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´╗┐Title: Attila. - A Romance. Vol. I.
Author: G. P. R. James (George Payne Rainsford)
Language: English
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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.

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Transcriber's Notes:
     1. Page scan source: Vol. I from Harvard College Library
        https://books.google.com/books?id=NxQ0LzIgW1UC
     2. The diphthongs ae and oe are represented by
        [ae] and [oe] respectively.



                               ATTILA.


                              A ROMANCE.


                           BY THE AUTHOR OF
              "THE GIPSY," "ONE IN A THOUSAND," &c, &c.


                           IN TWO VOLUMES.
                               VOL. I.


                              NEW YORK:
                 HARPER & BROTHERS, 82 CLIFF-STREET.
                                1838.



                                  TO
                     WALTER SAVAGE LANDOR, ESQ.,

                              THIS BOOK,
           AS A FEEBLE TESTIMONY OF STRONG PERSONAL REGARD
                       AND SINCERE ADMIRATION,
                         IS DEDICATED, BY HIS FRIEND,
                                                  G. P. R. JAMES.



                            ADVERTISEMENT.


In giving this book to the public I have but little to explain. The
reader who takes it up may expect to find something respecting the
Princess Honoria. He will, however, find nothing. All that we know of
her history is uninteresting, except to those who love to dwell upon
the pruriencies of a degraded state of society: all that we know of
her character is disgusting to such as love purity and dignity of
mind. It would be tedious to the reader to explain why the author has
thought fit to alter several names of the persons acting prominent
parts in the story of Attila. In so doing he has consulted principally
his own ear; and in a few other deviations which he has made from the
course of that great monarch's history, he has consulted his own
convenience. In regard, however, to the change which he has
represented as taking place in the demeanour of Attila, his
abandonment of the simple habits which at first distinguished him, and
his dereliction from the calm equanimity which he displayed in his
early intercourse with the Romans, the author believes that he is
justified by the records of history as well as the course of nature.
He is inclined to think, also, that if, in regard to the facts of
Attila's death, we could display the chameleon truth, in the broad
light of day, without any of the shades and hues with which time and
circumstances have surrounded her, we should find her colour such as
he has represented it; but this, of course, must ever remain in doubt.



                             A T T I L A.



                              CHAPTER I.
                       A LANDSCAPE IN DALMATIA.


Music was in the air, and loveliness was spread out over the earth as
a mantle.

There was a voice of many waters--the bland musical tone of mountain
streams singing as they wend their way over the smooth round pebbles
of their hilly bed towards the sea. And the song of life, too, was
heard from every field, and every glade, and every valley; the
trilling of innumerable birds, the hum of insect myriads, the lowing
of distant cattle, winding down from the uplands to pen or fold, the
plaintive, subdued bleating of the patient sheep, the merry voice of
the light-hearted herd as he led home his flock from the hills, after
a long warm southern day in the maturity of spring. Manifold sweet
sounds--all blended into one happy harmony, softened by distance,
rendered more melodious to the heart by associations felt but not
defined, and made more touching by the soft evening hour--filled the
whole air, and spread a calm, bright, contemplative charm over the
listening senses.

The eye, too, could find the same delight as the ear, equal in depth,
similar in character; for though sweet April had sunk in the warm arms
of May, still, even in that land of the bright south, the reign of
summer had not yet begun: not a leaf, not a flower, not a blade of
grass had lost a hue under the beams of the sun, and many a balmy and
refreshing shower, during a long and humid spring, had nourished the
verdure and enlivened the bloom.

From the high round knoll upon the left, crowned with the five tall
cypresses which perhaps flourished as seedlings on that spot in the
young and palmy days of Greece, might be seen that unrivalled view
which has never yet found eye to gaze on it uncharmed--that view
which, of all prospects in the world, has greatest power, when
suddenly beheld, to make the heart beat fast, and the breath come
thick with mingled feelings of wonder and delight. On one side, at
about a mile's distance, where the ground sloped gently down towards
the sea, rose the palace of Diocletian, vast and extensive, massy
without being heavy, and equally sublime from its beauty and its
dimensions. Clear, upon the bright back-ground of the evening sky, cut
the graceful lines of the architecture; and, though a sudden break in
the outline of the frieze, with the massy form of a fallen capital
rolled forward before the steps of the magnificent portico which
fronted the sea, told that the busy, unceasing, unsparing hand of
man's great enemy had already laid upon that splendid building the
crumbling touch of ruin; yet, as, it then stood, with the setting sun
behind it, and the deep blue shadows of the evening involving all the
minute parts of the side that met the eye, the effects of decay even
added to the beauty of the object, by making the straight lines of the
architecture at once contrast and harmonize with the graceful
irregularities of nature whereby it was surrounded. Several groups of
old and stately trees, too, still more diversified the prospect on
that side; and through the pillars of the portico might be caught the
glistening line of the bright sea where it met and mingled with the
sky.

Behind, and to the right hand, stretching far away to the north, rose
mountain upon mountain, in all the fanciful forms and positions into
which those earth-born giants cast themselves in Greece, and over them
all was thrown that lustrous purple which in those lands well deserves
the name of the "magic light of evening."

Between the knoll of cypresses, however, and those far hills robed in
their golden splendour, lay a wide tract of country, gently sloping
upward in a thousand sweeping lines, with here and there an abrupt
rock or insulated mound suddenly towering above the rest, while
scattered clumps of tall old trees, rich rounded masses of forest,
villas, farms, vineyards, and olive grounds, filled up the intervening
space; and had all been as it seemed--had all those farms been
tenanted, had none of those villas been in ruins--would have presented
a scene of prosperity such as the world has never known but once.

Still decay had made no very great progress; still the land was richly
cultivated; still the population, though not dense, was sufficient;
and as the eye ran along the innumerable little promontories and
headlands of the bay, might be seen, rising up above some slight
irregularities of the ground, a part of the buildings of the small but
prosperous town of Salona. Close by the side of that knoll of
cypresses, breaking impetuously from a bank above, dashed on the
bright and sparkling Hyader; now fretting and foaming with the large
rocks amid which a part of its course was bound; now prattling
playfully with the motley pebbles which in other parts strewed its
bed; now dashing like a fierce steed all in foam where it leaped
over the crag into the sunshine; and then, where its clear blue
waters spread out uninterrupted under the cool shadow of a hill,
seeming--like time to a young and happy heart--to stand still in calm
and peaceful enjoyment, even while it was flowing away as quickly as
ever.

The eye that followed the Hyader down its course--and there was an eye
that did so--rested on the bright and glowing west, and on the
fairest, the most entrancing object of all that magic scene; for
there, stretched out beneath the setting sun, lay the gleaming waters
of the Adriatic, studded all along its shores with a thousand purple
islands which rose out of that golden sea like gems.

The air was calm and tranquil; the sky, the unrivalled deep blue sky,
which hangs over that most lovely sea, was without a cloud, varying
with one soft and equable declension from the intense purple zenith to
the warm rosy hues that glowed in the far west. The sea, also, was
smooth and peaceful, and would have seemed unbroken by a wave, had not
here and there a sudden bending line of light darted over the bosom of
the waters, and told that they were moved in the evening light by the
breath of the breeze.

Thus appeared the whole scene, when, from the opposite side of the
bay, a white sail was seen to glide forward, as if coming from Salona
towards the palace of Diocletian, or the little village of Aspalathus.
Slowly and peacefully it moved along, giving one more image of calm
and tranquil enjoyment; and while it steered upon its way, four sweet
voices, sometimes joined in chorus by several deeper tones, broke
forth from the mound of cypresses, singing:--


                      A HYMN TO THE SETTING SUN.


                                  I.

       "Slow, slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
          Thy course of beneficence done;
        As glorious go down to thy Thetis' warm breast
          As when thy bright race was begun.
             For all thou hast done
             Since thy rising, oh sun!
             May thou and thy Maker be bless'd!


     Thou hast scatter'd the night from thy broad golden way,
     Thou hast given us thy light through a long happy day,
     Thou hast roused up the birds, thou hast waken'd the flowers.
     To chant on thy path, and to perfume the hours--
         Then slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
         And rise again beautiful, blessing, and bless'd!


                                 II.

       "Slow, slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
          Yet pause but a moment to shed
        One warm look of love on the earth's dewy breast.
          Ere the starr'd curtain fall round thy bed,
              And to promise the time,
              When, awaking sublime,
              Thou shall rush all refresh'd from thy rest.

     Warm hopes drop like dews from thy life-giving hand,
     Teaching hearts closed in darkness like flowers to expand;
     Dreams wake into joys when first touch'd by thy light,
     As glow the dim waves of the sea at thy sight--
          Then slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
          And rise again beautiful, blessing, and bless'd!


                                 III.

       "Slow, slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
          Prolonging the sweet evening hour;
        Then robe again soon in the morn's golden vest,
          To go forth in thy beauty and power.
              Yet pause on thy way,
              To the full height of day,
              For thy rising and setting are bless'd!

     When thou com'st after darkness to gladden our eyes,
     Or departest in glory, in glory to rise,
     May hope and may prayer still be woke by thy rays,
     And thy going be mark'd by thanksgiving and praise![1]
         Then slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
         And rise again beautiful, blessing, and bless'd!"


---------------

[Footnote 1: It may not, perhaps, be unnecessary to remind the reader
that Christianity, though established in both the eastern and western
empires, was still far from universal; and even in the minds of its
most enthusiastic votaries was strangely mingled with the picturesque
superstitions of a former creed; so that the same man was often a
Christian in belief, who was pagan in many of his habits and almost
all his familiar expressions.]

---------------



                             CHAPTER II.
                       THE ACTORS IN THE SCENE.


The voices that sung were sweet, thrillingly sweet, and the music to
which the verse was wedded of that dreamy, wandering kind which
approaches more nearly to the tones of an [AE]olian harp than to any
regular composition. It was, indeed, full of a wild and delicious
melody, which was sometimes solemn and sublime, sometimes low and
plaintive, and the same general theme might be heard running through
the whole; but often the air wandered wide, like a bird upon the wing,
and caught a note or two of a gladder or more joyous character, which
brightened the general solemnity of the strain, like hope breaking in
upon a life of grief. Music had not then reached that perfection which
it has since attained; but there was a touching beauty in its fresh
simplicity which is now but seldom found. It possessed the free
unfettered charms of a graceful nature, cultivated, but not stiffened,
by art, and it still went hand in hand with the sister spirit of
poetry, in the land where both had birth.

But the hymn which had just floated on the air derived peculiar
sweetness from the fine harmony of the voices which sung it. It seemed
the varied tones of one family, where each knew every note in the
voice of the other, and modulated his own to suit it, with that spirit
of love in the breasts of all, whereof the sweetest harmony that art
can compose is but the musical image. In the chorus, however, there
joined less cultivated singers; but, nevertheless, the voices were
generally fine, and there was an enthusiastic eagerness on the tongues
that repeated--


         "Then slow, mighty wanderer, sink to thy rest,
          And rise again beautiful, blessing, and bless'd!"


which spoke of that happiness under the bright sun that was then
sinking slowly to the breast of ocean, which is the poetry and melody
of life.

Under the five tall cypresses, and partly reclining on the bank that
sloped to the bright Hyader, sat the group from which those sounds
proceeded. It was separated, indeed, into two distinct parts;
for--with a very short space of green turf between them and those they
served--lay stretched out in various attitudes, some raising the head
upon the hand, some reclining the chest upon the folded arms, some
supported on the elbow, eight or nine slaves of both sexes.

There was nothing, however, in the countenances of any there which
spoke of the bitterness of slavery. There were no signs in their faces
or their demeanour of the iron entering into their soul; and though,
perhaps, no portion of human nature is originally so debased, and no
condition of bondage can be rendered so gentle, that the chain will
not gall and the load will not oppress, yet the lot was then common,
and the accursed name of slave comprehended nearly, if not fully, one
half of the earth's denizens. In the faces of those who lay stretched
easily but not intrusively beside those to whom they were bound by
that inhuman tie, there might be traced a line of care--perhaps a
shade, it might be, of melancholy--gathered by long-preserved and
fruitless remembrances of scenes, and objects, and persons far away;
and on none, but the countenance of one white-teethed Nubian girl, and
a young glad boy, whose life was in the present hour, and to whose
mind the past and the future were but a vapoury cloud, was seen the
light and laughing merriment of a heart which has known no sorrows in
the past. With all the rest, contentment with their lot seemed
chastened by griefs experienced and gone by. They could smile, they
could sing when occasion called for mirth. Their minds were not
irresponsive to sights or sounds of joy; but with them it was from the
well, not the fountain, that the sweet waters of enjoyment sprung:
they sparkled not up spontaneously, but required to be drawn forth by
the hand of another.

Yet if one, remembering their bondage, turned to gaze upon the group
near which they sat, the condition of their feelings was easily
understood; for the forms and faces that were there--not in the
outward lineaments alone, but in the beaming forth of the divine
spirit, as much expressed in the air and movements of the whole body
as in the heart's interpreter, the face--told that the taskmasters
were of that kindly nobility of soul which, in after years, won for a
whole class (that did not always merit the distinction) that most
expressive name of _gentle_.

Under the cypresses, not exactly where the shade fell--for the sun,
near the horizon, had lost his meridian heat, and the western breeze
swept over the cool bright waters of the Adriatic--were seated three
women and a boy of some fourteen years of age. They were evidently of
the highest race of the land in which they lived; and had nothing else
bespoken their rank, the broad deep border of purple, of triple die,
which edged the snowy robe of the eldest of the party, would have
distinguished her as a Roman lady of patrician blood. She was scarcely
beyond the middle age; and time had treated her beauty leniently.
Somewhat of the elastic grace, and all the slight pliant outline of
early youth, was gone, but in contour and dignity much, too, had been
gained; and the eye, more calm and fixed, was as bright and lustrous,
the teeth as white and perfect, as ever. The hair, drawn up and
knotted on the crown of the head, was still full and luxuriant; but,
meandering through its dark and wavy masses, might here and there be
seen a line of silver gray; while the cheek, which had once been as
warm and glowing as the morning dawn of her own radiant land, sorrows
calmly borne, but not the less deeply felt, had rendered as pale as
the twilight of the evening just ere night reigns supreme.

Her dress was plain and unadorned, of the finest materials and the
purest hues; but the gems and ornaments then so common were altogether
absent. The consciousness of beauty, which she might once have felt,
was now altogether forgotten; its vanity she had never known. As much
grace as health, perfect symmetry of form, and noble education from
infancy could give, she displayed in every movement; but it was the
calm and matronly grace, where all is ease, and tranquillity, and
self-possession. The same placid charm reigned in the expression of
her countenance. She seemed to look with benevolence on all. Nay,
more, as if the sorrows which had reached her in her high station had
taught her that in every bosom, however well concealed, there is, or
will be, some store of grief, some memory, some regret, some
disappointment, there mingled with the gentleness of her aspect an
expression of pity, or, perhaps, its better name were sympathy, which
existed really within, and formed a tie between her heart and that of
every other human thing.

She was, indeed, to use the beautiful words of the poet, "kind as the
sun's bless'd influence."[2] Yet the bright dark eye, the proud
arching lip, and the expansive nostrils, seemed to speak of a nature
originally less calm, of days when the spirit was less subdued. Time
and grief, however, are mighty tamers of the most lion-like heart; and
it was with that look of pity, mingling with tender pleasure, that she
gazed down upon a beautiful girl of, perhaps, thirteen years of age,
who, leaning fondly on her knees, as the hymn concluded, looked up in
her face for sympathetic feelings, while the sweet sounds still
trembled on her full rosy lips.


---------------

[Footnote 2: Cowley.]

---------------


Between the matron and the girl there was little resemblance, except
inasmuch as each was beautiful; and though the lineaments, perhaps,
regarded as mere lines, took in some degree the same general form, yet
there were too many shades of difference to admit the idea that those
two fair beings stood in the dear relationship of mother and child,
although the fond, relying, clinging affection displayed in the looks
of the younger, and the tender anxiety of the matron's smile as she
gazed down upon her companion's face, argued affections no less strong
between them than such a tie might have produced.

Eudochia--for so was the younger called--offered a lovely specimen of
that sort of beauty which, however rare in Italy even now, when the
native blood of the children of the land has been mingled with that of
many of the fair-haired nations of the north, we find from the
writings of Petronius to have been not uncommon in his days. Her hair
was of a light brown, with a golden gleam upon it, as if, wherever it
bent in its rich wavy curls, it caught and shone in the bright rays of
the sun. Her eyes were of a soft hazel, though the long, sweeping
black lashes made them look darker than they were: but her skin was of
that brilliant fairness which did indeed exceed the

                      "Expolitum ebur indicum;"

and the rose glowed through it on the cheeks, as pure and clear as in
those lands where the veiled sun shines most soft and tenderly. Her
features were, indeed, more Greek than Roman; but her complexion
spoke, and not untruly, of a mixture in her veins of what was then
called barbarian blood by the proud children of the empire. Her mother
had been the daughter of a German prince in alliance with Rome; but
the Romans of that day had learned to envy the noble Paulinus his
success with the beautiful child of the wealthy and powerful barbarian
chief. Too short a time, indeed, had their union lasted; for though
Eudochia had drawn her first nourishment from her mother's bosom, yet,
six months after her birth, the fair wife of Paulinus had left him to
mourn her death with two motherless children. He had continued to hold
her memory in solitary affection, filling up, as is so common with
man, the vacant place left by love in the shrine of his heart with the
darker and sterner form of ambition; and while he led forward his son
Theodore in the same path, he left his daughter on the Dalmatian
shore, with one whose kindred blood and generous nature ensured to the
fair girl all a mother's tenderness and a mother's care. For her alone
the lips of Eudochia had learned to pronounce those sweetest of words,
_my mother_--for her alone had her heart learned to feel the thrill of
filial love.

The affection, however, of the Lady Flavia--for so was called the
elder of whom we have spoken--was divided. For the love of man, woman
has but one place in her heart, but maternal tenderness has many; and
the agony of Niobe was not less for every child that died than if she
had had but one. Flavia looked upon Eudochia as her child, and loved
her as such; but the two others, of whom we have said that group was
composed, were in reality her children.

Ammian, the boy, was like his mother in features and complexion, but
not in character. More of his dead father's nature had descended to
him, more of the wild and daring spirit which, sporting with perils
and dangers, contemning pain, and laughing at fear, found food for a
bright and eager imagination in scenes and circumstances which, to
others, were full of nothing but horror and dismay. His pastime, as a
boy, was to climb the mountains, and spring from rock to rock across
the yawning chasms; to stand gazing down over the dizzy side of the
precipice, and to drink in the sublimity of the scene below; to dash
through the wild waves when the southwest wind rolled them in
mountains on the shore, or to mingle with the pagan inhabitants, which
still filled many of the villages near, and to watch without taking
part in those sacrifices which were prohibited under pain of death by
the Christian emperors, but which often took place even in the open
face of day. His mother put no check upon his hazardous pleasures, for
she was Roman enough to wish that her children might never know the
name of fear. But yet her heart sometimes sunk with a chilly dread
when she witnessed his wild exploits; for though the qualities which
prompted them were those for which she had loved his father, yet she
could not forget that the same daring spirit had led that father to
death, by barbarian hands, in the wilds of Pannonia.

There was one more in the group under the cypresses, and one that must
not be passed over in silence. She, like Eudochia, was reclining by
her mother's side; but had the great Florentine sought two lovely
models from which to depict night and day, none could have been found
equal to these two beautiful girls. Ildica,[3] however, was fully two
years older than Eudochia, and those two years made a great
difference. Eudochia was a child; Ildica was no longer so. Eudochia
was the violet, but Ildica was the rose. Her form, too, spoke it;
youth was in every trace: but there was the rounded contour, the
graceful sweeping lines, which tell that nature's brightest effort to
produce beauty is full and complete. She was at that age when the
causeless blush comes frequent, and the unbidding sigh is first known;
when the cheek will sometimes glow as if with shame at the innocent
consciousness of loveliness; and her heart tells woman that she was
created for others. Through the transparent cheek of the Dalmatian
girl the eloquent blood played apparent at every word, and the long,
lustrous, deep black eyes, the very eyelids of which seemed flooded
with light, spoke of feelings within that snowy bosom which were yet
to acquire intensity and fire. And yet Ildica fancied herself still a
child. So gradual, so calm, had as yet been the transition, as their
years passed away in that remote spot without any of the cares, the
turmoils, the passions, and the follies of courts and of cities
breaking the tranquil current of their days, that she hardly knew the
two years which had effected so great a change in her being had passed
otherwise than in infancy. She had never very eagerly sought the light
sports and pastimes of Eudochia, and others of the happy age: she had
always shown a disposition to meditation and to feeling. It was not
that she wanted cheerfulness; far from it; but it was, that through
her very gayety was seen a train of deeper thought. There was a
character of greater intensity in all she did than is usual in early
youth. She loved music, she loved poetry, she loved every art; and her
mother saw her own mind reflected in that of her daughter, with a
shade, perhaps, of more passionate energy derived from the character
of her father.


---------------

[Footnote 3: The learned reader will perceive that I have changed the
last syllable of this name, for the sake of a more regular feminine
termination than the original gives, in sound at least, to an English
ear. Let me acknowledge at once, also, that I have followed the same
bold plan throughout, changing everything that did not suit my purpose.]

---------------


Thus sat they by the bright stream of the Hyader, whose clear water
served to mingle with the wine of their light evening meal, enjoying,
with sweet tranquillity of heart, the loveliness of a scene which,
remembered from his earliest days, had lured Diocletian thither, some
century before, from all the charms of power and empire, to spend his
latter hours in a remote province and a private station. Simple as
that meal was, consisting of nothing but light cakes of a fine flour,
with some dried fruits and some early strawberries, it was more
delicious to those who ate it, in that fair scene and that happy hour,
than all the innumerable dishes of a Roman supper. Still there seemed
something wanting; for--as the last stanza of the hymn was sung, and
Eudochia lay reclining on the Lady Flavia's lap, and gazing up in her
expressive face--the eyes of Ildica had followed the course of the
Hyader down towards the sea, and rested with a longing, anxious look
upon the boat that, with slow and easy motion, as the light but steady
wind impelled it over the waters, steered onward, for some time,
towards that part of the bay near which stood the little village of
Aspalathus, a sort of appendage to the palace of Diocletian. Ammian,
her brother, had remarked it too, and watched it also; but in a few
minutes its course was changed, and its prow turned towards one of the
islands. Ildica said not a word, but she bent down her eyes on the
grass, and plucked one of the purple crocuses which checkered the
green whereon she sat.

"He will not come to-day," said her brother, as if quite sure that the
same thoughts were in his bosom and his sister's at that moment; "and,
besides, he would not appear in a solitary boat like that. Ten such
boats would not have held the gorgeous train which followed him when
he came last year to take Theodore away."

"But remember, Ammian, my son," said Flavia, smiling at the eager
looks of her two children, "remember, when last he came, our cousin
Paulinus was sent to Dalmatia on the emperor's service, as count of
the offices, and now he comes but as a private man to see his
daughter. He is not one of those degraded Romans who in the present
day never travel without an army of domestics. See, the boat has
changed its course again. It did but bear up against the current of
wind between the islands. Eudochia, my sweet child, it is perhaps your
father after all."

As she spoke, the boat, catching the favourable breeze, came more
rapidly towards the land, and in a moment after was hidden from their
eyes by the wavy ground which lay between them and the Adriatic. "Run,
Aspar, run," cried Flavia to one of the slaves; "run and see where the
boat lands. Shall we return homeward, Eudochia? we may meet him
sooner."

Ildica exclaimed, "Oh, yes!" but Eudochia and Ammian reminded their
mother that they had promised to meet Paulinus on the spot where they
had parted from him, even where they then sat; and, while they waited
in the heart-beating moments of expectation, the light-footed slave
again appeared upon the upland, which he had cleared like a hunted
deer, and stood waving his hand, as if to tell that their hopes were
verified.

For a moment or two he paused, looking back towards the sea, and then,
running forward to the cypress, he said, "Yes, lady, yes! they have
reached the shore, and are coming hither. I saw them spring from the
boat to the landing-place of the palace; and while several ran up
towards the portico bearing baggage, four took the path between the
rocks which leads up hither by the field of Eusebius, the gardener."

"Was my brother there, good Aspar?" cried Eudochia, eagerly; "was my
brother there too?"

"I could not distinguish, sweet one," replied the slave; "the distance
was too long for my sight, and the sun was directly in my eyes; but
the one that came first was slight in form, and seemed more like your
brother than the Count Paulinus himself. There was the lightness of
youth, too, in his step, as he bounded up over the rocks like a fawn
towards its doe!"

Flavia smiled, and Ildica smiled too; but as she did so there was a
slight, a very slight change of colour in her cheek. It grew paler;
but it was not the paleness of either apprehension or disappointment;
it only spoke of some intense feelings busy at her heart, though what
they were she herself knew not. At that moment the slave exclaimed,
"Lo, lo! he comes!" and all eyes were turned towards the upland.



                             CHAPTER III.
                             THE MEETING.


The lower edge of the sun's broad golden disk touched, or seemed to
touch, the rippling waters of the Adriatic, and sea and sky were all
in one general glow, when the form of the expected guest rose over the
slope, and, with joyful arms outstretched towards the group under the
cypresses, he appeared clear and defined upon the bright expanse
behind him. The figure was that of a youth of eighteen or nineteen
years of age, tall for his time of life, and of that form which
promises great after strength. As he stood there, indeed, with his
figure partly concealed by the mantle which fell from his shoulders,
and with the smooth features, the unfurrowed brow, and beardless chin
of youth, turned from the searching rays of the sun, one might have
attributed to him many more years than he had in reality numbered; but
there was the bounding joy of boyhood still in his steps, as, followed
by three persons, among whom the eye of Flavia sought in vain for
Paulinus, he sprang across the sloping ground to meet so many that he
loved. To Flavia his first salute was given in the warm, the touching,
the affectionate kiss of filial love; calling her, as he did so, by
the tender name which his heart always willingly granted to her who
had watched his infancy and formed his boyhood, "My mother!" His next
glance was, certainly, to Ildica, but his words and his embrace were
given, first, to his sister Eudochia, and then even to Ammian, whom he
also called "his brother."

The words, however, were few, and the embrace short, ere he turned to
Ildica, and took her hand. But his aspect was for a moment timid and
uncertain, as if he knew not well in what words and what manner he was
to greet her. Her eye, however, was full of light; her lip smiled with
the irrepressible spirit of joy; her breath seemed to come short with
some thrilling emotion in her bosom; and Theodore, growing bolder as
her hand touched his, drew her, too, to his arms, and pressed a warmer
kiss upon her lips. To her he would not say "My _sister!_" though he
began those words which he had so often used towards her; but he
stopped short, and his lips murmured, "My--my Ildica!"

If any one marked the agitation of either of those two young and happy
beings, it was among the slaves; for Eudochia and Ammian had no eyes
as yet for the slighter indications of the heart's inmost feelings;
and Flavia, without any other observation, asked eagerly, "But where
is Paulinus? Where is your father, Theodore."

"Alas, my mother," replied the youth, "he has been disappointed, and
would not make me a sharer therein. Obliged to go into Cappadocia by
the emperor's commands, he proceeds from C[ae]sarea to escort the
Empress Eudoxia to Jerusalem. But he has promised, if fate be
propitious, to join us all here on his return. He would not let me
bear him company; but having given me the charge of some slight
business at Salona, left me to hasten hither, and wait his coming."

"Let us return homeward, then, Theodore," said the matron, "and you
shall tell us all the news wherewith your young and ever active mind
is loaded. I am sure you have not yet learned, my son, to value all
the things of the world according to their real lightness, and to
suffer what the idle multitude call great events to pass you by as
matters which have been acted over and over again a thousand times
already, and to be enacted still a million times more in the ages yet
to come. Heaven forbid that you should have acquired, since you left
us, such sorrowful wisdom! though your father writes to me that you
have become a man, whereas you left us a boy. But you linger as if you
would fain stay here."

"I ordered the boat to come round hither," replied the youth, "when I
found you were all here; and I would willingly gaze again upon all
these lovely things. I have beheld many lands, dear Ildica," he added,
turning naturally towards her with whom his heart held the nearest
communion--"I have beheld many lands since I left you all on this very
spot; Athens, the city of Constantine, Ida, and Olympus. My feet have
even trodden Tempe; and yet there is no scene so beautiful to my eyes
as that lovely sea, with Bratia, and Bubua, and Olyntha, rising like
living sapphires from its golden bosom, and those grand Autariatian
hills, leading up the soul's flight to heaven."

Without further question, they all once more laid themselves down upon
the turf; feeling that Theodore would gladly see the sun set in that
spot with which so many memories of early happiness were associated;
and for a few minutes they left him in silence to enjoy the delight of
his return. He gazed round the prospect; and it was easy to see that
it was not alone the loveliness that his eye rested on which busied
his thoughts, but that remembrance was eagerly unclasping with her
fairy touch the golden casket of the past, and displaying, one by one,
the treasured and gemlike memories of many joyful hours. As he gazed,
the last effulgent spot of the sun's orb sunk below the sea; and he
turned his look upon Ildica, on whose hand his own had accidentally
fallen. Her eyes were full of liquid light; and her cheek was glowing
as warmly as that sky from which the sun had just departed.

"And now, Theodore," said Flavia, with a smile, "tell us what tidings
you bring; and first, before one word of the wide public news, say,
what of your father? How is he in health? how fares he at the court?
Is he as much loved as ever?"

"I had forgotten," replied Theodore, "in the joy of coming back--in
the dreamlike and scarcely certain feeling of being here once more
among you all--I had forgotten everything else. Paulinus is well, my
mother; and his favour with the emperor and empress higher than ever,
though he is not loved by Chrysapheus; but he fears him not. Here,
Zeno!" he continued, addressing one of the servants who had followed
him, and who had now mingled with the slaves of Flavia--"give me the
case which I bade you bring;" and from a richly-chased silver casket
which the slave laid beside him he drew forth a string of large and
perfect pearls. "These, Eudochia," he said, throwing them over his
sister's neck, "these from the empress, for her goddaughter; and
this," he added, taking the rich collar of emeralds which lay
below--"and this from my father, Paulinus, for his dear Ildica. Many
were the messages of love," he continued, as he placed the splendid
present sent by his father in the hand of the beautiful girl whom it
was to adorn, and, with the playfulness of boyhood not yet passed
away, twined, smiling, the links of emeralds round her arm--"many were
the messages of love my father bade me give to all; and to you, my
mother, I bear this letter: but let me be the first to tell you that
your possession of the palace is confirmed by the emperor, and that
the estates withheld from you by an unjust judge are restored."

"Thank you, my son, thank you," replied Flavia, opening the thread
with which the letter was bound round; "but this light is too faint to
enable me to decipher your father's epistle. Let us to the boat, my
Theodore, and so homeward; for I long to learn more of what has passed
at Byzantium, and the twilight is every moment getting a grayer hue."

The youth lingered no longer, but rose with all the rest; and while
Flavia, talking to Ammian, who often looked behind, led the way over
the upland and down the path towards the sea, Theodore followed, at
some little distance, with Eudochia clinging to his left arm, and with
his right hand clasping that of Ildica. As they went wandering onward
through the sweet-smelling copses of myrtle, which sheltered the
grounds of a neighbouring garden from the east wind, Eudochia asked a
thousand questions of her brother, and marvelled much that he had
grown so tall and strong in the short absence of nine months. Ildica
said not a word; but she listened to the tones of his voice as he
replied to his sister; she felt the touch of his hand as it held hers;
she saw the brother of her love--the more than brother--returned from
a far distance and a long absence; and a new happiness that she had
never known before filled her heart with emotions too intense for
speech. Did she know what she felt? did she investigate the nature of
the busy, tumultuous sensations that then possessed her bosom?
Neither! the absence of one with whom she had dwelt in affection from
her infancy had, indeed, taught her that there were strange feelings
in her heart, different from any that she had ever experienced before;
but, oh! sweet and happy skill of woman, she had closed her eyes
against all investigation of what those feelings were, lest she should
find anything mingling with them which might render them less blessed.
It was not for her to discover for herself that which was reserved for
another to explain.

The considerate slaves lingered somewhat farther still behind, caring
for the cups and vessels which had served the evening meal, and
listening with the wondering ears of hermits to the news brought by
their fellows from the capital of the Eastern world. Much, too, had
those slaves to tell of all the splendid scenes which were hourly
taking place in Constantinople, and the high favour and honour of
their master, Paulinus, at the imperial court. Each feeling his
importance increased by the honours and virtues of his lord, exalted
in no measured terms the power and dignity of Paulinus; and to have
heard the praises of his menials, one might believe that he excelled
in learning and in talents the greatest men of literature's most
golden days, and rivalled in the field the most renowned warriors of
either Greece or Rome. One thing, at all events, was to be gathered
from their discourse, and to be received without abatement; which was,
that he possessed the great and happy talent of making himself loved
by those who served him. Such, indeed, was his character; dignified,
but not haughty, to his equals; respectful, but not slavish, to his
superiors, he had always a kindly word or a warm smile to give to
those whom fortune had placed beneath him. He did not court
popularity; and the vulgar gratulations of the circus would have been
offensive to his ear; but to a menial or to a woman he at once unbent
the calm and philosophic reserve of his demeanour for the time of
their temporary communication; and, with a gleam of kindly warmth, he
cheered all those who approached him, as weaker or less fortunate than
himself. Such a tribute is due to a man whose innocence even was not
his friend, and who awakened jealousies even while he strove to disarm
them.

Speaking thus of their well-loved lord, the slaves followed slowly
till they approached the shore; and then, running forward to make up
for their tardiness by momentary alacrity, they officiously aided the
boatmen to push the boat close up to some gray rocks, which, shining
through the clear blue water for many a foot below the ripple that
checkered the surface, afforded a sort of natural pier for the party
to embark. Flavia and her companions took their seats in the stern,
and six or seven of the slaves placed themselves in the bow, the rest
proceeding along the shore towards the palace. Ammian, leaning over
the side in his fanciful mood, gazed down upon the small waves as they
were dashed from the path of the boat; and then, catching a rippling
gleam of yellow light tinging the crest of one of those tiny billows,
he looked up to the heavens, where, just in that spot of deep sky
towards which the streamer of the aplustrum turned, calm, and large,
and bright, rose Hesperus above the world. He gazed upon it for
several minutes with a look of rapt enjoyment, as if for the time he
had forgotten everything in the universe but that one bright solitary
star. Ildica had hitherto sat between her mother and Theodore,
listening in silence to the brief and broken tales of his late travels
which he was telling; but as a pause ensued, she fixed her eyes upon
Ammian, and watched him with a soft smile, as if she knew what was
passing in his thoughts, and waited to see what turn the fancy would
take. From time to time her eyes appealed to Theodore, and then turned
again to her brother, till at length her sweet musical voice, speaking
her pure native tongue, but slightly touched and softened by the Greek
accent, was heard breaking the momentary silence-which had fallen upon
them all.

"Sing it, Ammian," she said, speaking to his unuttered thoughts, "sing
it! Theodore will hear it well pleased. It is my mother's poetry,
written since you left us, Theodore: sing it, Ammian!"

The boy looked up into his sister's eyes with a gay smile, and then
poured suddenly forth in song a voice clear and melodious as her own.
The first two stanzas he sung alone; but at the end of the second, and
of each that succeeded, all those who knew the music took up the first
as a chorus, sending sweet harmony over the twilight waters, while the
rowers with their oars kept time to his


                      SONG TO THE EVENING STAR.

                                  I.

     Hesperus! Hesperus! in thy bright hand
       Bearing thy torch, lit at day's parting beams,
     Shed thy sweet influence o'er our dear land,
       Sooth thou our slumbers and brighten our dreams.

                                 II.

     Hesperus! Hesperus! each closing flower
       Yields thee the sigh of her odorous breath,
     Thine, too, the nightingale's musical hour,
       Thine be the offering of song and of wreath.
                              Hesperus! Hesperus! &c.

                                 III.

     Hesperus! Hesperus! holding thy way
       Lone, but serene, 'tween the day and the night,
     Guide all our hearts with the same even sway,
       Soften each sorrow and calm each delight.
                              Hesperus! Hesperus! &c.

                                 IV.

     Hesperus! Hesperus! star of repose!
       Herald of rest to the labours of day!
     Through worlds and through ages, where'er thy light glows,
       Honour and thanks shall attend on thy ray.
                              Hesperus! Hesperus! &c.



                             CHAPTER IV.
                          THE YOUNG LOVERS.


It was more than an hour after the boat had reached the landing-place,
and, fatigued with a long, bright, happy day, Ammian and Eudochia had
sought the repose of hearts at ease; while Flavia, sitting with her
daughter and Theodore in the small chamber near the great Corinthian
hall in the palace of Diocletian, busied herself with manifold
questions in regard to those friends of other years, in Constantinople
and in Rome, from whom she had voluntarily separated herself, in order
to lead her children up to years of free agency, at a distance from
the luxury and corruption of either great metropolis. The anecdotes
which he had to relate, the little traits and rumours which he had
collected concerning those whom she had once loved dearly, seemed of
greater interest to the Lady Flavia than even the news of more
personal importance which he had told her. Yet that news imported that
the cession of a portion of Illyria by Valentinian to Theodosius was
completely defined--that the dwelling in which she had found a home,
by the interest of Paulinus, was now fully transferred from the
monarch of the West, who had shown a strong disposition to despoil her
of her lands in distant provinces, to the chief of the Eastern empire,
who, on the contrary, had hitherto given her kindly aid and
protection; and that her possession of that sweet spot, near which
many of the estates of her dead husband lay, was confirmed to her by
the hand of Theodosius himself.

The lamp had been placed at her right hand, in order that she might
peruse the letter of Paulinus; but still she had not proceeded to that
task. What were the feelings which stayed her, it were difficult to
say; but the open pages lay unread by her side; and though she more
than once took them up, as if to begin, she laid them down again as
often, and asked some new question. At length, as the moonlight found
its way through the half-drawn curtains of the door, she once more
raised the letter, saying, "Well, I will read it now," and her eye
again fixed upon the first few words.

"Notwithstanding, gentle Flavia," so the epistle ran, "the desire I
had expressed to keep hidden from my son and our sweet Ildica our
hopes and purposes, yet feelings that I cannot well explain, but which
I will now attempt to depict, have induced me, sure of your consent
and approbation, to tell him, ere he left me--perhaps for the last
time--that it was my wish and hope, if his own heart seconded my
desire, that he should in his twentieth year choose the one we both so
dearly love for his bride."

Flavia raised her eyes to her daughter and the son of Paulinus, who
had, in the occupation which had just employed her, a fair excuse for
speaking in low and gentle murmurs. They had farther drawn back the
curtains, and were gazing from the door upon the moonbeams which
lighted up the great hall; and a bright, warm smile upon the mother's
face told that her own heart took kindly part in the fond feelings
which were so busy in theirs. She turned to the letter again, however,
without comment, and read on. "I am about," continued Paulinus, "to
travel through the provinces, and the will of God may require that I
shall never return. I know not why, but I have a sadness upon me. As
the sun goes down, small objects cast long shadows; and I have fancied
that I once, and only once, beheld a cold look in the eye of the
emperor towards me, a triumphant smile on the countenance of
Chrysapheus; yet if ever omens were infallible, they would be the
smiles of our enemies and the coldness of our friends. Nevertheless,
let me acknowledge all my weakness--weakness which philosophy cannot
conquer, and which it were wisdom to conceal from any other eye than
thine, oh, thou that hast been as a sister to my widowed heart, as a
mother to my orphan children. Before any evil augury could be drawn
from the looks of others, my own heart seemed to feel the coming on of
fate. There has been a shadow on my spirit, an apprehension of coming
evil, a sensation of neighbouring danger, such as domestic animals
feel when near a lion, even without seeing it."

Flavia laid down the page, murmuring, "And is it so, Paulinus? alas,
and is it so? Go forth, my children," she added, abruptly, seeing them
still standing in the doorway; "you seem as if you longed to taste the
moonlight air. Go forth! It is a grand sight to gaze upon the waters
of the Adriatic from that noble portico. It expands the heart, it
elevates the mind, it raises the soul to the God who made all things.
Go forth, then, my children, I would willingly be alone."

They needed no second bidding; for she told them to do that which had
lain as a longing at their hearts ever since she had begun to read.
Not a year before, when they had last parted, they would have waited
no command--nay, no permission; but would at once, in the unconscious
liberty of the young heart, bound forth to enjoy the scenes they
loved, in the society that they loved not less--that of each other.
But a change had come over their feelings since then, rendering all
their intercourse more sweet, a thousand times more sweet, but more
timid also. Theodore, indeed, knew why; for his father's parting
words--the solemn sanction which Paulinus had given to his future
union with Ildica, in case death should prevent a father's lips from
pronouncing the blessing at their marriage feast--had opened his eyes
to the nature of his own sensations. No sooner had the few first words
been uttered by Paulinus than he had felt at once that his love for
Ildica was more than fraternal affection; that it was different--how
different!--from that which he experienced towards Eudochia; how
different from that which he entertained towards any other human
being! With Ildica, the knowledge was more vague: it was more a
sensation than a certainty. So long as Theodore had been with her she
had gone on treating him as a brother; but with the feelings of her
heart changing towards him still, as imperceptibly, but still as
completely, as the green small berry changes to the purple grape, the
verdant bud to the expanded and to the yellow leaf. So long as he had
been with her she had felt no alteration, though it took place; but
during his absence she meditated on those things long and deeply; and
on his return she met him with not less affection, but with deep and
timid emotions, mingling a consciousness with her every look, which
was sweet to the eye that saw it, and that wished it to be so.

Theodore raised the curtain, and Ildica passed out; but ere she had
taken two steps in that grand moonlight hall, Theodore's hand clasped
hers, and he led her on through all those splendid apartments--which
have been, even in ruins, the wonder and the admiration of all after
days--to the vast colonnade, six hundred feet in length, which fronted
and overlooked the beautiful Adriatic. As they passed, in the various
apartments of the slaves and domestics were to be seen lights, and to
be heard many a gay voice laughing; and at the end of the principal
streets of the palace, for it had its streets as well as corridors,
two or three groups were seen playing in the moonlight with polished
pieces of bone, or, with loud and vehement gesticulations, disputing
about their game. Theodore almost feared that the portico itself might
be tenanted by some such party; and his heart had anticipated an hour
of lonely wandering with her he loved so eagerly, that he might not
have brooked disappointment with old and stoical patience. That
portico, however, was considered by the general inhabitants of the
palace, and those also of the neighbouring village, as in some degree
sacred ground. It was there that the great emperor, after having
conquered and reigned in glory through the prime of life, after having
satisfied the vengeful zeal of his counsellors against the Christian
sects, which now, in spite of all his persecutions, peopled the whole
land, after having made his name awful by deeds of blood not less than
by deeds of magnificence, had been accustomed to sit, self-stripped of
his power, and to gaze out, _after having been an emperor_, upon
nearly the same scene which his eyes beheld _before he was anything
but a slave_. Although little more than a century had elapsed since
the death of Diocletian, his fate and history, his acts and his
character, had been strangely distorted by tradition; and though the
peasantry had not learned to look upon him as a bad man, or to
execrate him as a tyrant, yet the extraordinary vicissitudes which he
had hewn out for himself, the vague legends of his acts during life,
and the mystery attaching to his death, surrounded his memory with a
fearful awe, which held the people of the neighbourhood aloof from the
spot for which he had shown such peculiar fondness, when night covered
the world with her dim and fanciful shades.

The portico was vacant; happy sounds rose up from the shore, where the
fishermen were lingering beside their boats; and a merry laugh, or
snatches of some light song, were heard from the neighbouring village,
sinking into the hearts of Ildica and Theodore with the power of a
charm, waking associations of sweet domestic joy, dim and undefined,
but thrilling--potent--overpowering. Oh! who can tell the many magic
avenues through which all the external things of the wide universe
find, at some time or other, means of communicating with the inmost
heart--avenues, the gates of which are shut till, at some cabalistic
word of grief, or joy, or hope, or fear, they suddenly fly open, and
we find in our bosom a thousand sweet and kindred fellowships, with
things which had never learned to touch or agitate us before.

Glad and cheerful, yet calm, were the sounds that broke occasionally
upon the listening ear of night; and grand and solemn, but still
gentle, was the scene which lay stretched beneath the risen moon; but
the sensations which were in the breasts of the two rendered those
sounds and sights a thousand fold sweeter, a thousand fold more dear;
and, in return, the gay, distant voices, and the calm, wide, moonlight
sea, seemed to draw forth and render intense, even to overwhelming, in
the souls of Theodore and Ildica,


                  "Into the mighty vision passing,"


the inborn joy of all the new emotions to which that day had given
life within their hearts. They paused and listened to the melody of
innocent mirth, and paused and gazed upon the bright world before
them. Ildica's hand trembled in that of Theodore, and her heart beat
quick; but he felt that she was his, and that she was agitated; and
with the gentleness of true affection, though without any definite
plan for sparing her, he took the very means of telling his first tale
of love so as to agitate as little as possible the young and tender
being, all whose deepest feelings were given to him alone.

"Hark!" he said, "hark, dear Ildica! how gay and sweet those merry
voices sound! Some lover come back from wandering like me, tells the
glad story of his journey done to the ear of her who has watched for
him in absence."

Ildica grew more calm, and raised her eyes, too, to Theodore, not
without some feeling of surprise, so different was his tone, so much
more manly were his words than when they had parted. There had been,
up to that moment, one thing, perhaps, wanting in her love towards
him--the conscious feeling of man's ascendency: she had loved with
passion deep, sincere, and ardent; but she had loved as a girl, and
looked upon him still as the companion of her early sports. His words
and tone--the words and tone of one who had mingled with, and taken
his place among men--put the last rose to the wreath. She felt that
thenceforth to him she could cling for protection--to him she could
turn for guidance and direction.

But Theodore went on. "Some lover," he said, "or perhaps some husband,
Ildica, returned from the labours of the day to home, and happiness,
and sweet domestic love! Oh, dear Ildica, since I have been away,
often have I, in wandering through different provinces, lodged in the
dwellings of traders in the towns, or in the cottages of shepherds and
labourers in the mountains and the plains; and the most beautiful, the
most blessed thing that I have ever seen has been found as often, if
not oftener, in the hut of the herd, or the house of the common
merchant, as in the marble palaces of the C[ae]sars, and within
the walls of imperial cities. Oh, that sweet domestic love! that
blessing--that bright blessing! which, like the glorious light of the
sun, shines alike on every condition and on every state, cheering,
enlivening, enlightening, all who shut it not out from their own dark
hearts by vices and by crimes. Hark, hark! dear Ildica, how those gay
voices seem to chime to my words, speaking of love, and joy, and hope!
Oh, Ildica, dear Ildica! may not such things be also for you and me?"

Ildica sunk down on the stone seat by which they had been standing,
but she left her hand still in his, and he felt it tremble. Nor did he
himself speak unmoved; for his ardent nature, and the first breaking
forth of those dear and treasured thoughts, shook his whole frame; and
scarcely daring to trust his lips with further words, he placed
himself by her side, murmuring only, "Dearest Ildica!" She answered
only with a long-drawn, agitated sigh; and, gliding his arm round her
soft waist, he drew her gently to his bosom.

"Oh, Theodore, is not this wrong?" she asked, but without attempting
to free herself from his embrace.

"Wrong, my Ildica? wrong, my beloved?" he exclaimed: "oh, no! God
forbid that I should ever seek to make you do or feel aught that is
evil! No, no, dearest, my father's blessing will attend our union; he
has promised, he has given it: our dear mother's consent was spoken to
him long ago!"

"Indeed!" cried Ildica.

"Yes, indeed," he said, pressing her again closer to his bosom, from
which she had partly raised herself as she spoke. "Yes, indeed,
Ildica! Joyful did my father's words sound in my ear, as he told me
that, if I could win your love, I might hope for your hand. Nothing
now is wanting to my happiness but one dear word from my Ildica's
sweet lips. Oh, speak it, beloved! Speak it; and say you will be
mine." She could not find voice to utter the deep feelings of her
heart; but her cheek sunk glowing upon his shoulder, and their lips
met in the first dear, long, thrilling kiss of happy and acknowledged
love.



                              CHAPTER V.
                            THE DISASTER.


From a dream of happiness such as mortal beings know but once on this
side of the grave--a dream of happiness in which all the brightest,
noblest, most joyful feelings of the fresh, unsullied, unexhausted
heart of youth burst forth, like the streams of the Nile, from a
thousand beautiful sources, Ildica and Theodore woke at length, and
prepared to return to the side of her mother, to make her a sharer in
their joy, and tell her how blessed, how supremely blessed they felt.
Clinging close together in attitudes of tenderness, from which Attic
sculptors might have learned yet another grace, they rose and moved
along the portico. They moved, however, but slowly, lingering still
for some fond word, some affectionate caress, or pausing in the scene,
hallowed for ever in their eyes by the first spoken words of love, to
gaze over it again and again between the colossal pillars of the
portico. Over that scene, however, had by this time come a change--one
of those sudden, inexplicable alterations not uncommon in southern
climates. The moon, which by this time had wandered on far enough to
warn them that the crowded moments had flown quickly away, was still
hanging over the Adriatic, and pouring forth that glorious flood of
light which makes the stars all "veil their ineffectual fires;" but
the sky was no longer without clouds, and catching the light upon
their rounded but not fleecy edges, the large heavy masses of electric
vapour swept slow over the lower part of the sky, between the bright
orb and the islands that slept beneath her beams. Theodore and Ildica
paused to mark them, as slowly contorting itself into hard and
struggling forms, one particular mass lay writhing upon the horizon,
like some giant Titan wrestling with agony on his bed of torture. At
the same time the breeze, which was balmy, though calm, during the
evening, became oppressively hot, with a faint phosphoric smell in the
air, and a deep silence seemed to spread over the whole world. The
cigala was still, the voices on the shore had ceased, the merry laugh
no longer resounded from the open cottage door, and the nightingale,
which had prolonged her song after all the rest was silent, ceased
also, and left a solemn hush over the whole universe.

"What strange forms that cloud is taking," said Theodore, called even
from the thoughts of his own happiness by the sudden alteration of the
scene: "and how quiet everything is. Doubtless, there will be a storm
to-night. Alas! for those who are upon the treacherous sea."

"But your father," said Ildica; "he goes by land, Theodore. Is it not
so?"

"Not so, dearest," replied Theodore; "he visits first Antioch, and
then proceeds by land; but it is not for him I fear, as I heard of his
landing while I was on the journey hither; but those strange clouds
and the heat of the air must surely augur thunder to-night; and I saw
a whole fleet of boats this morning at Tragurium, ready to put to
sea."

"It is indeed warm," said Ildica; "I feel almost faint with the heat.
Had we lived a few centuries ago, Theodore, we might have drawn evil
auguries for ourselves and for the fate of our affections from those
hard clouds, and the dull and almost mournful silence which has fallen
over the world."

"Out upon auguries, my beloved," he replied; "we hold a better faith,
and place our trust in God, who made our hearts and formed us for each
other. We will confide in him, my Ildica; and for those who do so,
signs and portents are but proofs of his power, which should
strengthen, not shake our faith."

As he spoke he turned to lead her into the palace; but at that moment
the low, sad howling of a dog broke the stillness of the night; and a
figure, the face of which was turned from the moonlight, but which
Ildica at once recognised as her mother, appeared at the end of the
colonnade, and advanced towards them. Ildica and Theodore hastened to
meet her, and each took and kissed one of her fair hands. "Give us
your blessing, oh my mother!" said the youth; "we have been very
happy. I have told Ildica how I love her. I have told her what hopes
my father has given me; and she has promised to share my lot and make
my home joyful."

"Bless you, my children, bless you!" replied Flavia, while Ildica hid
her face on her mother's bosom, and Theodore again pressed his lips
upon her hand. "Ye are young lovers, indeed; but still my blessing be
upon you; and oh! may God grant that in the course of that love which
is made to render us happy, you may be more fortunate than the parents
of either! Your father, Theodore, and I have both lost those we loved
as fondly as you love one another; but may better fate be yours, my
children! may you never lose each other; but go on in the same warm
affections through a long life, and death scarcely separate you, till
we all meet again in heaven."

Flavia raised her eyes towards the sky, and for a moment remained in
silence, though her lips still moved. The next instant, however, she
added, "I came out to seek you, not because I thought you long absent,
nor because I had any cause of fear; but I know not how or why it is I
have a painful, apprehensive anxiety hangs upon me to-night, which
will not let me rest. Perhaps it is the sultry heat of the atmosphere;
the air has grown very oppressive; even the animals seem to feel it.
Your sister's dog, Theodore, would not rest in her usual place by my
feet, but ran out through the curtains; and Aspar told me as I passed
that it had fled to the garden. How the cattle, too, are lowing in the
village stalls! Do you not hear them? Does the wind come from Bratia?"

"Nearly," replied Theodore; "but cast away melancholy, my dear mother.
Oh! that Ildica and I could give you a share of our happiness!"

"You do! you do, dear youth!" replied Flavia; "I do share in your
happiness; and this melancholy will pass away again. Those who have
known much grief are subject to such thick-coming fancies; and the
first touch of deep sorrow brushes off the bloom of hope, crushes the
firm confidence of the heart, and leaves shrinking apprehension to
tremble at every breath; but let us in; there is a storm coming on."

As she spoke there was a low melancholy sound came rushing over the
waters of the Adriatic; the clouds, which had before passed so slow
and silently along, seemed now agitated by some unknown cause, and
rushed in dark black volumes over the moon; while here and there, amid
the clefts and rents of their dark canopy, looked out a calm bright
star. But still the mourning sound increased; and the bending branches
of the olives down below told that the breath of the tempest was
already felt. The next instant, ere the lovers and Flavia could escape
from the colonnade, the blast of the hurricane struck the building and
shook the massy structure to its foundations. Behind the shelter of a
pillar the two women escaped; but Theodore, strong and active as he
was, found himself dashed forward against the wall of the palace;
while leaves, and flowers, and broken boughs of trees were whirled
about in the air, and strewed the marble pavement of the portico. It
lasted but for a moment, however, dying away as it came, with a low
moan; while a few large drops of rain followed, as if the punished
demon of the storm fulfilled his allotted task of destruction with
tears and with regret.

"Flavia! Ildica! you are not hurt!" cried Theodore, springing towards
them.

"No! no!" replied Flavia; "we are safe; though it was a fearful gale.
But let us in, Theodore; it may return. Hark! Good God! what is this?"

Well might she so exclaim. The wind had gone by; even its murmur had
ceased; when suddenly there rose a roar from the earth as if ten
thousand war-chariots had met in the shock of battle. The lightning
burst forth from the clouds, and flashed along amid the innumerable
dark gigantic pillars of the colonnade, lighting the whole of its vast
extent with the blue and ghastly glare; the thunder rolled from the
zenith to the horizon with a peal which would have deafened the ear to
the loudest voice. But the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled,
scarcely seen or heard; for below, around, was a more dreadful
visitation still. The earth shook beneath their feet; the pavement
rose and fell like the waves of the sea; the enormous columns tottered
and reeled; the walls of massive stone bent to and fro; while the roar
of the earthquake and the echoing of the thunder were rendered more
terrific by the crash of falling building, and the shrieks both from
the interior of the palace and the more distant village. Theodore cast
his arms round Ildica and her mother; and, staggering along, hurried
them down the steps across the level in front of the palace, and out
of danger of its shaken walls. It was the impulse of the moment which
made him act, and Flavia yield; but she paused ere they were many
steps from the building, exclaiming, "My children! Theodore, my
children! Your sister and Ammian! I must go back."

"And I will go too!" said Ildica, in a voice so calm that it made her
lover turn suddenly to gaze upon her, who seemed to have lost the
timid girl in the first moment of danger and horror.

"No, no!" he exclaimed. "Dear mother, hear me! There will be a second
shock doubtless, but it will be some minutes ere it comes. Hasten with
Ildica beyond the Golden Gate and up the side of the hill, out of
reach of all buildings! I will seek Ammian and Eudochia, and join you
in a moment. Fly, fly, dear mother! I leave in your charge what I
value more than life. Save her!"

Flavia hesitated; but that moment a slave with a torch rushed out into
the portico seeking them, while the motion of the ground subsided, and
all became still. It was the swift runner, Aspar, who came up, crying,
"Fly, lady! fly, dear mistress! the worst shock is never first; fly to
the hills, fly!"

"Away with them, Aspar, beyond the Golden Gate," cried Theodore,
breaking from them; "I will join you instantly! Away, away!"

Thus saying, he darted from them, rushed through the portico, and
crossed the side avenue, while the wild clamour from the principal
street of the palace echoed through the long halls and galleries; and
the deep darkness in which that part of the building was plunged
rendered the distant sound of wailing and of terror more frightful.
On, on he went, though fragments of stone and cement obstructed his
way, and crumbled under his feet, showing that even the first shock
had been severe enough to shake that strong and massive fabric through
every part. But Theodore still hurried forward, till, at length, in
his haste, as he passed the spot where he and Ildica had seen the
slaves playing on the pavement, he stumbled over a large soft body,
and, stooping down, he felt with horror beneath his touch the yet warm
form of a man, with the newly-fallen capital of a neighbouring column
lying with crushing weight upon his loins. The long hair floating on
his shoulders showed Theodore that the unhappy being had been a slave;
but still the instinctive benevolence of the youthful heart made him
pause a moment to ascertain if life were extinct. He spoke, but not a
tone answered; he lifted the hand, in which life's soft warmth yet
lingered; but not even a convulsive movement of the fingers told that
one spark of the immortal fire still glowed in the mortal body. All
was motionless, insensible, lifeless; and Theodore hurried on.

The gates of the Cyzicene hall were open; the glare of lights and the
sound of voices came from within; and Theodore instantly entered, as
the shortest way to the apartments occupied by Flavia and her
household. Never, perhaps, did terror in all its forms present itself
more awfully than in that grand and splendid chamber. There, as a
general point of meeting, had collected eighty or ninety of the slaves
and domestics of both sexes. Fear had not yet had time to subside; and
with pale and haggard faces, livid lips, and wide anxious eyes they
remained, some clinging to the columns which had so lately been
shaken like reeds; some kneeling in the midst, and uttering the
confused and terrified prayer; some cast down upon the pavement in
utter self-abandonment; some hiding their eyes in their garments, as
if they could shut out the approaching horrors that they feared to
witness; some gazing wildly up to the roof, which they expected
momently to fall upon them. Large fragments of the beautiful paintings
which had covered the walls were now seen dashed about upon the floor;
and a wide rent in the solid masonry over the door showed how insecure
was the shelter which those terrified beings had sought from the night
of the earthquake.

In the midst stood, gathered together in the hour of danger, three
dusky Numidians, with a servant from the neighbouring Pentopolis, who,
in happier times, had been too near akin to the dark Africans to live
with them in amity, but who now clung to them for support; while a
gigantic slave from the Porphyry mountains, one of the few who looked
the unusual dangers of the night in the face with calm determination,
was seen in the front, crushing out under his large foot a torch which
one of his more terrified companions had let fall. There were two or
three others who stood near, and, with arms folded on their chests,
and dark brows full of stern resolution, gazed towards the door, as if
waiting what horror was to come next.

In the hands of some of the bolder slaves were the torches which gave
light to the hall; and the moment Theodore entered, one started from
the group, exclaiming, in tones of eager--ay, and affectionate
inquiry--though they were but slaves, "The Lady Flavia? Where is the
Lady Flavia? Where is the Lady Flavia?"

He spoke as an old servant might speak to a boy he had known from
infancy; but Theodore was no longer a boy; for the last nine months
and the last few hours together had made him a man in mind as well as
in body, and he replied with that prompt tone of commanding courage
which won instant obedience.

"She is safe," he cried, gazing round him. "Up, up, all of you! Lie
not there in prostrate terror, herding together like sheep beneath the
lightning. Up, if you would save your lives! Up, and away! You with
the torches go before them! Out beyond the Golden Gate you will find
your mistress and Aspar. Keep close to the walls till you are in the
open field! Another shock is coming, and the parapets and capitals
fall first, but fall far out from the buildings. Crowd not together
so, and crush each other in the doorway! Out, coward! would you kill
your fellows to save your own miserable life? So! quietly--but
speedily. You, Cremera! and you, and you, Marton, come with me! You
are brave and honest, and love your lady. Snatch up whatever jewels
and valuable things you see, and follow quick! Where is Eudochia?
Where my brother Ammian?

"Her chamber is within the Lady Flavia's!" said the Arab Cremera; and,
darting through the lesser doorway, Theodore hastened thither,
followed by the three he had called, and one or two others, gathering
up caskets, and scrinia, and gold, and jewels, as they hurried through
the more private apartments of the palace. A sound of murmuring voices
was before him as he came near the chamber of Flavia; but, dashing
aside the curtain, he rushed in.

Kneeling upon the floor, as she had risen from her bed in terror, with
her bright hair flowing in waving lines over her shoulders, her hands
clasped, and her eyes raised to heaven as her lips trembled with
prayer, was Eudochia; while beside her, fainting with terror, lay the
negro girl who had sat beside the Hyader, lately so gay and
thoughtless. Near her stood Ammian, whose first impulse had been to
seek her; but in whose dark imaginative eyes, instead of terror, shone
a strange and almost sportive fire, as if his excited fancy felt a
degree of pleasure even in a scene so full of danger and of horror.
Nevertheless, he was eagerly entreating his fair _sister_, as he
called her, to conquer her terrors, and to fly with him to seek
their mother, exclaiming, "Come, come, Eudochia, you shall pray
to-morrow--or to-night, if you like it better, when once you are
somewhere safe. Your prayers will go to heaven in but tattered
garments, if they have to force their way through yon rift in the
roof. Come, come! Oh, here is Theodore! Where are my mother and
Ildica?"

"Both safe!" replied Theodore. "But this is no hour for sport,
Ammian;" and, without question, he caught up his sister in his arms.
"You take the casket from Cremera, Ammian!" he continued. "Let him
take yon poor girl! Hark, there is a rushing sound! Quick, quick, it
is coming again! On before, Ammian. On before, to the Golden Gate!"

Eudochia clung to his breast, and, hurrying on with a step of light,
he bore her through the many chambers of the building, till, turning
through the great hall called the Atrium, he entered one of the
transverse streets, and paused a moment to listen if the sound
continued. All, however, was still and dark, except where the murmur
of voices and the rush of feet were heard from a distant spot, and
where a number of torches appeared gathered together near the
beautiful octagonal temple of Jupiter, or where from the apartments
occupied by the old and incapable conservator of the palace were seen
issuing forth two or three slaves with lights, and a solitary priest
bearing the consecrated vessels of the temple, which had already been
converted to a Christian church.

Onward, in the same direction, Theodore now bore the fair light form
of his sister; but ere he had reached the end of the street, another
awful phenomenon took place. From the midst of the intense, deep,
black expanse which the sky now presented, burst forth an immense
globe of fire, lighting with a fearful splendour the gigantic masses,
columns, and towers of the palace; showing the neighbouring hills and
woods beyond the gates, and even displaying the heavy piles of
mountains that lay towering up towards the north. No thunder
accompanied the meteor; and its progress through the sky was only
marked by a sound as of a strong but equal wind, till suddenly it
burst and dispersed with a tremendous crash, leaving all in deeper
darkness than before.

The sight had made the multitude pause and fall upon their knees
before the church; and as Theodore approached he heard a voice
exclaiming, "Let us die here! We may as well end our days here as in
the open fields! Let us die here!"

But, to his surprise, the next moment the calm sweet tones of the Lady
Flavia struck his ear, replying to the words which she had heard too.
"No, my friends! no!" she said, in a voice which had no terror in its
sound, but was all calm but energetic tenderness. "No! it is our duty
to God, to ourselves, to our brethren, to our children, to take the
means of safety which are at hand. Let us fly quick from among these
buildings, which another shock may cast down to crush us. There may be
dangers even beyond the walls, but here are certain perils. Let us go
forth; I came back but to seek my children! Lo, they have come in
safety, and let us now depart. Oh, delay not, pause not, for the
hesitation of terror more often points the dart and sharpens the sword
that slays us, than the rashness of courage. Come, my friends, let us
come. God will protect us; let us take the means he gives. Come, my
Theodore, come. Ammian, you look as your father used to look when he
went forth to battle. Should not such a face as that shame terror, my
friends? Come, I pray ye, come!"

Even as she spoke, the same hollow rushing sound was again heard; the
steps on which she stood, above the rest, shook beneath her, and
Ammian, seizing her hand, hurried forward. Clouds of dust rose up into
the air, shrieks of terror burst from the very lips that had so lately
proposed to remain and die there, and every one now rushed towards the
gate. But their steps were staggering and unequal, for the solid earth
was again shaken, the buildings and the columns were seen tottering
and bending by the light of the torches, the crash of falling masses
blended with the roar of the earthquake, part of the frieze of the
temple was dashed into the midst of the group of slaves, who were
flying on before their mistress, and one among them was struck down.

"Stop!" said the voice of Flavia; "let us not leave any one we can
save. Hold the torch here!" But it was in vain. The man was crushed
like a trodden worm!

"God receive thy spirit to his mercy, through Christ!" cried the
priest; and they rushed on, while still the earthquake seemed to roll
the ground in waves beneath their feet, and their eyes grew dim and
dizzy with the drunken rocking of the enormous buildings, through the
midst of which they passed. The gate, though not far, seemed to take
an age to reach, and joyful was the heart of every one as they drew
near. But just as they were about to go forth, the struggling of the
feverish earth appeared to reach its height; and one of those colossal
flanking towers, which seemed destined to outlast a thousand
generations, swayed to and fro like a young heart sorely tempted
between virtue and crime, and then fell overthrown, with a sound like
thunder across the very path of the fugitives. It left a chasm where
it had stood, however; and through that rugged breach the terrified
multitude took their way, stumbling and falling over the convulsed and
quivering masses of stone.

Glad, glad were all bosoms when those walls were passed; and though
still the ground heaved beneath their feet, though the roar continued,
and the very trees were heard to crack and shiver as they passed
along, yet all felt that some hope of safety was gained; though when
they looked around, and saw the black and tangible darkness that
covered the whole earth, and hid every object except that on which the
occasional torchlight fell--when they gazed, I say, into that dull and
vacant, unreplying blank, and heard the hollow roaring voice of the
earthquake around, below, above, well might their hearts still sink,
and well might many a one among them think that the predicted day of
general dissolution had at length arrived.

Still carrying his sister in his arms, Theodore had followed Flavia
and Ammian through the broken walls; and it was not till their feet
trod the more secure ground beyond that he asked, "Where is Ildica, my
mother?"

"Here at hand, upon the hill, my noble Theodore," she answered.
"Eudochia now is safe," she added; "leave her with me, and give our
dear Ildica tidings of our escape, for she promised not to quit the
spot where I left her till my return. Yon faint spot of light upon the
old tumulus--that is Aspar's torch."

Theodore placed his sister on her feet beside Flavia, and hurried on.
He had no light with him; the heavens and the earth were all in
darkness, and the roar of the last shock still rang, though more
faintly, in the air. Yet, ere he had arrived within the feeble and
indistinct glare of the slave's torch, the quickened ear of love and
apprehension had caught the sound, and recognised the tread of his
coming feet; and in a moment Ildica was in his arms, and her fair face
buried on his throbbing bosom.[4]


---------------

[Footnote 4: In "The Story of Azimantium," which I published about six
years ago in Blackwood's Magazine, and which has since been
re-published in "The Desultory Man," I gave very nearly the same
account of this great earthquake with that here given. The actors and
the scene are different; but the principal facts, being founded on
historical truth, are the same.]

---------------



                             CHAPTER VI.
                          THE EVIL TIDINGS.


The horrors of that night had not yet ended; for from the third hour
after sunset till day had fully dawned, the fever of the earth raged
with unabated fury. A melancholy and a ghastly group was it that soon
crowned the hill where Flavia had left her daughter, when at length
all those who had escaped with her from the palace were collected
together round the torches. Not one half of those, indeed, who dwelt
in that magnificent building, to which the earthquake gave the first
severe blow, had assembled in the train of the Roman lady; but during
the pause of nearly an hour which succeeded the second shock, many
pale and terrified beings, some wounded and bruised with the falling
masses, some nearly deprived of reason by their fears, wandered up
from the palace and the neighbouring village, guided by the lights
upon the hill, and with wild exclamations and bemoanings of their fate
added something to the horrors of the moment.

Gradually the brief-spoken or almost silent awe subsided during that
long interval of calm; and many who had been waiting with sinking
hearts for the coming of a third shock began to talk together in low
whispers, and even to fancy that the hour of peril had passed by.
Gradually, too, serving to encourage such thoughts, the clouds rolled
away; the stars looked out calm and bright, and the moon was seen just
sinking into the Adriatic, but with a red and angry glow over her
face, in general so calm and mild. Hope began to waken once again in
all bosoms; and one, more rash than the rest, a fisherman from
Aspalathus, ventured down the hill, declaring that he would go and see
what had befallen his boat.

The minutes seemed hours; but very few had elapsed after his
departure, ere the fierce rushing sound of the destroyer was again
heard; again the earth reeled and shook, and yawned and heaved up, and
burst like bubbles from a seething caldron; and lightning, without a
cloud, played round the hills and over the waves. The terrified
multitude clung together, and the sick faintness of despair seemed to
defy all augmentation, when the voice of the fisherman was heard,
exclaiming, as he hastened back up the hill, "Fly farther, to the
mountains! fly farther up! the sea is rising over the land; the boats
are driven into the market-place; the palace will soon be covered! Fly
farther, and fly quickly, if you would save your lives!"

"Why should we fly?" cried the same voice which had before urged the
multitude to stay and await death below; and at the same time a tall,
gaunt man, with long streaming gray hair, and large, wild, melancholy
eyes, pushed himself forward into the torchlight. "Why should we fly?"
he cried; "and whither can we go to hide us from the wrath of God? Lo,
I tell you, and it shall come to pass, that no sun shall ever rise
again upon this earth, except the Sun of Righteousness. The last day,
the last great day, is at hand, and in vain ye say to the mountains,
'Fall upon us; and to the hills, Cover us, in the great and terrible
day of the Lord.' Make ready your hearts, and prepare your souls, for
verily ye are called to judgment, and the Son of Man is coming, in
clouds and glory, to separate the sheep from the goats."

His words, his solemn gestures, his wild and enthusiastic look,
supported by his reputed sanctity of life, plunged the people in
deeper despair; but Flavia again interposed, and with sweet and
gentle, yet dignified and commanding eloquence, she won the people to
hear, to yield, and to obey her. Lighted by a single torch, for those
they had brought had burnt so far that it became necessary to spare
them, the melancholy procession wound up the road which led over the
mountains towards Titurum. After travelling for at least a mile, with
a continual ascent, they again paused; and in order both to give new
courage to the sinking hearts of those who accompanied her, and to
prevent the enthusiast Mizetus from adding to their terrors, the lady
besought the good priests of the palace church to guide them in
praying to the Almighty in their hour of peril.

The old man had not spoken since they left the city; but the mild
words of the Roman lady seemed to wake him from the stupor of anguish
and terror into which he had fallen. Called upon to find words of
consolation for the flock committed to his charge, he applied them
first to his own heart, and instantly remembering the hopes and
promises of a pure and exalted faith, he broke forth in a strain of
powerful eloquence, now directing the people to put their trust in
that Almighty arm which can save in the time of the most awful
danger; now raising his voice in prayer to God, mingling adoration
with petition, and offering at once the sacrifice of faith and
supplication.

The people gathered round, slaves and freemen together, lifting their
pale faces and anxious eyes by the dull torchlight to the countenance
of the priest. They gained confidence and courage, however, at his
words; and when he began his prayer, they kneeled around upon the
still shaking earth, and rose again with hearts full of trust, calmed
and strengthened by devotion. None had stood aloof, not even those who
had hitherto remained firm to their ancient idolatry. In that hour of
horror, they felt the need of some higher hope and more abiding trust,
and they kneeled with the rest to that more mighty God whom hitherto
they had not known.

Ere they rose, a light and grateful wind sprang up from the mountains;
and with hope once more awakened, in a still dark and superstitious
age, even so slight a change as that was received as a favourable
presage. Many there were who regarded it as a sign that their prayers
were heard; and when at length the calm gray dawn began to look from
the eastern hills upon the wearied and anxious groups below, though
the earth still shook, from time to time, with a convulsive shudder,
the sight of the blessed light of returning day seemed to take the
worst apprehension from their overloaded hearts, and many an eye shed
tears of joy to see again those rays which they had feared were
obscured for ever.

Rashness generally follows terror allayed; and scarcely had the sun
fully risen, when numbers, anxious for friends whom they saw not--or,
perhaps, with more sordid motives--began to hasten away towards the
village and the palace. But the earth still shook, and Flavia, with
her family and servants, still remained upon the hill, after striving
anxiously to persuade the rest to wait till all was again completely
still. Her reasoning was in vain, however, and troop after troop went
off; but scarcely was the day an hour old, when another severe shock
was felt, and many who had escaped the dangers of that fearful night
were crushed or maimed in the ruins of the dwellings to which they had
returned. That shock was the last, as it was the longest, which was
felt; and when it subsided, all remained quiet; and though the ground
was seen yawning in various places, though parts even of the mountains
had slipped from their places, and rocks lay overthrown in the
valleys; though the courses of the streams had been altered, and the
whole face of the land was changed, yet it soon became evident that
the earthquake was over, and mourning was all that remained--mourning
unmingled with fear.

There was mourning in the hearts of all; and yet how many a glad
embrace, how many a tender and affectionate caress, how many a prayer
and thanksgiving, expressed the gratitude, the joy, the love, which
filled the bosoms of Flavia and her family. How many an earnest and a
wistful glance at the faces of each other told that, in the anguish of
that long horrible night, selfish fear had been superseded by
apprehensions of a nobler kind!

Bright and beautiful, calm and serene the day rose up over that scene
of desolation and ruin, smiling as if to give comfort and consolation
to the smitten earth; but still Flavia lingered on the hills,
unwilling to trust her children or her domestics amid the ruins of the
palace till she should be well assured that safety might be found
within its walls. As the sun grew hot, however, she removed to the
edge of a small wood of tall ilexes which hung upon the edge of the
mountain road, though many of the finest trees had been uprooted and
thrown down either by the wind or the earthquake; and having placed
herself beneath the shade, with her children round her, several of the
slaves ran hither and thither, to seek some food whereof to offer
their well-loved mistress the morning's meal. Each returned with
something; but each had some sad tale to tell of the ravages that were
to be traced in the direction in which he had gone. Milk, and wine,
and early fruits had been found in abundance among the various
cottages in the neighbourhood, and a meal, plentiful, but simple as
that of the night before, was spread upon the grass beneath the trees.

The earth was still, the air was fresh and sweet, and the birds had
begun again their melody, forgetting in song, like the happy heart of
youth, the blow of calamity as soon as it had passed away. All tended
to sooth and to reassure; and the heart of Ammian, which, even during
the terrible scenes of the past night, had not lost its bold and
fearless daring, now broke out in light and wild fancies. He would
know the causes of the earthquake; and when he found that neither his
mother nor Theodore could give a satisfactory reply to all his many
questions--as who in that age could have furnished any on such a
theme?--he let his imagination run wild in conjectures; and many a
bright poetical theory he formed, and many a wild and baseless
hypothesis he raised, sporting with all the dread images of the past
like a child playing with the weapons of deadly strife gathered from a
field of battle.

Then he urged his mother to return quickly to the palace, in order, as
he said, to see what old Ocean had been doing there during their
absence. With Theodore, Flavia held more rational intercourse, taking
counsel with him as to what course she had to pursue, and expressing
an apprehension lest the palace, left totally unguarded, might be
plundered during her absence and that of the old imperial conservator,
who remained with them, his senses still bewildered with all the
terrors he had gone through. Theodore, however, showed her that the
faithful slaves who had followed him through the building had brought
away all the valuable jewels, caskets, and gold which they had found;
and for the rest, he offered to return himself, with the conservator
and some of the slaves, and provide for the preservation of the palace
and all that it contained.

"Go you with the rest to Salona, dearest mother," he said; "some
dwellings must there have been preserved; and among the merchants and
traders which it contains you will always find shelter and assistance
for gold. Shaken as the palace has been, many parts may yet be
standing which will soon fall, and your presence would only be
dangerous, and embarrass us in ascertaining the state of the building.
I will accompany you part of the way to Salona, and then turn round by
the heathen cemetery towards Aspalathus and the palace."

Ildica listened, and her look seemed to say that she would fain
accompany him; for hers was one of those hearts which would rather,
far rather, take part in the danger and the grief of those they love
than share even their happiest hours. But she said nothing; for she
knew that her wishes ought not to be granted, and she would neither
put her mother nor her lover to the pain of opposing her even by a
word.

Eudochia, however, in the inconsiderate apprehensiveness of girlhood,
clung to her brother, and besought him not to go; but Theodore soon
pacified her, assuring her that he would not venture rashly where
danger was apparent; and, after a few more words, orders were given to
the domestics, and Flavia rose to proceed towards Salona. Weariness,
indeed, was in all limbs; and with slow and heavy steps, those who had
remained with Flavia on the uplands took their way along a road, which
wound for some distance over the ridge of hills nearest to the sea,
and then descended, separating into two branches, the one leading to
the town of Salona, the other to Aspalathus and the neighbouring
palace. The latter branch, with a steep declivity, wound down the
hill, bordered on either hand by a long row of tall dark cypresses,
which reached from the northern gate of the palace to a cemetery on
the side of the hill. In that burial-ground, surrounded by a low wall
not two feet high--thus built that all who passed might gaze upon the
records of mortality within--lay crowded a multitude of tombs,
checkered with groups of dull funereal trees. There reposed the
remains of all who had died in the vicinity since Dalmatia had become
a Roman province, and the frequent _Siste, viator!_ called the eye,
and recorded the vain attempt to teach mankind wisdom and moderation
from the common lot of all.

It was near this burial-place, just where the roads parted, that
Theodore paused, and, after a few minutes' conference with the old
officer of the palace, selected several of the slaves to accompany him
on his way. But just as he was about to depart, the eye of Ildica
rested upon a cloud of dust that rose from the point where the road
towards Salona became first visible, emerging from a thick grove at
the distance of perhaps half a mile from the spot where they then
stood.

"Look! look!" she said; "here are people coming up from the
city--perhaps to give us assistance; and I trust they may bring a
chariot or a litter, for my mother is pale and weary, and Eudochia is
faint also."

"And you are weary, too, my Ildica!" said her mother. "But look!
Theodore, look! Do you not see armour and helmets glittering through
the dust in the sun? It seems a turma of cavalry or more, for the line
is long. Stay with us, my dear son, till we see what we have here: let
us turn into this field opposite the cemetery while they pass by."

Her words were instantly obeyed as commands; and, winding on with a
slow equal march, a small body of horse, followed by a number of
stragglers on foot, ascended the hill, and then, without pause or
question, took the way on towards Aspalathus. In a moment after,
however, at a quicker pace, as if to overtake them, and followed by a
number of soldiers and attendants, came a superior person, who paused
on seeing the group seated in the neighbouring meadow, and sent a
messenger to ask if much mischief had occurred at the palace in
consequence of the earthquake, and whether the Lady Flavia were safe.

"She is well, and present," replied Flavia to the messenger: "who is
it that sends?"

"The military tribune, Marcian," replied the attendant, and Theodore
instantly sprang up, exclaiming, "My father's dear and noble friend!"
and without other comment he ran down the field. As soon as the
tribune beheld him he leaped from his horse and pressed him in his
arms, and after a few brief words gave some orders to his attendants,
and advanced with Theodore to the spot where Flavia sat.

He was a man already in the middle stage of life, tall and powerful in
frame, and of mild, but firm and serious countenance. He was not,
perhaps, what would generally be reputed handsome, but his features
were good; and there was the fire of genius in his large dark eye, the
consciousness of energy on his broad square brow. Dignity was in his
aspect and his whole demeanour; and, as he saluted the Lady Flavia,
lamented with her the events of the preceding night, and inquired in
tones of deep interest into all the perils through which she and her
family had passed, there was that calm and graceful suavity in his
deportment which inexpressibly won and struck every one who listened.
Nevertheless, there was a cloud, as if of some deep melancholy, hung
upon his brow; and when Flavia informed him of her purpose of
proceeding to Salona, he shook his head mournfully, saying, "You had
better not, lady! I think you had better not! It is a melancholy
place," he added, a moment after; "much shaken and ruined, and a great
number of people have lost their lives there. I fear that accounts
from other parts of the empire will be sad indeed."

There was something gloomy and thoughtful in the manner of the tribune
that surprised and somewhat alarmed the Roman lady; for so much
habitual self-command had the soldiers of the empire, that it was rare
to see any one, especially of such rank and renown as Marcian, display
upon the occasion of any misfortune like the earthquake, the natural
feelings which were not the less busy at their hearts. The marble
exterior of the old republicans was much affected by all who sought to
distinguish themselves in the Roman armies; and Marcian was famed for
a temperate but unyielding firmness, which admitted not the semblance
of grief or apprehension.

"Think you, then," she asked, "that we had better return to the
palace? A report reached us in the night that the sea had nearly
covered it."

Marcian paused for several minutes, as if meditating what were best to
do, and then replied, "Lady, I will send to see the condition of the
palace, and in the mean time bid them pitch me a tent here to give you
a shelter from the sun. We have provisions with us too, and can offer
you a meal, such as, perhaps, this great disaster may not have left at
Aspalathus."

"I thank you," replied Flavia; "we have already eaten. We found no
want of food among the cottages upon the hills."

But Marcian pressed upon them his hospitality so earnestly, that
Flavia yielded, feeling that there was something more beneath his
grave and thoughtful air than he suffered at first to appear; and
while the tent was being raised by his attendants, he sent a messenger
to the palace, with orders for such minute examination as showed that
the day would be high ere he could return. Food already dressed was
soon spread out under the tent; and one or two vessels of wine were
produced, with several rich cups and vases, carved with the exquisite
workmanship of an earlier age, and shining with many a precious stone.
With grave suavity the tribune did the honours of the meal, and spoke
much, and of many things, but with a wandering and discursive spirit,
as if his mind was forcing itself to the task, and seeking more
largely the aid of imagination than might have been the case had the
heart been itself at ease.

"How magnificent are those cypresses!" he said, looking towards the
long avenue which led down the hill; "I never beheld finer, except,
perhaps, some that grow on the hill above Byzantium. But those stand
solitary, as if to mark the tomb of some warrior who has died afar
from his own land; these sweep down in a long row, like a line of
departed monarchs seen in the shady grandeur of tradition. There they
stood, centuries before Diocletian laid the first stone of his palace;
there they stand now, when his history is almost forgotten; there they
will stand, when we are as he is. Well are they placed between the
palace and the sepulchre--those witnesses of the mortality of ages.
The common lot of man! why should any one shrink from the common lot
of man! Why should we look with hope to this world's future, or turn
back our eyes with lingering grief to the past, or nurse bright hopes
of such young beings as these," and he laid his hand upon the head of
Ammian, "or mourn with bitter regret for those who have changed the
thorny couch of mortal life for the calm bed of the tomb? Give me a
cup of wine!"

"A prodigy! a prodigy!" cried one of the slaves, running into the
tent; "an omen! an omen! Tribune, the eagle, which has hovered over us
all the way from Salona, has settled on the pole of the tent!"

"Get ye gone!" replied Marcian; "what have I to do with omens? I may
have the heart without the wings of the eagle. Out upon ambition! and
yet this very Diocletian, who founded the palace hard by, was a slave
before he was an emperor. But he loathed, resigned, and refused to
resume the power which he had acquired and proved. That eagle haunts
me: twice has it hovered for hours over me while sleeping in the open
field, and now it settles on my tent. These are strange accidents, and
yet nothing more than accidents. Who should dream of ambition with
those tombs before his eyes? Give me some wine!"

The attendant who stood near handed the goblet, which he had held
ready filled for some minutes, to his master; and Marcian,[5] yet but
half a Christian, turned and poured some of the wine upon the ground.
"To the dead!" he said, looking mournfully round him, "to the dead!"
and his eyes fixed full and sadly, upon Theodore.


---------------

[Footnote 5: He was at this time probably an Arian; but there is
reason to believe that his family had long held their ancient
religion, against all the decrees of the Christian emperors.]

---------------

The youth started suddenly on his feet, and grasped the tribune's
hand, exclaiming: "My father! I adjure thee tell me! What of my
father?"

Marcian threw his arms round the slighter form of his young friend,
speaking some words in a low tone. Flavia rose and gazed eagerly in
the face of the tribune, who shook his head mournfully as his reply;
and Theodore hid his face in his mantle, while Eudochia burst into
wild and weeping lamentations. Ildica's dark eyes overflowed in
silence; and though Flavia let not one drop roll over the jetty
fringes of her eyelids, her pale cheek grew paler, and her lip
quivered with intense emotion. Marcian said no more, but gazed down
sternly upon the hilt of his sword; and the only words that were
uttered for some time were: "Alas, Paulinus!" which broke from the lip
of Ammian.



                             CHAPTER VII.
                            THE DEPARTURE.


It was a long and dreary pause; but at length the stern and virtuous
soldier, who, ere many more years had passed, seated himself without
crime or bloodshed in the chair of the C[ae]sars, laid his hand upon
the arm of Theodore, with a firm but kindly pressure which spoke at
once to a heart full of high feelings and of noble energies, and
roused it from the dull stupor of sudden grief.

"Oh! Marcian," exclaimed the youth, "this is an unexpected stroke! So
short a while since I saw him depart full of vigour, and life, and
happiness. So short, so common a journey--so easy--so safe! How, tell
me how this has befallen? Was it by sickness, or accident, or war with
some rebel, or in the chase of some wild beast?"

"Alas, no!" replied Marcian; "it was by none of these, my son. Nor
would I wound your young heart afresh by telling how it did take
place, were it not absolutely necessary for you to know your father's
fate, in order that you may gain an augury or a warning of your own,
and timely prevent it."

"The emperor," cried Flavia, "the emperor has destroyed his faithful
friend: Paulinus saw it before he went. Every line of his last letter
breathes the anticipation of his coming fate. He saw it in the gloomy
brow of Theodosius; he saw it in the smile of Chrysapheus; he felt
that he was going, never to return. Say, tribune, say! was it not the
emperor's deed?"

"Even so!" replied Marcian. "By the order of him whom he had served
with unequalled fidelity and truth--the friend of his schoolboy hours,
the companion of his high and noble studies--by the hands of those he
thought his friends--hands that had been plighted to him in affection,
and raised with his in battle--at his own social board, and in the
hour of confiding tranquillity--was slain Paulinus, leaving not a
nobler or a better behind."

Theodore again shed tears, but Flavia asked eagerly, "The cause,
tribune! What was the cause--or rather, what the pretext for
cause--reasonable cause there could be none for dooming to death one
of the purest, noblest, least ambitious men that the world has ever
yet seen."

"The cause was jealousy, lady," replied Marcian; "a cause that leads
men ever to wild and madlike actions. In the gardens of the C[ae]sars,
near their eastern capital, is a solitary tree, which bears fruit
rarely; but when it does, produces an apple like that which hung in
the garden of the children of Hesperus--small in size, golden in
colour, and ambrosial to the taste. Paulinus had bestowed on Eudoxia a
book, containing poems of Sappho, which no other manuscript can
produce; and the empress, in return, had sportively promised her
husband's friend the rarest thing that she could find to bestow. The
tree of which I spoke had in the past autumn produced but one apple,
and that was sent, on the entrance of the new year, by Theodosius to
Eudoxia. She, in thoughtless innocence, sent it as the rarest of all
things to Paulinus, and Chrysapheus took good heed that the fact
should reach the emperor's ears, distorted to his purpose. Fury seized
upon the heart of Theodosius; but the base eunuch had sufficient skill
and power to make him conceal his suspicions and his hatred, for
Chrysapheus well knew that an open accusation might produce a bold and
successful defence. Paulinus was sent to C[ae]sarea; and there,
unheard, without trial, and without justice, was put to death!"

"Tyrant!" muttered Theodore. "Base, ungrateful tyrant!"

"Let your indignation swallow up your grief, my Theodore!" replied
Marcian; "but let it not injure your country. Great as it is, great as
it well may be, still greater will it become when you hear that
Valens, your father's bosom friend, has been since sacrificed for no
other crime than his love for Paulinus; that several of your household
slaves have been slain by the emperor's orders; and that all the
wealth of Paulinus has been bestowed upon Chrysapheus!"

Theodore again started up, exclaiming--"I swear by all my hopes, and
by my father's spirit--"

But Marcian caught his arm. "Swear nothing against your country, my
son," he cried: "Theodore, we have need of every Roman!"

"Hear me! hear me!" cried Theodore. "Naught against my country. No,
never, let the temptation be what it may, will I draw the sword
against Rome. So help me the God in whom I trust! But should ever the
time come when this hand can reach a tyrant, or a tyrant's minister,
it shall doom him to death as remorselessly as he has doomed my noble
father;" and having spoken, he cast himself down, and again covered
his face in his mantle.

Never, perhaps, through all the long tragic record of human woes and
suffering which the past, the sad and solemn past, holds in its
melancholy treasury--never was there yet a scene in which the dark
feeling of desolation penetrated more deeply into every bosom, than in
the one which surrounded the tribune Marcian. The horrors, the
fatigues, the destruction of the preceding night, had laid every heart
prostrate in the general calamity; and when the blow of individual
grief fell heavy upon all alike, it seemed to crush and trample out in
every breast the last warm kindly hopes--the last bright delusions of
our phantasm-like existence.

Flavia gazed on her children and on the orphans in deep melancholy;
while Theodore, with his face buried in his robe, sat apart, and
Eudochia hid her streaming eyes upon her adoptive mother's lap.
Ildica, with clasped hands, and cheeks down which the large bright
tears rolled slow, now gazed upon her young and mourning lover; now
turned an inquiring, anxious, longing glance towards Marcian; who, on
his part, again, with knitted brow and downcast eyes, sat in the
midst, stifling emotions which struggled hard against control. Even
the slaves of Flavia and Paulinus, among whom the news had spread,
gathered round the open tent, and, standing wrapped up in their dark
penul[ae], gazed with mournful and sympathizing looks upon the sad
group beneath its shade; while, mingled among them, here and there,
were seen some of the stout soldiers who had accompanied the tribune,
evidently sharing, notwithstanding all their own habits of danger and
suffering, and their frequent familiarity with death itself, in the
grief of the young and hapless beings before them.

One only of the party seemed occupied with other thoughts, and yet the
seeming belied him. Ammian, reclining by the side of the little sandy
path which crossed the meadow where they sat, seemed busy, in his
usual abstracted manner, in tracing figures on the dust. One of the
soldiers moved across to see what he was employed in, and by that
action drew the attention of Marcian, whose eyes turned thither too;
when, to his surprise, he beheld written in the Greek character upon
the sand--

"Death to all tyrants! The blood of the guilty for the blood of the
innocent! Vengeance for Paulinus!"

Rising at once, he set his foot upon the writing ere the slower
soldier could decipher what it meant; and then, raising his finger to
Ammian, he said, with emphasis, "Beware!"

The boy looked up in his face, and answered calmly, "I will beware,
most noble Marcian!" But there was meaning in his eyes, and Marcian
chose not to urge his wild and daring spirit further.

Seating himself again by Flavia's side, the tribune, with the calm
gentleness of a compassionate heart, endeavoured to sooth the pain
which it had been his bitter task to inflict; and when he had, in a
degree, succeeded in gaining attention, he gave some orders to the
soldiers, and spoke some words to the slaves, which caused them to
retire from the vicinity of the tent.

"Listen to me, Theodore," he said; "listen to me, noble lady! Grief
has had its part; other duties call for your consideration. I would
fain ask you, sweet Flavia, whither you now propose to turn your
steps; what plan you now propose to follow?"

"We proposed," replied Flavia, after a moment's hesitation, "to go
forward to Salona; there to wait, if we could find a refuge, till the
palace was again rendered habitable, or till we could send those
things which may be necessary to our own villa upon the mountains. I
have not dwelt in it since my husband's death, but if it be necessary
I can conquer memory."

"To Salona!" replied Marcian, musing; "to Salona! It is true, you
could easily fly thence in case of necessity to Ravenna; but
Valentinian, if report has informed me rightly, loves you not, and
might avenge himself by giving you up to Theodosius!"

Flavia gazed earnestly in the tribune's countenance, as the new and
painful conviction of fresh dangers broke upon her. "More sorrows!"
she said, "more, more, to be endured! Think you, then, noble Marcian,
that we are in danger at Salona? Think you, then, that Theodosius will
extend his persecution even to us, innocent as we are?"

"He has already slain one as innocent as any of us, lady," replied the
tribune, "and he has given up to the sword one friend and many of the
slaves of him who is gone. Do you believe, then, that he will spare
the cousin of one whom he hated--a cousin who was loved as a sister?
Can you trust to his stopping short with the father, and not carrying
on his vengeance to the son?"

"Oh that I were in his palace!" cried Theodore: "oh that I were in his
hall, and before his throne!"

But Flavia answered more calmly: "Tell us all our danger, tribune.
Give your kind and generous advice. You are known as wise and good, as
well as brave and skilful. We will give our actions into your hands
for guidance. You shall shape our course as you think fit."

"Lady," replied Marcian in a tone which, notwithstanding all his
command over himself, showed how much his heart was moved,--"lady, I
loved Paulinus as a brother. He was wise and eloquent, learned and
brave, and I am but the son of a common soldier, nurtured in camps,
and educated in the rude field. Yet between my heart and his there
were common feelings; and in the course of our various lives we
chained our souls together by mutual benefits: may his shade find
Elysium! When I heard of what had befallen, my first thought was of my
friend's children. My cohort was in Dalmatia, my time of command
approaching; and though I had been called to the capital by the
imperial mandate, I prepared to come hither with all speed. While I so
prepared, I heard of the death of Valens and his slaves, and doubted
not that the cup might next pass to me. I presented myself before the
emperor to know at once my doom; but he contented himself with
commanding me to come hither, and lead the troops instantly into
Thrace. Another cohort under the command of Strator, the bitter enemy
of Paulinus, is ordered hither instantly to regulate--such is the
pretext--the line of frontier with the messengers of Valentinian.
Lady, I fear me there may be other purposes to execute; and I have
hastened, without pause or rest, to bring you tidings which, sad as
they are, might have been crowned with bitterer still if I had not
been the messenger--to bring you such tidings, and to take counsel
with you for your safety. My opinion, indeed, my advice, is little
worthy of your having; but still, let us consult together, and--as far
as my duty as a soldier and a Roman will permit--let me be a brother
to the Lady Flavia, a father to my dead friend's orphans."

"Your advice will be as wise as your heart is kind," replied Flavia.
"Oh give it us, my friend! give it to us fully and openly. We will be
guided by it, unless there be reasons against it, which even you
yourself shall approve. If safety be not to be found in Illyricum,
whither would you have us go?

"To the extreme limits of the empire!" replied Marcian. "What matters
it to you what the land be called which you inhabit for a few short
years? what matters it if the north wind blow somewhat more coldly
than in this golden land? if winter wear a ruder aspect, and the
flowers and fruits linger for the summer sun ere they bloom and
ripen?"

"What matters it, indeed!" said Flavia. "We love this scene,
tribune--well and dearly do we love this glorious scene--but we love
it more from the tender memories that have been attached to it, than
even for its sunny splendour and its face of beauty. But now the
thunder which has stricken us has turned the sweet and fruity wine
which filled our cup to sour and hateful dregs. Another land will be
brighter in our sight. Freedom from a tyrant's neighbourhood shall
supply the place of beauties that we leave behind; the absence of
objects that recall our griefs shall compensate for those that once
awoke our joys; peace shall be our atmosphere of balm, security our
sunshine. What say you, Theodore?

"Let us go, my mother," replied the youth: "where you and Ildica,
Ammian and Eudochia, are with me, shall be my country. The tyrant has
smitten down one object of my love, but he is powerless over my
capability of loving: that which was parted is now all concentrated.
You will go with me, my Ildica, is it not so? and my father's
blessing--the blessing of the dead--shall follow, and comfort us in
exile. But whither would you direct our course, noble Marcian?"

"Towards the banks of the Danube," he replied. "There, at the extreme
verge of the imperial territory, the power of Theodosius waxes weak,
and is exercised with difficulty. There, too, if mad and persevering
jealousy drive him still to seek your hurt, ten steps place you beyond
his reach, where the feeble and degenerate C[ae]sar dare not stretch a
hand to grasp you: your father's brother dwells at Margus, bishop of
the place."

Theodore's countenance fell. "He was indeed the brother of my father's
blood," he answered, "but was never the brother of his love. Grasping,
avaricious, crafty, I have heard my father say that Eugenius has the
talents, but not the virtues, of a Roman."

"Yet with him," replied Marcian, "are you sure of a safer asylum than
with any one else. Even at this moment he is at enmity with the court
of Theodosius, and bears a mortal hatred to Chrysapheus, who had
wronged him, abandoned him, and, notwithstanding the pleading of your
father in his behalf, would have willingly given him up to the
barbarians. With him you will find safety, I must not say you will
find vengeance--but it may be so."

"Let us go!" cried Theodore; "let us go, my mother! The gold and
jewels which, unwitting of all this, I made the Numidians carry forth
last night, will render the journey lighter to you, dear mother; and
if my uncle, careful of his wealth, refuse to give me support, I will
find means to win it for myself."

"Fear not for that," replied Marcian; "your father's wealth, Theodore,
is gone, but his estates are yours; and even Theodosius dares not
openly take from you that which no law has sentenced you to lose.
Strange that he who unquestioned takes a life unjustly should not have
power to seize your land, and yet it is so. Now, lady, let me send
once more to the palace, and bid them bring forth all that your
treasury contains. Take with you all your moveable wealth; for if you
do not so guard yourself, it will fall into hands which render no
account. I will bid them, too, bring forth whatever litters and
carriages they find, to bear you less weary on the way; and ere two
days be over, I will follow, and rejoining you, protect you from harm,
till, on the frontiers of M[oe]sia, I must leave you and march on. At
all events, my presence and my troops will ensure your safety so far;
and even after that, I shall be interposed between you and your
enemies, so that no messenger of evil can pass without my learning his
purpose, delaying his journey, and giving you timely tidings. Speed,
however, matters much, and now I would have you set forth without a
day's delay."

Flavia sought not to procrastinate; for though many a clinging memory
attached her to those scenes by the fine filmy ties of associations,
which even the sharp edge of grief could not cut, yet the safety of
Theodore, the happiness of her own child, the enfranchisement from a
state of society, where virtue was no safeguard and justice afforded
no shield, were objects too dear and high to be risked by delay. Few
and melancholy were the words that now passed, but the orders of
Marcian were promptly obeyed; and though he would suffer neither
Flavia nor Theodore to return, even for an hour, to the palace,
knowing far more of the cruel orders which Theodosius had already
given against them than he chose to communicate, yet a number of their
domestics were sent thither with his soldiers to remove all that
belonged to either family in the building.

Ere the sun had passed the meridian more than an hour, all who had
been sent had returned, and many and curious were the objects which
now surrounded that sad group by the side of the cemetery. A number of
mules and horses were there; the black charger which had carried
Paulinus in his last victory over the Alani, and which had never been
ridden since by any one but himself; the white horses which drew the
low carriage called _pilentum_, wherein Flavia was accustomed to drive
along the margin of the sea; litters with their silver feet, and
covered chairs of gold and ivory; rich caskets; leathern bags of gold
and silver coin; and large quantities of silks and fine linens (then
become general, but still considered costly,) made up into packages of
convenient sizes for carrying on the shoulders of the slaves, or
placing on the beasts of burden, together with cups and vases of gold,
silver, and precious stones; and slaves of all complexions and of
every different feature. Everything, in short, which was usually
collected in a wealthy and powerful Roman house, at that luxurious and
extravagant period, was there scattered round in glittering profusion,
giving that group the appearance of some caravan from Ophir or from
Tyre reposing on its journey. Some confusion and some delay took
place, though everything was arranged as quickly as possible, while
Flavia looked on in calm sadness, and Theodore gazed upon the scene
with burning indignation unquenched by grief, making his lip still
quiver and his bright eye flash.

At length all was prepared, and, with a few words of heartfelt thanks
to Marcian, the lady placed herself with Ildica in one of the
_lectul[ae]_ or litters, Eudochia and her chief attendant reclined in
another. Ammian sprang upon a small Thracian horse, and Theodore
mounted his father's charger. The noble beast, wild with unwearied
strength, reared high and snorted fiercely, as he felt the light
weight of the young Roman; but Theodore with skill and power soon
curbed him to his will, and patted his proud neck, while a tear, given
to the memory of him who was gone, wetted his eyelids. The whole party
then moved on, winding back again along the path which they had
trodden that very morning.

Their way lay over the hills, and for an hour they moved on, ascending
gently, but without stopping, till at length, on the highest spot of
the inferior acclivity, which lies at the foot of the higher
mountains, Flavia bade the bearers stop, and gazed out of the litter
upon the scene which she was quitting perhaps for ever. There it lay,
robed in the same splendid sunshine which had adorned it on the
preceding day. To the eyes which looked upon it not a change was to be
seen. The palace, the village, the distant town of Salona, the
beautiful bay, the golden islands which are scattered along the coast,
the liquid sapphire in which they seemed to float, were all sleeping
beneath the wanderers' glance in the drowsy heat of midday, looking
calm and tranquil, as if nature herself imitated the hypocrisy of man,
and covered with deceitful smiles the desolation which reigned within
her bosom. The measured round of the sun had scarcely been
accomplished, since those who now stood upon the hill-top, fugitives
from their dear domestic hearths, had met together after separation,
and had gazed over that same lovely prospect from the clump of
cypresses which now lay beneath their eyes. Scarcely had one round of
the sun been accomplished since, standing there, they had gazed upon
that pageant-like scene of beauty, and had felt all its fair features
reflected from the clear bright mirror of the happy heart. Scarcely
had one round been accomplished since every splendid object that the
eye could find, and every sweet sound that the ear could catch, in a
spot, and a moment when all was music and brightness, had seemed but
an image, a type, a prophecy of joys, and happiness, and successes yet
to come; and yet in that brief space an earthquake had rent and torn
that enchanted land, and had scattered ruin, desolation, and death
over its fair calm face: in that brief space, from the bosoms of those
who gazed upon it had been torn the bright joys of youth and
inexperience; had been scattered the dear hopes and warm imaginings of
innocent expectation; had been riven one of the dearest ties of human
existence, the great band of the loving and the loved; for not one in
that sad family but felt that the unjust fate of Paulinus had given a
chilly coldness to their hearts--no, not one from the youngest to the
oldest. The young felt that the fresh bloom was gone for ever from the
Hesperian fruit; the elder that the cropped flower of hope, which had
again been beginning to blossom, had been once more crushed down, and
never could bloom again.

Between their fate and the scene they gazed upon there seemed some
fanciful affinity; each felt it, each lingered with fond regret to
gather into one glance all the thousand lovely and beloved sights;
each sighed as they gazed and thought of the "_For ever!_" and at
length, even from Flavia's eyes, broke forth the long-repressed tears.

The slaves stood round and sympathized with those who mourned. Many a
dark eye and many a rough cheek was moistened with the drops of kindly
feeling, till at length the lady wiped her tears away, and, waving her
hand towards the valleys on the other side, said, "Let us go on!"

Again they began to move, when the voices of two slaves broke forth in
a mournful song, which they had probably often sung in their own
remote land.


                            SLAVE'S SONG.


                                  I.

    "We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth;
     Our life's but a race to the death from the birth;
     We pause not to gather the flowers as they grow,
     The goal is before us, and on we must go!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."


                                II.

    "Fair scenes of our childhood, dear homes of our youth,
     Memorials of innocence, virtue, and truth,
     The land of our birth, the dear mother that bore--
     We leave ye behind us, we see you no more!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."


                               III.

    "The joys that we tasted we taste not again;
     Each hour has its burden, each day has its pain;
     No moment in flying, but hurries us past
     Some sight, sound, or feeling more dear than the last!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."


                               IV.

    "We leave ye behind us, and others shall come
     To tread in our footsteps, from cradle to tomb;
     Still gazing back fondly, with lingering eyes,
     Where behind them the bright land of memory lies!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."


                               V.

    "The sound of Time's pinion, as fast he doth fly,
     Is echoed from each mortal breast by a sigh;
     What if there be fruits? they ungather'd must grow,
     For fate is behind us, and on we must go!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."


                              VI.

    "We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth.
     Hopes, joys, and endearments, sport, pleasure, and mirth,
     Like a tempest-driven ship, sailing by some bright shore,
     Time hurries us onward--we see you no more!
         We leave ye behind us, sweet things of the earth."



                            CHAPTER VIII.
                            THE STRANGER.


It was in the calends of June, and yet the day had very few of the
attributes of summer. The grey rain came down heavily from the dull
leaden sky, the wind rushed in fierce gusts from the northeast, the
stream of the Danube rolled dark and rapidly, and a melancholy murmur
rose up from its waters while they hurried on to the gloomy Euxine, as
if in reply to the sad and wailing voice of the breeze. The only thing
that spoke the season of the year was the vivid verdure of the wide
green pastures, and the rich blossoms that hung upon the frequent
trees. Along the banks of the dark river, accompanied only by two
freedmen on horseback, rode Theodore, the son of Paulinus, dressed in
the deep mourning tunic and mantle of dark grey, with no ornament of
any kind upon his person except at the hilt of his sword. The same
black charger bore him with which he had departed from Dalmatia; and
pressing the noble beast onward, he cast his eyes frequently to the
opposite bank of the river.

At length he suddenly drew in his bridle, exclaiming: "There is a
raft, and if we can but make them hear we shall be secure. Dismount,
Cremera; run to the margin, and shout loudly for the boatmen."

The dark Arab, who, though rendered free by Flavia after the
earthquake, at Theodore's request, still followed the fortunes of the
young Roman with love elevated by liberty, sprang eagerly to the
ground to obey; but, to the surprise of all, ere he had led down his
horse to the shore, the raft, which they had seen moored to the
opposite bank, was put in motion by two men who had been sitting near,
under the shelter of the wood, that was there thick and tall. Onward
it came, skilfully piloted across the stream, till it approached the
shore, on which Theodore and his two followers now stood ready to
embark.

At the distance of twenty or thirty cubits, however, the raft paused,
and those who steered it gazed upon the young Roman and his attendants
with apparent doubt and surprise. Theodore pressed them to come on;
and then, perceiving that they were barbarians from the north, he
spoke to them in one of those dialects which feelings connected with
his mother's memory had made him learn and preserve, even amid the gay
amusements and deeper studies which had since had their share of his
time. She it was who had first taught his infant tongue to pronounce
those sounds so difficult for a Roman to utter: she it was who had
used those northern words towards her boy, in the early language of
affection and tenderness; and though she had died at a period of his
life when the wax on the tablets of memory is soft, and impressions
are too easily effaced, he had never forgotten the accents that he had
so dearly loved. But now, that knowledge proved not a little
serviceable. The barbarians looked up in surprise; and when he told
them, in a language they understood, to bring near their raft with
speed, as delay might be dangerous to him, they hastened to approach
the shore, and suffered him to lead his unwilling horse upon the
fluctuating and unsteady raft.

One of the attendants followed; but the boatmen seemed to doubt
whether their rude passage-boat would sustain the third man and horse;
though the large trunks of trees whereof it was composed were further
supported by skins blown out like bladders. Theodore, however, would
not leave one behind; and, though sinking deep in the water, the raft
still bore them all up.

Floating heavily upon the rushing stream, it reached the other bank of
the Danube, and a piece of gold repaid the service of the boatmen; but
though, when the foot of Theodore touched the barbaric land, he felt
the thrill of security and freedom at his heart, yet, as he mounted
his horse and gazed upon the scene before him, he paused with a
sensation of doubt and awe. The bank of the river where he stood was
clothed with smooth green turf; but both farther up and lower down the
stream might be seen high rocks; and at the distance of about a
hundred yards from the margin rose up dark, tall, and gloomy, the
forest covering the primeval earth. The proximity of those mighty
trees prevented the eye from discovering aught beyond them, except
where the ground sloped down towards the west; but there, even, no
promise of a more open country was given: for over the first forest
line, at its lowest point, might be seen a wide extent of dark gray
wood, rounded, and waving with an interminable ocean of leaves and
branches.

The desolate aspect of the wilderness fell chill upon the heart of the
young Roman; and though his resolution to pursue his way on that side
of the river was not to be shaken, yet many a difficulty and a danger,
he too well knew, lay before him. Through some part of that wood, he
was aware, had been cut a military road, when the Romans had been
indeed the sovereigns of the world; but since that time centuries had
passed, and the inhabitants of the country had changed: a thousand
uncivilized tribes filled the land which the people of the imperial
city had once possessed; and all her magnificent works had been
destroyed or neglected beyond the mere frontier of the diminished
empire. Theodore paused, and gazed upon that dark and gloomy wood,
uncertain by what path he should direct his steps, and without
remarking the keen and eager eyes with which the two barbarian
ferrymen examined him from head to foot.

At length, as he still stood scanning the forest, one of them asked
some question of the Arab Cremera; but it was couched in the language
of the Alani, and Cremera could neither comprehend nor answer. The
barbarian then advanced to the side of the young Roman's horse, and
said, in a mild and sympathizing voice, "Are you not he who was
expected?"

"I am not," replied Theodore, in the same language. "I am a Roman; but
I seek to go to Margus by the barbarian bank of the river."

"You will find it both difficult and dangerous," answered the other,
"even if you already know this land; and if you do not know it, the
lizard which climbs the rocks and trees, and glides through the
smallest space upon its onward way, might as well try to travel upon
the water. Besides, you know not whether you are welcome in the land."

"My mother was daughter of Evaric, king of the Alani of Gaul," replied
Theodore; "and wherever the land is tenanted by that nation I shall be
welcome."

The man kissed the edge of his mantle, saying, "Be you welcome!" and
Theodore continued: "Can you give me no one to guide me on my way?"

"I will see, I will see!" replied the other; and he ran swiftly up
into the wood.

Ere he had been long absent he reappeared, followed by a young man,
clad in coarse clothing and common fur, who expressed himself willing,
for a small reward, to undertake the task of guiding the stranger on
his way; and though, by his stature and complexion, very different
from those of the tall and fair Alani, Theodore discovered at once
that he was of some other tribe, and found, also, that he could only
speak a few brief sentences of their language, the young Roman was,
nevertheless, glad to put himself under the guidance of any one who
knew the country well. With the few words that he could command of the
language which Theodore had been speaking, the guide told him that it
would be a journey of two days from that spot to Margus, and that
houses where they could find refreshment and repose would be few; but
still Theodore determined to pursue his way, and the guide was at once
promised the hire that he demanded.

He made the young Roman stay while he caught and mounted a small
shaggy horse which had been straying in the wood, round a hut which
was just to be distinguished upon the upland, through the bolls of the
tall trees. No sooner had he sprung upon his beast, however, than the
whole nature of the barbarian seemed changed. Where he had been slow
and limping in his gait, he became quick and active; and setting off
at full speed through the forest, he pursued paths along which it was
scarcely possible for Theodore and his companions to follow him; so
narrow were they, so tangled, so insecure for any horse unaccustomed
to those intricate wilds.

Still poured down the rain; and as they galloped on through those dim
vistas and sudden breaks, the white mist rolled in volumes among the
trees, and each footfall of the horses produced a cloud from the
marshy grass. At length, towards the evening, the sun, some three
hours past his meridian, began to break through the heavy clouds, and
streamed down the glades of the forest, while the light vapours rolled
away, and the birds sang sweetly from the woody coverts around. In
another hour three small tents of skins were seen; and, pausing there
for a short space, the guide procured some food for the horses and
milk for the riders. The people of the tents looked wild and fierce,
and spoke the dialect of the Huns, which was unintelligible to all
ears but that of the guide. They showed no curiosity in regard to the
strangers' appearance, but they evinced that avidity which is the
peculiar vice of frontier tribes.

At the end of less than an hour the guide pointed to the sun and to
the horses; and Theodore, mounting, once more followed him on his way.
Night fell ere they again saw a human abode; but at length they halted
before a tall tower of hewn stone, which had, in former years, been a
Roman fort, built as a defence against the very barbarians who now
possessed the land. The guide tried the gateway; but finding it fast,
shouted loudly for admission. He then paused to listen if any reply
were made; and while he did so, Theodore heard afar the melancholy
roaring of the Danube.

At length some grim faces and wild fur-clad forms presented themselves
at the gate, and Theodore and his followers were led into what had
been the chamber of the guard. There was no want of hospitality--nay,
nor of courtesy of heart--shown by the rude tenants of that half
ruined building, to the young stranger who sought the shelter of the
roof that had become theirs. They lighted a fire in the midst of the
hall to dry his still damp garments; they brought forth their stock of
fruit and milk, and even some of the delicacies obtained from the
neighbouring country. Broiled fish was speedily added; and while the
men, by speaking gestures, pressed him to his food, the women touched
his mantle, and seemed by their smiles to marvel at its fineness.

Though their appearance was rude, and no comeliness of form or feature
won by external beauty that confidence which is so often refused to
homely truth, yet Theodore read in their looks that he was secure, and
lay himself down upon a bed of skins to seek that repose which he so
much needed. The freedmen lay at his feet; and all was soon silence
within those crumbling walls: but sleep, the bosom friend of youth and
happiness, grows timorous as a sacred bird after the first fell grasp
of grief. All that he had gone through within the last sad month, all
that weighed upon his mind even then, came back in the visions of the
night, and three times roused the young Roman from his light and
troubled slumbers. The first time all was still, and the light of the
blazing fire of pine flickered over the dark forms that lay sleeping
around. The next time when he woke two figures were standing between
him and the light; but one soon turned away and left the chamber,
while the other, who remained, cast some fagots on the embers, and
again lay himself down to rest. The slumber that succeeded was deeper,
heavier, more tranquil; and when he again awoke, daylight was
streaming in from above. Almost all the Huns whom he had seen the
night before had left the chamber, and one, whom he had not hitherto
beheld, stood with his arms folded on his chest, gazing upon him as he
lay stretched in the morning light.

Between Theodore and the barbarian, however, awakened, watchful, and
prepared, with his spear grasped in his hand, sat the faithful
Cremera, his giant limbs and swelling muscles all ready to start into
defence of his master on the slightest appearance of danger; but the
eyes of the Hun seemed not even to see the slave, so intently were
those small but searching orbs turned upon the countenance of the
young Roman. Even when he woke and looked up, the Hun withdrew not
that steadfast gaze; but seemed to contemplate, with eager curiosity,
the same features which he had beheld silent and cold in sleep now
wakening up into warm and speaking life.

Theodore returned the glance for a moment without rising, and, as he
lay, scanned the person of the Hun. He was shorter than the ordinary
height of the Romans; but his breadth across the shoulders was
gigantic, with thin flanks and long muscular arms. His features were
by no means handsome, and his complexion was a pale dark brown; but
yet there was something in that countenance remarkable, striking, not
displeasing. The small black eyes had an inexpressible brilliancy; the
forehead, surmounted with thin gray hair, was broad, high, and
majestic; and the firm immoveable bend of the almost beardless lips
spoke that decision and strength of character which, when displayed,
either in good or evil, commands a separate portion of respect. His
dress was nearly the same as that of the other barbarians whom
Theodore had already encountered, consisting of dark gray cloth and
skins; but the cloth was somewhat finer in texture, and the skins had
a smooth and glossy softness, which showed the young Roman that the
man who stood before him was superior to the rest of those by whom he
was surrounded. Nor had it, indeed, required the slight superiority of
his garb to teach Theodore that he beheld no ordinary man. It has been
asserted, and it may be so, that from some hidden source of sympathy,
some instinctive prescience, we always feel peculiar sensations on
first meeting with one who is destined greatly to influence or control
our fate through life; and whether such be the case or not, certain it
is that through the breast of Theodore, the moment his eyes rested on
the Hun, passed a thrill, not of fear, nor of awe, nor even of
surprise, but of strange and mingled emotions, such as he had never
known before; and, as I have said, he continued in the same recumbent
attitude, gazing firmly in the face of one who gazed so steadfastly at
him.

After a short pause, however, the Hun spoke, addressing him in the
tongue of the Alani. "Though that bed," he said, in a low, deep-toned
voice, every word of which was as distinct and clear as if spoken by a
Stentor--"though that bed must be but a hard one for the soft limbs of
a Roman, thou seemest too fond of it for such a youth as thou art."

"Thou art mistaken, barbarian," replied Theodore, springing on his
feet; "the Romans, who can lie on silken couches when they find them,
do not think the ground neither too cold nor too hard when necessary
to use it for a bed. I was weary with long journeying for many days;
otherwise the crowing cock is my awakener."

"Thou speakest the Alan tongue well," said the Hun, gazing at him from
head to foot; "and thou art in colour and in size like a northman.
Say, art thou really a Roman?"

"I am," replied Theodore; "but my mother was the daughter of Evaric--"

"King of the Alani," interrupted the Hun: "then thy father was
Paulinus, count of the offices. We have met," he added, musing; "we
have met; he is a valiant man: where is he now?"

"In the grave," replied Theodore.

The Hun started; and, after a moment's pause, replied, "I grieve for
him; he was a valiant man: how did he die?"

"It matters not," answered Theodore; "he is dead. And now, barbarian,
I would fain speed on my way, for I would be at Margus as early as may
be. Where is my guide?"

"To Margus!" said the Hun: "know you that the priest of that city--the
bishop as they call him--has offended Attila the King? know you that
Attila has demanded him from Theodosius as a slave, to set his foot
upon his neck, and trample on him?"

"I have heard such rumours as I came hither," replied Theodore; "but
it matters not to me what quarrel there may be between my uncle and
the barbarian chief. Attila will find it hard to trample on the
brother of Paulinus."

"Ay! so he is Paulinus' brother!" cried the Hun; "I do remember now he
_is_ his brother: but if thou bearest tidings from Theodosius to thine
uncle, tell him to put no faith in the arms of men who know not how to
use them; to trust not in those who daily break their promises. Tell
him that he who bade you thus speak knows full well Attila the King;
and that he will as soon abandon his prey as the hungry vulture. Your
guide is gone; but follow me; I will show you the way to Margus."

A number of barbarians were collected in the lower part of the tower
and in the open space round it; but without a word they suffered
Theodore and his freedmen, with their new guide, to proceed to a tree
under which four horses stood prepared. All passed in silence; no one
stood forward to assist; no one advanced to require recompense from
the young stranger. The Hun who accompanied him sprang on his own
horse at one bound, and then sat as if of a piece with the animal;
while Theodore drew forth a coin of gold, and beckoned forward the
barbarian who had acted the foremost part, on the preceding night, in
offering him the rites of hospitality. The man looked wistfully at the
gold piece which Theodore held out towards him, and then at the face
of his superior, who sat beside the young Roman. The horseman,
however, bowed his head, and the other instantly took the money,
uttering a number of words which Theodore did not understand, but
construed into thanks. Turning their bridles then towards the Danube,
the journey towards Margus was recommenced, the Hun leading the way at
a slow pace.

"You ride not so swiftly as our guide of yesterday," said Theodore,
after proceeding for a few minutes, with the impatience of youth and
anxiety urging him on; "remember, I would be at Margus ere nightfall."

"'Tis a three hours' journey," said the other, calmly: "you are
impatient, youth. I would fain spare the beast thou ridest; for, were
it as the gods willed it to be, it would be a noble creature, and thou
hast ridden it too long and too hard yesterday for a creature so sleek
and pampered."

"Despise it not, Hun!" said Theodore, as he saw the keen bright eye of
his companion running over the charger's limbs; "despise it not. It
has carried my father through a bloody field of battle, and has borne
me through a long and painful journey, after which it may well show
some signs of weariness; therefore despise it not, though it be unlike
the rugged brute which thou ridest thyself."

"I do not despise it," rejoined the Hun. "In former times its soft and
silken coat, its delicate limbs and weighty body, might have provoked
my scorn; but I have learned to know that all things have their uses,
and to despise nothing but vicious luxury, effeminacy, and cowardice.
I see no reason why there should not be tribes who fight, and tribes
who cultivate the land: each may be useful; and so with your horse and
mine. Mine will carry me with a swiftness, and to a distance, and for
a length of time, impossible to yours; will bear weather, and food,
and cold, under which yours would die; but, very likely, in the shock
of battle yours would bear down mine--if I did not prevent it--and,
perhaps, might perform feats that mine could never learn. It is only
when I see man debase himself to carve images, and paint pictures, and
work gold, and spend years in making a dwelling to cover his miserable
head, and lie upon the feathers of birds, and cover himself with the
woven excrements of a worm, that I now feel disgust. Gems, and jewels,
and cups of gold and silver, may be wrought by other nations, and may
be used by us; but it is the part of bold and brave men to take them
from those who are weak and effeminate enough to make them."

"I cannot argue with you, barbarian," replied Theodore; "my mind
wanders unto other things: but I have heard my father say that all the
graces and elegances of social life are the true touchstone of the
noble heart. Those who are inclined by nature to evil will become
effeminate and corrupt under their influence; while those who are
brave and virtuous only gain thence a higher point of virtue and a
nobler motive for daring. The diamond, when we throw it in the fire,
loses nothing but the dirt and dust it may have gathered, and comes
out clearer than before. A barbarian fights because he has nothing to
lose but life, which has many miseries and few enjoyments; a Roman,
because he has a duty to perform, although a thousand ties of refined
pleasures and multiplied enjoyments bind him to the life he risks."

"Therefore is it that the Romans fight so feebly," replied the Hun;
but as he saw the colour mounting in the cheek of Theodore, he added,
"Be not angry, youth: my words shall not offend your ear in a land
which thou hast sought, trusting to our hospitality. Thy father might
well speak as thou sayst he did, for he was one of those that showed
his own words true."

"Thou doest my father justice, my country wrong," replied Theodore;
"but the day may come, Hun--the day may come when Romans, rousing
themselves from the sleep into which they have fallen, may teach those
who now mistake idleness for cowardice, who take the love of repose
and peace for timidity, that the lion yet lives, though his roar has
not been heard for years."

A grim smile hung for a moment on the lip of the barbarian, and then
passed away; but he replied nothing directly to the tart answer of his
young companion. At length, as they rode along by the rushing Danube,
winding their way once more between the forests and the river, he
pointed first to the one and then to the other bank, saying, "Lo,
Roman civilization--Scythian rudeness! and yet, as thou sayst, the
time may come--nay, it may be near, when the trial will take place, of
which country produces, which habits nourish, the boldest hearts and
strongest hands. But setting that apart, I say, give me the forest and
the wild meadow, and the simple hut or tent of skins, truth, justice,
freedom: for it is my belief that simplicity and honesty are one;
luxury and falsehood are not to be divided. Look at this forest," he
continued, after a brief pause; "it seems almost impervious, yet thou
hast found a way through it; and at the foot of the hill which we are
now mounting you will find a paved road, leading into the heart of the
land. It was constructed by thy ancestors, nearly in a line with the
famous vallum Romanum; and if at any time need or fancy should make
thee wish to see the nations which live beyond this woody barrier,
follow that road, and ask for Onegisus, the friend of Attila the King.
Thou shalt find safety, friends, and protection. But see! we are at
the top of the hill, and I must leave thee. Yonder, on the other side
of the stream, where the blue mist is rolling up the mountain, lies
Margus. Lo! its many towers! Thou canst not miss the way. Now Mars
protect thee!"



                             CHAPTER IX.
                        THE BISHOP OF MARGUS.


The two sides of that mountain were like the prospect laid out beneath
the eyes of man when, in the midst of life, he pauses to survey the
past and to scrutinize the future. Dark and gloomy, on the one hand,
stretched masses impervious to the eye, wrapped in uncertain mists and
vague, undefined confusion, where nothing was known, nothing was sure,
but that there lay ruin, chill neglect, and desolation, even unto
those regions where the Cimmerian darkness of the grave covered and
confounded all. On the other hand, stretching out like the sweet
memories that lie along the path of youth, was seen a fair and
beautiful land, with the Danube rushing on through the midst towards
Margus: valley and hill, fragments of the Dacian forests, but broken
by broad cultivated plains, a watch-tower here and there; then, within
their guardian line, a farm, a villa, gardens, and pasturages, with
the towers and walls of Margus at about eight miles' distance; and
beyond, but to the right, the Mons Aureus rising, like a pile of lapis
lazuli, in blue majestic splendour to the sky.

Theodore paused to gaze; and feelings, mingled, intense, and even
painful, woke in his bosom at the sight of those fair scenes from
which he might so soon be driven, contrasted with that dark and gloomy
land which might prove his only refuge.

He turned, however, after a moment's silence, to ask the Hun if he
could, in truth, prefer the one to the other; but the barbarian had
left him without further leave-taking, and his dark form was seen
riding rapidly towards the thickest part of the forest. Theodore still
remained gazing over the prospect; but, as he did so, he thought he
heard a distant shout of many voices rising up from the woods behind
him; and, fearful of any interruption in his course, he hurried on
upon the road which lay open before him.

Increasing tokens of civilization now met his eye at every step as he
proceeded; and shortly before he reached the shore, at the nearest
point to the city, he beheld more than one ferryboat, no longer a mere
raft, supported by inflated skins, but barks, provided expressly for
the purpose, and offering every convenience at which the mature art of
the Romans had yet arrived. Without question, the young Roman and his
followers were admitted into one of the boats, and in a few minutes
were landed on the other side of the Danube, in the midst of all that
hurry, bustle, and luxurious activity which marked the precincts of a
Roman city, even in a remote province, and in the immediate vicinity
of those barbarian allies who were soon destined to overwhelm all
those soft and splendid scenes in blood and ashes.

The Roman dress and air of Theodore and his two freedmen enabled them
to pass on unquestioned through the gates; where a few soldiers, with
their spears cast idly down, their helmets laid aside, and their
swords unbraced, sat gaming in the sun, offering a sad but striking
picture of the decay of that discipline which had once so speedily
won, and had so long preserved, the dominion of the world. Gayly and
tunefully carolled the flower-girl, as she tripped along with her
basketful of wreaths and garlands for the festal hall or the flowing
wine-cup; loudly shouted, with the ready cyathus in his hand, the
seller of hot wine in the Thermopolium; eagerly argued the lawyer and
the suiter as they hurried along to the tribunal of the duumvir; gayly
laughed the boys, as, followed by a slave bearing their books, they
hastened homeward from the school. Splendid dresses, fair faces,
magnificent shops, and chariots with tires of gold and silver, litters
with cushions stuffed with the flowers of the new-blown rose, met the
eye of Theodore in every direction; and as he looked on all this
luxury and magnificence, and compared it with the scenes he had just
quitted, he could not help asking himself, "And is this Margus? Is
this the city daily threatened by barbarian enemies? Is this the
extreme point of civilization, upon the very verge of woods, and
wilds, and hordes of savage Scythians?"

At the end of a wide open space, towards the centre of the town, rose
one of those beautiful peristyles--less light, but perhaps more
imposing, than the Greek--whereof so many had been constructed under
Hadrian. Within it appeared a massy temple, formerly dedicated to
Jupiter, but now consecrated to that purer faith destined to remain
unsullied through everlasting ages, notwithstanding the faults, the
follies, and the vices of some of its ministers.

At the moment that the young Roman entered the forum, the mingled
crowd of worshippers was descending the steps of the temple; and above
them, between the two central pillars of the portico, clothed in his
sacerdotal robes, and with his extended hands giving his blessing to
the people, stood a tall and princely form, in which Theodore
instantly recognised the Bishop of Margus, the brother of his father.

Dismounting from his horse, the young Roman waited for a moment, until
the crowd had in some degree dispersed, and then, ascending the steps
towards the door through which his uncle had retired into the church,
he asked a presbyter, who was still lingering on the threshold, if he
could speak with the bishop.

"You will find him at his dwelling, my son," replied the presbyter:
"he has passed through the church, and has gone to his mansion, which
lies just behind it."

Theodore took the direction in which the presbyter pointed with his
hand; and, followed by Cremera and the other freedman, reached the
entrance of a splendid dwelling, round the doors of which stood a
crowd of poor clients, waiting for the daily dole of bread and wine.
Theodore found some difficulty, however, in obtaining admission to his
uncle's presence. "He is gone to divest himself of his sacred robes,"
one slave replied; "He is busy in private devotion," asserted another;
a third plainly refused to admit the stranger, unless previously
informed of his name and purpose.

"Tell the bishop," said Theodore, "that it is a Roman from
Constantinople, who brings him tidings of his friends, which it much
imports him to hear as soon as may be."

There was the accent of command in the young Roman's speech, which
made the slave hasten to obey; and in a moment after the curtain,
beneath which he had passed in order to communicate the message to the
bishop, was drawn back, and Theodore found himself in the presence of
his uncle.

The prelate gazed upon him for a moment in silence. It is probable
that at first he did not recognise the boy, whom he had not seen for
several years, in the young man that now stood before him; and yet
that faint and twilight recollection--more like the act of perception
than of remembrance--by which old impressions first break upon us,
before memory has time distinctly to trace out the particulars, caused
the shades of manifold emotions to pass over his countenance, as his
eyes remained fixed on the face of his nephew.

"Theodore!" he exclaimed at length, "Theodore! what in the name of
Heaven has brought you here at this hour, and under these
circumstances? Know you not that the barbarians demand my life to
expiate the sins of others? Know you not that they threaten to seek me
even here, and sate their vengeance in the blood of my flock, if I be
not given up to them? Know you not that the weak emperor, after having
faintly refused their horrible demand, now hesitates whether he should
yield his innocent subject, and the teacher of his people, to the
barbarous hands of his enemies? What was your father thinking of to
send you here? unless, indeed, he be bringing six legions to my aid,
and you be but the harbinger of the coming succour."

"Alas, my uncle," replied Theodore, mournfully, "no such tidings have
I to tell; nevertheless, my tidings are not few nor of little import;
but let us speak of them alone. Here there are many ears around us;
and you may perchance find it expedient to consider well what I have
to say ere you make it public."

As he spoke, he glanced his eye towards the crowd of slaves and
officers who filled the other end of the hall in which they stood; and
the bishop, who had been moved to indiscretion by the sudden
appearance of his nephew, resumed the caution, which, though a bold,
ambitious man, formed part of his natural character, and, making a
sign with his hand, said merely, "Follow me." As he spoke, he led the
way through the great hall to a small room beyond, from which a flight
of steps descended to a beautiful garden, laid out in slopes, and
adorned with many a statue and many a fountain. The curtain, drawn
back between it and the hall, exposed to the view any one who
approached on that side, while on the other the terraces lay open to
the eye, so that naught with a step less stealthy than that of Time
himself could approach unperceived.

"Here, my nephew, here," said the bishop, "our secret words will not
pass beyond our own bosoms. Tell me what brings you hither at a moment
of such earnest difficulty--at a moment when I know not whether the
base emperor may not deliver me up to the barbarian Attila. I who have
abandoned all--state, dignity, the paths of ambition and of glory--to
devote myself to the service of God and his holy church. Yet tell me,
first, how fares your father, how fares my noble brother? Why wrote he
not in answer to my letter beseeching him to use his power with
Theodosius in my behalf?"

"I come," replied Theodore--who, judging that the bishop's questions
regarding Paulinus were but formal words of no deep meaning, proceeded
at once to the point on which his uncle's curiosity was really
excited--"I come, my uncle, to seek refuge and shelter with you
against the anger of a base, weak monarch. Three days' journey behind
me is your cousin, Julia Flavia, with her children and my sister.
Persecuted by Theodosius for no fault committed, we thought that if we
could find shelter in the world it would be with my uncle at Margus."

"Safety at Margus!" cried the prelate, in truth affected by the
earnest and pleading tone in which his nephew spoke--"safety at
Margus! Oh, Theodore, Theodore! is there safety to be found on board a
sinking ship? Is there safety to be found between the opposing spears
of two hostile armies met in battle? You come to me at a time when I
know not whether the next moment may continue to afford security to
myself. You come to me at a moment when my soul is trembling--though
not with fear--no, but wavering with uncertain purposes, like a
loosened sail quivering in the blast of the tempest, uncertain to
which side it may be driven, or whether it may not be torn in
fragments from the mast. You come to me in such a moment as this for
refuge? But could not your father protect you--my great, my warlike,
my courtly, my all-powerful brother, who despised the poor-spirited
priest, and thought the robe and stole the refuge of a low ambition?
Oh, Paulinus, Paulinus! how I could have loved you! Yet what do I say,
Theodore? your dark robe! your untrimmed hair! your jewelless
garments! Tell me, boy, tell me, where is your father?"

"Alas," replied Theodore, "I have no father. He who was my father is
dead, murdered by the emperor!"

The living lightnings of fierce indignation flashed from the priest's
proud eyes; and after pausing for a moment, as if unable to give voice
to the feelings that struggled in his breast for utterance, he shook
his hand towards the sky, to which his eyes were also raised,
exclaiming, "Tyrant, thou hast sealed thy fate!" then, casting himself
down upon a couch, he drew his robe over his head, and Theodore could
hear him weep. The youth was moved; and at length he took his uncle's
hand in his, and pressed his lips upon it, saying, "I knew not that
you loved him thus."

"Yes, Theodore, yes!" replied the bishop; "I did love him, better than
he knew, better than I knew myself till this very hour. We had
different tempers, we chose opposite paths, we held opposite opinions.
That which I thought wisdom, he would misname craft; that which I held
as just, he would taunt as base. We were both, perhaps, ambitious, but
in different ways; and his ambition led him to contemn mine; and yet,
Theodore, and yet I loved him better than any other human being. When
I strove for eminence in the state which I had chosen, when I raised
my voice and made the proud to bow, the sinner to tremble, piety to
kindle into enthusiasm, and devotion to reach its highest pitch, my
first imagination was what Paulinus would think; my first hope to
tower above his low opinion. He was the object and the end of many of
my best and greatest actions: almost every thought of my life has had
some reference to him. I have disputed, opposed, quarrelled with
him--nay, even hated him, and yet belied my own heart by loving him
still!"

The bishop paused, and, crossing his arms upon his broad chest, fixed
his eyes upon the sky, and remained for several minutes in gloomy
silence, as if summoning up before the eye of memory all the visions
of the past. "Theodore," he continued at length, speaking in a
rambling, musing tone, "Theodore, I will be to you as a father. What
my fate may be, I know not; but my brother's murderer shall never
deliver me up to the power of the barbarians. Do you mark me? He shall
learn that, deprived of the just defence of my sovereign, I can defend
myself. But it matters not! You are too young for such counsels!
Paulinus, my brother, thou art dead; but thou shalt be avenged. The
cup of wrath wanted but one drop to make it overflow, and thy murder
has poured an ocean into it. Now tell me, Theodore--the Lady Flavia,
where is she? She shall be welcome to Margus. Within these walls my
power is unlimited. The people and their magistrates are equally my
flock and my servants; so that I can assure a welcome to those who
seek it. Where is Flavia? Why came she not with you?"

"Because tidings reached us every day," replied Theodore, "of
messengers sent from Constantinople, bearing orders for our
arrest--perhaps for our death. Three of these messengers, we learned,
had taken the way to Margus; and ere we could venture to trust
ourselves here, I came on to see whether the power of my uncle could
give us shelter and security."

A smile of bitter meaning gleamed over the countenance of the bishop.
"Three messengers!" he said--"three messengers, bearing orders for
your arrest or death! No later than yesterday morning, three
Byzantines--for so part of their dress bespoke them--were found, slain
by the Huns, as it appeared, near Tricornium, higher up the river.
Perchance these have been the messengers, and have delivered their
just and clement letters to the wrong hands."

"It is not unlikely," replied Theodore. "They must have been near that
town early in the morning of yesterday; for I had news of their
course, and crossed the Danube lest, with fresh horses, and perhaps a
guard from that station, they might overtake and seize me."

"They have been seized themselves," said the prelate, setting his
teeth close. "The smiter has been smitten; the messenger of death has
found death himself. But how escaped you the Huns yourself, bold
youth! For the last month they have made excursions across the river,
destroying wherever they came. How was it that you, who without
permission entered their own land, passed through them in perfect
safety?"

"In truth I know not," replied Theodore, "unless it was that I began
by speaking to the ferrymen in the Alan tongue."

"That has saved you," replied the prelate; "but now, my son, we must
not lose time. These are days of danger, when the very air is full of
winged death. We must not leave the Lady Flavia and her children one
moment longer unprotected than is needful. Tell me with what company
she travels. Ye were not, I trust, obliged to fly in such haste as to
leave all your domestics behind."

"Oh no!" replied Theodore; "the tribune Marcian, who brought us the
sad tidings of my father's fate, and warned us of our own danger, took
care that all the slaves should accompany us; and saw that all the
gold and jewels, either belonging to Flavia, or which my father had
left in Illyria, should be borne with us, to escape the greedy hands
of Theodosius. Thank God, we have enough to support us with dignity
till this storm be blown away, and the sun shines once more."

"Alas, Theodore!" replied the priest, "seldom is it with man that the
sun, once clouded, ever shines again. The bosom of nature, torn by the
tempest, soon recovers its gayety and its beauty, or, swept by the
shower, wakes up again in brighter loveliness; but the heart of man,
beaten by the storms of fate, never regains its freshness, but is
dulled and withered by every drop that falls, and revives not again
till his short day is closed. But I will send out to greet Flavia, and
bid her welcome. Glad am I that she brings with her wealth and
attendants. Not that I could not myself have supplied her with all she
might need; for, thanks be to Him who gave, my worldly wealth is
great--greater than is perhaps good for securing the treasure in
heaven. Nevertheless, all our wealth may not be more than sufficient
for the purpose that I have in view. I will send out to find her, and
bring her hither."

"Nay, my uncle," replied Theodore, "I will myself be the messenger.
She will not give herself to the guidance of any one if I do not
return. I am not weary; and an hour or two of rest would enable me,
had I but fresh horses for myself and the freedmen, to seek her at
once. This bank of the river, by the death of these messengers, is now
free, and the way is shorter."

His uncle made some opposition on the plea of his nephew's youth and
yet unconfirmed strength, but that opposition was slight, and soon
overcome. There was, indeed, an eagerness, a haste, an impetuosity, in
the bishop's whole demeanour, which betokened a keen and ambitious
mind struggling with difficulties and dangers which he feared not, but
estimated at their true value. He seemed, to the eyes of Theodore,
like a skilful swordsman contending with a multitude of enemies, with
all his energies awake and active to avoid every blow, to parry every
thrust, and to return upon his assailants their strokes with usury.

When at length he consented that his nephew should go, and gave him
into the hands of one of the officers, with directions to provide for
his repose and refreshment, what was the impression which his uncle's
conduct had made upon Theodore's mind? The bishop had been kinder than
he expected; he had evinced more affection for his father, more deep
love for that dead parent whose memory was enshrined in the heart of
Theodore, and revered as the relics of some pure and sainted martyr;
he had shown more depth of feeling, and more of the energy of talent,
than the youth had been taught to believe he could display; and yet
Theodore was not satisfied. The diamond touchstone of a pure and
innocent heart, without an analysis, without minute investigation,
detected at once the alloy which ran through the seeming gold: he saw
that there was much of goodness, he saw that there was much of power,
in his uncle's character; but there wanted the simplicity, the
mildness, the humility of the Christian priest: there were strong
feelings without strong principles, high talents without high honour,
and through all his best and brightest qualities ran a vein of
brilliant selfishness, stimulating nearly, in appearance, the more
precious things with which it mixed; but, oh! how different in
intrinsic value.



                              CHAPTER X.
                             THE TREASON.


It was night; but no bright moon compensated for the absence of the
greater orb, and the air was dark, though the sky itself shone with
all its innumerable sparks of golden light. It was one of those nights
in which the depth of the heavens becomes apparent, in which each
separate star is seen hanging distinct and apart from all the rest, a
lamp of everlasting fire in the blue profound of space. The lately
troubled waters of the Danube had become clear; and, flowing more
calmly, though in a less volume, mirrored the splendid pageantry of
heaven's resplendent host.

Within an hour, however, after the full setting of the sun had left
the earth to the dominion of the night, another light than that of the
stars was reflected from the waters of the rolling stream at the
distance of a few miles from the city of Margus. The glare of a
multitude of torches flickered over the rolling stream, and cast a
red, unpleasing light over the rocks and trees amid which the Roman
road was cut from Tricornium to Margus. That light, too, shone upon
the anxious and wearied countenances of those who, a little more than
a month before, we have seen set out from the spot where all their
happy memories were left behind them to wander forward towards lands
and fortunes that they knew not.

A change, however, had been effected in the appearance of many of that
party. Young as he was, Theodore had shown a wisdom and prudence
beyond his years; and as soon as they had lost the escort of the
tribune Marcian, on the frontiers of M[oe]sia, he had selected twenty
of the most faithful slaves, and had besought Flavia to liberate and
arm them. His pretext was that, in approaching the barbarian
countries, many dangers lay upon the way; but he did not say that even
against the authority of the emperor himself those arms might not be
used.

Belated by the length and fatiguing nature of the way, many a timid
glance was cast by Ildica and Eudochia towards the opposite bank of
the stream, where lay, shrouded in its dark woods, the strange and
dangerous country of the Huns. Many an apprehensive inquiry, too, went
from lip to lip among the women slaves that followed; and, though each
knew that the other was as ignorant of the land through which they
were passing as herself, many a time was the question asked, "How far
is it now to Margus!" meeting still with the same unsatisfactory
reply. At length Theodore, riding up from the rear of the line, where
he had remained to see that no one lingered behind, approached the
side of the lectula in which Ildica was borne, and said, to the no
small joy of all who heard him, "Lo! the arch of Trajan. To Margus is
but one short mile."

That mile was soon accomplished; and at the gates of the city they
were met by persons sent on purpose to welcome them, both by the
magistrates and by the bishop of the town. Such friendly greeting in
such a remote spot, the sight of a populous and wealthy city, the
cheerful sounds and objects which met the ear and eye in the streets,
served to revive hope in the bosoms of that weary and anxious train,
and to recall the images of warm domestic tranquillity, which had been
banished during their dreary journey of the last two days: a house had
been prepared for them not far from the dwelling of the bishop, and
they found, waiting their arrival, all those ready luxuries which the
skill and ingenuity of the most pleasure-loving nation upon earth had
devised in the most voluptuous period of the world's history. Baths
were prepared; wine-cups crowned with garlands, and delicacies from
remote lands, waited for the lip; the softest triclinia surrounded the
already spread table; and the sound of sweet music was breathing
through the atrium: odours floated on the air; lights blazed through
the halls; and when at length Flavia, Ildica, Eudochia, Theodore, and
Ammian stood in the midst of that enchanted scene--far from their
enemies, with a place of certain refuge close at hand, and the long,
weary, perilous journey accomplished behind them--feelings of joy and
thankfulness, great, irrepressible, overpowering, welled up from the
deep fountain of the heart, and, casting themselves into each other's
arms, they wept.

Many moments passed in those entrancing feelings; but when, at length,
the bishop appeared to bid them welcome to a city over which his
eloquence and powers of mind had given him greater influence than even
the representative of the imperial authority possessed, Flavia had
again resumed her calm and tranquil dignity. He would not sit down to
meat with the guests for whose entertainment he had provided so
sumptuously, affecting an abstinence which might or might not be
habitual; but he insisted upon waiting in a neighbouring chamber while
they supped, declaring that he had matter of some moment to
communicate to the Lady Flavia. Simple in her habits, and encouraging
simplicity in her children, Flavia was soon prepared to give the
prelate that private hearing which he desired. He led her accordingly
into another chamber, while Ammian sported with Eudochia; and
Theodore, seated beside Ildica, tasted once more the sweet moments of
love.

They were the only ones that they had known since the fatal night of
the earthquake, since that night which had witnessed the first union
of their hearts in the bond of spoken affection. In all their other
meetings--in every other communication which they had yet had--danger
and terror, like the drawn sword in the eastern feast, had hung above
their heads, and marred the tranquillity of their mutual hearts. Now,
however, when apprehension was drowned in hope, they felt, and oh, how
dear was the feeling! that the love, which had grown up in joy and
peace, had been increased and strengthened, brightened and perfected,
by dangers and misfortunes.

Theodore held Ildica's graceful hand in his, and gazed into those
dark, dark lustrous eyes, reading therein a reply to all the intense
and passionate love of his own ardent heart; and Ildica, seated on the
couch beside him, lifted the long sweet curtains of those gemlike orbs
to the countenance of her lover, and, with the mingled glance of
timidity and confidence, seemed to pour forth the thanks of her
fervent spirit, not only for all that he had done to sooth, to
comfort, and to protect her, but for all the unspoken thoughts of
love, the anxieties and fears concealed, the constant remembrance by
day, the frequent dreams by night, for all, in short, which her heart
told her that his had felt in the hours of pain and care through which
they had so lately passed. Low and murmured words read a comment on
those looks, and Theodore and Ildica once more knew an hour of intense
delight.

A large chamber intervened between that in which they sat and that to
which her mother had retired to hold conference with the prelate, and
the veils over both the doorways were drawn. For some time the voice
of neither speaker was heard, but at length the tones grew higher. The
low sweet murmur even of Flavia's tongue found its way to the hall
where her children waited her return, and the high but harmonious
tones of the eloquent priest sounded loud, and sustained, as if he
were using all his powers of oratory upon some great and inspiring
theme. No distinct words, however, were heard, and then again, after a
time, the voices once more sank low, and in a few minutes the bishop
and the lady issued forth with hasty steps and agitated looks. The
prelate was passing rapidly on, without noticing his brother's
children, as if carried forward by some strong excitement; but, ere he
reached the doorway, his habitual self-command returned in a degree,
and, turning round with a knitted brow but an air of dignity, he
raised both his extended hands, saying, "Bless you, my children! the
blessing of God be upon this house, and all that it contains." That
done, he again turned upon his way, and rapidly quitted the apartment.

In the meanwhile, in the midst of that rich hall, stood Flavia, with
her pale cheek flushed, her beautiful eyes wild and thoughtful, her
fair hand pressed tight upon her broad, statue-like brow, and her lip
murmuring words which sounded vague and unmeaning, because the key
to their sad interpretation was in her own bosom. At length she
spoke:--"Hie thee to repose, Eudochia," she said; "hie thee to repose,
my sweet child, Ammian, too, seek rest, my boy, while thou mayst find
it. Ye have had a weary journey, children, and God only knows when it
may be renewed."

With some light and fanciful words from Ammian, breathing the spirit
of bright untiring youth, some of the slaves were summoned, and the
two younger members of that family, whose fate we have so long
followed, retired to sleep. Flavia listened for their parting steps;
but when all was quiet, she caught the hand of Theodore, exclaiming,
"Oh, my son, have you known and consented to this?"

"Have I known what, dear mother?" demanded Theodore, who had hitherto
mastered his surprise. "I have consented to nothing which should move
my mother thus painfully."

"I believed it, Theodore, I believed it," replied Flavia. "In your
veins and in mine flows the blood of those Romans who thought life a
light sacrifice for their country, whose gore flowed like water for
the defence and preservation of their native land; and I am sure that
if you be your father's son, no danger, no injustice, will induce you
to forget your duty, and bring upon the country of your birth the tide
of barbarian warfare! Is it not so, my son?"

"It is!" answered Theodore; "but what mean you, my mother? We
understand not to what your words apply."

But Flavia continued, turning to her daughter: "And you, Ildica," she
said, "tell me that you are my child indeed--that you would sacrifice
life, and all life's dearest interests, rather than take part, or
benefit by, or instigate the ruin of your country."

"I would, my mother, I would," replied Ildica, while her person seemed
to grow taller, and her resemblance to her mother increased under the
excitement of the moment. "I would sacrifice life, and, what is far
dearer than life, I would sacrifice him," and she laid her hand upon
the arm of Theodore. "I would rather see him die in defence of his
country than live and prosper by its fall. Oh, my mother, you have
judged your child rightly; the blood of my father, spilled by the
enemies of our native land, throbs in his daughter's heart; and even
this weak hand, were there none other to assert our country, might yet
strike one blow in her defence."

"My noble child," cried Flavia, throwing her arms around her daughter,
"thou art worthy of thy race. Theodore, what think you that your uncle
proposes to me to do? To throw wide the gates of Margus to the
barbarians, to open the way for the Huns into the heart of the empire,
to buy revenge for your father's death and safety for ourselves by the
desolation of our native land, the destruction and ruin of our
friends, and the massacre of our fellow-countrymen! Shame on such
degenerate Romans! Shame, shame upon them to all eternity! Oh God, oh
God! where are thy thunderbolts?"

Theodore stood, for a moment, as one stupified by the strange and
fearful tidings he had heard; and fixing his eyes upon Flavia's face,
he gazed upon her with an expression of inquiring doubt, which showed
how far he was from any participation in the schemes or feelings of
his uncle. "My mother," he said at length, "let us go hence. This is
no refuge for us. Did he think, by showing us here an image of that
splendour and comfort which we so long possessed, and so lately
lost--did he think to blind our eyes, and weaken our hearts, and
destroy our virtue? My choice, oh my mother, is made; give me honour
and misery, if virtue cannot secure peace. Let us go hence."

"At sunrise to-morrow," replied Flavia, "we will depart; for I much
fear that he told me not all; I doubt that his dealing with the Huns
is far advanced."

"Why not at once, then?" demanded Theodore; "to-morrow's daylight may
be too late."

Flavia turned her eyes upon her daughter, who understood the glance,
and answered at once, "My mother, I can go, though I am wearied: were
it not better to drop by the wayside than risk our future peace?"

But Theodore interposed: "No, no," he said; "an hour before daylight
will be time enough. The slaves are wearied beyond all endurance; and
perhaps, also, were we to attempt it to-night, the guards might become
suspicious, and stay us at the gates. To-morrow it will seem more
natural. The wearied soldiers, at that hour, will let us pass without
inquiry, and, following the course of the river, we can pass through
Noricum, and take refuge either among my kindred of the Alani, or
under the strong shield of [AE]tius, in Gaul, from whose protection
neither weak emperor dare attempt to snatch us. Rest thee, Ildica!" he
added, throwing his arms around her; "rest thee, my beloved; and rest
thee, too, dear mother! I will see all prepared, and ready to set out
an hour before the dawning of the day."

"And thou, my poor Theodore," said Flavia, "thou hast no rest!"

"Am I not a Roman?" was the youth's reply.

On the next morning--while the city of Margus was still buried in
slumber, and all vacant were those streets so lately thronged with the
gay unthinking crowd pursuing with light heart the butterfly pleasure,
and never dreaming that fate, like a lion, was following fast upon its
track--the same train which the night before had entered the gate with
joy, now passed them again with sorrow, but without regret. Theodore
had first presented himself, and had held a momentary conversation
with a soldier on guard. The gates had then been opened by the janitor
of the night, and the slaves, who led the train, passed out. Ildica
and Eudochia followed; but as the litter of Flavia was borne forward,
Theodore approached its side, and said, in a low voice, "They demand
that one of us at least should stay to give account of our departure
either to the bishop or the magistrates; I will keep Cremera and some
others with me. In the meantime go you on, and I will join you
speedily."

Flavia turned an anxious look upon him, but he added, in a still lower
tone, "Fear not: they dare not detain me;" and, motioning to the
slaves who bore the litter to proceed, he drew back under the archway.

Their course lay to the westward; but as Theodore turned towards the
city, a faint gray light hung over the massy towers and columns of
Margus, showing that the dawn of day was fast approaching. With a slow
pace, and a sad but resolute heart, Theodore returned to the house
which had been assigned to them as their dwelling; and, after a
momentary pause, turned his steps on foot to the mansion of the
bishop. The gates were already open, some of the slaves at work, and
the light of the now dawning day was seen streaming faint and cold
through the long range of vestibules and halls from an open archway,
beyond which appeared various groups of statues, fountains, and
pillars, ornamenting a courtyard. Like all dependants on the great and
powerful, keen to perceive who were in favour, who were influential
with their lords, the slaves, who, a few days before, had obstructed
the access of Theodore to his uncle, hastened to pay their court to
one whom they now knew, and besought him, with officious civility, to
repose himself there till the bishop should have risen to receive him.

The mind of Theodore, however, was not in a state to permit him to
take even corporeal rest; and he replied that he would walk forth into
the court and amuse himself with the statues and fountains till his
uncle was prepared to receive him. The cold and absent tone in which
he spoke checked all intrusion; and, meditating on his wayward fate,
he walked forth alone, now pausing as if to contemplate some beautiful
piece of sculpture, now gazing, as if with pleased attention, on the
clear waters that, welling from the rocky ground on which the city was
built, sparkled round the court in innumerable graceful urns and
vases, but with his mind, in fact, employed on matters far different
from the light elegances and calm pleasures of life.

Thus absent and musing, he went on to a spot where a long flight of
steps led down to the bottom of that terraced garden which he had
beheld from above in his first conference with his uncle. Scarcely
conscious of what he did, Theodore slowly descended the steps, and
entered one of the long paved walks at the very lowest part of the
garden. The right side was flanked by a strong wall, in which were two
or three doorways leading, as it would seem, to the pom[ae]rium, or
open space between the town and its fortified walls--for the house
itself was one of the farthest from the centre of Margus. Scarcely had
he entered that path, however, when the sound of steps made him raise
his eyes, and he beheld before him four dark figures--to see which, in
that place, caused him suddenly to pause, and lay his hand upon his
sword. Ere he could distinguish their faces, by the general aspect of
their forms, he perceived that they were barbarians, free, and in a
Roman city at that early hour. A moment more showed him that, while
three of the party had mingled their barbarian dress of skins with
jewels and ornaments of gold and silver, the fourth, who preceded the
others as they advanced, retained the original simple habit of his
nation, being clothed in plain but valuable furs and dark cloth, but
of exceeding fineness. Those who followed bore about them many strange
and barbarian arms, but he who preceded had nothing but a broad and
heavy sword, composed solely of iron from its hilt to its scabbard. In
him Theodore instantly recognised the Hun who had been his guide on
his last day's journey through the Dacian territory, and the same
unaccountable feeling passed through his bosom which he had
experienced on beholding him before. He saw too well, however, that
Flavia's suspicions were correct, and that his uncle had already
plunged irretrievably into those dangerous intrigues which were
destined to prove, not only the ruin of himself and of the city which
yielded itself so tamely and entirely to his government, but far
beyond that, to his whole native land, and indignation for a moment
mastered all other sensations.

"What doest thou here, barbarian?" was his only greeting when they
met.

"What is that to thee, youth?" rejoined the Hun, with a calm, haughty
smile, such as may play upon a father's lip when he reproves--though
amused thereby--the frowardness of some spoiled child. "But speak
thine own language," he continued, in a corrupt dialect of the Latin
tongue; "speak thine own language: weak and insignificant as it is, it
will cover from the ears of those who hear us such light words as
those thou hast just spoken."

"My words were not light, Hun," replied Theodore: "for every Roman may
well demand what thou doest here, when he meets with armed barbarians
in the heart of a Roman city."

"We are armed," said the Hun, "but we are few. What I do here is
naught to thee; but if thou wilt listen to me, my coming may do thee
service. I love thee for thy mother's father, and for her brother.
They were my friends; and he who would be terrible to those who hate
him must do good deeds to those who love him. Know that the Roman
empire trembles to its fall. Attila the King has said it, and it will
come to pass. He has said, 'I will sweep it as a cloud sweeps the tops
of the forest. I will pass over it as a storm,' he has declared, 'from
one part even unto the other; and I will not leave it so long as one
Roman stands up before me to oppose me.' Attila the King has said it,
and his words shall be made true. Nevertheless, as thou art one of
those who think that there is yet vigour in weakness and strength in
Rome, I bid thee consider what will be thy fate even should thine
emperor be successful in resistance. The blood of thy father is upon
his head; thou fleest from his vengeance, and he seeks thy life. Thus
much have I learned from thee and from thine uncle. Should Attila be
successful, and thou not of his friends, thou perishest. Should
Theodosius triumph, thinkest thou that he who has trodden upon the
mighty will spare the weak?"

"Hun!" said Theodore, taking a step forward to pass him, "could my
blood, poured forth on the banks of yonder river, like the dragon's
teeth of Cadmus, raise up a host of armed men to defend my native land
against thee and against thy king, I would hold my throat to the
knife, and die with gratitude and joy! Thinkest thou that such a one
can be impelled by fear, or led by hope, to serve thee and to betray
his native land?"

"I think," replied the Hun, "that thou mightst be a faithful friend to
a worthier monarch than thine own. Fare thee well! and remember, as I
told thee when last we met: in future times, when the hands of fate
shall have shaken from their places thrones and empires, and have
changed the fate of little as well as great, shouldst thou need
protection, thou wilt find it at the name of Onegisus. Now, forward to
thine uncle; I must hence."

Without returning to the court, Theodore sprang up the terraces of the
garden towards the chamber where he had before conferred with the
bishop. His hurried step caught the prelate's attention; and, ere
Theodore had reached the top, his uncle's majestic form, clothed in
his splendid robes, appeared in the doorway above, gazing down to see
who it was that approached so rapidly.

"Theodore," he exclaimed, while an expression of pleasure and
expectation lighted up his features, "I trust you are come to bear me
good tidings, and that the Lady Flavia is not so rashly obstinate as
when last I saw her."

"Far from it!" said Theodore, gravely, "I have come but to tell you
that we remain Romans to our death. All who entered the gates last
night, except myself and a few slaves, are by this time an hour's
journey on their way to Noricum."

"Rash woman! what has she done?" cried the bishop, clasping his hands;
"she is lost, she is lost! Fly, Theodore, quick! Fly like the
lightning! Bring her back hither; or, if she will not come, lead her
on the road to the south, anywhere but the road she has taken."

Theodore gazed upon the agitated countenance of his uncle in
amazement; but the bishop continued, more vehemently than before,
"Fly! do I not tell you to fly? Lose not a moment! breathe not a word!
Away, as if a lion were behind you. The Huns are already across the
river, on the very road she has taken. If she will not return hither,
seek for no highway, look for no easy path, but plunge at once into
the country, and hurry to the southward, making not a moment's pause!"

Without a word of reply, the youth darted through the vacant rooms,
passed the gates of the dwelling, the Basilica, and the Forum; reached
the house where the horses and slaves remained, sprang upon his
charger's back, and, followed by the rest, dashed out towards the
walls of the city. The gates were open, but, to his surprise, no
soldiers, no gatekeepers were now there. The guard had been withdrawn
for purposes which he too well divined; and passing out unquestioned,
he hurried on with the same frantic speed in search of those he loved.



                             CHAPTER XI.
                             THE SEARCH.


Hurrying on without pause, and impressed with but the one overpowering
thought of the danger of all he loved on earth, Theodore soon reached
the banks of the Danube, and gazed onward upon the road, which for
several miles lay straight before him. But nothing met his sight,
either to raise his hopes or increase his apprehensions; all was open
and clear, and not even a cart or a beast of burden from the country,
no, not a single peasant bringing in his basket of fruit or flowers,
arrested the eye, as it wandered down the long, straight avenue. A
pair of enormous eagles, whirling slowly round, high up in the blue
morning sky, was the only sight of animated being that presented
itself; the singing of a light bird, too lowly and insignificant to
fear those majestic tyrants of the skies, and the dull roar of the
great river, were the only sounds that broke upon the ear.

Hope sets her quick foot wherever fear leaves the space vacant; and
Theodore trusted that Ildica might have passed on ere the Huns had
crossed the river. He paused not, however, at the voice of the siren,
but still urged on his horse, gazing anxiously forward, and listening
for every sound. The five freedmen who had remained with him followed
as fast as they could, but the superior power and swiftness of the
young Roman's charger left a short but increasing interval between
them. That interval was less, perhaps, than half a mile, when Theodore
reached the wooded rocks, round whose immoveable bases the road was
forced to wind; but his faithful Cremera saw him disappear behind them
with apprehension, and urged on his horse with eager haste, till he
and the rest had also turned the angle of the rocks, and once more
beheld his master.

Theodore was now at less than a hundred yards' distance: he had
dismounted, and, with the charger standing beside him, was kneeling
over some object which had attracted his attention on the road. When
the freedmen came up, they too sprang to the ground to look upon the
sight which had stopped him. It was the body of one of their
companions, who had been selected, like themselves, to bear arms upon
the dangerous journey they had been forced to undertake. His spear was
in his hand, with the iron red with blood, and in his heart was fixed
a reed arrow, such as some of the Scythian nations used in their wars.

Theodore pointed in silence to the corpse, gazed for a moment round,
and followed with his haggard eye the long track of the road,
apparently to discover if any new object of horror lay before him; and
then, after once more looking sternly upon the dead man, he shook his
sword from the sheath, sprang again upon his horse, and galloped on
his way. As he went, however, his eye searched anxiously on the ground
for further traces regarding the too evident fate which had befallen
Flavia and her company; nor was he without finding such marks; the
ground was dented and beaten with horses' feet, and stains of blood
here and there showed that there had been a contest of a fierce and
desperate kind on the spot over which he passed.

Scarcely three hundred yards from the place where lay the body of the
freedman, a small road turned off to the left, leading down through
the woods, with which that part of the country was thickly strewn,
to the banks of the river Margus, higher up than the city. At that
point, too, the traces, which had hitherto marked so plainly the
course which those he sought for had pursued, no longer afforded
him a clew; for, separating as it were into two distinct streams, the
footmarks of the horses went on in either track, leading, on the one
hand, towards Tricornium, and, on the other, into the thinly-peopled
and half-cultivated country towards Illyria.

He paused in doubt; and the agony of impatience, even at a moment's
delay, was only equalled by that of apprehension lest he should
mistake the path, as he turned from one to the other. However, the
sun, just rising above the trees that fringed the bank, suddenly
poured a stream of light upon the left-hand road, and the rays caught
and glittered on some shining substance, which lay at about a bowshot
distance. Theodore darted forward, and his doubts were removed at
once; for that which accidentally flashed back the sunshine to his eye
was the collar of emeralds which he himself had borne to Ildica from
his father Paulinus. He hesitated no longer, but hurried on; and, ere
he had proceeded more than a quarter of an hour, the sound of voices
and the neigh of horses told him that his speed had brought him near
to those he had pursued.

What was his purpose? he himself scarcely knew: it was vague,
undefined, uncertain: it might be to save, it might be to live or die
with those whom he loved.

The spot where he then stood was a wooded covert, near the brow of a
high hill, which, sloping down on the other side beyond him, left the
forest on its summit, and stretched into natural meadows, covering the
bottom of a sweet and tranquil valley. He knew not, however, what was
the scene beyond the brow; but he heard voices and barbarian tongues,
and was hurrying on to meet the fate in store for him, whatever that
store might be, when the figure of a woman darted through the wood;
and Flavia, pale and sad as a statue on a tomb, stood by his horse's
side, and threw her arms up to clasp him as he sat.

"My children! my children!" she cried; "oh, Theodore! my children are
in the power of the Huns!"

"Where?" demanded Theodore; and his fierce and flashing eye, and knit
determined brow, told that he was prepared to do those deeds which
were once common among the children of his native land: "where?" he
demanded, and it was the only word he spoke.

"Down in yon meadow," replied Flavia, "over the brow of the hill. But
listen: oh God! they might yet be saved if we had but fleet horses:
there are few of the barbarians with them; those few are revelling at
their morning meal: the rest are gone to pursue the party from
Tricornium."

"What party?" cried Theodore: "is there a chance of any aid?"

"Alas, no! my son," she replied, in the same rapid tone; "alas, no! We
met a centurion and his soldiers coming from Tricornium to Margus, and
while we were in parley with him, the barbarians suddenly fell upon
us, like a cloud of brown locusts upon the fertile land: there was
resistance and strife, and I sought to flee with the children. I know
not how it happened; for it was like struggling with the waves of a
tempestuous sea, all terrible, and nothing distinct; but at length,
when I could discern anything, I found myself alone, defended by Acer,
the freedman, against a single Hun, who lingered behind to seize upon
me as his prey, while the greater body of his companions pursued the
centurion along the high road, and a few hurried down hither with
their captives and plunder. Though wounded, the freedman defended me
as if he had been a Roman, and struck the fierce barbarian with his
spear a blow that made him fly; but, as he galloped off, he drew his
bow, and in a moment an arrow was in Acer's heart. I was alone; my
children were in captivity, and I followed hither; for I had only
sought to save myself with them, but not to live without them."

Theodore sprang to the ground. "My mother," he said, "I will deliver
them or die;" and making the freedmen dismount, he chose four to
follow him, leaving the Arab Cremera to remain with Flavia. His orders
were few, but they were distinct. "When Eudochia, Ammian, Ildica, are
here," he said, addressing the freedman, "mount them and the Lady
Flavia on the horses: speed back to Margus, and bid the bishop save
them at any price. Should you find the city in the hands of the Huns,
pronounce the name of Onegisus; and when you have found him, tell him
that the youth Theodore, to whom he made a promise, claims his
protection for those who are most dear to him on earth. Mother," he
continued, embracing Flavia, "mother, I go!"

Flavia gazed mournfully in that sad, firm countenance. "Theodore," she
said, pressing him in her arms, "Theodore, thou goest to destruction!"

He made no reply, but wrung her hand; and, waving to the slaves he had
chosen to follow, burst from her embrace and hurried over the hill.

In another moment the resting-place of the Huns was before his eyes,
though the branches of the trees still waved between him and them,
affording concealment while he observed them. He paused but for an
instant, but that instant sufficed to show him the barbarians
scattered on both sides of the stream, gathered in groups of eight or
ten, with their small rugged horses feeding beside them, and their
weapons cast upon the turf whereon they sat. The heart of Theodore
rose to see that they were so few, for not more than two hundred were
there; and the number of the captives, who sat apart, with bending
heads, and the self-neglecting look of utter despair, had their arms
been free, might have offered no slight support in the bold attempt he
was about to make. "Our object," he said, turning to those who
followed him, "is to free Ildica, Eudochia, and Ammian. Let whoever
reaches them first cut their bonds, and bid them fly up the road over
the hill. Then free your fellows, and oppose the pursuit of the
barbarians! Thou art pale," he added, addressing one of the freedmen;
"thy lips are bloodless; if thy heart be faint, turn back."

"Thou goest to death," replied the man, firmly, "and I will go with
thee. I feel that death is horrible; but it must be borne once, and I
can bear it now."

"Follow, then!" said Theodore, "but cautiously, under the covering of
the trees, till we are close upon them."

It was a great, a mighty, a sublime thing, that determined resolution
unto death, which possessed the young enthusiastic Roman; which did
away boyhood, and made him at once a strong and valiant man, in
vigour, in powers, in intellect, in energy. To die for her he loved;
to ransom her from the barbarians at the price of his own blood; to
see her for the last time as her deliverer, and to know, in dying,
that his hand had freed her, was the last aspiration, the only
remaining hope that rested with Theodore, of all the many sweet and
probable dreams of happiness which haunted his fancy but one short
month before.

Calmly and deliberately he led the way through the trees to a spot
where, with irregular sweeps, the forest met the meadow. Within fifty
yards sat Ildica and her companions, mourning, like the enslaved
Hebrews, their captivity, by the banks of the strange waters. Beside
them, as a sort of guard--though the bonds by which they were tied
rendered their unassisted escape impossible--lay spread upon the grass
some ten or twelve of the dark and filthy barbarians, with their rude
and frightful countenances, scarred with ancient gashes and sallow
with long-accustomed dirt, distorted by wild merriment, as they
feasted near the first captives whom they had taken in their invasion
of the Roman state. At the feet of one who sat closest to the
prisoners lay a gory human head, the short cut hair and beard of which
showed that it had belonged to no barbarian form; and--while Theodore,
pausing behind the trees, let his eye run over the other groups of
Huns, as they were scattered about at a greater distance, some
eating and drinking, some playing with their unbridled horses, some
erecting tents of skins, as if their numbers were soon to be greatly
increased--the fierce barbarian ended some speech in his own tongue by
a wild and ringing laugh, and, with a stroke of his foot, kicked the
trunkless head into the river.

It was the signal for his own destruction. "On!" cried Theodore, "on!"
and, with the sudden stoop of the eagle on its prey, he bounded
forward upon the barbarian. The Hun started on his feet, but that
instant the sword of the young Roman cleft him to the eyes; and
rolling back in the convulsive agonies of death, he plunged into the
river, where he had so lately cast the head of his adversary.

Scarcely was the blow struck when it was followed by another, which
laid a second Hun prostrate and disabled at his feet: two more fell
before the spears of the freedmen; and the rest, conceiving that much
greater numbers of enemies must be approaching, fled to their comrades
farther down the stream. There was a thirst in Theodore's heart to
pursue and smite them still, but he remembered Ildica, and turned to
where she sat. A moment freed her from her bonds: Eudochia and Ammian
were set at liberty.

"Up! up! over the hill, beloved," cried Theodore: "quick as light,
Ildica! No words! you will find horses ready. Cut their bonds quick,"
he continued, mingling his orders to the freedmen who had accompanied
him, and to the captives as they were liberated. "Snatch up what arms
you can find! There are the swords, and arrows, and javelins they have
left behind. Fly, Ildica! I beseech you, fly! Ammian, hurry her and
Eudochia up the hill; your mother is there with horses; we follow in a
moment. Quick! quick! see, the barbarians are pouring back upon us!
form a phalanx across the road! Away, away! for God's sake! for my
sake! Away, my Ildica!"

There was no time for further words; the Huns were upon them; but,
happily for Theodore, thirsty for immediate vengeance, they poured
upon him with the sword and spear, instead of trusting to the missiles
which they might have used with more fatal effect. Supported by twenty
of the most resolute slaves and freedmen, some hastily equipped with
the arms they had snatched up, some heaving masses of stone, the young
Roman, active and skilful in the use of all the weapons of the day,
barred the path between the Huns and their liberated captives, and met
them with a courage and a fierceness even superior to their own. Every
tree, every broken mass of rock, formed a point of resistance; and,
though hurled against him with still increasing rage and impetus, the
Huns recoiled, like javelins cast against a rock, leaving some of
their number dead or dying at his feet.

Each moment, however, their numbers increased, as the scattered
parties from the different spots of that wide meadow hurried up to the
scene of conflict; and Theodore, grim with the blood of many enemies,
but, alas! not unstained with his own, slowly retired step by step
towards the spot where the road entered the wood. There he had
resolved to make his last stand and die; but, ere he reached it, a
broad tremendous form, which had just come up from the farther part of
the meadow, mingled with his assailants, and, armed like himself with
a heavy sword, seemed to single him out for destruction. His
countenance, however, was nobler than that of the Huns in general, as
his height was greater; and when Theodore heard him exclaim, in a
tongue near akin to the Alan language, "Leave him to me! leave him to
me!" he thought that, if he must die, it might be sweeter by his hand.

Still, however, he contended with him with but little disadvantage;
for, as a Roman, he had greater skill, if the barbarian had greater
strength. Brow to brow, and hand to hand, blow following blow, and
thrust succeeding thrust, they stood almost alone, while the youth's
companions were driven back; and with flashing eyes and slow irregular
breath, pursued the lightning chances of the combat. Neither had
gained a step, though Theodore's blood was trickling fast away, when a
wild scream from the hill above caught his ear, unnerved his heart,
and brought dim despair of his last dearest desire's result, like a
dark cloud before his eyes.

He turned but for an instant to listen to that sound, but that instant
was enough. His guard was beaten down; he fell upon his knee: though
hope had abandoned him, courage had not, and he strove to struggle up,
but it was in vain; his mighty adversary poured blow after blow upon
the weak defence which his sword could now afford. He rose, fell
again, staggered even upon his knee; exposed the arm which held the
weapon over his head to the descending stroke of his enemy; dropped
the sword itself from his disabled hand, and saw the shining steel,
thirsting for his heart's last drop, raised high in air above his
defenceless head. The hour he had expected had arrived, and he was
prepared to die!

As with quick and heavy sweep the blow fell with a vehemence which he
himself who struck it could not restrain, another weapon interposed,
caught the keen blade upon one no less strong, and turned the stroke
aside.

"Spare him, Ardaric! spare him!" cried the deep tones of a voice that
Theodore had heard before. "Spare him, for love of me!"

The young Roman started on his feet, and gazed wildly round upon the
scene about him. When last he had time to look around, nothing had
been seen but some two hundred Huns contending with himself and his
small faithful band. Now, sweeping round in a semicircle which hemmed
him in, down to the very river's brink, was seen an innumerable
multitude of those dark ferocious horsemen, while thousands on
thousands more appeared streaming down from the road, and spreading
themselves out over the whole meadow.

The space for nearly forty cubits immediately about himself and his
adversary was clear, except where stood beside him the same dark chief
who had been his guide on the other side of the Danube, and where, a
pace or two behind, a barbarian attendant held the powerful horse from
which he had just sprung. But as Theodore gazed along the dusky line
of savage foes around him, a sight more painful to his heart than the
impending death which had just hung over him struck his eyes. There,
where a multitude of banners, rudely embroidered with a black eagle
crowned, marked a particular spot in their irregular line, stood
Flavia and her family, once more in the hands of the barbarians!

But the hope of still purchasing their safety followed instantly upon
the agony of that sight. Theodore at once cast himself at the feet of
the Hunnish chieftain. "Oh, Onegisus!" he exclaimed, "oh, noble
Onegisus! Thou hast promised me, unasked, thy favour and protection.
Now, for the first time that I have ever required a boon at the hands
of man, I beseech thee to grant me one. Let this brave man, from whose
arm thou hast just saved me, plunge his sword into my heart! But let
yon women and children, bound to me by the ties of blood and love, go
free! Send them, oh send them, to the dwellings of my mother's race,
beneath the snowy Alps, where they may find safety and protection! I
adjure thee, by the God in whom I believe! I adjure thee, by the gods
whom thou thyself worshippest! Spare them, oh spare them, and send
them forth in peace!"

The dark chieftain gazed upon him for a moment with an aspect stern
but not fierce.

"Ardaric," he said at length, "he is the captive of thy hand. Wilt
thou give him unto me, and the first ten captives that I make they
shall be thine?"

The other chieftain, whose brow had relaxed from the stern frown of
contest, and on whose face was a mild and not unpleasing smile, thrust
his sword back into the scabbard, saying, "I give them to thee all, oh
mighty king! I give them to thee, without recompense or bargain. Let
them be the first spoil taken in the land of the Romans, which Ardaric
offers to Attila the King."

At that tremendous name, already shadowed over with a cloud of vague
but fearful rumours of wide lands conquered, kings bent to homage, and
nations, as savage as that over which he ruled, overthrown by that
mighty hand, Theodore drew a step back, and gazed with doubt and
surprise on the dark features and sinewy limbs of him who had just
saved his life; and if his feelings had been strange and mysterious
when he had first seen that powerful but ill-proportioned form, what
were they now, when he heard the stranger called by that fearful name.

"I am Attila!" said the monarch, answering his wondering and inquiring
look. "What sayst thou now, young man? If I will send these women and
slaves free, and on their way, wilt thou be the bondman of Attila?"

"Oh, not a bondman!" said Theodore, letting his head droop upon his
bosom: "I can die, oh monarch! but I cannot be a bondman! Let him slay
me, and let them go free; but bind not the limbs of a free Roman!"

Attila gazed on him a while with the same grave majestic air which he
had never lost even for a moment, and then added, "I understand thee:
I will not bind thy hands; I will not demand thy service against thy
native land--thou shalt draw no sword for Attila against Rome--thou
shalt fill no servile employ--honoured and caressed, thou shalt be the
friend of Attila; and, if thou showest the same wisdom in other
matters as in this, thou shalt be his counsellor also. Not his first
friend--not his first counsellor," he added, "for here stands Ardaric,
whose place none can supply; and yonder is Onegisus, found faithful in
all things--but thou shalt be among the first. Hearken, thou shalt
promise me for seven years to be to me a faithful friend and
counsellor--except in war or counsel against thy native land--and I
will send these thy people upon their way, with the king's pledge for
their safety till they reach the land of thy kindred."

"Surely the king has some secret motive!" exclaimed Ardaric, king of
the tributary, or rather subject, nation of the Gepid[ae]; "surely
the king has some secret motive for showing this favour to a
captive--though the boy is brave!"

"I have, Ardaric!" replied Attila, "I have! There is a strange bond
between me and him--but that matters not. Wilt thou accept the offer,
youth?"

"I will!" replied Theodore; "but cannot they go with me?" and he
pointed with his hand to Flavia and her companions.

"Thou knowest not what thou askest!" cried the king, with a cloud
darkening on his brow. "It were evil with them, and not good, to go. I
will send them in safety and in honour to the land of the Alani, if
thou wilt be as obedient to my commands as a son to a father's during
seven years, except in the things which are against thy country; dost
thou accept the terms?"

"I do," replied Theodore, "I do; and deep and heartfelt gratitude will
I ever show to thee, oh monarch, for thus befriending me in my hour of
need!"

"For seven years!" said the monarch, gazing up thoughtfully towards
the sky, while the light of wild but mighty aspirations illuminated
his harsh but striking features--"for seven years! Ere seven years
have fled, I shall have conquered the whole earth!"



                             CHAPTER XII.
                             THE PARTING.


A silent pause of several minutes ensued, while the terrible monarch
of the Huns thus suffered to burst forth so clear an indication of his
hopes and purposes; and as he stood in the midst, still gazing up to
the sky, with each firm and powerful limb in statue-like repose, his
feet planted on the earth as if rooted to it, his broad chest thrown
open, and his wide square forehead lifted to the morning sun, there
was an air of might and majesty in his whole appearance which
impressed those who beheld him with a belief in his power to
accomplish fully that which he so boldly planned. Though far less in
height than the chief of Gepid[ae], yet Ardaric gazed upon him with
reverence and awe; and Theodore, as he beheld him, and traced the
light of potent intellect flashing from those dark eyes, while his lip
pronounced his vast designs, could not but feel that there stood the
most dangerous enemy that Rome had ever known.

At length Attila recalled his thoughts from those dreams of conquest,
and, waving his hand towards the spot where the standards of his
nation were gathered together, he exclaimed, in a voice which, though
not apparently loud, came deep and distinct to every ear around,
"Edicon! Edicon, come hither!"

A tall, dark man, with the shrewd face of a Greek, but the air and
expression of a barbarian, sprang from his horse and advanced a pace
or two into the open space around the king; but, as he came forward,
Attila bade him bring the principal captives with him; and, pale,
faint, and sick at heart, Flavia and her family, uncertain either of
their own fate or of his, so closely, so dearly linked with them,
approached the spot where the dark monarch stood with his naked sword
still clasped in his sinewy hand. As they came near, the joy of having
saved them burst all restraint; and Theodore, though the blood was
still dropping from his garments, clasped them one by one in a brief
but joyful embrace.

"You are safe, my mother!" he cried, "you are safe, my Ildica! Ammian,
Eudochia, you are safe! you are safe, and at liberty! The king will
send you securely to the land of the Alani."

"And you, my son, are a slave!" said Flavia. "You are a slave, and we
shall never see you more!"

"Not so!" said Attila, gazing upon the group, and somewhat moved by
their meeting. "He is no slave, but has bound himself to dwell with
Attila not less than seven years. Neither do I ask him to war against
his country, it would be doing wrong unto his nature; but I ask him to
be a faithful and true friend to him who has saved his life, in every
other thing. Edicon, thou art a scribe: write down this compact
between Attila the King and Theodore the son of Paulinus, in order
that no one may ever doubt that he did not betray his native land, or
that Attila could not be generous to his enemy."

He spoke in the Latin tongue; and though he used not that language
with ease, yet his meaning was distinct, and Flavia replied--"Act ever
thus, oh monarch! and thou shalt conquer more by thy generosity than
by the sword!" A hope might, perhaps, have crossed her mind, even
while she spoke, that in so free and kindly a mood the monarch of the
Huns might be induced to suffer her and her children to take up their
abode in the same land with Theodore; but she thought of Ildica, of
her young blossoming beauty, of her tender nurture, and her graceful
mind, and she repressed the wish ere it was spoken; all she added was,
"Oh, keep him not from us for ever!"

"I have pledged and plighted my word," replied the king, "that in
seven years he shall be free to leave me if he will. More: if he show
himself as faithful to me as he has been to his country, he shall,
from time to time, have leave and opportunity to visit those he loves.
But I have mightier things to think of now," he continued: "wait ye
here till I provide for your safety. Ardaric, come thou with me; I go
to tread upon the necks of the Romans." Thus saying, he sprang upon
his horse, and issued a few brief commands in the Hunnic tongue. The
dark masses of the barbarian horse began to move on by the river-side
as if towards Idimum; and while they swept along, like the shadow of a
cloud over a field of green corn, the monarch continued conversing
with his attendant Edicon, without further notice of the captives. At
length, when Theodore saw him about to depart, he ventured to ask,
"Go you to Margus, oh king?"

Attila looked upon him with a smile so slight that it scarcely curled
his lip, and replied, "Margus was mine ere I came hither! My people
are skilful in dressing wounds," he added; "let them tend thine, for
thou art bleeding still."

As he spoke, he raised his hand slightly on the bridle of his horse;
the beast sprang forward across the meadow, and, followed by a troop
of Huns who had remained upon the left, Attila galloped on in the same
direction which his host had taken before him.

Only two bodies of barbarians continued upon the field; one,
consisting of perhaps a hundred men, remained with Edicon, near the
spot where Theodore and his companions stood; the other, fewer in
number, were gathered farther down in the meadow, near which the
struggle between Theodore and the Huns for the deliverance of the
captives had first commenced. A glance showed the young Roman that
they were in the act of removing or burying the dead; but objects of
deeper interest called his attention elsewhere, for Flavia, Eudochia,
Ammian, Ildica, gathered round him, gazing in his face, pale as it was
with loss of blood, and looking upon him with the thankful eyes of
beings whom he had delivered from bondage worse than death. How he had
delivered them, by what means, or by what motives in the breast of the
Hun that deliverance had been accomplished, was strange and
incomprehensible to them all, even to Theodore himself; but that it
was by his agency, on account of his valour, constancy, and
faithfulness, none of them for a moment doubted; and as Ildica raised
her large dark eyes to his face, they were full at once of love, of
admiration, and of gratitude.

Oh, who can tell the mingled feelings of that hour, when sitting round
him they loved--while one of the rude Huns, with the peculiar
appliances of his nation, stanched the trickling blood and dressed his
many wounds--those who had lately given way to despair, now spoke to
each other the few glad words of reviving hope! Oh, who can tell the
deep and fervid yearnings of the heart towards God in thankfulness for
the mighty mercy just vouchsafed! Oh, who can tell the thrilling, the
ecstatic sense of security, of peace, and of happy expectation which
succeeded, after having been plunged in such a depth of grief, of
care, and agony!

What though their thoughts might wander on into the vague future, and
sad experience might cause a fear to cast its shadow over the
prospect! What though Flavia's heart might feel a chilliness at the
idea of strange lands, strange habits, and strange nations! What
though Ildica and Theodore might look upon a probable separation of
seven long years with grief and regret; yet oh, how such pitiful alloy
sunk into nothing when mingled with the golden happiness of knowing
that safety, liberty, and peace had been obtained after so fearful a
struggle! Could Theodore gaze upon the lovely and beloved form of the
sweet Dalmatian girl, and know how dreadful a fate might have befallen
her, without feeling that life itself would have been a poor sacrifice
to save her from such a doom? Could Ildica behold her lover, and
recall the moments when last she saw him surrounded by fierce foes,
and determined to die, that he might give her a chance of liberty,
without feeling that a seven years' absence was but a cheap price for
the life and safety of so noble, so devoted a being?

To part--to part, perhaps, for seven long, solitary years--would, in
happier days, have seemed a fate too bitter for endurance; but now,
the dark and fearful images from which that lot stood forth made it
look bright and smiling. The hour of horror and danger had passed by;
despair had given way: and though fear still lived, yet hope, hope was
the victor for the time.

Their words were few but sweet, and they were uninterrupted; for the
Huns, after the youth's wounds were dressed, pointed out to them some
shady trees as a place to repose, and left them unrestrained, and
almost unwatched. The barbarians knew well that the whole land around
was in their king's possession, and feared not that any one could
escape. The words of the captives, I have said, were few, but still
those words were not unimportant, for they went to regulate the future
fate of all. Each promised, when occasion served, to give tidings of
their health and prospects, hopes and wishes, to a mutual relation in
Rome, the noble Julius Lentulus, and each unloaded the mind to the
other of every feeling which, in a moment such as that, the heart
could experience, of every thought which the memory could recall.

As they thus sat and conversed, the slaves and attendants who had been
captured with them crept gradually nearer and nearer, not yet
comprehending fully the situation in which they were placed; feeling
themselves to be prisoners, and yet marvelling that their limbs
remained untied, after such a bold effort to escape, when they had
been bound with leathern thongs before. Nearly one half, however, of
the freedmen were absent; and painful sensations passed through the
hearts of Theodore and Flavia when they looked around, and missed some
old familiar face; but neither spoke their feelings on this point to
the other. As the sun passed the meridian, however, two or three Huns
from time to time came riding down the road, driving before them, with
their short spears, several of the absent attendants; and while the
day went on, a considerable part of the baggage, whereof Flavia's
company had been pillaged on their first capture, was brought back
without a word of explanation, and piled up round the trees underneath
which she sat. Strange is it and unaccountable how the heart of man,
which despises many a mighty warning, draws auguries for its hopes and
fears from the pettiest occurrences that befall us in our course
through life. When Flavia, and Ildica, and Theodore saw the litters,
and chairs, and chariots, and bales of goods restored, and laid down
in silence, a well-pleased smile beamed upon the face of each; not
that either thought at that moment of comfort or convenience, or of
all the little luxuries which the glass of civilization magnifies into
necessaries; but that each one thence drew a renewed assurance that
the barbarian monarch, into whose hands they had fallen, however
fierce and bloodthirsty he might have shown himself to others, at all
events meant well and kindly towards them.

Towards the third hour after noon, food rudely cooked, and a beverage
peculiar to the people of Dacia, were set before them; and Edicon,
sitting down to meat with them, pressed them to their meal, using the
Latin tongue as purely as if it had been his own. He spoke of the
empire of the Huns, of their might, their conquests, and their
innumerable hordes; he spoke even of Bleda, the brother of the king,
and monarch of one part of the nation: but the name of Attila he
pronounced not; and, when it was mentioned by Theodore, he turned
quickly to some other theme.

The sun had lost much of its heat by the time the meal was concluded;
and, shortly after, a Hunnish horseman came down the road with fiery
speed, and addressed a few quick words to Edicon.

That chief instantly turned and addressed Flavia. "Tricornium and
Singidunum have fallen," he said, "and the way is clear before you. It
is the will of the king that you commence your journey."

Flavia gazed upon Theodore, and Theodore upon those he loved; and the
bright drops clustered in the dark eyes of Ildica like dew in the
half-closed leaves of the morning. Eudochia, too, hung upon her
brother's neck, and Ammian grasped his hand; but still the son of
Flavia, with wilder and less regulated feelings than the rest, could
not yet understand or appreciate the grief of Theodore at that moment
of parting. "Would I were you, Theodore!" he exclaimed. "Gladly would
I see the country and manners of these wild Huns; and oh, if I had a
father's murder to avenge as you have, I would march on with that
brave and mighty Attila, and smite the tyrant, Theodosius, on his
throne."

"Could it be without the ruin of my country," replied Theodore; "but,
alas, Ammian, that cannot be. Weep not, dear Ildica! Sorrow not, my
mother, that for a time you must leave me here. Let us remember our
condition a few hours ago, and be thankful to God that it is as it is
even now. Far safer, too, are you under the guidance and protection of
these powerful barbarians, than if, unaided and unguarded, we had
attempted to penetrate into Noricum: far safer am I left here, with
those who have spared me even when my sword was drawn against them,
than if I were attempting to guide you through strange lands that I
know not, and barbarian people who hate us for our very civilization.
I trust implicitly to the word of Attila. He has promised us his
favour and protection, and I fear not."

"Thou judgest rightly, Roman," joined in Edicon, who still stood by.
"The word of Attila, whether for good or bad, has never yet been
broken. His sentence is irreversible; his mind unchangeable. Fear
nothing for the safety of your friends. Two hundred of our bravest
warriors guard them to Singidunum, whence a tribe of the Heruli, with
a messenger from the king, convey them onward to their destination.
They are safe wherever they go, for Attila has promised them
protection; and is not Attila lord of the earth?"

Still Ildica clung to him; still Flavia gazed upon him with wistful
affection; and the heart of Theodore, while they prepared once more
for their journey, swelled with feelings too painful for utterance.
Weakened with loss of blood, wearied with terrible exertion, and
forced to part for long, dim, uncertain years from those whom alone he
loved on earth, his manly fortitude wavered; but the presence of the
Huns and the pride of a Roman sustained him. He could not bear that
barbarians should see him weep; and though he held them one by one to
his bosom in the warm embrace of passionate affection--though he spoke
to the very slaves and freedmen with the tenderness of old and fond
regard--though he looked upon each familiar face and long-remembered
feature with the clinging earnestness of love--yet he mastered the
emotions of his bosom, and saw them prepared to go without a tear
moistening his eye. One last kiss, one long, dear embrace, and
Theodore turned away. Then came the sound of many feet, the neighing
of horses, the cries of barbarian voices in the tone of command, the
rustling and the rush of a moving crowd. Gradually the noise became
less, the tongues sounded more faintly, the tramp of feet subsided
into a lower and a lower murmur, and Theodore, looking round, found
himself left alone, amid a small party of the Huns, with a feeling of
deep desolation at his heart, such as he had never known before.



                            CHAPTER XIII.
                            THE DESOLATION.


A long deep sigh was all that Theodore would now give to the pain of
parting. It was over, finished, and endured! and he stood there, calm
but grave, prepared for the long cold lapse of the next seven years.
Oh, sad and sorrowful is it, more melancholy, if not more painful,
than any other state of human being--fertile as existence is in woes
and miseries--when over the summer and the sunshiny days of early
youth are brought the premature storms of manhood, the hurricane of
angry passions, or the deep and settled clouds of disappointment and
despair! Oh, sad and sorrowful is it, when the half-open flower of the
heart is broken off by the rude footstep of adverse fate ere it has
time to expand into beauty! Oh, sad and sorrowful is it, when by the
rough hand of circumstance the fresh bloom is brushed from the fruit
ere it be ripe!

Yet such was the fate of Theodore. Endowed with ardent feelings,
strong passions, powerful energies both of mind and body, he had been
called, while those feelings were in their first freshness, while
those passions were in their early fervour, ere those energies had
been strengthened by time or instructed by experience, to mingle with
scenes, and take part in events, which few even of the mightiest and
most mature minds of accomplished manhood could pass through, without
bearing away the indelible stains left by feelings blighted, or the
rude scars inflicted by evil passions. He had loved, and he had been
beloved. He had tasted once of the nectar cup of the gods, which,
when pressed by a pure lip, instils into the heart a spirit of
immortality--and his lip had pressed it purely. Then had been called
forth the exertion of that great attribute of manhood, the power of
protecting, aiding, directing weaker beings in moments of terror and
danger. Then came the mingling of that most bitter draught, when grief
and indignation are all that are offered to allay the thirst of a lip
burning for revenge. Then came the ignominy of flight from an enemy
alike hated and despised; then the temptation conquered, to pamper
vengeance by treason; and then the mighty struggle where life was
played for as a dicer's stake, and every energy of heart and brain was
called into fierce activity, when human blood was spilt, and mortal
being extinguished by his hand, to save from death, or worse than
death, those he most loved on earth. And there he now stood, that
wayward, fated being, around whom within the last month so many
lightnings had played, left alone amid men with whom he had no
community of feeling.

Those hours of agony and excitement had indeed made him a man before
his time, and well, well might they take the bloom off his young
heart; yet though the siren voice of expectation might have lost part
of its sweetness; though the chord which once vibrated to every joy
might now possess no longer its elastic tone; though there was the
gray shade of doubt mingling with every bright colour which went to
paint the future, and the enchanter could charm no more; still there
was within his bosom, in his love for Ildica, a sweet source of
unpolluted happiness, a well of youthful feelings undefined, a
fountain of bright clear waters, where wearied hope might come and
drink and be refreshed. As he stood there in his loneliness, the value
of that spring of secret enjoyment was displayed in all its
brightness. He knew, he felt that there was his treasure; and, with
that support and conscious innocence alone, he prepared to face the
future, be it what it might.

The rapid process of thought had ran over in a few minutes all the
varied particulars of his situation, the much of gloomy and dark, and
the small but intense spot of guiding light; and, ere the few Huns who
remained with him showed any disposition to move, he himself turned
towards their leader, and demanded what was to ensue.

"Are you able to sit a horse?" demanded Edicon, gazing on his
features, still pale with loss of blood.

"I am," replied Theodore, "if the journey be not long."

"Then we must follow the king," replied Edicon; "but I have his
commands to make the stations suit your capability. There is your
sword," he continued, giving him the weapon which had dropped from his
hand when the blow of Ardaric had for the time disabled his right arm.
"You are to be treated in no way as a bondman."

"Keep it for me," replied Theodore, putting it aside with the back of
his hand; "I will never go armed into my native land with the enemies
of my country."

Edicon laughed aloud. "Is there anything else," he demanded, "that
your fancy would have! I am ordered to humour thee to the utmost."

"There was one faithful freedman," said Theodore, "whom I saw not with
the rest who departed just now. I would gladly hear of his fate: I
left him with the horses on the hill."

"What! a giant?" demanded Edicon. "I saw such a one contending like a
madman with our whole army. If it be of him you speak, most probably
he is dead. I saw him fall beneath a blow which would have slain a
bull. At all events, he is in the hands of Attila the King; for I
heard him bid his people see to the brave African. Is there aught
else?"

"I would fain," said Theodore, with a sigh, "I would fain recover the
horse I rode. It was my father's charger: but I fear that it is vain,
for I left it upon the hill."

"What, the black horse with the white star on his forehead?" demanded
Edicon.

"The same," answered Theodore, with some surprise. "Have you seen
him?"

"I saw him with you on the other side of the Danube, some four days
ago," replied Edicon, "when Attila came down from the interior to meet
you."

"To meet me!" exclaimed Theodore, with a faint smile; "he could not
come to meet me; for I crossed the Danube by accident, not from any
long-conceived purpose."

"So it might be," answered the chief, "and yet the king knew that you
were coming, and went down to meet you. Do you not believe that there
are men who see the coming events as clearly as we see the past? But
it matters not," he added; "we left the tribe of Vultingours upon the
hill. Perchance the horse may have fallen into their hands; if so,
thou shalt have him."

He then spoke a few words in their own tongue to some of the Huns
near, two of whom instantly sprang upon their horses and galloped up
the hill. While they were gone, Theodore and Edicon lay down in the
shade upon the grass; and the young Roman endeavoured to induce his
companion to pursue to some clearer point of explanation the vague
hints which had been given regarding his first meeting with Attila;
but the wily barbarian was not to be led onward beyond the precise
line by which he chose to bound his communication; and as soon as
Theodore attempted to gain further information, he started up, and
busied himself in giving orders to the wild warriors around him.

In a few minutes the two Huns returned, leading down at a quick pace
the horse of the young Roman, which, snorting and rearing, resisted
the unfamiliar hands by which he was guided. In a moment, however, the
voice of his master rendered him tame and docile as a lamb; and
Theodore could perceive, by the smiles and gestures of the barbarians,
whose affection for, and command over, their own horses were even then
proverbial, that he had risen highly in their esteem by the love and
obedience which the noble beast displayed towards him.

When at length all was prepared, he mounted, though with much pain and
difficulty from his wounds; but when once on his horse's back he
experienced no further inconvenience, except from weakness; and,
riding side by side with Edicon, he proceeded slowly on the same track
which Attila and his troops had previously taken.

A little farther to the east, the woods again swept down to the very
banks, seeming to present an impervious barrier against their advance
in that direction; but still the Scythian horsemen rode on direct
towards the forest, and, separating on the very edge, each took his
path by himself, winding along with extraordinary skill and dexterity,
and keeping up their communication with each other by shrill, sharp
cries. They had apparently left the direction taken by Attila and his
myriads; for the grass of the forest bore no trace of having been
trodden down by the feet of those innumerable horsemen; and the green
boughs on either side, clad in the refreshing garmenture of the early
year, neither scorched by the summer's sun nor withered by the
autumn's wind, were unbroken and undisturbed. With slow and heavy wing
rose up the feathered tenants of the wood, on the passage of strangers
through those spots of which they had held solitary possession for so
many years: the beasts started away from their path, almost under the
horses' feet; and everything indicated that calm tranquillity had
reigned there for many a year, while the civilized world beyond had
been torn by faction, turbulence, and war.

For nearly three miles the branch of the great Dacian forest, which
they were now traversing, continued unbroken, but at the end of that
distance it again suddenly ceased, and, issuing out upon a wide
savanna, the little band of Huns reunited, and rode rapidly on.
Another wood succeeded, but of less extent, and bearing evident
traces, in many parts, of the destroying axe. It, too, was soon
crossed; and when Theodore had again reached its extreme limit,
another scene, more gloomy, more painful, more terrible, broke upon
his eye.

It was a cultivated land laid desolate! The corn, just losing its
fresh green, and touched with the golden hand of summer, was beaten
down, and trodden into the very ground from which it grew; the fences
and partitions were swept away, and the scattered remnants thereof,
mingled with the produce which they were intended to protect, spread
wide over the trampled and ruined country. The huts and cottages of a
lowly but industrious population were seen around; but the roof had
fallen in, and the blackened and smouldering rafters told the tale of
destruction but too well. In the midst of the field lay a husbandman
with a javelin wound in his throat, and at the door of one of the
cottages, stretched across that threshold which her feet had so often
passed with joy and gladness, was the body of a young mother, with her
golden hair streaming on the ground, her white arms extended
motionless above her head, now tranquil in death, but telling still
the tale of agonized emotion past, of supplication urged in vain, and
unanswered appeals unto mysterious Heaven; and there, beside her,
seeking with plaintive cries its wonted food, crept on towards her
bosom her infant child, its little hands dabbling in the stream of
gore that welled from the fond loved home of infancy, the dear
maternal breast now for ever cold and feelingless.

"Oh God, the child!" cried Theodore, as they rode by.

Edicon gazed on it with a stern dark brow. "There will be many such,"
he said, and it was all his reply.

The young Roman's heart swelled within him with the choking agony of
fruitless indignation. He could do naught to succour, to save, or to
defend; and bending down his eyes upon the arching neck of his proud
charger, he strove not to see the many miseries of the land through
which he passed. He could not shut his eyes to all, however. Every now
and then the horse would recoil from a corpse stretched across his
way. Every now and then the crashing fall of some burning cottage or
Roman watch-tower, which were thick upon the road towards Viminacium,
would make him start and look up, and behold new traces of ruin,
slaughter, and desolation.

They passed by a hamlet where once many happy hearths had gathered
round a small Christian church; but the hearths were strewed with the
rafters that had covered them; the voice of the pastor and the hearts
of the congregation were now still in death; the church was void, its
walls smoking, its pavements stained with blood, and its altar
profaned; and silence reigned equally where the merry laugh and the
gay song had rejoiced in the blessings of God, and where the voice of
supplication or of gratitude had been raised to him in prayer or
adoration.

They passed by a villa built in the graceful and the mighty times of
Trajan, while the name of Rome was awful over all the earth; but its
halls and vestibules, its courts and gardens, were strewed with its
fragments of works of art, and blackened with the fire which had
destroyed its fair proportions.

Oh how glad was Theodore, when the gray coming on of twilight gave him
the hope that night would soon shut out from his weary eyes the sight
of such scenes of horror and devastation. But, alas! even when
darkness spread over the whole sky, the earth beneath--as he rode
along, across the high grounds which there sweep down to the
Danube--seemed glowing in a thousand spots with the lurid light of
wide-spread conflagration; and Theodore beheld the destiny of his
native land. Fire consumed each dwelling's roof-tree, and blood
drowned out the ashes.

At length, at the bottom of the hills, where a small wood skirted one
of the little rivers they had to cross, they came suddenly upon a
number of fires, round which were seated some thousands of the
barbarians. On the approach of Edicon and his party, numbers of them
started up, and, leaving the loud rude merry-making in which they were
engaged, gathered around the new comers, with wild gestures and quick
vociferous tongues talking, laughing, shouting, and screaming, while
the fitful gleams of the fire displayed, in strong, unpleasant light
and shade, their strange attire and harsh repulsive countenances. Food
of various kinds and in great abundance was set before Theodore and
those who escorted him; but the young Roman felt no power to eat, and
only quenched the burning of his lip, while he strove to drown
remembrance of his griefs in two full cups of wine.

"We must on with the first light to-morrow morning," said Edicon, "and
therefore it were better for you to take what sleep you can, though,
perhaps, being a Roman, you cannot find slumber on such a couch as
nature provided for man, and under such a tent as the starry sky."

"Sleep!" cried Theodore, "sleep! Do you expect me to sleep after such
a day as this? Such sleep, however, as I can gain may as well be taken
here as anywhere else," and, wrapping his mantle round his head, he
cast himself down near one of the fires. For repose he sought not, for
he neither hoped nor expected to find it, but he sought to shut out
from his sight the fierce forms and savage merriment of those who had
just devastated his country. With his eyes closed, and his mantle
round his head, he saw them not, it is true, but still the wild peals
of barbarian laughter rang in his ears, as they caroused around the
fires; still imagination called up to his view the rude, ill-favoured
countenances of the Huns; still memory presented to his fevered brain
all the sad and painful sights which he had beheld during the day.

Thus passed by the greater part of the night; for, even when the Huns,
giving themselves up to slumber, left silence to recover her empire
over the scene from which their rude revels had banished her, bitter
remembrance haunted the young Roman still, and drove far away from his
troubled breast that soft and soothing guest which visits so
unwillingly the couch of pain or wo. About an hour before dawn,
exhaustion, however, conquered thought; and when Edicon roused him to
proceed, he was sleeping, if the name of sleep could be applied to
that dull, unrefreshing want of consciousness into which he had fallen
for the time. He started up, however, ready to go on, ay, and willing;
for although he could hope to find but little better or fairer in the
things before him, yet every scene in which he was placed was, for the
time, so hateful to him, that it was a relief and consolation even to
change.

The road lay still by the side of the Danube; but, after leaving their
night's resting-place, it was evident that they were coming fast upon
the great host of Attila himself. Multitudes of small wagons covered
the way. Thousands of straggling parties were seen in every direction;
and at length, after riding on for about two hours, they came in sight
of the towers of a city, rising up from the banks of the river. At the
same moment, as they stood upon the hill above it, a shout came up to
the ear so loud, so fierce, so demoniacal, that it seemed to Theodore
that the very fiends of hell had burst forth to mingle with the dark
innumerable multitudes that he beheld whirling round that devoted town
like the waves of some mighty vortex in the stormy oceans of the
north.

Another and another yell succeeded; and as Edicon still led on down
the hill, screams of anguish could be distinguished mixing with the
shout, and fire might be seen bursting forth from various parts of the
city.

"Viminacium is taken!" said the Hunnish leader: "we shall find the
king in the market-place; ride close by me, and let us on."



                             CHAPTER XIV.
                          THE CAPTURED CITY.


In one dark, close-rushing stream the Huns were pouring into
Viminacium, when Theodore, with unutterable agony of heart, approached
the gates with those who held him a prisoner. It was an hour in which
he could full well have died with scarcely a regret, for every sight
and every sound around him spoke nothing but despair.

A few words from his conductor brought the barbarians who accompanied
them pressing round the young Roman, so as to keep him distinct from
all the multitude which had followed Attila to his first actual
conquest in the Roman territory. But so dense, so rapid, was that
living torrent, that after they had once entered the gates no one
could move except in the same onward course; and, knee pressed against
knee, horse jostling horse, forward they rushed, while nothing could
be seen in the dark long street but an ocean of human heads, except
where the flames burst forth from dwellings, palaces, and temples, and
formed a fiery canopy above them.

To see beneath the horses' feet was not possible; but every now and
then some dreadful indications, on which it were needless to dwell,
showed Theodore that his charger's feet were passing over a pile of
dead; and still, amid the clang and rush of those wild horsemen, burst
forth from other parts of the city the same long, piercing, awful
shrieks, which told that the work of massacre had not yet ceased
within those ill-starred walls. Wherever, too, a street, branching to
either side, gave a momentary view of what was passing beyond, groups
of struggling forms were seen, with heaps of corpses, falling houses,
and masterless horses galloping hither and thither, and rolling clouds
of smoke writhing in dark masses amid the building.

Still, however, Edicon pursued his way straight on, though at every
turning some body of the Huns left the onward path, bent on plunder or
on bloodshed. At length the way opened out into the forum, whose wide
space was covered with scattered groups of the barbarian host,
whirling here and there, in obedience to commands emanating from a
group who had forced their horses up the steps leading to the temple
of Mars.

Here, in the forum, the Roman legionaries had made their last stand;
and here, thick and many, lay the bodies of those slain by hands that
had never learned to spare. Here, too, dismounted from their horses,
and stripping the yet warm dead of their rich arms and vestments, were
thousands of bloodstained groups of the conquerors: and here, penned
up, and dying man by man, was the last determined cohort which
resisted the barbarian force. Even at that very moment, as Edicon was
forcing his way onward, that last lingering spark of resistance was
extinguished; for Theodore could see one Hunnish horseman, followed by
several others, urge his horse fiercely down the steep steps of the
temple, and plunge into the midst of the multitude which was pressing
round the brave men of Viminacium. A loud shout burst from the
barbarians as that horseman hurled himself forward like a thunderbolt
against the front of the cohort. Its line, which had remained firm
even in despair, was rent in a moment, as an oak that has withstood
the winds is rent by the lightning, and the Roman helmets disappeared
in the dark mass of the Huns. Again that same horseman separated
himself from the multitude, rode slowly back towards the temple, and
urged his horse once more up the steep and slippery steps. Towards him
Edicon pursued his way; and, as they came near, Theodore perceived
that it was, indeed, towards him their journey had been directed.

There, advanced before the rest, Attila sat gazing from his
battle-horse's back over the awful scene before his eyes; while near
him an equestrian statue of Trajan, with his calm, thoughtful
features, and a bronze group of a lion tearing a bull, contrasted
strangely, and harmonized well with the fierce and heated aspect of
the stern Hun, as, covered with blood and dust, he rolled his flashing
dark eyes over that terrible scene of massacre, fire, and desolation.

"Oh," cried Theodore, as they came near the steps, "oh, beseech him to
sheath the sword, and spare the unresisting!" and, as he spoke, he
naturally urged on his horse, to plead the cause of his miserable
countrymen with one who had shown himself, in his own case, not
insensible to pity.

But Edicon caught his bridle quickly, exclaiming, "Speak to him not!
Speak to him not, if you value life! See you not that the mighty
spirit of war is upon him. Speak to a hungry lion tasting the first
blood! Plead with the tiger for its prey! But cross not Attila in his
hour of battle and victory! Bleda, his brother, might hear you, and
spare you at the time to slay you for his pleasure after; but were you
to cross Attila now, he might strike dead the man whom to-morrow he
would cherish as a son."

At that moment, however, the eye of the monarch lighted on the garb of
Theodore. "A Roman!" he cried, "a Roman before my eyes! Smite him to
the ground! Give his heart to the vultures!"

The youth understood not his words, which were spoken in the Hunnish
tongue, but the fierce gestures of the barbarian king were enough; and
at the same moment a hundred spears were raised around to drink the
Roman's blood.

"Let them do their will," he said, calmly, "let them do their will.
Who would love life after such sights as these?"

But Edicon interposed. "Hold!" he cried, to those so prompt to obey in
any work of blood--"hold! he is the king's friend. Attila knows him
not. Oh king!" he continued, raising his voice, "thou hast promised
this youth protection: wilt thou break thy promise?"

Attila rolled his eyes over the whole group in silence; and Edicon,
with those who surrounded him, well knowing that the fierce and eager
mood of their lord would pass away, retired slowly from his sight,
leading Theodore with them. No tranquil spot, however, no place of
refuge or repose, did that wide city now contain. Plunder was still
going on, though slaughter, insatiable still, even when gorging upon
thousands, had exhausted nearly all, but only halted for want of food.
Some wretched woman, indeed, or some helpless child, was dragged every
now and then from its ineffectual hiding-place, and a solitary scream
or a dying groan marked the new victim. But the work of butchery was
now wellnigh complete; and conflagration, spreading rapidly in every
part, threatened to consume the barbarian victors themselves, in the
burning city which they had captured and destroyed.

A small open space, near what was called Trajan's Gate, at length
afforded a place of repose to Edicon and his party; and there,
following the example of the Huns, Theodore alighted from his horse,
and, sitting down upon one of the massy stone steps before a dwelling
which had once belonged to some rich banker, and had been one of the
first to be plundered by the barbarians, he covered his eyes with his
hands, and tried to shut out even from memory the horrors which he had
just beheld.

In vain--it was vain! Confused, countless, terrible images and
feelings of destruction and despair rushed through his burning brain
and his indignant heart, and drove him wellnigh to madness. At length
two or three wild notes of some barbarian trumpet, loud, long, and
melancholy, sounded through the streets, and were heard above the
general roar of the Hunnish multitudes, coming from different quarters
of the city. Edicon sprang up and mounted his horse; and, seeing
Theodore remain in the same attitude of despair, he exclaimed, "Up,
up, we must away! It is dangerous to linger."

Theodore rose slowly; and though the curling flames which at once
struck his eye, flickering above all the buildings around, together
with the shower of sparks and flakes of fire which were falling
incessantly from the dense and lurid clouds of smoke above, showed
that the words of Edicon were true, and that the warning voice of the
trumpet had only been sounded in time; yet slow and heavily did the
young Roman rise, as if he would willingly have remained to die in the
flames of that vast holocaust to the barbarian god of warfare. In vain
the Huns urged him to haste; he gazed upon them dark and gloomily, as
if the bitterness of death itself were passed; and they, with all
their power, could do no more.

With strange and unusual gentleness for one of so fierce and
uncontrollable a nation, Edicon endeavoured to persuade him to follow
them from the captured city. He offered no violence, he used no rude
command; but, after every other argument had failed to quicken the
movements of the young Roman, he added, as if he could have divined
the only chord which--left strung and resonant where so many were
broken--could still vibrate the touch, "Remember that there are others
in the world to whom your life is dear; beings kind, beautiful, and
beloved, who may need the protection of your arm, the consolation of
your affection, and the shelter of your breast."

The tears rose in Theodore's eyes: but the thrilling life of human
hopes and fears was once more kindled from among the dead ashes of
despair; and, springing on his horse, he followed wherever they would.

Wild, and terrible, and extraordinary was the scene of confusion and
disarray which followed, while the Huns, some fast and eagerly, some
lingering with their appetite for plunder still unsated, poured forth
from the gates of the burning city. Order and ranks were there none.
Tumult and confusion, loud cries, wild laughter, shouts of triumph,
and barbarous songs, dark masses whirling hither and thither, horses,
which had lost their masters, seeking them familiarly through the
crowd, the rush of innumerable multitudes, and the mighty hum of
congregated myriads, formed all that was seen and heard over the wide
green fields which surrounded what a few hours before had been
Viminacium--except when, loud and slow, surmounting every other noise,
were heard the long, melancholy notes of the barbarian trumpet,
calling conquerors from the work of spoil and desolation.

Sweeping round in a semicircle upon the declivity of the hills which
domineered the city, the host of Attila was at length gathered
together, at the end of about two hours after Theodore had seen the
barbarian monarch in the forum. The youth had set apart upon the edge
of the hill gazing upon the dim multitudes, as they covered and
struggled up the intervening space between the walls and the spot
where he was placed. The same party of Huns which had always hitherto
accompanied him, more to protect than to detain him, remained with him
still, except, indeed, Edicon, who had left him for the time. At
length, however, he reappeared, and, sitting down beside the youth,
addressed him kindly.

"The king," he said, "has asked for you. The fierce cloud of strife
has passed away from his heart, and the sun will shine upon those that
approach him now. Let us draw near. Lo! yonder he stands, where you
see the crowd upon that high knoll. The warriors are going to bring
their booty before him. If thou hast any boon to ask at his hands, ask
it now."

Theodore rose, and followed on foot, though there was a fevered
weariness in his blood, a confused giddiness in his brain, which
prevented him from clearly comprehending, or, indeed, from taking any
interest in the words that were addressed to him. Even when he had
approached the presence of him on whom his whole fate now depended,
the objects passed before him as if in some unreal pageant, wherein he
had no feelings engaged, and by which curiosity and admiration were
hardly excited.

There sat Attila on horseback, and beside him a taller and a younger
chieftain, with keen sharp eyes, and a low fierce brow. In his
countenance there might be more of cunning, but there was less of
power and intellect than in that of Attila; and, as Edicon caught the
eye of the young stranger wandering over his form, he whispered, "That
is Bleda, the brother of the king."

Theodore paused, where his companion paused, at no great distance from
the spot where the two leaders stood, and looked on, while the whole
host passed in long line before the kings and their immediate
followers, casting down in a pile all the rich and costly plunder
which had been acquired in the first capture of a Roman city. How
often, in the course of the succeeding months, was that scene to be
repeated! There were the chased and jewelled cups and chalices which
had graced the merry banquet, and poured the libation of hope or
gratitude; there the sacred vessels of the church; there the gems and
ornaments torn from the neck of beauty, and from the violated limbs of
the tender, the gentle, and the beloved. There was poured out the
miser's long-accumulated store; there the early gift of young
affection; there the inestimable product of ancient art; there the
shining mass, only prized for its intrinsic value. Each object there
cast down recorded some deed of profanation, either of sacred civil
order, or of holy piety, or of the sweet sanctity of calm domestic
life: each spoke trumpet-tongued against the horrid, the desolating
trade of war; the honoured, lauded, and rewarded curse, parent of
murder, violence, and wrong.

Theodore scarcely remarked the division of the spoil, though he
perceived that no voice, no, not even that of Bleda, was raised
against the stern but just allotment made by Attila. Each soldier
received his share; and each seemed to hear with reverence the words
of his leader, and to gaze with awe upon the countenance of him whose
steps seemed destined to crush thrones into the dust, and on whose
breath hung the fate of nations and of empires.

When the division was over, Attila turned his eyes upon Theodore. "Bid
the Roman approach," he said; and the youth advanced to the spot where
he sat on the same horse which had borne him through the sacking of
the city. His countenance, however, was now mild and calm; and the
tone in which he addressed to Theodore some simple words of greeting
was kind and father-like. Bleda said nothing; but he rolled his fierce
eyes over the form of the young stranger, and his whole countenance
spoke the unmitigated hate which he felt towards everything that bore
the Roman name.

Theodore listened to the words of the monarch calmly; and then at once
replied, "Oh king! I have a boon to ask at thy hands; I beseech thee
to grant it unto me."

"Speak," said Attila, in the tongue of the Alani; but Bleda muttered
in the same language, "Dash his brains out with an axe! that were the
best boon to give him."

Attila's brow darkened; but, without noticing further than by that
heavy frown his brother's words, he bade the youth proceed.

"Thou art mighty, oh king!" said Theodore, "alas! too mighty; and, it
may be, that, ere thou receivest defeat from the Roman arms" (Attila
smiled), "many such a city as this that thou hast to-day destroyed may
fall before thee--"

"Many shall fall!" interrupted Attila: "I will tread upon their towers
from Margus to Byzantium. I will mow the land as with a scythe: I will
shake the armies from before my path, as a lion shakes off the morning
dew from his mane. The fortified cities will I lay low, and the open
villages I will burn, and my horses shall eat up the grass of the
whole land. There shall be no green thing, and no beautiful thing, and
no living thing, left throughout the country, unless speedy
compensation for the wrongs done to me and to my people avert the
wrath, and turn away the storm: but yet, what wouldst thou?"

"This, oh king!" replied Theodore; "my eye cannot witness the
desolation of my native land. Either my heart will cease to beat, or
my brain will turn, if I behold more of such scenes as those which I
have this day beheld. I am thine to do with as thou pleasest, and I
will keep the promise I have made; but, I do beseech thee, send me
afar from such sights. Let me go into thine own country; and I swear,
by all that I hold sacred, to remain there tranquilly till thou
returnest."

"I know not how that may be," replied the king: "thy life is dear to
me, youth; and were a Roman now to show himself in the land of the
Huns, without protection and support, except, indeed, as a captive,
the stream of his days would soon fall into the great gulf of death."

"If thou takest me on," cried Theodore, "to witness the murder of my
fellow-countrymen, the ruin and devastation of my native land, thou
slayest me by a worse death than any of thy people can inflict."

"Well, thou shalt go back," replied Attila; "but I will send people
with thee, to protect thee in my name, till thou art known and in
safety in the land. I cannot spare thee, Edicon; but he shall choose
others who can speak some of the languages thou knowest: ours thou
wilt soon learn. Follow me until this night be over; to-morrow thou
shalt depart. See to his repose, Edicon, and find him wherewithal to
cover him from the night air. These Romans are not, as we are,
familiar with the elements."

Edicon smiled; and Theodore felt the scorn which had fallen upon his
nation; but he replied not, for the reproach was too true; and,
retiring from the presence of Attila, he felt his heart relieved at
the certainty of being no longer forced to contemplate with his own
eyes all the horrors that awaited his native land.

In their eager and fiery course towards the destruction of the Roman
empire, the Huns knew no pause, lingered for no repose. Ere noon,
Viminacium was a heap of ashes; ere two hours more had passed, the
division of their plunder had taken place; and, ere another had gone
by, the unwearied myriads were again upon their way, to repeat the
same scenes of slaughter and destruction. At nightfall they halted.
The innumerable small wagons, which followed them with a celerity
quite marvellous, formed at once the ramparts of their principal camp
and the abode of such as were affected by some touch of softer
manners. In the centre of the camp was raised the standard of the
king, the rude black eagle crowned;[6] and round it, at the distance
of about a hundred cubits, was drawn an inner circle of wagons; but in
the clear and starry nights of summer, no tent or awning covered the
head of Attila; and beneath that victorious banner, which he carried
unchecked from Caucasus to Gaul, he lay stretched upon the hide of a
wild bull, which his own hand had slain.


---------------

[Footnote 6: It was called Astur, and is supposed to have been the same
as the tributary bird of the Tartars named the Schongar.]

---------------


Round about the great camp were a number of smaller enclosures; some
appropriated to different tribes and nations, who followed the
multitude of the Huns in their career of victory and pillage; some
assigned to various friends and officers of the great monarch himself.
Nevertheless, the warrior horsemen of that innumerable host did not
confine themselves, where they feared no attack, to the circle of
their encampment, but, spreading over the plain around, spent the
early hours of the night in feasting and revelry.

Theodore, with Edicon, who showed for him on all occasions kindness
and consideration, which was little to be expected from one of so
barbarous a race, followed full half an hour behind the general march
of the army, in order to avoid those sights of occasional violence and
cruelty which were sure to take place, even in the thinly-peopled part
of the country which they now traversed. When they reached the spot,
therefore, on which Attila had fixed for his encampment, night had
already fallen; and for several miles around were to be seen blazing
up a countless number of fires, with scarcely fifty yards from the one
to the other, and with a circle of those wild soldiers surrounding and
carousing about each. Little was the attention which they paid to the
new-comers, as they rode through the midst of them; and Edicon, by
frequently stopping to speak to those he knew, gave his companion a
full insight into the habits of that roving people. We must not pause
thereon, for this is not intended for a book of description; and yet
it was a wild, strange scene that he beheld, full of matter of disgust
and sorrow, and yet not without interest either. There all the vices
of a savage state were displayed; while some peculiar virtues, and
some of those strong enthusiasms which, though not virtues, find
chords of sympathy in every noble heart, broke forth from time to
time, and shed a lustre over the mingled whole.

At some of the fires, reclining or sitting in grotesque or picturesque
attitudes, lay groups of the wild Scythians, in their strange but
striking dresses, drinking deep of various liquors, which they had
either compounded or plundered; and in the eyes of many the fiery
gleam of intemperance was already shining, while with hoarse laughter
and savage gesticulation they detailed the deeds of the day or mocked
the agonies of their victims. Round other fires, again, gaming, with
the same eagerness, the same loud words and fierce anxieties, so often
to be found disgracing the capitals of civilized lands, might be
observed other bodies of barbarians moved by another class of
passions. Then, again, farther on, gazing with eager eyes, or
listening with acute ears, and answering with bursts of thoughtless
merriment, sat other bodies of the Huns, around some buffoon or
jester,[7] in whose tale, or whose joke, or whose antic contortions
their whole thoughts seemed to be engaged, forgetful of the bloody
yesterday, unmindful of the bloody morrow. Farther still rose up the
voice of song; and, in notes not unmelodious, some native minstrel
sung of love and war; praised the beauties of some honoured fair, or
extolled the valour of some mighty chief. There, too, around him might
be seen, the dark countenances of those swarthy children of the North,
moved by all the deep emotions which his song touched through the fine
chords of association. There the youth leaned back; and, as he
listened to the name of love, or heard the glowing words which painted
some fair creation of the singer's mind, memory turned towards his
native home, affection held up before his eyes the image of the one
beloved, and his heart beat with eager palpitations at the gentler and
the sweeter thoughts poured into his rude breast. There, too, might be
seen the elder and the sterner soldier, who, when the song took up the
tale of war, and told of things achieved by glorious courage, lands
conquered, thrones acquired, and everlasting glory won, would half
start from his grassy bed, and, resting on his arm, gaze with flashing
eyes and stirred up enthusiasms upon the singer, and, with fond
anticipations of the future, promise his own heart the glorious meed
of deeds recorded in a song like that. Oh, beautiful, universal
nature! noble feelings! touching harmonies of the musical heart of
man! why, why among you must be thrown so many discords to bring out
your sweetness? Why can we not have on earth the perfect harmony?
where, from the lowest to the highest, from the most solemn to the
gayest note, all may find place, and rise in one grand, all-comprising
anthem to the God of all?[7]


---------------

[Footnote 7: We find from all records that the Huns were peculiarly
fond of gaming and of buffoons.]

---------------



                             CHAPTER XV.
                        THE PERIL AND ESCAPE.


It was to one of those detached circles, which we have described as
separated from the general encampment, that Edicon led the way, after
speaking with several of the chiefs, as they passed along. It had been
apparently reserved for himself and those who followed him, for the
enclosure was nearly vacant, except where, before the entrance of a
tall but curiously-formed tent, which had probably been taken in war
from some Eastern nation, blazed up a large and cheerful fire. Around
were seated about a dozen Huns, not less wild and fierce in the
expression of their faces than the rest of their nation; and yet there
was something about their dress and general appearance which struck
Theodore as more familiar to his eye. As he approached, one of them
rose and addressed him in the Latin language, and welcomed him to his
tent with great purity of speech and accent; and oh, how sweet and
musical did those sounds appear, after the strange, harsh tongues
which had lately rung in his ear, amid scenes of ruin, bloodshed, and
strife!

Sweet, sweet indeed it was, but overpowering. He felt the tears ready
to gush from his eyes; a word would have made them overflow; and,
without speaking, he entered the tent to which the man had pointed. It
contained nothing in the outer chamber of the two, into which it was
divided by a curtain, but a lighted lamp upon a small table; and in
the inner a bed, piled up of skins, with a single wooden settle. It
had an air, however, of civilization and comfort; and how often is it
in this life that the air has more influence upon our happiness than
even the reality? We are the slaves of association, and, as such,
truly but children of a larger growth, to whom the paint and tinsel of
appearances render the toy valuable, whatever be its intrinsic worth.

Theodore cared little for the comfort, and thought Roman civilization
had fallen into effeminacy; and yet the sight of that tent, like the
sound of Roman words, sent a thrill through his heart, and made him
happier. Edicon saw his emotion, and seemed to understand its cause,
at least in part.

"You are surprised," he said, "to hear the Latin tongue; but you will
be more so to know that there are several thousands in our host who
can use it fluently."

"I have heard," replied Theodore, "when I was in Rome, that [AE]tius,
the great general in Gaul, has several bodies of Huns among his
mercenaries."[8]


---------------

[Footnote 8: Not only was such the case, but in various contentions in
the empire, hired bodies of the Huns were frequently found fighting on
both sides, and doing their duty faithfully.]

---------------


"Ay, and Valentinian also," rejoined Edicon. "Not two years since full
ten thousand of our nation were engaged in defence of the Western
empire. We are too near neighbours to the East to have such friendly
commerce with her. Besides, Theodosius is unworthy the defence of
brave men--a mere weak coward, a flimsy knave, whose only means of
proving his manhood is by murdering with hired steel the only honest
and noble men left to save his empire."

Edicon struck the chord aright, and Theodore's heart replied, though
his lips were silent. "These men," continued the Hunnish chief,
pointing to the barbarians, who were again seated round the fire, and
took but little notice either of Theodore or their newly-arrived
companions, who had followed him with Edicon--"these men have been
chosen by the king himself, not because they speak thy language better
than others in the camp, but because they are known as faithful and
just. They will accompany thee back into our land; and, though they go
with regret, thou wilt find them true and trustworthy. Ten more will
be added, whom thou mayst choose either from among the Huns who have
lived with the Romans, or from among thy kinsmen the Alani."

"I will choose the Alani," answered Theodore, quickly; and he
observed, as he spoke, the brow of his companion contract as if he
were offended--"I will choose the Alani--not, noble Edicon," he added,
"that I doubt or distrust the Huns, for to me they have been merciful,
kind, and generous, whatever violence and cruelty they may have shown
in dealing with my native land. But remember that those I love the
best have gone to seek a refuge with the Alan tribes; and perchance,
by having some of them near me, I may learn, as I go, tidings which
will cheer and console me to hear."

"Not only as you go," answered Edicon, with a smile, "but afterward
also; for those who are now chosen to accompany you are not only
directed to be your guard by the way, but are also given you--not as
servants to a lord, but as followers to a leader, and will obey you in
all things, as far as our customs permit, so long as you remain with
us."

"It is strange," answered Theodore, thoughtfully; "your king, so harsh
and fierce towards others, is so gentle and merciful to me--considers
my wants, provides for my security, and cares for my comfort as if he
were a father."

"Receive it all with gratitude," replied Edicon, "and he may prove a
father to you. Nor must you think Attila harsh and fierce towards any,
except in the hour of battle, when the spirit of war is upon him, and
with the powers of a god he claims the attribute of vengeance. No!
though grave and stern, he is just and humane towards his people.
Determined in his purposes, inflexible in his judgments, his purposes
towards those who obey him are mild, his judgments even against
himself are equitable. It is only the traitor among his own people,
the aggressor among foreign nations, that he treats with rigour."

"Think me not ungrateful," said Theodore; "I meant not to accuse thy
monarch; and while I felt thankful for the tenderness he hath shown to
me and mine--thankful for life and liberty preserved, and for the
safety of those who are dearer to me than life itself--I have been
forced to marvel that he has dealt so different a measure to me and to
others. There is something strange in it."

"There may be so," replied Edicon; "but think you there are no such
things as sudden intimations given us from Heaven of those with whom
our fate is to be linked for good or evil? Think you that those
prepossessions for or against, which we feel so suddenly, so
unaccountably, in rare and extraordinary cases, are mere fancies,
passing whims, which have no reference to after events?"

Theodore made no reply, for he remembered well his own peculiar
feelings when he had first seen that powerful monarch with whom his
own destiny had since been so completely mingled. He remembered it
well, but he answered not, for the Hun seemed to have seen his
feelings, or at least divined them; and at length Edicon went
on:--"Such may have been the prepossession of Attila towards you; and
we know, or at least believe, that the feelings I have mentioned are
given us by the gods, to let us know our friends and enemies. Does not
the horse tremble when the unseen lion is near? Do not the bleatings
of the sheep warn the shepherd to watch even while the wolf is yet
afar off?"

He paused a moment for reply, and then added--"But I will leave you
to repose; and yet, ere you seek sleep, take some food, for your eyes
are haggard and hollow, your cheek burning as if this tent were a
furnace, and you have neither drunk mead nor broken bread during the
whole day. Bid a slave bring food," he continued, speaking to those
without; and then, taking from one of his own followers the sword which
Theodore had left in his hands, he laid it down on the small table by
the lamp, saying, "You are now turning to another land. Keep your
weapon, for, whether you need it or not, it is always well to be
prepared. Add to it a javelin and a bow; for, as you go through our
country, you may strike a stag or a wild bull, and gain honours in the
chase, which we hold next to war. I will now leave you, and see you
to-morrow ere you depart."

Thus saying, his conductor left him, and a frightful negro slave,
precious in the eyes of the Huns from the hideousness of his face and
figure, brought him cooked meat and thin cakes of flour, with a strong
drink composed of honey. Theodore tried to eat, but only few were the
mouthfuls he could swallow, though the meat was not unsavoury. He
tried, too, to drink; but there was a burning heat in his throat and
mouth, and the sweet liquor was revolting to his taste.

"I will bring wine," said the negro slave, in tolerable Greek; "I am a
present from Attila the King to his Roman son, and he is henceforth my
lord. Wilt thou have wine? for it shall go hard but, with mine own wit
and Attila's name to bear me out, I will find you as pure wine in the
Hunnish camp as ever you tasted in the city of Constantine."

"I would rather have pure water," answered Theodore; "I have a painful
thirst upon me; and heart and tongue feel burning as if with fire."

The slave sprang away, and returned in a few moments with both water
and wine; and mingling them together, Theodore drank with delight
which he had not known for long.

"I thank thee, friend," he said, giving his hand to the slave in
gratitude for the blessed draught: "it is exquisite, and I thank
thee."

The slave took his hand and kissed it, gazing intently on his face;
and then, seeing by the calm and grateful sincerity of the young
Roman's look that no scorn existed in his bosom towards that deformed
and frightful shape which crouched at his feet, he sprang up, saying,
"I have deceived you, but I will not betray you. I am not sent by
Attila, but by Bleda, his brother. Beware of him! Roman, beware of
him!"

"I have no cause to fear him," answered Theodore: "I have done naught
to injure him."

The slave shook his head mournfully. "Are we only injured by those
whom we have injured?" he demanded. "Alas! were it so, I should not be
what I am. But I must speed hence, and not talk with thee too long,
lest he hear that I have done so, and think I have betrayed him."

"But tell me, what is thy name?" demanded Theodore. "I have naught to
give thee as a reward, but some day, perchance, I may have, and I will
not fail."

"My name is Zercon," answered the slave; "and I am the crooked and
mutilated jester of Bleda, the brother of Attila. Thou hast looked
upon me with eyes of feeling and compassion, and I am rewarded enough;
but I will serve thee further still."

Thus saying, he left the tent, and drew the external curtain closely
after him. Theodore paused to think over what he had heard; but, as he
reflected, he could find in all the wide range of probability no cause
why Bleda should seek to injure him--"There must be some mistake," he
thought; and, overpowered with weariness and exhaustion, he laid his
sword close beside the bed of skins, and casting himself down,
endeavoured to forget his cares in slumber. Restless, unhappy,
fevered, long and painfully he tossed upon that lowly couch, courting
in vain the blessed influence which opens for us, for a while, those
gates of care, that shut us in the dreary prison of ourself. The
faintly-burning lamp stood beside him; and by its pale light, as his
eye roved round, the dark hangings of the tent became peopled with the
spectres of imagination. His father passed before him, as he last had
seen him at Byzantium; but his garments were spotted and dabbled with
blood, and his countenance was pale with the ashy hue of death. Then
came Flavia, with a crown upon her head, and a shroud about her
person. Then he beheld Eudochia struggling in the arms of a fierce and
eager form, and then Ildica glided across the scene, clothed in bridal
robes, and with her left hand clasped in that of a wild, shadowy
shape, which led her slowly forward, while in her right she carried a
naked dagger, dropping as she went large gouts of crimson blood.

He knew, he felt, that it was all delusion, but yet he could not
banish the swarming fancies that disturbed his brain, and even
deceived the organ of sight itself. He closed his eyes, and resolutely
turned his face to the wall of the tent, near which he lay, and
employed himself in listening to the various sounds which rose up from
the myriads spread over that wide plain. Although there were some
noises which might be distinguished from the rest, an occasional burst
of laughter, the loud and measured tones of some singer or reciter, or
the wild notes of various rude instruments of music, yet the general
buzz of all the many voices far and near came upon his ear with a
drowsy and lulling hum, which gradually brought on an inclination to
sleep. As time passed, too, the louder and more distinct sounds died
away, and the whole subsided into a low and whispering rustle, which
was like the noise of the sea upon a pebbly shore, only that it wanted
the regular intermission of the successive waves. Forgetfulness fell
upon him; but in a moment he awoke again with a quick start, gazed
round to see where he was, felt the load of care pressed back upon
memory, and hastened again to close his eyes, and cast it off once
more.

He slept again, and this time more profoundly than the last, though
his breathing was short and thick, and his limbs tossed to and fro.
The lamp burnt more and more dimly. The sounds in the camp fell into
silence, only broken now and then by the wild neighing of a war-horse.

At length, a little before midnight, the curtain, which separated the
tent into two chambers, and which he had let drop when he lay down to
rest, trembled as with a slight wind--was slowly moved--was drawn
back; and a tall, powerful form took a step within, and let it
quietly fall again. Two more paces brought him to the side of the
couch where the young Roman lay, and, with arms folded on his chest,
the giant-like intruder gazed upon the sleeping youth, and then looked
cautiously round the tent. When he had done so twice, he blew out the
lamp, and drawing over his tall form the mantle which Theodore had
cast off, he crouched himself down at the foot of his bed. All was
still and silent but the quick, heavy breathing of the Roman youth,
and the rustling of his clothes, as he turned from time to time upon
his uneasy couch. In less than half an hour, however, the curtain
again moved, and a listening head was advanced within it.

"The lamp has gone out," said a whispering voice, speaking to some one
in the outer chamber, in the lowest tone that the human tongue can
assume; "lift up the curtain of the door, lest I miss my blow."

The curtain was lifted up, the inner one pushed back, and in streamed
the pale, calm moonlight, showing Bleda, the brother of Attila, partly
advanced within the inner chamber. He took another step forward, and
listened, grasping tight the shining blade which he carried in his
hand. Another step brought him within arm's length of the Roman's
couch, and his hand was raised to strike, when, bounding like a lion
on his prey, up started from his master's feet Cremera, the Arab
freedman, and seized the murderer in his gigantic grasp.

An instant struggle took place; but the Hun was no match for his
antagonist, who cast him down upon the ground, shaken, and nearly
stunned. Another barbarian, however, rushed in, sword in hand, from the
outer tent; but Theodore was now upon his feet, and, springing across
the prostrate body of Bleda, interposed between the armed Hun and his
gallant freedman. Another barbarian appeared at the door of the tent,
and how the struggle might have gone, who shall say? but then there
came a cry of Attila the King! Attila the King! and, with a torch
before him, the dark monarch of the Huns advanced slowly into the
tent. He gazed round upon the faces of all present with that stern,
calm, unmoved look which never changed but in the fury of the battle.

Bleda, who had risen, answered his brother's glance with a look of
fierce and fiery impatience, and planted his foot upon his sword,
which had fallen from his hand in the struggle, as if he feared that
some one should snatch it up. The companion who had followed him, with
his naked blade still in his hand, stood trembling before the face of
Attila with a pale and changing countenance.

To Bleda the great monarch said nothing; but slowly drawing his heavy
sword from the sheath, he raised it over his head, and at a single
blow cleft through the scull of his brother's follower, till the
trenchant blade stopped at his teeth and jaws.

Bleda sprang forward with wrath flaming from his eyes. "How darest
thou," he cried, "slay my servant?"

"How darest thou," said Attila, in a voice of thunder, "lift thy hand
against my friend? Thinkest thou that Attila can be deceived? Thinkest
thou that Attila will not punish? Bleda, Bleda! Once, twice, thrice
have I warned thee! The measure is full! See that it run not over. I
am neither blind to thine ambition nor thy purposes. Beware while it
is yet time, and be yet my brother."

"Why, what have I to fear from thee?" demanded Bleda, haughtily; "am I
not a king as thou art? Did not the same father beget us, the same
mother bear us? Was not the dominion left to us equally divided? What
art thou that thou shouldst judge me? Am I not a king as thou art?"

"Our portion was once equal," answered Attila; "but though I have not
robbed thee of one tribe or of one charger, what are my dominions now
and thine? I have added nation unto nation, and kingdom unto kingdom,
while thou hast held thine own only beneath the protection of thy
brother's shield. Bleda, I have trod upon the necks if fifteen kings,
each greater than thou art. Force me not to tread upon thine. Once
more, beware! I tell thee, the cup is full! Thou knowest Attila; now
get thee gone, and leave me."

Bleda paused a moment, as if he would fain have given voice to the
rage that swelled within his heart. But there was a strange and
overwhelming power in his brother's presence, which even he, who had
struggled with him from infancy up to manhood, could not resist. He
remained silent then, not finding words to answer; and taking up his
sword, he shook it with a bent brow at Cremera, and quitted the tent.

"Take away, yon carrion, and give it to the vultures," said Attila,
pointing to the body of him he had slain.--"Brave man," he continued,
turning to Cremera, "well hast thou done what I gave thee in
charge--thou hast saved thy master's life; now leave us, but wait with
the men without, to whom I gave the task of guarding him from evil.
Bid them be more cautious for the future and tell them, that the
presence of the king's brother--nay, of his son himself can never more
be an excuse to Attila for failing in obedience unto him. For the
present, they are pardoned; get ye gone."

Cremera retired; and Attila motioning his own attendants to withdraw,
made them drop the curtain of the tent, and then sat down upon the
couch of skins. Theodore stood for a moment by his side, but the King
made him be seated, calling him by the gentle name of my son.

"Thou art surprised," he said, "to see thy faithful freedman here
amongst us; but when I found thee first, sleeping in the watch-tower
beyond the Danube, he sat between thee and me with his spear in his
hand, glaring upon me as I have seen in Eastern lands the lioness
glare upon the hunters, who would take her young; and I said to mine
own heart, 'If this youth should ever want a faithful guard, here is
one who could spill his own heart's blood rather than a drop of his
lord's should flow.' When I followed thee from Margus, too, I found
him almost alone, struggling with some of my warriors who had gone on
before, in defence of the women, for whom, as well as for thyself, I
had promised thine uncle my protection. He would not yield till a
heavy blow on the head had stunned him, but I gave him in charge to
those who are skilled in the secret virtue of herbs and flowers, with
commands to bring him after me, and to cure him. They promised me he
should be soon well; and when I heard of thy danger, and that he had
recovered, I sent him hither to guard thee, till I could come myself,
not choosing to oppose any of my own nation to the hand of my brother;
and I knew that that brother would do the deed he meditated with his
own arm."

"Then I have once more to thank thee, mighty Attila, for life," said
Theodore; "to thank thee, the enemy of my native land, the destroyer
of my countrymen."

"Not so," replied the monarch: "I have once saved thy life, I grant,
when thou wert in the power of Ardaric; but for the deed of to-night
thou owest me nothing. I promised thee protection, and had I not given
it when I could, I should have been myself thy murderer. But
to-morrow thou seekest to depart and leave me. Is it not so?"

"It is," answered Theodore; "not that I am ungrateful for thy favours,
oh king! nor insensible to the distinction which thou makest between
me and others of my race; but the scenes I have beheld, the grief and
bitterness of heart that I have endured, since the morning sun of
yesterday, would soon terminate my existence, were they often to be
renewed. Did your nation wage warfare like a civilised people, I might
endure though I might grieve; but now the sight of the utter
extermination and devastation which thy tribes inflict wherever they
pass is death, is worse than death to me likewise."

Attila fixed his eyes upon the ground, and remained for a moment
silent:--"I will reason with thee, my son," he said at length; "for,
though I disdain the art of the idle and subtle fools, who wrangle, as
I hear, for an empty word in the schools of thy capital, yet Attila is
not without reasons for anything he does, and when needful, can give
those reasons, if it so please him. Thou talkest of the hostilities of
civilised nations, and speakest with anger and fear of our more just
and reasonable dealings in our warfare. But we make war upon our
enemies, not upon our friends. We either go to subdue and bring under
our dominion other nations, or to avenge ourselves upon a foreign foe.
If the first be our object, and resistance is offered to us, how
foolish to leave our enemies the means of resisting us with success?
how weak to spare men who have done all they could to slay us, or
women and children, by which the race of our adversaries may be kept
up and increased? No; it behoves us to smite with the arrow and the
sword, so long as there is any power of resistance in the land, and
never sheathe the blade; or unstring the bow, till we are undisputed
masters of the whole race and region. Then again, if we go for
vengeance, what vengeance do we gain by suffering our own warriors to
be slain without slaying our enemies? The more that die, the more is
vengeance satisfied, and if we purchase it with our own blood, we must
drink the blood of our enemies. What you call civilised warfare is a
mere folly, which protracts the attainment of the end it seeks, and
often loses it altogether--which, instead of blazing like a bright
fire, and consuming rapidly a small quantity of fuel, lingers
long, and burns a thousand-fold as much. No, no, my son, the most
merciful warfare is that which is the shortest; and that in which no
compassion is shown or asked, is always sure to be the soonest over.
Nevertheless," continued Attila, "I seek not to make thee witness the
ruin of thy native land, though, methinks, the destruction of thy
father's murderer might well repay the sight; but thou shalt go hence.
The men I have chosen to accompany thee are under thy command, and
thou shalt have cattle, and woods, and pasturage assigned thee from my
own herds and lands; ay, even gold shalt thou have, and, what is
better, security and peace; for whosoever lifts his hand against thee
shall have Attila for his foe; and now fare thee well, till we meet
again on my return."



                             CHAPTER XVI.
                       THE COUNTRY OF THE HUNS.


Theodore was left alone once more, and weariness was more than ever
upon him; but yet the busy, untiring course of thought went on for
long after he had again lain down to rest. Thought's insidious enemy,
sleep, at length crept upon him; but, ere calm forgetfulness had
complete dominion, Cremera once more stole into the tent, and again
lay down at his feet. The lamp, however, had been lighted by the
followers of the monarch; and Theodore, recognising the form of his
faithful attendant, merely spoke a few words of thanks and greeting,
and let his heavy eyelids fall.

Broad daylight was shining through the chinks of the tent when he
awoke; and Cremera was sitting in the outer chamber, polishing with a
knife a strong ashen staff, to which he had fitted the iron head of a
spear. Theodore saw that the day must be far advanced, and rising, he
offered prayers and thanks to God; and then, while speaking many
kindly words to the freedman, he advanced and pushed back the loose
hangings that closed the interior of the tent from the view of the
outer world.

How changed was the scene which met his eye from that which he had
passed through on the preceding night! The Huns were gone; scarcely a
vestige of them remained; not a wagon, not a group was to be seen over
all that wide plain, except where, before the door of the tent, ten or
twelve of the Huns, and an equal number of the Alani, taller,
stronger, and fairer to look upon than their dark companions, employed
the vacant hours in packing a number of small and strangely-assorted
articles into two of the low wagons which had formed part of the
night's circle round the tent. The sun was not very far from its
meridian, and Theodore saw that he must have slept long and
profoundly, but yet he was not refreshed. There was a weariness, a
heaviness upon his limbs that he had never felt before--a burning heat
upon his skin, that the cooler climate in which he now was placed
could not have produced.

Nevertheless, he gladly prepared to depart, and bade the attendants
who had been assigned to him make all things ready, while he went to
bathe his feverish body in a small stream that his eye caught
glistening on at a short distance upon its way to join the rushing
waters of the Danube. The cool wave, however, proved no refreshment,
and only caused a chilly shudder to pass over his limbs, succeeded
quickly by the same heat as before. On his return he found food
prepared, but he could not eat; and though his lip loathed the wine
they offered, he drank a deep draught from the horn of a urus, for the
sake of gaining that temporary strength of which he felt himself to
stand in need.

His own horse, fresh as the early morning from a night of repose,
stood near, but the horses of the barbarians were still straying over
the plain. A shrill, long whistle, however, brought them in a moment
to their masters' sides, and small grooming did the rude riders of the
Dacian wilds bestow upon their swift but rugged beasts. The tent was
by this time struck and placed upon the wagons; and Theodore, with one
of the Huns beside him to guide him as he went, led the way onward
towards that strange land which seemed thenceforward destined to be
his home for many a long year. Of his guide he asked various
questions, and was answered fluently in his own language; but at
length Cremera, who followed, pointed towards the towers of a far
distant city, saying, "Is not that Margus?"

"It is," answered the Hun. "We can go thither if thou wilt," he
continued, addressing Theodore. "We can repose there to-morrow night.
It is now a city belonging to Attila the King."

"No, no," replied Theodore, with many a painful feeling at the very
thought finding expression on his countenance--"no, no, not in the
city for a thousand worlds; rather let us lodge in the open field."

"Thou art wise, young chief," replied the Hun. "Cities are hateful
places: Attila loves them not any more than thou dost; and, though
Margus is his, he will not keep it long, but will either sell it back
to the Romans or destroy it."

Theodore replied not; and they rode on till at length, towards
eventide, they came near the banks of the Danube, and, after half an
hour's riding within sight of the river, halted for the night on a
spot near the old Roman way from M[oe]sia into Dacia. Theodore was
fatigued, but yet he could not rest; and while they were engaged in
setting up his tent, he wandered forward to drink of the great river.

It was a sweet, bright, tranquil afternoon. The sun was just dipping
beneath the wood-covered hills upon the opposite bank of the river,
but the air was still full of his light; and the forests and
mountains, the soft green slopes, the blue sky, and the light passing
cloud, were mirrored in the swift waters of the mighty stream, as it
flowed on towards the ocean. The air, too, was calm; and silence hung
above the world, except when the laughing note of the woodpecker, or
the melody of the thrush, broke the silence for a moment, to render it
more calm and sweet. Theodore gazed up the stream, and beheld afar
gigantic masses of masonry, rifted and broken, projecting from either
bank, while here and there, from the broad sealike bosom of the
Danube, rose up massy piers and woodwork, the fragments of some vast
fabric swept away.

It was evidently the famous bridge of Trajan that stood before him,
just as the destroying hand of his envious successor had left it; and
as Theodore gazed upon the remnants of that stupendous work, as they
stood in the clear light and shade of evening, he could not but
meditate upon the change of dynasties, the vanity of human hopes, the
fruitlessness of earthly endeavours, and all the many and melancholy
themes on which poet and philosopher have sung and moralized, hoping,
even while they did so, for that earthly immortality which they knew
and proved to be a bubble. There before his eyes stood one of the
greatest works of one of the greatest men that the human race, in all
its vast succession of beings, in all its complexity of characters, in
all its variety of qualities, has ever produced, from the creation
till to-day; and yet a mean follower, unable to compete with him in
intellect, in feeling, in effort, or in success, had possessed the
power to sweep away from off the earth that majestic monument of a
grand and creative mind, to cast down what the good and wise had
raised up, to destroy what the noble and energetic had created.

"Oh, wonderful frailty of man's most lasting works!" thought the young
Roman; "that nothing can give them certain existence, no, not for a
century. That which the earthquake spares, the hand of war and
violence pulls down; that which hostile armies have respected, the
mean envy of inferior genius will destroy. Alas! when we look around,
and think of the work of but a few short lustres upon man's noblest
efforts and his brightest productions, well, well may we ask, What is
lasting upon earth?"

He paused--"Yes, yes!" he thought again; "virtue is lasting! virtue is
immortal even here! Rarely as it is seen, often as it is
counterfeited, shunning publicity, hating pomp, virtue, indestructible
like gold, even in the fire of time and amid the trial of
circumstances, comes out pure and passes on uninjured, accumulating
slowly, but brightly, in the treasuries of the past, and forming an
inexhaustible store of example and encouragement for all who choose to
take it. Yes, yes, virtue _is_ lasting! One may produce, and another
may destroy; but Trajan shall be remembered when Hadrian is forgotten
or contemned."

Theodore, as the confidence in some great principle of stability
returned to his heart, set his foot more firmly upon the earth, which,
to his imagination, had seemed crumbling beneath him like a pile of
dust and ashes, while he had only remembered how brief, how transitory
is the existence of the noblest fabrics that it bears.

He would fain have gone on to examine more nearly the mighty fragments
of what had once been the celebrated bridge of Trajan; but the ruins
were farther than they seemed: he was weary and languid; and ever and
anon urged by the burning thirst upon him, he paused to drink again of
the waters of the Danube. At length he gave up his purpose and
returned to the tent, where the Huns were broiling, on a wood fire, a
large fish which they had caught in the neighbouring river. At the
very sight of food a sickening disgust came over the young Roman; but
his faithful Cremera pressed him so anxiously to eat, that he forced
himself to swallow a few mouthfuls. But it was in vain: he could not
go on; and soon retiring to his tent, he endeavoured to find repose.

No sounds disturbed his rest, for nothing was to be heard but the
rushing of the Danube and the sighing of the wind through the tall
trees. No human being had been seen through all that morning's
journey; no voice of salutation had welcomed them as they passed,
showing too well how desolate the land had been made; and after the
youth's attendants had laid themselves down to sleep, not a tone but
one solitary scream from some flitting bird of night broke the silence
of the world around: and yet Theodore courted slumber in vain. He
tossed his weary limbs upon the couch of skins which had again become
his bed, and counted the heavy minutes from night till morning.
Frequently, through all the violent heat that burned in his whole
frame, a cold chilly shudder would pass over him, and he felt that the
hand of sickness was upon him.

Nevertheless, he started up with the dawn, bent with feverish
eagerness upon pursuing his journey as quickly as possible, while yet
the last efforts of his remaining strength could be exerted to oppose
the overpowering weight that pressed him down. Looking out from the
tent, he saw the Huns and the Alani already busy in preparing for
departure; and, in a few minutes, one who seemed to have been
despatched to seek for a means of transport came back to say that the
raft had already come down to the shore. Cremera gazed anxiously on
the changed and ashy countenance of his lord; but he spoke not, and
led the war-horse, who knew his hand better than that of any of the
Huns, down to the bank of the river. A raft, such as had borne
Theodore across once before, was waiting with some of the rude boatmen
of the Danube, and in two voyages the whole party which accompanied
the young Roman was borne across and landed on the other side of the
river.

Dacia was now before his steps; and although he could not but feel a
chilly coldness at the thought that he had passed, perhaps for ever,
the boundary of his native land; had left behind him, for an unlimited
space of years, all those scenes and objects linked to the brightest
memories of his heart; had entered upon a course where all was new and
strange, where much was dark and doubtful, and much distinctly
painful; and that he had nothing in prospect, at the very best, but a
long, dull lapse of years, among nations inferior to his own in every
point of intellect and every art of social life; yet there was a
feeling of joy broke across the gloom of such anticipations when he
remembered the sights of horror which he had just beheld on the Roman
frontier, and felt that he would be called to mingle in such scenes no
more. The very feeling gave him new energy; the morning air seemed to
revive him; and he spurred on with the rest through the wide forest
that lay before their steps, and across which a grass-grown track
afforded them a way into the interior of the country.

In less than three hours, at the rapid rate at which they travelled,
they had crossed the belt of wood which for a considerable way
bordered the Danube. Beyond that belt stretched out a plain, which
would have seemed interminable had not the blue lines of some distant
mountains, rising up against the far horizon, marked its boundary.
Except where, here and there, was seen a line of forest ground,
looking like a group of bushes in the vast extent over which the eye
could stretch, the whole plain seemed covered with long green grass,
waving like a mighty lake as a light wind bent it to and fro in the
morning sunshine.

There was something grand and expansive in the view, notwithstanding
its vast monotony; and as Theodore paused for a moment, and let his
horse breathe upon the edge of the slight slope on which the forest
ended, he gazed with some feelings of surprise and admiration upon the
new world which was henceforth to be his habitation. That feeling
again refreshed him; but much need had he indeed of refreshment, and
of anything which could give even a momentary support to that strength
which was failing fast under the pressure of fatigue and illness.

"Let your horse pause for a moment and eat," said the Hun who rode by
his side. "We are a long way from a resting-place: under those woods
is our first village."

Theodore did as the other advised, but his heart grew faint at such a
notification of the length of way; for though he would not pause nor
yield so long as any powers of life were left, yet he felt that the
powers of life were waning, and that, if he reached not soon some
place where he could obtain refreshment and repose, he should never
reach it at all, but sink of unwonted weariness by the way.

In a few minutes they again began their journey through the plain,
riding up to their horses' chests in the long rich grass, which,
though it proved no obstacle to the small, quick horses of the Huns,
impeded and irritated at every step the fiery charger which had
carried the young Roman. In the meanwhile the summer sun got high, and
poured its burning rays upon Theodore's unsheltered head; a white,
filmy, and oppressive mist rose up from the moist plain, not thick
enough to impede the sight, but tinging every object with a peculiar
hue. For a long time nothing diversified the scene, nothing
interrupted the monotony of their progress; out at length an immense
bird sprang up almost from under their horses' feet, and spreading its
wings, without rising from the ground, ran on with extraordinary speed
before them.

"An ostrich! an ostrich!" cried Cremera, forgetting the distance
between the spot where he then stood and his own porphyry
mountains--"an ostrich! a young ostrich!"

But the Hun who was by his side paused for a moment without speaking,
poised the javelin he carried in his hand, and launched it with a
strong arm in the air. Falling with unerring aim, it struck the great
bustard between the wings; and, riding on, the Hun took it up and
slung it over his shoulders, saying, "This will secure our evening
meal."

Still they rode on, and more and more terrible grew the lassitude of
the Roman youth; the heat was overpowering; the way seemed
interminable, and that distant line of wood towards which their steps
were bent, though appearing certainly to grow larger, yet was
approached so slowly that Theodore, as he gazed upon it, felt his
heart grow faint with the despair of ever arriving at the calm shelter
which he vainly hoped there to find. With his lip parched, with his
eye glazed, with his cheek pale yet burning, and with his hands
scarcely able to hold the reins, still he rode on, looking forward
with an anxious, straining gaze upon those woods, thinking they never
would be reached. Wider and wider they stretched out before him. The
plain on which he had seen them stand alone, like a group of bushes,
when he had gazed on them from the distant heights, now seemed bounded
by them entirely on that side. As he came nearer he could distinguish
the vast rolling masses of forest, the dark, deep brakes where glades
or savannas intervened; and at length, while with his dim and dizzy
sight he scanned eagerly the scene before him, he thought he could
perceive some low, wooden cottages, crouching, as if for shelter,
beneath the wide-extended arms of the tall trees upon the edge. That
sight again gave him a momentary impulse; he urged his horse on; he
saw the cottages more distinctly; but, as with that last effort he
attempted to reach them, strength, and hope, and thought all gave way
at once, and, with just the consciousness of utter exhaustion, he fell
fainting from his horse.

A lapse of time succeeded, over which Theodore's memory had no power.
He had talked, he had suffered, he had raved, he had struggled during
the interval; he had named names which those around him did not know;
he had spoken a thousand things which they could not comprehend, while
for fourteen days he had lain tossed between life and death, and
tended by the hands of strangers. But of all that he had no
recollection when at length reasoning consciousness had returned.

It was the evening of a sweet summer's day, when, opening his eyes, he
looked around and wondered where he was. There was a small chamber,
lined with smooth and fragrant pine wood, from the cracks and crevices
of which the fresh resin was yet oozing. On the walls hung, in
fantastic garlands, many a barbarian instrument of war, spears and
swords, the quiver of arrows and the unstrung bow, the buckler, the
club, and the far-slaying sling. There, too, beneath, on stands and
tables of wood, might be seen a number of strange idols, wild,
unseemly shapes, such as a child might carve for sport out of a block
of wood. Settles and tables were there also, of the same plain
material, but on some of them appeared objects of a more valuable kind
and a richer workmanship. There lay, even in abundance, gems and gold,
bearing evident marks of cultivated taste and skilful art; but there
were two things more sweet than any other could have been to
Theodore's senses at that moment, which called all attention from
every other object.

The first was the calm, sweet breath of the summer evening, borne
light and fragrant through the open window; the other was the sweet,
melodious voice of a woman singing.

He turned his eyes to where the singer sat beside the bed on which he
was stretched, and saw a girl of some seventeen years of age, with
bright brown hair, worn not as Roman women wore it, but parted on the
fair forehead, and thrust in clustering ringlets behind her ears. The
face was very sweet and beautiful, and everything would have been
soft--perhaps too soft for great interest--had it not been for the
deep, devoted blue eyes. They were somewhat darker in hue than the sky
by day; but yet, as they gazed forth from the long dark lashes, they
looked like that same azure heaven at the moment when its colour is
most deep, yet most pure, just ere the curtain of the night falls over
its expanse. She saw the youth turn his eyes upon her; but, thinking
only that sleep had fled again from his still fevered brain, she
recommenced the song she had been singing, while her small white hands
continued to ply the light labour of the distaff. Theodore, however,
could now hear and understand; and he listened with delight that
cannot be told, while, in the Alan tongue, the language of his own
dear mother, she sang, with a sweet, soft, rounded voice--


                          THE SONG OF SLEEP.

    "Come, gentle sleep, to the couch of the stranger,
       From thought's weary burden, oh give him relief!
     Take mem'ries of anguish and prospects of danger,
       The future's dull care and the past's heavy grief.

    "Sweet friend of our childhood, thou strewest with flowers
       The pillow where infancy rests her calm head,
     When weary with sporting through long happy hours,
       With thee for her angel, she seeks the soft bed.

    "Coy visitant, come! We prize thee more highly,
       In years more mature when we've tried the world's truth;
     Why com'st thou so rarely? why fly'st thou so shyly?
       Oh what thus estranges the friend of our youth?

    "We've been false to thy friendship, despised thy caresses;
       For pleasures we've left thee, and even for cares;
     The faithful, the tranquil, the humble, sleep blesses,
       But flies from the couch that one wild passion shares.

    "Yet, balm-giver, yet, for the sick and the weary,
       Thy merciful gifts we implore as a boon;
     Oh give us thine aid, on our way long and dreary--
       Aid, tardily valued, and lost all too soon!"



                            CHAPTER XVII.
                                NEVA.


It is a strange and awful sensation, when, after having enjoyed to the
full the powers and energies of manhood, we find ourselves suddenly
reduced by the unnerving hand of sickness to the feebleness of
infancy: when giant strength lies prostrate and busy activity is
chained to the weary bed. It is strange and it is awful, for it shows
us most sensibly how frail a thing is that vigour which, in our
boisterous days of health, we madly think an adamantine armour against
all adversity. It is strange and awful, for it leads us to the brink
of that fatal precipice over which all must fall, and displays, as if
from the very verge, the inside of our future grave.

From a stupor, in which all memory and every power of thought had been
at an end, Theodore woke as feeble and incapable as when, in the
nurse's arms, he moved his mother's heart by his first infant cry. The
same feelings of tenderness; the same mingled emotions, where pity,
and hope, and the pleasure of protecting, all unite; the same
sensations of affectionate interest for the thing we rear, and guard,
and watch for, as those which fill the breast of a mother towards her
child, affected, though in a less degree, those who attended the couch
of the young Roman during his illness and convalescence. It was but
slowly he recovered: for the fever which had seized upon him had been
fierce and powerful; and it had been only unfaded youth's tenacity of
life and the natural vigour of his frame which had finally conquered
that terrible assailant.

The persons who attended him were entirely women, except when his
faithful Cremera took his daily turn to watch by his bedside; and
though an elder and more matronly dame came in and out, and frequently
remained in his chamber for an hour or more, still his principal
attendant was the lovely girl whom he at first had seen, or a maiden
who seemed to be her sister, still younger than herself.

Often would he keep his eyes closed, to listen, uninterrupted, to the
sweet singing of the barbarian girl; often when he woke would he find
that graceful form bending over him, and those deep, intense blue eyes
gazing upon his countenance, as if to mark the outposts of victorious
health, spreading life's rosy banner where the pale flag of sickness
had been advanced so lately. As he recovered strength also, and his
tongue became more capable of its office, he would converse with her
from time to time in the language which she had used in singing and
though she spoke it not as her native dialect, yet they could thus
converse fluently.

With the matron it was different: she was kind, but not conversable;
yet, when she did speak, it was always in the pure Alan tongue; and
Theodore could almost have fancied that he heard once more the voice
of his mother. Under kind care and skilful management he at length
reached that point where his recovery became certain; and from that
moment his convalescence proceeded rapidly. He was soon able to quit
his chamber; and going forth, though with wavering and unsteady steps,
he walked along, enjoying the fresh air of the morning, beneath the
rude portico of unshaped stems of trees which shaded one side of that
long low dwelling, while his heart was raised with fresh gratitude to
Heaven at every sweet sound and sight that he was permitted again to
enjoy. There had been a time, not very long before, when life had
seemed to him a weary burden, which he desired not to retain; the
earth a dreary and a desert dwelling-place, in which he was but little
anxious to remain. But such feelings had only existed while the body
remained in strength and vigour, oppressed and impatient under a mind
overcharged with sorrows, anxieties, and cares. Now, however, the
corporeal frame had been weakened and cast down; the body as well as
the mind had been humbled and chastised; the blessings of life were
more valued, the past could be regarded with resignation, and the
future looked forward to with hope.

As he walked forth one day under the shadow of that portico, his eye
wandered over the whole plain, on which, at a little distance,
appeared some horsemen, whom he afterward found to be those who had
attended him thither. In the shade, however, were collected a number
of women, comprising all those whom he had hitherto seen; and Neva,
the blue-eyed daughter of the house, smiled gayly to see his wavering
steps. The next moment she greeted him with, "Come, sit you with the
women till you have strength enough to join the men;" and she made
room for him on the bench on which she sat between herself and her
mother.

All were employed in some domestic occupation; and the distaff, and
the spindle, and the wheel went on, while Theodore, sitting beside
them, began to ask the first questions which he had hitherto ventured,
regarding the place and the family in which he then was. He found that
the village which he saw stretching along under the forest contained
not less than two or three hundred wooden cottages; and his eye at
once showed him that the one in which he had found shelter and
received so much true kindness was by far the most extensive and most
ornamented of the whole. When he came to ask, however, whose was the
house in which he dwelt, and whose the family that tended him so
carefully, they answered him at once that it was that of Bleda, the
brother of Attila.

His countenance changed, and he asked no more questions. Ere he had
sat long there the horsemen returned from the field, bringing with
them some game which they had procured; and eagerly, and with signs of
much regard, they gathered round Theodore, and wished him joy on his
recovered health. Towards evening two herdsmen drove home from a
distance a large flock of diminutive cattle, and a shepherd brought
some sheep into the fold. Two or three other lesser flocks were driven
slowly across the plain to different houses in the village; but the
men who drove them formed the only male population, with the exception
of his own attendants, which Theodore had yet seen since he entered
Dacia.

As the days passed on, and he mingled more with the people, he found
that this first view was fully confirmed, and that almost all the men
of the land, except such as were too old or too young to bear arms,
had gone forth with Attila in his invasion of the Roman empire.

"Were Rome now," thought Theodore, "what Rome once was, while this
barbarian monarch invades and ravages the East, the legions of the
West would pour across Pannonia, and, sweeping the whole land, take as
hostages the women and children here left unprotected. But alas! I
fear me that neither the legions of the East will have power to
withstand the myriads of Attila, nor the West have energy to hasten
his return, by invading his territories, and taking hostages for his
future tranquillity. 'Tis true they may not know that the land is left
in such a state; but, alas! I must not point out its weakness. Even to
save my country, I must not return the mercy shown me, and the kind
hospitality received, by base ingratitude. Doubtless, when strength
returns, I could escape; doubtless I could bear to Valentinian, or,
better still, to [AE]tius, tidings of the condition in which this land
is left, and thereby, perchance, deliver the empire itself. But it
must not be! No, no! such a task must not be mine."

The situation, however, was a painful one; and the knowledge, too,
that he was dwelling in the house of Bleda, of the man who had striven
to take his life, and whose enmity--though he knew not why--was
evidently fiercely raised against him, added to the gloom he felt, and
made him anxious to proceed farther into the country.

Ruga, the wife of Bleda, however, was herself one of the Alani, from a
tribe which had remained amid their original valleys on the Georgian
side of Caucasus. She had by this time learned that the mother of the
young stranger had been a daughter of the same nation, though sprung
from a different tribe; and, little aware of the enmity of her husband
towards him, she now pressed Theodore anxiously to stay with them till
the armies of the Huns returned. Her daughter, too, urged the same
request with all the native simplicity of a guileless heart; and
Theodore himself, as innocent in thought and purpose, believed that he
could there remain happily, without risk or danger to the peace of any
one, were it not for the enmity of Neva's father. He made inquiries,
however, and he found that no chance existed of any of the Huns
returning for several months; and he determined to remain for a time,
hoping that, if he could win the regard of the chieftain's family, the
causeless animosity of Bleda himself might by their report be done
away.

There, then, he stayed, increasing in the love of all, and habituating
himself to the language, the sports, and the manners of the people. He
had found, on his recovery, that the purse of gold pieces which he had
borne with him from Dalmatia, and which had been but little diminished
on the journey, had been carefully preserved during his sickness; and,
though the amount was not very large, yet the difference in the value
of everything among the Huns and among the Romans was so great, that
his small store seemed grown into an inexhaustible treasure. The
attendants whom Attila had given him would receive no recompense for
their services; and the sports of the chase, which he pursued in
company with them and Cremera, afforded more than sufficient provision
for his followers and for himself. Ruga declared that her house had
never been so bountifully supplied, even when Bleda himself was
present; and the simpler food, to which the women of the Huns were
accustomed, received no slight additions from the hunter skill and
bold activity of their guest.

For several weeks Theodore pursued this course in peace, proceeding to
the woods or plains, or to the mountains, early in the morning with
his followers, and retuning ere nightfall to the village. To those
followers, indeed, the young Roman endeared himself every day more and
more. His courage, and the dexterity with which he acquired all their
wild art in the chase and in the management of the horse, won their
reverence; while his kindness, his gentleness, and his easy suavity,
touched another chord, and gained their hearts. If stag, or wolf, or
bear turned upon him, every one was ready to defend him; and Theodore
soon found that on any enterprise which he chose to undertake, except,
indeed, where some higher duty forbade, he might lead those men to
danger, or to death itself. Nor did he make less progress in the
regard of the villagers. The old men took a pleasure in teaching him
their language, and in telling him wild tales of other days, and other
lands; the children clung to him, and gathered round his knee; the
shepherds brought him whatever they found in their wanderings, which
seemed to their rude eyes either rare or valuable. To, his cultivated
opinion all questions were referred; and when they found that, ere two
months were over, he could wield their arms, and speak their language,
with as much facility as they could themselves, adding to their
barbarian dexterity all the arts and knowledge of a civilised nation,
they seemed to think him something more than mortal.

The wife of the chieftain forgot her matronly state, so far as to hold
long conversations with him on the nation whose blood flowed in both
their veins; and her fair daughter sprang forth with eager gladness to
welcome him back from the chase, or if he went not thither, wandered
with him in the mornings to show him fair paths through the wood, and
teach him what fruits were hurtful, what beneficial to man, in those
wild solitudes; or sat near him in the evenings, and, with her long
lashes veiling her cast down blue eyes, sang all the songs which she
knew he loved to hear.

It was those deep blue eyes, and their look of devoted tenderness,
which first woke Theodore from his dream of peace. Neva was lovely,
gentle, kind, noble in all her feelings, graceful in all her
movements, frank, simple, and sincere. Pure in heart and mind, the
elegancies of polished life seemed scarcely needful to her native
grace. In whatever task employed, she looked, she acted, as--and no
one could doubt she was--the daughter of a king: and yet Theodore's
thoughts were seldom upon her. Sometimes, indeed, when he saw a flower
of peculiar beauty, or when his arrows struck some bird of rare
plumage, or some beast of a finer fur, he thought, "I will take this
home for Neva;" but his fancy never strayed amiss to warmer feelings
or more dangerous themes than those.

Oh, no! his thoughts were far away! The one deep-rooted passion,
strong and intense as life itself--that one bright passion, as pure,
when it is noble, in man as in woman, as incapable of falsehood either
by thought or act--left not one fond fancy free for any other than
her, his first, young, early, only love. When the sun in floods of
glory went down beyond the western hills, he thought of her lonely in
that distant land, and willingly believed that with her, too, memory
turned to him. When the bright moon wandered through the sky, and
poured her silver flood of light over those wide plains, he would gaze
forth, and call to mind that first peculiar night when he heard the
dear lips he loved breathe answering vows to his beneath the palace
portico on the Dalmatian shore; he would call up again before his eyes
the scene in all its loveliness; he would fancy he could feel that
soft, dear form pressed gently to his bosom; he would seem to taste
the breath of those sweet lips as they met his in the kiss of first
acknowledged love; and he would imagine--justly, truly imagine--that
at that hour the same treasured remembrances might fill the bosom of
Ildica with visions as entrancing, and that memory might with her,
too, give to hope a basis whereon to raise her brightest architecture.
When the morning woke in the skies, and when, ere he went forth to
taste the joys of renewed existence, he knelt down to offer to the God
of his pure faith adoration, and thanks, and prayer, the name of
Ildica would first rise with his petitions to Heaven, and her
happiness would be the subject of his first aspirations.

Could he think, then, of any other I could he dream that it was
possible to love any one but her? No! he did not, he could not; but,
as time wore on, and summer sunk glowing into the arms of autumn,
there came a deep light into the eyes of Neva, which pained, which
alarmed him. He would sometimes, when he suddenly turned towards her,
find her gazing upon him with a look of intense, thoughtful affection,
which was followed by a warm and rapid blush; and, without one feeling
of empty vanity, Theodore began to see that his stay might produce
evil to her who had so kindly tended him.

Still, however, Neva's regard assumed that air of simple, unrestrained
frankness, which is less frequently the token of love than of
friendship. In her pure mind, and in her uncultivated land, all seemed
clear and open before her. She felt no shame in the sensations which
she knew and encouraged towards the young stranger. She saw no
obstacle to prevent her from becoming his bride. She was the daughter
of a king, but she knew him to be worthy of her love; and as that love
became apparent to her own eyes also, she only felt proud of her
choice. The sole difference which that knowledge of her own heart's
feelings wrought in Neva was, that with her bright brown hair she now
began to mingle gold and gems, and that, from time to time, a bright
but transient glow would tinge her cheek when her eyes and Theodore's
met. Far from shrinking from his society, far from trembling at his
approach, she gave way at once to all the feelings of her heart as
they arose; greeted him with glad smiles in the morning; sprang forth
to meet him when he returned from the chase; sat by him in the
lengthening evenings; and, feeling the deep earnest love of first
affection burning at her heart, she took no means to hide or to
conceal it from others or herself.

Theodore had pondered over these things for some days, and considered
how it were best to act; but he deceived himself in regard to Neva;
and the very openness with which she suffered her passion to appear
made him believe that it was as yet unconfirmed. He compared it with
the shy and trembling love of Ildica. He remembered the same kind
affection in her, too, when a girl, ere their feelings took a warmer
tone than brotherly regard; the candid display of preference for his
society, and the interest in all his pursuits which she had then
evinced. He recollected, also, the change that had taken place as
simple affection grew into intense love--how timid, how retiring, how
apprehensive that love had been! and by comparing those two stages of
a passion he had known and marked, with the conduct of the lovely girl
under whose father's roof he had dwelt--as pure, as innocent, as full
of real modesty as Ildica herself--he judged, that whatever her
feelings might become, they were not yet such as might ever render
them painful to herself.

As the period for which he had promised to remain had not yet expired,
and he could assign no cause for suddenly absenting himself, he
determined to seek the first opportunity of speaking, in the presence
of Neva, of the ties which bound him to her he loved. Little mention
had hitherto been made of his family or his circumstances in his own
land. The wife of Bleda seemed to take no further interest in his
former life than was connected with his mother and her nation; and
Neva herself, in the present happiness which she derived from his stay
among them, appeared never to remember that there was such a thing as
a past, affecting him in a way she knew not--though that past was
unfortunately destined to affect all the future for herself. She asked
nothing, she thought of nothing but of the present; and thus Theodore
felt that he would have to commence the subject himself. Though it was
one he loved not to speak on upon every light occasion, yet he
resolved to do so. But still, after long hesitation, he determined not
to tell the tale of his early days, when, sitting in the family of
Bleda, every eye might be ready to mark his own emotions--or, indeed,
those of others; for although to his own heart he put forward the
motive of concealing the expression of his feelings, his real
inducement was consideration for the fair girl, who might be more
moved, he feared, by the words he had to speak, than he was willing to
admit even to himself.

After two long days of unsuccessful hunting, having found nothing
within several miles of the village, he threw down his spear and
arrows, declaring he would go no more; and on the following morning,
while the dew was still upon the grass, Neva offered to lead him up to
the fall of a river in the woods, whose roar he had often heard at a
distance, but which he had never seen, so deeply was it buried in the
intricacies of the forest. He gladly followed, resolved to seize that
moment to tell her all. And yet Theodore was agitated, for he wished
not to pain or grieve her; but still he feared, from her whole manner,
and from the tender light which poured from her blue eyes, that the
words he had to speak would be displeasing to her ear. It was a bright
morning, and between the tall trunks of the trees, over bush, and
underwood, and mossy turf, the slanting sun poured his golden light,
in the first bright freshness of the rising day.

"What a lovely morning is this!" said Theodore, after they had walked
on some way, for Neva had remained silent under emotions of her own.
"What a lovely morning!--how clear, how beautiful!"

"Have you not such in your own land?" demanded Neva.

"Oh yes," answered Theodore, "we have many; and these mornings and the
evenings are our chief hours of delight, for the heat of the risen day
is oppressive. I remember such a morning as this," he added, willing
to lead the conversation to the matter on which he desired to
speak--"I remember such a morning, some four or five months ago, so
bright, so beautiful, shining upon my path as I returned from
Constantinople towards what I have always called my home."

"And was it not your home?" demanded Neva. "Did no one wait you there
to welcome you?"

"Oh, several," answered Theodore--"several that I loved, and still
love more dearly than anything else on earth." Neva cast down her
eyes, and her cheek grew deadly pale. "There was my mother," continued
Theodore--"I mean the mother who has adopted me, and ever treated me as
one of her own children." The colour came again into Neva's cheek.
"Then there was my sister," he went on. "And last," he added, in a
lower tone, "there was my promised bride, my Ildica, who will one day
be my wife."

Neva spoke not, but the rose again left her cheek. That, however, was
the only sign of emotion she displayed, except, perhaps, that she
walked on more rapidly, and that her small feet brushed the dew from
the grass on either side of the path, wavering, as she went, with an
unsteady pace. Theodore followed close to her side, scarce knowing how
to break that painful silence. It had continued so long, that, ere a
word was uttered, he heard the roar of the waterfall, and he resolved
to speak, let it be on what it would. But at the first word he
breathed, the fair girl pressed her right hand upon her heart with a
convulsive sob, and fell fainting at his feet.

Theodore caught her up in his arms, and ran on upon the path. He could
not find the cataract, but the stream which formed it soon caught his
eye; and, laying Neva on the bank, he bathed her brow with water from
the river, and strove to recall her to herself by words of comfort and
consolation.

At length she opened her eyes; and finding herself lying in the arms
of the man she loved, with her head supported on his shoulder, she
turned her face to his bosom, and wept long and bitterly. Theodore
said little, but all he did say were words of kindness and of comfort;
and Neva seemed to feel them as such, and thanked him by a gentle
pressure of the hand. At length she spoke. "I had thought," she said,
in the undisguised simplicity of her heart, "I had thought to be your
first and only wife. I was foolish to think that others would not love
you as well as I."

Theodore had now the harder task of explaining to her, and making her
comprehend, that in his land and with his religion, polygamy, so
common among her people, could not exist; but the effect produced was
more gratifying than he could have expected.

"Better, far better that it should not," cried the girl, raising her
head, and gazing full in his face with those earnest, devoted eyes.
"Better, far better that it should not. Had you asked me, I could not
have refused, feeling as I feel; but I should have been miserable to
be the second to any one. To have seen you caress her, to have known
that you loved her better, and had loved her earlier than you loved
me, would have been daily misery; but now I can love you as a thing
apart. You will marry her, and I will have no jealousy, for I have no
share: I will think of you every hour and every moment, and pray to
all the gods to make you happy with her you love. But oh, stranger, it
were better, till I can rule my feelings and my words, and gain full
command over every thought, that you should leave me."

"Would to God!" said Theodore, "that I had never beheld you, or that
you could forget all such feelings, and look on me as a mere
stranger."

"Not for worlds," she exclaimed, "not for all the empire of my uncle
Attila. I would not lose the remembrance of thee if I could win the
love of the brightest and the best on earth. I would not change the
privilege of having seen, and known, and loved thee, for the happiest
fate that fancy could devise. Oh, Theodore, would you take from me my
last treasure? But perchance you think me bold and impudent in thus
speaking all that is at my heart; but if you do so, you do not know
me."

"I do, I do indeed," cried Theodore--"I do know, I do admire, I do
esteem you; and had not every feeling of my heart been bound to
another ere I saw you, I could not have failed to love one so
beautiful, so excellent, so kind. Nay, I do love you, Neva, though it
must be as a brother loves a sister."

"Hush, hush!" she said. "Make me not regret--and yet love me so still.
Forget, too, that I love you better, but oh, believe that no sister
ever yet lived that will do for you what Neva will; and in the moment
of danger, in the hour of sickness, in the time of wo, if you need
aid, or tendance, or consolation, send for me; and though my unskilful
hand and tongue may be little able to serve, the deep affection of my
heart shall find means, if they be bought with my life's blood, to
compensate for my weakness and my want of knowledge;" and, carried
away by the intensity of her feelings, she once more cast herself on
his bosom and wept. "But you must leave me," she continued, "you must
leave me. Yes, and when I see you again, I will see you calmly--not as
you now see me. Yet you must have some excuse for going, and whither
will you go?"

"When your uncle Attila bade me come into Dacia till his return,"
replied Theodore, "Edicon, who remained with me, affirmed that it was
the monarch's will I should proceed to his own usual dwelling-place,
on the banks of the Tibiscus."

Neva thought for a moment as if she did not remember the name; but
then exclaimed, "Ha! the Teyssa--what you call the Tibiscus we name
the Teyssa. That is much farther on; but let my mother know that such
were the directions of Attila, and she will herself hasten your
departure; for my father and my uncle often jar, and my mother would
fain remove all cause of strife. Or I will tell her," she added, with
a faint smile, "I will tell her; and you shall see how calmly I can
talk of your departure."

She then spoke for some time longer, in a tranquil tone, of all the
arrangements that were to be made; and as she did so, still, from time
to time, her eyes were raised to the young Roman's face with a long,
earnest glance, as if she would fain have fixed his image upon memory,
so that no years could blot it out. Then in the stream she bathed the
traces of the tears from her eyes; and looking up calmly, though
sadly, said, "Let us go, my brother. It is sweet, but it must end."

They took some steps homeward; but, ere they had gone far, she paused,
and laying her hands upon his, she said, "Oh, Theodore! promise me,
that if ever, while you are in your land, you need help or aid, you
will send to me. Send me this trinket back by a messenger;" and she
gave him one of the small golden ornaments which she wore in her hair;
"send it me back, and I will come to you, be it wheresoever it may.
Deeply as I love thee, I would not wed thee now for worlds; but, oh! I
would give life itself to render thee some service, which should make
thee say in after years, 'Alas! poor Neva! she loved me well indeed!'"

Thus wandered they homeward; and often did she pause to add something
more, and to give some new token of that deep and all unconcealed, but
pure affection, which had taken so firm a hold of her young heart.
Theodore, too, strove to sooth and to comfort her; and all that was
kind, all that was tender--except such words as only the ear of the
beloved should ever hear--he said, to give her consolation. As they
came near the village, however, she spoke less, for she seemed to fear
that her emotions might leave traces behind for other eyes than his;
but she gained courage as they went on; and, to Theodore's surprise,
when they joined the household, no sign of all the busy feelings which
he knew to be active in her breast was in the slightest degree
apparent, except, indeed, in a shade of grave melancholy, which was
not natural to her.

She chose the moment while all were assembled at the morning meal to
announce to her mother the necessity of Theodore's departure. The
matron had made some observation upon the young Roman's recovered
health, when she replied, "We shall lose him soon, my mother. He has
been telling me that the commands of Attila the King were strict, that
he should go on to the king's own dwelling by the Teyssa."

She spoke calmly; so calmly, indeed, that there were but two persons
among all the many who seemed to notice that she touched on things
more interesting than ordinary. Theodore could not but know all the
emotions which that calm tone concealed; and her mother, as soon as
she heard the subject of her discourse, fixed her eyes upon her with a
look of mingled wonder, tenderness, and surprise, as if she, too,
could see into her daughter's heart, and asked, by that glance, "Can
you, my child, talk thus calmly of his going?"

After that momentary pause, however, she replied aloud, "If Attila
bade him go forward, the king must be obeyed. My son, you should have
told us this before; for though my husband is also a king, yet Attila
is his elder brother, and we wish not to offend him."

"If fault there be," replied Theodore, "the fault is mine. The
commands of the king affixed me no certain time; and I do, indeed,
believe that he named his own residence as my dwelling-place only for
my greater safety."

"'Tis not unlikely," said the wife of Bleda; "but still, my son, you
must obey: tarry not here more days than needful; for we know not when
Attila or Bleda may return."

Theodore, too, knew that it was needful he should go, and yet he felt
regret at leaving those who had treated him with so much kindness and
tenderness; at leaving scenes in which he had known a brief interval
of tranquillity and peace, after having undergone so long a period of
grief, of horror, and of danger. He gave himself but the interval of
one day, however; and then, in the early morning, his horse and his
followers stood prepared at the door. The wife of Bleda gave him her
blessing as he departed with motherly tenderness; and Neva herself
stood by, and saw him mount without a tear wetting the dark lashes of
her tender blue eyes, without a sigh escaping from her lip. All she
said was, "Farewell, my brother: remember us."

Theodore himself could have wept; and as he saw her stand there in her
beauty, her innocence, and her devoted love, deeply and bitterly did
he regret--ay, and reproach himself, for having, however unwittingly,
brought a cloud over her sunshine, and first dulled the fine metal of
her bright and affectionate heart. He sprang upon his horse and rode
away, turning back more than once to gaze upon them as they stood
gathered round the door of their dwelling, and to wave his hand in
token of adieu.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.
                             THE HERMITS.


The life of man is a series of scenes, generally connected with each
other, often by the strong bond of cause and effect, but often linked
together by some fine accidental tie, having no reference to the
principal events. Each day may be considered as one act in life's
drama; and sleep comes with night to change the scenes, and give the
weary actors a moment of repose. Sometimes, however, there breaks in
among the rest--but detached from all those that surround it--a scene
in which we live, and act, and interest ourselves for a limited and
defined space of time, but which, when it is over, produces no effect
upon our general fate, acts as no cause in the complicated machinery
of our fortunes. Sometimes the scene maybe fair and sweet, a solitary
well in the desert, which cools our lip and quenches our thirst, but
supplies no river, waters no distant land. Sometimes it is terrible
and dangerous, a thunder-storm suddenly sweeping over the summer sky,
coming when all is brightness, reigning an hour in awful majesty, and
then passing away, and leaving the world as tranquil as it was before.

Theodore rode on, taking his way across the woods, and asking his
heart what was to come next; what, in all the vast, vague variety of
earthly chances, was the next thing that was to befall him on his
onward way. When, but a few short months before, he had stood upon the
mount of cypresses with those he loved, and had gazed over the calm
splendour of the Adriatic Sea, with life all before him, and hope to
lead him on, he had fancied that his fate would be as fair and bright
as the glowing scene beneath his eyes; his future had promised to be
as calm and unbroken by a storm as those tranquil waters, sleeping,
unruffled, beneath the setting sun. Had any one less than a prophet
then told him all that the next two months should behold, he would
have laughed the prediction to scorn, in the full confiding hope of
undisappointed youth. But now that for many a week every hour had
brought its change, that he had seen the expectations of to-day,
to-morrow trampled under foot, and the sunshine of the morning
darkened ere the evening's close, he had learned still to ask himself,
"What next?" with every day that rose, and every change of scene that
came upon him. That blessed reliance on the dear deluding tales of
hope, which is youth's peculiar power, had left him for ever; and
though the "What next?" might be asked, with the determination of
bearing all worthily, yet apprehension had always its share in the
question too.

The woods were wide and intricate; and, as Theodore and his companions
rode on, the trees and shrubs began to change their character:
enormous birches tossed about upon the rocks and rising grounds,
succeeded to the beech and oak; and after them again came the tender
larch, and the dark pine, as the road began to wind up into the
mountains. It was a sultry autumn day; and the misty haze that hung
about the world, with the close electric air of the forest, were
ominous of a thunderstorm; and at length the clouds, gathering round
the summits of the higher hills, burst upon the heads of Theodore and
his followers, just as they had reached a spot, where, from the top of
the first range of eminences, they could gaze over a wide extent of
forest ground. The rain poured down in torrents, the lightning
flickered through the sky; but neither of those would have prevented
Theodore from pursuing his way, had not the mountain paths they
followed become so slippery with the rain that his horse could not
advance, and even the lighter and more sure-footed beasts of the Huns
could make no progress.

They were debating as to where they could find shelter, when suddenly
they beheld, standing on the rock above, a tall thin human form,
scantily covered by its tattered robes from the wind or storm. He was
gazing down upon them without speaking; but Theodore, as soon as he
turned his eyes that way, recollected the enthusiast Mizetus, who had
attempted to persuade the people, during the earthquake in Dalmatia,
to stay and perish amidst the ruins of the falling palace. He had
heard long before that the enthusiast had wandered over many parts of
the earth, and had dwelt long in deserts and barren places as a
hermit, according to the prevailing superstitions of the day; and the
young Roman doubted not, that since he had been driven forth by the
partial destruction of Aspalathos, Mizetus had again returned to his
erratic life, and found his way to the frontiers of Pannonia. "Go up
to him, Cremera," said Theodore--"go up to him, and, telling him who
we are, ask him where we can find shelter, for he must surely have
some cave or hut wherein to dwell himself."

The Arab obeyed, leaving his horse below; but the enthusiast made him
no reply, gazing sternly, and even fiercely at him, till the freedman
used some angry words to drive him to an answer. He then exclaimed
aloud, "Get ye gone! get ye gone from me, ye miserable, worldly,
self-seeking generation! get ye gone! Ye shall not pollute my
dwelling. Farther on ye will find one who will give welcome alike to
the lustful Roman and the bloody, barbarous Hun. Get ye gone! I will
have naught to do with ye. On, on upon the path, I say: ye will find
shelter onward to cover your heads from the earthly storm, though not
from the tempest of God's indignation."

Cremera reported to his master the reply he had received, for the
thunder prevented it from reaching, at once, any ears but his own; and
Theodore, as the only course, slowly pursued the path along which
Mizetus had pointed, looking anxiously, as he proceeded over the wet
and slippery rocks, surrounded by precipices and impeded by scattered
fragments, for some sign of human habitation. It was long ere he
discovered any, however; and was indeed passing on, when Cremera
exclaimed, "There is a cave! there is a cave! and something standing
therein like the figure of a man."

Theodore hesitated not; but leading his horse towards the narrow mouth
of a cavern which he now beheld, ascended the steep path with risk and
difficulty. The Huns followed; and though, on entering, they
discovered that the object which Cremera had taken for a man was in
fact a large crucifix, they found seated within the cave one of those
many devout but enthusiastic beings, thousands of whom in that age
devoted their lives to solitude and privation, on a mistaken principle
of religion. Some subjected themselves to the most tremendous
inflictions, thinking thereby to please God; and the pillar and the
chain still find their place in history as illustrations of human
fanaticism. But the hermit here was of a different character: his
enthusiasm had taken a different form; and though not less wild,
perhaps we might say not less diseased, prompted him not to the
severer sufferings which were indispensable to obtain the reputation
of sanctity among the anchorites of the Thebais. He dwelt, it is true,
but in a cavern of the rock; but that cavern, high up on the mountain
side, was dry, and not unwholesome: his dress was indeed composed of
nothing but skins, yet the inhabitants of the country were principally
clothed with the same materials, though arranged in a more convenient
and agreeable form: his bed, which was raised high with rushes and
forest hay, was piled up above that with soft and warm skins; and the
contributions not only of some neighbouring villages on the other side
of the hills, but of many distant towns (for the whole land regarded
him as a holy being), supplied him plentifully with good and varied
food. His appearance, however, was venerable; and his countenance,
half covered as it was with a long white beard and a profusion of
silvery hair, was calm, peaceful, and mild, and well calculated to
obtain both reverence and love. There was, indeed, an occasional look
of worldly shrewdness seen upon those high but withered features,
which might have made many a suspicious man doubt the sincerity of his
vocation; but there came also from his eyes, from time to time, gleams
of quick uncertain light: whenever he approached particular subjects,
too, his whole air and manner changed, his colour mounted, his eye
flashed, his lip quivered; and Theodore could not gaze upon that
countenance, under all its frequent changes, without believing that
some slight touch of insanity had warped an intellect originally
fitted for high and noble things. When he rose to welcome the
strangers, his beard fell down below his girdle, and his long nails,
untrimmed for many a year, were exposed in all their deformity. His
manners, however, were noble, one might say courtly, for there was
grace as well as dignity, and polished terms as well as mild and
benevolent ideas. He asked no questions, neither whence the strangers
came nor whither they were going; but gladly gave them shelter from
the storm, and spread before them such viands as his cell contained,
pressing them to partake with hospitable care, and blessing, in the
name of God, the food to which he invited them. His eye, however,
rested upon Theodore; and though the youth had by this time adopted in
a great degree the dress of the Huns, yet his air and countenance were
not to be mistaken, and the hermit addressed him at once in Latin.

"There is a hermit from our native land," he said, after some
conversation upon other subjects, "living near, and doubtless a holy
and religious man he is; but the Almighty has not endued him with the
spirit of sufferance towards his fellow-creatures, and he thinks that
he cannot serve God without abhorring men. He was sent hither unto me
some months ago by Eugenius, bishop of Margus, to ask mine aid and
counsel in dealing with the Huns; but, when he had received his
answer, he would not depart, and has remained here ever since,
doubtless sent as another thorn in my flesh."

Theodore very well conceived how the wild enthusiast might become a
thorn in the flesh of any one less fanatical than himself, and he
replied, "He refused us shelter but now, reverend father; and sent us
on to thee in the midst of the storm, although I know him well. He
dwelt for some two years at Aspalathos, on the Illyrian coast, and
gained high repute for sanctity among the common people; but in the
terrible earthquake in which we had all nearly perished some five or
six months since, he strove to persuade the people to remain instead
of leaving the falling buildings, prophesying that the last day was
about to appear."

"He prophesy! my son," cried the hermit, with a wild look of scorn;
"no, no; the gift of prophecy has not fallen upon him. It is for that
he hates me: and because I impart, as I am directed, the knowledge of
those things that are revealed unto me to all who ask it, he abhors
and reviles me."

Theodore made no reply; for the spirit of prophecy was claimed by many
a one in those days: and though their predictions had often proved
false and worthless, yet that extraordinary endowment had been too
recently exercised and confirmed by facts for any one in that age to
say that the purpose was accomplished and the power withdrawn from the
children of men. Theodore had learned, however, to doubt; and,
therefore, he paused ere he gave credit to the gift which the hermit
evidently wished to insinuate that he possessed.

"During the whole of this day," continued the old man, when he saw
that the young Roman did not answer, "I have been waiting anxiously,
looking for the approach of some stranger from distant lands. There
has been a knowledge of the coming of some one upon me since the first
dawn of day; but it was not thee I expected, my son. It was some one
more powerful, some one more terrible, with whom I might have to
wrestle and contend. I know not--I cannot have deceived myself. Still,
it is now past the third hour, and no one has yet come."

"I should think," replied Theodore, "that it were not likely any one
would come; for all the great and powerful of the land are absent with
Attila, and we have made a long journey this morning without
encountering a living creature."

"But have you had no tidings of Attila's return?" demanded the hermit.
"Some messengers, who passed by this place but two days ago, spoke of
it as likely, and brought me presents from the king."

Theodore would not suffer himself to smile, although he thought that
the hermit, like many another man, might deceive himself in regard to
his own powers, and confound shrewd calculations with presages. The
old man had heard, it seemed, that Attila was likely to return; the
messengers might very probably have dropped some hint as to the time;
and the mind of the hermit himself having calculated the
probabilities, the impression that it would be as he anticipated had
become so strong that he looked upon that impression as a certain
presage; and, if fulfilled, would consider it thenceforth as a new
instance of his prophetical inspiration.

Theodore restrained all expression of such thoughts, however, and
merely replied, "Then, by his sending you presents, you already know
Attila, and are protected by him."

"I know him, my son," replied the old man, "but I am protected by a
higher king than he is. He rather may call himself protected by me,
or, at the least, _directed_, though he, as I am, is but an instrument
in the hands of God. The sins of those who call themselves Christians
have gone up on high," he continued, while a wild and wandering gleam
of light glistened in his eyes, and his pale cheek flushed--"the sins
of those who call themselves Christians have gone up on high, and the
vices of the east and the west have risen up to heaven as foul and
filthy as the smoke of a heathen sacrifice. They have called down
judgments upon the earth; lightnings, and tempests, and earthquakes,
and sickness, and pestilence, and warfare; and, lo! among the
visitations of God, I tell thee, young man, this Attila the King is
one of the greatest--an appointed instrument to punish the iniquities
of the land! So long as he shall do exactly the work assigned him, and
not disobey the word that is spoken, he shall prosper on his way, and
shall sweep the lands from the east to the west, and from the north to
the south: he shall stretch out one hand, and it shall touch the
Propontic Gulf; and he shall stretch out the other, and dip it in the
German Ocean; but neither the city of Romulus nor the palace of
Constantine shall he see or injure. He shall pull down the cities, he
shall destroy the nations, he shall trample under foot the yellow
corn, and the purple fig, and the sweet grape. Of their olive-trees he
shall light fires to warm him in the night; and with their flocks and
herds he shall feed the myriads that follow him to victory and spoil.
Armies shall not stand before him for an hour, and fenced cities shall
not keep him out; he shall destroy wherever he cometh, and behind him
he shall leave a bare plain; but the life of not one of those
appointed to be saved shall he take; and if he touch but a hair of
their heads, the power shall pass away from him, and he shall die a
death pitiful and despised. Lo! he comes, he comes!" and spreading
wide his arms, with a wild but striking gesture he advanced to the
mouth of the cavern, and gazed out upon the road below.

Theodore, who had also heard the sound of horses' feet apparently
approaching up from below, followed the hermit, and gazed forth
likewise. The thunder had ceased, and the rain was falling but slowly,
yet the ground was not less slippery and dangerous than when he
himself had passed. Nevertheless, coming almost at full speed was seen
a horseman, followed by two others at some short distance behind. Not
a false step, not a stumble did the charger make; and Theodore at once
perceived that the announcement of the hermit was correct, and that it
was Attila himself who approached to within a yard of the spot where
they stood. He came at the same headlong speed; and then, alighting
from his horse, he threw the bridle over its neck, and entered the
cavern with a slow, calm, and tranquil step. The monarch gazed at
Theodore for a moment, as if surprised at beholding him there; but no
slight emotions ever found their way to the countenance of Attila; and
his only observation was, "Ha! my son, art thou here?"

Theodore bent his head, and the monarch turned to the hermit, who
pronounced in his favour a singular prayer, one indeed which Theodore
imagined might give no light offence to the stern chieftain of the
Huns. "May God enlighten thine eyes," he said, "and purify thy spirit,
and soften thy hard heart, and make thee leave the abomination of
thine idols, so that thou mayst become a servant of the true God, and
not merely an instrument of his vengeance!"

But Attila merely bowed his head, saying, "May the truth shine upon
me, whatsoever it is!"

"Have I not told thee the truth?" demanded the hermit; "did I not tell
thee thou shouldst conquer? Did I not say that no one should be able
to oppose thee, if thou didst follow the words that were spoken unto
thee?"

"I did follow those words," said Attila: "I spared Margus, as thou
badest me, and I gave protection, as thou seest, to the first person
who crossed the river to meet me;" and he turned his eyes upon
Theodore.

"Ha!" cried the hermit, "and was this youth he? I spoke but the words
that were appointed me to speak," he added; "but I had fancied that
they had applied to another--not to him. God rules all these things
according to his own wise will. Say, where met you the youth?"

Ere Attila could reply, the sunshine, which was now beginning to pour
into the mouth of the cavern, was darkened by a tall form, which
advanced with wild gestures, and placed itself directly before the
monarch of the Huns. It was that of the enthusiastic Mizetus; who, in
the exalted and menacing tone in which he usually spoke, now addressed
the king, exclaiming, "Wo, wo unto the nations that thou wert ever
born! Wo, wo unto the world, far and near, oh son of Belial, that thou
didst ever see the light! Thou art died in blood, thou dost ride in
gore. The earthquake precedes thee; blue lightnings march with thy
host; famine goes forth on thy right hand, and pestilence on thy
left."

"Shall I slay him, oh mighty king?" cried one of the attendants of
Theodore, who had unsheathed his sword, and held it ready to strike
the enthusiast to the earth.

"Slay him not," said Attila, calmly, "slay him not; the man is mad,
and speaks the truth. What hast thou more to say, my brother? Thou
hast but said what is true."

"I have said what is true," continued the enthusiast, "and there is
more truth to be said. Wo unto thee if thou doest not the will of God!
I say, wo unto thee! for, if thou failest to do his will, all the
evils that thou pourest forth upon the nations shall, in return, be
poured forth upon thee; nor shalt thou raise thyself up in the pride
of thine heart and say, 'It is I who do all these things!' Neither
shalt thou suffer thyself to be puffed up by the praises of the weak
beings who now surround thee. Know that thou art no more than a sword
in the hands of the slayer; a rod in the hands of Him who is appointed
to chastise. Henceforth and forever cast away thy vain titles, and
abandon thine idle pretences. Thy name is THE SCOURGE OF GOD; and
through all nations, and unto all ages, by that name shalt thou be
known."

"I will fulfil thy words, and do accept the name," replied Attila,
calmly; "yes, I will be called the Scourge of God; and truly," he
added, with a dark smile, "I have already scourged the land from the
Danube to the sea. But now, my friend, hast thou more to say t for
though we reverence madmen, and those whose intellects the gods have
taken into their own keeping, still my time is precious, and I would
be alone."

"I am not mad, oh king," replied the enthusiast; "but I tell thee
truth, and yet I leave thee, having given thee a name by which to know
thyself, and by which thou shalt be known when thou and I shall have
gone to our separate places;" and thus saying he turned and left the
cave.[9]


---------------

[Footnote 9: It would appear, from various accounts, that the
tremendous title by which Attila was well pleased to be known, was
given to him as stated above, though some lay the scene of his
interview with the hermit in Gaul.]

---------------


"I will also go, oh king," said Theodore, "and will proceed upon the
way towards thy royal dwelling."

"Do so," said Attila: "go not too fast, and I will overtake you soon."

Theodore craved a blessing of the hermit, and then departed. The road
still mounted for some way; but by this time the rain was over, and,
as a drying wind rose up, the horses could better keep their feet upon
the steep and rocky ground. Passing over the ridge of the mountain,
the road, in about half an hour, began to descend through woody glens
and wild rocky ravines, similar to those which they had passed in
ascending; and as Theodore slowly pursued his way, he revolved in his
own mind that part of the conversation between the hermit and the
mighty monarch of the Huns which referred more particularly to
himself. It was not difficult to discover that, actuated by
superstitious feeling, Attila had, in consequence of some vague
warning of the hermit, spared the young Roman, not from any
prepossession in his favour, but solely because he thought it the
command of Heaven, and a condition on which the success of his
enterprise depended. Since those first events, however, the monarch
had shown him kindness of an extraordinary character; and either from
some vague notion of their fate being linked together by some
unexplained and mysterious tie, or from natural feeling of favour
towards him, had evinced an interest in his fate and happiness which
demanded gratitude. Theodore was not one to reason very nicely as to
how far the motives of a benefactor lessen the obligation imposed by
his kindness; and he only remembered that Attila had twice saved his
life, as well as spared him where any other Roman would have fallen,
when he intruded uncalled into the Dacian territory; that he had
rescued from worse than death those he most loved, and had shown a
kindly sympathy with feelings that few supposed him to possess. Thus,
though he revolved the means of learning more of what were the first
motives of the king in giving him such protection, he determined, as
he rode on with his followers, to seek every opportunity of showing
his just gratitude towards Attila.

They had not gone far, however, ere the sound of horses' feet was
heard echoing among the crags; and in a moment after Attila was by the
young Roman's side. A slight shade of triumphant pleasure--enough upon
the countenance of Attila to tell that he was moved internally by no
slight feelings of satisfaction--met the eye of Theodore as he turned
to answer the monarch's greeting.

"Art thou quite recovered, my son?" demanded the king. "We heard thou
hadst been ill, and likely to die; but the gods protect those whom
they love."

"I am now quite recovered," replied Theodore; "but I was very ill, and
should have died, had it not been for the care and tenderness of thy
brother's wife and children."

"Let the good acts of the wife," replied Attila, "counterpoise the bad
acts of the husband. But Bleda will not seek thy death now, I trust.
We have made war in company; we have conquered together; and he has
had a plentiful, a more than plentiful share of the spoil. It was me
he sought to injure more than thee; and now that his appetite for prey
and power seems satisfied, he may heed the suggestion of prudence, and
forget the ambition for which he has neither talent nor energy
sufficient."

Though the words of the king might have led to a fuller explanation of
the mysterious tie by which he seemed to feel himself bound to
Theodore, yet the young Roman was more strongly excited by the mention
of barbarian triumphs in his native land than by anything which could
personally affect himself; and he replied with an inquiring tone, "I
have heard nothing, oh Attila! of thy progress since I left thee. I
have received no tidings even of how the war has gone."

"War!" said Attila, proudly; "I call that war where brave men
encounter one another, and fight till one surrenders or dies: but such
is not that which the Romans have offered to Attila. Wouldst thou
know, youth, how my march through M[oe]sia and Thrace has gone? Thus
has it happened; but call it not a warfare, for warfare there has been
none. I have marched upon the necks of conquered enemies to the
[AE]gean Sea. H[oe]mus and Rhodope have not stayed me; seventy
fortified cities have fallen before me; and the last Roman army which
dared to look me in the face lies rotting in the Thracian Chersonese,
as thou dost call it, or feeds the vultures from Mount Ada. I found
the land a garden, and I left it a desert, even as I promised to do;
but I say unto the weak thing that sits upon the Eastern throne, 'Why
hast thou made me do this? Why hast thou called me to slay thy
subjects and lay waste thy cities? I slept in peace till I was wakened
by thine injustice. My sword grew unto its scabbard; my people kept
their flocks, and were turning tillers of the ground: the Danube
flowed between calm and peaceful banks, and my people held out the
hand of amity unto thine. I gave thee leave to trade within my land,
and at the first mart where thy subjects appeared they plundered mine,
and scoffed at the claims of justice. I demanded that he who, as I was
told, had concerted the deed with others, Eugenius, the bishop of
Margus, should be given up to me; or some one, proved to be the
robber, in his stead. Thou wouldst give me no justice, and I have
taken vengeance; but the deed is thine, oh weak man, for thou wert the
aggressor. Thou hast lighted the fire that has consumed thy land, and
the punishment is not yet complete.'"

"And did none resist thee?" demanded Theodore, sorrowfully. "Did none
show that the spirit of our fathers still lives at least in some of
the children?"

"Yes, yes," replied Attila. "There was one small city, called Azimus,
whose children showed me what ancient Romans may perhaps have been.
They were worthy to have fought beneath my standard, for they repelled
that standard from their walls. They fought as thou wouldst have
fought, my son, and they won the reverence and the love of Attila. I
found that they might be slain, but could not be conquered; and I
valued my own glory too much to risk it by crushing a race that I
acknowledged to be worthy of life. All the rest fought, if they did
fight, like cowards and like slaves, and I slew them without remorse;
but I would not have destroyed those Azimuntines to have saved my
right hand. Bear witness, youth, of what I tell you. My people have
been robbed and plundered by the creatures of Theodosius; I demanded
justice; it was refused; I took revenge. Thine emperor now seeks to
treat, because he thinks he can deceive Attila; thou shalt witness his
proceedings, and shall judge whether I strike again without just
cause. Attila slays not without cause; but thine is a lettered nation,
and they will transmit a false tale of these deeds unto after times.
We Huns write not our own histories."



                             CHAPTER XIX.
                        THE CHASE OF THE URUS.


Theodore pursued his way with his own followers only after the king
had left him to return to his host; and less than two days more
brought him to the banks of the Tibiscus. At the third hour after
sunrise, on the second day after meeting with Attila, he came in sight
of one of the few fixed habitations of the wandering Scythians--the
ordinary dwelling of the king. It was all unlike a Roman capital, and
yet it was not an unpleasing scene.

Upon a wide plain, broken by some tracts of wood, and skirted by some
rich sloping hills, at the foot of which it rested, stood a
congregation of several thousands of low wooden dwellings, each
separated from the other, and covering a large space of ground; but
with all their lowliness, those houses were not without ornament--of a
different kind, it is true, from that which decked the stately
mansions of Rome or Constantinople, but suited to the buildings, the
people, and the scene. Before each ran along the same long portico,
supported by the trunks of trees, which Theodore had remarked in
the dwelling of Bleda; and many an ornamental screen and piece of
trellis-work gave lightness and beauty to various parts of the
building. Trees were scattered here and there among the houses, giving
shade to their high-peaked roofs; and flowers and shrubs were not
wanting, such as the infant art of the age and country could produce.

Many a busy group was there, engaged in all the peaceful occupations
of pastoral life; and though here, as before, women and children
formed the greater part of the population, a number of men--mingling
with the other groups--showed Theodore that the land had not been so
entirely left without defenders as he had imagined. As he rode on and
entered the streets--if by such name we can designate the wide open
spaces between the houses--the population became more dense; and he
observed among them every shade of complexion and every line of
feature that it is possible to conceive. The colour and cast of
countenance of the Huns was certainly more general than any other; but
there also might be seen the Roman and the Greek, the beautiful tribes
of Caucasus, the fair-haired children of the North, the Goth, the
Vandal, and the Helvetian. Nor was this mixture merely apparent, but,
on the contrary, it was borne out by the many tongues which struck the
ear of Theodore as he rode along. There his own language was
frequently heard; there the tongue of his mother's land was common;
and not only did Theodore recognise Greeks and Romans as captives or
bondmen, but many walked free and armed among the rest of the
population, as if holding rank and authority among them. The young
Roman now began to perceive that Attila, with wise policy, had left
the guardianship of his land during his absence to persons whose
situation, as fugitives or exiles from their native country, would
render their resistance to any invading force desperate, determined,
and unconquerable. He himself, as he passed, excited no great
attention, for the Roman features with the Hunnish dress was too
common among them to call forth much remark. Cremera the Arab,
however, by his powerful limbs and gigantic height, drew all eyes upon
the little troop as it advanced towards the mansion of the king; and
Theodore heard many an observation made upon him and his, in tongues
which the speakers thought he could not understand, but which were
familiar to his ear.

At length they reached the open space in which the dwelling of Attila
was placed. It was merely a wooden building like the rest, but far
more extended; and though as simple as any in some respects, yet much
more ornamented and tasteful in others. Besides the principal mansion,
a number of smaller houses were congregated in the same space,
probably destined for the reception of his immediate officers and
friends; but the whole mass of buildings thus collected was separated
from the rest by a piece of open ground, spreading on all sides to the
extent of several acres. In this space several horsemen were
exercising themselves with various arms, poising the spear, casting
the javelin, drawing the bow, or urging the mock contest with the
sword. Under the porticoes and within the low screens groups of women
and children were seen employed in various household occupations and
juvenile amusements; and the whole presented a picture of cheerful,
active, and happy life, which might have taught an inexperienced heart
to believe that among that people was to be found the wished-for
state, where busy life proceeded in peaceful tranquillity, without the
cares, the anxieties, the jealousies, the strifes of more civilized
and more corrupt society.

Theodore rode on, as he had been directed, towards the gate of the
principal dwelling; but he was surprised, and somewhat offended, as he
came near, by one of the horsemen, who was careering in the open
space, hurling a javelin right across his path so as to pass within a
foot of his head. Theodore's nerves, however, were too strongly strung
to give way even to the slightest appearance of emotion; and urging
forward his horse rather than checking it, he passed on without
noticing a loud and scornful laugh which burst from the young man who
had cast the dart. Cremera, who rode a little behind his master,
turned and gazed fiercely round, while the Hunnish youth and those who
were sporting with him dashed in among the followers of Theodore, as
if on purpose to disturb him, separating a part of them from the rest.
Theodore was now turning to remonstrate; but he heard the chief of his
attendants already in sharp discussion with his fellow-countrymen; and
the first words that caught his ear made him resolve to abstain from
even remonstrance, in a case which might add new causes of anxiety and
circumstances of difficulty to his long and painful exile among the
Huns.

"Know you who I am?" cried the youth who had hurled the javelin.

"Well!" answered Theodore's attendant. "You are Ellac, the son of the
king, yourself a monarch; but we are here under the shield of Attila,
where his son himself dare not strike us; for Attila is just, and
kindred blood shields no one from the stroke of his equity." Some more
words ensued, and Ellac at length said, "Is not this he who has dared
my uncle Bleda, and provoked him to anger?"

"We know naught of that, oh king!" replied the attendant; "all we know
is, that we are given to this young leader by Attila the King, as true
soldiers to their chief. We are commanded and are willing to die in
his defence, and will guard him against any one and every one with our
lives."

"Have ye no tribe and chieftain of your own?" demanded Ellac,
scornfully. "Where is the head of your own race, that ye have the base
task of following a stranger?"

"The head of our race died upon the plains of Gaul, with fifty of our
brethren," replied the attendant; "and it is not a base task to follow
a sword which has drank deep even of the blood of our own nation."

"If it have drank the blood of our nation," replied Ellac, "he that
wields it should be slain."

"Such is not the will of the king," replied the attendant; and he then
added, "Stop us not, oh king, for we do our duty."

The young chieftain sullenly drew back his horse, and turning with a
look of angry comment to his own followers, he suffered those of
Theodore to proceed. They accordingly rode on and overtook the young
Roman, who had preceded them by a few paces, just as he reached the
light screens of woodwork which separated the palace of Attila from
the open space around it.

There Theodore dismounted from his horse, and in a moment was
surrounded by a number of those who were spending their idleness under
the shade of the portico. A mixed and motley group they were,
comprising old warriors, unfit any longer to draw the sword, beautiful
girls of various ages--from that at which the future loveliness bursts
forth from the green film of childhood like the first opening of the
rose, to that at which charms that have seen the fulness of the summer
day spread out in their last unfaded hours like the same rose when its
leaves are first ready to fall. Children, too, were there, and many a
slave from every distant land, with mutes and dwarfs, singers,
jesters, and buffoons.[10]


---------------

[Footnote 10: Both the Greek and Roman historians strive to impress
their readers with the idea that the Huns were mere Scythian savages;
but at every line they let fall something which impugns this
assertion. We find that gold, gems, silver, tables, various kinds of
drinks of their own manufacture, firearms and equipments, jesters,
dwarfs, singing, and several games of chance, were common among them:
and, in short, that there was an extraordinary mixture of civilized
arts with barbarian habits.]

---------------


A number of these, as we have said, now crowded round Theodore with
looks of interest and expectation, while others, listless and
unheeding, lay quietly in the sun, casting their eyes with idle
carelessness upon the stranger, without thinking it worth their while
to move. Many was the question that was now asked, and many was the
curious trait which struck the sight of Theodore. But we must not
pause to paint minutely the life and manners of the Huns. That Attila
was on his march homeward was already known at the royal village, and
orders had been received regarding the treatment of the young
stranger. One of the houses in the same enclosure as that of the
monarch had been appointed him for a dwelling; and having taken up his
abode therein, he found himself served and supplied as if he had been
one of the barbarian king's own children.

Although the scene which now passed daily before his eye was very
different from that which he had beheld at the dwelling of Bleda, and
he found it more difficult to enter into the kindly intimacy of any of
the barbarian families than he had done there, yet the same simple
manners were to be seen. Large flocks and herds were daily driven out
to pasture; from every dwelling poured forth the drove in the morning,
and to every dwelling returned the well-fed cattle in the evening,
with him who had been their guardian during the day singing his rude
song to cheer the empty hours.

The women, too, whatever their rank or station among the people, were
seen sitting before their dwellings, twirling the spindle in the sun,
or occupied in other domestic cares which had long since been
abandoned by the polished and luxurious dames of Rome.

The mixture of foreign nations with the Hunnish population had indeed
produced a sort of mockery of the vices and luxuries of civilized
capitals; and Theodore saw that simple fare, and coarse, unornamented
garments were by no means universal among the Huns. Gold, and silver,
and precious stones appeared upon the persons and in the dwellings of
many, and even the silken vestures of the East were seen among the
female part of the inhabitants.

For several days Theodore remained almost totally without society;
for, after the first movement of curiosity, the inhabitants of the
palace took no further notice of him, and no one else sought for his
acquaintance, except, indeed, some of those Romans who had abandoned
their country and assumed the appearance of the Huns. Several of
these, it is true, presented themselves at his dwelling, and would
fain have looked upon him as one of themselves; but Theodore was on
his guard, and he received their advances somewhat coldly. He was
ready, indeed, to meet with kindly friendship any one whom the arm of
injustice had driven from their native land, and who preserved pure
their faith and honour, but unwilling to hold an hour's companionship
with men who had been scourged forth by their own vices, or had
betrayed their native land for the gratification of any passion,
whether the sordid hope of gain, the wild thirst of ambition, or the
burning fury of revenge. Of all who thus came to him he was
suspicious, and his doubts were not removed by their manners; for all
more or less affected to graft upon the polish of the Roman the rude
and barbarian fierceness of the Hun. Though accustomed to a more
refined, though perhaps not a better, state of society, they
endeavoured to assume the manners of the nation among whom they dwelt;
and the mixture thus produced was both painful and disgusting to the
feelings of the young Roman, whose character was too decided in its
nature ever to change by its contact with others, and possessed too
much dignity to affect manners of any kind but those which sprang from
his own heart, tutored as it had been from youth in habits of graceful
ease.

In all the visits of this kind that he received, and they were many, a
topic of conversation soon presented itself which acted as a
touchstone upon the exiles. This was the comparative excellence of the
Roman and barbarian mode of life. Almost every one broke forth on the
first mention of such a subject into wild and vague praises of the
simplicity, the freedom, the purity of the most unrestrained and
uncivilized nation into whose arms either fortune or folly had driven
them; and all the commonplaces against luxury and effeminacy had been
conned and noted down to justify as a choice that which was in fact a
necessity--their abode among the Huns. But Theodore thought
differently, and he expressed strongly his opinion.

No man hated more effeminacy, no one more despised sensual luxury; but
he thought that refined manners and refined taste might exist with
virtue, purity, even simplicity; and he thought, also, that as the
most precious substances, the hardest metals, and the brightest stones
take the finest polish, so the most generous heart, the firmest and
the most exalted mind, are those most capable of receiving the highest
degree of civilization. At all events, he felt sure that no one who
had tasted the refinements of cultivated life could lose their taste
for what was graceful and elegant; and that if, from any hatred of the
vices or follies which had crept into a decaying empire, they fled to
a more simple and less corrupted state, they would still prize highly,
and maintain in themselves that noble suavity, that generous urbanity,
which springs from the feelings of a kind, a self-possessed, and a
dignified mind.

These opinions, as I have said, he did not scruple to express boldly
and distinctly; and he soon found that such notions, together with
those he entertained regarding patriotism and the duty of every man
towards his country, were not pleasant to the ears of his visiters.
Some slunk away with feelings of shame, not altogether extinct in
their bosoms. Some boldly scoffed at such prejudiced ideas; and only
one or two, with calm expressions of regret, acknowledged that they
felt as he did, and only lamented that injustice and oppression had
driven them from the society in which they had been accustomed to
dwell, and the refined pleasures which they were capable of enjoying,
to the wilds of Dacia and the company of barbarians. With these
Theodore would not have been unwilling to associate: but, ere he did
so, he sought to see more of them, and to hear their history from
other lips than their own; and, therefore, with a coldness of
demeanour which was not natural to him, he received all advances from
his fellow-countrymen.

Ellac, the son of Attila, he saw no more; and he was glad to be spared
fresh collision with one who was evidently ill disposed towards him,
and who was so dangerous an enemy. He strove not to avoid any one,
however, but walked forth alone among the houses of the Huns with that
fearless calmness which is generally its own safeguard. Still he saw,
without choosing to remark it, that Cremera's apprehensions for his
safety were greater than his own; and that, though he ventured not to
remonstrate against any part of his master's behaviour, yet whenever
the young Roman went forth on foot towards the close of the day to
enjoy the calm hour of evening in that tranquil meditation with which
it seems to sympathize, he caught a glance here and there of the tall,
dusky form of the Arab following his footsteps with watchful care.

Sometimes the young Roman would ride out on horseback, followed by his
attendants, to hunt in the neighbouring woods; and if any of the idler
Huns followed their troop to join in the amusement or to share their
game, the skill and activity which Theodore had acquired excited their
wonder and admiration.

Early on the morning of the seventh day after his arrival at the
residence of Attila he thus went forth, accompanied both by the Alani
and the Huns who had been given to him, and rode along by the banks of
Tibiscus to the wide deep woods which, at the distance of about five
miles from the village, swept up from the river, and covered the
sides, nearly to the top, of a lateral shoot of those high mountains
which crossed the country to the eastward.

He followed the side of the river as closely as the nature of the
ground permitted, even after he had entered the woods; for he knew
that about that hour the stags and the elks, then so common in the
Dacian and Pannonian forests, came down to drink at the larger
streams, seeming to disdain the bright but pretty rivulets that
sparkled down the sides of the mountains. He had heard, too, that such
was the case with the urus, or wild bull; but the animal was scarce
even in those northern solitudes, and he had not any personal
knowledge of its habits.

Remarking the course of the stream when first he entered the wood, he
ordered his attendants to spread out at some distance from himself,
and drive the game towards the river, the banks of which he himself
proposed to follow. Little appeared, however, and that of a kind not
worthy of pursuit. A wolf, indeed, crossed his path, and, casting his
javelin at it, he struck the grim robber of the fold down to the
ground; but, shaking it quickly from his weapon, he passed on, and for
near an hour followed the side of the stream, hearing from time to
time the cries of his attendants, as they shouted, both to give notice
to their companions of the course they were pursuing and to scare the
game from the lair.

Mingling other thoughts of a more heartfelt and interesting kind with
the alternate expectations and disappointments--trifling, indeed, but
still exciting--of the chase, he did not remark that after a time the
voices of his followers sounded less and less loud, and that the river
swept away more than he had calculated towards the west. Cremera,
indeed, he saw from time to time emerge from the deeper parts of the
wood to catch a glance of him, and he fancied that the others were not
far distant. But at length all the sounds ceased, and after some time
he became aware that he had strayed considerably from the direction
which he had proposed to take. He heeded it not much, however, saying
to himself, "They will soon rejoin me: the river sweeps round again
not far on."

As he thus thought, he heard the distant cry of dogs; and putting his
horse into a quicker pace, he hurried on towards the spot from which
the sounds proceeded. They were faint and far off, however; but, as he
rode forward, they seemed to advance upon him, winding hither and
thither in the wood; and he thought, as his practised ear caught the
sounds, "It must be an elk they are upon; they cry more eagerly than
on a stag."

There were some high grounds above him, but covered with deep wood;
and though, soon after, Theodore could hear the musical voices of the
hounds pass across the upland, and could even catch the rushing and
crashing sound of some large beast passing through the underwood, he
could neither see dogs nor game. He thought, however, "That is no elk!
It does not bound like an elk--most probably a wild boar; and, if so,
one of enormous size."

Then, giving a hasty glance to the river, he exclaimed, "It turns
there: the brute must either take the water, face the dogs, or come
back hither by the open ground;" and urging his horse as close as
possible to the stream, he rode on to meet the animal, whatever it
was, just as it burst from the wood. As he approached, he heard that
he had calculated rightly by the turn which the dogs took; and he
paused that he might fling his javelin with a surer aim.

At that moment, however, a cry like that of a human being in pain or
fear caught his ear, proceeding from among the trees just before him;
and dashing on to give aid if the beast were brought to bay, he
plunged his horse in among the brushwood, passed in a moment a narrow
slip of forest that impeded his sight, and found himself in a small
open space, round three sides of which the river bent like a sickle.

One object, however, in that space occupied all his attention, one
feeling took possession of his heart, and but one course was left him
to pursue. In the midst, clothed in a shaggy mane, with foam covering
its black nostrils and fury flashing from its dark sinister eyes, its
foot planted on a hound that it had just killed, and its enormous neck
bent and head drawn back, in act to strike again with the short but
pointed horns upon its wide square brow, stood the urus which the dogs
had driven from its mountain solitudes.

Before it, prostrate on the earth, and panting in the agonies of
death, lay one of the small horses of the Huns, with streams of blood
pouring forth from a tremendous gore in its side. Fallen with the
fallen horse lay a boy of about twelve years of age, splendidly
apparelled after the barbarian fashion, and with one small hand raised
and grasping a sword, he made a vain effort to strike the fell
adversary that was rushing upon him.

On one moment hung life or death; and, even while his horse was
clearing the last brushwood, Theodore, with all the strength and
swiftness of youth and vigour, hurled his unerring javelin at the
monster. It struck him but slightly, for the youth's hand was shaken
by the spring of his horse; but it flew so swiftly, that the sharp
steel cut through the tough hide upon his back just as he was dashing
forward to crush the boy to atoms. It shook and turned him; and as the
young Hun writhed partly on one side, the fury of the animal's stroke
was spent upon the dying horse. Mad, however, with pain, he now turned
upon his new assailant; but Theodore, active as well as strong,
snatched the second javelin from his saddle bow, sprang from his
horse, and met the brute as he rushed upon him.

With his head down and his eyes closed, the urus rushed on; but
Theodore, though knowing his danger, was neither fearful nor
unprepared; and when the animal was within two steps of where he
stood, he darted on one side, and then plunged the spear into its
back. The weapon struck against the bone, however--stopped--broke
short off; and, but little injured, the bull turned upon him again.

There were now the cries of coming huntsmen, but no time was left for
distant succour to arrive. On himself, on himself alone, the young
Roman was forced to depend; and, drawing his short sword, he again
stood prepared to meet the assault of his adversary. With his eyes not
now closed as before, but keenly watching his prey, the urus again
rushed upon him; and Theodore, knowing that, though his sword was
sharp and his arm was strong, it was in vain to strike at that bony
head or that thick and heavy mane, again sprang on one side, but
farther than before, more to avoid the first rush than to strike the
animal as he passed.

The bull, however, was not again deceived, but followed him like
lightning; as he did so, however, the coming huntsmen and dogs rushing
through the trees met his ferocious eye. He wavered for a moment
between flight and vengeance--exposed, as he turned, his side to the
arm of the young Roman--and Theodore, seizing the moment, plunged the
keen blade into his chest up to the hilt, casting himself forward upon
the beast with such force that they both fell and rolled upon the
ground together.

The weapon had found the heart of the fierce animal; and after but one
faint effort to rise, his head and hoofs beat the ground in the bitter
struggle of the fiery and tenacious life parting from the powerful
body, till with a low bellowing groan he expired.

Theodore raised himself from the ground, and drawing his sword from
the carcass of the urus, he gazed round upon the scene in which the
strife had taken place. Greatly was it altered since he had last
looked about him, for it was filled with a multitude; and when
Theodore turned his eyes towards the spot where had lately lain the
boy he had just saved from death, he saw him raised up from his dead
horse, and clasped in the arms of Attila himself.



                             CHAPTER XX.
                   THE NEW FRIENDS AND NEW ENEMIES.


Theodore stood bewildered in the midst of the strange scene which now
surrounded him, his thoughts all hurried and confused from the fierce
strife and imminent peril into which he had been so suddenly hurried.
At first, when he had turned to follow the cry of the dogs, he had
forgotten--in the eagerness of the noble sport, the primeval pastime
of earth's giant sons--that his own attendants were now unaccompanied
by the hounds with which he had been accustomed to hunt in the forest
near Bleda's dwelling; and, from the moment he had first seen that
noble-looking boy, to that in which he rose from the prostrate carcass
of the ferocious beast that had so nearly destroyed him, there had
been no time for any other thoughts but those connected with the
fierce combat in which he was engaged.

Now, however, as he looked round, he divined the whole, well knowing
the custom of those barbarian chiefs to pursue the chase as eagerly
while marching along with hostile armies as when it served to solace
the vacant hours of peace. That he had fallen in with the hunt of
Attila he clearly perceived; but who the boy was that he had saved, he
could only gather from the fond embrace with which the dark monarch
held him in his powerful arms. Fond and tender, no one who saw it
could doubt what that embrace really was; and yet scarce any sign of
emotion could be discovered on the iron countenance which so often led
the slaughter in the fiercest fields of barbarian war.

The boy was talking eagerly and rapidly, and pointing to Theodore as
he rose; and the moment after, while the young Roman drew forth his
sword from the side of the mighty beast that lay cumbering the earth
like a huge gray mound, the king set his son down, and, after resting
his broad hand on his head for a moment, strode across the open space
and stood by the side of the boy's deliverer.

For an instant his eyes ran over the tremendous limbs of the urus, the
broad square head, the tangled mane, from amid the thick coarse hair
of which the dark blood was pouring out in streams, and upon the
sharp-pointed horns, one of which had burrowed in the earth as he had
rolled over in the agonies of death--and then he turned his look upon
his boy. The next instant he held out his hand to Theodore, saying,
"Thou hast saved my child! Well and truly did yon holy man declare
that the safety of myself and of my race depended upon him whom I
should first meet as I marched against the Romans; and that the first
act of forbearance and mercy which I showed should be followed by
benefits that I could never repay. Nor was that all. When you met me
on the mountain, young Roman, scarce a week since, that same old man,
gazing from the brink of the everlasting, and beholding the future
like a valley at his feet, traced out the after life of this my
youngest son. He should escape from mighty perils, the prophet said,
and be the last who should survive to carry on my race. Has he not now
escaped from mighty peril by thine aid? and though it was foredoomed,
deep and heartfelt is the gratitude which I owe thee for saving the
life of this my boy at the immediate hazard of thine own. Attila
thanks thee, and will keep the memory of this deed in his heart. I
have called thee my son, oh Theodore, and shalt thou not be unto me a
son indeed? Ay, and a well-beloved son too, only next in place to him
whom thou hast rescued from untimely death."

"I am still thy debtor, oh Attila," replied Theodore: "once hast thou
spared me when I intruded on thy territories; twice hast thou saved my
life, knowing me to be a Roman and an enemy; and I have only rescued
this fair boy, whom I would have saved as unhesitatingly if he had
been the son of the poorest warrior in the Hunnish ranks;" and, as he
spoke, he held out his hand towards the youth, who had advanced nearly
to his father's side, and who seized it eagerly, and clasped it with a
grateful gesture to his heart.

"Let mutual benefits bind us to each other, my son," said Attila. "I
loved thee from the moment my eyes lighted upon thee. Whether it was a
feeling sent by the gods to tell me that I should owe thee much, I
know not; but I loved thee then, and how much more do I love thee now?
Thou shalt find that though those, who unjustly oppose the will of
Attila, injure his friends, or insult his people, die by the death
they merit, yet those who risk their lives in the defence of him or
his are not forgotten in the time of gratitude--but come thou with me.
We march by slow journeys, that the host may diminish as we cross the
land; to-morrow, however, I shall sit once more in mine own seat.
Come, then, with me, and spend this night in our camp; to-morrow we
will find another place of repose."

Thus saying, the monarch dismounted; a fresh horse was soon found for
the boy Ernac; and Theodore followed by the side of the youth, who,
talking to him eagerly in the Hunnish tongue, thanked him over and
over again with simple sincerity for the service which had been
rendered to him. There was something noble and frank in the manners of
the boy; and, as they went, he told his deliverer how the whole of
that day's adventure had come about; how he had gone forth from the
palace four or five days before to meet his father on his march
homeward; and how, in that day's hunting, he had been stationed near
the river's brink to watch for the smaller game as it was driven down
to the water; and then, when the urus appeared, how he had fancied he
would please Attila by killing such a gigantic beast as that. He
dwelt, too, on all he felt when he found his horse slain and himself
at the mercy of the enraged monster, and Theodore experienced a double
pride and pleasure in having saved so promising a child.

From time to time, as they rode on, the young Roman cast his eyes
around, and listened somewhat anxiously for the coming of his own
attendants, fearing that they might seek for him long in those dark
woods. Cremera, however, he had seen among those who stood around when
he rose from his contest with the wild bull; and he doubted not that
the others would soon gain some knowledge of the path he had taken
from those who had been left to bring away the body of his huge
antagonist, as a trophy of the sylvan war.

He mentioned that he had missed his attendants, however, to his young
companion Ernac, who laughed with boyish glee at his apprehensions,
adding, "Oh, they will find you ere an hour be over. We Huns have ways
of tracing our way through the thickest forests that you Romans do not
understand;" and the proud emphasis which a mere boy laid upon "We
Huns," showed Theodore how strong had become the national pride of the
people under the victorious reign of Attila, though he could not but
feel painfully, at the same time, the deep contempt which had fallen
upon the once tremendous name of Rome. Ernac's anticipations, however,
in regard to the attendants, did not prove false; for as the hunting
train of the dark monarch rode through on the wilds, every now and
then Theodore perceived the person of one of his own followers
appearing between the trees, and taking their place among the rest.
Attila proceeded slowly, and, as he rode on, spoke to no one, except
when he turned, and with an unwonted smile of fond, paternal love,
addressed a few words to his rescued boy.

At length, towards evening, they emerged from the forest; and entering
one of the plains which here and there diversified the country, they
approached once more the wild and extraordinary scene presented by a
Hunnish camp. At a considerable distance Theodore could see it as it
lay upon the slope of one of the uplands, with the dusky millions
moving about in their various occupations, with a bustling, whirling
activity, like ants in one of the large ant-hills of that very land.
As they approached nearer the different masses seemed to separate; and
the camp assumed the same appearance--with its fires and circles of
wagons--that it had presented when Theodore before beheld it in the
Roman territory.

Approaching the central circle which formed the abode of Attila, the
monarch turned towards the young Roman, saying, "You follow me!" and
passing on, he led the way within the boundary.

The space enclosed for the monarch's own dwelling was large, and
filled with a number of Huns, busy in various preparations. A change,
however, seemed to have come over the tastes of Attila since his
successful invasion of the Roman territory, for many more of the
external marks of dignity of station surrounded his abode. In the
midst of the circle, too, stood a magnificent tent, which had
evidently once belonged to one of the luxurious generals of the
Eastern empire, but which was now surmounted by the same black eagle
that ornamented the standards of the Huns. Thither Attila himself
proceeded, while all made way for his footsteps with looks of awe and
respect, not servile, not timid, but seeming only the expression of
heartfelt reverence for the daring courage, the powerful genius, the
mighty mind, which nature had implanted in the breast of him whom the
accident of birth had made a king.

Theodore paused, and looked to the boy Ernac, who seemed to understand
his doubts at once, and replied to them by saying, "Yes, stay you
here, and make your people get you provisions! I will go in to my
father, and see what is his will with regard to you; but I must wait
till he speaks to me, for I dare not address him first."

The young Roman was by this time sufficiently accustomed to the Huns
to make himself at home among them without uneasiness or restraint;
and proceeding nearly to the verge of the circle, he lay down upon the
ground, while the Huns who accompanied him, and who had by this time
separated themselves from the followers of the monarch, lighted a
fire, and sought for provisions in the camp.

He gave himself up to a fit of musing, regarding the events of the day
and the difference of his own feelings now, compared with what they
had been but a few months before. At that time, when he at first met
Attila--though he had experienced on beholding him, even before
he was aware of his name and station, sensations which he could not
define--he had regarded the monarch of the Huns but as the talented
chief of numerous barbarian hordes. Now he felt hourly creeping over
him more and more of that same kind of awe with which the various
nations under his command seemed uniformly to regard their chief; and
Theodore tried to investigate in what consisted that peculiar power
which was producing such an impression, gaining such an ascendency
over a mind not unconscious of vigour, activity, and brightness. He
revolved the words, the conduct of Attila in every respect, and he
could attribute this effect to nothing, were it not to the combination
of many great and powerful qualities, seldom united in one man, but,
as it were, all cemented together in the mind of Attila by a certain
calm, deliberate sternness, which never left him except in the
fiercest fury of the sanguinary strife. His every thought seemed
stern; and the unshaken and extraordinary calmness which he displayed
on all occasions appeared to give him instant and perfect command over
all the powerful talents which he inherited. There could be no such
thing as doubt or hesitation in his nature; and to that godlike
certainty of purpose Theodore attributed the power over the minds of
others which he so singularly possessed.

While he thus lay musing, forgetful of the scene around him, a sudden
step woke him from his revery; and the next moment his former
antagonist, Ardaric, king of the Gepid[ae], cast his huge bulk down
upon the ground beside him. "Well, my friend," he said, looking upon
the countenance of Theodore, and running his eye over the limbs of the
youth, manly and strong as they were, but still infinitely inferior in
muscular strength to his own, "well, my friend, when last we met it
was in deadly strife; and now, in calm friendship, after our contest
is over. I love the brave, whether they be enemies or not: and when
the boy Ernac, who is not unlike thee in face and manners, told me
thou wert here, I resolved to come and see thee, that I might
discover, if I could, how one who seemed to me but a stripling could
give me more trouble in the combat than a whole cohort of his
countrymen. I cannot understand it even now, for thou art very young,
and certainly not yet in strength mine equal. Thou art more active,
perhaps; but that will not do everything. However, let us not talk of
strife! I come to eat and drink with thee, that the bond of hospitable
union may be strong between us."

"Gladly will I make it so, noble Ardaric," replied Theodore. "The
generous and noble soon become friends whenever they cease to be
enemies. You spared my life when you might have taken it, and I will
love you not a bit the less because you vanquished me."

"I spared you not, good youth, for your own sake," replied Ardaric,
frankly; "I spared you for the sake of Attila, my friend. I would have
slain you at the next blow had it not been for him; for at that moment
my blood was heated. You had, with your own hand, killed three of my
people, and I had not time nor coolness to think, just then, that you
were a brave youth, and a noble spirit, and that it were a pity to cut
you off so soon. I may have thought so since; and from my heart I
forgive you for thinning our ranks of two or three of those startled
foxes, who fled before you when you burst among them as if they
thought you must be some evil demon, to dare, with but two comrades,
to attack a whole tribe."

"You held as prisoners, noble Ardaric," replied Theodore, "those whom
I valued far more than life itself; and my only calculation was how
long I could bar the way against your warriors, while those I sought
to save effected their escape."

"I thought so," rejoined the King of the Gepid[ae], "I thought so: and
now I hear that your mother and that fair girl--who is not your
sister--are among your kinsmen of the Alani. Why go you not to see
them?"

"Because," replied Theodore, "I have promised to stay with Attila for
full seven years."

"Oh, he will give you leave to go," replied Ardaric. "Use him but
nobly, and Attila is ever kind and generous. He will give you leave to
go. When first he speaks to you, lead you the conversation to your
wishes; and besides," added the chief, with a grave and warning look,
"I think it may be better for you to be absent from this land for a
brief space. Bleda, the brother of the monarch, loves you not. He is
ambitious; and men scruple not to say, among the leaders of nations
who obey and accompany the great king, that his hatred towards you
proceeds from some idle prophecy which combines the safety of Attila
with thine. I say not that he would slay his brother; but he would
little scruple, men affirm, to take away the life of one whose
existence was important to the monarch's safety. I believe not in such
prophecies," added Ardaric, after a pause of thought--"I believe not
in such prophecies, but Attila, and Bleda, and many others do. They
think that a man's destiny is fixed and known long before his birth;
that every little act which he performs is but one part of a great
necessity; and that, such being the case, the gods give intimation of
what they have already determined to certain men peculiarly chosen for
that purpose. I believe, on the contrary, that everything takes place
by accident; and that, if the gods interfere at all with what we do,
it is but to drive us on again upon our way, as a herd does to a stray
bull that wanders from the drove. I put no faith in such prophecies;
and I see that even those who do strive as much to have their own way
against destiny as those who think that there is no such thing. Now
Bleda would take your head to-morrow, in order to put his brother's
fate out of joint; and Ellac, they say, has no great love for you,
though he be Attila's son. But his hatred proceeds merely from
overbearing pride. He loves his father, and would not injure him; but
he likes not that Attila should favour or promote any one but
himself."

"I will take care to give him no offence," replied Theodore. "I seek
no promotion at Attila's hands, because, as a Roman, I can receive
none. His love, I believe, I already possess; but Ellac will not envy
me that, when he finds that it is followed by no benefits demanded or
conferred."

"It is therefore, I say," answered Ardaric, "that it would be well for
you to be absent from this land for a short space. Bleda's ambition
will not let him rest, though Attila thinks that he has sated him with
honours and with spoil. But the grave, and ambition, and avarice are
insatiable. Bleda's ambition will not let him rest, I say; and these
things will come to an end ere many months be over! But here come
thine attendants and mine, loaded with food far more than we need, yet
let us partake."

There was something so frank and noble in the bearing of Ardaric, that
Theodore was not unwilling to possess his friendship; but scarcely had
they tasted the meal placed before them, when a messenger from Attila
called the young Roman to his presence. Without delay, he followed the
Hun to the tent of the monarch, whom he found with Ernac, his youngest
son, alone.

Attila was seated on a rude bench, and clothed in the simplest
garments of his race; but yet there was still that indescribable calm
dignity, which, perhaps, had greater and more extraordinary effect
from the harshness of his features and the want of accurate proportion
in his limbs. He greeted Theodore kindly, and made him sit down beside
him; and once more touching upon the events of the morning, he spoke
of the skill and dexterity, as well as strength and courage, which
were required in hunting the wild bull, saying that few but the most
powerful and the most daring of their own practised hunters were at
all competent to meet that ferocious beast when brought to bay. He
asked where Theodore had learned his skill in the chase; and the
youth's answer, informing him how long he had remained with the family
of his brother Bleda, threw the monarch into a fit of musing.

"Then thou hast never quitted the territory of the Huns since thou
didst first enter it?" demanded Attila.

"Never, oh king," replied the young Roman. "I plighted my word to thee
that I would not."

"Not in a direct manner," answered Attila; "and I thought that strong
temptation might have led thee to the land of the Alani. I would not
inquire: it sufficed me that thou hadst returned."

"My word, oh king," answered Theodore, "whether directly or indirectly
given, is never violated. That which I have knowingly implied, that
will I execute, as willingly and punctually as if I had sworn to
perform it. Many a time did I inquire for tidings from the land of the
Alani; but though I gained none, I never dreamed of going. I would not
even write, though I thought once of doing so, and sending it by one
of those who followed me."

"And why not write?" demanded Attila.

"Because," replied Theodore, "coming as I did, a stranger to thy
land, and seeing, as I did see, that it was left without defence, that
there were few but old men, or women, or children remaining in the
country--for I had not yet come on hither. Seeing all this, I would
not, even by sending a messenger from thy territories to a nation
which has daily communication with the Gauls, give thee just cause to
say that thou hadst trusted me, and I had betrayed thy undefended
country to [AE]tius and his legions."

"Thou art wise and honest," rejoined Attila; "and thine honesty shall
win full reliance. Hast thou never longed to see those once more whom
thou didst part from so sadly between the Margus and the Danube?"

"Have I longed?" exclaimed Theodore. "Oh king! many and many has been
the night that, after the hardest day's hunting, I have passed without
the soft finger of sleep touching mine eyelids, thinking deeply of
those dear friends of mine early youth, and thirsting to behold them
again, as the weary traveller in the desert thirsts for a draught of
water from the well-remembered fountain in his own domestic hall. It
has been my dream by night, when slumber has shut out the world's
realities. It has been my dream by day, when thought has wandered on
from objects present to a world of her own, with hope and imagination
for her guides. Oh, how I have longed to see them once again!" and,
clasping his hands together, the youth fixed his eyes upon the ground,
and seemed to plunge into the visions of happiness which his words
called up.

"Thou shalt go," said Attila, "and taste the joy for which thou hast
pined. Yet rest with me two days, in order that my brother Bleda may
betake himself to his own abode, and leave the path open to thee
without danger. Not that I think he would hurt thee now: he is sated
with plunder and with conquest. Nevertheless, it were as well for thee
to wait; for though he left the camp this morning to bend his steps
homeward, yet he goes but slowly, and his followers are not safe.
Still thou shalt go after two days are at an end. Go, Ernac, my son,
and learn from Onegisus if any of the followers of thine uncle Bleda
are still in the camp."

The boy departed without a word, and Theodore remained with Attila,
who proceeded to fix the time within which he bound Theodore to limit
his absence. "The full moon will see thy departure," he said, "and she
shall once fill up her crescent during thine absence; but ere the
second time of her fulness thou shalt return, or thou art false to
Attila. Wert thou to stay longer, the snows would impede thy return;
and in the long evenings of the winter I would have thee here, for I
might seek to hold discourse with thee upon the state and changes of
thy native land. Thou art one who, having guarded his honesty in
dishonest times and amid dishonest people, deserve that thy words
should find attention."

Almost as he spoke, his son Ernac returned, saying, "Bleda is gone, my
father, and all his followers, except his household slaves, who follow
by daybreak in the morning, with Zercon his black jester. I saw the
foul slave myself; and he said his master had gone away so quickly,
because, having taken so much plunder from those who were weaker than
himself, he feared to be left with those who were stronger, lest they
should begin the game again."

"Thou saidst nothing of this youth's journey, I trust," said Attila.

"Nothing," replied the boy. "But when Zercon asked me if the Roman
youth were still here, I answered yes, but that he would not be here
long."

"Unwisely answered, my son," said Attila; "but it matters not; I will
send those with him who can protect him. Thou shalt lead back a troop
of the Alani to their own land," he continued, turning to Theodore;
"and in the meanwhile keep near my person. Take thy place beside
Edicon as we march to-morrow, and now sleep you well. Ernac, where is
thine eldest brother? Has he left the camp already, after having so
lately joined it?"

Theodore was departing as the monarch spoke; but, ere he had left the
tent, he had heard the boy's reply. "No, my father," answered Ernac;
"he has gone a short way on the road with my uncle Bleda."

A slight shade came over Attila's brow; but Theodore was not sorry to
hear that two men, who were certainly his enemies, were absent for a
time from the camp; and rejoining his own followers, he lay down to
sleep in peace, followed by the happy hope of soon seeing again those
whom he loved best on earth.



                             CHAPTER XXI.
                          THE BITTER WRONG.


In the audience hall of the rustic palace of Attila, towards the
middle of the subsequent day, were assembled the chiefs of all the
different nations he commanded; and at once strange and brilliant was
the display of wild, but rich and picturesque attire which there
presented itself. The gold and silver of conquered nations, the
trinkets and precious stones of many a plundered palace, were mingled
with the shining steel and rich furs of the conquerors; and scarcely
could the luxurious courts of those famed Eastern monarchs, whose
effeminate splendour had become a by-word in the world, exceed in the
blaze of gems and gold the hall of the dark monarch of the Huns. But
in the midst of all, and distinguished from all by the perfect
simplicity of his garb, sat Attila himself, with his large hand
resting on the iron hilt of his broad heavy sword. Kings of a hundred
different nations stood around, gazing with awe and veneration upon
that dark plain man, and acknowledging in every look and gesture the
mighty influence of superior intellect. Beside these, on either hand,
were placed the many sons and the favourite friends of the monarch;
among the last appeared Onegisus, Edicon, and Theodore; and a number
of slaves and attendants, covered with barbarian ornaments, filled up
the rest of the wide space.

What had passed before needs not description; but at the moment we now
speak of a messenger from the weak Theodosius was brought into the
presence of the king, with the aspect of a trembling slave approaching
an offended master. Attila gazed upon him sternly as he came near; and
Theodore felt the indignant blood rush up into his cheeks as he beheld
the degradation of his country.

"Art thou of what thy nation calls of patrician rank?" demanded
Attila, when the ambassador, with his forehead almost bending to the
ground, had approached within two steps of the monarch.

"Alas, no," he answered; "lam but the humblest slave of Attila the
King."

"If thou art my slave, thou art happier than I believed thee to be,"
replied Attila; "for to be the slave of a slave is a humbler rank than
any that we know on this side of the Danube. Yet such thou art, if
thou art the servant of Theodosius. How dares he," continued the king,
fixing his keen black eyes fiercely upon him, "how dares he to send
any but the noblest in his land to treat with him who sets his foot
upon his neck? 'Tis well for thee that thou art but a servant, and
that therefore we pardon thee, otherwise hadst thou died the death for
daring to present thyself before me. But now get thee gone! Yet stay!
Edicon, we will that thou shouldst accompany him back to the vicious
city of Theodosius, the womanly king of an effeminate nation. Thou
shalt go into his presence and say unto him, 'How is it that thou hast
been so insolent as to send any of blood less noble than thine own,
even to lick the dust beneath the feet of Attila? As thou hast so
done, thou shalt be exiled again by the same hand that has smitten
thee; for Attila the King, thy master and mine, bids thee prepare a
place for him.' Thus shalt thou speak--in these words and no others?"

"Oh king! I will obey thee to a word," replied Edicon. "When wilt thou
that I set out?"

"Ere the earth be three days older," answered Attila: "take that Roman
slave from my presence; to see him offends mine eye. Now, what tidings
from my brother Bleda?" he continued, turning to a warrior who stood
near, dressed in glittering apparel.

"He greets thee well, oh king! and bids me tell thee that, after
resting in his own dwelling for a space, he will lead his warriors
towards the banks of the Aluta, if thou dost not need his services
against thine enemies."

Attila turned his eyes towards Ardaric, who cast his down, and
smoothed back the beard from his upper lip.

"Fortune attend him," said the monarch; "and thou mayst tell him, my
friend, that as he will be in the neighbourhood of the revolted
Get[ae], he had better, if his time permit, reduce them to a wise and
bloodless submission, otherwise Attila must march against them
himself, and this hand strikes but once. Bid good fortune attend him,
and wisdom guide him in all his actions!"

Attila placed a peculiar emphasis on his words, but his countenance
underwent no variation. Such, however, was not the case with the
chiefs who stood around, on the brows of many of whom Theodore had
remarked a cloud gather at the announcement of Bleda's purposes; and
they now heard the reply of their great leader with a grim but not
insignificant smile. The young Roman could not, it is true, divine the
secret causes of all that he saw; but the conversation of Ardaric on
the preceding evening led him to believe that Bleda was hurrying on
his hopeless schemes of ambition, and that he would soon be plunged
into open contention with his far more powerful brother. With all the
feelings of a Roman yet strong within him, Theodore could hardly
regret the prospect of a struggle which might divide and occupy the
enemies of his native country; but still he felt a degree of sorrowful
regret that all the high and noble qualities of the barbarian king
should not have been enough to win the love or overawe the ambition of
his inferior brother.

When the messenger of Bleda had departed, Theodore himself was called
before the king. The object of Attila was but to give him permission
to begin his journey on the following morning; but as this was the
first time that the young Roman, whose undaunted bearing had busied
the tongue of rumour in the camp, had appeared before the monarch in
the presence of the Hunnish chiefs, many an eye was turned to watch
his demeanour, some of the leaders looking upon him with jealousy, as
having suddenly started into a place in Attila's favour, some gazing
with ready admiration upon one who had so early obtained that renown
which is dear to every noble heart.

Whatever might be the feelings with which Theodore approached the
powerful chief on whom his fate so entirely depended, he would not for
an empire have shown before the eyes of the barbarians the slightest
sign of fear or awe. Grave and respectful his demeanour certainly was;
but when he had advanced before the seat of Attila, and bowed his head
as a token of reverence due to his power and station, he raised his
eyes full to the dusky countenance of him who spoke, and endured the
gaze of those eyes before which so many mighty quailed, without
withdrawing his own. When the monarch had concluded his commands,
Theodore again bowed his head and withdrew; and though, as he passed,
he heard Ellac, the eldest son of Attila, who had by this time
returned, say something concerning "_the crafty Roman_," he suffered
not the insulting word to disturb the joy which his approaching
journey already bestowed.

Hope, like a kind parent, reaches up the cliff and gathers for us the
flowers long ere our own slow childish efforts can attain them; and
Theodore was already revelling in joys which were yet afar in that
vague uncertain future. He spent the day in happiness; and after a
night given up to waking dreams, far brighter than even the fair
magician, Fancy, could have called up in the phantasmagoria of sleep,
he rose with the first gray streak of dawn, and set out to realize the
visions.

It was a dull and heavy morning, with the white veil of clouds rolled
round the summits of the distant mountains, and flying showers passing
frequently over the plains; but as the young Roman proceeded at the
head of near two hundred of the Alan horsemen, whom Attila, on the
pretence of sending them to their own homes, had given him in fact as
a guard, his heart was too light and joyful to feel or know that the
brow of nature was overcast. His eye might roll over the mountains
plunged in mists; or over the forests, where the pattering rain was
seen falling amid the autumnal leaves; or over the plain and along the
meadows, where a hazy whiteness rested a few feet above the general
level: but the mind's eye was in other lands and on other scenes; and,
for the time, even his corporeal faculties seemed to correspond with
the mental vision alone. It is scarcely too much to say that he knew
not the morning was not fine.

Following on the banks of the Tibiscus for a long way, Theodore and
his companions sought in vain for fords; for the heavy rain which had
fallen during the preceding night had swelled the river which rushed
on in haste, a brown, discoloured mass of hurried waters, towards the
Danube. Night fell ere they had succeeded, and the early moon burst
out and swept the clouds away. Choosing some sandy soil for their
night's encampment, Theodore and his own immediate attendants sat
round one fire, while the Alans, following the practice of the Huns,
lighted several others; and, though the young Roman was again long ere
he slept, yet at length pleasant dreams blessed his eyes, and daylight
was already pouring on the world when he awoke. It was the bustle of
preparation which aroused him, and he found all nearly ready to
depart.

Looking round as he was about to spring upon his horse, he missed a
face that was seldom absent from his side. "Where is Cremera!" he
demanded of those who stood near.

"He went at daybreak," they replied, "to see if he could find a ford
farther down the river. He said that he would not be long, but he has
not yet returned."

"Then we must trace down the river till we find him," replied
Theodore; and, mounting his horse, he led the way slowly along the
banks of the Tibiscus. An hour went by, and then another, but Cremera
did not appear. The woods which swept over the neighbouring country,
and which every here and there approached within a few hundred yards
of the river, though not thick, afforded quite sufficient covering
to have concealed the Arab, if he had taken his way back to the
sleeping-place by some of the forest paths; and such, Theodore became
convinced, had been the case, as the third hour went by, and the
freedman had not rejoined them. Towards the end of that period,
however, they found a ford, and halted on the margin in expectation of
his coming; for his young master could not help feeling it
extraordinary, that one so quick and rapid in all his decisions as the
Arab was should not long before have discovered that the whole troop
had gone on, and overtaken them as they rode.

As more time passed and he appeared not, Theodore became uneasy, and
the memory of the faithful African's zeal, and affection, and services
came in full stream upon his heart. At length, bidding the Alani cross
the ford and wait for him at the other side, he turned back with his
little troop of Huns, and rode swiftly along, spreading out his men
through the woods on the right, and, as was customary among them,
keeping up his communication with them by cries of various
conventional import.

Thus they had proceeded for more than an hour and a half, though they
rode much more quickly than before, and they had nearly reached the
spot whence they set forth in the morning, when Theodore heard one of
his followers in the wood give the peculiar shout which was understood
to express a desire for all the companions of him who uttered it to
halt. The next instant the man appeared at the verge of the wood,
beckoning eagerly to the young Roman.

Riding up with a sinking heart, Theodore eagerly asked what he had
found. The man made no other reply than, "Come hither! come hither!"
with an expression of countenance which did not serve to allay the
Roman's apprehensions. Ten steps brought him into a little gap in the
wood; and what was his horror to behold the gigantic form of the
faithful African stretched out between two trees, with one hand nailed
to each, so as to keep him in an erect position.[11] His head, fallen
forward on his chest, showed that life was quite extinct, and a number
of arrows left in the body spoke the cruel and painful death which he
must have died.


---------------

[Footnote 11: Crucifixion, which we have reason to believe one of the
most agonizing kinds of death, was one of the common punishments among
the Huns.]

---------------


With a heart full of grief and indignation, Theodore approached the
body with his companion; but while they gazed upon it, wondering who
could have committed so horrible a deed, another of the young Roman's
followers came up, galloping through the trees at full speed. Ere he
could speak distinctly, however, the cause of his quick approach
became evident. Other Hunnish horsemen appeared whose faces were
unknown to the young Roman; men on foot came gliding through the wood,
and Theodore, with his two followers, found themselves surrounded by
at least a hundred fierce-looking strangers, whose purpose was
scarcely doubtful.

They rushed in upon him suddenly and without speaking; and as he drew
his sword to take some vengeance at least before he died the same
death as the unhappy freedman, one of those on foot sprang upon his
horse's back behind, and embarrassed his arm by clinging closely to
him. He was then overpowered in a moment. His two Hunnish followers
made no resistance to the overwhelming force which surrounded them,
but only remonstrated loudly and rapidly, threatening the vengeance of
Attila. Their captors, however, answered only by a scoff: and Theodore
could hear the name of Bleda pronounced as authority sufficient for
the act they had committed.

At that name, the prospect of immediate death presented itself more
strongly than ever; and though he nerved his mind to bear with
unshrinking fortitude the same dreadful lot which had fallen to the
unfortunate Cremera, yet even then, in the dark moment of approaching
fate, the memory of those he loved--whom he might never see again, and
whom he left all alone and unprotected in the wide and perilous
world--came thrilling through his heart, inflicting, by anticipation,
the worst of all death's pangs. When once he found that he could not
resist effectually, he suffered his captors to do with him whatsoever
they pleased; but he found to his surprise that they did not take him
from his horse, contenting themselves with tying his hands and arms
tightly behind his back with thick thongs of leather; and it soon
became evident, that, if their intention still was to put him to
death, they would choose another hour.

Hitherto the young Roman had not spoken; but when at length they took
the bridle of his horse, and were about to lead him away, he turned
his eyes upon the body of Cremera, saying to one who seemed the leader
of the troop, "Will ye not give him burial at least?"

"No!" replied the Hun, fiercely. "No! Did he not dare to raise his
hand against our lord and king? No! There shall he stay, till from his
bones the vultures and the crows have picked away his flesh: the toad,
and the lizard, and the snail shall crawl over his feet, while the
carrion-eater comes down from the heavens, and takes its daily meal
upon his carcass. Such, too, shall be thy fate; but it is first
needful that Bleda the King should see thee, that he may devise how to
punish thee as thou meritest."

"I fear not death," replied Theodore, "and can bear pain; but of this
I am sure, I shall not die unavenged. Attila will avenge me even of
his brother."

"If he can," replied the Hun; "but perchance the day of Attila's power
is gone by."

Theodore replied not, but suffered them to lead him whithersoever they
pleased. At first they proceeded slowly, looking to the young Roman
from time to time; but seeing that he sat his horse as well as before,
although his hands were tied, they soon got into a quicker pace, which
increased to a gallop when they reached the open plains. After
crossing one of these, they again came to a large tract of wood; and
when they issued forth once more, the sun, in setting, was pouring a
flood of light upon the blue eastern mountains, towards which their
course seemed bent. Theodore thought the features of the scene were
familiar to his eye; and, as they rode on, he felt sure that a distant
wood which he saw stretching out into the plain was that on the verge
of which was situated the dwelling of Bleda. Night, however, came on
rapidly; and, ere they came near the wood, the whole world was
involved in darkness.

At length they began to pass among the houses, and Theodore became
convinced that he had not been mistaken. All was quiet as they rode
on, for the early Huns had betaken themselves to their dwellings; and
it was only as he passed along before the wide rambling building which
formed the dwelling of Bleda, that Theodore heard the sounds of mirth
and rude revelry proceeding from that apartment which he knew to be
the hall of the banquet. He was led along to the farther extremity of
the building, and thrust into a chamber which had evidently been
destined for a place of confinement. It, like the house, was all of
wood, but no windows, except a row of small apertures near the roof,
appeared to admit air or light; and across the outside of the door
through which the prisoner had entered was cast, as his captors
departed, a huge beam of wood, which would have defied the strength of
a Hercules to shake it from within.

Theodore was left alone; for the two Huns who had been captured with
him, and had been brought there at the same time, were placed in some
other chamber, perhaps from a fear that they might assist him in
escaping. All was darkness, for neither food nor lamp was given to the
prisoner; and, seating himself upon the rude bench which he found at
one side of the room, Theodore spent the succeeding hours in momentary
anticipation of death, and in thoughts and regrets which added fresh
gall to the cup of bitterness.

Few were the sounds which disturbed his painful reveries; for though
from time to time the roar of barbarian merriment echoed through the
long passages, and found its way even to the lonely chamber in which
he was immersed, yet it came faint and softened to his ear, and at
length, after rising to a louder pitch than before, suddenly ceased,
and all was still. Theodore listened to hear if those sounds would be
renewed; but deep silence seemed to reign over all the household, and
for two hours everything remained perfectly quiet.

At length a streak of light appeared above and below the door, and a
low murmuring sound reached the sharpened ear of the prisoner. "It is
a fit hour for death," he thought; and the next moment he heard the
heavy beam grate slowly and gently against the walls as it was removed
from across the door. The door itself was opened cautiously, and the
deformed head and shoulders of the negro jester, Zercon, were thrust
into the room. In one hand he held a lamp, and with the forefinger of
the other, raised to his lips, seemed to enjoin perfect silence.

He held up the lamp ere he entered fully, and looked round the room
with careful attention, as if he expected to see some other tenant
besides Theodore. Then, advancing rapidly, he whispered in Greek, "The
Lady Neva knows of your being here; I heard that you were taken while
I was in the hall, where her fierce father was drinking; and as I had
found out by her face, when he talked of waylaying you yesterday, how
it went with her young heart, I told her all directly, and she is
coming to save you: but she sent me first to see if any of the guards
remained with you, for the poor buffoon can venture, in his folly,
upon things that the clumsy wise man would spoil if he touched--Hush!
I hear her in the passage, or somebody else;" and he advanced and
looked out at the door, which he had closed behind him as he had
entered.

The next moment he made a sign with his hand--there was a light
footfall--the door was pushed farther open, and with an eager step the
beautiful daughter of Bleda entered the room, and stood before him she
loved. She was very pale, but that might proceed from apprehension;
and yet there was a devoted determination in those tender eyes which
told that death itself would have no terrors if it lay in the path to
save the young Roman. She also carried a lamp in one hand, but in the
other she bore a naked dagger. Ere she spoke a word, she set down the
lamp upon the ground, and cut with a rapid hand the thongs which bound
the prisoner's arms.

"I knew," she said at length, "I knew that the time would come when I
should save you. Oh, Theodore! how I have prayed for this hour! But I
must not waste it now it has arrived. Zercon! quick! see why that
tardy slave, Ahac, has not brought a horse. He would not betray me,
surely. But sooner than that he should deliver the Roman again to
death, drive thy dagger into his heart. I bid thee do it, and I will
abide what comes!"

The negro hastened to obey; and Neva gazed upon the countenance of him
whom she was risking so much to save with one of those looks of deep,
unutterable affection, which the very hopelessness of the passion from
which it sprung purified, dignified, sanctified even in its strong
intensity. The next moment, as Theodore was pouring forth his thanks
to an ear that seemed scarcely to hear them--so deeply was she
occupied with the emotions of her own bosom--the sound of a horse's
feet was heard, led gently forward; and a smile of triumphant pleasure
played upon Neva's lip.

In another instant, however, it changed, as she thought that horse was
to bear him away, perhaps for ever. The tears rose in her blue eyes,
ran shining through the black lashes that fringed them, and fell upon
her cheek; and for one moment she hid her face upon the young Roman's
bosom, and he pressed her gently, gratefully in his arms, whispering
words of comfort and of thanks. But, suddenly raising her head, she
turned it away, while her hand still lingered in his, saying, "Go! go!
Tarry not longer. I have saved you--that is enough--I am happy. To
know that I have saved you is enough happiness for me through life.
Go! go! every moment is precious!"

Theodore raised the hand he held to his lips, pressed upon it one kiss
of deep gratitude, dropped it, and left the chamber which had been his
prison. At the door stood Zercon, who led him quickly forth to a spot
where, among the grass, so that his feet might not be heard, stood a
horse, held by one of the slaves whom Theodore had seen when he was
there before.

"I could have wished it had been my own horse," he said, speaking to
Zercon.

"Your own horse will never bear any one more," replied the negro:
"they slew him within an hour after they had brought him hither."

Theodore could have wept; but, without reply, he sprang upon the
horse, and shook his hand towards the dwelling of Bleda.

"Follow yon star," continued Zercon, pointing to one near the pole,
"and ere morning thou shalt be among the mountains that overhang the
dwelling of Attila."

"I thank thee," replied Theodore, speaking to the negro--"I thank
thee, my friend: the time may come when I can show thee my gratitude."
Thus saying, he shook the bridle, and urged the horse on at full
speed, following exactly the course which had been pointed out to him.
Ere morning, he beheld the waters of the Mariscus stretching out
before him; but knowing that the horses of the Huns possessed, either
by natural instinct, or had acquired by constant habit, the power of
distinguishing what rivers and what places they could swim across, he
rode the beast rapidly to the bank, and then left the bridle upon his
neck, in order that he might take to the stream or not, as he pleased.
The horse, however, without any sign of disinclination, ran down the
bank and waded into the water. After pausing for a moment to drink, he
advanced still farther, and then, with a sudden plunge, began to swim,
though the stream was running somewhat rapidly. The deep water was of
no great extent, and the horse's hoofs soon struck the ground. The
bank was soon gained, and, apparently refreshed with the cool wave,
the swift horse bore the young Roman rapidly on his way.

The dawn was just breaking when he arrived at the foot of the hills,
and by the time he had reached the top the broad light of day was
shining over all the world. He saw, by one of the peaks to the south,
that he was several miles farther up in the chain than the spot where
he had before passed in the neighbourhood of the two hermits. Pausing
to breathe his horse, he looked over the plain behind him, and could
see, at the distance of several leagues, what appeared to be a strong
body of horsemen following rapidly on the very track he had taken.
There was no time to be lost; and, hurrying on, he reached the plains
at the foot of the hill, nor paused again till the flagging powers of
his horse obliged him to stop in order to give the animal food and
repose.

He could well afford to rest, however; for even if the horsemen he had
seen were really in pursuit of him, yet the distance at which they had
appeared from the foot of the mountains, and the difficulty of
climbing those mountains themselves, promised to afford him at least
four hours of open time. His horse fed, and then lay down to rest
among the long grass; and Theodore, in the latter respect at least,
followed its example; knowing how small an object might be discerned
from the tops of the mountains in that wide uncovered plain, and
trusting that, while hidden by the grass, his enemies, if they came
sooner than he expected, might miss his track, and perhaps turn back
disappointed. He kept his eye fixed, however, upon the ridge of the
hills; and well it was he did so, for, having taken, perhaps, an
easier path than he had done, his enemies did begin to appear upon the
summits in less than two hours after he had reached the base.

At first they could scarcely be distinguished from the rocks amid
which they came forth on the top of the hills; but soon the number of
moving objects which he beheld at one particular point showed the
young Roman that as yet they had followed but too successfully. For a
time the pursuers seemed to hesitate whether they should proceed any
farther, and he could see them lingering during several minutes,
hanging like a dark cloud upon the ridge of the mountain. At length
they began evidently to descend, and that moment. Theodore sprang upon
his feet, roused his horse, which seemed to have fallen asleep, and,
leaping into the saddle, galloped on towards a wood that lay at the
distance of three or four miles before him.

As he came near, he beheld several small huts gathered together; and,
approaching them, he resolved to see if he could procure a fresh horse
in exchange for the weary one which bore him. The name of Attila
obtained what no bribe could have gained. The head of the little
tribe, leading out his own horse, placed the rude bridle in Theodore's
hand; and, once more hurrying on his way, the young Roman, ere night
fell, saw the mountains and the woods that swept round the dwelling of
the king, and heard the rushing sound of the near Tibiscus.

It was night when he arrived at the widespread village; but all was
peaceful within, and no guard or sentinel impeded his way, even to the
porticoes of the monarch's lowly abode. As he alighted and approached
the inner gates of the building, he was met by one of Attila's slaves,
whom he had seen more than once before, and who now told him that the
king had gone to rest.

"He feared that you were slain," continued the man; "for many of those
who went hence with you but a few days ago returned with speed this
day, and declared that you had been put to death. They are now at the
dwelling where you were lodged before, and will gladly see you living,
for they thought you dead."

The young Roman took his way to the house he had formerly inhabited;
and the unaffected joy displayed by the rude Huns who had been given
him as attendants, on seeing him again in life, compensated for some
bitter pangs. Attila's slaves brought him provisions and wine, but he
was too weary to enjoy food, and, after a short and slight repast, he
cast himself down to rest.

The image of his faithful Cremera, however, rose up before his eyes,
and for some time banished sleep. His noble horse, too, though less in
the scale of regret, was not without its share of painful
recollection. "The two last friends," he thought, "who accompanied me
from my native home to this barbarian land, have in one day been taken
from me, and I am alone--without one being near me who has any
memories in common with mine own." Fatigue at length prevailed, and he
slept. Early on the following morning he was roused by a summons to
the presence of the king, and at the gate of the palace he beheld a
numerous train of horsemen, waiting as if prepared for a journey.

Attila himself was seated beneath the porch, and beside him stood
Ardaric and another kingly leader, whom Theodore afterward learned to
be Valamir, king of the Ostrogoths, with several other chiefs of
inferior power. The brows of all were clouded, with the exception of
that of Attila, which wore the same stern, calm aspect that so seldom
left it.

"Thou hast been impeded on thy way, my son," said the monarch, slowly;
"one of thy faithful followers slain, and thou thyself carried away to
the dwelling of my unwise brother Bleda; so some who returned hither
reported to me yesterday. Did he set thee free, after having, as he
thought, sufficiently insulted his brother? Or didst thou escape?"

"I escaped, oh king! during the night," replied Theodore; but not
knowing what might be the conduct of Attila, he refrained from telling
how his escape had been accomplished, lest the share which Neva and
Zercon had had therein might reach the ears of Bleda. "I escaped
during the night, and have been keenly pursued, even across the
mountains."

Attila rolled his dark eyes round to the faces of all the different
leaders near, with a slight compression of the lips, which marked that
he was moved more than usual.

"And thy faithful Arab is dead, then; is it not so?" demanded the
king.

"Alas! so it is, oh king!" replied Theodore: "nailed by the two hands
to two separate trees, I found him pierced with arrows by the banks of
the river, some two hours' journey on this side of the first ford.
There any one may see him, for they have denied him even the shelter
of the grave."

Attila folded his arms upon his wide chest, and gazed for a moment
upon Theodore in silence. "Wouldst thou still pursue thy journey," he
asked at length, "after such misfortunes on the way?"

"If it may be pursued at all with life, I would fain pursue it,"
answered Theodore.

"It may be pursued with safety," said the monarch. "In thy case,
Attila's protection has been twice insulted--it shall not be so a
third time: None but a brother dared do what has been done; but even a
brother has gone too far. If thou wouldst go on thy way, join with thy
followers, in less than an hour, those warriors who stand around the
gate. They will conduct thee by the higher country to the land of thy
kindred; and I swear by mine own heart that those who stay you, going
or returning, were it even by a willow wand across thy path, I will
smite from the face of the earth, and lay their dwellings level with
the sand, and sell their wives and children unto slavery. Now make
ready quickly, and proceed!"

Theodore failed not to obey; and in as short a space of time as
possible he was once more upon horseback, and on his way towards the
west.



                            CHAPTER XXII.
                      THE MEETING OF THE PARTED.


Across wide plains, through deep solitudes, amid dim woods, over
gigantic mountains, by the banks of the stream, and the torrent, and
the lake, among the occasional ruins left upon the footsteps of
ancient civilization and the scattered villages of barbarian hordes,
Theodore once more pursued his way. Every kind of scene but that of
the cultivated city met his eye, and every kind of weather that the
changeful autumn of a northern land can display accompanied him on his
path. The splendid October sunshine, beaming clear and kind upon the
earth, like the tempered smile of a father looking in mellow ripeness
of years upon his rising offspring; the flitting shadows of the heavy
clouds, as they swept by over the landscape, resembling the gloomy
cares and apprehensions which sometimes cross the brightest moments of
enjoyment; the dull misty deluge, pouring down from morning until
night, without interval or cessation, shutting out all prospects, and
promising no brighter time, like the hopeless existence of but too
many of the sons of toil; the brief and angry thunder-storm, rending
the stoutest trees, like the fierce passing of war or civil
contention, all visited him by turns, as he journeyed onward from the
banks of the Tibiscus, till he once more joined the Danube, at a spot
where, shrunk to a comparatively insignificant stream, it flowed on
between the countries now called Bavaria and Austria.

It was on one of those dim uncertain days, when all distant objects
are shut out from the sight, that he crossed the river a little above
its junction with the Inn, and entered upon the open country of
Bavaria. Nothing was to be seen but the flat plain which stretches
onward along the banks of the Inn; and when, after halting for the
night amid some rude huts, where the people seemed to speak the
language of the Goths, he recommenced his journey on the following
morning, the same dull cheerless prospect was all that presented
itself, stretched upon the gray back-ground of broad unvaried cloud.
His companions had now been reduced to twenty, by the larger party
having left him as soon as he was free from danger; and none but his
own peculiar attendants accompanied him, except three officers of the
household of Attila, sent with authority from that mighty and
far-feared monarch to demand a free passage for the young Roman
through whatever countries he might have to traverse. It was one of
these officers--who took care to show all kindly reverence towards a
youth who stood so high in the favour of the king--that now, pointing
forward to a little stream which flowed on to join the Inn, informed
the young Roman that along its banks was settled the nation which he
came to seek.

"And is this," thought Theodore, "this bleak wilderness the destined
habitation of my Ildica, nurtured in the lap of ease and civilization?
Is this flat, unmeaning plain, bounded by a gray cloud, all that is to
greet her eyes after the splendours of the Adriatic shore and the
marvellous beauty of Salona?" And with a deep sigh he thought of the
regretted past.

Ere he had ridden on a quarter of an hour longer, however, a light
wind sprung up; and rising, like a curtain drawn slowly up from some
picture of surpassing beauty, the veil of clouds was lifted to the
south, displaying as it rose, robed in the magic purple of the
mountain air, the wild but splendid scenery of the Bavarian Tyrol.

A few moments more brought the young Roman to a congregation of small
wooden houses, not far from the first gentle slopes that served to
blend the plain with the highlands. A fair girl, with whose face
Theodore felt as if he could claim kindred, paused, with a basket of
milk in her hand, to gaze upon the troop of horsemen who were passing
by, but without any sign of fear. Theodore asked her some question
concerning the road, and she replied lightly and gayly, with the
milkmaid's careless glee, speaking the pure Alan tongue in accents
that made the young Roman's heart thrill again to hear. He rode gladly
on his way, assured by those tones that he was at length once more in
the same land with her he loved. That land, he knew, was of no very
great extent, and therefore he had not any cause to anticipate a long
and painful search; but still the eager thirst with which young
affection pants towards its object made him anxious not to lose a
single moment in any unnecessary delay; and he determined, as they
wound onward towards the little capital of the mountain tribe, to
inquire, wherever he came, for the dwelling of the Roman family, whose
arrival in the land, he doubted not, had excited no small rumour and
attention.

There remained yet two hours to sunset, when, passing through some
gentle hills, Theodore suddenly found himself on the banks of a small
but beautiful lake, surrounded on three sides by the mountains. The
shore, at the spot where he stood, was low and sandy, with here and
there a fringe of long reeds, mingling the water with the land, but on
all the other sides the banks were more abrupt. From the lake up to
the very sky on those three sides stretched the upland, rising in
different ranges, like Titan steps whereby to scale the heavens, but
divided at different angles by intervening valleys, up which was seen
the long blue perspective of interminable hills beyond. The first step
of that mountain throne, carpeted as if with green velvet, by pastures
still unimbrowned and rich, was covered with sheep and cattle feeding
in peace. Beyond that appeared a range, clothed with glowing woods of
oak, and elm, and beech, filled with the more timid and gentle
inhabitants of the sylvan world; while above, tenanted by the wolf,
the fox, and other beasts of prey, stretched wide the region of the
pine and fir; and, towering over all, gray, cold, and awful, rose the
peaks of primeval granite, with nothing but the proud eagle soaring
between them and heaven. Below, the lake, unruffled by a breeze, lay
calm and still, offering a mirror to the beauty of the scene, where
every line of picturesque loveliness was reflected without a change,
and every hue of all the varied colouring around, from the rich brown
of the autumnal woods to the purple of the distant mountains, and the
floods of amber and of rose that evening was pouring along the glowing
sky.

Upon the lower range of hills many a wooden cottage, neat and clean,
was to be seen; and several villages, peeping from the first woods,
varied the scene with the pleasant aspect of intelligent life; and as,
winding round the left shore, the young Roman and his companions
advanced towards a spot at the other end of the lake where they
proposed to pass the night, a thousand new beauties opened out upon
their sight. Theodore gazed around, thinking that here indeed he could
spend his days in peace; and, perhaps, he might envy the shepherd-boys
that looked down upon him from low flat-topped hills under which he
passed, or the women and girls who, sitting by the cattle at pasture,
roused themselves for a moment from their pleasant idleness to mark
the troop of horsemen passing by.

At length, upon the verge of a smooth meadow, which covered the summit
of a steep green hill at the foot of the higher mountains--jutting out
in the form of a small promontory above the road he was pursuing, with
the green edge cutting sharp upon the blue mountain air beyond--he
beheld a group of people gathered together, apparently enjoying the
evening sunshine. Neither sheep nor cattle were near; and though the
dark line of the figures, diminished by distance, were all that
Theodore could see as they stood on the clear, bright back-ground, yet
in those very lines, and in the graceful attitudes which the figures
assumed as they stood or sat, there was something so Grecian and
classical, so unlike the forms offered by a group of barbarians, that
the heart of the young Roman felt a thrill of hope which made it beat
high.

Suddenly reining in his horse, he stopped to gaze; the glad hope grew
into more joyful certainty; and, without further thought or
hesitation, carried away by feelings which refused control, he urged
his horse at the gallop up the steep side of the hill, nor paused,
even for a moment, till he had reached the summit. The Huns gazed with
surprise from below, and beheld him, when he had arrived at the top,
spring from his horse in the midst of the group which had caught his
attention, and, with many an embrace and many a speaking gesture,
receive his welcome to the bosom of ancient affection.

"He has found his home!" they said to one another as they saw his
reception; and, winding round by a more secure path, they followed up
to the summit of the hill, perceiving, as they ascended, a number of
beautiful mountain dwellings congregated in the gorge of a ravine
behind.

Oh who can tell what were in the mean time the emotions which agitated
the group above! To Theodore it was the fruition of a long-cherished
hope. He held his Ildica in his arms, he pressed her to his heart, he
saw those dark and lustrous eyes, swimming in the light of love's
delicious tears, gaze at him with the full, passionate earnestness of
unimpaired affection; he tasted once more the breath of those sweet
lips, he felt once more the thrilling touch of that soft hand. She was
paler than when he had left her, but in her countenance there was--or
seemed in his eyes to be--a crowning charm gained since he last had
seen it. There was in its expression a depth of feeling, an intensity
of thought, which, though softened and sweetened by the most womanly
tenderness and youthful innocence which human heart ever possessed,
added much to the transcendent beauty that memory had so often
recalled. In her form, too, there had been a slight change, which had
rendered the symmetry perfect without brushing away one girlish grace.
Flavia, too, had a part in his glad feelings, as with the full measure
of maternal tenderness she held him in her arms, and blessed the day
which gave him back to those who loved him. Eudochia also, over whose
head the passing months had fled, maturing her youthful beauty, clung
round her brother, and with eyes of joyful welcome gazed silently up
in his face.

Ammian was not there: gone, they said, to hunt the izzard and
wild-goat among the highest peaks of the mountain; but the slaves and
freedmen who had followed Flavia still, through every change of
fortune, drew closer round, and with smiling lips and sparkling eyes
greeted the young Roman on his return among them. It was not long ere
his attendants joined him; and as there was much to be inquired and
much to be told on all parts, Flavia speedily led the way to the
dwelling which she had obtained in the land of the Alani; and
Theodore, with Ildica's hand clasped in his, and Eudochia hanging to
his arm, followed to the little group of houses which filled the gorge
above.

Oh what a change from the palace of Diocletian! the marble columns,
the resplendent walls, the sculptured friezes, the rich-wrought
capitals! All was of woodwork, neat, clean, and picturesque: spacious
withal, and convenient, though simple and unassuming. Within, Flavia,
and her children and attendants, had laboured hard to give it the
appearance of a Roman dwelling, trying, by the presence of old
accustomed objects, to cheat memory and banish some of her sad train
of regrets; nor had they been unsuccessful in producing the appearance
they desired, for all that they had brought from Salona, and which,
under the safe escort of the Huns, had been conveyed from the
neighbourhood of Margus thither, enabled them to give an air of Roman
splendour to the interior of their rude habitation.

In the village Theodore's attendants found an abode, while he himself,
once more in the midst of all he now loved on earth, if we except
Ammian, sat down to the evening meal, and listened eagerly to the
details of everything that had occurred to Flavia and her family since
he parted with them on the verge of the barbarian territory. Their
journey had been long and fatiguing, the matron said, but safe and
uninterrupted, and their reception among the simple mountaineers had
been kind and tender. The choice of a dwelling had been left to
themselves; and though the capital of the tribe was situated in the
valley of the Inn, they had fixed upon the spot where they now were
for their abode as one less subject to the passage of strangers or to
the inroads of inimical neighbours.

The most important part of the tale, however, was to come: scarcely a
month ere Theodore had arrived, ambassadors from Valentinian had
presented themselves at the court of the King of the Alani, and Flavia
and her family had held themselves for a time in even deeper
retirement than before; but, to their surprise, one morning the envoys
appeared at their dwelling by the lake, and the Roman lady found, with
no slight astonishment, that Valentinian was already aware of her
residence among the Alani. The mission of the ambassadors to the
barbarian chief was one of small import, but to Flavia they bore a
message from the emperor of unwonted gentleness. He invited her to fix
her abode in the Western empire; promised her protection against all
her enemies, and full justice in regard to all her claims; nor could
she doubt, from the whole tenour of his message, that, with the usual
enmity of rival power, even when lodged in kindred hands, whoever was
looked upon as an enemy by Theodosius, was regarded as a friend by
Valentinian. Flavia, however, without absolutely refusing to accept
the fair offers of the emperor, had assigned as a motive for delaying
to reply, that she expected daily to receive tidings from the son of
Paulinus.

Theodore mused at these tidings; but Eudochia, who with childless
thoughtlessness looked upon all that happened to themselves as of very
little import whenever it was over, now pressed eagerly to hear the
adventures of her brother since they had parted; and Ildica also, with
a deeper interest than common curiosity, looked up in his face with
eyes that seemed to say, "I have waited long, beloved, that you might
be satisfied first, but oh, make me a sharer now in all that has
occurred to one far dearer than myself."

Theodore needed no entreaty, but began his story, and with minute
detail related all that had occurred to him during the last few
months. Was there any part of that history which he did not tell, any
of the events that had checkered his fate which he omitted in his
narration? There were! A feeling of tenderness, of interest, of
gratitude, kept him silent upon some points of the history of Bleda's
daughter. He spoke of Neva, indeed; he told how she had nursed him in
sickness, and how she had delivered him from captivity; but he could
not, and he did not tell, while many an ear was listening, that she
had bestowed the first love of her young heart upon one who could not
return it.

Flavia hearkened to the tale, and at that part of it which related to
Bleda's daughter her eyelids fell a little over her eyes. It was not
that she doubted Theodore, for there was a simplicity and candour in
all he said which admitted no suspicion; but she deemed how it was,
and for the sake of the poor girl she was grieved that it should be
so. Ildica, possessed but by one feeling, suspected and divined
nothing; her only comment was, as she heard of his danger and escape,
"Oh, why was it not I to whom the means of saving you were given?"

"Thank God, my Ildica," replied Theodore, "that you were far from such
scenes and such dangers." But, as he was proceeding to conclude his
tale, there were quick steps heard without, and the voice of Ammian
singing gayly as he returned successful from his mountain sport.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.
                      THE INTERVAL OF HAPPINESS.


Hitherto we have given nearly a connected narrative; but now it may
become necessary to proceed sometimes in detached scenes, leaving the
mind of the reader to fill up the obvious chain of intervening facts.

Theodore and Ildica sat alone by the banks of the lake, with their
eyes fixed upon the rippling waters that came whispering up nearly to
their feet; and they gained, without knowing it, a tone of calm
repose, in the midst of their hearts' thrilling enjoyment, from the
tranquillity of the scene around, and the bright, untroubled softness
of a fine autumn day. If, when they met on the preceding evening,
Theodore had been moved by joy, such as his heart had never known
before, Ildica's had been still more agitated, for delight had been
carried to its fullest height by surprise. Theodore had come thither
with expectation and hope as the harbingers of gratification; but to
Ildica, the joy of his coming had burst suddenly forth, like the
May-day sun when he scatters the clouds of morning from his path.
Neither, however, the youth nor the maiden had been able to pause,
and--if I may use so strange a term--_enjoy their joy_ during the
first evening after his arrival. The mind of each had been full of
whirling images of pleasure, but with forms scarcely definite. Now,
however, as they sat by the side of that calm lake, amid those
glorious mountains, with a sky clear, but not burning, above their
heads, and the fresh stillness of the early morning pervading all the
air, the solemn tranquillity of the scene sunk into their souls, and
bade their mutual thoughts flow on in peace.

The history of all external events which had befallen them had been
told, it is true, by Flavia and Theodore, and many a little trait had
been added by Eudochia, Ammian, and Ildica herself; but still she and
her lover had both a long history to tell of thoughts and feelings,
hopes and fears, of far deeper interest to each other than things that
might seem of greater importance. Ildica towards Theodore had no
thought concealed. No idle fear of lessening the value of her love by
displaying it put an unnatural bar upon the pure feelings of her
heart: not a doubt of his generous construction of all that she said
fettered her words or embarrassed the expression of her thoughts; and
she poured forth, without fear or hesitation, the tale of all she had
felt since she left him in the hands of the Huns; how she had wept,
and how she had feared; how she had daily looked for some tidings from
him, or some change in her own fate; and how she had consoled herself
with the remembrance of the extraordinary power he seemed to have
obtained over the barbarian king.

The telling of that tale, now that the dangers were over and the fears
gone by, was in itself a happiness; and, mingled with many a look of
love and accent of affection, and many a tender caress, Ildica's
narrative of all that she had felt proceeded, till, in the end, she
had to relate how, on the very preceding night, while sitting on the
little promontory with Eudochia, and her mother, and the slaves, there
had been something in the situation which--though unlike in all the
features of the landscape, though the air was colder, and the
mountains nearer, and the sky of a paler hue--recalled the lovely
Dalmatian shore to her mind; and how in the magic glass of memory had
risen up the mound of cypresses, and the bay of Salona, and the
glorious sunset, and all the objects and all the feelings of that
well-remembered evening when her lover had last returned from the city
of the emperors; and how, at those thoughts, the unbidden tears were
rising even to overflowing in her eyes, when she saw a horseman
suddenly gallop up the hill, and wild hopes and joyful presentiments
had rushed through her heart, and taken from her all power of speech
or motion, till she was once more clasped in his arms.

Theodore, too, had his tale to tell; and now, to the ear of her he
loved, it was not less full or less candid than her own had been. He
gave her a picture of all his thoughts in every situation through
which he had passed, and her own unconscious questions soon brought
the narrative towards Neva. But Theodore felt that he could trust in
Ildica, and he told her all; and, with his arm circling her waist, he
pressed her more tenderly, more closely to his bosom while he spoke of
the love of another, as if he sought thereby to express how much more
dear she had become to his heart under every change and every
circumstance.

Neither did he do the daughter of the barbarian chief the injustice of
breathing the tale of her unhappy love, without adding every pure and
noble trait which had shone out in her conduct; and Ildica, who had
listened with a beating heart but not a doubting mind, pressed her
eyes, in which were some tears, upon Theodore's bosom, saying, "Poor
girl, I am sorry for her! I wonder not at her loving you, Theodore. It
is but too natural she should; and oh, I am sure that her love for one
so much above any being that she ever saw before will last, unhappily
for herself, through all her life. She will compare every one with
you, and every one will fall short. I am sorry for her, beloved; and
yet, Theodore, yet I could not share your love with any one; I could
not part with the smallest portion of that treasure for a world. See
how selfish and miserly I have become!"

"None can ever take the slightest portion from thee, my Ildica,"
replied Theodore; "from infancy to death there shall be but one image
which shall fill my heart. But to do poor Neva justice, she seeks not
to rob my Ildica of that which is Ildica's own. She would not share in
a heart that is given to another, Ildica, even if she could; and as,
from all that has passed from her father's hatred towards me, and the
injuries he has done me, it is impossible that Neva and I should ever
meet again, I trust that she will forget feelings which were suddenly
raised, checked almost in their birth, and have no food on which to
feed and prolong their existence--I trust she will forget--"

"Never, Theodore! never!" cried Ildica; "such feelings are not to be
forgotten. She will see none like you; but, even if she did, she would
fancy none she saw your equal. The memory of having saved you from
death, too, will perpetuate her love--ay, the memory of that action,
and the memory of her love, will go down together with her to the
tomb, embalming and preserving each other."

"I trust not, my Ildica, I trust not," he replied.

"Oh, Theodore," she answered, "were I absent from you for long years,
separated from you even by impassable barriers, would you love me
less? could you forget our love?"

"No, certainly not," replied Theodore; "but our love is mutual and
full of mutual hopes. Her love is hopeless and unreturned; and I trust
she will forget it."

"Such may be the case with man," answered Ildica. "Hopeless and
unreturned, his love may, perhaps, seek another object. Woman loves
but once, and never forgets, my Theodore. My heart tells it me even
now; and though in such things I have, of course, but little skill,
yet I feel and know that time, absence, despair itself, could never
make me forget my love for thee. The time must come when remembrance
shall be extinguished in the grave, and the fine lines traced by the
diamond style of love on the tablets of the spirit may be hidden for a
while beneath the dust of the tomb; but to that cold dwelling-house
shall the unfaded recollection go down with me; and when I waken again
from the sleep of death, the memory of my love shall waken with me--I
feel--I know it will;" and, as she spoke, she raised her eyes to
heaven, while the rays of the morning light danced in their liquid
lustre, as if they, too, were of kindred with the sky.

Theodore pressed her to his heart, and long and sweet was the
communion that followed; but we cannot, we will not further dwell upon
things that those who have loved truly will understand without our
telling, and that those who have never so loved cannot comprehend at
all. Let them be sacred! those holy feelings of the pure and
high-toned heart; those sweet, ennobling emotions of the unpolluted
soul. Let them be sacred! those sensations, intense yet timid, pure
and unalloyable as the diamond, as firm, as bright, as unspotted; but
which, like a precious jewel that baser minds would ever fain take
from us, are wisely concealed by those who possess them from the gaze
of the low and the unfeeling. We seek not to display--we would not if
we could--all the finer shades, the tenderer emotions, of the love of
Theodore and Ildica. We have raised the veil enough to show how they
did love, and we will raise it no further.

The days of his stay passed in visions of happiness to Ildica and
himself, a long, dreamy lapse of exquisite delight. Beyond each other,
and the few dear beings around them, what was the world to them I The
limits of that valley were the limits of their thoughts; and, whether
they sailed on the bosom of the lake, or climbed the giant mountains
round about, or wandered through the rustling woods, or sat upon the
shore and watched the tiny billows of that miniature sea, the thoughts
of the two lovers were only of each other, though the lovely scene,
mountain, and stream, and woods, and lakes, and meadows, mingled
insensibly with their own dream of happiness, heightened the colouring
of their hopes, and, in return, received a brighter hue itself. Sweet,
oh, how sweet! were the hours, and yet how rapidly they flew; till at
length, when they rose one morning and gazed forth, a wreath of snow
was seen hanging upon the peaks of the mountains--not alone upon those
higher summits, on whose everlasting ice the summer sun shone vainly
through his longest, brightest hours, but on those lower hills which
the day before had risen up in the brown veil of the autumnal forest,
or the green covering of grass, or the gray nakedness of the native
stone. It was the signal for Theodore to depart; and then came the
hours, ere he set out, of melancholy and of gloom.

Those hours, however, were broken by many a long and anxious
consultation. The offered hospitality and protection of Valentinian
had yet to be considered, for it was a proposal which, if even not
accepted at once, both Theodore and Flavia judged might prove of great
utility at an after period. No one could tell either what changes
might take place in the positions of the barbarian nations, or what
might be the final result of the victories and successes of Attila
himself. Where he might next turn his arms was a question which none
even of his own court could solve; and while it was evident to all
that a victorious and devastating excursion against the Eastern empire
was by no means the ulterior purpose of his powerful and ambitious
mind, yet no one could divine what was the end proposed, or whither
the pursuit might lead. Under these circumstances, to have a place of
refuge open against the storm of war was always a blessing; and
Theodore strongly counselled Flavia to despatch messengers to the
emperor, charged with thanks, and such presents as circumstances
permitted her to send; not exactly accepting the offer of asylum he
had made, but expressing a purpose of taking advantage thereof at no
very distant period.

"Were you to go thither even next year," Theodore observed, while
speaking on the subject with Flavia alone, "Ammian would be some
protection to you all; for I remark that his bold spirit and his
mountain sports are every day giving greater vigour to his limbs, and
his frame is towering up towards manhood. A year will do much in such
pastimes as these, while the free and wild simplicity of the barbarian
habits will secure him against the weak and effeminate manners of
Rome; and, at the same time, it were but right and necessary that both
he and Eudochia should receive that civilized education which can be
obtained nowhere but in the empire."

"Alas! my son," replied Flavia, "I fear that it will be long ere
Ammian can give us that protection which thou mightst do; for, though
courageous to a fault, and resolute, yet there is a wild and heedless
spirit in his breast which often prevents his nobler qualities from
acting as they might. His heart is kind and generous, his mind upright
and noble; but in the exuberance of his youthful daring, and the
wanderings of a wild imagination, he forgets too often, Theodore, that
there is such a thing as danger to himself or others. He wants
prudence, he wants consideration, he wants that calm presence of mind
which sees under all circumstances that which is best to do, and is
ever ready to do it."

"But, my mother, he is yet but a boy," replied Theodore: "time will
give prudence, experience will give judgment, and age will tame
quickly the wildest and most wandering fancy. At all events, I only
desire that you should have a refuge prepared. Doubtless--both because
this mighty barbarian does really, I believe, regard me with
affection, and because he has been taught to imagine that there is
some mysterious connexion between his fate and mine--doubtless, I say,
he will allow me from time to lime to renew the visit he has now
permitted; at all events, I will find means to send, both to give you
my tidings and to gain news from you. If there be danger, I will let
you know, and be ready ever, upon but a short warning, to fly to the
court of Valentinian. As I go hence, I shall visit the capital of the
Alani by the banks of the Inn; for the kindred that I have among them
might think it strange and wrong were I to pass through the land
without seeing them; and, when there, of course I will do all I can to
ensure that the refuge which you have here received shall be as safe,
as peaceful, and as happy as it can be made. There is much in the ties
of blood, even between a Roman and barbarian, and I think that my
requests will find favour among the Alani."

Theodore would fain have lingered and protracted the hours; for
although he knew that he soon must go, and the thought of parting
sadly imbittered even the present, yet around Ildica there was to him
an atmosphere of light and happiness, which banished all that was dark
and gloomy from his heart. But he had made a promise to Attila, and
with Theodore a promise was inviolable. Ildica, too, would fain have
detained him, would have fain drank slowly out the last sweet drops of
the cup of happiness which had been offered to her lip: they were but
the dregs, it is true, and bitter was mixed with them, but yet the
taste of joy remained; and if she could not have it pure and
unalloyed, she yet lingered over the last portion, however sadly
mingled. But Theodore had given a promise; and Theodore's unstained
integrity and unvarying truth were as dear to Ildica as to
himself--were dearer, far dearer, than any personal enjoyment. She
would not have him forfeit his word to Attila, in order to remain with
her, for all that the world could give; and she herself bade him go
whenever she learned that he had barely time to accomplish his journey
by the path that it was necessary for him to follow. They parted--not
now, however, as when last they parted; for then before them had
stretched out nothing but one vague and indefinite expanse--the gray
cloud of the future! on which even the eye of fancy could scarcely
trace one likely form, through which the star of hope shone faint and
powerless. Now, after all those fearful scenes and that dreadful
separation--scenes and circumstances which had benumbed their
feelings, and, like some crashing wound, which by its very severity
deprives the sufferer of his sense of pain, had left them bewildered
and almost unconscious, till time had shown them the deprivation they
had undergone. Now they had met again; hopes that they had scarcely
dared to entertain had been realized ere the heart grew weary with
delay. They had known a longer and more tranquil period of happiness
than they had ever tasted since first the mutual love of their young
hearts had been spoken to each other; and hope, the sweet sophist,
skilful in turning to her purpose all things that befall, drew
arguments from past joy in order to prove her promises for the future
true.

They parted then: Ildica declared that she wished him to go, and
Theodore strengthened himself in the remembrance of his promise. Yet,
nevertheless, let no one think that their parting was not bitter:
Theodore struggled even against a sigh; and over the cheeks of Ildica
rolled no tear, though on the dark long lashes that fringed her
eyelids would sparkle like a crushed diamond the irrepressible dew of
grief. Yet, nevertheless, let no one think the parting is ever less
than bitter, when, even in the brightest day of youth, two hearts
united by the great master bond which God assigned to man to bind him
in the grievous pilgrimage of life to one chosen from all his kind,
are separated from one another for long indefinite hours, with
loneliness of feeling and the dim uncertainty of human fate hanging
over them like a dark cloud. Who shall say, when thus they part, that
they shall ever meet again? Who shall say with what dark barrier the
mighty hand of destiny may not close the way? whether death, or
misfortune, or interminable difficulty may not cut short hope or weary
out the spirit in the bondage of circumstance, till expectation is
vain of reunion on this side the tomb?

They parted firmly: but such partings are ever bitter; and when
Theodore was gone, Ildica wept for long hours in silence; while he, as
he rode on, beheld nothing of all that surrounded him; for the soul
was then in the secret chamber of the heart, communing sternly with
her own grief.



                            END OF VOL. I.





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