"The greatest man of our time," said Procopius, "the Prefect of Rome not
excepted; for he does not, like the latter, wish for impossibilities.
But we--that is, Belisarius and the cripple Procopius--always growling
and grumbling, yet always as faithful as a poodle-dog, and never taught
by experience, kept the armistice, gnashed our teeth, and returned to
Byzantium. And now we wait for new commissions, laurels, and kicks.
Fortunately, Antonina has renounced her inclination for the flowers and
verses of other men, and so the couple--the lion and the dove--live
very happily together here in Byzantium. Belisarius, day and night,
naturally thinks of nothing but how he can again prove his heroism and
devotion to his imperial master. Justinian is his folly, as Belisarius
is mine. But now for your story."



                              CHAPTER VI.

Cethegus took a deep draught from the cup which stood before him, which
was made of chased gold and shaped like a tower.

He was considerably changed since that last night in Rome. The wrinkles
on his temples were more sharply defined; his lip more firmly closed;
his under-lip protruded still farther than before; and the ironical
smile, which used to make him look younger and handsomer, very rarely
played round the corners of his mouth. His eyes were generally half
shut; only sometimes did he raise the lids to dart a glance, which,
always dreaded by those upon whom it fell, now appeared more cruel and
piercing than ever.

He seemed to have become, not older, but harsher, more inexorable, and
more merciless.

"You know," he began, "all that happened until the fall of Rome. In one
night I lost the city, the Capitol, my house, and my Cæsar! The crash
of the fall of that image pained me more than the arrows of the Goths,
or even of the Romans. As I was about to punish the destroyer of my
Cæsar, my senses forsook me. I fell at the foot of the statue of
Jupiter. I was restored to my senses by the cool breeze that blows over
the Tiber, and which once before, twenty years ago, had restored a
wounded man."

He paused.

"Of that another time, perhaps--perhaps never," he said, hastily
cutting short a question from his host. "This time Lucius Licinius--his
brother died for Rome and for me--and the faithful Moor, who had
escaped the Black Earl as if by miracle, saved my life. Cast out of the
front entrance by Teja--who, in his eagerness to murder the master, had
no time to murder the slave--Syphax hurried to the back-door. There he
met Lucius Licinius, who had only just then reached my house by a
side-street. Together they followed the trace of my blood to the hall
of the Jupiter. There they found me senseless, and had just time to
lower me from the window, like a piece of baggage, into the court.
Syphax jumped down and received me from the hands of the tribune, who
then quickly followed, and they hurried with me to the river.

"There very few people were to be seen, for all the Goths and friendly
Romans had followed the King to the Capitol to help to extinguish the
flames. Totila had expressly ordered--I hope to his destruction!--that
all non-combatants should be spared and left unmolested. So my bearers
were allowed to pass everywhere. It was thought that they carried a
dead man. And they themselves, for some time, thought so too. In the
river they found an empty fishing-boat full of nets. They laid me in
it. Syphax threw my bloody mantle, with the purple hem of the 'princeps
senatus,' upon the shore, in order to mislead my enemies. They covered
me with sail-cloth and nets, and rowed down the river, through the
still burning boats. When we had passed them, I came to myself. Syphax
bathed my face with the water of the Tiber. My first glance fell on the
still burning Capitol. They told me that my first exclamation was,
'Turn back! the Capitol!' And they were obliged to keep me quiet by
force. My first clear thought was naturally: 'To return; to take
revenge; to re-conquer Rome.' In the harbour of Portus we met with an
Italian ship laden with grain. There were seven rowers in it. My
companions approached it to beg for wine and bread, for they also were
wounded and exhausted. The rowers recognised me. One of them wanted to
take me prisoner and deliver me up to the Goths, sure of a rich reward.
But the other six had served under me at the Mausoleum. I had nourished
them for years. They slew the man who wanted to betray me, and promised
Lucius that they would save me if it were possible. They hid me in
heaps of grain while we passed the Gothic guardships which watched at
the entrance of the harbour, Lucius and Syphax put on the dress of
sailors, and rowed with the others. Thus we escaped. But while on board
this vessel I was dangerously ill from my wounds. Only the ceaseless
care of Syphax and the sea-air saved me. For days, they say, I only
reiterated the words, 'Rome, Capitol, Cæsar!' When we landed at
Panormus, in Sicily, under the protection of the Byzantines, I rapidly
recovered. My old friend Cyprianus, who had admitted me into
Theodoric's palace when I was made Prefect, received me at Panormus as
captain of the harbour. Scarcely recovered, I went to Asia Minor--or,
as you say, Asiana--to my estates; you know that I had splendid
possessions at Sardes, Philadelphia, and Tralles----"

"You have them no longer--the columned villas?"

"I sold them all, for I was obliged at once to find the means of
engaging fresh mercenaries, in order to liberate Rome and Italy."


"Tenax propositi!" cried Procopius, amazed. "You have not, even now,
given up hope?"

"Can I give up myself? I have sent Licinius to enlist a wild and savage
race, the Longobardians."

"God protect your Italy if _they_ ever set foot in it."

"I have also succeeded in winning the Empress to my cause, and by her
means the propositions of peace made by Cassiodorus were refused at the
last moment. For Rome must be freed from the barbarians! But when shall
I find means to move this lazy colossus, Justinian? When will fate call
me to my battle-field--Italia?"

At this moment Syphax entered the room. He brought Cethegus a message
from the Empress. It ran:

"To the Jupiter of the Capitol. Do not leave your house to-morrow until
I call you.--Theodora."


On the next day the Emperor Justinian was standing buried in deep
reflection before the tall golden crucifix in his room. The expression
of his face was very grave, but without a trace of alarm or doubt.
Quiet decision lay upon his features, which, else not handsome or
noble, at this moment betrayed mental power and superiority. He lifted
his eyes almost threateningly to the crucifix.

"God of the Cross," he said, "Thou puttest Thy faithful servant to a
hard proof! It seems to me that I have deserved better. Thou knowest
all that I have done to the honour of Thy name! Why do not Thy strokes
fall upon Thine enemies, the heathens and barbarians? Why not?"

He was interrupted in his soliloquy by the entrance of the chamberlains
and wardrobe-keepers.

Justinian exchanged his morning garment for the robes of state. His
slaves served him upon their knees.

He apparelled himself in a tunic of white silk, reaching to the knees,
embroidered with gold on both sides, and confined by a purple girdle.
The tightly-fitting hose were also of silk of the same colour. His
slaves threw over his shoulders a splendid mantle of a lighter shade of
purple, with a broad hem of gold thread, upon which red circles and
symbolic animal-forms, embroidered in green silk, alternated with each
other. But the pearls and precious stones which were lavishly strewed
over it, rendered the design almost invisible, and made the mantle so
heavy, that the assistance of the train-bearer must have been indeed a
welcome relief.

On each of his arms the Emperor wore three broad golden bracelets. The
wide crown was made of massive gold, arched over with two rows of
pearls. His mantle was fastened on the shoulder with a costly brooch of
large precious stones.

The sceptre-keeper put into the Emperor's hand a golden staff the
length of a man, at the top of which was a globe made out of a single
large emerald, and surmounted with a golden cross.

The Emperor grasped it firmly and rose from his seat.

A slave offered him the thick-soled buskins which he usually wore, in
order to increase his height.

"No; to-day I need no buskins," said Justinian, and left the room.

Down the Stairs of the Lions, so called from the twenty-four immense
marble lions which guarded the twelve steps, and which had been brought
from Carthage by Belisarius, the Emperor descended to a lower story,
and entered the Hall of Jerusalem.

This hall derived its name from the porphyry columns, the onyx vases,
the golden tables and the numerous golden vessels which, arranged on
pedestals and along the walls, were said to have formerly decorated the
Temple of Jerusalem. These treasures had been taken to Rome by Titus,
after the destruction of Jerusalem. From Rome the Sea-king Geiseric had
taken them on his dragon-ships, together with the Empress Eudoxia, to
his capital, Carthage. And now Belisarius had brought them from
Carthage to the Emperor of the East.

The cupola of the hall, representing the firmament, was wrought in
mosaic. Costly blue stones formed the ground-work, in which was inlaid,
besides the sun, the moon, the eye of God, the lamb, the fish, the
birds, the palm, the vine, the unicorn, and many other symbols of
Christianity, the whole zodiac and innumerable stars of massive gold.

The cost of the cupola alone was estimated as high as the whole income
of the taxes on property in all the Empire for forty-five years.

Opposite the three great arches of the entrance, which were closed by
curtains--it was the only entrance to the hall--and were guarded
outside by a threefold line of imperial body-guards--the "Golden
Shields"--stood, at the bottom of the semicircular hall, the elevated
throne of the Emperor, and below it on the left the seat of the
Empress.

When Justinian entered the hall with a numerous retinue of palace
officials, all the assembly, consisting of the highest dignitaries of
the realm, threw themselves upon their faces in humble prostration.

The Empress also rose, bowed deeply, and crossed her arms upon her
bosom. Her dress was exactly similar to that of her husband. Her white
stola was also covered by a purple mantle, but without hem. She carried
a very short sceptre of ivory.

The Emperor cast a slight but contemptuous glance at the patriarchs,
archbishops, bishops, patricians and senators, who, above thirty in
number, occupied a row of gilded chairs set in a semicircle and
provided with cushions. He then passed through the middle of the hall
and ascended his throne with a quick firm step. Twelve of the chief
officers of the palace stood upon the steps of the two thrones, holding
white wands in their hands. A blast of trumpets gave the signal to the
kneeling assembly to rise.

"Reverend bishops and worthy senators," began the Emperor, "we have
called you together, to ask your advice in an affair of great moment.
But why is our Magister Militum per Orientum, Narses, absent?"

"He returned only yesterday from Persia--he is sick and confined to
bed," answered the usher.

"Where is our treasurer of the Sacri Palatii, Trebonianus?"

"He has not yet returned from his embassy to Berytus about the code."

"Where is Belisarius, our Magister Militum per Orientum extra Ordinem?"

"He does not reside in Byzantium, but in Asia, in the Red House at
Sycæ."

"He keeps too far apart in the Red House. It displeases us. Why does he
avoid our presence?"

"He could not be found."


"Not even in the house of his freedman, Photius?"

"He has gone hunting to try the Persian hunting-leopards," said Leo,
the assistant-huntsman.

"He is never to be found when wanted, and is always present when not
wanted. I am not content with Belisarius.--Hear now what has lately
been communicated to me by letter; afterwards you shall hear the report
of the envoys themselves. You know that we have allowed the war in
Italy to die away--for we had other occupation for our generals. You
know that the barbarian King sued for peace and the quiet possession of
Italy. We rejected it at that time; awaiting more convenient
circumstances. The Goth has answered, not in words, but by very
insolent deeds. No one in Byzantium knows of it--we kept the news to
ourselves, thinking it impossible, or at least exaggerated. But we find
that it is true; and now you shall hear it and advise upon it. The
barbarian King has sent a fleet and an army to Dalmatia with great
haste and secrecy. The fleet entered the harbour of Muicurum near
Salona; the army landed and carried the fortress by storm. In a similar
way the fleet surprised the coast-town of Laureata. Claudianus, our
governor at Salona, sent numerous and strongly-manned vessels to retake
the town from the Goths. But a naval combat took place, and the Goth,
Duke Guntharis, beat our Squadron so thoroughly that he made prizes of
all the vessels without exception, and carried them victoriously into
the harbour of Laureata. Further, the Gothic King equipped a second
fleet of four hundred large ships at Centumcellæ. It was formed for the
most part of Byzantine vessels, which, sent from the East to Sicily to
reinforce Belisarius, in ignorance that the Italian harbours were again
in possession of the Goths, had been taken by a Gothic earl, Grippa,
with all their crews and freights. The goal of this second fleet was
unknown. But suddenly the barbarian King himself appeared with the
fleet before Regium, the fortress in the extreme southern part of
Bruttia, which place we had won on our first landing in Italy, and had
not since lost. After a brave resistance, the garrison of Herulians and
Massagetæ were forced to capitulate. But the tyrant Totila sailed
immediately to Sicily, to wrest from us that earliest of Belisarius's
conquests. He beat the Roman governor Domnentiolus, who met him in the
open field, and in a short time took possession of the whole island,
with the exception of Messana, Panormus and Syracusæ, which were
enabled to hold out by reason of their formidable fortifications. A
fleet which I sent to attempt the reconquest of Sicily was dispersed by
a storm. A second was driven by the north-west wind to the
Peloponnesus. At the same time a third fleet of triremes, equipped by
this indefatigable King and commanded by Earl Haduswinth, sailed for
Corsica and Sardinia. The first of these islands presently fell to the
Goths, after the imperial garrison of the capital city of Alexia had
been beaten before the walls. The rich Corsican Furius Ahalla, to whom
the greater part of the island belongs, was absent in India. But his
stewards and tenants had been ordered, in case of a landing of the
Goths, in nowise to oppose them, but to aid them to the best of their
power. From Corsica the barbarians turned to Sardinia. Here, near
Karalis, they beat the troops which our magister militum had sent from
Africa to conquer the island, and took Karalis as well as Sulci, Castra
Trajani and Turres. The Goths then settled down in both islands and
treated them as permanently-acquired dependencies of the Gothic
kingdom, placing Gothic commanders in all the towns, and raising taxes
according to Gothic law. Strange to say, these taxes are far less heavy
than ours, and the inhabitants shamelessly declare that they would
rather pay the barbarians fifty than ninety to us. But all this was not
enough. Sailing to the north-east from Sicily, the tyrant Totila united
his squadron with a fourth fleet, under Earl Teja, off Hydrus. Part of
this united fleet, under Earl Thorismuth, sailed to Corcyra, took
possession of that island, and thence conquered all the surrounding
islands. But not yet enough. The tyrant Totila and Earl Teja already
attack the mainland of our Empire."

A murmur of terror interrupted the august speaker.

Justinian resumed in an angry voice:

"They have landed in the harbour of Epirus vetus, carried the towns
Nicopolis and Anchisus, south-west of the ancient Dodona, and taken a
great many of our ships along the coast. All this may excite your
indignation against the insolence of these barbarians; but you have now
to hear what will move you in a different way. Briefly, according to
reports which reached me yesterday, it is certain that the Goths are in
full march upon Byzantium itself!"

At this some of the senators sprang to their feet.

"They intend a double attack. Their united fleet, commanded by Duke
Guntharis, Earls Markja, Grippa, and Thorismuth, has beaten, in a
combat of two days' duration, the fleet which protected our island
provinces, and has driven it into the straits of Sestos and Abydos.
Their army, under Totila and Teja, is marching across Thessaly by way
of Dodona against Macedonia. Thessalonica is already threatened. Earl
Teja has razed to the ground the 'New Wall' which we had there erected.
The road to Byzantium is open. And no army stands between us and the
barbarians. All our troops are on the Persian frontier. And now listen
to what the Goth proposes. Fortunately God has befooled and blinded him
to our weakness. He again offers us peace under the former conditions,
with the one exception that he now intends to keep possession of
Sicily. But he will evacuate all his other conquests if we will
acknowledge his rule in Italy. As I had no means, neither fleets nor
cohorts, to stop his victorious course, I have, for the present,
demanded an armistice. This he has agreed to, on condition that
afterwards peace is to be concluded on the former conditions. I have
agreed to this----"

And, pausing, the Emperor cast a searching glance at the assembly, and
looked askance at the Empress.

The assembly was evidently relieved. The Empress closed her eyes in
order to conceal their expression. Her small hand grasped convulsively
the arm of her throne.

"But I agreed to it with the reservation that I should first hear the
opinion of my wife, who has lately been an advocate for peace, and that
also of my wise senate. I added that I myself was inclined to peace."

All present looked more at ease.

"And I believed that I could tell beforehand what would be the decision
of my counsellors. Upon this understanding, the horsemen of Earl Teja
unwillingly halted at Thessalonica; unfortunately they had already
taken prisoner the bishop of that city. But they have sent him here
with other prisoners, carrying messages and letters--you shall hear
them and then decide. Reflect that if we refuse to conclude a peace,
the barbarians will soon stand before our gates, and that we are only
asked to yield that which the Empire has given up long ago, and which
Belisarius in two campaigns failed to reconquer--Italia! Let the envoys
approach."

Through the arches of the entrance the body-guard now led in several
men, in clerical, official, and military costume. Trembling and
sighing, they threw themselves at the feet of Justinian. Even tears
were not wanting.

At a sign from the Emperor they rose again, and stood before the steps
of the throne.

"Your petitions and lamentations," said the Emperor, "I received
yesterday. Protonotary, now read to us the letter from the Bishop of
Nicopolis and the wounded Governor of Illyricum--since then the latter
has succumbed to his wounds."

The protonotary read:

"To Justinianus, the unconquerable Emperor of the Romani, Dorotheos,
Bishop of Nicopolis, and Nazares, Governor of Illyricum. The place
whence we write these words will be the best proof of their gravity. We
write on board the royal barge of the Gothic King, the _Italia_. When
you read these words, you will have already learned the defeat of the
fleet, the loss of the islands, the storming of the 'New Wall,' and the
destruction of the army of Illyricum. Quicker than the messengers and
the fugitives from these battles, have the Gothic pursuers reached us.
The Gothic King has conquered and spared Nicopolis. Earl Teja has
conquered and burnt Anchisus. I, Nazares, have served in the army for
thirty years--and never have I seen such an attack as that in which
Earl Teja overthrew me at the gates of Anchisus. They are irresistible,
these Goths! Their horsemen sweep the country from Thessalonica to
Philippi. The Goths in the heart of Illyricum! That has not been heard
of for sixty years. And the King has sworn to return every year until
he has peace--or Byzantium! Since he won Corcyra and the Sybotes, he
stands upon the bridge of your Empire. Therefore, as God has touched
the heart of this King, as he offers peace at a moderate price--the
price of what he has actually gained--we beseech you, in the name of
your trembling subjects, and of your smoking towns, to conclude a
peace! Save us and save Byzantium! For your generals Belisarius and
Narses will rather be able to stop the course of the sun and the
blowing of the wind, than to stay King Totila and the terrible Teja."

"They are prisoners," said the Emperor, interrupting the reader; "and
perhaps they speak in fear of death. Now it is your turn to speak,
venerable Bishop of Thessalonica; you, Anatolius, commander of Dodona;
and you, Parmenio, brave captain of the Macedonian lancers. You are
safe here under our imperial protection, but you have seen the
barbarian generals. What do you advise?"

At this the aged Bishop of Thessalonica again threw himself upon his
knees, and cried:

"O Emperor of the Romani, the barbarian King, Totila, is a heretic, and
accursed for ever, yet never have I seen a man more richly endowed with
all Christian virtues! Do not strive with him! In the other world he
will be damned for ever, but--I cannot comprehend it--on earth God
blesses all his ways. He is irresistible!"

"I understand it well," interposed Anatolius. "It is his craft which
wins for him all hearts--the deepest hypocrisy, a power of
dissimulation which outdoes all our much-renowned and defamed Grecian
cunning. The barbarian plays the part of a philanthropist so
excellently, that he almost deceived me, until I reflected that there
was no such thing in the world as the love which this man pretends,
with all the art of a comedian. He acts as if he really felt compassion
for his conquered enemies! He feeds the hungry, he divides the
booty--your tax-money, O Emperor!--amongst the country people, whose
fields have been devastated by the war. Women who had fled into the
woods, and were found by his horsemen, he returns uninjured to their
husbands. He enters the villages to the sound of a harp, played by a
beautiful youth, who leads his horse. Do you know what is the
consequence? Your own subjects, O Emperor of the Romani, rebel to him,
and deliver your officers, who have obeyed your severe laws, into his
hands. The peasants and farmers of Dodona did so by me. This barbarian
is the greatest comedian of the century, and the clever hypocrite
understands many other things besides fighting. He has entered into an
alliance against you with the distant Persians, with your inveterate
enemy Chosroes. We ourselves saw the Persian ambassador ride out of his
camp towards the East."

When Anatolius had ceased speaking, the Macedonian captain gave his
report, which ran:

"Ruler of the Romani--since Earl Teja gained the high-road of
Thessalonica, nothing stands between your throne and his battle-axe but
the walls of this city. He who stormed the 'New Wall' eight times in
succession, and carried it at the ninth attempt, will carry the walls
of Byzantium at the tenth. You can only repel the Goths if you have
sevenfold their number. If you have it not, then conclude a peace."

"Peace! peace! we beseech you, in the name of your trembling provinces
of Epirus, Thessaly, and Macedonia!"

"Deliver us from the Goths!"

"Let us not again see the days of Alaric and Theodoric!"

"Peace with the Goths! Peace! peace!"

And all the envoys, bishops, officials, and warriors sank upon their
knees with the cry of "Peace!"

The effect upon the assembly was fearful.

It had often happened that Persians and Saracens in the east. Moors in
the south, and Bulgarians and Slavonians in the north-west, had made
incursions into the country, slaying and plundering, and had sometimes
beaten the troops sent against them, and escaped unhindered with their
booty. But that Grecian islands should be permanently conquered by the
enemy, that Grecian harbours should be won and governed by barbarians,
and that the high-road to Byzantium should be dominated by Goths, was
unheard of.

With dismay the senators thought of the days when Gothic ships and
Gothic armies should overrun all the Grecian islands, and repeatedly
storm the walls of Byzantium, only to be stopped by the fulfilment of
all their demands. They already seemed to hear the battle-axe of the
"Black Earl" knocking at their gates.

Quietly and searchingly did Justinian look into the rows of anxious
faces on his right and on his left.

"You have heard," he then began, "what Church, State, and Army desire.
I now ask your opinion. We have already accomplished an armistice.
Shall war or shall peace ensue? One word will buy peace--our assent to
the cession of Italy, which is already lost. Whoever among you is in
favour of war, let him hold up his hand."

No one moved; for the senators were afraid for Byzantium, and they had
no doubt of the Emperor's inclination for peace.

"My senate unanimously declares for peace. I knew it beforehand," said
Justinian, with a singular smile. "I am accustomed always to follow the
advice of my wise councillors--and of my Empress."

At this word Theodora started from her seat, and threw her ivory
sceptre from her with such violence, that it flew far across the hall.

The senators were startled.

"Then farewell," cried the Empress, "farewell to what has ever been my
pride--my belief in Justinian and his imperial dignity! Farewell all
share in the cares and honours of the state! Alas, Justinian! alas for
you and me that I must hear such words from your lips!"

And she hid her face in her purple mantle, in order to conceal the
agony which her excitement caused her.

The Emperor turned towards her.

"What! the Augusta, my wife, who, since Belisarius returned to
Byzantium for the second time, has always advocated peace--with a short
exception--does she now, in such a time of danger, advise----"

"War!" cried Theodora, uncovering her face. And, in her intense
earnestness, she looked more beautiful than she ever did when smiling
in playful sport. "Must I, your wife, remind you of your honour? Will
you suffer these barbarians to fix themselves firmly in your Empire,
and force you to their will? You, who dreamt of the re-establishment of
the Empire of Constantine! You, Justinian, who have taken the names of
Persicus, Vandalicus, Alanicus, and Gothicus--you will allow this
Gothic stripling to lead you by the beard whithersoever he will? Are
you not the same Justinian who has been admired by the world, by
Byzantium, and by Theodora? Our admiration was an error!"

On hearing these words, the Patriarch of Byzantium--he still believed
that the Emperor had irrevocably decided upon peace--took courage to
oppose the Empress, who did not always hit upon the strict definition
of orthodoxy of which he was the representative.

"What!" he said, "the august lady advises bloody war? Verily, the Holy
Church has no need to plead for the heretic. Notwithstanding, the new
King is wonderfully mild towards the Catholics in Italy; and we can
wait for more favourable times, until----"

"No, priest!" interrupted Theodora; "the outraged honour of this Empire
can wait no longer! O Justinian!"--he still remained obstinately
silent--"O Justinian, let us not be deceived in you! You dare not let
that be wrung from you by defiance which you refused to humble
petitions! Must I remind you that once before your wife's advice, and
will, and courage, saved your honour? Have you forgotten the terrible
rebellion of the Nika? Have you forgotten how the united parties of the
Circus, of the frantic mob of Byzantium, attacked this house? The
flames arose, and the cry of 'Down with the tyrants!' rang in our ears.
All your councillors advised flight or compliance; all these reverend
bishops and wise senators, and even your generals; for Narses was away
in distant Asia, and Belisarius was shut up by the rebels in the palace
on the shore. All were in despair. Your wife Theodora was the only hero
by your side. If you had yielded or fled, your throne, your life, and
most certainly your honour, would have been lost. You hesitated. You
were inclined to fly. 'Remain, and die if need be,' I then said; 'but
die in the purple!' And you remained, and your courage saved you. You
awaited death upon your throne, with me at your side--and God sent
Belisarius to our relief! I speak the same now. Do not yield. Emperor
of the Romani--do not yield to the barbarians! Stand firm. Let the
ruins of the Golden Gate overwhelm you if the axe of the terrible Goth
can force it; but die an Emperor! This purple is stained by the
immeasurable insolence of these Germans. I throw it from me, and I
swear by the wisdom of God, never will I again resume it until the
Empire is rid of the Goths!"

And she tore off her mantle and threw it down upon the steps of the
throne. But then, greatly exhausted, she was on the point of sinking
back into her seat when Justinianus caught her in his arms and pressed
her to his bosom.

"Theodora," he cried, "my glorious wife! You need no purple on your
shoulders--your spirit is clothed in purple! You alone understand
Justinian. War, and destruction to the Goths!"

At this spectacle the trembling senators were overwhelmed with terror
and astonishment.

"Yes, wise fathers," cried the Emperor, turning to the assembly, "this
time you were too clever to be men. It is indeed an honour to be called
Constantine's successor, but it is no honour to be _your_ master! Our
enemies, I fear, are right; Constantine only planted here the dead
mummy of Rome, but the soul of Rome had already fled. Alas for the
Empire! Were it free or a republic, it would now have sunk in shame for
ever. It must have a master, who, when, like a lazy horse, it threatens
to sink into the quagmire, pulls it up by the rein; a strong master
with bridle, whip, and spurs!"

At this moment a little crooked man, leaning on a crutch, forced his
way into the hall, and limped up to the steps of the throne.

"Emperor of the Romani," he began, when he rose from his obeisance, "a
report reached me on my bed of pain of all that the barbarians had
dared, and of what was going on here. I gathered all my strength and
dragged myself here with difficulty, for, by one word from you, I must
learn whether I have been a fool from the beginning in holding you to
be a great ruler in spite of many weaknesses; whether I shall throw
your marshal's staff into the deepest well, or still carry it with
pride! Speak only one word: war or peace?"

"War! war!" cried Justinian, and his countenance beamed.

"Victory! Justinian!" cried the general. "Oh, let me kiss your hand,
great Emperor!" and he limped up the steps of the throne.

"But how is this, patrician, you have all at once become a man!" mocked
the Empress. "You were always against the war with the Goths. Have you
suddenly become endowed with a sense of honour?"

"Honour!" cried Narses, "after that gay soap-bubble Belisarius, that
great child, may run! Not honour but the Empire is at stake. As long as
danger threatened from the east, I advised the Persian war. Nothing was
to be feared from the Goths. But now your piety, O Empress, and
Belisarius's hero-sword, have stirred up the hornets' nest so long,
that at last the whole swarm flies dangerously into our faces. Now the
danger threatens from that side, and I advise a Gothic war. The Goths
are nearer to Byzantium than Chosroes to the eastern frontier. He who,
like this Totila, can raise a kingdom from an abyss, can much more
easily hurl another kingdom into an abyss. This young King is a worker
of miracles, and must be stopped in time."

"For this once," said Justinian, "I have the rare pleasure of finding
my Empress and Narses of one mind."

He was on the point of dismissing the assembly, when the Empress caught
his arm.

"Stay, my husband," she said. "To-day, for the second time, I have the
honour to be proved your best adviser! Is it not so? Then listen to me
and follow my further advice. Keep this wise assembly--all except
Narses--confined in this hall.--Do not tremble, Illustrissimi; this
time your lives are not in jeopardy. But you are unable to keep a
secret; at least unless your tongues are slit. For this time, we will
insure your silence by confinement.--There exists a conspiracy against
your life, Justinian, or at least against your free will. A certain
party had decided to force you to a war with the Goths. This object,
truly, is now attained. But either to-night or to-morrow early the
conspirators will again finally assemble. We must allow them to do so.
We must not hinder them in their purpose by letting them know that
their object is already planned. For dangerous persons--persons
suspected long ago, and--O Justinian--very very _rich_ persons are
concerned in it. It would be a pity if they escaped my snare."

Justinian was not alarmed at the word conspiracy.

"I also knew of it," he said. "But is it already so far advanced?
To-morrow! Theodora," he cried, "you are more to the Empire than
Belisarius or Narses!--Captain of the Golden Shields, you will keep all
present confined here until Narses comes to fetch them. Meanwhile, my
pious and wise fathers, reflect upon this hour and its teachings!
Narses, follow us and the Empress."

So saying, Justinian descended the steps of the throne. When he, with
Theodora and Narses, had left the Hall of Jerusalem, the entrance was
immediately blocked with threatening spears.



                              CHAPTER VII.


The Emperor ordered the Empress and Narses to follow him to his room.

When they reached it, he embraced his wife with great tenderness,
unembarrassed by the presence of a witness.

"How your enthusiasm rejoices and exalts me!" he exclaimed. "I am proud
of such a wife. How beautiful you were, O Theodora, in your noble
indignation. How can I reward you! Choose any favour, any sign of my
gratitude, my best and truest councillor and co-ruler?"

"If I, a weak woman, dare indeed believe that I may share your thoughts
and plans in this war, then confide in me, and tell me how you intend
to conduct it."

"I am resolved to send Belisarius again to Italy. But not alone. His
trifling with a crown has made me wary."

"Then I beg the favour of being allowed to propose a second
general.--Narses," she continued, before Justinian could speak, "will
you be the other?"

She wished to make it impossible for him to go.

"No, I thank you," Narses answered bitterly. "You know that I am a
stubborn and ill-tempered horse; I cannot endure to draw together with
another. A marshal's staff and a wife, Justinian, should be kept on the
same condition."

"How?"

"Alone, or not at all."

"Then _you_ not at all," answered Justinian with vexation. "You must not
imagine that you are indispensable, magister militum."

"No one on earth is so, Justinian. With all my heart! Send great
Belisarius again! He may try his luck for the third time in that
country, where laurels grow so thickly. My turn will come later. I am
no doubt unnecessary here as a witness of your domestic felicity, and
at home, opposite to my sickbed, stands a map of the Italian roads.
Allow me to continue my study of it. It is more interesting than the
map of our Persian frontier. One piece of advice. You will ultimately
be obliged to send Narses to Italy. The sooner you send him the more
you will spare yourself defeat, vexation, and money. And if gout or
that wretched epilepsy should carry Narses off before King Totila lies
upon his shield, who then will conquer Italy for you? You believe in
prophecy. In Italy there runs a saying: 'T beats B, N beats T.'"

"Does that mean, perhaps, that Theodora beat Belisarius, and Narses
beats Theodora?" asked the Empress mockingly.

"That is not _my_ interpretation of the riddle; it is yours. But I
accept it. Do you know which was the wisest of your many laws, O
Justinian?"

"Well?"

"That which made death the punishment of all accusations against the
Empress, for it was the only way in which you could keep her." And he
left the room.

"The insolent fellow!" cried Theodora, sending a venomous look after
him. "He dares to threaten! When Belisarius has once been rendered
harmless, Narses must quickly follow."

"But meanwhile we need them both," said Justinian. "Do you really
propose, as the second general to be sent to Italy, the man who
persuaded us to reject the proposals of Cassiodorus?"

"The same."

"But my distrust of that ambitious man has since then become stronger."

"Have you then forgotten," retorted Theodora, "who revealed the
intentions of Silverius? Who was the first to warn you of Belisarius's
dangerous game?"

"But he now frequents the company of the men who are conspiring against
me!"

"Yes; but, O Justinian, it is by my order, as their destroyer."

"Indeed! But if he is also deceiving you?"

"Will you believe him and me, and send him to Italy, if he brings the
conspirators to your feet in chains to-morrow, and amongst them their
unknown chief?"

"I already know who it is; it is Photius, the freedman of Belisarius."

"No, Justinian; it is he whom you would again send to Italy if I did
not warn you: Belisarius himself!"

The Emperor grew pale, and grasped the arm of his chair.  "Will you now
believe in that wonderful Roman's devotion, and send him to Italy with
your army, instead of Belisarius?"

"Everything, everything!" said Justinian. "Belisarius, then, is really
a traitor! Then we must make haste! Let us act at once."

"I have already acted, Justinian. My net is cast, and no one can
escape. Give me full power to draw it close."

The Emperor nodded acquiescence.

And passing through the curtains, Theodora said to the door-keeper:

"Fetch Cethegus, the Prefect of Rome, from his house, and take him to
my room."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Shortly after, Cethegus once more stood before the still seductive
woman, whom he had known in youth. She was lying stretched upon her
couch in the room in which we have before seen her.

Galatea frequently handed to her a small onyx-cup, filled with the
drops prescribed by her Persian physician. Grecian doctors no longer
sufficed.

"I thank you, Theodora," said Cethegus, after a friendly greeting, "and
if I must thank any other than myself--and a woman!--I would rather owe
something to my early friend than to another."

"Listen, Prefect," said Theodora, looking gravely at him. "You would be
just the man--shall I say the barbarian or the Roman?--to first kiss a
Cleopatra whom a Cæsar and an Antony had adored, and then take her in
triumph to the Capitol in order to strangle her, as, perhaps,
Octavianus once intended, if that sly Queen had not been beforehand
with him. Cleopatra has always been my model. 'Tis true, I have never
found a Cæsar. But the asp, perhaps, will not be wanting. But you need
not thank me. I have spoken and acted out of conviction. The insolence
which we have suffered from these Goths must be smothered in blood.
Perhaps I have not always been such a faithful wife as Justinian
believed; but I was always his best and truest adviser. Belisarius and
Narses cannot be sent together, and still less singly, to Italy. You
shall go. You are a hero, a general, and a statesman, and yet you are
too weak to harm Justinian."

"Thanks for your good opinion," said Cethegus.

"Friend, you are a general without an army, an Emperor without an
empire, a pilot without a ship. But enough of this--you will not
believe me. I send you to Italy because I believe that you hate the
barbarians with all your heart. The second general, whom the imperial
distrust will undoubtedly send after you, shall be Areobindos. He will
not trouble you much! I am rejoiced that I can thus serve not only my
old companion but also the Empire. Ah, Cethegus, our youth! To you men
it is either golden hopes or golden memories: to a woman it is life
itself! Oh for a single day of the time when I sent you roses and you
sent me verses!"

"Your roses were beautiful, Theodora, but my verses were poor."

"They were fine to me, for they were addressed to me! My choice of you,
which is necessary for the Empire, is sweetened by old and new hate as
well as by old love. Belisarius must not rise to new honours. He must
fall, and this time fall low and for ever. As sure as I live!"

"And Narses? I should understand and like it better if you were to ruin
that head without an arm, than this arm without a head."

"Patience! One after the other."

"What has the good-natured hero done to you?"

"He? Nothing. But his wife! that clumsy Antonina, whose whole triumph
lies in her good health."

And the delicate Empress clenched her little white fist, the fingers of
which had become more transparent than ever.

"Ah," she exclaimed, "how I hate her! Yes, and I envy her too! Stupid
people are always healthy. But she shall not rejoice while I suffer!"

"And the fate of the Capitol depends upon such a woman's hatred!"
exclaimed Cethegus to himself. "Down with Cleopatra!"

"The foolish woman is in love with her husband's honour and glory.
There I can wound her fatally!" continued Theodora.

As she spoke the twitching of her delicate features betrayed an attack
of acute pain; she threw herself back upon her cushions.

"My little dove," said Galatea, "do not be angry. Thou knowest what the
Persian said. Every excitement, be it of love or of hate----"

"Yes. To hate and to love is life! And as one grows older, hatred is
almost sweeter than love. Love is false; hate is true."

"In both," said Cethegus, "I am a novice compared to you. I have always
called you the Siren of Cyprus. One can never be sure that you will not
suddenly tear your victim in the very act of embracing him--either from
love, or from hate. And what has suddenly changed your love of Antonina
into hatred?"

"She has become virtuous, the hypocrite! Or can she be really so
weak-minded? It is possible. Her fishy blood can never be made to boil.
For a strong passion or a bold crime she was always too cowardly. She
is too vain to forego admiration and too paltry to reciprocate it.
Since she accompanied her husband on his campaign she has become quite
virtuous. Ha, ha, ha! because she was obliged! Even as the devil fasts
when he has nothing to eat. Because I kept her lover a prisoner."

"Anicius, the son of Boëthius? I heard of it."

"Yes, he. When in Italy Antonina again clung to her husband and shared
his fame and his misfortunes. And since that time she is a very
Penelope! When she returned here, what did the goose do? She reproached
me with having enticed her from the path of virtue! and swore that she
would save Anicius from my toils. And she succeeds, the snake! She
opens the gates of conscience and weans my unfaithful chamberlain more
and more from me--of course only to keep him for herself."

"So you cannot imagine," said Cethegus, "that any woman can try to save
a soul?"

"Without profit? No. But at the same time she deceives herself and him
by pious speeches. And oh! how gladly the youth allows himself to be
saved by this youthful blooming saint from the arms of the faded
woman--who is wasted before her time! Ha!" she added passionately,
starting from her seat, "how pitiable that the body must succumb from
fatigue before the soul has half satisfied its thirst for life! And to
live is to rule, to hate, and to love!"

"You seem insatiable in these arts and enjoyments."

"Yes," cried Theodora, "and I am proud of it. Must I indeed leave the
richly-spread table of existence, must I leave this imperial throne,
with all my ardent love of joy and power still unquenched? Shall I only
sip a few more drops? Oh, Nature is a miserable blunderer! Once in many
thousand ages she creates, amid a host of cripples, ugly in body and
weak in mind, a soul and body like mine, perfect and strong, and full
of the longing to live and to enjoy for an eternity. And, when only six
lustres have passed, when I have scarcely sipped of the full cup
offered to me. Nature dries up the spring of life! A curse upon the
envy of the gods! But men can envy too, and envy changes them into
demons. Others shall not enjoy when I can do so no longer! Others shall
no more laugh when I must writhe in agony all night long! Antonina
shall not rejoice in her youth with the false man who was once mine and
yet could think of another, or of virtue, or of heaven! Anicius has
told me this very day that he can bear this life without fame and
honour no more--that heaven and earth call him away. He shall repent
it--together with her. Come, Cethegus," she said furiously, grasping
his arm, "come; we will destroy them both!"

"You forget," said Cethegus coldly, "that I have no reason to hate
either her or him. So what I do will be done for your sake."

"Not so, you wise and icy Roman! Do you believe that I do not see
through you?"

"I hope not," thought Cethegus.

"You wish to keep Belisarius away from Italy. You wish to fight and
conquer alone. Or at most with a shadow beside you, such as Bessas was
and Areobindos will be. Do you think I did not understand why you so
cleverly managed the recall of Belisarius when before Ravenna? Anxiety
for Justinian! What is Justinian to you?"

Cethegus felt his heart beat.

"The freedom of Rome!" continued Theodora. "Nonsense! You know that
only strong and simple men can be trusted with freedom. And you know
your Quirites. No, your aim lies higher."

"Is it possible that this woman guesses what all my enemies and friends
do not even suspect?" thought Cethegus.

"You wish to free Italy alone, and alone rule her as Justinian's
vice-regent. To be next to his throne, high above Belisarius and
Narses, and second only to Theodora. And if there were any higher goal,
yours would be the spirit to fly at it."

Cethegus breathed again.

"That would hardly be worth the trouble," he thought.

"Oh," continued Theodora, "it is a proud feeling to be the first of
Justinian's servants!"

"Of course," thought Cethegus, "she is not capable of imagining
anything superior to her husband, although she deceives him daily."

"And," Theodora went on, "to rule _him_, the Emperor, in company with
me."

"The flattering atmosphere of this court dulls even the clearest
intellect," thought Cethegus. "It is the madness of the purple. She can
only think of herself as all-commanding."

"Yes, Cethegus," continued Theodora; "I would allow no other man even
to _think_ of this. But I will help you to obtain it. With you I will
share the mastery of the world. Perhaps only because I remember many a
foolish youthful dream. Do you still remember how, years ago, we shared
two cushions in my little villa? We called them the Orient and the
Occident. It was an omen. So will we now share the Orient and the
Occident. Through my Justinian I will rule the Orient. Through my
Cethegus I will rule the Occident!"

"Ambitious, insatiable woman!" thought Cethegus. "Oh that Mataswintha
had not died! She at this court--and you would sink for ever!"

"But to gain this," said Theodora, "Belisarius must be got out
of the way. Justinian had resolved to send him once more as your
commander-in-chief to Italy."

Cethegus frowned.

"He trusts again and again to his dog-like fidelity. He must be
thoroughly convinced of his falsity."

"That will be difficult to manage," said Cethegus. "Theodora will
sooner learn to be faithful than Belisarius to be false."

A blow from Theodora's little hand was the punishment for this speech.

"To you, foolishly, I have been ever faithful--that is, in affection.
Do you want Belisarius again in Italy?"

"On no account!"

"Then help me to ruin him, together with Anicius, the son of Boëthius."

"So be it," said the Prefect. "I have no reason to spare the brother of
Severinus. But how can you possibly bring proofs against Belisarius? I
am really curious. If you accomplish _that_, I will declare myself no
less a novice in plots and machinations than in love and hatred."

"And that you are, you dull son of Latium! Now listen. But it is such a
dangerous subject, that I must beg thee, Galatea, to keep watch that no
one comes and listens. No, my good mother, not inside! I beg thee;
_outside_ the door. Leave me alone with the Prefect: it is--more's the
pity--no secret of love?"

When, after some time, the Prefect left the room, he said to himself:

"If this woman were a man--I should kill her! She would be more
dangerous than the barbarians and Belisarius together! But then,
certainly, the iniquity would be neither so inscrutable nor so
devilish!"



                              CHAPTER IX.


Soon after the Prefect had returned home, Syphax announced the son of
Boëthius, who came from the Empress.

"'Let him enter, and admit no one else until he has gone," said
Cethegus. "Meanwhile send quickly for Piso, the tribune."

And he rose to meet Anicius, who now entered the room.

Anicius was no longer a youth, and his delicate features were much
improved by the expression of resolution which at this moment rested
upon them. He was dressed very simply, and his hair, which was usually
curled, now hung straight down.

"You remind me of your beautiful sister, Anicius."

With these words the Prefect received his visitor.

"It is on her account, Cethegus, that I come," said Anicius gravely.
"You are the oldest friend of my father and of our house. You hid
Severinus and me from our enemies, and assisted us to escape at your
own risk. You are the only man in Byzantium to whom I can appeal in a
mysterious affair. A few days ago I received this incomprehensible
letter, 'To the son of my patron; Corbulo the freedman----"

"Corbulo? I know that name!"

"He was the freedman of my father, with whom my mother and sister took
refuge, and who----"

"Fell before Rome with your brother!"

"Yes. But he only died after being carried into the Gothic encampment,
for he was taken prisoner, together with my dying brother, in the
village _ad aras Bacchi_. So I am told by one of Belisarius's
mercenaries called Sutas, who was taken prisoner at the same time, And
who has now brought me the letter which Corbulo could not finish. Read
it for yourself."

Cethegus took the small wax tablet with its scarcely legible writing
and read:

"'The legacy of your dying brother, and his last words were: Anicius
must revenge our mother, our sister, and myself. It was the same enemy
of our house, the same demon who----'"

"The letter ends here," said Cethegus.

"Yes. Corbulo lost his senses and never again became conscious, the
mercenary said."

"There is not much to be made of this," observed Cethegus, shrugging
his shoulders.

"No; but the mercenary Sutas--they were all in the same tent--heard a
few words spoken by my dying brother to Corbulo, which may give us the
key to the letter."

"Well?" asked Cethegus, with concealed anxiety.

"Severinus said: 'I suspect it. He knew of the ambush--he sent us to
meet certain death.'"

"Who?" asked Cethegus quietly.

"That is just what I want to find out."

"You have no suspicion?"

"No; but it cannot be impossible to discover the man who is meant."

"How will you manage it?"

"'Sent us to meet certain death,' that can only mean some leader or
general who was the cause of my brother's sharing that fatal morning
ride out of the Tiburtinian Gate. For Severinus did not at that time
belong to the suite of Belisarius. He was a tribune of your legions. If
you, Belisarius, and Procopius will earnestly try to find out the man
who sent Severinus with Belisarius, you must succeed. For he did not go
with other legionaries--none of your legionaries or horsemen
accompanied Belisarius."

"As far as I recollect," said Cethegus, "you are right."

"Not one," repeated Anicius. "Procopius--unfortunately he has gone to
examine the buildings which Justinian has erected in Asia--was present,
and has often told me the names of all who were with him. When he
returns, I will make a careful inquiry of what my brother did just
before the sally. Into whose house or tent he went--I will not rest, I
will ask all the still living comrades of Severinus where they saw him
last before he rode out."

"You are very acute for your years," said the Prefect with a strange
smile. "What will you be when you are arrived at maturity? But
certainly you are in a good school. Does the Empress know of this
letter?"

"No. And she shall never hear of it. Do not name her to me! This duty
of revenge has been sent by God to tear me away from her!"

"But she sent you to me?"

"In another affair, which, however, shall end very differently to what
she intends. A few hours ago she sent for me, and asked me once again
if it was so very terrible to be kept in a golden cage. But the woman
disgusts me. And I heartily regret the months that I have wasted at her
side, while my brother fought and fell for the fatherland. I gave her
such a rude answer, that I expected a storm. But, to my astonishment,
she was perfectly quiet, and said, smiling, 'Be it so. No faithfulness
lasts long. Go to Antonina, or to Virtue, or to both goddesses. But, as
a last sign of my favour, I will save you from certain destruction.
There exists in Byzantium a conspiracy against the life or free will of
Justinian. Be quiet--I know it. I know also that you are already half
won; that you have not yet gone to any of their meetings, but that you
have the documents of the conspiracy in your keeping. I have allowed
them to do as they liked, because there are some of my old enemies
amongst them, whom I wish to ruin. In a few days they will be
surprised. But I will warn and save you. Go to the Prefect. He must
take you with him away from Byzantium. Tell him that you are in danger,
and that Theodora sends you. But say nothing to him of the conspiracy.
There are some of his tribunes concerned in it, whom he would gladly
save, but whom I will destroy.' All this she said to me, and I came,
but not to fly! I came to warn you and my Roman comrades. I shall also
go to the meeting--there is no danger for to-day, the Empress said--and
warn them all. I shall tell them that the conspiracy is discovered. You
must not be there, Prefect; you must not place yourself in any further
danger. Justinian already suspects you. The foolish youths wish to wait
until they have won Belisarius to their cause! And if they are not
warned they will most likely be all taken prisoners to-morrow. I shall
hasten to tell them of their danger. But, that done, I will not rest a
moment until I have discovered the murderer of my brother."

"Both intentions are highly praiseworthy," said Cethegus. "But, by the
way, where do you hide the papers of the conspirators?"

"Where I hide all secrets," said Anicius, blushing--"secrets and
letters that are sacred and dear to me; where I will also hide this
tablet. You shall know the spot, for you, the oldest friend of my
house, must help me to complete my task of vengeance. I have written
out Sutas's report of the scarcely-comprehensible conversation of the
two dying men. They spoke of 'poisoning'--of 'murderous order'--of an
'accusation before the senate'--therefore our enemy must be a Roman
senator--of a 'crimson crest'-of a 'black devil of a horse----'"

"Et cetera, et cetera," said Cethegus, interrupting him. "Where is your
hiding-place? It may be that you will have to escape in a hurry--for I
strongly advise you not to trust the Empress--and perhaps you would not
even be able to reach your house."

"And besides," added Anicius, "it is necessary that you take up my
work. I should in any case have told you of the hiding-place. It is in
the cistern in the court of my house--the third brick to the right of
the wheel is hollow. And you must know for another reason," he
concluded gloomily. "If it is not possible to save my friends, if my
own freedom is in danger--for you are right in your warning: I have
long since remarked that I am followed by the spies of the Emperor or
Empress--then I will quickly make a bloody end to it all. What matter
if I die, if I cannot fulfil the duty which Severinus has imposed upon
me? Then--it is my office to tell the Emperor every morning how the
Empress has passed the night--then--I will strike the tyrant in the
midst of his slaves!"

"Madman!" cried Cethegus, in real terror--for he _now_ wished to keep
Justinian alive and in power--"to what has remorse and a planless and
dissolute life brought you? No! the son of Boëthius must not end as a
murderer. If you wish to atone in blood for your inglorious past--then
fight with my legions! Purify yourself in the blood of the barbarians,
shed, not by the dagger of the murderer, but by the sword of the hero!"

"You speak nobly, Cethegus. And will you really place _me_, untried and
without fame, amongst your brave knights? How can I thank you!"

"Spare your thanks until all is ended--until we meet again. Meanwhile
warn the conspirators. That alone will be a proof of courage. For, as
it seems you are followed, I think it a dangerous task. If you shun the
danger, say so frankly."

"_I_ hesitate to give the first proof of my courage! I would go and
warn them, even if certain death were the consequence."

He pressed the Prefect's hand, and hurried away.

As soon as he was gone, Syphax brought in the tribune Piso through
another door.

"Master of Iambics," cried Cethegus, "you must now be as quick-footed
as your verses! Enough of conspiracy and creeping here in Byzantium!
You must immediately seek all the young Romans who frequent the house
of Photius. The setting sun must find none of you within those walls.
Your lives depend upon it. No one must go to the 'evening feast' at
Photius's house. Go hunting, singly or in groups; make boat-races on
the Bosphorus; only hurry away. The conspiracy is superfluous. The
sound of the trumpet will soon summon you to battle against the
barbarians in Latium. Away with you all! Wait for me at Epidamnus.
Thence, with my Isaurians, I will fetch you to the third fight for
Rome. Away!--Syphax," he said, when left alone with his slave, "have
you inquired at the great general's house? When is he expected back?"

"At sunset."

"Is his faithful wife at home? Good. Bring a litter--not mine--bring
the first you find at the Hippodrome. The blinds must shut closely.
Take it to the harbour, into the back street of the slop-dealers."

"Sir, the worst rabble of this city of vagabonds dwell in that street.
What will you do there?"

"I will there enter the litter, and then go to the Red House."



                               CHAPTER X.


In the Red House, the abode of Belisarius, which was situated in the
suburb "Justiniana" (Sycæ), sat Antonina in the women's chamber,
working busily.

She was embroidering a border of golden laurels upon a mantle for her
hero, Belisarius.

Near her, upon a citron-wood table, lay, in a costly binding set with
precious stones, a splendid edition of the "Vandal Wars," by Procopius,
the lately published book which described her husband's prowess.

At her feet lay a magnificent animal, one of the four tame hunting
leopards which the Persian King had presented to Belisarius after the
last peace; a very costly present, for it was seldom that the attempt
to tame these leopards succeeded, and many hundreds of cubs which had
been caught or born in confinement, were obliged to be killed as
useless after being trained for years. The large, beautiful, and
powerful animal--it easily became wild when it tasted warm blood while
hunting, and had therefore been left at home stretched itself
luxuriously, like a cat, upon the folds of Antonina's dress, played
with her ball of gold thread, waved its tail, and sometimes rubbed its
round and clever-looking head against the feet of its mistress.

A slave entered and announced a stranger--he had arrived in a modest
litter, and was dressed in a common mantle--the door-keeper would have
refused to admit him, as the master was away, and the mistress received
no visitors, but he would not be denied; he ordered them to announce to
Antonina "the conqueror of Pope Silverius."

"Cethegus!" cried Antonina.

She grew pale and trembled.

"Let him in at once."

The influence which the powerful intellect of Cethegus had gained upon
her the first time of their meeting; the recollection that, when her
husband, Procopius, and all the leaders of the army, had helplessly
succumbed to the priest, this man had conquered and humbled the
conqueror; of how, at the entrance into Rome, the fight on the bridge
of the Anio, the defence of Rome Against Witichis, in the camp of
Ravenna and at the taking of that city, he had always and everywhere
kept the upper hand, and yet had never used his superiority inimically
against her husband; how nothing but misfortune had followed any
neglect of his warnings; how all his counsels had been victorious in
themselves--these recollections now confusedly crossed her mind.

She heard the footsteps of the Prefect, and hastily rose.

The leopard--pushed roughly aside and disturbed in his comfortable
sport on account of the intruder--rose with a low growl, and looked
threateningly at the door, gnashing his yellow teeth.

Cethegus, before entering, drew the curtain violently aside and thrust
forth his head, which was covered by a cowl. The abrupt movement must
have either frightened or irritated the leopard. When the Persian lion
and tiger tamers first began to break in a newly-caught animal, they
were accustomed to envelop themselves and cover their heads with long
woollen cloaks. Possibly the fierce and never wholly-tamed beast was
reminded of his old enemies. With a terrible howl he crouched in
preparation for a deadly spring, whipping the floor with his long tail
and foaming at the mouth a sure sign of fury.

Antonina saw it with horror.

"Fly! fly, Cethegus!" she screamed.

Had he done so, had he but turned his back, he would have been lost;
the monster would at once have been upon his back with his teeth in his
neck. For no door closed the entrance, the only barrier was a curtain.

Cethegus promptly stepped forward, threw back his cowl, looked straight
into the leopard's eyes, raising his left hand with an action of
command, and threatening him with the dagger held in his right.

"Down! down! The irons are hot!" he cried in the Persian language, at
the same time moving a step in advance.

The leopard suddenly broke into a whining howl of fear; his muscles,
which had been contracted for the spring, relaxed; he crept whining,
with his belly on the ground, to the feet of Cethegus, and howling with
fear, licked the sandal of his left foot, while Cethegus set his right
foot firmly upon the animal's neck.

Antonina had sunk upon her couch in her fear; she now stared at the
terrible, but beautiful scene.

"That animal--the prostration!" she stammered. "Dareios always refused
to do it; he was furious when Belisarius insisted upon it. Where have
you learned this, Cethegus?"

"In Persia, of course," he answered.

And he kicked the thoroughly cowed animal between the ribs with such
violence, that with a howl it flew into the farthest comer of the room,
where it remained trembling and crouching, with its eyes fixed upon its
subduer.

"Belisarius only mastered the forts, but not the language of Persia,"
said Cethegus. "And these beasts do not understand Greek. You are
grimly guarded, Antonina, when Belisarius is absent," he added, as he
hid his dagger in the folds of his dress.

"What brings you to my house?" Antonina asked, still trembling.

"My often misdoubted friendship. I would save your husband, who has the
courage of a lion, but not the dexterity of a mouse! Procopius is
unfortunately absent, or I should have sent that better-trusted
adviser, I know that a heavy blow threatens Belisarius from the
Emperor. We must ward it off. The favour of the Emperor----"

"Is very fickle, I know. But the services of Belisarius----"

"Are his ruin. Justinian would not fear an insignificant man. But he
fears Belisarius."

"That we have often experienced," sighed Antonina.

"Learn then--you before all others--what no one outside the palace
knows: the Emperor's indecision is at an end. He has decided upon war
with the Goths."

"At last!" cried Antonina, with a beaming countenance.

"Yes; but--think of the shame! Belisarius is not appointed
commander-in-chief."

"Who else?" asked Antonina angrily.

"I am one of the generals----"

She looked at him suspiciously.

"Yes; it was my aim long since, I confess. But the second in command is
to be Areobindos. I cannot conquer the Goths with him, hindered by his
ignorance. No one can conquer the Goths but Belisarius. Therefore I
must have him near me, or, for aught I care, over me. See, Antonina, I
hold myself to be the greater statesman----"

"My Belisarius is a hero, no statesman!" cried the proud wife.

"But it would be ridiculous to compare myself as a general with the
conqueror of the Vandals, Goths, and Persians. You see that I openly
confess that I am not influenced only by friendship to Belisarius, but
also by egotism. I _must_ have Belisarius for a comrade."

"That is clear," said Antonina, much pleased.

"But Justinian is not to be persuaded to appoint him. Still more, he
again suspects him, and indeed more than ever."

"But, by all the saints! wherefore?"

"Belisarius is innocent; but he is very imprudent. For months he
has received secret letters, notes, and warnings--stuck into his
bathing-robe, or thrown into his garden--which invite him to take part
in a conspiracy."

"Heavens! You know of this?" stammered Antonina.

"Unfortunately not I only, but also others--the Emperor himself!"

"But the conspiracy is not against the Emperor's life or throne," said
Antonina apologetically.

"No; only against his free will. 'War with the Goths.'--'Belisarius
commander-in-chief.'--'It is shameful to serve an ungrateful
master.'--'Force the Emperor to his own advantage.' Such and similar
things do these papers contain, do they not? Well, Belisarius has
certainly not accepted; but, imprudently, he did not at once speak of
these invitations to the Emperor, and this oversight may cost him his
head!"

"Oh, holy saints!" cried Antonina, wringing her hands. "He omitted to
do so at my request, by my advice. Procopius advised him to tell all to
the Emperor. But I--I feared Justinian's mistrust, which might have
discovered the semblance of guilt in the mere fact that such papers had
been sent to Belisarius."

"It was not that alone, I think," said Cethegus cautiously, when he had
looked round to see if any could hear, "which impelled you to give such
advice, taken, of course, by Belisarius."

"What else? What can you mean?" asked Antonina in a low voice.

But she blushed up to the roots of her hair.

"You knew that good friends of yours were concerned in the conspiracy;
you wished first to warn them before the plot was betrayed."

"Yes," she stammered. "Photius, the freedman----"

"And yet another," whispered Cethegus, "who, scarcely freed from
Theodora's gilded prison, would only exchange it for the vaults of the
Bosphorus."

Antonina covered her face with her hands.

"I know all, Antonina--the slight fault of former days, the good
resolutions of a later time. But in this case your old inclination has
ensnared you. Instead of thinking only of Belisarius, you thought also
of his welfare. And if Belisarius now falls, whose is the guilt?"

"Oh! be silent! have pity!" cried Antonina.

"Do not despair," continued Cethegus. "You have still a strong prop,
one who will be your advocate with the Emperor. Even if banishment be
threatened, the prayers of your friend Theodora will prevent the
worst."

"The Empress!" cried Antonina, in terror. "Oh, how she will
misrepresent! She has sworn our undoing!"

"That is bad," said Cethegus--"very bad! For the Empress also knows of
the conspiracy, and of the invitations to Belisarius. And you know that
a much less crime than that of being invited to join a conspiracy is
sufficient----"

"The Empress knows of it! Then we are lost! Oh! you who know how to
find a means of escape when no other eye can see it--help I save us!"

And Antonina sank at the Prefect's feet.

A lamentable howl issued from the corner of the room. The leopard
trembled with renewed fear. The Prefect cast a rapid glance at his
beaten adversary, and then gently raised the kneeling woman.

"Do not despair, Antonina. Yes; there is a way to save Belisarius--but
only one."

"Must he tell _now_ what has happened? As soon as he returns?"

"For that it is too late; and it would be too little. He would not be
believed; mere words would not prove that he was in earnest. No; he
must prove his fidelity by deeds. He must seize all the conspirators
together, and deliver them into the Emperor's power."

"How can he seize them all together?"

"They themselves have invited him. To-night they assemble in the house
of Photius, his freedman. He must consent to put himself at their head.
He must go to the meeting, and take them all prisoners. Anicius," he
added, "has been warned already by the Empress. I have seen him."

"Alas! But if he must die, it is to save Belisarius. My husband must do
as you say; I see that it is the only way. And it is a bold and
dangerous step; it will allure him."

"Do you think he will sacrifice his freedman?"

"We have warned the fool again and again. What matters Photius when
Belisarius is in danger! If ever I have had any power over my husband,
I shall prevail to-day. Procopius has often advised him to give such a
brutal--as he called it--proof of his fidelity. I will remind him of
it. You may be sure that he will follow our united counsel."


"'Tis well. He must be there before midnight. When the watchman on the
walls calls the hour, I shall break into the hall. And it is better, so
that Belisarius may be quite safe, that he only enter the meeting when
he sees my Moor Syphax in the niche before the house behind the statue
of Petrus. He may also place a few of his guards in front of the house.
In case of need, they can protect him, and bear witness in his favour.
He is not capable of much feigning; he must only join the meeting
shortly before midnight; thus he will have no need to speak. Our guards
will wait in the Grove of Constantinus, at the back of Photius's house.
At midnight--the trumpet sounds when the guard is relieved, and you
know that it can be distinctly heard--we shall break in. Belisarius,
therefore, need not undertake the dangerous task of giving a signal."

"And you--you will be sure to be there?"

"I shall not fail. Farewell, Antonina."

And, suddenly stepping backwards, his face still turned towards the
leopard, his dagger pointed, he had gained the exit.

The leopard had waited for this moment; he moved slightly in his
corner, rising slowly.

But as he reached the curtain, Cethegus once again raised his dagger
and threatened him.

"Down, Dareios! the irons are hot!"

And he was gone.

The leopard laid his head upon the mosaic floor and uttered a howl of
impotent fury.



                              CHAPTER XI.


The power and glory of Totila were now at their height. His happiness
was completed by his union with Valeria.

The betrothal had just taken place in the church of St. Peter, and was
solemnised by Cassiodorus, assisted by Julius, now a Catholic priest,
and also by an Arian minister. When Cassiodorus had betrothed the
daughter of his old friend to the King, and they had exchanged rings,
the royal couple were led in solemn procession over the Janiculum
towards the right bank of the river, and across the Theodosian and
Valentinian Bridges, which were decorated with triumphal arches.
Following the course of the river, the procession entered a villa
situated on an eminence overlooking the river and the campagna, and the
betrothed couple took their places under a magnificent baldachin in the
great hall.

There, before the assembled national army, under the golden shield of
the King, which was hung upon his spear, the Roman bride stepped into
the right shoe of her Gothic bridegroom, while he laid his mailed right
hand upon her head, which was covered with a transparent veil.

Thus the betrothal was completed according to ecclesiastical, Roman,
and Germanic custom.

This ceremony over, Totila and Valeria took their seats at the centre
table upon the terrace of the villa; Valeria surrounded by noble Roman
and Gothic women, Totila by the dukes and earls of his army.

Grecian and Roman flute-players played and sang alternately; Roman
dances followed the sword-dance of the Gothic youths. Presently,
dressed in a long, white festive garment, the hem embroidered in gold,
and a wreath of laurel and oak-leaves upon his head, Adalgoth stood
forth in front of the royal pair, cast an inquiring look at his teacher
in war and song. Earl Teja, who sat on the King's right hand, and, to
the accompaniment of his harp, sang in a clear voice:

           "Hear, all ye people, far and near,
              Hear, Byzant', to thy dole:
            The Gothic King, good Totila,
              Thrones on the Capitol/

           "No more is Belisarius' name
              In Rome with honour decked:
            Of Orcus, and no more of Rome
              Cethegus is Prefect.

           "Of what leaves shall we weave the crown
              For good King Totila?
            Like sweetest rose upon his breast
              Blooms sweet Valeria.

           "Peace, freedom, right, and law protect
              His shield, his star, his sword:
            _Olive_, thy peaceful spray now give,
              Give for the peaceful Lord!

           "Who carried terror and revenge?
              Who bore the Grecians down?
            Come, _laurel_, leaf of victory,
              Make rich my hero's crown!

           "But his victorious strength grew not
              From Roma's mouldering ground:
            With leaves of young Germanic _oak_
              Let his young head be crowned.

           "Hear, all ye people, far and near,
              Hear, Byzant', to thy dole:
            The Gothic King, young Totila,
              Thrones on the Capitol."

A burst of applause rewarded his song, during which a Roman youth and a
Gothic maiden, kneeling before Totila and Valeria, offered each a crown
of roses, laurels, olive-leaves and oak-leaves.

"_Our_ songs are also not quite without sweetness, Valeria," said
Totila with a smile, "and not without strength and truth. I owe my life
to this youthful minstrel." And he laid his hand upon Adalgoth's head.
"He struck thy countryman Piso, his colleague in the art of song, most
roughly upon his clever scanning fingers--as a punishment for having
written many a verse to my Valeria and raised the deadly steel against
me with one and the same hand!"

"There is one thing that I would rather have heard, my Adalgoth," Teja
said to the boy in a low voice, "than your song of praise."

"What is that, my Earl of harp and sword?"

"The death-cry of the Prefect, whom thou hast only sent to hell in thy
verse."

But Adalgoth was called away down the steps by a crowd of Gothic
warriors, who would not part with him for a long time; for his song
pleased the Gothic heroes who had fought with Totila much better than
it will perhaps please you, my reader.

Duke Guntharis embraced and kissed Adalgoth and said, as he drew him
aside:

"My young hero! What a resemblance! Whenever I see thee my first
thought is: Alaric!"

"Why, that is my battle-cry!" said Adalgoth, and, engaged in
conversation, they disappeared amid the crowd.

At the same time the King looked back at the vestibule of the villa,
for the performance of the flute-players stationed there was suddenly
interrupted.

He quickly perceived the cause and started from his seat with a cry of
astonishment.

For between the two centre and flower-wreathed columns of the entrance
stood a form which seemed scarcely human. A maiden of wondrous beauty,
clad in a pure white garment, holding a staff in her hand, and with a
wreath of star-like flowers upon her head.

"Ah! what is that? Lives this charming figure?" the King asked.

And all the guests followed the direction of the King's eyes and the
movement of his hand with equal wonder, for the small opening left
between the pillars by the masses of flowers was filled up by a more
lovely form than their eyes had ever beheld.

The child, or girl, had fastened her shining white linen tunic upon her
left shoulder with a large sapphire clasp; her broad golden girdle was
set with a row of sapphires. The long and pointed sleeves of her dress
fell from her shoulders like two white wings. Wreaths of ivy were
twined about her whole figure; in her right hand, which rested on her
bosom, she held a shepherd's staff, wreathed with flowers; her left
hand carried a beautiful crown of wild-flowers and was laid upon the
head of a large shaggy dog, whose neck was likewise surrounded with a
wreath.

The girl looked without fear, but thoughtfully and examiningly, at the
brilliant assembly. For a while the guests stared and waited, and the
maiden stood motionless. Then the King left his seat, went towards her,
and said with a smile:

"Welcome to our feast, if thou art an earthly being. But if--which I
almost believe--thou art the lovely Queen of the Elves--why then, be
welcome too! We will place a throne for thee high above the King's
seat." And with a graceful action he opened both his arms, inviting her
to approach.

With a light and gentle step the maiden crossed the threshold of the
vestibule and, blushing, replied:

"What sweet folly speakest thou, O King! I am no queen. I am Gotho, the
shepherdess. But thou--I see it more by thy clear brow than by thy
diadem--thou art Totila, the King of the Goths, whom they call the
'King of joy.' I have brought flowers for thee and thy lovely bride. I
heard that this feast was to celebrate a betrothal. Gotho has nothing
else to give. I plucked and twined these flowers as I came through the
last meadow. And now, O King, protector of the orphan's right, hear and
help me!"

The King again took his place near Valeria. The maiden stood between
them. Valeria took one of her hands; the King laid his hand upon her
head, and said:

"I swear to protect thee and thy rights by thine own lovely head. Who
art thou, and what is thy desire?"

"Sire, I am the grand-child and child of peasants. I have grown up in
solitude amid the flowers of the Iffinger mountain. I had nothing dear
to me on earth except my brother. He left me to seek thee. And when my
grandfather felt that he was dying, he sent me to thee to find my
brother and the solution of my fate. And he gave me old Hunibad from
Teriolis as a companion and protector. But Hunibad's wounds were not
fully healed and soon re-opened, and he was obliged to stay sick at
Verona. And I had to nurse him for a long time, until at last he died
too. And then I went alone, accompanied only by my faithful dog Brun,
across all this wide hot country, until at last I found the city of
Rome and thee. But thou keepest good order, O King, in thy land--thou
deservest all praise. Thy high-roads are watched day and night by
soldiers and horsemen. And they were friendly and good to the lonely
wandering child. They sent me to the houses of good Goths at nightfall,
where the housewife cherished me. And it is said that the law is so
well obeyed in thy realm, that a golden bracelet might be laid upon the
high-road, and would be found again after many many nights. In one
town, Mantua, I think it was called, just as I was crossing the
market-place, there was a great press, and the people ran together. And
thy soldiers led forth a Roman to die there, and cried: 'Marcus
Massurius must die the death, at the King's command. The King set him,
a prisoner of war, free, and the insolent Roman ravished a Jewish girl.
Sang Totila has renewed the law of the great Theodoric.' And they
struck off his head in the open market-place, and all the people were
terrified at King Totila's justice. Now, my faithful Brun, thou mayest
rest here; here no one will hurt thee. I have even ornamented _his_
neck with flowers to-day, in honour of thee and thy bride."

She slightly struck the powerful dog on the head; he immediately went
up to the King's throne, and laid his left fore-foot confidingly upon
the King's knee. And the King gave him water to drink out of a flat,
golden dish.

"For golden fidelity a golden dish," he said. "But who is thy brother?"

"Well," the girl answered thoughtfully, "from what Hunibad told me
during the journey and upon his sick-bed, I think that the name my
brother bears is not his real one. But he is easy to be known," she
added, blushing. "His locks are golden-brown; his eyes are blue as
these shining stones; his voice is as clear as the note of the lark;
and when he plays his harp, he looks up as if he saw the heavens open."

"Adalgoth!" cried the King.

"Adalgoth!" repeated all the guests.

The boy--he had heard the loud shout of his name--flew up the steps.

"My Gotho!" he exclaimed in a jubilant voice, and locked her in a
tender embrace.

"Those two belong to each other," said Duke Guntharis, who had followed
the youth.

"Like the dawn and the rising sun," added Teja.

"But now," said the girl, as she quietly withdrew from Adalgoth's arms,
"let me fulfil my errand and the behest of my dying grandfather. Here,
O King, take this roll and read it. In it is contained the fate of
Adalgoth and Gotho; the past and the present, said our grandfather."



                              CHAPTER XII.


The King broke the seals and read:

"'This is written by Hildegisel, the son of Hildemuth, whom they call
"the long;" once priest, now castellan at Teriolis. Written at the
dictation of old Iffa; and it is all written down faithfully. Lo!--now
it begins! The Latin is not always as good as that sung in the
churches. But thou, O King, wilt understand it. For where it is bad
Latin it is good Gothic. Lo!--now it really begins. Thus speaks the old
man Iffa: My Lord and King Totila; the roll which is wrapped in this
cover is the writing of the man Wargs, who, however, was neither my
son, nor was his name Wargs--but his name was Alaric, and he was a
Balthe, the banished Duke of----'"

A ay of astonishment from all present interrupted the King. He paused.
But Duke Guntharis cried:

"Then Adalgoth, who calls himself the son of Wargs, is the son of
Alaric! whom he himself, in his office of herald, has often, riding
through the town on a white horse, loudly summoned to appear. And never
saw I a greater resemblance than that between the father Alaric and the
son Adalgoth."

"Hail to the Duke of Apulia!" cried Totila, with a smile, as he
embraced the boy.

But, speechless with excitement, Gotho sank upon her knees, her eyes
filled with tears, and, looking up at Adalgoth, she sighed:

"Then thou art not my brother! O God!--Hail, Duke of Apulia! Farewell!
farewell for ever!" and she rose to her feet and turned to go.

"Not my sister!" cried Adalgoth. "That is the best thing which this
dukedom brings me! Stop there!" and he caught Gotho in his arms,
pressed her to his bosom, and kissed her heartily. Then he led her
up to the King, saying, "Now, King Totila, unite us! Here is my
bride--here is my duchess!"

And Totila, who had meanwhile cast a rapid glance over the two
documents, answered smiling:

"In this case I do not need the wisdom of Solomon. Young Duke of
Apulia, thus I betroth thee to thy bride." And he laid the laughing,
weeping girl in Adalgoth's arms.

Then he turned to the assembled Goths, and said:

"Permit me shortly to explain to you what this writing--the Latin of
which is rather rude, for Hildegisel was cleverer with the sword than
the pen--contains. Here is, besides, Duke Alaric's declaration of his
innocence."

"That has already been proved by his son," cried Duke Guntharis. "And I
never believed in his guilt."

"Duke Alaric," continued the King, "discovered his secret accuser too
late. Our Adalgoth, as you know, brought his innocence to light, when
he found the hidden documents in the broken statue of Cæsar. Cethegus
the Prefect had kept a sort of diary in a secret cypher. But
Cassiodorus, with grief and amazement, deciphered the writing, and
found an entry at the commencement of the book, written about twelve
years ago, which ran thus: 'Duke Alaric condemned. That he was
innocent, is now only believed by himself and his accuser. He who
injures Cethegus shall not live. At the time when I woke from a
death-like swoon on the banks of the Tiber, I swore to be revenged. I
made a vow and it is now fulfilled.' The cause of this hatred is still
a secret. But it is connected in some way with our friend Julius
Montanus. Where is he?"

"He has already returned to St. Peter's with Cassiodorus," answered
Earl Teja; "excuse them. Every day at this hour they pray for peace
with Byzantium. And Julius," he added with a bitter smile, "prays also
for the Prefect's soul."

"King Theodoric," said the King, "was hardly to be persuaded of the
guilt of the brave duke, with whom he was on terms of intimate
friendship."

"Yes," observed Duke Guntharis, "he once gave him a broad gold bracelet
with a runic device."

The King now resumed his reading of the papers:

"'I took a bracelet given me by King Theodoric'--these are the words of
the duke--'when I fled with my child. Broken in two just in the centre
of the runic inscription. It will one day serve to prove the honourable
birth of my son.'"

"He bears the proof on his face," cried Duke Guntharis.

"But the golden proof is also not wanting!" exclaimed Adalgoth: "at
least old Iffa gave me a broken bracelet. Here it is," and he took out
the half of a broken bracelet, which he carried tied to a ribbon round
his neck; "I have never been able to explain the sense of these words:

          "'The Amelung--
            The eagle--
            In need--
            The friend--'"

"Thou hast not the other half," said Gotho, and took the second half of
the bracelet from her bosom. "See, here is written:

          "'--to the Balthe,
            --to the falcon,
            --and death,
            --to the friend.'"

And now Teja, holding the two halves together, read:

          "'The Amelung to the Balthe,
            The eagle to the falcon,
            In need and death,
            The friend to the friend.'"

But the King continued to read from the roll:

"'King Theodoric could no longer protect me when letters were laid
before him, in which my handwriting was so excellently imitated that I
myself, on being shown a harmless sentence which had been cut out,
acknowledged without hesitation that I had written it. Then the judges
fitted the piece into the parchment and read the whole to me. That
letter purported to be written to the court of Byzantium, with the
promise that the writer would murder the King and evacuate South Italy,
if the Emperor would acknowledge him as King of North Italy. And the
judges condemned me. As I was led away from the hall, I met my old
friend Cethegus Cæsarius in the passage. I had some time before
succeeded in persuading a girl with whom he was in love to leave him
and marry a good friend of mine in Gaul. Cethegus forced his way
through my guards, struck me lightly on the shoulder and said, "He from
whom his love has been torn, comforts himself with revenge;" and his
eyes told me that he, and no other, had been my secret accuser. As a
last favour, the King procured me the means of escape. But I and all my
house were outlawed. For a long time I wandered restlessly in the
northern mountains, until I recollected that some old and faithful
adherents of my house were settled upon the Iffinger mountain. Thither
I went with my boy, taking with me a few hereditary jewels, and my
faithful friends received me and my son, and hid me under the name of
Wargs--the banished--and gave out that I was the son of old Iffa,
sending away all untrustworthy servants who might have betrayed me.
Thus I lived in secret for some years. I educate my son to be my
avenger on Cethegus the traitor, and when I die, old Iffa will continue
this education. I hope the day will come when my innocence will be
proved. But if it delays too long, my son, when he can wield the sword,
shall leave the Iffinger and go to Italy, and revenge his father upon
Cethegus Cæsarius. That is my last word to my son.'--'But,'" the King
now read from a second paper, "'soon after the Duke had written this, a
great landslip buried him, together with some of my relations. And I,
Iffa, have brought up the boy as my grandchild and Gotho's brother, for
the ban had not been taken off the family of Duke Alaric, and I did not
wish to expose the boy to the revenge of that devil, Cethegus. And that
it might not be possible for the boy to betray anything about his
dangerous parentage, I never told him of it. But when he was grown up,
and I heard that there reigned in the Roman citadel a mild and just
King, who had conquered the devilish Prefect as the God of Morning
conquers the Giant of the Night, I sent young Adalgoth away, and told
him that, according to his father's command, he must revenge the noble
chief and patron of our family upon Cethegus the traitor. But I did not
even then tell him that he was Alaric's son, for I feared the ban. So
long as his father's innocence was unproved, his father's name could
only injure him.  And I sent him away in great haste, for I discovered
that the belief in his brotherly relation to my grandchild, Gotho, had
not prevented him from loving her in a very unbrotherly manner. I might
have told him that Gotho was not his sister. But far be it from me that
I should dishonestly try to unite the noble scion of my old master and
patron with my blood, the simple shepherd's child. No, if justice still
exists upon earth, he will soon take his place as Duke of Apulia, like
his father before him. And as I fear that I may die before he sends me
word of the Prefect's ruin, I have begged the long Hildegisel to write
all this down.' (And I, Hildegisel, have received for the writing
twenty pounds of the best cheese, and twelve jars of honey, which I
thankfully acknowledge, and all of which was good.) 'And with, these
writings, and with the blue stones and fine garments and golden solidi
from the inheritance of the Balthes, I send my child Gotho to King
Totila the Just, to whom she must reveal everything. He will take the
ban away from the innocent son of the guiltless duke. And when Adalgoth
knows that he is the heir of the Balthes, and that Gotho is not his
sister--then he may freely choose or shun the shepherdess; but this he
must know, that the race of the Iffingers was never a race of vassals,
but free from the very beginning, although under the protection of the
House of Balthe.

"'And now. King Totila, decide the fate of my grandchild and
Adalgoth.'"



                             CHAPTER XIII.


"Well," laughed the King, "thou hast spared me the trouble, Duke of
Apulia!"

"And the little duchess," added Valeria, "has, as if she had foreseen
what was coming, already adorned herself like a bride."

"In honour of _you_," said the shepherdess. "When I heard of this feast
as I entered the gates of Roma, I opened my bundle, as my grandfather
had bidden me, and put on my ornaments."

"Our betrothal," said Adalgoth to his bride, "has fallen upon the day
of the King's betrothal; shall our wedding take place also on the
wedding-day of the royal pair?"

"No, no!" interrupted Valeria hastily, almost anxiously. "Add no other
to a vow which is yet unfulfilled! You children of Fortune, be wise.
You have to-day found each other. Keep to-day fast, for to-morrow
belongs to the unknown!"

"Thou speakest truth!" cried Adalgoth. "Even today shall be our
wedding!" and he lifted Gotho upon his left arm, and showed her to all
the people. "Look here, ye good Goths! This is my little wife and
duchess!"

"With your favour!" said a modest voice. "When so much sunshine falls
upon the summits and heights of the nation, the lower vegetation would
also gladly share some of its warmth."

A homely-looking man approached the King, leading a pretty girl by the
hand.

"Is it thou, brave Wachis?" cried Earl Teja, going up to him. "And no
longer a bond-servant, but with the long hair of a freedman?"

"Yes, sir. My poor master. King Witichis, gave me my liberty when he
sent me away with Mistress Rauthgundis and Wallada. Since then I have
let my hair grow. And my mistress--I know it for a fact--was about to
free Liuta, so that we might be married according to the law of the
nation; but, alas, my mistress never returned to her home at Fæsulæ.
But I returned just at the right moment to save Liuta, for the very
next day the Saracens burnt the house and murdered all whom they found.
After Mistress Rauthgundis's death--leaving no one to claim the
inheritance, for a storm had buried her father Athalwin under an
avalanche--Liuta became the King's property; and therefore I would beg
the King to take me again as a bond-servant, so that we may not be
punished if we marry, and----"

"Wachis, thou art indeed faithful!" cried Totila, interrupting him.
"No! thou shalt contract a free marriage! Give me a gold-piece."

"Here, King Totila," said Gotho, eagerly taking one from her shepherd's
bag; "it is the last of six."

The King took the gold, laid it upon Liuta's open palm, and then struck
her hand from below, so that the gold-piece flew up into the air, and
fell ringing upon the mosaic pavement.

Then the King said:

"Liuta, thou art free! No bonds hold thee. Go in peace and rejoice with
thy bridegroom."

Earl Teja now came forward and said:

"Wachis, once before thou hast borne the shield of a luckless master.
Wilt thou now become my shield-bearer?"

With tears in his eyes, Wachis clasped the hand of the Earl in both his
own.

And now Teja lifted his golden goblet and solemnly said:

           "Fortune befall you!
            Already shines on you
            The shimmering sunshine:
            Yet thankfully think
            Of the Dear and the Dead
            With reverent remembrance!
            He who strove unsuccessful,
            The world-renowned warrior:
            Witichis, Waltharis' worthiest son!
            Though you celebrate cheerily
            The feast of the fairest,
            The Deity's darlings,
            Yet honour for ever
            The memory mournful
            Of the Great and the Good!
            I remind you, O revellers,
            To drink to the dear ones;
            To the manliest man,
            And the worthiest woman;
            To Rauthgundis and Witichis,
            Deploring, I drink!"

And all solemnly and silently returned his pledge.

Then King Totila once more raised his cup and said before all the
people:

"_He_ deserved! _I_ received! To him be eternal honour!"

As he resumed his place--the other two betrothed couples had been
seated at the King's table--Earl Thorismuth, of Thurii (he had been
rewarded for his valour by the title of Earl, but, at his own request,
had retained his office of herald and shield-hearer), ascended the
steps, and lowered his herald's staff before the King, saying:

"I come to announce strangers, O King of the Goths! Guests who have
sailed here from afar. The large fleet, of about a hundred ships, which
was reported by thy coast-guards and from the harbour-towns, has now
run into the harbour of Portus. It has brought northern people, an old,
brave, and seafaring folk, from the land of farthest Thule. Their
dragon-ships have lofty decks, and their monstrous figure-heads terrify
the beholder. But they come to thee in peace. Yesterday the flag-ship
lowered its boats, and our noble guests have sailed up the river. I
challenged them, and received the answer: 'King Harald of Goetaland,
and Haralda (his wife, as it seems), wish to greet King Totila.'"

"Lead them to us! Duke Guntharis, Duke Adalgoth. Earl Teja, Earl
Wisand, and Earl Grippa, go to meet and accompany them here."

Presently, to the sound of strange and twisted horns made of shells,
and surrounded by twenty of their sailors and heroes clad in close
coats of mail, there appeared on the terrace two figures which far
overtopped even the slender Totila and his table companions.

King Harald bore upon his helmet the two wings--each several feet
long--of the black sea-eagle. The tail-feathers of the same bird
floated from his iron crest. Down his back fell the skin of a monstrous
black bear, the jaws and fore-paws of which hung from broad iron rings
upon his breast-plate. His coat, woven of iron wire, reached to the
knee, and was confined round the hips by a broad belt of seal-skin, set
with shells. His arms and legs were bare, but at once adorned and
protected by broad golden bracelets. A short knife hung from a steel
chain at his belt. In his right hand he carried a long forked spear
like a harpoon. His thick, bright yellow hair fell like a mane low down
upon his shoulders.

At his left hand stood--scarcely shorter by a finger's length--the
Walkyre-like form of his female companion.

Upon her head she wore a golden open helmet, decorated with the small
wings of the silver-gull. Her bright red hair, which had a metallic
lustre, fell from beneath it in a long straight mass over the small
strip of white bearskin which covered her back--more an ornament than a
mantle--almost to her ankles.

A closely-fitting mail, made of little scales of gold, betrayed the
incomparable figure of the Amazon, yielding to every movement of her
heaving bosom. Her under garment, which reached half-way between the
knee and ankle, was tastefully made of the white skin of the snow-hare.
Her arms were covered by sleeves made of rows of amber beads, which
glittered strangely in the evening rays of the southern sunshine.

Upon her left shoulder was gravely perched one of the delicate white
falcons of Iceland.

A small hatchet was stuck into her girdle. She carried over her
shoulder a long sweeping harp, surmounted with a swan's head and neck
of silver.

The Roman populace--their eyes opened wide in wonder--pressed after
these singular figures, and even the Goths could not but admire the
wondrously fair complexion and the singularly light and sparkling eyes
of these northerners.

"As the black hero who received me," began the Viking, "assures me that
he is not the King, then no other can be he but thou," and he gave his
hand to Totila, first pulling off his fighting-glove of shark's skin.

"Welcome to the Tiber, my cousins from Thuleland!" cried Totila, as he
raised his cup and pledged his guests.

Seats were quickly prepared, and the royal visitors took their places
at the King's table; their followers at the table near them. Adalgoth
poured out wine from tall, two-handled jugs.

King Harald drank, and looked wonderingly around.

"By Asathor!" he cried; "but it is beautiful here!"

"Such I imagine Walhalla to be!" said his companion.

The Goths and the northerners could scarcely understand each other.

"If it pleases thee so well, brother," Totila slowly said, "then rest
amongst us with thy wife for some time."

"Ho-ho! Rome-King!" laughed the giantess, and tossed back her head so
suddenly, that the waves of her red hair shook.

The falcon flew screaming up, and circled round her head three times.
It then quietly returned to her shoulder.

"The man has not yet been born," continued the Amazon, "who could
conquer Haralda's heart and hand. Harald alone, my brother, can bend my
arm, and spring and hurl his spear farther than I."

"Patience, my little sister! I trust that soon a man of marrow will
master thy coy maidenhood. This King here, although he looks as mild as
Baldur, yet resembles Sigurd, the vanquisher of Fafner. You shall vie
with each other in hurling the spear."

Haralda cast a long look at the Gothic King, blushed, and pressed a
kiss upon her falcon's smooth head.

But Totila said:

"Evil befell, as the singers tell us, when Sigurd strove with the
Amazon. Rather let woman greet woman in peace. Give thy hand, Haralda,
to my bride."

And he signed to Valeria, to whom Duke Guntharis had very imperfectly
translated what was said.

Valeria rose with graceful dignity. She wore a long white Roman-Grecian
garment, which hung in soft folds, and was confined at the waist by a
golden girdle, and upon the shoulder with a cameo brooch. Bound her
nobly-shaped head was bound a branch of laurel, which Totila had taken
from Adalgoth's wreath to fasten into her black hair. Her beauty, and
the rhythm of her movements and the folds of her garments, seemed to
float around her like music. She silently held out her hand to her
northern sister.

Haralda had cast a sharp and not very friendly look upon the Roman
girl; but admiration soon dispelled the angry surprise which had
overspread her countenance, and she said:

"By Freia's necklace! thou art the most lovely woman I have ever
beheld. I doubt whether a Wish-girl of Walhalla could compare with
thee. Dost thou know, Harald, whom this Princess resembles? Ten nights
ago we laid waste an island in the blue Grecian sea, and plundered a
columned temple. There stood a tall, icy-cold woman, made of white
stone; upon her breast was the figure of a head surrounded with snakes;
at her feet the night-bird; she was clad in a garment of many folds.
Swen unfortunately broke her to pieces because of the jewels in her
eyes. The King's bride resembles that marble goddess."

"I must translate what she has said to thee," said Totila, turning to
Valeria with a smile. "Thy poetical adorer, Pisa, could not have
flattered thee more delicately than this Bellona of the north. They
landed, so we were told, at Melos, and there broke the beautiful statue
of Athene, sculptured by Phidias. You have made great desolation, I
hear," he continued, turning to Harald, "in all the islands between
Cos, Chios, and Melos. What, then, has led you so peacefully to us?"

"That I will tell thee, brother; but only after more drink." And he
held out his cup to Adalgoth. "No, do not spoil the splendid juice with
water! Water should be salt, so that no one could drink it unless he
were a shark or a walrus. Water is good to carry us upon its back, but
not to be carried in our stomachs. And this vine-beer of yours is a
wonderful drink. I am soon tired of our mead; it is like a tame sweet
dish. But this vine-mead! the more a man drinks, the thirstier he
becomes. And if one drank too much--which is scarcely possible--it is
not like the intoxication of ale or mead, which makes a man ready to
pray to Asathor to hammer an iron ring round his temples. No; the
intoxication of the vine is like the sweet madness of the Skalds--a man
feels like a god! So much for the vine! But now I will tell thee how it
was that we came here."



                              CHAPTER XIV.


"Well," began King Harald, "our home is in Thuleland, as the Skalds
call it; in Goetaland, as we name it. For Thuleland is the land where
one does _not_ dwell; where only, still nearer to the ice-mountains,
_other_ people live. Our realm reaches, towards the rising of the sun,
to the sea and our island, Gothland; towards the setting of the sun, as
far as Hallin and the Skioldungahaff; towards midday, to Smaland,
Skone, and the kingdom of the Sea-Danes; towards midnight, to Svealand.
The King is my father, Frode, whom Odin loves. He is much wiser than I;
but he has now crowned me as Vi-king, upon the sacred-stone at
King-Sala, because he is already a hundred years old, and quite blind.
Now the minstrels in our halls still sing the legends which tell that
you Goths were originally our brothers, and that only by reason of the
wandering of the peoples have you gradually drawn nearer to the south;
for you followed the flight of the crane from the Caucasus, but we the
running of the wolf."

"If that be so," said King Totila, smiling, "I prefer the crane for a
guide."

"It may well seem so to thee, sitting here in this gay drinking-hall,"
answered King Harald gravely. "But however that maybe--and I do not
quite believe it, for then we ought to understand each other's words
better--we truly and highly honour this our blood-relationship. For a
long time nothing but good news came from your warm realm to our cold
Gothaland--news of the highest fame. And once my father and your King
Thidrekr,[1] who is praised by the harp-songs of our Skalds, exchanged
envoys and gifts, through the agency of the Esthes, who live on the
Austrway. These men led our envoys to the Wends, on the Wyzla; these to
the Longobardians, on the Tisia; these to the Herulians, on the Dravus;
these through Savia to Salona and Ravenna."

"Thou art a man learned in roads and countries," observed Totila.

"That the Viking must be; for else he will never go forwards, and
likewise never get back. Well, for some time we only heard of your
glory and good fortune. But once and again there came bad news, brought
by merchants who bought our furs and eiderdown and amber, and took it
to the Frisians, and Saxons, and franks, giving us in exchange
artfully-formed vessels, and silver and gold. The news became sadder
and more sad; we heard that King Thidrekr had died, and that afterwards
great evils had broken out in your realm. We heard of defeat,
treachery, and of the murder of Kings; of Goths warring against Goths;
and of the might of the false Prince of Grêkaland. And it was said that
you had broken your heads by thousands against the high walls of your
own Roman citadel, which was held not by you, but by a man like
Asathor, and another man still worse than the fire-fiend Loki. And we
asked if none of the many Kings and Princes who had begged favours of
Thidrekr of Raven could have helped you. But at that the Frank
merchant, who offered us fine tissues from the Wahala, laughed and
said, 'Broken fortunes, broken faith! They have all forsaken the
luckless Gothic heroes, Visigoths and Burgundians, Herulians and
Thuringians, and most of all we Franks, for we are wiser than all.'
But, on hearing this. King Frode threw down his staff angrily, and
cried, 'Where is my strong son Harald?" 'Here, father,' I answered, and
took his hand. 'Hast thou heard,' my father continued, 'the news of the
faithlessness of the Southland Kings? Such things shall not be said or
sung of the men of Goetaland! If all others turn away from the Goths of
Gardarike and Raven, we will keep faith and help them in their need.
Up, my brave Harald, and thou, my bold Haralda! equip a hundred
dragon-ships, and fill them with men and weapons. Put your hands deeply
into my royal treasure at Kinsala, and do not spare the heaped-up
golden rings. And set forth with Odin's wind in your sails. Go first
from Konghalla, past the island Danes and the Jutlanders, towards the
setting of the sun; thence along the coasts of the Frisians and the
Franks, through the narrow path of the sea; then sail farther round the
realm of the Sueves to the mountain land that is called Asturia; and
round the land of the Visigoths bend towards the south. Then wind
through the narrow strait of the wide ocean, where Asathor and Odin
have set two pillars.

"You will then have entered the sea of Midilgard, where lie innumerable
islands covered with evergreen bushes, out of which shine marble halls,
upheld by high, round stone-beams. Lay waste these islands, for they
belong to the false Prince of Grêkaland. And then sail to the Roman
citadel or to Raven, and help the people of King Thidrekr against their
enemies. And fight for them by land and water, and stand by them until
all their enemies are overcome. And then speak to them and say: Thus
advises King Frode, who will soon have seen a hundred winters, and who
has seen the rise and fall of many peoples, and who, as a young Viking,
has himself visited the Southland. This is his advice: 'Leave the
Southland, however beautiful it may be. You cannot endure therein. As
little as the iceberg can endure when it drifts into the southern sea.
The sun, air, and waves consume it continually, and be it ever so
mighty, it must melt away and leave not a trace behind. It is better to
live in the poor Northland than to die in the rich Southland. Go on
board our dragon-ships, and equip your own, and fill them with all your
people; men, women, and children; and with your oxen and horses, and
weapons and treasures; and leave the hot ground that will surely
swallow you up, and come away to us. We will press closely together and
make room, or take as much land from the Wends and Esthes as you need.
And you shall be preserved fresh and green.  Down there the southern
sun withers and scorches you.' This is the advice of King Frode, whom
men have called the Wise for fifty years. Now as we passed into the sea
of Midilgard, we had already heard from seafarers that your troubles
had been put an end to by a new King, whom they described as looking
like the god Baldur; that you had re-won the Roman citadel and all the
land of Gardarike, and had even victoriously carried destruction into
part of Grêkaland itself. And now we see with our own eyes that you do
not need the aid of our weapons. You live in plenty and pleasure, and
everything is full of red gold and white stone. But still I must repeat
my father's words and advice; listen to him; he is wise! Until now,
every one who has despised King Frode's advice, has bitterly regretted
it."

But Totila shook his head, smiled, and said:

"We owe you and King Frode warm thanks for rare and noble faithfulness.
Such brotherly love from the Northern heroes shall never be forgotten
in the songs of the Goths. But, O King Harald, follow me and look about
you."

And Totila rose and took his guest by the hand, and led him to the
entrance of the pavilion, casting back the hanging curtains.

There lay river and land and city in the glowing light of the setting
sun.

"Look at this land, wonderful in the beauty of its sky and soil and
art. Look at this Tiber-stream, covered by a happy, jubilant, and
handsome people. Look at these masses of laurel and myrtle. Cast thine
eyes upon the columned palaces, which shine across from Rome in the
evening rays; on the tall marble figures upon these terrace-steps--and
say thou, if all this were thine, wouldst thou ever leave it? Wouldst
thou exchange all this magnificence for the firs and pines of the
cold land of the north, where spring-time never blooms, for the
smoke-blackened wooden huts on the misty heaths?"

"Aye, that I would, by Thorns hammer! This land is good to lay waste,
to luxuriate and win battles in; but that done, then up and away with
the booty! But you, Goths, are thrown here like drops of water upon hot
iron. And if ever we sons of Odin shall rule this land, it will be only
such of us as have a strong support in other sons of Odin. But you--you
have already become very different to us. Your grandfathers, your
fathers, and yourselves have wooed Roman women; in a few generations,
if this continue, you will be Romanised. Already you have become
smaller, and darker in skin, eyes, and hair. At least many of you. I
long to be away from this soft and sultry air, and to breathe the north
wind that rushes over our woods and waves. Yes, and I long for the
smoke-blackened halls of wood, where Gothic runes are burnt into the
roof-beams, and the harps of the Skalds hang on the wooden pillars, and
the sacred hearth-fire glows hospitably for ever! I long for our
Northland, for it is our home!"

"Then permit us to love _our_ home: this land Italia!"

"It will never be your home; but perhaps your grave. You are strangers
and will remain so. Or you will become Romanised. But there is no
abiding in the land possible for you as sons of Odin."

"Let us at least try, my brother Harald," cried Totila, laughing. "Yes,
we have changed in the two centuries during which our people have lived
among the laurels. But are we the worse for it? Is it necessary to wear
a bearskin in order to be a hero? Is it necessary to rob gold and
marble statues in order to enjoy them? Can one be only either a
barbarian or a Roman? Can we not keep the virtues of the Germans and
lay aside their faults? Adopt the virtues of the Romans without their
vices?"

But Harald shook his massive head.

"I should rejoice at your success, but I do not believe in it. The
plant takes the nature of the soil and climate upon and under which it
lives. And, for my part, I should not at all like it, even if I and
mine could succeed. Our faults are dearer to me than the virtues of the
Italians--if they have any."

Totila remembered the words with which he himself had answered Julius.

"From the north comes all strength--the world belongs to the Northmen,"
concluded Harald.

"Tell it to them in the words of thy favourite song," said his sister.

And she handed him her harp; and Harald played and sang an alliterative
measure, or _stabreim_, which Adalgoth, translating it into rhymed
verse, thus repeated to Valeria:

     "Thor stood at the midnight end of the world,
        And the battle-axe flew from his hand.
      'As far as the battle-axe flies when hurled,
        Is mine the sea and the land!'
      And the hammer flew from his powerful hand
        Like chaff by a hurricane blown:
      And it fell in the farthest southern-land,
        So that all became his own.
      Since then 'tis German right and grace
        With the hammer the lands to merit;
      We come of the Hammer-God's noble race,
        And his world-wide realm will inherit!"

A burst of applause from his Gothic hearers rewarded the royal
minstrel, who looked as if he could well realise the proud boast of the
song.

Harald once more emptied his deep golden cup. Then he rose and said:

"Now, my little sister Haralda, and you, my sailor brothers, we must
break up. We must be on board the _Midgardschlange_ before the moon
shines upon her deck. What says the Wikinga-Balk?--

          "'Ill sleeps the ship
            When her pilot lies on shore.'

"Long friendship--short parting; that is northern custom."

Totila laid his hand upon his guest's arm.

"Art thou in such haste? Fearest thou to become Romanised with us? Do
but remain; it does not come so quickly. And with thee would scarcely
happen."

"There thou art right, Rome-King," laughed the giant; "and, by Thor's
hammer, I am proud of it! But we must go. We had three things to do
here. To help you in battle. You do not need us. Or do you? Shall we
wait until new wars break out?"

"No," said Totila, with a smile; "we have peace and not new strife in
view. And if it should really once more come to a war--shall I prove
thee right, brother Harald, in thinking us Goths too weak to uphold our
rule alone? Have we not beaten our enemies without your help? Could we
not beat them again, we Goths alone?"

"I thought as much," said the Viking. "Secondly, we came to fetch you
back to the Northland. You will not come. And, thirdly, to lay waste
the islands of the Emperor of Grêkaland. That is a merry sport, which
we have not sufficiently practised. Come with us, help us, and revenge
yourselves."

"No; the word of a king is sacred. We have agreed to an armistice which
has still several months to run. And listen, friend Harald. Have a care
and do not mistake _our_ islands for those of the Emperor. It would
displease me if----"

"No, no," laughed Harald, "fear nothing. We have already noticed that
thy harbours and coasts are excellently guarded. And here and there
thou hast erected high gallows, and affixed to them tablets inscribed
with Roman runes. Thy commodore at Panormus translated it to us:

                "'Sea-robbers drowned,
                  Land-robbers hanged;
                  That is the law
                  In Totila's land.'

"And my sea-brothers have taken a great dislike to thy sticks and
tablets and runes. Farewell, then, Rome-King of the Goths! May thy
good-fortune endure! Farewell, lovely Queen of Night! Farewell, all you
heroes! we shall meet again in Walhalla, if not sooner."

And after taking a short leave, the northerners walked away.

Haralda threw her falcon into the air.

"Fly before us, Snotr--on deck!"

And the intelligent bird flew away, swift as an arrow, straight down
the river.

The King and Valeria accompanied their guests halfway down the
staircase; there they exchanged the last greetings. The Amazon cast one
more rapid glance at Totila.

Harald remarked it, and as they descended the last steps he whispered:

"Little sister, it is on thy account that I left so quickly. Do not
grieve about this handsome King. Thou knowest that I have inherited
from our father the gift of recognising men who are fated to die. I
tell thee, death by the spear hovers over this King's sunny head. He
will not again see the changing of the moon."

At this the strong and tender-hearted woman forced back the tears which
rose into her proud eyes.

Duke Guntharis, Earl Teja, and Duke Adalgoth accompanied the Goths to
their boats on the Tiber, and waited until they had put off.

Teja looked after them gravely.

"Yes, King Frode is wise," he said. "But folly is often sweeter than
truth; and grander. Go back to the terrace without me, Duke Guntharis.
I see the King's despatch-boat coming up the river. I will wait and see
what news it brings."

"I will wait with thee, my master," said Adalgoth, looking at Teja
anxiously. "Thy countenance is so terribly grave. What is the matter?"

"I have a foreboding, my Adalgoth," answered Teja, putting his arm
round the youth's neck. "See how rapidly the sun sets. I shudder! Let
us go and meet the boat--it will land below there, where lie the
ancient marble columns."

Totila and Valeria had returned to the pavilion.

"Wert thou moved, my beloved," asked the Roman girl with emotion, "by
what that stranger said? It was--Guntharis and Teja explained it to
me--of very grave import."

But Totila quickly raised his head.

"No, Valeria, it did not move me! I have taken great Theodoric's great
work upon my shoulders. I will live and die for the dream of my youth,
for my kingdom! Come--where is Adalgoth, my cup-bearer? Come; let us
once more pledge a cup, Valeria--let us drink to the good fortune of
the Gothic kingdom!"

And he lifted up his cup; but before he could put it to his lips,
Adalgoth, with a loud call, hurried up the steps followed by Teja.

"King Totila," cried Adalgoth breathlessly, "prepare to hear terrible
news; collect thyself----"

Totila set down his cup and asked, turning pale:

"What has happened?"

"Thy despatch-boat has brought news from Ancona. The Emperor has broken
the armistice--he has----"

Teja had now drawn near. He was pale with fury.

"Up, King Totila!" he cried. "Exchange the wreath for the helmet! Off
Senogallia, near Ancona, a Byzantine fleet suddenly attacked our
squadron which lay under the protection of the armistice. Our ships
no more exist. A powerful army of the enemy has landed. And the
commander-in-chief is--Cethegus the Prefect!"



                              CHAPTER XV.


In the camp of Cethegus the Prefect at Setinum, at the foot of the
Apennines, a few miles north of Taginæ, Lucius Licinius, who had just
arrived by sea from Epidamnus, was walking up and down, in eager
conversation with Syphax, before the tent of the commander-in-chief.

"My master has been anxiously expecting you, tribune, for many days,"
said the Moor; "he will be rejoiced to find you in the camp when he
returns. He has ridden out to reconnoitre."

"Whither rode he?"

"Towards Taginæ, with Piso and the other tribunes."

"That is the next fortified town occupied by the Goths to the south, is
it not? But now, you wise Moor, tell me what happened last at
Byzantium? You know that your master sent me to levy forces among the
Longobardians, long before anything was decided. And as, after a
dangerous journey through the country of the Longobardians and Gepidæ,
I safely crossed the rapid Ister near Novæ into Justinian's kingdom,
and went to fetch the promised orders of the Prefect from my host at
Nicopolis, I only found a laconic command to meet him in Senogallia. I
was much astonished; for I scarcely dared to hope that he would ever
again, at the head of the imperial fleet and army, victoriously tread
the soil of Italy. From Senogallia I followed your march hither. The
few captains whom I have met in the camp told me briefly of the course
of events until shortly before the arrest of Belisarius. But they could
not tell me how that occurred, and what took place later. Now you----"

"Yes, I know what happened almost as well as my master, for I was
present."

"Is it possible? Can Belisarius really have conspired against the
Emperor? I could never have believed it!"

Syphax smiled slyly.

"I have no right to judge of that. I can only tell you exactly what
happened. Listen--but come into the tent and refresh yourself. My
master would scold me for letting you stand outside unattended to. And
we can talk more freely inside," he added, as he closed the curtains of
the tent behind him. Then begging his master's guest to be seated, he
served him with fruit and wine, and began his account. "As the night of
that fateful day fell, I went and hid myself in a niche of Photius's
house, behind the tall statue of some Christian saint, whose name I do
not know, but who had a famous broad back. I could easily look into the
hall of the house through an aperture just above my head, which had
been made to allow the passage of fresh air. The faint light within
enabled me to distinguish a number of the aristocrats whom I had often
seen in the imperial palace, and in the houses of Belisarius and
Procopius. The first thing that I understood--for my master has taken
care that I should learn the speech of the Greeks who call themselves
Romani--was what the master of the house was saying to a man who had
just then entered. 'Rejoice,' he said, 'for Belisarius comes. After
scarcely deigning to look at me yesterday when, full of expectation, I
stopped him in the gymnasium of Zenon, to-day he himself addressed me
as I was slowly and cautiously passing his house, for I knew that he
would return from the hunt towards evening. He pressed this waxen
tablet into my hand, first looking round to make sure that no one
observed him. And on the tablet is written: "I cannot longer withstand
your appeals. Certain reasons impel me to join you. I shall come this
evening." But,' continued the master of the house, 'where is Piso,
where is Salvius Julianus and the other young Romans?' 'They will not
be coming,' answered the man. 'I saw almost all of them in boats on the
Bosphorus. They have no doubt sailed to some feast at the Prefect's
villa, near the Gate of Constantine.' 'Let them go,' said Photius; 'we
do not need the brutal Latins, nor the proud and false Prefect. Verily,
Belisarius outweighs them all.' At that moment I saw Belisarius enter
the hall. He wore an ample mantle, which entirely hid his figure. The
master of the house hurried to meet him, and all present gathered
respectfully around him. 'Great Belisarius,' said his freedman, 'we
know how to value your compliance.' And he pressed upon Belisarius the
little ivory staff which is held by the head of the assembly, and led
him to the raised seat of the president, which he himself had just
vacated. 'Speak--command--act--we are ready,' said Photius. 'I shall
act at the right time,' answered Belisarius gloomily, and took his
seat. Just then young Anicius rushed into the room with tangled hair
and flying garments; a drawn sword in his hand. 'Fly!' he cried. 'We
are discovered and betrayed.' Belisarius rose. 'They have forced my
house,' continued Anicius. 'My slaves were taken prisoners. The weapons
which I had hidden were found, and your letters and documents, and,
alas, my own too, have disappeared from a hiding-place which was known
only to me! And still more--as I turned into the grove of Constantine,
I thought I heard the sound of whispering and the rattle of arms
amongst the bushes. I am followed--save yourselves!' The conspirators
rushed to the doors. Belisarius alone remained quietly standing before
his chair. 'Take heart!' cried Photius. 'Follow the example of your
hero-chief!' But the sound of a trumpet was heard from the great
house-door, the sign for me to leave my post and join my master, who
stormed into the house at the head of the imperial lance-bearers and
Golden Shields, with the Prefect of Byzantium, and the archon of the
palace-guard. My master looked splendid," continued Syphax
enthusiastically, "as, with a flaming torch in his left hand, a sword
in his right, and his crimson plume floating behind him, he rushed into
the hall; so looks the fire-demon when he issues from a blazing
mountain in Africa! I drew my sword and sprang to my master's left
side, for he carried no shield. He had ordered me to render young
Anicius harmless as soon as possible. 'Down with all who resist, in the
name of Justinian!' cried my master. His sword was dripping with blood,
for he had killed with his own hand the body-guards whom Belisarius had
placed at the entrance of the grove. 'Yield!' he cried to the
frightened crowd; 'and thou, archon of the palace, arrest _all_ the
conspirators. Do you understand--_all_!' 'Is it possible! Shameless
traitor!' cried Anicius, and rushed at my master with his sword. 'Yes,'
he cried, 'there is the crimson crest! Die, murderer of my brother!'
But the next moment he lay at our feet, severely wounded. I drew my
sword out of his breast, and then disarmed Photius, who was the only
one who still resisted. All the others allowed themselves to be taken
like sheep bewildered by a thunder-storm. 'Bravo, Syphax!' cried my
master. 'Examine his dress for any writings.' Then he turned to the
archon, asking him if he were ready, for he had stopped hesitatingly
opposite Belisarius, who remained perfectly quiet. 'What!' asked the
archon--'must I also arrest the magister militum?' '_All_, I said. 'Do
you no longer understand Greek? You see--all see--that Belisarius is at
the head of the conspiracy--he holds the president's staff, he occupies
the president's chair.' 'Ha!' now cried Belisarius; 'is it so! Guards!
Help, help, my body-guards! Marcellus, Barbatio, Ardaburius!" 'The dead
cannot hear, magister militum,' said my master. 'Yield, in the name of
the Emperor! Here is his great seal. For this night he has made me his
representative, and a thousand lances bristle round this house.'
'Fidelity is madness!' cried Belisarius, threw his sword away, and held
out his strong arms to the archon, who put on the chains. 'Into the
dungeons with all the prisoners,' said my master. 'Photius and
Belisarius must be put separately into the round tower of Anastasius,
in the palace. I will hasten to the Emperor and return his ring, and
take him this steel'--he lifted the sword of Belisarius from the
ground--'and tell him that he may sleep in peace. The conspiracy is
crushed--the Empire is saved!'--The very next morning the trial for
high treason was commenced. Many witnesses were heard--I amongst them.
I swore that I had seen Belisarius received and heard him greeted as
the head of the conspiracy. I myself had taken the tablet from the
dress of Photius. Belisarius would have appealed to the testimony of
his bodyguards, but they were all dead. Photius and other prisoners,
submitted to the rack, confessed that Belisarius had finally consented
to become the head of the conspiracy. Antonina was strictly guarded in
the Red House. The Empress refused to grant the interview for which she
passionately sued. It told strongly against both her and Belisarius
when spies of the Empress bore witness that they had seen young Anicius
steal by night into the house of Belisarius for weeks together. And it
shocked the judges that Anicius himself, Antonina and Belisarius,
continued obstinately to deny their guilt, although it was so fully
proved. Immediately after the arrest I was sent for by my master, to
tell Antonina that he had been most painfully surprised to find that
Belisarius was _really_ at the head of the conspiracy; and at the same
time to say that he had found not alone letters of hatred in the
cistern belonging to Anicius. As I said these words, which I did not
understand, the beautiful wife of Belisarius fell fainting to the
ground.--We left Byzantium before Belisarius was sentenced; but Photius
and most of the others were already condemned to death as we set sail
with the imperial fleet for Epidamnus, where my master's tribunes and
mercenaries, and the imperial forces originally intended for the
Persian wars, were awaiting us. For my master had been honoured with
the newly-created dignity of Magister Militum per Italium, and the
command of the 'first army.' The 'second army' was to be brought after
us by Prince Areobindos, when he had accomplished the easy task of
overpowering the small Gothic garrisons in the towns of Epirus and the
islands with a force five times their number."

"What is said will be the punishment of Belisarius?" asked Lucius
Licinius. "I could never have believed that that man----"

"The judge will certainly condemn him to death, for his guilt is clear.
But people speculate as to whether the Emperor's anger or his former
affection for the general will get the victory. Most of them think that
the Emperor will change the sentence of death into one of banishment
and loss of sight. My master says that Belisarius's senseless denial of
his guilt does him great harm. And he is also without the assistance of
his wise friend Procopius, who is absent in Asia. Cethegus managed the
embarkation of the troops to Epidamnus with such secrecy that the
stupid Goths, who, besides, reckoned upon the armistice, were
completely taken by surprise; and while the crews were sleeping on
shore, the scantily-guarded Gothic fleet was taken and destroyed. But
hark! here comes my master; he alone has such a proud step?"

From Licinius Cethegus now learned that not only had he obtained a
promise from Alboin, the Longobardian chief, that he would come to the
help of Cethegus with twenty thousand men (a number which the latter,
always jealous, found almost too great), but that he had succeeded in
engaging other warlike troops of mercenaries.

Cethegus, on his side, informed Lucius that, although he had been able
to relieve Ravenna, he had met with much hindrance on the part of his
own countrymen, who were slow to rise in revolt against the Goths; and
that only with the Byzantines under his command, it would be impossible
to beat Totila. He complained bitterly of the delay of Areobindos in
bringing up the "second army," and regretted that he had been unable to
reach Taginæ before Earl Teja, who had beaten the Saracens there posted
with great loss, and had taken up a strong position in the expectation
of being speedily joined by King Totila with the army.

"And Taginæ is the key of the position," concluded Cethegus. "Earl Teja
must have flown from Rome on the wings of the wind! I have tried to-day
to ascertain the strength of his garrison, but I could not penetrate
beyond Capræ. The barbarian King is already on the march, and where,
oh! where tarries my 'second army?'"



                              CHAPTER XVI.


The next day Totila reached Taginæ, accompanied by Valeria and Julius.
He had hastened forward to join Teja with a portion of his troops,
while Wisand and Guntharis reached him later with the main army. Only
after their arrival could any attack be made upon the very strong
position of the Prefect.

Cethegus, too, attempted no assault, but while thus inactive, awaiting
his "second army," he once more, and in vain, endeavoured to regain the
lost affection of Julius. He went to Taginæ to meet him at a spot
between the outposts of the opposing forces. He tried all possible
means to induce him to return to his allegiance, even unveiling the
history of his past life. The mother of Julius had once been betrothed
to Cethegus, but her father had been persuaded by Duke Alaric to break
off the match, and to give her in marriage to a Gothic noble. On the
day of her wedding, Cethegus, mad with grief, had tried to carry her
off by force, but, overpowered by numbers, had been struck down, and
thrown, seemingly lifeless, on the banks of the Tiber. Many years
after, he had found Julius, a young boy, forsaken, with his dying
mother, in their villa on the banks of the Rhodus, which had been
sacked by bands of marauders. From that moment Cethegus had adopted the
son of his lost bride.--But in vain he now appealed to the gratitude of
his adopted son. Julius not only recoiled with horror from any further
connection with a man whose ruthless hands were stained with blood, but
his deepening religious feeling separated him entirely from the avowed
atheist.

And, blow upon blow, Cethegus was disappointed in another matter. The
"second army" was at last reported as approaching. Syphax brought the
news; he had ridden night and day in order to reach the Prefect
before this army should arrive, for at its head was, not Areobindos,
but--_Narses_.

Vexed and alarmed, Cethegus left his camp, and rode forward to meet
Narses, with whom he found Alboin, the Longobardian chief. Narses
received him with marked coolness, and at once explained to him that he
could suffer no rival in his camp; that Cethegus must either serve
under him as one of his generals, or remain inactive as his _guest_.
Clearly seeing that he must either submit or be a prisoner, Cethegus at
once affirmed that he considered it an honour to serve under Narses,
and together the generals reached a favourable position between
Helvillum and Taginæ.

And a mighty army was that of Narses, with which he had advanced from
the north and east in terrible strides, driving before him the Goths
from position to position, making no prisoners, but inexorably
annihilating all who stood in his way.

Totila had but a small force to oppose to these numbers, for his army
had been fearfully diminished; and now, when the Italians foresaw the
probable consequences of the renewed war, and that the Goths were being
slowly but surely overcome, they ceased to rally round Totila's flag,
and even, where they felt themselves safe, betrayed the hiding-places
of the Gothic people to the Byzantines. The persecuted Gothic families
fled, and sought protection in the camp of Totila, who, fearing the
famine sure to be caused by the accumulation of helpless masses, sent
them still farther south to those parts of the peninsula yet uninvaded
by Narses.

Surrounded by his Earls, Totila now formed a plan by which he intended
to entice the centre of the army of Narses (which was held by the
Longobardians) into an ambush between Capræ and Taginæ. Reckoning upon
the headlong valour of the Longobardians, Totila determined to place
the full half of his troops in the town of Capræ, leaving the other
half in Taginæ. Totila himself, with his small troop of horsemen, would
advance beyond Capræ against the Longobardians; and at the moment of
attack, would turn, feigning a sudden panic; would gallop back through
the gates of Capræ (the troops there remaining concealed in the
houses), and thus draw on the Longobardians to pursue him into the
narrow road, between low hills, which lay between Capræ and Taginæ. At
this spot Totila would place in ambush a troop of Persian horsemen,
which had been unexpectedly brought to him by his old friend and rival,
Furius Ahalla, who had orders, when the Longobardians were fairly taken
in the trap, to issue from their ambush, and annihilate them. Totila
counted upon the fidelity of Ahalla, who was bound to him by strong
ties of gratitude in spite of the defeat he had suffered in his suit of
Valeria. This plan of Totila was highly approved of by Hildebrand, and
all the warriors who shared his counsels.

The evening before the day of its execution all was in readiness.
Furius Ahalla and his horsemen were posted in the narrow road, the
"Flaminian Way." Earl Thorismuth himself went out to make sure that
they had punctually obeyed orders. When he returned to Totila's camp,
he brought word that Furius Ahalla begged Totila to delay his attack
and feigned flight on the morrow, until three hundred of his best men,
who had been delayed on the march, should have joined him; of which
event he would immediately apprise Totila outside the gates of Capræ.

"Well," said Totila, smiling, "I will await the proper moment, and
meantime entertain the Longobardians by my feats of horsemanship.
To-morrow, Teja, God will decide the right. Thou sayest there is no God
but necessity. I say there is a living God--my victory to-morrow shall
prove it."

"Stay," cried Julius, who was present, "ye shall not tempt the Lord!"

"Seest thou," cried Teja, as he rose and took up his shield, "Julius
fears for his God!"



                             CHAPTER XVII.


Brilliantly arose the sun on the next morning, casting its first beams
over the warlike movement in the Gothic camp.

As the King issued from his dwelling in the marketplace of Taginæ,
Adalgoth, Thorismuth, and Phaza hurried to meet him with his milk-white
charger, sent, together with a magnificent suit of armour, by Valeria,
his bride.

His arms rang as the King swung himself into the saddle.

His grooms led up two other horses in reserve, one of which was Pluto,
the Prefect's restless and fiery charger.

From Totila's shoulders flowed his long white mantle, held together at
the neck by a broad and heavy clasp set with precious stones. His
cuirass was of shining silver, richly inlaid with gold, the figure of a
flying swan upon the breast. The edges of the cuirass at the neck,
arms, and belt, were bound with red silk. Beneath it showed the coat of
white silk, reaching over the thighs.

Broad gold bracelets and silvered gauntlets protected his arms and
hands; greaves his knees and the top of his feet.

His narrow and gracefully-shaped shield was divided into three fields
of silver, gold, and crimson. On the golden field the figure of the
flying swan was wrought in white enamel.

The caparison and reins of his horse were set with silver and
embroidered with red silk.

In his right hand the King held a spear, to the point of which Valeria
had fastened four streamers of red and white riband; merrily they
fluttered in the morning breeze.

Thus brilliantly arrayed, the King rode through the streets of Taginæ
at the head of his horsemen. Earl Thorismuth, Phaza, and Duke Adalgoth,
and also Julius, rode in his train. Julius carried no weapons, but he
bore a shield forged by Teja.

Never had Totila shone in such beauty! The people greeted him upon his
way with shouts of joy. At the northern gate of Taginæ, Aligern came
riding towards him.

"I thought that thy place was with the right wing," said the King.
"What brings thee here?"

"My cousin Teja has ordered me to remain at thy side and guard thy
life."

"My Teja is untiring in his care of me!" cried the King.

Aligern joined the escort.

Earl Thorismuth now undertook the command of the footmen who were
hidden in the houses of Taginæ.

Outside the gate, the King rode to the front of his not very numerous
troop of horsemen, and disclosed his plan to the captains.

"I entrust to you, comrades, the most difficult of all tasks--flight!
But the flight will be only seeming. What is true, is your courage and
the destruction of the foe."

And now the small troop rode forward past the place of ambush on the
Flaminian Way, the King convincing himself that the Persian horsemen
were in readiness upon both the wooded heights. The ambush on the right
was commanded by Furius himself, that on the left by his chief,
Isdigerd.

Totila now rode into Capræ through the southern gate, and admonished
the bowmen under Earl Wisand not to issue from the houses in which they
were concealed, until the Persian horsemen had fallen upon the
Longobardians from their ambush, but then immediately to sally out of
the southern gate, while at the same time the spear-bearers would
advance against the enemy from the northern gate of Taginæ.

"Thus the Longobardians and such of Narses' foot who have pressed
forward between Capræ and Taginæ will be surrounded on all sides and
crushed. I and Thorismuth attack in front, Furius and Isdigerd on both
flanks, and Wisand in the rear. They will be lost!"

"Does he not look like the sun-god?" Adalgoth delightedly asked Julius.

"Peace! Make no idol of sun or man! Besides, to-day is the solstice!"
answered Julius.

At length the King reached the northern gate of Capræ, left it open
behind him, and galloped out with his little troop upon the level land
between Capræ and Helvillum.

Here Narses had placed his centre; foremost Alboin with his
Longobardians. Behind these, at a considerable distance, stood Narses
in his litter, surrounded by Cethegus, Liberius, Auzalas, and other
leaders.

Narses had had a bad night, disturbed by slight fits. He was very weak,
and could not stand up for any length of time in his low and open
litter.

He had strictly admonished Alboin not to advance to the attack without
special orders.

King Totila gave a sign to his horsemen, and at a trot the thin line
advanced towards the far superior ranks of the Longobardians.

"They surely will not shame us by attacking us with only a few lances?"
cried Alboin.

But an attack did not seem to be the present object of the King.

He had ridden far in advance of his men, who had suddenly halted, and
now attracted all eyes by his feats of horsemanship.

The spectacle which he afforded was so wonderful in the eyes of the
Byzantines, that the witnesses related it in astonishment to Procopius,
who, himself amazed, has remitted it to us.

"On this day," he writes, "King Totila evidently wished to show his
enemies what manner of man he was. His weapons and his horse shone with
gold. So many shining red streamers fluttered from the point of his
spear that this ornament alone announced the King from a distance.
Thus, mounted on a splendid charger, in the space between the two
armies, did he indulge in a skilful exercise of arms. Now he rode in a
circle; now he caracoled in semicircles to the right and left; now he
hurled his spear into the air, as he rode off at full gallop, and
caught it by the middle of the shaft as it fell quivering, first with
his right hand, and then with his left; and thus he showed to the
wondering troops his feats of horsemanship."

After the battle, however, the Byzantines learned the true reason of
this merry sport.

For a time Alboin looked on quietly.

Then he said to a Longobardian chief who stood near him:

"That fellow rides to the battle-field adorned like a bridegroom! What
costly armour! We do not see the like at home, Gisulf.  And not to dare
to attack! Does Narses again sleep?"



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


At last a Persian horseman, making his way through the ranks of the
Goths, galloped up to the King, gave a message, and galloped back again
at full speed.

"At last!" cried Totila. "Now enough of sport! Brave Alboin, son of
Audoin," he loudly cried across to the enemy's ranks, "wilt thou really
fight for the Greeks against us? Then come on, O King's son--it is a
King who calls thee?"

Alboin could no longer restrain his impatience.

"Mine must he be with armour and horse!" he shouted, and spurred
forward with his lance couched.

Totila, with a gentle pressure of his thigh, brought his horse to a
sudden standstill. It seemed that he intended to stand the shock.

Alboin came on at a furious gallop.

Another slight pressure of Totila's thigh, a clever spring to one side,
and the Longobardian, who could not check his horse, rushed far past
his adversary.

But the next moment Totila was at Alboin's back; he could easily have
bored him through with his spear.

The Longobardians, seeing the danger of their chief, uttered loud cries
and hurried to his assistance.

But Totila whirled his lance round, and contented himself with giving
his adversary such a thrust in the left side with the shaft end, that
Alboin fell headlong out of his saddle on the right side of his horse.
Totila quietly rode back to his troop, waving his spear over his head
in triumph.

Alboin had remounted, and now led his troop against the thin ranks of
the Goths.

But just before the shock of meeting, the King cried, "Fly! fly into
the town!" turned his horse's head, and galloped away towards Capræ.

His horsemen followed him.

For one moment Alboin halted in perplexity. But the next he cried:

"It is nothing else; it is a pure flight! There they run into the gate!
Yes, feats of horsemanship are one thing, and fighting is another.
After them, my wolves! into the town!"

And the Longobardians galloped forwards to Capræ, burst open the
northern gate--which had been closed, but not bolted, by the flying
Goths--and rushed through the long street towards the southern gate,
through which the last Goth was just disappearing.

Narses had till now stood upright in his litter with difficulty,
observing all that passed.

"Halt!" he angrily cried. "Halt! Blow the trumpets! Sound the retreat!
It is the most clumsy trap in the world! But this Alboin thinks that if
any one runs away from him, it must be in earnest!"

But the trumpeters blew in vain.

The cries of victory uttered by the pursuing Longobardians, drowned the
blast of the trumpets; or those that heard it disregarded it.

Narses groaned as he saw the last ranks of the Longobardians disappear
into the Gate of Capræ.

"Oh!" he sighed; "those blockheads oblige me to commit a folly with
open eyes. I cannot let them suffer for their stupidity as they
deserve. I still need them. Therefore, forward, in the name of
nonsense! Before we can overtake them, they may be already half
destroyed! Forward, Cethegus, Anzalas, and Liberius! Take the
Isaurians, Armenians, and Illyrians, and get into Capræ. But reflect
that the town _cannot_ be empty. It is a snare, into which we follow
those blind bulls with open eyes. I will come after in my litter; but I
can stand no more."

And he sank back into his seat, terribly fatigued. A slight convulsion,
such as he often experienced when excited, shook his frame.

The footmen of Cethegus and Liberius advanced towards the town at a
rapid march, the two leaders riding in front.

Meanwhile pursued and pursuers had rushed through the little town, and
the last Longobardians had passed Capræ, while the first, with Alboin,
had reached that part of the Flaminian Way where the two hills bounded
and confined the road on the right and left.

The King galloped forward another horse's length; then he halted,
turned, and gave a sign.

Adalgoth, who rode at his side, blew his horn, and out of the northern
gate of Taginæ issued Thorismuth and his spear-bearers, while from the
double ambush on the hills the Persian horsemen of the Corsican burst
out with a yell and a blast of cornets.

"Now wheel about, my Goths! Forward to the charge! Woe to the
befooled!" cried Totila.

Alboin looked helplessly round.

"We have never before trotted into anything so evil, my wolves!" he
said.

He would have retreated, but now Gothic footmen issued likewise from
the southern gate of Capræ, blocking the way back.

"There is nothing for it but to die merrily, Gisulf! Greet Rosimunda,
if thou escapest!"

And he turned to meet one of the leaders of the Persian horsemen, who,
distinguished by a richly-gilded open helm, had now reached the road,
and was advancing straight upon him.

As he came up to Alboin, he of the gilded helmet cried:

"Turn, Longobardian! yonder stands our common foe! _Down with the
Goths!_"

And he ran his sword through a Gothic horseman who was aiming a stroke
at Alboin.

And now the Persian horsemen, galloping past the Longobardians,
attacked the horrified Goths. For a moment the latter halted, taken by
surprise. But when they saw that it was no mistake--that the ambush was
against _them_, and not against the Longobardians--they cried,
"Treachery, treachery! all is lost!" and, this time in unfeigned
flight, rushed back to Taginæ, carrying everything along with them,
even their own footmen, who were just issuing from the gate.

Even the King changed countenance when he saw the Corsican strike at
the Goths at Alboin's side.

"Yes, it is treachery!" he cried. "Ha! the tiger! Down with him!"

And he rushed at the Corsican. But before he could reach him, Isdigerd
the Persian had stormed into the road from the left between the King
and Furius.

"Aim at the King!" he cried to his men. "All spears at the King! There
he is, the white one! With the swan on his helmet! Down with him!"

A hail of spears whistled through the air. In a moment the King's
shield bristled with darts.

By this time the Corsican had recognised the tall and glittering figure
in the distance.

"It is he! I will have his heart's blood!"

And he forced his way through his own and Isdigerd's men.

The two enraged adversaries were now separated only by a few feet.

But Totila had turned against Isdigerd. Pierced in the neck by the
King's spear, the chief fell dead to the ground.

And now Totila and Furius met.

The Corsican aimed his spear full at the King's unprotected face.

But suddenly the glittering helmet and the white mantle had
disappeared.

Two spears had struck the white horse, and at the same time a third
pierced the King's shield and wounded his left arm severely.

Horse and man fell.

Isdigerd's Persians raised a wild cry of exultation and pressed
forward.

Furius and Alboin spurred their horses.

"Spare the King's life! take him prisoner! He spared me!" cried Alboin.

For he had been greatly touched when Gisulf told him that he distinctly
saw the King change the point of his spear for the shaft.

"No! Down with Totila!" cried Furius.

And he hurled his spear at the wounded man, whom Aligern was trying to
lift upon the Prefect's horse and lead out of the fight.

Julius caught the Corsican's first spear upon Teja's proven shield.

Furius called for a second, and aimed at the press around the King;
Phaza, the Armenian, tried to parry the stroke and received the spear
in his heart.

Then Furius, who had now spurred close up, raised his long and crooked
scimetar against the King. But before the stroke could fall the
Corsican fell backwards from his saddle.

The young Duke of Apulia had thrust the staff of his banner with such
force against Ahalla's breast that the wood was shattered.

And now Totila's banner--the costly work of Valeria and her women--was
in the greatest danger in Adalgoth's hands. For all the enemy's horse
pressed upon the bold young standard-bearer; a stroke of Gisulf's axe
struck the staff and broke it again--Adalgoth tore off the silken flag
and tucked it into his sword-belt.

Alboin had now come up, and cried:

"Yield, thou King of the Goths--to me, a King's son!"

Aligern had just succeeded in lifting the King on to the Prefect's
horse; he turned to the Longobardian, who, wishing to stay the
King's flight but to save his life, aimed a stroke at the latter's
horse with his spear. But the next moment Aligern had cleft Alboin's
vulture-winged helmet, and, stunned, the latter wavered in his saddle.

Thus, the leaders of their enemies being for the moment repulsed,
Adalgoth, Aligern, and Julius had time to lead the King out of the
tumult as far as the northern gate of Taginæ. From this place the King
would have conducted the battle, but he could scarcely hold himself
upright in his saddle.

"Thorismuth," he said, "thou must defend Taginæ; for the present Capræ
is lost. Let a mounted messenger fetch the whole of Hildebrand's wing
here; the road to Rome must be kept open at all costs. Teja, as I
learned, has already joined in the battle with his left wing.--To
defend the retreat to the south--is our last hope!"

And, saying this, he swooned away.

But Earl Thorismuth said:

"I and my spearmen will defend Taginæ to the last man. Not a foe shall
get in here; neither the Persians nor the Longobardians. I will protect
the King's life as long as I can raise a finger. Take him farther back;
into the mountain--into the cloister but make haste, for there, from
the Gate of Capræ, come the enemy's foot--and, look there!--Cethegus
the Prefect with his Isaurians! Capræ and our bowmen are lost!"

And so it was.

Wisand, obeying his orders, had not defended Capræ, but had allowed
Cethegus and Liberius to enter, and only when they were fairly inside
the town did he begin the fight in the streets, at the same time
sending a thousand of his men out of the southern gate to attack the
Longobardians.

But, as the ambuscades had fallen upon the Goths instead of the
Longobardians; as Alboin and Furius united in dispersing or
annihilating the few Gothic horsemen, and the attack intended by the
spearmen from Taginæ did not take place; the Gothic bowmen, first in
Capræ itself, and then on the Flaminian Way, between Capræ and Taginæ,
were quickly crushed by superior force.

Wisand escaped as if by a miracle, and, though wounded, reached Taginæ
and reported the annihilation of his troops.

Narses was carried into Capræ, and the Illyrians began to storm Taginæ.
Earl Thorismuth resisted heroically. He fought his best in order to
cover the retreat of his comrades.

He was presently reinforced by a few thousand men from Hildebrand's
left wing, who now hurried up, while the old master-at-arms led the
greater part of his troops southwards beyond Taginæ upon the high-road
to Rome.

Just as the storming of Taginæ was about to commence, Cethegus met
Furius and Alboin, who had recovered from the blows they had received.

Cethegus had heard of the course pursued by the Corsican, which had
decided the fate of the battle. He shook him by the hand.

"Well done, friend Furius! At last on the right side, and against the
barbarian King!"

"He must not escape alive!" growled the Corsican.

"What? How? He still lives! I thought that--he had fallen," said
Cethegus hastily.

"No; they managed to rescue him after he was wounded."

"He must not live!" cried Cethegus. "Then you are right! It is of more
importance than to win Taginæ. Narses can manage that heroic work from
his litter. He has seventy to one. Up, Furius! Why do your horsemen
stand idle here?"

"The animals cannot ride up the walls!"

"No; but they can swim. Up! take three hundred yourself, and give me
three hundred. Two roads lead right and left from the little town
over--no! they have broken down the bridges--they lead _through_ the
Clasius and the Sibola--let us take these roads. The wounded King is
certainly--can he still fight?"

"Hardly."

"Then he has fled beyond Taginæ--to Rome or--"

"No; to his bride!" cried Furius. "Most certainly to Valeria in the
cloister. Ha! I will stab him in her very arms! Up, Persians! follow
me. Thanks, Prefect! Take as many horsemen as you like. And ride to the
right--I will ride to the left round the town; for both roads lead to
the cloister."

And, wheeling to the left, he disappeared.

Cethegus ordered the rest of the horsemen to follow him, speaking in
the Persian language.

Then he rode up to Liberius and said:

"I will take the Gothic King prisoner."

"What? He still lives? Then make haste!"

"Meanwhile you can take this Taginæ," continued Cethegus; "I will leave
you my Isaurians."

And he galloped away with Syphax and three hundred Persians.

Meantime the wounded King had been taken by his friends out of Taginæ
into a little pine-wood near the road, where he drank from a spring and
gradually revived.

"Julius," he said, "ride on to Valeria; tell her that the battle is
lost, but not the kingdom. That I am alive and still hope. As soon as I
feel a little stronger I shall ride up to the Spes Bonorum. I ordered
Teja and Hildebrand there when they had finished their tasks. It is a
high and safe position. Go, I beg thee; comfort Valeria and take her
also from the cloister to Spes Bonorum. Thou wilt not? Then I must
myself ride up the difficult road--surely thou wilt spare me that?"

Julius was reluctant to leave the wounded man.

"Oh, relieve me from my helmet and mantle! they are so heavy," said
Totila.

Julius took them from him and gave him his own mantle.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


All at once a thought flashed across the mind of the monk; had they not
once before exchanged garments--the Dioscuri?

Had he not once before drawn the murderous steel directed at Totila's
heart upon himself?

He thought they were followed. It seemed to him that he heard horses
approaching, and Aligern--Adalgoth held the King's head upon his
knees--had hastened to the edge of the wood to look.

"Yes, it is they," he cried as he returned; "Persian horsemen are
riding up from both sides of the wood!"

"Then make haste, Julius," begged Totila; "save Valeria! Take her to
Teja at the sarcophagus."

"I will make all speed, my friend! Farewell till we meet again!" And
Julius once more pressed Totila's hand. Then he mounted Pluto--he chose
the wounded horse, leaving his own, which was unhurt.

Unseen by Totila, he set the helmet with its silver swan upon his head,
folded the white mantle around him, and galloped out of the wood
towards the cloister hill.

"This road," he thought, "is open and undefended, while the road which
the King will take to the Spes Bonorum leads through wood and vineyard.
Perhaps I shall succeed in attracting the pursuers away from him."

And, in fact, he had no sooner issued from beneath the trees, and begun
to ride up the hill, than he saw that the horsemen who had come from
beyond Taginæ were eagerly following him.

In order to keep the pursuers away from the King, and from discovering
their error, he urged his horse to its full speed.

But the animal was wounded, and the way was very steep. Nearer and
nearer came the pursuers.

"Is it he?"

"Yes, it is he."

"No, it is not. He is too short," said the leader of the troop, who
rode foremost.

"Would he fly alone?"

"That would be the best way to escape," observed the leader.

"It is he most surely; I see the silver swan on his helmet!"

"And the white mantle!"

"But he rode a white horse," said the leader.

"Yes, at first," said one of the horsemen; "but when it fell, struck by
my spear, they lifted him--I was close by--upon that charger."

"Enough," said the leader, "you are right. I recognise the horse."

"A noble animal! How it keeps on, and up hill, too, although wounded."

"Yes, he is a noble animal! And I will make him stop. Pay attention!
Halt, Pluto!" he shouted. "On your knees!"

Snorting and trembling, the clever, obedient animal, in spite of spur
and blows, stood stockstill, and slowly bent its fore-legs in the sand.

"It is ruin, barbarian, to ride the Prefect's horse! There, take that
for the Forum! and that for the Capitol! and that for Julius!"

And the Prefect--for he it was--furiously hurled three spears one after
the other, his own and two carried by Syphax, at the back of his
victim, and with such force that they passed completely through the
fugitive's body.

Then Cethegus sprang from his horse, drew his sword, and taking the
fallen man by the back of his helmet, dragged up his head from the
earth.

"Julius!" he screamed in horror.

"You, O Cethegus!" Julius could just murmur.

"Julius! you must not, must not die!"

And Cethegus passionately tried to stanch the blood that issued from
the three wounds.

"If you love me," said the dying man, "save him--save Totila!" And his
gentle eyes closed for ever.

Cethegus put his hand upon the heart of the dead man; he laid his ear
upon the bared breast.

"All is over!" he then said, in a faint voice. "O Manilia! Julius, I
loved thee! And he died with _his_ name upon his lips! All is over!" he
cried again, but this time in a voice of anger; "the last bond which
united me to human love I have myself cut, deceived by mocking
accident! It was my last weakness! And now all tender feeling, be dead
to me! Lift him on to the horse.--This, my Pluto, shall be your last
service.--Take him--up there I see a chapel--take him there, and let
him be buried with all ceremony by the priests. Merely say that he died
as a monk--that he died for his friend. He deserves a Christian burial.
But I," he added, with a terrible expression on his face, "I will once
more seek his friend; I will unite them without delay--and for ever."

And he mounted his horse.

"Whither?" asked Syphax. "Back to Taginæ?"

"No! down into that wood. He must be hidden there, for thence came
Julius."


During these occurrences the King had recovered, and now rode with
Adalgoth, Aligern, and a few riders, straight out of the wood, on the
outer edge of which the road ascended to the chapel hill. As they
issued from the trees they could distinctly perceive the walls of the
building.

But they themselves had been seen, for they heard a yell to their
right, and over the open level a numerous troop of horsemen came
galloping towards them from the river.

The King recognised the leader, and before his companions could prevent
him, he spurred his horse, couched his spear, and rushed to meet his
enemy. Like two thunderbolts from the lowering heavens, the two
horsemen crashed together.

"Insolent barbarian!"

"Miserable traitor!"

And both fell from their horses.

They had met with such fury, that neither of them had thought of
defending himself, but only of overthrowing his adversary.

Furius Ahalla had fallen dead, for the King had pierced him to the
heart through gilded shield and breastplate with such force, that the
shaft of the spear had broken in the wound. But the King also sank
dying into Adalgoth's arms. Ahalla's lance had entered his breast just
below his throat.

Adalgoth tore Valerians blue banner out of his belt and tried to stanch
the streaming blood--in vain; the bright blue was at once dyed deep
red.

"Gothia!" breathed Totila, "Italia! Valeria!"

At this moment, before the unequal fight could commence, Alboin arrived
upon the spot with his Longobardians. He had followed the Prefect, not
being inclined to remain idle while the fight was going on round the
walls of Taginæ.

The Longobardian looked silently and with emotion at the corpse of the
King.

"He gave me my life--I could not save his," he said gravely.

One of his horsemen pointed to the rich armour worn by the dead man.

"No," said Alboin, "this royal hero must be buried with all his royal
trappings."

"There, Alboin, on the rocky height above us," said Adalgoth, "his
bride and his tomb, self-chosen, have waited for him long."


"Take him up! I will give safe-conduct to the noble corpse and the
noble bearers. Now, my men, follow me back to the fight!"



                              CHAPTER XX.


But the fight was over: as Alboin and the Prefect discovered, to their
great disgust, when they again reached Taginæ.

The Prefect, just as he had entered the pine-wood and was about to
follow the King's track, had been overtaken by a messenger from
Liberius, who sent word for him to return immediately. Narses was
insensible, and the peril of the situation necessitated immediate
counsel.

Narses insensible--Liberius perplexed--the victory they had thought
certain, endangered--these circumstances weighed more with the Prefect
than the doubtful expectation of dealing the death-stroke to the
half-dead King.

In haste Cethegus galloped back to Taginæ the way that he had come.
When he reached the town he found Liberius, who cried:

"Too late! I have already settled and agreed to everything. A truce!
The rest of the Goths march off!"

"What?" thundered Cethegus--he would gladly have poured all the blood
of the Goths upon the grave of his darling as a sacrifice. "They march?
A truce? Where is Narses?"

"He lies insensible in his litter; he has been taken with severe
convulsions. The fright, the surprise--it prostrated him, and no
wonder."

"What surprise? Speak, man!"

And Liberius briefly related how they had forced their way into Taginæ
with fearful loss of blood, "for the Goths stood like a wall"--had been
obliged to storm house by house, even room by room--"we were obliged to
hack to pieces by inches one of their leaders, who ran Anzalas through
as he leaped into the first breach, before we could force our way into
the town over his body."

"Who was he?" asked Cethegus earnestly. "I hope Earl Teja?"

"No; Earl Thorismuth. When we had finished our bloody work, and Narses
was about to let himself be carried into the town, he met in the gate a
messenger from our left wing--which no more exists! It was Zeuxippos,
wounded, and accompanied by Gothic heralds."

"Who has----?"

"He whom you just named--Earl Teja! He guessed or learned that
Zeuxippos was threatening his centre, that the King was wounded--and,
well knowing that he would arrive too late to turn the course of events
at Taginæ, he came to a bold and desperate resolution. He suddenly gave
up his post of expectation on the hills, threw himself upon our left
wing, which was slowly advancing up the hill opposite to him, beat it
at the first onset, pursued the fugitives into their camp, and there
made prisoners of ten thousand of our men, and all the captains,
amongst them my Orestes and Zeuxippos. He sent Gothic heralds to
Narses, who took Zeuxippos with them to witness to the truth of what
they said, and demanded an immediate truce of twenty-four hours."

"Impossible!"

"Otherwise he swore to slay all his ten thousand prisoners---together
with the captains."

"That is no matter," observed Cethegus.

"It may be no matter to you, Roman--what matters to you a myriad of our
troops?--but not so to Narses. The terrible surprise, the still more
terrible necessity of making a choice, quite prostrated him. A severe
attack of his malady came on, and as he sank down, he gave me his
commander's staff, and I, of course, accepted the conditions----"

"Of course, Pylades must save Orestes!" said Cethegus in a rage.

"And, besides, ten thousand men of the imperial army!"

"I am not bound by this agreement," cried Cethegus; "I shall again
attack."

"You dare not! Teja has taken most of his prisoners and all the
captains with him as hostages--he will slay them if another arrow be
shot?"

"Let him slay them! I shall attack."

"See whether the Byzantines will follow you! I at once communicated the
order of Narses to your troops: for now _I_ am Narses."

"You shall die, as soon as Narses has recovered his senses!"

But Cethegus perceived that he could do nothing against the Goths with
his mercenaries alone. For when Teja had retreated to the cloister and
chapel hill and the Flaminian Way with his prisoners, and Hildebrand's
wing had also reached the road with little loss of life--for the two
rivers, and then the news of the truce, had checked the pursuit
attempted by Johannes--the Goths had gathered the rest of their troops
together and taken up a safe position.

Cethegus waited with impatience for the recovery of Narses, who he
hoped would never acknowledge the agreement concluded by his
representative.



                              CHAPTER XXI.


Meanwhile Teja and Hildebrand had arrived upon the chapel hill,
whither, as they had been apprised, the wounded King had been carried.

News of later events had not yet reached them.

Before they entered the walls which enclosed the grove before the
chapel, the two leaders had agreed upon the plan which they would
propose to the King. There was no other way but to retreat to the south
under the protection of the truce. But when they entered the grove,
what a sight met their view!

Sobbing loudly, Adalgoth hurried up to Teja, and led him to an ancient
and ivy-grown sarcophagus. Within it, upon his shield, lay King Totila.
The majesty of death gave to his noble features a solemnity that made
them more beautiful than they had ever been when brightened by joy.

On his left hand rested Julius, in the open hollow cover of the
sarcophagus, which had long since fallen from its proper place. Under
the common shadow of death, the resemblance between the "Dioscuri" was
more striking and touching than ever.

And between the two friends lay a third form, which had been carefully
laid by Gotho and Liuta upon the King's blood-stained mantle. Upon a
gently-rising mound lay Valeria, the Roman virgin.

Fetched from the neighbouring cloister to receive her lover, she had
thrown herself, without a scream, without even a sigh, upon the broad
shield with its solemn burthen, which Adalgoth and Aligern were
carrying through the gate with sad and slow steps. Before any one could
speak, she had cried:

"I know all--he is dead!"

She had assisted them to lay the corpse in the sarcophagus, and while
so occupied she had repeated to herself, in a low voice, these words:

    "'Him too thou seest, how stalwart, tall, and fair!
      Yet must he yield to death and stubborn fate,
      Whene'er, at morn or noon or eve, the spear
      Or arrow from the bow may rend his life.
      Then may I, too, visit th' eternal shades!"

Then, without haste, quietly and slowly, she drew a dagger from her
girdle, and with the words, "Here, stern Christian God, take my soul!
thus I fulfil the vow!" the Roman maiden thrust the sharp steel into
her bosom.

Cassiodorus, a little cross of cedar in his hand, went, deeply
moved--the tears trickled down his venerable white beard--from corpse
to corpse, repeating the prayers of the Church.

And the pious women of the cloister, who had accompanied Valeria, began
the simple and noble chant:

                 "Vis ac splendor seculorum,
                  Belli laus et flos amorum
                    Labefacta mox marcescunt;
                  Dei laus et gratia sine
                  Ævi termino vel fine
                    In eternum perflorescunt."

Gradually the grove had become filled with warriors, who had followed
their leaders. Among them were Earls Wisand and Markja.

Teja heard the report of the weeping Adalgoth in silence. Then he went
close to the King's corpse. Without a tear, he laid his mailed right
hand upon the King's wounded breast, bent over him, and whispered:

"I will complete the work."

Then he went back and took his place under a mighty tree, which rose
above a forgotten grave-mound, and spoke to the little group of
soldiers who stood silently and reverently round the dead.

"Gothic men! the battle is lost, and the kingdom likewise. Whoever will
now go to Narses, whoever will subject himself to the Emperor, I will
not keep him back. But I am resolved to fight to the end; not for
victory, but to die the free death of a hero. Whoever wishes to share
this fate with me, may remain. You all wish it? 'Tis well."

Hildebrand interposed.

"The King has fallen. The Goths cannot--even to die--fight without a
King. Athalaric, Witichis, Totila--_one_ only can be the fourth; only
one is worthy to succeed these three; thou, Teja, our last, our
greatest hero!"

"Yes," said Teja; "I will be your King. Under me you shall not live
joyfully; you shall only die greatly. Be still! No cry of joy, no clang
of arms must greet me. Whoever will have me for his King, let him do as
I do."

And he broke a small branch from the tree under which he stood, and
twisted it round his helmet. All silently followed his example.

Adalgoth, who stood next him, whispered:

"O King Teja! it is a cypress bough! Thus is crowned a victim doomed to
sacrifice!"

"Yes, my Adalgoth, thou speakest prophecy;" and Teja swung his sword in
a circle round his head. "Doomed to death!"



                                BOOK VI.
                                  TEJA

"I have now to describe a most remarkable battle, and the high
heroism of the man who was inferior to none of the heroes--of
Teja."--_Procopius: Gothic War_, iv. 35.



                               CHAPTER I.


The destiny of the Goths was soon to be fulfilled. The rolling stone
approached the abyss.

When Narses came to his senses and learned what had taken place, he
gave orders at once to arrest Liberius and send him to Byzantium to
answer for his conduct.

"I will not say," he said to his confidant, Basiliskos, "that he has
come to a false decision. I myself could not have done otherwise. But I
should have done it for different reasons. _His_ only wish was to save
his friend and the ten thousand prisoners. That was wrong. Situated as
he was, he ought to have sacrificed them, for he could not overlook the
actual condition of the war. He did not know, as I know, that after
this battle the Gothic kingdom is lost--whether it be completely
destroyed at Rome or Neapolis is indifferent--and that alone would have
been, and is, the reason for which the ten thousand should be saved."

"At Neapolis? But why not at Rome? Do you not remember the formidable
fortifications of the Prefect? Why should not the Goths throw
themselves into Rome and resist for months?"

"Why? Because things are very different with regard to Rome. But the
Goths know this as little as Liberius. And Cethegus--above all--must
know nothing of it yet; therefore be silent. Where is the Prefect of
Rome?"

"He has hastened forward, in order to be the first to conduct the
pursuit as soon as the time of truce has expired."

"Surely you have taken care----"

"Do not doubt it! He would have marched with his Isaurians alone, but
I--that is, Liberius at my order--gave him Alboin and the Longobardians
as companions, and you know----"

"Yes," said Narses, with a smile, "my wolves will not lose sight of
him."

"But how long shall he----"

"As long as he is necessary to me; not an hour longer. So the young and
royal wonder-worker lies upon his shield! Now may Justinian rightly
call himself 'Gothicus,' and again sleep peacefully. But truly--he will
never more sleep peacefully--that disappointed widower----"

So the two generals, Narses and Teja, were of one opinion with regard
to the Gothic kingdom. It was lost. The flower of the Goths had fallen
at Capræ and Taginæ. Totila had placed there five-and-twenty thousand
men; not even a thousand had escaped. The two wings of the army had
also suffered great loss; and so King Teja commenced his retreat to the
south with scarcely twenty thousand men.

He was urged to the greatest speed by the calls for help sent by the
little army under Duke Guntharis and Earl Grippa, who were hard pressed
by the greater force of the Byzantines under the command of Armatus and
Dorotheos, who had landed between Rome and Neapolis.

And besides this, Teja's retreat was also precipitated because of the
terrible manner in which, when the truce was ended, he was pursued by
Narses.

While the Longobardians and Cethegus pursued the fugitives without
pause, Narses slowly followed with the main army, spreading to the
right and left his two formidable wings, which extended in the
south-west far beyond the Sub-urbicarian Tuscany to the Tyrrhenian sea,
and in the north-east through Picenum to the Ionian Gulf, extinguishing
as they passed from north to south and from west to east, every trace
of the Goths behind them.

This proceeding was considerably facilitated by the now general
desertion of the Gothic cause on the part of the Italians. The
benevolent King, who had once won their sympathies, had been succeeded
by a gloomy hero of terrible reputation. And all who hesitated were
speedily drawn over to the other side, not by inclination to the rule
of Byzantium, but from fear of Narses and of the Emperor's severity,
who threatened all who took the part of the barbarians with death.

The Italians who still served in Teja's army now deserted and hastened
to Narses. It also happened much more frequently than before the battle
of Taginæ, that Gothic settlers were betrayed to the Romani by their
Italian neighbours, generally by the _hospes_, who had been obliged to
relinquish a third of his property to the Goths; or, where the Italians
were in the majority, the Goths were either killed, or taken prisoners
and delivered up to the two Byzantine fleets, the "Tyrrhenian" and the
"Ionian," which, sailing along the coasts of those seas, accompanied
the march of the land forces and received all the captured Goths on
board--men, women, and children.

The forts and towns, weakly garrisoned--for Teja  had been obliged to
strengthen his small army by lessening their numbers--generally fell by
means of the Italian population, who now overpowered the Gothic
garrison, as, after Totila's election, they had done the imperial. Thus
fell, during the progress of the war, Namia, Spoletium and Perusia; the
few towns which resisted were invested.

So Narses resembled a strong man who walks with outstretched arms
through a narrow passage, pursuing all who try to hide themselves
before him. Or a fisher, who wades up a stream with a sack-net; behind
him all is empty. The few Goths who could yet save themselves fled
before the "iron roller" to the army of the King, which soon consisted
of a greater number of the defenceless than of warriors.

The Visigoths were again engaged in migration, just as they had been a
hundred years before, but this time the iron net of Narses was behind
them; and before them, as they advanced farther and farther into the
constantly narrowing peninsula, the sea. And not a ship did they
possess in which to fly.



                              CHAPTER II.


Added to this, an inevitable necessity reduced the number of Goths in
the King's army capable of bearing arms in the most frightful manner.

From the very commencement of the pursuit, Cethegus, with his
mercenaries, and Alboin with his Longobardians, had stuck to the
heels of the fugitives, and consequently, if the retreat of the Gothic
army--already delayed by the number of women, children, and aged people
who had joined it--was not to be brought to a complete standstill, it
was necessary to sacrifice each night a small number of heroes, who
halted at some spot suitable for their design, and held the pursuers at
bay by an obstinate, fearless, and hopeless resistance, until the main
army had again gained a considerable advance.

This cruel, but only possible expedient, always entailed the loss of at
least fifty men, and often, where the place to be defended had a wider
front, a much greater number.

Before King Teja marched from Spes Bonorum, he had explained this plan
to the assembled army; his faithful troops silently assented to it. And
every morning the "death-doomed" volunteered so eagerly to join this
forlorn hope, that King Teja--with humid eyes--made them draw lots, not
wishing to offend any one by the preference of others. For the Goths,
who saw nothing before them but the certain destruction of the nation,
and many of whom knew that their wives and children had fallen into the
enemy's hands, vied with each other in seeking death.

So their retreat became a triumphal procession of Gothic heroes, and
every halting-place a monument of courageous self-sacrifice. Thus,
among the leaders of the "doomed rear-guard," old Haduswinth fell near
Nuceria Camellaria; the young and skilful archer, Gunthamund, at Ad
Fontes; and the swift rider, Gudila, at Ad Martis. But these
sacrifices, and the King's generalship, were not without influence on
the fate of the nation.

Near Fossatum, between Tudera and Narnia, a night attack took place
between the rear-guard under Earl Markja, and the horsemen of Cethegus,
which lasted from afternoon till sunrise.

When at last the returning light illumined the hastily-constructed
earthworks thrown up by the Goths, they were as still and silent as the
grave.

The pursuers advanced with the utmost caution. At last Cethegus sprang
from his horse and on to the parapet of the earthworks, followed by
Syphax.

Cethegus turned and signed to his men: "Follow me; there is no danger!
You have only to step over the bodies of our enemies, for here they all
lie--a full thousand. Yonder is Earl Markja; I know him."

But when the earthworks were demolished, and Cethegus and his horsemen
continued their pursuit of the main army--which had gained a great
advance they soon learned from the peasants of the neighbourhood that
the Gothic army had not passed on the Flaminian Way at all.

By the noble sacrifice of this night, King Teja had been enabled to
conceal the further direction of his retreat, and the pursuers had lost
the scent.

Cethegus advised Johannes and Alboin, the one to send a portion of his
men to the south-east, the other to the left on the Flaminian Way, to
try to find the lost track. He himself longed to get to Rome. He wished
to reach that city before Narses. Once there, he hoped to be able to
checkmate him, as he had done Belisarius, from the Capitol.

After discovering that King Teja had evaded all pursuit, Cethegus
summoned his trusty tribunes, and told them that he was resolved--if
necessary, by force--to rid himself of the constant supervision of
Alboin and Johannes--who were at present weakened by the division of
their troops at his advice--and to hasten with his Isaurians alone
straight to Rome by the Flaminian Way, which was now no longer blocked
by the Goths.

But even while he was speaking, he was interrupted by the entrance of
Syphax, who led into the tent a Roman citizen, whom he had with
difficulty rescued from the hands of the Longobardians. The man had
asked for the Prefect, and the Longobardians had answered, laughing,
that they would treat him (the messenger) "as usual."

"But," added Syphax, "a great crowd of people is approaching in the
rear; I will see what it is and bring you word."

"I know you, Tullus Faber," said the Prefect, turning to the messenger,
when Syphax had left him; "you were ever faithful to Rome and to me.
What news do you bring?"

"O Prefect!" cried the man, "we all thought you were dead, for you sent
us no answer to eight several messages."

"I have not received even one!"

"Then you do not know what has happened in Rome? Pope Silverius has
died in exile in Sicily. His successor is Pelagius, your enemy!"

"I know nothing. Speak!"

"Alas, you will neither be able to advise nor to help. Rome has----"

Just then Syphax returned, but before he could speak, he was followed
into the tent by Narses, supported by Basiliskos.

"You have allowed yourself to be detained here so long by a thousand
Gothic spears," said the commander-in-chief angrily, "that the healthy
have escaped, and the sick have overtaken you. This King Teja can do
more than break shields; he can weave veils with which to blind the
Prefect's sharp sight. But I see through many veils, and also through
this. Johannes, call your people back. Teja cannot have gone south, he
must have gone northwards, for he, no doubt, has known long since that
which concerns the Prefect most: Rome is wrested from the Goths."

Cethegus looked at him with sparkling eyes.

"I had smuggled a few clever men into the city. They excited the
inhabitants to a midnight revolt. All the Goths in the city were slain;
only five hundred men escaped into the Mausoleum of Hadrian, and
continue to defend it."

Faber took courage to put in a word.

"We sent eight messengers to you. Prefect, one after the other."

"Away with this man!" cried Narses, signing to his officers. "Yes," he
continued quietly, "the citizens of Rome think lovingly of the Prefect,
to whom they owe so much: two sieges, hunger, pestilence, and the
burning of the Capitol! But the messengers sent to you always lost
their way, and fell into the hands of the Longobardians, who, no doubt,
slew them. But the embassy sent to me by the Holy Father, Pelagius,
reached me safely, and I have concluded an agreement, of which you,
Prefect of Rome, will surely approve."

"In any case, I shall not be able to annul it."

"The good citizens of Rome fear nothing so much as a third siege. They
have stipulated that we shall undertake nothing that can lead to
another fight for their city. They write that the Goths in the
Mausoleum will soon succumb to hunger; that they themselves can defend
their walls; and they have sworn only to deliver up their city, after
the destruction of those Goths, to their natural protector and chief,
the Prefect of Rome. Are you content with that, Cethegus? Read the
agreement. Give it to him, Basiliskos."

Cethegus read the paper with deep and joyful emotion. So they had not
forgotten him, his Romans! So now, when everything was coming to a
crisis, they called, not the hated Byzantines, but himself, their
patron, back to the Capitol! He again felt at the height of power.

"I am content," he said, returning the roll.

"I have promised," continued Narses, "to make no attempt to get the
city into my power by force. First King Teja must follow King Totila.
Then Rome--and many other things. Accompany me, Prefect, to the council
of war."

When Cethegus left the council in the tent of Narses, and asked after
Tullus Faber, not a trace of the latter was to be found.



                              CHAPTER III.


Narses, that great general, had acutely guessed in what direction King
Teja had turned aside from the Flaminian Way. He had first gone north
towards the coast of the Ionian Gulf, and thence, with singular
knowledge of the roads, had led his fugitive people and army by a
circuitous route past Hadria, Aternum, and Ortona, to Samnium. That
Rome was lost, he had learned beyond Nuceria Camellaria from some Goths
who had fled from that city.

The King, whose impatient and unsparing disposition ever looked forward
to the end, not unwillingly found himself obliged to get rid of his
prisoners.

In number about as strong as their conquerors, the captives had made
the office of guarding them so difficult, that Teja threatened to
punish with death any attempt at escape.

Notwithstanding, when the army marched northwards, a number of these
prisoners made an attempt to free themselves by force. Very many were
killed in the struggle that ensued, and the King ordered that all the
rest, together with Orestes and the whole of the officers, should be
thrown into the Aternus with their hands bound; where they died
miserably by drowning.

When Adalgoth begged Teja to revoke his cruel sentence, the latter
replied:

"Did they not fall upon our defenceless women and children in their
peaceful homes, and slay them? This is no longer a war between
warriors; it is nation murdering nation. Let us do our part."

From Samnium the King, leaving his unarmed people to follow slowly
under scanty escort--for they were threatened by no pursuit--hurried
forward with his best troops to Campania. His arrival in those parts
was so unexpected, that he not only surprised Duke Guntharis and Earl
Grippa, whose small army had melted still more in consequence of
frequent battles with superior forces, but, shortly after, the enemy
also, who now had thought themselves sure of victory.

He had found Duke Guntharis and Earl Grippa occupying a secure position
between Neapolis and Beneventum. He learned that the Romani were
threatening Cumæ from Capua.

"They shall not reach that city before me," he cried; "I have to
complete there an important work."

And, his army being now reinforced by the garrison of his own county
town of Tarentum, under the command of brave Ragnaris, he surprised the
superior force of the Byzantines, which was about to march upon Cumæ,
and defeated them with great loss. He himself slew the Archon Armatus
with his battle-axe, and at his side young Adalgoth ran Dorotheos
through with his spear. The Byzantines were routed, and fled northwards
to Terracina.

It was the last ray of sunshine cast by the God of Victory upon the
blue banner of the Goths.

The next day King Teja entered Cumæ. Totila, upon his last fatal march
from Rome, had decided, at the instance of Teja, and contrary to his
custom, to take with him hostages from that city. No one knew what had
become of them.

On the evening of his entry into Cumæ, King Teja ordered the walled-up
garden of the Castle of Cumæ to be broken open. There were hidden the
hostages from Rome: patricians and senators--among them Maximus,
Cyprianus, Opilio, Rusticus, and Fidelius, the most distinguished men
of the Senate--in all they numbered three hundred. All were members of
the old league against the Goths.

Teja ordered the Goths who had lately escaped from Rome to tell these
hostages how the Romans, persuaded by envoys sent by Narses, had one
night risen in revolt, had murdered all the Goths upon whom they could
lay hands, even the women and children, and had driven the rest into
the _Moles Hadriani_.

The King fastened such a terrible look upon the trembling hostages, as
they listened to this news, that two of them could not endure to wait
till the end, but then and there killed themselves by dashing their
heads against the stony walls which surrounded them.

When the Goths from Rome had sworn to the truth of their story, the
King silently turned away and left the garden. An hour after, the heads
of the three hundred hostages stared ghastly down from the summit of
the walls.

"It was not alone to fulfil this terrible judgment that I came here,"
Teja said to Adalgoth: "I have also to reveal a sacred secret."

And he invited him and the other leaders of the troops to a solemn and
joyless midnight banquet. When the sad feast was over, the King made a
sign to old Hildebrand, who nodded, and took a dimly burning torch from
the iron ring into which it was stuck on the centre column of the
vaulted hall, saying:

"Follow me, children of these latter days, and take your shields with
you."

It was the third hour of the July night; the stars glittered in the
sky. Out of the hall, silently following the King and the aged
master-at-arms, there stepped Guntharis and Adalgoth, Aligern, Grippa,
Ragnaris, and Wisand the standard-bearer. Wachis, the King's
shield-bearer, closed the procession, carrying a second torch.

Opposite the castle garden rose an ancient round tower, named the Tower
of Theodoric, because that great King had restored it. Old Hildebrand
was the first to enter this tower with his torch, but instead of
leaving the ground-floor, which contained only the empty tower-room,
the old man halted, knelt down, and carefully measured fifteen spans of
his large hand from the door, which he had closed behind them, to the
centre of the room. The whole floor seemed to be composed of three
colossal slabs of granite. When Hildebrand had measured the fifteen
spans, he held his thumb upon the spot at which he had arrived, and
struck his battle-axe against the floor; it sounded hollow. Boring the
point of his axe into a scarcely-visible crack in the stone, he signed
to his companions to stand aside on his left; when they had done so, he
pushed a portion of the slab to the right. A chasm, as deep as the
tower was high above them, revealed itself to the astonished eyes of
those present.

The opening was only large enough to admit one man at a time. It led to
a narrow flight of more than two hundred steps, hewn in the living
rock.

Silently, at a sign from Hildebrand, the men descended. When they
arrived at the bottom, they found that the circular space was divided
in the middle by a stone wall. The semicircle into which they had
entered was empty.

And now King Teja measured ten spans on the wall to the centre, and
pressing his hand upon a stone, a small door opened inwards. Hildebrand
entered with his torch, and kindled two others which were fixed upon
the wall.

The observers started back dazzled, and covered their eyes with their
hands. When they again looked up, they recognised--at once guessing the
secret--the whole rich treasure of Dietrich of Berne.

There lay, partly heaped up symmetrically, partly thrown in disorder
one upon another, weapons, vessels, and ornaments of all kinds. Strong
Etruscan steel-caps of ancient times, brought by the commerce of the
Goths as far as the Baltic, or to the Pruth and Dniester, and now
brought back to the south by the migration of the nations, probably
near to the very spot where they had been fashioned. Near these lay
flat wooden head-pieces, over which was stretched the skin of the seal,
or the jaws of the ice-bear; pointed Celtic helmets; high-crested helms
from Rome or Byzantium; neck-rings of bronze and iron, of silver and
gold. Shields--from the clumsy wooden shield, as tall as a man, which
was set up like a wall to hide the archer, to the small round and
ornamented horseman's shield of the Parthians, studded with pearls and
precious stones. Ancient ring-mail of crushing weight, and light-padded
clothing of purple-coloured linen, besides scimitars, swords and
daggers, of stone, bronze, and steel. Axes and clubs of all kinds--from
those rudely made from the bones of the mammoth and tied to the antler
of a stag with bast, to the Frankish _franciska_, and the small
perforated and gilded axe with which the Roman circus-riders used to
split an apple while at full gallop. Spears, lances, and darts of all
sorts--from the roughly carved tusk of the narwal, to the ebony shaft,
inlaid with gold, of the Asdingian Vandal Kings in Carthage, and the
massive golden arrows of these princes, with steel points a foot long,
and the shafts decorated with the purple feathers of the flamingo.
War-mantles--made of the fur of the black fox, the skin of the
Numidian lion, and the costliest purple of Sidon. Shoes--from
the long shovel-shaped snowshoes of the Skrito Fins, to the golden
sandals of Byzantium. Doublets of Frisian wool, and tunics of Chinese
silk. Innumerable vessels and table utensils--tall vases, flat salvers,
cups, and round-bellied urns, of amber, of gold, of silver, of
tortoise-shell. Arm-rings and shoulder-clasps, necklaces of pearls and
of crystal beads, and innumerable other utensils for meat and drink,
for clothing and decoration, for sport and war.

"This secret cave," said Teja, "known only to us, the blood
brethren--the master-at-arms caused it to be hewn in the rock when he
was Earl of Cumæ, forty years ago--was the vault in which was hidden
the treasure of the Goths. This is the reason why Belisarius found so
little, when he ransacked the treasure-house at Ravenna. The most
costly pieces of booty, the gifts, the collection of Amelung trophies
in war and peace, which existed long before Theodoric, in the time of
Winithar, Ermanarich, Athal, Ostrogotho, Isarna, Amala, and Gaut--all
these have we concealed here. We left nothing in Ravenna but the minted
gold, and such things as seemed richer in intrinsic value than in
honour. For months our enemies have walked above these treasures; but
the faithful abyss kept the secret. But now we will carry all away with
us. Take the treasures on your shields, and hand them from one to
another up the steps. We will take it to the last battle-field upon
which an Ostrogothic army will ever fight. No, do not be anxious, young
Adalgoth; even when I have fallen, and all is lost, the enemy shall not
bear away the sacred treasure to Byzantium. For wonderful is the last
battle-field which I have chosen; it shall conceal and swallow up the
last of the Goths, their treasure and their fame!"

"Yes, and their greatest treasure and noblest renown," said old
Hildebrand; "not merely gold and silver and precious stones. Look here,
my Goths!"

And he held his torch towards a curtain which shut off a portion of the
treasure-cave, and pushed the curtain to one side. As he did so, all
present fell upon their knees. For they recognised the great dead, who
sat, erect and clothed in purple, upon a golden throne, the spear still
grasped in his right hand.

It was the great Theodoric.

The art which had been introduced to the Romans by the Egyptians--the
art of embalming the dead--had preserved the body of the hero-King with
terrible perfection.

All present were struck dumb with emotion.

"Many years ago," at last Hildebrand began, "Teja and I mistrusted the
good fortune of the Goths. And I, who, before the breaking out of the
war, had the command of the guard-of-honour at the Mausoleum of
Ravenna, in which Amalaswintha had interred her dead father--I liked
the building but little, and still less the incense-scented priests who
so often prayed there for the soul of my good and great King--I thought
that if ever all trace of my nation were rooted out of this southern
land, no Italian or Greekling should mock at the remains of our beloved
hero. No! even as the first great conqueror of the Roman fortress,
Alaric the Visigoth, found his unknown and never to be dishonoured tomb
in the sacred bed of the stream, so also should my great King be
delivered from the curiosity of posterity. And, with Teja's help, I
took the noble corpse away by night, from its marble house, and from
the vicinity of the whining priests, and we brought it hither, as part
of the royal treasure. Here it was safe. And if, after the lapse of
centuries, some accident should betray its resting-place, who could
then recognise the King with the eagle-eye? And so the sarcophagus at
Ravenna is empty, and the monks sing and pray in vain. Here, near his
treasures and his trophies, in hero splendour, erect upon his throne,
he rests; it is more pleasing to his soul, which looks down from
Walhalla, than to see his mortal remains stretched out, weighed down by
heavy stones, and surrounded with clouds of incense."

"But now," concluded Teja, "the hour has come for him once more to rise
from the abyss. When you have raised the treasure, we will carefully
lift up this beloved form. Early to-morrow we will march out of this
city. The approach of Narses and the Prefect has already been
announced. We will go, with royal corpse and royal treasure, to the
last battle-field of the Goths, whither I have already sent the women
and children. The battle-field--long ago I saw it in the visions of my
sleepless nights--the battle-field whereon we and our nation will
gloriously perish; the battlefield which, even when the last spear is
broken, can save and hide all who do not fear to die in its glowing
bosom; the battle-field which Teja has chosen for you and for himself!"

"I guess thy meaning," whispered Adalgoth; "this last battle-field
is----"

"Mons Vesuvius!" said Teja. "To work!"



                              CHAPTER IV.


As rapidly as his fearful, all-encompassing system would allow, Narses,
after the council which we have mentioned as taking place at Fossatum,
had marched southward with his whole force and with the broadest front,
in order to make an end of all the remaining Goths. Only to Tuscany did
he send two small detachments, under his generals, Vitalianus and
Wilmuth, to take such forts as still resisted, and, after them, Lucca,
in Annonarian Tuscany. Valerianus, who had meanwhile conquered Petra
Pertusa, which place blocked the Flaminian Way beyond Helvillum, was
sent still farther north against Verona, the obstinate defence of which
had enabled many Goths to escape up the valley of the Athesis to the
Passara.

With these exceptions, Narses hurried south with the whole of his army.
He himself passed Rome on the Flaminian Way; while Johannes, on the
coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Herulian Vulkaris on that of the
Ionian Gulf, were to drive the Goths before them.

But Johannes and Vulkaris found but little work to do; for in the north
the Gothic families had already been received, in passing, into the
mass of the army of the King, which it was now impossible to overtake;
and from the south the Goths had likewise long since streamed past Rome
to Neapolis, whither expresses from the King had bidden them to repair.
"Mons Vesuvius!" was the rallying word for all these Gothic fugitives.

Narses had named Anagnia to his two wings as the point of reunion with
the main body.

Cethegus gladly accepted the commander's invitation to remain with him
in the centre, for he could expect no great events with the two wings;
and the road taken by Narses led past Rome. In case that the commander,
in spite of his promise, should attempt to procure entrance into Rome,
Cethegus would be on the spot.

But, almost to the Prefect's astonishment, Narses kept his word. He
quietly marched his army past Rome. And he called upon Cethegus to be
witness to his interview with Pope Pelagius and the other governing
bodies of Rome, which interview took place below the walls at the Porta
Belisaria (Pinceana), between the Flaminian and Salarian Gates.

Once more the Pope and the Romans assured Narses--swearing by the holy
remains of Cosma and Damian (according to legend, Arabian physicians
who were martyred under Diocletian), which were brought in silver and
ivory caskets to the walls--that they would unhesitatingly, after the
annihilation of the Goths in the Moles Hadriani, open their gates to
the Prefect of Rome, but firmly resist any attempt on the part of the
Byzantines to enter the city by force; for they would not expose
themselves to any possible struggle which might yet take place.

The offer of Narses to leave them at once a few thousand armed men, in
order to enable them the more speedily to reduce the Moles Hadriani,
was civilly but decidedly refused, to the great joy of the Prefect.

"They have learned two things during the last few years," he said
to Lucius Licinius, as they rode away at the termination of the
interview--"to keep the Romani at a distance, and to connect Cethegus
with the well-being of Rome. That is already a great deal."

"I regret, my general," said Lucius Licinius, "that I cannot share your
joy and confidence."

"I neither," cried Salvius Julianus. "I fear Narses; I mistrust him."

"Oho! what wise men!" laughed Piso. "One should exaggerate nothing; not
even prudence. Has not everything turned out better than we dared to
hope since the night when a shepherd-boy struck the greatest Roman poet
upon his immortal verse-writing hand, and the great Prefect of Rome
swam down the Tiber in a granary?--since Massurius Sabinus was
recognised by Earl Markja, dressed in the garments of his Hetares, in
which disguise he was about to make his escape?--and since the great
jurist, Salvius Julianus, was rudely fished up, bleeding, from the
slime of the river by Duke Guntharis? Who would have thought then that
we should ever be able to count upon our fingers the day when not a
single Goth would be left to tread Italian soil?"

"You are right, poet," said Cethegus with a smile; "these two friends
of ours suffer from '_Narses_-fever,' as their hero suffers from
epilepsy. To over-rate one's enemy is also a failing. The holy remains
upon which those priests have sworn, are really sacred to them; they
will not break such an oath."

"If I had only seen, besides the priests and artisans," replied
Licinius, "any of our friends upon the walls! But there were none but
fullers, butchers, and carpenters! Where is the aristocracy of Rome?
Where are the men of the Catacombs?"

"Taken away as hostages," said Cethegus. "And they were rightly served?
Did they not return to Rome, and do homage to the fair-haired Goth? If
now the 'Black Earl' cuts off their heads, it cannot be helped. Be
comforted; you see things in too dark a light, all of you. The crushing
superiority of Narses has made you timid. He is a great general; but
the fact that he has made this treaty with Rome--this agreement that I,
and no other, should be admitted--and that he has _kept_ it, shows that
he is harmless as a statesman. Let us but once again breathe the air of
the Capitol! It does not agree with epileptic subjects."

And when, the next morning, the young tribunes went to fetch the
Prefect from his tent to join the united march against Teja, their
leader received them with sparkling eyes.

"Well," he cried, "who knows the Romans best, you or the Prefect of
Rome? Listen--but be silent. Last night a centurion, one of the
newly-formed city cohorts, named Publius Macer, stole out of Rome
and into my tent. The Pope has entrusted to his care the Porta Latina,
to that of his brother Marcus, the Capitol. He showed me both
commissions--I know the handwriting of Pelagius--they are authentic.
The Romans are long since tired of the rule of the priesthood. They
would rejoice once more to see me, and you, and my Isaurians patrolling
the walls. Publius left me his nephew Aulus, at once as a hostage and a
pledge, who will let us know the night--which will be announced to him
in the harmless words of a letter agreed upon beforehand--on which the
Romans will open to us their gates and the Capitol. Narses cannot
complain if the Romans voluntarily admit us--I shall use no force. Now,
Licinius! Tell me, Julianus, who best knows Rome and the Romans?"



                               CHAPTER V.


Narses now marched to Anagnia. Two days after his arrival, his two
wings reached that place according to order. After some days occupied
in resting, mustering, and newly ordering his immense forces, the
commander-in-chief marched to Terracina, where the remainder of the
troops of Armatus and Dorotheos joined him. And now the united army
rolled forward against the Goths, who had taken up a most excellent and
secure position on Vesuvius, on the opposite mountain. Mons Lactarius,
and on both shores of the little river Draco, which flowed into the sea
north of Stabiæ.

Since he had left Cumæ, marched past Neapolis (the citizens of which
place shut their strong gates, which had been restored by Totila,
overpowered the garrison and declared that, following the example of
Rome, they would at present hold their fortress against both parties),
and reached his chosen battle-field, King Teja had done all that was
possible to make his naturally strong position still stronger.

He had caused provisions to be carried from the fertile country around
up to the mountains, in sufficient quantities to nourish his people
until the light of the last day should dawn upon his nation.

It has ever been a vain task for learned investigation to attempt to
find on Mons Lactarius or Vesuvius the exact spots which correspond to
the description of Procopius. It is impossible to fix upon any one of
the innumerable ravines and valleys. And yet the description of the
Byzantine historian, grounded as it was upon the verbal reports of the
leaders and generals of the army of Narses, cannot be doubted.

Rather may the contradictions be simply explained by the sudden,
forcible and gigantic changes, and by the still more numerous, gradual
and slighter alterations made in the face of the country by streams of
lava, landslips, the crumbling of the rocks, and floods which have
taken place upon that never quiet mountain, during the course of more
than thirteen centuries. Even credible accounts of much later Italian
authors, concerning places and positions on Mount Vesuvius, cannot
always be reconciled with the reality.

The ground which sucked up Teja's life-blood has no doubt been covered,
ages ago, by deep layers of silent and impenetrable lava.

Even Narses was compelled to admire the circumspection with which his
barbarian adversary had chosen his last place of defence.

"He intends to die like the bear in his den," he exclaimed as he
observed the whole of the Gothic defences from his litter at Nuceria.
"And many of you, my dear wolves," he added, turning with a smile to
Alboin, "will fall under the blows of this bear's paws when you try to
trot through those narrow entrances."

"Oho! It is only necessary to let so many run in at once that the bear
gets both paws full and is not able to strike again."

"Softly, softly! I know of a pass on Vesuvius--long ago, when I still
nursed my miserable body hoping to restore its strength, I spent weeks
together upon Mons Lactarius, in order to enjoy the pure air, and at
that time I firmly impressed upon my memory the pass I speak of; from
that pass--if the Goths get into it--only famine can drive them out."

"That will be tiresome!"

"There is nothing else for it. I have no desire once more to sacrifice
a myriad of imperial troops in order to stamp out these last sparks."

And so it happened. Very gradually, gaining each forward step only at a
great and bloody loss, did Narses draw his net tighter and more tightly
together. He surrounded in a semicircle every point of the Gothic
position, on west, north, and east; only on the south, the sea-side,
where he himself had encamped on the strand, was he able to leave a
space undefended, for the enemy had no ships whereon to fly or
wherewith to procure provisions.

The "Tyrrhenian" fleet of Narses was already occupied in carrying the
captive Goths to Byzantium; the "Ionian" was shortly expected; a few
vessels had been sent to cruise in the Bay of Bajæ and opposite
Surrentum. Thus Narses, notwithstanding his great superiority, only
gradually occupied, with obstinate patience and forgetting nothing,
Piscinula, Cimiterium, Nola, Summa, Melane, Nuceria, Stabiæ, Cumæ,
Bajæ, Misenum, Puteoli, and Nesis. And presently Neapolis also became
alarmed at the power of Narses, and voluntarily opened to him its
gates.

From all sides the Byzantines advanced concentrically towards the
Gothic position. After many furious battles the Byzantines succeeded in
driving the Goths away from Mons Lactarius and over the river Draco;
where the rest of the nation encamped upon a level plain above the pass
so highly praised by Narses, in the immediate vicinity of one of the
numerous craters which, at that time, surrounded the foot of the
principal cone; only rarely, when the wind blew from the south-east,
suffering from the smoke and sulphurous exhalations of the volcano.

Here, in the innumerable hollows and ravines of the mountain, the
unarmed people encamped under the open sky, or under the tents and
wagons which they had brought with them, in the warm August air.

"The only access to this encampment," writes Procopius, "could be
obtained by a narrow pass, the southern opening of which was so small
that a man holding a shield could completely block it up."

This opening was guarded day and night, each man occupying it for an
hour, by King Teja himself, Duke Guntharis, Duke Adalgoth, Earl Grippa,
Earl Wisand, Aligern, Ragnaris, and Wachis. Behind them the pass was
filled by a hundred warriors, who relieved each other at intervals.

And so, in accordance with the system pursued by Narses, the whole
terrible war, the struggle for Rome and Italy, had been dramatically
reduced to a point; to a battle for a ravine of a foot or two wide on
the southern point of the so dearly-loved, so obstinately-defended
peninsula. Even in the historical representation of Procopius, the fate
of the Goths resembles the last act of a grand and awful tragedy.

On the shore, opposite to the hill from which the pass was approached,
Narses had pitched his tents with the Longobardians; on his right
Johannes; on his left Cethegus.

The Prefect drew the attention of his tribunes to the fact that Narses,
by the cession of this position--Cethegus himself had chosen it--had
given either a proof of great imprudence or of complete inoffensiveness
of intention, "for," said Cethegus, "with this position he has left
open the way to Rome, which he could easily have prevented, by giving
me the command of the right wing or of the centre. Hold yourselves in
readiness to start secretly and at night with all the Isaurians, as
soon as a sign is made by Rome."

"And you?" asked Licinius anxiously.

"I remain here with the dreaded commander. If he had wished to murder
me--he could have done so long ago. But it is evident that he has no
such intention. He will not act against me without just cause. And if I
obey the call of the Romans, I do not break, I fulfil, our agreement."



                              CHAPTER VI.


Above the narrow pass on Vesuvius, which we will call the Ravine of the
Goths, a small but deep chasm had been formed by the black blocks of
lava. Within it King Teja had concealed the most sacred possession of
the nation--the corpse of King Theodoric and the royal treasure.
Theodoric's banner was fixed before the mouth of this chasm.

A purple mantle, stretched upon four spears, formed the dark curtain to
the rocky chamber which the last King of the Goths had chosen for his
royal hall. A block of lava, covered with the skin of the black tiger,
formed his last throne.

Here King Teja rested, when not called away by his jealously-held post
at the southern entrance of the Ravine of the Goths; upon which, now
from a distance with arrows, slings, and hurling--spears, now close at
hand in a bold and sudden attack, the outposts of Narses commenced
their assaults. None of the brave guardians returned home without
bringing tokens of such attacks upon shield and armour, or leaving
signs at the entrance of the ravine, in the form of slain enemies.

This happened so frequently, that the stench arising from the decay of
the bodies threatened to render any further sojourn in the ravine
impossible. Narses seemed to have counted upon this circumstance, for,
when Basiliskos lamented the useless sacrifice, he said, "Perhaps our
slain soldiers will be more useful after death than during their life."
But King Teja ordered that the bodies should be thrown by night over
the lava cliffs; so that, horribly mutilated, they seemed a warning to
all who should attempt to follow their example. Seeing this, Narses
begged to be allowed to send unarmed men to fetch away the bodies, a
favour which King Teja immediately granted.

Since retiring into this ravine, the Goths had not lost a single man in
fight; for only the foremost man in the pass was exposed to the enemy,
and, supported by the comrades who stood behind him, this guardian had
never yet been killed.

One night, after sunset--it was now the month of September, and all
traces of the battle at Taginæ were already obliterated; the flowers
planted by Cassiodorus and the nuns of the cloister round the
sarcophagi of King Totila, his bride, and his friend, had put forth new
shoots--King Teja, who had just been relieved from his post by Wisand,
approached his lava hall, his spear upon his shoulder. Before the
curtain which closed the entrance to his rocky chamber, Adalgoth
received Teja with a sad smile, and, kneeling, offered to him a golden
goblet.

"Let me still fulfil my office of cup-bearer," he said; "who knows how
long it may last?"

"Not much longer!" said Teja gravely, as he seated himself. "We will
remain here, outside the curtain. Look! how magnificently the bay and
the coast of Surrentum shine in the glowing light left by the setting
sun--the blue sea is changed to crimson blood! Truly, the Southland
could afford no more beauteous frame with which to enclose the
last battle of the Goths. Well, may the picture be worthy of its
setting! The end is coming. How wonderfully everything that I
foreboded--dreamed, and sang--has been fulfilled!"

And the King supported his head upon both his hands. Only when the
silver tones of a harp was heard, did he again look up. Adalgoth had,
unseen, fetched the King's small harp from behind the curtain.

"Thou shalt hear," he said, "how I have completed thy song of the
Ravine; or I might have said, how it has completed itself. Dost thou
remember that night in the wilderness of ivy, marble, and laurel in
Rome? It was not a battle already fought, a battle of ancient days, of
which thou didst sing. No! in a spirit of prophecy, thou hast sung our
last heroic battle here." And he played and sang:

           "Where arise the cliffs of lava,
              On Vesuvius' glowing side,
            Tones of deepest woe and wailing,
              Evening's peace and calm deride.
            For the brave dead's direst curses
              Rest upon the rocky tomb,
            Where the Gothic hero-nation
              Will fulfil their glorious doom."

"Yes," said Teja, "glorious, my Adalgoth! Of that glory no fate and no
Narses shall deprive us. The awful judgment, which our beloved Totila
challenged, has fallen heavily upon himself, his people, and his God.
No Heavenly Father has, as that noble man imagined, weighed our
destinies in a just balance. We fall by the thousand treacheries of the
Italians and the Byzantines, and by the brute superiority of numbers.
But _how_ we fall, unshaken, proud even in our decay, can be decided by
no fate, but only by our own worth. And after us? Who after us will
rule in this land? Not for long these wily Greeks--and not the native
strength of the Italians. Numerous tribes of Germans still exist on the
other side of the mountains--and I nominate them our heirs and our
avengers."

And he softly took up the harp which Adalgoth had laid down, and sang
in a low voice as he looked down upon the rapidly darkening sea. The
stars glittered over his head; and at rare intervals he struck a chord.

           "Extinguished is the brightest star
              Of our Germanic race!
            O Dietrich, thou beloved of Bern,
              Thy shield is bruised, defaced.
            Unblemished truth and courage fail--
              The coward wins--the noble fly;
            Rascals are lords of all the world--
              Up, Goths, and let us die!

           "O wicked Rome, O southern gleam,
              O lovely, heavenly blue!
            O rolling blood-stained Tiber-stream--
              O Southerns, all untrue!
            Still cherishes the North its sons
              Of courage true and high;
            Vengeance will roll its thunders soon--
              Then, up! and let us die!"

"The melody pleases me," said Adalgoth; "but is it already finished?
What is the end?"

"'The end can only be sung in time to the stroke of the sword," said
Teja. "Soon, methinks, thou wilt also hear this end." And he rose
from his seat. "Go, my Adalgoth," he said; "leave me alone. I have
already kept thee far too long from"--and he smiled through all his
sadness--"from the loveliest of all duchesses. You have but few of
such evening hours to spend together, my poor children! If I could but
save your young and budding lives----" He passed his hand across his
brow. "Folly!" he then cried; "you are but a part of the doomed
nation--perhaps the loveliest."

Adalgoth's eyes had filled with tears as the King mentioned his young
wife. He now went up to Teja and laid his hand inquiringly upon his
shoulder.

"Is there no hope? She is so young!"

"None," answered Teja; "for no saving angel will come down from heaven.
We have still a few days before famine commences its inroads. Then I
will make a speedy end. The warriors shall sally forth and fall in
battle."


"And the women, the children--the defenceless thousands?"

"I cannot help them. I am no god. But not a Gothic woman or maiden need
fall into slavery under the Byzantines, unless they choose shame
instead of a free death. Look there, my Adalgoth--in the dark night the
glow of the mountain is fully seen. Seest thou, there, a hundred paces
to the right.--Ha! how splendidly the fiery smoke rushes from the
gloomy mouth!--When the last guardian of the pass has fallen--one leap
into that abyss--and no insolent Roman hand shall touch our pure women.
Thinking of _them_--more than of us, for we can fall anywhere thinking
of the Gothic women, I chose for our last battle-field--Vesuvius!"

And Adalgoth, no longer weeping, but with enthusiasm, threw himself
into Teja's arms.



                              CHAPTER VII.


A few days after Cethegus had taken up his chosen position on the left
of Narses with his mercenaries, the report came to the camp of the
Byzantines that the Goths in the Mausoleum of Hadrian had been
overpowered.

So now all Rome was in the hands of the Romans; not a single Goth, and,
as Cethegus exultingly thought, not a single Byzantine, ruled in his
Rome.

If he could now succeed in throwing his Isaurians, under the command of
the tribunes, into Rome, the Prefect would be in a much more favourable
position, opposed to Narses, than he had ever been opposed to
Belisarius, with whom he had been obliged to share the possession of
the city.

One of the messengers who had brought the news from Rome, at the same
time gave to Aulus, the hostage, a letter from the two centurions, the
brothers Macer, which ran thus: "The bride has recovered from her long
sickness; if the bridegroom will come, there is nothing more to hinder
the wedding. Come, Aulus."

These were the words fixed upon. Cethegus communicated them to his
Roman knights.

"Excellent!" cried Lucius. "Now I shall be able to place a monument
upon the spot where my brave brother fell for Rome and for Cethegus."

"Yes," said Salvius Julianus, "imprescriptible is the Romans' right to
Rome."

"But if we are to go secretly, see to it well, Prefect," said Piso,
"that our departure is concealed so long from the greatest cripple of
all times, that it will be impossible for him to overtake us."

"No," said Cethegus, "you shall not depart in secret. I have convinced
myself that this most prudent of all heroes has placed outposts far
beyond our position on the left wing. What we considered our outposts
are hemmed round by _his_--occupied by his Longobardian wolves, whom he
has placed in all directions. Without his consent, you cannot manage
your departure either by force or deception. It will be far wiser to
act openly. If he chooses, he can frustrate our plan, for, in any case,
he is sure to hear of it. But he will have nothing to say against
it--you will see! I shall tell him of my resolution, and, depend upon
it, he will approve of it."

"General, that is very bold; it is great!"

"It is the only possible way."

"Yes, you are right," said Salvius Julianus, after a few moments'
reflection. "Force and deception are equally impossible; and should
Narses consent, I will willingly confess that my fears----"

"Were founded upon an over-estimation of the _statesman_ Narses.
Large numbers have intimidated you, and the certainly not to be
over-estimated _general-ship_ of the sick man. I confess that before
the battle of Taginæ the whole horizon threatened thunderstorms; but,
as I am still alive, those appearances must have been illusive. I will
at once send you with my inquiry to Narses. You are suspicious, you
will therefore observe sharply. Go, tell him that the Romans have
resolved to admit me, their Prefect, within their walls _now_, before
the annihilation of Teja's army. And I wish to know if he will permit
you to march to Rome with my Isaurians, or if he would consider such an
act as a breach of our agreement. Against his will neither I nor the
Isaurians will set forth."

The two tribunes took leave, and, as he stepped out of the Prefect's
tent, Piso said with a laugh to the others:

"The crutch of Narses rendered your wits useless, longer than the stick
of the shepherd did my fingers!"

When they were well outside, Syphax hurried up to his master.

"O master," he said, "do not trust this sick man with his quiet and
impenetrable looks! Last night I again questioned my snake oracle. I
divided the skin of my idol into two pieces, and laid them upon live
coals. The piece which I called 'Narses' outlasted by far the piece
which I called 'Cethegus.' Shall I not make the attempt? You know that
a scratch with this dagger, and he is lost! What would it matter if
they impaled Syphax, the son of Hiempsal? I cannot do it by stealth,
for the Longobardian prince sleeps in the tent of Narses, in a bed
stretched across the entrance, and seven of his 'little wolves' lie
upon the threshold. The Herulians stand outside the curtain. According
to your hint, I have watched Narses' tent at night ever since we left
Helvillum. Even a gnat can scarcely escape the vigilance of the
Herulians and Longobardians when it flies into the tent. But openly, by
day, one spring into his litter--a scratch of the skin--and he is a
dead man in a quarter of an hour!"

"And before that time has elapsed, not only is Syphax, the son of
Hiempsal, a corpse, but also Cethegus. No. But listen; I have
discovered where the commander is accustomed to hold his secret
conversations with Basiliskos and Alboin. Not in his tent--a camp has a
thousand ears--but in the bath. The physicians have ordered Narses a
morning bath in the bay at Stabiæ, and he has had a bath-house built
out into the sea, which can only be reached in a boat. When Alboin and
Basiliskos accompany him thither, they are only as wise as--well, as
Basiliskos and Alboin. But when they return, they are full of the
wisdom of Narses; they know what letters have come from Byzantium, and
many other things. Round about the bath-house there is much seaweed.
Syphax, for how long a time can you dive?"

"As long," answered the slave, not without pride, "as the clumsy and
suspicious crocodile in our streams takes to observe the gazelle which
has been thrown into the reeds as a bait, and to make up his mind to
swim to it--then a knife from below in his belly! This small-eyed
Narses has something of the crocodile--we will see if I cannot outdo
him by patient diving."

"Excellent! my panther on shore, my diving duck in the water!"

"I would leap into fire for your sake, then you would call me your
'salamander.'"

"Well, you must manage to listen to the conversation of this sick man
when he goes to bathe."

"The office will very well suit another game which I have on hand. For
many days a fisherman, who throws his net every morning and evening,
and never catches anything, has been signing and winking to me in a
very innocent-sly manner. I believe he is watching for me, and not for
sea mullets. But the long-bearded wolves of this Alboin are always at
my heels. Perhaps, when I dive into the water, I shall be able to catch
up what this fisherman wishes to confide to me."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Very gravely, but no more in a melting mood, Adalgoth told his young
wife of the resolve of the King, and of the last alternative between
death and a shameful slavery.

He expected an outbreak of wild grief, such as it had been so difficult
even for him to repress. But, to his astonishment, Gotho remained
unshaken.

"I have foreseen this long ago, my Adalgoth! It is no misfortune; to
lose what we love, and still live, that alone is a misfortune. I have
attained to the highest earthly bliss, I am thy wife. Whether I shall
have been so for ten years or for twenty, or for scarcely half a year,
alters nothing. At least we shall die together on the same day,
possibly at the same hour. For King Teja will not forbid thee--when
thou hast done thy part in the last battle, and, perhaps wounded, canst
fight no longer--he will not forbid thee to come and take me in thine
arms--how often hast thou carried me on the Iffinger!--and leap with me
into the abyss. Oh, Adalgoth!" she cried, passionately embracing him,
"how happy we have been! We will show that we were worthy of such
bliss, by dying bravely, without cowardly lament. The scion of the
Balthe," and she smiled, "shall not say that the shepherd's daughter
could not keep pace with his nobility. There arises in my soul a vision
of the grandeur of our mountains! My grandfather, Iffa, admonished me,
when I left him, to call to mind the fresh and free air of our
mountains, and the strict and noble severity of the proud heights,
should ever life in the narrow, small, gilded chambers here below
seem too paltry for our souls. We have not been menaced with that, but
now, when it is necessary to raise our minds from timid, tender
sorrow--which almost crept over me--and to gain strength for a noble
resolve, the remembrance of my native mountains has made me strong.
'Shame on thee,' I said to myself, 'shame on thee, daughter of the
mountains! What would the Iffinger, and the Wolfshead, and all the
stony giants say, if they saw the shepherdess despair? Be worthy of thy
mountains and of thy hero husband.'"

Adalgoth pressed his young wife to his bosom, with mingled pride and
joy.

Behind the tent of the Duke lay the low hut, made of dried branches,
where dwelt Wachis and Liuta. Liuta, who had heard from Gotho what fate
menaced them, had been obliged to use all her powers of persuasion upon
her husband (who sat shaking his head and hammering and patching his
shield, which had been sadly defaced, by Longobardian arrows in the
last watch he had held at the mouth of the pass, and who now began to
whistle to hide his suppressed sobs) before she could raise him to a
like enthusiasm of renunciation.

"I do not think," said the honest man, "that the Lord of heaven can see
it done. I am one of those who never like to say, 'All is over!' The
proud ones, those who hold their heads high, like King Teja and Duke
Adalgoth, certainly run constantly against the beams of fate. But we
small people, who can stoop and bend, easily find a mouse-hole or a
chink in the wall by which to escape. It is too vile! miserable! cruel!
rascally!"--and each word was accompanied by a sounding stroke with his
hammer. "I will not believe it! I cannot believe that hundreds of good
women, pretty girls, lisping children, and stammering old men, must
jump into the hellish fire of this accursed mountain! As if it were but
a merry bonfire! As if they would come out at the other side safe and
sound! I might just as well have let thee burn in the house at Fæsulæ.
And not only thou must burn, but also our expected child, whom I have
already named Witichis."

"Or Rauthgundis," said Liuta, blushing, as she bent over her husband's
shoulder and stopped his hammering. "Let this name admonish thee,
Wachis! Think of our beloved mistress. Was she not a thousand times
better than Liuta, the poor maid-servant? And would she have hesitated
or refused to die on the same day with all her people?"

"Thou art right, wife!" exclaimed Wachis, with a last furious stroke of
his hammer. "Thou knowest I am a peasant, and peasants do not at all
like to die. But if the heavens fall, they strike down peasants as well
as others; and before it happens--ha-ha!--I will deal many a famous
stroke! That would please Sir Witichis and Mistress Rauthgundis right
well also. In honour of them--yes, thou art right, Liuta--we will live
bravely--and, if it cannot be otherwise, bravely die!"



                              CHAPTER IX.


It was with most joyful surprise that the two tribunes, Licinius and
Julianus, entered the tent of the Prefect after their interview with
Narses.

"Once again you have conquered, O Cethegus!" cried Licinius.

"You have got the upper hand, Prefect of Rome," said Salvius Julianus.
"I do not understand it, but Narses really abandons Rome to you."

"Ha!" cried Piso, who had entered with the others, "that is your old
Cæsarian luck, Cethegus! Your star, which has seemed to wane since this
famous cripple's arrival, shines anew. It seems to me that sometimes
his _mind_ suffers from attacks of epilepsy. For, with a sound mind,
how could he quietly let you enter Rome? No! Quem deus vult perdere
dementat! Now will Quintus Piso again wander through the Forum, and
look into the book-stalls to see if the Goths have assiduously bought
his 'Epistolas ad amabilissimum, carissimum pastorem Adalgothum et ejus
pedum'--(Letters to the very amiable and greatly beloved shepherd-boy,
Adalgoth, and his bludgeon)."

"So you have composed in exile, like Ovidius?" asked Cethegus, smiling.

"Yes," answered Piso. "The six-footed verses come more readily, since
they no longer need to fear the Goths, who are a foot longer. And amid
the noise of Gothic banquetings it would not be easy to compose, even
in time of peace."

"He has composed some merry verses, intermixed with Gothic words, on
that subject too," said Salvius Julianus. "How does it begin, 'Inter
hails Gothicum skapja'----"

"Do not wrong my words! It is not permitted to quote falsely what is
immortal."

"Well, how go the verses?" asked Cethegus.

"Thus," said Piso:

                       "De conviviis barbarorum.
      Inter: 'Hails Gothicum! skapja matjan jah drinkan!'
      Non audet quisquam dignos educere versus:
      Calliope madido trepidat se jungere Baccho,
      Ne pedibus non stet ebria Musa suis."

"Horrible poetry!" exclaimed Salvius Julianus.

"Who knows," said Piso, laughing, "whether the thirst of the Goths will
not become immortal through these verses?"

"But now tell me exactly what Narses answered?" said Cethegus.

"First he listened to us with great incredulity," replied Licinius, "He
asked suspiciously, 'Is it possible that the prudent Romans can again
beg for an Isaurian garrison and the Prefect, whom they have to thank
for so much famine and unwilling valour?' But I answered that he
under-rated the patriotism of the Romans, and that it was your affair
if you had deceived yourself. If the Romans did not voluntarily admit
us, your seven thousand men were too weak to storm the city. This
seemed to convince him. He only required our promise that, if we were
not admitted voluntarily, we would at once return here."

"And we thought we might well venture to promise this in your name,"
concluded Julianus.

"You were right," said Cethegus, with a smile.

"Narses then said that he would not hinder us if the Romans liked to
have us. And he is so completely harmless," Licinius went on, "that he
does not seem to wish to detain you, even as a hostage; for he inquired
when the Prefect would start. Therefore he must have taken it for
granted that you would lead the Isaurians to Rome yourself. And he has
nothing to say against that either. He was evidently surprised when I
answered that you preferred to witness here the destruction of the
Goths."

"Well," said Cethegus, "where, then, is this terrible Narses, the great
statesman! Even my friend Procopius sadly over-rated him, when he once
named him to me as the greatest man of the time."

"The greatest man of the time is--some one else," cried Licinius.

"It was natural that Procopius should give the palm to the superior
enemy of his Belisarius. But one almost ought to take advantage of the
clumsy blunder made by the 'greatest man,'" continued Cethegus
reflectively. "The gods might be angry if we did not make use of the
miracle of infatuation which they have accomplished for us. I alter my
resolution; I long to get to the Capitol; I will go with you to Rome.
Syphax, we will start--at once! Saddle my horse!"

But Syphax gave his master a warning look.

"Leave me, tribunes!" said Cethegus, "I will recall you directly."

"O sir!" cried Syphax eagerly, as soon as they were alone, "do not go
to-day! Send the others on in advance. To-morrow early I shall fish two
great secrets out of the sea. Diving under his boat, I have already
spoken to the fisherman I mentioned. He is no fisher, he is a slave, a
post-slave belonging to Procopius."

"What do you say?" asked Cethegus hastily and in a low tone.

"We could only exchange a few words in a whisper. The Longobardians
stood on the shore watching us. Seven letters from Procopius, sent
either openly or secretly, have never reached you. He therefore chose
this clever messenger, who will fish to-night by moonlight and give me
the letter. He had not brought it with him to-day. And to-morrow
early--to-day he was too ill--Narses will again bathe in the sea. I
have found a hiding-place among the weeds; quite close. And should they
chance to see bubbles rising from the water, I can whistle like an
otter. I saw the imperial post arrive with well-filled mail-bags.
Basiliskos took them. Do but wait until to-morrow early; Narses will be
sure to talk over the latest secrets from Byzantium with Basiliskos and
Alboin. Or at least leave me here alone----"

"No, that would be at once to betray you as a spy. You are worth more
than ten times your weight in gold, Syphax!--I shall remain here till
to-morrow," he continued, as the tribunes again entered.

"Oh, come with us!" begged Licinius.

"Away from the oppressive influence of this Narses!" added Julianus.

But Cethegus frowned.

"Does he still over-top me in your eyes, this fool, who allows Cethegus
to escape from his well-guarded camp to Rome; who throws the fish out
of his net into the water? Verily, he has too much intimidated you!
To-morrow evening I will follow you. I have still some business to
transact here, which no one but myself can complete. Meanwhile, if Rome
does not resist, you can occupy it without me. But I shall surely
overtake you at Terracina. If not, march into Rome. You, Licinius, will
keep the Capitol for me."

With sparkling eyes Licinius exclaimed: "You honour me highly, my
general! I will answer for the Capitol with my life! May I venture a
petition?"

"Well?"

"Do not expose yourself foolhardily to the spear of the Gothic King!
The day before yesterday he hurled two spears at once at you; one in
each hand. If I had not caught the one from his left hand upon my
shield----"

"Then, Licinius, the Jupiter of the Capitol would have blown it aside
before it struck me. For the god still needs me. But you mean well."


"Do not widow Roma!" persisted Lucius.

Cethegus looked at him with the irresistible look of admiring love
which was so winning on _his_ face; and continued, turning to Salvius
Julianus:

"You, Salvius, will occupy the Mausoleum. And you, Piso, the rest of
the city on the left bank of the Tiber. Particularly the Porta Latina;
through that gate I shall follow you. You will not open to Narses
_alone_, any more than you formerly did to Belisarius alone. Farewell;
salute my Roma for me. Tell her, that the last contest for her
possession, that between Narses and Cethegus, has ended with victory
for Cethegus. We shall meet again in Rome! Roma eterna!"

"Roma eterna!" repeated the tribunes with enthusiasm, and hurried out.

"Oh, why was not this Licinius the son of Manilia!" cried Cethegus,
looking after the young men as they departed. "Folly of my heart, why
art thou so obstinate? Licinius, you shall take the place of Julius as
my heir! Oh, would that you were indeed Julius!"



                               CHAPTER X.


The departure of the Prefect for Rome was delayed for many days.
Narses, who invited him to his table, did not indeed seek to keep him
back. He even expressed his astonishment that the "Ruler of the
Capitol" was not more powerfully drawn to the Tiber stream.

"Certainly," he said with a smile, "I can understand that, as you have
seen these barbarians rule and conquer so long in your Italy, you
desire strongly to see them fall there. But I cannot say how long that
event may yet be put off. The pass cannot be taken by storm as long as
it is defended by men like this King Teja. Already more than a thousand
of my Longobardians, Alamannians, Burgundians, Herulians, Franks, and
Gepidæ have fallen before it."

"Send for once," interposed Alboin in a vexed tone of voice--"send for
once your brave Romani Against the Goths. The Herulians, Vulkaris and
Wilmuth, fell under King Teja's axe almost as soon as they arrived
here; the Gepidian Asbad, under the spear of that boy Adalgoth; my
cousin Gisulf lies wounded by Duke Guntharis's sword; Wisand, the
standard-bearer, has stabbed the Frank count, Butilin, with the point
of his flagstaff; the old master-at-arms has dashed out the brains of
the Burgundian Gernot with his stone axe; the Alamannian Liuthari was
slain by Earl Grippa, and my shield-bearer, Klaffo, by a common Gothic
soldier. And for every one of these heroes, a dozen of their followers
lie dead also. If, at midnight last night, a block of lava, upon which
I was standing, had not most opportunely slipped down just as King
Teja, who can see in the dark, was hurling his lance at me, Rosamunda
would not be the loveliest woman, but the loveliest widow in the realm
of the Longobardians! As it was I got off with some ugly bruises, which
will not be extolled in future heroic songs, but which I fancy much
more than King Teja's best spear in my stomach. But I think that it is
now the turn of other heroes. Let your Macedonians and Illyrians come
forward. We have shown them often enough how a man can die in front of
that needle's eye."

"No, my little wolf! Diamond cut diamond!" laughed Narses. "Always
Germans against Germans; there are too many of you in the world!"

"You seem to have the same fatherly opinion about the Isaurians--at
least about _mine_!--magister militum," said Cethegus. "Shortly before
their departure for Rome, you ordered my Isaurians to storm the pass in
mass--the first storming-party in mass that you had ever ordered! Seven
hundred of my seven thousand remained dead upon those rocks, and
Sandil, my tried and faithful chief, at last found this Black Earl's
axe too sharp for his helmet. He was very valuable to me."

"Well, the rest are safe in Rome. But nothing except fire can drive
these Goths out of their last hole; unless indeed the earth would do me
the favour to quake, as it did at Ravenna when Belisarius----"

"Is there still no news of the result of the process against
Belisarius?" asked Cethegus. "Letters came lately from Byzantium, did
they not?"

"I have not yet read them all.--Or, if not fire--then hunger. And if
they then sally forth for a last battle, many a brave man would rather
hear the murmur of the Ganges than the murmur of the Draco. Not you,
Prefect! I know that you can look boldly into the eye of death."


"I will still wait here a little and see how things turn out. It is bad
travelling weather. It storms and rains unceasingly. On the first or
second warm sunshiny day, I will start for Rome."

It was true. On the night of the departure of the Isaurians, the
weather had suddenly changed. The fisherman, who dwelt in a village
near Stabiæ, could not venture out upon the sea; less on account of the
storm than because of the Longobardians, who had long been watching him
with suspicion, and who had once arrested him. Only when his old father
came forward and proved that Agnellus was really his, the old
fisherman's son, did they hesitatingly let him go free. But he did not
dare to pretend to fish, when no other fisher threw out his nets; and
only far out upon the water could Syphax, who was also closely watched,
venture to communicate with him.

The exits of all the camps, even of the half-deserted camp of
Cethegus--Narses had placed only three thousand Thracians and Persians
in the tents deserted by the Isaurians--were guarded night and day by
the Longobardians. And Narses was also obliged to postpone his baths
for some days. But for the secrets, namely, the letter from Procopius
and the conversation held by Narses in his bath-house, Cethegus fully
intended to wait.



                              CHAPTER XI.


The usual good luck of the Prefect did not desert him. The weather
changed again. On the morning of the day after his last conversation
with Narses, the sun rose splendidly over the blue and sparkling bay,
and hundreds of small fishing-boats set out to take advantage of the
favourable weather.

Syphax, yielding his place at the threshold of his master's tent to the
four Isaurians, who alone had remained behind their comrades, had
disappeared at the first approach of dawn.

When Cethegus had taken his morning bath in an adjoining tent, and was
returning to his breakfast, he heard Syphax making a great noise as he
approached through the lines of tents.

"No!" he was shouting; "this fish is for the Prefect. I have paid for
it in hard cash. The great Narses will not wish to eat other people's
fish!"

And with these words he tore himself loose from Alboin, and from
several Longobardians, as well as from a slave belonging to Narses, who
were trying to detain him.

Cethegus stopped. He recognised the slave. It was the cook of the
generally sick and always temperate general, whose art was scarcely
practised except for his master's guests.

"Sir," the well-educated Greek said to the Prefect, in his native
language, "do not blame me for this unseemly turmoil. What does a
sea-mullet matter to me! But these long-bearded barbarians forced me to
take possession, at any cost, of this fish-basket, which your slave was
bringing from the boats."

A glance which Cethegus exchanged with Syphax sufficed. The
Longobardian had not understood what had been said. Cethegus gave
Syphax a blow on the cheek, and cried in Latin:

"Good-for-nothing, insolent slave! will you never learn manners? Shall
not the sick general have the best there is?"

And he roughly snatched the basket from the Moor and gave it to the
slave.

"Here is the basket. I hope Narses will enjoy the fish."

The slave, who thought he had refused the gift distinctly enough, took
the basket with a shake of his head.

"What can it all mean?" he asked in Latin as he went away.

"It means," answered Alboin, who followed him, "that the best fish is
_not_ hidden in the basket, but somewhere else."

As soon as Syphax entered the tent, he eagerly felt in his waterproof
belt of crocodile-skin for a roll of papyrus, which he handed to the
Prefect.

"You bleed, Syphax!"

"Only slightly. The Longobardians pretended, when they saw me swimming
in the water, to take me for a dolphin, and shot their arrows at me."

"Nurse yourself--a solidus for every drop of your blood!--the letter is
worth blood and gold, as it seems. Nurse yourself! and bid the
Isaurians let no one enter."

And now, alone in his tent, the Prefect began to read.

His features grew darker and darker. Ever deeper became the wrinkle in
the centre of his mighty forehead; ever more harshly and firmly
compressed his lips.

"To Cornelius Cethegus Cæsarius, the Ex-prefect and ex-friend,
Procopius of Cæsarea, for the last time. This is the most sorrowful
business for which I have ever used either my former or my present
pen-hand. And I would gladly give this my left hand, as I gave my right
for Belisarius, if I need not write this letter. The revocation and
renunciation of our friendship of thirty years! In this unheroic time I
believed in two heroes; the hero of the sword, Belisarius; and the hero
of the intellect, Cethegus. In future I must hate, and almost despise,
the latter."

The reader threw the letter on the couch upon which he lay. Then he
took it up again with a frown and read on:

"Nothing more was wanting but that Belisarius should prove to be the
traitor that you would have represented him to be. But his innocence is
as clearly proved as your black falsehood. I had often felt uneasy at
the crookedness of your ways, into which you had partly led me also;
but I believed in the grandeur and unselfishness of your design: the
liberation of Italy! Now, however, I see that the mainspring of your
actions was measureless, unlimited, merciless ambition! A design which
necessitates such means as you have used is desecrated in my eyes for
ever. You tried to ruin Belisarius, that brave and simple-minded man,
by means of his own repentant wife, and to sacrifice him to Theodora
and to your own ambition. That was devilish; and I turn away from you
for ever."

Cethegus closed his eyes.

"I ought not to wonder at it," he said to himself. "He too has his
idol: Belisarius! Whoever touches that idol is as hateful to the wise
Procopius as he who sees in the Cross merely a piece of wood is to the
Christian. Therefore I ought not to wonder at it--but it pains me! Such
is the power of a thirty years' habit. During all those years a warmer
feeling came over my heart at the sound of the name, Procopius! How
weak does custom make us! The Goth deprived me of Julius--Belisarius
deprives me of Procopius! Who will deprive me of Cethegus, my oldest
and last friend? No one. Neither Narses nor Fate. Away with you,
Procopius, out of the circle of my life! Almost too lachrymose,
certainly too long, is the funeral speech which I have held over you.
What else does the dead man say?"

And he continued to read:

"But I write this letter, because I wish to close our long
friendship--to which you have put an end by your treacherous attack
upon my hero, Belisarius--with a last sign of affection. I wish to warn
and to save you, if it yet be possible. Seven letters which I sent you
have evidently never reached you, otherwise you would not still be
dwelling in the camp of Narses, as his army-reports affirm. So I will
entrust this eighth letter to my slave, Agnellus, a fisherman's son
from Stabiæ, where you are now encamped. I will give him his freedom,
and recommend this letter to him as my last commission. For, although I
ought to hate you, I still love you, Cethegus! It is hard to abandon
you, and I would gladly save you. When, shortly after your departure, I
returned to Byzantium--already on the way the news of the arrest
of Belisarius (on account of treachery!) came upon me like a
thunderbolt--I believed at first that you, like the Emperor, had been
deceived. In vain I tried to gain a hearing from Justinian; he raged
against all who had ever been united in ties of friendship to
Belisarius. In vain I strove to see Antonina by every means in my
power. She was strictly guarded (thanks to your hints) in the Red
House. In vain I proved to Tribonianus the impossibility of treachery
on the part of Belisarius. He shrugged his shoulders and said: 'I
cannot comprehend it! But the proof is striking; this senseless denial
of the visits of Anicius. He is lost!' And he was lost. The sentence
was pronounced; Belisarius was condemned to death; Antonina to
banishment. The Emperor mercifully _mitigated_ the sentence of
Belisarius into banishment--far from Antonina's exile--the loss of
sight, and confiscation of his property. This terrible judgment lay
heavy upon all Byzantium. No one believed in the guilt of Belisarius
except the Emperor and the judges. But no one was able to prove his
innocence, or change his fate. I was resolved to go with him into
banishment; the one-armed with the blind. Then--and may he be blessed
for it for ever!--his great enemy, Narses, saved him! He whom I once
named to you as the greatest man of the age."

"To be sure," said Cethegus to himself, "and now he will also be the
most magnanimous."

"As soon as the news reached him in the Baths of Nikomedia--whither the
sick man had repaired--he hurried back to Byzantium. He sent for me and
said: 'You know well that it would have been my greatest pleasure to
beat Belisarius thoroughly in the open field; but he who has been my
great and noble rival shall not perish miserably because of these lies.
Come with me. We two--his greatest friend and his greatest enemy--will
together save that impetuous man.' And he demanded an audience of the
Emperor, which was at once granted to the enemy of Belisarius. Then he
said to Justinian: 'It is impossible that Belisarius is a traitor. His
only failing is his blind fidelity to your ingratitude.' But Justinian
was deaf. Then Narses laid his marshal's staff at the Emperor's feet
and said: 'Well, either you will annul the sentence of the judges, and
permit a new inquiry, or you will lose both your generals on one day.
For, on the same day that Belisarius goes into exile, I go too. Then
see to it, who will guard your doors from the Goths, Persians, and
Saracens.' And the Emperor hesitated, and demanded three days' time for
consideration, and meanwhile Narses was to be allowed to look through
the papers in company with me, and to speak to Anicius and all
concerned. I soon perceived from the papers that the worst proof
against Belisarius--for I hoped to be able to explain away the consent
which he had written upon the tablet found in the house of Photius--was
the secret and midnight visits of Anicius, which Belisarius, Antonina,
and Anicius himself, obstinately and unreasonably denied. I then spoke
to Antonina in private. I told her that these visits and their denial
would be the ruin of Belisarius. Then she cried with sparkling eyes:
'Then I alone will be ruined, and Belisarius shall be saved! He really
knew nothing of these visits, for Anicius did not come to him--he came
to me. All the world shall know it--even Belisarius! He may kill me,
but he shall be saved!' And she gave me a little bundle of letters from
Anicius, which, certainly, when laid before the Emperor, would explain
everything, but would also accuse the _Empress_ in a terrible manner.
And how firmly stood Theodora at that time in the esteem of Justinian!
I hastened with these letters to Narses. He read them through and said,
'In this case, either Belisarius and all of us are ruined--or the
beautiful she-devil will fall! It is for life or death! First come with
me to Antonina once more.' And, accompanied by guards, and taking
Antonina with us, we hastened to Anicius, who was slowly recovering
from his wound in prison."

Cethegus stamped his foot; but he read on:

"And then we all four went to Justinian. The magnanimous sinner,
Antonina, confessed upon her knees the nightly meetings with Anicius,
which, however, she had only encouraged in order to deliver the youth
from the toils of the Empress. She gave the Emperor the letters of
Anicius, which spoke of the seductress, of her manifold arts, of the
secret passage to her chamber, and of the turning statue. The poor
Emperor broke out into a fearful rage; he would have arrested us all
upon the spot for leze majesty, for unlimited calumny. But Belisarius
said, 'Do that--to-morrow! But this evening, when the Empress sleeps,
let Anicius and me lead you through the turning statue into the chamber
of your wife, seize her letters, confront her with Antonina and
Anicius, subject the old witch Galatea to the torture, and then see if
you do not learn much more than you will like to hear. And if we have
deceived ourselves, punish us to-morrow as you like!' The turning,
statue! that was so palpable! The assurance of Anicius, that he had
often passed this secret door, was so provoking! Such things could
scarcely be invented. Justinian accepted our proposition. That very
night Anicius led the Emperor and us three into the garden adjoining
the Empress's apartments. A hollow plantain-tree concealed the mouth of
the subterranean passage which ended under the mosaic of Theodora's
ante-room. Until then, Justinian had still preserved his belief in the
Empress. But when Anicius pushed a marble slab to one side, and opened
a secret lock with a secret key that he had fetched from his house, and
the statue became visible, the Emperor, half fainting, sank back into
my arms. At last he roused himself, and pressed forward alone past the
statue into the chamber. Twilight filled the room. The dimly burning
lamp shone over the couch of Theodora. The poor befooled man went up to
her with a stealthy and unsteady step. There lay Theodora, fully
dressed in imperial garments. A shrill cry from the Emperor called us
to his side, and also Galatea from an adjoining chamber, whom I
immediately seized. Justinian, stiff with horror, pointed to the
couch--we stepped forward--the Empress was dead! Galatea, not less
startled than we, fell into convulsions. Meanwhile, we searched the
room, and found, upon a golden tripod, the ashes of numerous rolls of
parchment. Anicius called for slaves and lights. By this time Galatea
had recovered, and, wringing her hands, told how the Empress had left
her rooms towards evening--about the time of our audience--without
attendants, in order to visit the Emperor, as she frequently did at
that hour. She had returned almost immediately, very quiet, but
strikingly pale. She had ordered the tripod to be filled with glowing
coals, and had then locked herself up in her room. When Galatea knocked
some time later, she had answered that she had gone to rest, and
required nothing more. On hearing this, the Emperor threw himself again
upon the beloved corpse; and now, by the light of the lamps which had
been brought, he saw that the little ruby capsule, containing poison,
in the ring which had once belonged to Cleopatra, and which Theodora
wore upon her little finger, had been opened--the Empress had killed
herself! Upon the lemonwood table lay a strip of parchment, upon which
was written her favourite motto: 'To live is to rule by means of
beauty.' We were still in doubt whether it was the tortures of her
malady or the discovery of her threatened fall which had driven her to
this desperate deed. But our doubts were soon solved. When the news of
Theodora's death spread through the palace, Theophilos, the Emperor's
door-keeper, hurried, half desperate, into the chamber of death, threw
himself at the Emperor's feet, and confessed that he guessed the
connection. He had been for years in the secret service of the Empress,
and every time that the Emperor held an audience to which he had given
orders that the Empress was not to be admitted, he (the doorkeeper) had
apprised the latter of it. She had then almost always heard the most
secret councils of the Emperor from a hiding-place in the doorway of an
adjacent chamber. Thus yesterday he had, as usual, informed the Empress
that we were to have an audience, to which he had been particularly
ordered not to admit her. Presently she had entered her hiding-place,
but she had scarcely heard a few words spoken by Antonina and Anicius,
when, with a smothered cry, she had sank half fainting behind the
curtains; but, quickly rising, she had made a sign to him to keep
silence, and then disappeared.--Narses pressed the Emperor to question
Galatea upon the rack, but Justinian said, 'I will inquire no further.'

"Day and night he remained alone near the corpse of the still beloved
woman, after which he caused her to be interred, with the highest
imperial honours, in the church of St. Sophia. It was officially
published that the Empress had been suffocated by charcoal fumes while
sleeping. The tripod, with the ashes, was publicly exposed. But that
night had made Justinian an old man. The complete agreement of the
evidence of Antonina, Anicius, Belisarius, Photius, the slaves of
Antonina, the litter-bearers who had taken you to Belisarius's house
before his arrest--all fully proved that you, in conjunction with the
Empress, had persuaded Belisarius, through Antonina, to place himself
seemingly at the head of the conspirators; and I swore to the fact that
a few weeks ago he had expressed to me his just anger at the project of
Photius.

"Justinian hastened to the cell where Belisarius was confined, embraced
him with tears, begged his forgiveness for himself and for Antonina,
who remorsefully confessed all her innocent love-makings, and obtained
full pardon. The Emperor, in atonement, begged Belisarius to accept the
chief command in Italy. But Belisarius said, 'No, Justinian; my work on
earth is finished. I shall retire with Antonina to my most distant
villa in Mesopotamia, and there bury myself and my past. I am cured of
the wish to serve you. If you will grant me a last favour, then give
the command of the army in Italy to my friend and preserver, Narses. He
shall revenge me upon the Goths, and upon that Satan called Cethegus!'
And the two great enemies embraced before our sympathetic eyes. All
this was buried in the deepest secrecy, in order to spare the memory of
the Empress; for Justinian still loves her. It was announced that the
innocence of Belisarius had been fully proved by Narses, Tribonianus,
and me, by means of lately-discovered letters of the conspirators.
Justinian pardoned all who had been sentenced; also Scævola and
Albinus, who were formerly undone by you. But I tell you the whole
truth, in order to warn and save you. For, although I do not know in
what way, I am quite convinced that Justinian has sworn your ruin, and
entrusted your destruction to the hands of Narses. Your design to found
a free and recognised Rome, ruled only by yourself, was madness. To it
you have sacrificed everything--even our fair friendship. I shall
accompany Belisarius and Antonina, and I will try, in the contemplation
of their complete reconciliation and happiness, to forget the disgust,
doubt, and vexation with which all human affairs have filled me."



                              CHAPTER XII.


Cethegus sprang from his seat, tossed the letter down, and hastily
paced his tent.

"Feeble creature! and weak-minded Cethegus! to vex yourself that
another soul is lost to you! Had you not lost Julius long before you
killed him? And yet you still live and strive! And this Narses, whom
all fear as if he were God and devil in one--is he, then, really so
dangerous? Impossible! He has blindly entrusted Rome to me and mine. It
is not his fault that I do not defy him at this moment from the
Capitol. Bah! I cannot learn to be afraid in my old days. I trust in my
star! Is it foolhardiness? Is it the calmest wisdom? I do not know; but
it seems to me that confidence like this led Cæsar from victory to
victory! However, I can scarcely learn more from the secret council of
Narses in his bath-house than I have learned from this letter." And he
tore the papyrus roll into small pieces. "I will start this very day,
even if Syphax has overheard nothing at this moment, for I think it is
the hour of the bath."

Just then Johannes was announced, and, at a sign from Cethegus, was
admitted.

"Prefect of Rome," said Johannes, "I am come to beg pardon for an old
injury. The pain I felt at the loss of my brother Perseus made me
suspicious."


"Let that rest," said Cethegus; "it is forgotten."

"But I have not forgotten," continued Johannes, "your heroic valour. In
order at once to honour it and profit by it, I come to you with a
proposal. I and my comrades, used to Belisarius's straightforward
attacks, find the caution of the great Narses very tiresome. We have
now been lying for nearly two months before this cursed pass; we lose
men and win no renown. The commander-in-chief will starve the
barbarians out. Who knows how long that may last? And there will be a
fine butchery if, at last driven by despair, the barbarians break out
and sell dearly every drop of their blood! It is clear that if we only
had the mouth of that confounded pass----"

"Yes, _if_!" said Cethegus, smiling. "It is not ill-defended by this
Teja."

"Just on that account he must fall! He, the King, is evidently the only
one who holds together the whole loose bundle of spears. Therefore I
and more than a dozen of the best blades in the camp have formed a
league. Whenever it is the King's turn to guard the pass--the approach
is so narrow and steep, that only one at a time can attempt a
hand-to-hand fight--we, one after the other, taking our turns by lot,
will attack him; the others will keep as close as possible to the
foremost combatant, will save him if wounded, step into his place when
he falls, or, if he is victor and slays the Goth, press forward into
the ravine. Besides me, there are the Longobardians Alboin, Gisulf, and
Autharis, the Herulians Rodulf and Suartua, Ardarich the Gepide,
Gunebad the Burgundian, Chlotachar and Bertchramn the Franks, Vadomar
and Epurulf the Alamannians, Garizo the tall Bajuvar, Kabades the
Persian, Althias the Armenian, and Taulantius the Illyrian. We should
much like to have your terrible sword among us. Will you, Cethegus, be
one in our league? I know you hate this black-haired hero."

"Gladly," said Cethegus, "as long as I am here. But I shall soon
exchange this camp for the Capitol."

A strange and mocking smile passed across the face of Johannes, which
did not escape Cethegus. But he attributed it to a wrong feeling.

"You cannot well doubt my courage," he said, "according to your own
words. But there are more important things for me to do than to stamp
out the last glimmering sparks of the Gothic war. The orphaned city
longs for her Prefect. The Capitol beckons me."


"The Capitol!" repeated Johannes. "I think, Cethegus, that a heroic
death is also worth something."

"Yes, when the aim of one's life is reached."

"But no one knows, O Cethegus, how near he has approached his aim. But,
another thing: it seems to me as if something is in preparation among
the barbarians on their cursed mountain. From the hill near my quarters
we can peep a little, through a gap, over the peaks of the lava. I
should like you to turn your practised eye in that direction. At least,
they shall not surprise us by a sally. Follow me thither. But do not
speak of our league to Narses; he does not approve of such things. I
purposely chose the hour of his bath for my visit to you."

"I will come," said Cethegus.

He finished putting on his armour, and, after vainly inquiring for
Syphax of the Isaurian sentry, went with Johannes through his own and
the central camp of Narses, and finally turned into that on the right
wing--the camp of Johannes.

Upon the crown of the little hill mentioned by Johannes stood a great
many officers, who were eagerly looking through a small gap in the lava
into the portion of the Gothic encampment visible to them.

When Cethegus had looked for some time, he cried:

"There is no doubt about it! They are evacuating this easternmost part
of their position; they are pushing the wagons, which were drawn
together, apart, and dragging them farther to the right, to the west.
That must mean concentration; perhaps a sally."

"What do you think, Johannes?" quietly asked a young captain, who had
evidently only lately arrived from Byzantium, and who was a stranger to
Cethegus, "what do you think? Could not the new catapults reach the
barbarians from the point of that rock? I mean the last inventions of
Martinus--such as my brother took to Rome."

"_To Rome?_" repeated Cethegus, and cast a sharp look at the questioner
and at Johannes.

He felt himself suddenly turn hot and cold--a fright came over him,
more terrible still than he had experienced when he had heard of the
landing of Belisarius, of Totila's election, of Totila's march to Rome
at _Pons Padi_, of Totila's entrance into the Tiber; or of the arrival
of Narses in Italy. It seemed to him as if an iron hand were clutching
his heart and brain. He saw that Johannes imposed silence on the young
questioner with a furious frown.

"_To Rome?_" again repeated Cethegus in a low voice, and fixing his
eyes, now upon the stranger, now upon Johannes.

"Well, yes, of course, to Rome!" at last answered Johannes. "Zenon,
this man is Cethegus, the Prefect of Rome."

The young Byzantine bowed with the expression of one who sees for the
first time some far-famed monster.

"Cethegus, Zenon here, a captain who till now has been fighting on the
Euphrates, arrived only yesterday evening with some Persian bowmen from
Byzantium."

"And his brother," asked Cethegus, "has gone to _Rome_?"

"My brother Megas," quietly answered the Byzantine--who had now
collected himself--"had the order to offer to the Prefect of Rome"--and
here he again bowed--"the newly-invented double-catapults for the walls
of Rome. He embarked long before me; so I thought that he had already
arrived, and was gone to you in Rome. But his freight is very heavy. I
am rejoiced to become personally acquainted with the most powerful man
of the West, the glorious defender of the Tomb of Hadrian."

But Cethegus cast another sharp look at Johannes, and, abruptly bowing
to all present, turned to go.

When he had gone a few paces he suddenly looked back, and caught sight
of Johannes, with both his fists raised in anger, scolding at the
talkative young archon. A cold shudder ran through the Prefect. He
intended to reach his tent by the shortest cut, and, without waiting
for Syphax and his discoveries, to mount his horse and hasten to Rome
without taking leave.

The shortest way to get to his tent was to leave the camp of Johannes,
and walk along the straight line of the semicircle formed by the whole
encampment. In front of him a few Persian bowmen were riding out of the
camp commanded by Johannes. And some peasants who had sold wine to the
soldiers were also permitted to pass unhindered by the sentinels. These
sentries were all Longobardians, to whom, as everywhere, the exits of
this camp were entrusted by Narses.

As Cethegus was about to follow his countrymen, these sentries stopped
him with their spears. He caught at the shafts and angrily pushed them
aside. At this one of the Longobardians blew his horn; the others
pressed more closely round Cethegus.

"By order of Narses!" said Autharis, the captain.

"And those?" asked Cethegus, pointing to the peasants and the Persians.

"Those are not you," said the Longobardian.

At the sound of the horn a troop of guards had hurried up. They bent
their bows. Cethegus silently turned his back on them and returned to
his tent by the way that he had come.

Perhaps it was only his suddenly-aroused mistrust which made him
imagine that all the Byzantines and Longobardians whom he passed
regarded him with half-jeering, half-compassionate looks. When he
reached his tent he asked the Isaurian sentry:

"Is Syphax back?"

"Yes, sir, long since. He is impatiently waiting for you in the tent.
He is wounded."

Cethegus quickly pushed aside the curtains and entered. Syphax, deadly
pale beneath his bronzed skin, rushed to meet him, embraced his knees,
and whispered in passionate and desperate excitement:

"O my master! my lion! You are ensnared--lost--nothing can save you!"

"Compose yourself, slave!" said Cethegus. "You bleed?"
"It is nothing! They would not permit me to return to your camp--they
began to struggle with me as if in joke, but their dagger-stabs were
bitter earnest."

"Who? Whose dagger-stabs?"

"The Longobardians, master, who have placed double guards at all the
entrances of your camp."

"Narses shall give me a reason for this," said Cethegus angrily.

"The reason--that is, the pretext--he sent Kabades to inform you of
it--is a menaced sally by the Goths. But oh! my lion, my eagle, my
palm-tree, my wellspring--you are lost!"

And again the Numidian threw himself at his master's feet, covering
them with tears and kisses.

"Tell me coherently," said Cethegus, "what you have heard."

And he leaned against the central support of his tent, crossing his
arms behind his back, and raising his head. He did not seem to regard
the troubled face of Syphax, but to gaze at vacancy.

"O sir--I shall not be able to tell it very clearly--but I succeeded in
reaching my hiding-place among the sea-weed. It was scarcely necessary
to dive--the weeds hid me sufficiently. The bathing-house is made of
thin wood and has been newly covered with linen since the last storm.
Narses came in his little boat with Alboin, Basiliskos, and three other
men, disguised as Longobardians--but I recognised Scævola, Albinus----"

"They are not dangerous," interrupted Cethegus.

"And--Anicius!"

"Are you not mistaken?" asked Cethegus sharply.

"Sir, I knew his eyes and his voice! From their conversation--I did not
understand every word--but the sense was clear----"

"Would that you could repeat their very words!"

"They spoke Greek, sir, and I do not understand it as well as your
language--and the waves made a noise, and the wind was unfavourable."

"Well, what did they say?"

"The three men only came from Byzantium yesterday evening--they at once
demanded your head. But Narses said, 'No murder! A just sentence after
a process in all form.' 'When is it to be?' asked Anicius. 'So soon as
it is time.' 'And Rome?' asked Basiliskos. 'He will never see Rome
again!' answered Narses."

"Stop!" cried Cethegus. "Wait a moment. I must be quite clear."

He wrote a few lines upon a wax tablet.

"Has Narses returned from his bath?"

"Long ago."

"'Tis well." He gave the tablet to the sentinel at the door. "Bring
back the answer immediately.--Continue, Syphax."

But Cethegus could no longer stand still. He began hastily to pace the
tent.

"O sir, something monstrous must have happened at Rome--I could not
exactly understand what. Anicius put a question; in it he named your
Isaurians. Narses said, 'I am rid of the chief Sandil,' and he added,
laughing, 'and the rest are well cared for in Rome by Aulus and the
brothers Macer, my decoy-birds.'"

"Did he name those names?" asked Cethegus grimly. "Did he use that
word?"

"Yes, sir. Then Alboin said, 'It is well that the young tribunes are
gone; it would have cost a hard fight.' And Narses replied, 'All the
Prefect's Isaurians must go. Shall we fight a bloody battle in our own
camp, and let King Teja burst in upon us?' O sir, I fear that they have
enticed your most faithful followers away from you with evil intent."

"I believe so too," said Cethegus gravely. "But what did they say about
Rome?"

"Alboin asked after a leader whose name I had never heard before."

"Megas?" asked Cethegus.

"Yes, Megas! That was it. How did you know?"

"No matter. Continue! What about this Megas?"

"Alboin asked how long Megas had been in Rome. Narses said, 'In any
case long enough for the Roman tribunes and the Isaurians.'"

Cethegus groaned aloud.

"But," continued Syphax, "Scævola remarked that the citizens of Rome
idolised their tyrant and his young knights. 'Yes.' answered Narses,
'formerly; but now they hate and fear nothing so much as the man who
tried by force once more to make them brave men and Romans.' Then
Albinus asked, 'But if they were to take his part again? His name has
an all-conquering influence.' Narses answered, 'Twenty-five thousand
Armenians in the Capitol and the Mausoleum will bind the Romans----'"

Cethegus struck his fist fiercely on his forehead.

"'Will bind them more strictly than Pope Pelagius, their treaty, or
their oath.' 'Their treaty and their oath?' asked Scævola. 'Yes,'
answered Narses, 'their oath and treaty! They have sworn only to open
their gates to the Prefect of Rome.' 'Well, and then?' asked Anicius.
'Well', they know, and they knew then, that now the Prefect of Rome is
called--Narses. _To me, not to him_ have, they sworn!'"

Cethegus threw himself upon his couch and hid his face in his
purple-hemmed mantle. No loud complaint issued from his heaving chest.

"Oh, my dear master!" cried Syphax, "it will kill you! But I have not
yet finished. You must know all. Despair will give you strength, as it
does to the snared lion."

Cethegus raised his head.

"Finish," he said. "What I have still to hear is indifferent; it can
only concern me, not Rome."

"But it concerns you in a fearful manner! Narses went on to say, after
a few speeches which escaped me in the noise of the waves--that
yesterday, at the same time as the long-expected news from Rome----"

"What news?" asked Cethegus.

"He did not mention what. He said, 'At the same time, Zenon brought me
word to open the sealed orders which I carry from the Emperor; for the
latter rightly judges that any day may bring about the destruction of
the Goths. I opened and'--O master, it is dreadful----"

"Speak!"

"Narses said, 'All the great Justinian's littleness is exposed in these
orders. I believe he would more easily pardon Cethegus for having
enticed him to blind Belisarius, than for having been in collusion with
Theodora, for having been the seducer of the Empress! A frightful
anachron'--I did not understand the word."

"Anachronism!" said Cethegus, quietly righting Syphax.

"'For having deceived and outwitted him. The fate which Cethegus almost
brought upon Belisarius, will now fall upon his own head--the loss of
his sight.'"

"Really!" said Cethegus with a smile. But he involuntarily felt for his
dagger.

"Narses said further," continued Syphax, "that you were to suffer the
punishment which, in blasphemous desecration of Christ's death, and
contrary to the law of the Emperor Constantine, you had lately
introduced into Rome. What can he mean by that?" added Syphax
anxiously.

"Crucifixion!" said Cethegus as he put up his dagger.

"O master!"

"Softly! I do not yet hang in the air. I still firmly tread the
hero-nourishing earth. Conclude!"

"Narses said that he was a general and no executioner, and that the
Emperor would have to be contented if he only sent him your head to
Byzantium. But oh, not that! Only not that--if we _must_ die!"

"We?" said Cethegus, who had fully gained his usual calmness. "_You_
have not deceived the great Emperor. The danger does not threaten you."

But Syphax continued:

"Do you not know then? Oh, do not doubt it. All Africa knows that if
the head of a corpse is wanting, the soul must creep for ages through
dust and mire, in the shape of a vile and filthy headless worm. Oh,
they shall not separate your head from your trunk!"

"It still stands firm upon these shoulders of mine, like the globe on
the shoulders of Atlas. Peace--some one comes."

The Isaurian who had been sent to Narses, entered with a sealed letter.

"To Cethegus Cæsarius: Narses, the magister militum. There is nothing
to prevent your carrying out your wish to go to Rome."

"Now I understand," said Cethegus, and read on:

"The sentinels have orders to let you ride forth. But, if you insist
upon going, I will give you a thousand Longobardians under Alboin as an
escort, for the roads are very unsafe. As, in all probability, an
attempt will be made by the Goths, to-day or tomorrow, to break through
our lines, and repeated foolhardy sallies on the part of my soldiers
have led to the loss of leaders and troops, I have ordered that no one
be permitted to leave the camp without my express permission, and have
entrusted the watch, even that of the tents, to my Longobardians."

Cethegus sprang to the entrance of his tent, and tore the curtains
open. His four Isaurians were just being led away. Twenty
Longobardians, under Autharis, drew up before the tent.

"I had thought of escaping to-night," he said to Syphax, turning back.
"It is now impossible. But it is better so, more dignified. Rather a
Gothic spear in my breast, than a Grecian arrow in my back. But I have
not yet read all that Narses writes."

He read on:

"If you will come to my tent, you will learn what measures I have taken
against the probably great bloodshed which will ensue if the barbarians
venture to sally, as they threaten. But I have still a painful
communication to make to you. News, which reached me yesterday evening
by sea from Rome, informs me that your tribunes and the greater part of
the Isaurians have been killed."

"Ah! Licinius, Piso, Julianus!" cried the Prefect, startled out of his
icy and defiant calmness by deep pain.

After a pause he controlled his emotion sufficiently to take up the
letter and read on:

"When they had been quietly admitted into the city (shamefully
decoyed!) they refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Emperor.
They tried, contrary to their promise, to use force. Lucius Licinius
attempted to take the Capitol by storm; Piso, the Porta Latina; Salvus
Julianus, the Mausoleum. They fell, each before the place which he
attacked. What remained of the Isaurians were taken prisoners."

"My second Julius follows the first!" cried Cethegus. "Well, I do not
need an heir, for Rome will never now be mine! It is over! The great
struggle for Rome is over! And brute force, small cunning, has
conquered the mind of Cethegus as it did the sword of the Goth. O
Romans, Romans! _You, too, my sons?_ You are my Brutus. Come, Syphax,
you are free. I go to meet death. Go back to your deserts."

"O master!" cried Syphax, sobbing passionately, as he crouched at the
feet of Cethegus. "Do not send me from you! I am not less faithful than
Aspa! Let me die with you!"

"Be it so," said Cethegus quietly, and laying his hand upon the Moor's
head. "I have loved you, my panther! Then die with me. Give me my helm,
shield, sword, and spear."

"Whither go you?"

"First to Narses."

"And then?"

"To Vesuvius!"



                             CHAPTER XIII.

King Teja's intention was to throw himself at night with all his armed
men--except a few guards who would be left in the ravine--into the camp
of Narses, and there, favoured by the darkness and surprise, to commit
great carnage.

Then, when the last of his warriors had fallen, and--probably at
daybreak--the enemy prepared to assault the pass, the unarmed
people--at least those who did not prefer slavery to death--were to
seek an honourable grave in the neighbouring crater of Vesuvius, after
which the few remaining defendants of the pass would sally forth and
die fighting.

When the King called his people together, and left the alternative to
their choice, he was filled with pride and joy to find that not one
voice among the thousands of women and children--for all the boys from
ten years of age and all the old men were armed--was raised in favour
of dishonour rather than death. His hero soul rejoiced in the thought
that his whole race, by a deed unheard of in the history of nations,
would die a glorious and heroic death, and worthily seal the renown of
their great past.

However, the despairing idea of the grim hero was not to be carried
out. His dying eyes were to behold a brighter and more consoling
picture. Narses, ever watchful and wary, had noticed the mysterious
preparations of his enemies even sooner than Johannes and Cethegus, and
had called a meeting of generals, which was to be held in his tent at
the fifth hour, in order to explain to them his counter-measures.

It was a lovely September morning, full of shining light and shining
mist over land and sea; a golden glow, such as, even in Italy, is only
poured forth in like wondrous beauty over the Bay of Neapolis.

Into the clear sky curled the white cloud of smoke from the summit of
Vesuvius. Upon the curved line of the shore the smooth and gentle waves
rolled in a rhythmic measure. Close to the edge of the water--so close
that the ripples of the waves often wetted his steel-shod feet--a
lonely man walked slowly along, carrying his spear over his shoulder,
and apparently coming from the left wing of the Byzantine army. The sun
glistened upon his round shield, upon his splendid armour. The
sea-breeze played with his crimson crest.

It was Cethegus; and the way he was going led to the gates of death. He
was followed at a short distance by the Moor. He soon reached a little
promontory which stretched out into the bay, and going to its outer
point, he turned and looked towards the northwest. There lay Rome--his
Rome.

"Farewell!" he cried with deep emotion; "farewell, ye seven immortal
hills! Farewell, old Tiber stream! thou that hast laved the venerable
ruins through many centuries. Twice hast thou tasted my blood; twice
hast thou saved my life. Now, kindly River-god, thou canst save me no
more! I have striven and fought for thee, my Rome, as none of thy
children, not even Cæsar, has ever done before.--The struggle is over;
the general without an army is vanquished. I now acknowledge that a
mighty intellect may possibly supply the place of a single man, but not
the want of a whole nation's patriotism. Intellect can preserve its own
youth, but it cannot renew that of others, I have tried to do what is
impossible; for to do only what is possible is common; and it is better
to fall striving for the superhuman than to be lost in dull resignation
among the common herd. But"--and he kneeled down and wet his hot
forehead with the salt water--"be thou blessed, Ansonia's sacred flood;
be thou blessed, Italians sacred soil!"--and he put his hand deep into
the sea sand--"thy most faithful son parts from thee with a thankful
heart--moved, not by the terrors of approaching death, but only by thy
beauty. I forebode for thee, Italia, an oppressive foreign rule; I have
not been able to turn it aside, but I have offered up my heart's blood;
and if the laurels of thy Empire are for ever withered--may the olive
of thy people's love of freedom still bloom amid the ruins of thy
cities, and may the day quickly come when no foreign master rules in
all the length and breadth of the land, and when thou art mistress of
thyself from the sacred Alps to the sacred sea!"

He rose quietly, and now walked more rapidly through the centre camp to
the tent of the commander-in-chief. When he entered it, he found all
the generals and officers assembled. Narses called to him in a friendly
voice, saying:

"You come at the right moment, Cethegus. Twelve of my officers, whom I
have discovered in a foolish league, such as barbarians, but not the
scholars o£ Narses, might make, have appealed to you in excuse. They
say that what is shared in by the wise Cethegus cannot be foolish.
Speak! have you really joined this league against Teja?"

"I have; and when I leave you--let me be the first, Johannes, without
casting lots--I go straight to Vesuvius. The hour of the King's watch
approaches."

"This pleases me, Cethegus."

"Thanks. It will, no doubt, save you much trouble, _Prefect of Rome_,"
answered Cethegus.

A movement of extreme surprise escaped all present; for even those who
were initiated into the secret were amazed that Cethegus knew the
position of affairs.

Narses alone remained unmoved. He merely said in a low voice to
Basiliskos:

"He knows all, and it is well that he does so." Then he turned to
Cethegus and said: "It is not my fault, Cethegus, that I did not tell
you sooner of your dismissal; the Emperor had strictly forbidden me to
do so. I approve of your resolve, for it agrees with my best
intentions.--The barbarians shall not have the pleasure of slaying
another myriad of my people tonight. We will march forward at once with
all our troops, including both our wings, to within a spear's throw
from the pass. We will not leave the Goths room to sally far out. The
first step they take beyond the mouth of the ravine shall be amongst
our spears. I have also nothing to object, Cethegus, if volunteers
offer to fight that King of terrors. With his death, I hope, the
resistance of the Goths will cease. Only one thing makes me anxious. I
have long ago ordered up the Ionian fleet--for I expected that all
would be over a few days earlier--and yet it has not arrived. The ships
are to take the captured barbarians on board at once, and carry them to
Byzantium.--Has the swift-sailer which I sent to gather news beyond the
Straits, of Regium not yet returned. Captain Konon?"

"No, general. Neither has a second swift ship, which I sent after the
first."

"Can the late storm have damaged the fleet?"

"Impossible, general! It was not violent enough. And the fleets
according to the last reports, lay safe at anchor in the harbour of
Brundusium."

"Well, we cannot wait for the ships! Forward, my leaders! We will march
at once to the pass. Farewell, Cethegus! Do not let your dismissal
disquiet you. I fear that you will be menaced with many a troublesome
process when the war is ended. You have many enemies, rightly and
wrongly. There are bad omens against you. But I know that from the very
beginning you have believed in only one omen--'The only omen'----"

"'Is to die for the fatherland!' Grant me one more favour, Narses.
Allow me--for my Isaurians and tribunes are in Rome--to gather round me
all the Italians and Romans whom you have divided among your troops,
and lead them against the barbarians."

For one moment Narses hesitated. Then he said:

"Well, go; gather them together and lead them--to death," he added in a
low voice to Basiliskos. "There are at most fifteen hundred men. I do
not grudge him the pleasure of falling at the head of his countrymen.
Nor them the pleasure of falling behind him!--Farewell, Cethegus."

Silently greeting Narses with his uplifted spear, Cethegus left the
tent.

"H'm!" said Narses to Alboin, "you may well look after him,
Longobardian. There goes a remarkable piece of universal history. Do
you know who that is marching away?"

"A great enemy to his enemies," said Alboin gravely.

"Yes, wolf, look at him again; there goes to his death--the last
Roman!"

When all the leaders, except Basiliskos and Alboin, had left Narses,
there hurried into the tent from behind a curtain, Anicius, Scævola,
and Albinus, still in the disguise of Longobardians, and with faces
full of alarm.

"What!" cried Scævola, "will you save that man from his judges?"

"And his body from the executioner; and his fortune from his accusers?"
added Albinus.

Anicius was silent; he only clenched his hand upon the hilt of his
sword.

"General," said Alboin, "let these two brawlers put off the dress of my
people. I am disgusted with them."

"You are not wrong there, wolf!" said Narses; and turning to the others
he said, "you need no further disguise. You are useless to me as
accusers. Cethegus is judged; and the sentence will be carried out--by
King Teja. But you, you ravens, shall not hack at the hero after he is
dead."

"And the order of the Emperor?" asked Scævola stubbornly.

"Even Justinian cannot blind and crucify a dead man. When Cethegus
Cæsarius has fallen, I cannot wake him up again to please the Emperor's
cruelty. And of his money, you, Albinus, shall not receive a single
solidus, nor you, Scævola, one drop of his blood. His gold is for the
Emperor, his blood for the Goths, and his name for immortality."

"Do you wish the death of a hero for that wretch?" now asked Anicius
angrily.

"Yes, son of Boëthius; for he has deserved it! But you have a veritable
right to revenge yourself on him--you shall behead the fallen man, and
take his head to the Emperor at Byzantium. Do you not hear the tuba?
The fight has commenced!"



                              CHAPTER XIV.


When King Teja saw the whole of Narses' forces advancing towards the
mouth of the pass, he said to his heroes:

"It seems that instead of the stars, the mid-day sun is to shine upon
the last battle of the Goths! That is the only change in our plan."


He then placed a number of warriors in front of the hollow in the lava,
showed them the royal treasure and the corpse of Theodoric, raised upon
a purple throne, and ordered them to pay attention while the fight for
the pass was raging, and, on receiving a sign from Adalgoth--to whom
and Wachis he had confided the last defence of the pass--at once to
throw the throne and the coffers into the crater. The unarmed people
pressed together round the lava cave--not a tear was seen, not a sigh
was heard.

Teja arranged his men into hundreds, and these hundreds into families,
so that father and sons, brothers and cousins, fought at each other's
side; an order of battle the terrible obstinacy of which the Romans had
often experienced since the days of the Cimbrians and Teutons, of
Ariovist and Armin. The natural construction of the last battlefield of
the Goths necessitated of itself the old order of battle inherited from
Odin--the wedge.

The deep and close columns of the Byzantines now stood in orderly ranks
from the shore of the sea to within a spear's throw from the mouth of
the pass: a magnificent but fearful spectacle. The sun shone brightly
upon their weapons, while the Goths still stood in the deep shadow of
the rocks. Far away over the spears and standards of the enemy, the
Goths beheld the lovely blue sea, the surface of which flashed with a
silvery light.

King Teja stood near Adalgoth, who carried the banner of Theodoric, at
the mouth of the pass. All the poet was roused in the Hero-King.

"Look!" he said to his favourite, "what more lovely place could a man
have to die in? It cannot be more beautiful in the heaven of the
Christian, nor in Master Hildebrand's Asgard or Breidablick. Up,
Adalgoth! Let us die here, worthy of our nation and of this beauteous
death-place."

He threw back the purple mantle which he wore over his black steel
armour, took the little harp upon his left arm, and sang in a low,
restrained voice:

           "From farthest North till Rome--Byzant--
              The Goths to battle call!
            In glory rose the Goths' bright star--
              In glory shall it fall!
            Our swords raised high, we fight for fame;
              Heroes with heroes vie;
            Farewell, thou noble hero-race--
              Up, Goths, and let us die!"

And he shattered the still vibrating harp upon the rocks at his feet.

"And now, Adalgoth, farewell! Would that I could have saved the rest of
my people! Not here; but by an unobstructed retreat to the north. It
was not to be. Narses would never grant it, and the last of the Goths
cannot _beg_. Now let us go--to death!"

And raising his dreaded weapon, the mighty battleaxe with its
lance-like shaft, he stepped to the head of the "wedge," Behind
him Aligern, his cousin, and old Hildebrand. Behind them Duke Guntharis
of Tuscany, the Wölfung, Earl Grippa of Ravenna, and Earl Wisand
of Volsinii, the standard-bearer. Behind them again, Wisand's
brother, Ragnaris of Tarentum, and four earls, his kinsmen. Then, in
ever-broadening front, first six, then ten Goths. The rear was formed
of close ranks, arranged by tens.

Wachis, halting in the pass near Adalgoth, blew, at a sign from the
King, a signal on the Gothic war-horn, and the assaulting force marched
out of the ravine.

The heroes in league with Johannes stood upon the first level place
close before the pass; only Alboin, Gisulf, and Cethegus were still
missing. Next behind the ten leaders stood Longobardians and Herulians,
who at once greeted the advancing Goths with a hail of spears.

The first to rush upon the King, who was easily recognisable by the
crown upon his helmet, was Althias the Armenian. He fell dead at once,
his skull split to the ears.

The second was the Herulian, Rodulf. Holding his spear at his left side
with both hands, he rushed at Teja. Teja stood firm, and, receiving the
stroke upon his narrow shield, pierced his adversary through the body
with the lance-like point of his battle-axe. Rodulf staggered back at
the shock, then fell dead.

Before Teja could disengage his weapon from the scales of his enemy's
mail-coat, Suartua, the nephew of the fallen Herulian, the Persian
Kabades, and the Bajuvar Garizo, all attacked him at once.

Teja thrust back the last--the nearest and boldest--with such vigour,
that he fell in the narrow and slippery lava path, and over a declivity
on the right.

"Now help, O holy virgin of Neapolis!" cried the tall man as he flew
downwards. "Help me, as you have done during all these years of war!"
And, but little damaged, Miriam's admirer came to a stop, slightly
stunned by his fall.

The Herulian Suartua was brandishing his sword over Teja's head, when
Aligern, springing forward, struck his arm clean off his shoulder.
Suartua screamed and fell.

Kabades, who tried to rip up the King's body with his long and crooked
scimetar, had his brains dashed out by old Hildebrand's stone axe.

Teja, again become master of his battle-axe, and rid of his nearest
foes, now sprang forward to attack in his turn. He hurled his axe at a
man in a boar-helmet--that is, a helmet decorated with the head and
tusks of a wild boar. It was Epurulf, the Alamannian, who fell
backwards to the ground.

Above Teja bent Vadomar, Epurulf's kinsman, and tried to possess
himself of the Gothic King's terrible weapon; but Teja was upon him in
a moment, his short sword in his right hand. It flashed, and Vadomar
fell dead upon the corpse of his friend.

The two Franks, Chlotachar and Bertchramn, hurried up at the same
moment, swinging the franciska, a weapon similar to Teja's battle-axe.
Both axes whizzed through the air at once. Teja caught one upon his
shield; the second, which came hurtling at his head, he parried with
his own axe, and in another moment he stood between his two
adversaries, whirled his axe round him in a circle, and at one blow the
two Franks fell right and left, both their helmets beaten in.

At that moment a spear struck the King's shield; it pierced the steel
rim, and slightly grazed his arm. As he turned to meet this enemy--it
was the Burgundian Gundobad--Ardarich, the Gepide, ran at him from
behind with his drawn sword, and struck him a heavy blow on the top of
his helmet. But the next moment Ardarich fell, pierced through by the
spear of Duke Guntharis; and the King pressed Gundobad, who defended
himself valiantly, down upon his knees. Gundobad lost his helmet in the
struggle, and Teja thrust the spike of his shield into his throat.

But already Taulantius the Illyrian and Autharis the Longobardian stood
before Teja. The Illyrian struck at the King's shield with a heavy club
made of the root of the ilex, and broke off a piece of the lower rim.
At the same time, just above the crack thus made, a lance, hurled by
the Longobardian, struck the shield and tore off the fastening of the
spike, sticking with its hook into the hole, and dragging the shield
down by its weight.

Already Taulantius raised his club over the King's head. But Teja did
not loiter; sacrificing his half-shattered shield, he dashed it into
the Illyrian's visorless face, letting it go; and almost at the same
moment he thrust the point of his battle-axe through the breast-plate
of Autharis, who was rushing upon him. But now the King stood without a
shield, and his distant enemies redoubled their hail of spears and
arrows. With axe and sword, Teja parried the thickly falling darts.

An alarum from the pass caused him to look round. He saw that the
greater part of the warriors whom he had led out of the ravine had
fallen. The innumerable projectiles hurled from a distance had done
their deadly work, and already, advancing from the left, a powerful
division of Longobardians, Persians, and Armenians, had attacked them
in the flank, and now mingled in a hand-to-hand fight.

On the right the King saw a column of Thracians, Macedonians, and
Franks press forward against the guardians of the pass with spears
couched; while a third division--Gepidians, Alamannians, Isaurians, and
Illyrians, tried to cut off himself and the small troop which still
stood at his back from the retreat into the pass.

Teja looked sharply towards the pass. For a moment the banner of
Theodoric disappeared--it seemed to have fallen. This circumstance
decided the King.

"Back into the pass! Save Theodoric's banner!" he cried to those behind
him, and tried to break through the troop of enemies which surrounded
him.

But they were in terrible earnest, for they were led by Johannes.

"Upon the King," lie cried. "Do not let him through. Do not let him go
back! Spears! Throw!"

Aligern had come up.

"Take my shield!" he cried.

Teja caught the proffered shield just in time to receive the lance
hurled by Johannes, which would otherwise have pierced his visor.

"Back to the pass!" again Teja cried, and rushed with such impetuosity
upon Johannes, that the latter fell to the ground. The two nearest
Isaurians succumbed to Teja's sword.

And now Teja, Aligern, Guntharis, Hildebrand, Grippa, Wisand and
Ragnaris hurried back to the pass. But here the battle was already
raging. Alboin and Gisulf had stormed the pass, and a heavy, pointed
block of lava, hurled by Alboin, had struck Adalgoth on the thigh, and
caused him to sink upon his knees. But Wachis had caught the falling
banner, and Adalgoth, quickly rising, had pushed the Longobardian, who
was pressing forward, out of the pass with the spike of his shield.

The sudden return of the King with his little troop of heroes relieved
the almost overpowered guardians of the pass. The Longobardians fell in
heaps before the unexpected assault in their rear. With loud cries the
two guardians of the pass rushed forth, and the Longobardians, carrying
their leaders along irresistibly, ran and leaped over the jagged lava
in their downward retreat. But they did not run far. They were absorbed
by the ranks of Isaurians, and Illyrians, Gepidians and Alamannians,
who advanced in force, led by Johannes. Gnashing his teeth, he had
risen from his fall, had set his helmet straight, and at once led his
men against the pass, into which Teja had now entered.

"Forward!" cried Johannes; "up and at him, Alboin, Gisulf, Vitalianus,
Zenon! Let us see if this King be really spear-proof!"

Teja had now taken up his old position at the mouth of the pass, and
leaning upon the shaft of his battle-axe, he rested awhile to cool
himself.

"Now, barbarian King! the end is at hand! Have you crept again into
your snail-shell? Come out, or I will make a hole in your house. Come
out, if you be a man!"

Thus cried Johannes, twirling his spear over his head in defiance.

"Give me three spears!" cried Teja, and gave his shield and battle-axe
to Adalgoth, who stood near him still, though wounded. "There! Now, as
soon as he falls, follow me out."


And he took one step forward out of the pass, without his shield, and
holding his three spears in his hands.

"Welcome to the open! and to death!" cried Johannes, as he hurled his
spear.

The spear was accurately aimed at the King's visor. But Teja bent to
one side, and the strong ashen lance was shattered against the opposite
rock.

As soon as Teja hurled his first spear in return, Johannes cast himself
upon his face; the spear flew over him and killed Zenon, who stood
close behind.

Johannes quickly recovered his feet, and rushed at the King like
lightning, catching the King's second spear, which immediately followed
the first, upon his shield. But Teja, immediately after hurling this
second lance with his right hand, had followed it up by a third with
his left, and this spear, unnoticed by Johannes, passed completely
through the latter's body, the point coming out at his back. The brave
man fell.

At this his Isaurians and Illyrians were seized with terror; for, after
Belisarius, Johannes was looked upon as the first hero of Byzantium.
They cried aloud, turned, and fled in wild disorder down the mountain,
followed by Teja and his heroes. For one moment the Longobardians, who
had again collected together, still held firm.

"Come, Gisulf--clench your teeth--let us stand against this
death-dealing King," cried Alboin.

But Teja was already upon them. His fearful battle-axe glittered above,
between them. Pierced through his armour deep into the left shoulder,
Alboin fell, and immediately afterwards Gisulf lay on the ground with
his helmet shattered. Then there was no more stopping the rest:
Longobardians, Gepidians, Alamannians, Herulians, Isaurians and
Illyrians, scattered in headlong flight, rushed down the mountain.

With shouts of exultation, Teja's companions followed. Teja himself
kept to the pass. He called to Wachis for spear after spear, and aiming
high over the Gothic pursuers, hurled them at the flying enemy, killing
whomsoever he touched.

They were the Emperor's best troops. In their flight they carried away
with them the Macedonians, Thracians, Persians, Armenians, and Franks,
who were slowly climbing the ascent, and fled until they reached
Narses, who had anxiously raised himself upright in his litter.

"Johannes has fallen!"

"Alboin is severely wounded!" they cried as they ran past. "Fly! Back
into the camp!"

"A new column of attack must be--Ha! look!" said Narses, "there comes
Cethegus, at the very nick of time!"

And Cethegus it was. He had completed his long ride through all the
troops to which Narses had sent Romans and Italians; he had formed
these into five companies of three hundred men each, and when they were
drawn up in battle array, he took his place quietly at their head.

Anicius followed at a distance. Syphax, carrying two spears, kept close
behind his master. Letting the defeated fugitives pass through the
vacant spaces between their ranks, the Italians marched on. Most of
them were old legionaries of Rome and Ravenna, and faithfully attached
to Cethegus.

The Gothic pursuers hesitated as they met with these fresh,
well-ordered troops, and slowly receded to the pass. But Cethegus
followed. Past the bloody place, covered with corpses, where Teja had
first destroyed the league of the twelve; past the spot farther up,
where Johannes had fallen, he marched on with a quiet and steady step,
his shield and spear in his left hand, his sword in his right. Behind
him, with lances couched, came the legionaries.

They marched up the mountain in silence, without the word of command,
or the flourish of trumpets. The Gothic heroes would not retreat into
the pass behind their King. They halted before the entrance.

Guntharis was the first with whom Cethegus came into contact. The
Duke's spear was shattered on the shield of Cethegus, and at once
Cethegus thrust his spear into his adversary's body; the deadly shaft
broke in the wound.

Earl Grippa of Ravenna set to work to avenge the Wölfung; he swung his
long sword over his head; but Cethegus ran under the thrust, and struck
the old follower of Theodoric below the right shoulder with his broad
Roman sword. Grippa fell and died.

Wisand, the standard-bearer, advanced furiously against Cethegus; their
blades crossed; sparks flew from shield and helmet; but Cethegus
cleverly parried a too hasty stroke, and before the Goth could recover
himself, the broad blade of the Roman had entered his thigh. Wisand
tottered. Two of his cousins bore him out of the fight.

His brother, Ragnaris of Tarentum, now attacked Cethegus, but Syphax,
running up, caught the well-thrust spear in his hand, and before
Ragnaris could let fall the shaft, and draw his axe from his belt,
Cethegus stabbed him in the forehead.

Struck with horror, the Goths retreated before the terrible Roman, and
pressed past their King into the ravine. Aligern alone, Teja's cousin,
would not yield. He hurled his spear with such force at the shield of
Cethegus, that it pierced it; but Cethegus lowered it quickly, and
received Aligern, as he rushed forward, on the point of his sword.
Severely wounded, Aligern fell into old Hildebrand's arms, who, letting
fall his heavy stone axe, tried to carry the fainting man into the
ravine.

But Aligern's spear had also been well-aimed. The shield-arm of
Cethegus bled profusely. But he did not heed it; he pressed on to make
an end of both the Goths, Hildebrand and Aligern, and at that moment
Adalgoth caught sight of his father's hated enemy.

"Alaric! Alaric!" he shouted, and, springing forward, he caught up the
heavy stone axe from the ground. "Alaric!" he cried.

Cethegus caught the name and looked up. The axe, accurately aimed, came
whizzing through the air upon his tall helmet. Stunned, Cethegus fell.
Syphax sprang to him, took him in both his arms, and carried him aside.
But the legionaries would not retreat; they could not. Behind them,
sent by Narses, two thousand Persians and Thracians pressed up the
ascent.

"Bring hurling spears!" commanded their leader, Aniabedes. "No
hand-to-hand fight! Cast spears at the King until he fall. By order of
Narses!"

The soldiers willingly obeyed this order, which promised to spare their
blood. Presently such a fearful hail of darts rattled against the
narrow opening of the pass, that not a Goth was able to issue forth and
stand before the King.

And now Teja, filling the entrance with his body and his shield,
defended his people for some time--for a very considerable time--quite
alone. Procopius, following the report of eye-witnesses, has described
with admiration this, the last fight of King Teja:

"I have now to describe a very remarkable fight, and the heroism of a
man who is inferior to none of those we call heroes--of Teja. He stood,
visible to all, covered by his shield, and brandishing his spear, in
front of his own ranks. All the bravest Romans, whose number was great,
attacked him alone; for with his death, they thought, the battle would
be at an end. All hurled and thrust their lances at him alone; but he
received the darts upon his shield, and, repeatedly sallying forth,
killed numbers of his adversaries, one after the other. And when his
shield was stuck so full of darts that it was too heavy for him to
hold, he signed to his shield-bearer to bring him a fresh one. Thus he
stood; not turning, nor throwing his shield on his back and retreating,
but firm as a rock, dealing death to his foes with his right hand,
warding it off with his left, and ever calling to his weapon-bearers
for new shields and new spears."

It was Wachis and Adalgoth--heaps of shields and spears had been
brought to the spot from the royal treasure--who continually handed to
Teja fresh weapons.

At last the courage of the Romans, Persians, and Thracians sank as they
saw all their efforts wrecked against this living shield of the Goths,
and all their bravest men slain by the spears of the King. They
wavered--the Italians called anxiously upon Cethegus--they turned and
fled. Then Cethegus started up from his long stupor.

"Syphax, a fresh spear! Halt! Stand, Romans! Roma, Roma eterna!" And
raising himself with an effort, he advanced against Teja.

The Romans recognised his voice. "Roma, Roma eterna!" they shouted, as
they ceased their flight and halted. But Teja had also recognised the
voice. His shield bristled with twelve lances--he could hold it no
longer; but when he recognised the adversary who was advancing, he
thought no more of changing it.

"No shield! My battle-axe! Quick!" he cried.

And Wachis handed to him his favourite weapon.

Then King Teja dropped his shield, and, swinging his axe, rushed out of
the pass at Cethegus.

"Die, Roman!" he cried.

Once again the two great enemies looked each other in the face. Then
spear and axe whizzed through the air. Neither thought of parrying the
stroke, and both fell. Teja's axe had pierced Cethegus's left breast
through shield and armour.

"Roma, Roma eterna!" once more cried Cethegus, and fell back dead.

His spear had struck the King's right breast. Not dead, but mortally
wounded, he was carried into the pass by Hildebrand and Adalgoth. And
they had need to make haste. For when, at last, they saw the King of
the Goths fall--he had fought without a pause for eight hours, and
evening was coming on--all the Italians, Persians, and Thracians, and
fresh columns of attack which had now come up, rushed towards the pass,
which was now again defended by Adalgoth with his shield; Hildebrand
and Wachis supporting him.

Syphax took the body of Cethegus in his arms and carried it to one
side. Weeping aloud he held the noble head of his master upon his
knees, the features of which appeared almost superhuman in the majesty
of death. Before him raged the battle. Just then the Moor remarked that
Anicius, followed by a troop of Byzantines--Scævola and Albinus among
them--was approaching him, and pointing to the body of Cethegus with an
air of command.

"Halt!" cried Syphax, springing up as they drew near; "what do you
want?"

"The head of the Prefect, to take to the Emperor," answered Anicius;
"obey, slave!"

But Syphax uttered a yell--his spear rushed through the air, and
Anicius fell. And before the others, who at once busied themselves with
the dying man, could come near him, Syphax had taken his beloved burden
upon his back, and began to climb up a steep precipice of lava near the
pass, which Goths and Byzantines had, till then, held to be impassable.
More and more rapidly the slave advanced. His goal was a little column
of smoke which rose just at the other side of the cliff. For there
yawned one of the small crater chasms of Vesuvius. For one moment
Syphax stopped upon the edge of the black rocks; once again he raised
the corpse of Cethegus erect in his strong arms, as if to show the
noble form to the setting sun. And suddenly master and slave had
disappeared.

The fiery mountain had received the faithful Syphax and the dead
Cethegus, his greatness and his guilt, onto its glowing bosom. The hero
was snatched away from the small spite of his enemies.

Scævola and Albinus, who had witnessed the occurrence, hastened to
Narses, and demanded that the corpse should be sought for on the sides
of the crater. But Narses said:

"I do not grudge the mighty hero his mighty grave. He has deserved it.
I fight with the living, and not with the dead."

But almost at the same moment, the tumultuous battle round the pass,
which Adalgoth, not unworthy of his royal master, heroically defended
against the attacks of the enemy, ceased. For while, standing behind
Adalgoth, Hildebrand and Wachis suddenly cried, "Look! look at the sea!
The dragon ships! The northern heroes! Harald! Harald!"--the solemn
tones of the tuba were heard from below, sounding the signal for a
cessation of hostilities--for a truce. Very gladly the fatigued and
harassed warriors lowered their weapons.

But King Teja, who lay upon his shield--Hildebrand had forbidden every
one to draw out the spear of Cethegus from the wound--"for his life
would flow out with his blood"--asked in a faint voice:

"What do I hear them cry? The northern heroes? The ships? Is Harald
there?"

"Yes, Harald! He comes to our rescue! He brings safety for the rest of
the nation! For us, and for the women and children!" cried Adalgoth
joyously, as he knelt at Teja's side. "So thy incomparable heroism, my
ever-beloved hero; thy superhuman and untiring efforts, were not in
vain! Basiliskos has just come, sent by Narses. Harald has destroyed
the Ionian fleet in the harbour of Brundusium; he threatens to land and
attack the already exhausted Byzantines; he demands to be allowed to
carry away all the remaining Goths, with weapons and goods, to
Thuleland and liberty! Narses has agreed; he will honour, he says, King
Teja's noble heroism, in the remnant of his people. May we accept? Oh,
may we accept, my King?"

"Yes," said Teja, as his eyes grew dim. "You may and shall. The rest of
my people free! The women, the children, delivered from a terrible
death! Oh, happy that I am! Yes, take all who live to Thuleland; and
take with you--two of the dead: King Theodoric--and----"

"And King Teja!" said Adalgoth: and kissed the dead man's mouth.



                              CHAPTER XV.


And so it happened, and this was the manner of it.

Immediately after Narses had left his tent, a fisherman was led before
him, who had just sailed round the promontory of Surrentum in a small
and swift vessel, and who announced that an immense fleet of the Goths
was in full sail for the coast. Narses laughed; for he knew that not a
Gothic sail was to be found on all the seas.

More narrowly questioned, the man was obliged to confess that he had
not seen the fleet himself; but merchants had told him of it, and had
related that a great naval combat had taken place, in which the Goths
had destroyed the Emperor's fleet, at Brundusium.

That was impossible, as Narses well knew. And when the fisherman
described the appearance of the pretended Gothic ships, according to
what his informers had told him, the commander-in-chief cried out:

"At last they are coming! Triremes and galleys! They are our ships
which are approaching, not Gothic vessels."

No one thought of the Viking's fleet, which had not been heard of for
four moons, and which, it was believed, had sailed to the north.

A few hours later, as the battle was raging round the pass, engrossing
the attention of all, the coastguards announced to Narses the fact of
the approach of a very large imperial fleet. The ship of the admiral,
the Sophia, had been distinctly recognised. But the number of sails was
far greater than had been expected. The ships which Narses had sent to
urge the coming of the fleet were also among them, sailing first. The
strong south-eastern breeze would shortly bring them within sight of
the camp.

And presently Narses himself could enjoy from the hill the magnificent
spectacle of the approach of the fleet, propelled not only by their
spreading sails, but also by their long oars.

Much relieved, he again turned his attention to the combat upon
Vesuvius--when, suddenly, messengers reached him from the camp,
affirming the first reports in an alarming manner, or rather, they
brought much worse news. They had hurried on in advance of an embassy
which reached the litter of Narses just as Cethegus was advancing for
the last time against Teja.

This embassy consisted of the admiral and captains of the Ionian fleet,
who came forward with their hands in chains, and guarded by four
Northmen, whose message they had been brought to interpret. They
briefly related that they had been attacked by the fleet of the Viking
one stormy night, and had lost almost all their ships; that not one
could escape to warn Narses, for the enemy had blockaded the harbour.

When Jarl Harald had heard of the threatened destruction of the Goths
upon Vesuvius, he had sworn to prevent or to share their evil fate. And
sending the captured Grecian ships in advance, prudently hiding behind
them his dragon-ships, he had hurried to the coast of Neapolis on the
wings of the east wind. "And thus," concluded the interpreters, "thus
says Harald the Viking: 'Either you will allow all yet living Goths,
with all their weapons and goods, to leave the Southland upon our ships
and return with us to their fatherland; in return for which we will
give up all our thousands of prisoners, and all our prize-ships, except
those we need for the transport of the Goths; or we will immediately
kill our prisoners, land, and attack you, your camp and army, in the
rear. Then see to it, how many of you, when attacked in front by the
Goths, in the rear by us, will remain alive! For we Northmen fight to
the last man! I have sworn it by Odin.'"

Without a moment's hesitation Narses agreed to the departure of the
Goths.

"I have only sworn to drive them out of the Empire," he said, "not out
of the world. It would bring me small renown if I overpowered and
slaughtered the poor remains of such a noble nation. I reverence the
heroism of this Teja; in forty years of warfare I have never seen his
like. And I have no desire to try how my harassed army, which has had a
day of the hardest fighting, and has lost almost all its leaders and
numbers of its bravest soldiers, would resist these northern giants,
who come with untired strength and unconquered courage."

And so Narses had immediately sent heralds to Harald and to the pass.
The battle ceased; the retreat of the Goths began.

In double ranks, reaching from the summit of the mountain down to the
sea, the army of heroes formed a lane. The Viking had landed four
hundred men, who received the Goths on the sea-shore. But before the
march began, Karses signed to Basiliskos and said:

"The Gothic war is over--the stag is killed--now away with the wolves
which hunted him to the death. How are the wounded leaders of the
Longobardians?"

"Before I answer," said Basiliskos respectfully, "accept this
laurel-wreath, which your army sends to you. It is laurel from
Vesuvius; from the pass above; there is heroes' blood upon the leaves."


The first impulse of Narses was to push the wreath aside; but after a
pause, he said:

"'Tis well; give it to me." But he laid it beside him in the litter.

"Autharis, Warnfrid, Grimoald, Aripert, Agilulf and Rotharis are dead,"
Basiliskos now reported. "Altogether the Longobardians have lost seven
thousand men; Alboin and Gisulf, severely wounded, lie motionless in
their tents."

"Good, very good! As soon as the Goths have embarked, let the
Longobardians be led away. They are dismissed my service. And say to
Alboin, as my parting words: 'After the death of Narses--_perhaps_; but
certainly not before.' I will remain here in my litter; support me with
the cushions--I cannot stand--but I must witness this wonderful
spectacle."

And in truth it was a grand and moving sight to behold the last of the
Goths, as they turned their backs upon Vesuvius and Italy, and embarked
in the high-prowed ships which were to bear them away to the safe and
sheltering north.

From the ravine, into which not a single enemy had succeeded in
penetrating, was heard at intervals the solemn tones of the Gothic
war-horns, accompanied by monotonous, grave, and touching strains from
the men, women, and children--the ancient death-song of the Gothic
nation.

Hildebrand and Adalgoth--the last chiefs, the hoary Past and the golden
Future--had arranged the order of march.

Foremost went, full-armed, five hundred men, led by Wisand, the
standard-bearer, who, in spite of his wounds, bravely opened the
procession, leaning on his spear. Then followed, stretched upon his
last shield, the spear of Cethegus still sticking in his breast,
without helmet, his noble and pallid face framed by his long black
locks--King Teja, covered with a purple mantle, and carried by four
warriors. Behind him came Adalgoth and Gotho, and Adalgoth, softly
striking his harp, sang in a low voice:

           "Give place, ye peoples, to our march:
              The doom of the Goths is sped!
            No crown, no sceptre carry we,
              We bear the noble dead.

           "With shield to shield, and spear to spear,
              We march to the Northland cool;
            Until in grey and distant seas
              We find the Island Thule.

           "That is the Isle of the brave and true,
              Where none dishonour fears;
            There we will lay our bravest King
              In his bed of oaken spears.

           "From off our feet--give place! give place!--
              We shake Rome's traitor dust;
            We only bear our King away--
              For the Gothic crown is lost!"

When the bier was carried past the litter, Narses called a halt, and
said in a low voice in the Latin language:

"Mine was the victory, but his the fame! There, take the laurel wreath!
Other generations may see greater things, but now. King Teja, I greet
you as the greatest hero of all ages!"

And he laid the laurel wreath upon the dead man's pallid brow. The
bearers again took up the bier, and slowly and solemnly, to the sad
sound of Adalgoth's silver harp, the death-song of the people, and the
long-drawn tones of the war-horns, the procession marched on towards
the sea, which now glowed magnificently in the evening red.

Close behind Teja's body was carried a lofty crimson throne. Upon it
rested the silent august form of Dietrich of Bern; upon the head the
crowned helm; on the left arm the tall shield; a spear leaning against
the right shoulder. On the left of the throne marched old Hildebrand,
his eyes fixed upon the face of his beloved master, which shone in the
magic light of the setting sun. He held aloft the banner with the
device of the lion, high above the head of the great Dead. The evening
breeze from the Ausonian Sea rustled in the folds of the immense flag,
which, in ghost-like speech, seemed to be taking leave of Italian soil.

As the corpse was carried past, Narses said:

"I know by the shudder which passes across me that this is the wise
King of Ravenna! First came a stronger, now a greater man. Let us do
this dead man homage."

And, with great exertion, he rose upright in his litter, and bent his
head reverently before the corpse.

Then followed the wounded, supported by or carried in the arms of their
followers. This part of the procession was opened by Aligern, who was
carried on a broad shield by Wachis and Liuta, assisted by two
warriors. Then came the chests and coffers, the baskets and vessels,
containing the royal treasure and the goods of the different families,
which, until then, had been hidden in the wagons.

Afterwards came the great mass of the unarmed people--women, girls,
children, and old people--for the boys, from ten years of age upwards,
would not part with the weapons which had been entrusted to them, and
marched in a separate corps.

Narses smiled as the little fair-haired heroes passed, looking up at
him with anger and defiance.

"Well," he said, "the Goths have taken care that the Emperor's
successors and their generals shall not want work!"

The procession was closed by the rest of the Gothic army.

Innumerable boats lent their assistance in the embarkation of the
people and their scanty possessions. Presently all were on board the
high-decked vessels of the Northmen.

The corpses of Teja and Theodoric, the royal banner, and the royal
treasure, were taken into Harald's ship. The great Dietrich of Bern
was placed upon his throne at the foot of the mainmast, and his
lion-standard hoisted to the mast-head. Old Hildebrand installed
himself at the foot of the throne.

In the stern of the ship, Adalgoth and Wisand had laid down the body of
Teja. The mighty Harald and his beautiful sister approached it
sorrowfully. The Viking laid his mailed hand gently upon the dead man's
breast, and said:

"I could not save thee, bold and daring King! I could not save thee and
thy people. Nothing remains but to take thee and the rest of thy folk
to the land of the strong and the true, from which you should never
have departed. Thus, after all, I bring back to King Frode the Gothic
nation."

But Haralda said:

"I will preserve the body of the noble dead by secret arts, so that it
shall endure until we land in our home. There we will vault for him and
King Thidrekr a hill-grave near the sea, so that they may together hear
the roar of the breakers and hold converse with each other; for they
were worthy of each other. Look, my brother! the enemy's army stands in
ranks upon the strand; they lower their flags and weapons in reverence,
and the sun sinks glowing behind Misenum and yonder islands; a crimson
glow covers the sea as with a royal mantle; our white sails are
coloured red, and red gold shines upon our weapons! Look how the south
wind spreads out the banner of King Thidrekr! The wind, which obeys the
will of the gods, points to the north! Up, brother Harald! weigh
anchor! direct the rudder! turn the dragon's prow! Up, Freya's wise
bird! Fly, my falcon!"--and she tossed her falcon into the air--"point
out the way! to the north! to Thuleland! Home! home we take the last of
the Goths!"


FOOTNOTE:
[Footnote 1: Theodoric.]



                                THE END.



             BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD, SURREY.
                                                     _H. L. & Co._





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Struggle for Rome, v. 3" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home